I need a collar and saucer of milk

I confess that it is still hard for me to think of myself as a senior.  But I am now 72 – that is senior. You’d think I’d ‘get it’ by now but I kinda think I am in a bit of denial.  I still attempt to do what I did and then have to rediscover (midway through the task) that I STILL can’t do that anymore!

I.e., last year I would carry two five gallon fuel totes full to the brim up the 50 odd stairs without stopping.  Of course, I collapsed at the top but I got there without stopping.  Today?  I stop twice…..and still collapse at the top.

Is there really so much difference from 71 to 72?  I actually think the difference showed up at 70 but I kinda pretended otherwise for a couple of years.  I can’t pretend anymore.  Old is old.  I think (for me, anyway) old age set in at 70.  Of course, I have jogging, golfing, vegan-ish friends who gave up alcohol and ‘everything bad’ and seem like they are going strong.  They smile alla time and are always going hiking or cross-country skiing and all that kinda stuff and they pretend they are happy.

They really bug me.

I am not a happy-hiker type of guy….carrying a water bottle?  Wearing a Fit-bit.  Walking is just too slow.  Dull.  I am still more of a moto-crosser kinda guy.  Ya know?  Or even a golf-cart….in a pinch….

Anyway, the point is that living OTG gets a bit more difficult as one ages.  Everyone likely knows that…but, it is NOT that the chores can’t be done.  They can.  And, to be honest, they can still be done rather easily (so what if I stopped twice?  It only took an extra minute for me to stop and rest).  The point is really just that: age slows you down but everything can still be done.  And we are still doing it.  I just gotta accept that I am even slower in 2021 than I was in 2020.

More to the point: Sal has to accept the fact that I am even slower than before.

So, what does that look like?  Well, today was book-club day.  But everyone around is snowed in with downed systems and fires that need tending……..and well, in the old days they would still boat through the sleet and slog through the snow to eat quinoa and talk about sad books.  Not today.  The somewhat senior-oriented book club reasonably postponed book club.  THAT is age acknowledgment.  THAT is sane.

I had a fun thing to do a few days ago.  It was below freezing, the wind was way up and I had to get back in the dark (and it turned out to be snowing, too) in a small boat.  I thought about it and cancelled.  Sanity prevailed.  But….well, that is not the ‘old me’.   A couple years ago, I would have gone….mostly out of a sense of macho….none of which is in evidence these days.  The loss of macho?  Or is it sanity?  I dunno….

I had to carry some stuff down a frozen ramp the other day.  If I fell, going in to the drink was likely.  So, like an old man, I slid down the ramp on my butt.  No macho required but I did need to change my jeans.

And so it goes.  Creeping decrepitude.  An erosion of ego, a curtailing of courage, a blocked bravado.  Old man, thy name is pussy.

Even colder!

But, really?  Who wants to read about the weather?  Not many.  It is what it is.  And it is colder today than what it was by a significant margin.  We sit/quilt with our coats on now, the fire jus’ a hummin’, pounding through the woodshed and carrying buckets of water….sorta like the OTG’ers did in the old days.  The biggest difference for us today is the snow.  Now I trudge through snow to get to the wood and water.  Oh, well…..

Nothing lasts forever.  This, too, shall pass.  And we can then go about our normal everyday business like normal everyday people.   Mostly.  Kinda.  (Sal can be a bit weird now and then).  And what, exactly, will that be?

Good question.  When we live ‘our way of life’ out here, a great deal of energy and interest shows up in doing the chores.  There are the dull chores, of course, and no one likes the dull chores (laundry, dishes, cleaning up, etc).  Then there are the ‘everyday’ chores like wood-getting, fixing, repairing, improving (docks and ramps, doors and windows, decks and such).  Those are the feel alive chores.   And then there are the interesting projects….like boat improvements, engine repairs, and new buildings.  I like the projects.  But Sal has put the kibosh on any more non-quilting projects.

In this climate, however, the discussion is moot.  So, I vacuum, do the dishes, pour the wine and generally try to avoid anything quilting.  So, I have downtime.  Lots of it.

And therein lies the point of this blog: downtime.  D-o-w-n-t-i-m-e.  We NEVER have downtime!  There is ALWAYS something to do.  Guests.  Shopping.  Community.  And, I suppose, there still is something somewhere…but no one is gonna do it….. ’cause it is too cold to even stay outside for more than 20 minutes.

At times like these I normally turn my attention to politics but I won’t.  I am following everything, of course, but, really?  They gonna get ‘im?  I doubt it.  He gonna GET got sometime?  I think so.  No second term, I think.  The Trumps gonna try to field a future dynasty with Ivanka and/or Donald Jr?  I think so.  They are kinda sick that way (well, in every way, actually) and feel entitled.  I think we see more of Don Jr.

But I am ahead of myself.  I have a comment on Harry and Meg.  I understand them wanting out of the palace.  I get that.  And I understand them choosing Vancouver Island.  Good choice.  I would have no problem them even skipping the line to claim Canadian citizenship – ’cause no one is gonna deny them so save us all the sham show.

What I do NOT get is why Canada will pick up their security costs?  Makes no sense to me.  Not even politically.  The Royals can afford it all by themselves.  Missing Indigenous women were invisible to the RCMP for decades, they still get kicked out of hotels and get arrested trying to open bank accounts and Meg gets a security detail to go shopping?  Optics ain’t good, there, Justin.  We are not all equal.  Not in any way.  Just rammin’ it down our throats……and it’s shameful.

Anyway, it is a cold day in paradise and it is just getting colder…….

 

Frozen solid!

My water system has been a bit vulnerable in the past.  A few freezes in the early years smartened me up and I took measures after that.  Things were good for a long while (except for sediment but that’s another challenge).  All equipment was insulated with heat tapes inside the insulative foam and tape wraps.  Yesterday it all STILL froze up.  I do not know if there is a broken part resulting yet but most likely there is.  Whenever I get a new lesson on dealing with Nature, it comes with a few broken parts for emphasis.  The learning curve, eh?

It is so cold out here right now that even running the stove full-tilt, 24 hours and keeping everything ‘snug’, I still cannot get the house temp past F60/15C….not quite true as last night we got it up around 64 but I can’t seem to get to that today.  I am sitting here with a down vest on with a hot water bottle jammed in there to keep me warm.

But that is NOT the half of it.  Sal went to work today at the post office!  Twelve foot boat going slowly, rolling and pitching in small waves but with a few whitecaps.  Temperature well below freezing.  Survival time in these conditions?  Nasty, brutish and short.  Even the mail plane called to say, “We are not flying today!”

Sal had already left.  Stamps got sold. The public was served.

This weather is rare.  So rare, in fact, we have only once had anything like it.  One winter a vicious Bute (a mainland inlet outflow) hit us so fast that a water overflow we had running at the time froze in mid air!  With, of course, the resulting damage that little surprise caused to the whole system.

As I sat to write this, Sal called, “I am leaving the post office now.  Should be home in half an hour.”  The wind is down a bit.  But the temperature is just as cold.  Maybe colder.  I can see her coming…another picture?  Doesn’t show much but there you have it.

Are we deterred?  Not in the least.  OK, a little bit….kinda…maybe…..it is NOT the cold in itself.  It is NOT the incredible consumption of wood or even the inevitable repairs to be done when we can get to them.  No, the deterrence stems from showers – or lack of showers.  That’s the only thing.  The rest we can handle with hot water bottles and snuggling.  In some ways, it is not all bad……but snuggling without showers can only be indulged for a short time, ya know…

Communication is Everything

The daily workload has ground to a halt, really.  For me, anyway.  Sal always has something to do, quilts to quilt, paperwork to shuffle and emails to write and return.  Plus, of course, there is always dinner to consider…..

“What should we have for dinner tonight?”

“Oooh, oooh!  How ’bout that yellow chicken goop-thing you do?”

“Nah.  What else?”

“Ummmhh…there’s that great prawn Linguine you are famous for?”

“Nah.  What?”

“Unh, Sal?  Do you just want me to list meals we can maybe do and then you pick from a list that might take me an hour to go through?  Or maybe we could just cut to the chase…?  What do you want to make?”

“Unh…I dunno…something white, tasteless…you know, potatoes, British stodge?” 

The truth?  Sal never says that last sentence.  She should.  Because that is the truth of it but she thinks that I should KNOW what she wants (spice-free, unseasoned, white foods like chicken or fish, cauliflower and potatoes) and then I should pick that.  I have gained some fluency in ‘fem-speak’ and I now respond with something like, “You know, make something easy, not exotic…maybe a baked potato, maybe something like chicken..?”

“Great!  That’s what we’ll make.”

“Glad I had a say in it.”

“Waddya mean?  It was YOUR choice!”

Fem-speak, eh?  Brilliant.  Pure genius.

As for our life off the grid….it is very cold.  But it is beautiful.  I am toasty warm (but ugly).  The balance in the universe has been restored.  Yin and yang.

Our community work has slowed somewhat….Xmas lethargy hangover and freezing temperatures coupled with short days tends to keep the hoi polloi home.  I am one of them.  But, I DO have some things I have to do.  And so I’ll get on it…..just not too quickly….

I am keeping politics to a minimum here but I do have to point out that Putin/Trump have managed to put a wedge in NATO.  The Great Subterfuge is alive and well.   The UK just announced a separation of ‘sharing information’ with the US.  And all the NATO countries have said ‘they do not trust Trump’.  And, of course, we just lost 50+ citizens in the plane crash caused by a nervous Iranian with a button to push….because the US impulsively put Iran on a war-footing.  Our political pundits say, “We should be mad!  Trudeau should be angry!”

Don’t hold your breath.  Canada will do nothing.  That’s the way we roll.

Still, I want to leave you with a little OTG beauty…so here…INSTEAD of 1000 words….a picture instead!

Elephant Mountain

 

 

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.

 

 

Thar she blows!

Its windy.  The ferries stopped running.  The float planes aren’t flying.  Even the ducks are bobbing on the water tucked in the lee of a rocky outcrop.  No one is going anywhere.

“I work today at the post office today.  I’m going.  The mail must get through!”

“Sal!  The mail goes by way of the mail-plane.  And that is not happening.  There is no point.  Don’t be a nut!”

“You worry too much.  I am safe in my little boat.  It’s good!”

“No boat is good in this.  It’s a steady forty gusting to 50. Going with it might be OK but coming back, you could be blown right over!”

“I’m heading out.  Keep the radio on!”

There is stubborn, there is pig-headed and then there is Moby Sal.  She promised to reconsider when she got out in it.

SSSsssquaaaawwwk! (radio static)  “David!  I am here on the dock.  All hell is breaking loose.  Your boat even wore through a bow-line.  I am NOT going!  Holy crap, I can hardly stand up on the dock!” 

Our house is on the west side of the property.  The dock is on the east side.  This is a Sou’ Easter.  At the dock, it was right on the nose.  I watched it all (boats, dock, houseboat) dance!

Together we  repositioned the boats, checked the lines and watched as three foot waves rolled over the front of the dock.  We watched as a few flotation barrels undulated to freedom.  We watched as every rope stretched taut.  We both almost blew over a couple of times.  It is pretty harsh out there.

This is the stuff of winter, the west coast, off-the-grid, small-boat kinda thing.  It makes you feel alive.  It is also a bit scary sometimes.  “I wonder if our solar array will survive this?”

“I wonder if the dock will survive this?”

 

Community Development

We have 235 people out here according to a recent but unofficial census.  85 live on our island.  Half of all of them are 65+.  At least 10 are over 75.  No one wants to leave.  Ever.

That simple factoid presents a bit of a challenge to the community.  We will need ‘aging-in-place’ programs, additional services, more cooperation….etc.  We already have the bare minimum physical resources in the community centre, the bunkhouse, the ‘spontaneous’ cafes and numerous and varied volunteer efforts.  And everyone helps someone.  We keep community.  We seem to ‘make it happen’.

Money plays a very insignificant role in the doing of that.  And that makes it better all ’round.  Assistance is sincere, immediate and personal.  Community is built stronger, albeit somewhat unplanned and sporadic.

Of course, money DOES play a role – just so much less so than in the city.  Out here, no one carries a wallet.  There are no stores.  Money is used primarily when dealing with the outside world and, naturally, we all keep that to a minimum.  Out here we deal mostly in good will.  And some people are richer in goodwill than others……

This is a community of the ‘lesser-employed’, unemployed, unemployable, retired,  and isolated.  We have a few really rich people, too.  This is also a community of very independent-minded people (rich or poor).  This is a ‘village’ of make-do, repair, recycle, barter, exchange, trade, gift and ‘pay-for-the-gas-only’ transactions.  No one ‘leans’ on others and, if they do, they are un-subtly dissuaded rather quickly.  And everyone supports others now and again……whether they lean or not.

One is, I admit, somewhat encouraged in building community-based-on-goodwill.  This common currency is mostly founded on a sense of some civic duty, plus basic kindness and consideration.  Not money.  Trade and barter are OK, too.  In fact, it is almost an insult to say, “Hey!  Will you accept $50.00 for that?” 

I mention all that because, as you know, we (the community) have incurred much more-than-normal expenses this year.  The BIG one was raising $150,000.00 for a land purchase (in the community’s name).  Readers will be pleased to know: that target was reached within three months!

I am reeling!  One couple: $50K.  Another: $15K.  A single man, $20K and a single women $10k.  Out here, those are big numbers.  Quite extraordinary.  We need $15,000 more, tho.  Why?  For ‘outside’ costs like lawyers and the fee for the Go Fund Me people.

We have also installed communications equipment worth say, $5,000 (if a guy came out from town)…free.

We have initiated a home-support and community support program (started with donations and now almost funded by government – we’ll see in April).

We have a winter cafe (runs twice a month) to supplement the summer cafe that runs weekly when the sun comes out.

We even have a fledgling food service in the water-taxi-delivery food orders, the soup-club and with people swapping fish-for-cheesecake kinda thing……like I said, “we make it all happen”.

But 2020 is an important year.  This year will portend or suggest (but NOT determine) our future.  We spent 2018 and 19 planning with SOME ‘doing’ (cleanup, etc.).  We are even close to an official ‘community plan’. 

As of now, we see the younger people increasing in numbers AND stepping up ‘for duty’ but, of course, they are not as experienced and confident yet.  Oldsters act like mentors when asked, like grouches if not asked.  One way or the other the lessons get learned.  Community chores are being swapped.  That ‘hand-off’ to the next generation is in progress and it seems to be working. 

Having said that, the oldies are getting older every day and their needs will get more pressing.  Can we adjust to the demands of aging and still grow the community?  Can we all stay here-in-place as long as we want?  Will the younger generation inherit and expand the informal but necessary ‘institutions’ of our OTG community?

Will we OTG’ers buck the first-world trend of having lonely, isolated people living in apartment/cabin hell?  Or will we fold-up and surrender and move to some normal services-dependent society when the chores get too hard?  I do not know the ultimate answer but I do know that any answer will be founded on developing strong (er) community.  This is the year that will indicate how we are doing……