Monday, 25 June 2012

Life Off the Grid 6 - June 19, 2012

June 19, 2012

7:30 AM

Wet. It's wet out. Foggy. Sort of misting. The deck boards are slippery and slimy. Forecast is for more rain today and tomorrow. Blech.

Chilly too! About 12C in the cabin, only 10C outside. That's 50F for anyone who doesn't think in metric. I'm getting tired of my nose running all the time.

I need to go get water from the lake. Brrrrrr!

9:15 AM

Got a fire going in the stove. This will make a dramatic improvement in my quality of life. Don't know why I didn't do it before. I guess maybe I couldn't accept that it is freakin' cold and may continue wet and cold for the summer. I still hope that the weather will improve, that summer will unfold gloriously hot and sunny. But I have comes to terms with the idea that this is what it is for now. And I jolly well better start adapting.

So, I will make several more trips today to bring in wood. Get the wood bins filled, maybe make some kindling. Settle in. It is conducive to writing, at least.

10:30 AM

Keeping the fire going. It's a couple of degrees warmer in here than outside now. It takes awhile to heat this place. I'll have to go out for more wood soon. Everything is damp so I need to let the wood dry out a bit by the stove before it will burn well. The dogs will enjoy getting outside for a bit of a romp. They are pretty bored.

They just said on the radio to expect multiple thundershowers from this afternoon through into tomorrow. And lots of rain. Ok. Wood getting now before it starts.

11:00 AM

Now that's what I like to see! A full wood bin. That is a happy sight indeed.

I could keep going and fill the bin by the fireplace as well, but I've had enough close encounters with big scary spiders for one day. Spiders love wood piles. Fortunately, they scuttle away in a panic when I lift out the logs. And, fortunately, none of them knows that all it would take is for one of them to stand her ground and wave her creepy legs at me, to send me running and screaming.

2:00 PM

Fire still going. It is 16C in the cabin, 14C outside (to translate, that's 58F outside and about 62F inside).

Much better than before. Tolerable, even.

6:15 PM

Wow. Positively balmy in here now. 18C! I may even take my jacket off. But not my boots. Not for a few degrees yet.

Life off the grid 5 - June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012

6:45 AM

When people ask me, “You know what sucks?” I usually say “Yes, yes, I do.” Partly because it pisses them off, and partly because I can usually come up with something that sucks worse than whatever they were about to complain about. I am usually a very positive person and I cope with these things pretty well, I think, but I had a “this really sucks” moment last night. You know when you wake up in the middle of the night and really have to go to the bathroom? That sucks, right? Even under the best of circumstances, when you wake from a deep sleep with an urgent need for the facilities and you have to get out from under the cozy covers into the chilly air and make those 6 or 8 steps to your ensuite bathroom...that sucks. But, what if when you woke up in this state of distress and had to get out from under the cozy covers and find a flashlight and put on pants, and socks and a sweater and go down a ladder and find your boots and get them on and go outside and trudge 100 metres or so uphill through the bush to the outhouse? And there is a violent thunderstorm going on? And you find a gazillion bugs taking shelter from the storm in the outhouse. Yeah, that sucks. On the other hand, getting back into bed, after getting rid of the wet clothes and drying your hair a bit...priceless!

It's a grey, wet, chilly morning. Again. I am getting a bit tired of this. I hope all this rain hasn't drowned my garden. Oh well, another day of finding indoor stuff to do. Starting with sweeping in preparation for a workout. Somehow, no matter how often I sweep, there seems to be sand and dog hair everywhere. Holding the plank down on the floor really brings the need for sweeping into sharp focus.

Yesterday I figured out how I would like this blog to work. I am going to write every day. Obviously I can only upload when I have access to the internet. So I am going to upload batches of blogs and have them publish one a day so that there should be a steady stream of them between times I am in civilization. They will be a little out of date because I only have internet about once a week, but for those who find this interesting, they will go up regularly.

8:20 AM

I have done the dishes I was too tired to do last night. Amazing how washing dishes in really hot water can warm you up when you're feeling chilled.

It's not actually cold in here, 15C but humid, damp even, which makes it feel colder. I made a cup of mandarin orange green tea when I boiled water for the dishes.

Here is where I do my dishes:

I have determined that everything hanging behind the propane range needs to be taken down and scrubbed. Yucky and dusty.

The wood stove needs blacking as well...

So there's some indoor jobs for me if it keeps being lousy outside. I went through the cereals on top of the stove hood. Threw out all the stale ones. Doesn't leave much but porridge and Optimum Slim.

Speaking of throwing things out, I have a system here. Obviously there is no curb-side pick-up. I can pay a couple of dollars a bog to get rid of it at the dump in Kenora. But garbage tends to be heavy and smelly and it's a long way up to the truck. Plus, the bears will get into any garbage left up there, even in cans (or they did, until I built – with Ty's help – a magnificent wooden box my garbage bins fit into).

The solution to the garbage issue out here is to sort the garbage into “burn” and “carry out”.

Plastic, glass and metal get carried out. Food scraps, floor sweepings, and paper products get burned in a big fire bin down by the lake. It isn't a perfect solution, but it works and it's the best I can do.

I pondered composting very briefly. I do not generate much compostable garbage on my own – a few carrot peels and so on – plus, I am concerned about both attracting wildlife and spontaneous combustion in the pile. As much as I want to be green, I don't want to set out a bear buffet, or set fire to the forest. So, it is what it is.

The dogs haven't really bothered to get up yet today. They looked outside when I first got up, sighed, and went to lie down again. Guinness sang along with the opening music to The Current, as he always does, but remained lying on his couch while doing so.

9:00 AM

Saw a really big frog just now. At least someone appreciates the wetness.

Must eat something. I have the kettle on for herb and tomato couscous. Mmmmmm! Breakfast!

And the sun seems to be trying to shine!


Ate breakfast and did the dishes. Swept the floor and got out my yoga mat. I made it all the way through the Workout A once. As in, without the repeated sets. It is tough. Took an hour, partly because I had to double-check form. I am very sweaty. I'll do the same tomorrow with Workout B. Then, on Wednesday, I'll try to do A with all the sets. I can see how this could be a very effective workout. It focuses on micro-movements a lot. Excruciating small actions that don't look like much, but feel like a whole lot.

We have been out for the past hour or so, enjoying a bit of sunshine and frolicking in the lake. Then , suddenly, I was really hungry. We came in, but now I'm not sure what I want to eat. A mushroom omelette? An asparagus omelette? A mushroom and asparagus omelette? Cereal? Salad? Grains? So many choices!

My cucumber, what was left after I made the salad, is frozen. Ugh. I have adjusted the fridge, but that's it for cucumber until next weekend.

The red spots on Guinness' belly seem to have faded. Wonder what it was...

Hmmmmmm..... Eggs and mushrooms. Sounds like a plan.

It's about 17C in the cabin, but it was closer to 25C by the thermometer on the cabana. If it continues to be warm and not raining this afternoon, perhaps I'll try another swim.

1:15 PM

Yummy omelette for lunch. Did some writing and was just considering going back out with the dogs, but... I am hearing thunder. Sounds like the storm is off to the west, but it also sounds pretty aggressive. I don't much want to be out there when the storm breaks here.

2:00 PM

The wind has picked up. They have been blasting at the quarry, tearing open wounds in the earth to put granite on people's countertops. I can't tell if all the rumbling is from there. I still think some is thunder. The blasts are sharp shocks, the other is a low rumbling that growls along. The light has a peculiar hue, although the sky is only partly clouded.

Ah, yes, the rain has begun. Even though I can see blue sky, drops are spattering the deck.

2:15 PM

Oh, nice. The radio has just announced a tornado warning for the area. Large hail, high winds, potential twisters, thunder, lightening... Uh-huh. Take shelter as storm conditions approach, they say. Take shelter where, exactly? No storm cellar out here. We're sitting on solid rock.

The lake has picked up quite a bit. White caps out beyond the bay. Excitement, off-grid style. I wonder if I should bring the deck chairs in off the dock?

Another announcement from Environment Canada. Sounds like the tornado warning is now a bit east and moving away. Still feels like we could get some unsettled weather here for a bit yet.

Another blast at the quarry. They make us all jump. Guinness looks alarmed. Seamus snuggles against my legs. It's a horrible, violent sound. They are miles away. How awful it must be up close!

3:40 PM

After the rain stopped we did venture out to the water for a bit. The weather stayed ok (no rain or storm while we were down there) but the bugs became maddening.

6:20 PM

Remember those chickpeas I started soaking yesterday? Now I've drained them and put them in a pot and covered them well with water. I have them on the propane stove too bring them to a boil, then I'll reduce the heat, cover them, and let them simmer for an hour. Slow, slow food...

As it comes to a boil, I skim off the thick foam on the top. This removes some of the starch that is commonly found in legumes and which contributes to, ahem, gassiness.

So, at 7:30, I can start the next stage. Actually, I can begin chopping veggies any time up until then. I think some onion and celery would be good in a chickpea curry.

7:35 PM

I have drained the chickpeas. They are now soft, much as they would be from a can. However they have far less sodium in them. I chopped onion and celery earlier, so I'll begin making my curry.

  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan or pot (I use the same pot I simmered the chickpeas in – why dirty more dishes?)

  2. Add garam masala powder, minced garlic, minced ginger, minced chilies, and saute a few moments.

  3. When it starts to smell spicy, add onions and saute, stirring constantly. Don't let them get really brown, just starting to be golden.

  4. Add the celery. Keep stirring.

  5. Add the chickpeas and a bit of water if it has become dry.

  6. Simmer for a bit for the flavours to develop and blend. Stir once in awhile.
  7. Enjoy!

7:55 PM

My chola is simmering, I added a bit more water than I meant to. Kettle poured a bit fast. So, it will take a little while for some to evaporate. It's raining again, quite hard.

I saw a big mushroom down by the cabana yesterday. Made me shudder. 2009 was the summer of rain. Garnet and Katherine and Guinness and I were out here for the summer and I think we had 5 days all season that it didn't rain. Frogs and mushrooms. That's what grew out here. I have photos of at least 50 kinds of mushrooms and funghi from that summer. Thanks. My album is complete. I don't need another summer like that.

Great. The thunder has begun again. One of the great things about being off the grid is you never get your power knocked out by a storm. You are self-contained. The down-side of being as remote as I am is the nagging fear that some storm, someday, is going to bring a tree down on the cabin, or lightening will start a fire nearby, and there will be no way to call for help. Storms are just a reminder that out here I am totally and solely responsible for my own well-being and that of my dogs, who I treasure. Any danger that might present itself – fire, bears, whatever – it's down to me to deal with it. There is no back-up. Not that I usually dwell on it. But violent thunderstorms make my adrenaline rise.

8:20 PM

Dinner is served! I made a lot, enough for several meals.

10:00 PM
It seems to have got very dark. My candles are barely sufficient. Time for bed.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Life Off the Grid 4 - June 17, 2012

June 17, 2012

11:10 AM

Up at 7:30. Had leftovers from dinner for breakfast. Very tasty!

It is a chilly morning. Grey sky and a sort of mist over the lake. There is a fairly brisk and teeth-chattering breeze from time to time.

I have pulled myself together and begun to go through the workout I plan to do every day. The exercises are complex, so it is necessary to go through the book and figure out form for each before being able to do it as a real workout. No good having to stop in the middle of everything and look up the move... It seems to be a pretty tough workout, although interestingly different from what I have been doing in boot camp these past few weeks. Now if I can find a way for the dogs to cope with all my strange behaviours, it should be good. Exercises that involve rapid arm or leg waving get them all wound up, leaping around me and barking. And exercises that call for me to lie on the floor seem to them to be an invitation to climb on me. Try doing the plank, lifting knees alternately, with an 80 pound dog standing with his front feet on your back. And the other one trying to crawl underneath.

The radio says it will go up to 21C today. It's only 15 so far, so I have some doubts. The sun peeks out and smiles weakly down on the earth from time to time. It gives a little hope, but then the clouds press in again and the light fades.

I didn't get around to rinsing and soaking those chickpeas I mentioned a couple of days ago. I think I will do that now. Curried chickpeas tomorrow! I have fair trade garam masala from the health food store. It will be a feast.

I have had the dogs out to play fetch. The water is too cold – I don't like to send them in when it's this cold – so we just played in front of the cabin. Still makes for a lot of wild leaping and tearing around.

They were willing enough to come in for a lie down. I might even split some wood. If this weather keeps up I am going to want to have a fire in the stove. Bundling up and shivering is getting old fast.

2:10 PM

It has gone quite warm out. I had a lunch of Flax Omega 3 Spaghettini and basil pesto. Then pups and I went out to see if it was warmer out. It was. Gloriously warm as long as the clouds weren't covering the sun. We played on land for awhile, then Guinness indicated he was interested in getting in the water. So, for another half hour I threw toys off the dock, with the dogs chasing them into the water. Much splashing and tail wagging and big grins. The bugs were intolerable. I tried to ignore them, but eventually I had to give up and go in. Fortunately, the panting dogs were agreeable to this idea.

 Seamus (aka the Princess), sacked out on his favourite couch...

Guinness prefers his "man-cave" under the hammock...

9:30 PM

Made some spaghetti sauce with a couple of tomatoes, some onion, some mushrooms and asparagus, and tossed it with high fibre fusilli.

 It has been getting increasingly dark through the afternoon and is now raining in earnest. Time for bed.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Life Off the Grid 3 - June 16, 2012

June 16, 2012 11:20 AM

Wow. Went to sleep at 9:45 and woke up at 7:45. 10 hours of sleep!

The lake was like glass this morning. I am just amazed by the reflections.

The dogs and I went up to the truck and got beer and planters. The breeze was picking up but the bugs were horrible.

I dug around in the garden box and managed to salvage a bit of earth. There were so many ants! I tried to avoid them, and the tree roots. The earth is very hard and full of grass roots, however, I managed to get enough to do the seven planters and repot the tomatoes. I also planted the zucchini in the garden box with a hope that zucchini are tough enough to cope. Then I filled the jiffy pots and clay planters and a plastic plant flat and planted the herb seeds. Finished just before it started to rain. Not a terribly auspicious looking display yet, but with any luck there will be yummy edibles in a few weeks... Meanwhile I feel all crawly from watching the ants.

Yes, that is a zucchini plant. Fingers crossed that it lives!

Finally had breakfast – optimum slim cereal and almond milk. It was pretty good. It's a different brand of almond milk so the first taste was a bit weird. But it's ok. Good thing too, because there isn't any alternative.

It's chilly in here, but I don't have any wood split yet and it's raining and I don't feel like chopping wood in the rain. Think I'll bundle up and maybe paint. Or read...


The rain has stopped for a bit. I painted, actually did washes on 5 canvasses, so nothing too creative other than mixing interesting colours. In the process of moving things and making room for my painting stuff I came across a really scary spider. I put a container over it, slipped a piece of cardboard underneath, and put it outside.

Started reading the new Sookie Stackhouse novel, and fell asleep on the couch. I was awakened by Guinness licking my face. Seems he needed to go out. So we all went out into the damp dripping woods for a little bit. Came back in and after a moment had a crawly feeling. Pulled a wood tick off my neck. I know! Ewwwwww! I hate bugs. Especially wood ticks. Why are there wood ticks? I've been checking the dogs for ticks, but I guess I need to check myself better too.

Guinness has a weird rash-looking thing on his belly. Red circles all over. Don't know if it's bug bites or what. He didn't like me looking at them. Have to try to keep an eye and see if they go away or get worse.


Listening to Randy's Vinyl Tap. Guinness is restless this evening. I bet that rash is itchy.

Just been sitting here thinking. Last summer was my first one out here all alone for extended periods of time. It was a rough summer, emotionally.

So far, this year, it is a bit better. I feel like I am able to be just me. Not mom-me, or wife-me, or friend-me, or committee member-me. Just me. It is a weird feeling. It demands the big questions. Like “Who am I really?” I hope I figure it out. I seem to have been so many things for so many different people over the years, I sort of lost me. Maybe I am beginning to get me back. I'll keep you posted...

Meanwhile, time to make dinner. I have made some curried wild rice mix. I am thinking stir-fried veggies and maybe a salad...

9:45 PM

Dinner was beyond fabulous. If I do say so myself. Some members of my extended household would have judged it “suspiciously healthy looking and smelling” but, isn't that what food is supposed to be? I even have some leftovers for tomorrow!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Life Off the Grid 2 - June 15 2012

June 15, 2012
5:00 AM

Took another good look at the surroundings in the daytime. For some reason, Seamus decided that 5AM was an optimal time to get up. Suddenly he's up and barking that indignant bark he does when he is highly dissatisfied with something, like when someone he wants to interact with is ignoring him, or in a part of the house where he is not allowed. As I sleep in the loft, and most dogs are not adept at climbing ladders, it was the latter. So, in the watery light of dawn we ventured out to take stock. All good, as far as I can see. The woodshed I built last summer is till standing and looks better than I remember. Even better, there is wood in it. Dry wood.

The lake is high, as I noted last night. And quite chilly. Although I prefer to swim au naturel (yet another benefit of not having any neighbours) I am glad I brought my 3mm wet suit. That will get me in the water much earlier.

After giving the dogs some time to be dogs out in the woods, I lured them back into the cabin, put on my hiking/work boots, and headed up to the truck to unload my stuff. 5 agonizing, backbreaking loads later, I have fully arrived. Why do I haul so many books around with me? Oh. Right. Because I would go mad without them.

After a brief recovery period, I found some clothes I felt I could go into town in (Yay, my white capris fit! Boot camp pays off!) and rounded up the doggies for a trip into town. The critical thing here was a desperate need to take KMTS up on their idea they could provide me with a phone that works out here. I also needed candles, and I had a notion to grow some produce.

Getting two dogs into car harnesses and seat-belted in is akin to getting toddlers into car seats. Or stuffing an octopus into a string bag. Anyway, eventually we were on our way and had an uneventful trip in. The women at KMTS were wonderful, invited my dogs into the store and made a huge fuss over them, and gave me a phone to try out here. I got beer. I got a couple of meat patties for the dogs and a drink from McDonalds and used their free Wi-Fi in the parking lot to upload my last blog and answer some emails. I got candles and herb seeds and not enough potting soil (but as much as I thought I could reasonably carry down the path this trip), jiffy pots, and a clip-on OFF bug repellent from Canadian Tire. I got tomato plants from Wal-Mart. 6 Bush Beefsteak, 1 Early Girl, and 1 Sweet 100 plant plus a little dyspeptic-looking zucchini plant. Answered text messages as I went along. Reminded the kids that Father's Day is Sunday and maybe they would like to mark it in some way. Sent the solar guys an email reminding them that we really need the charge controller before we set the system up. And then, back to the bush!

All good. I got the dogs and the purchases out (except the beer, but I have enough in the fridge for now and it will make me trek up to the truck when I want more). Down the path. The bugs were horrendous. They were so bad, in fact, that Guinness (who usually seems oblivious to them) appeared to be having a fit while some large buzzy thing was barnstorming his head. They are so bad. Both dogs bolted ahead of me and when I got down to the deck I found them pressed against the cabin door, desperate to get in.

Then, I saw it. A large, very fresh pile of bear scat. Scant feet from the bottom step up to the deck. I am not pleased. Not pleased at all. Guinness has his bear bell on, but Seamus' is up in the car. I took it off his collar in the KMTS store because he was leaping around with excitement and it was quite deafening. I might be able to find another bell around the cabin, and I will get it next time I go up to the truck, but that is not the biggest issue. I do not want a bear around. I am going to have to engage in much “human” behaviours. Making noise, maybe having a campfire. Establish my territory. No bears welcome.

Oh, and the phone? Doesn't work. I am dealing with my crushing disappointment. Barely. They have another phone, on the NorthernTel network, they can give me to try next Friday. I am not getting my hopes up. If anyone knows how to get cell signal where there is none, please comment. I am not building a 40 foot tower. It has to be a simple solution. A signal booster I can put on the roof of the cabin or down by the lake, or even up on the cliff above the lake. Something like that. I looked into them before but no one I spoke to sells them or knows anyone who does. I know they exist. There is plenty of apocryphal lore about them out in the woodsy community. But the telcos don't want you to have one, apparently. This makes no sense to me. Why would they want to limit their coverage and irritate their customers?

Another disappointment. Many of the seed packets I got suggest the maturity of the plants is about 80 days. Too long! I should have got seedling herbs. And maybe I will. Most of them are perennials, so if I can get them established this year, I might have some next summer... I have sage, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, summer savory, parsley, chives, and a collection of basil (lemon, purple, sweet, Thai, and cinnamon).

I suppose I have chilled out enough now from my day's exertions. First thing getting into the cabin (after dropping all the bags) is rip off the bra and get rid of the hot denim pants. Loose shorts and tank top. Much comfier. Our society dictates such tortuous attire for women. Underwires, padding...Seriously? It's hot, I'm working hard, and I have some sort of poky, squishy armour around my chest. I think most women would be more pleasant-tempered, and look more attractive, if their clothing didn't cause such discomfort. From cruelly disfiguring shoes to push up bras, we are bent and molded into some unnatural ideal of beauty. Foot binding was banned a long time ago. When will they ban 5” heels and girdles (whatever they are called now) and underwired bras? Never, not unless things change radically and women comprise a majority in legislative bodies around the world.

I love the lake. I can wear (or not wear) whatever pleases me. At least, until people come out to visit. Then I have to armour up to avoid mortifying my (adult) children in front of their friends...

So, I suppose it's time to go out and make noise while I try to figure out what I am going to do with these plants. Later, I will unpack all the stuff I brought. I will find places for my books, mark the date on foodstuffs with sharpie so I can keep track of inventory and not poison myself, put clothes away...

7:40 PM

I went and had a look at the old garden box. It was discouraging. It will need hoeing, turning of soil, eradication of weeds. In other words, a job for tomorrow. I went to the dock with the bag of dog toys. The dogs anticipated much joy and leaped around me all the way down the path. There was much throwing of floaty squeaky things into the water... deeply satisfying for Guinness, somewhat frustrating for Seamus as only some of the toys landed in a depth he could walk to.

The bugs were awful. I was testing an OFF! Clip on device that purports to be a bug repellant you don't spray on. You insert the wafer of bug goop and turn on the fan. You are then supposed to wear it by the clip and it is supposed to repel insects. Maybe it works in a nice urban setting. Maybe the deer flies out here haven't seen the ads. Regardless, it was not a successful test. Finally I put my wet suit on because they couldn't bite me through the fabric. Just head and hands and feet to protect. Armed with my fly-swatter I waged war on the nasty things. I am opposed to war, in general. Countries fighting each other seems such a pointless waste of life. The “War on Drugs” is, essentially as Michael Douglas famously said in Traffic, a war on our children. All bad. But I can get behind a war on deer flies biting me relentlessly on my dock. I managed to kill several. But, once you have killed off the slow and stupid, you are left with the very quick and clever. Eventually, I got in the water.

I didn't have a thermometer with me, but I am guessing the water temperature is within the range of hypothermia. By the time I had washed my hair, played with the dogs and did a bit of swimming I had quite a few waxy white toes. At least I have a clean scalp now. That feels better.

Back in the cabin, I have filtered water into the kettle, got it to boil and am about to wash my cute one-serving cookware I collected over the winter. I am hungry. I think dinner, once I have clean cookware, will be herb and tomato couscous and a stir-fry of tofu, asparagus, carrot, onion, and celery, seasoned with garlic, ginger and chili peppers. At the lake alone I can eat all the garlic I want. :)

9 PM

Dinner was good. Very, very good. Not enough of it, by my reckoning, but delicious. Dishes are done. Dogs are sedate. I am considering bed. I am trying very hard to get through “The Sisters Brothers” by Patrick deWitt. It was on on the Canada Reads short list this past year. It is not an easy read. There are no sympathetic characters. The first person voice, Eli, has some redeeming qualities, but not enough. It is sad. Full of senseless violence. I am having trouble with this book.

I am going to try Melatonin, starting tonight. It is supposed to help people who have bad sleeping habits. After months of getting up at 4AM regardless of when I get to sleep, I think I am chronically sleep deprived. I don't really know what it is supposed to do. I guess we shall see...

Friday, 15 June 2012

Life Off the Grid 1 - Arriving

June 13, 2012

The drive from Calgary to Winnipeg was a 15 hour endurance run. Shouldn't have taken so long, but bad weather, a big accident in rural Saskatchewan that had the road clogged with probably every EMS vehicle in a 100 km radius, and an insane amount of 50km/h construction slowed things considerably.

The most excellent folks at Centennial Animal Boarding stayed open for me and at just shy of 9 PM (I left home at 5 AM!) were happy to take charge of poor Guinness and Seamus who had patiently endured the gruelling ride without the benefit of understanding that the end goal was good.

Then on to Heather's. I was jittery from all the caffeine, barely able to string together a sentence, but she was happy to see me and we had a very nice evening, complete with beer, food from Billabong on Osborne, and general catching up. I was so relieved to not be in the truck.

This morning we had breakfast at Stella's and then I went out and (gasp!) bought a quad. A yellow 2012 Outlander Max XT 800, to be precise. I pick it up next Friday.

Then grocery shopping with Heather, collecting the dogs and finally, heading out of town. Everything had taken longer than one might think possible. I didn't hit the road until about 5PM. There were warnings of severe thunderstorms, but the rain held off until I made the turn off the TransCanada. Then it started to come down. It was nearly 8:30PM by the time we arrived at our parking space. Mercifully, the rain stopped about 2 km shy of our driveway and seemed to be moving south and east. I was very glad I had taken the time to pack strategically before leaving Heather's. One backpack with overnight necessities (including laptop and beer) and one cooler bag with all my perishables. The dogs were excited, but wanted to stop and smell everything on the way down to the cabin. Finally we made it. The bugs on the way down were quite intolerable, as they are wont to be after a rain. I fully expect to have a gazillion bites tomorrow.

I got the cabin open and everything seems just as it should be. Had a devil of a time getting the fridge lit. Still have only managed to light one light (the one on the same pipe circuit as the fridge). There seems to be plenty of propane in the tank, but maybe something has crawled into the other line and made a web or nest... Something to explore tomorrow, in daylight. For tonight, candle light will have to do, and I will have to get more candles when we go to Kenora tomorrow.

We did a tour of inspection (and filled 2 buckets with water from the lake). All buildings are still standing. Yay! The water is extremely high. We have no beach. The lake almost crests the dock. I can't recall the last time it was so high.

The dogs were in paroxysms of joy at being here. Guinness almost immediately went for a swim. Then he found a sturdy stick and presented it to me to throw into the lake. Seamus is still anxious about the water, but he was plunging in chest deep every time Guinness went to retrieve the stick.

I have finally got them to come inside and there is much cleaning of paws and so on. The cabin reeks of wet dog. Actually, it's a pretty happy smell. I feel I have endured many trials to get here, but now I have arrived, my beer is presumably getting cold in the freezer, and all is right with the world.

Tomorrow I will have to figure out how to unload the solar panels (which are much larger and heavier than I can cope with on the descent from the parking area) and the batteries (ditto). The rest of the extensive luggage will have to be brought down. And then, it's off to Kenora to speak to the folks at KMTS who thought they could provide me with a phone that would actually work out here. That would really be something. I am skeptical. And a phone with a data plan that works out here... well, I shouldn't even allow myself to think of such things.

It is 10:30 PM now. Dark outside. There is a small flying insect rejoicing in the glow from my laptop screen. One of my 3 candles has all but gone out. Must buy more candles tomorrow because, what if I can't get the other two lights lit? Always good to have a back-up plan. The temperature in the cabin is decent enough, no need to put a fire in the stove. But it is a tad frustrating to not have the modern conveniences, like piped in propane lamps, not work. At least the propane fridge is going. The furthest back in the freezer can of beer is decidedly cold on the bottom, so I am drinking it. Do I dare leave the others in the freezer over night? I probably should not. After the ordeals of the past 2 days I will likely sleep long enough for the fridge to get cold and the freezer to freeze stuff. Just so thankful the fridge finally lit! The veggies would likely cope ok for a day or so, but the yoghurt? Maybe not. Of course, I must remember, people have been eating yoghurt, and eggs, and veggies, since long before the advent of refrigeration.

I was talking to someone about the set-up out here (can't recall who, maybe the salesman from the quad place) and he was incredulous. “How do you manage without electricity, without running water, without heat and air conditioning and a hot water heater?” Well, folks have been managing without those things for much, much longer than they have had access to them. And that is what this series of blogs is going to be about. Life in the slow lane. Where making a cup of coffee can take darn near an hour. Because unless people change how they do things, this is what we're all going to have to cope with eventually. And fossil fuels running out is one piece of that. But politics, pollution, and the erosion of our society and individuals' ability to cope with adversity are also parts of the mix. I don't consider living off the grid adversity, mind you. I relish the ability to slow down, to really appreciate everything. Nothing tastes better than baked goods from a wood stove. Baking your own bread is foreign to a lot of people, it takes a long time and it is more work than picking up a loaf from the bakery section. Even if you use a bread machine. But if you have to get a fire going in a wood stove (and trust me, that wood does not split itself), as well as raise the yeast, mix the ingredients and knead the dough by hand, and keep the fire going, and monitor the process....well, that is real bread. And it is a glorious thing when it comes out of the oven. Seldom does a loaf of bread, or a pan of sticky buns, hang around out here much longer than it is cool enough to cut.

Years ago, being out here with two kids in cloth diapers...well, that was a bit of adversity. A washboard and boiling big pots of water on the stove (I did mention the log splitting and fire building part, didn't I?), made me profoundly in awe of pioneer women. Profoundly. Our ancestors had it way rougher than we do, no mistake about that. Especially the women (in my opinion). It is pretty tough to run a household and keep everyone bathed, clothed in clean clothes, and fed, when you have to expend that much time and effort in every little thing. Splitting stove wood, making kindling, building fires, hauling water...

And there are people in this world who live like that to this day. And not by choice as I do. So that's another thing I hope to do with this blog. Raise people's awareness of what other people face. I don't have to walk miles to get water. The lake is a hundred metres, give or take, from the cabin. I don't risk land mines or snipers or rapists or random acts of war. I can drive an hour to town and get food, I don't have to grow my own lentils and rice and everything else, or raise chickens for eggs. I do plan to grow sprouts, and get some tomato plants and maybe start a herb garden, because all those things are just better really, really fresh. But even though I am living for the summer in an alternate mode that is foreign and inconceivable to many twenty-first century first worlders, so many people have a life that is so much harder that it is on a different scale altogether. So, I do not have a TV, or a blow dryer. I don't (yet) have a phone. Big deal. I have nature, and two beautiful dogs that are over the moon happy about being out here. And the satisfaction of knowing that I can do this. I can be isolated and alone for weeks on end. I can make a fire. I can prepare food from the most “scratch” ingredients imaginable (tomorrow I will be soaking dried chick peas for a lovely chick pea curry...). I can survive. And so could most people, if they step outside their comfort zone and learn how. I am not a “survivalist”, by the way. Just someone who appreciates the old ways.

So, if you have made it this far, I invite you to join me on my journey through the summer. See what it's like to live “off the grid”.

Update: it's nearly 11:30. Very dark out. Down to 1 functioning candle. Time to move the beer (yes! It is becoming cold!) to the fridge and take my candle up to bed. Good night all!