No. 1900. Japanese, Indian, Thai, German, Polish, Italian, American, Chinese, Mexican and English……

….is our dinner menu. We make ’em all.

I must have been a Sushi-chef in my previous life if not a ‘Merican steak-guy. And, of course, I can do English altho with the exception of fish and chips, oatmeal and fried eggs with bacon, there seems little point. Finan Haddie? Bubble and Squeak? Yuck. No one really likes boiled everything with Haggis or worse, a spotted Dick! English cuisine is a misnomer, really. Prison rations is a better description. Think Dickens.

Sal pretty much handles the rest of our ‘eclectic’ menu but I am a bit of a sous chef for her and an outspoken food critic. I also usually ‘pick’ the meal. It’s 50/50.

Just last night, for instance, we had tuna California roll and Yakisoba. We were thinking of adding a few Gyoza but who are we trying to impress? Absolutely fabulous dinner altho I passed on the sake and sake is a big part of it for me!

“But, Dave, you live remote. NO restaurants. How does that happen?”

Told ya….first sentence. “We make ’em all.” From scratch. Wasabi, Yakisoba sauce from scratch. Frozen tuna loins. Sometimes prawns. The whole Enchilada, if you will (yes, we make enchiladas, too, but they fall under the Mexican category).

Sal does a mean Chinese beef and greens with deep fried spring rolls and her German smothered pork chops with Spaetzle is unmatched outside of Bavaria. Stuffed peppers and enchiladas, huevos rancheros and the occasional taco are also part of her repertoire. I forgot the Greek and Italian – Dolmades, lamb, lemon potatoes and Greek salad. Macaroni, Ravioli. We have even done falafels.

I confess our curries (Thai and Indian) are a bit weak. Can’t seem to ‘capture’ that elusive ‘just-right’ taste but what we do produce is pretty good and we are working in it.

I could go on and on…..well, I will add this: damn, I make great cabbage rolls. Really. Honest! Fabulous, if not magnificent.

“But why write about all that, you doofus!”

Food is an OTG topic. C’mon……and living OTG/remote/rural/feral means that one has to adjust their menu somewhat. Make adjustments (NOT compromises!). I did not even claim to be using garden-fresh veggies or just-caught-from-the-sea. This is really modesty talkin’ here! This may SOUND like bragging and self centred back-patting (it is) but it is also an OTG aspect of life. And I am sticking to that!

OK, admittedly, I am stretching the eclectic envelope a bit with this topic but OTG-man does not live by construction, repairs and first aid alone. Even feral needs food. And not only do I now dislike frequenting restaurants we can no longer afford, we can now make the same dishes at home and make them better. (like I said, we are not yet up to a good Indian or Thai kitchen but we are getting there.)

This will blow your mind: we make a better pizza than you can buy. Truth! And I do not mean ‘buy a better frozen pizza and cook it’, I mean we make it all from scratch. And it is BETTER!! Well, maybe the occasional bit of ‘pizza craving’ is colouring my opinion.

Sally already has a reputation for desserts. OMG! People crawl naked over barbed wire for her Chocolate cheesecake (that is the only way I will share it with them). And she just added Rum Babas to the selection the other day! Sal owns desserts. But our main dishes are also getting better in heaps and mounds. It is hard NOT to pork up (we have a source for organic, non-factory pork). So…….I do not try. I just ‘go’ with it….ya know?

Hey! One of you said eclectic was okay!

Writing in a world gone mad*

*Latest manifestation of madness is: 1.7M (out of 3.5M) Georgia voters casting their ballot for a moronic sycophant who lies, cheats and is duplicitous. 1.7M voted for a man with no issues, no morals, no principles and who preached about Werewolves and Vampires in his campaign. To me, that and the almost 50M other so-called MAGA conservatives who vote that way – blindly and without thought or values attached to their vote – indicates a real sickness in American politics. A form of collective ‘branding’ madness. American Democracy is now just an industry. Totally insane. Way, way too much money is spent on GETTING elected and NOT on that which needs doing.

Don’t worry, dear reader….no more on that. I just needed an example of madness to warrant the blog title. There will be another egregious example of crazy (mass shooting?) coming along any minute now.

Todays real topic: I am, with this post, one short of having written 1900 blogs (having started counting after the infamous 2011 Russian web caper when hackers ‘stole’ my previous blog site. That one was a blog titled something close – Our Home Off the Grid, I think. Close in name to this one-but different. The Russians hijacked it and turned it into an advertising site. To be fair, they did not so much ‘hijack it’ as they opportunistically ‘grabbed it’ the nanosecond the license expired and my server company failed to renew it.) And so, I moved on to the one you are reading now.

And the blog is now an eclectic mess……but I can’t quit until I reach 2000….right? Just for the sake of symmetry?

In 2011 it was all OTG. I do not know how many old blogs were lost back then but I can assure you there was little to lament or grieve over. No BIG loss. I probably remembered enough to write some content for the second book, CHOOSING, which was a colossal non-starter. Proof of unimportant content. Mind you, back then I was entirely focused on OTG stuff. Nothing else. No politics. It was all about, you know…..batteries, propane, engine repair, construction, First Aid, etc. Very much the basics. To be fair, that list is accurate but in reverse order.

At least I had a theme.

The reason for not crying over spilt blogs (or blood) is because everything I wrote about has changed. The solar panels alone are twice the performers they were for half the price back then. Going ‘solar’ was not ground-breaking then but still it was not anywhere near as common as it is today. Everything except Honda engines is/are radically different and even they have more than doubled in price and added a few improvements.

As far back as only 15 years most of the commonly used outboard engines out here were two-strokes. My first one was a Mariner. My second was an Evinrude. Both 2-strokes. Now almost everyone runs 4-stroke. Four-stroke engines are better in so many ways. But they, too, are now ridiculously expensive. Having the dealer put a brand new 60hp Yamaha on your boat would not leave you much change left over from $10,000.00.

Propane appliances were a huge learning curve after we went feral and much was written about them back then and even more just recently. Today, I am moving away from propane. Our new electric fridge draws so little the solar array can easily handle it. Same with the freezers and they are not even linear-digital/inverter compressors like the fridge (which are very, very efficient compressors – but somewhat prone to failure in the early years. Better now. I hope). Electronics has really changed in all things but, for OTG’ers, the last decade has been revolutionary.

“So, what’s your point, Dave? Just waxing nostalgic?”

No. I am saying that I am no longer hip to what’s new in the OTG world any more. I am no longer au current. I am not the go-to guy if I ever was. My theme has gone.

Well, there might have been a one or two year window when my reading and my doing were right up there but mostly I have done what I have done and I am only doing nowadays what I must. I am not even reading much about it. To be hip on a subject requires a bit of an obsession, a focus, a hunger to learn. There is a whole world of batteries to learn about, for instance….again….and I am not likely to do that more than maybe just one more time (out of necessity). I am loosening my grip on the OTG world and re-focusing on just about everything else.

What is this blog about now……?

That question segues nicely to ranting on economics and politics (which I just briefly indulged in above) but I’ll spare you any more. There is always something new and crazy in economics and politics. I suppose I could write more about the ‘lifestyle’ or the ‘community’ of the OTG feral cats but I do that now and then anyway and, to be fair, all small community stories are always stories about the crazy ones.

I will, of course, write a bit more on the legend and myth that is my wife. That is always fun for me (she cringes every time). Throw in a dog story or two, eh? I can keep myself interested in our little world pretty easily. You know, log wrangling, chainsawing, oysters, freezing water systems, gensets, whales…..?

But that’s the point: my world is getting ever-smaller. I am more and more focused on my own good fortune of living in paradise with a wonderful partner. And that, dear reader, does not make for compelling reading for you. However, blabbing away ad nauseum is always therapeutic for me (for example: this blog).

So, I will, of course, once again do a year-end re-evaluation of what-in-hell this blog theme is supposed to be about (at least most of the time) and try to see where this is all going…

…feel free to contribute.

Balmy

It is uncommon that a single word can be used for entirely different meanings but Balmy is one of them. Balmy is an adjective: (of the weather) meaning: pleasantly warm. I.e. “The balmy days of late summer”. And balmy also means: extremely foolish; eccentric. I.e. “That was a balmy decision”.

It seems that the word applies to us in both ways. Especially Sal.

Living at the top of the Salish Sea (better known internationally as the Gulf of Georgia) usually means a very temperate climate. We could call it balmy and sometimes do. Average summer temp rarely exceeds 23C/80F and winter temps are usually around 40F/5C. That is Canadian Balmy compared to the rest of Canada.

The west coast is also renown for being wet from rain and dry from not being able to retain that rain (lots of rock). The southern gulf Islands always seem to have a water problem. In that sense, it is balmy as in foolish or eccentric. The west coast gets rain from 30″ in the flat south to over 90″ twenty miles north at the Northshore (North Vancouver). Our usual annual rainfall is approximately in the middle at 60″. So we are wet and dry all at the same time. That is silly-balmy.

But, for the REAL application of the word, Balmy, we have to look at Sal. She is pleasant and outdoors in all weather. Happy. Smiling. You might (and I have) called her Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. And the big smile in July kinda makes sense.

But we are currently experiencing unseasonably cold weather and have a foot of snowfall on the ground. Worse, the wind howled out of the North and froze everything. Water system is down. We have been back to lugging water totes that I fill by suck-siphoning from the water tanks. But, of course, our Rebecca is off to do the food distribution in minus weather and with her two dogs. And she is soon off to Quilting, happy to have her chainsaw with her and good winter tires for the logging road. She’s planning on a trip to town for a Xmas haircut and some packages. She’s happy. Read: balmy.

Is it good? Absolutely. Just a bit cold and daunting for me. But not for the intrepid Sal. I have some mechanical issues (due to the freeze) and working on them is a major pain in the freezing cold but I do as little as I can and stay mostly by the fire. And I grouse much of the time. Sal’s out and about with boats and dogs getting some shopping done by chainsawing her way through the forest to stores and gatherings. And she is smiling all of the time.

One of us is balmy.

Well, the past few blogs were…..

….a walk in the past, so to speak, and that was NOT quite what was asked for. Forgive me. I waxed a bit over nostalgic recently. The original question was something about ‘how hard was it?’ or ‘what were the difficulties’ and the implied question was, ‘were you too old and stupid or just old and stupid enough?’ I answered adequately, I think, but to put it succinctly: It was very hard and, had we known HOW hard it was gonna be, we would have not thought it possible’. We were definitely outside of our comfort zone for the entire time.

So that, at least, answers the ‘stupid’ part.

The age thing is harder to answer. There is no question in my mind that I could not do what we did again at 75 but I kind of concluded that same thing as soon as we were largely done the house part four years into it. At 60 I thought, “I cannot do that again!” Having said that, we had the continuing ‘stupid part’ making it harder than it had to be and now we know a bit more. It could have been easier. Also, having said that, we finally knew enough that, at 60, I could have done another one but I would have made it simpler, employed more people and certainly built the workshop first! At 75, too late smart, I now just know who to hire and how to spend the money.

Put another way: building is a function of age and money. The younger you are, the less money you need. The older you are, the opposite is true.

Still, I recommend this way of life unreservedly. But it is challenging. And, to be blunt, I could not have done it without a great partner and they do not come any better than Sal. And, do not forget, building (altho never finished) is NOT what this OTG thing is all about. Not really. Only in the beginning is construction the all-consuming focus. It is eventually and primarily about being in nature, living healthier, de-stressing, consuming less, and having much more freedom and independence. It is about personal growth in some ways, isolation and removal in others. It is about changing one’s life views by well, changing your life.

Oh, I am still obnoxious, of course (can’t you tell from the blogs?). Still opinionated. (support me on this, Trev!) I am still the basic ‘me’….I have not grown all that much (Sal is pretty adamant about that). But I am physically healthier, a bit more handy and, surprisingly for me, happier and more satisfied with my life right now. I even stop now and then to smell the flowers and play with the dogs. Seriously….I am almost a simple, happy hick (‘cept for obsessively following world events).

Sal has grown, too. She is way more capable and competent in everything and able to deal with engines that will not start and flat tires and climbing mountain trails with her dogs. She gardens. She quilts. She runs small boats in big seas. She has her own chainsaw! She works at the Post office and runs the home care team. She even still socializes. Sally can do stuff. And I say this because so many of her urban and even some of her rural sisters cannot. They need Starbucks. They need BCAA. They need help to carry a log up a cliff or fight a bear with only a pocket knife (Sally carries a Swiss Army knife wherever she goes).

To answer the question yet another way: the adventure was undertaken for the excitement of an adventure, NOT the hardship. It was done for the learning and the experience even if bleeding and screwing up played a prominent role in all that. We went and stayed feral because real freedom and independence had more allure than we knew when we started. That kinda thing grows on ya. So did being in a natural setting. We stumbled into this good fortune and maybe cracked a rib or got bruised a bit in the process but it was well and truly worth it. Still is.

Hard? Yes. Too hard? No. Were we a bit old? Yes. Too old? Not at all. Would I do it all again? Yes – in a heartbeat – but only with Sally.

However…..and this may be a bit contradictory….I am always scratching an itch. It’s in my nature. I still want to do things and have an adventure of learning and experience about new stuff. This OTG thing is the best gig I have ever experienced but, if at all possible, I would like to add to it in some way. Lately, I have been promoting OTG a bit more than usual but that is not scratching the itch, really. That’s just sharing. I’ve considered adding some huntin’ and fishin’ to the ‘handy’ parts but well, that doesn’t SEEM to be the itch either. I’ve gone rural not primal.

So, I am still lookin’..wondering about what’s next…

I said that I didn’t know squat about construction….

….and I did not. And Sally, of course, knew even less. We were clueless. But, in our blissful ignorance and optimism, we both concluded that building a house was not rocket science and there were how-to books everywhere on everything and, what the hell, it is ‘just a cabin’.

To assist with our wishful thinking, I dug out my old Whole Earth Catalogue and looked at pictures of hippy-hobbit houses made from logs and tarps. “Piece of cake!”

And so, armed with little but dreams and fantasies, we headed up the coast to our property circa 2003. You know, to suss it out and maybe stake out the foundations or whatever one does first?

I bought the property back in 1974 when I was 26. Buying a house in Vancouver was too expensive and so I just hitch-hiked up the coast until the property got cheap enough to consider. And that amount (for me) was around $5,000 (which was borrowed). I thought I might be able to find five acres of waterfront for that. That kind of non-thinking is part of the ‘squat’ we didn’t know.

And there are a number of stories about trying to find land, too.

But, back to the past-modern day (Y2K+3)…..before heading out, I bought a 12′ Achilles inflatable and a Mariner 20 with which to power it. We’d load the boat and motor into our 6 foot utility trailer along with some building materials, totes full of food and tools and wine and then drive up the coast (8 – 10 hours counting the ferry). Then we’d unload it all into the boat. Fully laden-to-the-too-low gunwales, we’d then head ten miles up the coast into the beyond. We went regardless of weather because well, ‘we’re already this far, let’s push on!‘ Slowly.

Our first landing was pretty eventful because there is no real beach. It is just a rocky shore with short choppy waves leading to a few yards of more kelp and slime covered rocks fronted by a small 8 foot high wall of irregular granite just to get above the high tide line. But, we managed.

And there we stood….a pile of camping crap on one mossy slope and us on another. That first day, I stood with my left leg about a foot higher than my right. Sal tried standing along an edge. We literally had no footing. The slope was severely unwalkable and slippery, even the supplies kept trying to slide back down to the water. “Well, first thing to build is a place to stand level, eh?”

Of course, you can’t really just ‘whip up a deck’ in twenty minutes so we found a level spot further up the hill, camped that night and contemplated our fate. We drank all the wine and decided that we should stay at a local B&B on the other island while we established base camp where it was impossible to stand. And that routine became the modus operandi for the first summer of deck and boathouse building.

We’d drive up from Vancouver Thursday night laden to the gills, stay over at the Farm-stay and then, the next morning, launch the boat from a beach a mile away and fill it with our crap. Then we’d motor over and try to get something done before it got dark. Three days later, we’d return to Vancouver. Sal had a job, I was still doing mediations.

We worked like rented mules. And we were hopeless at it. Everything we tried to do slipped down the hill. Eventually, I decided to leave the tools on site because transporting it all in a small inflatable each visit with food, materials, a genset and fuel was a major task in itself.

So I bought a big steel BC Hydro surplus transformer box (400#) the next time back in Vancouver (which was incredibly unwieldy) in which to create a secure storage unit. Transported that in the trailer and then boat, too (stormy seas that day). That story is in the book but the bottom line was eventually having a big yellow box on the high beach to save some of the schlepping. It worked. But, in an ignorant show of caution, I painted it camo. Being yellow on a mossy slope, it was somewhat visible. After painting it camo, it stuck out like a stop sign. I eventually painted it flat brown and it disappeared to even a focused eye.

You can imagine how much time this all took? Well, it took maybe four to ten times longer than you can imagine. Part of the reason, of course, was the slope and the ignorance and the lack of materials but another part was an invasion of visitors. We could barely get the breakfast dishes done before someone would ‘drop by’ to see the ‘new folks’. Tools were downed, tea was put on and finger foods were served…..until, after an hour or two, I would simply get up and try to get something done. When the guests left and we started up again, I swear we didn’t get an hour into the afternoon before other guests showed up…for tea…and cookies…and another two hours wasted.

That first year – over the three or so summer months – we had 110 visitors!

The best thing I got done that year was a 12 x 20 deck that served as a tent platform and workspace. The worst thing I got done that year was that same 12 x 20 deck that mostly served as an entertainment platform for visitors.

What was the lesson…? I dunno…I was too tired to think most of the time….but I would venture to say it was this: building may NOT be rocket science but there are incredibly complicated logistics and ancillary issues that complicate even the simplest of construction tasks. City living sucks in so many ways but it is designed to facilitate getting things done. Fast food everywhere, hardware stores within a mile or two, roads and trucks and loading docks. Few cliffs and rocky slopes to navigate. Perhaps more to the point, everyone in the city is actually busy and the idea of sitting down to interrupt construction workers for two hours over tea, chit-chat and cookies is NOT A THING!

Maybe the biggest lesson was that starting the actual cabin building at 56 was a smidge late. I had been thinking and reading and planning and learning for at least five years beforehand but we were also earning a living and keeping house and home and an active social life going back in town. I did not take the time to attend Cabin Construction University (altho I did work for a year at a packaged-cabin company and learned more in that year than I had otherwise).

It may not be rocket science but even the first step of learning diddly-squat was not easy.

Last blog, I wrote…

“I could not get enough of timber framing, plumbing, electrical work and all that sort of thing. I kind of think it is a phase we all feel at some point and I felt it just after turning 50.”

A reader wrote in: With that quote from your blog I hoped a story of the difficulties for an old man, unskilled at 50 building off-grid, off highway access would be told.  Maybe some day you will elaborate?

Of course I responded to him with, “Buy the book!”, but that’s not fair and, anyway, much of that story went largely untold in the book. So, here it is from a different perspective:

Firstly, I really did not consider myself ‘old’ at 50. But I was kinda useless. Of course, I worked and I was good enough at my chosen pursuits but, for the most part, it was brain-work. I didn’t do much physical labour outside of cleaning the pool. After a ‘hard day’s work’, I’d come home, have a martini (or two) and have dinner before sitting in front of the TV. I knew that wasn’t very healthy but well, I was a suburban guy pushing paper and doing deals and talkin’ on my cell phone. You know, really, really hard work.

It bothered me that I was useless in most every practical sense but not enough to get off my butt. After we did the big family RV trip across Canada, around Europe and then back across the USA, it kind of reminded me that watching TV was not a just a waste of time, it was a waste of life. I wanted to do ‘real stuff’ again. I kinda got the bug…ya know?

And getting the ‘bug’ not only made me want to go do real stuff but also it eroded my commitment to my so-called brain-work. I lost interest in it. And thus the out-of-the-blue obsession in all things Cabin emerged. To be fair, writing also became an interest around that same time and that eventually manifested in writing the back-page column for Cottage magazine for a few years. It was essentially a humour column chronicling my pathetic and bleeding attempts to become a cottager.

I can’t remember them all but one was titled, “Let there be sheds”. Another was “Island time.” A third was about slowly dying my acreage with my own blood. It was just silly stuff. But fun. When you write, you also read. I read Mother Earth News and got on their forum and my ignorance about carpentry, electrics and such slowly started to wane and, soon enough, I was actually asking some good questions. The first step after stupid is NOT knowing anything. Ya still know squat. It is inquiring about said squat. And, geez, the answers I got were truly fascinating.

Segue to blowing up rats…..

Our property is largely granite and granite does not always form exactly the way you might want it to. One sometimes might want to alter one’s granite, ya know? Being male, naturally, I wanted to learn how to blow some of that granite up….right? Who wouldn’t?

Sal, for one. She said, “You go out to the garden with a shovel and come back bleeding. You must be crazy to think I would let you go out with explosives! The answer is no!”

“Umh, Sal…I didn’t ask permission. I just want to know if Home Depot sells dynamite.”

“NO!!!”

So, I turned to the OOMs. They know everything. “Majere, I want to blow up some granite. My wife won’t let me buy dynamite. She is pretty close-minded about this. Feet are stomping, hands are on hips, cute little face all frowny. She’s pretty firm.”

“Oh, English, you do not need dynamite. You need Iodine crystals and ammonia. You soak the crystals in the ammonia and, before they dry, you carefully place them in the spot that wants rapid expansion.”

“Cool. Where do you OOMs want rapid expansion?”

“We get rats on our farms. The live under the barns. So we place wet crystals on the support beams they run along. After a bit, the crystals are dry and sensitive to the touch or close movement. The explosion is like a little land mine. Every so often we hear a little pffft under the barn and we know we are one rat less.”

And in that little mouse-step kinda way, I began my long journey into learning how to live off the grid.

Minor epilogue: Sal was not keen on little land-mines either or anything even close. “I do not want to see mice and squirrels splattered all over!” I eventually found some expanding clay-like powder that you mix with water and pour into strategically placed holes that you drill in the rock. Sure enough…after a week, a large chunk of granite calved off the planet and lay where gravity put it. Interesting stuff. Safer, too. Had I had access to dynamite, this blog may never have been written.

20 plus years ago…..

….I got interested in living OTG. I am not 100% sure why, actually. I have never liked camping, dirt, bugs or hard physical work (I had done enough to know that without a doubt). And changing light bulbs was about the limit of my DIY-abilities. Still, something snapped, popped or short-circuited and, all of a sudden I could not get enough of timber framing, plumbing, electrical work and all that sort of thing. I kind of think it is a phase we all feel at some point and I felt it just after turning 50.

I really had no idea.

Part of trying to find a clue was, of course, reading books and, surprisingly, there were not that many that were contemporary. The last books on OTG around the turn of the century were really the FoxFire series and the Whole Earth catalogue from a much earlier time. The best source of information back then was Mother Earth News (MEN), a magazine and internet forum still focused on homesteading, farming, pole-barns, quilting and making jams.

The articles in MEN were hilarious to me. I’ll never forget one that was titled, “Birthing Lambs”. The article detailed the whole harrowing process but it was the advice to get ’em started breathing that sent me into hysterics. Seems lambs don’t breathe well on their own and the mid-wife/husband (human) is obliged to clamp their own mouth over the nostrils of the baby lamb and suck out all the birthing phlegm to clear the obstruction.

That almost put me off. Well, it DID put me off having a farm that raised sheep, lambs or anything that required sucking phlegm.

Anyway, learning about OTG was a lot of fun and I made quite a few internet friends on the MEN sponsored forum from Kevin to the OOMs. The OOMs are Old Order Mennonites sprinkled along the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia and other regions Hillbilly. The OOMs were and still are fascinating. They are like the Amish only more so.

I love the OOMs.

Part of the appeal was their incredible wealth of long-forgotten, old-time, knowledge from how to blow up rats in your barn to how to refresh your enclave’s gene-pool. And a side benefit was that Sarah and Majere (my two OOM buddies) spoke to me as an ‘English’. They modified their Pennsylvania Dutch to accommodate those on the forum but, generally, their conversation was liberally enhanced with old fashioned terms. I have not had the benefit of enjoying real, natural, down-home, old-country-speak for a long time.

A friend of mine is a somewhat newly displaced Carolinian (now in BC) and he has that same quality of speechifying and it is a lot of fun. ‘Course, being’ Merican, he has coon dogs, rifles and a pick-up truck. He hunts. He quotes Mark Twain. He is, otherwise, quite acculturated to these here parts and is even a bit more sophisticated than the local homies so we ain’t talkin’ ’bout no hick.

Because he is a hunter and I am not and yet I keep wondering if I should be….I asked him, “Hey, wanna see my huntin’ rifle? Never been fired.”

“Never, eh? Then, nope. Don’t wanna see it.”

“Aw, shucks, man. Maybe I’ll just bring it along some day. You can show me how to kill things and all……”

“Leave yer irons with yer hoss, son.”

Swear to God…just like that….straight from the mouth…no thinkin…right there….

I just broke up.

Recent Insanities

  1. COP27 (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Great group of folks. Really. They cannot agree to stop killing the planet but they have agreed to compensate the victims. And, in case that sounds insane (and it is), it is also the basic premise in Tort and Contract Law. “We cannot fix the wrong, but we can give you so much money that you feel whole again”. Sandy Hook parents lost their children but got heavily compensated. Who says there is no price on human life? Seems we even have a price being set for the planet we live on.
  2. Lauren Boebert, the gun-toting, hate-mongering bigot from Colorado who sends out a Xmas card with her and her four young sons all holding Assault rifles in front of a Xmas tree, recently expressed sympathy for the dead and wounded (and their families who also got her thoughts and prayers) from the recent mass shooting at a Gay club. Why is that insane? Because LB has promoted just that kind of behaviour in her politics for years but – and here is the insane part – so has Alex Jones and Jones just got successfully sued for $1.4B. Our little mistress of hate and murder is rich (husband) and does NOT want to get sued. So, we have her doing immediate damage control for her own wallet. The USA, eh?
  3. Trump announcing that he is running for president. ‘To hell with the procedure’ that requires the GOP to actually select the idiot, he just announced that he is their choice. That is Chutzpah in the extreme. It is also intended not so much as a real announcement as it is a weak, sad, pathetic attempt to avert being indicted. The insane part? That there is an outside chance that it works.
  4. Our local government does not provide fire protection. They cannot. Not really. We all live too far apart. On the other hand, we have had several fires that have threatened the entire area and the resources of the community are being exhausted (more to the point, the men are getting too old). So, the local government is providing the docks with some fire fighting equipment because, well, they own the docks. But docks rarely spontaneously combust. What is the real (insane) part? The pumps are for us to really snatch and grab to take to a fire and it has even been suggested we use a small trailer for their equipment with which to facilitate that. Oh, and there is only 100′ of fire hose included because well, the pumps are officially for the docks. Kissing your sister is a compromise. Whatever the hell that is, is beyond compromise. It is insane!
  5. Covid is alive and well but so is the rat race going strong. People aren’t wearing masks. Kids are being sent to school. The disease is still wreaking havoc. The hospitals are full. Doctors and nurses are quitting. Travel companies are promoting tourism and a couple friends of mine are currently being quarantined on a cruise ship in the Southern Hemisphere due to a major outbreak. Duh…..what is it about Covid that people still do not understand?
  6. Is it just me…..or does the continuing belligerence of North Korea appear simply insane?
  7. Canada’s official inflation rate is stated to be only 6.9%. Turkey’s inflation is 72%. Japan’s is 3.8%. USA – 7.7%. UK – 11%. Mexico – 7.7%. How are any of those numbers true?

I am not going to dwell on all the current insanities of the planet but, rather, just refer to a few of them in point form above. To do otherwise might make the case for my own insanity. One really must adopt an attitude of denial and blissful ignorance to remain sane…which is, in case you missed it, totally INSANE.

My darling wife has mastered that coping device perfectly. “Oh, well.” she says frequently. “Oh, well? OH WELL!!??” I say hysterically……and she says, “Sweetie, don’t get worked up. There’s nothing we can do about it so we may as well just smile and carry on.”

Is that insane? Right now, I am not so sure.

It comes on little cat feet…..

…..that is the fog (a Robt. Frost poem). And we have had a herd o’ cats these last three days. The fog is so thick we cannot see 200 feet and have not been able to now for three whole days and nights.

‘Course some things still have to get done.

One of them was the water line. It had slowed to a trickle and, interestingly, a trickle is enough water for us. Twenty four hours of stream-trickle fills up the cistern about the same amount as what we took out that day. I am guessing 60 gallons. So the trickle is a bit over two gallons an hour. Good enough……?

Not for Sal. The water line is her job! “Let’s get ‘er done. Take me in. Pick me up. I’ll fix it.”

Taking Sal ‘in’ is not quite as easy as it sounds. We get in the boat, with the dogs, and I head out. Down the bay we go. Depending on where the tide is, I find a ‘drop-off’ spot. There is no dock. There is no float. There is only rocky shoreline. Some of the rocky shoreline is just granite at 45 degrees and covered in slimy moss or just plain slime, some of it is boulder strewn gravel, some of it is almost impassable. I always find a spot. “OK, this is as good as I can do here. Get out. Get out as quickly as possible or the waves will push me against the rocks”. Sal gets out. Nimble as always. Sometimes she has to scramble over moss. Sometimes her feet are in water. Always the footing is precarious.

A few times, she has slipped and gone in. The water is 9C. She’s soaked. “Never mind. I’ll get dry later. I’ll just do it wet!”

The dogs are always a bit reluctant. Daisy pushes to the gunwale and looks over with trepidation. That’s all she does. Doesn’t move. Gus is less assertive but gets impatient with Daisy being reluctant and, very quickly, launches himself over her into the water or onto the boulders or sliding on the moss. Gus is a go-dog. He just gets wet. Daisy is a pussy. However, the sight of Gus and Sal scrambling their way ashore and, perhaps, the thought of being stuck with me always seems to prompt Daisy and out she goes. The Intrepid Trio are then on the move.

On the move is not easy. There is no trail for the first part – from the anywhere boat landing to the beginning of the ascent up a steep trail to the Old Cabin and the stream is just ad hoc scrambling and climbing, slipping and sliding, tripping and falling. That’s about 100 feet of boulder scrambling, bush-whacking, slippery-rock walking, water-wading determination just to get started. That part is easier for the dogs and Sal ‘Just Does It’. It would not be an unfair comparison to an urban rock-wall climbing while being sprayed by a hose wearing several layers of clothing. It is not a long haul but it is definitely a challenge.

I need to remind readers that Ol’ Sal is now, actually, a smidge well, old. We are talking NORTH of 70. Look around you at the women you know even close to that age and imagine dropping them off on a slimy, rocky, wet, cold beach without so much as a hand-hold. Imagine they do NOT step onto a dock but fling themselves over the side of a small boat. And then, send me their names and phone numbers. We might need some back-up.

The next part of the task is almost as daunting simply because it is all up a steep hill over rough ground. But the ground is softer and there is a trail of sorts, mostly. Sal could find her way up blindfold after all these years. Still, there are sometimes trees down, there is a section that really needs a short rope to assist with the climb and, of course, there is the pool from which the pipe gets filled. That pool is about ten feet in diameter and varies between an almost dry puddle and a raging torrent depending on the year and recent rains. Sal has, on more than one occasion, stripped down to ‘essentials’ and waded in an ice-cold mountain stream, ducked her head under and cleared the intake. Then she gets out, dries herself as good as she can and treks back down the other side to clear any air or debris in the line from any of the four inspection points (valves). By then she is back at the beach and I pick her up. We go home and I make her a cup of tea.

Elapsed time: maybe an hour. Sal’s always smiling. Sometimes soaking wet, sometimes only half wet and only rarely is she dry. The dogs are ecstatic. Going up the stream is one of the major delights for the dogs. They just zoom around running all over. Me, well, someone has to keep the boat from drying on an ebbing tide and that someone also has to steady the boat for loading and unloading. I’m invaluable.

“Can you still make the trek up, Dave?”

Yes, I can. Barely (it’s the getting in and out the boat on the shoreline that I find difficult now). I can do it all still but it is more challenging for me than Sal. I am not as light on my feet, not as flexible and it would take a lot longer. This is a good separation of duties. Did I mention that I also made the tea?

Things changed back in 2007

Prior to 2007 the majority of the world’s population lived rurally. But, for years (just counting from the 1960’s) the trendline was towards urban growth and away from the boonies. Sometime in 2007 (according to UN figures) the trends crossed and more people in the world lived in cities than in the country.

The exodus from living rural started even earlier than the 60’s (unmeasured by the UN before then) and it has been measurably constant since then. Everyone was moving to the city; young, old, different generations, Africans, Asians and, of course, First Worlders.

This urban population growth continues even today despite the urban birth rate dropping below the replacement rate. Currently the only place on earth reproducing at or higher than the replacement rate is Africa. And even they are trending down.

Is it irony or a just a coincidence for us? Sometime around 2004, we went the other way, locationally speaking (we stopped reproducing back in the 80’s). Took us three years to finish building out here so one could say that it was in 2007 that we went totally rural. Talk about being a timely, in-sync contrarian, eh? Man, oh man…...”If all those folks are headed South, I want to go North.”

Fundamentally anti-social at the very least, dontcha think?

Admittedly, I have not been a joiner or a follower or a sheep of any kind but, face it, I am as mainstream a Canadian as anyone. Average Dave. I watch Netflix. I drink scotch. I’m pretty ordinary, actually, in many, many ways. I used to joke that I could be the poster boy for Statistics Canada. But, it seems, not in this one category…..

…why is that…?

Main reason, I think, is instinct. I got me some of them instincts, I must admit. And I listen to ’em, ya know? One just gets ‘feelings’ about things? Feelings are easy and hard to explain. Basically, you know what you are feeling but you don’t always know why. There are many reasons for unfathomable feelings – inferential scanning, of course, genetic tendencies and upbringing, information sources, obvious omens and signals have to be included in that. But, really? Feelings and intuitions are much more mysterious than empirical.

Sal and I once followed a major highway sign in Mexico and went along the new direction for a few minutes….I slowed the car…..Sal looked at me….I said, “This is not right…” and turned the car back to the first intersection. Sal said, “That’s weird but I feel it, too, I think turning back is the right idea.” A few days later we read in the news that it was discovered that criminals were misplacing highway signs so as to entrap drivers in a dead-end area where they would be robbed and sometimes killed. What was that feeling? What made us stop and turn around? Others hadn’t and had fallen victim.

I mention that story only to illustrate how feelings and instincts give messages and sometimes they are right. I am sure my instincts and feelings have been wrong, too. They are not infallible. But the feelings, the instincts and the little hairs on the back of my neck are real.

Consequently, we are here and not living urban. Jus’ sayin’…..