The Fall Scramble

Mabon is past and Samhain is on its way, and as usual, we find ourselves engaged in the fall scramble as we try to get through our list of tasks that must be completed before the fall rains set in.

The Ramp Project

Another view of our new ramp.

When we first came here, we spent a bunch of energy moving rocks and dirt around to build a nice access ramp to the property from the intertidal mudflat where we land our skiff.  However, what humans make, nature is quite willing to unmake, and over the past four years, high tides and waves have gradually eroded our ramp away, leaving us with an ankle-breaking rocky clamber.  Of course, we were always too busy to fix it …

This fall, two convenient yellow cedar logs appeared, and with chainsaw, shovel, pick, and come-along, we fitted them into the bank.  A little work for a neighbor yielded some cedar planking from a deck he was tearing apart, and there you have it … a new ramp.  And it didn’t cost us anything except our time and labor!


Stacks of firewood under the cabin.

Usually, we have most of our firewood cut and drying by summer, but this year, things were a bit behind.  I ended up taking a contract during the summer, which really slowed our projects down.  It seems that living out here is pretty much a full-time job all in itself!  So we ended up scrambling for our firewood.  Happily, last night we toasted to a plentiful supply of cut and stacked wood, and a warm and happy winter by the stove.

The Chimney (Again)

Every year, I hope I won’t have to get on the roof and repair the chimney again, and every year, I’m up there once more.

Seems we ended up with some pretty shoddy metal for our chimney flashing.  Last year, it started to rust, and I went up there and coated it liberally with rust inhibitor.  In the middle of the winter, it started leaking again.

This year … the rust had penetrated the flashing completely, after only four winters!  So, major repair work on the flashing.  We will have to replace it soon, but I’m hoping to get another year out of it first.  I finished up the job with a good coat of paint over everything (black for the flashing and teal for the roof in the regions where the corroding flashing had left ugly rust stains) … let’s hope that it doesn’t start leaking again this winter.


The Annual Refueling Trip

Fuel has been a bit of an issue this year for the Awen.  It all started a couple of trips back.  We were just coming into Kelsey Bay, having crossed the Strait, and Ken throttled the Awen back as we were coming alongside the breakwater.  Without any warning whatsoever, the engine died … and wouldn’t restart (thanks to the fact that it is a new, and overly electronic engine, with way too many “safety” features).  The currents and wind were strong in the harbor that day, and with little hope of reaching the floats with what forward momentum we had, Ken angled the Awen so that we drifted up against the southern breakwater (if you know Kelsey Bay, you will recognized this as being the rusty hulk of an old sunken ship).  There we stuck, within sight of the harbor office.  After a bit of hollering, we were eventually pulled off the breakwater by the RCMP (that was something of an adventure in and of itself), and towed to the floats.  The culprit behind this adventure?  Apparently our fuel had become contaminated with “algae” (not actually algae at all, but some type of microorganism), and had become gelatinous.  This clogged the fuel filter, and the engine went into shut-down mode.

So … we ended up running the Awen off of a couple of yellow jerry cans of fresh diesel fuel while Ken “polished” (i.e., filtered and refiltered) the remaining fuel until all of the particulate material was gone.  This took a while … and in the process, we discovered that the gunk had jammed our fuel gauges, and we had somewhat less fuel that we had originally realized.  So, it was time for a refueling trip.

Our annual refueling trip is also a chance for us to get caught up on a variety of little tasks in Campbell River, things that are hard to look after when we are in a rush.  So we spent a week tied up at the Discovery Harbor docks, buying stuff, getting caught up with appointments, and so on …

The Fall Harvest

Just before we left for our week in Campbell River, I worked diligently to harvest as much of the garden as I could.  With a month of hot, dry weather, everything was winding down, and I could see that the garden was quickly going into fall mode.  Thankfully, I got most of our beans in off the vines, shelled, and dried.

The day we left for Campbell River, the first of the fall rains began.  After a week away, we came back to a garden that had reached its end, pounded down by the winds and the rain.  In those first couple days back, I worked industriously to salvage the remains, gathering beans before they rotted and collecting masses of tomatoes that were now lying in the mud … a sad ending to what had been such a lush and productive garden earlier this year.

My harvest of green tomatoes were laid out in cardboard boxes and stored in the dark – a trick I learned from my mother – which allows them to ripen.  So in spite of the fickleness of the weather, we’ve still had lots of tomatoes to eat and many to dry.

The wet weather has given us another fall harvest – mushrooms!  Puff balls, sliced and fried with garlic and butter.  The excess harvest dries well, and makes great additions to pasta!

And so the garden season comes to an end … yesterday I was hilling up the root crops for overwinter storage, and planting bulbs for the spring.

Bears in the Apple Orchard

At the moment, our property coincides with the range of a pair of three-year-old grizzlies.  We first saw them when they were cubs, still following their mother.  Each year since, they’ve progressively gotten larger.  This year, they are quite impressive!

We’ve had a couple of scary encounters with these two.  A few months back, the darker of the two (also the more aggressive one), was on the logging road above our property.  We were out for a walk, and surprised it.  Standing up on its hind legs and peering myopically at us, it finally decided to exit left, and we continued on up the road.  On our way back home, some time later, the bear was back on the road.  This time, it wasn’t so ready to leave, and walked grumpily in front of us for awhile before taking to the bush.  Even after it had left the road, we could still hear it following along beside us, crashing through the salmon berries.  Finally, it decided to make a charge.

Even knowing that the charge was likely to be a feint, the adrenaline surged through my veins and my heart hammered in my chest.  “Don’t run”, the logical part of my brain was saying.  “If you run, the bear will think that you are prey, and chase you.  Back up slowly!”  But my legs were thinking “Run!!!”  We held our ground, and as the bear reached the road edge, Ken blasted our air horn.  Momentarily frightened, the bear hesitated, then backed off, but continued to track alongside us until we were almost home.  Fortunately, the bears seem to have a great deal of respect for our electric fence!

A few days later, the second, lighter colored grizzly was busy breaking down salmon berry bushes just outside our fence, standing on our path in clear view.  Ken and I hollered at it (from the safety of the cabin) and threw a few stones, but did little to distract it from its feeding.  Finally, Ken slammed the back door of the cabin.  The bear jerked like it had been shot, then tore up the trail.  It hasn’t been back by the cabin since.  I guess we have the most dangerous cabin door in the country!

So … apple trees … we pick apples from some of the old trees that have survived after the homesteads in the inlet were abandoned.  So, unfortunately, do the bears.  We took the Kipper down to the end of the inlet where there are several good apple trees.  However, dark bear popped out of the woods right at the base of the trees – I guess he was having dessert to go with his salmon.  Having experienced this bear before, we wisely chose to leave the trees to him, for now.

Some Creatures that we Love to Have Around

    • a little juvenile male Anna’s hummingbird.  Every time we don’t see him for a day or two, we think maybe he’s gone south for the winter, and then he shows up at the feeder again.  Maybe he will overwinter here???
    • toads in the garden … and I was going to blame the Steller’s Jays for uprooting some of my potatoes, but it turns out that there was a toad “rootling” through them … just pushed aside the ones that were making her bed too bumpy.
    • bats (not in our belfry).  We’ve been treated to lots of bat antics as they fly around the house at dusk, often feeding on insects that are sitting on the cabin siding.
    • owls in the night.  We are often serenaded by Great Horned owls during the fall and winter.  Not sure why we don’t hear them the rest of the year.

A Few Photos …

It’s raining today, but Ken was out with his camera a couple days ago, taking pictures of the last of the fall flowers.  Here is a little gallery of his shots …

10 thoughts on “The Fall Scramble”

  1. Thank you, Barb and Ken, for this report of the end of summer out your way. Makes me dream! But not for such rigorous living, any more. I am almost 80, and feeling it coming!

    1. Hi Lincoln:

      Good to hear from you! Wow! Almost 80 – I remember all the field trips we did! I hope you are still enjoying life, even if it is not as rigorous as it used to be. To be honest, sometimes things are a bit too rigorous for us out here at times – we’ve had more than an occasion or two to complain about our aching … However, it seems like most outbackers are grey heads these days (mine still hasn’t turned yet in spite of my misadventures, go figure). Where have all the young people gone?


  2. Hey Barb. I love reading about your continuing journey and am so happy that you are living the dream….albeit although not a relaxing one, it is definitely rich and full! I saw your mom when we were in Rupert. She seems to be doing ok and, with assistance, has organized a coffee club for her residence. This takes the place of the CORE, which had closed for several months due to staffing challenges. I hope it opens soon. As usual, it was great to see her. We went to Westend for a piece of pie. I shall share your journal with her when I go in December. If I didn’t live in Haida Gwaii, I would be a bit jealous. lol. Peace.

    1. Hi Judy:

      Have you ever had a series of adventures this year! I have been watching, and reading, your Facebook entries. Glad to know that you are safely back in Haida Gwaii. I hope the good memories of your trip will outweigh the struggles you had with your trailer.

      Thanks for visiting with Mom. I’m glad she has friends around her.

      I usually send her an email (through CORE) whenever I put up a post in the blog and some photos she can see. Unfortunately, with CORE at half-mast this summer, my communications with Mom have been a bit laggy. I hope they get their staffing situation fixed up for the winter.

      Keep enjoying the islands. They are a beautiful place.


  3. You have been really busy getting ready for winter. I wish we were as far along as you guys are. A few things have interrupted us. We had to remove all of our shore structures to maintain our water lease. They were legacy items from before the lease, but now after 16 years they are enforcing the requirement for everyone one the lake (unless you have a freehold land cabin). We also got notice that our citizenship application was approved and had to go to Parksville twice for interviews and a ceremony. That was very special and moving. We went to Discovery Harbour several times this summer. We like getting to the “big city” once in a while but mostly hang out at the boat. I didn’t realize your cabin was so close to the tide line. Nice ramp with reclaimed materials. – Margy

    1. Congratulations on becoming Canadians!!
      Hey, if you’re down Campbell River way sometime and want to meet up, give us a shout!
      P.S. The cabin is actually a little further back than it looks – we’re not in any danger of getting swamped by a tsunami.

  4. Glad to see you guys are thriving down there. I hope you are taking something with you when you go for walks, like a shotgun or a bear banger. Those bears might get too friendly one day.

    1. Yeah, we do carry some bear deterrents – bear spray, bear bangers, and an air horn. We also have a boar spear which works as a walking stick most of the time, but has a seriously pointy bit on one end. Shotguns are heavy and awkward in the woods. We did use one last year, loaded with buckshot, to deter a small black bear that had been garbage-habituated at the nearby logging camp. It doesn’t cause them serious harm, but reinforces the loud bang with a good sting.


  5. Sheesh! Grizzlies. Now THAT is truly OTG. We get ‘Humpies’ but they are not, in the least, dangerous.
    So you and ol’ Sal on the roof fixing chimneys. Wadda thing to have in common, eh? Ken and I on the ground…..
    We have not been to CR since before you were there last. If I ever go (and I will) it will be too soon. This is paradise. Don’t wanna leave. Mind you, deep winter changes that. Probably snowbird….we’ll see.
    Glad you are well.

    1. It truly is paradise!! I’m not sure how you can fly away in the winter. I love my quiet times, working on various projects, doing my writing … I don’t think I can do cities full time anymore.

      The grizzlies have moved on (or gone to bed for the winter), I hope. Now we just have the wolves. They gave us a beautiful serenade the last clear night, three or four of them howling together in eerie harmonies. One tested our electric fence the other night – partially undid the gate and left a large footprint behind as evidence to its actions. Wolves are smart!!

      We are now into trail building mode again. We hope to get the last segment finished this winter while the salmonberry bushes are dormant. So always busy. And doing lots of writing and research when it is too wet to work !

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