2018 recap

I wrote a recap last year and I really liked it so I’m doing it again this year. I was thinking about it the other day and it reminds me of the letters my family would receive at xmas from friends and family we didn’t see very often, letters those people had written to keep us abreast of what they got up to over the year. I found those letters universally boring and old-fashioned but when it comes to my own life and writing about it in point form, well, it’s just a really doggone efficient way to sum up a year’s worth of living.

Without further ado, here is what the masses have been clamouring for all year long! Sound the trumpets, open the gates! It’s my recap of 2018, yahoooooo…

  • Jenn took part in a video that went modestly viral, accumulating almost one million views in a week or two. She thinks the video will be the single ‘biggest’ thing she ever does in her life, in terms of reaching a vast audience. I agree with her, and think that’s pretty neat.
  • After selling her horse last year, Jenn found a new project in a one-eyed walking panic attack she named Marvel. To liken him to a human so he’s understandable to people who aren’t familiar with horses: he’s like the son of Usain Bolt and Serena Williams (in other words, a gifted athlete by nature) who was always a nervous child to start with, who then went blind in one eye at an early age and subsequently passed from foster home to foster home, accumulating mountains of mental trauma along the way which resulted in turning him from an anxious fellow into a full-on delusional, paranoid spaz. But Jenn saw the natural talent in Marvel and decided to try putting a lot of love and effort into him and what do you know, he’s come around in a big way. Personally, I love him because he’s a big, gentle beast who wants nothing more than someone to show him affection — he’s like a big dog, and that’s the only kind of horse I really like.
  • In January, I bought a Nissan X-trail after lusting for one for years. It turned out to be a very frustrating lemon. I managed to sell it without too much difficulty but it was an unpleasant experience.
  • In early February, Jenn and I drove the Pacific Marine Circle Route from here to Sooke to Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan to home. We left at 7 am and got home at 7 pm, and had a fantastic time. We saw lots of cool waterfalls, giant trees, and abandoned towns. I love doing ‘tourist in your own town’ shit.
  • Jenn and I explored and hiked some other areas around here we hadn’t seen, like Mount Manuel Quimper in Sooke and some tucked-away areas in Goldstream.
  • In March, we went up to our property in Sointula to build a lean-to so we had a place to store some shit and keep it dry before we started building a small cabin. We didn’t do a very good job on the lean-to but it (almost) does the job. On the bright side, we did some fun stuff while we were there. The tide was out so we walked across the bay to the marina to use their showers, and we hiked to Melvin’s Bog which sounds shitty but was actually very pretty, and on the drive home from Sointula we hiked up to the Woss Lookout which was downright breathtaking. We were above the clouds and it felt like being in a fantasy movie.
  • Spring 2018 was a banner year for chickens having babies at our place, as five of my eight hens went broody. For those not familiar with chickens, that’s a lot for breeds like Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks. Altogether, we raised a dozen chicks here over the summer, and I learned a lot about what I want to do different with raising chicks next year. I kept two, slaughtered one rooster, and gave the rest away to my dear friends Tom and Marion. I still visit the kids when their new parents allow me.
  • I built a 200-gallon rainwater collection system off of our barn for use in our vegetable garden. It went pretty well, and was a good learning experience in case we decide to do something similar for our cabin up island.
  • Jenn and I started building a one-room cabin on our second property. Falling trees was fucking hard work, and took much longer than expected. Learning to lay out the construction blocks square and level was frustrating, and had a steep learning curve. Putting the walls and roof up was extremely challenging — even writing this now, I’m having flashbacks to how awful I felt at the time. But since getting the roof on, things have gone smoother: we got the doors and windows in and put the Tyvek stuff up, then Liam came up with me and basically built the frame for a roof over the deck by himself. Slowly, the dread from the worst parts of the build is receding in my mind, and that’s good. That was a dark week.
  • On the way back from another trip to Sointula, Jenn, Stella and I went swimming at Stotan Falls in Courtenay. Beautiful place, easy access. What a gem of a swimming hole.
  • Some friends from Vancouver came and stayed with us for a long weekend in the summer, and we tried to give them a nice ‘small town weekend.’ I think it went perfectly. We went thrift shopping with them, took them to some local breweries, went bowling at Duncan Lanes, took them to The Black Swan for karaoke, went swimming in the quarry, and watched a horror movie on the side of the house. I get wistful just thinking about that weekend, it was such a good time.
  • Ben, Tom, Dana, Paul and I went tubing down the Cowichan River in July, and it couldn’t have been any better. Dana’s Star Trek floating chair was a huge hit with everyone who saw it, Paul was gooned basically from the start till the end and was mercilessly tossed from his tube countless times (almost face-first into a rock wall, at one point), and we all had a groovy 3 hr float in the sun. We went for dinner at the York St. Diner and Ben was too drunk to stop the content of his sandwich from exploding onto his plate. The waitress was very understanding of our situation. Our better halves all worried sick about us being gone so much longer than we’d originally estimated, but these are the trials and tribulations of river floating. I am eagerly looking forward to doing it again next year.
  • Jenn bought a second project horse named Gossip, who was an adorable and easy baby of a pony. She was perfectly sweet, friendly, curious, eager to learn, and eager to please. She took longer to sell than Jenn hoped for but she finally went to a great home, which was the most important thing. However, the lesson learned was: two horses is too much — one horse is enough.
  • My chicken’s eggs won first place in the Cobble Hill Fair in the ‘large, brown’ division. I was such a proud daddy!
  • Jenn and I went to the Cowichan Exhibition for the first time in years. It was…gross. I don’t think I’ll go again for another five years or so.
  • My revamped Misfits cover band finally played a Halloween show. The promoter was an odd duck, a strange schmoozy rude brat of a person, but our performance was fine. More than anything, I just loved playing music I love with guys I love hanging out with, and am excited to start playing with the gents again soon.
  • I volunteered at the Glenora Haunted Hall for the second year in a row, and it was just as great as last year. My friend Julia teamed up with me for a gory human butcher scene, and we were a big hit. Dana even came and volunteered at the hall with us on the second night. I felt like a kid again.
  • I watched my grandfather die. He was 95 or so and his health suddenly declined so he signed up for a medically assisted death. Jenn and I joined my mom and the rest of that side of the family to see him off. I’ve witnessed enough death that I wasn’t fazed. But he wasn’t the warmest individual either so I’m sure that made the whole process a bit easier.
  • I went down the rabbit hole this year with acquiring all manners of vintage household items — appliances, artwork, kitchen utensils, stereo equipment, clothing, xmas decorations, etc. I now like our home much more than before, and I have to once again thank my wonderful friends who indulged my insanity and helped me get my hands on a lot of this stuff.
  • Xmas 2018 was a little weird overall. I worked xmas day, I was the only member of my family at my family dinner, there was a huge storm just before xmas that knocked out power and internet to everyone for a few days, and it wasn’t snowy or even very cold. That being said, this was the best family dinner I can remember, free of endless, pointless Grandpa Simpson-esque stories and an undercurrent of awkwardness and strained relationships. And Jenn and I did our typical xmas morning stuff on xmas eve and that was perfectly lovely. And because of the power outage caused by the storm, Jenn and I made soup on our wood stove and played Scrabble by candlelight, which was a beautiful, ‘slow living’ evening that reminded me of how different life can be if we just turn shit off for a while.
  • Speaking of slow living, after some thought and a blog post, I decided to start reading at home more, and so far I’m really enjoying it and feel good about my efforts.

Boy, I had been worried that I wouldn’t have much to write here, that not much really happened in 2018. Was I ever wrong. That’s one of the beauties of this exercise, it really illustrates just how much note-worthy stuff goes on in a year, even if we take it for granted or just don’t remember it all at once.

I lead a charmed life, and I’m grateful for it. Many thanks to Jenn and all my friends who, against great odds, make life in this proto-wasteland fun and worth living.

Happy new year.

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I’ve been an emotional basket case

Jenn and I are building a cabin on some remote property we own. We have some carpenter friends who made it sound like a pretty easy thing to do as long as you have some common sense and a decent work ethic.

I’m here to tell you that the cabin is slowly coming along — we have a floor, walls, and roof so far — but it’s been a god damned struggle. I now understand why carpenters have to do a whole bunch of schooling and apprenticing. There are so many aspects to building that I simply never imagined, and each one has so many layers and details that it’s impossible to get a good grasp on each one from just a few youtube videos and wikihow pages. Our lack of knowledge and experience (and resources out in buttfuck nowhere) have made the project incredibly challenging and stressful so far.

This level of challenge has had positive and negative effects on the project, because the times when things have gone well, we’ve been elated. But when things have gone badly, we’ve been absolutely miserable. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was on the verge of tears a handful of times, feeling overwhelmed, in over my head, hopeless, etc. There were times when, to console myself, I thought about how even though I’ve wasted so much time and money on this, at least I still have everything else in my life to be thankful for — health, Jenn, good friends, a home I love, a job I’m happy at, etc. To have to fall back on such basic things to comfort myself, I clearly had to be feeling very fucking low. I can’t remember ever doing that before. I can’t remember ever feeling like such an abject failure at something.

Thankfully, we somehow pulled through all of that, got the cabin to actually look sort of like something, and are now at a point where the remaining jobs are generally smaller and less daunting. I hope that our subsequent work trips are just as satisfying and rewarding as this last one (when things went well, of course) but far less mentally and emotionally straining. I much prefer the ‘low effort/high reward’ work model, personally.

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I was so fucking happy to come home and see the hens again. They don’t give a toss if I’m a useless tit at carpentry.

…and the recap

what is recap even short for? anyway.

since xmas, i’ve been thinking about writing a recap of my year on here. it’s terribly typical and i doubt many people would find it interesting since i certainly wouldn’t give a shit about reading some random person’s “we went camping in the summer and that was nice” thoughts. luckily, this whole blog is entirely self indulgent so i’m going to go for it regardless. i think it’s a good tradition to consider starting so that i can have a summary stored here for future perusal once i completely lose my mind.

so here goes with my fave moments of 2017. read on only if you’re incredibly bored with everything else.

  • i don’t remember much from january or february.
  • in march, jenn and i went to bamfield with our friends kristina and jason. they have a cabin there so we spent a few nights at it, and it was lovely. bamfield is such a remote, tiny, haunting, beautiful place.
  • i learned to humanely euthanize chickens.
  • i learned to slaughter chickens and make stew with the meat. i also learned that even the meat of spent old laying hens is just fine as long as you boil the hell out of it. don’t listen to all the dummies who tell you it’s no good, they’re just uppity bitches.
  • i finally started learning to play bass using the traditional slap and fingers styles. it reignited my love of bass guitar, and sent me on a long quest to find a 5-string that satisfied me.
  • we got a second dog, laika, and learned how poorly things can go with a new animal but my god, she was a sweetheart.
  • i helped my mom move from quesnel down here to the island, and got to try an $8,000 massage chair in the process. the move was fine, the massage chair was unreal. worth the price, if you can afford one.
  • i bought my first suit. each part of the suit is sweatshop-free. i felt really good about that and have made an effort to make sure all of the clothing i buy now is sweatshop-free.
  • we went to three weddings over the summer: steph and tony, matt and chant, and genevieve and matt. all of them were a lot of fun.
  • we stayed in strathcona park for another 4 days after matt and chant’s wedding and did a bunch more exploring there. we checked out gold river (which was neat) and tahsis (which was just sad) while we were in that neck of the woods. on the drive back to shawnigan, we went up to mount washington and hiked some more strathcona trails from that side of the park, and they were the best trails we’ve seen in the park.
  • we lucked out and were able to view the solar eclipse with our naked eyes thanks to the perfect amount of well-timed cloud cover. then, even more cool, we saw the two giant solar flares on the sun, once again with our naked eyes. the smoke from the forest fires made the sun a dull, hazy red, and we could see two small dark spots on the lower right face of it. i wondered what the hell those spots were so i looked it up online and learned about the solar flares. fucking incredible.
  • we had a good friend build a large garage with hay loft on our property. i helped him and learned a lot about construction, and the frustration of building inspections.
  • we retired jenn’s ’92 civic VX in favour of something that doesn’t leak when it rains and has a better crash rating.
  • i took july off of work due to problems with my back flaring up again. that sucked, but it spurred me on to try new forms of rehab which have worked out splendidly since. it’s now been 6 months since i last hurt my back. that’s great.
  • we got a second goat, fay, to keep jamie company when the horse is away for extended periods. we learned that even a formerly charming little fellow like jamie will turn into a disgusting rapist once a female goat is brought into the mix.
  • we bought 10 acres of land up in sointula, and went to the salmon days festival for the second time. we want to build a small cabin up there this summer. we’ve never built a cabin before so i’m a little nervous how it will turn out but i’m confident that with the incredible power of the internet, we can figure it out.
  • we hatched a half dozen chicks, just the second time we’ve done this. i’m a proud daddy.
  • jenn and i hiked out to an old hydro power plant just outside of victoria. it was nerve-wracking and exciting as all hell. the ice cream afterwards was to die for.
  • we got two black female kittens, jinx and wednesday. i quickly fell in love with them.
  • at halloween, jenn and i volunteered at a haunted house in glenora and it was amazing. really looking forward to doing it again this year. after that on the 31st, dante and i walked around the beach estates and hung out with sue and jim baker around their campfire. a jack-o-lantern may or may not have been smashed on the walk back to the car. what a solid halloween.
  • jenn sold her horse, ollie, to a very good home down in the US. then she got a new project horse, a neurotic one-eyed fellow she renamed marvel. despite his quirks, i like him. he’s very gentle and affectionate.
  • i played my first gig in 7 years with a misfits cover band. i had wanted to play a halloween show with the band but it didn’t pan out so we ended up playing a show in december that went pretty well.
  • the holiday season of 2017 was fantastic. my clan’s family dinner went as well as once can hope for; jenn’s family dinner was wonderful, complete with snow falling on xmas eve; spencer and julia hosted festivus and it was another great one; jenn and i hosted a new years party (our first ever, actually) and despite the short notice and a lot of people being sick, it had a good turnout of our closest friends. much karaoke and dancing ensued. i made brunch the next morning for some of our pals and that was a lot of fun too. i think it was only the second time in my life that i’ve made food for more than just myself, yet it went well.

i wonder what other notable events i’m forgetting. whatever, that’s a way longer list than i even expected to come up with.

happy new year to all you sons of bitches. looking forward to another year of this shit, provided we don’t die somewhere in the middle of it, which is a persistent possibility. do you ever wonder if this new years eve/xmas/birthday/etc was the last you will ever see? i do. i think about it all the time.

and that’s why you should make the best of each day. you don’t want to be dying in a ditch or hospital bed somewhere this year, thinking, “i really should have gone out and seen my pals last new years.”

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2018, i’m ready. let’s do this.

reacting to accidents with rage instead of concern

a while ago, i witnessed a minor car accident at a gas station. woman #1 was in an SUV parked at a pump. woman #2 was in a new-ish but beat up car that was backing in to the pump in front of the SUV, but wound up backing right into the SUV. woman #1 honked her horn at woman #2, who had her windows down and loudly responded, “fuck you!” and continued muttering other things i couldn’t make out. woman #1 got out of her SUV and approached the beat up car. she said to woman #2, whose windows were still down, “don’t tell me fuck you, you just backed into me. you just damaged my car.” despite her brazen tone before she was face to face with the owner of the SUV, woman #2 now refused to make eye contact and instead made herself busy rummaging about in her passenger seat while muttering things that seemed to further irritate woman #1. as i drove away, i could see that the scene continued on like this for a while, with woman #1 getting more and more angry at the insolence and lack of apology from woman #2. it was a depressing thing to witness.

it made me think about how people often react absurdly to bad things, like when my dad used to step on the cat’s tail in the kitchen. this happened frequently when i was a kid, and it always went like this:

    • dad accidentally stepped on the cat’s tail;
    • the cat howled in pain and ran away as fast as it could;
    • my dad stomped his feet and yelled, “well, don’t just sit there under my feet, for fuck’s sake!”

even as a kid, i thought that was a weird reaction. why was my dad freaking out? he wasn’t the tiny creature that just had an appendage crushed by a 220 lb pale, hairy ogre in his underwear. dad should have been concerned for the cat, sympathetic to it. even if he was annoyed by how frequently this dance occurred, he could have simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “i’m sorry but you should know better by now, even if you are just a dumb cat.”

i know i’m guilty of these kinds of reactions too, and that’s what i hate about it the most. when i see other people do it, i’m embarrassed for them but i’m also embarrassed for myself because i’m reminded that other people have surely seen me react to situations just as terribly. it’s a senseless, unattractive habit that lacks any grace whatsoever.

conversely, if woman #2 from my opening paragraph had got out of her car and approached woman #1, apologized for backing into her, and asked if woman #1 was alright, i would have thought, “that’s a strong, graceful person who is quick to admit their mistake, concerned for their fellow human, and wants to make the best out of that bad situation.”

and that’s the person i want to strive to become. i want kindness to be my default state so that no matter how awful or infuriating a situation may be, i can come out of it feeling good about the role i played in it.

now that i’ve written that, i just know one of my chickens is going to flap its wings in my face when i put them to bed tonight and really, really test me.

it feels good to feel good

for the last week or so, i’ve been feeling really good, really happy, and it’s weird what a vicious cycle feeling good is — being happy about some stuff in my life makes me more appreciative of other things, like friends or good times for example, and being appreciative of those things and feeling lucky (or “blessed,” barf) makes me even happier. it’s like i’ve been on a positivity bender for a week now.

passedout

“WOO!”

and it feels great.

it’s a nice change of pace from my usual disposition, ranging of ‘slightly depressed’ to ‘very depressed.’ and while i feel like i should somehow prepare myself for this all to come to a crashing halt, for the moment the happy things stop occurring, i feel too good right now to worry about it. i know the end will come, the misery will return, and things will go back to normal but i’ll deal with it when it happens. no point in getting bummed out while i’m still feeling so good.

why am i feeling so good, anyway? steph and tony’s wedding, seeing lots of great friends i don’t see very often, the suit i put together looks great, we’re building a garage, we bought property up island, i got five new young hens, one of my adult hens went broody and is now sitting on 8 fertilized eggs i bought for her, i finally set up a micro drip irrigation system for the vegetable garden, the new twin peaks is as weird and fantastic as ever…that sort of stuff.

something else i want to note about this happiness bender: it makes me prone to the sensation of emotions welling up. like, i’ll get a text from a good friend and i’ll almost want to cry because i feel so grateful to have that friend in my life. similarly, if a really killer anti-humanistic song comes on in my car, i shudder with utter contempt and contemplate the of plunging all of reality — people, planets, the entire universe, all of time — into an endless void of nonexistence: a “red surge,” as i recently heard a convicted killer call it, except i associate red with rage and anger so i’d probably describe my welling up of negative and abstract feelings as more of a “black surge.”

anyway, being happy is just making me feel really emotional in general, i suppose. it’s kind of interesting. i like feeling things.

i killed one of my chickens (on purpose. it’s a good thing.)

last year, my dear hen named strawmouth (jenn named her that) fell ill and slowly died over the course of a week or two. curious, i performed an autopsy on her and found her bloated belly full of green fluid. birds don’t piss so i figured it must be related to bile. i did some research and learned that liver failure is common in the commercial hens bred for high egg production, and ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen) is secondary to liver failure due to blood not being able to flow easily through the inflamed liver. well, how about that.

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severe ascites in a human. someone should put this sick son of a bitch down, too.

so last week when i noticed another of my commercial breed hens (ms. haun, this time) displaying the same symptoms that strawmouth did, i kept a watchful eye on her. after about a week of gradual decline, i decided i needed to grow some testicles and put the poor bird out of her misery. but how to do it?

i looked online and learned about the most humane methods of euthanizing chickens, and settled on the cervical dislocation method. you essentially break their neck just below the skull, causing the spinal cord to snap and whip back at the brain, rendering the bird unconscious while they actually die over the course of 30-40 seconds.

so i went outside and found ms. haun squating in the chicken coop in the middle of the day (typical behaviour of a very sick hen). i picked her up, pet and soothed her for a minute, then flipped her over, grabbed her legs and head, arched her head back sharply, and pulled hard. i felt several distinct clicks. the hen went limp, and a bunch of bile started pouring out her beak. i thought, wow, that was easy. but maybe a minute later, she started moving slightly and her eyes opened and closed a bit. i put my finger right up to an open eye and it slowly closed — though delayed, it was still responsive so i knew i hadn’t broken her neck correctly. i assumed the position again and pulled harder. this time there was a big THUNK, her neck gave about an inch, and her body immediately started convulsing gently. i felt her neck and found the blank space just below her head where i had finally broken it. her eyes no longer responded to stimuli. she was dead.

i don’t feel good that it took me a few tries to get it right but i’m glad that i a) recognized when it wasn’t done right, b) tried again and got it, and c) learned to do something unpleasant but necessary. it’s a hard thing to do, to end the life of something you care about, but there usually comes a point when that is the humane thing to do. so i’m proud.

and now that i have this new skill, i’ve put the remaining hens on notice that egg production better pick up soon or else there will be a lot more broken necks where that one came from. daddy just realized he is a god among hens, and he is a wrathful god.

jk. we have a hen that hasn’t laid worth a shit in years but i’m still not ready to pull the plug on her just yet. i still love just watching her truck around, doing chicken stuff. so don’t worry, i’m not letting this newfound power go to my head.

RIP, ms. haun. your people-centric behaviour and tendency to investigate cars, basements, travel trailers, and dog houses will always be remembered.

my memory is broken

i killed one of my beloved chickens last week.

at 8 pm, i went outside to lock them up in their coop for the night. i closed the guillotine-style door, moved three hens from the hutch to the roosting bars in the coop so they wouldn’t shit where they lay eggs, and closed and latched the hutch lid. all secure, all done.

i went to bed. at 12:30 am, jenn woke me up and said she thought something just attacked the chickens. she said she heard a bunch of thumping and a loud “squawk.” i thought, “i locked it all up so she must be mistaken,” but i went outside to check anyway. when i got to the pen, there was winnie, my last silver-laced wyandotte: writhing, gasping for breath, and now faceless. even her beak appeared to be ripped off but it was hard to tell exactly what was left beneath the gore.

i looked over at the coop, and there was the guillotine door, still wide open.

i stood on winnie’s neck until she stopped struggling. i wanted to puke. i let our dog bark at the raccoons that were now up a tree — too little, too late, of course. i stared at the guillotine door and my mind reeled. i was absolutely positive up until the moment i saw it open that i had closed it that night. if someone had offered to make me a $100 bet on it, i would have taken it without hesitation. but clearly, i hadn’t closed it, and somehow my mind convinced itself that i had — it created a false memory. i found that terrifying. what other false memories do i have? what else do i think has happened but actually hasn’t? what if all of my memories aren’t real and my whole life actually never occurred? on top of the loss of one of my dear hens, i began tumbling down a paranoid, conspiracy theory-laden path usually reserved for acid heads. what a night.

it just goes to show why eyewitness testimony is not considered very reliable in court these days. our memories are capable of being completely incorrect while we remain utterly convinced of their veracity.

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we’re stupid.

RIP winnie. you were a lovely hen.