Monday, 7 November 2011

WWOOFing at Heron Guest House

My current location is the Heron Guest House in Heriot Bay, Quadra Island, the most populated of the Discovery Islands, a few hours up the coast via ferry, greyhound and another ferry from Denman Island. Linda's guest house is right on the oceanfront; no garden inbetween the house and the sea, the pebbles start almost right in front of the house. Looking out of the kitchen and living room the view of Quadra, surrounding islands and the mountains on the mainland is amazing. My room accessed via ladder from the kitchen also has a stunning seaview. It's been lovely to see the sunrise, the sea, the ferry to Cortes going past, the surf scoter ballet, seals and eagles all from my bed (when I haven't had to clamber down my ladder to let the dog or the cats out).

Linda has lived on this patch of land for mostly all her life, her parents having bought the land fifty years ago for a mere $200. Her parents trans-located their wooden house via boat to the land. When she was around 20 Linda and her now ex-husband built the kitchen/dining area of the now main house and added bits on when they had children. It is pretty quirky and homely. There is a B & B addition to the house with sunflower themed bathroom. Below the main house is another room that she wants to rent out as a self-contained flat. Everything has it's unique style here. The old house is further up the garden, a bit dilapidated, but Linda can't bare to tear it down because it's the original family home. She sometimes has hostel guests stay there in the summer. Scattered around the property are some further shacks and dwellings, some of which I'm not really sure what they are because Linda never gave me a tour. There's a long narrow building which I walk to to use the oven (because the one in the house is temperamental) which seems somewhat messy and has a double bed. This is either additional hostel accommodation or where Linda stays in the summer when she lets people use the house as a hostel. Then there is an out of the water houseboat that was purchased by her partner (who died a few years ago) to sell fish out of and now is a pretty cosy bit of accomodation. There is 'Heron Cottage', the luxury accommodation with sea-view almost as good as from the house, full kitchen, living room, double bed, bathroom, extra bedroom and piano. It's quite glamorous compared to everything else. And finally along a little path from the main house and bordering the beach is the 'boat house' complete with outdoor shower, bath and outhouse. Some of the rooms here are rather rustic in a charming way, but the reviews on tripadvisor indicate that it's not everyone's cup of tea!

Linda used to run a fabric shop on the island, but now she runs her guesthouse, helps on a friends oyster farm in the winter and is taking a fine arts course in Courtenay. Along with a visit to Vancouver she's been away at her house in Courtenay for most of my stay. For the first few days there was another WOOFer at Linda's- Barbara who is an insurance broker from Switzerland and happens to have traveled with Liesbeth who I volunteered with at Cathedral Lakes. The rest of the time my company in the house has been the two black cats (who like to bite and swipe me), Tuna the podgie but very sweet dog (who according to Linda's friend used to be a Jack Russell), for two days Dave- Linda's Courtenay housemate who came up to chop some wood and for a short visit Vincent the couchsurfer who lives in Terrace (nr. Prince Rupert) and is on his way to Victoria to take some classes for his mostly long-distance masters course in habitat restoration, and also happens to have worked last summer at Mariposa Organic Farm.Small world.

The night I got to Linda's I lay in bed looking out over the ocean and at what I thought was light pollution, but which I discovered in the morning was the northern lights. The following day Linda dropped us off in Campbell River (on her way to Courtenay) in an attempt that we could try and see the salmon run. Linda took us to the 'Salmon capital of the world' but we only saw many half-chewed fish at the side of the water. Giving up on Salmon we walked along the pier and spotted about ten orcas, which came pretty close! Much better than salmon!

I have seemed to work a lot at Linda's. It didn't help that there was not a clearly defined number of hours that I should work per day. Most places I've been at I've had to work four hours in the morning and get the afternoons off, but she never told me how many hours I should be doing (Dave told me she usually asks unskilled wwoofer to do six hours per day and hopes they'll work all day). When Linda was there the work day dragged on, with her always finding something else for me to do. When she wasn't there I still felt like I should be working a lot, especially after Dave told me I should be working six hours. And then I couldn't sleep because the cats would wake me up in the night to come in or go out or Tuna would wake me as he scratched his back on the bottom of the table or rolled around in apparent ecstasy on the floor. I washed sheets and cloths, tumbledried, cleaned windows, swept floors, vacuumed floors, swept the decks many times, mopped floors, cleaned mirrors, kitchens, toilets, bathrooms, made raw beetroot, carrot, pepper and tomato salad, made tasty salad dressing, cooked apple oatmeal crisp (a bit like apple crumble), cleaned extremely dirty dishes, helped edit Linda's entry for the 'CBC's Canada Writes' competition- an account of her walk a couple of years ago on the Camino, typed and edited Linda's homework on Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper, raked an awful lot of leaves (surely this is the most pointless task ever invented and deserves almost equal ranting attention in books as the topic of lawns), emptied leaves from the gutter, picked up horse chestnuts (to deter spiders from the guestrooms apparently), perfected my breadmaking (with a recipe left by previous WWOOFers), fed the animals (although feeding the cats just involved leaving a bag by the door which they would dive into everytime they came back inside), trying to get Tuna to come for a walk (I only realised when Linda came back that he was actually capable of the task), walking to the shop and buying items such as catfood, trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to light the fire, sorting out the numerous piles of recycling,and helping Linda to rearrange the living room and then to start painting it.

In the what felt like small snippets of time I had to myself I cycled to Rebecca Spit provincial park where I saw some dolphins swimming by and beaches piled high with driftwood (I would really be inspired to build something out of them if I lived here), took the ferry to Cortes Island and straight back with Barbara to admire the neighbouring islands and mountains, looked at Linda's good book collection (books such as builders of the pacific northwest) and copied down recipes, went to the Heriot Bay Inn and 'attended' the Quadra Island's University Halloween special course in 'How to survive a Zombie attack' (we weren't sure what to think), played bananagrams with Dave and Sarah (who are also helpxing on Quadra) and along with Vincent drunk tea at their host's house (which seemed very clinical compared to Linda's house), listened to the open mike night at the pub and cycled to and then walked up Chinese Mountain with a good view over southern Quadra Island, the mainland and surrounding islands. With Linda and Tuna I went on a walk near Quathiaski Cove on the other side of the island, but didn't spot any more whales. Today Vincent guided Linda, Dave, Sarah and I (as well as Tuna) in some mushroom picking in the woods behind the community centre (where the Quadra Island Quilters were hard at work in a quilting marathon- I really want to make a quilt one day). We picked a lot of chanterelles and a huge cauliflower mushroom. Vincent has just made a delicious soup with them.

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