Monday, February 8, 2016

The "Slow Season"

As I write this post it is the first day of February, I have been home from my Mexico trip (a pretty great trip and the subject of my next two blog posts) for nearly two weeks and I am sitting at the ferry dock on Orcas Island waiting for my boss to arrive and start the work day. This post goes from about Thanksgiving (spent on Shaw with my nun-friends) to Christmas (spent with Seattle friends and family) and covers some pretty major cabin progress, a wonderful new person in my life and just general scenes of fall/winter in the islands. Enjoy!

As I talked about in the previous post, building the stairs to connect the main level of my cabin to the sleeping loft has been the current priority and something occupying a good chunk of my time. They will be one of the first things seen when people open the front door so I want them to look especially nice and that requires hours and hours and hours of sanding and staining!

Because I'd just been in Seattle and seen all my family about a week before, I opted to spend Thanksgiving on-island. Bringing a kale salad from our garden, I joined a small group from Our Lady of The rock and a few other islanders at the Sisters of Mercy where we shared a wonderful meal, drank wine and played board games.

With my friends out of town, I was on chicken-duty. The ladies like this one laying box in particular, so it held most of the eggs for that particular evening I collected.

Back in my place, the stairs were all ready to put together like a big Lego set. To make the job easier and more enjoyable, I invited Marijke to help me with the project and she jumped right in, doing a great job. Marijke is one of the interns at Our Lady of the Rock monastery, she is from the Netherlands and quit her job and sold off much of her possessions to live on Shaw and work on a farm for a year.

With the stairs all put together, here I am making the final attachments to the landing below and the loft beam above.

The finished product, something I am extremely pleased with. Funny enough, this is the first set of stairs I've ever made! Yes, they are a bit steep, but given my space constraints I think what I ended up with was the best method to save space while making something functional. I wouldn't change a thing.

One day after work I was waiting on Orcas to get home to Shaw and had a lot of time to kill. Instead of just sitting for two hours (ah, life on the ferry schedule!) I was early enough to get a boat that headed all the way to Friday Harbor on San Juan, spent less than 30 minutes there (this photo is arriving at FH in the evening), just enough time for a burger and beer, then hopped back on the same boat to get home to Shaw. So yes, I rode a ferry for over two hours and headed to a different island just for a burger!

Austen taking a huge top out of a fir as part of the gary oak restoration project on Turtleback Preserve, my favorite re-occurring job we do and one of the most beautiful places we get to work.

Under a tree and looking south from Turtleback towards home on Shaw.

Fire drill. I'm standing on top of one of the engines looking back at the tanker that is supplying water for that nights training exercise.

Oh, this is an exciting one! After much delay, I finally got all the parts and installed my wood stove! This is the first ever fire in my cabin and a truly exciting moment for me. The stove is one my dad salvaged from a cabin that was being torn down (thanks dad!) and is a perfect fit in my small place.

I got myself a small boat! It's just a 12-foot aluminum boat, but it is perfect for crabbing in Blind Bay, silly little adventures, and I may even decide to use it to commute to work which could save me a few hours a week, if I decide to spent like $1000 on a new outboard motor…

On the water for it's maiden-voyage dropping some crab pots.

As always I try to pay attention to the little things as well and this slug caught my eye. It was on my table outside so I gently tossed it onto the moss to get it out of my way. In the process, it landed on it's back and I became curious how it would right itself in order to continue, so I stopped what I was doing to observe it. Moving much faster than I expected, it twisted it's body in a rather elegant corkscrew from front to back, and headed on it's way as if nothing had happened.

So you probably know I'm a climber, and a while back I mentioned I'd installed a tie-in-point on my ceiling in order to have a climbing rope from the main level to the loft. As a kid I'd always dreamed of living inside a jungle-gym type house, so now that I'm building my own place I'm making that dream a reality!

With some significant progress made on the main level of my cabin, I was finally able to move my desk down there and begin turning it into a living-space instead of just a work space. After months of living entirely in the loft, I was finally beginning to spread out and use the space as it's designed to be used for! This is of course still a work in progress and the desk is temporary (still re-using what I built for my tiny-house way back) but it works great and the place is finally starting to come together and feel…. More civilized. Haha…

The loft now used only as a 'bedroom', just as I intended. Again, this is just a work in progress and I'll build a completely new and custom bed platform, as well as dresser and closet, but it works great as is right now and is a wonderful place to sleep. Waking up next to a huge window overlooking the meadow feels like being up a tree, not to mention the two other windows I can look out from bed!

Installing the vinyl flooring in the loft.

The Shaw landing, heading to work on the 7:15am to Orcas.

I'm always collecting bones and this is a skull I found while building a new section of trail. Not sure what it is though, dog?

Baby Angus coming over for a visit.

Up the meadow to Nick and Ellens for dinner with friends. It's pretty unusual, but we are still friends with people we went to elementary school with, Zach and Mike on the left here. I actually went to pre-school with Nick, but we didn't become friends till elementary school, haha.

Visiting Marijke at the monastery. We walked all over the property and while dodging cow-pies headed into the pasture to say hi to one of the young cows she used to bottle-feed when it was much smaller.

Inside the monastery chapel, a very beautiful building with some excellent wood working.

Back at work and back up a tree.

Haha, this is a pretty silly photo. I spent the evening doing the trim on this window (which came out great!) and noticed the work-light made a pretty cool shadow against it so I had to take this as a victory shot.

Obligatory ferry boat photo. Shaw in the background.

Happiness is a perfectly dropped tree. This was a fun day over at Turtleback Preserve, another day of cutting down firs to allow the native oaks to survive instead of being out-competed. The best part about this project is they usually use volunteers or other work groups to do all the cleanup, so Austen and I get to spend all day just cutting and making a mess!

Checking over the SCBAs at fire drill.

Early morning at the Shaw ferry dock, chatting with the guys before heading to work.

Ah yes, this was a pretty cool day. We got to work on Blakely Island, an island I'd never been to before. In order to get there, we had to drive all the way across Orcas and hop on the water-taxi with all our gear. After spending all day in the rain, it was time to turn around and do it all over again in the other direction.

Heading home on a dark rainy day.

The pond back home. It sure is a beautiful place, and didn't get that way without a lot of hard but satisfying work.

Burn pilin'.

At this point it was nearly Christmas, and that means Carol and Bruds annual party at their house. It ends up being one of the larger social events on the island and is always a great deal of fun. (sorry for the lousy photo though)

Rainier the rooster looking powerful and in charge.

Although it's not something I know much about, I'm always interested in all the different kinds of fungus that pop up in the fall and winter and keep my eyes open for interesting looking specimens.

After re-aggravating a back problem I've had for oh, 15 years, I headed to the clinic in Friday Harbor. Hope for the best!

With Christmas finally upon us, Marijke and I headed down to Seattle to spend a few days with my friends and family before I flew out to Mexico. We didn't do much touristing around as she had done some of that stuff on an earlier visit to Seattle, but I had to show her a few things including the view from Kerry Park of course.

So it's been a never ending task to find American beer Marijke likes, so after many many failures she was thrilled to find some of her favorite Belgium beers at a specialty beer store in Seattle. I'm always happy to try new beers and without a doubt her favorites from home are quite different than American beer that is usually so hoppy (even things that are not IPAs…), they are more smooth and creamy almost, and much stronger!

Seattle at night from West Seattle, as we headed to my aunt and uncles to stay with them during the remainder of our time in the city.

Decorating the Christmas tree.

My dad and uncles preparing a wonderful dinner.

Christmas with the family, a great occasion.

Once people are done having Christmas dinner with their families, my friends and I have a tradition (7 years now) of meeting up at the Blue Moon Tavern and taking over a big chunk of the place for the remainder of the evening to do a white-elephant gift exchange. It's always a great time with some crazy gifts, lots of laughs and ending in the group photo. This alone is reason enough to leave the island for Christmas!

Shortly after Christmas, I was heading to Mexico for three weeks. To prepare for this trip I bought a new tent and a few other pieces of gear so naturally I had to check them out before taking them with me and the living room at my parents house seemed like the perfect place to do that!

In two days, I would be flying to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico and while it's always a little hard to leave the island, I was excited to see Mexico for the first time and the sunny beaches were calling my name.

Be sure to check back in a little while for my next post, the first writeup about the trip includes highlights like celebrating New Years, swimming with whale sharks and sea lions and spending 24 hours on a ferry boat!