Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The oil will run out.

The end of the cheap oil has become a scary thought since I moved out here, far away from my family and most of my friends. So far every trip I’ve taken home to visit has relied on the old black gold, and I can’t see any way out of that. I’m hoping I’ll suddenly become an amazingly fast cyclist.
   While I don’t know exactly how to prepare for the day when I can’t afford a bus ride across the country, I am starting in small ways to get ready for the upcoming oil-crises at home.
   I think a major global crisis inevitable. When I go to the city what I see is that people are not changing. Some people are changing yes, and trying to get others to follow along. But the vast majority of people are not ready or willing to change their ways, and would much rather ignore the problem all together – the problem being global warming and the decreasing availability of oil.  Business will continue as usual until it’s gone. And when it’s gone people will be screwed. 
   Unless they get ready. 
   This is probably one of the biggest reasons why I’m here on Denman – after Oli. Maybe this is why Oli’s wants to be here too, but I can’t speak for him. It seems to me that there are certain factors that will make it easier to live off the land here – some of those factors being climate, a local government that seems to be focused mainly on environment, and a very strong sense of community.
   Anyway, I don’t want to blather on too much. A few months ago I joined up with a group of people who are trying to turn Denman Island into a Transition Town. “Transition Towns” is a global movement that started in Totnes, England. Each Transition Town creates a plan to go from oil-dependence to oil-free (or very low-oil) sustainability or “Local Resilience,” as the TT movement likes to call it. Denman, luckily, already has a whole bunch of groups working on various components of the entire goal.  In ten to twenty years, if all goes well, Denman will be producing all of the food and energy it needs to continue day-to-day life, without help from the monster oil industry. On the side bar there is a link to the “Transition Denman Island” blog, which I created. The website is www.transitiondenmanisland.org.
   As for Oli and I, we are hoping to build a house that is completely off the grid and doesn’t rely on maintenance people from off-island. This is going to be a challenge – but a good challenge. We have been watching Oli’s parents build a log cabin with barely any power tools. They peeled the logs with a hand tool and used a chisel for the notches to link the logs. It is totally ridiculous in some ways, but it reminds me of how much can be done without standard electricity.
   I’m really glad that I was brought up in the country and taught to use a saw and a hammer and to light a fire. There are lots of people out there who can’t do these things. I don’t know what’s going to become of these people. Thanks mom and dad.

"Skinning logs" as I like to call it - cuz I will never skin anything else. Except potatoes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Moving Dirt

For the last couple of weeks, on my free days, I’ve been working on the plot of land where we are going to build our little home. Before any house starts to happen, we are putting in gardens and fruit and nut trees. The trees take a few years to start producing edibles so we want to get them in asap. And the garden is something we can do while we are still deciding about house stuff.
I’ve been listening in on Oli’s conversations with other people to try and figure out what kind of garden to build. Last winter Oliver took a “Permaculture Design” course given by Jesse Lemieux of Pacific Permaculture. (www.pacificpermaculture.ca)  Through the course Oli met several of the people who are now our friends on Denman. Whenever we get together with any of these friends, they speak in tongues. Permaculture language. I don’t always understand it, but I’ve caught on to a few things and I’m trying to use them in my garden project.  I’m sort of trying to get my way with the garden – I want it to have nice aesthetics. But I’m also sort of trying to impress Oli, who thinks I don’t give a rat’s behind about permaculture – which is not true, I just don’t care for the jargon.
I’ve been spending all of my time so far on this one garden bed. It started out as a four-foot-deep ditch between the stumps and top soil that were pushed over to clear space for the pond, and the sandy gravel that came out of the hole that will be the pond (once we get it sealed and the rain fills it up). I filled most of the ditch with living and rotting logs and branches and salal and then I dug top soil out from the jumble of stumps and put it on top. We got a load of seaweed and put that on, and some sawdust. Then we were given 6 truckloads of soil that had been built by Jesse for one of his courses – so we really lucked out. The soil was built from various types of plant matter that broke down into rich earth over the summer. So that went on next. Now I have a fairly large garden bed with some stony key-hole shaped pathways into it. The layers of organic matter will turn to soil over time, as will the stocks and leaves from the veggies we grow in it every year.  In a couple days I’ll be planting garlic into it – the first crop. The soil is raised in a way that water should flow into the garden when it rains, and the mulchy soil should hold it for a while, so it doesn’t have to be watered as often.
Next I think I’ll take over Oli’s project. He is building an even bigger garden and is doing it the way I did mine, but more accurately. He’s been busy planting and fencing our trees and helping his folks build their own house, so he hasn’t had time to work on his garden bed.
I’m really excited to be putting in big gardens that I will be able to keep, instead of move away from when the lease is up. I’m going to grow stuff, and can it, and get totally ready for Armageddon. Yay.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Welcome Home

It’s Friday night, 8:00 PM and I’m in my twenties. A year ago I would have been sipping on a glass of wine and getting ready to go downtown in an hour or so. That’s when I lived in Toronto and was into live music and clinking glasses with friends and looking nice. But right now I’m in my pyjamas and in bed. And if only it were a bed, but in fact it’s a piece of blue camping foam and a blow up Thermarest sleeping pad on the loft floor of a tiny sauna. When I say tiny, I’m not kidding – your average basketball player would not be able to lye down in here.
I’m living on Denman Island – a tiny speck of land surrounded by a moat of salty pacific ocean off the east side of Vancouver Island. It’s rural to say the least. I’m in the middle of the island, in the middle of a clear cut that is quickly becoming forest again. I’m dirty and I have a headlamp on. I haven’t had a shower in two weeks, since I got back from my visit to Ontario. I have attempted to bathe with a bucket of water and a giant sponge – and I tell you, after a couple days of digging in the dustiest kind of dirt even a bucket of cold water feels great – but it’s not the clean I’m accustomed to.

My partner, Oliver and I came to Denman Island last January after playing a dozen gigs on a little tour across Central and Western Canada. Oli’s parents live here on this clear cut and have been doing so for six years. They are off the grid. They have a couple solar panels that they use to charge a few batteries – One for some light, a hand blender, a seed grinder and a cell phone charger, one for pumping water from the pond to the gardens, and one for backup. They have a woodstove to heat the air and the rain water they collect from the roofs of their 10x10 house and all of the little out buildings. They fill drinking water barrels at neighbours’ houses. They eat raw food – fruit and vegetables from their garden and from local organic growers, nuts and seeds and Ryvita crackers and rice wraps.
I did not in a million years see myself living this way. But somehow, I am. Except, Oli and I don’t have a 10x10 house or our own solar panels. We have a 7x7 room where one of us sits on a bench and the other sits on a pail that is turned up-side-down, and we have a woodstove to keep warm when the days get cold enough to light it. We have a tent made of sails that contains a chair with a toilet seat and a bucket full of grass, and a pail of sawdust, and coffee container with toilet paper. I keep calling it the bathroom, even though it will never include a bath.
I wear overalls covered in dirt. My hair looks like the high school Janitor’s mop, tied back in a flat ponytail with frizz sticking out the sides. I go to bed when it gets dark and I get up when the sun comes out. I only see my reflection in windows and when I do I am embarrassed to be seen by the dear that roam the property, desperately trying to break in to the gardens. They even smell better than I do.

We are going to build a house here. We will probably be very dirty for a couple years, but in the end our house will have a shower.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A new secret crush song - not yet recorded but here on a low-fi video.

I wrote this song this past winter. (December 09)  The chorus came to me after I slipped on the lawn after the first snow of the season while I was taking the recycling out to the shed.  It took a few hours before the rest of the song came out, but eventually it did.

My friends Krystal and Lori liked it a lot. Krystal asked me to record it and send her the lyrics so she could learn it. So here it is Krystal – the best recording method I’m set up for right now. And here are the lyrics:

Everything’s going good so it seems
It looks like my life is on track finally
I haven’t seen you in almost two weeks
I think I’ve got my balance back

Then what do you do but walk through the door
Of the bar that is rightfully mine
Like my pupils are paperclips and you’re one big magnet
I stare the entire time

I fall over you like I wipe out in winter
So fast and unprepared
How is it that you spin me so dizzy
I’m living my life impaired

If only I had the guts to say something like hi, are you new in town?
I’ve see you in here a few times lately, would you like me to show you around?
But instead I keep my face hidden, under the brim of my hat
And I sink down low so I’m disguised behind my glass

And I fall over you…

You’re cute but it’s not about that, I like the way you walk
You look smart and sophisticated and I love the way you talk
You’re making everyone laugh, but I can’t hear you from across the room
I hold my breath, this will be over soon, but I don’t want it to

Cause I fall over you…

I fall over you…

Speaking of Krystal…

If you like cute and fantastic things made by cute and fantastic people – check out Krystal’s blog:  www.krystalspeck.blogspot.com .  Not only are Krystal and her pieces cute and fantastic, but she had lots of links to other cute and fantastic artists and craftspeople. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

KASIA JUNO - artist of words and melodies (and she's my friend)

She is so obviously not from around here.  As I listen to her transform her anguishes and longings into some kind of wild gypsy poetry that winds through captivating and beautiful melody lines, I am lost in some kind of magical past where pirates sail the seas and sorcerers cast love spells over unsuspecting mortals. Her themes are modern and relatable; her use of language is otherworldly.  (Especially sung with Kasia’s unique accent, acquired through a childhood spent mainly in South Africa, but which saw temporary homes in Mexico and New Zealand and travels throughout the world.)  If I had to compare her in an elevator pitch, I might call her a cross between Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell – but not. Kasia Juno is very much Kasia Juno, and since I first heard her sing at 19 years of age, I have been in awe of her mastery of the English language and her vocal creativity.
I must note, that I’m not the only one who realizes Kasia’s aptitude where the written word is concerned – this past spring she graduated from the English Literature program at Montreal’s Concordia University as Valedictorian, and received several awards such as the Irving Layton award for Fiction, The A.G. Hooper prize and the MacGuigan prize for Literature, and recently an award from the Quebec Writing Competition for her story “The Fox.” She did all of this with no melody lines. 
            Wait, there’s more. Not only does Kasia spin together clever words and silky vocal melodies, but she supports them with remarkable competence on both guitar, and piano. The girl can play, and adds the musicianship and solo styling to her own performances; an ability that doesn’t always accompany the skills sets of great songwriters. It’s apparent that Kasia has done her time practicing those slippery minor scales and hand-cramping chords – she leaves no fret unused, no key un-tinkered.
            Despite her accomplishments, Kasia Juno is one of the most casual, friendly and easy-going performers I have seen; clunking notes on the piano as she figures out what to play, interacting with the audience as if they are chums sitting around her livingroom. She doesn’t seem to have a pompous bone in her body, and you may leave her show with not only Kasia’s CD, but with Kasia as a new friend.
            Kasia now lives in Toronto, and is working on a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. Hopefully she will find time to enchant the music-lovers of her new home-city with her brilliant works. I’m looking forward to regular listenings. 
Photo by yours truly. 

Visit Kasia's MySpace:  http://www.myspace.com/kasiajuno 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tour's End

The cross-western-Canada tour has come to an end and Oli and I are settling into our little temporary home on Denman Island BC. The tour and the trip were a lot of fun, and definitely a huge learning experience.
Last I left off we were about to play a set and host the open mic at the Henotic Lounge in Lethbridge. That was great and was probably our favorite night of the tour. Not only was out audience fantastic and appreciative, but also full of other talented musicians who followed our set during the open mic. We met many fantastic people and got to hang out with our friends Mel and Tyler and hear them play music again. It was fabulous.

Next up was our two-night stint in Fernie. We met a few really nice people and played for a pretty busy venue. The Brickhouse had excellent food and very competent staff, I just have to say. Fernie is a pretty town. It was exciting driving back into the mountains after 4 years away.
The Blue Belle Bistro in Kaslo was nostalgic as we’d been there a few times before to eat and see shows. The food there was also excellent, awesome staff and really nice and interesting patrons who were fun audience members.

It was crazy to be back in Nelson. We stayed for a week and caught up with several old friends as well as Oli’s sister, Anna. We played a show at The Royal, a bar that we probably spent a little too much time in when we lived in Nelson. We’d both played at The Royal before. Everything about that place has changed. It’s being upgraded. It’s not the seedy drinking hole we remembered. They are making it classy. Pretty crazy.
We spent a few days with some friends in Summerland, and them played a show in Kelowna at The Minstrel Café. A very fancy venue. I had to upgrade myself for that one. It was a small crowd, but some good friends were right there in the front.
We ended up having a last-minute Vancouver show. Oli’s cousin, Christine, set up a concert at The Lynn Valley United Church. All proceeds went to Haiti. The concert raised $515.oo for Haiti, so that was a nice success. It was a little bit odd playing in a church – quite different from a bar. The people were very appreciative though. I was a little concerned about my potty mouth, but I was able to keep it under control. One elderly lady in the front kept nodding out during the show. Her neck was limp and her head falling in to her chest for the majority of it. It was such a typical church sight. I can’t imagine her sitting through an entire service.

So now were on the island planning our next move. Hoping to meet some people who will tell us where to play. Also trying to stay dry and sane in our 7x7 cabin.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jan 13th - Tour Update

Well, our tour is off to a great start. Tonight we are playing at Henotic Lounge in Lethbridge, Alberta and staying with our good friends Mel and Tyler. So far we’ve had shows in Marathon Ontario, Thunder Bay, and Regina. This weekend we head to Fernie for two nights at The Brickhouse Bar and Grill, and then we’re booked for a few more shows in the BC interior before we head further west to the islands. The tour so far has gone very well, as has the January driving. We agreed with those who said we were crazy to decide to tour in January, but the weather and road conditions have been better than we could have asked for. Right now there is a Chinook blowing through Lethbridge, the sun is shining and the temperature is in the double digits. The temperature in Regina was also unseasonably warm. Thunder Bay was absolutely freezing, but the car started and the roads were dry.
I have been doing a small share of the driving on out longest days. I like driving, but I have no experience with a standard vehicle, and that’s what we have. (Really, it’s Oliver’s car.) I still hold my breath when I have to change gears, but I now longer scream and get heart palpitations.
In Marathon we met Andrew and Bev, the wonderful hosts and organizers of the Concerts in the Parking Lot series. They were very kind to us and amazed us with their dedication to bringing new music to Marathon. They opened their home and their fridge and their hearts, and made us feel very at home. The concert was held, not in the parking lot, but at the Marathon Cross Country Ski Club, which turned out to be a perfect, cozy venue.

In Thunder Bay we met Sheila and her mom, Tina, and Alex the sound guy at The Apollo. They were all amazingly wonderful people as well, and despite the freezing cold weather, both inside and out, we had a fantastic time playing at The Apollo and chatting to out hosts and out audience. Good food, good wine, great new friends. We’ll be back to the Apollo for sure, and we hope that one day we’ll be able to pack the place.

In Regina we played for a very large crowd at Brewsters Brew Pub. It was a loud and rambunctious party, but we had a good time… mostly people watching as we played I think. After the show we got lost in the thick prairie fog, but eventually made out way to our friend Kyle’s house where we stayed for a few days and learned all about lentil and grain farming in Saskatchewan. What is day-to-day life for Kyle was so fun and fascinating for us.
We’re excited to play our next few shows and to see a lot of old friends along the way. We’ve missed the west and are glad to be back.