Monday, December 26, 2011

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade

I haven't posted for a long time because things here have been a challenge ( to put it mildly), however life isn't sugar-coated so neither is my story. From every adversity thrown at me I have learned lessons and grown as a human so I am not posting a" woe-is-me" story but sharing how hardship is shaping my life.

I am not going to get into all the nitty, gritty details of " he said this" and "he did that" but our relationship with our landlord has completely deteriorated. People weren't paying their rent on time, new bills were being presented by the landlord that David had no idea that he would be liable for and the stress levels were mounting daily. It got to the point where David couldn't handle the insanity anymore and so relinquished his water lease back to the landlord. At that point, having resolved his responsibilities here, David went back to Ontario for a well needed rest. The landlord took his absence as an opportunity to shake things up here. His first order of business was to tell me that he had never had a lease with me himself and wanted me and my home off of his property ASAP.

Another tenant here had managed to convince the landlord that he could make him more money by filling the marina with boats in the space that my house was taking up, so the landlord hired him as the new caretaker (or "Harbour Master" as it was described in the notice we got) and made it his sole job to get rid of us. The first order of business was to cut off our power and water and to tell our neighbors that if any of them got caught helping or even talking to us, they would be evicted as well.

So since October 1st, I have been living off-grid, so to speak. People are always asking me "how do you do it"?

 I wasn't at all ready for that scenario. It has been my long term goal to be self sufficient, but at the time this happened, my reality was that I was hooked up to 30 amp shore power which ran a few lights, a portable electric heater in my bedroom, my computer and charged various batteries. I had cold running water to flush the toilet and run in the kitchen sink. That was it!

 I showered and did laundry at Davids house ( next door to me). I ate all my meals at his house and washed all the dishes there. The landlord told David, that if he disconnected his house from the property, that he would turn my power back on. David did ....and the landlord didn't.

Now we were totally screwed as my house didn't have any facilities built or hooked up and we couldn't access Davids house anymore. His house ended up sitting badly on the hard at low tide, cracked in half and within a few weeks, sank with all the furniture etc still in it.

So this is what my life has looked like for the last three months:

 I shower at local rec centers and occasionally a friends house.
 I take my laundry twice a week to the laundromat.
 I use buckets of water from the river to flush my toilet.
I use a broom, mop or carpet sweeper for the floors.

I buy large jugs of bottled water to drink and do dishes with.
All cooking/water heating is done on a propane stove and BBQ, outside in the rain and dark on the front deck.
 My unheated kitchen is my fridge. Meats and perishables are kept safe in a cooler.

 I have 2 indoor propane heaters to heat the two bedrooms upstairs, which we basically live in, the rest of the house is whatever temperature it is outside that day.
 I take hot water bottles to bed at night and have flannel sheets, 2 cotton quilts and a feather comforter to snuggle under.
I wear lots of clothes in the house and to bed.

 After our first generator was sabotaged, I bought another smaller one which is brought indoors each night before going to bed. It's a small 1300 watt which powers 3 lights, a combination tv/vcr which is our entertainment and my computer and modem. We also use the generator to charge up car batteries which we use to run things like the answering machine and the computer late at night.

 We use flashlights a lot to move around the house at night, a propane lantern for the kitchen, LED stick-up battery lights, which are motion-activated, for dark spots like stairs or the attic hallway. Sometimes we light candles and oil lamps for added ambience.
We have a few lamps which run off the generator when it's on.

Right now my costs are pretty high. I am paying for lots of bottled water, approx 60 liters of propane/month, 100 plus liters of gas/month, $40 plus a week in laundry costs, not to mention all the extra fuel and time it takes to go to the showers, laundromat, water selling places etc.

 I am quite proud of the fact that I hunkered down and made the best of the situation. It's not ideal, but we are warm enough, well-fed, clean and dry. Now the trick is to lower my living costs.

I looked into putting a wood stove in, but to have all the legal clearances from the walls, the stove would have sat right in the middle of my kitchen. I have three doors in the kitchen which makes that set-up totally impractical. I need $2,500.00 to get a licenced gas fitter to come and hook up our propane fixtures. Once that is done, I would have a propane stove, fridge, dryer and hot water on demand system as well as a propane furnace which would heat the whole downstairs. If I run gutters down each side of my 60 foot roof, I could collect rainwater in barrels for showering and washing up. Some solar panels would offset the cost of the gas generator.

I am learning to live with less appliances, less water and less waste when it comes to power. I'm still not sure how I can produce enough power for all my eventual desires though. These are the bare necessities but I have things like an infra-red sauna, a Jacuzzi tub, steam shower and a bunch of beautiful light fixtures that I would like to be able to use now and again.

 I miss having an oven ( although the pressure cooker has made some nice roast meals), I really miss running water. I would like to have at least one room with a heater that is thermosatically controlled so I can keep my plants alive over the winter. All in good time I guess, I just have to keep upgrading my system as funds come in.

I did have a spot of luck while all this was going on. For about 2 months, a friend who is a jack-of-all-trades came and did 2 hours of work a day for room and board. My wiring in the house was a total gong show. Before I got the house, someone had stolen the power box and left all the wiring cut. I had managed to get a few things hooked up in the beginning but most of it hadn't been sorted out yet. Dan managed to get a good chunk of it rewired and hooked up a bunch a light fixtures for me and set up all the connections in the bathroom for my spa units. He also framed in my bathroom doors and got the sliding door installed from the bathroom to the massage room. The steam shower unit is mostly set up, we just have to connect the water before putting the last few pieces together. The bathroom is about 75 percent complete. It's such a shame that I finally got thisclose to a bathroom but can't use any of it with no power and water. Still, progress is being made even admidst all the chaos in my life.

As if all this wasn't fun enough, my van did its usual balk at winter weather and spent 5 weeks at the mechanics. I had to bus it to work which added a lot more strain to my already very full days. I bought a bunch of water proof clothes and bundled up for the one km daily walk to the bus stop. The good part of this was: saved lots of money on gas, got to read books again on the one hour bus ride and got some sorely needed exercise. The bad part was trying to run all my fuel buying errands on my days off. Luckily good friends chipped in to lend me vehicles when needed. I finally got the van back, five hundred dollars later and it still runs like shit. Never when the mechanic drives it of course, only when I am alone and on the highway. Every engine light comes on and I sputter down the road for some time until mysteriously, they go out and all is well again. Oh well, beats walking!!

This whole time, I have been scrambling and looking for somewhere else to move the house. It has not been easy at all. My biggest drawback is my size. Most floathome communties have berths set up for something in the 20x20, 25x30 type of range. I am a collasal 28x66. Its like looking to park a bus in a smart car parking stall, not going to happen! After spending months phoning every single marina in BC and knocking on strangers doors with river front property, I decided to try a different method. That is another post in itself, so stay tuned for the story of how I manifested a berth for my home.

Updated: here is the link to that story

1 comment:

rick said...

You must be making this up! ;)