Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's day.

The first one without her was the hardest. Being that it was the Friday of mother's day weekend that she'd lost her grip on this plane of existence, the emotions that ran through me at that time were almost unbearable. Mother's day, however, was never really an easy one.

My mom suffered from depression for many years. And of course, she missed her mom. My brother and I would always do our best to make her smile on her special day, but sometimes she just wasn't having it. It was one of the two times a year we could anticipate a phone call from the police or the hospital (or having to call one of the two).

This is the fourth one since she's been gone. It has gotten easier as I've become more comfortable with the idea that she's still around in some way, and no longer suffering. So it's okay to be grateful for her bringing me into this world, without feeling guilty that I'm in it without her.


We went down to the river where I set some of her ashes adrift. The weather was beautiful, and the trail was quiet. We hiked as far as we could without our waders and just enjoyed the views.

The drive back home was short and sweet, an eagle followed us back to the highway from the creek. As soon as we arrived home, we kicked off our shoes and stepped into the garden.

...

Here I am, in the mountains, with an epic food garden outside my tiny farm house. Sandy Shores Farm.. in dedication. I'm learning a trade, driving a van, and living the slow life out on the country. My brother has a decent job, a car of his own, and we're both blessed to have partners in crime to share our lives with. This is all she ever wanted for us, to have a good life and enjoy. I know she's smiling with us.


xo

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The adventures of staying put.

If you know me, you know I have a hard time with the idea of staying anywhere too long. I get itchy feet, the travel bug bites me pretty frequently. Or at least it did.. I'm not sure if I'm just getting old or I've finally grown out of it. Not completely, I still like adventuring, as long as I have my home base to which I can return.


I've had some tempting offers for travel come my way the past few weeks, which I somewhat hesitantly declined. Usually if someone says to me, hey let's drive across the country or, grab a flight my way I have a place for you to crash while we go explore for the next month... I'd be all over it like white on rice. Not this time.

Staying put is an adventure for me. Putting down roots and having a place of my own is a kind of unknown. I've moved more times than the number of years I've been alive. Most of my twenties were spent toting a rucksack someplace or other. Renting rooms, basements or storage lockers to keep my belongings in place while I wander.

...


There's excitement in having a space to grow a huge garden. Every day something is happening out there, sprouting, growing, changing. Being able to produce my own food and have extra to share sounds like a pretty good time to me. Having something to look after and put energy into that has a bountiful return. It's fun, satisfying and relaxing to spend time wandering the rows and maintaining the plots.


Our space changes every day. Structures are built as they're needed, then disassembled and re-purposed as our needs fluctuate. Today the bird scares were taken down and their posts became our fence. Our poly tarps became our greenhouse, our rocks to hold the tarps in place became a border for the zucchini patch.

...


I appreciate simple luxuries such as having a kitchen to cook and create in. I don't mind having to clean it knowing it's my very own space. I get to use it whenever I want. That's a pretty rad thing coming from a long history of rooming houses, hostels, crashing couches, shared spaces or no place at all. Maintaining my home and living space is a pleasure I don't take for granted.

I feel so lucky and so blessed to have found a place in a small town in the valley. The commute to work can be a little far at times, but at least it's a nice drive with a sweet view and not being caught in gridlock city traffic. The sky is always changing, the clouds put on a show. We see columns of rain, patches of snow, and often enough a beautiful rainbow.


We went to town to buy a line trimmer on the weekend. And I was thrilled! It was my birthday gift. I couldn't wait to take it home and make my yard look good. I'm stoked for the season to change so I can see what this place looks like when the trees have leaves and it's sunny all day.


Oh yeah, and I'm learning a trade which in itself is another huge adventure. I'm getting better every day. If I learn the ins and outs, I could be traveling in the future to follow the work. I think we're in a pretty decent place to be close to developments for a good few years to come while still being able to enjoy life outside of it all.

Life is good. And still an engaging challenge to navigate through day to day life. Staying put isn't necessarily an 'easier' way of life than being transient, it's just different. Maintaining a routine, a house, a garden, a schedule.. it's satisfying. Learning more about our little town and the people in it is intriguing. I'm excited for the upcoming farmer's market season. For summer, and autumn, and everything coming full circle.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

4/20

I never thought today would be so hard. 14 years ago today was my first day in the field rocking my film SLR capturing the 420 scenes, celebrations and marches for freedom with the crew. Matt if you're reading this, thank you times a million for bringing me along. It's also my 14 year friendiversary with everyone's good homie Clay, and his amazing family. Today is the first year since that I haven't talked to him on this day. I miss him. We all do.


Three years ago was the first Toronto march since that I did not attend. It also happened to be Easter Sunday that day, and my mama didn't want to be alone. She invited me over for Chinese food Easter/birthday dinner. It was the first time in years I'd seen her smile (with teeth!), and the last time I ever hugged her goodbye. If only I had known it'd be the last time I'd see her face to face.

...

Yet as I stand here in this garden, they are with me. My mother lives on in the sunlight that shines bright through the rain. Our brother is heard in the excitement in our voices as we rejoice the emergence of new life. I believe it to be true that we live on in the hearts and minds of those who love us.


Today I am thankful for these memories. Today I am grateful to have my bare feet in the soil, watching my garden grow. For my life and everyone who has been a part of it, I am blessed. 


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Talk of the [tiny] town.

I suppose it's hard not to be noticed when you're the new kids in a small town, especially when the overall population is less than 150 people. People tend to be more neighborly, everyone waves as they pass on the road. Our epic transformation of the land we live on has drawn a lot of attention.


Though we live on a dead end road, there are several people that travel along it each day to watch the birds, or pick up hay and firewood from the farms at the end of the lane. Since we started digging, passers by have been slowing down to see what we are up to. We are now known as 'the gardeners'.

Last week a local cyclist, a retired officer, stopped by to chat while we were working the composted manure into our main veggie beds. He asked us how we like living out here, and commented on how we were blessed to have a 'million dollar view'. We talked about gardening and fishing, and how the small town vibes are much more inviting than living in the city. He was happy to see us out there working the land, and said he'd stop by later in the season to see how we're doing.


...

Ten days later, our beds are already sprouting. The landlord noticed our methods (and that they're working) and asked us to help poly a 'small' test patch on his huge farm. He was so impressed by what we could do with our little plot that he had his whole family stop by to take a look.


Even the people at the trading post have taken interest in our gardens, and we've lined up future trades. Our gardens will produce more fresh veggies than we can handle and preserve, so the overstock will be traded for farm eggs and honey. That means come late spring or early summer, ninety percent of our food intake will be from ten feet to a mile away from our home. If that's not eating local, I don't know what is!


Hopefully we will have some fish to add to the freezer too, fresh from the river. Fellow anglers in the area know our vehichle, and stop by to chat when we drive out to our spots. Though we've only been here a few months, this little town has become our home. And I love it!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bring it Spring


It's been a long, cold and eventful winter, and I'm glad to finally see it's end. At the start of the season I had no idea where I'd be by the end of it, or that we'd get so much snow. Lesson learned, trust the almanac.

Moving out to the valley in the middle of winter was a huge risk for us, but I'm glad we made the move. Though it's not officially spring until tomorrow, we've been busy the past few weeks prepping our garden beds between the last couple winter storms.


The gardens are finally ready for planting. It took a lot of time and hard work to turn our compacted sandy, somewhat grassy yard into a rich, prime place to grow some food. Now that the topsoil and composted manure is turned in,  the grass is weeded out, and the beds are raked into rows, we can begin to sprout our seeds.

A lot of what we have will be started indoors over the next couple weeks, and after last frost the rest can be sown directly into the soil. We have 21 rows total between the two beds to work with, and a few dozen types of seed.

Our landlord was worried at first that we wouldn't have the time to maintain such a large growing space given how much we work, but so far even with shorter daylight hours we've managed to make it happen. It kinda helps that the van has been out of commission for drives to the city the past couple weeks, so I've had to skip out on the landscaping. Spending almost ten less hours a week stuck in traffic has given me more time to focus on other things.

My apprenticeship for instance. When I first started working with metal I wasn't as confident that I'd ever be good enough at it to make a living. But since I haven't been able to go to the city to focus on the landscaping, I've been working full time improving my metal working skills. It's another one of those things I'd never seen myself getting into but I'm glad I did.


Being contractors means setting our own hours, and since my productivity is improving we don't have to spend so many hours at work. We can indulge in occasional journeys down to the river to get our lines wet before work, finish a house, and still have enough daylight hours and energy to go home and play in the dirt.

Our lifestyle out here supports both my longing for a stable home base, and my sense of adventure. For once I'm finally able to get the best of both worlds. I have a place to call home in beautiful surroundings where I can garden and be comfortable, and I'm closer than ever to the wilds. It's taken a while for the reality to set in. Just a few months ago we had no real plan besides making it thorough the winter. And here we are, on the cusp of spring, ready to plant.. putting down roots in the valley. Thank the gods for our home sweet home.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Breaking ground.

It's been a long time since I've had a chance to reestablish Sandy Shores Farm, and I'm stoked for our new location. It's kind of ironic that I'd named the garden long before I even knew I would end up moving to the west. And here I am, on a farm on the river's shore, and our soil here is very, very sandy. Now that we have the first bed turned, we can think about how we will amend the soil.


After the snow melts again that is. It was nice and warm all week, and now we're amidst another big snowfall. We worked a couple hours a day all week to get a good start at establishing the first bed, which is now blanketed in a layer of the white stuff.


Collecting garden tools has been a slow go. All I have so far is the tools I have for work, a shovel and a hard rake. It's amazing what you can accomplish with so little and a lot of motivation. We used a pallet propped on an angle to screen the soil. As we tossed each shovel full of soil at the pallet, the clumps would roll down the slats knocking most of the soil from the grass roots. We could then easily remove the clumps of grass, shake them out and toss them to the side.


It was a long, somewhat tedious process, but every meter of ground we broke into was satisfying. After a few days we could visualize how we would lay out the first bed with our rows. I used my felco snips and a small hand saw to hack back some of the blackberry bramble from the far side of the bed to create a path. We spent the last few moments of daylight each day sitting in our chairs out by the garden to be, watching the sky change colours as the sun sank behind the mountains. What a feeling.


...


I've been trying to finish this post all week. The snow has since melted and we're at it again, building a box for our compost. There's another snowfall warning in the forecast, so we're trying to get done what we can before winter comes back around for it's final blow.


We've been out here for six weeks already. We moved out here when winter was full swing with big dreams for spring. Bit by bit the dreams are becoming our reality. The clocks turn ahead in a little over a week here, which means an extra hour of daylight after work for us to play in the yard.


The weather changes by the moment. When we came outside a couple hours ago it was sunny and warm. The temperature dropped right down and snow is falling up on the hill.


...



We had a thaw and a bit of sun yesterday in between snowfalls, so we grabbed some chicken wire when we went to town. Our landlord saw us out in the yard working, and said the yard looked really nice so far, and gave us the go ahead to start a second bed. We had a bit of an issue there when he said we could do whatever we wanted and then came back around and said we could only dig 8 feet of the far part of the yard. I'm glad he changed his mind.


Since we used our pallet screen to build the compost box, we had to use scraps of wood and the chicken wire to build a new one. We started turning the second bed using the new screen, and though it's taking a little longer, the soil is a lot cleaner. The next step is getting a dump load of compost. Once the snow melts. Again.


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!

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.


x

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.


x

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Frozen.

Brr.

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.

Brr...

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.