Winter Report

April 1st has come and gone, and this cover image is no April Fool’s prank. The snow IS still blanketing us here in northern Ontario. There’s no shortage of available berths at North Bay’s marina!

Despite winter lingering, the months have passed quickly since Tim and I left Ariose near Lunenberg  Nova Scotia. Instead of transporting our beloved Alberg 30 home, Tim and I towed the weight of uncertainty with us. We weren’t sure what was next in our lives.  We’ve spent the past few months figuring it out and making things happen.

First, though, our boat. How is Ariose faring? Very well. 

Early February and Ariose waits patiently. photo credit: George R.

It has been strange to not have Ariose tucked within view, in its boat shed on our property. Actually, though, there’s been a bit of relief. With nearly 2000 km separating boat from labourers, there is no pressure to tackle the never-ending list of boat-work, which is good as we have had plenty of land-based work to complete. We assume Ariose is a happy vessel, having experienced a less extreme, maritime climate this winter.  It’s been reassuring to have our friend George keeping a watchful eye and sending updates. 

And how are Tim and I doing? We’re doing well, too.

We’re both appreciating solo life. Living apart suits us, but we are taking a unique approach to this separation thing. We both love our land, and are grateful to have 130 forested acres of it. Certainly there’s plenty to share. We have no plans to give it up. We’ll continue our co-ownership and for both of us, this will remain our terrestrial home base.

Tim burrowed back into the straw-bale garage/cabin, and has focused on a few interests and projects since our return. Some of these have been his own, and some helping me… more on that in a moment.

Grateful for this bunkie’s respite.

When we got back, I moved into a friend`s bunkie for a bit of recovery and reflection time. (Thanks, F.) It was much like boat living, off-grid and compact, but without worry of dragging anchor. It was nearly perfect, but as autumn ended,  I missed being home.

Serene view from bunkie’s front porch… but I still missed “home”.

I was inspired to build my own tiny space on our property. Tim offered to help. I had over a month before deep cold set in, and expected that would be enough time to construct such a small structure, a mere 8’x12′, or at least, to get it to the point of being inhabitable.   

Balsam en route to new life as a rafter.

Late November, with Tim’s help, I chose a lovely site tucked in our woods near the lake. We took down a reluctant leaning balsam, which became the first roof rafter of my small off-grid abode. And thus commenced THE build.  Four months later, it’s still far from complete, but I have moved in. It’s been quite the learning curve. And quite the effort. My casual “this can’t possibly take long” assessment was way off. It has been a challenging winter build, especially for a novice. Dragging materials through the snow, scraping ice off the previous day’s work, working with frozen tools and frozen toes. Tim contributed his brains and brawn as needed.  A friend and neighbour helped out with his workshop tools and his expertise. (Thank you J.) Another generous neighbour let me stay in his summer house just a short walk down the road.  (And thank you S.) Luxurious warm baths at the end of the day sustained me. 

Similar to our sailing experiences, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the degree of difficulty and the ultimate satisfaction. Let me just say that the satisfaction is high. Very high.

Once the cabin was enclosed, and my mini-woodstove installed, the icy discomfort was left behind. I felt a bit of a proud swagger in my gait as I wandered over to start each day’s work, circular saw in one hand, lumber on the other shoulder. 

Tim did a great job designing, sourcing, and instalIing a solar electrical system. There’ll be no need to ration power… this cabin’s loaded. For water, I’ll bucket it from a nearby spring.

Off grid power dude.

I’m wrapping up the interior’s finishing touches and later this year, I’ll complete the exterior and the landscaping.

It’s especially gratifying that most lumber has been harvested from our land and prepared on our mill, and other materials, like roofing, windows, and siding, we salvaged from demolitions thus rescuing them from a landfill fate. A few items, I did need to purchase new. I now have my own home base, a very simple, very light footprint nest to nourish my spirit

Tim and I will trial this new configuration of living apart but sharing our land. Maybe building a `real`home will be in my future – but definitely not in winter!

And what’s next?

Tim and I both have some sailing adventures ahead in 2023.  Tim is planning to return to Ariose this summer. He’ll test the waters – literally –  getting some solo sailing experience along Nova Scotia’s coast. If all goes well, he’ll assume ownership of the boat and consider voyaging further.

I’m leaving next week to join 2 other women sailing from Panama to Guatemala. Am I excited? Yes! We’re planning a couple leisurely months, enjoying several island groups along the way, and also will have some longer passages as we give the Honduran and Nicaraguan coast a wide berth for safety. 

So, that’s what we’ve been up to this winter, and what we have ahead. I’ll wrap up with one final (I hope!) image of this morning’s roadside icy wonderland. Happy spring to all!

15 thoughts on “Winter Report”

  1. Love to read this update Shirley and Tim. You are an amazingly inspiring individuals.

    Shirley, you are certainly a great example of how age is just a number as we celebrate a special year this year. Your mom and dad are so so proud I am sure. Your kids are blessed to have such a cool mom and role model. Life is entirely what you make it!!

    Love and Luck my friend xo

    1. Thanks. As always, Keetha, I appreciate you joining us, and your kind words. Grateful to have my mother’s adventurous spirit, and to have my kids as my greatest cheerleaders. Here’s to our next decade – let’s see what it brings to our lives! Shirley

  2. This is awesome Shirl, just getting to read this now, retirement is busy eh lol. Nice little shack you built, and looks very cozy and with all the windows you will be able to reap the benefits of passive solar! Glad to see you have a “guest” bed, will have to go visit once you are settled! Great job, enjoy xoxo

    1. Hey Deb! Thx!
      Have boarded the sail boat in Panama…acclimatizing to the instant transition from snow and sun zero to 38 degree and humid! Enjoying the break from construction but when I return in a couple months, I’m sure I’ll be energized to finish my “shack”. I look forward to showing it off!

  3. I am glad to hear that you & Tim are navigating your way forward and sharing your next steps! Good luck to you both!

  4. Take pics of tropical stuff Eg plants, birds (esp birds), critters, geological formations please. I love looking at pics like that. Thanks. 🙂

    1. Absolutely! My pleasure. I’m packing light, though, so camera’s remaining home but my phone takes decent enough shots for you to then educate me on what I’ve captured.

      1. Excellent! I like trying to identify pics from new places. Rho sends me hers, Mel hers, my sister hers, and all taken by phone (or sound files).

  5. So exciting for both of you!
    Amongst the ratical changes you’ve both managed to keep a level head and work thorough it all. Day by day !

    Such an inspiration to many yet only for yourselves. ! I am forever grateful to have met you both and find myself reflecting on my own life and where I fit in. ! Kudos to you!
    Thank you !

    1. Hey Douglas, i hear you had some good travels while we were freezing our hands with the build!
      It seems that building is a catharsis for the restructuring of a relationship! Its a good thing and now we have something to show for our good work. We may have built it but we’ll be working “it” out for some time i think. Thats a longer term project.
      The sentiments are mutual Douglas! Cheers!

  6. I am in awe of your perseverance and harmonization with Mother Earth, but I am not surprised. Thank you for updates on all levels… good health and safe travels for both of you!
    I hope you’ll be getting less “fresh” air (as my father used to call it) and that the snow will return to the earth relatively soon, although, of course, your photos are breathtaking.
    Vaya con dios!

    1. Nice to hear from you Daria. Thanks for your kind words. Lucky for Shirls pocketbook, we love creating new with old. And i love taking wood from the bush to build with. The rafters are from the South side of her cabin which lets in a little more light.
      Yes, looking forward to less fresh but more sultry breezes!

  7. Thanks for the update!
    And if it is any consolation, some of our Lasquetians reported snow today?!
    Meanwhile the lilies are coming up here beside the ocean.
    It’s so great to see you supporting each other in a new way!

    1. Wow, snow on Lasqueti?! Thats rough! LoL So glad we got to see you in your habitat. We think of you often.
      We’re working it out, reworking our roles and finding ourselves again. Its a healthy process, but not an easy one. Cheers to you and Don and your wonderful community there!

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