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.

8 thoughts on “20 plus years ago…..

  1. When you describe it, it seems I have all the signs of the OTG Blues doctor!
    Also around the age of 50, I got hugely interested in books and articles on DIY (carpentry, solar panels, survival techniques,…) but like you said, not that many books around. But then I “found” you and I started reading your articles and bought and read your books. Although at times a bit hilarious, they give a good description of your first years OTG and the challenges faced.
    And as you know, you got me hooked!
    I bought a few old books (like 100 years+ old) about carpentry, and I am still amazed about the craftmanship people had in those days. What they did (and some people still do) with basic tools truly amazes me.
    But there is not that much to be found if you want to read about going OTG. The survival books (plenty f those to be found) teach you some basic skills, but I guess it is easier to light a fire with matches then using some old techniques described in those books. Still I think it might come in handy to master some of these basic survival skills.

    Which brings me to the point of hunting and fishing
    I know you don’t hunt/fish a lot

    But are there many people on the island that hunt or fish?
    I can imagine that not many deer live on the island, but the mainland must have plenty?
    And the fishing grounds seem to be among the best in the world

    So fishing/hunting could be a nice supplement to replenish your stock of food

    I know you fish on prawns, but there should be plenty of salmon as well I guess?


    • Evidence suggests that there are plenty of fish in the sea but like the dating app of the same name, that does not always translate into a fish for me. I am so bad at catching fish that I could not grab one if there were three trapped in a bathtub. I can occasionally catch a Ling cod. And they taste great. So, once or twice a year I give that a shot. And any dork can catch a Rockfish but all the local Rockies are way too small. Prawns actually catch themselves. I put down a trap and they, over time, go in of their own volition and then I pull it up. My skill set spans the distance between prawns, oysters and clams.
      Deer, on the other hand should be easy. They jump in front of your car. If I had a pistol, I could hit one of those. If I carried a rifle and had some bullets, I might even get a few while not having to leave the comfort of the front seat. And two deer is a year’s worth, really. The problem? Deer eyes. They have such beautiful eyes. Probably the second most beautiful eyes in the animal kingdom. Just behind Sal’s. I really SHOULD be able to kill Bambi’s mom and rip ‘er guts out, get blood all over me and come home shirtless and grunting like a cave-man. I often feel that way…..but well, it’s the eyes, isn’t it?


      • I actually was invited once to go hunting in Poland (2 of our factories are there). In the evening, we spotted a few deers. So the hunter handed me his rifle, which had a big scope mounted. I took aim, the deer was staring straight at me, her eyes were so beautiful that I could not shoot her. So I aimed high and missed her, to great anger of the hunter, who could not believe I missed the shot. So the next morning, he took me again hunting, he said we would go on untill I actually shot a deer.
        But I would never hunt for “sport”. If you hunt, it is to eat the animal . And I must admit, it was the best meat I ever had!


        • That is exactly my dilemma. I eat meat. Cows have nice eyes. But I eat ’em. So, if I eat it, it seems to be OK. It’s just that, well, I currently have some beef in the freezer…but, maybe, someday….
          The only animal I could kill for sport is a mosquito. There is no place in my heart for mosquitos. I could not even really kill a mouse for SPORT. I kill ’em because they are invaders of hygienic/food/personal space. But NOT killing for ‘sport’. There is no ‘sport’ in killing.


  2. There are a few in these parts, who regularly hunt.

    When I had a home on one of the “ferry islands” to the south, I used to shoot a deer most years. But then, that was an island where predators had long since disappeared and the deer population ran in a 7-year cycle. Their numbers would build and build, until disease set in and there would be a large die-off and the cycle would start anew. Culling the herd was actually a benefit to its strength.

    But, over time, that island became very developed. Hunting became frowned upon. Deer have learned to prosper in proximity to people.
    Hunting remained permitted (shotguns and bow hunting only), but best not to be seen to partake. I would shoot my deer on my own land. The bag limit was 3 deer per year. The season was generally September through December.

    Now, living further afield, off grid and in a more natural environment (meaning, in part, we still have cougars and wolves), I feel less inclined to hunt. Two reasons: (i) I feel like I am making life harder for the predators. Because of them, although there is far more undeveloped land, deer populations are a fraction of what they are on all the islands where the predators (sadly) have been eliminated. (ii) Those doe eyes. Even on the bucks. I have grown soft in my old age. Harder to pull the trigger.

    My becoming a wimp when it comes to hunting is despite the fact that I grew up with it. My father, from Norway, grew up hunting reindeer, ptarmigan and hares. I was 9 when he started to take me hunting. We included ducks, geese, pheasants and grouse. But never took more than what we would use ourselves. “Meat for the table” my dad used to say. I just saw it as part of the natural order. We did a lot of fishing, as well.

    I also don’t really much care (or have talent for) butchering. I can field dress a deer easily enough. When I had my southern island place, home was Vancouver. I could take my field dressed deer to BC Frozen Foods and they would hang it in their climate-controlled facility, then skin it, butcher it, wrap it and flash freeze it for a nominal price per pound. They would ask you how you wanted it cut – steaks, roasts, ground, sausage – and after 2 weeks or so you could pick it up, all nicely wrapped and labelled. Not that with our coastal blacktail it amounted to all that much. A big one was not much more than 90 pounds on the hoof and would dress out at about 60 pounds. Compare to the one moose I shot. Dressed out at 630 pounds. Probably about 1,300 on the hoof. Again, I field dressed. BC Frozen Foods took it from there. Even cutting and wrapping the 30-pound liver.

    Sometimes I think I should take to the woods one more time, bearing arms. For pure good eating, hard to beat moose if properly handled and the kill not bungled. But, again, hard to let the crosshairs come to rest on the neck, shoulder or boiler room of the lord of the forest and pull the trigger. Maybe I should content myself with a burger from McDonald’s.


    • I also only did the field dressing. I am not sure I would manage the butchering. But somehow (and these days even more so), I feel the need to “master” some basic skills that may (hopefully not) come in handy.
      In some countries (like Norway and Poland), it is still very common to go hunting and put meat on the table. People are more used to living from the land


  3. Possible snow this week. 4 degrees Celsius at 10am.

    I have installed the “heater can” under my hummingbird feeder.
    (Its a 7 watt refrigerator lightbulb in an insulated coffee can, suspended under the feeder…works like a charm…..)

    I have 3 of the little suckers zipping around here.
    Buzzing my head while I installed it.


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