Thar she blows!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I wonder if the dock will survive this?”

 

Community Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By now you will have guessed….

….I am trying to ‘get back into’ the blog.  I kinda wound down a few months ago….maybe a year….because, well, it didn’t seem to be ‘going anywhere’………

“Where did you expect it to GO?”

That’s just it – I had no expectations in the beginning.  But then, well, we wrote books and people responded to them and it was kinda nice to ‘meet’ people this way.  Still is, actually.  They seemed interested in our new life out in the boonies.  And I could keep them interested simply because I, myself, was so interested in all that we were learning.  And we are still learning!  So, in theory anyway, I could keep writing.

Gimme a storm-at-sea, a raven or a pod of Orcas and I could write.  You know, like Dumbo needed a feather to fly? 

But then….I kinda went sideways.  Seduced by the stench of accelerating societal rot, I went off OTG.  I have always found politics fascinating in that slo-mo ‘train-wreck’ kinda way.  “What chaos have those bozos gotten us into now?”  And, with Trump, I was enticed into the Golden Age of criticism, outrage and disgust……hard to resist THAT colossal, mind-blowing, walking ego in day-glo orange.  So, I went with it.

‘Course, once on the dark side, many more paths of evil open up. Learning started to mean looking into government corruption instead of 2×6 construction.  It came to mean witnessing a sea change in social morality, decency and humanity instead of small craft warnings. Trump took the White House into the gutter and 63 million Americans went into the sewer in their haste to follow.  I think some 5 million cretin-Canadians joined them.  Bizarre!

Taking a lesson in the classroom of the devil (Fox/Brietbart, etc. media) was both revealing and abhorrent.  What is wrong with Kelly Anne Conway, anyway?

Also, somewhat surprising…..media (Fox or otherwise) do not tell the truth.  Duh.  But, as the madness of the right wing lunatics took flight, along with any semblance of truth or honesty, so, it seemed did the lack of REAL substantial messaging show up in conventional mainstream media.  Fox lying sounded very much like CNN reporting.  Or was that CNN lying?  Who knows who is telling the truth, the whole truth and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH?

I really only took away one clear lesson:  I probably can never get far enough off-the-madding-grid.

When you add to that confusing mass-messaging the insane, politically-correct moralizing by way of tweets and Facebook, the primary message is: The world has gone mad.  Like in a zombie movie, where everywhere you look there are hungry brain eaters coming your way, your greatest fear is not any ONE zombie but rather is there anywhere safe left to run?  Have the zombies already taken over and I am the last to know?

So….anyway….where does that leave me and my blog?  What do I write about?  Toxic Trump and the Trudeau Rat-pack?  How to Profit From Climate Change?  Investment Opportunities in Exporting Garbage?  The Uber-satisfying Cruelty of the Ultra Rich?

Or back to Sally Sunshine and the Ravens?

I am trying to come back but, right now, I am a conflicted man.

A New Year with a Bigger Brother

The clock ticks, the hand moves past twelve and voila!  It is a NEW year……..

…..but nothing much really changes by the minute or even by the hour or the day…….the weather is rain, grey gloom and usually pretty cold…..and likely to stay that way til March.  And Governments only rest before their next major incursion into violating our lives – likely to happen several times before March at least.

Sal and I continue to inch further towards the Rivers Jordan and Styx one day at a time.  (Wouldn’t you know…there’s a ferry fare to pay to cross the Styx!  Jordan is free.) Face it – this winter is bleak.

Our usual way of handling bleak and cold is to leave for sunnier climes but not this year.  This year is stay-at-home.  We do this about once in every five years – earning again our OTG Residency badge.  This is the year for that….. and….well, I am not quite ready….

The problem, tho, is travel.  I am definitely NOT ready to travel either.  So, “Should we go or should we stay”?  We decided on ‘stay’ this year.  We’ll see how that goes.

That is the segue into this new topic: travel… next time and into the future.

I am not so sure I will ever travel again.  Not only has the wanderlust waned but the travel bug is dead.  I no longer yearn for exotic locales.  I dunno….call me old.  Call me jaded.  But you cannot call me Ishmael any longer (although travel by sea is about the only way I would consider).  Airports, planes, immigration, customs, expense, security checks and the odd terrorist-placed bomb or shooting has kinda put me off….ya know?

So, by the way, has the cost of travel insurance.

I’d ‘motorhome’ (maybe) but Sal and I have covered the bulk of the North American continent and, to be blunt, right now we will NOT visit the US voluntarily.  Mind you, involuntarily is now a much greater likelihood.  Homeland Security can now travel freely fifty miles into Canada anytime they want.  And they can take you away into the USA and no one will stop them.  Essentially, Trudeau just signed into law legislation that officially allows US policing into Canada.

“Unnnhhhh, Justin?…..I think they just invaded us……with a pen!”

This freedom-to-operate/invade has been in effect for their benefit for some time.  When you pass through a major CANADIAN airport and get ‘pre-screened’ by US Customs and Immigration, they tell you that you are no longer on Canadian soil and that they can take you away on a whim.  If you balk and turn around to walk back ten feet ‘into Canada’, they can go get you.  Run fast and they can still get you if they can catch you within fifty miles of the border.  Canadians in Canada?  Sitting ducks.

For your consideration: the protests in Hong Kong (going on for more than six months with several thousand citizens already ‘disappeared’) is ALL ABOUT THAT!  The Chinese government introduced legislation to allow extradition of HK citizens to Mainland China ‘on a whim’. HK had the British ‘rule-of-law’ with proper process and all that.  Mainland wanted rid of that.  The people went nuts.

Canadians?  Faced with virtually the same threat from the USA…..don’t even know!

Our now two year old book: Accidental Fugitives envisioned that.  How could we?  Because it was already happening when we wrote it.  Canada is no longer a sovereign nation, we are a wholly owned subsidiary of the USA.  And their CEO is a mad man.

Put another way:  If I ever do travel again, I may NOT come back.  I love my life, I love my home, and I love my family.  But I hear goose-steps in the future.  I see Bubbas-in-uniform.  I hear choppers and sirens.

“Geez, Dave.  Bummer, man.  Get happy again.”

Right.  Good advice.  I will get happy again.  Many people turn to drugs for that.  I used to dream-up stupid projects and try to DO adventures with Sally.  Adventures With Sally…..hmmmm….maybe a fourth book….?

 

 

 

 

A reflection of sorts…..

I looked at my ‘Off Grid Friendly’ items page (in the header) and things have changed somewhat.  Most of it is still current but our propane freezer finally died and we had already installed 900 more watts of power (3000 total) and so I now have two new small e-freezers. It seems that I am more of a conformist now.  But I am not so sure…….

……..this winter has been exceptionally lacking in sunshine so far and so we have run the gensets more.  Don’t like to do that.  Worse, we are somewhat less judicious in our use of electricity.  Getting more comfortable means more electricity.  With that longer experience behind me, I am inclined to stick with my amended suggestion of a smallish propane freezer plus a larger electric one.

Or else don’t get old and spoiled.

I didn’t ‘trash’ anything the first time…not too much…but I am gonna warn OTG potentials OFF Mercury outboards.  Virtually all outboards are better than they were but Mercury is just a mess.  The order of preference out here these days is Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda in that order.

Tires!  OMG!!!  If you are OTG chances are you drive some bad roads that in turn, get worse as you go farther into the Outback.  In the last 15 years, we have averaged at least one flat every other year.  That may not seem like much but our returns to civilization are likely to number less than thirty times a year at most – likely less.  So the puncture-to-use rate is pretty damn high.  The best tires I had that never popped were BF Goodrich AT with aggressive tread.  But they went with the car that my son got and so I inherited new Hankook heavy-duty tires that popped like party balloons.  I then sprung for what is considered locally ‘the best’, Toyo AT with semi aggressive tread.  Bought the set two years ago.  One flat so far……

Water tanks.  In the products page, I suggested at least one large plastic 1100 gallon tank.  I dunno…..climate change….insecurity….a few hot months…..I am changing that to TWO tanks of 1100 gallons.  Maybe overkill.  I don’t think so.  Of course, we have a year ’round stream and so my fears are so far unsupported by our REAL experience but I am allowed to change my mind and so I am.

Tools?  Same.  Boats?  Pretty much the same…….but, well, there is a bit something to add: most of the time (after building) you will just zip around in a runabout (say, 19′ or smaller).  Instead of getting a bigger boat, consider getting a second small one.  Even a third……less fuel, more convenient, easier to haul, cheaper AND one will be ready-when-the-other-breaks….two small runabouts are better than a 20+ boat.

“Dave!  No one cares about you and your OTG product recommendations.”

True.  99% don’t.  But, every once in awhile a reader asks.  This is mostly for them.

Further review: the community.  When we first came, we were treated and accepted well.  No welcoming parties or gift pies and hampers or anything but casual encounters were always pleasant and, over the years, getting warmer.  We had no complaints.  But, when I look back on it, it seemed to take awhile.  Fifteen years is a long time.  Still, we are now firmly part of the community and the feeling is palpable.  It’s better.

To be fair, I doubt very much it is me.  Sal warms people up but I am a bit more naturally obnoxious and, at times, ominous looking.  I don’t bake or quilt or even smile that much.  So, Sal has been the passport to warmer community relations more than me.  Having said that, the community, as a whole, is kinder and gentler.  Age does that and half our folks are well over 65.  Not a helluva lot of testosterone charging around these days.  Summary: we are quite a bit more included in the increasingly friendly community.

Guests.  Oh, good lord!  Here’s the deal with ‘guests’:  We had 110 visitor days our first summer.  That averages out to 1 a day over June, July and August.  Over the next 15 years, that number grew for the first five years and then plateaued at somewhere between that and overwhelming.  And so did the length of the visitor season get extended.  It’s now from May to November.

Is it us?  Are we just so great?  No.  Sal is.  But not even Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm could generate the traffic we get.  They come because the setting is so beautiful.  The area is so healthy, invigorating and relaxing.  This place is truly a respite from the outer world.  Plus Sal is a great cook.  The point?  If you decide to go OTG, plan for guests.  Plan well.  And NOT just a tent platform!  As you get older, your guests get older and older people need more ‘amenities’.  There is simply no other way to put this: if you build it, they will come.

Politics and rants…….one might think that politics and rants are a bit out of place OTG…..and nothing could be further from the truth.  The reasons are simple in retrospect: most people out here reject much of what is conventional and that means they are, generally speaking, critical of the way modern life has evolved.  In other words, we are as a group disposed to ranting.

And we HAVE politics.  Much of our politics is very, very local (the free-range horse debate, the garbage disposal debate, etc.) but when it is NOT, it is international in scope.  Visit almost any OTG’er and they are up-to-date on the Trump impeachment process, the run-of-river debacle, Trudeau, Horgan, even the Democratic nominees and Hunter Biden.  These guys are more knowledgeable than my ‘cohort’ in the city ever were.  It’s a cauldron out here!

“Any regrets?”

Nope.  Maybe one:  I should have learned the trades and left earlier.

 

Some marriages are short…..

December 29, 2019.  And it is the last day of our marriage.

But December 30, we start again.  For the 49th time, annually-speaking.  That’s right, we’ve been together 49 years and it seems to be holding together.  Continuity in bliss (for me).  Tenacity, patience and acceptance (for her).

Shock, awe and confusion for anyone watching.

We feel relatively safe and stable in the relationship now.  But it took awhile.  We kinda know each other pretty well by now….and, as you know, that takes a bit of time.  Mind you, Sal and I have known each other for well over 50 years (almost 52) but, well, one of us kept changing and growing and so ‘getting to know you takes a bit longer when the parties are moving targets.

Getting-to-like-you, was a pretty quick hurdle overcome in the first few minutes for both of us (she’s gorgeous and I had a sports car) followed pretty quickly with learning-to-love-you but, of course, some of us are harder to love than others.  Sal worked pretty hard.

I loved her back, of course, but it didn’t always show up quite as she expected and so I had to learn the proper ways.  Some of them, anyway.  Sal, however, is a naturally good husband-whisperer.  I learned.  But, it seems, I am a bit of a slow learner. 

Still, I do the dishes a lot now……

However, I am also fairly fluent now in fem-speak.  THAT helps immensely.  I don’t speak it (it’s very nuanced, almost tonal, like Cantonese) but I am understanding it more and more.  And, to her credit, Sal has come to learn that dogs and men respond best to simple one-at-a-time commands (best spoken slowly) followed immediately with some kind of biscuit or treat as positive reinforcement.  Cuddling works, too……or back scratching……arf!

I mention all that because we have a young guest.  One of our past students (now 30-something) arrived yesterday without her husband.  It seems their marriage is not thriving.  She needed to ‘get out’.  And so she flew across the continent and came to stay with us for a few days.  I am not sure that she came for ‘marriage tips’ as their 6 year experiment, it seems, is pretty much over but, naturally, I had to share our wisdom.  Last night was ‘marriage tips night’.

I had a lot to say.  As a mediator, I oversaw the separation/divorce of close to 200 couples.  I spoke a lot about biscuits, cuddling and, since I am older and wiser now, added in patience, tolerance and acceptance.  “But cuddling and biscuits are the secret.” 

After a bit of pontificating, I got a fem-look (translation: a version of fem-speak achieved using only eyes and eye brows).  I stopped talking.  And I went to bed early sans biscuits….

…..but the two of them talked on a bit longer.  I can’t imagine what Sal had to say.

And therein lies the point of this blog: you would think that, after 50-some-odd years being together and me having worked with over 200 couples whose marriages were revealed in all their bloody gore, I would have a clue as to what what they talked about.

I do not.

 

 

Bookclub gaggle

It is a good turnout for a freezing winter’s day.  Maybe 20 women.  I am guessing at the number because I am male and banished from getting too close.  The only rule of bookclub is “no men allowed”.  So I spent the first half hour freezing my butt off pretending to be a ‘guy’ and doing guy-stuff in my workshop.  That charade didn’t last long.

I begged to come in.

Well, that is NOT entirely true.  Had I begged, the answer would have been ‘No!’.  So, I snuck in instead.  Headed straight to my room.

But Sal caught me!  Her eyes tracked me sneaking slightly hunched over so as to keep a low profile in the all-female crowd as I headed to my room.  “Sweetie, she hissed, what are you doing here?  Cold?  Poor baby.  Maybe you should go visit somebody and get warm.  Someone far away.”

“Can’t.  Too cold.  I’ll disappear into my room.  No worries. ”  And I quickly slipped behind our bedroom door.  I could feel a slight glare burning behind me.  I closed the door.  I could still feel it.

The bulk of the house is now a ‘party’, ostensibly about a book and having some lunch with ‘neighbours’.  The broken sentences, the gaggle, the odd phrase above the general but loud crowd-murmur is the ambient background noise.  The odd dish or glass breaks.  A few forks hit the floor.  But the moderate din, the party-like shrieks and quiets reinforcing their presence continues unabated until…..until….

“Bookclub will now come to order!”  And then they all talk seriously about the book for about an hour as I recall.  But then, separate side conversations start to break out and the chair, sensing the mood of the crowd, calls for adjournment.  And the bookclub is over and the party is back on.

As readers know, bookclub is a monthly affair out here but the meeting venue changes with whoever volunteers to be the hostess.  Sal has been the December hostess for some time.  Maybe ten or more years.  The secret of her longevity?  She makes a virtual TUB of incredibly rich eggnog (cream, rum, eggs, etc) and, well, it is always depleted.  The tub is empty after a few hours and bookclub finishes after four (basically scheduled from 11:00 to 3:00) so it’s natural timing….the party basically ends when eggnog is gone.

I hate to admit it because I am so much NOT a chit-chat kinda guy who likes standing amongst a dozen conversations none of which I can hear very well.  Especially since I am NOT supposed to even be there!  I am literally a persona non grata presence then with a weak, disarming smile.

But I have never let not-being-wanted stop me.

After four hours, I step out from inside the closet, start doing the bazillion dishes piled up in the kitchen and that movement plus the lack of eggnog seems to act as a bit of a general prompt.  People begin to re-garb and put on their multiple layers of heavy clothing for the return home.  They take their dishes.  They manage to get it all ‘going on’ relatively fuss-free and, amazingly, rarely is anything left behind.  To be fair, it is not so much my presence that drives the women away this time.  It’s the time of day.  By 3:00 we are a half an hour from deep-dusk…verging on nightfall…and no one wants to go home in the dark.

Bookclub happens EVERY month and has done so for over 35 years.