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, 31 March 2013


Off to Toronto later today for an Easter gathering with family. Living up north we don't see family as often so these gatherings have become even more special to us.

Of course it gives us another chance to spend time with Owen (our grandson). He's just about big enough to use his tricycle.

Happy Easter everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, 30 March 2013


Last weekend we visited the seed exchange in Maynooth.

The idea is to collect seeds from your garden in the fall, label and bag them, then bring them to the seed exchange to share with others.

This is a great opportunity to meet like minded individuals and also some of the organic farmers in the area.

The event is held in the old community centre in Maynooth. It's free and very well attended.

It's difficult to see but the ceiling is a beautiful tin ceiling which tells you just how old this building is. If you are in the Maynooth area this summer they have an excellent farmers' market every Saturday.

See you at the market.

Friday, 29 March 2013


Maple syrup production is in full swing up here. The days are warm, nights are below freezing, perfect conditions to make the sap flow.

We visited our neighbours to get ideas for our own production set-up next year. Some tap 10 trees, other 30 and one does 150 trees. The more trees, the more sap, the larger the equipment you need to evaporate the water and boil the sap down to maple syrup.

Regardless of the number of trees you tap, everyone uses wood as their choice of fuel.  

Some neighbours don't even have a "sugar shack" just set up a fire pit in their driveway and boil away.

This is the type of set-up we will probably use next year, a few cinder blocks, a grate, a turkey pan and you are in business.

Jim even made a temporary shelter, just in case he has to be boiling sap while it is raining.

Other neighbours have a real sugar shack and tap over 100 trees.

The whole family is involved and the kids take turns collecting the sap and looking after the evaporator.

That steam you see rising off the evaporator is the water in the sap. You need 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of maple syrup. You also need lots of wood, patience and help. 

Thanks for stopping by it's good to be back.

Thursday, 28 March 2013


Finally got my computer back this afternoon and we have lots to talk about. I'll post again tomorrow morning with pictures so you can see what we've been up to since my computer went in for repairs.

Thanks for your patience and your e-mails. It is good to be posting again.

Safe travels.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


Went to the repair shop yesterday, still working on my computer. No call today, so still working on my computer. I miss blogging. I miss sharing our pictures. I miss hearing from everyone

Be patient, as soon as I get my computer I have lots to share.

Safe travels everyone.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


No computer yet so another short post.

Spent today visiting markets and friends in the area. First stop this morning was the Maynooth Farmers' Market. This was our first visit and we were impressed, lots of vendors, people and a very friendly atmosphere. The market is held once a month at the beautiful new Maynooth Community centre.

Once done we crossed the street to the "old" community centre which was hosting a seed exchange. This was our first exposure to seed exchange but it won't be our last. It is held each year and we plan to be ready next year with some of our own seeds to exchange.

After lunch we headed over to Ben's place to see their Maple Syrup being produced. The sugar shack was in full production mode and everyone was out there helping. I took pictures, but as this isn't my computer I do not have the program to download them and put them on my blog. Hopefully next week I'll have my computer back and I'll update this report with pictures.

Thanks for stopping by and watch for the pictures on Monday.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


We are here in Toronto to spend some time with our daughters and visit friends. No pictures as I'm using someone else's computer.

 I've been rerading about "Wheat" lately and the damage it can do to our health. We picked up a copy of "Wheat Belly" on our way down yesterday and found the reading quite an eye opener. If you have health issues take a look at what Dr.William Davis has to say. You can also get some information by doing a google seaqrch under "grainstorm"

Happy reading everyone

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


My computer is in the repair shop and so it is difficult for me to create a new post every day. Watch for a new entry Saturday when I get my old computer back.

Otherwise we are fine. Mary is back to her active self after her fall on Friday. She had a few "couch" days but is out walking again, this time wearing her "clickers".

Today it has been snowing for the past 6 hours so once again everything is white. Next week it will melt, the sap will flow and we will be watching them make maple syrup.

Thanks for keeping tabs on us.

Monday, 18 March 2013


Whenever we get together with family and friends food is always central to the gathering.  We have many excellent cooks in the family and everyone always brings their favourite dish. 

Last week when Paul and family were here Mary decided to do buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. Olga had brought fresh fruit, Gerry and Jackie had given us maple syrup from their bush so pancakes were a natural choice.

Sausages almost ready.

Pancakes ready to come out of the pan.

Another cup of coffee while the second batch cooks.

Now we just need to find something delicious for "Freckles"

Breakfast was so good and I was so hungry I didn't get a picture of my full plate covered in yogurt and maple syrup. Trust me it was mouth watering. Wonder if I can convince Mary to make pancakes today?

Safe travels everyone. Don't rush home, there's more snow coming this week.

 Up-date 8 am

We had pancakes!

Friday, 15 March 2013


After our tour of the sugar bush, Jackie and Gerry were so kind and gave us a litre of maple syrup they had produced last week.

The kids decided it would be a good idea to use some of it to make "maple syrup candy".

First job was to boil the maple syrup on the stove. To use it for candy making Mary had to bring it to 235*F. This was verified on her candy thermometer.

Next step was to take it outside and pour it on the snow so it could cool like toffee ......

then roll it on a fork so we could enjoy it.

From the looks on Minna's face I think it was very enjoyable.

Matter of fact everyone was enjoying the whole experience and looking for seconds from the candy pot.

Thanks Mary, the candy was delicious. 

Next year we hope to tap our own trees and make our own candy. Maybe Owen will help us make the candy disappear.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, 14 March 2013


We visited the sugar shack yesterday and although there was no production the kids enjoyed seeing the taps and equipment used to convert the sap to Maple Syrup.

When the sun is out and the sky is blue it's great to be back in the sugar bush. Just a little too cold for the sap to be running.

Old style buckets are still used in many operations especially the small ones.

The old "sugar shack" at the bottom of the hill. You can see the blue sap lines coming down the hill towards the shack. Everything is gravity fed where possible.

Here's the gang. The kids were having a better time than their expressions indicate. 

Next week we are back into the warm daytime temperatures and freezing nigh-time temperatures so the sap should be flowing again.

Thanks for stopping by. I'll have more pictures from the "sugar shack" when we visit next week.

Tomorrow: Making Maple Toffee

Safe travels.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


Today's pictures were taken by Mary even though they say Art on the byline.

Not the best of conditions but Mary and Olga took Minna and Tien out to see if the fish were biting.

Minna was very patient, sitting quietly and jigging slowly, hoping the splake would bite.

Her brother Tien, made a little snow holder and entertained himself while waiting for his fish.

We are still waiting, and I guess we will try again next year. The snow is disappearing quickly and in another week I don't think it will be safe to be out ice-fishing.

Today we are off to the sugar bush to see how Maple Syrup is made in the sugar shack.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


Before Paul and family arrived our barred owl was back; this time on a mission and he was successful.

I first spotted him as he hovered over the snow, then dropped feet first and sat there motionless.

Then ever so cautiously he manoeuvred about until a little creature probably a mouse emerged from the snow in his mouth.

Dinner at last. 

Today we hope to go ice-fishing so check back tomorrow for more pictures.

Safe travels

Monday, 11 March 2013


It's March Break for the schools here in Ontario and we are looking forward to company. Paul, Olga, Tien and Minna will be here for a few days of life in the great "white" north. We still have snow and we plan to be outside as much as possible.

First job was to get the sleeping arrangements organized.

Since it's too cold to sleep in the bunkie we moved the mattress up to our guest bedroom. Now everyone will have a warm comfortable place to sleep and a complete bathroom just down the hall. That's a huge step forward considering the living conditions we've been able to offer when guests have stayed in the past. Back then the best we could do was a composting toilet and the lake for cleaning in. Not very suitable in the middle of March.

Another job that we do on a daily basis is feed the chickens. You can see the chicken coop buried under snow just behind the generator. Our girls (chickens) have done just fine throughout the winter. We have 6 girls and get on average 4 eggs a day. We've been saving the eggs this past week so we will all enjoy them when we have company. Fresh free range eggs, none better.

Thanks for stopping by. Safe travels everyone. See you in a month Annie and Marvin.

Saturday, 9 March 2013


Where did the week go to? We haven't been busy but the week disappeared. We are into mild days with the sap flowing and maple syrup being produced. We hope to visit a sugar bush when Paul and family visit next week. I'll have pictures then.

Mary has been fighting her allergies so yesterday was a couch day for her. She spent the day surfing the internet for more information on "hugelkultur" as she wants her gardens built as soon as we can get on the land.

Right now our parking area is a mud bowl. Once the temperature rises above freezing the ground thaws and we have mud. First job this summer is to get more gravel down around the house. 

Mary started her seeds this week. If all goes according to plan we should have an abundance of vegetables to enjoy this summer.

Oh yes, the barred owl was back this week. We enjoyed watching him swoop across our yard several times trying to catch one of the red squirrels. He came close but left empty handed.

This icicles you see in the header are hanging off our south facing roof. As the snow melts and the water runs off it forms these beautiful icicles you see above .................... especially beautiful when they catch the morning sun.

Thanks for stopping by and for keeping in touch. Looking forward to our company next week.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


The days are warmer and the nights are still freezing, perfect maple syrup weather. The alternate freezing and thawing temperatures changes the pressure in the tree which cause the sap to flow.This week looks like a good week for collecting the sap and boiling it down to make maple syrup.

The pails and lines are already out in many locations around here. 

We hope to collect sap next year but will visit local producers this week to get ideas for our own production.

Several families have invited us to drop by and watch, one right on Coe Is. Lake Road so they are nice and close.

Do you know how many gallons of sap must be boiled off to make one gallon of maple syrup? .................................. 40 gallons. Yes it's a 40 to 1 ratio and as you get down near the end you have to be very careful not to let it burn. If that happens no one wants it and all that work has been wasted. 

I'll post pictures and give you more information once we are back from our tour of the "sugar shack".

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


Just had a call from Renfrew. Our couch will be delivered today. I'll post pictures as soon as it arrives.

Up-date 12:30 pm

As promised, the couch arrived before 12 and looks perfect in our "great-room" 

What do you think?

Monday, 4 March 2013


Never heard of the word until Mary came home the other day with it. It means raised garden beds and uses logs piled on top of each other to form the skeleton of the bed.

One thing we have an abundance of is logs and huge piles of old branches. I was thinking of pouring diesel fuel on the piles we have and burning them in the spring. Now we will simply rearrange them to make Hugelkultur.

Watch for pictures and a report when we actually build our own hugelkultur this spring. Do we ever do anything normal?

Click here for more information: Hugelkultur

Saturday, 2 March 2013


I'm always delighted when we see wildlife close to the house. Our biggest delight so far has been this barred owl who has been our neighbour off and on all winter. The other day he showed up, unannounced , looking for supper. I sat and watched him ...... he sat and watched me.

His hearing is so superior to mine that every now and then he would tilt his head and focus on the snow below. I suspect he was listening for mice or voles as they scurried through their snow tunnels.

Then he was air-born, silently drifting west across the yard and disappeared into the trees. I went to the side door to see if he had simply changed perch locations but no sign of him in the trees.

Wait, was that a flutter of wings down by the chicken-coop? Stepping out onto the porch I peered down the hill focusing on the coop but could see no activity............... all was still and quiet.

I climbed onto the woodpile to get a better advantage for viewing and there he was, perched just off the ground focused on whatever little creature was moving under the snow by the coop. 

I hope he got his supper as it was too cold for me to stay outside any longer.

Time for me to get supper started as Mary will soon be home.

Friday, 1 March 2013


This has been the heaviest snowfall month we've had all winter. The past week alone we've received over 50 cm of snow. I'm not complaining, just stating facts. We love winter and the snowmobilers up here are very happy with the fresh coating this week.

Our driveway is long and hilly. Fortunately the bobcat makes the snow removal  so easy.

Stringer Drive still not ploughed from the first snowfall this week and we've had two more dumps since then.

This is my toy. It's heated, comfortable and very easy to control with just a joystick. 

Morning sun is just breaking over the horizon behind us. The day looks beautiful and the temperatures are climbing. It will be a good day to be outside.

Time for me to stop taking pictures and get back to work.

Enjoy your travels and thanks for stopping by.