Foot in mouth (platonically speaking, of course, old chap)

My mother always told me (the first time I recall, I was eight years old!) that there are only three topics of interest in any kind of real conversation; “Sex, religion and politics!” Coming from my mom, I took that statement as a universal truth despite not really knowing anything about any of the three subjects. It was total gospel to me. I took it to heart.

I also grew up (my teenage formative years) with “Tell it like it is!” , “Be real!” and “Lay it on me, man!” as popular dictates of my culture. Despite my own tendency to embellish, exaggerate and occasionally mislead and manipulate, I came to admire the blunt, straight-forward approach in others. I even invested in it somewhat myself. I kept a side account of tact, diplomacy and well-crafted sentence structure but the truth ingredient was always the most important part said out loud…. (if anything had to be said at all).

I am sure you can imagine how many times that approach DID NOT SERVE ME WELL!

I am gonna tell you about one of them.

Sal and I were in our 50’s – already together over thirty years – and we were visiting Sal’s parents. Roz and Pete were well into their 70’s and had been together 50 plus years. They had, as they say, standing in the marriage longevity department. And there were things I wanted to know about getting old. And getting old together.

One night over gins and tonics (maybe the third round), I asked, “So, guys…..I am honestly NOT asking anything personal here. Seriously. Honest. I am just looking forward and want to know how my life will likely turn out……..”

Peter said instantly, “Your life will be fine. Don’t start….” (He had a sense of me….)

“Ha, ha. Seriously. Here’s the question…..do septuagenarians still have sex? I am not prying into your personal life, honest, I just wanna know about your cohort.”

“Our what!?”

“You know…the demographic group you belong to? You must know about how life is amongst your silver-haired peers, right? Seniors talk. You know…right?”

“We’re British. We do not talk about that sort of thing. Nor will we. Ever. Why do you want to know, anyway?”

“To see if there is a reason to live?”

Sal gasped. Her father looked stern. Her mother’s eyes bugged out. “Hey! I’m only kidding (I wasn’t). It is just a question. You guys are our role models in a few, very limited and rapidly diminishing ways. But I do not need personal stats here, Pete. I just wanna know if old people still couple.”

“Go ask some old people!”

Later that night when we were in bed, Sal asked, “How could you ask my parents that?”

“Well, I wanted to know. They are old. They must know. Sex is a normal, healthy aspect of life….so long as you are still living of course. I made it clear I was not prying into their personal lives but, rather, asking about their peers, their overall life experience. Can’t we even talk about sex, say, to parents? What about religion? Or even politics?”

“Oh, my God, no! We’re British. Mom and dad do not even know how each other votes! They do not believe in God. I think. I am not sure, actually. I don’t know. We can’t talk about that sort of thing. We talk about the weather, fer Gawd’s sake. Gardens. Maybe dogs. You know that!”

“Well, I did kinda notice that over the years and I have even cracked a few jokes about it but no one acknowledged the jokes. I kinda thought that they were still a bit leery of me.”

“Well, of course they are. That’s true. Who wouldn’t be? But I must admit, it has been thirty years. Mind you, I am still a bit leery of you myself. Look at tonight!”

“OK, fine. I’ll just talk dogs and weather while pouring G’s and T’s. But, between you and me, what’s your opinion on sex into your seventies?”

“Not a chance. You can kiss off your sixties, too, Bub. In fact, the jury is still out on the rest of your fifties!”

Merry Xmas, guys and gals. 2023 will be better. If we make it……

An anecdote rather than a story….the title should be: For the want of a tug the boat might have been lost.

To tell this non-story, I have to first set the scene. It was (and still is) very cold outside. Yesterday it was -4C and, with the windchill, much lower. The wind was blowing down out of the North from Bute Inlet at about 22mph and gusting over 25 now and then. The seas were nasty little frothy bumps with a bit of spindrift. Short, close and choppy, they got meaner as the seas marched in tight little lines heading south. North of us, the channel was in the lee of an island and the seas were a bit calmer. There was no boat traffic on the channel. Sane people stayed home.

But it was bookclub day.

Sal headed out in her little 17′ boat and bobbed and ploughed her way over to the other island to pick up three more septuagenarians joining her in this casserole and eggnog enhanced December deathwish. She did not go quickly but the five or so knots of forward progress just added to the windchill. The bow of her little boat was a sheet of ice.

Their destination was another home 400 feet up a goat-track back on our island and so Sal’s path was a two km rough-ride zig followed by another jouncy 2.5 km zag. Once arrived, other old Lemmings joined them in two separate 4×4’s and they headed up the cliff to the party house (to all leap off the cliff in unison?). Scrambling and clawing speed up that hill is about 7 to 10 kmh and takes another twenty five minutes. Overall distance: about 10 kms. Time required under adverse conditions, about one hour and 15 minutes. Room for error? Zero.

They all chatted and had a fine time and then, after a few hours in the hostess’ home without ever taking off their coats, they piled into the trucks and crawled back to our island’s community dock and Sal’s boat. The island-side ladies, granted a new lease on life, headed back up the main road to their homes. Our intrepid four, headed out once again to tempt fate.

The wind was just as bad. The cold was just as cold and the seas were, perhaps, a smidge worse but at least they were going with the waves instead of against them. I watched through binoculars the small speck that was Sal and fiends (the ‘r’ purposefully left off) disappear into the other-island shadows of the late day but she was close to the other dock and I was sure she made it that far. A few minutes later, and 3 passengers lighter, she was slowly surfing along the tops of south-heading waves heading home. It looked horrific but not beyond doable. It was on the wrong side of the edge-of-reason but not by too much.

As I was speaking to Sal on the walkie-talkie the dogs were eavesdropping and, as soon as we stopped talking, they wanted out. They know that my talking on the radio is an indicator of Sal getting home and they wanted to run over the peninsula and greet her.

A few minutes later I got a call. “Unh, Sweetie? This is Sally. The controls on the boat have frozen and I was about to crash into the dock so I headed back out and killed the engine. I am now drifting down channel and fending off the rocks. Can you come get me?”

I dressed up and ran over to the neighbour’s dock. The dogs were staring out to sea when they saw me and came to communicate something was wrong. I continued to the dock but they must have thought I was daft and so they headed south along the peninsula because they saw Sally drifting that way.

My boat is covered tightly in tarps. It would take forever to get the tarps off and, as it was, it took awhile to untie the frozen lines. I got the boat running, left the tarps in place and looked for Sally through a small porthole-sized opening at the front and by hanging my head out the side. I found her, she took the bow line and tied it to her bow. I then went astern for about two hundred yards towing Sal back to the dock. Elapsed time from meeting dogs to returning to the dock ….maybe 35 minutes. That part was difficult because the tarps made it impossible to see backwards unless I left the helm and stuck my head out. A few peeks and a strong familiarity with the locale made it doable.

We got back. We had a short discussion while tying up about discretion being the better part of valour and the importance of knowing limitations. And then I fixed her controls.

When anyone reaches seventy or beyond, some of their previous abilities are lessened. And Sal has always suffered from cold hands. She cannot feel her hands in the winter and especially when it is as cold as it is now. And that is true despite wearing heated gloves! She was doing what she was doing with virtually dead hands. “How much force did you use to try the controls?”

“Twice what I normally do.”

We took each other’s hand and she pulled on mine to demonstrate the amount of force. Chihuahuas that fit in women’s handbags pull harder. I had used a bit more force and used my bare hand on the release button. I could feel the release. I know that she could not. That was the difference. I gave her hand the same tug and it was about the pull of a non-purse toy Poodle. “Oh! I didn’t want to break it so I didn’t pull that hard.”

For the want of a tug……..

This morning it is just as cold but not quite as windy. Sal was scheduled to work the post office. Normally, I do not try and tell her what to do. Waste of time. She makes up her own mind. This morning was different. “Unh, Sal? Yesterday showed that there is little room for error in these conditions. I suggest you NOT go.” She made a few calls. Explained the situation. Another worker closer and already on the island wanted the work. Sal employed the required discretion this time.

I kinda hafta…but I really don’ wanna…..

….talk about Trump. I am so sick of him and his crap….like most people, I guess. But, like a circus clown trainwreck that just keeps happening over and over and over in the centre ring, he has just outdone himself in absurdity. It really is mind-blowing. Monks that set themselves on fire in protest of something look sane and logical compared to this mindless carrot of a person (I know, it should be ‘caricature‘ but he’s still so orange, ya know?).

Trump supposedly released a series of Non-fungible Tokens or NFT’s for sale yesterday. They featured him (of course) dressed in all the costumes of the Village People and a few extra ‘looks’ just to add a touch of vomit to the collection. Each digital edition token cost $99.00. They were available for one day. Forty five thousand of them were offered. Today, Trump announced that all 45,000 have been sold. That amounts to a one-day internet sales event that grossed (how appropriate) $4,455,000.00.

Which is, of course, complete and total BS. A total lie. Another fabrication to add to the virtual metropolis of fabrications that has marked his time in the public eye. The only way that many transactions could take place in that short a time is if some Russian oligarch, a Panama account of Trump’s, a month of pre-sales to GOP idiots and/or a combination of the above were used to make the purchases and, knowing the great dissembler and con-man, that assumes the NFTs were ever even made available at all.

It is good marketing 101 and so much easier to hawk your wares and then say to the first customer, “Sorry, all those sales-priced units are gone. Try again next week. We are getting in a new shipment but they will be regularly priced at $299.00. Sign here if you want to be notified.”

This is such a blatant, kindergarten-level con, it’s embarrassing just to watch it play out. Some of those convicted and going to jail for the January 6th debacle have been quoted as embarrassed by it and even Steve ‘Mr. Brazen’ Bannon announced, “OK, This has gone too far!.” If Roger Stone distances himself, you’ll know the bottom has just been breached.

Trump was the President of the United States. Potus. He held the most powerful position in the world. And he’s an idiot. He played the American people for fools and, despite the overwhelming proof of that, he is still doing it. How can as many as 30M ‘Mericans NOT see that?

That Trump can still make the news instead of a suspect line-up is shocking and embarrassing for the country. That I cannot resist mentioning it embarrases me, too. But what it says about the world we live in is just plain frightening. We are all affected by this and we continue to be.

We need a superhero.

Sometimes, Murphy takes a day off….

We went on a boat ride to our car on our neighbouring island yesterday. Had to unload it from Sal’s latest trip to town. About 500 pounds. One hundred and twenty five of which was dog food.

While doing so, I noticed that the back right tire was dangerously low. “Unh, Sal, we gotta go get the little compressor on our island vehicle.” So, we got in the boat, went back over to Read to another parking lot and picked up the compressor. Lo and behold, there was a load of donated food that had just come in (one of our residents supports the home care team by picking up stale-dated donations). So we grabbed some, jumped back in the boat and distributed it to a couple of old bachelors nearby (one guy seems to eat ONLY bread). And then, with the little compressor, we went by boat back to the car on the other island.

When we landed there were some folks (tourists) looking at stuff, the view, the ocean and us two old geezers with two humungous dogs docking a charming little boat loaded to the gunwales. Cameras clicked. Compliments ensued. Jokes were cracked. We usually stop whatever we are doing to let ’em ask all the typical tourist questions. And, while I was being Mr. Public Relations for OTG, Sal went up and brought the Pathfinder down the hill to pump the tire up. We then got to it and it turns out the compressor was broken. That was a smidge disturbing. We are twenty miles out the old logging road. The temp is dropping like a stone and one tire is nearly flat.

Tourists: “You guys OK? Need a hand?”

“Not unless you’re carrying a tire inflating mini compressor.” said Sally.

“We are. I’ll get it”.

Sarah and Andy are from Montana. We chatted while I filled the tire. Ten minutes later we were all on our way. We met in the forest twenty miles from nowhere but near a dock. Turns out we had a lot in common. Travels to the same countries and even sympatico on US politics. And, their dog’s name is Daisy, too. Serendipitous.

Then Sally and I headed for home to unload 1/4 ton of goods and stuff….including a lot of wine. It was cold, bright, sunny and practically a flat calm. We did a good deed. Received a good deed. Got some things done. The dogs had a great time. The larder is somewhat restored and we met a couple of nice ‘Mericans from Montana. Oh yeah, and on our way home we were greeted by a huge sea lion.

No sign of Murphy.

I have four gensets

Seems I always have four gensets, even when I give one away….another just eventually comes my way (or I go buy one). Some guys are chick magnets. I seem to be a winch and genset magnet (made of metal, of course, they attract every magnet). I now have (after giving away my old diesel genset that was NOT inverter enhanced and used too much fuel) three Hondas and a Whacker Neuson that is indestructible (just give me a bit more time for that). The workhorse of the bunch is one of the two Honda 2800i’s. There’s a reason for that.

The Outback inverter system (the heart and brains of the OTG alternative energy system) is a bit touchy and will often reject ‘picking up’ the power made by a genset that surges or does not produce perfect 60 hz juice. Make 61 hz, maybe it takes up, maybe not. Make 63 hz and they will never hook up.

But, more to the point, the inverter has a built in battery charger and that charger can take no more than 20 amps of charge at 120v. That’s 2400 watts of power. That gets reduced to 50 or so DC volts for charging batteries. The Honda 2800 peaks at 2800 watts and runs all day long at 2500 watts. They are perfectly in sync. They seem to have been made for each other.

Of course, as the charger charges and the batteries accept, the batteries get fuller and fuller and the demand from the charger is then less and less. A non inverter genset just keeps making max power regardless of what is being used. So, a 2500 or larger output genset then uses more fuel and it is just a waste. A 2800 inverter style genset drops the rpms and fuel consumption as the battery gets closer to full. They call that Eco-throttle. So, in that way, an inverter style is way, way more fuel efficient when charging batteries.

Inverter style gensets also make pure sine wave power meaning that computers and computer-ish black boxes do not fry when hit with a cruder sine wave (square or modified) . A lot of OTG folks have lost a new appliance within the first week by giving it bad power. If you want an electrical appliance OTG with an old style genset, the older, simpler style washers (no computer) keep on a-chugging. The fancy ones die.

And I have always trusted Honda to be a good genset. Especially the inverter style which is relatively new in the genset world.

The other day (when I had just three gensets) the 2800 started to act up a bit. Burning a bit of oil but running well. Then I cleaned it up some with additives and carb cleaner and changed the oil a few times. It seemed to be a bit better but I dunno….I just had a hunch. Started mumbling to Sal. But, it started first pull, made perfect power. Still……..Sal got to thinking….

“I have to go into town in a few days. I think we should get another genset.”

“What!? We have three! The 2800 is running fine….”

“Didn’t you say you had a feeling?”

“Yes.”

“That’s it. It’s cold. We need the genset in the winter. I want a back-up.”

“But……..”

“You order it. I’ll pick it up. No buts!”

And so Sal went into town on that Tuesday. She picked up the new genset ($1800) and did her chores and came back. While she was away, I fired up the old 2800 and went about my business. About 45 minutes into my work, it quit. No amount of trouble shooting or tinkering made it go. A few hours later, Sal arrived back and a new 2800 was installed and running like a charm. Timing, they say, is everything.

Mind you, we still had the old Whacker and we still had the BIG Honda 5000 but they are not inverter style and things get more difficult using them.

“Dave, we bought a toaster at Costco the same day our toaster failed, too. That is not news!”

I suppose not. But I think this example kinda shows a higher level of the need for being in sync with one’s machines when living OTG. Sal certainly was. She was adamant. “Today, we get a new Honda!”

And, anyway, I am not finished…….

So, the other day, I took the dead 2800 into the shop and really got into it. The thing is about all the new fancy, small gensets is that ‘getting into it’ means basically disassembling it. They are so strategically designed that everything has been shaped and configured to fit into a neat shape and then covered in a pretty plastic cover, one has to eviscerate it to access anything. To change the recoil rope on the pull-starter for a Honda 2000 is a popular joke: “Well, first you have to take the entire assembly and electrics apart. And then you are just getting close!”

Yes, I have had a Honda Eu2000, too.

The 2800 is better to work on but not by much. I had half of it spread all over the workshop before I had access to the spark plug. It sparked but would not start. I stuck my finger in the plug hole and there was very little compression. Took the compression tester out and it barely registered anything. Maybe 25 pounds! A Honda engine had failed!! That’s amazing. They are usually perfect – other parts fail but the engines are great.

So, I started to disassemble the body of the engine and get this: the cylinder body is mounted on what might be called the block at a 45 degree angle! There is no head! That is totally weird. And there does not seem to be an actual, discernible block, cylinder, head configuration. It is just odd-looking.

And it is cold.

And I have the back-up running nicely.

And, well, the old one can wait. Timing really is everything.

No. 1900. Japanese, Indian, Thai, German, Polish, Italian, American, Chinese, Mexican and English……

….is our dinner menu. We make ’em all.

I must have been a Sushi-chef in my previous life if not a ‘Merican steak-guy. And, of course, I can do English altho with the exception of fish and chips, oatmeal and fried eggs with bacon, there seems little point. Finan Haddie? Bubble and Squeak? Yuck. No one really likes boiled everything with Haggis or worse, a spotted Dick! English cuisine is a misnomer, really. Prison rations is a better description. Think Dickens.

Sal pretty much handles the rest of our ‘eclectic’ menu but I am a bit of a sous chef for her and an outspoken food critic. I also usually ‘pick’ the meal. It’s 50/50.

Just last night, for instance, we had tuna California roll and Yakisoba. We were thinking of adding a few Gyoza but who are we trying to impress? Absolutely fabulous dinner altho I passed on the sake and sake is a big part of it for me!

“But, Dave, you live remote. NO restaurants. How does that happen?”

Told ya….first sentence. “We make ’em all.” From scratch. Wasabi, Yakisoba sauce from scratch. Frozen tuna loins. Sometimes prawns. The whole Enchilada, if you will (yes, we make enchiladas, too, but they fall under the Mexican category).

Sal does a mean Chinese beef and greens with deep fried spring rolls and her German smothered pork chops with Spaetzle is unmatched outside of Bavaria. Stuffed peppers and enchiladas, huevos rancheros and the occasional taco are also part of her repertoire. I forgot the Greek and Italian – Dolmades, lamb, lemon potatoes and Greek salad. Macaroni, Ravioli. We have even done falafels.

I confess our curries (Thai and Indian) are a bit weak. Can’t seem to ‘capture’ that elusive ‘just-right’ taste but what we do produce is pretty good and we are working in it.

I could go on and on…..well, I will add this: damn, I make great cabbage rolls. Really. Honest! Fabulous, if not magnificent.

“But why write about all that, you doofus!”

Food is an OTG topic. C’mon……and living OTG/remote/rural/feral means that one has to adjust their menu somewhat. Make adjustments (NOT compromises!). I did not even claim to be using garden-fresh veggies or just-caught-from-the-sea. This is really modesty talkin’ here! This may SOUND like bragging and self centred back-patting (it is) but it is also an OTG aspect of life. And I am sticking to that!

OK, admittedly, I am stretching the eclectic envelope a bit with this topic but OTG-man does not live by construction, repairs and first aid alone. Even feral needs food. And not only do I now dislike frequenting restaurants we can no longer afford, we can now make the same dishes at home and make them better. (like I said, we are not yet up to a good Indian or Thai kitchen but we are getting there.)

This will blow your mind: we make a better pizza than you can buy. Truth! And I do not mean ‘buy a better frozen pizza and cook it’, I mean we make it all from scratch. And it is BETTER!! Well, maybe the occasional bit of ‘pizza craving’ is colouring my opinion.

Sally already has a reputation for desserts. OMG! People crawl naked over barbed wire for her Chocolate cheesecake (that is the only way I will share it with them). And she just added Rum Babas to the selection the other day! Sal owns desserts. But our main dishes are also getting better in heaps and mounds. It is hard NOT to pork up (we have a source for organic, non-factory pork). So…….I do not try. I just ‘go’ with it….ya know?

Hey! One of you said eclectic was okay!

Writing in a world gone mad*

*Latest manifestation of madness is: 1.7M (out of 3.5M) Georgia voters casting their ballot for a moronic sycophant who lies, cheats and is duplicitous. 1.7M voted for a man with no issues, no morals, no principles and who preached about Werewolves and Vampires in his campaign. To me, that and the almost 50M other so-called MAGA conservatives who vote that way – blindly and without thought or values attached to their vote – indicates a real sickness in American politics. A form of collective ‘branding’ madness. American Democracy is now just an industry. Totally insane. Way, way too much money is spent on GETTING elected and NOT on that which needs doing.

Don’t worry, dear reader….no more on that. I just needed an example of madness to warrant the blog title. There will be another egregious example of crazy (mass shooting?) coming along any minute now.

Todays real topic: I am, with this post, one short of having written 1900 blogs (having started counting after the infamous 2011 Russian web caper when hackers ‘stole’ my previous blog site. That one was a blog titled something close – Our Home Off the Grid, I think. Close in name to this one-but different. The Russians hijacked it and turned it into an advertising site. To be fair, they did not so much ‘hijack it’ as they opportunistically ‘grabbed it’ the nanosecond the license expired and my server company failed to renew it.) And so, I moved on to the one you are reading now.

And the blog is now an eclectic mess……but I can’t quit until I reach 2000….right? Just for the sake of symmetry?

In 2011 it was all OTG. I do not know how many old blogs were lost back then but I can assure you there was little to lament or grieve over. No BIG loss. I probably remembered enough to write some content for the second book, CHOOSING, which was a colossal non-starter. Proof of unimportant content. Mind you, back then I was entirely focused on OTG stuff. Nothing else. No politics. It was all about, you know…..batteries, propane, engine repair, construction, First Aid, etc. Very much the basics. To be fair, that list is accurate but in reverse order.

At least I had a theme.

The reason for not crying over spilt blogs (or blood) is because everything I wrote about has changed. The solar panels alone are twice the performers they were for half the price back then. Going ‘solar’ was not ground-breaking then but still it was not anywhere near as common as it is today. Everything except Honda engines is/are radically different and even they have more than doubled in price and added a few improvements.

As far back as only 15 years most of the commonly used outboard engines out here were two-strokes. My first one was a Mariner. My second was an Evinrude. Both 2-strokes. Now almost everyone runs 4-stroke. Four-stroke engines are better in so many ways. But they, too, are now ridiculously expensive. Having the dealer put a brand new 60hp Yamaha on your boat would not leave you much change left over from $10,000.00.

Propane appliances were a huge learning curve after we went feral and much was written about them back then and even more just recently. Today, I am moving away from propane. Our new electric fridge draws so little the solar array can easily handle it. Same with the freezers and they are not even linear-digital/inverter compressors like the fridge (which are very, very efficient compressors – but somewhat prone to failure in the early years. Better now. I hope). Electronics has really changed in all things but, for OTG’ers, the last decade has been revolutionary.

“So, what’s your point, Dave? Just waxing nostalgic?”

No. I am saying that I am no longer hip to what’s new in the OTG world any more. I am no longer au current. I am not the go-to guy if I ever was. My theme has gone.

Well, there might have been a one or two year window when my reading and my doing were right up there but mostly I have done what I have done and I am only doing nowadays what I must. I am not even reading much about it. To be hip on a subject requires a bit of an obsession, a focus, a hunger to learn. There is a whole world of batteries to learn about, for instance….again….and I am not likely to do that more than maybe just one more time (out of necessity). I am loosening my grip on the OTG world and re-focusing on just about everything else.

What is this blog about now……?

That question segues nicely to ranting on economics and politics (which I just briefly indulged in above) but I’ll spare you any more. There is always something new and crazy in economics and politics. I suppose I could write more about the ‘lifestyle’ or the ‘community’ of the OTG feral cats but I do that now and then anyway and, to be fair, all small community stories are always stories about the crazy ones.

I will, of course, write a bit more on the legend and myth that is my wife. That is always fun for me (she cringes every time). Throw in a dog story or two, eh? I can keep myself interested in our little world pretty easily. You know, log wrangling, chainsawing, oysters, freezing water systems, gensets, whales…..?

But that’s the point: my world is getting ever-smaller. I am more and more focused on my own good fortune of living in paradise with a wonderful partner. And that, dear reader, does not make for compelling reading for you. However, blabbing away ad nauseum is always therapeutic for me (for example: this blog).

So, I will, of course, once again do a year-end re-evaluation of what-in-hell this blog theme is supposed to be about (at least most of the time) and try to see where this is all going…

…feel free to contribute.

Balmy

It is uncommon that a single word can be used for entirely different meanings but Balmy is one of them. Balmy is an adjective: (of the weather) meaning: pleasantly warm. I.e. “The balmy days of late summer”. And balmy also means: extremely foolish; eccentric. I.e. “That was a balmy decision”.

It seems that the word applies to us in both ways. Especially Sal.

Living at the top of the Salish Sea (better known internationally as the Gulf of Georgia) usually means a very temperate climate. We could call it balmy and sometimes do. Average summer temp rarely exceeds 23C/80F and winter temps are usually around 40F/5C. That is Canadian Balmy compared to the rest of Canada.

The west coast is also renown for being wet from rain and dry from not being able to retain that rain (lots of rock). The southern gulf Islands always seem to have a water problem. In that sense, it is balmy as in foolish or eccentric. The west coast gets rain from 30″ in the flat south to over 90″ twenty miles north at the Northshore (North Vancouver). Our usual annual rainfall is approximately in the middle at 60″. So we are wet and dry all at the same time. That is silly-balmy.

But, for the REAL application of the word, Balmy, we have to look at Sal. She is pleasant and outdoors in all weather. Happy. Smiling. You might (and I have) called her Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. And the big smile in July kinda makes sense.

But we are currently experiencing unseasonably cold weather and have a foot of snowfall on the ground. Worse, the wind howled out of the North and froze everything. Water system is down. We have been back to lugging water totes that I fill by suck-siphoning from the water tanks. But, of course, our Rebecca is off to do the food distribution in minus weather and with her two dogs. And she is soon off to Quilting, happy to have her chainsaw with her and good winter tires for the logging road. She’s planning on a trip to town for a Xmas haircut and some packages. She’s happy. Read: balmy.

Is it good? Absolutely. Just a bit cold and daunting for me. But not for the intrepid Sal. I have some mechanical issues (due to the freeze) and working on them is a major pain in the freezing cold but I do as little as I can and stay mostly by the fire. And I grouse much of the time. Sal’s out and about with boats and dogs getting some shopping done by chainsawing her way through the forest to stores and gatherings. And she is smiling all of the time.

One of us is balmy.

Well, the past few blogs were…..

….a walk in the past, so to speak, and that was NOT quite what was asked for. Forgive me. I waxed a bit over nostalgic recently. The original question was something about ‘how hard was it?’ or ‘what were the difficulties’ and the implied question was, ‘were you too old and stupid or just old and stupid enough?’ I answered adequately, I think, but to put it succinctly: It was very hard and, had we known HOW hard it was gonna be, we would have not thought it possible’. We were definitely outside of our comfort zone for the entire time.

So that, at least, answers the ‘stupid’ part.

The age thing is harder to answer. There is no question in my mind that I could not do what we did again at 75 but I kind of concluded that same thing as soon as we were largely done the house part four years into it. At 60 I thought, “I cannot do that again!” Having said that, we had the continuing ‘stupid part’ making it harder than it had to be and now we know a bit more. It could have been easier. Also, having said that, we finally knew enough that, at 60, I could have done another one but I would have made it simpler, employed more people and certainly built the workshop first! At 75, too late smart, I now just know who to hire and how to spend the money.

Put another way: building is a function of age and money. The younger you are, the less money you need. The older you are, the opposite is true.

Still, I recommend this way of life unreservedly. But it is challenging. And, to be blunt, I could not have done it without a great partner and they do not come any better than Sal. And, do not forget, building (altho never finished) is NOT what this OTG thing is all about. Not really. Only in the beginning is construction the all-consuming focus. It is eventually and primarily about being in nature, living healthier, de-stressing, consuming less, and having much more freedom and independence. It is about personal growth in some ways, isolation and removal in others. It is about changing one’s life views by well, changing your life.

Oh, I am still obnoxious, of course (can’t you tell from the blogs?). Still opinionated. (support me on this, Trev!) I am still the basic ‘me’….I have not grown all that much (Sal is pretty adamant about that). But I am physically healthier, a bit more handy and, surprisingly for me, happier and more satisfied with my life right now. I even stop now and then to smell the flowers and play with the dogs. Seriously….I am almost a simple, happy hick (‘cept for obsessively following world events).

Sal has grown, too. She is way more capable and competent in everything and able to deal with engines that will not start and flat tires and climbing mountain trails with her dogs. She gardens. She quilts. She runs small boats in big seas. She has her own chainsaw! She works at the Post office and runs the home care team. She even still socializes. Sally can do stuff. And I say this because so many of her urban and even some of her rural sisters cannot. They need Starbucks. They need BCAA. They need help to carry a log up a cliff or fight a bear with only a pocket knife (Sally carries a Swiss Army knife wherever she goes).

To answer the question yet another way: the adventure was undertaken for the excitement of an adventure, NOT the hardship. It was done for the learning and the experience even if bleeding and screwing up played a prominent role in all that. We went and stayed feral because real freedom and independence had more allure than we knew when we started. That kinda thing grows on ya. So did being in a natural setting. We stumbled into this good fortune and maybe cracked a rib or got bruised a bit in the process but it was well and truly worth it. Still is.

Hard? Yes. Too hard? No. Were we a bit old? Yes. Too old? Not at all. Would I do it all again? Yes – in a heartbeat – but only with Sally.

However…..and this may be a bit contradictory….I am always scratching an itch. It’s in my nature. I still want to do things and have an adventure of learning and experience about new stuff. This OTG thing is the best gig I have ever experienced but, if at all possible, I would like to add to it in some way. Lately, I have been promoting OTG a bit more than usual but that is not scratching the itch, really. That’s just sharing. I’ve considered adding some huntin’ and fishin’ to the ‘handy’ parts but well, that doesn’t SEEM to be the itch either. I’ve gone rural not primal.

So, I am still lookin’..wondering about what’s next…

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.