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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Friday, 28 February 2014


Just after lunch yesterday this guy flew in for a quick visit.

He or she is a Northern Goshawk often seen in this area. They have a short wing span and wide tail which makes them perfect for maneuvering through the trees of our boreal forest of Canada. 

He didn't stay long and after twenty minutes of looking around flew off in search of dinner somewhere else.

Update: 8 am

Just saw a beautiful red fox trot across the pond. Unfortunately too far away to get a picture.

Thursday, 27 February 2014


Not sure of our plans today. It is cold and the wind just adds to the discomfort level, so whatever we do will have limited outdoor exposure. 

Carol and Don arrived on schedule yesterday and tonight we are having the 8 pound splake Paul brought over last week. I'll posted pictures once we get everything prepared and cooked.

Sitting around the wood stove last night with Don I believe we solved the problem of our stove vent outlet location. 

Our walls are poured cement which meant I had to locate all electrical outlets before the cement was poured.

The outlet for the stove vent is too low but how do I relocate it in a cement wall? The first challenge will be locating the wire in the attic as that area was spray-foamed. 

Our approach after much discussion will be to carefully measure the distance from the east wall to the outlet. The go up into the attic and measure the same distance from the east wall and start digging. Once I find the electric wire I will wiggle it to see if the correct wire moves in the selected outlet box.

Once we have the right wire I will attach a string to it at the kitchen end and pull it up into the attic. Now I can cut into the wall and find the conduit without fear of cutting the wire. It should be a simple process to then relocate the outlet box, pull the wire back down and install the outlet at the correct height.

It sounds like a lot of work but I think it is all doable just time consuming.

I'll let you know how successful I am once we get the job finished.

Safe travels everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Mary was away having some fun time with Owen the past few days. Spending time with your grandchildren is one of the best ways to make the winter blues disappear. Of course each time we see Owen he has grown and developed new skills, talking more and becoming more independent.

Another great way to spend the winter is to have company. Today my sister Carol and her husband Don arrive for a few days. We are looking forward to a relaxing time together sitting around the wood stove, getting caught up on the news and making plans for the summer.

Of course before they arrive there is food to prepare and the house to clean and organize so this entry will be short.

Time to bring in more wood and get some breakfast cooking.

Safe travels and thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


It's back to construction on the home front. Mary has been away so it's a good time to get some varathane on the windowsills.

It's too cold to work outside so I set the boards up on cardboard boxes and got to work right by the front door.

These  are solid oak boards for the windows and sliding doors in the south room. The windows there are 8 feet high and 5 feet wide. This allows plenty of sunlight during the dark winter months. Our 5 foot overhang eliminates the sun during the hot summer months. 

I did two coats of varathane on the bottom of each board which you see here. The bottom won't be seen so its appearance isn't critical.

Still  lots of snow hanging around our backyard. Although some has melted and disappeared off our roof, walking in the bush without snowshoes is still a challenge. 

-21*C this morning.

Must get back to work, I want to do three more coats before Mary gets home. Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Monday, 24 February 2014


Yesterday it was red squirrels, today it's chipmunks. This has to be a sure sign of spring.

Spotted this guy at the far end of the porch ........

this one on the wood pile ..................

and this one just outside the door. They're everywhere and chasing each other up and down, in and out all over our firewood. The only one I know who moves faster is Owen.

I think our wood pile has become the Tim Horton's of the animal kingdom up here.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Sunday, 23 February 2014


We have a new resident in our wood pile.

Whenever I go out for a new stack of firewood he scolds me for taking part of his house.

The closer I get the further he retreats.

I'm sure he will still have a home come this spring. Our supply of firewood is still healthy and plentiful.

We are seeing more animals and birds as winter begins to lose her grip on the land. Also we have lost a lot of snow this week without any flooding which is good. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014


Did you see the Canadian women's curling team at the Olympics? I happened to catch a bit of their last game where they won gold, very exciting. I was on the edge of my seat, my heartbeat was on hold on every throw of the rock, and the shots, .... just incredible.

So last night a gang of us, non curlers, got a lesson in the game.

Ken and Sandy explained some of the rules and techniques for delivery the rocks.

Then we practiced. Those girls at the Olympics made it look so easy, when really it is so hard to get that rock down to the other end and have it stop on the spot you want. My rocks had a mind of their own. They even tried to join the game beside us, imagine that.

The instructors were very patient and you can even use a stick to get the rock moving; sort of like shuffleboard but you are on slippery ice and need to concentrate on your balance.

Gerry learning to talk to the rock. Yes, many of us thought the rock was very disobedient when we released it down the ice, so we would shout at it, but it never listened.

See that rock almost dead center, that's mine. I have no idea how I was able to do that but it did happen and I had to take a picture.

If you've never curled, try it. It's a lot of fun even if the rock never reaches the house. (That's the target painted on the ice at the other end of the rink)

Now I just need to rest my sore body and let my bruises heal.

Safe travels everyone.

Friday, 21 February 2014

WOW that's a FISH!

Paul went fishing yesterday and brought this beauty over for us to see.

It's a 26 inches long splake and weighs about 7.5 lbs.  A splake is a   hybrid of two fish species resulting from the crossing of a male brook trout and a female lake trout. Many deep water lakes around here are stocked with splake.

Paul suggested we put it in the freezer and have it next week when Carol and Don are here.  Thanks Paul; ice fishing does have its rewards, especially when your neighbours bring over their catch.

Today we are to get rain mixed with snow; not the best day for being outside. Looks like I will work inside on the window and door sills and Mary will do some quilting.

Another month and we should be seriously into the maple syrup production. Another job on my list is to build the fire pit for boiling the maple syrup over. I will use some left over durisol blocks for the construction and some old oven racks as grates. I'll post pictures once we get into the actual production.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Thursday, 20 February 2014


Made a fast trip to Peterborough yesterday. The day was perfect, sunny warm, no jacket and the road was dry and clear. I think we lost a lot of snow. 

One item on our list was a small single electric burner. We have found that even in winter if we have a sunny day we have surplus energy from our solar system. A single burner electric unit will allow us to cook a pot of vegetables without using our propane stove. 

While we were at Costco, Mary spotted this induction element.

We  have never used an induction element before and it does take some adjusting in your cooking skills but that was brief and we are pleased so far with its performance. 

The mushrooms were not cooking very quickly on the wood stove so Mary switched over to the induction element and they were done in minutes. In all fairness the mushrooms were well heated on the wood stove but not cooked as we like them.

She did cook broccoli on the element and the pot was boiling in less than a minute.

The reviews we read online seem good and we will let you know if we have any problems. Costco has the best return policy in the industry as long as you have your receipt.

Another surprise was meeting an old friend very unexpectedly. 

Our drive home takes us through Lakefield . "Stop the car, there's Debbie" yelled Mary and I quickly pulled over so Mary could dash back and make sure she was right.

Debbie and Mary went to school together, all through school.They lived down the street from each other, spent their free time together, got into trouble tougether and Debbie was in our wedding party forty one years ago. So to see her walking down the Main Street was a big deal and a great joy to us. 

Of course in all the excitement I forgot to get a picture but it was a delight to visit even if it was too short.

There's no better way to spend the day than with a friend.

Safe travels everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


Mary has suffered from allergies for years. We've had tests done, even environmental assessments but nothing pinpoints the cause.

Our best approach so far has been avoiding molds, wheat and dairy. Unfortunately this has not eliminated the attacks which can be quite debilitating. We've added sugar to the list and so far Mary has been allergy free.

She does need to eat and is a wonderful cook so she has searched the internet for alternative recipes.

This week she discovered psyllium bread and tried it for the first time.

Here is the loaf, delicious and healthy coming out of our little oven. I was surprised at how tasty it is even though it has no flour or sugar.

Trying to stay healthy is a big challenge for many these days. We will continue to investigate and refine our diet to eliminate the allergy attacks. 

If you too avoid sugar and wheat send us your favourite recipes. We enjoy getting your recommendations.

Safe travels everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, 17 February 2014


Although we are off grid and relying on solar power for our electrical energy we prefer to use our solar energy when cooking rather than the propane stove. 

Propane is currently at $1.29/litre, oil is $1.18 and electricity is even more costly. A friend down the road who's entire house, cooking, hot water and heating is all electric had a bill over $1,000.00 last month. Energy cost are through the roof this winter so we are frugal with our propane use.

When we decided to roast one of our chickens that Paul helped us pluck and clean last summer we discovered it wouldn't fit our counter-top oven.

Now this is the very efficient electric oven we use frequently. It bakes, does our toast, cooks our sweet potato fries, and anything else you would usually put in your large stove oven.

Unfortunately our chicken was just a little large for our small electric oven so Mary turned on our propane stove to warm it to 350*F before cooking the chicken.

Then it dawned on me, why not cut the chicken into pieces and make it fit the smaller oven.

Turn off the propane, turn on the electric and two hours later out came ...............

chicken, golden brown and delicious.

When we first started living off grid we had sold many of our small electric kitchen appliances thinking we wouldn't have sufficient energy to use then. Not the case. If you visited us you wouldn't know we are off the electric grid. 

Everything you use electrically we do too. We do watch the weather for long stretches of cloudy days and adjust our electric consumption. Laundry is done when days are sunny but otherwise our use is fairly routine. We are considering installing an electric water heater this summer as those months produce an abundance of energy we seldom use.

We are quite happy to be off grid and still living comfortably.

If you have any questions just leave us a comment and I'll get back to you asap.

Safe travels everyone.


Mary has been busy mudding and taping the drywall in our back bathroom.

We hope to get the room painted this week.

The Paul will come and tile the shower and floor.

In another month we should be done and be ready for company. 

Now we need to focus on completing my office and the second guest room. We call it Owen's room.

Today is "Family Day" in Ontario with most stores closed for the day. Enjoy whatever plans you have a safe travels for those on the road.

Sunday, 16 February 2014


Mary went ice-fishing the other day and brought back supper.

This is a splake that Douggie caught and gave to Mary.  It was delicious. Quite simply, Mary cleaned and prepared the splake with a wash of egg and a crust of pulsed almond slivers, a dash of salt and pepper and a slice of her own preserved lemon tucked inside.

We pan fried it on the wood stove where we do most of our cooking in the winter. 

We were hankering for a favourite summer dish of zucchini, tomatoes and onions sauteed up with a dollop of goat cheese.

We sometimes feel like homesteaders, growing our own food, catching fish in the lake and producing our own maple syrup. I just wish my grandmother who homesteaded in Saskatchewan could see how easy it is to live on marginal land here in northern Ontario.

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, 15 February 2014


We enjoy eggs done in a variety of ways: boiled, fried, omelette, scrambled, etc. Recently we discovered a farmer selling free range eggs for $2.50 a dozen. It's tough to beat farm fresh eggs.

Don't they look good?

When we had our own chickens I'm sure it was costing us about the same to get a dozen eggs.

Today is the winter carnival, Think Snow, in town. Lots of activities planned as well as a tour of the local fish hatchery. 

Yesterday we saw the temperature above freezing for the first time in months. The warmer temperatures are welcome although we know the snow will still be here come the end of April. 

Our days are getting longer. We are seeing the sun more frequently and it has been a month since we've used the generator.

This is a long weekend in Ontario. On Monday many businesses are closed in celebration of family day. There's lots happening in the north country and the weather is perfect for getting outside and enjoying winter. 

Hope to see you at the winter carnival.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 14 February 2014


After working on the back bathroom all morning we decided to visit Camp Can-Aqua and get some maple syrup supplies.

Al and Mary look over the supplies brochure and discussed what is essential for a small operation. Since this is our introductory season we plan to do 15 trees and then evaluate our efforts and setup.

Al explains the hydrometer and how important it is to the maple syrup production.

State of the art evaporator at Camp Can-Aqua. We won't be buying this anytime soon but it was good to hear that they too started out boiling sap in the driveway using a turkey pan, just like we will use.

Maple syrup production for us won't start until mid March but we are slowly getting ourselves ready.

Next we need to build the fire pit for the evaporator. We will use some left over Durisol blocks and discarded oven racks to support the evaporator pans. (turkey roaster) 

Happy Valentines Day everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, 13 February 2014


We had a few balmy days last week and opened windows to enjoy the fresh air. When we went to close the windows in the evening ................. we had frozen windows.

Seems the warm air escaping through the windows did what warm air does everywhere when it meets cold air; it condenses.

Our windows were coated with a thick layer of ice along the open edge and they wouldn't budge. Unable to close them I stuffed towels along the opening to reduce the draft and went to bed.

Yesterday was warm, sunny and a great day for working outside. Using Mary's hairdryer we were able to melt and remove the ice with some effort and persistence. 

Now our windows keep the cold out the warmth in and our house is comfortable.

Sorry no pictures; holding the hairdryer, the extension cord and standing on a ladder meant the camera stayed inside.

Living in the bush makes one resourceful and independent.

Check out our grandson at: Owen

Safe travels and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


It's been a tough winter for the birds and animals up here. Our heavy snowfall has made it challenging for the deer to move around and many have depended on food put out by homeowners.

As we move through winter we are seeing a greater variety of birds at our feeders. This woodpecker showed up a few days ago and after checking her markings we believe she is a Harry Woodpecker very common around here.

If you are feeding birds be sure to maintain your feeders and provide water whenever possible.

Thanks for helping out our feathered friends.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


Propane is the heating fuel of choice for most Canadians living in rural locations. We use it for heating our water, cooking and for our in-floor heating.

Tank on the left buried in snow.

This winter the price of propane has gone through the roof. Local prices have reached $1.10/litre. We paid $0.63/litre last October. Our tanks holds over 1, 400 litres. At $0.63 it would cost $882.00 to fill the tank but push the price to $1.10 and now the cost skyrockets to $1,540.00. 

For many folks on a fixed income they have to decide, stay warm and have little left for food or have food and freeze. Neither choice is pleasant. 

There has been much speculation as to the reasons for this and many letters have appeared in our local paper denouncing the government for allowing this to happen.

Fortunately for us we can usually make it through the winter without needing to get the tank filled. Traditionally propane prices are highest in winter lowest in summer. During the coldest weeks this winter we were using about 52 litres of propane a week. Now we are down to 14 litres a week and I think we can hold off on filling the tank until June.

Lets hope this spike in price has receded by then and we are back to $0.55/litre.

If you bought propane this winter let me know what you paid. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, 9 February 2014


We live on a cottage road which means the cottagers are responsible for maintaining it. 

To me it looks pretty good for a cottage road. The snow has been pushed back and the road surface is solid. Once it starts to thaw that will be a different matter but for the moment all is good.

The municipal road is wider, sanded more frequently and plowed as soon as the snow stops. Definitely a superior road but we are very happy with our cottage road.

Like most of Ontario we've seen more snowfall this winter than in the past ten, yet we've never been trapped or unable to get out when needed. I think we are doing just fine with our cottage road.

Just think in another three months the leaves will be out, the snow will be gone and new life will appear in the forest.

Living up here we just seem more aware of the seasons and the changes each bring. We even enjoy the winter by our wood stove.

Safe travels everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, 8 February 2014


Yesterday we drove over to Camp Can-Aqua which is about 20 minutes from here. 

It's a summer camp for kids started back in the 60s but somewhere along the line they got into maple syrup production. 

Today they have over 30 km (18 miles) of tap lines running through the bush and tap over 3,000 trees.  They also sell maple syrup equipment and that was why were were there.

Unfortunately we couldn't find anyone around so will go back next week after we phone and make an appointment.

Five to six weeks from now the sap should be running and we should be boiling. I'll keep you posted as we get ourselves organized.

The picture in the top header ............. that's the way they go shopping in Cardiff. Snowmobiles are the way to get around up here this winter.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Friday, 7 February 2014


February is birthday month; Rob, Sherri, Casey and Mary have all celebrated birthdays so far this month along with friends and extended family.

Mary's birthday yesterday was low key. She was fighting her allergies and didn't feel much like celebrating. A quiet house, a good book and the couch bathed in sunlight were all she wanted. 

Rest, lots of fluids and vegetarian meals are her way of dealing with such nasty bouts.

Staying warm by the fire also helps.

Hope everyone reading this is healthy and if it's your birthday this month, Happy Birthday!

Safe travels and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014


Several years ago Sherri was able to get us two Eames chair which we love and use every day. Between moves and use, the bracket at the back became loose and didn't provide the support needed. Reluctant to pull the fabric off to gain access to the problem area we simply made do.

Today with another storm rolling through I thought it a good time to tackle the problem.

First we placed the chair at a comfortable work height.

Removed the seat cushion which was very simple and then had easy access to the bracket.

Mark the new location and drill the holes.

Use bolts rather than screws to give us a solid attachment. We will paint the bolts to help them blend into the back.

Now the chair is solid and good as new and the total cost came to $3.50 for two chairs. Not bad considering the times.

Thanks for stopping by.