Tuesday, November 27, 2007


What a glorious morning! It snowed about an inch and a half (appx 4 cm) overnight, the sun is shining, and there's no wind. It's crisp and beautiful and I was looking for excuses to be outside.

I filled the feeders while an audience of sparrows and finches waited in the nearby cherry tree for me to go inside. Salvador sat on the porch after I'd swept the snow off but he hates to get his feet wet and cold, so he didn't venture into the yard.

While we haven't acquired the feral cat who roams the park at night, we have acquired his appetite. I can't bear to see anything go hungry, so I've been putting food out for him this past week. He shows up at 9:00 p.m., eats half and comes back at 2:00 am to eat the rest.

He's black with white paws and a white chest spot, and while I assume it's a male cat because of the breadth of the head, it could be a female. For now, "it" will be known as daw-gooth' the Skurare word for cat.

Last night, because I had mistakenly bought a can of chicken and gravy cat food, which our Feline Overlord Does Not Want, I put it out for Dawgooth. Because I knew it would freeze if I put it out ahead of time I waited till he came to eat the bowl of dry food, then I opened the door and set the bowl of canned food beside the bowl of dry. When I opened the door he scurried under the truck and hid until I was back inside, but then he approached cautiously, sniffed and dove in. He must have thought he'd died and gone to cat food heaven. He wolfed that food down and polished the bowl with his tongue. It must have seemed wonderfully warm as the wind chill was -8 at the time.

He then ate about half the dry food and slid away into the night. He came back later but by then snow had filled the bowl and for the first time he didn't eat every scrap. This morning I took Sal's plastic carrier, covered it with a black garbage bag to keep out the wet, and set it on the porch. I'll set the bowls just inside it, and hopefully they will not fill up with snow again.

Most everyone in the park has been complaining about being cold in their RVs, but we are toasty with our panel heaters. Good thing. Our old furnace - original to the Tinpalace, has packed it in and won't light. Gary the RV guy came out yesterday, tested it and declared it DEAD. You can't get parts for a 35-year-old furnace so we are now waiting for him to return with a new furnace.

Can't say I'm in mourning for the old one. You had to get down on the floor, fiddle switches, twiddle with valves and depress a spring-loaded button located in the depths of the furnace to fire the thing. The button was supposed to work after a minute, but we've depressed it for 15-20 minutes, using a hammer handle as a lever, before it would light.

This is less fun than it sounds when it's -20 and the furnace goes out in the middle of the night. In that kind of weather the floor gets freezing cold without the furnace. In fact the primary reason we run the furnace is to keep the pipes under the floor from freezing in bitter weather.

The new furnace will be controlled by the thermostat. Turn it up and the furnace will light all by itself! What a concept!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

House of Dreams

We've been looking for more permanent living quarters. It's time for a bathtub and our own washer/dryer. But we've also decided that we can't be a two hour drive from the nearest hospital or decent shopping, and that we don't want to be alone in a new town with no community around us.

Economically that boils down to a small house or a manufactured home. (These used to be called a "mobile" home but are now built without wheels and are meant to be set on a foundation and left there forever.)

We found a jewel-box of a "manufactured" home in Penticton. It had been the 2005 show home for the manufacturer, had every bell and whistle, and was a beautiful little place. We made an offer, which was quickly accepted. Then we discovered that the original delivery in 2006 was made under less than legal conditions and that it was not described properly by the sellers and realtor in the offering. It was not a "manufactured home" (built to house-code) but what is called a "Park Model", and not eligible for a mortgage. They look almost identical, the differences are in the electrical service (50 amp service) and less insulation in the walls. Sigh....

My kids say I'm an old hippy at heart. I've never smoked weed, taken illegal drugs or had any free love. But like an old hippy, I yearn for the "simple" life, i.e. a tiny house, a little garden, those half dozen chickens I keep going on about endlessly.

At this point in our lives, when health concerns make it foolhardy to be isolated or far from medical care, the ideal situation would be to own a wee house in a community cluster of small houses, with a larger building serving as a central activity centre, a garden area, some fruit trees, and the opportunity for social and neighbourly activities. In other words like snowbirds in an RV park, but with cottages rather than RVs.

There are "senior's" apartments here, and in Penticton, but the idea of living in an apartment doesn't appeal to me, nor can we afford the incredible prices asked for these places. Tack "+55" onto a building's description and add $50,000.00 to the price tag. Here in Oliver prices range from $140,000 plus for a tiny apartment in an old building to $275,000 for a spiff apartment in a new building.

So here's my pretty little dream, which may never come to fruition, but I'd sure like to try it. Find a big lot, zoned "Multi-family". Find seven other +55 couples/individuals who want to build small, but well-equipped, cottages, and form a cooperative.

Build eight small (appx 500 sq ft) cottages, in two rows facing each other across a low-maintanence landscaped common. You might attach the units at the side walls for energy-efficiency's sake, or not, depending on the size of the lot. Build a larger building at one end to serve as an activity centre. Include a garden space, maybe a sunroom corner on the activity centre.

The estimate rate for building is $100.00 a square foot, but small houses cost more per square foot because the kitchen and bathroom are the most expensive rooms to build. Building a number of houses at once should effect some economies, as buying larger quantities of supplies is always less expensive than buying smaller ones.

The use of SIPs (Structural insulated panels) for building would result in heavily-insulated, air-tight structures. These panels could cost $15,000 for a 500 sq ft house, but end up costing only a little more than conventional stick-building methods because the structure can be erected very quickly on-site. Houses of this size could probably be taken to lock-up in in less than half a day each. The extra dollars spent buildings with SIPs are recovered in greatly reduced heating and cooling.

A plan like this 336 sq ft classic little house for a single person or couple should cost no more than $45,000 to build. This includes an efficient kitchen and full bath. If desired a 12 x 12 bedroom with a stacking washer/dryer in the closet could be added, attached at the bathroom side so the area marked "storage" becomes a doorway to the bedroom. This would bring the cost to appx $60,000. This plan has lots of windows, a dutch door, an open cathedral ceiling with storage lofts, skylights and a sweet front porch to sit on.

Another plan, with a similar exterior, contains 462 sq ft and includes a bedroom in a square footprint. This one could also be built for about $60,000. Co-op members could decide on any floor plan, as long as the square footage fell within the agreed on limits and the exterior was compatible with all the other houses. Personally I'm much more partial to a traditional exterior than a stark modern one. These are illustrations of what is possible with a small, well-designed house.

Add on the shared costs of land and the activity centre and the final price of a small house in a community like this should still be much less than the $142,000 price tag for the most modest apartment in town.

It might be possible for a partnership of six couples to form a co-op, build eight units and sell the two remaining shares at 10% below market value once they are complete and still make a good profit. The profit could be put into landscaping, improvements which would benefit everyone, or divided among the partners as return on investment.

Cooperatives are run democratically. Each member (or couple) owns one share (eight units = eight shares, 10 units = 10 shares etc.). No member or couple could own more than one share. A member may sell their share to any other person who meets the co-op's criteria, i.e. of a certain age, pets under a certain size, etc. :) Members decide on the criteria as the co-op is set up. They vote on the acceptance of any potential buyer of a property and have the option to decline membership.

I've been perusing property. No idea how to get from "idea" to reality, but it's something I've thought about for the last 10 years, and maybe it's time to do more than think!

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Now I out walking
The world desert,
And my shoe and my stocking
Do me no hurt.

I leave behind
Good friends in town.
Let them get well-wined
And go lie down.

Don't think I leave
For the outer dark
Like Adam and Eve
Put out of the Park

Forget the myth
There is no one I
Am put out with
Or put out by.

Unless I'm wrong
I but obey
The urge of a song:
"I'm — bound-away!"

And I may return
If dissatisfied
With what I learn
From having died.
~Robert Frost

In memory of my dear friend of 36 years, Audrey nee Alderson, 1934-2007.

Audrey Elizabeth passed away peacefully in Victoria, BC on November 5, 2007 at the age of 73. She was born in Swan River, Manitoba. She leaves to cherish her memory her loving family, four children, five grandchildren, two sisters and her dear friends. A funeral service will be held on Saturday November 10, 2007 at 12 pm at First Memorial Funeral Services, 1155 Fort Street, Victoria, BC. In lieu of flowers donations gratefully accepted to Victoria Hospice Society and BC Cancer Foundation.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Slight Misunderstanding

Picture this:

Lady, somewhat past middle age, rushes in the front door, ripping off her pants as soon as the door closes behind her, yelling "Horny! Horny!"

Well, that may have been what her her husband heard. But the real story was more like this.

Lady, somewhat past middle age, rushes in the front door, ripping off her pants as soon as the door closes behind her, yelling, "Hornet! Hornet!"

The leaves are dive-bombing off the cherry trees and falling in drifts across the garden. I was enjoying myself raking leaves with my child-size rake, and stuffing them into a big bag, when a handful contained a surprise, a hornet!

He (she?) let me know immediately that I was intruding on personal space. I dropped the leaves around my feet and the hornet disappeared. At once I felt something climbing up my leg, inside my pants. Which is why I went squealing through the door pulling off my pants as I ran.

Tony doesn't hear all that well... oh the rest is history. Poor thing, lots of excitement, just not the kind a feller hopes for when he opens his eyes and rolls out of bed in the morning.