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, 30 April 2015


This has been a busy week here at the homestead. Yesterday Marvin and Annie stopped by for lunch and a visit. They just returned from suffering a winter in Florida. It was good to see them and get caught up on the news.

Today we are busy outside splitting wood, building cribs and planting flowers.

Mary started her seeds several weeks ago and some have been transplanted  to larger pots.

Now we place the trays of new plants on the deck each morning to get them acclimatized to the outdoor temperatures.

Still too early to plant outside for most vegetables but we may plant the kale this weekend. Kale is actually considered closer to a wild cabbage than any other domestic vegetable and we use it frequently in our "green drinks".

The sun is shining, the temperature is 14*C/57*F and it's time to get back to work.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Lots of activity on our pond these days. The mallards, mergansers and Canadian geese have returned and are scouting out suitable nesting sites. I should build nesting boxes for the ducks.

We also have a Northern Flicker staying in the area. It is a type of woodpecker and lives in tree hollows.

Although we have lots of black and red squirrels outside our window we have only one chipmunk. 

Time to get outside and split some wood. I cut down eight trees this winter and need to get the wood split and stored before the black-flies show up.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Sunday, 26 April 2015


We've now lived in our house for almost three years and so far haven't found any little critters inside looking for food.

I did spot this guy under our bird feeders last week looking for a few extra seeds to take home. Fortunately he was on the other side of the glass and that's where I want him to stay.

I've been going through my old slides trying to find one that so far keeps eluding me. I did find this one of Uncle Paul giving our girls a ride back in July 1981. Note that seat belts weren't mandatory as I see our girls sitting together on one seat and no one is wearing a seat belt. Times have changed.

Uncle Paul was awful good to our girls and often came over to babysit them so we could go out for the evening. Everyone needs an Uncle Paul. 

Saturday, 25 April 2015


After a week of cloudy cold weather the sun is beaming through this morning. Looks like a good day for a walk and some work outside.

 Lots of Juncos feeding on the ground as I type. Wonderful to have the birds back at our feeders.

Enjoy your day and safe travels everyone.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


Last week we had temperatures in the high teens (18*C - 64*F) Today we have what you see above. Where's spring? Our spring birds are freezing and the ducks on the pond and swimming under a coat of snow.  If you are in the warm south; don't rush home. 

Life in the north is best when your wood stove is working and ours is working overtime.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Sunday, 12 April 2015


Yesterday our chickens had their first taste of freedom in months. The ground is dry enough in places and green shoots are starting to appear so Mary let the birds out for a little exploration.  

Their first course of action was to climb the hill and look for bugs and fresh greens at the top.

They weren't too camera shy either.

I think we may have boiled our last sap for this year. The weather is turning very warm this week, and the nights are staying above freezing. When this happens the sap stops flowing and we take out the spigots and clean our equipment.

Unless something worthy to report happens I'm taking a break until the 25th when I'll be back blogging.

Enjoy the sunshine and thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, 11 April 2015


Our supper hour yesterday was spent viewing a pair of cooper hawks down by the pond.   

(Click on picture to enlarge)

Look closely and you will see one sitting on a tree branch to the right of center. The other one is below and to the left sitting on a stump.

Throughout supper they would take flight and disappear onto the floor of the forest, obviously catching mice or some other small critter that is active as the snow melts and cover disappears.

Same shot just enlarged. I'm about the length of half a football field, sitting in our dining room shooting through a glass window with a 200 mm lens. 

I would prefer to get much closer but these birds are very sensitive to noise and movement and will fly away at the sound of our sliding door opening. 

Earlier in the afternoon a blue heron glided across the pond and settled on the far side adjacent to some open water. We watched as he proceeded to walk into the bush following the open water. Never saw him catch supper.

We feel privileged to live surrounded by nature and able to observe their habitat from the comfort of our home without disturbing their movements. 

Today we boil sap. We have over 215 litres waiting to get boiled down and no room for storing more. I think Monday will be our last day.

Friday, 10 April 2015


We've had rain and snow the past few days; not the most enjoyable for boiling sap. Today, more rain so we will collect this afternoon and boil tomorrow. 

Even after all this rain we still have snow showing. The ice on the pond is disappearing and water is showing in patches. Ducks and geese have been flying overhead. Flocks of birds are at our feeders one day and gone the next, headed north to their summer breeding grounds.

Glad we in our house and not trying to live through this weather in our trailer.

Safe travels everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, 9 April 2015


The weather didn't look good when we checked the internet yesterday morning. Once we got the sap into the evaporator the next job was to get a cover up and over so we could keep the rain off the pans.

Shelter was up by 9 and we thought we were ready for whatever the weatherman sent our way.

We even managed to collect 115 litres of sap in the day.

We kept the fire hot and the sap moving forward.

We wanted to be done by 5.

Afternoon tea (sap tea) by the fire. It's a sweet tea, very delicious.

At 3 this storm rolled through and we were glad to have some protection. I think something more permanent is needed. Maybe I can get Paul to help since he will soon be retired.

At 4 we moved our operations onto our deck and finished the sap boiling on our propane cooker.

This morning we are having pancakes and sausages along with homemade maple syrup. Time to celebrate!

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


We had a very productive day yesterday. We started burning wood in the evaporator at 8 a.m. and kept the sap boiling until 6:30 p.m. when we shut things down.

The sun shone all day and the sap flowed non-stop. In the morning we collected 65 litres and another 90 litres at 4 pm; a very good day for us.

In total we boiled down 160 litres of sap and this morning we will finish and bottle it before getting back outside to the evaporator.

Today's weather doesn't look very conducive to working outside. Rain and snow this afternoon will make boiling difficult. We may need to rig up some type of cover over our evaporator as we have yesterday's sap still to boil off. 

Regardless of the challenges, making your own maple syrup is fun, healthy and nothing is more delicious than your own syrup on homemade pancakes.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


A flock of common redpolls showed up yesterday. They are a member of the finch family and make the Arctic tundra their breeding ground. I suspect this flock is making its way north for the summer season.

We haven't seen many jays this winter, not sure why as they usually stay around. A pair showed up the other day, checked out the food supply then left.

Our red squirrel population is on the increase. We regularly have 6-8 of them chattering back and forth on our deck. When the food supply runs out then they sit and watch, almost demanding more.

A blue Heron showed up on our pond last week. No idea what food he is finding down there as we still have lots of snow and ice covering the water. There must be open water among the bulrushes that I can't see from our deck.

Another sign that the season is changing are the Canadian geese flying overhead. Their welcome honking is heard before we see them. I suspect we will soon hear the call of the loon and see mallards, wood ducks and mergansers as spring continues to thaw the land.

Time now for us to get the evaporator warmed up and the sap boiling. We have 125 litres to boil down today and are hoping to get 3 litres of maple syrup when the day ends.

Enjoy your day. I'll be at the sugar shack if you need me.

Monday, 6 April 2015


Owen has been enjoying the Lego his mom, aunt and uncle played with when they were little.

Owen discovered the box of Lego under his bed and asked Oma if he could take it out.

He has enjoyed hours of fun making and taking apart his Lego creations, singing and talking as he played. What a wonderful age.

After all that hard work building Lego it was nice to cuddle up with mommy.............

............... then help make muffins. He loves helping in the kitchen.

It has been a delight having Owen, Sherri and Leanne for the weekend.

Sunday, 5 April 2015


Owen has been on an Easter egg hunt this morning.

Mary, Leanne and Sherri spent hours painting eggs and decorating the house ready for this morning.

A special tool was used to make the black lines.

The tool is heated over a candle to melt the bees wax so it will flow over the eggs.

Leanne made dyes from vegetables we had in the house.

Eggs on the tree.

Happy Easter

Saturday, 4 April 2015


Owen, Sherri and Leanne arrived about 2:30 yesterday.

First on Owen's agenda was a visit to the chicken coop. He loves going down and seeing our birds and getting the eggs. 

Next was a ride on the bobcat with Oma. They had fun moving snow and making the bucket go up and down.

While Oma was having fun with Owen, Leanne, Sherri and I looked after the boiling sap.

The sun is shining this morning and it looks like a good day to collect sap.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Friday, 3 April 2015


Yesterday afternoon was perfect for collecting sap. We reached a high of 16*C (60.8*F) and as you can see we've lost a lot of snow here this week.

Our sap is collected by hand and then dumped into a holding pot on the sleigh we use. It is a basic system but is effective and allows us to tap over 40 trees this year.

We measure each bucket so we know how much sap we collect each day. 

Mary is keeping a log book for future reference. We have noticed that some trees produce twice the sap as others, not sure why.

Yesterday's collection was 47 litres which gives us a total of 96 litres in storage.

As you read this I'm outside by the fire-pit boiling down the sap which will take about 10 hours.

Owen will be here later today and we are looking forward to having a family Easter together. Maybe in a few years he will be looking after the fire for his grandpa or helping Oma collect sap from the trees.

Enjoy the day and safe travels everyone.

Thursday, 2 April 2015


After breakfast we decided to finish boiling the sap we started yesterday. Unfortunately before we reached the syrup stage we broke our hydrometer. This is an essential part of the maple syrup process as it accurately measures the density of the syrup and tells us when it is time to bottle.

A quick phone call to camp Can-Aqua where we buy our supplies and we were back in business.

We move the pot inside as we get closer to the actual bottling stage. In just a few minutes the syrup can bubble up and overflow the pot if one isn't diligent. 

Here I keep an eye on the boiling sap while Mary gets the bottles sterilized and ready for the syrup.

A steady hand is needed to fill the bottles. 

Once filled the bottles are placed on their side to seal the lids.

From our 115 litres of sap that we started with yesterday we ended up with 2.5 litres of delicious, sweet maple syrup.

Still a long way from the 25 litres we hope to make this year.

The sun is shining, it's 14*C outside and I need to get out and collect more sap.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Perfect day for boiling sap; sunny, beautiful blue sky and the temperature is around 6*C.

First job this morning was cleaning the boil pans. We use turkey roasters as we are just a hobby operation, making enough for family and ourselves.

Now we are patiently boiling down 115 litres of sap and hoping to end up with two litres of maple syrup. 

If all goes well we should be bottling our syrup by 6 tonight.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the day.

Up-date 3:45 pm

Almost 4 and we are still outside boiling.