This blog is about our travels in our solar powered "Airstream" and living off grid, in our passive solar home, near Bancroft, Ontario, Canada.

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Friday, 31 August 2012


Used Don's drill yesterday, sooner than expected. It's my drill but I'm calling it Don's drill because he drove all over Ontario trying to find it.

I expected to use it later this month when we do the tile in the bathrooms but yesterday we had the posts for our solar panels installed and Joe said I needed to pour "neat cement" around each post to keep them in place. Now what is "neat" cement? I'd never heard of it so asked Joe and it is simply a bag of portland cement mixed with water. Make the mix like soup so it will easily run into all the cracks around the base of the pole and keep it perpendicular.

Joe was here about 8 a.m. but his drilling motor wouldn't start. Look at all the filters and the size of this engine just to drive the hydraulics to run the drill. This must be the biggest engine CAT builds. Well it's the biggest engine I've seen.

This is the business end of the drill. These teeth cut through the rock and turn it into dust which is flushed out as the drill sinks deeper.

Note the truck is completely off the ground and sitting up on 3 legs. This enables Joe to position the drill so it is going in at the angle he wants.

Here Joe checks the elevation difference between the two holes. I needed to have both poles the same distance above ground with their tops level with each other. Don't ask me why that's just what our solar guy requested.

By noon Joe was finished and Leanne had cooked lunch over the fire; fresh small mouth bass and vegetables ....................

.......... deliciously placed on a flat bread and enjoyed under a warm later summer sky.

After lunch it was time for Ben and me to mix cement and get the posts solidly anchored in the holes. So glad we had the drill handy and it worked without a problem making the job so easy.

We double checked to be sure everything was level and secure. 

Today the plumber comes and hopefully we will have water in the house soon.

Thanks Connie for your comments on facebook and to the others who wrote about our pizza lunch. Yes, it tasted just as delicious as it looked.  We have company coming from Holland next week so may do pizzas again.

Connie, hope you and Mike are safe from the hurricanes blowing your way. Thanks for keeping in touch.

Hi Mike and Sheri. Did you buy that sailboat? 

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.

Thursday, 30 August 2012


Several families and individuals have used our bunkie this summer and all reports have been very favourable. If you are coming up I think you will find the accommodation very comfortable. Here are a few shots of the inside which I don't believe have been posted before.

Leanne is up this week to help and have a holiday. Here she checks the internet from inside the bunkie. Yes, we do have internet and it is a very good service, fast and dependable.

On one side we have the queen bed and on the other side a bunk bed. A perfect set-up for a family of four.

This is one item you might like to bring with you. The nights are getting colder and a "hot water-bottle" might be greatly appreciated when you sleep in the bunkie. I hadn't seen one of these in years. Didn't know they still made them, but I guess they do. Last person I saw using one of these was my grandmother.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


Several years ago Mary built her own, outdoor wood fired bake oven. It has been great for cookies, muffins, fish and pizza. Yesterday we had Chris over for lunch and decided to do pizza in the bake oven.

First job was to fire up the oven at least an hour before you want to start cooking. This gets the clay hot and ready to cook the food once you place it inside. 

While the bake oven was getting hot, Leanne and Mary were busy cutting vegetables and making the pizza.

This was our favourite, potato pizza, so yummy!

Inside we kept a small fire going just to keep everything hot.

We use the door when we bake muffins but not for pizza. We like to keep an eye on them as they cook very quickly.

Isn't this an ideal way to bake pizza? Outside, sun shining on your back, birds enjoying the afternoon breeze and you tending the fire and watching everything cook. It doesn't get much better than this.

 Oh! Fresh out of the oven and delicious. Let us know when you are coming our way and we'll get one ready.  You build the fire we'll build the pizza.

These outdoor pizza ovens are very easy to build and cook your pizza to perfection. If you like pizza why not build your own? You won't be disappointed.

Every bite is yummy!

Must run, I think I'll have the leftovers for breakfast.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Having someone here helps keep us motivated and moving forward. Leanne was a big help today working on the drywall to get it smooth and fill in the spots where needed.

Leanne and Mary decide what needs to be done and who will do it.

All the windows needed another skim coat so Leanne got busy doing each window.

Note the focused concentration and steady hand. Both are needed as well as a good eye to get a professional looking finish.

Even I got into the action smoothing out the higher spots.

By the end of the day we had cleared the room and filled in all the low spots. Tomorrow we will do one final coat, wash the floor and hopefully get the base coat of paint on this Wednesday or Thursday.

My job today was to figure out how we would get water to our bathtub as we are using a faucet that stands on the floor beside the tub. Here you can see the hole left so the plumber can connect the tub to the drains. It would have been so easy to simply run a conduit across on top of the purple insulation before the concrete went in. Didn't do it so now we have to figure out another solution. Right now I'm thinking of a platform about 4 inches off the floor that the tub would sit on. 

Not sure how this will all work out as I'm sure our plumber will have some ideas.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

Monday, 27 August 2012


We are entering the "grunt" work of this house building project.  There is a lot of hard physical labour ahead as we push to get everything done by the end of October.

One dirty job is sanding our nine foot ceilings smooth. This is a great workout for your upper body but my upper body tells me its not interested. Pushing a square of sandpaper stuck to a long pole across a ceiling that is over 1,000 square feet is exhausting, dusty, aggravating and something I would rather not be doing.

So most of this work has fallen on Mary's schedule with attempts made to minimize the dust and control the amount of dust we breath in. One solution was masks but they seem to restrict ones breathing and fog up ones glasses. An alternative approach is bandannas worn tightly over the head and face with just enough space to see through. So far it seems to be the best solution for us.

Yes it's a big high ceiling and we've just started the sanding process. We hope to be finished in a week but that will depend upon our strength and how our arms endure under this body building regime. Check back later to see if we have survived.

Once the great room is finished we still have lots more to do. By the time we are finished we should be experts. (with sore arms or big biceps) 

I went looking for a mixing drill last week when we were in Peterborough. I need a high speed rugged drill for mixing mortar and grout when we start to tile the bathroom floors and shower stalls. The gentleman at Home Depot recommended the DeWalt DW130V. Unfortunately they were sold out and every hardware store in town had the same answer,  "sorry, sold out".

So I sent an S.O.S e-mail to my sister and brother-in-law  asking them to check the Home Depot where they live in London.

Don and Carol set off on their quest to track down the drill I needed.  First stop was Home Depot but they got the same answer, "sorry, sold out". Next step was to check their computer. Unfortunately it showed there were no drills of that model in any of their stores in southern Ontario.

Undaunted, Don decided the next stop would be a "DeWalt" store but once again, "sold out" What's with this drill? Turns out it's no longer in production and it's replacement hasn't come out yet.

Ok, the last attempt was to ask DeWalt to check their computer and see if they could find the drill. Yea! There is one, but it's in Toronto at a little mom and pop hardware store on Lawrence Ave. That's a 3 hour drive but Don was relentless and if he was that close he was determined to get his hands on it.

Just to ensure the drill was still on the shelf he called the store and asked them to set it aside for him as he was on his way to pick it up.

WOW! What a brother-in-law. Thanks Carol and Don for going way beyond the expected to get us the drill.

Oh, yes Don got the drill but now he needed to get it up to us in Bancroft, another 3 hour drive. Fortunately our daughter Sherri and family were coming up on Saturday and could bring it with them.

A real team effort and so greatly appreciated. The tiling job will have extra special meaning knowing that so much went into making the mixing of the mortar possible.

So here's the drill just out of the box and not used yet.

This item you may not recognize. It is a key chuck, once used on all drills but seldom seen today as the cordless drills don't need a key to tighten the bit into the chuck. Maybe that's why the drill is being replaced, ............ old technology. Some days I feel like old technology.

Thanks everyone for all your help and check back often to see if we are surviving. 

Sunday, 26 August 2012


Yesterday was BBQ day at Sean and Casey's. Everyone was there and we had a fabulous afternoon together. These family times together are rare so very special when they happen.

Of course the "star" attraction for the day was Owen, our grandson. 

Gramma (Oma) held him, rubbed noses with him and talked to him ......................

Casey cuddled him ..................

Sean bounced him up and down ................

and he loved every minute of the attention. Here Owen hugs his mom while giving us all a big smile.

Not sure if Sean is pulling or being pushed  ...

but they both went in. At 34*C (93.2*F)  it was a perfect day for being in the pool.

Later it was time to fire up the "Big Green Egg" and BBQ some ribs, burgers and sausages. Delicious!

Sean looked after the BBQ and made sure everything was cooked to perfection. 

Then back into the pool where mom and daughters enjoyed a few minutes before we all headed home.  Thanks Sean and Casey for having us all over. A great time together. Thanks Sherri and Rob for the delicious "Ribs". 

Leanne came home with us and will help her mom for a few days mudding and sanding the "great-room".

It was a perfect way to end our busy summer.

Saturday, 25 August 2012


Yes, that little monster that has been staring me in the face all summer is finally done. Yesterday, Ben and I cut, snipped, pushed and shoved until all the steel was up and secure. 

Just the east gable to do then the outside is complete.

We haven't said much about the chickens this summer, too busy working. But whenever we take a break they are right beside us expecting a treat. Matter of fact they've taken to hiding under the trailer so whenever the door opens they come running.

Fall is starting to show in small ways... seed pods sending off a promise of next spring. The first leaves are starting to change colour. 

Another fall job will be these trees. We had to cut more for the solar system and plan to make firewood of them before the end of October. 

November will see us in Florida for a few weeks so lots to do before we can leave.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.

Friday, 24 August 2012


We missed Ben yesterday. Progress when I work alone is at a snail pace, pitiful. In the morning I worked on the west gable while Mary worked inside on the east corner of the great room.

By 1 pm the sun was around the corner blazing down on the west side of the house and my tired body. Decided to pack it in and went to town to get meat for the weekend and check out our storage for paint brushes. Any painters in the audience?

So this is all I was able to get done yesterday. (4 panels on the west gable) Today with Ben here we will finish the west gable and start on the east gable. I also need to get the floor in the guest bathroom cut and opened so I can bury a pex waterline to the bathtub. Not a fun job cutting a groove into concrete. I need a channel 2" deep and maybe 24" long. I was planning to drill out as much as possible with a concrete drill then chip away at what was left. If you have a better idea pass it on.

Mary patiently works the plaster across all the seams and nails so we can paint this corner this weekend. Monday the wood stove goes in and we want some of the wall completed.

This is our home today .....................

and this was the scene one year ago. Now remember we went away for 6 months and there was no work done here so I think we are making good progress, thanks to Ben, family and friends.

Time for breakfast then back to work. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012


Ben and I worked on the front entrance yesterday while Mary and brother Paul worked on mudding and taping the great room.

Yes, the steel is on and the front entrance is complete. You can see a stack of drywall below the open door.We still have lots to do inside and with the double front doors this is where we store the material we will be using. Ben did a great job of cutting and tightly fitting the steel into the J-channels around the door. Looks good!

Inside Paul and Mary were busy applying tape and mud and sanding the walls to get everything ready to paint this weekend. Paul was a big help showing his sister how to wet the tape before applying it. Thanks Paul. We appreciate your help and come back anytime.

This corner needs to get done by Monday since the wood stove will be installed then.

Don, we are so thankful for your scaffold. It is the perfect tool for doing drywall. Thanks so much for the loan.

Looking west into the great-room you can see the progress Paul and Mary are making. All the windows and doors have been framed with drywall and have received at least their first coat of mud.

Outside Ben and I even found time to get the back porch walls covered. Now we just need to cover the gable ends and the outside will be complete. 

Thanks again for everyone's help, it is greatly appreciated.