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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Saturday, 31 August 2013


As we age certain parts of our body are more vulnerable to repetitive tasks. Our backs seem to be most susceptible  to the strains of lifting and twisting, especially if we do it for hours on end. 

Yesterday I added a table to our log splitting setup, nothing fancy just some plywood left over from construction. This means no more bending over to lift the split wood off the ground, now we just reach over at waist height to get the wood. Our backs are so much happier.

So this is our current setup which I'm quiet happy with. The logs are on the far left of the picture above. I use the bucket to bring them to the log-splitter. Once split they are tossed on the table ready to be stacked in the crib. This is a much more efficient system and now that it's in place future logs will be so much easier to deal with.

Off to Maynooth shortly. Have a wonderful day.

Friday, 30 August 2013


We have a lot of firewood lying around which isn't good. Firewood left on the ground soon begins to rot and then becomes useless for keeping one warm. The plan this summer has been to build cribs from old skids and get the firewood stacked so it can dry and not rot.

Yesterday I moved the log splitter and built this crib ready for another cord or two of firewood. It faces south and gets a fair amount of sunlight during the day so should be a good spot for drying the firewood.

While I was busy outside Mary was busy inside......with peaches!

Our local grocery store had baskets of peaches on for $3.79. They have been the best I have eaten in a few years so I bought a bunch and canned them........hoping to be able to enjoy a taste of summer this fall and winter.

There were just enough left over to make a lemony peach cake for our guests. Light and delightful with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum. It didn't last very long.

This is a  sneak preview of the latest quilt I am working on. It is a challenge quilt put out by the guild I belong to. We were each given a different shape and told that it had to be represented on 70% of the quilt. I will post it once it is finished. 

Saturday we are off to Maynooth for the Maynooth Madness Weekend. Maynooth is so small they don't even have a traffic light. In years past they always did an excellent "Loggers Competition" on the Labour Day Weekend while this year Maynooth Madness will have a Scottish games theme.

The day starts with a pancake breakfast at 6:30, a parade at 10 followed by the Maynooth Highland Heavies games. Check back on Monday for pictures.

Enjoy the long weekend and be safe.

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Today's entry is a little of this and a little of that.

Last week we added a chest freezer to our electric solar power consumption. We've had some wet, cloudy weather since and our batteries got down to 79%. This morning they are back to 100% as we head into another four days of rain. It looks like the chest freezer is not a burden on our system and everything is working fine. I may add an electric water heater next summer to take further advantage of the excess power we produce during the summer months.

Cathy and Paul drove down from Algonquin Park yesterday for a visit. It was great to see them and give them a tour of the house. Mary and Cathy talked quilts. Paul and I talked about the state of our provincial park system which has seen a dramatic drop in staff the past few years.

We attended music in the park last night, the last one for the summer. Unfortunately neither one of us enjoyed the music so came home early. Sometimes we don't want the music to end, other times it can't end soon enough. Overall it was a great summer for music in the park.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


I prefer living in a small town, maybe because I grew up in one and enough people knew you to keep you honest when you needed a reminder. People watch out for one another in small towns.

Every town has its share of wounded ducks. These are folks that for no reason of their own struggle with special challenges most of us do not face. Some are physical some are emotional but all create a significant challenge for them.

Bancroft has Dougie. I believe that's his name. I see him sitting watching the traffic go by, chatting with folks who will stop and chat or waving when he sees a familiar face. Sometimes someone will buy him ice-cream or give him a small task to do, which makes him very happy.

Last week when we celebrated the re-opening of the train station you could see Dougie sitting up by the driver on the wagon enjoying every loop they took down main street. I have no idea who got Dougie up there on that seat but it sure made his day and it sure made mine. In small towns people take the time to help in small ways that make a big difference in someone's life. You're not lost in a small town. You are seen and cared for. 

Another example happened to me on Monday. Mary asked me to get two bottle brushes as she was canning peaches that day. I stopped in at the local Dollar store and asked the lady if she carried bottle brushes. She walked me over to the isle and showed me their display.

I selected the two I thought Mary wanted and went to the front to pay. Ahead of me was a mother and two young children loaded down with school supplies obviously getting ready for the bell to ring next Tuesday. Back to school, that day is more cherished than Christmas ..... for mothers with young children.

So I lined up, in no hurry, and watched as the kids put a few more items into mom's basket. The clerk finished with her customer then asked the lady in front if she minded taking me first as I only had two items to ring through. No problem. WOW! How thoughtful. Does that happen in the big cities? Not sure, but it's typical of the sensitive customer service one receives in most small towns.

Give me a small town that cares about its wounded ducks and I'll show you a place worth calling "HOME". 

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels Tony.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


The Bancroft Historical Museum is housed in this authentic log house just across from the old train station. We took a tour last Sunday while we were waiting for the train station celebrations to begin. 

The first display that caught my eye was this old studio camera. It was used by a professional photographer who had a studio on Hasting street back in the 1880s. It looked cumbersome to use but I'm sure the folks back then who could afford it were delighted to get their portrait taken.

Bancroft's has always been a mining and lumbering town. The mines have all closed as the minerals played out or the process became too costly. We still have numerous lumber mills in the area. 

These wooden models were hand carved by a local lumberman without the use of any power tools.  The detail and scale is impressive and he used only wooden pegs to hold everything together. 

He lived back in the bush in a log cabin without electricity or running water until he was 85. Apparently concerned for his health and safety he was the forced to move into a nursing home. Without space for all his beautiful models he donated them to the museum. His work alone is reason enough to visit.

In the early days of lumbering trees were cut by hand and the logs hauled out to the rivers by teams of horses.  It was a very dangerous industry back then with a lot of waste left to rot on the forest floor. Today everything is used, even the sawdust and bark are collected and turned into useful products.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you at the museum some day.

Monday, 26 August 2013


Yesterday was the official re-opening ceremony of the Bancroft Train Station. There were dignitaries making speeches from all levels of government, most too long to remember. What impressed me was the level of community involvement and support of this project and the celebrations that followed the ribbon cutting ceremony. It truly was an event you shouldn't have missed.

Everyone present was encouraged to get in on the official photo, reminiscent of the original photo taken when the O.C.R. (Ontario Central Railroad) arrived in 1900. The last train pulled out in 1963.

This was followed by free wagon rides through town,

a picnic lunch of pulled pork  .......

and finally a most enjoyable steel band concert.

There must have been fifty musicians of all ages playing and enjoying themselves in the warm summer afternoon. We loved it and so did the crowd that danced, clapped and swayed to the beat all afternoon. (wish I knew how to add a movie clip)

They encouraged the audience to get close but this girl seems to be taking the invitation to the extreme. Now where can you go to a concert and mingle with the musicians on stage; only in small town Ontario. Come and enjoy.

Tomorrow a tour of the Bancroft Historical Museum.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your day.

Sunday, 25 August 2013


We had a wonderful day in town celebrating the re-opening of the Bancroft train station. They had the official ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 pm followed by free wagon rides through town, pulled pork on a bun and the best steel band in the land. It was great to be in the audience enjoying the music and swaying to the beat. I was surprised how many got up and danced, it was that good. I'll post pictures tomorrow so check back in the morning.

Saturday, 24 August 2013


This morning we are off to the Maynooth Farmers' Market. It is about 20 minutes north of Bancroft and has a good variety of locally grown produce, home baked breads and an assortment of other products local craftspeople produce.  

If time permits we may go further north to the Combermere  market as well. It's smaller but is an excellent source of homemade baked donuts.

Our solar system was down to 81% Friday morning, the lowest it has been all summer. We added the freezer to the electrical draw on Tuesday, Wednesday we filled it with seventeen birds and Thursday it rained all day. Friday morning Mary did two loads of laundry, used the electric kettle several times to make coffee, we used the toaster, well pump, charged our phone, computers and camera batteries and had the lights on. When I checked our solar display it read 81% at 9 a.m. but by 4 p.m. we were back to 100% thanks to a bright sunny day. 

So this summer with the addition of an electric kettle and a freezer our system is still able to keep everything working without running the generator. Once we get into the shorter days and longer nights then I expect we will need the generator for about 6 hours of run time every five weeks.

Our system is only ten months old so until we've actually had it in use for 8-10 years it is difficult to give a true picture of the cost and efficiency of the system. We are very happy with how everything has worked to date and really only need to see how long our 16 batteries last.

If you are considering a solar system for a cottage or remote off grid house I would highly recommend it. The systems today need very little maintenance and are very easy to monitor. Having a stand alone system spoils you as we use all the modern appliance everyone else uses and are not aware of the disruptions our neighbours who are grid tied often experience. 

One appliance we do not have is an air-conditioner. Our house stays cool thanks to its high insulation values and passive solar design. Even on the hottest days of the summer our house was 8-10 degrees cooler than outside.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Update 1:30 pm

You never know who you will see at the market. Since we are relatively new to the area we don't expect to see anyone we know but today was different.

While at the Combermere market Mary spotted Jeamaie and family, a teaching colleague from years ago. It was great to see him and his family and we hope they will drop by next time they are going through Bancroft.

Friday, 23 August 2013


I have been a long time fan of orchids but have only owned one prior to living here. There are thousands of different orchids. What to choose? Well my orchids chose me! Leanne decided my home was a better place to grow them than hers, so she gave me her collection. And she was right.

Here is a gorgeous Phalaenopsis, the most commonly grown in homes. It will bloom for months. Fairly easy to care for and a real treat to look at. 

This is  an Oncedium. It traditionally grows on trees, loving lots of light and moisture. This beauty graces our bedroom and offers up a delicate sweet scent.

Here is another Phalaenopsis I think. It resides in the guest bedroom. Deep rich colour and so beautiful. I need to do more homework on exactly what the needs are of both these varieties as they do differ. Right now when Leanne comes to visit, she routinely checks over and then cleans the orchids with Neem Oil. I am  so lucky. 

This is where this beautiful Phaleanopsis lives, in the bathroom. The stem is leaning over with the weight of the blooms! Thanks Art for taking these wonderful photos today. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Yesterday we worked all day plucking, cleaning and freezing our chickens. In total we now have seventeen birds in the freezer for the winter. Thanks to Paul's help everything went very smoothly although it took much longer than we expected.

First step was the killing cone. That was my job and it was much more humane than what I saw when my dad bought chickens.

Paul did the plucking after dipping the birds for about a minute in boiling water. Surprisingly the feathers came off remarkably easy. I remember my grandmother having to take a burning newspaper to singe the birds and remove the pin feathers. 

Mary looked after the final cleaning and preparation for the freezer. We hooked up a garden hose so she had fresh water readily available.

This shot shows our work area, very efficient and comfortable. Next year we will set up two shelters so everyone can work in the shade.

We decided to locate our freezer on the front porch. Having it outside in the winter when our energy supply is low means our batteries will not be used to keep the freezer running, mother nature will supply the cold temperatures. In the summer we have excess power and using the freezer will not put an undue burden on our system.

Seventeen birds ready for winter consumption. The average weight is about 5 lbs. I will let you know how they taste  when we try one on the BBQ later today.

6:30 p.m. Update

For lunch Mary made chicken soup from the necks and the soup was delicious. With homemade soup we can control the amount of salt used which is important to me.

For supper we BBQ a 1/2 chicken. Very tender, delicious good taste and texture. We are very happy with our first samplings and if this continues we will definitely be doing meat birds again in the spring.

If you have any questions just send them in the comment section and we will be glad to reply.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


To celebrate Owen's arrival almost a year and a half ago Mary planted an apple tree, Owen's apple tree. This summer it has produced fruit and we are enjoying the apples.

This tree has five varieties of apples grafted to the trunk, yellow delicious, cortland, transparent yellow, Red McIntosh, not sure what the 5th one is.

Mary combined the apples with blueberries and made a delicious dessert.

Unfortunately it didn't last long so not sure what we will eat tonight.

Enjoy the sunshine and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, 19 August 2013


If you live up here you have to love the outdoors. We spend as much time outside as we do inside and love every minute of it. One of Mary's new passions is fishing and whenever she comes home with fresh fish it's a fish and chip night for sure.

If you check last week's blog you will see Mary's latest catch and one we thoroughly enjoyed.

Not be be outdone Paul (who broke both wrists 6 weeks ago) felt strong enough to get back out on the lake. He was rewarded with  this beauty......

a lovely 5.16 lb small mouth bass. It sure is a beauty and I believe this one is going up on Paul's wall. Thanks for sharing Paul.

Sunday, 18 August 2013


We are getting ourselves educated and psyched up for chicken plucking later this week. Our birds have grown so big they have trouble getting out of the run when Mary opens the door. Some are unable to walk up the ramp to the coop at night, so chicken plucking will definitely happen.

Our main reference has been the "Deliberate Agrarian" who has a lots of useful homesteading information on his site. He has had almost two million hits on his chicken plucking site alone.

Our freezer arrives on Tuesday. Yes, even though we are living off the grid we feel our system can handle the extra load of a freezer. We may even get a hot water heater for summer use next year, we just have that much excess power in the summer.

Once the freezer is working and the interior temperature is low enough then we start the chicken plucking. 

Thanks for stopping by and check back later this week for a full report on the whole chicken experience.

Saturday, 17 August 2013


Up here we are blessed with an abundance of water. We are surrounded by lakes, streams, ponds and rivers. It doesn't matter which direction you travel if you're not careful your feet will soon be wet.

However our soil is extremely sandy and soon after a rain it is bone dry. This isn't good for Mary's gardens. 

The solution is rain water collection. We use this tank to hold 80 gallons of water coming off our roof. (That black pipe is usually inserted into the tank, but the tank is full so the pipe has been removed)

Thanks to Perry at Home Hardware, we got a tap attached so we could connect a garden hose and send the water ....

down the hill to the second tank closer to Mary's garden. This usually gives us a six to eight week supply of water and by then we've had enough rain to fill them up again.

Speaking of water, Mary was out on the lake this week and came home with these beauties..................

Another delicious meal of fish and sweet potato fries.

Looks like we are in for warmer weather so I'm sure we will be back on the water next week.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 16 August 2013


Yesterday was clean-up day. The steps are done and we decided to organize the area where I have been splitting wood this summer. 

It was a mess and desperately needed our attention if I was going to continue using the log-splitter. It was slowly getting burried beneath the split wood.

I used old pallets to make a crib to store the wood off the ground. This helps to keep it dry and allow the air to flow around it. Pallets are cheap or often free if you happen to be in the right place at the right time.

To help strengthen the crib I attached 1x3s across the top.

With Mary's help we soon had the wood collected, stacked and drying in the sun.

Our wood pile, organized and cleaned up, ready to burn in 2015. 

Now I need to design and build some type of easy cover to keep the snow and rain off of the cribs. Maybe next month I'll have more pictures.

We can feel fall in the air this week. Our mornings are much cooler and the days are noticeably shorter. Soon school will begin and our town will be quiet for another season.

Thanks for stopping by and keeping an eye on us.