Whales passing as a metaphor

First whales of the season today.  Five or six Orcas.  Cruising slow.  Pffft.  Pffft.  Pffft.   Neat. Always nice to see ‘em.

Friend called last night.  “Wanna do some millin’?  I got some logs here and I heard that you want some cedar.  Wanna help work ‘em into lumber?  I’ll give ya some cedar?”

“Sure.  Do we have to do it in the rain?  Can we do it when it’s convenient?  Will your wife make us tea and cookies?”

“Never mind.  I’ll do it myself!”

“What about the cookies?”

Another friend called later.  Some bad news.  Cancer.  I hate that.  I just hate that.  I just really, really hate that.  I suppose I would hate hearing any kind of bad news about anyone I care about but it just seems so awful when it happens to someone who lives life so fully as he does.  He probably still will.  They have it ‘in hand’ early.  He’s a tough old bird.  Fill ‘im full of chemicals, radiate the hell out of him and he will likely be good to go.  I just hope he goes in the right direction.  Same direction as the one I am planning on.  We both wanna go forward a bit longer.  I was kinda hoping that we could travel this mortal coil some more together….like 30 or so more years.

We’ll hafta see about that.

I have no intention of bumming you out.  Lots of good stuff going on.  I’ll get to it as the seasons unfold.  But, right now, I am reminded once again of our fleeting-ness.  Our brevity of being.

Pffft.

I’ve lost a few friends these past few years.  Inevitable, I guess.  Life.  Getting to 67 means lasting longer than some.  Can’t complain about something you know is a fact.  We all have to go.  Sometime.  No, the point is NOT about death  (I really expect him to make it a lot longer.  I really expect ME to make it a lot longer, too) it is about life.

Both Sal and I have been struck recently by how fast it is passing.  Like a blink, actually. So, don’t wait for it to happen.  Get on with it.  Follow a dream.  Chase a rainbow.  Don’t let TV or too much dull work take any more of your time.

OMG, am I glad Sal and I have done stuff.  Even the stupid stuff.  ESPECIALLY the stupid stuff!  And I really intend to do more of it, stupid or otherwise.   And I am especially glad we didn’t wait to do it.  We didn’t wait til we were supposed to retire.  We didn’t wait til 65.  We didn’t wait until we were ‘secure’ financially or otherwise.  We are wingin’ it on a prayer! (well, to some extent, anyway…no sense in being too silly)

I have no idea what the point of it all is but I can assure you that it is NOT about watching TV or punching a clock. Or shopping!  Or RRSPs!  Whatever it is, we both feel that we are closer to it living out here doing this than we have ever been.

The key word in the phrase living off the grid is L-I-V-I-N-G.

This is good.  Really good.  It is ALL good.  Did I mention the whales?  The cookies?  And my plans to do some millin’?  It really does NOT get any better!

Moose! Can’t live with ‘em………..

In Canada, more people are killed by moose (car accidents) than are killed by terrorists (in 2014 alone, 450 people were injured and five people killed just in BC).

In fact, no one in Canada has been killed by a terrorist.  Admittedly, a few disaffected, disillusioned and isolated nut-bars have inflicted a few casualties on random citizens but bona fide, card-carrying terrorists?

None.

The current media focus and parliamentary debates would suggest that we are over-run by Islamic fundamentalists.  Why is that?  Why is our attention being focused on something non-existent or slight at the very worst?  Why is our (and our parliamentarian’s) attention not focused on basic infrastructure, hospitals, schools and constructive issues?

Why do we tolerate the murder, mayhem and general lawlessness in some parts of the country (like, Surrey) and instead focus on people wearing scarves on their heads?

Seven out of ten Canadians recently polled were dead set against that single Muslim woman wanting to wear a niqab during the citizenship swearing in ceremony.  Why?  That woman was required to show her face for all the official documenting.  She had to be officially revealed to the officials time and time again during the real citizenship vetting process. All she wanted to do was be culturally correct (for her) in the swearing-in CEREMONY.  Why do we seem to care so much about that one Muslim woman and NOT about the thousands of homeless people?

I recently received an e-mail from a friend.  A nice person.  It was a forwarded e-mail rant from some bigot that she agreed with.  It was all about Islam and Muslims and Nazis and Jews and how we have to watch out for all that kind of thing.  But there was no mention of Bill C-51 that gives the Feds unlimited surveillance and arrest powers.  There was no warning for us of ever-encroaching Orwellian-type politics in OUR government.  She is afraid of Muslim women in niqabs but not CSIS and the RCMP who seem to shoot, assault and taser people rather willy nilly in my view.  Why is that?  She’s not stupid as a rule……why is she fearing non-threats and NOT fearing real ones?

Let me be blunt: if you are going to be afraid, be afraid of real threats, not the bogey-men of the media, not the monsters-under-the-bed as described by our government. You want a threat?  Try climate change.  Try Bill C-51.  Watch out for U.S. Homeland Security coming to a front door near you some time soon.  You want a real threat?  Go to a hospital and have an operation without getting C-difficile (the mini-epidemic in our hospitals).  Try NOT paying your taxes!

“Isn’t there a real threat from ISIL?”

I guess.  I don’t really know.  I do know that I do not trust the government or the media to tell me the truth.  But let’s assume for a minute that ISIL is a real threat.  And we have to spend millions of dollars bombing Syria so as to protect ourselves.  OK, fine.  But is a niqab the uniform of an ISIL fighter?  I don’t think so.  Does CSIS and the RCMP need more controls over 35 million Canadians so as to catch a single mad-man running around with a checkered scarf and pressure cookers?  I don’t think so.  How have these thousands of armed and uniformed guardians of our country fared with the dumber-than-dirt drug-selling goofballs in Surrey?  The answer: NOT so good.

I do not rely on the RCMP for my own personal safety.  They might ask questions of witnesses later, after the fact, but how are they going to protect me from a nut-case before he or she blows a gasket?  It’s not possible.

Bottom line: we are being misled.  I have no idea why.  Maybe fear-mongering is good for business.  Maybe it is good for politics.  I don’t know.  But one thing is for sure: we are being misled. We are being lied to.  We are being made afraid of bogey-men when there are more important things to worry about.

Like those damn moose, for instance!

Techno-babble redux

A friend wanted a summary of what our off-the-grid electrical system was.  So, I wrote him.  Sal said, “You should make a blog of it!’

“But I have said all this before!”

“Not so succinctly.  Do it!”

So, here goes: the system is: batteries, cable, inverter/charger, charge controller, relay and a tower (of sorts).

Batteries first – I have 12 of them. All the same size.  All the same age.  12 volts.  200 amps each.  8D’s are the designation.  Of the cheaper class, L-16’s are better.  Mine are very cheap at $150.00 each and they will live for about 7 years.  Surettes are expensive and will last 20.  But everyone ruins their first (and usually second) batch of batteries so go cheap for the first few years while you learn their ‘nature’ and the situation in which they live and function.

Batteries are almost sentient.  And they are eccentric to say the least.  My 12 are divided in 3 groups of 4.  Each group of four is wired in series to give 48 volts at 200 amp-hours. Then the three groups are wired in parallel to give 48 volts at 600 amp-hours. At our rate of usage, that will give us 3-4 days without a charge (from sun or generator).  Longer if we stayed with just lighting-only but we have screens and computers and all sorts of little ‘drains’ (like cell phone and computer batteries and such).

Cable is Teck.  Armoured.  Heavy.  Oversize because the array is placed in the optimum location (100 feet from the house) and we don’t want ‘voltage drop’.  Buy a size or two heavier than you think you will need.  That gives ‘capacity’ in case you add panels later.  Cable is expensive but two cables is dumb.  Ask me how I know that…  Better to go BIG the first time.
The same is true for the cable connectors on the batteries.  Spend time and money on that.  Those connectors are a huge deal.  Those little cables would ideally be bolted on rather than ‘slipped on’ like a car battery terminal because bad connections are the biggest drains in the system. Bolt-on hard bars is best.
I have 2100 watts of power on my array.  The array is about 120-150 sft.  It consists of a steel rack that sits on top of three scaffolds stacked to make about 15 feet in height.  This height pretty much eliminates any effect from tree cover.  If you are much further north, you may wish to go to four levels ’cause the sun is lower in the sky.  You can go higher but, after four levels you need to add additional stays.  I only have stays at the top of mine.  Any higher and I’d mid-stay, too.
My array is made up of 8 x 80 watt BP panels (640 watts) from the first few years and then 6 x 240 watt panels (1440) I added last year.  I combined the first generation system with the second.  You’d be more efficient, of course, going 240 watt panels from the start.
3000 watts in total is likely ideal for most modest OTG cabins.  I can’t see a minimal home of 1200 sft or less needing more unless you were driving electrical appliances (ours are propane except for the one-time uses like a toaster or an iron).  It is the fridge and freezer that drain you.  24/7/365.
I have two charge controllers.  The 640 watts go into an old-style PWM (pulse wave modulation) charger and the power feeds go into battery group #3 (the back end).  My MPPT charger is part of the OUTBACK ‘system’ that includes the inverter.  That takes the newer 1440 watt source and feeds that power into battery group #1 (the front end of the battery assembly).  This is a bit unusual. Most people prefer to use just one charge controller but I had two so I did it ‘my’ way.  Turns out that ‘my way’ is considered a little better (by the local techies) because the wave lengths of the chargers are slightly different and that seems to be a good thing.  I had no idea.  I just tried it and found out later from the techies that they are discovering it is better.  Luck plays a role in all of this.
OUTBACK is the best and most expensive inverter.  Plus it is the most confusing to figure out. The manual is complete gibberish.  Mine is 2500 or 3000 watts (either – can’t remember) and that is enough for me.  It basically means it can supply 20/25 amp service at 120 volts.  Typically normal houses have 100 amp service or nowadays 200 amp service.  But we OTG’ers are good at 25.  Some people go for two of them to get 50 amp service but then everything else has to be more as well.  Our house is wired conventionally with a 120v system.  .
I went 48 volts because 48 volt systems are the best – technically.  But now I would recommend 24 volt systems because Surettes can be configured cheaper in 24 volt systems than 48.  Plus there are more ‘minor’ accessories at 24 volts than 48 (like supplemental chargers).  A good (the only good one for OUTBACK, actually) supplemental charger (with genset use) is IOTA.
The relay device I use to shunt from one genset to the other depending on which one  is in use.  Total cost of the ‘system’ is likely around $12,000 – to $15,000 – for the parts.  It cost me more because some of the components were more expensive ten years ago.  Panels are cheaper.  Cable is more expensive.  That estimate does not count genset (ONLY consider Honda or Yamaha or diesel.  5000 – 7500 watt genset is enough). And that was me ‘scrounging’ steel for the array, making everything myself and doing everything myself.  I also got good deals on batteries.  You can do a good system for $15,000 if you scrounge a bit and do a lot yourself.  And you could easily spend $25K or more to duplicate the system we have by ‘doing it right’ and getting assistance.
There are some pics in the gallery alongside the blog.

There once was a woman who lived in a tank…

There is now a hole in my life when there are no comments in the comments section.  I have managed to generate a few friends by way of this blog and we connect by way of the comments section so, when it goes awry, the friends disappear. And I miss ‘em.  I think I fixed it now so all three of you can be in touch again.  Whew! 

Spring is fix-it time.  Things need attention.  Of course, the garden is the most obvious and most alluring attention-seeker but the boats need maintenance, the gutters need cleaning and usually the systems need some attention as well.  And so, spring clean-up is now underway – albeit glacially.

When we first arrived, everything was good.  But a quick inspection revealed that the batteries needed topping up and so did a few terminals need cleaning up.  Water and gas seemed fine so we turned our attentions to other things like cleaning the gutters and addressing some boat chores.  As it turned out, we didn’t notice the dog NOT barking. Translation: our water system operates with a constant stream from the hose in the creek. That constant stream creates a slight water-hose-filling-the-cistern sound in the background.  We know water is flowing simply by listening carefully.  But, of course, we forgot that, and didn’t listen and have now just discovered that the water must have stopped running sometime well in the past.  Our cistern is empty and we are dry.

And this may be a good thing.

We put the cistern in – under the house – at the time of construction.  It is 1100 gallons and the tank is 7 feet in diameter and about four feet in height with a bulge on top that frames an access hatch that is maybe 20 inches in diameter.  A child could slip in through that hole, I could not.  Naturally we placed the access hatch directly under a floor joist so that there is precious little access to the access hatch.  A foot either way and there would have been another twelve inches of entry angle but, as it is, there is only about 12 inches or so now.  Twenty-four would have been good.  Twelve is tough.

Since the house was built we have, naturally, flowed thousands of gallons from the creek through the cistern and into our plumbing system.  As a consequence river-silt has built up on the floor of the cistern.  But the cistern is usually full of water and we need to use that water all the time so we have simply lived with the silt-up.  But we figured that some day we would have to clean it out.  That day seems like NOW.

Sally is less humongous than I am.  So Sally goes into the tank.  IF she can.  Assuming, that with enough Vaseline, we can slip her in, she will be in a four foot high black tank standing in several inches of silt and having to scoop it all up in a bucket which she will pass out to me for dumping in the garden. Light will have to come by way of a headlamp. Clothing will be restricted to a bathing suit.  Claustrophobia will become her friend.  Egress will be more difficult than access and even access is questionable.  I haven’t yet figured out we can get her out from the position she will be in.  She may have to live there.

Well, to be more accurate, I haven’t yet figured out how I can convince her to get in to the tank in the first place. Getting out is academic at this point.  We may have to go to plan B. And, so far, there isn’t one.  I’ll keep you posted.

Natural senses and tendencies

Town day.  All the logistical challenges you already know about and then some.

Pleasant surprise: we had a short appointment to meet a couple who wants to give OTG living a try.  Nice people.  Capable.  They’ll do well. The interesting part is that they have been reading this blog and it helped encourage their OTG feelings.  Seems we have been a bit of an influence! Sheeesh!  I usually have to get people drunk to influence them.  So, for sure, the influence of this blog has been very slight and they are inclined this way on their own but we may have played a minuscule part.

That will be my defense if I have to go to court, anyway.  

In fact, I know that to be true.  As it turns out they have been living the OTG lifestyle even while technically on the grid.  Like I said before, OTG is a mind-set more than a location and, in their case, their having lived a long time in an RV is pretty much living part of the OTG lifestyle. You may rely on the grid while RV’ing but you are unplugged and more independent than is the condo dweller.

But I have been thinking…..living OTG is an inevitable off-shoot of the grid getting bigger and more popular.  As gazillions move TO the city, it is a natural and inevitable fact that some will move in the OPPOSITE direction.  It is the way of all life.  Most go one way, a few strike out differently.  It’s Darwinism.  Evolution.  Even Newtonian physics is at play..’for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.’  I have no delusions that OTG’ing is even close to equal but it is definitely opposite.  My guess is the inevitable and natural urban backlash is showing up in OTG’ing and many other places, as well.

On another note…………I was on the deck at 9:00 pm last night.  Black as pitch.  No moon. No stars. But it was quiet.  Very quiet. Mausoleum quiet.  And then, NOT!  I heard something out on the water that I had never heard before.  It was a cross between a call or bellow and a heavy cough.  It was regular but not exactly rhythmic.  The timing was like that of a dolphin that breathes when it surfaces but can vary the time in between.  But the sound was coming from something much larger – like the size of a sea lion.  But it wasn’t a sea lion (I have heard them).  It wasn’t any sea creature I had ever heard before so I wondered if it was a bear or an elk or something big that was swimming between islands.

But it was NOT just regular breathing – so why would a large mammal swimming make calling or bellowing sounds?

Sal listened, too.  “No idea.  Strange.  But it does not seem to be in distress.  I think, therefore, that is has to be comfortable enough in the water.  Probably a sea creature of some sort.  Maybe an otter?”

“Too loud and deep-pitched to be an otter.”

Mystery.

The other day, late in the afternoon – while we were working outside – we heard a wolf pack announcing a kill on the opposite island.  They howled back and forth for maybe fifteen or twenty minutes.  It was loud, piercing and, like always, made the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  And it was in day-time which is unusual for us.  We usually hear the wolves at night.  Magic.

So, what is the point?  Nothing much.  Just our environmental sounds.  Or the lack of them.  Quiet, mostly. The bliss of blessed silence and then the magic of different, mostly natural sounds.  We ‘hear’ more out here.  We rely on our hearing in ways that we don’t in the city.  Of course, we are still much more visual animals than we are olfactory or hearing reliant but the percentage changes when you are out here.  Hearing and smell assume slightly larger roles in our sensory lives.  It’s subtle as a rule but not last night.  Last night it was all centre-stage aural.  It was all in the ears.

What a great place to live, eh?

Synchronicity, timing, confluence, that sort of thing….

It is not often I get a chance to remain true to the topic of off-the-grid living and still indulge my penchant for politics except, of course, where I make a force fit.  This time I don’t have to.

Last year was the first year in which global investment in renewable energy was larger than investment in fossil fuels. We are nearing the tipping point. So while our prime minister shills for a pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico to ship out unprocessed bitumen, global investors are shifting their bets. Canada is the only country on earth not a member of the International Renewable Energy Agency. Maybe Harper and company haven’t noticed these reports. Maybe Christy Clark hasn’t realized the long-term bet on LNG is a bad bet for BC. But Canadians better start noticing that betting on fossil fuels is not only stoking the furnace on future climate disasters; in purely economic terms, it’s stupid.” Elizabeth May – Green Party of Canada

It is interesting to note that oil prices (wholesale) are down because of over-supply.  Yes, gasoline prices are up but that is more a statement of corporate and government greed than it is supply and demand.

So, why is there – all of a sudden – a glut on oil?  Who knows?  But Elizabeth May makes the observation that the price of solar has more than halved (60% less than five years ago).  And I see the price drop more dramatically because I pay (retail) a dollar-a-watt today where I paid $5.00-a -watt ten years ago. Factor in inflation and ‘future cost’ of money and all that other economic hocus pocus and I pay LESS than one fifth of what I paid ten years ago.  And she claims that such a price drop is making solar competitive with oil.  She claims it is more than competitive for some (like me) and so those folks not only choose to go solar, they are also NOT buying as much oil.  

It is counter-intuitive in the extreme and contrary to what economists would say but low oil prices might just be an indication of increased use of green-energy.  

She thinks we are at the tipping point.  And she says the tipping point has already been tipped in Asia.  Those emerging societies with a gazillion small entrepreneurs have shifted more significantly to solar and wind than were ever expected. The little guy is leaving the petroleum club.

I doubt that it is that simple.  But I don’t really know anything.  I just know my feelings, my instincts and the great confusing mish-mash that comes from a bunch o’ reading.  And they are all suggesting that she may be right.  We just might already be making the transition…?

Many famous environmental commentators from Stewart Brand to Paul Hawken think we are, too.  They believe that ‘change’ is happening at the personal, grass roots and mini-community level. They cite the 100 mile diet, slow food, Blockadia, social media and a plethora of other examples including solar and conservation to suggest that we are all, slowly, smartening up.

‘Course the leaders aren’t.  The leaders got where they got NOT by leading but by sucking up and following the How-to-Suck-Up-for-Success Rule-Book (for Dummies).

Real leadership doesn’t come from the establishment but from the Malcom Gladwell-type Outliers.  The problem with the currently recognized Gladwells is that he is reporting on Outliers from three decades ago (i.e. Bill Gates).  The outliers of today have yet to be recognized.  Even Elon Musk is somewhat behind the cutting edge because – by cutting edge – we mean ‘experimental’ and, even though Elon Musk is committed to being there at the experimental front, being a gazillionaire takes a lot of ‘establishment’ time as well.  But his engineers are up there.  Musk is a leader and an outlier.  One of the few.

So, what is my point?  Simple, really.  OTG is not necessarily catching on (people still moving to the city in hordes) but living cleaner, healthier and more independently is. Just as we are open to smarter phones, we are showing interest in smarter living.  We are all trying to make a difference even if our so-called leaders are walking the wrong path.  Just maybe all those small-fry still choosing to live urban can add to the revolution by putting solar panels on their roof.

And then the green movement will really get some legs.

 

 

More criticism

“Blog’s kinda off the main topic these days, don’t you think?” Neighbour BIG Doug and I were getting together to discuss him delivering some lumber over the next few weeks for the little projects I have planned.

“Yeah.  Did my usual bit about the city again.  Some stuff about the book.  A few rants.  I have strayed from the original theme, no doubt about it.  You wanting more rants or more off-the-grid stuff?”

“No rants.  Had enough.  And you can skip the ravens.  I am sick of them, too.  Bloody nuisance, they are.  Figure out a way to get rid of them without killing them and write a book about that!”

“Geez, no rants, no ravens.  Waddya readin’ for?”

“Don’t got no TV, do I?”

“You don’t got no cedar, either!”

“No.  Right.  Sorry.  Might cut some.  Probl’y not.  Lots of hemlock and fir, tho.  Cuttin’ some alder soon.”

“Why alder?”

“Louie wants flooring.”

“I want cedar.”

“Louie’s mill.”

And that is the way it is out here.  Louie owning the mill determines what gets milled.  Fair enough.  Not a market driven economy, to be sure, but fair.  I’ll build out of fir instead of cedar.  Some decisions are made for you.

Well, that is not quite true.  The outdoor shower has to be cedar.  HAS to be.  And I’d like the greenhouse frames to be made of cedar, too.  Less worry about rot.  So, I may have to ‘negotiate’ with big D who lives near BIG Doug.  Big D (smaller than BIG Doug but still big) is a lumber hoarder.  He always has dimensions of everything.  Like a mini-custom home depot except WITHOUT any crap wood.  Plus it runs in the family and his cousin up the way has some, too.  One way or the other I’ll whinge my way into some cedar.

And I have the time.  It’s not like I work fast.  Hardly work at all, really.  Haven’t done a thing since we schlepped back home last week.  Peeled potatoes.  Poured wine.  Chose the last cheap B flick.  That’s about it……

I’ll likely keep the GDP (Gross Dave production) to that lightning pace until the barge comes with all my ‘new’ tools.  And if this sloth continues, I may just use them as barter for getting others to do my work!  Ha!  Only kidding.  No one can do my work (‘cept Sal) cause I don’t have plans.  I wing it. You hafta read my mind to know what I am going to do next.  Tough enough for Sal to do and she doesn’t always get it right.

Which is annoying.

Anyway, I couldn’t part with any of that stuff and I haven’t even gotten my hands on it yet. Tool anticipation is a crazy thing.  A bit like being horny but not quite.  Weird.

Here’s something weird: This is DFO for ya…………..

Our area is closed to ‘fin fishing’ until sometime soon (that is why I was online reading the regs and getting my license) but even when it is open, it is closed to rockfish.  They were fished out years ago and, like all DFO managed species, they close the area AFTER the species is wiped out.  Brilliant.

So, anyway, no rockfish.  Fine.  I get it.

But then the regulations read: (something like) “Should you inadvertently catch a rockfish while fishing for other species, the fish will not be able to recover from being hauled up from the depths.  You may as well keep it.  And be sure to eat it, ’cause you can’t use it for bait – that is against the law!”

“Unh….I thought catching rockfish was against the law?”

IT IS!  TOTALLY PROHIBITED!  WE’LL CONFISCATE YOUR FAMILY IF YOU DO THAT!”

“But…you said….if…I catch one by accident….I should eat it…? If I eat it, doesn’t that mean I have to take the little blighter (biter) in my boat and you might catch me with it and then confiscate my family?”

YES.  YOU ARE CAUGHT BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARDPLACE.  LIKE THE ROCKFISH.  YOU ARE HOOPED EITHER WAY.  THIS IS THE GOVT. OF CANADA MANAGING YOUR FISHERIES AND, AFTER C-51, WE WILL APPLY THIS KIND OF LOGIC TO MANAGING YOU!

If only the rockfish could slip away as freely as my rants do, eh? 

 

On/Off

One of my friends critiqued the book and chastised me for not having set the stage more. “You should have written more about why you actually bought property where you did and stuff and why the hell you would do such a thing.  I wanted to know your motivation other than mid-life crisis.”

Well, I won’t bore you with what such an answer would include but, because some others have asked questions of a similar vein, I will answer it briefly  Firstly; why out here?

Well, you already know that half the answer was to get away from the rat-race.  But, why here?

Canada is a big country and has some lovely spots.  One can choose from many ideal spots in just about every province.  But Canada is also bloody cold in a usually long winter and huge swathes of the country are under the control of bugs.  Mosquitoes run Winnipeg. And most of Saskatchewan. And bugs, in general, control all of Ontario. Frankly I would prefer to be governed by the Taliban rather than insects although, to be fair, I would chafe under either. But with bugs, I would also itch and not be able to concentrate.  I hate bugs.

So that leaves just the coastal regions.  And, already living on the west coast made that choice much easier.  But I do like PEI and Nova Scotia.

The west coast is all quite beautiful but it, too, suffers from being in Canada and even the coast can get cold, wet and miserable.  In fact, it is not called the rainforest for nothing – it is all granite, rain and trees. The only part of western Canada that is habitable by my standards is the giant bath-tub ring around the Gulf of Georgia.  That deep tub of water exerts a temperate climate on all the land around it for at least 20 or so miles.  Go up one of the deep fiords/inlets to the head and you can actually feel the gulf’s loss of tempering influence.  Go to the northern part of Vancouver Island in high summer and bundle up – it is freezing!  To my way of thinking, the Gulf of Georgia is ideal.  The rest of Canada is mostly harsh.

The bath-tub ring is really very, very temperate and, in some parts, quite warm and sunny. Comparatively speaking, anyway.  So much so that cactus grows on mid-tub Savary Island.  When we lived in Tsawwassen, we received twice the sunshine and one-third the rain that Vancouver experienced and North and West Vancouver receives that difference again. Thirty inches of rain in Tsawwassen, 60 in Vancouver and 90 in North Vancouver.

Oysters are like climate canaries for us (not such good fliers but better fryers).  They grow and thrive until about 10 miles north of Campbell River.  North of that, it is too cold for them.  If it is 20 degrees C around Powell River, it is 10 to 12 in Port Hardy (if it ever gets that high!).  I have been in a t-shirt and warm heading north in the boat and, over a five mile stretch, felt the temperature drop a significant 5 degrees (C) requiring the adding of another layer for warmth.  The ‘temperate line’ is clear and distinct even if it does move around a bit with the seasons.

So that is why we chose ‘here’.  But why did we choose to go at all?  Like I said in the book, mostly for adventure, mostly to relieve boredom, mostly to learn and experience life in a more grounded and visceral form.  To feel alive, to be more independent, to grow as human beings.  To get out of the pressure cooker.  All that and more.  But mostly just personal reasons.  Randy’s you-tube ‘Leaving’ says it best (link on the side of this blog).

But here’s the surprise: I really don’t think a person has to live remote to be off-the-grid.  It helps your concentration and defines your activities more clearly but being isolated from society is impossible.  You are included in society one way or another – usually, too many other ways for my liking –  but you will always be connected in so many ways that OTG is really an attitude, an idea, a lifestyle more than a defined fact.

Being OTG is really just a mind-set rather than a location.  A woman in a suburb in Coral Springs, Florida opted for living OTG and was persecuted by the local government for it – thus proving the validity of her choice in the first place.  But she proved the point well. She went OTG in a suburb!  Growing or foraging for your own food, unplugging from the umbilicals of modern life, generating your own power, practicing conservation and living as if you were in the land of plenty rather than scarcity is all it really requires. Want to try living OTG?  First find your inner Luddite.

Harder to do in the city.  Easier in the forest.

Just to be clear: there is a built-in irony with the exercise of moving OTG.  You go to get in touch with nature, your own body and mind and to live with less.  But to do that, you need to connect to the knowledge base of society, usually hire others to help and you buy prodigiously to live minimally. Worse, the more you live OTG, the more ease and comforts you try to acquire so as to be able to enjoy yourself more.  This trip we bought a toaster! And I have a barge bringing me more tools!  My first project this summer is to finish the lower funicular (to assist with the loading process).  I may be living OTG but it seems I am trying to build the equivalent of a grid in the process.

So, what is my point?  OTG is not revolutionary.  It’s just a small change.  A modification. An adjustment.  You are not shedding your skin or undergoing metamorphosis.  Basically, you are just moving house to a better neighbourhood.  Is it worth the effort?

Absolutely!

 

 

Huey Newton’s wife trademarks ‘burn, baby, burn’ to sell hot-sauce (true)

I kind of ramble in this blog so the point is that revolution does not always look like you think it should.  It just might be already underway.

Ever since I attained legal adulthood, I remember (and somewhat listened to) the call for revolution – if not screamed in the foreground by a Huey Newton-type, then as a quiet expectation in the background as whispered by Stewart Brand (Whole Earth Catalogue). The symbolic and iconic “Burn, baby, burn” was torn from the angry chants of the Black Panthers around the violent times of the LA Watts riots.  And the back-to-the-land movement of the early 70’s was a kind of quiet, gentle manifestation of similar revolution opposing working in offices in grey flannel suits and living in ticky-tacky boxes all in a row. But both were revolutionary messages for my era.

One died with a whimper and maybe one last Viagra.  The other clings to life as a hot sauce.

I guess, though, that I have always considered that revolution would still show up in one of those two ways: either burning riots or quiet retreat.  But, I may be wrong…………It won’t happen by way of voting, that’s for sure.  The very act of voting and politely awaiting the outcome of a system that always results in the status quo is simply a ludicrous expectation.  The system is incapable of major change.  You can’t get change by remaining the same.  But I digress…..

So, where are the riots?  Or where is the exodus?

I don’t see it.

Or do I?

It actually may be happening right now and I didn’t recognize it because there just weren’t enough Afros or long-haired hippies involved.  Maybe the revolution is underway….?

Bear in mind that there is nothing in the word ‘revolution’ that necessarily makes the rebels right.  Fifty thousand rebels can be wrong even if the ones they are fighting are also deemed the bad guys to some extent.  Both sides can be wrong.  The enemy of my enemy is NOT necessarily my friend.

Put another way: ISIS is revolting against the modern status quo – their status quo as they define it in a Western based world.  They are revolting against capitalism, materialism and western ethics.  But they are not revolting against the status quo that I am inclined to rebel against – which is that part of the same enemy as theirs which pollutes the planet and exploits the poor in pursuit of greed and excess.  My rebels are good guys like the Sea Shepherd Society and Green Peace.  Their rebels are just worse bad guys than the Military Industrial Petroleum Capitalism Greed machine I normally rail against.

Put another way again: I think I prefer my greed-motivated enemies to the beheading types who have begun the ISIS revolution.  They are up-front worse than my bad guys because I have hopes for my bad guys to learn from their constant stream of mistakes.  The old greedy guys pretty much have to learn eventually since they are killing the planet and that part is fundamental to life for all of us.  My bad guys are just stupid and greedy.

ISIS, on the other hand, is crazy-mad.

And me?  I am merely a frightened, naive and optimistic old hippy with a better road to follow.  Obviously the road less traveled.

But back to the point: could this ISIS-like crap be the revolution for which we always had an expectation?  They don’t look like leaders of any revolution I could imagine.  And, to my way of seeing, they are NOT heroic in any way.  But they still may be a pretty good definition of rebels………….

….and they may be bringing the revolution…?

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe that ISIS and the peripheral crazies that they attract are targeting Canada and ‘our way of life’ in the manner that that fear-mongering Harper is claiming.  I don’t see ISIS as a bigger threat than I do Harper and his gestapo by any stretch.  But they are revolting over there in the Middle East and Europe.They are revolting against the Harper-cum-sociopath-cum-Cheney-cum-Putin ‘petro-establishment’ that makes up the great bee-hive of modern economics and society over there. And here. They (ISIS) just don’t like what they see ‘going forward’ in the modern world.

I confess that I am not so keen on what I see ‘going forward’ either.   But nor do I like what I see ‘going backwards with the crazy-mads’.  They (ISIS) want to go back to the good ol’ cave-man days of wife-beating and idol-worshiping.  Pretty ignorant, ugly, brutish stuff.   But I am also concerned with what the world seems to think is forward thinking: greed, exploitation and a larger police state, not to mention global warming.  Backwards or forwards, the paths being offered are not desirable.

I’ve chosen.  I’ve gone the way of the hippie.  ISIS has escalated the revolutionary rage like that of the Black Panthers to psychotic religious, homicidal levels in a Middle Eastern and European setting. Their way is attracting more followers. Mine isn’t.

Mind you, there are quite a few off-the-gridders (they estimate 2,000,000 in the USA and 300,000 in Canada) but we are still peacefully engaged in society to a large extent; we just live farther from the malls, is all. They have 50,000 or more armed-to-the-teeth goofballs who even dress the same and march around chanting slogans and blowing stuff up. This does not bode well for a peaceful, green, hippie outcome with sharing, cooperation and free love.

You might want to start packing.

Time…keeps on ticking…into the future…..

I started this blog because everything about living off the grid was so new at the time.  We were learning and we were learning stuff not commonly or easily learned or taught except by doing; how to build your own house, live (partially, anyway) off the land, make your own electricity and all that comes with the new lifestyle we chose.  We were OTG newbies and keeners and leapt at the adventure that was our new life with energy and enthusiasm.  It was great!

Still is.  In fact, we are still learning and facing mini-challenges all the time. But it dawned on me the other day- “Hey, Sal!  In three more years we will have lived as long off the grid as we did in the cul-de-sac house where the children grew up! In a month or so we will have been here 11 years”.  

“Holy!  It doesn’t seem that long! Feels like we just got here.  Are you sure?” I see her doing the math in her head and then saying, “Ohmygawd!  You are right!  We aren’t newbies anymore, are we?”

“Skill-wise, I’d say we are still pretty wet-behind-the-ears (with blood, usually) and that is because this lifestyle is so much more independent and complicated than our previous choices and because we are older, stupider and don’t have the same energy.  But, basically, we are progressing like we have before only slower.  We aren’t newbies anymore but we are barely achieving sophomore status.  We won’t be any good at this way of life for another twenty years at the rate we are going.”

“I’m OK with that!”  For Sally, attitude is everything.

Sal and I have lived different ‘styles’ several times in the past.  We lived on our various boats for 11 years.  We traveled for a combined three or so years not counting Hong Kong.  We lived in a mansion in Shaughnessy for three more and a few apartments as well.  We only really went mainstream for 19 years – 5 years in a Richmond suburb and almost 14 in the cul-de-sac neighbourhood of Tsawwassen.  Child-rearing years.  Those two stints in the normal lane felt twice as long, this one feels like we arrived last year.

I think we are good here for at least another 15 years.  Sal would be good for another 30 if it weren’t for me but I will try to drag her wherever I go (except to an old-folks home).  By the time I am 80 or so, I may opt for something a bit easier.  “So, where would we go and what would we do if we left here?”

“Not ever leavin’ here!”  Attitude, eh?

After much discussion, she relented to leaving ‘here’ for four months or so in the winter and living in a nice motor home so long as she can spend the rest of the time here.  Sorta like what we did this year and last, actually, except this time with wheels.

“Dave, why are you even thinking this way?” 

One of our neighbours whose OTG expertise has been learned and earned over forty years of living minimally, independently and competently pointed out that few up here stayed on past 75.  He opined that the new generation (his and ours) might be good for an extra five.  “By 80, dude, you will be looking for more ease.  Well, not Sal, of course, but you will.  Me, too.  By 80, we are done.”

“Well, by 80, I hope to be done all my projects and still have enough energy to enjoy them working for me.  Anyway, I live with the Energizer Bunny.  I can ride that electric scooter for awhile.”

OK.  Fine.  Be like that.  Where you going when you are 90?”

“I understand Bhutan is nice to old people………….?”