“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”~
I got to thinking that I should post pictures of snow for you, at the same time bring you all up to date. We brag to friends and family from away, especially those who are now up to more than their ankles in snow and frigid temperatures, that the heavy part of winter usually passes us by. But in truth we do get the occasional snow fall. That eight to nine inches that descended the other day wasn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things but we treasure these days knowing that they won’t last. They feel cozy and insulating. I pulled out my book du jour, lit a fire, donned my woollen socks and sweater and cocooned for a few hours. That container of veggie chilli and whole wheat rolls that I made last month and stashed away in the basement freezer made the perfect supper.
Duck Pond is frozen over now and in the morning the ever-growing flock arrives to grab whatever seeds fall from the bird feeders or what morsels of plant life remain poking through the blanket of white.
We have noticed some pairing off lately and now have our favourite couple-of- the-year. A male and female we call André and Béatrice, both mallards of pure looking lines. He is never far from her side, makes a point of discouraging suiters and quite often we see him guarding her while she forages for food. As they aren’t a part of our ‘regulars’ they are more cautious, so it’s been difficult to capture a decent picture of just them but we have hopes that in spring they will bless us with a new crop of ducklings.
Béatrice et André
Every so often I venture outside to our cold frame garden to harvest some greens. It wasn’t the huge success I was hoping for but we’ll make modifications another year experimenting with different crops and the structure gives us additional space when spring comes to get seedlings going.
Cold Frame Greens
Francois has had a lot of success with the lettuce seeds I planted indoors. With super grow lights and heating mats in the basement for his ‘special’ plants, my greens have flourished. Until my cold-framing improves I’ll have to be thankful for clippings of those and from my kitchen jar sprouting.
We left our Christmas tree up on our outside deck because it acts as a shelter for the small birds, most welcome I’m sure during the last storm with high winds and horizontal snow fall.
Our little RED by the Sea has become picture perfect with this new layer of white stuff. We know if won’t last because rain and warmer temperatures are forecast for tomorrow but from time to time we can enjoy these little gifts without it dragging us down, aching for spring thaw.
To celebrate my son-in-law’s birthday, my daughter booked us into a local hotel, a kind of staycation for us, a treat for the wildlings and an overnight reprieve for the sleep deprived parents. During the pandemic the hotel even made accommodation for pool usage. Water time booked for an hour with limited numbers, a warm shower, then by the time we were back to the room, dinner was dispatched and left touch-less at our room door thanks to the Skip the Dishes delivery service. It was all very magical until Wildling #1 decided to call 911 unbeknownst to us. I’m not sure whether the ensuing police visit and lecture from the uniformed officer was a reward or deterrent but it did add a touch of spice to the day.
A mighty ‘noreaster’ blew through the other day but we were ready for her. Several months ago we had our little home by the sea wired to accommodate a permanent generator. It was all a part of F’s ‘emergency preparedness’ plan….because that’s what he does so well. Prepares for the worst. Hopes for the best. So since then we’ve been ‘hoping’ for the ‘best’ possible storm. We’re like that. (loving our storms by the sea). And Momma Nature didn’t disappoint. By dawn one morning we found ourselves in the dark and a little chilly…but this time, with a flick of a panel switch…voilà!…we had coffee and warmth. And a big plus…and probably right up there with the warmth and coffee or at least a very close third place – we can flush the toilet, guilt free. Tee hee!! It’s the simple things you know. No beer or storm chips in the pantry but a nice bottle of wine will do when cocktail hour rolls around.
Rockin’ the Storm in Atlantic Canada
All caught up now, we leave you to enjoy Ground Hog Day. That special anniversary we have been celebrating happily for twenty five years now. Wow! A quarter of a century! It has been that kind of life together that we haven’t minded repeating over and over again.
Bed Picnic Deluxe
To say we are a little overwhelmed these days would be an understatement but it’s an electric energizing kind of feeling. Trying to strike a balance of the ‘want to do’s’ with the ‘have to do’s’ with all of the ‘would rather do’s’ has kept us hopping since moving in.
Fall weather temperatures although still very mild, have been dropping so tending to R.E.D. especially running antifreeze through her veins is essential before the deep cold sets in. And oh the stuff in the galley! At the beginning of the season, if you remember, we were supposed to have been preparing for a three-month cruise of Lake Huron so I, in my usual Galley Kat over kill mode, provisioned for a three month trip. Now I’ve been faced with moving all that stuff back to the house. How many bottles of sauces and mustards can one fit in a tiny kitchen? I’m finding out. It will all get used up eventually but for an instant or three I was longing for all that storage in the Montreal kitchen.
Our Land Galley
So now the main tasks are complete on the boat. Igloo frame and winter coat secured. Lines flushed and food things removed. Poor R.E.D. will need a good cleaning in the spring but at least she’s winter-ready.
Now we are caught with wanting to do some yard work but needing to unpack boxes. The weather has been so great that if we wait for a crappy day nothing will get done inside.
The Fire Pit
So each day there is a little inside…a little outside. The previous owner was a real gardener and we want to make sure that we take care of pruning and cutting and thinning out properly. Identifying what plant is what is a big mystery for now but we’ll learn as we go. I’ve discovered little treasures of lemon thyme and lots of lavender some of which I’ve brought in to dry for the winter months. Can’t wait to see what other edibles emerge in a few months.
Another challenge for us is learning to properly recycle here. There are very specific rules not seen before in Montreal. And then there is caring for the septic system. My city condo garburator has been replaced with a compost bin. No bits of food or coffee grounds or grease down the drain and no chemicals. There are bags for paper waste and bags for plastic and special garbage bags for non-recyclable items and rules about disposing of yard debris and how many bags of each can be left for collection and when collection is scheduled for our area. It makes me sad to think of all the trees that sacrificed themselves for this one move. It’s embarassing all the paper and cardboard needed just for us but at least there is a good system in place to give it all a new life.
In the midst of all of this is what Francois refers to administrative things like changing our car and driver’s registration to make us Nova Scotia legal. We have a grace period of 90 days so there isn’t a great rush but it does have to be taken care of. And with winter approaching those snow tires have to be installed and at the same time why not have the mandatory safety inspection done which we’ll need when registration is changed over?
See what I mean? There’s a lot to do.
I’ve never had a move that’s taken this long to unpack either. Yes, I know, it’s only been a few days but usually I can have the boxes gone within a couple of days. Downing-sizing takes a lot more care. If you remember the previous posts about the car loads of things we got rid of before leaving Montreal, well it wasn’t nearly enough. 24’ x 26’ gives me exactly 624 square feet of fitting in on the main floor. Same for the upstairs rooms.
The Wooden Hill
The basement is another issue because when we can’t find space in the main living areas it all goes down to ‘the cave’ and at the moment it’s a navigational mine field.
Francois had tackled that job really well so at least there is room to manoeuvre and good news, he’s found space for his tools.
We’ve struck a reasonable balance I think. Just enough to make the Kat feel calm in her new home. There have been moments though when I felt like hiding under the bed or curling up fetal-like in my window seat.
Moments when a few boxes were unpacked and contents put away all neat and tidy then we’d turn around and open another few boxes and it was like a moving box explosion… paper and cardboard all over the place again…as if it would never end.
Our guest room is painted and invitation ready. Being such a tiny room we opted for multi-functional. A single bed that transforms to a very generous double and also acts as a sitting area for TV watching. But who has time for TV-watching anyway?
We may have to live out of wardrobe boxes for a while in our bedroom though. Old houses and small closets go hand in hand and gables with all those slanted ceilings are going to make furnishing a challenge but our bed is a lovely solid cozy santuary when our busy days are done.
Living Room with a View
All the boxes are out of the main living area and our art has been hung so we can have moments of pretending we’re finished. Those shelves will be arranged and rearranged over and over until the Kat is satisfied and then rearranged once again for good measure. There is still so much editing to do though. We’re sticking with the concept that if we need more storage for your stuff then we have too much stuff.
Shelves Rearranged a Dozen Times
This may seem like a whole litany of complaining and grumbling but when we think of what could have been we are so very thankful to be here is this wonderful charming little cottage by the sea. We could have found a fixer upper…and we looked at a few. Imagine having to do all this in the midst of renovating when the very worst thing that’s needed here is maybe a fresh coat of paint….maybe.
Because we sold our dining room furniture (didn’t have room for it anyway) we kept our small cocktail table and a couple of bar stools. Not terribly practical but for now it works for the two of us. At the end of each day we sit here and watch the sunset over the ocean and think how very lucky we are to be here.
I asked Francois if he thinks he’ll ever get tired of this.
His answer: Never!
Never is a very very long time.
“What if all I want is a small, slow, simple life?…
What if I am most happy in the space of in between?…
Where calm lives…
What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that?” …
Excerpt from “What if All I Want is a Mediocre
Life?” an essay by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui
When I look back to how our lives have changed over the past five years and even how the tone of our blog posts have changed, I have to shake my head and wonder when we actually altered course. Our blog used to be all about what we did with the boat, where we went, the problems we had and how we solved them, the modifications we made. It was to have been a journal of sorts of our journey and in part for those who had similar boats or intentions.
We’ve had some pretty cool adventures on our little boat and made changes on her to transform her into our little water chalet . Our first year, Trois Rivieres to Quebec City . The Rideau Loop and Thousand Islands our second. New York and Long Island Sound our third. And last year our biggest adventure to date, the magestic St Lawrence River and Gaspe region.
These were all a part of a five year plus plan we created that centred around R.E.D. This year, summer 2017, was to be have been our three-month Lake Huron and Georgian Bay cruise. Weather with so much rain bringing high water levels seriously cut into our planned time away so we headed east instead where we fell in love all over again. Next year, 2018, was to have been our Great American Loop Adventure, taking a year off to cruise to the Great Lakes down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida (maybe taking a side trip across to the Bahamas) then back up the Intracoastal Waterway making our way home. The Canadian versus US dollar and the current political climate has discouraged us from continuing down that road…for now at least.
We threw around the idea as a lot of cruisers do, living aboard or spending six months somewhere in the south on the boat during the winter months. A very appealing dream it is. But as we see with cruising bloggers whose adventures we’ve followed, so many seem to have branched off after several years into land-based pursuits leaving water life behind. And as we age, concerns about health care and increased costs of insurance became a very real focus.
We even looked into the costing of buying a land-based live-aboard vehicle, specifically the Canadian made Safari Condo with about the same amount of living space as R.E.D. Sharing our ideas and dreams with each other of travelling through our great country, through the US and further became a fun pastime for us. Loading it on a boat to cross over to Europe was also considered. But then R.E.D. happened. She was an expansion of the RV idea of travellling and exploring allowing us to change not only land plan but water as well. The best of both worlds.
There is so much more we want to do with our lives too. If we invest totally in a water life will we be able to feed our other passions? Travel for instance. Francois lived for two years in the south of France and promised that someday he would take me there. I was lucky enough to have bare boat sailed in the British Virgins so have promised to take Francois someday to re-live with him those adventures.
RED by the SEA
All of this brought us to thinking about a life at the edge of the sea instead of a life on the sea which led us to where we are now…our RED by the SEA. We can still return to cruise Lake Huron someday. We can still revisit the Great American Loop plan. But this shift has freed us up to do other things while continuing to explore this beautiful part of Canada. The Saint John River for example has been called the Rhine of North America and is now added to our water plan. And sailing the exquisite Bras d’Or Lakes nestled in the centre of the Cape Breton highlands, is something I’ve dreamed of doing for many years now.
Bras d’Or Lakes photo CaperPics
As you read this post we are no longer Montrealers. We are nomads, literally homeless for the next few weeks until RED by the SEA is legally ours. Of course we’ll return for family and friend visits but it’s with so much emotion that we leave behind our nest that was to have been our ‘forever’ place with its magnificent four season views, replacing a city life for one in the country.
Our belongings are now packed into the POD. All our wordly possessions reduced to a little over 1000 cubic feet (and yes, to those who placed your bets, everything fit thanks to my master planner. Was there really ever any doubt?)
Our Life in a Box
Are we ‘settling’? Are we compromising? A lot of thought and soul searching went into this latest decision and it feels so right. It’s like slipping into a warm bath, or putting on a favourite pair of jeans or hanging with your best friend. We haven’t settled or compromised. Not at all! We’re right where we should be, that space of in between where calm lives.
Where Calm Lives
Post Script: french translation is automated and not always perfect. Sorry