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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Monday, 31 March 2014


The daytime temperatures are now above freezing, the sap is flowing and we are collecting. Once our storage container is full we will start the boil off, maybe later this afternoon.

From the little jug to the big jug....................

then up the hill to the storage tank.

Time to relax.........

and have a cup of tea .......

with some of Pat's delicious homemade apple jelly. She makes it from wild crab-apples and it is the best apple jelly we've tasted.

If we start to boil today it will be late afternoon so no pictures until sometime tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, 30 March 2014


We are anxious to start boiling sap but so far it isn't happening. We needed to add a chimney to our fire-pit and worked on that yesterday afternoon. Since we didn't have enough sap to boil but were enjoying the afternoon sun, we decided to light our first fire and boil water. 

We figured if the pit will boil water it will boil sap. As we sat and enjoyed the fire and waited for the kettle to whistle we thought why not boil sap and toss in a tea bag.

Does a watched kettle ever boil?

Mary wanted to go and check on the buckets, but first a few final instructions to make sure I didn't let the kettle boil dry.

If we are going to have tea, we need homemade peanut butter chocolate cookies, seen here cooling on the snow.

This is our setup, very basic but I think it will do the job. The blue bucket sits where the pre-heating sap pan will sit. The kettle sits just above the fire where the boil-off pan will be located and we will keep an eye on the whole operation from the comfort of our chairs. You can see one skid of wood close at hand, another across the driveway. (Note the amount of snow still hanging around) Next year we will have four ready to use.

Finally it was time to enjoy a cup of maple sap tea, sweet to the taste. In some cultures the sap is consumed as a medicinal drink. It is surprisingly delicious.

Hopefully the sap will run today. Tomorrow, Leanne and Sherri arrive with Owen and we would like nothing better than to be boiling off sap when they pull up the driveway.

Thanks for stopping by and check back tomorrow for more pictures.

Saturday, 29 March 2014


The wild turkeys are back. We haven't seen them all winter but yesterday I saw two flocks out and about. Before long the Toms will be courting another sign that spring is here.

Picked up some kindling from the mill. It will have to thaw before I can use it as I had to dig it out from under a snowbank.

I now have the last of our tile so hopefully Paul will be here early next week to finish the bathroom. 

Today looks like another mild rainy day. No sap flow yesterday and maybe none today but Sunday for sure as we are getting up to +7*C

Lots of jobs to complete before we start to boil sap so I guess it's time for breakfast and then outside to improve our fire-pit.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 28 March 2014


Gerry and Jackie came over last Wednesday and showed us how to tap the trees properly.

It's best to tap on the south side of the tree as it gets the most sun and therefore the most sap flow.

Gerry explains how to properly insert the tap so it's snug and you avoid any leaks.

It's wise to clean the hole before inserting the tap. We used a small twig much like we use a q-tip on our ears.

Since we are using plastic tubing we placed the spiel at a slight angle to help the tube fit around the tree.

Mary taps in a spiel as Gerry watches to make sure it is done properly. You actually get a different sound from the tap once it sets in tightly.

Today it's forecast to go to +8*C and for the next seven days we are to have temperatures above zero during the day and below zero at night, ideal maple syrup weather. This will be the week of working outside, collecting and boiling the sap and enjoying company around the fire. We've been invited to Glenn and Margaret's sugar shack some evening next week for donuts, Margaret's delicious homemade donuts. Maple syrup production is a social time up here with family and friends gathering to enjoy the experience.

Watch for more pictures as the days get warmer and the sap begins to flow.

Safe travels everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, 27 March 2014


Yesterday we built the fire-pit for our maple syrup production. As this is our first year at this I'm sure we will make changes for next year as we discover better and easier ways to set up the operation.

After looking at many possible locations we selected the spot where the bobcat is sitting in the pictures above. It is close to the trees we are tapping, close to the house where we will do the final boil off and next to the shed where the equipment is stored.

We used left over building blocks and bought re-bar from Timber Mart to support the pots. You can also see one of our cribs of firewood we are glad to have close to the fire.

Leanne, Sherri and Owen are coming up next week to help Mary with the whole process. It will be fun to have a few extra hands especially since this is our first attempt.

I was glad to have the bobcat back working as we used it to clear snow and move the blocks for the fire-pit.

Gerry and Jackie came over after lunch and had several good suggestions for improving our fire-pit. We will use some old steel siding to control the heat and add a chimney to direct the smoke away from the area. 

Tomorrow we will have pictures of the taps and our buckets ready for the first major sap flow.

Hopefully by Saturday we are boiling sap.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


We are in the kitchen this morning experimenting with ingredients to make neat kids crafts when Owen is here next week. 

 These items were selected to make Bouncy Balls.

Food colouring was added once the ingredients started to solidify.

A bit of a sticky mess.

It worked, still need to fine tune the process and modify the amount of ingredient added at each stage.

By the time Owen gets here next week Oma will have lots of crafts planned for the two of them to work on.

Now it's time to go outside and build our firepit.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

1st TAP

Andrew was here last Saturday to take pictures for his school project. Andrew is from New Brunswick taking photo-journalism at Loyalist College in Bellville. Somehow he found our blog and wanted to do an article on living off grid so he was up to take some pictures. I think he was expecting living off grid to be much more rustic and full of sacrifices and hardships but he soon found that wasn't the case.

He spent a few hours inside taking pictures, asking questions and writing notes.

We then went outside so he could photograph my first attempt at tapping a maple tree.

So far it's fine, holding and directing sap to the bucket.

Can you see how deep the snow is in the bush? I'm down over my boot and still not on solid ground.

Same with Mary. The snow is at least three feet deep, probably more.

You can see the jug we are using to collect sap at each tree. These are four gallon plastic jugs used for holding cooking oil.

Mary and Andrew checking our first tap and watching the sap flow.

I think we will build the fire-pit today and tap the trees on Thursday. The weather forecast calls for ideal sap flowing conditions from Saturday right through to Monday April 7th. Hopefully we will get a week of consistent sap flow and have a productive first experience making our own maple syrup.

Monday, 24 March 2014


My skidsteer has been sitting stuck on a hill since January 20th. Last Saturday that all changed.

Loyd showed up with his dozer. This machine has the power to move anything. They use it back in the bush for building logging roads.

It will turn on a dime which was good as Loyd had a tight turn to make to get around the corner of the house.

If you double click on this picture you can see my skidsteer stuck at a nasty angle.

Tim hooked on the chains and Loyd put the dozer in reverse.

Safely out and on solid ground. As Steve Betson would say "Dodged another bullet"

Happy to be back moving snow once again.

Thanks Loyd and Tim for coming to my rescue. I'd be on that hill till all the snow was gone which might be June the way we keep getting more snow up here.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


We finally have the jewelry up over the kitchen island. Mary has been looking for some time but couldn't find a light she liked that accepted a LED bulb.

Maybe I'll take a night shot so the lights show up better. Next will be the backsplash in the kitchen and that should just about finish this room. Moving forward slowly one step at a time.

Double click on picture for larger view.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Saturday, 22 March 2014


Stopped by to see Connie and Andrew's renovations yesterday and have lunch with Connie. Andrew is handy with a hammer and drywall.

He did a professional job on the knee-wall he built to separate the entranceway from the living-room; solid, clean and tidy.

This wall of glass was the best improvement so far. It allows a ton of light into the kitchen (just waiting for the new cupboards and floor)  and also permits easy access to the sun-room, the perfect place to enjoy their morning cup of coffee.

Connie wants everything done by the end of June so they can enjoy their new home and have parties all summer long.

Time for breakfast and we need to hang some lights.

Safe travels everyone, we are expecting 5-10 cm of snow today.

UPDATE 11 a.m.

Does this look like spring? We got dumped on again.

Thanks to Paul and Steve our driveway is clear.

Friday, 21 March 2014


It's tough to run a family business these days with the big box competition just down the street.

One business that has bucked the trend and has a loyal following is............

Everyone recommends them and no one has a bad word to say. That is quite an accomplishment for a family business that has been around for over 50 years.

It was a pleasure to meet Mr. Turco today and shake his hand. He is a soft spoken businessman who obviously has a great business ethic and loyal customers who drive for miles to get just the right tile for their project. I always feel good when I can talk to the owner, get his advice and tips and know if I have a concern I won't be dealing with some computer voice on the other end of the telephone. If you need tile go see Mr. Turco, the man rides tall in the saddle.

Back in Bancroft the sun is still shining and it's time for supper.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Thursday, 20 March 2014


Paul the tile guy will be here later this morning. He will start cutting and fitting the tile for the back bathroom and finish the job on Monday.

Yesterday Mary and I cleaned and organized the mechanical room. Everything needs a home so we can find it quickly when we need it. This morning we will continue finding places for my tools in the hopes of reducing the frustration of knowing I have it but can't find it. My goal is to be able to walk into the mechanical room and see everything at a glance, no more hiding stuff in boxes or bags.

Since we don't have a basement every inch of available wall space is used. I place similar tools together (saws, hammers, tape, levels,etc) making it easier to locate. Also all my electrical tools, painting equipment, drills, etc, are grouped together on different sides of the room, once again making it easier to find when needed.

What method do you use Ad to stay organized? I'm sure you have a trusted system that has worked well for years.

Thanks for stopping by and I'll post more pictures after lunch.

Safe travels everyone.

Update 10:30 am

Paul cutting a tile to fit.

Tile pattern being established. We discovered we are short a few tiles for the shower stall so looks like we will be doing a fast run to Peterborough in the morning.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


So now we have hot water at the tap thanks to our solar system. 
When we started this journey we never imagined we would be heating our water using our batteries. We sold many of our kitchen appliances before moving north figuring we just wouldn't have the capacity to use them. What a surprise to have such a surplus that we now have two small water heaters to supplement our hot water use.

Glen was here early to hook the water lines up.

The tank on the left is electric and will preheat the water going into the larger propane tank on the right.

Sean came later to do the electrical connections.

Each tank is on a timer and will only come on when we activate the system during sunny days.

So that is our system in a nutshell, simple, easy and hopefully effective. I will monitor our frequency of use and report if I notice a decline in our propane consumption.

If you have a question send it along and we will get back to you asap.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.