Sunday, January 14, 2018

One Year Out Here.

One year ago tonight was our first night in the cabin. I still remember not being able to sleep, listening to every little thing. It's hard to believe time moves so quickly. I remember being so excited about 'cabin camping with the interwebs' which is my meme dream come true. I'm still just as excited, especially this winter having the wood burning stove. I remember wondering what are the chances.. in that very moment when I thought I'd take another look after over a year of searching, I'd find this very place. I never gave up hope to find a home.


I think it took me the entire year to get over the anxiety that comes with planting myself somewhere. I'm finally okay with having a home that's more than temporary. That, more than anything, was a critical step for me to stop the self-sabotaging reactions I have when things become "too comfortable". But I also believe that the nature of this place and the lifestyle that comes with it is a big part of why. On one hand it feels like home, no doubt about that.. on the other hand, it's kind of hard to be too comfortable. There's a delicate balance that must be maintained. Everything is hard work, and hard work is everything.. I like it that way.

When we first arrived, we had but a minivan full of various furnitures and another trip of all our gear and clothes. The only thing we had to sit on was a couple of folding lawn chairs. We have since collected many wares [mostly for free] to turn this cabin into home. We found a pile of bricks and built a fire pit, and constructed a compost bin [and two greenhouses!] from scraps. A couch from Craigslist, a tiny table and chair set perfect for the corner of our kitchen, a full sized smoke house, pots and pans and dishes- I even managed to score a television.. and suddenly, it looked like we lived here! We've even collected a few pieces of art for the walls. And the wood burning stove, my favourite piece [yep, free!] that completes the country cabin feel.


Winter was the perfect time to move here. We were introduced to our new home environment in the bone chilling cold, at the apex of the season. Being here to witness the transition as the valley turns from white to green was exciting, especially with perfect timing to plan and till the land. Most of summer was spent shrouded in wildfire smoke, and the mountains disappeared for quite some time. Thankfully our home and our crops were safe, and we enjoyed collecting a bountiful harvest late into fall. Speaking of, autumn here was the most beautiful autumn I've ever seen. Rainbows and vivid sunsets were almost daily events.

Our first garden was abundant.. perhaps a little too abundant! This was the first garden in a long time for both of us, and we went a little overboard on planting seeds. Unfortunately, we didn't thin the crops as well as we should have. I always feel bad picking a perfectly good plant, but I've learned [again] that it must be done for a healthy [and accessible!] garden.

Now we've come full circle. We've weathered two major winter storms, a very high freshet, many windstorms [and one ripping monsoon], and the skies are ever changing. I never tire from the ever changing view in my back yard. The landscape is always colourful even in winter. I especially enjoy sunny days when the bare blueberry bushes gleam a rich red against a snow dusted green mountain backdrop and a bright blue sky. The view still has the capability to take my breath away.

I'm looking forward to year two. Garden season is coming up fast, and it's almost time to pull the boat back out from storage. It will be a big year of hard, satisfying work to make our home and lifestyle more sustainable. Now that I'm fairly established as a housed individual [and finding comfort here], it's time to get back on top of my journey to good health. I've done it before, and now with the support that I have and a comfortable place to do so, I will do it again. For life this time.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

journalog 1-7-18

It's quiet out here. Well, sort of... It became quite loud all of a sudden yesterday, and just as quickly it was done. The several inch thick layer of ice on the roof let go in an instant- weighed down with snow and then rain. When it crashed onto the awning separating it from the house, it sounded like we were run over by an avalanche.

We got up at first light today to venture over to the other farm. Our land owner had a stash of materials we could use to repair the awning, the only challenge was getting to it. He ran the tractor to dig out a path to the barn, and we loaded Delilah's roof racks with lumber while taking in the view. The warmer temperatures and slight breeze brought in a fog that made our mountain backdrop disappear in sweeping brushstrokes.


The awning adventure and getting a fire going was our excitement for the day. Cabin fever is a thing, and we're getting a little restless. We're going on our tenth week without steady work. Putting around the property when the weather allows to keep ourselves busy. We seek out downed branches we can buck up for the woodpile, and make our way out to the general store every few days to keep up on the social and make sure the van runs.

It's been a challenge to be at total peace with our situation. If we were truly remote, off the grid and not so reliant on finances, we'd be much more comfortable with what we have. The fact that we have to pay for the space that we occupy monthly is the part we're having troubles with. We've managed to find odd cash opportunities here and there to get a few bills paid, but it's been tight.

I'm glad that we stored up as much as we did for the winter. Every trip to town we made through the summer I chose an essential to buy in bulk. We've used a decent percentage of our food stores though, and we're edging on 'uncomfortably low'. We're getting into our last can of coffee, jar of honey and bag of sugar. The frozen fruit stores are well below half, and we've made a sizeable dent in our veggies. Our cupboards are fairly light, though we do still have a decent amount of rice and flour. Three weeks from now, we'll be setting into 'desperately low'. It's essential that we get steady work soon. Garden season is still a couple months away.

Hibernating hasn't been a total bummer though. I couldn't have imagined a better place to be holed up in for the winter. Something tells me I wouldn't be as settled being so long without work if I were living in the city. I know this from experience. After one week without a job I lose it- city living is costly on the daily and it's hard to avoid.

Out here the shift in priorities makes not having steady work much more bearable, even enjoyable at times. There's so much to do to maintain the cabin and the property- especially in storm season.. it's enough just to make it through the day without a panic attack. When you're more concerned with staying warm and making sure your home isn't destroyed by the weather, having a couple bills a few months overdue doesn't seem so pressing. There's no real worry to get anywhere on time if you can't get anywhere at all.

Also the view ain't half bad. We find enjoyment and satisfaction in the beautiful simplicity of country living. We could sit for hours watching the fireplace, and bundling up to go for a walk down our road is a scenic nature tour. Watching the eagles by day and listening for owls at night is a delightful blessing. Maintaining the house is more than just chores, it's fulfilling and satisfying that we are free to enjoy our own space as we choose.

I feel very fortunate to be here. There are far more challenging places I could be while broke in the middle of winter, like tenting in the woods. We may not have access to some basic luxuries, and it may get a little uncomfortable at times, but as Erik Salitan says, "excessive comfort is detrimental to one's character". There is always peace to be found amidst the chaos. There's always so much to be grateful for that it outshines the not-so-glamorous aspects of living a transient sort of lifestyle.

I anticipate getting real busy real soon with work in the field and in the garden, so I'm doing my best to savour the downtime. I've made one of my goals for the year to be better organized in my writing and little photography projects so my ideas and images don't get buried forever. As always, thanks to everyone reading this, for always sending words of encouragement and support. And a HUGE thank you to everyone who contributed near and far by ordering smelly things from my website, and sending us Timmies bucks and lunch cards. Your generosity and thoughtfulness truly warmed us! All the love.

xo

Friday, January 5, 2018

New Year- Old World

There's nothing like ringing in the new year in the dark. Our region was slammed with an epic ice storm a few days after Christmas, taking out trees and power lines in it's wake. It's been over a week and there's still power lines dropping, and outages all over the map. Thankfully we were given a generator last year "just in case". After the first wave of the storm we made sure that it was running, set it up and built it a makeshift shelter, and ran power cords back into the house. And thankfully so, as when the second wave hit, everything was covered in ice and the power went out for a very long time.


The first couple days, we didn't bother to leave the house. Standing on our front porch, you couldn't count to twenty without hearing a tree come crashing down in the distance. We passed the time with a week-long cribbage tournament by candlelight, storytelling accompanied by a sketchpad, and mulling about the property. Our sea can workshop got a much needed cleaning, and we burned all our cardboard and wood scraps we'd been collecting throughout the year.

Day three, we were called out to work. Given that it's been two months without anything steady, we weren't about to say no to an opportunity to make a little loot. The drive kept us on our toes. In order to get off our road, we had to stop the van every thirty feet or so to clear fallen branches from the giant cottonwoods. I kept the van in gear and ready to move while he quickly cleared a path as branches were still falling all around us. It was a slow drive towards town, dodging fallen trees and ice bombs. It was one of the most absolutely beautiful sights i'd ever seen when the sun hit the ice covering everything, the landscape shone like a spotlight party in a chandelier shop.


When we finally arrived in town it was utter chaos. No street lights, cars abandoned on the roadside, power lines downed and roads closed left and right.We gave it a couple more days before our next venture in to town. This time we needed supplies and fuel, so we had our fingers crossed we would find at least one grocery store open whose shelves were not yet cleaned out. I was excited to see that our produce market had it's doors open for business. They like most other places had lost the products kept in coolers after not having power so long, but we were there for the basics. Potatoes and fruit mostly, things we hadn't grown ourselves.

Everywhere we go, we tend to talk to strangers, so it was no surprise that we'd gotten into a full blown conversation about the current situation while shopping for our fruit. We brought up how lucky we were that we lived in a small place, so it was enough to run a generator with a small space heater and a hot plate. If we needed water from the well we could plug in the pump and we're all set. He told us how it felt like going back in time, the kids had fun playing in the snow, and the family actually sat together to play some board games. We talked about how useless all those big fancy homes are without the services running to them, they'd be impossible to heat being so big, and their inhabitants would be better off setting up a tent outside during times like this.


Heating the house was our main challenge. If we don't keep the house warm when it's below freezing the pipes will burst, and we'd have a lot more problems than sitting in the dark. When we met up with the landlord to pay the rent, we were discussing alternate heating options inside the house, and he said he was thinking of propane. I'd mentioned how the stack for the chimney was still installed and it would be awesome if we could put a wood burning stove back in it's place. He'd removed it because he was worried about the previous renters not using it right and it sat in storage a couple years, but we were stoked that he still had it. We were stoked to take it home.

By the time we got the wood burner installed, the power was back on for the most part. It was a couple day process of getting it to working order, outdoor and indoor test runs, building it a pad and getting it in to place, but it was well worth it. We spent yesterday afternoon cutting up and collecting branches from our road that had fallen in the ice storm. it's cottonwood which doesn't have the best aroma coming from the chimney outside, but it burns slow and hot. The cable had come back on around the same time we'd lit the first fire inside, but who needs television when you have flames dancing in your kitchen. We sat with our coffee and tea for hours admiring the heat.


Between not having much work and being thrust into a mini ice-age, this winter has been a very humbling and sobering experience. It's amazing what we take for granted when we have it, and not realize. This experience has reminded me how important it is to be prepared for the seasons and what they may bring. In summer we need to remember to slow down and keep cool, and save as best as we can for the winter [including firewood!]. This coming year we will make different [and hopefully better] choices of our resource allocation, of both moneys and produce. When winter rolls around we have to be keen about being prepared for what ever crazy weather mother nature might bring.

What I've really enjoyed about this winter is the feeling of having gone back in time a century or two, which has been the theme of our experience out here so far. I'd like to continue that trend in as many senses as possible while still maintaining our place in society. It's motivation to become better resourceful as we slide a little further off the grid. The part that's irked me is the lack of funds and our need to be reliant on money. My desire to slide a little further off that grid is strong.

The first five days of the year have been interesting that's for sure. Major triumphs and letdowns, wins and huge losses with impact-full messages, and the year has just begun. This is just the beginning, more to come.. I feel good about this one. Happy 2018 from the cabin on the slough. May 2018 be the best year yet..


xo

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

[Merry] "C" word.

For the majority of my life, the feelings most associated with Christmas are anxiety, sadness and guilt. It's never really been an easy time of year. This is my fourth Christmas since my mother passed away, and since I moved west. And it's my first Christmas I've made an attempt to write about it.


I feel like every Christmas since I moved west has been sort of a step-by-step healing process of making peace with the season. And as I'm sitting here trying to write about it, I think I just realized a big part of the reason why. I've had absolutely no cash with which to participate in the commercial Christmas the last 4 years.

That and being so far away I have no place to be, so if I want to spend the day wandering in the woods or lounging in my PJs, I may. I miss family dinners and seeing everyone together, but that part of the holidays gets harder for everyone as people pass on or move away. And now I know what it feels like to be the one that moved away...

My first Christmas out west was an interesting shock out of the whole traditional holiday season. I had nowhere in particular to be, no one in particular expecting me, and it was a gorgeous sunny day. I went for a walk on the downtown east side, and made a friend whose feelings about this time of year resonated with my own. We spent the day together roaming the parks and streets making merry and enjoying the holiday lights.


The whole experience changed my perspective enough to no longer fret for the holidays. That shift was critical to my survival in a far away place. The reality of moving so far away is simply this: "home for the holidays" is seldom a feasible option. But that means, everything else is.


My second Christmas was spent with a couple friends, a dog, and a pickup truck on the mud flats down by the lake. It was a gorgeous, yet frozen sunny day, perfect for a Christmas bonfire. That was the beginning of basically living the rest of the winter in said pickup truck, and it was a beautiful, humbling reminder to be grateful for what I've got. There was something incredibly satisfying about spending a Christmas out in nature. I loved it so much, it has since become my tradition.


For my third Christmas in BC, my partner and I skipped town to go fishing. We drove to several spots to enjoy the winter view, and ate cold pizza for lunch on the hood of the van while watching the sun dance across the snowy river.

We were both invited to his family gathering, even though they didn't know me that well. I was nervous and awkward, but once I was introduced, it was nice to be included in a family atmosphere. We were both squatting in his family's trailer at the time, and though it was nice to have a warm and dry place to sleep at night, we wished for a home of our own.

A couple weeks later, after months and months of camping, couch surfing and trailer squatting.. our Christmas wish came true. We found our tiny farmhouse in the valley.


Neither of us have been big fans of the holiday season, and we're glad to have one another to enjoy the escape into the wilderness. This year to keep up with our tradition of spending the holidays in nature, we took a Christmas eve hike into the woods behind our land. We're so broke this year we couldn't afford fuel to get out to our good December fishing spot, but it was really cool to see what kind of wildlife we could track in our own backyard. I'm glad that we were grounded as we got to experience our local area from a perspective we never had before, which we both enjoyed.


We woke up Christmas morning in our own home. My first Christmas here was in a hostel, the second in a pickup truck in the woods, and the third was out camping whilst squatting in a trailer. Despite having no money, no way to buy gifts or travel far, I couldn't be more grateful to wake up in our very own little home.

Christmas in BC has changed the holiday experience for me. I have no space to hold onto the guilt or sadness. I'm forced to be present, in the moment. Having my partner by my side and living in the place I've always dreamt I'd be is a special gift to me.

Thank you all, near-ish and far for all your love and well wishes this holiday season- and the lovely holiday card collection hanging on our wall. I wish everyone peace and joy and good things in 2018!

Xo

Monday, December 18, 2017

Yet still hopeful..

I should be overwhelmed with anxiety right about now.. I just can't let it eat at my brain anymore. Looking back over the past few years of blog posts I noticed a couple of things. One, there is a fairly consistent pattern of ups and downs, and second.. I wish I wrote more. And thirdly, I seem to have predicted every change somehow. Could have been keen sense or lucky guesses, who knows.

Right now, I'm blank.. it's hard to say which way this will go. Since being a subcontractor work has never been so slow. There was so much work this summer we were turning jobs down.. even last year at this time we were swamped. This season was a killer combo. We lost one big contract that would have held us over all winter as it was postponed. Then the next one we got we lost money on HUGE. And now we've been waiting two weeks for a job that was due to start mid November.. today was supposed to finally be the day we begin. And nothing. 

*sigh*

There's one week til Xmas, and we were hoping to be able to spoil my partner's kids a little. Last year was rough for both of us but we managed to pull something together. This year we're praying just to make it through. Thankfully we'd hoarded most of the recycling we accumulated this year in the shed, and made two trips to town to cash it in.. 160 bucks in cans and drink containers. We were able to get a couple bags of produce and a tank of gas, with a few bucks to stash for emergency. 

But that, unfortunately, won't cover the rent. Or the hydro, or insurance.. Or any of the other crap that ties me in. 12 days till the end of the month and I'm praying for a miracle. We've thankfully found a few day jobs to keep us afloat but nothing major. This isn't the way I'd expected things to go, but then again, it's my life which is nothing short of unpredictable. 

The past week or so I've felt so guilty that we might lose out on this place that I've barely been able to leave it. With any bit of rain (and there's been lots) I hide inside as if to savour the roof over my head keeping me dry instead of bothering to venture out from under it. I've been using this as an excuse in my mind to sit inside.. pondering if perhaps we should be using up what's left of our food stores as to not waste it in the case that we might have to pack up and live in the van.

...

I can't foresee- after everything that's happened to get me where I'm at- that this is all over. I refuse to pack it in, I'm not giving up. Something must give. We will find the miracle contract. We will make the rent. Our little farm will live on.. somehow.


I finally got up out of my puddle of depression and went for a walk this morning. I reveled in the mystical beauty of the rainclouds dancing around the mountaintops threatening to snow. I stood in awe of the massive eagles and heron as they effortlessly sailed between the trees right beside me and the mountains way off in the distance. I took many deep breaths while I watched the ducks bob about in the water.

Something happens when suddenly everything is under threat of being lost or ending. Reality seems more real. Food has flavour that floods in memories. The feel of rain on the skin, the smell of the air... Moments seem to drag on for eternity. There's a quiet and a stillness that is peaceful inside the chaos. Time stops.

And then it catches up with you..

...

Tomorrow is a new day. Today, I'm hopeful.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December already..

11 months now I've had this lovely little house to call home... and I'm stressing every day trying to rustle up enough dough to keep it going. This time last year we had more work than we did time, and now we've been searching for weeks to pick up new contracts with no luck.

Don't get me wrong, I love having time off from work, it just came a little unexpectedly and we weren't financially ready. I'm so thankful that we invested in a big chest freezer to keep our summer garden goodies in, our produce stash along with a giant bag of rice has kept us going. We Also stocked up on flour and various other baking ingredients, so if we can't scrounge enough money for fuel to get to town, at least we have a somewhat full pantry for a while.


The bit of extra time just happened to coincide with the eagles returning to the valley. And an ankle sprain.. So the past couple weeks I've been slowly rolling up and down my road with my hazards on, a foot on the brake and a lens to my face with the driver's door open. Anywhere else but here you'd def get looks for that, but I live on a dead end road out in the country. And right now, it's eagle country. There's plenty of people rolling around with cameras pulling over at random to get the shot.


Unfortunately, a storm took out our greenhouse a couple weeks ago. This on top of the sprain and being out of work really got me down. We ended up having our first frost the other day, which means the crops that were inside the greenhouse are pretty much toast. I've decided to keep a little green in my life this winter by adopting some houseplants. I even found a perfect mini lemon cypress to stand in as our Christmas tree. It's so cute!


So in summation, lots of ups and downs this season. My ankle is starting to heal, so I'm doing my best to get back on my daily ten thousand steps. I'm hopeful that work will pick back up again soon, and our home will be saved for the winter.


As always, thanks to all my amazing friends, fams and fans that have kept in touch and kept my spirits up. It gets a little lonely out here at times, but man is it lovely. If I don't write again before then, I wish you all a merry ho ho.. and bring on 2018!


Xo 

Monday, October 9, 2017

October Love.

It's my favourite month of my favourite season, and this may be my favourite October yet. Rainbows, sunflowers, pumpkins and sunsets. I'm sitting in my living room, surrounded in Home. Pumpkins piled around my plants by the window [and on the porch, and everywhere], produce boxes filled with garden treasures, sunflower seeds drying in their trays, cedar, sage, lavender and mint.. and sweet views out my windows.

Which totally makes up for the chaos that my work life has become. Contractor life is very unpredictable at times. Some jobs are nice money makers, others are a near complete loss. We never really know when we'll be paid, so having the garden [and preserving it's goods] has really saved us through. I hope I never have to go another season without a garden. I'm getting good at my new trade, but still I dream of one day making a full-time gig of growing food.


So yeah, about them rainbows.. there's been one [or a few] every day this past week. The weather patterns out here this time of year make them a common occurrence. Cool mornings, a little sun in the afternoon and rain in the evening. The sun sneaks below the rainclouds for a final peek before setting, creating these beautiful rainbows and blazing sunsets. It's just incredible, I feel so blessed to be here to witness it all. This is our first Autumn in the valley, and I'd been looking forward to it.

And the sunflowers! This was my first time having a plot to plant them since Ontario [besides an attempt in a bucket on a balcony], and they grew to be giants here. The seeds I've been carrying since I'd planted the first handful [unknowingly] on the day my mother had passed. these were the last of that crop, and now I can save the seeds from these ones and continue on with the strain.


The best seeds from the biggest flowers will be kept for next season. The rest, delicious snacks! The seeds from this mammoth are big enough to cover my thumbnail. I'm hoping by spring we can find a place to plant a bit of a sunflower field. They do well enough on their own, and love arid conditions, so there may be a seed-bombing in our near-ish future.

And these pumpkins.. It's pretty safe to say I'm obsessed. I love growing them, and looking at them, I love their smell and colour and texture, I love pumpkin pie it's my absolute favourite! And soup and roasted pumpkin seeds too. So next year, more pumpkins. Their patch must be updated, as this year's attempt was a last minute one. They need better soil and more space to grow.


In the spring we plan to turn, amend, and hopefully mulch their entire bed. This year we just dug little circles to plant the seeds and let the vines sprawl around through the grass, but as soon as they became too big to trim between, the grass took over. Next time they'll have much more space. And we'll likely have many more varieties. I love our little microfarm.

...

This year out here in the valley changed my life. It made me realize that dreams can and do come true. That some chances, though scary, are worth taking. That a vagabond can find a home. And that perseverance pays off. Once I had finally begun to find my footings out here on the west coast, it was a huge risk to move out to the country. I didn't know if I could keep working the jobs I'd had once I moved, or if I'd find other work if i couldn't. But I moved out anyways.

And I did have to quit both my jobs. And I did find other work, doing something I'd never thought I would get into. So here I am, in my dream place, making it happen. It feels damn good.

The only thing missing is my [friends and] family. I have made new friends out here, but it's this time of year I really miss everyone back home. Even when I spent months wandering with a rucksack on my back wherever I could make it to, I always made a point to make it home for the holidays.

No matter where I've ended up, it's always been in the back of my head that if things don't go well, I can always go home and start again. But I never really pondered what would happen if things did go well. I suppose I wasn't expecting to last this long out here without returning to my homelands for more than just a visit. I guess I never really thought about how it might feel to be so far away from everyone when they're gathered for a legendary turkey dinner, and I'm out here contemplating what I'm going to do with a holiday Monday.

Probably load up the boat and go fishing. My new BC holiday tradition.

...

That garden tho. Seriously. It's hard to worry about anything too much when I'm standing there overlooking my edible landscape masterpiece, admiring a mountain sunset. Knowing that I've found my place, land that I can grow on, and a community I can thrive within. It's hard to miss a place I love but can't stand to live in, when I'm in a place like this.

I'm so thankful for every minute of it.

That said, if you're reading this, Happy Thanksgiver. Please know that even though I can't be close to you, you're always in my thoughts. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I believe that to be true. Not that I didn't love you all before, but being so far away for so long, I've learned a whole different appreciation for the important people in my life. I'm thankful to have you in my life. My friends and family [same diff amirite?] are my lifeline and I know I wouldn't still be here if i didn't have your love and support. Cheers to you this turkey day, and every day. All the love.


xo