Surviving made happy

It’s kinda weird but gettin’ in the prawns, catching a Ling, getting some crabs, oysters and clams….produce from the garden……well, it’s happy-making.  It really is.  Crazier still, you get into it and look at eating other wild stuff.  Berries.  Nettles.  We have a veritable cornucopia of sea cucumbers out front right now and they have heretofore NEVER been looked at as appetizing but, well, I seem to be on a bit of a roll…….

My friend, John, and I went out prawning the other day.  Did boffo.  Gangbusters!  Got our limit and did my freezer proud in two days!  We are good for a year of somewhat regular dining on prawns (once a month plus dinner parties, appetizers and Sally Special sea-food chowder).  And the meals are generous!  Then – just today – John went out and caught two big Lings and we are the happy recipients of one of them.  All this a week or so from getting in crab from Great Scott.

As the year wears on the garden will also produce.  The neighbours will share.  And people will bring.  That’s how it’s done out here.  And we try to do the same.  But it’s not about equalizing…not about X$ worth of something to equal the same $ of the other thing.  There is no value attributed to anyone’s gifts and yet, as the saying goes, “It’s all priceless.”

Mind you, I have a veritable ‘printing press’ of ‘value’ in the kitchen.  There is very little the locals won’t offer up in the hopes of getting some of Sal’s baking with the ‘chocolate stuff’ most coveted.  Some preppers hoard guns and ammo, others fill barns with dried foods and MRE’s (meals-ready-to-eat).  Still others learn to eat worms and sleep in swamps and nonsense like that.  Us?  If it ever comes to the ‘end of days’, we’ll load up on chocolate and turn Sal loose in the kitchen.  Survival guaranteed.

This BONUS VIDEO LINK features our local airline and postmaster:


A minor thought…not to be taken too seriously

It is likely more a function of what I have been reading lately, or the watching of the hysterical series, ‘Doomsday Preppers’ (what a bunch of loons!)….or, maybe, it is just the continued aggravation with Trump/Trudeau and their points of view…maybe it is just me getting old…I dunno…but……

More and more I am beginning to think we are in the midst of the first stages of a very quiet revolution of sorts….it’s more a feeling than much else….

Clearly, Capitalism isn’t working anymore.  People ARE NOT happy with more ‘stuff’ from Walmart, bigger houses, more expense….the rat race isn’t paying off – not at the personal level.  NOT for the majority.  NOT for most people.  Even the .01%’ers are not worth envying anymore.  Who wants to live and be like Trump?

Modern consumerism just isn’t working either…..and that doesn’t bode well for the future, that’s for sure.  It not only does not make us happy, it is polluting and killing off the planet.  Consumerism is unsustainable.  Consumerism creates too much waste.

Survival of the fittest does not mean that the most aggressive and mean-spirited thrive. Ferocious predators need something gentler to eat.  The strong and the weak are co-dependent.  Survival of the fittest is a term that applies to those who endure – whether they killed others and the planet trying to get there or whether they just found a better way.  I suspect that the ‘fittest’ will be those who just found a better way than the dog-eat-dog way so promoted in this, the first and ‘modern’ world.

This, the modern world isn’t working either.  The ‘phone’ addiction, the ‘internet of things’, self-driving cars, planes that fly themselves into the ground, GMO foods, oceans of plastic.  Drug addicted citizens.  Cops shooting citizens.  This modernity-thing isn’t making us happy.  Or safe.  It may be better in many ways but fun and happiness are not much present.  In fact, most of what passes for happiness is purposeful unconsciousness.  Escapism.  It’s a form of madness to continue to pursue it as we are, actually.

I know I have said all this before in different ways but it is starting to gel for me.  I am seeing what I want to see, maybe, but I am seeing more and more resistance to the way of things.  And I am seeing the way of things come under more and more assault.

Jody Wilson-Raybould deviated a little bit…..

Sal and I never went OTG to be ‘preppers’.  We had a vague sense of the ‘system collapsing’, I guess.  A sense of pending doom but ‘way, way off in the future.’  Probably after we had passed on….something our kids and their kids might have to face.  We SHOULD do and DID do something about it for them (vote Green, build here, recycle..blah, blah, blah) but I honestly did NOT think ‘the end of the world as we know it’ (TEOTWAWKI) would come to pass in my lifetime.

Now?  I am not so sure…..

The pace of ‘doom-on-a-cracker’ is accelerating.  Canada (of all countries!) is heating up climate-wise at twice the rate of the rest of the world and our far North is heating up even faster.  I don’t care what Trump and his ilk are saying, the climate is changing.

And (prime indicator) the economy is confused.  There is not a lot of confidence being expressed in the system or the systems.

People are also increasingly agitated.  Some are revolting.  Some are fleeing.  Governments are losing their ‘control’ because the people voluntarily gave control to them but only in exchange for ‘the general good and security’ and that is currently perceived by everyone (Trumpists and anti-Trumpists) as sadly wanting.

I think we are engaged in a transition…a major contextual shift…a subtle revolution of some kind.  Something is happening here and we don’t know what it is….

….anyway…..that is partly why I haven’t been writing.  I have been pretty busy doing chores and I will write more ‘happy’ stuff soon…but…in the meantime, I am inferentially scanning (unconsciously being aware of trends, indicators, tastes, fashions, news, movements and then, after a while, consciously trying to see a pattern) and then drawing inferences, observations, weak conclusions…..

NOT to be taken too seriously.

Spring has sprung a leak and we are listing

Chores abound.  So much to do.  Sal and I made a list…some thirty items on it.  Things we must do – and SOON!  Then we got down to fixing the plumbing and making that all good.  And, it is good.  Now.  Bloody marvelous.  After a few days I looked over at Sal and she had the chore list out and was adding something…..”Adding a new chore…?”

“Kinda.  I just wrote down ‘Fix the pump and water system’ so that I could cross it off the list.  Crazy, eh?  But I like to cross things off the to-do list even if we do them and they weren’t on the list.”

“That’s insane!”

“I know.  Anyway…what’s next?” 

“Lower stairs to genset shed and a new approach deck.”

“That’s not on the list.”

“I just stepped through one of the stair treads and checked the others.  They’re all gonna go.”

“I’ll put it on the list.”

We are currently in the middle of that chore.  Sal can hardly wait to cross it off the list.

Yesterday we took a day off and went to clean up an old community building.  The local government is buying it for us (the community) and we are planning on restoring it to heritage standards.  But, in the time between it falling into disrepair and being bought was almost ten years. It was never in great shape, having been built in the 30’s.  Worse, in the last few years it was occupied as living quarters by a squatter who was deranged, unhygienic and disreputable in the extreme.  Part of the deal was the community would clean it up.  It was a horrible mess.

The building is about 25 by 40 give or take and it is sagging and leaning and is all sorts of rotten.  Plus it sits on piles.  It was ‘home’ to a genuine nutter who resided without running water, good heat, refrigeration and none of the mod cons one would need to exist out here.  But somehow he did.  For at least two years–without even taking out the garbage once.  AND he saved his used toilet paper as fire starter.  The place was rodent infested and disgusting.  About 14 or so people showed up and worked for about four hours simply to ‘bag’ all the crap and make the place clean enough to walk around.  Some of us wore paper masks to keep the Hantavirus and Ebola at bay.  NOT ON THE LIST!

But some things NOT ON THE LIST are good chores anyway.  A good neighbour gave us six good sized crabs the other day.  We cleaned them and turned a couple into crab cannelloni.  We were too busy snarfing that down to add ‘crab-cleaning’ to the list.













ANYWAY….the point: a lot to get done and we are doing it but it seems that we are doing much more than is on our list.  So…..what is the point of the list….?

I dunno.

We’ve been busy lately….

…fixing screw-ups.  Alas.  Such is life as a pair of OTG doofus’.

I am NOT really being too hard on myself but the truth is the truth and some inadequacies manifested during our building years are coming back to haunt us.  We built to the thirty year rule and that was 15 years ago.  But, as it turns out, some of the building was inadvertently done to the 15 year rule because we were too doofusy to really KNOW how to achieve the thirty year standard at the time.  I can now see a few things done to the 20 year rule, too.  But, as Sal says, “Oh, well!”

When you build and do so under the combined pressures of inadequate skills, absence of knowledge, limited funds and a somewhat pressing issue of time (nowhere else to live), you are prone to making some errors.  That’s kinda fun, part of the adventure and, eventually it becomes the ‘education’ and hard-earned knowledge one was was seeking in the first place.  In fact, we figured we actually built this house twice already at the very least.  First you build something, realize that you made a mistake, take it apart and do it again.  Often three times.  Then, if it is functional but still not-quite-right, you move on to the next task saying such phrases as, “Oh, well.”

Or, as we learned to say from real construction guys: “No one will ever see that.  The trim will hide it.”  Or; “It’s good enough for the girls we go out with!”  

I was always amused when Sal uttered that last one.

Our latest ‘work party’ (these past two weeks) was a combination of our previous and current doofism and the nature of inanimate systems.  Our water system would not function upon our return from Arizona.  That can be a smidge aggravating because part of the malfunction caused the main (and previously full) cistern to drain away.  So we had no water either.  Well, we did.  We had the emergency cistern which was mostly full but then, in our haste to access it, let half that drain away, too.  Doofism comes in threes.

With that fixed, we realized that the creek wasn’t flowing either so the week of frozen creek did not add to our sense of well-being or personal hygiene.  It was good to get water flowing to the cisterns again.  But, lo and behold….wouldn’t you know?  The pump all-of-a-sudden wasn’t working right.  So, it had to be taken apart and fixed and so it was and yet, it STILL did not work properly.  Pressure just would not build.  Flummoxed, I started to replace various components of the system including the float valve in the toilet which, mysteriously, did NOT shut off.  And on and on and on we went with this plumbing mystery.  First this, then that, then a new one of this and then a new one of that.

I am not really the patient type.  Finally, I said, “To hell with it.  I am redesigning the entire system and buying new components.  Time to go big!”  

And so the last week was spent doing just that.  It’s all new.  If it ain’t new, it has been ‘refurbished’ and/or ‘reconfigured’.  A lot of spare parts have been accumulated (because a new part was bought and the old one was fixed).

But here’s the real news, the point of the story, the bottom line……with the exception of a lower ball valve freezing and allowing all the cistern water to drain, nothing was really done wrong.  NOT really.  Well, kinda….but not entirely because of us….here’s what happened…..

We get stream water.  Stream water has sediment.  We have a few sediment catchers.  We caught some of the sediment.  Turns out, we did not catch enough.  We had sediment in our pipes like 80 year-olds have cholesterol/plaque in their arteries.  The sediment was everywhere.  The interesting thing about this system is that, if I had cleaned it enough, it would have made the thirty year rule.  So, I screwed up but, well, in much the same way as I am likely screwing up my own arteries.  I was good.  But I was not good enough.

Plus I let the ball valve freeze.  But that was – in a way – a bit fortuitous.  The ball valve leaking and the subsequent ‘rebuild’ of the system happened when we are capable of making a ‘full recovery’.  Had it happened five or more years from now, we may have been much less able to get the job done.

Age.  Age and the thirty year rule……


The thing about physics……

….is it’s not simple.  Newton’s laws have been successfully challenged.  Now they are just guidelines.  Everything that goes up does NOT always come down.  Fifty five pounds of Reddi-mix is at least ten pounds heavier than fifty-five pounds of fuel in a Jerry can.  Of course, fifty-five pounds of wine in a case is actually quite light.   And, the biggest myth of all: water does NOT always flow downhill.  THAT hardly needs elaborating.  Everyone who lives OTG knows that.

Gravity is only 100% assured if you are working on a roof.

And we have been reminded of all that recently.  In theory, the water pick up at the creek which is at the 120 foot elevation should flow down hill to my tank at the 70 foot elevation level with fifty feet of gravity to virtually insist on it.  Hah!

I first discovered this problem and wrote about it on the blog on the fourth.  But that bit of magic physics just started to flow today, March 14!!!  We have actually been here since the first.  Took two weeks for water to flow down hill.!!!!! Yeah, I know…’maybe it was frozen’ or ‘maybe the water Gods are ticked at you..’  whatever.  TWO weeks!

But I am not a nut.  I can handle capricious nature. Mostly.  Sal, of course, can still be a challenge.  But this was worse because my winter water preparations (extensive) failed me (or, I them……whatever) and a valve froze, broke and allowed all our water (stored in a cistern) to drain out.  So, no water from the creek and an empty cistern…….still, I am not really, really stupid….I had an emergency cistern and plugged that one in only to find that water going downhill from that tank – assisted no less by an expensive pump – was not putting water pressure into the system.  And there unfolded the real mystery drama into our lives that proved – beyond a doubt – that water will not only NOT flow downhill, it will not even do so aided and abetted in that task by a half-horsepower jet pump.

Woe is me.

So, the ‘parts process’ begins.  Off goes any suspect parts and on goes new parts.  NOT easy – but doable so long as friends are coming and going from town.  One suspect part is the inflow ball valve on the toilet.  Odd little whacky item deep in the house-toilet-cistern system.  It would just NOT shut off.  Easy peasy replacement later, the new inflow ball valve will also NOT shutoff.  How is that possible?  How can a simple ball/float valve NOT shut off when the little float is up?  How?  HOW?  HOW?!

But, that’s OK.  I will simply poop in the woods.  NO problem.  Mind you, Sal is NOT happy over this alternative approach to such matters.

AND the pressure switch on the jet pump will not switch off either (even if I turn off the toilet thus allowing the pressure to build up) and so the new pressure switch installed only served to reveal that the spare switch is of the same temperament as it’s first-string teammate and it won’t shut off either.

Bonus lesson:  the local hardware store attempts to make their first quarterly profits based entirely on replacing broken winter water-system parts.

Consulting the local plumbing genius suggests the pump is maybe not up to task anymore.  “Like ‘out of the blue’ it got weaker?”  Suggestion: new $500 + pump.  NO problem.  Let’s do it.  Let’s also add a new expansion tank as well because the old one is 15 years old and that is at least half-life.

If anyone is reading a bit of hysteria into all this, it is because a man needs a shower.  Ya know what I am sayin’?

On the good news front, the boat went back in the water.  Winter prep worked and it started instantly.  Sal’s boat acted up briefly but was quickly fixed.  We are both mobile again.  Mobile enough to go buy spare parts for the water system.  Barge came.  Woofers calling.  Flowers peeking out.  Temperature rising.  All is good.  ALL is good but you might wish to stand just a bit downwind….jus’ sayin’….

We had a vision….now I am having one….

The community convened to ‘vision’ (used as a verb in this case) what should be done with our new gift of six waterfront acres and a few derelict buildings.  We could have envisioned but we chose instead to simply vision.  And the English language changes once again…going forward.

The community association advertised the event and invited everyone and, to add some extra appeal, offered a free lunch.  That always works to attract.  And so approximately 40 people showed up.  Now, forty people does not sound like a lot but don’t forget our island population is only sixty and some of them are currently still gadding about in hell-holes like Arizona or Puerto Vallarta.  Forty is a damn good turnout for March 2, in the cold, coming by water and participating in a community event that went on for FIVE (count ’em!!) hours!!!

But we prevailed.  We talked.  We broke into groups.  We reported back.  We made notes.  We had a great lunch (made by one woman, all alone, who also did most of the clean-up as well).  And we came away with at least half-a-vision.  It is only half because this exercise was NOT supposed to get bogged down in any of the details but rather to have a ‘vision’ and call it a day.  The actual future work will change the vision somewhat and everyone knows that.

I am NOT the best attendee of these sorts of things (no patience) but I stayed.  And it was NOT hell.  In fact, it was made very pleasant by the simple fact that I had not seen many of my neighbours for the most part of a year – sometimes more.  It was nice to see them.  Having  said that, a few observations should be shared: everyone was older.  Everyone was moving slower.  Most of us were a bit heavier (but that seems to come with winter as well as age.  One old guy said, ‘we hibernate starting December 1‘).  And the bulk (70%) were 60+ .

A few were missing….

One old guy showed up about five minutes before lunch, ate his share and left before the afternoon session began.  I howled at that (silently).  Classic old guy stuff.  Even I left a few minutes early, headed for another old guy gathering, had a beer and followed Sal home when I saw her finally leave half an hour later.

Everyone was pretty much onside with the basic OLD vision that we have had for the last decade.  Everyone wants a little village along the lines of what I wrote about a few blogs back.  Of course, there was more input and more issues but, generally speaking, the little village is seen as the go-to plan.  That and a food-function-depot centre-thingy (details to be worked out).

Money was NOT a discussed issue.  We were there to dream.  We will work toward that dream and if money is needed, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  Mind you, the word ‘grant’ filled in whenever there was a gap in the planning process…, we’ll see.

All in all it was a productive, positive, congenial day that might have gone on a bit too long but that is coming from an impatient guy.  I am sure many thought it was too fast.  The community is as united on the vision as we can be and, so far, it is in the realm of do-able.  That’s a good thing.



Home Sweet Home

I tend to romanticize living OTG.  I know that.  If I forgot the truth of it, I was definitely reminded of it coming home this time.  It is now Monday as I write this blog.  We arrived Comox after a very long 3-legged flight that had us arrive at 11:00 pm on Wednesday night.  That’s right, it has taken me that long to have a chance at blogging.  OMG!

We were picked up by a friend at the airport who, surprisingly, wanted to drink scotch that night.  And so we did.  Very nice that night.  But (not-so-much) the next day….so, in the snow, we headed over to Costco for the thrice yearly $1,000.00 stock up, then up to Campbell River for the $200.00 top off (so that NOTHING except a couple of Higgs Boson particles could get into the old Pathfinder) and we beat our way over to the community dock.  Another friend was there to drive Sal to get our boat but he insisted on being the ferry (thank God) and we were over to Home Sweet Freezer and unloading in the frigid temperatures before dark.  Which is OK…..everyone in Canada is living in freezing temperatures.

But so was the house!  Sal started the stove at around 5:00 pm Thursday night and the house hit 68F virtually 24 hours later.  We cranked that wood-gobbling puppy up and it took a whole day to get the place warm!  The house was 39F when we arrived!

That, however is just colour…fun stuff….the real stuff is the water system.  Properly drained it should be fine.  I missed a spot.  The valve cracked.  The water fled the scene.  The scene was the large cistern.  When we got home, it was empty.  But, but, but, I am only partly stupid (or so I thought) and so we switched over the pipe to the emergency cistern.  It is smaller but it would serve – I thought.  So, we got the system working…kind of….seems something was wonky in the pump (even tho it pumps) and the switch will no longer switch off…….. and so….after a bit we noticed things were NOT so good…went out and found another leak and we had lost half the emergency cistern in the meantime…..not good.  Full-on stupid rating now.

Today..we are down to about 300 gallons.  That will get us ten days or maybe two weeks….no pump….except by hand….

Getting the water from the creek flowing is priority #1.  Kinda.  My boat has to get launched from being up on the hard.  Problem: the tide is not high enough except at 5:00 in the am.  Which is about -8C.  And dark.  I am not launching the boat standing on slippery rock surfaces in the dark and in the cold only to die in some new fangled way.  The weather has to warm up and I am happy to wait a week until high tide shifts to 7:30 am.

In the meantime, we have no boat save Sal’s little skateboard.  And I avoid that as much as I can.  Oh yeah…forgot…when you refill the pipes, you have to warm them with heat tape and so I got out the genset and pulled a few times.  Didn’t start.  So, I pulled a few more.  The rope-pull snapped off.  And so I took that apart and put on a new rope.

And, oh yeah…Sal’s boat wouldn’t start at first but we knew that coming home (and told a friend who knows more than we do who came over and fixed it all while we were away except for a couple of needed parts) and so we picked up the parts to fix it in town.  Used the serial numbers and everything.  The supply house screwed up and gave us the wrong parts.  A phone call and the right parts came by float plane on Friday.  In the meantime, Great Scott and I (mostly him. I just cracked jokes) re-used the old parts and tried and tried and tried to get it going and… the last moment before we admitted defeat, it started up!

Litany of woes?  Nah.  Just part of the adventure……mind you, it is very nice to be home, warm and writing about it rather than actually fussing with it.  Tomorrow, we start on other things…getting the water flowing would be a good start.