Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Playing house.

When I was a kid, my friends and I used to play house. We'd set up a space in the basement or backyard to be our living space, and pretend to be adults running a little household. The kitchen was always the main focus, the hub of activity. As it should be. Having this place reminds me of those days, as I set up my living space and unpack a set of dishes that was given to me. It felt like Christmas morning unpacking all those goodies. The crockpot and toaster oven the most exciting to unwrap.

Washing dishes makes me smile. I feel like a big kid playing with my new toys when I load the laundry machines. It brings me great joy to sweep the floors and make my home tidy and cozy and clean. After several years of either not having a place of my own, or living in a dilapidated shanty that could never be made cozy and liveable no matter how hard you try, this house is such a blessing.

I was lucky enough to inherit a TV from a friend that moved back home, all his kitchenware, and a sweet reclining front porch chair. We picked up a couple comfy corduroy chairs for the living room for 25 bucks, and a freecycled tiny little dining set that fits nicely in the corner. I'm dreaming up what colour I'll paint the walls.

There's a decent sized steel storage bin out back, already equipped with a couple of shelves and cupboards. It appears that it used to be someone's workshop, and it shall be once again. Next month I'll start picking up what tools I need to get the gardens going, and thankfully have a safe dry place to store them.

I've drawn out our yard and mapped the approximate patten of the sun. The next step will be to decide where to plant everything and how big to make the main garden area. There will be a 20x20 foot space for the main bed, and we may build raised beds for the leafy greens, carrots and smaller root vegetables. It's like designing my own little world out in the valley.

As long as I can make the rent, that is. The only thing that sucks about being a contractor is having no guaranteed pay days. I have more than enough owed to me to cover the next month's bills, it's just a matter of getting it all together on time. Fingers crossed it all works out.. the adventure continues.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Taking it all in..

Finally after a week of living in our new home, we had a weekend off. And decent weather too. He stepped out on the porch with his coffee calling back into the house.. 'quick, bring your camera'. There were several eagles hanging out on the frozen river. It's the first morning we've had yet to just hang out on the front porch and enjoy simply existing in our new place. It seemed as though the local wildlife was celebrating.

We all were. The first day of the year with double digit temperatures that weren't in the negative. The sun even came out for a while to warm our bones. Standing in front of the house in the middle of the road, I still have a hard time believing that this place is my home. I get to build here, to grow.

I had my chance to see what was hiding under the snow, and there's much more space for gardening than I thought. I'm not sure yet what I want to grow or how to lay it out, but I do know that both sunflowers and leafy greens are a must. I'll need to start slowly accumulating gardening tools of my own so that I can get started prepping the land. There's lots of bramble to be cleared and debris to be raked up.

For us, aspects of regular life are a huge part of the adventure. Having housing stability is a newish thing. We have both been essentially floating for a long time. To have a place to nest and garden and enjoy the basic comforts of having our own home is still taking some getting used to. Things that most people in the western world take for granted are true blessings to us.

That said, the compromises that need be made for living partly off-grid aren't a huge inconvenience as we're used to having to make do, it's kind of like cabin camping with Netflix. I'm still in shock that we were able to get the Internet, and as the weather is still quite chilly, we're very grateful to be able to curl up to a movie in the evening, even if the only screen we have is my little laptop. So what if we have to boil water to do dishes and limit showers to five minutes. Who cares if we have to travel half an hour to the nearest grocery store. We are home.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

misty morning

The coyotes woke us long before sunrise. I could hear the rain playing it's tune on the old chimney hood. It hasn't stopped for a couple days, and it's making quick work of melting all the snow. Soon we will see what we have to work with space wise for building our gardens.

As daylight slowly crept into the valley I took a peek out the window. The clouds are low and the fog is still hanging around. The usually dry creek at the end of the road is nearly flooded, and some of our neighbors have unintentional ponds in their front yards.

I'm starting to get used to the silence and the sounds that echo through it. The view however catches me off guard every morning. I'm not sure how long before it gets old, probably never. And I'm alright with that.

Our house is slowly becoming a home. We adopted two comfy salmon coloured corduroy chairs for the living room from a church store back in town, both for 25 dollars. We have just enough kitchenware to make us a meal, a mattress for a bed, and a brand new washer dryer set. After a few long days without hot water, the tank was finally replaced.

I took one last walk around the house, turning out all the lights, envisioning the future of our space. Friday, to my surprise, we will have the Internet. There's one service provider that just happens to have older lines run out our way, which to me is amazing. It won't be the fastest, but it's something. And now that we know it's possible, we couldn't wait.

As I stepped out the front door I couldn't help but to take another picture. The view across the street took my breath away. Again. We are so blessed to call this place our home.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

The first night.

I'm having a hard time sleeping. I mean, what else is new right? Haha. I've lived and camped and slept in a bunch of different environments, and this is going to take some getting used to. The silence is loud somehow. It's so quiet out here that every little sound carries at night.

I jumped out of bed five minutes after getting into it because I thought I heard someone coming through the front door. It was just a strange sound coming from the radiator in the living room. When I opened the bedroom window it squeaked from the cold and not being open in so long, and I could hear the sound echo off the mountains behind us.

One sound I'm kind of glad I can hear is the passing trains in the distance. It's somehow comforting and reminds me of home. I could hear the snow geese honking as they flew over the river in our front yard at sunset. I can hear everything and nothing all at once. It's wonderful.

The night is dark. Actually dark. I can't wait to see the sky on a clear night without the city light pollution. I bet it's beautiful. No street lights on our side of the river. No cars honking, no traffic, no sirens at all hours. The warm smell of wood burning stoves lingers in the crisp winter air.

Our boxes are stacked at random, I have no idea where anything is, and we're sleeping on a mattress on the floor. The water pump doesn't get hooked up till morning, but I don't care. We didn't want to wait one more day. We're here, we're home. Finally. We're safe and warm. And right now in this very moment, that's all that matters.

I'm excited for tomorrow. To begin setting up our space. I'm excited to nest, to spend the rest of winter designing gardens for the spring. I'm stoked to grow, to wander and explore.  I can't wait to walk down my road with my telephoto in hand to shoot epic photos of the eagles that hunt along the river. I'm too occupied dreaming of possibilities to turn my brain off long enough to get some rest. I'll settle in eventually, and this place will become the new 'normal'.. but for now I'm just gonna soak it all in, and enjoy the fresh start. And the view.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Lost and found

Yeah, I'm aware it's just a shirt. And yes, perhaps I put too much value in some of my material possessions, considering I'm not a very materialistic individual. A lot of what I own would be considered worthless junk to most, but to me it's all about the memories.

But that shirt though.. not only was it the memories, it was also just the most perfect shirt for outdoor adventure on cold days, for working outside in the fall and winter, and for days I want to laze around in my track pants and be comfortable. It's a lightweight, warm and comfy long sleeve black thermal shirt that just happens to fit me perfectly. Over tees, under hoodies, it's the perfect intermediate layer. It doesn't hold dirt or smells, so I can get away with wearing it most of the week without washing.

I stole it off a friend by accident when I was visiting Nova Scotia. I was couch surfing and had all my gear scattered about, and being a plain black shirt, it blended right in with the rest of my wardrobe. After denying for a couple weeks that I had unknowingly taken it, I found it in my laundry when I finally unpacked. Not knowing when I'd see my friend again or the east coast, it became a part of my daily ensemble. Sorry man, I took your shirt after all.

Every fishing trip, road trip, camping trip and hike, I've had that shirt with me ever since. I'd worn it on our Christmas morning fishing trip, and when I went to put it on for work the next day, I couldn't find it. I searched everywhere. Over the next few days I'd pretty well ripped apart the house and the van in search of this shirt. More than a week later I had given up, and my fella's aunt overheard us discussing my frustration about losing things. She asked what I lost and as I described the shirt she says uhhh oh...

Oh no. I had a feeling that was coming. I thought she was gonna say she'd donated it to the goodwill.. I've had that happen with my things before. Nope, it wasn't accidently donated. It ended up in a small heap of sweaters and jackets that family members had left at the house over the holiday weekend. Auntie had assumed it belonged to one of her daughters, and passed it off when she returned a jacket.

She said she'd go pick it up for me. She phoned to ask if it was there, but it just happened to be laundry day. Her daughter drops off her laundry at her boyfriend's mother's house as they don't have machines, so I'd have to wait until their laundry returns to find out of it's even there. After a couple weeks I had to let it go. The shirt was gone.

I'd gone to a few different thrift stores in search of something similar, but I could never find anything that fit quite the same. Too big or too small, or the sleeves are too tight.. where did this shirt even come from in the first place? I have no idea.

I was packing my clothes in preparation for the upcoming move, and auntie comes home with my shirt in hand. Yup, that's the one! I couldn't believe it. I swear I had dreams about searching for this shirt. Now that I have it back, I feel complete. My work shirt! Yes! Thank you universe! Haha. So I wrote this entire blog post about a silly shirt, that's right. Now that I'm moving out to the boons, I finally have it back. I had to resist the urge to jump for joy about it. Out in the cold valley, it'll keep me safe and warm. I'm happy to have it back. That is all.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Reflect-ions... and moving forward.

The papers are signed, and about a week from now the keys will be in my hand. Though I've been doing everything I can to prepare for this coming move, it's all so suddenly hit me. Not just what's coming, but the entire journey up to this point.. starting on the coast having no idea what I'd do or where I'd end up. Taking life one day at a time has taken me on some incredible journeys, unlike anything I could have planned for if I tried. And I like it.

I'm so glad I kept this blog. Moments are fleeting, and having something to look back on revives the feelings from those moments so that I can better appreciate the triumphs and struggles along the way. It hasn't always been easy.. in fact it probably hasn't ever been easy, but well worth every second, every step. I wouldn't take any of it back. It's hard to believe at times, like it's all been one long-ass crazy dream that I have yet to wake up from.

A house. A home. For real this time. Not just a room in a place, or a couch or a mat on someone's living room floor, not an apartment or a basement suite, not a tent or a truck bed or the back of a van. A real, tiny little house. On farm land, in the mountains, down by the river. Not that I never appreciated any of those other forms of shelter.. this is just.. different. It's still hard to fathom, to imagine my impending reality. I've waited what seems like forever for a chance like this. Even if only for a little while, I will enjoy it thoroughly.

It's pretty well off the grid. We're lucky to have electricity, the only service run out that far. The water is from a well, and there's no sewer. We will have no cable TV, no curbside pickup, no fast food on the corner. I'm stoked and kind of nervous all at once. It's a commitment, to keep a steady income in our unpredictable situation, to keep a reliable vehicle on the road, to one another. We'll be essentially stuck out there together, alone.

I can't wait.

This week I know will fly by fast. We're doing all that we can to prepare, but the biggest thing right now is collecting pay for all the work we've been doing. Contract work only pays when the work is done, and when you're waiting on other contractors to finish their part so you can finish yours, it gets a little nerve racking. It's hard to 'save up' for anything in a place where the cost of living is barely achievable, hence the decision to move somewhere cheaper. We have to get there first.

Next step will be finding a bed, and stocking the cupboards as best we can. Baking goods, rice, canned vegetables and soups will be our first trip, to augment fresh foods we collect along the way. It will be like going back in time almost a century, which in my opinion, is exactly where we belong. Our fishing rods will always be readied for a catch, and acquiring hunting licenses is on the list of to-dos.

The most exciting part for me will be building garden beds. The land owner agreed that I can do as I wish in those regards, as long as what I use is all organic. No problems there! Once the trust is established, I get a key to the gate to watch over the fields. I'll have access to the back end of the farm, to keep an eye on the irrigation and collect some of those sweet blueberries if I please. If this is just a dream, don't bother waking me...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Talk to Strangers. [part2]

I wouldn't say I'm an incredibly social individual, neither is J. We're not the type you'd find in a club or at a house party. Even on the river, not everyone who fishes is our 'type' of people, we mostly keep to ourselves, but we do make sure to always say hello. Because, really.. you never know.

We were having a fire down by the river, and an older couple walked by us on the path. 'Care to join us?' J asked.. the couple kept walking. 'It's nice and warm over here..' They stopped and looked around. 'Oh sorry, didn't realize you were talking to us. No one ever says hello these days.' So true. Most people in our generation would continue past, no hello, even do their best to avoid eye contact. They joined us by the pit for a little while and we had a decent conversation about the area, people, and the world these days.

Campfires are a great place to bring people together. Every time we have one, we invite someone over, or help others nearby get theirs going, offer kindling or starter or leftover wood, and every time we get the same reaction. People are generally stunned to have someone make such a gesture. Is this really what society is coming to? Have we become so cold that kindness is completely unexpected? You never know when something so simple as saying hello, or offering a family the rest of your firewood when you leave your spot could totally make someone's day.

Anyways, all I'm saying is, don't be afraid to talk to strangers. You might find that they're not so strange.


Thursday, January 5, 2017



Apparently, this is the coldest winter the west coast has seen in 24 years. Just my luck I suppose. Last winter it snowed once for a few hours, went down to minus five for a couple weeks, then continued on with the regular program of several months of rain. This winter has been... well, winter. Temperatures dropped below freezing a couple weeks into December, and we've had more snow here than back home. There's still a good foot of snow on the ground, and it likely won't be going anywhere any time soon.

Minus fifteen at night has been the average temperature this week, with highs of minus three if we're lucky. I honestly could not imagine living this winter as I did the last, in the back of a pickup truck. I'm eternally grateful that both myself and my truck mate managed to find warm places to be before the snow hit. I feel for the homeless this year, as most tend to flock to the west in colder months to evade this sort of weather. It's just too bloody cold to sleep outside.

Work is another story. I was lucky enough to find a 6 week indoor contract doing small reno projects for hardware stores. It sure was nice to be working in heated buildings with running water and such. The past couple weeks has been sheet metal work. Still under the cover of a roof thankfully, but given the fact that we're installing the heating system, it's obviously not very warm. Keeping all fingers and toes from freezing is the struggle for my partner and I. Metal pipe isn't exactly easy to work with in the cold. Some days it's warmer outside than it is in the houses we're finishing.

Speaking of houses- I'm really hoping we get this tiny home. We've been having some issues with the homeowner, and I've lost a little faith, but staying positive. If so, we get the keys in a little over a week, at which point we will have to figure out the whole keeping warm thing real quick. There's no gas, only electric. First thing we'd have to acquire is a bed to keep us up off the ground, and lots of blankets. Lots. If the deal falls through we're back to square one, at least we have the option to stay where we're at until the end of March.


As I write I'm attempting to warm myself in front of a little 500 watt work light. My toes are numb, and my fingers are getting there. I picked the best time of year to learn this trade... if I can learn to rock it in the colder months, come spring time I might actually be good at it, and enjoy myself too.

Anyways, I'm doing my best to keep up with my writing, and I'm practicing doing so on my phone. If I move out to the boons, my celly will be my only Internet access. The occasional signal will be my only connection to the world, and I hope to make it a good one.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

movin' to the country... maybe?

Well, we put a deposit on a tiny home out in the country, down by the river we love to fish. Literally, waterfront property for cheaper than it is to rent a room in downtown Vancouver. It's a decent drive to get out to, but given the general lack of population out in that direction, it actually takes less time to drive to Van than it does from where we are right now. If all goes accordingly, we get the keys in 2 weeks. If not, we have a very tangible representation of what exactly we're looking for in a home, and the sacrifices we're willing to make to have it.

We pulled up to a little white farmhouse on a dead end gravel road out in the country. The sun was setting, the sky was pastel purple and cotton candy pink against the mountains powdered white. Snow geese had congregated on the partially frozen river across the street. There were various bird watchers and photographers pulled off the side of the road to observe them, and the abundance of eagles scouring the river for a meal.

The wind whipped through the valley, blistering cold. As the sun sank back behind the mountains, our smiles grew. This could be our home sweet view. Just imagine what this place would be like in the summer we thought... a dream come true.

How did I even find such a place? By pure chance. I was daydreaming about tiny homes when the apartment hunting topic came up. Neither of us really wanted an apartment. We thought about basement suites to not be in a building, I was even searching for low priced modular homes and if I could swing a down payment. For curiosity sake, I refined my search to farm houses in the valley, and there it was, the only one that was even remotely close enough for us to keep our jobs, yet far enough away to get 'out there'. And cheap. Real cheap.

The posting had been active for 20 days and had a few hundred hits, I thought there's no way it's still available. But I called. The owner answered and rushed me off the phone without mention of it's availability,  and told me to call back later.

I had no expectations after that. When the phone rang I was surprised to say the least. He had a story about the last tenant breaking his trust and that he was being very picky this time around. He had several calls about the house, but didn't like the feeling he had from any of them.

We met yesterday so that I can apply for the place. I'm not sure yet if we will be approved, and I don't want to get too ecstatic until the keys are in hand. But if this house becomes our home, both our lives will be changed.

Thankfully, for this, the coldest winter the west coast has seen in 24 years,  we have been housed in my partner's family trailer. Fully equipped with a decent kitchen, a huge hot water tank, cable TV and the Internet, and a five minute drive to anything we could possibly need. Right in the heart of the city. Shared space with his elders, who often cook us hot meals upon return from a long day of work.

As soon as we get out there, we're on our own. We will have our own kitchen which is a plus, but as of this moment, we have nothing to make use of it. We're starting from scratch. We don't have a stick of furniture to our names, not even a bed.

We will have no huge hot water tank, no internet or cable. Anything we need will require a trip to town. Our cupboards will need to be fully stocked, even our drinking water will need to be supplied from an outside source. It's a good thing we like camping, because besides the roof over our heads, this move will be like camping out full time.

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here. I don't even know if it's ours yet. But it's nice to dream. Of a simple life at the end of the road where city lights don't spoil the night sky. Where the mountains are our backdrop and the river is our neighbour. Where wildlife is a more common sight than other humans. It'd be nice.