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

If you have any questions send us a comment; we love to hear from our readers.
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Sunday, 30 September 2012


Ever have a crappy day? Not sure if it was the mushrooms, cheese or dust from our storage unit but Mary is suffering from something and just having a miserable day. She tried to mud and tape another bedroom but it was too much so back to bed for her.

I've been working on one of the bathrooms, getting the tub platform and sink ready for the plumber. Hope he shows up tomorrow.

Love our place. Doesn't matter where you sit you can see outside and the fall colours are at their best.

No, this isn't out my window it's Chris's place just down the road.

This is our view and the colours are perfect. That's my grandma's rocking chair next to the window. She would have loved spending her days rocking herself to sleep by this window.

Every window has a view and regardless of where you sit you feel like you are in the woods. Can't wait for our first gigantic snow storm. I'll enjoy every howl of the wind, every snowflake that drops as I sit by the fire, warm and comfortable inside.

Enjoy your day and thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, 29 September 2012


Tonight we are having chicken stew done in the Big Green Egg. It smells so good.  (The pot in the top left of our header pictures was the soup we had for lunch)

You can see our stew pot and the sweet potatoes are cooking in the aluminium foil. It is extremely easy to control the cooking temperature in the BGE.

Just a few of the vegetables Mary added to the stew pot. Those are mushrooms from our neighbour's lawn in the top left of the photo above.

Earlier in the day we checked out our storage unit and actually came home with two trailer loads of stuff. Can you tell we are anxious to get moved in?

Load number two.Some items for the house the rest went to my wood-shop shed. Lots of toys for Owen so you won't need to load the car when you come up, Sherri and Rob.

Don't tell Mary I posted this picture; looks like a disaster zone. We are still under construction so please forgive the mess but this is our deck and the view north looking at our solar panels on the left and my wood-shop on the right.

Inside it's actually starting to look like someone lives here. We moved more furniture in today, just have stuff still under construction so lots of work still ahead of us.

Up-date 7 pm

Supper is ready.

Thanks for stopping by and keeping an eye on us. Always good to hear from you. Safe travels.

Friday, 28 September 2012


More work on our kitchen today. We have actually started to attach the cabinets to the wall and insert the drawers and doors as needed. The kitchen island is taking shape with the unit for the double sink in place and the other cabinets just waiting for their legs. These IKEA kitchen cabinets have gone together very easily and I'm impressed with the hardware they use. I particularly like the soft close drawers and doors, no more banging.

Cabinets around the fridge are almost complete.

Two island units are in place. Mary is anxiously looking forward to the day she can actually start using the kitchen. Monday we expect the propane to be installed so our stove should be available once the propane is in.

On a totally different note, the fall colurs are at their best and this is the weekend to head north.

Next weekend is the Canadian Thanksgiving and it will be busy with tourists out to see the last of the fall colours.

Finally my workshop shed arrived. It is very similar to our bunkie except it has huge double doors at the one end for easy access of tools, wood and whatever else may find its way inside.

Enjoy your weekend and thanks for stopping by. Time for some home made soup.

Thursday, 27 September 2012


So we bought a BIG GREEN EGG to use as our BBQ as we love to cook outdoors and this will allow us to cook, bake and BBQ as we so desire.

Paul brought over a lovely 3lb splake that Steve had caught and it was delicious. Since this was our first attempt at doing fish we were a little nervous but all turned out just fine. The BGE tends to help keep the meat moist as it is a ceramic cooker and preserves the moisture present in the meat as you cook. Mike, would you like to try a sample? 

Mary struggles to turn the fish using a spatula and fork. Eventually we had success but next time a larger fork might be used.

Tonight we are doing pizza on the BGE and I'll report on our first pizza attempt later.

This is not a good sign, smoke from your cardboard box. When we emptied the wood stove yesterday we grabbed the closest empty container to dump all the ash into. Fortunately we placed the box outside, far from the house. When I looked over a while later the warm coals had started to smolder and next I'm sure there would be fire.  Lesson learned: always used a metal container when cleaning out the ash and place it far from the house not simply on the deck.

Lots to learn as we get closer to moving in and living off grid.

Thanks for dropping by. I'll report on our pizza supper later tonight.

Update 8:30 pm

Delicious chicken pizza hot from the Big Green Egg. You would have enjoyed it.


Mary came home and said we needed to make some changes in our wood stove. Since our firewood is free we want to utilize the stove as much as possible this winter and are on a learning curve to do it properly. Jamie had some sound ideas.

First task was to clean out the old ash. More about that job in another post.

Jamie's suggestion, which I liked, was to elevate our fire logs with some type of steel grate. I had these strips of rebar left over from construction, so used them. This will allow the air to flow freely around and under the wood giving a cleaner faster burn.

Next he helped Mary with selecting two items. The propane torch seen above makes lighting the fire so much easier.....................

................ and the wood pellets will act as an excellent fire starter. Jamie is a big fan of wood pellets and would have a pellet stove in a minute.

This is a small sample of our stash of firewood for the winter. We have about 6 cords that have been drying for two years so we hope we have enough.

So there you have it and the final results can be seen above ............ one cozy, crackling fire to sit beside. Thanks for all your help Jamie.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


We now have our pot-lights in the great-room working. It is another sign that we are getting closer to moving in. Not only do the lights work but the outlets are now live and the fridge is now working off of our batteries. We are slowly getting the jobs done.

These pictures were taken about 7 pm last night.We have just 1 GU 10 LED bulb in each circuit in the ceiling as the LED bulbs cost about $12.00 each here in Canada. Yes I know you can buy them on E-Bay for about $2.00 each.

This is Mary's sewing corner with two LED bulbs working. We have 27 pot-lights in the ceiling so should have plenty of light for evening work or gatherings. Remember, we are off grid and relying totally on solar power for our energy needs with a generator as backup, emergency supply.

Next week we expect to get the propane connected which will heat our water and keep our floors warm if we need too.

Also we expect to get some water lines connected and should have one bathroom fully functional by the end of next week.

Over the winter (January, February) I will give you a weekly update on our battery strength and solar production as well as our assessment of our  system. If you are considering an "off-grid" application you should gain some helpful knowledge from our experience. If you have any questions just send them along. I will be glad to try and answer your questions.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels Ad and Gertie.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


We now have well water. Gary hooked the power up to our well pump and we are getting crystal clear cold water from 200 feet below ground. Looks good, feels good.

Connections are made and secured.

Pressure in the tank is allowed to build up and then the pump shuts off automatically.

First flow of water from our tank.We will fill and drain the tank several times before we actually start to use the water.We will also get Ben's dad to come and test the water and see if we need to add any additional filters to our system.

Another step closer to moving in.

Thanks for stopping by and keeping an eye on us.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


I don't have any brothers just 7 wonderful brothers-in-law, but I do have 3 fabulous sisters who spoil me and have been so helpful as we get closer to moving in back in Bancroft. For the past two years they have so very kindly stored much of our furniture so it would be well cared for until we get the house completed.

This weekend Mary had a "girls reunion" so I headed off to see my sisters and bring back some of our stuff.

Thanks to Don or was it Carol, here is my trailer ready to head back home.

It was a great weekend of delicious food, lots of laughs and more delicious food.

Thanks for all your help and for spoiling  me whenever we get together.

Friday, 21 September 2012


We now have power in our house, limited power but we are connected.

Mike was here at 8 to get things ready for the actual connections between batteries and solar panels.

Then about 9 Darrell arrived with the necessary cable.

No idea why everyone is staring at the pail on the top of the post but obviously it has something to do with our solar system.

This will give you an idea of the kitchen arrangement. The tall cabinet to the left of the frig has doors missing which we hope to get this weekend when we are in Toronto.

Today Ben assembled the cabinets for our walk-in closet. I think he was glad to see the last of them by the end of the day.

I assembled the drawers to go inside the cabinets. Next week we want to complete them and start using them.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone. How's the truck driving Tony?

Thursday, 20 September 2012


All the batteries have now been installed and we should be producing our own power this time tomorrow. 

Mike makes sure the cables are tightly connected. 16 batteries should give us lots of stand-by power. These are East Penn 8L16, 6 volt - 370Ahr batteries. Our 12 solar panels are Sharp 235 watt panels and Mike feels we should have 4 days of power without the sun and then the generator will fire up to recharge the batteries.

Outside Ben and I worked on digging the trench further and deeper. It was a major challenge and we didn't get much deeper in spite of our best efforts.

We also worked on the tall kitchen cupboards that fit either side of the fridge. We still need to get the large one from IKEA as they were sold out last time we were there.

Check back tomorrow evening to get the latest on our solar status.

Thanks for stopping by.


A year ago I had to place conduit in the exterior walls before we poured the concrete.  (see picture below)

Here you see me cutting our building blocks with a drywall saw for the electrical outlet in our bedroom. (September 2011)

Can you see those grey pipes sticking up above the wall? Those are the conduit pipes in place before we poured the concrete into the exterior walls. (photo Sept 29, 2011)

It was a little tricky trying to get the correct location as well as the correct height but yesterday when we sorted and placed the kitchen cabinets I was delighted that the outlets were actually in the places we wanted them and at the correct heights. Remember, when I installed the conduit there were no interior walls, no floor, no roof. I stood on our stone base and measured where I thought the cabinet height would be once the insulation and concrete floor were installed.

Then in the spring, way back in April, Mary and I installed our potlight boxes. Once again we relied on the drawings Solares Design had prepared for us and yesterday guess what. All is good. The pot lights are all in the right locations, each for a specific task and most on their own switch as we need to conserve energy.

We are delighted with our design, construction and the way our house is able to store energy when the sun actually shines. This stored energy (in the form of heat) is released back into the building as the sun disappears and the outside temperatures start to drop. Once we get the attic insulation in, the thermal performance of the house will improve dramatically. The attic spray foam is scheduled to go in October 3rd, with 14 inches of blown in cellulose insulation going in on the 4th. We also expect our "Generac" generator to be installed that week so another busy week up here in Bancroft.

Thanks for stopping by and keeping an eye on us. Any questions?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Back to ditch digging today. Up here the ground where I need to dig the trench is rock, a teaspoon of dirt and more rock. The rocks are wedged in tighter than sardines in a can and getting them lose takes time, effort and more muscle than I am blessed with at this stage of my life. Dynamite would be the best solution but I'm sure I would end up with a crater and no house so I'll stick to the pick and shovel.

I'll post pictures tonight if I'm not exhausted, or too sore to move my fingers across the keyboard.

More good news. Just heard from our generator installer.He expects to be here next week which is good news.Our generator will monitor our battery status and automatically kick in and charge them whether we are here or not.This gives me some comfort if we decide to go away for a week or two. Healthy batteries need to be kept fully charged if they are to last 10 years. And believe me at the cost of these batteries I want to keep them healthy for a long long time.  It will run on propane and we will have a huge propane tank so running out of fuel shouldn't be a problem. Also with this system I don't need to go outside to fill a gas tank, pull a cord or turn a switch before it will start.Hope it's as good as the brochure says it is. If you are using a Generac propane generator and have any comments to share send them our way. It's always good to hear from our readers who are already living off grid.

Our solar system is costing us more than $30,000.It is the most expensive part of the construction. When I contacted Hydro One to bring a line in to our house it was estimated to cost us between $45,000 and $70,000. It was not a long distance to travel as our neighbours across the road all have electricity. So once we start producing our own power we will be ahead of the game. 

Thanks for stopping by and I'll write more this evening.

Update 6:30 p.m.

The pictures in our header reflect today's work. We moved the kitchen cabinets into their approximate locations just to get a sense of the room layout. Wish it was all in and fully operational but we must be patient; it will all get done in due time.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


Today we have appointments in Peterborough so will be on the road for most of the day.

Didn't get to the kitchen cupboards yesterday and I don't think I will touch them this week. Too many other jobs that need to get done first. The batteries for our solar system arrive on Thursday and I need to finish the trench so the cable can be buried out to the solar panels.

I did get the laundry rooms cupboards finished yesterday. The drawers are in as well as the shelves. I really like the finish on these doors and the doors don't slam shut but are eased into place with a little soft closing mechanism; same with the drawers. 

Mary finished painting the walk-in-closet so it is ready for the IKEA units. Hopefully we will get those assembled next week.

We are now down to the little jobs that seem to take longer and show less progress. I guess that's the nature of building. 

Thanks for keeping an eye on us. Safe travels Tony, Ad and Gertie.

Monday, 17 September 2012


This morning our house looks like a construction zone. After yesterday's marathon session of cabinet building this is what we have.

Kitchen cupboards waiting for the legs and then installation against the wall.

Some of these cupboards will be used in Mary's quilting room. When you own as much fabric as Mary has you need lots of cupboards. Anyone need a custom made quilt? 

In the laundry room the cupboards now have doors and look great.

Off to the dump shortly. Chat later

Sunday, 16 September 2012


Just got finished for the day and we are about to make supper. As you know family and friends have been very helpful and supportive as we've taken on more of the building ourselves. We couldn't have done this without them. Today was another very long productive day with neighbours from down the road coming to help assemble cabinets. I think we have all the units put together, now I need to attach them to the wall.

It was a busy place as everyone focused on the job and the room began to fill with cabinets.

Mary and Chris go over the list to make sure all the parts we need are present. We discovered a few missing pieces so will be heading back to IKEA when time permits.

We did stop for a break, cake is good anytime of the day.

Thanks again for everyone who has lent a helping hand. You are so greatly appreciated.

Safe travels and thanks for stopping by.