Sunday, February 12, 2017

The valley under ice.

Just days after the valley was slammed with an epic snowstorm, the temperature rose as the next system rolled in. Snow turned to rain, but the windchill froze everything on contact. We woke up blanketed in a sheet of ice. We made an attempt to get out of the driveway, only making it to the next property over before having to turn around. With all the ice, snow and slush on the road, gaining traction was impossible.

Shortly after noon, as we'd suspected might happen, the power went out. Our area was one of two hundred other outages across BC leaving tens of thousands of people in the dark. Thankfully I'd just finished my baking for the day, so I had some fresh made snacks to load up in my pack.


With not much else to do, I decided to go for a walk. The rain had subsided for long enough that I could bring my camera out and capture some of the epic scenes left behind by the storm. And meet some of our neighbours in the process.

A couple houses down, one of our neighbours with the farm tractor (the one that dug us out before) was clearing the driveway for the old man at the wood shop. I had a chance to say hello. The old fella struck up a conversation and noticed my camera, and invited me onto his property to get some shots.

He commented on the sheet of ice that coated the barn reflecting the daylight, and insisted I take a shot. He has dozens of bird houses that were strung with icicles all over the yard. Old machinery equipment and a canoe hanging outside his shop looked as though they had been frozen for decades.


As he pulled the door to the wood shop open I felt a pulse of warm air hit me. He had the wood burning stove pumping and it felt nice to be warm. He showed me around, and he had a few customer orders sitting up on tables ready to be stained. There's a local native woman that paints beautiful scenery, wildlife and folk art on panels of wood which he then inlays in his hand made hope chests. Their work is sold to locals in the valley.

After telling me a few stories and showing me every piece of work in the shop and all the types of cedar he uses, he showed me out of the shop. He said if I ever had nothing to do again, I was welcome back any time. I told him I'd be back some day with prints for him.


As I carried on down the road I was joined by an old black lab that lived on the horse farm. She led me down the gravel path looking back every so often as if to make sure I was safe. I stopped a few times to hear the trees splitting under the weight of the ice, sounding off like thunder as the branches and tree tops crashed to the ground. Ice bombs began to fall off the wires above. I'd have to tread carefully for the next mile where several giant trees lined the road along the river.


I made it to the middle of a long stretch of trees when I suddenly heard the cracking right above me. I tucked my camera into my jacket quickly and ran for it. Smash! I looked back to see a huge branch shattered to bits on the road right where I was standing. I thought to myself, now I've done a lot of crazy things to get a good shot, but this might just be up there amongst the most dangerous. My heart was pounding, and I kept on going.


Finally I crossed the bridge over the creek where the old man with the scrap yard was shoveling his driveway. I wasn't expecting him to say hello when I waved, but much to my surprise, we ended up chatting for an hour. I've passed him a few times driving by and I always wave, and he never seems very eager to interact, so I was pretty stoked about our conversation.

After our long talk and the show around the yard of his massive inventory of trucks and parts, I was on my way again. I'd just made it to the end of my road when the plow turned down. I jumped out of the way with an enthusiastic wave, we'd finally be dug out of the mess! Moments after I'd sent a text home warning of the incoming plow, I got one back saying the power had been restored. I took a few more shots and turned back.


Just in time too, when I was about a hundred meters from the house the wind picked up again knocking down all the ice. More rain blew in, and in less than an hour there was no evidence that our world had been coated in ice. I was thankful that I'd made it out for my walk when I did, had I not gone I'd have missed out on a photo opportunity of a lifetime. We don't often get weather like this here, and the conversations I had along the way made it an amazing journey.


Today the sun is out, and the air smells like spring is on the way. I'm so thankful that our roads will be safe again and all the snow is melting, as beautiful as it was. The adventure continues...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Snowpocalypse 2017

Being stranded anywhere is one of my greatest fears. After a day and a half of nonstop snow, not seeing a single other vehicle drive down our road had me a little nervous. I know it's only a matter of time before it all melts, but we hadn't made it to town yet this week for our run, and our stocks of fresh foods are rather low. We have enough dry goods to last us a few weeks if need be, maybe even 6 weeks if we ration. I know we wouldn't be stuck that long, but I like to be prepared.


It's amazing how something so beautiful and pristine can become treacherous so quickly. How millions of teeny tiny little ice crystals can accumulate into several foot high snow drifts in the matter of hours. It's a lovely sight, and also a little nerve racking knowing we'd have to drive in it eventually. It's been a couple years since I've seen so much snow, and much longer since the BC coast has had a real winter. Not many people in the coastal area know how to handle their vehicles in conditions such as this. Being the first year I've had to drive in winter, I'm handling it quite well.

 
Just when I was beginning to have that sinking feeling that we'd be stuck for a while, one of our farmer neighbours pulled up with his tractor to dig us out. Country life is so much different than being in the city, I'm still often taken aback by the kindness of folks out here. Everyone helps everyone especially when the weather gets crazy. After two whole days of not seeing other humans, I literally jumped for joy to see the tractor digging out our van.

...

48 hours later, the snow finally stopped. We braved the roads to go check in on our job site, as we'd missed out on a couple days' work. Given how far out we live, and the distance we'd need to travel, we didn't leave the house unprepared. The van tote was re-stocked with water and canned goods, an extra canister of camp stove fuel, and a big lunch for the road. We fueled up at our nearest petrol station, putting a little more weight on the wheels. It might sound a little overboard, but if we were to get stuck out here it could be several hours before we'd be able to get a tow. If we ended up far enough off the road [and survived], it could be another day before anyone would find us. Better safe than sorry.

 
After an hour it started to come down again. We left immediately knowing full well it doesn't take long at this temperature for the snow to start sticking to the road, turning it into a slushy slick mess very quickly. Just as we were preparing to leave the job site, a local resident got himself stuck in a snowbank turning onto the road. Lucky for him we were the only people out there, and just long enough to help push him out. We stopped on the way home to grab a steel shovel to keep in the van, no time to shop for any groceries this time. With another foot of snow on the way, we wanted to make it home safely before the roads are buried.

...

I'm happy to be back home. Though the extra long weekend was unintentional, it's nice to finally have some down-time. There's not much else to do besides writing, experimenting in the kitchen, and of course a little Netflix and chill. That's when we're not busy looking out the window... nature never ceases to amaze us. We're so blessed to have the views that we do, not only of the mountains and the sky, but the seemingly hundreds of species of birds that inhabit the valley and river. Owls, geese, heron, dozens of species of duck, hawks and eagles, there's never a dull moment right outside our front door. We watched a few otters chasing each other through holes in the ice yesterday, not a care in the world about the storm.


The winds are picking up again, and the homemade chicken soup on the stove smells fantastic. It's about time I put away the computer and enjoy. Happy Soup-er Bowl Sunday everyone! Stay warm.


x

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Country life.

It's one thing to finally have a chance at a normal life, but it's another thing altogether to be able to build a life out in the mountains. When I first moved west, I'd landed in Vancouver. It was a little overwhelming at first to be in such a big city, but for the first year of my life out here, it was practically all I knew of BC. Driving opened up a world of opportunities for me. This is what I came here for.


Something that I missed the most about my hometown back east was the epic farmer's market. All the goods from local farmers available in one place a couple times a week. Now things are in reverse.. if I want farm fresh goodness, I just travel along my road until I find what I need. Everything else requires a trip to town.

Sunday has become town day. As it most likely is for a lot of the country folk. The few people that we've met so far out in our little community we've run into while going for the weekly grocery run. Of course we forgot to grab freezer bags on our last trip. One of those things you should always pick up if you need them or not! Forgetting things means going without, and the weekly budget must be tightly maintained.


Our cupboards are stocked with dry and canned goods, and the freezer is loaded to capacity with meats divided into portions for the carnivore, and frozen fruits for me. The trading post at the end of our road carries farm fresh eggs from a local farmer, and honey produced in fields we can see from our house. Now all we need is a little time to get down to the river to fish and our gardens, and we're set!

We finally had a clear night during the new moon. I was blown away by the amount of stars we could see from our front porch. It was so beautiful it gave me chills. I mean that could have been from the winter winds but, you know... it was amazing to see. I can't wait for summer nights to lay back in the reclining lawn chair and watch the sky.

Life out in the country flows at a much slower pace than the big city. People aren't so much in a hurry. Instead of cutting you off or rushing past you, people will slow down, hold the door and say hello. It's kinda nice to be more than just another face in an endless sea of people. There's more wildlife here in a twenty mile radius than there is humans, and those human connections aren't so much taken for granted.

Thankfully we will be around long enough to enjoy it for a little while. We were able to make the rent at literally the last minute. We knew coming out here at this time of year that money would be tight and we were taking a risk. A risk we believe was more than worth taking for the opportunity to enjoy the country life.

x

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.


x

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.



x




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.

xo

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.


Cheers!