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…..so, 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…..at 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.

Leaving Arizona

It was good.  The weather was, anyway.  Very nice.  It was actually bloody ‘mawvelous, dahling’ when you consider what most of the continent went through these past two months- still are.  Still, I am pleased to be heading home.  But first, a few more observations:

Our American neighbours, the ones around me in southern Phoenix, seem to have it a lot better than we Canucks.  Economically speaking.  Gasoline is $2.30 a US gallon but, if you have a ‘club key’ or XXX card or a ‘swipe’n go thingy you can get as much as 20 cents off that per gallon price.  That means that a swipe ‘n go member down the street fills up for $2.10 a gallon on a good day.  Mind you, their gallons are approximately 20% less than is our Imperial gallon (and 4 liters is 1.05 imperial gallons) so one could use 2.10 plus 40 plus to get about $2.50 a Canadian gallon for gasoline.  BUT!!!  Our dollar is also worth less by about 30% so it would take another 80 cents to get the equivalent or $3.30 give or take a few cents.  As gas prices sat when we left, we were paying damn close to $5.40 cents per four liters and so – doing all the math (roughly) means a straight-up comparison between Canadian car drivers and American car drivers means we pay $2.10 a gallon more.  40+% more for the same thing. 

‘Our’ neighbourhood

But who cares, eh?  It’s only money.  Let us look, instead, at housing.  A brand new 2200 sft home in a stunning sub-division, NOT packed in tight, and enjoying numerous parks and several community centres with pools and all the amenities you could imagine costs the American maybe $250,000.  They enjoy 30 year fixed term mortgages and similar if not slightly higher interest rates but with virtually no money down deals.  I worked it out.  Twenty percent down ($50K) and the monthly payments were just over $600/mo.  NOT quite true…..the ‘gated community’ fees were $127.00 for everything….and so say, with any and all bells and whistles I don’t know…say about…$750.00 a month for a fancy new home (Can$1000).  That payment is tax-deductible, by the way.

Lots of open space and sports facilities

Average income in this here neck of the woods (cactus): US$85,000.

Play areas such as these are every few blocks

I won’t bore you with the price of produce or groceries or even scotch which was $17.00 for 1.75 liters or half what it is at home.  Like the wine..sometimes less than half.  Do not even ASK about cell phone costs!  Doesn’t matter how you cut it, living in Arizona is about half the cost of living in say, Victoria or Nanaimo and maybe a third of the cost of living in Vancouver.

But – you knew that.  Most people know that. And yet, we prefer Canada.  Right?  Why do we?  Why do we prefer paying twice as much for everything and sometimes more?  Why do we prefer harsher weather?  Why do we prefer less free time, less rules and even much less ‘disposable income’?

Why do we prefer our trans Canada highway to have two or four lanes instead of 16 or more?

Surely it is NOT because we believe our government is any less corrupt than theirs?  Surely it is not because we like our ‘way of life’ more than theirs – they are pretty similar except, perhaps, their MAGA contingent is larger.

I don’t know the answer for most people.  I know the answer for me.  Oddly, I prefer cooler, wetter and wilder environments WITH ocean but, of course, that doesn’t apply to most people who live in cities. I know I feel safer in Canada but that makes very little sense….I do feel safer but there is no real statistical difference.  It’s just me.  I like the basic Canuck…..but, then again, I like the basic ‘Merican….they’re mostly pretty OK, too.

I really do not have a good answer for you on this…..but I will repeat: I AM HAPPY TO BE GOING HOME!

Apologies….this is a poll of sorts…

When I wrote about living OTG and telling stories and all, readership was good.  It tapered a bit downwards over the previous year or so (2017/2018) but, to be fair, I wrote more and more politically and philosophically.  That stuff does not appeal like ravens, whales or even sex, boobs, guns and bullets.  And most people like pictures.  I really do not do enough pictures.  My bad.’

‘Ya want readers?’  Open with a picture of a buxom lass in a torn, wet t-shirt holding a gun and with a lifted truck in the background.

But I want readers, not mouth-breathers, (not because I don’t like mouth-breatherssome of my best friends…..) because I really like feedback, comments, a bit of give-and-take.  Don’t forget: I live remote. I like to socialize a bit. My blog is my chat-line.

Lately, I have noticed that anti-Trump rants are being somewhat well-received.  So is a good piece on economics and/or some other political, social phenomena or trend.  The response is NOT like before the Russians stole my previous blog (pre-2017).  But good enough.  Good fun.  Good feedback.

The OTG stuff now gets poorer numbers.  Unless I write about Sal doing something heroic.  THAT usually goes over well.  

That is all on me, of course.  Fer sure (it is my blog, after all) and I have shifted the main topics quite a bit these past two years.  The purely OTG audience has left for better OTG blogs.  I get that.  I am NOT entirely OK with it because I see all topics as relevant to all of us but I get it.  People have to make choices where they spend their time.  I just don’t like losing people…..

So?  The ‘poll’ part…….?

If you are willing, please list your top three topics of interest. And put it in the comments.  NO!  We all know a scantily clad lass is number one (for the guys) out there*. So list #2, #3 and #4 if you will.  Please.  Even if you don’t normally comment, listing three words won’t kill ya…..Philosophy?  Politics?Economics?  OTG?  Anecdotes?  Zombies? Trump?  Money?  OTG Villages?  Sally heroics?

The really interesting change for me has been the new ‘commentators’ this recent last few months.

NB *Sal added (for the guys out there) so that there was no misunderstanding….as if?  I mean….who doesn’t like scantily clad, gun-toting, truck-driving gals?  




Another ‘fun-blog’ conceptual stretch……..

……..we have created a monster.  Worse, we created one from bits and pieces.  We have patched, altered, legislated, regulated and otherwise tampered with society for a long time trying to make it work better….and we have been somewhat successful in some areas (IT’S ALIVE!) but, overall, we have failed – just like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.

Income inequality, chronic ills from lifestyle and pollution, environmental degradation, failed states and all the other ills and evils that one might use to measure real success indicate that we could have done better.  A lot better.  Maybe it is time to recognize that and acknowledge that the ‘system’, as it is, is broken.  The global culture, as it is, isn’t working.  Capitalism kinda works but not for all and it is killing the planet in the process.  We need to change.

The real ‘revelation’ here for me is that the question of change will never be answered by the sick system perpetuating it.  Even the greenest of Greens won’t turn anything around.  The corporations won’t.  The institutions are in the very business of maintaining the status quo.  The police enforce it.  There is simply no force out there that would change the basic system and it is the basic system that is causing the problem.

Think about this (fantasy scenario#1): China and Russia declare WAR on the USA (or vice versa) and all hell breaks loose.  Eventually some radioactive winners crawl out from their blackened bunkers, rally the remnants of their armies and RULE THE WORLD.  Oh, goody. What is the first thing they will do?  Extort from other survivors and maybe, eventually, start up a new ‘way of life’ that is polluting, craven, greedy and elitist.  And chapter ten in the never-ending human story begins……

We have to change this trajectory.  And it seems we have to start pretty soon….if the climate is a factor – which it is….

Here are a few sacred cows that may have to be slaughtered before BIG change can happen.  Peaceful protest doesn’t work. We may have to employ strategic violence.  Big government doesn’t work for the people.  We may have to start smaller societies and organize only locally.  Money kinda works but any entity controlling money undermines it’s neutrality as a simple medium of exchange.  We may have to revert to a simpler money/barter system where the financial institutions are no more. And on and on and on….

“Hah!  Dave!  You must be mad.  Keep adding to that list and you will be carted away and I will help them tie you up, you poor, demented fool.”    

I understand.  I will shut up.  I was just having a mental stretch.  Don’t pay me any attention.  I am sure we will fix what ails us by doing more of the same stuff, keeping the same values, following the same leadership models and ignoring the planet on which it all takes place.  I mean, maybe the banks and governments are just not trying hard enough….?  Maybe the corporations will start working for all the people instead of just their shareholders?  Maybe the politicians are honest and the second Coming of Christ  will soon fix it all……

In the meantime, just for fun (conceptually) think about how you could extricate yourself from your own ‘grid’ and rebuild a lifestyle around something more healthy for you, your family and your neighbours.  Just have a fun little mental exercise while you are commuting to work, paying taxes and buying crap at Walmart….you know…..in your ‘downtime’?

“Oh, Man!  Is this your idea of a sales pitch?  You still marketing living OTG?”

No, actually.  This blog comes at that issue entirely from a different perspective.  I occasionally read other writers and I am about to embark on another Mark Boyle book (Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi).  The first chapter prompted this blog.  Stephen Hren reviewed the book:

Mark Boyle has penned an incendiary fulmination against the aggression of consumer capitalism. In this provocative polemic, he calls us all to account for our lack of violent resistance to the ravages occurring on every corner of the globe to feed our most trifling wants. Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi is solidly written in easygoing prose, and on a fundamental level forces the reader to dig deep into the bowels of their consciousness to question how we can let such slaughter occur in our name.

His main point of contention is what he perceives as a commitment to nonviolence by the vast majority who espouse preserving the environment. Boyle finds this nonviolence to actually play into the hands of those who are the most rapine, as its toothlessness provides almost no brake to the incessant wanton destruction, while allowing cover in the form of greenwashing to carry on business as usual. If for nothing else, the book is worth reading to force us to confront a most profound philosophical question: At what point does stopping the destruction of the earth, upon which all life depends, become self-defense and hence justify violent resistance against the forces that are destroying it?