Quick update – partial

Down in Victoria doing a partial renovation on my son’s apartment.  Deck, kitchen, laundry room.  We will try to get some new flooring down as well.  Maybe.  But there is not enough time for us, really.  A little over a week is a tight schedule by our work routines.  Typically, I just have the supplies laid in by that time- still rubbing the sleep from my eyes on day four as a rule.

But this ‘job’ is different.  We are all goin’ at it.  Sally is doing the electrical.  W’fers are the muscle and my ‘gophers’.  Son is the ‘owner’ and major demolisher, hard decision-maker and all ’round ‘go-to’ guy.  I get to be the supervisor for once in my relationship with my son.  He acceeds construction knowledge to me.  That’s nice, misplaced as it is.

Take what you can get, Dave.  Most fathers are considered dorks in all things.  At least you have construction”.

I know that.  I am not complaining.  NOT in the least.  His fierce streak of independence has made him a joy to raise.  Honest.  My son was basically an independent person from the age of ten.  And I am a dork!  He simply didn’t need parenting except on rare and unusual situations (at which times he really needed a guardian angel).  He managed to grow up basically on his own terms and they are all good ones.  Hell, we had to force money on him now and then and make him buy clothes when the old (decades) ‘comfortable’ ones were literally falling off.  (He would have made a great orphan and I am pretty sure that option was under his consideration at times).  He just never cared about much of any kind of consumerism (exceptions; travel, motorcycles and dog treats).  And this renovation fliers in the face of his frugal nature.  “What is the cost of doors?!!  Hell, no!  We don’t need no stinkin’  doors!”  So, we are cherry-picking Craigslist when we have time.

But we have so little time.

Today we deck the deck, build the railing, frame the new door and demolish a few things to get at it all. And I’ll try to get you an update again in a few days.

Dateline: Victoria.  Tusday, July 22.  And it’s all good.


It hit 33 degrees Celsius today…about 90-something Fahrenheit.

This is Canada!  What the hell….?

I tend to generate a lot of heat all on my own.  I really don’t need this.  And I find this  Saharan heat hard to take.  I was not alone.  We watched about 20 people go zooming by in a whale watching boat dressed in survival suits – which oughta kill ‘em pretty quick I figure. Frankly, I think whale watching tours are really people-watching for Killer whales.  They have to be amused by sun-cooked red dough-boys arriving by the dozen.  If they only knew the half of it.

Those red survival suits are designed to keep you alive in the ice-cold ocean but work against you when you are sitting in an open boat in the scintillating mid-day sun.  Survival suits are a bit like logging safety gear; when you aren’t slicing yourself into bits with an errant chainsaw, the stuff just makes the activity so much harder to do that you are closer to danger – not safer.  Same with survival suits – you need to be immersed in the actual danger to use them and appreciate them.  Falling in the ice-cold ocean makes a survival suit make sense; but NOT falling in makes the suit a living Hell.

Survival suits are actually worse than logger safety gear because they make you want to fall in but wearing hot, restricting leathers while cutting trees doesn’t make you want to cut your own limbs off.  But they are both stupid.  Someone has to come up with safety gear that doesn’t make you want to rip it off.

But, I digress.  It’s the heat.  Makes it hard to concentrate.  I tend to babble – even on a blog.  No one notices – they are in a heat induced stupor themselves.  And, because of that,  I babble more.

Me and the boys got to work a bit earlier today to avoid the worst of the heat and it worked…kinda. We just worked for an hour and then quit.  Then they went boating and I sat like a lump until it was time to take a nap.  And some people pay big bucks to go to places this hot!  On purpose!  I honestly don’t get it.  If 20 degrees Celsius is pleasant, 40 degrees is not twice as good.

Man, just when you thought global warming was a myth and the oil patch propaganda might be right…………(only kidding.  I was never that stupid!). 


With the help of youth, we made marked progress today.  It is good.

I am in the process of increasing my solar array.  To that end, I bought more panels and assembled some piles of scrap metal over the past winter. Bought some junk.  Scavenged.  I even got a welder and set myself on fire a few times learning to use it.  Trust me – it is all part of making progress.  If you don’t get crispy, you get better.  I am getting better.  In fact, I have pretty much finished the basic structure and me and the ‘boys’ erected it today.  We enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment together.  We were all ‘boys’ playing with a BIG Meccano set.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe boys are recent guests and don’t quite ‘get it’ that acquiring the steel and all the stuff is the largest part.  90% of any job is the preparation.  The other 90 is clean-up.  Only 40% is the actual work (yes, I know the math is all wrong but it always is – so work with me on this).  For them, that ‘prep work’ was just already there.  In place.  Background.  For me, of course, assembling the structure was very much a later step in the process.  And it is a process that is, at this juncture, still only half done.  The hard part is yet to come.  Doing the hook-up.  But there is no question that taking a bunch of ‘bits’ and assembling it is Ikea-like, a ‘kit’ coming together as it should.  Everyone was pleased when the holes aligned and the bolt that was presented could be put in place.  Pretty simple on the surface – lots of thinking and planning and preparation so that it was ‘simple on the surface’.



The panel-holding structure for the actual solar array is 17 feet off the ground; say five meters.  It is made up of a rectangular frame of square tube and angle steel.  Some of it welded, most of it bolted.   In total it will present a frame of about 120 square feet, say 12 square meters. That frame will sit on top of salvaged steel scaffolding supplemented with steel legs and cables.  120 square feet can generate a lot of force in a strong wind and this apparatus will be on top of the hill and exposed to the strong Sou’easters in the summer (often in excess of 60kmh) and the even stronger N’orwesters in the winter.  We can get 100 mile an hour winds out of the fiords on occasion.  But 75 mile per hour winds are to be expected at least once every winter.

I am having to build for the worst.

That is not always easy when using salvage.  And NOT being an engineer.  So, I do what I always do…build it to specs that would withstand Godzilla in a rage.  Then double it.  And double it again.  And then hope it makes it through the 30 year rule.

Sal and I have done everything to the thirty year rule so far.  We build and use materials so that whatever we make will last 30 years.  Mind you, we started on the thirty year rule ten years ago so we are now working to the 20 year rule.  As physical work becomes harder, the standards fall accordingly.  By the time I am 86, we will be building with duct tape and bungy cords.  If I make 90, then we’ll simply watch it fall around us.  It’s a plan.

“So does that mean your solar structure will last 20 years?”

Not yet.  As I said, we are only about half way there.  I’ll keep you posted.        .



Messin’ with their heads

When your mostly-adult house-guests are almost 50 years younger than you, your perspective changes. Translation: you know deeper in the bones that you are getting old.  It’s weird.  But it can be and usually is a lot of fun.

Of course, I can do the math.  I know how old I am.  I can read a calendar.  Simple arithmetic.  But this is different.  This is like wonder, like awe, like a fascination with not only what I once was but what I am not-so-slowly becoming. I watch them.  I listen to them.  They ‘get things’ quickly and get to it even faster.  And I am getting slow.  Again; I knew I was slowing down but it is not until the tortoise encounters the hare that he really gets it.  With Leon and Ole here, I am getting it.  So is Sal.  We are old turtles.

Last night – around nine – reading in bed, “Wow!  Wish I had the energy to go launch kayaks and go for a paddle after a long day.  Can’t do that anymore!”

“Forget kayaking!  I’m just hoping I can stay awake until they get back.”

There is the age gap, of course.  Which is more than a generation gap.  More than a cultural gap.  We are like walking North American history books standing in front of new foreign students.  Much of what we have to say is dated and pointless but sometimes we’ll bring up a topic they find interesting and then the old man gets to pontificate.  This is where old age has an advantage.  It’s all in the aid of mentoring, of course, but, in reality, it is how I enjoy myself with young people.  I like ‘messin’ wi’ch ‘em’.

“So, you see……a formal education is really the opposite of learning.  It is the narrowing of the mind into a standardized format that serves the state or the institution or the corporation but, for you, it will be a restriction. A degree is a document indicating a specialization that will limit your life choices.  If you get a degree in say, social work, and it cost you thousands of Euros to get and years to obtain, what is the likelihood that you’ll spend decades being in that line of work?  The odds are pretty good that, with marriage, mortgage, kids and a steadily increasing income you will be literally hand-cuffed to social work even though, in your later years, you may no longer have the interest. I do not recommend doing what I am suggesting by talking like this but I am saying that real learning is the most exciting thing living has to offer and you should continue to pursue it in all forms not just the one that you are pre-programmed into by your culture and the dull institutions it has given rise to.  When something is institutionalized, it is incarcerated, it is locked up, it is no longer free.  And that is what the institutions like universities and colleges have become.  Traveling like you are is an education.  A real education.”

“Unh, can I have the last potato?”

“Is there any more of that cheese dish?”

OK, I admit it.  I have ‘em trapped at the dinner table and I take advantage.  It is a boon for me that Sally’s cooking is so good.  You can often see the young people pulled between eating some more or saving their brains from my prying and running from the room but I am a guiltless Machiavellian in this way.  You see, my ranting and raving only makes them eat faster and then the dishes get done earlier and I can get to bed sooner.

And they think I am just a boring old fool…..little do they know how they are being manipulated into giving me peace and quiet after having served me with sweat and toil earlier in the day.  Hahahahahhahahahaha…………….(imagine me slanting my eyes and rubbing my hands with glee).

What goes around, comes around 46 years later

Leon and Ole are from Germany.  No idea where the erroneous Belgian identity came from.  They are 18, soon to be 19, and planning on a year away from family and school to find out what they want to do.

Little do they know that the search never ends.

In 1968 I was 19 traveling for a year (including Germany) throughout Europe on a shoestring finding out what I wanted to do. What goes around, comes around.

Some of us end up just going in circles.

But they are better than I was.  They are pretty cool customers for almost 19.  Yesterday we brought up a pile of logs using the old/new winch and driving the boys like rented mules.  What a delight.  I did virtually nothing but run the machine and act like the wise old man of the forest (I was wearing my red check logger shirt and had Sal on the walkie-talkie in case I needed real expertise). We got done in five hours what Sal and I would previously have taken three days to do.  I am starting to believe that slavery has been unfairly dissed.

The plan was to keep ‘em for a week and slough them off on others nearby who needed a little summer help.  But plans change.  We may keep ‘em a bit longer. If only I could find a couple of pairs of good leg-irons.  Humane ones, of course.

The average NA adult does not have a lot of good experience with nice, polite, obedient teens.  Their own teens are either obliged to rebel against their parents by at least being surly or else the teens the adults encounter are in large groups wearing hoodies and acting furtive.  We have a generation gap.  But teens from other countries are a different story.  They are a mix of appreciation and confusion.  Well, some of them have been raised properly, too, I suppose, but appreciation and confusion works for me.  Plus, out here, I am usually bigger and carrying heavy blunt instruments.  Out here I still have influence with teens.

I confess to using that to my advantage whenever possible.

“Hey!  Ole?  I only have two things in my life that Sal is not the boss of.  See that black chair in the living room?  That’s mine.  That outdoor chair you currently have your sorry butt on?  That’s the second one.”  Ole is instantly air-borne; catapulted from the chair in mid-sentence.  It’s a beautiful thing.  And Leon is laughing.  Is it any wonder we enjoy young W’fers?


Cement, crapshooting and complexity

Woofers are coming.   We made arrangements last February for two young men from Belgium to visit us for a week or so and we have not had any confirmation until yesterday.  But, it’s on! They are on their way.

Woofers arriving means another town shopping day a week ahead of normal schedule.  But that’s OK - I need more welding wire anyway.

The biggest challenge for us is to line up work for them to do – that they can actually do.  Right now, most of my chores are a cut-above ordinary chores in terms of skills required and complexity of the project.  I am deep into the solar array upgrade including welding the frame, re-wiring, adding panels and trimming trees around the site.  All these things are more significant chores than wood-gathering or garden-work.  And even wood gathering is a more complex chore than gardening due to the use of winches, highlines, chainsaws and splitters.

We don’t want our Woofers getting hurt.

Woofers are a crapshoot.  Some of them are capable and strong and keen and generally competent at whatever they do.  But some aren’t.  Some are simply out of their element.  You don’t know what you have until they arrive.  If those under-skilled ones are pleasant and help with the dishes and cooking, it is still considered a successful visit.   But then there are the ones who really want to ‘try’ but, when doing so, scare the hell out of me.  Those young keeners are gonna bleed.  You have to watch them like hawks.   With the trauma-tempters, we try to encourage them to do more kayaking and oyster collecting.  And dishes.  It usually works out.

And therein lies a bit of irony: the better I get at what I have to do, the more complex my chores become and the less valuable the unskilled help is.  If I ever get good at anything, there may be a lack of Woofers in our future but, at my skills building rate to date, we won’t have that much to worry about for awhile.  Still, I am finding that I have fewer simple, grunt-work chores and more ‘rocket-science’ tasks (to my mind, anyway – like welding) and so the Woofers are having to work a bit more on their own.  Collecting sea-weed is a typical Woofer chore now.  Getting dirt for the garden.  But, in the beginning of this OTG adventure, they might have been hands-on with building a shed or cement work.

I confess that – for me – cement work and Woofing are made for each other.  I hate cement work.  I only have about five or six small sites to pour (15 bags) but if they are any good, they will be mixing bags of Reddi-mix and forming cement pads while I continue to do work on the frame.  That would be great!

Keep your fingers crossed.

Where are you on the party endurance scale?

We’re going to a party tonight.  By boat, of course.  Everyone will arrive by boat.  It’s the only way.  By 7:00 pm there will be a flotilla of small boats rafted in clumps against anything that floats – a dock, an anchored buoy, a couple of trees near the shore…whatever.  People will be dressed in layers with the top layer likely a logger shirt or a Gore-Tex jacket.  Under that will be another logger shirt.  Some wag may show up in a Hawaiian shirt (there’s always one).  It will be fun.  Nice.  Community.  There will be the usual chit-chat, catching up with others that you haven’t seen in a year or so (since  the last party) and there will be the usual avoidances with those currently in the doghouse.  Hatfields and McCoy stuff.

I like everyone.  Well, there are a few McCoys for me, too.  But I am not keen on going even if I loved everyone.  I have never liked parties.  Hate’ em, actually.  I like dinner parties (mostly because I like dinner) because I can actually have a real conversation.  But chit chat eludes me.  I don’t ‘do’ weather.  I don’t care about the latest appliance.  Smartphone apps are not interesting.  I am ‘beyond’ real estate prices.  And, sadly, I am too old to flirt.  Being ugly was always a challenge to flirting but one I overcame because I had a motive (never mind).  But now I lack motive and all the women wear logging shirts anyway. Hell, some of them are loggers!

So, except for adding a little mortar to the walls of building community, what is the point of the party?  For me?  Not too much.  OK, there’s the dinner.  So, I’ll go.

My friend and neighbour and I have a rule.  We like each other.  A lot.  But visits can be no longer than three hours.  That’s the limit.  We start to fidget at the 2-hour-and-fifty-minute stage.  And we leave ten minutes later.  Even when visiting each other.  In fact, I raised the topic to him at the last ‘visit’.

“Hey, ya know the three hour rule we have….?”

“Wanna change it?  Say, two and half?”


“So, your time’s up.”

“Great!  See ya.”

We’ll likely remain friends for the rest of our lives although – near the end – he and I will visit for no more than fifteen minutes.

Here’s the funny part – most of the guys going to the party will be striving for the 3 hour rule, too.  The older ones are aiming for two.

Go ahead – write to me.  Tell me I am wrong.  I dare you.

Primal guy

Well, I beat the snot out of my days work and it turns out that it was the snot that was holding it together.  It all fell apart.  So, a smidge frustrated but warming to the challenge (catching fire, actually. Literally!).  I did it again.  ‘Course, Einstein pointed out that doing the same thing expecting different results is pretty dopey and so I at least proved Albert right once again.  Beating the snot out of the second batch of welds saw the pieces come apart a second time.  I was doing something wrong.

Quel surprise!

So, I read the book.  I looked up the directions.  I googled it.  I watched the attached video and then I did it again.  And the pieces still fell apart.  When in doubt, go to Sal.  “Hey, Sal!  Waddya know about welding?”

“Nothing.  And I am not interested.  And I don’t want to come over and look at what you have done.  Especially with all that snot all over the place.”

“You are not being supportive, sweetie…………you know the deal………….you support and nurture and frequently forgive, and I provide the humour and make sushi now and then.”

“OK.  I’ll come.  Sushi it is for dinner tonight, then?”

We go to the welding spot – where there is a lot……….of snot……..and it is hot………..and what not……what have I got?  Was I taught?  My clothes are shot – like a raggedy tot – And I am not, I say I am not, I say I am not a welderrrrrr! (sung to a rap tune beat with hands waving and logger shirt on fire). 

Sal looks at the welder.  Looks at the knobs.  Looks at me.  “Geez, I dunno….”

But she is also looking at the box and her eyes are focused on the part where the lid is and I seem to recall that the inside of the box had further instructions so I open it up.  I read.  Seems I have been welding at too low a heat setting.

“Sal!  You are a genius.  You led me directly to the answer.  Thanks.  Bril!”

“I did nothing.”

“Do you want sushi?”

“Right.  Hope you learn from this little supervision.  Its a good teacher who speaks little and lets the student learn at their own pace. Doin’ good, butterfly.”

So, I crank up the heat and weld the pieces again and then beat ‘em.  Like hell!  They stand strong.  I am pleased.  This is manly stuff.  Real manly.  Stupid, of course.  Dirty, too.  And snotty sometimes.  But there is no avoiding the manliness.  Argh!

Now to the raw fish!

Love in the time of Welding

I am welding away, grinding, cutting.  Things are progressing on the steel frame.  But I keep catching on fire.

Except for a few minor burns on the tummy, it doesn’t amount to much more than the odorous destruction of my clothes and a bit of skin discoloration where a hot sliver has lodged on me.  I just flap my hands and put out the burning round hole in my outer and inner shirts (or skin) and carry on.  I have a lot of holes in what has become my main ‘sacrificial’ shirt.  I just hope I don’t have to throw another shirt of homage to the Angel of Hell (welding) before my leather apron comes.  And I hope it comes soon.  I have more than a few minor black spots on my stomach and they do nothing to make me more appealing.  In fact, Sal tends to recoil in horror.

More than usual, I mean.. 

And it is horrible.  She is right.  Once again I have a greater appreciation for a trade.  Fabrication ain’t easy.  Especially not if you want clean nostrils.   And I do.  At the end of the day, when you begin to clean up, I advise blowing your nose first.  Then get a vacuum and suck deeper.  The Kleenex is black.  The second Kleenex is black. The third Kleenex is black.  It is hell in there!  And that is just my nose.  Everything gets dirty.  Hair, skin, clothes….all blackened in some sort of way.  Plus the tummy scars.  I’m telling ya….welding ain’t a pleasant hobby.

Mind you, I am not doing it right.  I am just a backyard goof trying to cobble up a weird thing from scrap metal.  Lots of room for error and I am taking all the room I have.  Lots of errors.  I asked a more experienced friend of mine, “How do I know if I have a good weld?”  “Well, if you hammer the snot out of it for a minute or so and it holds, ya did good!”

“Is that the technical, official, by-the-book-way…?”

“Who reads about welding?”

“Right.  Of course.  What was I thinking.  So, we employ the beat-the-snot method?”

“Yeah.  keep it simple, Dave.  Kiss.”

“Get away from me!  I’m disgusting.  You should see my nostrils.”

“KISS means ‘keep it simple, stupid!”

“I knew that.  But you got a bit too close there, ya know. Looming.   Personal space – thing.  Now just move along, will ya?”

“You’re crazy, you know that?  And, at our age, we only just cuddle anyway.”

“Oh, that makes me feel a lot better!”

The pizza conundrum

Town day yesterday.  Big shop.  Heavy schlep.  Got home at 7:00 pm.  We got packed away and had eaten our purchased-at-3:00 pm take-out (cold) by nine.  Tired.  No doubt about it – town day is getting to be the biggest challenge we face.  It’s an age thing.

We still have plenty of rigorous challenges out here, of course.  My new-ish, junk-pile-sourced, scrap-built solar panel frames, designed, welded, bolted and assembled by me and Sal, all to be relocated to a high rock is still the current project and, given the skill set and energy expenditure required, a not-so-insignificant challenge.   But, to be fair, we can pretty much address the developmental steps of that task at our own pace.  And we do.  In fact, Sal has left me to address all the issues so far.  I’m the ‘fabricator’.  She will be the high-wire act when required.  She gets the glamour job.

It’s a big job but it’s a slow job.  As it should be.

But shopping is as much about spoilage as it is about schlepping and so the pace is dictated by that (we never buy ice cream, for instance).  The ferries, the stores we have to hit and any appointments we might foolishly have made basically dictate the schedule.  Town day is a challenge logistically.  We tallied 24 stops-and-shops on our last trip!  It’s a big job, too.  But it is a very fast-paced one.

This trip was less stops but two 45-minute-apart towns had to be visited.  Yesterday we missed a store closing by five minutes but, thankfully, they were accommodating and let us in so that our chore got done anyway.  Had we missed them, Fid would have had only kibble for a month instead of his usual gourmet blend of raw guts, noses, ears and fat packaged especially for dogs on a raw food diet. Not so important a stop, I suppose, but he does like his noses and guts.

Throw in a dozen other purchases, two ferries and a bloody painful visit to the dentist and you have a pretty full day.

So, I have been thinking about how to make it simpler.  Firstly, there is no way to making dental appointments or doctor visits simple (although remote doctors are experimenting with video conferencing).  And blended packages of noses and guts are a staple at our house.  So some things simply have to be dealt with the hard way.  I figure at least half the logistical challenge will remain for awhile.  But food shopping should be an easy ‘cut’.  I think.  Phone the list into the store, have them deliver the boxes to the water taxi and meet the taxi as it goes up channel.  Simple.  With a little coordination, auto parts can be added to the dock delivery list – they deliver anyway.  Home Depot and Costco will do it too.  Our local doctor will carry prescriptions.  A neighbour will pick up a small package now and again.

It is time to delegate.

Remote camps get stuff flown in or water-taxied in but that is too expensive as a rule.  Our local mail plane will transport at a reasonable rate if we pick up at the post office.  And the water taxi is almost as accommodating if they don’t have to ‘go off-route.  As long as the package is not heavy, that can be a fantastic deal.  Weight-wise, a pizza air-delivered (cold, mind you) is $1.50 or $2.00!  OK, maybe a slice missing.  So, it can be done!  The water taxi will ‘drop’ as much as 200 pounds for $50.00 so long as the packaging is good, easily handled and we meet ‘em mid channel.  It’s worth it.

Funny thing about living remote, it is a conundrum.  The appeal is being isolated, the challenge is being connected.  The appeal is hard work and being outdoors but the work is all about building indoor places and making systems work to ease the burdens.  It is almost as if we are working against what attracted us here in the first place.

Now I am planning pizza delivery!

Yin and Yang of life, I guess.