The silly season is finally over.  I can feel it.  I can also see it.  There are fewer boats going by, fewer e-mails coming in, no phone calls, the pace has slowed on everything. Especially me.  Sal is still busy, of course, but she has gone from warp speed to something closer to formula one – a big slowdown for supersonic Sal.

I have projects and I usually have overlapping projects so that I can keep as busy as I want to.  But not right now.  Right now, I am at the end of a major project (the new array) and without one ongoing to go to.  Worse, I don’t feel like starting one. I have had a long week off.  So long, in fact, it has been two weeks (well, there was a bit of tower dismantling but that doesn’t really count)!

Mind you, this time is not so much relaxing as it is lumpifying.  Like a stale bag of Reddi-mix, I am now just a heavy useless lump.  I am hardly moving at all. Yesterday, I got up, measured a few things and then spent long sections of time thinking about the new project (distant future) in a comfortable chair. Sitting was interrupted only by tea-making.  After I had done a lot of thinking, I went to another place and measured a few different things and repeated the chair and tea thing while I thought about that second project (further distant future).  A ball of fire I am not.

But that’s OK.  I got no boss, ‘cept Sal.  And she – as I said – has slowed down, too. Plus she pulled a muscle the day before (wrestling an old carpet into a garbage bag, no less) and so the whip has been hung on the wall for a bit.  If there is going to be any rest for the wicked, it is when Sal hangs up the motivator.

And the lazy brown dog?  Well, he has been on ‘idle’ for a considerable time.  But he looks positively active now compared to us.  A lot of balls and sticks have been fetched these past two weeks.  He has been getting some of the attention he thinks he deserves and he has been busy settling his canine accounts.

This is not a true Indian summer because the temperature is dropping.  Slightly.  Still warm and sunny but definitely Fall has been ‘in the air’ for awhile.  Mind you, we just had an algae bloom last week (a bit late) and I am still in shorts and a t-shirt.  Outdoor furniture is still outdoors.  Still veggies in the garden, fruit in the neighbour’s trees. When the weather turns, it may not come back to sunny and warm and we may be immersed in the change of seasons but, right  now, it is even more pleasant than ever. September to mid October is my favourite time out here.  It’s perfect.

It’s all good.  I am content.  But I did hear Sal talking on the phone about cattle prods and where to buy them so I may have to start doing something soon.  I hope I can put it off til Spring.




60+ and sprung like a cat

Now that the new array is up and functioning beyond our expectations, it was getting time to dismantle the towers upon which the old array had been previously erected. Time to clean up the yard.  We had two redundant towers to remove, one 20 feet high, the other 16.  Each had a large steel, square picture-frame like structure at the top on which had been fastened the first generation panels.

So yesterday afternoon we began the dismantling of the old towers located out near the back garden boxes and had disconnected the guy wires that were fastened to the surrounding rock. I then took the mini grinder and lopped off the bolts holding the tower to the concrete ground base.

Previous to that, Sal had tied off a rope from the top of the higher PV tower (20 feet) to the the top of the really high (50′) ham radio tower we use for carrying the wind gen. That line was supposed to stop the old tower from falling.  But, unnoticed by me and forgotten by Sally, she had neglected to tie the rope back up after tying another length to it and so the 20 foot tower just sat balancing on 4 bolt heads.  We didn’t notice.

But we did notice that one old guy wire was still attached.

“Oooh…I forgot to get that last guy wire.  I’ll get a wrench and go to it.”  So Sal went to disconnect the last turnbuckle.  I stood there with my thumb up.  Slowly I saw the tower tipping.  I grabbed a loose guy wire and, with the assistance of the nearby tree branches, managed to temporarily slow the effects of gravity on a 250 pound top-heavy PV tower as it hurtled towards where Sal was crouched in a squat position working on the turnbuckle.
“Hey!  Sal!  Lookout!!  It’s falling!”

Sal instantly sprang from her crouched position not unlike a tiger in the jungle.  She exploded out of the way.  Totally stretched out in a cat-like arch about three feet off the ground and heading for the other side of the garden where the cliff dropped off, she flew almost twelve feet and then tucked and rolled to halt safely between two trees.  Think Hobbs of Calvin and Hobbs.  A Bruce Willis’ stuntman couldn’t have done it better.
I was awe struck even though the guy wire was already cutting into my hand.
“Uh, well done, crouching Tiger.  But, if you could, uncoil and tie that rope back up.  I can’t hold this much longer.”
We got it all together and then a few minutes later lowered the old tower safely to the ground.  Sal was pumped.  I was laughing.  She done good.  She attributed her actions to Survival yoga.

Warp speed, number one!

Sal and I got a lot of woods cred from our friends and a few readers this summer. “You guys are the real deal, all woodsy, chainsaws, off-the-grid and all!”  

And we say, “Aw shucks, t’aint nuthin’.  Not really.  Jus’ doin’ what needs to be done to survive, if ya know waddah mean?”

But we are just pretending.

The truth is we are softies.  Spoiled.  We eat and live like royalty.  We can’t even find our abs!  Seriously.  We have all the mod cons and, with a microwave (maybe – the jury is still out), we will be up to speed with the hip and the gridded.  Even got a smarter-than-me smartphone.  Only difference really is that we aren’t as connected to the systems as we used to be.  We don’t pay BC Hydro. Or Pizza Hut.  Or Starbucks.

We don’t take mass transit either but, then again, we never did.

But let us not pretend about anything.  You need to know the truth.  We are still very much ‘gridded’.  Hell, we drive a car!  We get our food from the store still.  Probably 75%….maybe more.  We can and do get food from the ‘land’, the ‘sea’ and the ‘forest’ like real west coast-cum-mountain folks but not very much.  Usually summer bounty – like berries and fish and stuff.  It is more a comfort and/or a treat than a source.  We know it’s there.  We know we can.  We sometimes do.  But most of the time we enjoy a nice store-bought steak BBQ, assorted 100-mile vegetables followed with a nice Argentinian Malbec. Tonight Sal makes a great Fijian curry.  This ain’t a hard life.

OK, building from scratch was pretty tough.  I’ll admit that.  But it was tough mostly because we didn’t know what we were doing.  Took us basically three years and more than a few pints of blood to be able to ‘live’ like normal people.  But a guy up the way is a builder and has been for 30 years and he and his wife put up a house in one summer!

A large part of our challenge was simply having to learn while on the job.  Being old. Being unskilled.  And that has little to do with the wilderness.  More to do with a soft previous lifestyle.  Living off the grid is a lot of things but, with a little research and cutting into slovenly habits, it can be done fairly easily.  OK, a little sweat is required.

“Oh, not for me or my wife.  She likes to shop.  I have a bad back.  And, anyway, our family is all here.”

I am not trying to talk anyone into it.  Not really.  OK, maybe a little.  It is just that nobody is really ‘born to shop’ and family will come to you when you live on the water – whether you want them to or not.  And, if you have a house in the city you can sell it for enough to have one built for you in the country and you don’t have to lift a thing but the pen for the cheque.  Living off the grid is not like leaving the planet.

Sometimes I wish it was.

Let me put all this another way: Sal and I sometimes wonder if we got away far enough. That has to tell you something.


Lead yourself out of darkness, my children……………(hallelujah!! )


Climate change is real.  Even Newt Gingrich says so.  Betcha Baby-boy Bush even says so now.  We know Obama says so.  ‘Cause he actually did say so!  Out loud! Even the newt-brained Stephen Harper likely says so, too.  Maybe not too loudly at the Petroleum club in Calgary or Houston but they all know that climate change is real and exacerbated at the very least by BIG OIL.  To be fair, they are likely to follow that confession with, “Hey!  Waddya gonna do, stop driving?  I don’t think so!”

Then they all laugh heartily.

And that’s where the rubber leaves the road and loses traction.  We don’t have to stop driving to cut back on oil consumption.  In fact, we can drive more, have more jobs, be happier and, with less health disorders, we could even be prettier.  Piece of cake.  Just have to shift to another power source is all.

Suggestion: start the transitioning by withdrawing all the oil and gas subsidies and use that money to subsidize solar panel installations.  From my point of view, it’s a no-brainer.  Germany agrees.

But we don’t even need the no-brain bastards giving us our own money back.  We can do this on our own.

I use gasoline.  Get 60 gallons delivered every three months so I average 20 gallons a month or 2-3 liters a day.  Or, better put: I did.  The car takes even more, of course, but I drive so much less now (less than 5/600 kms a month) that no matter how you cut it, we use less fuel than we did when we lived in the city.  By far.  Use petroleum based consumption metrics and we use less than a 1/4 of what we used to.  Use BC Hydro electrical metrics and we use 1/10 of what we used to.

But all that was a gradual change.  We ‘transitioned’.  We went from an on-the-grid home-with-a-heated-pool to an off-the-grid one half the size.  Went from two cars to one.  We went from a larger boat to a smaller one when the building was over.  Then we used the smaller gensets as time went on.  And we added more solar panels. Planning our trips better was likely the greatest conservation method – we just did more with each trip than we did before.  Today, I don’t drive the car unless I come back with 2-400 pounds of stuff.  Ten years ago I would get in the car to go get a renta-movie.  It all subtracts down.

No question: we have a smaller carbon footprint.

But the most illustrative act was the recent addition of 200% more solar panel power.  I went from 640 watts of power generated to 2100 watts.  That turned out to be huge.  I have not run the genset in almost a month.  That’s right – not for 24 days and, at this rate of energy storage in the batteries, I can promise 30 days with no problem.  Even if it rains!  We have lived well, done laundry, used power tools and watched movies.  We have recharged batteries, used appliances and pumped water.  We have basically generated our own power for 24 days of high-numbers-of-guests and done so without the sound of the machine or the cash register.  It has been a delight.

“Geez, Dave.  We know that!  You are telling us what you have already told us before!”

You are right of course.  I repeat myself.  But this is a bit different.  Before August 20th we had solar panels and we used the genset.  I had some idea how much was coming from which source but not precisely.  I do now.  I now make more juice from the solar array than I normally use so I am always in the black, in the money, in the surplus…..whatever way you want to put it.  Even if I tap out a bit more than I should, I will get a top-up the next day.  No worries.

At least this is true this September.  This sunny September.  But, at the rate we are going, I don’t expect to hear the genset til November.  Seriously.

And that is my point: if everyone got panels and did so even at just 50% of normal consumption levels, I am pretty sure that the satisfaction derived would make everyone ‘conserve’ down so that the 50% panels did almost the job that the spending-easily-hydro did before.  What a deal!  And who has to be the leader in this?  No one.  Just go do it!

“Oooohhhh, shouldn’t the federal government give us a tax break or grant or something?”  Yeah.  And you can wait in line for that kind of intelligence from Ottawa as the C0-two climbs out of sight.  Wait for dickheads and all you get is dick-all.

Just go do it.  It’s worth it.


NOT a doomsdayer…………not really

Ebola is running rampant in Liberia, they say.  2300 patients have already been infected and the World Health Organization expects ‘exponential’ growth in more cases over the next little while.  “It is out of control!”

It must be a horror show for those people living there – especially the ones they have trapped in some locked off urban ghetto called West Point.  Trapped in so many ways by life and now trapped by the guns of their government and the threat of Ebola, these people are truly victims waiting to happen.

Could this be the start of a worldwide pandemic?

Could this be what the doomsday preppers prepare for?

ISIS is a violence-prone fundamentalist Islamic state-in-the-making.  Another Hamas. Another Taliban.  Al Queda gone more nasty and effective.  They seem to want some large portion of the Middle East starting with the old Iraq.  By all accounts, they are not nice people and don’t like anyone not into Islamic fanaticism. Obama reckons they are a force to be reckoned with.  Mind you, the other fanatical groups from Lebanon to Palestine, from Afghanistan to Somalia, from Pakistan to the-next-nuthouse aren’t all that pleasant either.

Russia is getting a bit ballsy these days, too.  Invading Crimea and all.  You’d think they would be content to sell oil and gas for awhile after having lost the empire but they are definitely bullying Ukraine.  That’s a bit closer to home for Europeans, anyway.  So soon after Bosnia and all…………sheesh.  Peace is alright but kind of dull and war isn’t boring at all, I guess.  By that measure, Syria must be having the time of it’s life.  So is Iraq.

No point in going into climate change.  That is some kind of massive but insidious threat we can’t really know until it’s here and what has been seen and felt so far isn’t making anyone happy. California farmers immediately come to mind but almost all equatorial sections of the world are getting too hot and causing massive starvations and migrations.  It is getting too hot to live near the equator it seems.

Anyone notice how much older Obama looks these days?  The guy has aged twenty years in the last eight.  I don’t think that is indicative of anything but massive concern, an incredible sense of responsibility and an even larger sense of impotence.  I feel sorry for him.  Harper, on the other hand, is getting into it, rattling sabers at Russia and Syria and ISIS.  Lucky we got a tough guy, eh?

I am not a doomsdayer.  I am not.  I am enjoying my life.  Hell, I even like to see the new cars, the new technologies and the new cheap B flicks.  But maybe I am in denial. Maybe there are enough signs worldwide to warrant a bit of extra preparation, anyway.

And, I am naturally doing some of that.  Some.  A bit, anyway.  But I think I am doing that mostly to save the tedium of going to town, I am doing that to become more independent and skilled in my new ‘world’.  I am doing that because I am interested in learning.  But, in doing so, I may also endure somewhat better.  Sal certainly will.  She’s getting good at all this.  So we hope for the best.  But you have to call ‘em as you see ‘em and I see us ‘prepping’ a bit.  Hard not to.  We kinda feel that there is a handbasket full of hell out there.  And we are the semi-reluctant survivalists, I guess.



Jevon’s Paradox

With all this new power, you’d think it would go to my head!  And I would step on the little people if there were any nearby…oooooh, the power!  But there aren’t any and worse, it is not that much more power.  Not really.  I now have 2100 watts instead of 640 so – relatively speaking – I HAVE MORE POWER!  But that is like going from a 3 speed bike to a 10 speed, really. Hardly a threat to world peace or even little people.

But I have been dreaming of where to spend it all…………….and Sal and I decided to expand our food storage capacity by getting another fridge.  That should mean being able to limit our trips to town to monthly, maybe even every five weeks.

So, I looked at fridges on the net and what a depressing scene that is.  Energy Star means something but not much.  As a continent-wide program it has made appliances more efficient but, of course, they just built them bigger (Jevon’s Paradox) – the more efficient we become, the more we consume).

And the craziest thing is that the companies themselves set their own rating!?  That means that LE or Samsung can state that their ECO-friendly EnergyStar 22 cu ft fridge only uses say, 600 Kwh a year which may even be true.  But they are ones claiming it.  And some of them have already been proven to lie by Consumer Reports.  So, if you can’t trust EnergyStar, who can you trust?

Well, SunFrost is still the acknowledged king of the ice cubes but some makers are claiming that they are close.  I dunno.  So, I looked up the views of the whacko’s on the net and YOU-Tube and, it seems, the most efficient refrigerator is really a converted chest freezer.  Install a more attuned-to-your-needs temperature control device and you can get your fridge-cum-freezer to operate on something like .1kw a day!  That is one tenth of what a normal 15 cu ft fridge uses.

My new power array allows me to ‘spend’  say .75 kw a day extra and so I could add a whacko free-ger-type box and still have enough juice left over for a half size full-on freezer if I wanted and I would still save on power.

So, this little exercise in expanding our power consumption may yield a horizontal fridge.  Who knew?

In the meantime, the batteries are up.  The batteries are up!  The batteries are happily UP!!!  And so am I.  All this new power is burning a hole in my pocket.

Let there be light! But turn it off right now, please.

Ooooh…………all panels a-pumpin’!  All circuits a’ hummin’.  Power galore!  I can hardly wait for the corruption to set in.  Today we got ‘em all wired and now we are ‘topped up’ – virtually all of the time.  Six hundred amp hours on tap!  OMG this feels good!

Last visitors are gone for the season.  Maybe get a few more now and then but basically, we are alone and have some down time until November.  Literally.  We slept 11 hours last night.  Down is good.  Horizontal.  Light blanket.  Pillow.  Blessed rest.

“Well, I lay in bed a bit longer this morning to do some thinking.  I think the next project is the deck extension and then the lower funicular cart construction.  We’ll put off the greenhouse and the guest bathroom for awhile.  Waddya think?”

“I think that I am gonna make breakfast and stop right there, ya big dumb doofus.  I have enough to do without all your stupid projects.  I have to reupholster the chesterfield and chairs and there is still the book to do.  We have to get in the seaweed soon.  Fill that last row of wood.  And what about getting the new freezer to use all that juice?  When you figure to do that?”

“Hmmmm….good point.  I may just have to sleep on it for awhile.  Feel like a nap?”

I suspect that we will ‘take ‘er easy’ for a bit.  But the problem with that is, once you stop it is so hard to get back up to speed again.  Oh well, we are getting there (the undefined-in-detail goal of having completed the homestead to a sufficient level that we can stop with the projects).  As I said to a friend yesterday, “Well, I am 66.  At 76 people don’t do a lot of building.  I have to get my big projects done before then. And, at the rate I have been going, that means I can’t stop for long.”

He laughed but he is about 50 and has lived up here for longer than we have and just finished his own house to the point that they can live in it.  I could see the plans in his head for other projects being reviewed as we spoke.

Building takes time.  Lots of time.  And building is never just the construction of whatever structure or system you have planned.  It is the planning, the learning, the buying of materials, the transportation, the organization, the fact that you have never done it before and that you have no help but your spouse who is just as much a student as you are.  It is the whole enchilada from bringing in power and tools and shopping and living on-the-go without the benefit of pizza delivery to make it a bit easier.  It is the constant interruptions for research, visitors, more supplies and wrinkles and dilemmas that plague every job.  And, of course, it is the inevitable ‘we have to do that over again. It isn’t good enough’.

Projects are Godzillas.

But our last Godzilla is working for us now.  Bigtime.  2100 watts of pure sunshine-in-a-bottle.  Power.  And that is the reward.  Each project means something.  It really, really means something.  We feel like Gods having created another part of heaven.  “Let their be light! ”

Right!   But now let’s also have a day of rest.

A fool’s paradise

We have some guests (common this time of the year) and they (like others) have asked the question: “Why did you do this?”  I answer differently each time but there is a common thread…”Well, I just got tired of the rat race….”

But ‘Tired of the rat race’ doesn’t really say it and so I add sentiments as my mood dictates and sometimes it is a rant against the ascending forces of greed and ugly that seems to dominate the news more and more these days.  And sometimes I describe the more subtle but still ugly ways the systems we have embraced surround us in our daily lives. These systems include the gouging, cheating, stealing and violation for profit as you might expect from a capitalist system but they also include the more accepted forms of moral crimes from escalating real estate prices to fraudulent investment schemes from police that kill civilians to teachers being ‘locked out’ of schools.

I just keep seeing the systems we support as failing us.  Especially government.

The BIG ugly seems to have succeeded at the trickle down effect where wealth distribution and common good have failed to. It all seemed so ugly to me that it came to be wrapped up in the phrase: ‘the rat race’.

Put another way: I don’t believe my government works on behalf of the people anymore.  I really don’t believe corporations have a moral compass and I don’t believe they work for the people or the good of the planet either.  I still have faith in individual people and the lower they are on the status chain, the more I find to sustain that faith.  Poor people can be petty criminals to be sure but, generally speaking, all the people I have met all around the world have been – on the whole – decent and considerate of others.  In the hoi polloi, I have faith. In the systems and the institutions, I have none.

And so we moved away.

“Surely you don’t think you are safe from the Big ugly, as you call it, simply by living remote?”

“No.  No, I don’t.  The Big ugly is quite capable of getting to me in ways I have yet to even imagine.  I have a smart phone after all. It may, in fact, have me!  I don’t trust it NOT to rat me out in some way some day.  But I do think it will take them longer.  People amassed in urban centres are so much easier to control, don’t you think?  So much easier to influence.  So much easier to intimidate.  Anyone striving to live healthy and happy out here has much more of a chance to do so when they are not immersed and entangled in other’s systems.

“Of course, we are enmeshed in some systems still.  I admit that freely.  But we have fewer and they have less influence.  We are freer.  Of that I have no doubt.”

“So the rat race is not simply about making a living and doing so in a city?”

“No.  Not at all.  That part of the rat race is just boring at the worst, satisfying for some and positively rewarding for others.  I do not hate that.  That is the mouse race. To me, the rat race is a term that describes the bigger systems, the ones that require debt, interest, legal enforcement, jails, wealth and health inequality, pollution, rape of the planet and wars. They are enslaving.  You know, that stuff of mankind that makes for fortunes, power, fear, loathing and many forms of perversions.  The ones that trash the golden rule.  The forces that generate and feed off of inequality.”

“Can you escape that out here?”

“Yes.  To a large extent, yes.  When you live remote and, by definition, rather minimally and simply, everyone you encounter is basically equal.  And they are more independent and harder to round up.  Less easily frightened.  We have a tiny, minuscule footprint on the planet, few if anyone are ever cheated, the golden rule still rules for the most part.  And, for the most part, it is the only rule.  And we have some time to stop and smell the roses.

“We may be living in a fool’s paradise but it still feels like paradise to me.”


Dateline: Fatigue

No recent blog entry lately due to energy depletion.  Low on personal battery.  Three days in Vancouver will do that to me now.  I now find the city like an energy sponge and my home is like the charger. Been back a few days now and finally feeling like there is enough charge in the old smartphone to make a call.  So, ‘hi, there’…

C and R came home with Sal while I went to the city.  They are from Germany.  They have been here before but they are amongst the most appreciative of guests.  They love everything!  Dog.  Raven.  Dolphins.  Trees.  Sally, of course.  The meals.  The seals. Boats going by. Sea planes.  Garden.  Even me. But especially Ben.  C was Ben’s nanny when he was three.  They have been close ever since.  C & R came for the wedding and then stayed a few days up here.  It is wonderful to have them.  It seems like everything is new again.  It’s a bit like having little kids – you see your own world through their eyes all over again.

But they are gone now, replaced by F & L – also wedding guests (from London, England) and, of course, they are the same.  Boggled by the amount of space, the quiet, the work accomplished and the setting.  BIG difference from London.  Seriously, one of the best parts of having guests is seeing their eyes literally opened wide and watching them just stare at things.  It is fun.

It is also interesting to listen to their thoughts.  Almost always you can see the little wheels a-turning and them mentally placing themselves here and then thinking ‘no way’ and then thinking ‘maybe there is a way’ and so on.

“There is a way, guys.  It’s easy.  Just get rid of everything, quickly learn a few skills and close your eyes, grab your wallet and leap!”

“Yeah.  Right.  That is NOT gonna happen.  Hmmm….what kind of skills………?  Couldn’t we leap half way…say into a small town…kinda…?”

“Oh, I am only kidding.  Honestly.  It is hard to make the leap at the best of times and it gets harder every year after 50….give or take a year.  By the time you are 55 it is almost too late.  I know.  I was 55 and we simply could not have done what we did had we waited one more year.  There is a tide in the affairs of men, when taken at the flood………..”

“But, you know, we have been thinking recently that the rat race holds no more interest for us.  It might be time….. We have been thinking of making a change….”

“I think it is part of life.  Around 50 most people feel something is amiss or at least needs a bit of changing.  Something needs changing, anyway.  Some opt for red sportscars and secretaries.  Some for golf and golfing instructors.  They long for something they just can’t put their finger on and, even if they could, most often they are too busy running the race to really nail that feeling down.  I know that space.  I know that feeling.  And my friends of a similar age have all described it as well. But the forest may not be the answer for everyone.  Personally, I think it is but I am somewhat Dave-centric in my thinking.”

“We wouldn’t even know where to start….”

“Yeah.  That’s the fun part.”


Love, chaos, madness and a chocolate fountain…….

It was a good wedding.  I might have even mustered a tear….or maybe a bird peed in my eye….hard to say…the wedding ceremony was held outdoors.  There were birds in the sky.

Perfect day.  Lovely garden setting. Bride was beautiful, groom handsome, best man funny, speeches all generally short and the food was great.  Everyone dancing including some octogenarians.  And the place was alive with hob-nobbing from the get-go.

Our family is now just that much larger.  And not just a few of them are as eccentric and weird as the ones they are joining.  Quite a bunch of whackos all told.  More than a few times I contemplated the wisdom of living off the grid last night.  It was truly an inspired decision.

Mind you, metaphorically speaking, there were not just a few ‘off-the-gridders’ in attendance as well at the wedding regardless of where they lived.

It has been a year of weddings for our children.  Emily and Brian last November and Ben and Katie yesterday.  Thank God we only had two kids!


But I won’t bore you with wedding stuff.  It’s the stuff of stuff.  But I will say that there was a lot of love in the room last night.  Chocolate love and strawberries was the least of it.  It was pretty neat.  Nice way of passing the torch…………..and that is what it felt like. Something changed during their ceremony……….and  I could feel the torch leaving my hand.