On the Home Front

I often write about the beauty of our region, the magic of wildlife, the experience of living and working outdoors.  I sprinkle in the intrepid adventures of Sally Sunshine, the mistakes and foibles of Doofusy-Dave and, of course, I include the comedic community of the other eccentrics living off the grid.  All of that plus a whale sighting, ravens, squirrels and a tub of prawns now and then pretty much makes up the mental collage of what it is like to live out here.  And it is all true.  True grit, true beauty, true magic.

True as far as it goes, anyway….but maybe now is the time for some ‘hard cheese’.

Winter sucks.

Yeah, I know what you are thinking; “You two are spoiled rotten.  Most winters you go to warmer climes.  It is only right that you get a dose of real winter!”  And that sentiment is true, also.  You can’t really claim to be OTG if you don’t reside year ‘round now and again.  Suffering winter to gain OTG cred, as it were.  And, so, we picked the winter of 2019/20 to add to the resume.

So far, it sucks.

Firstly, we seem to have had nothing but constant rain for the last 6 weeks.  That is not quite true but that is the feeling.  Lots of rain.  Lots of rain and fog!  And, over the last few days, we have more than flirted with snow!  We are pounding through the woodpile.  We are running the genset on average four hours a day!  I am frequently turning on and off the heat tapes.  And the damn internet (on satellite) keeps dropping any signal – too overcast.

“I think we may as well go to bed and rekindle our marriage.”

“I think you should shut up and go cut more kindling!”

It is getting a bit tense in here.

In theory, I should go out to the workshop and tinker or fix crap.  Maybe indulge in some manly hobby?  But it is freezing out there and, if I heat up the shop, then I have to work!  That doesn’t seem like a logical response to the situation to me.

What I need is a winter project, one in which being cold and wet isn’t required.  Something warm and pleasant……”Say, let’s discuss that rekindling idea again…?”

“Let’s discuss that kindling first!”

Part of the growing chasm between us is the water system.  It’s a bit of a burden in winter.  I keep the pumps and pipes going, Sal keeps the intake pipe open.  Her chore is the hard one made even tougher by the cold, wet and a raging stream into which she has to dive to clear the intake.  Plus she has to climb up an overgrown ravine to get such an exhilarating experience.  One of our neighbours suggested that Sal might want to carry a firearm when she goes—for the bears and cougars.  Bear spray at least.

“Nah!  She’s good.  And, anyway, another few weeks of this and she’ll be so nasty no animal will get near her.  Not even the rekindling kind.”

As I write this, visibility is about one mile.  Wet.  Temp near freezing.  Forecast for -19C a few days from now.  I am NOT used to that kind of cold.

Not a creature is stirring….except ants!  That’s right, ants!  I guess our house is warm and theirs is not and so they want to share.  We do not want to share.  So, I am currently engaged on the Western Front (of the house) where we believe the little bastards are entering.  Yesterday, we had maybe a dozen.  I fired the first salvo of poison and today?  Only one so far.  We’ll see.

So, there you have it…..death, dismal, dark and depressing amidst the cold, wet and freezing….while living with a claustrophobic wolverine (cute, though) and trying to figure out where we will be going next winter.



13 thoughts on “On the Home Front

  1. Yikes, I didn’t realize it got that much colder up there. We aren’t that far from you but haven’t been below zero yet and would kill for some of that rain… Our coldest month is usually February. I don’t blame Sal for disliking the water system chore. I had to deal with our septic system this year (too many germs for E) and that was bad enough.
    We are a hardy lot aren’t we?


    • Well, Sal is. Hardy, I mean. Tough as an old boot, cuter than Cinderella’s slipper. The climb up the ravine was under-described. She first takes her small boat into the bay a few hundred yards away, anchors it off so it does not go dry on a falling tide and wades ashore with her small handbag of tools and crap. Then she climbs to an elevation of 120 feet (35 degree slope) by scrambling up the ravine/stream bed and other loose tracks to get to the top. THEN she strips off what she needs to to be able to drop her arms below the surface of the water while standing on a rock in her rubber boots. AND, of course, the stream rages around her. With her face near the raging water (getting wet, of course) she ‘feels’ below the fast-flowing surface for the pick-up strainer and clears it off of mostly pine needles. She replaces everything and climbs out of the pool (yes, she has, on occasion, slipped back in).
      But that’s NOT the job. We have three or four diverter valves along the length of pipe running downhill. Those are for letting air and silt out of the line. So, she treks through the underbrush, finding them, opening them and waiting until the water flows well. The big test is the last valve at the bottom. That is also the hardest to gain access to. She accomplishes that chore in about an hour of scrambling, crawling, sliding and doing so soaking wet. She then gets back in her boat and comes home.
      “Why Sal?”
      Good question. Up until now she has been the most fit and able. The rest of our crew are getting on and she seemed to defy time. She went up like a squirrel. I went up like a manatee. But her knees are failing. So, despite her can-do attitude, we older guys are gonna hafta step up. Slowly. And we will. But none of us will even come close to getting it done in an hour.


    • I suppose we could. But we don’t. Instead, we catch the rain in a vast swale area up near the top of the ‘back forty’. That acts like a giant sponge and it filters and releases the clean water into a short but steep stream. By picking it up from over a kilometer away, and at such an elevation, we get a gravity-feed to our storage cisterns nearer the house. Catching roof water is a great idea….if we hadn’t done it this way already. The nicest part is that the swale is a slow-release kinda thing and the stream has never stopped running. We’ll see how that goes…..


  2. I’m not a fan of winter rains either. Around here we have had several months of dry weather so building up the snow pack is necessary.


  3. Hullo there! I’m so sorry you feel this way Dave. I am loving this winter, only an island up the way from you, but for some reason it sounds so very different. I think it has been a MILD winter, relatively speaking! I actually prefer the milder rainy weather; rain gear and rubber boots the preferred attire. Have not even had a killing frost yet up at the garden, so lots of veggies still to be found there. This will change any moment now, as there is a hard westerly howling down the Okisollo and an artic blast is expected. I heard -17, at the Campbell River airport, which is of course, at elevation. So expect it will not be as cold as that here at sea level. That is when things will get intense for sure.
    Of course keeping busy is one way to survive intact and that is where a project comes in handly, even if that is simply knocking the cobwebs down or cleaning out the cupboards. Indoor chores and hobbies are good at this time of the year. Make something, cook something, draw, paint, write, plan. Rest. This is the joy of winter for me, a bit of down time. Time to relax, read a book, get one’s strength up for the other ten months of the year when longer days force endless exertion.
    I recommend a small change of scenery every now and then. A little day trip to the bigger island with a visit to the library, a cafe, maybe lunch out, or an overnight stay to allow for a date night of some sort; dinner, a movie, a concert, a visit with friends (!). Of course with the temps about to drop well below freezing, this might not be the right moment for an overnight outing, best to stay tuned to the heat tape, water pipes etc.
    Finally, it is vital to get outside every single day, if only for a short walk and a blast of fresh air. A stroll down to the dock to check the boats, a little walk “around the block”, wind permitting of course. The usual firewood detail, with vigour. Get the blood flowing, the air circulating. Like Sal does when she hikes up the hill to check on the water. It feels so good to get inside and warmed up again!
    I know winter can be tough Dave, and cabin fever can take its toll on even the strongest relationship, but I have come to appreciate the comfort of staying home, surrounded by familiarity, comfortable in our own space. While the rest of the world hurtles on…..come by for coffee some time if you like!


    • Of course you are right but I am not feeling any winter magic. And I gotta tell it like it is. Having said that, my mind is slowly turning to ‘projects’, so that’s a good sign. That my body keeps turning to naps, however, is not quite as encouraging.
      I also keep forgetting that we had worked hard all year, had a ton of guests and the last one left January 1. I may just be in late-onset relief mode. Am I just a grouchy old man or is this just a but of leftover humbug? I’ll know soon enough…..


  4. Oh David, maybe you just need another visitor!? haha. We have been thinking of you guys. Heavy rain here and then snow and wind… where would you rather be? (Not that I would ask that question when Sally is knee and elbow deep in the water). Quilts galore?
    Happy New Year!
    J or T?


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