Years ago before baby, before everything I was very active on this site but over the years, I just gave it up. Brief blasts of blog activity would be followed by crickets and based on the traffic stats over the last year (think 10 a day average) I am not the only one that stopped visiting.

But Wait! There’s More! I have actually been blogging at a site I share with others called Tenth to the Fraser. Unlike this site, this one has a focus: New Westminster. Over the weeks, we have had great success there with widespread interest, the attention of noted personages and fun and profit for all.

I was raised on First Street with my family and now I raise my children in the West End, near Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary. This website is to illustrate just what kind of town New Westminster is. It has often had an undeserved reputation but I have always known it as the perfect jewel in the center of the Lower Mainland. Tightly knit, self sustainable yet fully a part of the greater metropolis around it, New Westminster sits at the intersection of our regional commerce and the heart of our regional identity.

Briana and I have started with the gardening. We have long wanted to take an active interest in growing our own food and we did grow a passel of herbs in the old condo but there was no space and when the real-estate bug hit, the nascent flora hit the bricks.

I our new place, in the West End of New Westminster, we have more space and we have tried some first steps. We aim for a true Victory Garden and we plan to be exemplars of sub-urban self sufficiency in some way or other. So far we have some kitchen herbs, tomatoes planted, squashes and zucchini, onions and chives and a few other tid-bits. There seems to be a massive movement gaining speed towards self sufficient urban farming but it could be the “hey, there sure are a lot of Honda Odysseys on the road” phenomenon, they day after you buy one.

So I have been reading some cool blogs and other blogs and wikipedias. And Briana has read a slew of super books including The 20 Minute Vegetable Gardener and Michail Pollan’s In Defence of Food.

Recently we attended a meeting with the New Westminster Parks horticulturalist and management staff and a super group of interested gardeners with the aim of establishing a community garden in the city for the benefit of all city gardeners. My first plan is to use the two vacant lost close to my house. In the satellite photo below, the houses still exist but the two houses closest to the south-east corner of Grimston Park.

View Larger Map

The space is not really suitable for much other than a parking lot or a community garden, and we all know what Joni Mitchel thinks about parking lots.

More to come.

Well we have done it. Photos are still to come but I can say now that we have moved in to our new family home. It feels so great to have this place. It has space, potential, wow, just everything we were looking for. Briana and I have been pinching ourselves and giving each other amazed looks over the last two days, as if to say “Can this be happening? We live here! Is that not great? I know, right?”

We dove in and got to work right away. The move in was smooth and uneventful except for a stream of dirty jokes from the movers and tales of younger days as a free lovin’ hippie back in Hawaii. Since then we have rolled around in home ownership like chickens in a dust pile (with extra clucking). We have had the obligatory trips to Canadian Tire, Home Depot and Ikea, with the promise of more to come. I have cut my own grass ( MY OWN GRASS) for the first time ever and improved my domestic drainage with the addition of a downspout extension, some 3/8 pebbles and a spade.

Briana has planted some tomatoes and herbs and generally done a million and one things to make this house our home. Wesley loves the place, everything about it seems perfect to him so he just toddles around the absurdly expansive rooms cackling to himself. Wagner, the dog, thinks that we are on vacation and at any moment he will be able to finally go home. Poor puppy, he doesn’t yet know that the space is his too. Not being on the New West Quay has really cut down the number of other dog he sees in a day so maybe he is just missing the domination of like creatures.

It is fabulous and exhausting. More and much more to do, a suite to rent and a life to lead. Check here again soon.

Papa’s got a brand new bag! The early and effortless sale of Blue Thunder (see preceding post) left us with no car. Tell me how am I to move house and take care of my darling with no wheels? (I am not listening to your eco suggestions, I can’t hear youuuu. La la la).

We had a ‘suspect’ 2001 Honda Odyssey lined up with a broken, then repaired odometer, ostensibly 95,000KM and a rather beat up interior. It was a good price but I would have 12% in taxes to pay and a niggling suggestion that something was not quite right. After a little more research I found another one, in a colour more happy making to the wifie wife. Private sale, less tax, less cash up front. I had to get the deal done so I dashed onto skytrain (woah, culture shock) and zipped to Oakridge Mall to find the cleanest, shiniest little 2001 Honda there ever did was. dsc01006-2.JPG

Out of my pocket came a sweet roll of $100s and the Honda was the newest member of the Tomkinclan. It has no name yet but I am sure my family will latch on to one soon. One possibility so far is “Penelope“, in honor of the connection to Odysseus. My seven year-old might just suggest “Golden Thunder“! He is resistant to change.

What about you? Any suggestions?

A little more than two years ago, I bought a 2000 Toyota Corolla VE. My older son, used to naming the cars in his life; the last one was Silverbird (a Ford Taurus SHO); thought up the perfect (read ironic) name for the family sedan : Blue Thunder”.

It has overtones of Greased Lightning or The Batmobile, so we went with it. The car has served us very well over the last couple of years, flawlessly in fact but with two kids and a new law mandating carseats for older children (12 years is it) we had to get a bigger car.

Today, I sold the Corolla. It is a clean little car and I got $750.0 less than I paid for it almost three years ago. I am pretty pleased. It took one day to sell and was one of the higher priced listings on Craigslist for that year. Ode to Corolla. May your tires never flatten and your AC never discharge. May the roads before you open up and may iced cream never be pushed into your fabrics. BANZAI!


Bike Lane

This amazing photo credited to Hoytamaulipas, shows the carnage when car meets bike race in Mexico. Link to the CNN story for more.

The picture is the post folks. Here, our little Solomon, probably 6 years old, is on a Washington State beach near La Connor. I wasn’t there that day but his Grampa took him around the county with his cousins looking for adventure and whatever came their way.

Gramps, you take good photos. Beach Boy

As mentioned in a recent post, our family is relocating to a new house. The house is an older one and in great shape but the furnace has been condemned and even if it was working was over sized for the house and very inefficient b todays standards. Where a high efficiency gas fired forced air furnace today would be rated near 95% efficiency, this one was just 60% or so. Heat PumpIt is academic though. All four heat exchangers were cracked, making the unit a hazard so it needed to go.

I am making my plans to replace it and I am starting to consider a heat pump instead of a furnace. They use no fossil fuels and in our Pacific Northwest climate, the low temperature limitations of the heat pump are much less of an issue. To quote a random website:

In an air-source heat pump the air is cooled over finned heat exchangers, extracting heat into the evaporator of the heat pump. In a water source heat pump a similar process takes place as the water is cooled and heat extracted. In ground source systems a liquid is passed through a collector pipe buried in the source material or sunk into a bore hole and the heat accumulated in the liquid is then extracted in the same way that it would be in a water based system. Simple!

Right now I could go for a high efficiency gas furnace for $4,500.00 after rebates or spend about $8,000.00 after rebates for the Heat Pump system (that is right, cash from Ottawa and Victoria for both options).Diagram Heat Pump
For the heat pump, I would be paying for the electricity to run it, about the same as a refrigerator. For the gas furnace there is the cost of the fuel (of course) and some electricity for the fan. The gas consumption would be WAY less than the current furnace but still, the cost of CNG is not going to go down right?

Does anyone have any experience with this technology? I would appreciate some advice. The key is to get away from the carbon fuel and to lower my exposure to cost of living increases due to fuel cost escalation.

Recently, I found myself in San Diego. I was exhibiting at a Solar Power related trade show and I have to say I am astounded on how quickly photo-voltaic and solar-thermal residential systems are nearing grid parity, (how closely the costs of the systems match the cost of buying power from the utility grid).medwayblog1.JPG

USS Midway SBD Dauntless
In San Diego, the evidence of the military is everywhere. There are sailors and soldiers in uniform in the hotels, on the street, in the malls, IMing their BFFs at the malt shop and of course, near the harbour. While at the harbour myself, I visited the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier that joined WW2 at the end of the war and served the US Navy until the early 1990s.
Midway F4 Phantom
The ship is now a museum and offers a look into life on board a fighting ship of the US Navy and is a fantastic showcase for a wide range of military aircraft. I had my cellphone camera with me and I took two dozen shots or more. My older son is an aircraft nut so I wanted to get a few good pictures for him. Some of them are here, for you. On the top deck, the flight deck, there was an awesome collection of jets and helicopters. While this I wandered around the vast blacktop surface, little stunt planes zipped overhead, practicing for an annual obstacle course. Across the harbour was the USS Ronald Regan. Nothing says ‘Great Communicator’ like a nuclear warship. In the harbour several armed coast guard boats and smaller gray navy ships maneuvered about. San Diego: sun, sand and gunmetal.

Tomkinson Tudor
A new home again, this time a real house for our Family. From a downtown apartment to a 2br, 1ba condo at the quay, we moved back to my ‘backyard’ and set up shop for two years. We have loved our time here at the Quay in New West but the space is too small for us with the Baby and our bigger boy (and Wagner the Schnauzer).

So after some hunting and some Real Estate shenanigans, we have almost completed the purchase of the house above, near Lord Tweedsmir Elementary and next door to Grimston Park in New West. Our place here at the Quay is sold ad we are scheduled to move in early July.

The house has a great view, a great yard and a great basement suite that we an rent to make it all happen. Anyone looking for a super 2 bedroom suite near 22nd st station may want to get in touch. Perfect tenants only please.

Expect a housewarming announcement soon!

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