I have been away for a while. Lost for words in the year of Covid-19. I really do not know what to say that hasn’t already been said.
Living off the grid in our relatively remote island home, I feel as if I have been practicing isolation techniques for the past nearly thirty years. Staying at home and apart from others seems to come naturally. We are lucky not to have suffered too much during the past year, and in fact, when I look back I realize we have actually had a very good year, all things considered.
I invite you to join me for a trip down memory lane with some highlights from this strange year that was 2020.
We had plenty of overwintering greens despite cold winter weather. Enjoyed happy birthday celebrations with our youngest daughter. There was the last stand of Cisco the cat. Little did we know that in a few month’s time Cisco, the last of our pets, would die suddenly, just as the pandemic was announced. Good timing. We were going to travel a bit, once the last of the pets pegged out. Sometimes things don’t go as planned.
Towards the end of January, shortly before Covid-time I took a trip to Mexico to visit my mother. Spent time with my brother too, who was spending the winter with Mum. I had a painful encounter with a Mexican sidewalk pothole which seriously curtailed my activities. Luckily my flight home was scheduled just before the pandemic began and I was able to hobble home before the borders were closed. Good timing once again.
Once the Covid pandemic was declared, we all stayed in our respective homes and gardens, self isolating for weeks on end. Careful planning allowed us to spend time safely with our eldest daughter celebrating her happy birthday with a fresh seafood supper at home on our island.
Warming spring weather brought lots of blossom and some smiling faces. Followed by farewell tears for Cisco the Cat and a pandemic boat trip up one of the nearby inlets for us. That was when the weather decided to have one more stab at winter.
Those last April showers brought May flowers, and plenty of them, with the promise of berries and fruit to come. Gardening got seriously underway around this time, with the first harvests of mixed salad greens, herbs and lots of lovely rhubarb.
Summer brought socially distanced boat trips with friends. We traveled up Bute Inlet and around one of the neighbouring islands, in between steady garden work at home. At this point we had been to town once since the beginning of March. For much of this year we have only been to town about once every two months.
Just as the peas and beans and salad greens were beginning to take off we were visited by a family of wild Canada geese, who found their way into the garden, destroying most of the young seedlings. Most of the damaged plants did recover eventually, but not before I had re-seeded a lot of them, after vigorously chasing the geese off.
Mid-summer brought an abundant harvest of berries of all sorts including more blueberries than we have ever seen in our berry patch. Along with the berries came a mother robin who built her nest and raised her brood right in the middle of the raspberry rows.
We had some visitors this month too; friends who came by boat for a quick cup of tea in the garden, and C.’s eldest daughter and her family who used our boat as their home away from home. We ate family meals at the picnic table in the front yard and enjoyed one another’s company out of doors.
This month marks the third family birthday party of the year. We celebrated C.’s special day along with our eldest daughter and a couple of friends; outside once again. More distanced friends and an end of summer boat trip that took us happily away from the garden work for a pleasant change of scenery and plenty of swimming in the sea and a number of nearby lakes.
The California, Oregon, Washington State and Bute Inlet wildfires delivered smokey skies to us towards the end of the summer. We were luckier than folks farther south as far as smoke inhalation went, and much luckier than those unfortunate souls who lost property and/or life.
C.’s son and his family spent their late summer vacation camping nearby, with a lovely few days spent with us. This time C. and I moved onto the boat so the grandkids and their folks could spread out in the house. Our daughters were able to join us as well for a few days. We all planned ahead, isolating accordingly, in order to spend a few precious days in one another’s company.
I had a beautiful day for my happy birthday celebration. C. and I hung out at the lake and our mutually isolated summertime neighbours and swimming partners joined us for supper and birthday cake.
I joined friends and fellow activists for a march in our nearest town, appropriately distanced and masked, to protest against the foreign-owned, closed net-pen, Atlantic salmon farms that we have been trying to fend off from this coast ever since they first appeared in the mid 1980’s. It appears that we have finally won part of this battle and we await the final outcome, the removal of 17 of these farms from these waters around this group of islands we call home. The waters surrounding these islands are the main migratory route for all five species of Pacific salmon, some of which are now endangered. It feels like a weight has been lifted and hope is on the horizon.
The harvest continued with about a hundred pounds of tomatoes, many of which ended up in jars, preserved for future use in sauces and stews.
Sourdough bread baking became a thing when the pandemic was underway and all the baking ingredients had flown off the shelves. I received a gift of sourdough starter from my eldest daughter, and have been experimenting with it ever since. Sometimes I still bake my regular wholewheat bread.
There was a good harvest of squash despite a slow start. I was so proud of my big Cinderella pumpkin that tipped the scales at about 27 pounds!
After not seeing a deer around the place for at least two years, we were visited by a doe and her two older fawns this fall. Along with the maple leaves just beginning to change colour and drop to the ground, it made for a very autumnal scene.
I successfully grew out seeds for several types of kale as part of a citizen seed trial. And also grew some un-described seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange. Five packets of free seed in exchange for a written evaluation and description of each variety. Seed harvesting, saving and exchanging makes gardening more interesting for me. I guess it has become a bit of a hobby. A good thing as there was a great shortage of seed earlier in the year when everyone and their auntie decided to plant a pandemic garden. Luckily I had previously saved almost all the seed I needed to plant our large garden.
This fall C.’s nephew and his family offered C. a puppy from their recently born litter. We decided that since we are more or less locked down anyway, and the opportunity for travel is non-existent, we might as well live for the moment, so we agreed to take the littlest one of the litter. We adopted Billie, a female black Labrador retriever, almost two months ago. At nearly 30 pounds, she is now four times the size she was when we brought her home, and has settled in very nicely. We have been falling in love with her ever since. Every day she makes us laugh, or cry out, and we are smitten.
It is the dead of winter. Still, I found several yellow rosebuds in the garden to add to my winter solstice bouquet, along with some sweet scented winter flowering viburnum and some wild salal, also in bloom. It has been a mild and very wet winter so far. I like the wet west coast sort of winter time. I like the green, despite the soggy, muddy ground. I like the mist and even the pouring rain.
It has been the weirdest, quietest Christmas I think I have ever had. Our daughters had to work so were unable to join us for Christmas this year despite the Covid rules; because of their work, we are not in one another’s bubbles at the moment.
It was just C. and me and Billie for Christmas. We did not really have any presents to speak of, though we did find a small tree to decorate very simply with homemade paper decorations that were made once upon a time by our girls. At the last moment I baked a few Christmas cookies.
We had a small venison roast for our Christmas dinner along with vegetables from the garden. It was a bit of a non-event really but I don’t mind. The saddest thing was not being able to spend time with our children. My wish for 2021 is that we will all be together again soon. I’m saving the turkey for that occasion.
And that was about it for us, on our island, for this year in the time of Covid-19.
I wish you all a very healthy and happy new year. I truly hope that 2021 brings some much needed sanity to the whole wide world. With much Love and Peace for a brighter future.
copyright 2020 claudia lake