Hurricane Rena's

local ingredients, worldly flavour

Category: Independant Lifestyle

VDay 16

I want to celebrate this Valentines day by planting a tree
that will blossom every year of our lives
feed us sweet fruits when we are older
give us bunches of flowers every spring
providing food for bees
to make into honey every year with which to sweeten our lives

I love it, becoming thoughtful
Giving flowers that are still alive
in a pot of dirt, with the potential to grow
more than those that are cut and imported
and flown around on cargo jets
making home made treats
secretly in the kitchen for one another
handled with care every step of the way
and designed with individual tastes in mind
containing something of you,
your energy, time and effort
That the sentiments of the holiday
Don’t have to be gotten from commercial sources

Its two years since the man I loved all my life
took his last breath on Earth,
casting a shadow on all the romance, hearts and candy
But the romantic glow of candlelight is always full of shadows
that deepen the brilliance of the soft light of love
and I think of him and his fearless heart
and the way he made it count
if a slight tear falls on the celebration
made more intense by whispers from the past
encouraging me to celebrate it with even more abandon,
dance wildly, love deeper, live my dreams in a life shared,
reach out and connect with a deeper passion than ever before

I’d like to celebrate by building another honey super,
maybe another hive
preparing for bees to prosper
with the sweetness of summer feed us,
with the buzz of life in the trees connect us
with brilliance of flowers on the ground and garden entice our eyes,
I missed his funeral in order to honour him in everyday life
Being fully present for the one whom I love
and creating a lasting memorey that reaches for a better future
than the one being created for us by environmental circumstance.

Gift of water from the sky



We finally had 2 days of beautiful cooling rain after living for weeks in the scortching smoky shadows of a devistating forest fire season affecting all of western Canada, and a drought which extends all the way down to California. I have been coming up with ways to save and reuse water, keeping the gardens and friut trees watered at the same time. People who live in an area with some of the most generous rainfall in Canada normally do not have to think about such things, but even rainforests have their dry seasons. Even the city of Toffino has water shortages sometimes.

The problem is, when people are used to seeing heavy rainfall regularly, they don’t prepare for times when it dissapears from the sky for months on end.

I grew up in the praries. Most houses had 45 gallon drums at the end of their downspouts. This water was used for watering gardens. Here on the west coast, blue and white plastic barrels regularly wash up on the beaches intact. I am surprised to see how few of them are being used to collect and store rainwater. All you have to do is install a through hull fitting at the bottom of the aproximate size of a garden hose, a short length of hose and a valve at the end to convinently fill your buckets and watering cans. You put a fitted screen over the top of the barrel, and some tight fitting plastic for when its full to stop both mosquitos and evaporation.

In this particularly dry summer, I have not had to skimp too much on bathing, providing I re use the water. Since I use non toxic bathing and cleaning products, this does not add anything nasty to my gardens and plants. I use soap alternitives, such as the coconut oil scrub and epsom salts scrub I make and sell at our local farmers market. Even these are used in small amounts. I clean the tub out after with baking soda, which is also not harmful if some traces of it end up in my garden.

Many old houses in the country that I grew up around had a sink drain straight out the wall from their kitchen to a flower and herb bed that was directly watered with the day’s dishwater. People moved their washing machines outside during the summer months, so the laundry water watered their lawn and shrubs. People also had cisterns to store water when it was plentiful and deep ponds in their yards, called a “dugout” that collected water for irrgiating crops. People involved in growing things on the often dry praries appreciated rain for the gift that it is and did not take it for granted.

Here, our community garden is watered out of a well, and there have been restrictions on its use since the end of May. My action of collecting rainwater in a garbage can half dug into the ground in the center of my plot was once a controverstial action that my neighbors complained about. Now its absolutly essential to the well being of my food plants to supplement the limited watering we are allowed from the hoses every couple of days. I irrigate individual squash and tomato plants with 2liter plastic cider bottles, with a pinhole in the bottom and the lid screwed on loosly. Or I buy plant watering spikes to screw on where the lid goes. 5 gallon buckets with a through hull, hose barb, valve and short lengths of soaker hose can be used to keep raised beds watered and productive using captured reused water from your household. Lush gardens and plant life need not become a thing of the past in a dry summer providing it uses water that was just destined to go down the drain anyway, into septic or sewer pipes.

Bees Surivivng the winter despite mistakes I have made in their care.

Here’s some news about a learning curve that I am going through this year. The very first post I posted on this site was about getting my first bee hive, something I have always wanted to try doing, and have wanted to do more since I have learned about how important bees are to our food supply and the fate of the world in general. No mason bees for me, if I am going to care for insects, I will have honey bees.

I have been endlessly worried about my bee hive and whether it is surviving the winter or not. This is my first year of bee keeping and I made some amature mistakes that jeapordized the well being of the creatures in my care that I will not make again now that I know better.

I left a screen door on the house instead of a solid door when the storms and cold began. I fixed it a month later, but imagine if someone did that to your house? You might become more suseptible to cold and illness. If you had to live off of stored food, like my bees do, and it was in danger of going moldy because the landlord didn’t supply a door, it would not be good. If the basement flooded a little too because the house was unknowingly placed in an area that becomes swampy over the winter, it might increase your chances of illness and death as well.

I fixed that problem with the uneasy task of suiting up and moving the hive at a time of year when the bees do not want to be disturbed. My helper and I had to carry the hive carefully to avoid causing mass panic within and thus protective aggressive behaviour. It was extremely heavy and the ground was extremely slippery and muddy. But it had to be done, there was too many dead piling up outside the door, giving me the hint that things were not ok inside. I did some clean up, I swept out the entry way, now supplied with a solid wooden door, with pine sticks, and only one or two of the hives inhabitants buzzed around me. I put out fresh dry food, and one came up to eat it. But there were one or two where there were normally hundreds. So I wondered and wondered how many of the worlds most precious bugs had been killed by my previous beginner ignorance?

My helper, who is a more experianced bee keeper came around today and said we needed to open it up and look inside. This is the absolute worst time of year to do that. Today was the best day at the worst time of year to even try. So we opened the lid. We heard nothing. The new food has not been touched. There was dampness around the edges of the feeding box. Our hopes plummeted.

We took out the feeding box. There were a few dead in the deep super that appears to be still full of honey. We did not see or hear any signs of life. My helper took her hive tool and began to loosen the top box from the bottom box, where the bees have glued it shut with propolis.

Suddenly, we heard it. A promising sound. Buzzing. A stir from within.

Then, as we carefully lifted the top box, we could see the cluster of bees. It was a tightly packed cluster, a lot were in there. There was enough bees, my more experianced helper said to me, that the queen could be laying eggs and more brood hatching at the center of the cluster. It was a lot more promising that we had dared to hope for.

“She must be a really strong queen”

I felt ever so proud, ever so thankful to be the keeper of such resiliant creatures who survived and thrived dispite my lack of knowledge and mistakes made in what they need for their well being.




Sailing the Farm, a valuable book for anyone seeking a self sufficient lifestyle aboard a boat

Sailing the Farm: Independence on Thirty Feet – A Survival Guide to Homesteading the Ocean


Sailing the Farm

By Ken Neumeyer

Across the top of the book it says “Independence on 30 feet” A survival guide to Homesteading on the Ocean.

This book I found in a bookstore in a mall when I was 18 years old, and was a tremendous inspiration in my quest for independence and self sufficiency. I learned how to make cheese, how to build a solar still and a solar oven, how to dehydrate food and store it in the environment of a boat. But more importantly, this books opens your mind to thinking in the self sufficient way, which we are not taught in much of our lives. There are chapters about foraging seaweed, about nutrition and finances, how to provision correctly for an extended voyage, what to do if civilization falls apart while you are at sea.

It deals with topics of composting, and growing your own food in a sailboat. There is information in this book that I have not found anywhere else in over 20 years of reading self sufficiency books of all kinds. It not only offers a way to survive, but to enjoy a life of relative comfort and luxury while you are doing so, comparable to most people’s occasional holidays. You don’t only survive, you can thrive following the advice in this book. My only regret in reading it is that I have not been able to get it together to implement more of its advice in my day to day life.

It was written in 1981, so it is quite an old book, and was already old by the time I got it. It captures the spirit of the freedom a previous generation of people enjoyed and took for granted as the way of the future, an openness in the world that just isn’t there anymore. All told, I would still recommend it to anyone looking to live a self sufficient lifestyle on board a boat

Build a small Woodstove for under 50$

Small Wood Stove for under 50$

A guy named Ricky who lived at the Res dock in Campbell River showed me how to make this tiny wood stove out of a stock pot. It was the handiest thing. It cost less than 50$ and ended up being the main source of heat I had for the first winter on my ferro cement sail boat.

During the first winter I lived on Cheng Shi, there was a terrible hurricane force storm in early November, that tipped over the float with the fuel dock on it.
Unfortunately I was heating with my diesel stove that winter… Suddenly there was no diesel available. The dock however, was being replanked and there were dry wood scraps all over the place. The stock pot stove proved itself to be more than capable of heating a 34 foot cement hull boat. If the right fuel was carefully chosen, the fire could be coaxed into burning all night.

Here are some important things to consider when building the stock pot stove:

You use the lid for the bottom. You need to fill it up with 2 inches of gravel and sand, scooped from a beach or wherever. This stops the fire from burning into your table or shelf where you install it.

You need to bolt it down with U bolts through the stock pot handles. The thin stainless steel can get red hot and pop and shudder. This will be dangerous unless the stove is bolted down.

It is best to mount it on metal or cement board for added protection, though Ricky just had his set up on a table in the galley.

You need a bigger piece of sheet metal for the door. It needs to overlap the hole. You make the handle and notches out of the piece you cut out for the door, cut in half. This is essentially your damper which controls the air to your fire.

If you use 3 “ drier vent for the stove pipe, you must burn it outdoors first, because the galvinized coating is poisonous, but it burns off in one or two hot fires.

You need to get a 3” fitting with an all around flange and fasten it over the hole with stove cement. You may need to get this made for you by someone who welds. This needs to be sealed completely or the stove may smoke. You can use high temp silicone or stove cement, even muffler tape to accomplish this.

You need to tape over the edges with silver, metal tape. Everything will be deathly sharp. You also need to tape over any places where the pipes join.

The stainless steel will heat up quickly and heat your space quickly, however it will not hold the heat. It will go cold the second the fire is out. A good idea is to surround the stove with bricks, rocks, cast iron, whatever you can that will hold the heat.

Although the surface area is tiny, this is a good wood stove to cook on due to its ability to heat up fast.

A stovetop fan will improve its heating ability greatly by circulating the hot air.

woodstove made from stainless steel stock pot

woodstove made from stainless steel stock pot

My 30 000 pets arrive

Today was the big day I’ve been waiting for. My first hive of bees arrived this morning. Long have I wanted to become a beekeeper. I was checking on everything, hoping I was prepared, as much as I could be, for this new endeavour in the Homegrown Adventure.

I went to the farmer’s market early, they were coming from another island on the first ferry. I had a feeling if I waited until later in the day the bees would be agitated and hot. (We are in the middle of a heat wave here on the west coast) I had the spot all picked out for them, just out from a large fir tree to give them shelter, but out of the shade, so they get sun for most of the day. I had a pallet for a platform, leveled out with rocks, with a slight slope towards the entrance so that there will not be water trapped inside and dampness. This I had been advised to do by Kathy, who has been a beekeeper for over 20 years, and who’s hives are thriving under her care.

I put the bee suit on. I made my bee suit from a white paint suit, elastic pant cuffs over rubber boots, bee keeper’s gloves, a bee keeper’s hat and hood, and went outside to meet my pets, with the fluttery stomach that one might get when meeting a crowd of 30 000, as well as a soveregn monarch whom you need to be accepted by and get along with.

Tom, my bee supplier, had the basic beginnings of a new hive in the back of his truck. a bottom board, one deep super with frames in it, a top part and a top board. There was aslo whats known as a nuc box with 5 or6 frames in it. This was a smaller box with screens in the sides, meant for travelling with bees. He helped immensly with the set up. I was kind of nervous, but have learned when dealing with bees, slow deliberate, careful movements work best.

It is important to keep calm, so that you keep the bees calm during all your interactions with the stinging insects that provide us with honey, pollen and beeswax, and help us grow our food through pollination. They will not sting you unless they feel they have to to protect their queen and hive.

We opened the hive, and heard the vigorous buzzing. Inside were frames, with drawn out comb, some of which had brood, (larve and eggs) in it. Around the outsides of it was some glistening with freshly made honey, not capped yet. These bees had been living in this hive for only about 5 days, and they had done all this work on it so far.

Tom and I inspected all the frames in the deep super, and then took the lid off of the Nuc box. First he picked out a frame, looked at the bees crawling on the comb in a big crowd, showed me one that was slightly bigger than the others. It was a drone, a male bee that lives in hopes of mating with the queen, and generally doesn’t help out around the hive. I was told in the winter to expect to see a pile of them dead outside the hive, because they get the boot in the wintertime, and the other bees will not share honey with them.

We saw a bee emerging from its brood comb,where it had been sealed off as a larve. The wax was being chewed from the inside as the young worker ate her way out of the cell. Her first glimpse of the world happened to be at that moment as we were inspecting the comb. We made eye contact, as she continued to pull her large, new body from the saftey of the sealed wax cell where she’d spent her entire existance so far. Here was one bee that might already recognize me as her keeper. I was advised to wear the suit for the first little while until the bees and I get to know each other.

In the July heat, Tom advised me to put a flat dish of water somewhere close to the hive. I would have to put a jar of sugar syrup upside down on two sticks inside the hive to feed them. I would have to do this in the evening, once the day cooled off.

It was on the second to last frame that we put in the hive where we saw the queen. About an inch long, and swollen, she looked strong and healthy as she presided over other bees. Guards were buzzing noisily at us as we carefully moved that one frame she was on into the hive. It was the moment in the whole hive instillation where they were the most agitated. Tom was actually impressed with how calm they were through out the whole process otherwise. They were just guarding the queen, carefully, as they had been born to do, such loyal subjects. I named the queen bee Beatrice, a regal sounding name that often gets shorted to Bee. The queen went in the hive, along with the last frame of bees. Tom removed the screen over the entrance, and there they were, set up in their new home. We left the Nuc box, which still had a few hundred bees clinging to the sides of it, beside the hive.

We could see some bees leaving the hive, flying in a circle as they rose above it to orient themselves to its location and surroundings. I became aware of all the flowers in my yard, the dandlions and clover in the lawn, the tiny clover I had planted in the newly cleared areas in hopes of greening it up and providing a food supply to the bees I hoped to get, the wildflowers in the bushes.

Tom went back to the farmer’s market to sell honey and produce, and I drank a cup of coffee watching my bees flying out of their hive. I hope their queen is safe, and that they all will return at nightfall or whenever. Long live the queen. May she not have gotten accidently squished when we put her frame in the deep super. I wonder to myself when I should check them again, and when I should make a point of looking for her. Probably not tonight when I put the sugar syrup in.

I have been told that this hive may need to be split within 30 days, because it is multiplying rapidly and raising a lot of brood, then I will have 2 hives started. Which I would like very much to have happen. Also, to mix the syrup 2/3 sugar to 1/3 water, and add a little bit of honey to it.
In the baking sun of the hot afternoon, I see very little activity around the hive. I hope they haven’t just all scattered loose into the world never to return, that my bees will be there in their home, to grow and prosper.

May the hive prosper and thrive
Long live the queen!

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