NOT politics

Once again; I am happy to be here.  Honest.  Nice place.  Nice change.  Please believe that.  BUT…some things are different (as you would expect) and it is that difference that I find so interesting and am writing about today.  Well, to be honest, it is the differences that I find weird, even off-putting that interest me the most.  Sal likes quirky.  I like weird. Go figure.

So, the first oddity noticed is on the TV.  It’s the ads.  I swear to god, the ads for pharmaceuticals far and away dominate all commercial air time.  By a huge margin. Way more drugs than Doritos.

I once watched ten dreaded-conditions ads in a row – complete with the rapid-speak, fine-print talking about gruesome side effects. When it is not about disabling symptoms, it’s about local lawyers urging you to sue someone or local hospitals that will sculpt your body or treat your addictions.  It seems 90% of the ads are about industrial, commercial, corporate health product and service providers.  Very strange.

We rarely watch the damn TV but, during the inauguration, we did.  And because of weird thing #2, we watched it for five evenings in a row.  Weird thing #2 is the weather.  We are in the desert and it has been raining here three days out of five.

Now, to be fair, Arizona rain is a good thing and, anyway, it seems to lack real volume, real wetness.  Each drop feels like it’s a half-size and a half-step behind our guys back home.  To get an inch of rain in the desert takes hours.  We can get an inch in a few minutes in BC. Still, there were puddles in the yard!  And there are cactus near the puddles!? That’s kinda odd, don’t you think?

Seems the desert forms a surface crust and, when it rains, much of the water cannot penetrate down.  So they get flash floods on less rain than we would handle with our normal drainage systems on a normal rainy day.

Temperatures are around 60F in the day, 35 in the evening and, up north near the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff, they have accumulated many feet of snow!  So, Arizona really does have a noticeable winter even by my BC standards.  And I can finally imagine how the aquifer they rely on might have a chance at being at least partially replenished.

Just to be clear: I am perfectly OK with this kind of winter.  I like 60-65 degrees F.  I have never been a fan of 80-85F/30C.  So, this is good.

Weird thing #3.  More and more grocery stores down here are emphasizing health, too.  Lots of cheap good produce. The fruit is wonderful.  Everything is organic and gluten free. Meats without hormones and that sort of thing.  Think Whole Foods.  And the people shopping there are healthy looking and reading labels just like us.  A Sprouts Store (best for organics) is a replica of a Thrifty’s or Whole Foods in Vancouver or Victoria.  Same people. Same emphasis on produce.  Less ‘processed’ foods.

But most restaurants are filled with BIG people. Some are really big.  Dwarfing-the-scooter-riding big.  We went to one nearby Mexican place rated well and I left a third of my dinner behind.  I NEVER leave a tasty dinner uneaten.  But there were so many Jabba-the-huts around us, I just felt that I had to get away and, to be honest, the portion was big enough that I could have left half behind.  And I had the smallest entree.  Sal stuck with the appetizers.  We both felt that we had way too much food.  C’mon!  That’s weird.

I am also having some feelings about these modern adobe-style suburbs.  There does not seem to be a very high occupancy.  If there is, the people don’t go out much.  Not even the kids. Few, if any, people walk.  There is little visible proof of real people living here except when ‘garbage day’ rolls around, every house has their two incredibly immense cans (each could hide the two of us and our weekly output of garbage) out ready for pick up.  They gotta be in there…………………?

There’s room in here for you, David!

Our obligatory Mexican gardener showed up today.  Packing a blower.  He walked around the yard blowing leaves.  That was a surprise for two OTG’ers.  Sal had just mentioned the other day about cleaning up some leaves but I said, “It’s fine.  We’ll tidy up before we go.  Anyway, the lawns are plastic. The plants are cactus.  We’re good.”  Seems I was wrong.  We needed a good cleaning up.

This one is also kinda odd: rush hour is really clogged.  Freeways.  Main streets. Side roads. Rush hour starts about 5:00 and lasts for 40 minutes.  Tops.  Maybe less. For half an hour, you crawl.  All other times, you can fly along on near-empty roads.  If caught in rush hour, stop at the nearest shopping centre, buy a quart of milk and then continue on virtually empty streets.  It’s actually more like a traffic swarm than it is a traffic jam or a congestion by Vancouver standards.  Everyone must get off work at exactly the same time. Weird.

I can’t see doing too much reporting on this part of Arizona, really.  Scottsdale was nice. Expensive homes. But nothing really. We are in the urban heart of Arizona and well, you know what that’s like….urban is urban just about everywhere you go.

BTW:  I measure my writing by how many comments I get.  The last two blogs only generated 5 comments and I was half of them.  So, clearly, Trump, Arizona and whatever it was before that, is not resonating.  I am OK with that.  I do not resonate with everyone all the time.  That’s OK.  BUT – is there anything you WANT to know about?  Meaning of life?  Is there a God?  Best wine under $10.00?

  

 

 

It’s NOT about OTG

Just had an epiphany last night:  I am not really writing about living off the grid.  I am writing essentially about being free.

Or trying to, anyway.

Of course, I am using the ‘vehicle’ of being off the grid (and it lends itself nicely) but, the more I think about it, the more the real underlying message is to describe living free of the systems, rules, obligations and agendas of others – most of whom are parasitic in their involvement in your life.

Honestly, I originally thought it was all about building, first-aid and ravens…. 

I am NOT talking about dependent family and friends (altho some, I suppose, could be a bit too too much of a load now and then…) but rather the daily intrusion of unrelated others that are a drain on your energies rather than a source of renewal or replenishment.  And I suppose I started it all (this blog) because of my experience of the forest and the ocean as just that – a refreshment, a stimulant and a way of recharging depleted batteries.

Modern life just doesn’t didn’t do that for us.  Not for me, anyway.  I worked and I got money in return.  But money does not refresh the soul or invigorate the senses. Money does not provide renewal except in material things.  Money seemed to merely prolong life rather than promote the fully living of it.  Modern-world working for money can and does eventually just drain the life out of you.

Maybe that’s why I have such a problem with the concept of money.  I have a sense of it is a major part of the BIG LIE….. but I digress…..

Working to live in the forest and making an effort to sustain yourself doesn’t empty you.  It does not erode your will to live like a job in the city does. It’s entirely different out here.  It re-fills you. This kind of work invigorates, energizes and rewards – in the moment, at the end of the day and, somehow, constantly and overall.  I found (admittedly AFTER the house was mostly built) that I just felt better.

I didn’t recognize that at first because mostly my life had been about spending my energies to gain money so that I could go back to work and spend more energy. There seemed to be no well to go to for a sense of renewal or energizing.

I have Trev (comment on a blog past) to thank for this minor epiphany.  It was he who invited more philosophy.  So, I started thinking.  Blame him for this self indulgent blog entry.  But it is so obvious now.  It’s not about chopping wood.  It’s about living as I choose to live. Doing what I choose to do. Being with who I want to be with and, best of all, being who I want to be.  It’s about freedom.

“Dave, you truly free?”

Course not.  It’s hard to be truly free in a complicated world.  I acknowledge that fully. But I am free-er.  I am definitely free of most of what constrained me before. In fact, I am so much more free now, I cannot even remember all those previous constraints because I never had the freedom or the time to look at them.  I was simply enveloped in it all – work, appointments, obligations, duties, bills, relationships….the list was endless. And NOT always rewarding.  Worse, it was habit forming.  Once one duty was done, I habitually looked for another.  That is a form of modern-day madness from this point of view.

But not now.  My canvas is mostly white these days still awaiting the colours I may or may not choose to put on it.  I may even leave it blank.  Living now is almost entirely my own choice. That is quite a statement, when you think about it.   I have more freedom and I have more choice. I feel ‘lighter’.

Mind you, I have lost a few pounds……..

One trick pony

I held off writing a blog for a few days because I wanted to hear Trump’s inaugural address.  I had hopes of hearing something good.  Anything good.

I didn’t hear it.  In fact, I didn’t hear anything different.  I just heard a bully bellowing the same old song.

If forced to find some silver lining amongst the piles of BS spewed, I would say he was equally as belligerent to all the ‘establishment’ – and they were all just sitting there taking it with smiles plastered on their faces – and that is NOT good but it is NOT all bad, either.  If forced, I would say that he was – as usual – contradictory.  He was all selfish and divisive about America first but, at the same time, acknowledging ‘friends’.  What he really meant; sycophants, toadies, victims, leeches and suck-ups.

But, basically, the speech was just another display of macho-stupidity.  He is just bellowing.  He is an ass.  A one-trick pony.  Trump is Trump and will likely remain so til he dies. The office, the world, facts and circumstances won’t change him.

The thing is; bullying works.  It does NOT work in the long haul, however.  Not long term.  Bullies do carry the moment.  Always have.  But victims eventually learn to avoid them. And, eventually, followers leave bullies in droves.  But, for the immediate moment, a rich, tough, single-minded narcissist can and does have an impact on everyone around him. Things get done.  For better or worse.  Usually, worse.

People eventually sabotage the bully, leave the bully or set up competition of some kind but bullies become bullies because they get results and, generally speaking, bullies have short attention spans – so it works for them.  Bullies do not lose the game they are playing so their actions get reinforced.  And he will definitely get some results.

Bullies also don’t learn from their mistakes.  It seems to be a given with bullies; the mistakes were ‘never their fault’ and so, they just move on to the next scenario and deploy their forces and expect to win at whatever game they have just newly defined.  It’s what they do.  It’s kinda retarded, it’s always disruptive but, at some level, bullying gets enough reinforcement to become a ‘style’.  In Trump’s case, he has also got a brand, a leggy manikin-bimbette and a logo.

I’ve known a few bullies like Trump.  But I won’t bore you with those anecdotes. Suffice to say, beating them up or winning the battle just invites another battle. Reasoning and cooperation just invites further bullying.  The only way I have ever successfully dealt with such idiots is to remove myself from their sphere of influence.

But that is not always possible. How are we to remove ourselves from the sphere of the US’s influence?  That cannot be done.  After five or six decades of promoting their influence in so many ways from war to politics, from trade to actual products and lifestyle, from culture to even language, ‘Merica now resides deep in all first world countries and very influential in most of all the others.

So, how do we deal with this new bigger, uglier bully when, in fact, we have folded like cheap tents to gentler and more charming US bullies of the past?

I have no idea.  Maybe we just wait for four years and let his supporting contingent see who he is for themselves.  Maybe we do ‘mock battle’ and just keep him busy swatting at flies?  I honestly do not know for sure.

But there is one way that might work.  And, frankly, I think it is the way all nations, provinces, counties and neighbourhoods should be working anyway. We have to build more independence in ourselves and our own world.  Local business, local economy, local systems.  The 100 mile diet is possible.  We should make it the default position.  Local economy is half-way viable and 1/4 way enough.  We have schools.  We have experts.  We have resources.  How badly do we, the people, need the global market?  How badly do we need the US market?

I know the answer is – at this point – ‘we need it badly’.  I know that.  But Trump might just be the catalyst to reduce our dependence on that kind of bully-make-the-market.  And even though we may never become truly self-sustaining as a nation or even a province, it would likely help ourselves a great deal to move in that direction.

One thing is for sure, I do NOT want to be part of Trump’s Gold-plated Empire doing what makes just America great again.  If we are not making everyone’s condition in the world better, then to hell with him.

 

Brave and new, perhaps, but not overly interesting…..

Firstly, I have to make this very, very clear: I am very happy to be here in Arizona and especially pleased about escaping more of BC’s winter this year.  No question – my inner snowbird is being well served and satisfied.  So is Sal’s.

Living the Snowbird Life

BUT…………………

Phoenix has not proven very interesting.  Not so far, anyway.  To be fair, we have not explored most of it yet but what we have explored is kinda flat and brown and mainly comprised of shopping centres.  There HAS to be more but, so far, I haven’t found it.

Again….we have not exhausted all areas.  We’ll give Scottsdale a shot today at entertaining us to the degree we think we deserve.  I am looking for quirky and weird verging on riotous with a smidge of danger.  With good street food.  We’ll see.

In actual fact, we have been mostly content to work half a day at ‘home’ trying to make a silk book out of a sow’s writings so as to produce the much anticipated second book.  But so far all we have managed to achieve is improved grammar and spelling, better, tighter writing and it is getting more organized for easier reading.

The content still half sucks, in my opinion.  I need to improve that.  And, GET THIS: According to the Huffington Post, “The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime. There is no general audience for most nonfiction books, and chasing after such a mirage is usually far less effective than connecting with one’s communities. A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore”.

So, you can see the challenge.

There are a few good anecdotes in the book.  I may add some more.  And there is some ‘advice’ as to how to go about living off the grid but I am really not knowledgeable enough to do a HOW-TO or even give good instructions on much of anything factual or technical or even all that detailed. There is a smidge of philosophy-like stuff…you know….Dave’s thoughts on life….that kind of thing (yawn). It is turning out to be a natural-enough extension of the first book but it is not a page-turner.

So far, I do not recommend it.  Obviously, neither would the Huffington Post.  But we are still working at it.

One of the most interesting things about writing this second book is that I have noticed that the OTG genre has expanded quite a bit in the last two years.  When we first published, there were, perhaps, fifteen or twenty authors that fell into the OTG category and some of the books were older ones re-issued.  Today, that number has tripled.  Mind you, a good portion of that increase is about alternative energy and sustainable food generation.  Lots of How-to books on that and, of course, they are quickly out-dated by the newest one.  Some of it is Prepper-type stuff (hoarding, guns, ammo, etc) and that can be kinda fun if you read between the lines.  But there are also quite a few more of the ‘Our Life In the Forest’-type books. Ron Melchiore’s Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness is the last one I read. I liked it.

Anyway, the reason I mention all that is that there are smarter, better, braver, more capable OTG’ers out there and they are writing up their stories.  My stuff is basically about living OTG on a hope and prayer with the help of an angel and a large supply of First Aid materials. That story has short legs.  Can’t go too far on short legs.  Two books may be more than enough.

So, we may wrap this puppy up, call it an epilogue or something and move on to writing something more fun.

Come January 20th, that decision may be made for us.

PS:  For anyone silly enough to do so, you can now subscribe to the blog.  

 

 

 

Brave New World

Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, is planning a meeting with the incoming president of the United States.  She is following protocol.  She has to do this.

But what choice has a ‘leader’ of a western country in indicating (or not) some kind of official support for an ally?  Not much. She has to ‘recognize’ the new president. It’s part of her job.  It’s part of her, too. She’s Thatcher in May clothing.  So, it is not hard for her.  She is steeped in the establishment.  She believes and thinks that way. She IS the establishment.  All leaders of countries in the first world are steeped in the establishment.

And the establishment reinforces itself – no matter who is at the helm.  It is what institutions do: they survive by defending the larger ‘status quo’.  The larger status quo is the BIG LIE.

Germany has not yet lined up to kiss Trump’s ring.  Neither has France.  Mind you, Germany and France remain in the EU and Trump dissed the EU and supported Brexit.  So…they are caught like a deer in headlights.  They may legitimately be reluctant to embrace the new POTUS because he seemingly did not act subservient to the status quo…and yet…isn’t the US the leader of the status quo?

Many are similarly confused.  Do you support the office when you cannot support the occupant of that office?  Will the job make the man or will the imbecile corrupt the office?

We don’t know the answer to the really big question yet (how long can they pretend the BIG LIE system is working?). But the other so-called leaders of countries will eventually come around to genuflecting to the USA. They have to. They have to so as to legitimize themselves and the offices they hold.  It’s a matter of survival.  It’s what they do. They support one another.

That is how the BIG LIE holds together.

Just-in Trudeau must be having heart palpitations. He is more than willing to sacrifice any semblance of ethics and morality (certainly he has NOT kept his word on the substantive issues) but……I am sure he is dithering on this one, too…….is this the place to sell your soul?  At the altar of the Donald?  His big dithering question is not whether to suck-hole or not.  It is: will he get the best price?

He’s a lightweight.  He’ll fold to corporate interests.  Again.

They will all fall in line.  Eventually.  If they all don’t keep up the facade, it’s a crack in the foundation of the BIG LIE. And none of the establishment can have that.  The King is Dead! Long Live the King! “Steady as she goes!  Whose ring is next to kiss?”  

But here’s the deal:  Trump won because he was revolutionary.  Symbolically, anyway.  The American people wanted change.  They wanted real change.  And they got it.  Sadly, they did not define the change they wanted but, in psychological terms, you cannot change your constructs using your own constructs.  Change comes from without.

Trump is clearly very much without.  And rarely has the old adage, ‘Be careful what you wish for’ been set up to be so proven true.

I think they will come to regret the change they have wrought but, to be fair, you cannot plan a revolution.  When it comes, it comes.  And what results is the result. They may very well regret this one but the old way of doing things was simply NOT working for them and so they voted for the dingbat from Hell.  (And I think that is were this is heading).  

But I don’t blame them.  Not every decision comes from an enlightened place.  Gut instincts aren’t always right.  Even Jesus made mistakes.  And clearly 150 million people CAN be wrong.  I am pretty sure they are but I, too, have been wrong.

We’ll see.

I certainly don’t blame Americans.  Not even the Bubbas. They voted for change with Obama and won the ring toss the first time around but got precious little in that petite revolution.  Obama was just NOT enough.

So, this time, they more than doubled down …………..this time they bet the farm.

 

America

Dateline: Arizona.  Phoenix.  Desert.  Flat.  Brown.  And not just a little bit mind boggling.

First impressions: clean, pleasant, nice people, new, not-as-cheap as I remember it from our last visit 45 years ago (and again about 20 years ago) but, of course, still cheaper than Canada.  Gasoline is $2.05 a gallon.  With exchange and the imperial gallon, I am guessing the equivalent of $3.00 a gallon.  Food seems practically free except in restaurants. Limes were 19 cents in the store, free on the neighbourhood trees.  Same for oranges.

One of my chores is to squeeze the one hundred or so already picked oranges from the trees in the yard.

But the biggest first impression is this: Infrastructure.  We are living in a distant subdivision in the southeast area of Phoenix, basically the equivalent of Mission or outer Abbotsford in the lower mainland.  Hell and gone.  Way out in the desert.  All the houses are new.  All the shopping centres are new.  Everything is new….within the last ten years for sure.  Even the cars!

The area is still under-developed with a mile of desert between walled communities and then another mile or more before the next one.  This area is in transition from cactus and burros to walled communities sporting fake grass and manicured cactus. NOT highly populated. Not yet, anyway.

But, still, the highway system is better than anywhere in Canada.  By a HUGE margin. Seriously.  Even Toronto.  Within five minutes of driving I am on a six lane (one way) freeway heading into downtown Phoenix.  Overhead cloverleafs with other highways passing over and under me appear every ten minutes or so and NOT just one level either.  Four or more overpasses are the norm.

And they are attractive.  No graffiti.  No dirt.  Attractive native patterns cast into the concrete.  All the ‘grounds’ around the highways are manicured, landscaped and free of litter.

You drive along at 65 miles per hour, four or more abreast, flying by sagebrush and sand heading towards a shopping centre intersection with huge big box stores and acres of parking.  These places are so big that, should you need something else from another store across the street, it is at least a five minute drive.  You can walk but no one does.  There is no pedestrian traffic.

Mind you, we are still orienting.  It may be different elsewhere. It has to be.  This area in the southeast is new.  Phoenix is not; it has some age.  We just haven’t seen it yet.

Still, there are two large airports that we have seen.  There is the aforementioned phenomenal highway system.  There are incredible shopping centres.  Everywhere. And much of the population lives in clean, new, adobe-esque style walled communities, it seems.

It is all brown and flat.  And, to be honest – I can’t really see (yet) why the huge investment in this, a rather inhospitable environment that does not have major industry, has been made.  Why?

So, my curiosity is piqued.  We’ll go exploring soon.  But one thing is evident – Canadian infrastructure is closer to Mexican than American.

It’s a car culture here

More doing what needs doing

Sal and I will be gone for a bit.  We’ll be ON the grid in a big way.  It’s just a winter getta-way-cum-respite but we lock up and leave the homestead just like any vacationer does once in awhile.  We drain the pipes, suspend the satellite service, give away the frozen food and any fresh veggies and ask our neighbours to watch over things.  And our neighbours are the best in the world and will do a great job. So, it is all good.

But, when you leave Off-TG, you have a few extra challenges.  All the motors have to be left fueled up to the brim so that condensation doesn’t form.  All vulnerables have to be stored away.  You kinda winter-proof (rain, wind and snow) what needs extra protection when you are not there.  But the biggest concern is what to do with the boat.

Enclosed boats can be left, of course.  Most boats over 22 feet have full enclosures and are left at a marina, some for years at a time.  Leaving a boat in the water is OK so long as it is NOT an open runabout-type.  Open runabouts will fill with water after three days of heavy rain and sink engine first. It is not uncommon for boats to sink out here.  Happens all the time.

“Why not get a canvas enclosure?”

That’s a good idea.  But they are annoying as hell, expensive, structurally weak and not in the least foolproof.  Canvas is not an answer for us – we use the boat too often and a full enclosure is just another way to waste time and money – for us.  And a usable partial enclosure doesn’t do the job of full weather protection.

There’s no two ways about it; when you leave for any length of time, you have to haul the boat up on to the ‘hard’.

If I am gone for only a week, I’ll leave it it dockside and take a chance that the crappy bilge pump doesn’t pack it in THAT week or maybe it doesn’t rain that much. I’ll just leave it if I can stand to do so.  If it is a ten-day escape, I may do the same thing but I will worry more.  I simply cannot leave the boat two weeks without having it attended to every three days and that’s a burden on others.  Too crazy making.

Two weeks of absence requires the boat be pulled up onto the land usually by way of the make-shift marine ways that has served us well for the past decade.

Not this time.  This year the higher tides, a poorly-timed storm and the advanced structural degradation of our slung-to logs took our haul-out away ramp from us. Building a new one is yet another project for the coming year.  In the meantime, we have to take the boat to the other island, haul it, tow it and pay for storage on it’s trailer.

And so, that was the plan for yesterday.

Yesterday was -2C.  Sal took her boat, I took ours (she has 75% of the shares in our navy).  We were destined for the end-of-the-road on the opposite island.  We also took all our vacation luggage and a bunch of tools (for the trailer) and a huge bag of concentrated, unrecyclable garbage.  My boat was full.

The immediate chore was to pull out our trailer from the forest undergrowth where we push it so as NOT to take up a parking space, hook it up (after years in the bush) to the car and then for me to go back to the boat and head down the coast to the community ramp on the other island.  Sal would drive the car and empty trailer on the treacherous ice-road down that neighbouring island and meet me if she can make the journey.  In these conditions, the trip is not a given.

An hour later, I was down at the south end, tied up at the ramp and putting on my gumboots.  One was unexpectedly filled full of water.  An untended fender had kicked up a spray on the way down and filled my boot.  But, what else are gumboots for, really?  You fill ’em! Everyone fills their boots, no?  So, I put on my one dry and one wet boot and got about our business.

Sal was there.

I then drove the car and trailer down the ramp and into the water to receive the boat.  Sal maneuvered the boat expertly onto the trailer.  Like a pro.  We winched Wasabi up and on.  It was remarkably uneventful.  I was pleased.

Until I saw the trailer’s flat tire.  “Oh well, we only have to go a block or two.  We’ll drive on the flat slowly.  It will get us there.  Better put on the list two more newer tires.”

“Shouldn’t we tie the boat down?”

“Nah.  At 5 kms an hour it won’t bounce out.  But better add to the list a new winch rope.  That old one looked pretty sketchy.”

And so the boat was hauled slowly up the ramp, along the yard and up the nearby road and put away in the storage yard.  Then we went to the local Inn to dump a bag of garbage ($7.00 which we pay about twice a year).  And, while there, they (Inn management) ordered five more books. And we had them with us!  THAT cheered me up.  And then, off we went headed back home.

Forty five minutes of ice-roading got us back to the top of the island, parked at the end of the road and then we helped two neighbours with a heavy stove they were loading onto a small boat.  Other neighbours arrived, exchanged good wishes, helped each other and, after all the greetings, we all headed off in different directions.  Sal and I on her little 11.5′ skateboard.  It was getting on to dusk and the temperature was dropping.

We arrived soon enough at our nearest neighbour’s dock.  Hailed farewell.  No hugs ’cause everyone is ill………..but, then she said…:”We went crabbing today.  Got two for you if you want ’em?” 

“We do.  We forgot all about planning for dinner and now, here it is!  Thanks!”

And so one neighbourly good turn was returned right back at us for dinner.  I made sushi.  Crab and avocado sushi to die for.  Drank some hot sake to ease it down.

PURE, FRESH CRAB Sushi……seriously?  Does it get any better?

So?  What did we do today?  Well, we took the boat out of the water and made dinner. ………..I dunno……..call me crazy but it sounded like so much more at the time.  The day was rich and full and exciting and beautiful and we enjoyed some friendship and some really good food to boot.  

Mind you………….there WAS the boot….

“shouldn’t take too long….” (hah!)

You’d think we’d know Murphy better by now.  But we don’t.  Even when we factor in that it will take at least twice as long to do something as it should, that factor is absorbed by Murphy and we then take four times longer.  Death, taxes and Murphy’s laws….inevitable.

I bought a long heat tape for the stretch of water line that was freezing up.  One hundred feet.  Then I bought 16 insulating foamy wraps each 6 feet long (96′). Then I opened the package…’NOT TO BE USED ON WATER PIPES’.

Seems I had purchased ice-dam, gutter protector wire that uses electrical heat to melt ice just before the gutter so that you don’t lose your gutters to excess ice build up.  The item was billed as heat tape. Part of the problem when shopping Amazon – you can’t always read the fine print first.

Sal: “Well, how bad can it be?”

So, I unraveled it and fired it up and it got warm.  Then it got a bit warmer.  Just as I was wondering how hot it might get, it stopped and cooled and stayed cold. “Of course!  It is thermostatically controlled and, right now, during this test, it is NOT cold enough so it turned itself off.  Of course!” 

“So, do we put it on when it says NOT to?  Do we wait til it is so cold that the pipes freeze and then put it on?  How hot is too hot?  And how hot will it get?  Will it melt our pipe? What exactly are you planning here, big boy?”

“We put it on.  The temperature is dropping again and it will take a few hours to do the work and we don’t want to be out here that long so let’s get on it.”

And, so we did.  Two hours later, we could not feel out fingers and we had only put the tape on, and insulated 24 feet.  Each foamy insulator needed taping up so it did not come off.  Hard to put on duct tape with frozen hands.  We went in.

Next day it was colder but we put on another thirty feet before wussing out.

Today I got the last of it on and with no time to lose.  Everything was frozen again.  Last night was simply too cold for the water in the pipes.  It all went hard. So, after the last of the pipe was done, I fired up the genset and we turned the NOT-TO-BE-USED tape on.  I monitored the pipe every 15 minutes to see if it was melting or the tape was not working or something else was happening that should NOT.

But it worked.  We celebrated with showers.

What is the point, Dave? 

Not much.  No point, really.  It’s just that nothing is simple.  Murphy always interferes.  Cold is a big factor when duct taping.  What looked like a simple, easy fix turned out to be a three day chore fraught with anxiety because of the words, ‘DO NOT USE IT AS YOU WANT TO, YOU FOOL!’

Just another minor chapter in disobeying the rules, doing what you were warned not to do and being persistent in so doing.  Another example of ‘making do’ and ‘surviving’ as best you can with what you have.

Or: what a man and woman will do for a warm shower.

I dunno…..just another day in the life?

It’s been awhile, Margy.

And I miss you. All of you – even all the Russians and the Chinese hackers who visit the site for reasons unknown.  Especially those of you who comment.  And I really appreciate the genuine friendship exhibited by some whose relationship with me now is entirely based on this blog or the book. Truly this exercise in writing undertaken a few years ago has paid off in many varied and unexpected ways.  It’s all been a real gift.

I just went through ten days of Xmas and it was pleasant enough.  Family is good. Friends are good.  Even just getting away from frozen pipes was good.  But, I confess, I have never really been into Xmas.  I am not the type.  I like people and I like to celebrate (a little) but I tend to balk at scheduled, ritualized celebration and festivities. Feels a bit contrived, a bit phony to me, somehow.  I prefer to celebrate and have fun when something good happens rather than when just a date rolls around.

But I know I am wrong about this.  Just being alive and healthy and enjoying my life off the grid is cause for celebration and even a festivity or two and so, why not schedule it in so others can join in?  No good answer to that so I comply and put on a Xmas smile not really feeling it but knowing it should be there nevertheless.  I show up, drink the egg nog, eat the turkey and kiss all the little kids.  Ho Ho Ho.

But that is now over and I am happy to be home.  REALLY happy to be home. Especially since the pipes thawed and I have acquired the means to keep them thawed even if it gets colder.

Twelve years late, but we will now be prepared.

Mind you, it is even easier if you put in the ‘fix’ and then go south without really having to test it but I never balk at taking the easy way out.  I constantly seek the path of least resistance and, in a week or so, that will take the form of a flight to Arizona.  I envision the hard part of January to be the hike to the pool.

And, I suppose, that is the point of this rather pointless blog.  Living OTG is easier today.  It is NOT the brutal hardship that it was even fifty years ago.  Wusses can and do live this way.  We are testament to that.

That point was brought home to us recently by a friend with whom we sometimes stay when in town or when doing something that requires a ‘sleep-over’.  She said, “Geez, I liked the book.  It made living off the grid seem doable and not so hard as I thought.  I was left thinking that I could do that!”  

And she can.

The difference today is a weird combination of communications, other technologies, markets, modern consumer habits and, most amazingly, the incredible number of living opportunities constantly opening up.  Here’s what I mean: OTG and ordinary rural land, even small town properties are getting cheaper to buy just as the thriving urban condo world gets more concentrated and expensive.  Finally, economics is working as you’d expect: more people moving into the city means less demand on non urban markets and that is showing up in the prices.  .

Score one for the OTG wannabe guys.

Alternative energy (mainly solar is now affordable, simple and dependable).  People can have the ‘amenities’ they are used to even living remote.  PLUS more of those amenities/services are becoming available from satellite services.  That technology alone, makes a world of difference.  Ironically, remote no longer means isolated.

China.  The virtual flood of cheaply made Chinese products means that the less capitalized OTG wannabe can now afford to do it.  Admittedly, much of that purchased will need replacing over time but the point is that one can afford a log splitter, a few winches, a few engines and the like.  One can get started.  Plus, we have a society that throws away the equivalent of a house a day just in the demolition and rebuilding process.

Amazon.  Modern-day shipping is only going to get better.  And shipping is still cheaper than shopping.  The whole purchasing-stuff exercise from finding it (communications) to buying it (Amazon) to getting it (shipping companies) makes living the more ‘comfortable’ version of life OTG more possible.  Maybe even cheaper.

Do I really think my 60 year old out-of-shape female friend can live OTG like we do? No.  I don’t.  The OTG challenge has been made much, much easier (thank God) by what I just mentioned above (and more) but it is still quite difficult at times and there is a HUGE learning curve.  We are 12 years into it and still learning.  I would guess that it will take the rest of our lives to even get close to half-competent.

Still, the point is: one hundred years ago OTGers were lean, hard pioneers existing on hardscrabble and beans.  They might have an axe and a mule.  Very few could do it.  Fifty years ago, OTG’ers were the not-so-penniless hippies who could gather implements and information, support and even some income and so it was markedly easier.  Still bloody tough but easier than ol’ hardscrabble-man.

Today, we have leapt that difficulty gap again.  It is only half as difficult for a young person today to do what the hippy back-to-the-landers-did back then.  And it is even easier for an equity-holding older person to do it depending on the equity they are holding and how long they wait to cash it in.

Put more bluntly, $1M won’t buy you a rat-trap on the east side of Vancouver.  But $1M would put you in a modern, equipped, beautiful cabin with half of the money left over.  Today, money is a viable solution to getting off the grid.  Much more than it used to be.

“Dave…?  Is this just another not-so-subtle hint for us to get OTG, too?” 

Well, yes and no.  As you know, I am an OTG advocate.  Unabashedly so.  I will promote and hint and suggest in every way I can so, yes….I am dong that.  But I also thought it newsworthy to note that the whole exercise – tho NOT easy – has become much, much easier than it used to be. Markedly so.

In the meantime, I wish you all the very best.  I really do.  I hope you have a GREAT 2017.  I hope some of you might even take a step away from the urban cauldron, maybe sleep in a cabin or two.  The magic is in getting away (not to a resort but a real cabin in the woods) for at least month….you may never go back…..

 

Running then. Siphoning now…

…water…..out of the up-hill tank.  The surface ice layer in it is only half an inch or so and we can poke through that, stick in a hose and siphon off thirty gallons or so and get our daily water allotment. If we do that every two or three days, we are good.  A smidge on the rustic side, some would say, but good enough for us.

Siphoning water into containers--technically, water IS running...

Siphoning water into containers–technically, water IS running…

We are also pounding through a wheelbarrow of wood a day now.  That’s double what we have ever had to do before.  Minus 8 C is cold for here.  I’ve been in -50 up in the Yukon in January and there is no doubt that it was colder then but -8 on the coast feels somehow much colder than -8 in the interior of the province.  I am just ‘Davidizing’ on this but -8 here feels like -25 in the Okanagan to me. It’s likely the humidity factor.

This weather doesn’t bother the guys who have been here a long time, tho.  At 13 years, I am still a newbie.  I find it cold.  DG (40+ years) just dropped by in his boat and handed us some fresh caught fish.  “That there Ling is just 18 minutes from seeing the light o’ day. Filleted it fer ya, too, ’cause KB loves the carcasses.  Fer her garden, don’tcha know?  I am headin’ up her way now.”

“Dawg!  It’s like 90 below.  It’s colder here than Mars or something.  What the hell ya doin’ fishin’?”

“Nah.  It’s nice out.  Warm, really, what with all the clothes I got on.  And, anyway, I only fish where it’s sunny in weather like this.  We gotta go out fishin’ sometime.”

“I dunno.  I tend to repel fish like I do militant feminists.  I am one of those guys with the wrong polarity or something.  Anti-magnetic…..Bi-polar, maybe.  Where I go, fish don’t.  Some guys can’t catch fish.  I am one of them.”

“No question there are people like that.  When I was a guide, I’d have one guy catching fish hand over fist on one side and the other guy, on the other side, would get skunked.  Sometimes we would swap sides just for the fun of it.  Gear, too. Made no difference.  One guy got lucky.  The other not.

The doctor came out to the twice-monthly clinic at the community centre the other day.   She had chains on all four wheels, her VHF radio was on (no cell service) and she was bundled up for survival.  That’s beyond intrepid and almost heroic.  Sal picked her up to bring her over.  Twenty kms down a frozen logging road with ice valleys and snow everywhere and then a small boat.  So bloody impressive, I almost faked an illness just to go see her.

Sal’s into it, too.  She and a neighbour are headed up to visit the accident victims (see blogs re end of the day at end of the road) and have a ‘nice cuppa tea.’.  That will be 6 – 8 miles in -8 in a small boat through one the most dangerous passes on the coast.  Currents run fast and furious through there.  They’ll likely chat about dogs or quilting the whole way.

Me?  I’ll write this and then go under the house to try thawing some pipes so I can drain them better.

Fifteen years ago I was parking the car in a parkade, grabbing my briefcase and heading into a boardroom.  I, too, was running then.  Weird, eh?  This is better.  By far!