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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Thursday, 28 February 2013


Our view at 7 am.

When the snow stopped I thought the storm had passed. Woke up this morning ................. more snow. Another day in the bobcat.

Getting ready to start plowing. My view from the cab.

My post below was written last night before going to bed.

Yesterday was a stay close to the house day. It snowed for 12 hours and we were kept busy clearing the driveway and parking area. 

Paul was a big help with his ATV. It has a plow and he can maneuver close to the buildings without hitting anything. I used the bobcat to lift and pile the snow out of the way. Together we kept ahead of the storm and by suppertime everything was clean and free of snow.

We were expecting a delivery from Renfrew today but they called and said it would be delayed a day. No problem, just as long as we get the new furniture by the weekend.

Peter called last night. He is sick so won't be here today, maybe tomorrow. Lots of folks are fighting the flu up here.

Guess it will be another quiet day for me........ feed the chickens, read a book, shovel the front walk, oh, and wash the dishes. Mary is coming home today.

Safe travels everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


We are getting more snow and I'm still in bed enjoying the view out our bedroom window. No need to dash outside and clean the panels, our batteries are at 100% and we can survive another 4 days. Life is good.

I'll post more later today

UPDATE - 10 am

I finally dragged myself out of bed, fed the chickens and myself and now I'm sitting by the fire enjoying my book and dreaming of Alaska in 2014. SHHHHHHHHHHHHH don't mention Alaska to Mary.

11 am

Paul is busy clearing our driveway. YEA!!!!!!!!!!!

But it's still snowing.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013


No blog yesterday, I was in Belleville to see my surgeon. He was pleased with the healing, had x-rays taken and checked my foot for range of motion. After he had me walk across the room he declared me fit and progressing well, no need to see him again. Once again I thank everyone who came to my aid and assisted in so many ways to help us through this with minimum disruption to our lives.

When the weather co-operates and we need a break from our work schedule we love to travel the back roads up here.

The old log buildings were originally built by the first settlers into the area. They cleared the forests and used the logs for their homes and barns as they tried to farm the pockets of soil found scattered here and there.

This building looks like it might have been a hotel at one time. The door at the front, on the second floor level, probably opened onto a porch running across the front. 

Travel then would have been by horse and buggy or train, much slower than today and necessitating many hotels along the route so people could get safely to the larger centres for needed supplies once or twice a year.

 It's fascinating to speculate on the use of the derelict buildings we see as we travel and wonder about the people who built them.

On an entirely different note I've always loved the time we've spent in the Yukon. Check out the events in Whitehorse last weekend.

Click Here

Thanks for stopping by and let me know about the back roads where you live.

Sunday, 24 February 2013


We have a back up generator that we use when our batteries get down too low. We've had cloudy weather the past 5 days and once our batteries reach 60% SOC (state of charge) I like to fire up the generator. Allowing your batteries to get below 50% will damage them and shorten their life span.

In the above picture taken October 4th the crew is installing the generator.

Here you can see the propane tank and to the right the generator. The generator runs on propane so I don't have to fuss with gas cans.

Mike set the generator to come on at a set SOC point which gives us peace of mind when we are away. When we are home I can manual choose to start and stop the generator.

So this morning I went to the control panel, selected "generator" and then the "run" option. 

Nothing ............................... just a solid "red" light on the monitor.

"Red" isn't good, so time for me to get out the instruction manuals.

After reading several pages and trying to make sense of the technical jargon  I had several options to check.

First was the "safety switch" at the generator.

We had the  propane inspector here last week and he needed to see the propane hook-up to the generator. 

On with the snow boots and out to the generator. Of course the lock was frozen so I had to solve that first. Once inside the unit ................. sure enough the safety switch was ...... OFF

Back inside I tired the remote start once again and volia .............. we had ignition. 

I'll let the generator run for 4 hours and see what out SOC is at that point.

Very happy to resolve the problem myself and not have to call Mike on a Sunday.

Safe travels everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 22 February 2013


Peter arrived with more trim ready to be  installed.  Each door opening was measured and the trim cut and the ends painted.

With today's power tools it didn't take long for the doors in the hall to be trimmed out.

By lunch the doors were done and we were ready to move on to the back bathroom and some mudding and taping. 

Today we are off to the chiropractor, not because of the house construction but because Mary slipped on the ice a few weeks ago and has complained of a sore hip and shoulder ever since.

Looking forward to seeing you in the spring Pat and Jeff.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, 21 February 2013


Peter will be here later this morning to install more trim around the doors and baseboards in the hall. We are almost finished our inside jobs with the master bathroom still in need of attention. Once we finish the mudding there then Paul will come and tile the bathroom. That won't happen until the spring when the logging roads are impassible and Paul can't work in the bush.

Slowly very slowly we are getting everything done. The house is very comfortable and the radiant floor heating is working well. Glenn was a little surprised that we could heat over 2,000 sq. ft with just the domestic hot water tank. Our system is very efficient and draws very little energy from our batteries.

This morning we discovered water under the refrigerator. Looks like the drain for the automatic defrost may be plugged. I'll have to investigate that after I've had breakfast.

The ice pictures in the header above were taken in downtown Bancroft yesterday. Often we see climbers scaling the ice face on weekends.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


Winter is the perfect time to curl up with a good novel beside a crackling fire.  When the snow is deep and the cold cuts right through your heaviest coat it's time to stay inside.

I've recently started reading Outlander an historical fiction based in the Scottish Highlands of the 1740s. I'm always interested in how people lived and Diana draws from considerable research to paint the scene of life back in that time period.

If you enjoy history you won't be disappointed. She is an excellent story teller who makes it hard to put her book down.

OK, it's warm here by the fire and I need to get back to my book.

Let me know what books or authors you enjoy. Always good to hear from you.

Check out Sherri's blog for some cute pictures of Owen.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


I stand corrected.  I heard from our friend Phil in Quartzsite yesterday questioning me about our pump's flow rate I stated in an earlier blog,  (since corrected).

I wrote that our pumps could push out 87 gallons a minute and only draw 0.75 amps. Phil being the technical guy he is said "no way" so I checked my figures. 

Phil was right. I was looking at watts not g.p.m. 

These pumps are rated for 0-17 gallons per minute depending on the stage and lift required of them.

Sorry about the wrong information.

Thanks for pointing that out Phil, much appreciated.

Still, a remarkable pump for such a small draw on our batteries.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, 18 February 2013


It is truly wonderful to sit here and watch the creatures gather food for winter survival. We've hung bird feeders, put out deer food, a salt lick and hung suet on the trees. These pockets of food around our property have become hives of activity throughout the day as the birds, squirrels and deer come and go, some more frequently than others.

This little guy  decided to make it easy for himself. He obviously loves the sunflower seeds the birds drop from the feeders and fills his cheeks whenever he can.

Here he is busy stuffing himself before disappearing down his snow tunnel. Not sure how many each cheek will hold but I think he takes the same attitude many of us have when we go to one of those all you can eat buffets:  "Lets fill up cause it's all the same price." 

Can you see that little pile of raised snow in the background? That's home for this guy. It's a pile of rocks covered with plywood and lately with snow. Rather than run exposed across the snow to his favourite source of food, he very cleverly dug himself a secret tunnel right to the spot under the bird feeder. How creative was that? Now all he has to do is wake up, scurry down his tunnel and breakfast is ready. It's a very good life living up here in Bancroft,  for both us and the creatures living outside our door.

Thanks for stopping by and safe riding Sean and Casey.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Yesterday was the Bancroft Winter Festival called - THINK SNOW. I had been looking forward to it since the last one we attended in 2009 which was such a delight.

I checked the internet for the schedule of events and locations and found very little information. The dog sled races were scheduled for 10 am in L'Amble and the street hockey went from 9 - 10 in downtown Bancroft.

OK, out the door and down the driveway before 8:30 so I could catch the road hockey at 9 and still have time to get over to L'Amble to see the dog sled races start at 10.

Yes I know, our driveway needs to be plowed and I did get it done in the afternoon.

Hastings street was closed to traffic and kids of all ages were having a blast playing road hockey right in front of all the stores. I remember when kids played road hockey all winter long and maybe summer too. You would have to honk your horn to get them to move the net aside as you drove by. Today, I don't see many kids outside playing anything let alone on the road. Just think of all the hours you spent outside as a kid. Great times, lots of fun and you didn't go home until the street lights came on. Oh, the freedom!

A few pictures then on to L'Amble for the dog sled races.

The dogs were there but not ready for racing yet. 

It looked like it would be another hour before racing might start so ..........

.............. time to go back home and have a late breakfast.

Back in town I visited the vintage snowmobile display. Lots of great memories riding these machines back in the early 70s at Jack and Annabelle's place. We could ride from the back door out through town to the miles of trails back in the bush. It was always a great weekend whenever we could get up for a ride.

Do you recognize any of these machines? These were the top of the line machines back in the 60s and 70s. Look a little antiquated compared to today's machines.

I never did get to see the dog sled races. There were few teams and few spectators and no signs directing the public where the viewing platform was. Matter of fact there were few signs for any of the events. The signs I did see were hand drawn on bristol-board much like you would see advertising a kid's "cool-aid" stand on a hot summer day. Maybe that was the problem. No budget, very little promotion, very small crowds.

Over in Haliburton their winter festival was so popular it was difficult to find a parking spot downtown. 

Guess next year we will go see the show in Haliburton.

Safe travels everyone.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


Today is the "Think Snow" winter carnival in Bancroft. I'll have a full report with pictures tomorrow. Lots of northern communities have winter carnivals so go on line and check out the web sites. They are a great way to enjoy the winter sunshine.

Friday, 15 February 2013


Glenn finished the in-floor heating hook up today and the hot water is flowing. It will be several days before the concrete feels warmer but it is on the way. It will be wonderful to step out of the shower onto a warm floor.

So  this is the distribution centre for our radiant floor heat. The hot water comes in through the copper pipe just below the pumps and the pumps send it out to the different zones depending on the thermostat readings for that zone.

The cold water is returned to the heat exchanger through the copper tube just to the left of the orange pipes coming out of the floor. Those orange pipes are one of three zones in the house.

All the electrical wiring was done by Shawn Martin. As you can see everything is neat and secure in its place. Thanks Shawn.

All the heat for the radiant floors comes from the white domestic hot water tank seen above. The blue tank is our pressure tank for the water system in the house. The silver pipe above the white tank is the direct vent for the HW tank. That copper box on the wall is the heat exchanger. Small isn't it.

This is the pressure tank for the radiant floor system. Glenn's work is neat and tidy and he made sure everything was working properly before leaving. Thanks Glenn.

Click on  the above picture to see the temperature of the water going into the floor. Look at the black arm, bottom left of the dial. The black arm in the top half is the pressure in the system.

Temperature of the water returning from the in-floor heating. It will be pumped back to the heat exchanger to be warmed up.

If you have any questions, just ask and I'll try and post an answer.

Safe travels everyone.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Radiant Floor Heating Day 2

The heart of the system is the Grundfos pump. We have 4 of these little pumps and you may wonder why so many when we are trying to minimize the draw on our batteries.

Each loop of our in floor heating system requires a separate pump so the water can be circulated as the thermostat demands. 

This is the pump we are using. If you click on the picture above to enlarge it you will see the electrical draw printed on the bottom left side of the silver plate. This is a 3 stage pump set manually . Stage one draws 0.55 amps, stage draws 0.66 amps and stage three draws 0.75 amps. It will pump 0 -17 g.p.m.

These are the pumps for each zone of the house. Even with all 4 pumps running 24 hours a day we would consume a little over 55 amps a day at stage one. Once our floors reach their set temperature points the pumps will only run as required.  Heating our house will be very cost efficient and have very little draw on our batteries. I will record our uses once the pumps are up and running and compare it with the data collected so far on our battery use. I let you know our findings in a couple of months.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Our wood stove has been doing an excellent job of keeping us warm this winter. We have been delighted with its performance as well as the design of the house. On sunny days we don't even use the stove, just enjoy the passive solar energy that this house captures.

Our construction called for radiant floor heating and although we are happy to cut wood and monitor the wood stove this process may not always be suitable as we age. So before we poured the concrete floor we had miles of tubing installed in preparation for warm floors at a later date. 

I guess the "later date" came sooner than expected. Who doesn't like warm floors especially bathroom warm floors after you have stepped out of the shower.

Today we started putting the pieces together.

First all the copper connections and elbows were laid out on the floor. These were then cut, sanded and soldered together. 

Can you guess what this copper box is for? Right; it mixes the hot water from our domestic tank with the cold water in the radiant floor tubes. The actual waters don't mix with each other just the heat from the hot is transferred to the cold water to elevate its temperature.

Tomorrow we do the assembly work and attach the pieces to the wall, then pressure test everything to ensure there are no leaks.

Keep an eye on us and watch for squirting water. We won't be happy if that happens.

For an update on Sherri click: Here

Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!

Thanks for stopping by.
 I'll try and post after supper today. (Thursday)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


We seem to have a large flock of finches around this winter. They arrive, eat like crazy for a while then disappear only to return in an hour or so. I think they make the rounds of feeders on the lake.

Mary will be home tonight. She has been helping Sherri the last few days. Every day Sherri gets a little stronger but it will be months before she is fully back to her old self.

I'm much more mobile with my walking cast, even able to get down and look after the chickens. Carol stamped out a path that is much easier to negotiate even with my cast and bowl of chicken food I can manage the trek. Thanks Carol.

Otherwise everything is quiet here. Temperatures are hovering around the freezing point but I know we are a long way from spring.

Safe travels and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, 11 February 2013


In yesterday's header there were a number of pictures taken as we drove through Bancroft.

Regardless of the season I always enjoy seeing this boat house on Bay Lake. It's a reminder of a different era.

Now this is the way to go out for lunch. Once the snow arrives up here you can always see snowmobiles parked on their lawn. Food must be good.

Dover has its white cliffs, we have granite. All along Hastings street is the ridge of granite that often finds climbers scrambling over its icy face.

Up here this is a regular sight. With all the snowmobile trails in the area the machines do need gas and they are allowed to drive in town to fuel up. Can you see the machine at the pumps?

No rush hour traffic up here. This is a typical scene as we drive into town.

Another beautiful day here in Bancroft. After the storm it looks like Narnia.

Sunday, 10 February 2013


After the storm the sun came out and Saturday was a beautiful day, too nice to stay inside. So cast and all, I bundled up and went to see if I could get the Bobcat working.

I hadn't used the bobcat in several months so wasn't sure what to expect on this cold morning. After a few chugs and gushes of black smoke it finally caught and fired up. I thought the best approach was to let it run for 10 minutes before moving the machine or bucket. This way the fluids would have a chance to warm up and not put so much stress on the valves.

Once we got going I had a great time clearing the drive and parking area. The cab is enclosed and heated so I'm somewhat pampered while working to clear the snow. Everything is run by joysticks so my broken ankle wasn't under any stress or strain while I worked.

You can easily move a ton of snow very quickly with these machines. I think next year I will get chains for the tires for just a little more traction on the slopes of the driveway.

Overall, I'm very happy with the performance and how easily it handled the job. The heat in the cab was an added bonus.

Safe travels and thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, 9 February 2013


We finally got it ................... best winter storm to hit this area in 5 years, and we loved it. Friday started out with a gentle snowfall that intensified as the day progressed, By supper time we had a good 20-25 cm on the ground and more coming down. What a great day.

Of course whenever we get snow I'm always so grateful when the neighbours drop by with their machines.

A machine like this almost makes the job fun  ................... almost I said.

So when it's blowing, snowing and freezing outside the best thing to do is stay in your PJs, stay close to the fire and put on .......

...................... a pot of beans. On a winter night nothing tastes better than pulled pork, home made beans and a cabbage salad. That's the real meal deal, ............ oh and one of Don's beers.

Here is the latest news on Sherri sent by Rob last night:

Just a quick update while Sherri is asleep and I'm feeding Owen.  

Sherri got her staples out today.  The incisions look like they are healing well.  
She is still very tired but the pain in her head is steadily decreasing.  She is starting to be able to close her eye better now as well.  

All the signs are positive. We just all have to be more patient than we would like.  

Talk soon.  
Owen and Rob 

Check out our grandson's blog: Owen's Blog

Our view this morning:

The storm has passed, our driveway has been plowed and we are off to town to get supplies. Doesn't that look peaceful?

Safe travels everyone and thanks for stopping by.