The AikiHomestead

Our Lifestyle Blog as We Create a Homestead in Northern Ontario

Frosty, Frosty Windows



December 31, 2017



We’ve encountered a number of -30 days in a row here on the homestead, and it’s overwhelming even the windows I’ve added a third layer to!

Donna snapped this in the pantry one morning:


Classic!
Comments:

Water Line Frozen?!?!



December 31, 2017



Don’t panic, it’s not a TOTAL disaster.

The water in the bathroom has stopped running.


The tap’s on full, but no dice!
Funny, when I washed my hands yesterday morning it did seem a bit slow, and I even wondered if the line COULD be freezing up, but dismissed the notion immediately as ludicrous, as it had never happened before and everything else in the cabin was working fine.

Whelp, then just after lunch, Donna reported that the water wasn’t running in there anymore. Sigh.

I have the tap open wide, and am trying to direct some of the heat from the cabin into the crawlspace. Hard to imagine how long it may take for it to make a difference, but one can only try one’s best… At least the cabin is still warm, and water is running in the kitchen, so that’s still light years beyond our water issues of the past…

Oh, before anyone gives me any extra good ideas – the water line for the bathroom is embedded directly in the floor – so I can’t just crawl underneath and try to thaw the pipe directly.


After almost taking a header, I’ve since put two buckets right in front of this hole. Can’t imagine how long it will take to thaw out the crawlspace.

Awesome Youtube Minecraft Channel – A Shameless Promotion



December 30, 2017



Kenny for the past many months has been labouring to post a new Minecraft video nearly every day, and yesterday he posted his 100th video! I’m very proud of his determination, and would like to share it with anyone who is willing to give it a quick look at, maybe thumbs up, or maybe subscription if you or someone you know is into that sort of thing. They are very calming (generally) and suitable for ALL ages.

Check out his channel here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-vSHJxrh3Be9-4TOmg6sdw
Be sure to let him know that aikihomestead sent you!

Christmas Tree Lit Up!



December 25, 2017



Here’s a few pictures of our Christmas tree at night with the lights turned on…


No Flash

More light from adjacent area and slow shutter speed

Replacing a Switch with a Switch and Receptacle Combination



December 24, 2017



Shortly after starting to use the kitchen full time, it became apparent that two outlets weren’t always sufficient – especially when they were both located on one side of the counter, and we try to keep an air purifier plugged in at all times to make me feel better about dust and my lungs.

The next time I had the washing machine pulled out, I added a short, three foot, bright orange extension cord to the outlet behind the machine and then draped the end of it up over the switchbox we use for the kitchen lights.

This worked, and worked well, but the aesthetics of it were less than desireable. For the longest time I thought that perhaps I would change out the electrical box for a double gang box, and then put in a switch and receptacle.

Then it dawned on me that there were often combo switches, and a quick internet search revealed that they were indeed at Home Depot. I was heading there ANYWAY to get some U channel for supporting my acrylic storm panes, so I added a combo switch to my list.

The next day, I tried to accomplish a few things to get out of my recent mental funk, and installing the switch seemed to be a good thing to fit the bill.

It was very uneventful. I shut off the power, pulled the old switch, scratched my head at the wiring inside to try to understand what I had done previously, realized that it wasn’t as challenging as it looked, and so hooked up the switch easily, and even better yet – it fit without having to REALLY cram the wire nuts and wiring and device itself into place.


You can still see the old extension cord present in this photo.
I put it back in place and waited for the fireworks that never came. Donna mentioned that the switch felt funny. I also am noticing that it will take a week or two before we are used to a side to side rocker in that location.
The outlet is handy, although it is too close to the switch for me to easily plug in our AA/AAA battery charger, which will have to continue to get plugged in behind the television or under the counter. But I’m sure that the slow cooker and the panini press will be perfect for the new outlet – oh and the HEPA vacuum I use for cleaning out the stove!


Funny how little five minute projects like this often have huge benefits to life.

Adding a Calendar to the Aikihomestead Blog



December 23, 2017



Not long ago while discussing with Donna about how it would be nice to record important events around the homestead either online or offline, it came to me that perhaps I could somehow do it using a Google Calendar and make it available to anyone who views the blog, if they were interested.

I have investigated it slightly, and think I have ciphered out a solution, but the proof will be in a combination of seeing if I keep up entries on it, as well as if both myself and you the reader utilize it.
At first I tried to have it as a sidebar gadget, but the only sensible arrangement there would have been an agenda view, and Google automagically removed entries older than the current date, so that made it very useless.
Currently I have compressed it vertically a fair bit and have just a week view at the top of the blog. Hopefully it’s unobtrusive, while still giving a bit of recent information.
If you get a chance, let me know if you have any interest in the data there. I’ll try to add more and more as I think of it.

Harvesting Our Christmas Tree



December 14, 2017



Yesterday Kenny and decided to try to walk up for the mail. It was sixteen below, so I insisted he wear his snow pants and a scarf.

About halfway there he declared that he would be unable to continue because he was way too hot! I suggested that perhaps to make up for our reduced exercise time, we could fetch our Christmas tree instead – and he agreed!

We returned home, and while he removed his snow pants, I got out a tow rope and my pull saw.


My assistant is ready to go!
Once he was back outside, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed into the bush.


The forest was beautiful and peaceful.
We worked our way back to the spot where Mama had picked out the tree, and found that they looked remarkably different when covered in snow!


Now which one of these did Mama say looked best?!
I managed to cut it down and drag it to the trail, where I realized that it was probably a few feet too high, so I cut off a bit more from the base of the trunk, hooked it to the rope, and started dragging it home.


All yoked up. You can sense the sincerity in my smile.
This was a good workout! Let me assure you! My glasses were completely fogged by the time I got it back home. I removed a few more limbs from the base, and then ordered Kenny inside to handle the door.

It went through the door better than I expected, and immediately began to drip water everywhere. I didn’t have the tree stand ready, so Kenny steadied the tree while I assembled the bolts and tried to tighten them rapidly.


Are you SURE you have it?
We got it all set up, and then it tipped over. I righted it, and then added a string from one rafter to another, wrapped around the crown, to ensure that it remained upright.


Well, it’s a step up from a Charlie Brown tree!
Today we may try to start decorating! Exciting times!

Burning the Brush Piles



December 6, 2017



In keeping with Grandpa’s tradition, we store up the brush we cut around the cabin for a year or so to let it dry out, and then after the snow is in the forest but before it gets too deep, we burn the piles, sending those nutrients back to the soil and eliminating the untidy pile without having to drag it somewhere to rot out slowly.

We also wanted to give Grandpa the chance to supervise the activity. Both as an excuse to invite them out for a nice meal (Donna made a roast with gravy, potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic bread. It was fantastic!), and because I didn’t feel completely comfortable setting such a large fire myself, in spite of knowing that it couldn’t get out of hand with all the snow around.

Mummu and Grandpa arrived shortly after nine and Grandpa set to work immediately. The food was actually ready to eat shortly after ten due to an early prep, so it was set to keep warm until after lunch, when Grandpa took a sauna, and then we broke bread together.


Proud of his fire lighting ability.

This punky old skid went up much faster than I expected! Skids burn no matter how wet they seem to get!


Yup, we actually had three piles going at once here. There is another green one further back, and a huge, long one in the ravine to burn next fall. All the brush clearing I’ve been doing has really created a glut of brush!

Things are almost burned out after only a couple hours. It got warm enough that Grandpa took off his jacket most of the time, and the trees overhead rained down all the snow still in them.
That evening it actually rained! So for the first time that I can recall, the piles weren’t even smoldering the following morning.

Quick Tip: How To Remove Your Ash Pan Without Making (As Much Of) A Mess



December 2, 2017



Here’s another quick tip!

In the past while removing our ash pan to empty it outside, we had a real struggle with ash flying up inside the cabin, especially while removing it, and then again while opening the front door, and then again if there was ANY breeze at all outside.

Lately, I’ve been taking our cleaning caddy and using the spritzer from it to spray a fine mist on top of the ashes as I slide the pan out of the stove. Not nearly enough to soak the whole pile, but it forms a very thin layer of misted ash on top and I cannot see any fine dust arising anymore until I finally dump the whole pan outside.

Generally the stove is still warm enough that the light misting down below is inconsequential, and I likely wouldn’t be phased much by a little rust on the ash pan if that ever were an issue, but again, the pan is usually warm enough that it dries immediately anyway.

It’s made a real improvement to our perception of how much dust the stove is producing – and makes emptying the ashes less of a dreadful chore, and now just a chore.





Followup To Boxing In The Stovepipe



December 1, 2017



After completing the boxing in of the stovepipe in the attic, I decided to wait until we had a nice hot fire to go up and check how things were working out up there.

A few nights ago Donna had it chugging merrily away and then remarked how according to our stovetop thermometer, we were well into the “overburn” zone, and had been for some time.

Always one to turn things to an advantage, I closed the vents a bit, grabbed our non-contact thermometer and headed up to the attic.

I was pleased as punch to find that while the attic space itself was still rather cool, the boxed in area of the stovepipe was slightly below our room temperature downstairs! That makes me feel that it’s probably not in the remotest amount of danger under anything approaching normal circumstances.

I’m putting this one just over the line into “successful idea” territory.


Establishing a base temperature of the attic outside the box.

Inside the box, with a merry fire chugging away – a comfortable but not nearly worrisome temperature.

A picture of how things look. Nothing of concern that I can see.

And another reading of the stone wool insulation down in the base.

Another reference just outside the boxed in area, but still up high.

And at the opposite end of the attic. Remarkably consistent!

EcoFan Spins Through The Night!



November 30, 2017



Last year we seemed to have quite a few problems with the stove suddenly backpuffing or just smoke blowing back out sometimes while we were loading it or when it was closed air tight on a windy night.

To ameliorate this issue, we resorted to making short, quick fires to heat up the cabin, and then just letting the fire burn itself completely out and coasting until it was too cold to stand.

This fall we proceeded with the same plan, but as I sealed up the cabin better and better and better (hopefully), I began to recall that we were told that perhaps some of the problems were due to cabin air leaking out and thus sucking smoke from inside the stove. I wondered if perhaps now that things are better sealed, we could start experimenting with different stove techniques to maintain a better comfort level. As well, we’re becoming more confident with our ability to regulate the burn of the stove, and with the wood being cut earlier and protected better, I feel that it’s more consistently dry and we can get less “roller coasters” of burn temperatures.

Thus, the past few weeks, we’ve been willing to stoke the fire in the evening and then shut it up ALMOST completely air tight. I close all vents except for the front upper vent, which I twist until it is just open a hair. On the Baker’s Choice, this means that you twist the bolt shut until you can just wiggle the washer and hear it ring, not until it is held tight.

It’s worked very well so far (no jinx!). It seems to hold coals and fire for many hours, often into the next morning even without throwing lots of wood on. In fact, last Sunday I awoke to this:

The Eco fan was still turning (maybe spinning was overselling it…) over eight hours later! What a delightful sight!

Even this morning I awoke to an inside temperature of eighteen degrees!

Of course, it’s still only twelve below outside. Once it is bumping forty below, then we’ll see how well this system keeps up.

A Workhorse on the Homestead



November 29, 2017



This past Saturday after spending a long, lazy morning at the keyboard and sipping tea with Kenny and Donna, they got cabin fever enough to leave the cabin for an early afternoon walk up and down the road. I opted to finish my last tea, as well as to complete the research that I had been doing.

In four moments of weakness during the half hour I stayed behind, I scarfed down cookies in batches of at least two at a time.

Finally the cookies helped me build up my reserve strengths of guilt (and an increasingly upset stomach), until I had enough remorse to head outside myself.

As it was sauna night, I had it in my head to get a bit of wood for the sauna stove. We had never put up more than a couple of weeks worth in the sauna shed by fall, and it emptied quickly. I still believe we have lots in the regular woodshed to feed both the sauna AND the cabin, but it doesn’t hurt to have a buffer.

I knew there were several dead but standing (smaller) trees lining the driveway that were unavailable during our other seasons, as the marsh is not easily navigable. I had also brought in my chainsaw batteries and charged them up in anticipation of doing some more cutting.

I worked my way up and down the driveway felling perhaps a half dozen good candidates, as well as three green trees that needed to come down for various reasons (well, one I didn’t notice it still had a few needles on it, and two others that were legit falling onto the driveway).

Donna and Kenny returned from their walk, but decided to head inside to warm up a bit before coming back out. As I recall, mittens and hats were not complete parts of the gear they took with them on their impulsive walk.

As I carried the smallest of the trees up close to the sauna to buck, Kenny said he wanted to help by dragging the larger trees himself. I had planned on hooking them to the ATV and pulling them up, but decided to humour him. He couldn’t budge the first one, but the second one he was able to lift the end, and declared that he would drag it.

I suggested I could tie a rope to it and he may have an easier time of it. We grabbed two ropes, and he hooked himself up to the smaller tree and began dragging it in about ten centimetre increments. He insisted on no help, and over the course of a half hour or more, actually managed to drag it from the front entrance of the property, all the way up the driveway (including a significant incline) to the sauna!

It reminded me of the time in my childhood when my father created a series of harnesses on our toboggan to haul firewood through Schneider’s bush. Except in this case the pack animal had the distinct advantage of an eager will.


My own tractor!
In the end, I put together almost ten crates of firewood, and three small trees to add to next years wood supply. My stomach recovered, and I assuaged my guilt to a tiny degree.


Admiring next year’s wood.

The final few metres!

One Working Acrylic Storm Window



November 27, 2017



Our front door was a bit of a poser for putting on a storm window. The molded handgrips for sliding the bottom pane up and down in summer projected just far enough beyond the lip of the window frame that a solid piece of acrylic wouldn’t fit flush to the frame.

In a thunderbolt of inspiration while waiting patiently on the deck the other night for Kenny and Donna get take off their boots and jackets and make way for me, I realized that I didn’t HAVE to install my acrylic on the inside of the windows! I could also try the outside!

I took a picture of the window one morning showing all the condensation that had built up.


And condensation where the two panes meet as well.

You can see a fair bit along the bottom edge here. Note the molded handles that caused some grief.
Then I took another picture the next morning, showing no condensation, even though the mercury was bumping against ten below!

No condensation today!
Yeah! A win! Why was it still 14 degrees inside though?


I like the funky green frame!

Boxing in the Attic Stovepipe Revisited



November 26, 2017



While foaming under the kitchen cabinets and all around the last few spots with outside corners, I found myself with a part can of foam that I didn’t want to waste. Expanding foam canisters must always be thought of as “single use” items.

And so it was; I headed up to the attic without really having planned to do so.

I noted that the DAP foam that applied so dubiously earlier seemed to still be in the last position I had seen it, which was nice. I added some new foam above it, and now delight in seeing four different colours of expanding foam, plus the blue of the closed cell foam, up in the attic. It feels like I’m part of an experiment in testing the attributes of each manufacturer!


Blue, orange, white, yellow, a different orange – a real rainbow of foams!
I squirted a bit of foam in any crevice that I was unsure of, to help assuage my fears that things weren’t completely sealed up there.

I did note that the temperature in the attic was quite cool actually. I am thinking that this is a good thing? It certainly wasn’t freezing, but I am interpreting this as meaning that the stone wool I installed between the main cabin and the attic is slowing down the flow of heat upwards. Also, sealing all these spots around the cabin is preventing cold air from convecting through so dramatically. Last season the clear plastic I installed on the patio doors bowed in severely and was as turgid as some sort of tumescent dome!

While up there, I took the opportunity to remove my access foam and take some pictures from around the stovepipe. Everything in there looks just fine. I was really scared that I’d see scorch marks everywhere, but I could see nothing at all worrying. Next time we have a really good fire chugging along, I think I should head up there with my non-contact thermometer and see how warm that cubby actually gets.


Whew! Nothing scorched here, especially high up and close to the stovepipe. Looking good!

And a view down makes me feel good too. Everything looks fine here too.
That night we were burning some medium size logs that were performing much better than I am use to. Instead of letting it burn out hotly and shutting things down for the night, I threw on an extra log and then shut down the air intake to just a crack (I’m still reluctant to go completely air-tight after last seasons troubles with back-puffing).
The next morning just after five a.m., I woke to a 16.5 degree cabin, and a few coals in the bottom of the stove! That was quite exciting. I am feeling much more comfortable about the stove so far this year. As long as the wood supply lasts…

I still built a fire as normal, but it caught and got up to temperature in only a few minutes. I feel that having a still-warm flue and firebox may have aided in the process.

At my age, after a loving wife and son, a warm cabin is one of the greatest things in life.

A Major New Draught Found!



November 25, 2017



The other afternoon while fritzing around in our bedroom, trying to figure out why it was so deathly cold, I cleared out some of the flotsam that had built up below the solar charger and inverter. It was all part of my overall plan to run some expanding foam along the edges of the floor where it meets the walls, as well as in the corners of rooms where I suspect the air/vapour barrier is less than complete.

Once I got down to the hole in my wall where the battery cables and data cables pass through to the outside of the cabin, I could feel a dramatic breeze blowing through. Previously I had packed this area with a combination of stone wool and sticky-tack, but I suppose it had broken down and disappeared over the past year or two. In any case, I grabbed my can of expanding foam and hit it up hard. I know I’ll have to chip it all away when I want to move these cables, but for now, knowing that there isn’t an actual hole in my wall is worth it!


That should stop the breeze!
As part of the process, I worked my way around the entire bedroom, foaming the crevices anywhere they touched an outside wall.


Right up to the ceiling and across!
While moving the bed, we got to see how the natural wood has faded to show the ghost of our headboard. Interesting!


This helped to make sure the bed got back in exactly the right spot to put our tables on either side without issue.

Expanding Foam in the Kitchen Cabinet Kickspace



November 24, 2017



While trying to find the coldest place in the cabin last week, Kenny noted that the corner of the kitchen under the cabinets was bumping against zero. Both Donna and I commiserated that in the mornings if we weren’t wearing socks, we could feel a breeze coming from beneath them.

As such, I grabbed two cans of “gap filler” foam and attempted to dislocate my shoulder and get the cans in underneath the cabinets to foam against the juncture of the wall and floor.

I think I didn’t do half bad if I do say so myself. I used up two whole cans just for this band, but now the temperature under the cabinets seems to be high single digits, and no more breeze! This area isn’t visible normally, and whenever I get around to adding the face boards to it, it will be enclosed and out of sight, out of mind.


The coldest corner of all. This was also the hardest to reach!

Good steady stream here, even with obstacles.

And against the south wall. I’m pretty happy with how this turned out.

The Fly Sucker 2000



November 21, 2017



Bringing in the wood bins also brings in the flies that have hidden in the logs for the winter. As they enjoy the (relative?) warmth of the cabin, they come out of hibernation, and inevitably head for the upstairs windows to escape.

In an effort to control the incessant buzzing and build-up of dessicated remains, I have invented the flysucker 2000. It cost all of $7 from Home Depot. A piece of ten foot electrical conduit jammed onto the end of the vacuum hose. It doesn’t have much power, you have to get right on top of the fly to trap it, but it is satisfying, and I suspect a little painters tape to seal the hose to the vacuum for better suction would only improve matters.


The mad genius at work.

Boxing in the Stovepipe



November 16, 2017



When my stovepipe collar was first installed properly by Dan VanLenthe’s crew, I was really surprised to find that the stovepipe itself was not in any way fastened, let alone sealed, to the collar itself! That explained the purpose of the storm collar – it was to actually keep rain and such out of that gap betwixt the pipe and the rim of the collar.

My issue with that situation was that with a cathedral ceiling (essentially – the floor of the attic is not vapour sealed from the rest of the cabin), I essentially had a hole in my roof where the stovepipe stuck through!

Thinking myself somewhat clever, I packed the upper roof cone full of stone wool insulation and then sealed it all up with loads of foil tape.

The next time I was talking with the good fellows at Thunder Bay Fireplaces though, I was warned that this was not appropriate, and it was suggested to even be a fire hazard. I’m not certain how though; I’d love to have someone enlighten me…

In any case, they suggested all sorts of schemes for dealing with this situation, but the one that made the most sense was to simply build a small “room” around the stovepipe in the attic and seal it off from the rest of the cabin.

I began this project last spring, but as the weather warmed up, it moved from a priority to a “mañana” situation.


Of course, it hung over my head all summer, and with nothing particularly planned for a recent day, I steeled myself with a warm mug of tea, and slipped into my overalls. I promised myself to just cut “one board” and then I could quit if it was too annoying or discouraging. Of course, one board led to another and I pretty much would have finished the entire deal if I hadn’t run out of expanding spray foam.


I put in sheets of closed cell foam on the floor and walls of the attic “room” around the stovepipe, and then sealed it with spray foam. Then I piled more stone wool insulation on top of the floors until it was about four to six inches below the “no insulation above this line” mark on the stovepipe thimble.



Once more into the breech after six months of avoidance.

Hard to make out – this is a small crevice packed solid with a mass of dead flies. Not the way I’d want to go!

Here’s the final wall with most of the plywood installed. I opted not to bother with a stud for extra support in the centre, as it’s simply a barrier, and not at all structural.

The final wall in position.

I packed the outside top edge of the walls with stone wool to support the spray foam on the inside. Note the transition to the latex foam at the top edge of the wall – it allowed me to install it with the can held upright in this tight space.

A view through the peephole. Things look messy but functional. I removed all the stone wool from the cavity above just before sealing in the stovepipe.

And on the floor, a deep covering of stone wool. Just beneath the collar, you can see the red tape marking the maxium height of insulation.

Heading back downstairs. The top piece of foam is just pressure-fit to allow me to reopen and inspect for the next month or two before I seal it up. You can see the latex foam is looking even more sad that usual. I will return soon with a fresh can to see if it works any better.
I was impressed that the fireproof spray foam still worked as if it was newly purchased. The latex DAP foam seemed to have degraded significantly over the summer on the other hand, and at first simply ran out of the nozzle as a liquid. I gave it a very vigorous shaking, and then it came out more like melted marshmallow. I put it where I could, but as I was finishing up, several large areas “glooped” out of where they were suppose to be. I will purchase more and see if I can’t convince it to stay in place a bit better for me.



Ugh, the latex foam is clearly past its best before date.
Sadly, it was still 14 degrees Celsius inside the cabin when we woke up the next morning, after being 24 degrees around 3 p.m. when we put on the fire. I’m not sure if dropping 10 degrees in 12 hours is considered good or bad in a conventional home – I don’t know anyone who would let it get that cold. I’d love to hear some comments about the struggles of other people in keeping their family warm in a cold environment. I suspect that many of my readers are in the enviable position of only being a dial or button (or app?) away from quickly and efficiently warming their home.

A Weekend of Expanding Foam



November 15, 2017



Whelp, as is usual at this time of year here on the homestead, we’re doing all sorts of things to try to keep the cabin as warm as possible.

One thing that I can’t help but think makes a huge difference is sealing up clearly felt draughts. At first I was considering continuing to use the DAP caulking that I have been buying by the case here at the homestead. But after having Ranta Construction come out to relevel and check my door installations, and seeing B! use expanding foam (Window and Door edition – promised not to warp my frames), I decided that perhaps it would be a better choice. This was also reinforced by my observation that the regular caulk I had applied a few years ago has already gotten hard and pulled away from the gaps it was intended to seal.

I have now used several different versions of expanding foam over the course of the past half decade here on the homestead, and have a few things to observe…

Even if you have to do lots of work with it around your place, it seems to me to be a better option to go with single use cans. I purchased a gun, but found it unwieldy and hard to clean and ultimately gave it up.

Almost all the cans have to be installed while inverted. This is okay 80% of the time when you are installing it in a situation where you still can have the… pardon the pun… can above your working area. As soon as you are at a ceiling or close to one, you’re out of luck though.

DAP brand expanding LATEX foam allows you to work with the can upright. I get the vibe that the other foams are generally better, but an upright can counts for much in my book. In my next blog post, I believe I’ll outline an application where I use both types on the same job to complete the installation.

Back to the matter at hand – all the doors and windows that make up the regular orifices of the cabin.

I basically went around to all the spots that haven’t had their trim work finished, and added a wide bead of expanding foam. I was able to use a standard (upside down) can here as none of them were close to a ceiling.

Then I also used acrylic sheets I had purchased from Surecraft Plastics to create my usual inner “storm” windows. I will also be purchasing five more panels to nearly complete my collection.


Upside down, working at the kitchen window

And out the main cabin window. Lots of goo here!

Ugh, moisture and mildew behind the chesterfield. Time to hit it up with bleach and try to get some air circulating.

Another view in the kitchen.

Papa framed these windows already, so Kenny held the ladder while I vacuumed flies and then inserted the acrylic sheets.

In the bedroom, one can see the acrylic bowing out. I stiffened it with aluminum channel.

Another view of Daddy and Kenny cooperating!

A Calm Night



November 12, 2017



Another night as Kenny and I were about to head into our bedroom to read some more Harry Potter, I wanted to snap this picture showing the previously installed drapes. I caught Donna working on her own blog, and while the quality of the picture leaves much to be desired, I think it did capture the quietness that accompanied the post-sauna end of the day.


Accidental Renaissance.

Industrial Chic Insulated Drapes For Our Log Cabin



November 11, 2017



Attention Pinterest people – here’s one you can share!

As I outlined a day or two ago – I did up a prototype insulated drape in our bedroom. I believe it looked and worked decently enough that I had permission to expand and improve the concept.

Early last Friday I was working at Howie’s so I left the house shortly after six a.m. to try to be at Lowe’s in lots of time to get some galvanized pipe cut to size and purchase the fittings.

Imagine my surprise when they had 10′ lengths of 1/2″ pipe and fittings, but they didn’t have a means to cut and thread the pipes to my required sizes!

I decided to kill a few moments by purchasing the fittings I needed, but I passed on the pipes so I could purchase them from Home Depot, where I knew they did have a cutter/threader.

I drove over to Home Depot and thankfully was only about five minutes before they opened. It was a cold morning so I went inside anyway, but B! down at the contractor entrance blocked my way with friendly banter while I waited for the official store opening. I later learned that she had made hot chocolate for the staff, but sadly, she didn’t offer me any.

I got to plumbing, but hark! They didn’t have galvanized 1/2″ pipe! I offered DM! who was working their whatever he wanted in exchange for letting me bring in outside pipe to get cut and threaded. I told him I would be back in fifteen minutes.

Embarrassed, I returned to Lowe’s and purchased their last four lengths of pipe, went through the same checkout as earlier, and then headed back AGAIN to Home Depot. Thank goodness I left myself lots of time!

Chatting extensively with DM! – who, by the way, is a real credit to the Home Depot organization – he cut my pipes exact to size and then walked me out of the store to the truck.

I raced to WalMart and purchased three sets of quilted sheets. One Queen (for the main patio door) and two Twin (for the large cabin windows).

The next day I got out my random orbital Ryobi One+ sander and froze my hands off buffing the pipes clean of grease marks and oil.


I should have zipped up the sides of my pants! No wonder I had a chill!
I brought them inside to dry out, and wiped them down with our industrial paper towels.


Almost as long as the whole cabin!
When I was sure that there wasn’t any excessive moisure inside the pipes, I assembled them together and with Donna and Kenny’s assistance, mounted them above the windows and doors.

I was careful to thread the rings on the pipes before screwing them to the walls – amazing foresight for me!


Rings go on before the ends or else…

Lining up to the panelling. Interesting how the screws would pull in the panelling too – I guess they sagged a bit?

Looks good!
Then we unpacked the quilted sheets and clipped them up. They transmitted even more light than I expected, but they looked really good and make me feel like we’re saving a few precious energetic molecules of heat each night!

Co-operating with my love.

Now just letting her do all the work.

Now for the big… conceal!


Closeup of the quilting on the comforter. The other quilts are much tighter stitching so hopefully no sag.

Kenny is perfect for pulling these drapes back and forth!

He’s a born drape model!

How to Easily Dry the Inside of a Bottle



November 10, 2017



As many of you know, I dabble in making very simple homemade cider.

Yes, homemade cider.

Did I say homemade cider?

In any case, one challenge was trying to dry the inside of the bottles in any sort of good time. I tried turning them upside down, I tried turning them right side up and putting them in the warming closet or on the warm woodstove.

Finally I rolled up some paper towel and tucked it into the bottle for a few hours. The dry towel quickly absorbs the moisture and then can be removed and composted.


Just thought you may like a quiiiiicccccccckkkkkkkkkkk tip! (To quote Bigger Pockets).

A Prototype Insulated Drape



November 9, 2017



Since we’ve moved into the cabin, I’ve thought about some sort of way of insulating the windows either when we’re not around, or when it’s nighttime and we don’t really see much out of them anyway.

Insulated drapes seemed the way to go, but the commercial solutions were frightfully expensive and seemed rather flimsy to me.

The other day I purchased an “inexpensive” quilt in a neutral grey, as well as some curtain rings with clips on them to allow one to clip their own fabric up.

I put in a few hooks above our bedroom door and we tried it out.


Very simple to test the theory.

Even at night though, I could see through this a bit under the light of the full moon.
While the room still was chilly, I mentally insist that it MUST have helped a bit, especially as the window in behind frosted up much more than usual, and so now I’m going to expand and improve the programme to some of the other windows on the main floor.

Winterizing the Patio Doors



November 3, 2017



Last year I fought a bit with large acrylic sheets on the patio doors with limited success. This year I have decided to return to the Dollarama plastic films to put over the doors.

To facilitate installation, I decided to try to remove the inside handle on the right hand side where it sticks in from the frame significantly.

Unfortunately that left holes open right through the door! So then I moved to putting the flat handle on the inside (instead of the outside for screen clearance).

Basically I had to take both handles completely apart and mix and match them to get them back together. It also meant that I could no longer lock the right hand side door. This wasn’t a big deal to me, as I had already cut some short boards to wedge in the bottom track to hold the doors extra tightly shut.

I also had to remove the spacer on the left side handle that helped it line up better with the latching mechanism. This actually made the left side door tighten down even more, so that’s a good thing. I moved the spacer to the right side door where it was required.

Everything seems to have worked out well. Of course, there is always the law of unintended consequences to rear its head eventually.

When it came time to install the film, instead of installing the two sided tape directly to the door frame, this year I am trying to first install painters tape all around, and then the two sided tape, to see if it makes for easier cleanup. There are some windows where there are layers of two sided tape on the frames because I have been unable to remove it in the spring.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed again that the painters tape can stand up to a full heating season.


Left inside before.

Right inside before.

Left outside before.

Right outside before.

Removed the extensions before realizing they couldn’t go anywhere else.

You can see the spacer thingy at the bottom of the handle.

Left inside after – only difference is that it no longer has that spacer. I was still able to tighten it right down nicely.

Left inside is not much more flush to the glass. But the latch is a problem.

Removed the little latchy part, then turned the plate around so it…

Somewhat filled the slot that it had come out of.

Installing an Interior Storm Window on the Bathroom



November 2, 2017



Last season on the bathroom window I tried installing a sheet of acrylic to make it a bit more efficient. It worked quite well I believe, but when it was time to remove it, I had a devil of a time pulling it away from the “draught attack” caulking I had applied.

This year I thought I’d see how well Dollarama painters tape could stand up for the duration of the heating season.

I believe it doesn’t look too bad, but we’ll see how well it stays up as the season goes on.




Ploughing with the Outlander Again



October 30, 2017



On Friday, I managed to get both the car and the truck through about 10 cm of snow on the driveway and to the highway. This was a good thing.

In the morning, I went to the city to do a few paid jobs for my aunt and uncle. I took the car.

When I returned home, I touched base with KC Auto to see if they had managed to fix my ATV (or “quad” as they seem to be called here in Thunder Bay).

I received a text back that it was finished, and I promptly headed down to retrieve it.

The past two years I have been trying to safen up by using the winch to raise and lower the quad onto and off of the truck.


Still have to get it over the wheel wells though.
As soon as I had it off the truck, I hooked up the plough with some very helpful help from Donna, and proceeded to begin ploughing the driveway in anticipation of B! from Ranta Contracting coming Saturday morning to look over our ill-fitting doors.

It was the first ploughing of the season, so of course, I wanted to push the snow back as far as possible. And of course, just as B follows A, driving off the edge of the driveway follows my intention to push the banks back further than ever before.


Always trying to push one inch further.
Luckily there are still loads of trees around to attach a bark-friendly strap to help out a fellow in need.


Strapped to protect the tree a bit.

And then a little back and forth with the comealong and we’re set!
And thus, I was back to it, and really only did get stuck once – a new record for the first run of the year!

The End of The Dorks



October 27, 2017



Kenny has been really into running and timing himself this summer. He isn’t interested much in doing it in the context of competing against other children, but he sure pushes himself! He gets really upset if every run isn’t a bit better than the previous one, even though I point out that shortcomings in my ability to press the button on the stopwatch in a timely fashion are probably much bigger influences than anything.

Lately he has also been complaining that the stones in the driveway are more noticeable and interfering with his ability to keep a good pace.

With the first snow of the season, he agreed that not only was it time to retire his Dorks not just for the season, but permanently. I can see why he is more aware of the stones than previously!


I suppose on a ten year old who wears these things into October each year, it’s understandable that they are a “consumable”.

First Snow of the Season



October 26, 2017



As Donna was leaving for work and I was waving her off from the porch, she remarked, “It’s snowing!” – I of course poo-poo’ed the notion. I was sure it was just cold rain.

And then the sun slowly rose and I realized that it WAS snowing! It snowed lightly all morning and into the early afternoon.

After returning from a computer call down the road at a new client, Kenny and I took the time to keep up Mama’s tradition of noting the first snowfall in an appropriate surface (usually the windshield of our Echo).

I snapped the following photo, but by the end of the afternoon, the table had melted in the sun, although some snow was still to be found out in the trees.


Keeping the tradition alive!
I was able to get away with only the nighttime fire when the temperature dropped to 18 inside the cabin and it was time to make supper. It went up to 24 by the time I went to bed, but Donna reported that it was back to 15 when she woke up the next morning.


Kenny kept singing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” due to these scenes outside.

Moon Illusion



October 17, 2017



The other morning as I was walking from the sawmill back towards the cabin, I couldn’t believe how large the moon looked just above the roofline. I snapped what would surely be an awesome picture, only to find this…


Doesn’t the moon look huge?!
So what’s the deal? It was huge in my eye, but tiny in the camera?!

Humanure Hacienda Maintenance



October 16, 2017



It’s really, really surprising the difference in volume of the compost pile during the winter as compared to the summer. Last March already I was hefting the buckets well over my head to be able to get them piled on top of the existing material. I didn’t switch to the other side, and just continued piling, but then the spring arrived, the pile began to shrink, and then accelerated, and now we’ve spent the entire summer STILL piling on the same side of the hacienda and yet the pile is currently about three quarters of the way full.

Pragmatically though, I know that all good things must come to an end, so the other nice day, I mucked out the opposite side of the structure to ensure space this coming winter.


Backing in the ATV gets easier each time.

Making a good dent in the old pile.

You can see that the pile that was overflowing in March is still quite manageable in October.
Donna was accepting of me putting the old compost down at the start of the ravine, where things have gotten very mucky this year due to much increased traffic in that spot as I now use it as a turnaround for the ATV and trailer.

We also discussed the hacienda a bit, and I think we agree the upcoming plan for it would include putting a roof over the top of both sides to keep some of the snow out. This would hopefully keep the pile from increasing in volume quite as quickly in winter – I believe that we are actually preserving quite a bit of snow by covering it in layers of sawdust until the summer sun can finally penetrate deep into things.

First World Woodstove Problems



October 15, 2017



On a whim last week we purchased a 14″ pre-made pizza at the store to bake next time we ran the stove at the supper hour.

I popped it onto our cast iron flat frying pan, and was chagrined to see that our oven is probably only about 13″ wide.

I ended up creating two extra bread sticks to make things work out. Oh well, I had some caesar salad dressing that I used as a dip and it was great!


Fits like a glove now!

Extra treats for Daddy, who DIDN’T need them!
I also got to eat most of the pizza, as there were a few hot banana peppers on it, and when Kenny hit one, he aborted his whole meal.

Live and learn – not only do I have to remember to avoid oversize foods in the oven, I also have to tell myself not to eat three quarters of a pizza (and some pumpkin pie later in the evening) if I want to have a restful sleep with fewer bellyaches.

The Greenest Frog Ever!



September 21, 2017



Found this amazing fellow on the driveway the other day. Not sure why he wasn’t hanging out in the trees where he’d blend in better, but we were happy to make his acquaintance!


Gorgeous colours!

A little encouragement to hop into the greenery.

Kenny Attacked by Venomous Snake!



September 21, 2017



While clearing brush around the woodshed, we must have disturbed this fearless and ferocious fellow! Kenny tried to come in for a closer look and was very nearly set upon!


You can feel the anger!
Luckily the strike of this venomous reptile fell a little short, and we quickly released him back into the undergrowth to go harass some other creatures before finding a place to hunker down for the winter.


Uh oh, is he eyeing me now?

In Which I Disappoint Grandpa by Felling a Tree the Wrong Way



September 20, 2017



Whelp, as I’ve mentioned a few times already, I’ve been working hard at clearing away brush and superfluous trees from the woodshed and cabin.

A couple weeks ago, I was working close to the woodshed and managed to clear out space around two trees that were growing nearly right against one another. They probably were a single tree sharing a root system…

Due to the fact they were so close together while growing, all the branches on each were missing from the side against their partner. I like this feature when cutting them up, as it means that I only have to go down one side of the trunk to remove the side branches. As with anything though, the law of unforeseen (admittedly, not unforeseeable) consequences comes consistently into play.

The branches on the tree I was cutting down were all about ninety degrees to the direction my wedge cut was pointing. The tree as it fell decided to “split the difference” and fell at a 45 degree angle. Completely missing two other tall trees that I was certain would have acted as guidance in the event that it didn’t fall as I wanted. Instead, as if pulled by a magnetic force, or Murphy’s Law, the tree came down directly on the end of the woodshed itself.


Harder to do a better hit if I had aimed it! Note the uneven load of branches.
Kenny was safely ensconced on the cabin porch, as I don’t permit him to be closer than a radius of twice the height of whatever trees I may be cutting, but even so, I asked him to go back into the cabin as I needed to say some things out loud that I’d rather he not hear.


I’m just pleased I was able to winch it off with tearing down the porch roof too.
The damage to the steel was cosmetic and annoying, but nothing too crippling. It did open up the seam slightly, but not enough that I was going to try to rush to repair it. I’m not sure how I can repair it, as I don’t want to stand on the porch roof, so I think that maybe once the shed is emptied of wood, I will go inside and see if I can massage the steel in that manner. Otherwise, I may not lose sleep over it. We’ll see.


A slight gap at the top shouldn’t let in a worrying amount of rain or snow.
It did make me feel much more confident about the snow load the roof and porch roof can hold. The tree was not insubstantial, and even with me winching it off of the roof there didn’t seem to be undo hardship caused.

The change in expression on Grandpa’s face when I related that no, it wasn’t a windfall that caused this, but my own cutting was something to behold. 🙂

Next time I will try to see if I can’t find a way of coaxing trees to fall better when they are anywhere near my buildings or equipment.

The Eclipse



September 19, 2017



We happened to be visiting with my parents during the recent “Eclipse of the Century” (by what metric?)

I managed to snag this picture with my camera from an internal reflection. Not too shabby I think.

An Answer to a Mystery?



September 18, 2017



So far, to our knowledge, pine boring grubs notwithstanding, we haven’t really had too many critters invade our cabin. We do what we feel is a pretty good job of keeping food scraps in their proper places, and the space is small enough that there aren’t really any nooks or crannies that don’t get exposed regularly.

There was ONE episode a couple years ago where we discovered a small mole or vole in the thunderbox, but we were unable to ascertain really how it go there.

One possible solution to this mystery did arise a few weeks ago. It was still warm enough that our bedroom door was open and the screen was allowing in a breeze. Kenny and I happened to be in the bedroom and heard a quiet noise from the deck that just didn’t sound like something the wind could produce. Twice I stepped out onto the deck and the sound stopped, I assumed there was a bunny or something similar perhaps under the deck that didn’t want to cause trouble.

Finally, it was time to change the toilet bucket, and that’s when I discovered it…


Kenny remarked “Oh so cute!”
Somehow this little fellow had climbed the wall of the cabin, then dropped down into the bucket. What an experience! He had been scrabbling around for a few hours at least, perhaps the most part of a day!

I tipped him out on the steps and encouraged him to live free, free as the wind blows… Without undue haste, he made his way to the edge of the steps and jumped into the grass, hopefully to return to a relieved family for the season.


Ready to head home with tales of high adventure!

A Short Update



September 4, 2017



As summer is winding down, I’m getting more and more apprehensive about how little I feel I have accomplished during our short, snow-free months. It’s not been an easy year here for me, although things are still always getting better overall.
This past month since I last wrote, I suffered through a(nother) sinus infection that unfortunately coincided with my brother and sister-in-law visiting us. I was in pretty rough shape for most of their time here and wasn’t able to participate in many activities. I sure hope they are willing to give us another try!

One nice feature of their visit was that we all left the homestead and travelled to Killbear Provincial Park together. By this time I had visited my nurse practitioner clinic and received a prescription for nasal steroids, as well as antibiotics for the strep. I did feel a bit vindicated when the NP looked down my throat and exclaimed “Oh my God! That’s crazy!” She reassured me (again) that I wasn’t a hypochondriac.

He’s a ZipLine natural!

A budding Dr. Doolittle?
God bless modern medicine. Within a day the antibiotics had me feeling much more relaxed about our trip. I could eat again!
After a few days with our whole family in Killbear, we proceeded down to Waterloo to spend another week with my parents and catching up with friends and family. It was nice that my Aunt and Uncle from Australia were able to drop in while they were visiting Canada. It’s becoming a very rare treat to meet up with my father’s side of the family.
For the second summer in a row, we replaced wheel bearings in our Echo while in Waterloo before returning home.

One notable milestone was that shortly after returning, I actually had to trot out the generator and run it for the first time in a few months because the batteries were low and sun wasn’t in the forecast. This, and whenever we put on our first fire, are the real landmarks on our calendar.
I know I have more blog posts already in my brain, wriggling to get out, so I’ll try to work on them later. For now, I do have real world chores to work at.

Cleaning the Stovepipe again!



July 22, 2017



In an effort to overcome procrastination and prove to myself that I could still accomplish important chores around the homestead, I awoke a few days ago with the conviction that I would clean out our stovepipe before anything else. It was a calm, warm, sunny day – no excuses!

As soon as Donna headed down the driveway I assembled my tools, and my son.

We removed everything from around the stove, then carefully removed the access cover from the side.

There was a layer of ash on the lip that I quickly vacuumed up and then moved on to taking before pictures up and down the chimney.


Jiggly camera, but you can still see the ash.

Looking down to the stove.

And looking up!
We put a thick plastic bag over the access, with the first pole of my cleaner sticking through and up. I hooked up my drill and started my way up while Kenny held the vacuum as close to the hole as he could to catch dust and ash.

We worked our way up and down, and then I stuck the cleaner down the access to the back of the stove.

Finally I opened up the bottom of the stove and vacuumed all the ash that had fallen. It filled the vacuum a little more than halfway. Great!


The pile of ash in the stove.

Vacuuming up the mess.
It looks to me like it wasn’t too bad – I don’t see any tarry substance that could be called creosote in my pictures.


Much cleaner!
The local fire chief mentioned that it looks like there was air leaking into the stovepipe based on the lack of ash in the one area – not sure how I can better seal my access? Thoughts?


Disposable gloves are SO nice for cleanup!

All back together!

The Yurts are in a Better Place…



July 18, 2017



After sheltering us for 18 months, and then serving briefly as guest accommodations, workshop, storage space, and a dojo, the yurts have moved on to a new life – and an exciting one!

Early (nine am?) Friday morning, two weeks past now, the local Forest school and a great group of volunteers showed up to move both yurts, as well as their floors and supports five minutes down the road to a beautiful location close to Surprise Lake.

It was exciting, as well as a bit unnerving. My primary concern was that no one would be injured. I remembered how I felt when it was just Grandpa and myself putting up the ring and locking the whole system into place. It was much nicer to have a crew of brave souls!

It took one day to remove the yurts, and a further (easy) day to remove the floors.


Starting to empty the yurts.

Pulling down the felt and canvas.

Feels so open! Like a gazebo!

Puzzling over the chimney.

Looks really interesting this way.

Removing the canvas on the smaller yurt.

Everyone pitched in to clean and remove stuff!

Ready to remove the ring on the smaller yurt.

Felt on the larger yurt sliding off.

Down to just the skeleton of the large yurt now.

Many hands make light work!
Moving the floors through the forest to their new home was quite an adventure! Unfortunately, I didn’t have a photographer present for that excitement.


Hide and seek? Shy? No flash photography? I can’t explain this picture.

Covering up the floors for overnight.

Removing the OSB over the seams to let us cut them apart.

Loading up!

Lots of helpers make it go much more safely and smoothly.

Loading up the support beams as well.

And now – a new space!
As of this morning the floors have been leveled and installed in their new home, and I’m still on call to help the yurts to be put up in their new surroundings.

We are so glad they have gone to a good home and good purpose!

Super Easy, Portable Raised Garden Beds



July 13, 2017



One of the projects that we really wanted to do when we first took up the notion of homesteading was to produce a portion of our own food. So far we’ve not really pursued this aspect of things, especially with so much to do to simply construct the homestead itself!

I have no illusions that food in the grocery store is generally any better or worse than what we ourselves could produce, contrary to what some back-to-the-landers may think, but there is a sense of accomplishment there – and perhaps even a penny to be saved?

Since the installation of the new well, the space between the cabin and the sauna has been pretty desolate. So much so that last season I began to consider it more of a “rock garden” than even wild/natural terrain. I also had a stack of pretty weathered two by fours that were not going to be used for anything, and realized that my old battery box would have been an ideal planter – light bulb moment!

Over the past week, Kenny and I have cut the two by fours down to four foot lengths. Then I have notched them top and bottom to create a two inch wide notch, one inch deep. This lets them connect together in exactly the same manner as the sauna and cabin.


You can see a bit of newspaper peeking out.
At four feet long, they are very manageable to take down and put up. It also creates an interior dimension of exactly three by three – very easy to keep weeded and yet still plant a decent amount of stuff.


You can see multiple beds! I can imagine them heading off into the distance.
After assembling three of the beds, as per Kenny’s request that we all get one, we lay newspaper down to help discourage weeds, and then piled on two trailer loads from our old humanure pile – the compost in there has been percolating for close to two years now, and so should be free from pathogens.


Lots of space for the ATV.
I do plan on amending that by adding potting or topsoil on top of that. I realize too that it’s late in the season, but better late than never, and we still could probably get some lettuce or radishes to keep Kenny enthused.

So far today he has transplanted some of the weedy flowers in the area into his bed. Hopefully tomorrow I can purchase some soil to add to my and Donna’s beds.

I am hopeful for how they will work out. I have kept them far enough apart to get the ATV in between with the trailer. I also left the top board notched, so they can be added to vertically if we decide we don’t wish to bend over quite so far in the future.

Hopefully future pictures are to come!


Bonus cute toad picture.

Dark Skies (our video game)



July 5, 2017



I’m not sure if I’ve talked a whole lot about it in the past, but we have always been homeschooling/unschooling Kenny here on the homestead. When we’re focused on lessons, we probably consider ourselves homeschoolers. When we get distracted and let things ride, then I consider us unschoolers.

As such, I do try to get him to regularly open up test books appropriate to his age (well, truth be told, I generally push him to participate in grade levels that would reflect where he’d be if he had been born five days earlier than he actually was.)

But after he completes a lesson, he is free to spend the rest of the day as he wishes with only a few rules. One of which is that he is not to be on a screen unless he is producing, not consuming. This means he can’t play games or watch videos, but he could be coding his own stuff or producing music or art.

This has worked well for us. He’s self-limiting. After awhile he usually asks me to go for a walk with him up and down our driveway, then we slip down to the pond to check on the fish, or just chat about outdoor stuff.

After 4 p.m., if he has a few simple chores completed, he can return to videos or games (usually both are Minecraft related, but not always).

In any case, I’m proud of how creative he has been with his time. At the moment he is writing up a story about some sort of future project – he’s already asked me how to spell “virus” and “causes” and “certain”… My mind is really going now!

For the past number of years, one of his big interests has been stop-motion animation using various models. If anyone is interested, they can find his channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-f5–MsVFXbhtkeuERep4Q

As always, please rate, comment and subscribe! 🙂

The past year or two now, he’s also been obsessed with making his own video games – Ever since Mr. Harbron from P1XL studios ever so kindly taught a group of homeschoolers how to use Scratch.

The past year, I’ve been trying to help encourage him by dusting off my own coding experiences and bringing them up to date. I’ve dabbled in Java, GML and a few others.

We really enjoyed the puzzle/mystery/adventure genre, and so we thought that would be a good place to start.

After doing some basic work establishing that we could create a workable inventory and switch between different scenes, we set to work – Kenny designing most of the puzzles, all of the artwork (hand-drawn and then scanned in), and composing the music either through stringing together clips on the computer and then running them through all sorts of effects, or playing it directly on our keyboard while I used a pair of earbuds as a microphone to record with as little background noise as possible.


So much artwork went into this project! It was a real grind by the end.

We had to buy a couple of packs of markers to get this finished, but the sense of accomplishment was worth it.
And a few days ago, we were beside ourselves to finally release the game to the public! You can try it out here:


https://ivarforkbeard.itch.io/dark-skies

Please give it a go if you like; it’s browser-based so it should work for most anyone. It does take a few minutes to load all the assets, even after the main screen appears, so wait until you hear music before spending too much time clicking on the buttons.

We’d love to hear feedback (gentle please).

Pizza Hash Brown Casserole



June 27, 2017



Kenny was having a bit of a tough few moments this afternoon, thinking about a stressful (to him) event coming up later this week.

As a fellow sufferer of panic attacks and extreme anxiety, I wanted to help him out using one of the go-to tools in my arsenal – distraction.

I asked him to come downstairs, cuddled with him and reassured him for a few moments, then hopped up and decided to continue doing dishes, while getting him to put together our supper for tonight.

First up I had him grease the slow cooker pot with some grapeseed oil, although I gave him the option to use peanut if he’d prefer, but he didn’t think it made a difference.

Then he dumped in the hash browns.


Frozen hash browns as the base.
Next, some salsa.


Mama’s favourite condiment – SALSA!
Followed by nacho cheese dip. About half of the smaller jar. The rest gets set aside for real dipping of nachos.


Nacho cheese. A guilty pleasure for our whole household.
I suggested lots of mozarella cheese, as well as the last of some plain yogurt we had. Then pepperoni and some spices (including nacho cheese popcorn spice).


Now we’re getting somewhere!
Kenny mixed it all together and was ready to smile for the camera by this point.


Feeling better now that he’s on a mission. 🙂
Then he took the camera to take a picture of me checking the computer, as well as a picture of my butt.


At first I wondered about the physics of this position, then realized I had my other leg extended out behind me.
I asked him to cover up the casserole with more mozarella – I told him to pretend the dish was poo in the toilet, and the cheese was sawdust – I wanted a good blanket!


A good amount of cheese. Has anyone EVER said “Oh, this dish has too much cheese”?!
He then set up the cooker, and put the pot into it on low.


Like lobsters in the pot! Note the extra cheese on Aunt Vicki’s placemat. Daddy can clean that up.
Talk about some real-world applied knowledge! We often bake together, but this was one of the first meals he’s helped with that didn’t use any measurements.


Cook faster you slow cooker!
So hungry now!


Minutes before the bowl was empty – it was FANTASTIC!!!

Starting to Trim Some Windows



June 26, 2017



My excitement to post this is tempered with the fact that I didn’t tell Donna I had done the work, and she took an extended sauna last night, and didn’t even notice the change!

In any case, after working on the aeration of the pond and well, I really wanted to at least make a start on trim work around the homestead, something I’ve left on the back burner.

I decided to begin in the sauna, and test out some thoughts there.

First up I put some sill gasket all the way around – I thought that this may seal up any slight leaks. Sober second thought makes me think that caulking the seams under the trim may be a better use of my time though.


Seemed like a good idea at the time.

And some more.
Then I put on the outer trim all around. I used simple butt joints here – I don’t mind the look of them. I only tacked this up with a few brad nails – I have something more substantial in mind as the project progresses.


The first board.
Then I used a slightly thinner, narrower and more finished fence board to put in a sill.

I continued to use the fence boards to trim around – instead of having the outer trim cover the edge of the casing, I instead had the casing extend out from the trim slightly (by measuring around the window depth all the way around and basing my width on the deepest spot). I’m hoping that this will hide the fact that my log walls are quite wavy in places.

Of course, I didn’t think completely ahead and ended up one board short for my first experiment.


And one board short. Note the dark area on the wall where I always end up leaning when taking steam.
Due to this, I went outside and removed one of the original outer trim boards to begin thinking about the outside trim as well. That’s when I really decided that caulking was the best tool for the job, and I couldn’t find my caulk or the gun.


And outside. You can see where steam has escaped over the years due to lack of good seal. We’ll see how it goes in future.
I’ll try to post updates as the work progresses.

Improving the Aeration of my Goldfish Pond



June 23, 2017



Stunning as the survival of two goldfish was this past winter, I still would like to believe that we can keep this up going forward.

I purchased a dozen new fish to add to our pond a couple weeks ago, although within the first hour we lost one, and the next day, found another floating belly up.

The remainders dove deep and only in the past few days have we begun seeing them poking around at the edges of the pond.

Today was a lovely, sunny day, so I decided to finally make use of the spare solar panel and pump aerator I had purchased in the fall (but which arrived too late to be able to install).

Previously at our well, I had put the pump inside a small plastic box. This time I decided to be more frugal and pulled out the jar and lid from a recent nacho cheese indulgence. These actually appear as though they may work even better.


Mmmm, Nacho Cheese.
I was able to drill a nice sized hole through the lid.


Next time I should clamp the lid before I drill.
Then, used my needlenose pliers to fold over the edge so it wasn’t in danger of abrading the power cable or air hose.


Making sure the edges aren’t too abrasive.
I inserted the pump and screwed the lid on tight. It looked really great!


Looks pretty good to me actually.
We took it down to the pond and dropped it in – it worked really well – I placed the aeration stone under the existing trough, to keep all the disturbance in the pond in one specific place.

Bubbling like mad!
I simply laid the solar panel on a nearby rock, and then decided to waterproof the connection between the solar panel and the pump.


Nothing too fancy, tried to tuck the jar down between the rocks.

A simple way of waterproofing the contacts.
This worked so well, I sanded the contacts of the pump and panel at the well, and then did the same hot glue waterproofing there.


Added some water sealant to the entry point of the air hose as well.

These contacts were in rough shape after the winter – I sanded them for better conduction before waterproofing.
I was really tickled with how well it all turned out! It will be interesting to see just how long the aerator is able to keep a bit of the pond ice free for longer – and if there is a commensurate increase in fish survival.

Stay tuned!

Quick Update to my Water Tank Sight Tube



June 22, 2017



With the amount of iron in our water, our sight tube for the kitchen water tank seemed to get cloudy fairly quickly. I’ve been removing and discarding the entire tube every couple of times I scrub the whole kitchen down.

It was always a hassle though, I had mounted it with brackets and screws.

First I had switched it to a threaded connector to make it a bit easier to replace, but I still had to back out the screws each time, and then re-tighten them. I worry that over time, they would strip and no longer hold very well.

So this time around, I replaced the two brackets I previously used with four eye hooks that were large enough that the hose could easily slip through them, while at the same time, it was tight enough that the hose wouldn’t fall out on its own.


Looks nice and clean!

Much nicer to work with.
Unfortunately, I must have done something to the LED strip in behind, and now it doesn’t work. Sigh. Time to order a new one.


Rats, no longer glowing!

A Hero?



June 21, 2017



Across the finish line?
Saw this guy trying to cross the road a couple of days ago – I just missed him by a hair! (Get it? Hair? Hare?)

Anyway, I helped him get back to the lake. Or was it her? I know I picked them up, but I didn’t question their gender too closely.

Gyros Casserole



June 12, 2017



On Tuesday Kenny decided quite surprisingly that he wanted to visit the Hoffman Hobby Farm down near Murillo.

I had to act fast to figure out supper! Luckily inspiration struck and I was able to use up some stuff in the fridge and freezer and let our solar power do all the heavy work.


First, frozen hash browns mixed with Tzatziki.

Mix in some homegrown alfalfa sprouts and chunks of feta cheese.


Slices of pre-cooked gyros meat.

Layer the meat like lasagna noodles. In fact, this whole thing is just lasagna using meat instead of noodles.

A spoonful of the hash mix.

Some Monterey Jack cheese on top.

Some parmesan and asiago cheese, as well as spices, and crumbled bacon. Because, why not?
I put that on low for about six or seven hours, and we had two perfectly serviceable meals!

Firewood and Ants



June 11, 2017



I won’t say that things haven’t been happening here on the homestead, just that I’ve been busy with stuff that I haven’t gotten enough pictures of to be noteworthy. As well, many of the jobs haven’t been completed yet, so I feel guilty writing about them, instead of actually DOING them.

After doing an IT call and then some other IT work at home, I took a bit of time out after lunch to go and cut down a tree that I could see from the cabin that had died.

As soon as it fell, it was readily apparent what the problem was. As usual, ants had chewed up the insides terribly. I’m curious how far up the trunk they have travelled, but I’ll have to wait until I cut it up more to find out.



Repairing an Ecofan Revisited – Reviewing the Replacement Motor Kit



April 27, 2017



So, as you know, I took a crack at getting our stovetop fan to run a little more energetically a few months ago. Unfortunately, the fan has continued to underwhelm with its’ performance – so I decided it was time to replace the motor.

A bit of online research revealed that here in Canada, by a fair stretch the best place to purchase a replacement motor is Home Hardware. While it is available from Amazon, it isn’t nearly as good a price – and I was able to pick it up directly from Home Hardware on a trip to the city.

So after the fan cooled off yesterday, I assembled what I thought were the appropriate tools, and my backup photographer (Kenny) began snapping away.


Soldering iron, new motor kit, fan, and some solder.

Luckily the kit comes with a tiny hex key to remove the fan blade.

What trickery is this? A connector for the motor? I trotted out the soldering iron and solder for naught?

The fan blade removed. It was later scrubbed in the sink to thoroughly remove the dust.

Out with the old. They sent new screws with the new motor, but that was unneeded.

And in with the new.

Plugging in the connector was surprisingly challenging. Not much slack in the wires.

Note the fine hex wrench/allen key in the lower left of the picture.

It was faster to hand tighten the screws until they were snug before using the screwdriver. American Philips screws suck.

Fan blade back in place.
I am very happy to report that she’s spinning fast and furious now! If only we weren’t being subjected to another blast of winter at the moment… :'( Donna may not get back home to us for TWO consecutive nights. What will we do with ourselves?!

Straightening up the Woodshed – Creative Repurposing



April 27, 2017



As the winter progressed, I began to notice that the woodshed had a slight lean to it. I believe I’m the only one who noticed, but putting a level on it eventually revealed that the top had twisted about two inches out of square.


Hard to see, but the top is a bit to the right of the bottom. Also very pleased to see that there are still more than two rows of dry wood left at the tail end of the burning season!
I think that this was mostly a natural development based on subtleties that I couldn’t possibly comprehend. It could also be suggested that the pile of wood on the outside of that corner had perhaps shifted it. I had already had difficulties with that outside pile being self-supporting.

I was having a hard time picturing a way to straighten it up. The side that needed the bracing was also the side that had my doorway in it, and most of Grandpa’s suggestions, as well as my own ponderings, pictured a diagonal brace from the top corner of one wall to the opposite lower corner of the same wall – this would have the brace passing through the door frame.

I could have put in a shorter brace starting at the door, but I figured that this would have little power to resist the lean.


Helping to clear the work area.

More clearing.
Then I began thinking in terms of metal brackets, and my mind expanded. Cheaper than brackets were regular old measuring squares from the local “economy” tools shop – Tool Town!

I drilled out several new holes in the squares on the cabin deck, and then used the ATV’s winch to pull the corner back straight.


A good drill bit makes a world of difference.

First check to see how bad things are.

Now a bit of creaky pulling. Don’t stand under it right now!

Checking again. Looks good!
With a bit of finagling, I was able to put the squares in opposite corners of the shed without too much fuss, and then released the winch cable.


Fastening the squares in place.
The woodshed settled back slightly, but I can see that it is now probably only about an inch out of square. I feel that’s likely acceptable for a woodshed, and also likely more square than the cabin!


Bottom left checking in – looks good!

Top right checking in – a-ok here!
I think I am also seeing a similar twist in the perpendicular plane – so I’ll likely buy up a few more cheap squares to use as brackets. No sense in letting such a clever idea go to waste!

Red Squirrel



April 26, 2017



On a lark, I hung up one of those seed bells to see what sort of birds we could attract this spring.

So far, we have had a good share of black-eyed juncos. But our most entertaining guest was a fearless red squirrel that managed to pull down the bell and feast for a few days on the resulting rain of seeds.

To the victor goes the spoils.
There’s little debate on how cute this fellow is.

As cute as any hamster or gerbil.

Overwintering Goldfish in a Northern Ontario Pond



April 25, 2017



Whelp, I was intending to install a bubbler in our pond similar to the one I have put in our well. Unfortunately my shipping times from my Chinese distributor of electronics have grown noticeably over the past year, and by the time both the solar panel and the bubbler arrived, the pond had frozen over. I wrote off my fish and figured I would redo the system this year.

As the ice melted this spring, I was chagrined to note two fish belly up. Grandpa later reported that he had managed to fish (pardon the pun) them out and as he reached for a third, it swam away from him!

Of course, this was before his cataract surgery, so I took the report with a grain of salt. Imagine my surprise when Kenny later confirmed that he saw a swimming fish too!

At last, I confirmed it with my own eyes – and not just one, but TWO fish to boot!

Awesomely, our family photographer managed to capture our survivors – amazing to think that they were buried under inches of ice for four months and managed to stick it out.


Not one, but TWO fish out of our original fifteen!
I still plan on adding the bubbler for increased comfort and survivability, as well as perhaps adding another bag of goldfish in the next little while. I wonder though, will the big fish eat the little ones? Are goldfish a bit cannibalistic? I thought I saw some of the bigger ones chasing the smaller ones last summer already.

Also making an appearance in our pond this year – at least three very noisy frogs! I wonder if one of them is grumpy frog.


Can you find the frog in this picture?

Or is this one easier to spot?

Enclosing the Stove Pipe



March 16, 2017



A couple of times this year we have caught the distinct smell of smoke after closing up the stove airtight. It’s been very distressing to me, already having a bit of a lung condition to deal with. I also generally don’t like when important things aren’t performing as they should. I have been trying to study some Stoic philosophy though, so perhaps I need to be more pragmatic about things.

In any case, I tried consulting with Thunder Bay Fireplaces again about the situation, and together we fleshed out the notion that the cabin is perhaps still SO draughty that it is sucking smoke out of the stove before it has a chance to go up the chimney, at least when the stove is fairly closed up and not producing huge draught of its own.

I happened to describe one spot in the cabin I already knew to be subject to air leakage issues – that leaky chimney boot. That’s when together we brainstormed up the notion of enclosing the insulated chimney pipe up in the attic. I had stuffed some Roxul into the chimney boot, but this is a theoretical no-no. So to maintain proper installation, the next best thing will be to put the chimney in that area into its own air-tight room.

I’ve been sick for the past five weeks or so – I caught a terrible cold and/or sinus infection that made me fear for my ability to take on even the simplest of tasks – I was wheezing and coughing and it was all I could do to catch my breath at times. So this process is only about half finished so far, but I wanted to get an update onto the blog.

As of this writing, I have managed to put up the two walls perpendicular to the existing outside wall. The final wall will be a bit more of a challenge – it isn’t any sort of regular shape really – it will have to match the contour of the roof.

Once the walls are finished, I will line them with closed cell foam, and then spray foam around the edges of that to seal it up air tight. I’ll also spray foam around the edges of the walls themselves as they will butt up against the existing spray foam, which isn’t a flat surface either.


You can barely make out the tall wall to the left of the stove pipe.

You can see the studs of the tall wall, and a view of the short wall from here.

I’ve learned to always try to wear lung protection nowadays.

A better view of the short wall?

This is my non-kosher seal to try to slow down heat loss. Not so effective. I’ll remove all this once I box in the pipe.

I’ll lay pieces of closed cell foam here and seal it with spray foam. Then I think I may actually lay more Roxul on top of the closed cell foam for even better insulation from below. I can put a number of inches of insulation up that boot.

Good view of the short wall. You can see I’m just using 2×3 studs.

And you can see the rough connection at the top of the large wall, I’ll just seal that with spray foam.

Addendum to Acrylic Storm Windows



February 27, 2017



I am generally pleased with the performance of the acrylic as storm windows. One issue that arose shortly afterwards was that the inward air pressure caused the tape on them to pull free down the centre and they began to bulge into the room.

After a short while it became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to push the tape back against the door panels and I started to puzzle out a way to return the acrylic to a more vertical orientation for both aesthetic as well as long term structural reasons.

You can see how much they are sagging out from the door.
I decided that likely a nice piece of wide aluminum flat stock would be able to be wedged into the door frame top to bottom, holding the edges of the acrylic in place, and covering the gap between them.

And without the tape it’s even more pronounced.
Kenny and I hit up Lowes a few days ago and eventually found our way to the flat stock supplies.
Unfortunately, as soon as I lifted a 7′ section, I realized that it had no more integrity than the acrylic sheet did.
A square cross-section was much, much stiffer, but would have been hard to incorporate into any sort of “smooth” finish to the project.
Just as I was about to give up on that avenue, I saw that there was a fine “channel” designed to edge plywood – but it could just as easily edge my acrylic! I bought two pieces and headed for home.
Today I cut it down to 74 1/2″ so that it would fit perfectly between the top and bottom of my door frames.
I managed to get it on one piece, and hoped that taping over it to the other piece of acrylic would provide enough support, but was quickly dissuaded of that notion.

The near side has channel, but it’s not enough to support both panels.
I installed the second piece on the second piece of acrylic and then put two runs of tape over top to hold them in place and create an air seal.

Straight as an arrow now!
So far, they look much neater and hopefully this will prevent the acrylic from taking on any long-term sag.

Much more neat and tidy looking!

Scrambled Eggs in the Rice Cooker



February 26, 2017



Just another quick post/tip for interested parties…

I really enjoy cooking slowly with things like the rice cooker or slow cooker – you don’t have to give much supervision, and they turn out nearly perfect every time.

One super easy meal that is even Kenny approved is scrambled eggs – and they are dead easy to make in the rice cooker. Myself, I like to wrap them in a tortilla to eat them, but Kenny is happy to use a regular old fork.

Just combine all the ingredients that you like in your scrambled eggs, pour them into the cooker and click it onto “cook”.


Lots of sun = easy living.
It will click back to “warm” after a bit, when the outer layer of eggs have curdled. You then lift the lid, stir it all up again, and then click on “cook” again.

A few more goes like this, and then they are done – never burned – and at any point you can just let them coast on “warm” until you either serve them, or need to stir them again.

One other tip I have learned through much trial and error – one tablespoon of milk for each egg gives them the perfect fluffiness!


A little parmesan, some leftover bell peppers, my home-grown alfalfa sprouts and diced ham.

Batteries Reach Float!



February 22, 2017



Mark it on your calendars! Our batteries actually reached float on February 18th, 2017!


Oh happy day!

Acrylic Storm Windows on the Patio Doors



February 16, 2017



I recently got a chance to do some computer work for Surecraft Plastics again and it was a great excuse to pick up some much larger pieces of acrylic to try to make a better “storm” window for the patio doors.

I even was able to get them to notch the panels for where the handle went – that was awesome!

First up we removed the old plastic film I had installed. It was ugly, and the tape left a nasty residue. We did our best to clean this off with some Goo-Gone/Goof-Off type material, I assume it’s just concentrated acetone? It was easy to get loopy from the fumes, so I’d suggest using it in a ventilated area if possible.


The original plastic film. You can see some distortion here.

The notched piece for the door. Complete with protective coating.

Starting with the removable caulk.

A good workout for both of us!

Trying to get a good, square fit.

A bit of painters tape and an old credit card to hold it in place.

A good look at the removable caulk through the acrylic.
Then we fitted in the larger sheets of acrylic, and tried to hold them in place with a combination of painter’s tape and unused points cards. I tried to press them against the frame to get them to stick to the removable caulk, but they sagged away quickly and it was a challenge to get it to work. I didn’t see it being a treat to do each window like this every fall.

After a day or two the acrylic was still in place, but sagging badly and exhibiting huge leaks around the edges where the caulking had allowed it to completely peel away.

I decided upon reflection that it could be improved and simplified by trying to fit the acrylic inside the frame of the patio doors, and then caulking over these edges where the caulk no longer had to provide structural support.

Kenny and I removed the panels, and with some difficulty tried to remove the caulk. It was fine in some spots, but wouldn’t come off in others. I remeasured the panels to fit the new, smaller requirements, and tried to cut off the areas that were the worst for removing the caulk.


You can still see some of the “removable” caulk that just wouldn’t come off.

Working around the handle.

Oh noes! Lots of chips along the edge when I cut it down. At least it should be hidden behind the frame…
I put the panels back into place, and added judicious amounts of painters tape, trying to avoid having to use the caulk again, as I am no longer convinced that it is either easy or complete in its removal.


This actually looks better than just the caulking, or so I think…

Big green lines, but they’re neat, and hopefully easily removable?

Top corner looks okay.

This is where the panel sags inward at the moment, you can see that in the curve of the tape.
I did put back the silica gel pack to help ensure that no moisture would fog up the place.

Now it remains to be seen how it performs when there is a wind that creates large pressure differences, or just when we get another cold snap – we are predicted mild weather for the next week or so!


Of course, a tiny fleck of tape left on the far side of the acrylic. Sigh. Wabi-sabi.

Repairing an Ecofan



February 5, 2017



When we were first in the yurts, as fall deepened and we realized that the woodstove was not doing a very good job of heating the main yurt, let alone the back yurt, one of our first attempts at improvement was to purchase an “ecofan” – a small fan attached to a motor powered by a thermocouple wedged between a heavy steel base and a large heat sink.

While this was an improvement, at the time it wasn’t enough to make the yurts comfortable by any reasonable stretch. But that’s another story.

When we moved into the cabin and began using the Baker’s Choice woodstove, we brought it with us and it has been doing good duty moving a bit of the heat around the cabin these past three years. It is often a good temperature indicator for the stove – we can tell just by how quickly it spins whether or not we have a good fire on.

Unfortunately a few days ago, I noticed that it spun up well, but then slowed down soon after, even though our stove top thermometer continued to show the stove warming up.

Over the next few days it began to behave erratically, not spinning at all, or spinning slowly, in spite of consistently warm fires.

At last I decided to try refurbishing it slightly.


The patient on the operating table.

Two screws to be removed. Luckily I have a tiny ratchet set that should suffice.
First I removed the top heat sink.


The thermocouple exposed.
This allowed me to lift off the thermocouple. I was surprised to discover that there was no thermal compound either above or below the thermocouple. Thermal compound, or paste, is commonly found between computer chips and their heat sinks to ensure a good contact between the two metals.


No compound to be seen here either.

I put a dab of paste on top, and a little on the bottom.

Rats, not quite in the centre!

That’s better!

And not bad looking front to back either. 🙂 You can see a bit of the thermal paste squeezing out from the edges.
Placing it back on the stove, I was at first worried as nothing happened for a few minutes. But then suddenly the fan kicked in and returned to a medium pace.

I checked it with an RPM meter and would guess that it’s rotating at about 240 RPM. Not sure if this is good or not; it doesn’t seem as fast as previously, but at least it is consistent. Hopefully it continues to work, even if it is in a reduced state.


Almost enough spin to be political!
Addendum:
After two days, I can report that it is still working, but I’d have to say definitely with a reduced speed. Not enough to replace the fan altogether, but enough that I’ll have to adjust my temperature vs. RPM estimates.

Experimental Storm Windows



February 1, 2017



Only three windows in our cabin could be considered to be “finished” – in that they have frames completely around them. The two large upper windows in the main area, where Papa framed them in a year ago, and the bathroom, which, incidentally, Papa framed in two years ago. Makes me feel very guilty just typing that.

I’ve got a few experimental ideas for framing in the remaining windows, but for now I’ll keep them to myself until I have a chance to try them out in practice once the weather warms up.

In the meantime, I have been covering up the windows with the clear film that is so common in these parts when the weather turns exceptionally cold and people start to notice frost appearing.

This film is far from clear, especially since I have very limited success getting it to stick completely, and even less success trying to use a hot air dryer on it to make it shrink tight and smooth. Interestingly, the two large patio doors, once sealed up with this film, tend to billow inwards to a significant degree, indicating that there is a large loss of hot air from elsewhere (higher up?) in the cabin. I will have to begin investigating this also when the weather gives me greater leeway to work outdoors. I have a significant plan for another area of the cabin that may go a long way towards dealing with this possibility.

In any case, with the bathroom window being the smallest window in the cabin (tied for that honour with the pantry window), I decided it would be a good candidate for my first “storm window” experiment. In this case, I have decided to put up a piece of acrylic that could cover the entire surface of the window. A quick call to Surecraft and a few days later I had a piece in my hands sized to cover the opening, plus about 3/8″ on both sides and top and bottom. I had already worked hard to clean off any residue from the previous temporary plastics.


Protective layer removed, ready to install. Looks clear!
I put a fine bead of “Draught Attack” caulking on the acrylic, and then took it into the bathroom and pushed it against the window. I smoothed out the caulk around the edges – it didn’t have to look perfect, just not horrible. Anything would be a step up from the disposable stuff.


Ready to test out this stuff. Very hopeful!
After holding it a few moments, it seemed to stay up on its own. I went to get the camera, and when I returned it had already slid down about a half inch. I pushed it back up and tried to affix the top edge with some painter’s tape.


Nearly slid off the top edge!

The tape! It does nothing!
Returning about fifteen minutes later, it was once again sliding down too far to work, so I pushed it back up and wedged a knick-knack under it for the remainder of the day and to the next morning. It now seems properly affixed.

Inside the edge of the upper pane, I put a desiccant bag to help keep out any condensation. I usually put a small thimble with dry rice in the frames of my windows for just this reason, but I had some silica from electronics items, so I thought I’d give it a go.


Tiny silica bag to help alleviate fogging.
So far it seems to work as expected. I don’t feel any breeze, and it’s much clearer to look through. I will have to see how well the “Draught Attack” peels off in the spring, and then figure out a good system and place for storing the acrylic sheets. I think it will work well, but it may need to be adapted for some of the larger windows, or especially the patio doors.

I’ll try to give follow-up in the spring when it comes time to remove the panel.

Popcorn on the Induction Cooker



January 19, 2017



With the surplus power I have been getting on days like today, I felt like it was a good chance to push my luck and try out our popcorn popper.

It has been used a couple of times a week here on the woodstove, but the whole reason I special ordered one that was suppose to be induction compatible was so that in the summer we could still enjoy our snacky treat without having to fire up the butane or wood stove.

First I assembled our popcorn staples – popcorn (usually from Bulk Zone… Either white or mushroom), peanut oil (it doesn’t seem to burn as quickly, and we all love us some peanuts), the induction cooker, and the popcorn popping pot.


Everything ready to go. So excited!

And a close up of just the ingredients?
I put in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot, as well as about five kernels. Then I put it on the cooker and started it up.


Test kernels installed. Waiting for it to warm up sufficiently. I like the reflection of the photographer here!
The default setting of the cooker is 1000 watts or 150 degrees Celsius. I let it ride at 150 degrees and then tried to look up the best temperature to use.

Within a few moments, I heard the kernels popping! I was shocked – shocked I tell you!

I poured in about a quarter cup of unpopped corn and started cranking the handle. It popped amazingly rapidly – I would say it was as fast as a bag of microwave popcorn! I quickly emptied it into a nearby bowl, and in fast succession, popped two more bowls.


Kenny scrambled to get the first bowl out for me.
You see, it seems we all have different preferences for what we put on our popcorn. I like popcorn salt, Kenny likes plain salt, and Donna right now is rocking the white cheddar seasoning. So I usually make three small batches and we each have our own.


I repackaged mine in the bag to eat later.
I’m super pleased with the setup – it worked fast and easy! I even boiled water right in the popper afterwards and was able to clean it up in a snap!

A Leaky Chimney? Or Condensation?



January 19, 2017



Last year, before we installed the ceiling, we noticed a few times where water would occasionally seem to drip in behind the stove from somewhere near the stovepipe. I thought that perhaps it was condensation forming up in the chimney cone and running back down.

I hoped that it would be cured by finishing the ceiling and packing the cone with insulation. As usual, reality wasn’t in my favour.

We’ve been having a bit of a warm spell lately, and the snow on the roof is actually melting off rapidly.

I happened to glance up at the top of the inside stove pipe the other day, and noticed that one of the boards alongside it was fairly water stained. Closer examination showed it to actually drip once or twice.


Hmmm, that doesn’t look like it has always been like that.
I sighed, and then took the family out for a snowshoe walk through the ravine to try to clear my head.

When I returned, I headed up into the attic and found a slow drip, drip onto the Roxul stone wool packed up there. I simply added a large can to catch the drips, and I assume that there must be a slight leak around the cone somewhere.


Looks fine from back here.

Oh wait, there’s some water there.

Oh, and some obvious water dripping off the insulation. Rats.
When my brother comes to visit, I’ll try to convince him to go up with the caulking gun and do some touchup in exchange for A (i.e. one) beer.

In the meantime, things look dry again, especially in light of the fact that all the snow around the chimney has disappeared.

Small Scale Solar Power Pulling its Weight Today



January 12, 2017



Just thought I’d throw up a couple of pictures and a blurb about our solar power system this afternoon.

I ran the generator this morning as it called for flurries off and on today, but around lunch the sun came out and the skies cleared, so I shut it off and gave the panels a really thorough sweeping.

Right now you can see that the batteries are in absorption.


Pulling down close to 1200 watts!
And on the wall, you can see that the temperature has come up from 17.7 around lunch, to (as I type this) 19.4.


Chilly outside, but not bad inside.
I don’t know if I can attribute that to the sun outside (where it’s -17.1 in the shade), or to the space heater that I plugged in and is running in spite of the fridge, internet and laptops all drawing juice.


This little heater only does 400/800 watts. Not enough to heat the cabin, but if I point it at the thermometer…
I’m pretty happy about this! It’s like money and heat in the bank!


Bright sun, but still pretty low in the sky.

Sealing an Entrance to the Crawlspace



January 10, 2017



I originally put in accesses to the crawlspace. Two doors in the pantry (so we could lower food into that space and use it as a cold storage), and one at the bottom of the stairs (where I had originally envisioned putting in our solar batteries, but then lost my nerve at the notion of explosive gasses accumulating while charging).

Now that I’m no longer storing batteries indoors, I have finally realized just how much cold air was leaking out around the edges of the door. I decided that sealing it up would be the best option.

I assembled a piece of plywood that would more than cover the hole underneath, a length of two by four to create a new “joist” to attach the lid of the access to so that it would be extra firm, some spray foam and stone wool insulation.

First of all I measured and cut and installed the joist.


It’s an older joist, but it checks out.
Then I cursed my foolishness when I realized that the plywood I had cut needed to fit through the hole diagonally, and with the joist in place, I couldn’t get it into the crawlspace. So…

I removed the joist.

I put the plywood down below, hopped into the crawlspace, and screwed the plywood to the bottom of the access.


Looks nice.
I came up in the pantry, dusted off and then returned to the bottom of the stairs.

I reinstalled my joist, and then used my spray foam around the edge of the plywood. Unfortunately my foam ran out surprisingly quickly. So I asked Donna to bring me more as she was in the city with Kenny at the Countdown Escape Room.


A disappointingly small amount of foam from the first can.

Still, I can install the joist while waiting.
When she returned, I filled in more foam under the outside edge.


This is helping!

This looks a bit better. Can you believe I thought I’d fill the whole space?!
Then I added the stone wool.


This should help to keep things a bit less draughty and cold!
Finally I put the lid back on, and countersunk several screws into it to hold it firmly down. No more draughts!


Awesome!
Eventually I plan on laying a new floor on top of everything, so that should cover up any cosmetic issues.

Replacing the Sight Glass Hose on my Water Tank



January 9, 2017



It appears that nylon hose seems to fog up or get clogged up over time when you have water as hard as ours is.


You can see where the water reaches quite easily.
I’ve come to accept that it’s a “consumable” now, so with my latest replacement of the hose, I decided to try to make it easier in future by adding a threaded connector to it.


You can see the single drop of water here. Should have added tape to that connection.
I also used the included tape on the LED light strip to mount it to the wall behind the hose.


Looks so awesome! A lightsabre!
Now with the new setup, I only need about four and a half feet of hose each time I replace it. As I can buy it in ten foot lengths, that means I can get two lengths out of it with very little waste. This is a nice thing.
I didn’t use teflon tape on the threaded connector here – It drips VERY slowly, so I’ll add that in the next day or two. I wonder if even a bit of peanut oil on the threads would be sufficient.

Replacing the Shutoff Tap on the Washing Machine



January 8, 2017



So we’ve had a fairly traditional washing machine for almost a year now. It has been working quite well for us. We can do a very full load on about a full tank of water here in the cabin, for both a wash and a single rinse.

Shortly before Christmas we ran out of our soap nuts detergent. For a week or so I resorted to using “all purpose cleanser” – but I doubt if that’s really an appropriate appropriation of their description.

While at my parent’s house though, I overheard my sister say something about how she was all in with baking soda and vinegar for her laundry. I consulted Google slightly and thought I’d give it a try for our cleaning needs. I knew that mixing the soda and vinegar would neutralize both, so I decided that the soda should be for washing, and the vinegar for rinsing if desired.

I can say that it seems to work pretty good. I suspect that as with many cleaning rituals we are involved in, it’s mostly the agitation and water that does the work, but adding something else still feels “right”. So there we are.


And a chance to really make use of the detergent cup!
But I get ahead of myself – the first load I attempted to do in the washer, as soon as I turned on the water, I could feel it spraying out at me from behind the machine.

I turned off the shutoff tap and retightened the hoses.

Again, as soon as I turned on the shutoff tap water was spitting at me.

Close examination revealed that it was the tap itself leaking – and not at any fitting – directly through the side of the brass!

It seems that when I drained the water lines, the valve on the washing machine was shut, and held an “air lock”, preventing THAT line from draining. When the cabin froze, the tap didn’t have any give the way my plastic plumbing does, and so it cracked. Thankfully, it didn’t leak, just as long as we didn’t turn it on.

I did that particular load of laundry the old fashioned way – buckets filled at the sink and poured into the top of the washing machine.

I promptly purchased a new valve – this time with a lever handle and ball joint rather than the original tap. I don’t see that there is a big difference – I just have to remember next year to remove the hose from the washing machine after I drain the water lines to allow the water to drain out of that section too.


Draining the water from the line correctly for once.

Looks fine right now.

Oh wait, there, on the left side of the rectangle, NOW I see it.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Looks just fine right here.

All hooked up and insulated again.
With everything hooked back up, I left the washing machine out from the wall for the next load so we could monitor it. I’m pleased to say that everything went just fine this time around, and we’re now back in business!

Warming up the Cabin After Christmas Break



January 7, 2017



After a lovely time with my parents in Waterloo, we returned from Christmas holidays to the cabin on New Year’s Day.

Grandpa had started a fire in the morning, but it had long since gone out by the time I arrived.


Only 7 below isn’t bad either. It’s currently about -27 as I type this!
I promptly started a fire and was able to have the cabin inhabitable by that night – although as always, it cooled off quickly again overnight, but after a day I believe we had it mostly warmed up.

There were a couple of nice blessings. Grandpa had shovelled or swept off the bottom few solar panels while we were gone – when I arrived on a sunny day, the top panels had cleared themselves as well, so we were getting decent production. I had fully charged the batteries the day we left, and so they were still full as I had shut off the power while we were gone. That was nice.

After reinstalling the whole house filter, water pumped immediately! The well hadn’t frozen in a week of disuse! I can’t really know whether to attribute this to the bubbler I had installed in the fall, or if there was enough snow on the wellhead to insulate it appropriately. Either way, that was a tremendous boon!

Interestingly enough, the water line between the bathroom and the kitchen must have a dip in it that collects water, as the bathroom sink didn’t run water for two days. I guess it took that long to thaw the water line down in the floor. Something to keep in mind I guess.

Now that Kenny’s birthday activities have finished up, it’s time to get settled in to the remainder of winter. At least the days are getting longer and longer, and the consistently grey skies should be behind us for the most part. I’ve been running both generators much more than in the past, and that’s also helped to keep us more comfortable. I’ve even been able to run our tiny space heater on low on a particularly sunny day when the batteries were already mostly charged.