More Monkey Valley doings, or how I spent my writing retreat not writing

Luckily, most of the diversions at Monkey Valley Snow and sunshine at Monkey Valleyare more fun than cleaning up dead mice! This is how I spend my time not writing:

• Get winter tires put on the Tracker.

• Get chips repaired on Tracker windshield (much cheaper in Merritt than in Vancouver). The chip repairer is amazed that my windshield has lasted through 7 winters already!

• Purchase and install new water filter. Learn that the threads must be dry or the water leaks.

• Purchase and post replacement “No Hunting and No Trespassing Under Penalty of the Law” signs. Duck under branches. Climb over logs. Worry about Lyme disease and wish I’d worn a hat. (My head starts itching again as I write this!)

• Discover that two new sections of fence need repair. Purchase supplies. Make repairs.

• Purchase and install new smoke detector.

• Replace batteries in flashlights.

• Purchase lock de-icer and apply WD-40 oil to locks on gates. Need to purchase more WD-40.

Back deck and outhouse• Purchase eco-permit at Merritt City Hall so I can take garbage to the Aspen Grove Container Site. $1 per bag. Learn that the container site now has recycling bins too!

• Check water level in the new batteries for the solar power that I purchased in August. Learn that expensive new Water Miser battery caps ($287.42) did not prevent water loss as promised. Learn how to use new hydrometer ($12.00). Use hydrometer to check the state of charge (cell by cell). Learn that Power Pulse equalizers ($140.88) do not equalize charge across cells as promised. Top up water in batteries. Use generator to charge batteries for 4 hours. Re-test with hydrometer. Learn that new batteries ($2568.86 excluding freight, tax, and labour) do not charge to manufacturer’s rating while new.

• Start propane wall heater. It works! (For about three years in a row I had to get a technician out to make repairs before it would start.) Wake in the middle of the night to smell of steak cooking. Have vegetarian freak-out, wondering why intruder has come into the house and started cooking steaks. Eventually realize the smell is cause by dead flies burning up inside the heater!

• Wake up to beautiful snowy Monkey Valley.

• Take the cat scratch posts, litter box, and dishes out to the barn. Goodbye, Donald.

• Find big puddle on bathroom floor. Shut off water line to leaking valve underHorse and cowboy bathroom sink. Mop up water.

• Wake up to find all the snow has melted.

• Chat with handsome cowboy who knocks on my door one morning, complete with horse, dog, hat, and lasso! (This is my favourite diversion while at Monkey Valley!) He is rounding up the Douglas Lake cows, bringing them down to the home pasture for the winter. Steve is a wonderfully kind neighbour. This summer he brought his chainsaw and cut away some giant trees that had fallen across the road on my property, and he even bucked up some of the wood so I could use it for firewood! The Douglas Lake Ranch, established in 1884, is Canada’s largest privately held working cattle ranch, with a herd of 20,000 cattle.

• Do cleansing ritual for the house, releasing any negative energy and filling the house with love, light, and positive energy.

• Yell at pack rat that climbs onto the roof each night around 10 PM. What is he doing up there?

• Put photos of my nephew in a photo album. Write funny captions for photos.

Steve Brewer, a great neighbour• Listen to new Rolling Stones album (Aftermath, 1966). Marvel at this first album of all Jagger-Richards compositions. Marvel at “Goin’ Home.” Not the length—which was one of the first rock songs over 10 minutes—but the absolute sexiness. While it has a flavour of Van Morrison’s Gloria in places—she makes me feel so good, she makes me feel alright—it is audacious and I can’t believe they got away with it! I also can’t believe that I have never heard this before, although I’ve been a Stones fan since I was 15. Cry because my Dad’s dead and I am listening to this record on his amazing stereo system. Cry because I am listening to this record alone at Monkey Valley. Cry because I want Mick Jagger.

• Talk to writing buddies about how our writing is going. Mine is not going (see above).

• Spend many hours eating meals and reading books in front of the fire (see below).

• And always, always, make fire first thing in the morning (average house temperature upon waking: 13° C), and carry in firewood last thing before dark.

So that’s how I spent my fall vacation! The only thing left to do is wash all the windows and floors. And since I really do not feel like washing all the windows and floors, I have decided to return to Vancouver. Where I am sure I will write lots and lots!