No news is the news…..

People are not gathering as much in the time of Covid (and that has to be a good thing in a pandemic, don’t you think?) but you’d think they would have something to say when they do get together, wouldn’t you?

Well, we don’t!

Our friends and neighbours came out yesterday and they haven’t been here in awhile. We usually gather up and have tea or a beer and tell stories, lies, crack jokes and share the news when they come. But, well, this time when they arrived we both said the usual pleasantries and then sat poised for some news or stories or, at the very least, some gossip. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

“Waddya guys got?”

“Nuttin….nuttn’ really. Sheesh. Wadda…yooooo got?”

“Nothing. We’ve been busy puttering about but nothing that generates any stories. You know, spring cleaning, chopping wood…that kinda thing…?”

So the point of this post is that Covid had made for a relatively boring time for many of us. I am sure some people have had some exciting good or bad times but we, generally speaking, have not. Neither has anyone we know. Not really. SD had an operation, M is going through family issues, R is being thwarted by government procedures and another R is currently recovering from a health issue…………but those are not ‘exciting times’ even if they are critically important – more so if you are at the centre of it. But we are not.

Life OTG in 2021 looks very much like life OTG 2020 and both periods feel as if time kind of ground to a halt in so many ways. No, I am not bored. I am too old and content to get bored as in needing entertainment but I am kinda bored in that I can not make any kind of travel plans.

Our most exciting thing this year was seeing our beautiful grandchildren, salvaging logs, building a dock and generally getting caught up in chores. And now, the garden (woohoo!). Trips abroad were not on the agenda. Adventures never happened. Hardly anyone visited. We are good with all that and we are happy to be so content but, to be frank, we have lacked in surprises, disasters and catastrophes (knock on wood) – our story staples. Mishaps R Us. You know, if it bleeds it leads? If it blows up, too, it is even better? It has been safe and steady-as-she-goes but being safe and steady is NOT all that interesting.

Ironically, this life-invanilla is interesting only because it is so odd and made even more so by the banality of it. Ironic to say the least. Confusing is a better word.

Economists have already identified this weird phenomena and have predicted a soon and huge response of pent up consumer demand for ‘something’ (products, services, raw materials and socializing) that will jolt the economy back into high gear. ‘Course they are saying that at the same time as they say the economy has already BOUNCED back.

Make no mistake: the economy has not bounced back.

This is not only the time of Covid, a boring-but-ugly episode punctuated by illness and death, this is not only a time of remarkable economic lies and deceit, not only a time of political duplicity and corruption, mass delusion and divisiveness (the Trump debacle), but this is also a time of subtle-but-still-harsh reality in the form of stumbling, inept and failing governments and institutions. Society has had a wake-up call: ‘What!? The cities aren’t safe?’ ‘The police are bad?’ ‘The hospitals are full!’ ‘Many people believe insane conspiracy theories?’ ‘There is more to life than work?’ ‘Rural is good?’ ‘Money is not the only reason to live?’ ‘Government cannot take care of me?’ ‘Everyone is lying!’ ‘Caitlyn Jenner wants to be a leader?’

The world is upside down and most folks head’s are spinning. So ‘we’ in the personal sense have no news but ‘WE’ in the global sense have taken a licking and the blood keeps getting spilled. The world has had a hard time these past almost-two years.

And then there is climate change.

It may be a twist on the above described reality to say it, but it all still kinda feels like only one shoe has dropped, the calm before the storm still yet-to-come. I kinda feel another shoe is in the air……

Is it just me?

But, like, isn’t the price of everything going up a LOT more than usual and doing so without much, if any, fanfare? I mean, if I am right, isn’t that a harbinger of pain and discomfort in the near future?

I am not talking about gasoline which, of course, is a fixed, rigged and piggybacked product by government (making it the perfect ‘controlled-extortion’ profit item). I am not talking about food, either. Food is definitely going up but we kind of expected that (I do not know why we did but we did). I am talking about things that have no business being more expensive…..like used boats! What the hell?

I am currently looking for a 15′ Boston Whaler-style replacement boat for Sal’s little 11-footer and, of course, I go to Craigslist. Other boats will do but the BW15 is ideal for her. I look in the ‘under 18’ foot category and, typically, those runabout-type boats were usually under $10,000 unless made of welded aluminum (then they get stupid expensive). Last year there were lots of used fiberglass garden ornaments-on-trailers for very little money. $1,000, maybe $2,000 for a good hull, and the balance to as high as $10K, depending on the engine. Today, a boat like that is priced at double the cost of last year.

Used cars are up, too, tho not by so much. Still, I would estimate that sellers are asking a 25% premium at the very least (I do not need one but I like to stay hip to the cool SUV/truck market).

Even cheap-crap tools from Home Depot (always on sale) are, in fact, NOT on sale much it seems and are more often regular priced. And some better brands (Makita) seem to be higher, too. And let us not even dwell-for-a-minute on building supplies. Lumber, of course, is in the headlines but screws, nails, etc. are all up, too.

In my world OTG – where OTG meets the real world market now and then – everything is more expensive by a noticeable margin and over a relatively short period of time. Why? Why is that happening?

Now, I am not complaining…..not really……older people on fixed incomes are in a perpetual state of sticker-shock after the age of 65 or so. That is just the way of the capitalist world. One just has to suck it up, go without or ‘make-do’. Still, this recent price surge/gouging/extortion seems larger than I have ever noticed before and, if I am right, it will only get worse.

“Right about what?”

Well, the so-called marketplace is not generally as unpredictable as economists say publicly. They kinda lump everything under the heading of inflation and let it go at that – as if inflation was some kind of natural force that no one really understands. That is simply NOT true. This blog is not the place to get into it but, generally speaking much of the financial world is based on a 5% inflation or so-called growth rate. It has to be….huge pension schemes, savings accounts, interest rates on loans and other financial industries are reliant on a ‘growth’ or ‘inflation’ mechanism for them to work.

Even more ‘undetected’ is the natural inclination of the plumber wanting to keep pace with the electrician or the dentist wanting to stay ahead of the doctor. ‘Keeping up with the Jones’s’ is more than just status seeking, it is literally the device everyone uses to keep up with everyone else. And anyone with a little extra leverage uses that to ‘get ahead’ thus forcing the plumbers and the dentists to do the same when they can raise their prices.

Basically, we are all trying to get ahead or at least stay-the-same as our neighbours and those bastards keep raising their prices!

This past year, real estate has gone off the charts. The average home price in Canada is circa $750,000. That includes Saskatoon, Moncton and Winnipeg. Real estate has really jumped in value and I think that ‘inflated’ industry is acting like an accelerant to the larger economy.

If the goal of the economy is an exercise is trying to achieve equilibrium in a society that has the freedom to set it’s own prices, equilibrium will never be achieved, stability is replaced with volatility and inflation is, once again, inevitable. That statement is NOT news. But when something BIG gets completely out-of-whack compared to ‘other things’ then that anomaly acts as an accelerant and a disruptor. A couple of years ago cauliflower went off the charts and some people panicked. But cauliflower futures are not BIG. Things settled down on the cauliflower front. Big is gasoline, big is real estate, big is the total food basket. But biggest of all is real estate. In other words, real estate prices have set the economy on fire.

“Isn’t the economy-on-fire a good thing?”

It is for the young, educated, cutting-edge worker in demand who got into the housing market over a few years ago….not so much for the fixed income pensioner or the young person entering the BIG markets today. It is for the financial industry, banks, government and monopolies (gasoline and the like) but not so much for the workers in the service industries and hospitality industries (they have less leverage). Balloons do not help all boats float higher. Many sink.

But the real reason a fired up economy is NOT good is that it is not sustainable. And big-leap price-jumps in the ‘basics’ is especially bad because the basics are what we all need. If the prices of luxury goods goes up, we can choose NOT to buy them but bread, milk, burgers, gasoline, cars, houses and, for me, tools and building materials need to remain relatively stable. And they are not.

And now for the ‘other shoe’ to drop: The ‘west’ has stimulated the economy for some time to keep us all going. We started that ‘technique’ in 2008/09 when the sub-prime market tripped up the financial houses and they were deemed too big to fail. We pumped in the money for them. And we never clawed that stimulus back. All that money is mostly still out there. Then we double-downed with additional stimulus for weathering Covid and that money is out there and starting to show up now.

And get this – Biden is proposing to ‘juice’ up the economy even further with a big infrastructure expenditure (long overdue) and that money has yet to get pumped into the ‘balloon’ we call an economy.

Balloons stretch. Good balloons can stretch a long way. I am, however, inclined to believe all balloons eventually pop. Jus’ sayin……

Nomadland and gardening

The two are mutually exclusive, of course, but we have experienced both and know them to be similar. First, with the Nomadland……

When Sal and I were first together, we traveled as often as we could and I believe our first real trip was the one we took to Belize and Guatemala in our old, flat green VW bus. That first big trip (we had enjoyed a number of shorter romantic extra-long weekend trips all around but nothing further than Cannon Beach, Tofino, Kelowna and Banff) was quite an adventure and it lasted about two and half months. Fabulous time.

But, it was a fabulous time in an era that allowed young people to safely camp on beaches and in fields in their vans – even in the USofA. It was a time when the worst danger was a $20.00 bribe paid to a trumped up Mexican Federale or being cheated by a dishonest gas station out of a few bucks. There was a smidge of danger associated with those petty crimes but not much. And, back then, it was infrequent – not the normal way of doing things it has become today. RV’ing, even on the very cheap, was a very viable way to take an extended trip/vacation/adventure and we did.

We went to Mexico so often that Sal figured out that we had accumulated over two years there – all of it RV’ing. We traveled all across Canada a few times, too and, on one occasion, returned by driving home through the US from Boston to Seattle. We have flown to Florida but have not seen the deep Southeast……it is kinda still on our bucket list but sadly, definitely NOT at the top of the list. We have definitely RV’d.

And here is where the reference to Nomadland comes in: that show was authentic. It was mostly a documentary, really. And, to be fair, it was pretty slow paced but, if I recall correctly, RV’ing really is rather slow-paced, especially when you factor in hours of driving. There is no question Sal and I were more adventuresome and exploratory than was the main character, Francis McD/Fern but, as our RV’ing days extended into our sixties, we, too, slowed down and sat around campfires more often. By our sixties, adventure was packing a group of old people into one vehicle and traveling to another village to visit their restaurant. RV’ing for seniors is definitely more slow-paced.

Which kinda segues nicely into gardening as an adventure (there isn’t one!). Gardening is the very definition of slow-paced for me. Gardening is like watching grass (or vegetables) grow, paint drying or waiting for a broken traffic light to change…..it feels like it is never going to happen.

I am ill-suited to that kind of pace still. I can sit forever in the dark like a just-planted seed but, once I get moving, I have to ‘get er done’ and focus hard til it gets done’. I still suffer the impatience of youth (without the energy to back it up).

Anyway, we compost (of course) and now is the time to reap our garbage rewards. My job (over the next three days) is to dig out the compost, rub it over a screen to filter out the twigs and uncompostibles and then deliver to Sally all the lovely soft, dark soil for her to plant stuff in. Rubbing dirt on a screen is slow-paced, too. Mind-numbingly so. Sally planting is also slow paced but, for her, full of exciting distractions (“Hey! Look! A squirrel!”). When RV star, Fern/Francis, was musing and being slow, she was drinking coffee and smoking and looking pensively at the sky while saying earthy, pithy things to another RV’er. When Sal and I are being slow, we are digging earthy, pithy things for each other and not saying much at all.

See? Same thing, only different.

MAY 1

May first, second or even Cinqo de Mayo never meant anything very much to me in my past city life. April 30th. Whatever….they were just numbers or dates before and they were numbers that dictated my schedule from the demands of my appointment calendar. Each day was just another day in the hectic rush that was urban life. I was OK with all that at the time….didn’t really know any different. I was too busy to stop and smell the flowers and, anyway, what would be the point of smelling flowers?

May first is a BIG DEAL now! May first and the garden work begins in earnest. May first is the beginning of the commercial prawn fishery. May first has heretofore marked the beginning of our ‘popular’ season. Typically, the first of the visitors would arrive within the week. The bottom of the boats need attention right about now. Raven babies will be here soon. Oysters may be suspect (Red Tide) and the worst part: the tides are all low in the afternoon (makes carrying heavy crap so much more difficult). The date may be important (give or take a week) but only because it marks the beginning of the BIG seasonal chores and changes.

Rural life generally erodes the now typical, urban adherence to the clock and the calendar for the rest of the year. And life OTG practically eliminates it. The clock no longer counts all that much, the sun does. The tides do. Most of us around here are unsure about the day of the week and oblivious to the time in minutes. No one wears a watch. We can do hours and minutes when we have to you (i.e. vaccine appointment) but, generally speaking time is now set out in daily chunks, as in, “I’ll get to it tomorrow morning or maybe early afternoon.” No one says, “I will be there at 10:15 am but have to leave for an appointment at 11:45.” That kind of statement would be considered a joke.

I would say that May first is a date of significance and maybe October 31st is similar in that the former seems to mark the onset of summer (here summer comes early) and the latter date marks the end to a lot of outdoor chores and activities. Instead of a busy calendar of 350 days plus, I have a slack calendar that pivots on two days.

And I adjust the solar panels around those two times as well.

This ‘Island Time’ mindset is not restricted to the OTG folks interacting on an imprecise clock, it includes the services we have brought in. I took some stuff to the barge terminal last month to have brought out (big and heavy) and they said, “Well, the barge is up on the hard. Hope to get to you after the 18th of May.” And Sal and I were down doing some wiring on our boat yesterday morning (April 30) and Sal heard the deep rumble of the barge. I ran over the hump to see and, sure enough, the barge was at the beach. Surprise! A two-ton delivery was being made 18 days off the schedule and not a word was even mentioned.

“Hey, we are just happy to have it here!”

We have now pretty much integrated getting food from the store delivered to the community dock. That is now a popular service only to see more and more grocery/delivery use over time. The women who volunteer to distribute the load when it gets there come from all around (two or three separate islands). Their commute is at least 30 minutes to 45 minutes. They never have a clue when the food boat is going to come until the last minute when either the boat calls or one of the women call the boat. Even then, the chore is often fulfilled an hour later than predicted or even more. The only thing they know for sure is that the food will likely come around noon, give or take a couple of hours. Maybe three.

That’s OK, the women all like each other and they socialize but, in the winter, that can mean standing in the rain or the snow. It can be a smidge irritating – and it will ever be thus…..delivery times are made in chunks, too.

When I lived in the city, it was the opposite. I had appointments. Maybe as many as five in a day and always in different places. I was also a smidge compulsive about being on time. So, I would often find myself driving in heavy traffic with my knee, eating a glop-burger while talking on the cell phone and writing notes in my calendar (talk radio on in the background) all so that I could be on time. I had synced myself to the clock to the point that I knew within minutes what the time was throughout the day. Put more succinctly, it was a minor madness.

Ironically and, perhaps colorfully, I would describe this difference in perspective with a pendulum metaphor. I was minute-driven in the city and now I am sun, tide and seasonally driven. The difference is huge.

We do….

Forgive me this, my not-so-daily blog. I may have sinned. I was feeling kind of philosophical yesterday and wrote almost a thousand words that, by any definition, is basic drivel. Still, I hate to waste the effort. There will be no more of this in future…….well, maybe a little now and then…..

We do…a little volunteer community work. Most folks do. Some don’t but most do a little something. To be fair to those that don’t give much of anything, their absence in community participation is notably more appreciated that way and their active participation is not always welcome or useful – so them NOT volunteering is most often a positive. We have old guys and gals who take and do not give back (or at least not that I have noticed) but there are no strict rules in the community volunteering business. And that is OK. No one really cares. No one keeps accounts.

Funny how it all seems to work out, though.

The thing about small community is that it is not all kumbaya. People are people and some are not as attractive or as positive an influence as others. The GOOD thing about community is that there is still room for those people and all the ones that fall in between generous and stingy, pleasant and grouchy. No one counts on the skint-types too much but neither do they exclude them. They are ‘just there’ and, if they are in need, people help ’em out and, the hope is that if others are in need, they MIGHT reciprocate. Maybe. But there are no real expectations.

There are, however, some habitual behavioral expectations. Society has taught us to tout expectations-of-good-manners and we (Sal and I) have ’em, too.

I mention this because I recently had a conversation with a generous and loving community member whose only gripe was that their kindness and generosity was not expressly appreciated. People took and took but not only did they NOT give back but some did not even express any gratitude. My community ‘giver’ was a bit disappointed.

“Well, you know, I said, getting a bit philosophical, a gift is a gift. If the gift has an expected return – even a thankyou – , it is no longer a gift, it is a transaction. If you levy the ‘price of an expectation-of-gratitude’ then you are obviously giving to get something. If you give to get, you are in a state-of-exchange and then that is no longer a gift.”

“But, shouldn’t they at least say thank you?”

“Well, I tend to think that way, too, but what I said is from the bible. (I have no idea if it is in the bible. I lie using the bible as backup just like the priests). You give to give, not to get. Giving is it’s own reward. But I understand the expectation. I sometimes feel it, myself. But think of it this way: you give to your children all the time. You give and give and give and only sometimes is the situation ever set up for a thank you. Most of the time the kid doesn’t even know you are giving – and, if they do, they think it is their due. Or worse, they resent it as an intrusion! So, if you can give to your kid in the Christian sense of charity, can you not give to another in the same way?”

“I hate you!”

The irony to the above is that almost all that is given freely seems to be returned in some weird kind of way by the universe*. Usually multi-fold. Seldom is it returned by the original recipient but, somehow, the gift of giving comes back in some way shape or form. Some people call that Karma (in Hinduism and Buddhism: the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, are viewed as deciding their fate in this and future existences). I am disinclined to get too mystical about it, myself (despite this odd blog). I think you just give and take and let God sort it out. But, if I had to make a philosophical stand, I think Karma is close to naming a real but kinda mystical phenomena. I think Karma is real. *Don’t quote me.

I could be wrong. I could just be another sap or sucker (or even a sap-sucker) but so much of my life was really a gift and so little was the result of good planning, hard work or personal management. I planned, of course. I worked. I managed. But there is no way I can attribute my great marriage, my wonderful kids, my general health, my good life to any of that. Most of it was just a big fluke.

When I was in my early 20’s I decided that too many Americans owned too much of BC and so I went out to buy some of it back. I had no money at all so I had to go to the ‘boonies’ to get something I imagined I could afford and even at that, I borrowed every cent of the money. I had no idea that that land would become my ‘paradise’ now. But it has become exactly that. Pure dumb luck, NOT good planning!

When I was 21 and asked a little cutie out on a date and it turned out to be the happiest day of my life, I had no idea that she and I would eventually be wed and stay that way for fifty years. That is like winning the Lotto 50 times! A total gift from the Gods!

I was planning NOT to have kids and then Sal decided otherwise and what a gift they are! Gifts that keep on giving (grandchildren). And so it all went. Work, plan, manage and then, surprise!……. something else even better happened.

And it was all good.

So, what is my point? Well, I am working a bit to help someone right now. They are good. But they have been mostly money oriented all their life. I have no problem with that. But it kinda leaves them impoverished in a way. Money-getting is a demanding mistress. It is not a high Karma producer as a rule. Everyone chooses a path and many choose that one and it is NOT always truly enriching – even if they get filthy rich.

Money-getting is not usually too closely associated with giving freely and so money is often all there is left with which to measure your time on earth. In fact, money-getters are usually in a constant state of transaction – never content – always trying to trade up to a ‘richer’ state. Even when they donate they want their name on a plaque or something. And feeling that way destroys the magic of giving. It erodes the gift of life. It often leaves them alone and empty. It’s kinda sad.

Jus’ sayin’….

PS. Please do not misunderstand me: I do not walk on water giving away free fish sandwiches to the multitudes. That was attempted once a long time ago and did not go over well with the authorities. I am basically normal and living normally in the real world. Mostly, anyway. Hell, I even shop at Costco because ‘a buck goes further there’. Being a user-of-money is just being realistic – that is how the world works. A lot of it is transactional. I guess what I am saying is there are a dozen better ways to do a transaction than just doing so with money.

Just in and out under the wire….(and with observations)

We went to Victoria see Sal’s mom for her 93rd birthday (she, me and Sal have all been vaxxed. She lives alone, so do we. It was safe). The day after we arrived, the province ‘closed the doors to travel’. There are now some stronger restrictions. Our daughter in Alberta was intending to visit in a few weeks but that was cancelled because the ferry won’t take her. Our son came out to great grandmas with his family and they are extremely cautious, too, and his wife is a health care provider and so was vaxxed. But they considered a 30 km visit was a bit of a risk. We visited outside.

There is a ‘heavier cloud’ of restriction now very evident in Victoria. NOT depressing but NOT even close to enjoyable. And I saw no one without a mask this time. Don’t misunderstand me, it was necessary and too long overdue but it is a smidge depressing.

Naturally, our trip was more than just a visit. It was also a BIG, GIANT town-day (Home Depot, Costco, etc). We went primarily to visit but, of course, no one ‘visits’ all day long and so we do our chores as well. And the chore list is endless. And exhausting.

We have an old car coming to the island and it needed some extra spare tires (OTG vehicles pop tires like popcorn). We now have three spares for it! To carry them home in a chock-full SUV (from all the other chores) we put the tires up on the roof rack. Sal climbs up on the roof, I lift the ‘load’ up to her and then she dances around the top tying it down……and the tire-store guys jaws are on the ground. “Holee! She’s good!” “More than that, dude, she’s in her 70th year!”. “Are you f’ing sh”’ing me, man?! I can’t get my wife to carry the groceries, let alone climb up anything and she’s in her thirties!”

We were in a mall. I had parked near a handicap zone space. As we were loading in some stuff, an old couple crawled in to park beside us. They were vey cautious. Then the passenger door slowly opened and this old guy, even-slower, lifted one foot out and then a minute later, the other one appeared. We closed our car doors and adjusted our stuff to make it easier for him. After four minutes, he was out. “I take a while, now. I’m old.” “So, how old are you?” “I’m 75!” (I am 73. I honestly felt as if I could carry him into the mall over my head and I was not 100% sure he could even carry himself).

We picked up a package from FedEx and Sal was outside and back up on the roof. The office staff remarked, “Hey! There’s someone on your car’s roof!” “That’s my wife. I’ll pass her the package (it was as large as a big suitcase). She’ll tie it down.”

“Dave! What’s the point?”

The point is simple: we are staying fitter and staying fitter longer than our urban cousins. Of course, that is a very generalized statement and there are plenty of urbanites fitter than us, I know that. But, had we continued to live in the cul de sac as we had, neither of us would be as healthy as we are and we both acknowledge that. Even Sal. Life OTG is good for you.

The time wasted spent in line-ups and traffic, alone, would have put me in the nuthouse.

Further to that….we have a 41 year old friend who just bought a couple acres two islands away. He’s single (now) and fit. He’s skilled as hell at anything mechanical. Nice guy. And he is an outdoors nut. Huntin’ and fishn’……really very able. He was here today. “Oh, man, I am tired. I am so busy. I only have a couple of jobs to do for others but I am also taking care of myself, fixing the old cabin, trying to get in a garden and just going all the time. I can hardly earn a penny! I had no idea living OTG was such a full-time job!” (He has been single for four years and doesn’t like it. Any great 35-42 year old females who love being in nature, are hardy and have simple wants and needs should apply to his agent* as he is not likely to find anyone in the time of Covid out here or on his own. Pictures are required because the agent is nosy and wants to see).

And finally, (as in the observations department) we had to take a short detour at one point (road work) and passed through a new subdivision. I saw a For Sale sign on a nice looking new house. “Sal, call the realtor, would you? I am curious what a nice but simple house in what looks like a crowded neighbourhood 40 minutes outside Victoria is going for.” She called. “$929,000! It’s 2000 sft and has five bedrooms. It must be jammed tight in that house. The lot is only 3000 sft. It is a postage stamp. AND it is all strata title!”

Some poor sap will go in to debt to the tune of a million dollars (when the dust has cleared) and will remain in servitude to that debt for the bulk of his life so that he can be incarcerated in a ‘normal’ house and raise a family. And judging from the construction going on all along the lower island, he/she is not alone. The south island is exploding!

Bottom line: the government has restricted life-as-we-knew-it, the cost of living is further restrictive and the cost of housing is crazy-prohibitive. And I just read that 2020 is considered the year of mental health erosion or ‘languishing’…not quite ‘mental’ but definitely not health.

And I am NOT in the least bit surprised.

Floating Bag lady

Captain of the garbage barge? Must-stink Sally? Dumpster diva?

You’ve heard of being keel-hauled…right? Well, this is us being clean-hauled. Spring cleaning OTG.

We have not made a garbage run for eight years. Occasionally, we take in a small bag of stinky stuff (one small one white bag) but, for the most part of this special Covid time, we haven’t gone anywhere to take anything with us. I think I have been in town maybe four times over this past year….which is 3 times too many. (Sal’s knee op was worth every excruciating day there.)

Eight years of living gathers garbage regardless of how ‘green’ one tries to be. We have 40 cases of empty wine bottles to return, for example, and they are NOT shown in the pictures. Wine bottles are for another day. Garbage, garbage, garbage is today’s agenda.

For us, garbage mostly falls into one of six categories. Safe burnables (nothing plastic or chemical – i.e cardboard, old wood), compostable organics, glass, non-compostable organics, plastic/chemical derivatives and metals.

We do a safe burn every couple of years – usually in the winter or during heavy rains. We compost every day. The non-coms (bones, cooked meat, etc) get handled by the gulls and the crabs. And I save much of the metal but recycle some of it. The big ugly is plastic. And the worst-smelling of the plastic is the wrapping for meat products – they just don’t get clean enough NOT to attract bugs. That stuff has to be sealed. What do we seal it in? Well, more damn plastic, of course.

white water tank is NOT garbage

Today, we took three heaping boatloads over to the other island. An enterprising local lad offered to do a dump run for a fee and a couple of us took him up on it. But the chore ain’t easy even if our Lad takes it to the dump for us.

The proscribed method for this chore is to first gather all the crap and debris on the deck by the beach. Then, at the exact right tide, we load it on Sal’s beachable little skiff and take it over to the landing beach. While Sal does that, I load up the funicular cart at our end for another run. Sal throws all the garbage on the other-island beach and comes back (turnaround time 30-40 minutes). And we repeat that until the deck is clear.

funicular cart waiting for boat pick-up

Then I go over in our other boat, get the truck, drive it to the beach and start to take the garbage up the 250-300 foot other island hill rising from the landing. Lad’s big truck can’t get down with two-wheel drive. When Sal had completed her three runs, I would estimate we had the equivalent of 50 large black plastic bags chock-o-block full of crap and two extra ones that stunk. Plus we had some metal recyclables and dead equipment. Two heaping pick-up trucks full.

But Murphy showed up and, when I went to get the truck, it would not start. Not even a click. Dead battery. Not to worry….we have a mini-jump starter and I whipped it out and hooked it up. Nada. Zip. Dead Polly. Sal brought our second mini-starter (we keep one in the boat) and we got the same result – nothing. A neighbour drove by and stopped and offered her jump starter kit. Much bigger. Same result.

So, I removed the battery and put it in the boat for charging at home. In the meantime, our garbage guy went down to the beach in a smaller, borrowed 4X4 and picked it all up. Took him four trips up and down to get it all. Maybe five. I stopped counting.

He took it to the top of the hill and dumped it all in a heap. Then he took the last load to his big truck at home (he borrowed the smaller truck because his bigger one got Murphy’d the day before). After that, he came back and did it again. And again. And again. And maybe five times. Each trip is about 90 minutes.

If he had his big truck working, it would be one trip. Not an easy day for him, either.

We paid him extra.

Paying a debt never levied

Rarely is debt repayment fun but, in a special circumstance, it can be. And it recently was just that — fun. But, before I tell you about that, let me just say that there never was an official debt to repay. My friend, J, doesn’t charge. My friend is just a generous and good hearted guy. He never expects anything. And so, of course, I just took. He gave. I took. It is a great relationship!

To be fair, I gave back a bit. You know, a beer. A bit of assistance here and there. Sal made artichoke dip and sometimes chocolate cookies (not at the same time). We are good neighbours but not as good as he is. J is the best. “Why?” Because he is always up and cheerful and you can count on him for anything at anytime. He is always ready to help.

J owns the dock we use. The one we have used for 17 years. Ergo: the debt never levied. Our waterfront is not suitable for a dock but his is and so he gives. I take. Did I mention how great this relationship is?

Anyway, his dock is not a professionally made concrete float anchored by piers or dolphins or even a single pile. It is a ‘raft’ of docks, four separate lengths cobbled together and lashed to shore, anchored to the bottom and tied to each other. Generally speaking, more than a smidge ‘patchwork’. Baling wire, gum, string and duct tape do not work on docks but it is all held together by the marine equivalent. Every conceivable kind of rope, cable, chain and fitting is employed, every part moves differently from the other parts which, of course, works the lines a lot but also gives a lot of flexibility. It is an ‘organic dock’. And it is the kind of dock I am used to and most comfortable with.

Concrete docks or floats sometimes feel like roadways. The old partly-sinking boards-on-logs style of floats are pretty much gone, replaced now with either professionally constructed docks or cobbled-together-with-blue barrels kind of floats. We are of the ‘cobbled’ kind.

J has been busy these past few years and has not had much of a chance to improve his docking facilities — the ones I use. I was gonna complain. But, when one of his floats basically broke up this winter and he was not there to address the problem, it made more sense for me to just fix it. And so I looked at doing that . . .

With S’s professional consulting advice I concluded the float was just too far gone. No amount of cobbling was gonna keep that puppy functional. J needed a new dock.

To make this long story a bit shorter, we built him one. It is 12′ x 12′. All cedar. Well, all cedar with a bunch of heavy galvanized steel fittings and fastenings with, of course, the ubiquitous blue barrels keeping it afloat. What a fun project!

Still, I was somewhat dreading the undertaking because it had to be built on our nearest beach — in the lagoon. That meant that we had about a four hour window each day in which to work because the tide insisted on visiting and filling our workspace. Hard to work wading knee deep. Lumber has gone through the roof (is that some kind of pun?) and so buying and shipping it from town was ruled out. Instead, another friend sold me a beautiful pile of cedar for the old price. And another couple volunteered to help S., Sal and I do the work.

“Great! Piece of cake! We’ll cut the pieces to length, fabricate the fittings, get the materials and tools and beers and we’ll whip this puppy up in no time.”

S estimated it would take the five of us a day. I figured maybe two since we are all so old and slow and don’t know what we’re doing. M and C had two days available (up for the Easter weekend) and Sal and I had time in advance to set it up (materials, getting power down to the beach) and let S design it.

The first workday was scheduled to start around 1:00 when the tide went out. But, of course, the tide did NOT go out until two so we all (wearing gumboots) got started with a foot of water in the lagoon. Yes, a few folks got wet. One fell in! By the time we were all so exhausted we had to quit (five hours later) the tide was coming in and we needed to get all the stuff not used in the build back up to high ground. When the tide came in the float did what it was supposed to – it floated. But, it was not done . . .

One of our helpers had just undergone a tough operation and one day was enough. Day two saw four of us going at it. And that went on for six hours, too. Same cleanup recipe — getting remaining materials and tools to high ground. And the float floated but it floated a bit lower now that most of the decking was on.

Day three it was just Sal and me. And we finished it. And then we cleaned up, mostly. Day four was the BIG day!

Back on day one, Sal and C had removed the old float from it’s position in the giant raft. It was a wreck and not easy to deal with, tow, or do much with but they did it. And day four was — with the tide now high (we are fickle with the tide) and just right — we towed the new float into position. And lashed it in place. Of course there were bits and pieces of odd-jobs to finish up properly and so day 5 and day 6 saw us doing just that.

“Piece of cake! Whipped this puppy up in a bit more than no time but it is there and I like it!”

Surprise, J!! Hope you like it.

Cost of Living

In Canada, the official 2020 ‘inflation’ rate was 1.95% or, as I like to think about it after adding inflation to that number – it makes it an even 2%. But, of course, the official inflation rate has always been a lie or, better put, a generalized guess at some fictitious household lifestyle cost that seems to vary monthly and with your location. This time is no different. The cost of living in Canada is likely to be higher in 2021 and will only get higher again after the economy gets back on track.

Why is it a ‘lie’? Well, the basket of goods the government uses is very unlikely to reflect the actual basket of goods you or I purchase. Generally speaking, we all face different costs in life. Also because housing, transportation and food make up the three largest components in the theoretical basket and all three have been rising significantly more than 2%. In BC and Ontario housing costs factor in even more hugely and they have also risen more hugely this past year. As has gasoline which seems to defy the laws of supply and demand.

Put more succinctly: everything I buy is more expensive except my shelter. That’s paid up. But I like to do small building projects and that requires wood and wood, of all things, has literally doubled in price this year…tripled when it comes to plywood. Wood is now so expensive people are NOT doing little projects like sheds and decks.

Canadians are, of course, driving less under Covid restrictions but gasoline prices have remained high. It is $1.42 a liter in Campbell River or approximately $5.50 a Canadian gallon. In Phoenix, Arizona, the price per US gallon is US$2.80 a gallon. That is not a fair comparison, however. The US gallon is 4/5’s the size of a Canadian gallon and the Canadian dollar is worth approximately US$ 0.70. I am just estimating/guessing but factoring in exchange and gallon size, the American driver pays maybe C$4.25 cents for the same gallon that we pay almost $5.50 for. Whatever the math, we pay more than they do. ‘Course, we pay more for food, too. And they pay considerably less for housing as a further bonus.

“Why state the obvious?”

Well, both Canada and the US have infused the economy with massive cash bailouts and other stimulus for their economies. That’s heaps more debt to pay off and so taxation will go up. Taxation is not separately included in the basket of goods sample. In addition, the world is in economic turmoil right now and the capitalist mindset is to gouge when the gouging is good. And it seems pretty good-for-gouging on the gas, house, lumber, food front. I think our real cost of living increase in 2021 will be closer to 5-6%.

There are some offsets to that way of thinking. Dining out will remain depressed. And dining out is a big component of the urban Canadian lifestyle. And that change in behaviour will translate through all aspects of the consumer product sales world. We will spend less on discretionary purchases. Travel has also been curtailed so that may compensate for the price of gas – we just drive less, too. Still, all things considered, I think our cost of living will increase, our taxes will increase, our economy will suffocate and the Canadian dollar will drop. None of that – if true – bodes well for the next couple of years.

How do we cope with that restricted lifestyle? I don’t know. I don’t quite live that lifestyle anymore, anyway. I already do NOT go to restaurants, fly to foreign places, drive all over the place and/or spend-for-convenience. But I do build sheds and I will likely continue to do that sort of thing if I can (I am planning at least one more). I do not think my life will change too much. But it will change in a few places that will hurt. Car travel to see my grandkids will lessen (it already is down to about maybe four times a year). Snowbirding seems out of the equation for awhile. Wine consumption is up. Taxes for next-to-nothing will go up.

If I summarize this blog into a punchline, it would be: “We’ve been punched and punched hard. We are still reeling from the blow. Can we get our head/economy/health clear and focused before the next blow comes? Or do we take a double whammy?”

Chicken little syndrome (CLS)

“….inferring catastrophic conclusions possibly resulting in paralysis”. It has also been defined as “a sense of despair or passivity which blocks the audience from actions.” Wikipedia

I am normally a smidge inclined to extrapolate trends to imaginative conclusions and, given my dour nature, I sometimes extend that to imagining the Zombie Apocalypse or, even worse, the End of Days. It comes honestly….. my father used to often say, “We are doooooooooomed!” So, I might be a tad predisposed to CLS. It is only residual testosterone and diminishing macho that makes me put any kind of brave face on things and Pollyanna is just NOT part of my DNA. We may not be doomed but I do not yet see a lot of light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

Wim reports that probably only 5% of Belgium has been vaccinated. And I implied from Untidy’s comment that Oz is not leading the pack on vax-efficiency either. That is even more pathetic than us. Not good, and certainly not good enough. Especially NOT good since the virus is on it’s multi-generational variation. Seems BC’s active C-count is currently comprised of 50% variants.

It does not take too many generations of mutations to leap from variant status to a truly different virus.

And India is currently suffering from over 100,000 new cases A DAY!!!

Am I freaking out? No. Firstly, I am already vaccinated (protected, but for how long?). Secondly, what will be will be. Thirdly, I really do not mingle amongst the great unwashed much anymore. But, best of all, both Sal and I are relatively healthy. Our personal outlook is NOT bleak.

But, if one takes a bit less selfish, more global view, there is no doubt that Covid is still winning the battle, generally speaking. Canada is maybe – at best – mediocre on the list of underperforming nations. BC, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec are still setting NEW records for infection and we are part of the 1st world! How is India ever going to get it under control? After a year of this tragic situation, great numbers of folks still protest wearing masks, refuse the vaccinations and continue to believe the reports are, if not a hoax, greatly exaggerated. Covid has a friend in ignorance.

But that is NOT the point of this blog. The point is that our government/institutions/media are not making a passing grade and, in the long run, their inadequacies may end the long run of the world as we know it. It might not be the Apocalypse but it just might be Teotwawki (the end of the world as we know it). I’d give our 1st world ‘civilization’ collectively a D or C- for results-to-date. Maybe higher for getting the vaccine accelerated. Say, C for effort? But they are not turning the tide. Not yet.

That is not to suggest that they are ‘bad’ but rather that they might simply not be up to the task. Clearly Trump wasn’t, Trudeau isn’t, Ford isn’t. But, to be fair – Belgium isn’t, India isn’t, Mexico isn’t and the list just goes on and on. If your 90 year old grandmother was not up to playing linebacker for the Seahawks, would you blame her? Of course not. But neither would you sign her to a multi-million dollar football contract and trust her to take you to the Superbowl. You might not put your faith in her chances to even make the team. You’d likely think, “Hmmmmm…..Gran probably won’t make the cut. We are gonna have to look elsewhere.”

And so might we …………

“How do we look elsewhere?”

Well, developing a vaccine in your own kitchen is not very likely (on a par with Gran making the cut). Educating the masses is also a non-starter. This may just come down to personal survival, small-group survival, village survival. You know….DOOMSDAY PREPPERS kinda thing? Who knew that ‘the weirded out Preppers’ might be half-right? (They have too many guns and likely not enough bleach and hand-cleaner but they are kinda prepared). You can put your trust in Tam and Bonnie or else you just might have to figure out a way to weather this storm (especially if it kicks up from a category 2 to a full-blown 5) on your own.

Hint: OTG’ing is definitely safer on the epidemic front but maybe not in a full-on Zombie-cum-Doomsday scenario…..