We had an early snowfall this year that we thought would melt but didn’t; Old Man Winter came early this year and didn’t leave. However, between Christmas and New Year’s we did see some unusually warmer temps with the thermometer rising above 0C! And that trend continued though I was no longer there to experience it as I had left for the Fraser Valley to House/Pet sit for our youngest son and daughter-in-law. Luke said that the temps were lurking around 4C! Which almost seems warm to me; in the Fraser Valley it was 1C when I arrived but, oh, so cold! Fraser Valley cold gets into your bones and causes you to seize up! As I write this entry I am four days away from my departure to return home and let me tell you, I am looking forward to the warmth of the woodstove in the Earthship!
Anyway, Winter came early and buried us under a heavy blanket of snow turning our place into a Winter Wonderland! Thankfully we had managed to clear a trail from the D down to Moose Hollow just before the snow flew; it made for a poetic walk in the snow. We are working hard towards creating as many “loop walks’ as we can as neither one of us is a fan of the “there and back again’ walks. Getting the trail to Moose Hollow cleared after the big winds last year was high on our priority list. And then with Bear and his recuperating leg it was even more important that we get the trail cleared as there is no way he would have been able to negotiate that path. I think next Spring/Summer our main goal will be to create a new trail back up from the Boathouse – our longest “there and back again” trail.
The new return Boathouse trail may also help us discover who uses the scrub there as a trail across the property. There is that one spot on the Boathouse Trail that absolutely freaks the dogs out; we have often found tracks crossing the trail there. Feline tracks. And wolf tracks. And hoof prints. Bear tracks. We’ve got ’em all it seems; it’s a veritable animal highway! And of course it is completely surround by saplings ranging from 1 foot to 5+ feet! I was telling some folks the other day that other people probably use a grader and just plough through them but I go out there and individually cut each one down, hauling them to a burn pile to deal with when conditions allow. It’s great exercise! I definitely get my Steps in! I would really appreciate an operational bathtub to soak my aching back though. When I was just a youngster my dad worked in the bush; was he a faller? I dunno about that? I only remember him as a boom man. Only! Have you seen what those guys can do?! In my teen years I had a boy friend, the first love of my life, who worked at a sawmill and he would come home smelling like sawdust, and trees and oil and now? Now it is my turn to spend time in the bush and to cut down trees and to breathe in the wonderful smells of the forest. It’s heaven on earth. Coincidentally, both my dad and that guy, they are bush men on the other side and have been for over 20 years. So it’s like I get to hang out with them and it’s good.
Whoops! I strayed off topic again? Imagine that! What more can I say? You see the photos of the Winter Wonderland and it is ever so much more beautiful than the photos can depict. It snows a lot and there is cloud cover sometimes but the sun does poke out, even on the greyest days reminding us that we are not forgotten; when the day breaks with sunny, blue skies? Oh, man! Now there is a sight to behold! Who knew the sky could be so blue against the backdrop of the snow covered land? Glorious. Absolutely glorious. We love to get out on the trails in the snow, and the sun and the dogs LOVE it! None of us are super keen on the windy or rainy days but we go out anyway. The strong winds make the dogs skittish so those are usually shorter walks and we have to keep to trails that aren’t surrounded by trees. We have watched fully grown trees just topple over, roots and all! And rainy days? Our dogs are …. marshmallows….and don’t actually like the rain. If it’s just a drizzle they can live with it but a steady hard rain? “Nah, thanks, Ma but we are happy here by the fire!”
Just a lil This and That at the Earthship.
We have had a lot of lil successes and a lot of, um, learning experiences.
I think it is safe to say that the best part about being at the Earthship is that we, Luke and I, are able to spend in inordinate amount of time together. We are married 18 years this September; hard to believe that much time has past since Luke first arrived in Canada.
It was busy times when he arrived with just to much going on! It seemed like there was very little time for just the two of us and we looked forward to the day that we could spend more time together.
Luke and I, we are not the type of folks that forever want more, want something new, want more material things; we are more about making the best use of the time we have together to do things together even if that means just sitting and being, being content with what we have. I do have to admit that it is very cozy to, sit and be, when you are sitting in front of a crackling fire in the wood stove. To watch the dawn turn to day; watch the sun creep over the hill; hear the surrounding forest wake up and set about making plans for the day. It’s absolutely lovely!
Life’s sustenance occupies most of my time and I love it! Creating all sorts of culinary delights in my off the grid kitchen. One of our favourite’s is Coffee; no day starts without a cup of coffee. I get up heaps earlier than Luke but I put off brewing coffee until it is almost time for him to wake up so that we can both enjoy fresh, hot coffee.
Our Pantry and Cold Room, when it is in operation, are as full as they can be, given where we live. I would say the pantry is more dependable than the small propane fridge or cold room. We have run out of fresh produce twice since we have been out in the bush but I have managed to create meals from our vast supplies in the pantry. It really is my goal to coax the Greenhouse and gardens into providing us with greens that we can have at our fingertips all year long! So far I have only really had great success with herbs, but that is a start!
We always have grains on hand and well, there is always Bread and Butter, right? Or Peanut Butter. Or Vegemite even though we have to pay an arm and a leg for it here in Canada. But the bread? It is always home made. Sometimes I make Sourdough Loaves, sometimes I make sourdough Cobbs; I think I prefer the Loaves because it is easier to use to make toast and sandwiches. During my January 2018 trip to the Fraser Valley Luke ran out of bread and we no longer have a bread machine to help him out! (Though there is now one in transit, not that that will help him at the moment) He had to learn how to get his hands dirty and make bread from scratch! Maybe I will hang up my bread making duties, hey? Nah! I would never do that! I LOVE making bread! Love it!
Other things we really enjoy at the Earthship are the Sunrises and the Sunsets; the sun gets up so late even Luke gets a chance to watch the Sunrise. We love the peace and solitude of Brittany Lake. We love being out on the land, puttering about, tidying up, cutting trails, cutting down saplings, falling trees for firewood, we LOVE walking with Bear and Samwise Gamgee and last but certainly not least, we LOVE watching all the wild life! What a treat! I always say a lil prayer for the creatures that meander through our place, wishing them a safe journey and welcoming them back to our lil oasis; being Vegetarian they are sure to be safe at our place.
We whine and complain about the snow but we actually really love the Winter. Everything is so lovely, covered by a pristine blanket of white snow; and it seems that the sky is a totally different hue of blue in the Winter – exceptionally beautiful and blue. We love that the roads are … easier… to traverse. The amount of snow sometimes give us a few worries but we still prefer to drive in the white stuff over the muck of Spring or the rocks and holes…chasms….of the Summer.
We love our animals. Maybe a lil too much. Bear and Sam bring us much joy and comfort along with a headache here and there; both boys have had us driving back and forth to the vet’s office in William’s Lake which is no small undertaking! We are happy to report that Sammy, with his chest all healed up, seems to be more responsive to our “Return” commands; hopefully that will keep him intact and wound free! Bear’s leg is healing nicely after his operation; it has been a long row to hoe! For an entire month Luke was Bear’s beck and call servant! Every time Bear needed to go out Luke would have to assist him with a sling; whilst geared up they would do tiny laps out in front of the solar panels – the only flat bit of area that Bear could get to. We are almost 3 months in now and Bear is walking very well but not great distances as of yet. He tries, but then he pays for it. We are just so thankful that he was able to have the operation to repair his cranial cruciate ligament; he does have arthritis in his back legs so we will have to keep him on Recovery, well, for the rest of his life. He gets massages and warm blankets to help keep him comfortable.
Oh, yea, we have a cat. Not sure if I have told you the story. When Luke and I returned from living in Australia in 2011 we rented a house in Chilliwack. The owner was moving to Thailand. I asked him what he was going to do with the three cats in his possession? He said he would try to re-home them but, shrug, animal shelter? I couldn’t bear to see the kitties going to an animal shelter but three? A bit much! We kept Billabong. Right, his name was Bubba but I just couldn’t…made me think of Bubba in Forrest Gump, and while I like the character in the movie, it just did not seem an appropriate name for our new kitty. Bill accepted us as his new humans, transitioned well to the house on Peach Road when we moved there, he survived the drive to Brittany Lake where he is slowly adapting to life in the bush. He was a good lil mouser when we first arrived by now? Jeez, I reckon he invites them in for Kitty Kibble! Silly kitty! He is getting on in years, I reckon; he must be about 8 or 9? Time for a younger kitty to come along and take over mousing duties and Bill can just chill in the kitchen or down by the woodstove.
Okay, I’ve included three photos of my feet! Weird, right? Here’s the thing of it. It is not always easy to cope with being so far away from family. I am eternally grateful that Kristina, our younger daughter, allows her boys to come and stay with us for weeks at a time! Those lil fellas bring so much love and laughter to the place! And they get to boys! Ryan has been up a few times, once bringing us much needed produce! Michael and Hayley reckon they may not ever make it out there…they are not too keen on our bathroom situation. Funny that; I used to be mildly annoyed by it but now it is second nature. Anita is busy, busy, busy and has not made it up yet; maybe this Summer they will make the trip, after our oldest grandson graduates from high school! Anyway, I get to missing them sometimes and get a lil blue so I haul out my red shoes and wear them around inside the Earthship. Those red shoes have helped me through a few rough spots!
The bath photo: well, we don’t have an operational bathtub out at the Earthship, and let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger so these old bones of mine appreciate a hot soak in a bath every now and again! I relish the baths I get to take when I have overnight trips to William’s Lake!!!
The red boots: Luke knows I love pretty footwear! I off-loaded so many boots and shoes for more serviceable footwear when we sold up down in the Fraser Valley. I think the red boots randomly showed up after Luke’s parents visit. They are adorable and I did wear them out on the trail once but I reckon they are um, city boots.
Thanks for dropping by today. Hope you enjoyed your visit!
We have been at the Earthship for fifteen months now. One of the stipulations that Luke granted was that I could visit the Fraser Valley four times a year. Last year I beat it outta there in January as soon as we got plowed out! There was SO much snow! Then when I got to the Fraser Valley they had so much snow that I got stuck here!
This January Michael and Hayley asked if I could House/Pet sit while they went on a tropical holiday. Now then, I don’t want to House/Pet sit and run so I made the decision to stay for a couple of extra weeks so I could have a visit with Michael and Hayley AND hold a Birthday Celebration dinner since we have so many Winter Babies in the family; eleven, that’s a lot, right?
So with the prospect of leaving Luke alone for four weeks I left him four loaves of Sourdough Bread. Guess that should have been eight loaves of bread because he has run out! The bread maker that was at the Earthship died last March so if he wants bread he is going to have to make it himself.
This is part of the challenge of living out in the middle of no where without a Save On Foods just down the road. When I am home I am totally in my element and can quite efficiently create meals out of the many ingredients in the pantry. And this is why I worry about leaving Luke home, alone, because I know he relies on me to keep him fed. I guess he will have to have a few cooking lessons before my annual trip to the Fraser Valley next year.
Bear with me as I walk Luke through how to make a loaf of bread. I should also mention that the bread came out a lil pale and sad looking but it was pretty decent. I reckon not having a cast iron lid on the pot made a difference and also the recipe called for nuts and cranberries but this has to be no fuss, no muss, no nonsense for Luke to make on his own.
And here is a link the recipe I used; Sally’s Baking Addiction has tons of great recipes! Go and check her out, for sure!
You will find the recipe here, Luke. Important to note that she uses instant yeast, we DO NOT! Make sure the yeast container you grab is the Traditional Yeast not the Bread Machine Yeast.
Use Hot tap water; check temp with the meat thermometer that is in that cup with all the lil spoons in it. If that one is not there, there might be one in the fridge, on the door.
She adds nuts and cranberries and you totally can if you like because they ARE there in the pantry but you can go ahead and leave them out if you like.
When you turn the oven on to 475F you are then going to put one of the red dutch ovens into the oven to heat as well. Handle the pot and lid with extreme care once they are hot because, mate, they are HOT!
When you take the baked bread out of the oven you are going to dump it out onto a cooling rack. Not sure if Sally does that or not but I do; flip it right side up once you have set the HOT pot onto one of the burners on the stove. Don’t put the HOT pot or lid anywhere else but the stovetop because it will burn whatever other surface you put it on.
Any Questions, Luke, shoot me a message and I will do what I can to help you out! Good luck!
Let there be fire!
To tidy things up
To keep us warm
To cook our food
I have included here just a few photos of some of the raging fires we have had. We usually do all our burning in the Winter when the ground is frozen or soaking wet.
We even refrained from burning off any of the abundance of burn piles in the Spring because it seemed that once the snow melted, it took no time at all for the ground to dry out! The winds, I guess? I just remember it went from soggy wet ground to dry, parched, cracked ground quicker than the ascent of a flock of frightened grouse! And after all the forest fires last Summer you can be sure that we will keep to Winter burns only! We certainly do not want to be the cause of a fire gone bad!
Let me assure you, we are not trying to create a suburban aesthetic lawn out here but we do want to be able to walk around with out tripping over random logs. One of the first areas we cleaned up was the “orchard” which is just down the embankment from the Earthship; it was riddled with logs laying about. I am certain the ground benefits from nursery logs but there were enough fallen logs to nourish the entire province of BC! Okay, maybe not that many but too many for us to easily navigate without worrying about tripping over a log. Bear in particular; if there is a hole to step in or a log to trip you up, Bear will find it! He is such a clutz!
Hah. We were so carefree about everything we did when we first arrived at the Earthship! We would fearlessly walk up to the Dunny at all hours, even in the pitch dark; and then we heard the wolves howling. And we saw their prints not too far from the Earthship. Then we saw a coyote, there, right in front of the Earthship, just meandering through the “orchard’!
As a result of our new cautionary approach we decided we needed to cut back the saplings at least a few hundred metres from the embankment so we could better SEE if there were predators about. So we got busy! In the cold, in the snow, in the rain; we…and by we I mean Me…cut down the saplings and started creating burn piles here, there and everywhere. Truthfully Luke did cull a lot of the saplings when he had a few spare minutes. I think his technique was far quicker than mine but mine was much tidier: Luke went out swinging the pick axe, or grubber, as he calls it and he would snap the frozen lil saplings off close to the ground; I painstakingly used hand secateurs, knelt before each sapling and cut through each one, at or below the snow-line, which gave me a wonderfully clean cut, with no ragged stump remaining to trip us up later.
When Benny was out over Spring Break last year I put him into service hauling stuff to the burn piles. If his stick collecting remained as keen as his fascination with Nerf guns I reckon the “orchard” would now be completely log/stick and sapling free! He DID like the bonfires. We burned off a few of them but many remain, having dried out in the wind and heat of the Summer; I am sure they will light up easily enough once some of the snow melts off the top of them.
While tidying up the logs and saplings we also cut down standing dead wood to use as firewood which is a whole other kind of fire. We quickly grew to love our wood fires in the wood stove. Some of the stuff laying on the ground is salvageable. A lot of it is not. The stuff that is good has to be bucked up and hauled to the woodpile and the stuff that is not has to be maneuvered to a burnpile, or become the base of a burnpile with more debris and saplings piled on top of it. I digress! I do that.
The indoor fires! Sorta, kinda fell into my lap to make the indoor fires. I guess it only makes sense since I am often up in the wee hours. Luke has it sorted, I’ll tell you! When we were on our 75km Honeymoon Hike through Manning Park he didn’t come out of the tent until the sun was up and the coffee was made. And now he wakes up to a warm home and coffee brewed and ready to be enjoyed.
It is Luke’s job to cut down trees, buck ’em up, and split the wood; sometimes I stack the split wood, sometimes Luke does. It IS my job to make kindling; that brings back memories! I used to be pretty good at splitting wood but failed at it miserably up here at Brittany Lake. I have NOT lost my touch creating kindling though. I love to cut kindling. I love the smell of freshly cut wood. I am still trying to work out the best place to carry out this task. I used to have a block by the outdoor fire-pit but then I moved a block into the Greenhouse which allows me to keep warm and dry when cutting kindling. The indoor location works wonderfully but I don’t want to take up valuable Greenhouse space with a chopping block when I could have something lovely, green and edible growing there. We shall see! Maybe when we build a proper woodshed I’ll just cut the kindling there! Spring/Summer project for this year!!! For sure!!!! It was on the books last Summer but we spent a month away when William’s Lake and surrounds were evacuated.
Ah, the Seasons! We arrived at the Earthship late October 2016 and watched as Winter descended upon us. We were awestruck, to say the least. And then came the Spring. And we watched Winter retreat. What we observed was that Winter arrived on the breath of a cold wind but was slow to depart, wanting to keep us in her icy cold grip for just another day…
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The Fall of 2016 had us feeling inadequately prepared for the advent of our first Chilcotin Winter but we were prepared to meet it head on and come what may!
We bought out the Mark’s in Chilliwack buying up all the warm, stay dry clothing we could think of; too bad we didn’t think about anything past the Winter. In my opinion, you need hip waders to see you through the melt! Okay, maybe not quite that bad but man! I have never experienced a melt quite like this. And the muck, oh all the muck! We probably would not have been so cognizant of all the muck but for 8 dog paws tracking all that muck into the Earthship! We eventually laid old sheets along all the tile because it was easier to do that than wash the floor 15 times a day! Okay, not 15 but definitely 8 times a day.
We discovered that all the mounds of snow that we had created in shovelling pathways around the place would melt, simultaneously, merging together in front of the Greenhouse door that we use as our main entrance. There were some slabs of rock laying in front of the Greenhouse; we quickly pulled those into service, using them as stepping stones strategically placed in the worst spots of ankle deep muck. That worked for Luke and I but Bear and Sam almost seemed to avoid stepping on them, totally defeating the purpose of placing them where we did. Groan! This year? Maybe they should just have to wear boots when they go out and have them taken off just inside the Greenhouse!
Note to self: purchase doggy rubber boots!
I made the mistake of escaping to the Fraser Valley just as the melt was starting; when I returned home I found myself wishing the truck could morph into a boat to get through some of those puddles! Lakes.
This year we will stay put until the roads are passable without the worry of sinking to the bottom of a bottomless puddle!
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So here’s the thing. Luke’s Grans were super important to him. I remember when we first met we would make plans to spend time together and he often said, “Oh, can’t that day, going to see my Grandmother.” A uni student, going to visit his Gran. Sweet, right? And so our place includes a special spot for each of his grandmothers.
Clarice aka Granny, has a spot with a bench upon which we sit and watch the creek/lake. It is particularly beautiful when there is a mist over the water – always changing, shifting, bringing an ethereal life to the water. There were a bunch of big, old downed trees at Clarice’s but we had a vision; a day of hard work and now we have a lovely spot to go and sip our morning coffee.
Farther down, sort of at the mouth of the lake, up on the hill above Swan Spit is a great big juniper bush and a spruce tree. Lodgepole pines are prolific out at Brittany Lake and I feel that junipers want to be but they struggle, being crowded out by saplings; there are also some lovely spruces interspersed about the place, which I absolutely love! This spot is dedicated to Gran Irene. Our plan is hang a bunch of birdhouses out there to attract song birds; Gran Irene was always singing. Lovely old soul, Gran Irene. Actually, I think Luke really takes after his Gran in that he too is a wise old soul, wise beyond his years but, well, he NEVER sings! Only difference.
When we arrived out there at Brittany Lake there was already a lower trail there between the two spots and maybe the upper trail was even there but it might not have been in very good shape. Luke cleared a bunch of blowdowns, some hangers, some brush and now we have a pretty decent Upper Path between the two as well. Of course I have to go in and clear some saplings but they don’t impede our way so there is no hurry.
The shots of The Hill, which we can see from the East kitchen window is just up from Gran Irene’s. It’s not much of a hill but it is the biggest hill on the property. It’s the high point that we go to when we want to see what is happening around the lake. There are actually a few other knolls which we hope to build trails to, connecting them all together.
And then there is Luke, pointing the way through the myriad of mess to the next knoll. He has knocked a rough trail half way through, and I do mean rough! We took Bear and Sam over there; you see Bear there, trying to squeeze his big ol’ self under a tree! Definitely not ready for Bear to be over there! And I can’t even begin to tell you how much work I am going to have, cutting down the lil stuff.
An adventure! Which will lead to other adventures. Which equals contentment.
The map shows where we are located in relation to the fires. While not directly threatened it was still a difficult Summer for us. We are the little horseshoe lake left of Nunsti Provincial Park
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Sigh. The Constant Watcher. Always Anxious. Do We Go or Do We Stay?
Eventually we did make the decision to leave even though we were not directly in the line of the fires. Our food stores were running low and it was impossible to predict whether or not Highway 20 would remain open so we packed up, in hindsight, a bunch of random stuff! The most important things made the cut: our animals – thank goodness we only have two dogs and a cat, our computers and the rest really was just super random! I hope we never have to evacuate again!
This series of photos show the plumes of smoke and just the over all smokey haze that we had to deal with all Summer long. Even after we returned in mid August we were still smothered in a smokey haze as the Kleena Kleene fires really took hold. We remember taking the lil grandsons to Nimpo Lake for Ice Cream back in late June and watching the planes flying over the Miner Lake fire…who knew it would become what it did…
When I drove out to Anahim Lake to pick up Luke’s folks in early September Kleena Kleene and area were STILL on fire!
At one point, just not knowing, we even explored the idea of escaping the forest fire by setting out onto Brittany Lake. The motor for the tinny is a rechargeable battery; it did not last very long. Bear and Sam went out in a boat for their first time ever and once Sammy had lost his lunch (blech) they both settled decently. We’ll have to take them out again under less trying circumstances.
The drive out Highway 20. Oh my. We got stopped at Riske Creek as the fire was threatening to jump the highway. We had trees, just there, beside us, burst into flame. Deep sigh. When we finally made it to William’s Lake we pulled into the parking lot at the Tim Hortons; seems the whole WL Police force was there too! And Main Roads teams. While Luke frantically searched online for a way out I hopped out of the truck and simply asked a police officer. He recommended Highway 24 (because Highway 97 was closed) but that is when the Little Fork fire was raging out of control so we had to drive North to Prince George to go South!
At the Highway 5 – Highway 24 junction we joined the caravan fleeing the North. That was a very, very, very long night! We thought we might stop for a rest in Kamploops but once we saw how many other people were heading into the ‘loops we just got onto the Coquihalla and kept on going – that was at 2:00 in the morning. We pulled into Chilliwack at 5:30 am, 17 long hours after we had left the Earthship.
After a brief rest we hit the local White Spot for our first meal in 36 hours! Luke thoroughly enjoyed his Vanilla Milkshake! We spent 3 weeks in the Fraser Valley where Luke worked from home. Lucky for us, there is always a silver lining, our son Michael and his wife Hayley had purchased a great big four bedroom house at the same time we purchased the Earthship so they had plenty of room for us to stay. We’re also super fortunate that they let us keep Bear and Sam with us…and Billabong. We had had visions of our pets being dropped off at a kennel which really distressed us!
Luke continued to work from home but made a few trips into his office in Burnaby. I think it is safe to say that he does NOT miss the commute into the city!
And finally we have a couple of shots of rain falling. Thankfully we got a few drops of rain; not nearly enough to put out any fires though.
I’ve also showed you how lovely my Greenhouse was looking before we left and then the After shot; everything withered and dead. I trimmed back the herbs which then bounced back but everything else had to get pulled out.
Before we left I had the foresight to gather up all my houseplants and stuck them all in the cold room where they survived our absence! Yay! Silver linings.
Anxiously watching plumes and smoke from the fires
This is just a short vid of the sound of falling rain.
Whew. That was a trip down Memory Lane.
We are thankful that the fire did not encroach our area but are devastated for those around us who were affected by the fire. Those who lost their homes in the fire. The animals that died.
Keep our forests safe!
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A few photos from 2017. We evacuated from our Earthship during the Wild Fires of 2017 not because our property was threatened by fire but because Highway 20 was a very volatile corridor that was Open one minute then Closed the next.
We DO celebrate when we get out and get groceries! So much fresh produce! It will be nice when I suss out how to produce our own fresh fruit and veg.
We have very limited fridge space so we totally love to splurge on all the refrigerated things from the grocery store too! So much yum!
Luke, Sam, Bear down at Moose Hollow in the Spring, before the mozzies descended upon us!
Luke and I worked very hard on clearing the entire length of the Boathouse Trail this Fall. (2017) We started to clear in Fall 2016 but only got a few metres done before the ground froze and the snow began to fly. We found that the saplings made snowshoeing down the trail quite…annoying…they left a narrow path down either side of the trail which often had Bear and Sam stepping on our snowshoes. A tad annoying.
When Luke’s folks were here for a 3 week visit Dad was determined to make life easier for us. What a great guy! Something Luke has struggled with is getting the canopy on and off the truck on his own. The guys pulled the excavator into action to try and dig a few post holes….Fail – too many boulders… so they dug them by hand, cut down a couple of trees for poles, pulled together bits and pieces of lumber and voila! Now it just needs a slanted roof and maybe we could protect the truck from the elements; not sure it is tall enough but something is better than nothing, I reckon.
So, for various reasons, we have spent way too much time in the truck with Bear and Sam over the past 6 months! We can definitely say that 17 hours in one go is far too many hours to be cooped up the truck with our boys! Too their credit though, they were quite well behaved once Bear let up with his panting. We both had Swimmers Ear by the time we got to the Fraser Valley! Upon our arrival back to the Earthship in mid August Bear had to make numerous trips to the Vet in William’s Lake which eventually led to another trip to the Fraser Valley where he underwent major surgery at the specialist in Aldergrove; and then there were all the follow up Vet visits in William’s Lake. Way too much time in the truck with Bear and Sam and I am sure they would agree!
After all the hubbub of the Summer and the much anticipated visit from Luke’s folks we finally had a chance to relax and breathe – we kept one of the old blowdowns just below Clarice’s Bench because we just find it beautiful even though it is no longer a living tree.
Bear and Sam are mighty squirrel hunters! They never catch any but they sure like to try! And that last one, Sammy just wants to climb that tree!
Bear is slowly recovering from his surgery. This was his first walk up a hill post op; he only just made it to the top before he and I turned around and went back home while Sam and Luke carried on for a longer walk.
Luke and Sam out at Gran Irene’s trimming off some of the lower branches on the trees that will remain standing. It will be my job to go back in the Spring to weed out the saplings. Can’t wait.
The final photo, we attempted to walk down to the D, 500-600 metres from the Earthship, but Bear couldn’t do it. We are pleased to say that he can now do this walk, there and back again, with no worries but he definitely does need a good long rest when he gets back home.
We are happy to see Bear slowly recovering. We all miss our long walks!
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Funny that; i noticed when arranging the photos that we don’t take photos of the West side of the Earthship! Like, hardly ever! Even in scouring through past photos I couldn’t find any. I will tell you now that my kitchen sink faces West and I have a lovely few of Tullin Mountain to keep me company as I do my dishes. It’s quite lovely, in all the seaons; the only thing I might want to change is the clumps of unsightly “grass”. I don’t want a fancy green lawn and white picket fence but unsightly, uneven mounds of prickly grass have simply got to …be tamed…into something more aesthetic.
The Earthship is comprised of three layers, the bottom which is built from tires and mud. The story goes that once that layer was finished the original owner stood upon the roof and said “What a view! ” and added the second floor in order to enjoy that view. Then he stood upon the roof of the kitchen and said “What a view!” and built the Crow’s Nest.
The front of the bottom layer is fronted by a Greenhouse that provides fabulous warmth when the sun is shining and in the case of summertime sunshine, way too much heat! Each end of the Greenhouse has a sliding door and screen doors so when the temps get too high for us we just open both doors and hope there is a cross breeze happening to offer some relief from the heat. During the Summer we are sure to keep the sliding doors from the Greenhouse into the Earthship CLOSED thus keeping the interior nice and cool. Great how an Earthship works! Amazing, really.
There are gardens on the East and West side of the Earthship with, obviously, the East one getting full sun and the West one getting afternoon sun. I did plant out the East garden last Spring…too early, I might add, but didn’t plant anything except Lupins in the West garden. The Lupins loved it over there! Also planted a hydrangea in each garden – East one did well, West one wanted more sun. I also put an azalea in the West garden but it didn’t like it either. When we returned to the Earthship after a three week evacuation I planted out some Gooseberry bushes, Red Currant bushes, Raspberries, Wild Roses and Peppermint plants which all thrived until the frosts came. Gardener I am not so we will see how they will fare through the Winter 2017/18? For me? The biggest job was getting the gardens ready as they were over run with weeds! So not how I remembered them the October we moved in! How do weeds grow under the snow??? Tell you what, gardening makes me feel pretty inadequate! I haven’t the faintest clue how to take care of the earth to ensure that it gives us a plentiful crop each year? Oh hell, I’ll take a solitary bean every now and again if I could just get them to grow!
Which brings us to the Greenhouse. The former owners said they grew stuff beautifully all through the Winter. The only thing I can grow is aphids! Okay, not entirely true. I DO have a thriving herb garden! Except for cilantro and parsley – just my two most favourite herbs. Go figure. And I have heard that Peas are super easy to grow; not so for me! And beans, hell, kids grow them in paper towels but I can’t get one to grow in the Greenhouse! Bah! I do grow proliferous Tomato plants that are super showy but don’t produce a lot of fruit. I remember O-Mommy saying something about growing tomatoes…too bad I can’t remember, for the life of me, what that was? One thing I do remember O-Mommy saying is, don’t ever plant before May long weekend. Well, wasn’t I just busting to get out into the garden, the fresh air, Spring; so with O-Mommy’s words running through my head I planted one week post May long weekend – couldn’t plant on the actual long weekend because Sammy was being rushed off to the vet – and guess what? We got a late frost and everything died ! Bah! And now my Father’s words run through my head, “I will persist until I succeed!” Oh yea, we were talking about the Greenhouse! I do tend to wander, sorry about that. Zucchini seem to grow alright in there; Kale, which is fabulous because both Luke and I love kale! During the Winter months Lettuce seems to do alright in there but the lettuce plants don’t seem to like the heat in the Summer. I had…have…a Blueberry plant in a pot in the Greenhouse which I have miraculously nursed back to health after our 3 weeks away; while in the Fraser Valley I bought 10 Strawberry plants so I created a lil strawberry garden in a big black tub; they haven’t given us many berries yet but I love how vibrant and green they are; they’re like a lil cheering section for the rest of the plants in the Greenhouse! “Grow guys, Grow!” with their cheery lil leaves raised up towards the light! Glorious lil things, absolutely glorious!
I’ve included a photo of the thermometer that sits on the North facing window sill because it is something we pay a lot of attention to. First, a story about it’s companions on the sill:
My paternal Grandmother – O-Mommy, ran a lil diner downtown Montreal in …. the Dirty Thirties… and this is a photo of her, in her diner, with her girls. Makes me smile. And the lil brown bean pots on the sill are the very same ones she used to serve up with her hearty baked beans and bacon. Sigh. Gone but never forgotten O-Mommy! I wish I had her recipes but sadly she passed away when I was living in Australia and I didn’t get any of her earthly belongings. She used to send us Christmas Cookies every year along with a letter telling us how many cookies she had baked. In each cookie container there were but 2 or 3 of her Pretzel shaped cookies and I would fight any and everyone for those cookies! I have tried and tried over the years to replicate her recipe but I have not gotten it yet and that makes me eternally sad. S’all good, a cookie will fix that, right?
Oh yea! The thermometer! I told you! You have to keep me on track! So in the Winter we watch as the temps dip lower and lower and lower and wonder how it is that we can survive such cold temps! To be honest though, it never really seems as bad as the numbers say! Sure you have to rug up before you go outside for a walk but a quick run to the dunny? Slip on shoes – as long as they have a bit of grip left on ’em – a jumper and you are good to go! Not like you are going to read the Sunday times when you’re in there! It’s definitely a “there and back again” trip with no dillydallying! A few other reasons we closely monitor the temps in the Winter is: to determine whether or not we can walk on the creek/lake ; to determine how the roads will be if we have to go for a Water run and it will also determine how long we will let the dogs out for though Sammy is pretty quick to let us know he simply will NOT be going out in THOSE temps! Bear, on the other hand, loves the cold! Loves it! Sometimes when he is allowed out? He just goes and lays in the snow, at the top of the hill and looks out over his domain. Dang! He looks so regal! Totally in his element!
And in the Summer we watch the temps just because, with no real reason; well, one reason – to determine how long of a walk we will be able to take and when we will be able to go for a walk. We usually try to go out early in the morning on Summer days before the heat kicks in because that same coat of fur that protects Bear in the Winter is a bit of a killer in the Summer! The boys both love a walk down to the Boathouse in the Summer because they love to go for a swim for a full body cool down in the lake!
Ah, the stove. Propane. Four burners. That wiggle. Two oven racks. No idea what the temperature is in the oven. Bought an oven thermometer which sorted that out quick smart! It is … serviceable…. I guess because I spend so much time in the Kitchen I just want it to be more…. If I love it and believe in it, do you think I have a chance of it turning into a shiny, industrial size stove??? With a hood? And four oven racks??? And six spider burners??? And a grill in the centre of it??? A girl can dream, right? I love you, lil stove that could.
The fridge. Another lil bone of contention in my life. I’ll get it sorted out. Still struggling with the lack of cold storage space. It.is.so. small!
Oh, I didn’t include a photo of the chilly dunny! So Luke’s Dad built us a flash new dunny that houses a composting toilet! But there are a few kinks that need to be worked out so it is just a lil pretty thing , sitting out there, taunting us. It WILL be lovely, once we can use it! Imagine! A toilet so close to the house! No more close calls…
And there is Luke, maintaining the batteries that allow us to use electricity when the sun is not shining. I love those things! He doesn’t love to maintain them. I mean, it’s not super difficult but it almost always gives him a headache and makes his eyes itchy. Still, small price to pay for the great dividends they offer us!
Next up is the Brain. Man! This thing gets watched more than a Kids Cartoon on a Saturday morn! It really determines everything we are going to do, or not do, in a day. It is the reason I sit in the cozy candlelight all those early morns. It is the reason I am given permission to be …. slovenly….for a day or two, or three or four or maybe even five….and not run the vacuum cleaner. Or the washing machine. You see, instead of just willy nilly using any and all things electrical we judge which things NEED to be used and which can wait. The coffee maker HAS to be run! Luke’s computer HAS to be run; mine doesn’t and I often don’t use mine at all when there is no sun. Every time we turn on the water? That is using power so we don’t do laundry, or shower, and we definitely DO NOT TURN ON THE LIGHT AND HAVE A SHOWER, and, though it kills me to see dirty dishes sitting on the counter, I cut down on the amount of times I do dishes all in the name of conserving power. Don’t get me wrong, when the sun is shining, which is OFTEN, it is all systems go! And go hard! When the sun is out I get ALL the chores done because tomorrow it may not shine!
Also, if we run the generator? It is do all the things that require power while it is running but not all at the same time! Oh man! I tell you! You think about every. single. little. thing. you. do.
My lil jaunts down to the Fraser Valley are quick reminders as to why we prefer to live this way. I enjoy the challenge. I would love to get a wood cookstove in the kitchen! Really take us back to a different time! Right. I love to visit the land of “run all things electrical”, night and day, indefatigable hot running water, warm toilet seats, hell, indoor toilets with no mozzies, but in the end? I just don’t think I can trade in the peace and tranquility that we have out there at Brittany Lake. We are not afraid to live with ourselves. I had a therapist tell me once that my life was utter chaos and that I CHOSE to live in chaos because it was easier than dealing with the truth.
Here, in the quiet of the Chilcotin, neighbour to my childhood home at Bute Inlet, I CHOOSE to not live in chaos. I welcome a life with me, myself and I that allows me to be the best person I can be.
Thanks for joining us today. Any questions, comments or suggestions, drop us a line!
I have found a lil bug which I am not sure how to fix so I recommend reading the blog before clicking through the photos. Sorry about that, I’ll try to work it out!
We have been at Brittany Lake for one calendar year now; we have decided that it is quite beautiful during each season with Winter being our favourite. Only the dogs have gone for a swim in the lake so I am unable to tell you what the swimming is like. I have an adversity to lake bottoms…they freak me out! At least on the Lake side, where the Boathouse is, the bottom is rocky…but slimy rocky. Ick. I know, I know, get some water shoes! I have procured some shoes that have Boathouse designation now and I am gearing myself up to give the lake a go this Summer 2018!
By the time we moved to Brittany Lake in October 2016 it was too cold for us city folk to go out on the lake though we dreamed of being out there, drifting about on the lake on lazy afternoon but first we had to get through our first Winter with the lake frozen solid well into what we thought should be Spring. Oh, what newbs! Once we had sustained -17C or colder days for a week straight we finally deemed the ice safe enough to walk upon; we had waited with great anticipation for the day! It was a great way to walk around the inner side of the horseshoe shaped lake. And the walking was easy! Nothing to climb/crawl over, nothing to shimmy under, just plain easy walking! What a treat! What explorers we were! And then Luke and Sammy fell through the ice! Ack! That was on Casselman Creek. We were heaps more cautious after that, though I imagine we would have been fine out on the lake. We have learned since then that the edges of creeks and lakes are the worst places to walk as the ice is um, dirtier, that is to say that the ice may have defrosted some near the edges and then refrozen as well as having snow frozen on top of it? Not 100% sure on the exact details pertaining to “dirty ice” but we now know not to walk so close to the edge.
Have I told you in a previous post how a raven taunted a young grizzly out onto the ice and we were freaking out that the grizz would fall through? He was way out on the lake! Turns out he was far safer out there than we were clinging to the edges of the lake and creeks.
Interesting phenomenon: as the lake freezes over it sings. The fluctuations in temperatures cause the ice to expand and contract; the shifting ice causes all kinds of sounds in varying frequencies. And then it happens again in the Spring with the break up of the ice. It is quite fascinating though I will say that Bear and Sam were quite…weirded out…by it the first time they heard it! Heh, I had grand thoughts of clearing a patch of ice on the creek so we could have a lil “ice rink” but when I was shovelling the snow the creek sang out alarmingly and I refused to go back out on it again! Oh, I might add that we were both very careful out on the ice because we had no idea how deep the lake or creek were. Turns out we were worried for nothing…
When Benny was there he was perturbed that he was not able to go out in the boat or canoe because the lake was still frozen. Lucky for him a section of the lake over by the Boathouse DID melt enough to get watercraft out there and he determined that he ought to be able to stay because he only got to go out on the boat once! He was here around Spring Break, so late March. Once the lake well and truly did thaw and there was a brilliant sunny day Luke and I hopped into the canoe to go and explore Brittany Lake, at long last!
Now I don’t know if I have mentioned it before but I am a lil afraid of heights and to me, a lake is a mountain in reverse! I was a nervous wreck! We did discover that the lake is actually quite shallow and the creek? Though wide, it is almost only ankle deep in some spots!! While the water is not very deep, I’ll tell you what the muck on the bottom of the creek and lake ARE deep! Very deep!
Bear and Sam love the lake! Bear, though a Labrador Retriever/German Shepherd mix has never been a water dog but he saw Samwise Gamgee frolicking about and actually swimming so he thought he would give it a go. Bear swims absolutely beautifully; so regal! Sammy? Oh. My. Word! He looked absolutely ridiculous in the water! He swam upright! So funny! We got him his own PFD which straightened him out right smart. I would softly lob a floaty toy out for Sammy to retrieve, ever the worrier, but Luke would hurl it out into the lake and Sammy would happily take off after it! It was a great way to tire him out!
Neither of the boys had ever been out on a boat before and we were both nervous that they would … rock the boat…trying to get to the ducks, birds, or loons that caught their attention. They were fine! They were very cooperative and hardly moved at all!
We have cleared a spot at the mouth of the creek, up on the hill, which we have dedicated to Luke’s Granny, Clarice Gibson. There was a bunch of blow downs there which we cleared away, save for one; it is upon that “bench” that we often sit and sip our morning coffee. It is incredibly peaceful. In the Fall, with the mist rising off the lake? Amazing! Absolutely amazing! And then there is a work in progress, a lil farther down the lake; again, up on the hill, we have dedicated a lovely spot to Luke’s Gran Irene Duguid. It is our hope to hang bird houses in some of the trees out there as Gran Irene was always singing ever so beautifully, just like the birds.