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’…..

I am always wrong even when I am wrong!

I had no idea how the midterms would play out and, it seems, neither did very many Americans.

All the reporting and all the poll-watching notwithstanding, no one predicted that; “Ho hum, same ol’, same ol’ result. We’s gonna get us the status quo is all!”

Change was definitely in the air and violence even loomed in the background, that’s for sure. Bellicose bullies and ignorant bigots together with an atmosphere thick with personal attacks suggested something big was gonna happen. Hell, some Republicans campaigned with ads portraying them as ‘quick-shootin’, heavily armed, wild pig-killers and Swat team wannabes. Herschel Walker even showed off a fake police badge. I half-expected a shoot-out at all the polling stations in Arizona.

Typically, the party in power (this time it is the Democrats) lose big in the midterms but this time they did not. They held a much-feared GOP resurgence to, well, the same numbers they had…give or take a seat or two. And no Dems, libs, or wild pigs were shot (on the voting days, anyway). In fact, there was only ONE mass shooting on November 7th and no one was killed (4 wounded) in Texas, no less. Practically a boring day……………………….

Bloomberg reported that over $16B was spent on the 2022 midterms and over $14B was spent on the 2020 election meaning that the US spent $30B in the last two plus years on elections and for what? Nada! There are more than half the countries in the world that do not have an annual Gross Domestic Product to match what the US spent on those two elections. The highest GDP of that lower half is Estonia with almost exactly that amount as their total country’s annual economic output.

Of course there is something radically wrong there…but, where to start? Democracy itself? The locked-in two-party system? Corrupt ‘fiddling’ by way of gerrymandering and voter disqualifications? Too frequent elections? Could it just be….nah….all that money involved? Could all the money involved mean that it is possibly a totally corrupt system right from the get-go?

Whether it is or not is not quite the point (mostly it is, tho) The point is that the USA spent $30 Billion dollars achieving nothing while people are starving and hundreds of thousands of ‘Mericans go bankrupt every year due to health care costs. That is sheer bloody madness from that collective bunch o’ leaders.

And worse, by achieving nothing, the debacle will just continue. “Step right up! Git yer tickets here! It is the reds against the blues…..”

OMG that is stupid as hell!

October is always nice but, in November, the rains come (and the madness creeps in)

Usually it is that way. And this year, that recipe was being followed by Mother Nature but, well, she really spiced it up some. A couple days before Halloween, I was down on the dock in a T-shirt replacing a board or two. That day, I actually got a bit too much sun on my face.

Here it is barely a week later and the snow is on the ground, the decks are frozen and I am running the genset 24 hours straight to ensure the water lines do not freeze (they are wrapped in heat tape). We dropped easily 40 degrees Fahrenheit, 15 degrees C (maybe more) in a few days. The wind has been coming from the northern quadrant (1/3 from the NE) and it has also held a lot of moisture. That is not common. We never get snow in November from the north. Usually the rain comes from the SE and any NW winds are dry. And, of course, we are pounding through the wood already.

“Dave! That’s not news! That’s weather!”

You are right. Of course. I should be embarrassed. But, you see, it also FEELS DIFFERENT. It feels like yet another aberration linked to climate change. I know that is a weird thing to say but, honestly, it really FEELS different. It FEELS a little crazy.

Good ol’ Sal is, of course, in denial. She got up at dawn, packed her kit and left to go quilting on the other island this morning. There was a 15-20 knot wind blowing out of the NW. The seas were up a bit…pretty bouncy, not too ugly. The temperature was below 28 degrees F and everything was a sheet of ice. With the wind in her face, it was a horrible trip. She got over to the other side with her chainsaw and quilting stuff and hiked the hill to the car to make the meeting on time. Yesterday there had been reports of multiple trees downed on the old logging road and Sal anticipated having to chop through a few this morning.

I do not know what to say……………..? Sheer bloody lunacy? Frozen madness-on-a-stick? Intrepid quilter with a chainsaw? I like to think ol’ Sal is just more macho than Arnold Schwarzenegger and with a few more skills but mental illness cannot be completely ruled out. In fact, crazy is, in this case, the Occam’s razor conclusion.

Think not? Well, consider this: it takes an hour to get in and an hour to come back out. Those two hours do not allow for fallen tree removal, sliding into the ditch or any other common and frequent Murphyism. She had to be in the car and moving at 8:00 am. AND she has to be back here at 12:15 because she has a flu-shot scheduled 30 minutes later up at the school. So, all that intrepidness for a two-hour quilting meeting…..I dunno…what do you call it?

Anyway, winter is here. It came in like Freddy Krueger. But, if he has his chainsaw, he has met his match.

I am almost always wrong…..

….calling an election, I mean. I rarely get it right. The stronger I feel, the wronger I seem to be. I hated Trump so much and thought everyone saw him as I did, I gave him no chance whatsoever. Same for Stephen Harper. Same for Boris Johnson. As much as I follow politics, I don’t guess right even half of the time. It’s a real failing.

And so I am loathe to even hazard a wild guess on the US midterms and do not be blind on this, this may be one the biggest elections in US history. Of course, we all may not have much of a future anyway (climate change, Russia, etc) but, if things still keep chuggin’ along and the US goes the way of the fascists, this election will have been a major game-changer. This one is BIG.

To my mind, the dumb Bubbas in camo wanting to kill or ‘cancel’ all the libs cannot possibly be in the majority. Even the evangelical, bible-thumping hypocrites who hate immigrants and think Trump is the Second Coming can’t be that numerous. The MAGA hat wearing imbeciles waving Confederate flags couldn’t fill a football stadium….could they? I mean….pundits are saying…..”The GOP could take both houses!”

If that happens and if Trump wins in 2024, all bets are off. Live OTG or downtown LA, all bets are bad for N. America. Seriously, I am too old to move away but, if I was in my 30’s, I’d go to New Zealand in a heartbeat.

I have been watching and reading and doing my own guessing and prognosticating and I really have no idea. Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Roger and Me) is convinced the Republicans are done. Totally convinced. N. Cohen of the New York Times is convinced otherwise. MAGA freaks are practically salivating with anticipation and yet the Sarah Palins are face-planting. How to tell? How to even guess?

But (once again) here is the point: what does it say about the US if this election is close? Does that mean that half the population are ignorant, racist, lying crooks? Even if one GOP candidate gets elected, what does that say about that state? If only Democrats succeed, does that mean the US lives happily ever after with some huge portion plotting to break and enter homes and whack old guys with hammers? Does Herschel Walker get to determine US policy on anything? I mean….no matter how this turns out, the result is bad, worse or horribly worse. This BIG UGLY that has infested the US has to either be totally excised or else we will be living right next door to the United States of Schizophrenia.

Makin’ juice…and irony all at the same time

Electricity. Power. Watts and amps. One may not NEED power living OTG (we still have some folks with gas and oil lamps and no refrigeration) but it is a helluva lot easier and, in the long run, likely cheaper to have power rather than not if you are building or doing anything significant. And so we modern OTG’ers are more than inclined to go get us some power.

When I started out back in the day (2004), making power meant a genset or two, some solar panels, batteries and an inverter that took the 12/24/48 DC volt battery bank to 120/240v AC. And that, at the time, was a bit on the sophisticated side because my system could be charged both by generator and/or solar. Plus you could use ‘cheaper’ appliances and lights (mass produced fluorescent or incandescent) rather than automotive or marine 12 volts appliances and lights.

I added a wind turbine rather quickly but it was largely useless. In those days, the ‘little’ $700.00 wind turbines put out 400 watts between 24 and 28 mph of wind but virtually nothing under 18 mph and, if the wind increased beyond 30 mph, the turbine stopped (braked) so as not to burn out. The only practical improvement one could really make to the overall system was adding more panels and more batteries.

Of course, those batteries were of the lead-acid kind and, as a rule, they lasted only about five years due to crude construction, improper maintenance and heavy use. They were an obstacle to any kind of long term reliability. Mostly it was maintenance and use. “Batteries don’t die, son, they are murdered.” Which turns out to mean that, if you took out the plates and acid and cleaned everything up and fixed a bit here and there, there is likely enough material to go another five years.

Today, things have improved.

Firstly, panels are a lot cheaper nowadays and are also a smidge more efficient. Back at the turn of the century, I paid $5.00 a watt. A 125 watt panel with 15% efficiency was $625. Three of them cost over $1800 and were rated at 375 watts – which they never seemed to achieve. Today, a panel is usually around 17 -20% efficient and costs $1.00 a watt. I can buy a 350 watt panel that outperforms the earlier 3 panels for $350.00. There is NO question solar works. And more modern solar works even better. I currently have 3000 watts of potential power (the sun has to shine) and it is adequate for our needs in the summer. More than adequate, actually. It is adequate for our needs in the Spring and Fall, too. My solar is of diminishing impact by late October but picks up again by early April.

Batteries have improved…kinda…. Back in the day, the Surette battery was the best but they were so expensive most people used old ‘large’ heavy-equipment batteries. I used 8D sized batteries designed for buses and heavy equipment. Some used L16s. Many used a sad collection of old car and truck batteries. Today, I use Discover batteries which are still lead acid but better designed (like the Surettes) but Discover’s Lithium Ion are showing themselves to be up to the task and they are smaller and better performing. But they, too, are expensive as hell. It is hard to make that kind of investment ($20K) when you just know that the next generation of battery will be even better. When that happens. If it happens. Someday. Maybe.

But, as you know, I eventually get to the point of the blog and the point is this: The Chinese are now putting out a way more efficient wind turbine that operates at lower wind speed. Or so they claim. Unverified. Cheaper, too. I can get a 10000 watt wind turbine for $1000 that will work at 8 mph. I have not yet studied what it produces at such a low wind speed but I always have 8 mph and so 24 hours at even a low generation is still a lot of juice. I am very close to making this addition happen (more research is needed). If it works it will work best when I need it the most – Winter.

Hydro power is by far the best overall. But not everyone has a fast running creek or stream to tap into. Mine is half a kilometer away. So, generally speaking, 3000 watts of solar power with a low speed wind turbine and twice as much good battery storage (I have 400 amp hours. I could really use 800 – 1200) and I would be doing as good as I need to. The goal: limited genset use in a typical year’s winter (which we may never see again).

“Dave, if others use kerosene lamps, what are you using that requires so much juice?”

This is point #2: we have a washing machine (no dryer) a modern electric fridge. That fridge is incredible. Very low draw. And two freezers. We watch NetFlix and run computers plus all my tools now and then. There is the water pump, all the kitchen appliances, battery chargers and all the lights (now LED). Plus, once a month or so I use the ‘funicular’ which carries heavy stuff up the hill. In the summer, I have and use sparingly a small portable air conditioner. We are old softies, really.

The irony to living OTG is that you try to create the ease of modern living. And you work like a dog and spend like a celebrity to do it.

Epilogue: A few hours research has confirmed original doubts and fears. Reviewers in NZ, Aus and the USA have described the new Chinese Wind turbines as using ‘new Chinese watts’ with which to rate their output. They are not true. And, worse, 80% of the turbines are still poorly made. It seems there are a few good ones but they are also performing like the old ones with only incremental improvements. The best foreign wind turbine is from Turkey. It is something called iSTA BREEZE. Comes in 1000, 1500 and 2000 watts. Real watts. MY Air-X is considered as good but mine is just 400 watts. The new Chinese turbine is largely a hoax! Fake news! I also learned that ‘jamming in’ turbine juice meets with resistance and the bigger the bank, the more resistance. A small charge of say, 3 or four amps, won’t even register. So that accounts for me getting ‘nothing’ until 18 mph and then getting 8 amps all of a sudden. I did not know that.