The AikiHomestead

Our Lifestyle Blog as We Create a Homestead in Northern Ontario

Storm Windows Again

November 5, 2019

Whelp, this year now that the cabin framing has been completed, I decided that even if they are scratched and dirty, I’ll put the acrylic storm windows back up and see how well they work. I put some of the thin film on the patio door, and it bulged in like a balloon right away! I guess those patio doors are VERY leaky!

Because of the new trim and framing around the windows – the old pieces generally didn’t fit without some tweaking. I tried doing that with a combination of my circular saw and my band saw. Maybe I shouldn’t have sold my unopened, brand new table saw to the fellows who did the trim work!

I think my face says it all here. Grrr.

Moved further from the saw, that helps. Note the bright sun and light snow – the snow on the porch roof was melting and creating lots of ice-cold run off at that perimeter.
In any case, in spite of one chipped corner, and loud squeals, and tiny flying chips of acrylic, the cutting didn’t go horrifyingly bad.

The tough parts are trying to install them in the upper windows of the main cabin – I really need to build a catwalk out to those areas in future I think. I wonder…???

Capturing my best side.

Still a tight fit. Using the old fist hammer to get it in place.
Something I tried previously, and went all-in on this year was putting Dollarama drapery tension rods in the window frames to help hold the acrylic in place – the tape sometimes was wanting when it came to the entire piece, especially when there was air pressure and dampness involved.

Taping the edges with painter’s tape – I splurged on cream coloured tape this year rather than the cheap green stuff – So decadent! Nota bene: the drip marks down my back from the ice water off the porch roof.
I’m going to order a few new pieces – during me bringing the old ones out of storage, several fell and broke – Kenny can attest to my near curses and cries of “no no NO NO!” as they fell like dominoes and shattered.

Hopefully I can come up with improvements each year.

Oh yeah, we’re already 10% into our woodpile.

Cleaning the filthy panes on our bed – only a guy would do something like that, right? At least if you look carefully, you can see old bath towels underneath!

Pizza Topology

November 3, 2019

So we had a late Thanksgiving Dinner this year (late by Canadian Standards – it was the last weekend in October). It was awesome. Mummu and Grandpa and E! visited us, and we made mashed potatoes, turkey roll with stuffing, gravy, roasted turnip, rice, and rolls, and our guests brought cake and cheesecake for dessert.

A night or two later, I was ready for leftovers, but Kenny wanted pizza. I compromised – pizza, but I get to put the leftovers on it! Thanksgiving Pizza! Outrageous!

Kenny wanted just plain pepperoni – I didn’t want either of us to wait for our pizzas to be ready – but the pan clearly couldn’t accommodate two pizzas at the same time – or could it?

Creative pre-cutting to the rescue!

Pretty much the whole deal, right here.

But now with mashed potatoes on one.

And turkey/stuffing just dumped on.

Donna wanted the turnip on a bit – she can have it. Who am I? Baldrick?
I am so smrt!

No Hem Hem

November 2, 2019

So I wake up at midnight. Bummer – can’t get back to sleep. It’s still almost four am and here I am blogging.

At about one thirty, laying in bed, I’m thinking about insulating the windows and other window-related stuff, when it occurs to me that later today I’m to be at Mummu’s and I had wanted to hem our “drapes” as for the past two or more years, the bottom has been dragging on the floor and the back of the chesterfield.

Roomba fodder – not to mention the rolling cart parks on it and it just looks untidy.
Suddenly, as only late night ideas do, it came to me out of the blue…

Looks fine, maybe even good! And no sewing required!

Did I just admit that it took me over two years to think of this?

Beauty! I think there’s even a name for this effect – a topper? Ahhh, it’s a cafe curtain with a faux valance. There you go!

Protecting Mama’s Car

October 24, 2019

So this year we set up a much large quonset shelter for Mama to park her car in during the winter. Of course, on one of her test parks with Kenny in the back seat, someone opened their door a bit too vigourously and banged it against the steel support posts of the shelter.

No harm was done, but we didn’t look forward to future occurrences. Mama suggested I pick up some pool noodles to wrap around the poles – an ever so clever idea! Unfortunately, pool noodles are no longer in the dollar stores at this time of year. They don’t trot out the spring/summer merchandise until more towards the end of January. (Not sure if I’m exaggerating or not on that point…)

But I’m always happy to find new uses for old products – and what is a pool noodle other than a colourful version of regular pipe insulation?

Kenny and I bought three lengths, chopped it in half, and it was already pre-split down the side! Perfect! A few zip ties, and now we’re slamming doors to our hearts content!

My awesome personal assistant! He needs a raise!

Tie wraps work just perfect here.

Three sections should cover all possible car positions.

Shoveling Manure – Keeping it Real

September 20, 2019

So it’s September, time to muck out the humanure hacienda! This year it wasn’t quite as overflowing as usual, so it hasn’t been too bad (I haven’t quite finished yet).

Of course, I’m only taking out one side of the enclosure – so it has had a year to decompose. I can assure you that there’s nothing scary there. I can identify some eggshells, and the occasional bone, but all the turds have long since returned to dust.

The sawdust breaks down so slowly, that I’ve realized that it will be more like decades before this stuff could actually be useful as compost. As such, I’ve spread it in a few different locations, but this year again, I found a lovely spot at the top of the ravine where I have been throwing brush. I spread the sawdust on this area, and dream of a few hundred years from now when it could actually form a dam across the ravine, and bring back a lovely river!

Nice fresh trailer, ready to go!

Makes for a good chance to listen to a podcast.

Can you believe the pile was originally up over the top edge? It really shrinks!

Trailer just about full!

And now dropping it on brush in the ravine. Ashes to ashes…

It’s going to be awhile before it reaches the bottom of the ravine, let alone crosses it!

Late Quonset Intelligentsia

September 16, 2019

As you know, last year we tried purchasing a quonset shelter for Donna to park her car in during the winter months. It worked really well in the sense of making the morning start to her workday much easier – no more sweeping off loads of snow and scraping windows.

As you also know, I didn’t give any forethought to sizing it, so she could only pull in the front end of the car, and it was a bit of a gymnastics routine to slide into the driver’s seat each morning to back out.

This year, I had been watching carefully for the sales to occur on a larger sized shelter. When I saw a 12×20 on at half price, I decided to strike.

First off, we decided that last year’s shelter should be relocated to the other side of our first “parking” area – and the new one should go where the old one was. The new one, being twice as deep, would have stuck out uncomfortably into the actual driveway otherwise As such, it fits in neat as button where it is.

After moving the original shelter, I pegged it down with some railway spikes, although the front corners I only managed a short bolt into the gravel, as the bedrock is only a couple inches below the surface there.

The new shelter went in just great. I opted to leave off the front door altogether, as we’d never rolled down the original one, and the snow rarely blows in from the east. Leaving off the door panel and “trim” around it made the entrance feel much larger and easier to navigate as well.

I pegged it down with railway spikes as well. They aren’t ideal, as they aren’t threaded or anything, but they did work all last year.

So anyway, all was well with the homestead for a couple of weeks. Then, the end of this past week we received weather warnings about the 50mm of rain to come. And it did come. During the night I even heard our chairs blow over and off the deck!

Well, taking my after supper walk with Kenny on Friday evening, I noted that the old quonset looked a little odd. On further examination, I could see that there was a bicycle holding up the one side of it. That wasn’t in my original plans.

Something isn’t quite right here.
Kenny helped as I extracted everything from inside. At first I thought perhaps I had forgotten to peg it down, but no – there were nails dangling from the sides and corners; they had simply pulled out.

Fortunately it was the small one, and a bit of grunting and switching from side to side and corner to corner managed to reposition it satisfactorily.

I repegged the back corners and sides, but at the front, I found a serendipitous pair of half sized cinder blocks that worked just great! It will have to be a real gale to move it around this time!

The blocks were an inspired choice!

I had to rethread the strap to tie it all together.

I also did the opposite side for symmetry.
Of course, now I have a slight worry about the one we’re parking the car in… Once the snow falls on the sides though, I’m sure it won’t be going anywhere!

Reloaded, all is well with the world.

Gyoza Overflow!

August 25, 2019

I really, REALLY wanted to steam all the Japanese dumplings I bought, but the basket for our little rice steamer just couldn’t contain them all.

Mmmm, Gyoza!
Where there’s a will (and a silicon bowl) there’s a way!

Mmmm, tasty dumplings incoming! Where’s the soy sauce?

A Tough Night For Bunny

August 22, 2019

Got some nice pictures of the Lynx on the camera!

But something tells me the bunny here isn’t having the best time.

Kludgy USB Cable

August 13, 2019

The other day Donna pointed out that once again, the summer season represented the time when I go more than a month between blog posts.

It seems this is usually the time of year when we combine a trip south with activities that just don’t feel quite as blogworthy.

And as such, here’s a quick post to try to relieve some guilt.

For backing up our family photos and files, I have recently switched from Dropbox, which recently announced a nearly 30-50% increase in the yearly fee, to Resilio.

It hasn’t been totally smooth, but it wasn’t too bad once I understood how it worked better.

In order to make it work more like a Dropbox, it did require an always-on computer in the mix. I couldn’t provide one with reasonably low power requirements for cheap, but then I came up with a pretty useful solution – an nVidia SHIELD android box. I could run Resilio on it. As a side benefit, I could also run Foldersync on it (for full Dropbox emulation for clients), and it acted as a Plex media server. So I feel smug and clever that I have it using Foldersync to both sync with clients’ Dropbox accounts, as well as my own online seedbox.

But alas, all was not to last. nVidia, to their credit, released an update over the past month or so that kicked in while we were on vacation. It updated the SHIELD to a newer version of Android, and that ended up borking all my sideloaded apps.

I tried resetting, but that only cleared my settings. Adding back Foldersync and Resilio just caused the lockups to return. Argh!

I should note at this point that these two apps are sideloaded, as they are not officially supported on the SHIELD. It’s a shame, as there is no reason for them not to run on it, and in fact, they expand its usefulness exponentially.

I finally settled on flashing the device back to the “7.2.3” firmware, rather than the latest “8.0.0” which caused me so much heartache.

First up, I had to go to the city to find a wired USB keyboard – I have several wireless ones, but they didn’t seem to detect properly on the SHIELD.

Then I also had to come up with a USB A Male to USB A Male – I’d only seen one of these once ever on an old external drive enclosure.

I found none at Best Buy or Marnics, but then there was one at Staples for $40. Steep! I bought it, but then right away found a multi-adapter kit at Wal-Mart that included the A to A male fittings, so I returned the one from Staples.

Arriving home I got all the stuff assembled and hooked up, but alas – loads of errors while trying to flash!

Eventually I read a few troubleshooters suggesting that poor USB cables cause those sorts of transmission errors, and the Walmart kit sure had thin, thin wire.

At last I gave up, and cut down two cheap cables I already had, and wired them together. The transmission went halfway before giving up due to errors – progress?

I then went all-in, and the half cable with the thinnest wire, I cut right down against the connector, so now it was a short (about 30cm) cable, but with the thickest wires I had available. Hooking this beast up worked right away!

That’s a weird lighting effect around the ends of the cable. Yes, that’s scotch tape protecting my solder job.
I now have my SHIELD back to 7.2.3 – and strangely enough, I didn’t lose my user account settings, although everything else was reset. Later today I’ll get on sideloading my apps back. This will be super-annoying if my problems persist. Oh yes, I also turned off auto-updating of both apps and the system.

Hmmm, maybe this post really belongs on Weird Tales of IT?

Flett Tunnel

June 14, 2019

A peaceful, idyllic trip planned to an abandoned railway line.

A group of enthusiastic young homeschoolers, eager for a romp through nature, exploring and seeking out fun and interesting geocaches.

Moms and tots, Dad and preteens, sunny skies and (relatively) few flies.

The entire group of us either trotting briskly with dignity or running screaming from the tunnel as a lumbering behemoth approaches.

record scratch
How did we get here? It all began over one hundred years ago as the Grand Trunk Railroad grew eager to take advantage of the budding Canadian identity’s requirement to be linked coast to coast. Content at first to build up a network of rail lines around the Great Lakes, they realized that the Canadian Pacific’s westward expansion was turning into a bigger deal than they had expected. As such, they planned their own line linking Fort William with Winnipeg. Unfortunately, as they worked their way westward, creating alphabetically organized nodes, Alba, Baird, Crest, Dorval (?), Ellis, they reached a barrier at “F”lett – a rock formation that couldn’t be avoided on their way to Griff.

Wait, that’s too far back. How about just four months ago?

That’s when the Music Workshop School decided to book the Waverley Library Auditorium for their end of year recitals – thus overriding the “tech club” and our usual Thursday afternoon booking for two consecutive weeks in June.

We bumped our bookings to the local Gameshelf/Bookshelf, but then there was further discussion of maybe mixing things up a bit.

Kenny and I had long discussed visiting this tunnel that we had read about in some local hiking blogs. Once again, we hoisted the flag of Flett tunnel, and saw a couple of fellow homeschoolers willing to trust us to lead them to a new adventure – in the real world! What a radical notion!

We met at the Emerald Greens Golf Course promptly at 1:20 – amazingly for homeschooling families of various sizes and ages, we were all there not just on time, but early – Kenny could hardly believe it, but I had had faith.

I reiterated our directions – head west on Dawson Road/102 until Sistonen’s Corners, then follow the highway to the right and onto the 11/17/Trans Canada Highway. Follow that until Finmark Road and then turn right there. Follow that until we either turn onto Flett Road, or it becomes Flett Road (conflicting maps and directions made it hard to say for certain – as it turns out, it bears to the left a bit more significantly than to the right, and there is a sign marked “Flett Road” pointing straight through at that spot).

Continue a bit further, until you’re certain that the road will soon peter out, and then if you’re lucky, your Google Maps GPS will tell you to turn hard left onto the old rail bed – it’s perfectly driveable for most any vehicle. Kenny and I were in our 2WD Ranger, followed by three other crossover type vehicles, and the going was just fine.

Eventually the rail bed started to get a little more… potholy? And then the look of the trees up ahead became distinctly dark. The GPS announced we had arrived, although there wasn’t much to see other than an inky shadow on the road ahead. I pulled off a bit to the side, shut off the engine, and hopped out of the truck. Ahead on the road lay the maw of the tunnel – it was at once surreal, exciting, beautiful and, dare I say, cool!

So uhm, is that it? Or just a really overgrown part of the rail bed?

Puddles are never NOT interesting!
We examined our surroundings, collected the various children and gear we wanted to carry, and proceeded the remaining few metres to the tunnel entrance.

Large pools of water awaited at the mouth of the tunnel, but along the sides were wide, dry sections of crushed gravel that made it very, very accessible. No need to get my slippers wet here!

The bugs, even at this time of year, were either not too bad, or else the wonder and interest of the place made them entirely forgettable.

We headed straight through the tunnel for our first run. The children were already completely at ease, and had reached the far end of the 300 metre tunnel just as the grown ups were entering it. I give them credit – it was very dark in the centre area, but the light at each end made it quite tolerable and comfortable to be in. No sense of being closed in in the least.

I’m just approaching it, the kids are already at the far end!

Who knows what they are plotting?

Needs more lens flare! JJ Abrams? Where are you?
Graffiti was not nearly as bad as it could have been, and the garbage wasn’t terribly offensive. There were a few plastic bottles, a few cans, and only one glass bottle – intact. We planned on gathering it up before we left – but then, due to the incident… Well, I get ahead of myself.

Emma, Stu, I hope your love is as strong as this rock. 💘💘💘💘💘
N! joked privately with me about how fun it would be to make a loud train sound and to see the reactions of everyone there – I knew that Kenny had an authentic train whistle somewhere – but of course, we never thought to bring it.

N!, clearly contemplating something dark, disturbing and nefarious.
…or else thinking of Calvin and Hobbes, it could go either way.
At the far end, I walked a short distance beyond the tunnel and discovered a marked trail off to the left that clearly circled back to the top of the cave. I wasn’t interested in mentioning that to the group – I would not have enjoyed the notion of all those kids running rampant up around the unprotected roof-edge of the tunnel.

Teenage me – wicked cool cliff!
Adult me – keep those kids away from there!
Am I… Old?
The TeamKim family opened up their geocaching app and proceeded to tell us that there was a cache hidden somewhere in the tunnel! I returned to the truck and retrieved my phone, and there were at least three of us with our phone flashlights on, picking our way along the sides of the tunnel, seeking out a small “treasure-box”.

Everyone was in on the search!
Luckily, I overheard the matriarch of their team remark that the cache was hidden close to the “Jeep” – I knew where that was! I had taken a photo of it not five minutes earlier!

Jeep? What Jeep? (True confession – at first I thought it said “BEER”)
Rushing down, we quickly found the small box behind a rock. S! opened it up while everyone gathered around. C! and M! enumerated the contents as we all basked in the sense of discovery, adventure and satisfaction at having found a modern-day buried treasure.

Suddenly, in a scene reminiscent of Stand By Me (props to LA! for posting this clip to the group within the hour), shouts of “Truck!” reverberated down the tunnel – a fully laden logging truck was barreling down the abandoned rail line – directly towards us!

We headed back to our vehicles at a brisk pace – some at a run, some a brisk walk. This was fairly unexpected – although in hindsight, I do recall seeing at least one small sign warning of something like “warning – truck traffic” – but I didn’t think at the time that it could be a very likely occurrence – and certainly no transport truck would be on such a road and willing to travel through the tunnel! How wrong I was.

I’ll take “Things you don’t expect to find in an abandoned train tunnel for $1000 Alex”.
Getting back to the vehicles, it was obvious that we hadn’t pulled over far enough for a truck to pass unimpeded. We quickly decided that we had had enough adventure for that moment, and turned our vehicles around.
Kenny and I led the way back along the rail line, pulling over in a wide spot with lovely lilacs on one side of the bed, and huge mountains of creosoted ties on the other. The truck passed us by and disappeared around the bend as we waited to be sure everyone was re-assembled.
Convoy once again in formation, we headed back along Flett and Finmark road until we came upon the truck and driver. He had pulled over (with enough room for us to pass) and was conscientiously re-tightening his load.
As I passed by I rolled down my window and asked him how often he encounters surprised hikers blocking the way.
“Every single day.” he replied patiently, with a tight-lipped smirk.

Ice? In June? Only in Thunder Bay!

Donna spotted a king’s face in this picture – pareidolia at work?

Post Blog Blooper Reel:
Heading back down Highway 11/17, Gary Numan’s Magnum Opus blaring on the truck speaker (more relevant to our modern world than ever, I must say. I *DO* feel safest of all when I’m in my car, cut off from society), suddenly my bluetooth kicked in with a jarring 8-bit version of “Ride of the Valkyries” – someone was calling me?
You get what you pay for, and I had paid for a $25 bluetooth stereo from Walmart. I could just make out the voice of TeamKim leader asking if Kenny and I were game to search out another nearby geocache at Sunshine.
“Heck Yeah!” we replied (well, actually, we fumbled for five minutes to turn off the bluetooth on my phone and then Kenny mustered all his enthusiasm into “I guess so”). We’re always looking to keep the party rollin’!
We pulled over at the Sunshine Loop cutoff and assessed. Unfortunately, LM!, N! and S! had to pass the vehicle torch, so they were going to take a polite pass. L! was able to inspire C! and M! to agree, and Kenny repeated his new mantra – “I’m willing to try new things” – as always, in an utterly convincing monotone voice.
We followed the GPS about a kilometer and a half north of the highway where we met up with our old nemesis – well, I guess not that old – it was the same rail bed we had left about twenty minutes earlier! In fact, it was basically the Ellis node location!
There was a rust coloured gate hanging limply across the rail bed to keep interlocutors out (that is to say, people who TALK about being interlopers).
We swarmed all over it, but found nada, zilch, nothing, the big goose egg. Luckily, an errant finger poking into the open end of a bar of square stock felt something more… plastic than steel.
Sliding out a small magnetic hide-a-key, we knew we had triumphed yet again! Score two for TeamKim!
I’m quite certain that everyone appreciated being able to claim two victories in the hunt for treasure in a single day. Perhaps we will expand our group interests into the realm of geocaching?
But that, is another story…

Disaster Strikes my Wood Rack!

May 26, 2019

During the course of the winter, I observed the rack of wood that I had set aside for possible sauna construction begin to tip over.

I had hoped that it would hold out until the snow melted, but I guess it wasn’t to be. One morning I woke up to it being completely over. No harm I figured – I’ll unload it and all will be well again.

Hey, this stuff can be heavy!
I was wrong. You can see that the legs on the back actually sank deep into the clay before it tipped, and that bent the legs terribly.

Awww, that’s not right!
I guess I’ll just use the angle grinder to remove the lower section of legs and have a slightly shorter shelf when I move it to a more stable location.

Live, and hopefully learn.

First Campfire of 2019!

May 25, 2019

Kenny’s been asking for a campfire for a week or two now, so last weekend we decided to give it a spin.

I used some very dry old lumber, which burned up way too quickly. Time to get a bag of charcoal for the hibachi, and maybe use some of my precious birch for the campfires.

Bring on the skewers!


May 24, 2019

I’ve been sitting on these pictures for a little while – just wanted to show the snow accumulation in front of the woodshed.

Be careful! That’s a sharp edge!

So pouty.

Bonus Hacienda picture. That’s the resting side.

Total Teardown of our Solar Power System – Switching from Flooded to AGM L-16 Batteries

May 16, 2019

Our solar power system has been working very well for us for the past five or more years. It has washed our clothes, cooked our food, boiled some of our water, kept the lights on, charged our devices, powered our internet connection and, occasionally, even thrown off some heat here and there.

Of course, so much of our experiences here on the homestead have been punctuated by “if I was doing it over again…” sort of thoughts. I finally managed to revisit two of them related to our solar power in the past couple of weeks.

Originally I had intended to put the batteries under the cabin. This was before I realized that flooded batteries off-gas and need to be properly ventilated. I wasn’t too enthused with having something potentially explosive underfoot, and I also wasn’t excited about having to isolate them and ventilate them to make that situation workable.

Instead, I put thick insulation inside of a deck box, drilled large holes through the cabin, and hoped for the best.

This did work just fine for half the year, but once the mercury dropped to twenty below and further, the capacity of those batteries was severely curtailed. We could have a full charge in them by four (on the very rare days when there was that much sun available), and yet, by morning, they were just able to make it to lunch when the sun was finally back on them. I suppose it’s unfair to expect them to do all their required work on only four hours of sun in that perspective, even if we do shut off the power after we go to bed.

I tried installing warming pads to raise the temperature, and thus capacity of the batteries. This had a mild positive effect.

Finally, while freezing my fingers and watering the batteries, I rethought about bringing the batteries indoors. If I switched to sealed AGM batteries, I could solve three issues at once.

I wouldn’t have to water them anymore, as the water in batteries isn’t normally permitted to escape to the atmosphere during electrolysis.

They wouldn’t take up so much space on our back deck.

They would *stay warmer* – and thus have much more capacity available to us through the winter months.

The big question – where to store them indoors? The crawlspace was inconvenient to access them if required. The main floor simply didn’t have any free space. The upstairs rooms also were already pretty tight. So I went even higher. The attic?

Four L-16 batteries at 52kg is just over 200kg in total. This is like having three copies of myself in the attic. Something in that perspective would never concern me.

Fortunately, two weeks ago my friend B! was visiting, so we purchased some 3/4″ plywood and sliced it up to fit across the joists in the attic. I had enough that I even doubled it up to be extra sure.

We also mounted the remaining pieces carefully on the end wall directly under the solar panels. One other consideration is that the batteries really need to be kept as close as possible to the inverter to prevent too much in the way of line losses.

This is the first board mounted on the wall – ready for my electronics.

This is where the solar panel leads come into the cabin. This is just a 4 gauge jumper cable I bought on sale – it worked great and was much cheaper than purchasing wire off the shelf!
This had the knock on effect of solving my other big issue with the existing solar power setup – all my electronics were in the master bedroom on the main floor, and the truth is, the Magnasine inverter/charger was a bit noisy. It has a definite, noticeable hum. We had learned to mostly tune it out, but it still was there whenever you were trying to listen to the radio or television quietly.

It also just made the room look and feel cluttered having the inverter, charge controller, and a small breaker box all in the same corner of our already cozy bedroom.

Most of the electronics are pulled out. Look at that rat’s nest of wiring!
All my cabin wiring congregated to this spot, so we did have to deal with that restriction – we ended up running conduit from that corner of the bedroom all the way through the loft room above, and into the attic, right between where the batteries would rest, and where the electronics would get mounted. It looks just fine to me! Just like the work I did in the kitchen.

In order to make the wiring fit, I still needed to add two more boxes. I used this chance to mount switches or outlets in these boxes, so I could manually switch off circuits in the cabin without having to go to the attic to throw a breaker. We also needed an outlet there for the digital electronics that were to remain – the modem, router, nVidia shield, bedroom television…

I ran two sections of conduit – one contained all the power related wires, and the other I pulled control cables (and the ground cable) through – the solar controller has a web server to show its state with, and I didn’t want to give that up for anything. So I pulled an RJ-45 wire for it. Also, the inverter had its own controller on a standard telephone cable – I pulled that through too.

A view of the new conduit from the upstairs office/guest bedroom.
I hired my contractor to help me carry up the batteries – it was a three man job, but not too bad after that.

Batteries all lined up behind the access door.
Same with the inverter – the Magnasine is surprisingly heavy.

After about and hour and a half, my contractor and his hired man were finished, and I was left to slave most of the day away finishing the wiring.

I connected up the lines to the batteries, including two temperature monitors (one for the solar charger, one for the inverter/charger). I plugged the network cable into the solar charge controller and… no dice. The cable was either too long, or damaged, or something. I tried it a few different ways, and ended up having to pull ALL the lines out of that conduit, replace the network cable, and refeed them in again – that was NOT fun. I added lots of dish soap to try to make it a bit smoother to pull them back through, and that definitely did help.

Batteries all interconnected, the two temperature probes are in the lower left of the picture.

Golly that inverter was heavy! Note the baking sheet fireproof mount :).
Then, the really scary moment of truth – installing the 100amp fuse on the DC cable from the batteries. As the capacitors in the inverter charge, there is always an off-putting spark. It’s not fun, but perhaps I’m getting use to it. I believe this was the third time I’ve gotten to experience it (there’s a video of the spark at this link).

Looking pretty good. I’ve cleaned up and fastened the wiring since this picture.
Over the next couple of days, I finished up the wiring in the bedroom, and moving out the electronics has also given me a bit more wall space there, which I just filled with a few leftover chrome shelves that fit nicely. Now I have a spot to hang a few of my “dress” clothes – and I was able to reposition the laser printer, and my tiny “work” shelf where I place computers and laptops as I work on them. It’s nice that I can have all my digital hookups in that one space.

I still need to repanel the wall now to go right to the corner.

Nice work area! Sorry for the potato quality.
It’s been a hard push to get this all dealt with, but watching the batteries charge up and hold such a good charge right through to the next morning has been very gratifying. It’s also so quiet in the bedroom now – the only sound is the fridge compressor in the other room, and that’s only while it’s running. It also makes the room darker, without the lights of the inverter and charge controller (the latter of which ALWAYS displayed its state via bright LED lights (how’s that for RAS syndrome?)).

Now in winter I’ll only have to worry about the amount of sun we receive, and not so much the temperature as I believe the attic stays at a pretty moderate climate.

Bonus May 9 weather condition picture.

Follow-up to Aeration for Iron Mitigation – Problem Solved?

May 14, 2019

I don’t want to get ahead of myself or jinx things, but there has been a definite and very noticeable difference in the water situation since I began aerating the well water on a daily basis.

Previously, water taken directly from the tap and boiled on the woodstove suffered severely from the iron being concentrated – as we poured out the kettle or the insulated bottle, the final second or two of the pour would suddenly be full on brown. We only used this water for washing dishes, and they were always rinsed again afterwards, so while it was annoying, it wasn’t severely distressing.

In any case, since the aerator has been operating, this has no longer been happening. The water in the bottom of the kettle or insulated bottle has been as clear as the top pour.

I’m really, really excited. I’ll be sure to follow up if things change back again.

Aeration to Mitigate Iron in the Water – An Experiment

April 23, 2019

So we’ve never had to use the heat cable in our well as the daily pumping to the holding tank in the kitchen has always managed to keep the well water open. That’s a blessing that I really cannot stress enough.

Unfortunately, the water that we pump is just lousy, lousy, lousy with iron. We don’t even begin to entertain the notion of white clothes. Our Berkey filters are covered in about four millimeters of sludge every time I try to wash them. If we don’t run the bathroom tap for a day for some reason, the water comes out very gritty, or sometimes like chocolate milk :(.

We don’t have enough pressure or space for any fancy filtering systems, so I’ve had to seek out ideas that are decidedly low technology, low space, and with low power requirements.

I had heard a few indications that injecting air into your water system would somehow precipitate out the iron – maybe it discourages the bacteria that fix it? I’m not completely sure, but I’m willing to try things. So with that in mind, Kenny and I hit up the local big box pet store and purchased the largest bubbler we could find. I’ve tried smaller bubblers in the past, but they’ve been too dependent on small solar panels, or had to be manually started every time I wanted them to run. This is my last attempt at a larger setup.

My parts assembled. What a neatly made bed!
The pump had four outputs, which was three more than I really thought I needed. I bought two T connectors and brought that down to two outputs. I also bought two long air stones and twenty-five feet of air hose.

Setting up the T connectors.

And the finished setup. Looks good to me!
I assembled most of this, and then waited for the well to finally melt out of the snow.

Once we could see the cover, Kenny dug a lovely trench from the cabin down to the well, and I headed down to check things out.

Exciting! We can see the well again!
The water level was worryingly close to my outlet inside, which is a situation I’ve been aware of for some time. I disconnected the heating cable, and then hooked up the air pump instead.

Making sure that (with the power turned off) the plug is above the waterline.
I lowered the air stone to the bottom of the well and trimmed the hose into two lengths that would allow the stones to be fully submerged to the stone base. Unfortunately, no bubbles developed at that depth. Sigh. I raised the stones up until I felt that there was a good supply of bubbles coming through the water, and fastened the hoses in place. I realize that the bubbler is in a precarious position, but this is both an experiment, and the best I could realistically do.

Looks a little crazy, but it shouldn’t be able to go anywhere.

Had to lift up the stones off the bottom before I got good bubble production.
Indoors I’ve been trying to press the timer switch in the kitchen that was normally reserved for the heating cable. It has a maximum time of thirty minutes, which is far less than I think the bubbler really needs to run. I plan on replacing it with a daily timer as soon as I can purchase one. It seems to draw so little power, I could probably just leave it on constantly, but in winter I may want to be able to have more granular control, so I think the timer with more features is the way to go.

I guess it may take a week or two or three to flush out the current system and begin to see any results, if any are to be seen. I’ll try to post back. In the meantime, wish us luck!

Kenny was inspired to begin work on our next video game and this is a key scene – coincidence? I think not!

Self-Directed Homeschooling

April 18, 2019

As part of our routine of homeschooling, on so-called “regular day”s, Kenny usually cracks open a lesson book at or above his contemporaries’ grade level. Yesterday he was exempted from any lessons as I had to do computer calls that took up the entire morning. He comes along with me for most of these, and I feel that interacting with adults and watching me work count for an educational experience.

The day before this though was a regular day, and he worked away at his mathematics lesson on squares and square roots. I was impressed at how many he tried to do in his head, but I did give him permission to use a calculator for ones that I didn’t have memorized or couldn’t do easily myself.

This is what he’s been working on lately.
We have a Google Home Mini, but for some reason, he prefers to use the calculator for things like this, as he also does for spelling. Go figure.

Part way through the lesson, he noted that while 12^2 is 144, 21^2 is the correspondingly interesting value of 441.

He mused if other examples existed. I quickly pointed out that 001^2 is 1, and 10^2 is 100. I wonder just how impressive my mathematical feat was to him, as he was able to contain his admiration completely.

Grabbing a small notebook he used as a scratch pad, he began working his way through the squares from 1 to 99. At least, this was his ambition.

I’m lazy efficient, and mused if it wouldn’t be easier to write a computer programme to calculate these squares and simply print them out in a format that one could more quickly skim them. It was in under an hour that he had written a python script that actually did the squares AS WELL AS the comparison.

I’ll attach the script at the end, feel free to copy as you will. Please note that while I’m a coder from old, I have no experience with Python – all of this coding was his from start to finish; I don’t know how it works.

In case you’re curious, it turns out that there are four of these relationships in a row, then three, followed by two and then a single outlier before the pattern vanishes.

Score one for homeschooling allowing him the ability to go down a side road that would rarely be permitted in a regular environment!

Here’s his code:

s1 = 0
s2 = 0
s = 0
stbf = 0
while s < 99:
s = s1 + (s2 * 10)
st = s * s
if len(str(st)) == 1:
st1 = st
st2 = 0
st3 = 0
st4 = 0
elif len(str(st)) == 2:
st1 = str(st)[1]
st2 = str(st)[0]
st3 = 0
st4 = 0
elif len(str(st)) == 3:
st1 = str(st)[2]
st2 = str(st)[1]
st3 = str(st)[0]
st4 = 0
elif len(str(st)) == 4:
st1 = str(st)[3]
st2 = str(st)[2]
st3 = str(st)[1]
st4 = str(st)[0]
sb = str(s1) + str(s2)
stb = int(sb) * int(sb)
if len(str(stb)) == 1:
stbf = “000” + str(stb)
elif len(str(stb)) == 2:
stbf = “00” + str(stb)
elif len(str(stb)) == 3:
stbf = “0” + str(stb)
elif len(str(stb)) == 4:
stbf = str(stb)

stbf1 = str(stbf)[3]
stbf2 = str(stbf)[2]
stbf3 = str(stbf)[1]
stbf4 = str(stbf)[0]
if len(str(stb)) == 1:
stbfb = int(stbf1)
elif len(str(stb)) == 2:
stbfb = int(stbf1 + stbf2)
elif len(str(stb)) == 3:
stbfb = int(stbf1 + stbf2 + stbf3)
elif len(str(stb)) == 4:
stbfb = int(stbf1 + stbf2 + stbf3 + stbf4)
a1 = int(str(st4) + str(st3) + str(st2) + str(st1))
a = “NO”
if int(a1) == int(stbfb):
a = “YES”
print str(s2) + str(s1) + “|” + str(st4) + str(st3) + str(st2) + str(st1) + “| |” + str(sb) + “|” + str(stbf) + “| |” + str(a)
s1 += 1
if s1 == 10:
s1 = 0
s2 += 1
while True:
a = a

First Electric Water Boiling of the Year!

March 24, 2019

The other day we finally reached a nice, solid float voltage on the batteries with a few hours of good sunlight left in the day, so I opted to plug in the induction stove and warm a full kettle of water using the power of the sun!

Whistling merrily along here, but hard to see the steam. Let’s try a different angle!

Whelp, this isn’t much better, but you sure can see how bright the sun is!

High Snow


Everyone seems to agree that we’ve received an above average amount of snow here this winter. A couple of days ago it finally warmed up above freezing and things started to melt. This caused the snow to slide off the front porch of the cabin in dramatic fashion – as well as completely around the wood shed.

Child for scale:

We just have to repeat this picture once the snow is gone to see how the bank stacks up.

He’s waist-high to the top of the humanure hacienda!

Wildlife Update: 9 March, 2019 (Fox)

March 10, 2019

Here’s some beautiful shots from my latest card swap.

Didn’t even notice it on the thumbnail!

But then saw the footprints developing.

What a warm tail that must be.

Condensation in the Cabin

March 1, 2019

The extended periods of -30 degree weather played havoc here at the homestead.

The most egregious issue was around the chimney. Inside my little attic chimney room, the air must have been extremely cold, and when moisture infiltrated from the cabin itself, it froze within the rock wool insulation. Once temperatures warmed up to a more balmy twenty below, that moisture condensed and ran back down the chimney and onto the woodstove. I set up an aluminum foil “trough” to direct the water into a stock pot on the stovetop, but it still stained the wood around the chimney, and has given me another attic project for this summer – try to seal it up more vapour tight than it already is.

Looks fine from above.

Not so much from below.

My fancy indoor eave’s trough.

Very frosty window!

Ugh, more water issues.

I really need to frame this door properly, look at that frosty buildup!

Gaps like this sure don’t help the situation!

Replacing the Voltage Regulator on my Outlander XT

February 25, 2019

This is probably going to be a pretty short post – it’s a very simple job to do.

My new regulator finally arrived after about a month of waiting, but again, it was $35 instead of the $215 that I was to be charged for buying it locally.

Finally arrived! Note Kenny’s artwork.
Remove the old voltage regulator from beside the battery – use a 10mm socket.

Nothing to it, two bolts and a plug and play connector.
Unplug the six contact connector, and plug the new one in.

Bolt the new regulator to the frame and you’re good to go.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see much different to my battery voltages – either the AGM battery operates at a much lower voltage than I expected, or my problem is elsewhere. We’ll see. At least my setup that allows the ATV to charge off the garage power is still going strong.

Empanadas Aiki Style

February 24, 2019

Recently we had two different sets of guests here at the homestead.

First up we had visitors that had been at the homestead in it’s earliest days – my friend’s two daughters returned to experience a Canadian winter after having spent the past year or two in Paraguay – lucky them! They arrived just in time to experience an extended period of -30 degree weather! Needless to say, we played loads of video games, although they did get a chance to try out our sledding hill in the ravine, as well as our nightly walks up and down our laneway.

The day they arrived, we stopped at a large grocery store and I quizzed them on their favourite foods. F! suggested that empanadas were her current favourite, and amazingly, we found a tray of them shortly afterwards and brought it home to enjoy.

I had never had them before; they seem like a meat pie with “Latin American”? spices. I liked them very much!

Last week my sister arrived to visit (after many hiccoughs due to poor weather around Toronto) and while the weather was better suited to some outdoor activities, we also continued to explore and enjoy the retropie gaming console that Kenny and I had assembled a few months ago. She got us hooked on Kirby’s Avalanche! It’s sure to be a big hit at our weekly coding/tech club.

She also took an active role in our menu, and introduced us to using crescent roll dough in a tube to create our own edible treats – in her case, she wrapped a chunk of apple and created a dessert pastry. It was so easy and good that I added the dough in a tube to our next shopping list.

She also convinced me to give faux meat products another chance – I purchased some “mexican ground round” Yves brand loaf, and she made it into a delicious nacho grande type of bake. I had actually purchased two of these loaves, so the next sunny day after she left, I prepared a slow cooker full of veggie chili using it as the substitute for the ground beef or chicken that I usually made it with.

We ended up having lots of the chili left over, and that’s when it occurred to me that maybe I could combine these ideas into my own style of empanada!

First we assembled the ingredients – all three of them. Dough, cheese and chili.

Dough tube, cheese and chili.

At first I tried to wrap them into triangles, but that just looked deformed.

First a little cheese.

Then some chili.

My shapely dumplings leave something to be desired.
When I switched to folding over the rectangles of dough, that worked much better. I believe that officially you are to separate the dough into triangles and then roll them up into the crescents, but in this case, I wanted to enclose more fillings, so I left them as rectangles.

The next ones I did rectangles – you can still see the perforations in the dough where it would be further divided into triangles.

A full pan!
I crowded eight of these bad boys onto our frying pan, which I had generously greased with some vegetable oil.

The pan before loading up with my pastries – lots of oil. More than needed likely.
I popped them into the oven for twenty minutes at “around” four hundred Fahrenheit, and then just opened the oven door so they could stay warm until Mama got home.

Toasty, warm goodness!
Kenny, unsurprisingly, had his plain, but said he really liked them.

Mama ate two with loads of salsa slathered on top.

I spread mine with some Caesar salad dressing and generous dollops of green Tabasco, and it was excellent!

I doubt if these are really very close to an authentic empanada, but whatever they were – they were very tasty, and a great way to use up some leftovers! I wonder what else I could stuff into them for future meals… Or more importantly, would F! eat them?

Wildlife Update: 19 January, 2019 (Bunny)

February 12, 2019

I know, it’s a hare or a rabbit, but the picture calls out to me “bunny!”

Wildlife Update: 7 February, 2019 (Lynx)

February 11, 2019

I know you’ve already seen lynx pictures, but I felt that these were especially good.

Wildlife Update: 24 January, 2019 (Lynx)

February 2, 2019

Almost didn’t notice the ears on the bottom of the picture!

Wildlife Update: 17 January 2019 (Wolf)

February 1, 2019

Looking good! Saw some large paw prints in the snow, so were curious what would be responsible.

Adding A 12V Socket To The ATV For Charging And Accessories

January 24, 2019

So as I outlined a week or so ago – the ATV has been having some charging issues with the battery.

The installation of the voltmeter has been a real blessing – after trickle charging the battery for a day or two, I then disconnected it and let it sit for a few more days, and we were able to watch the voltmeter descent from 13.1 slowly to 12.7, where it seemed to hold for a number of days – reinforcing my opinion that even though the meter was always on, it wasn’t stressing the battery much at all.

Yesterday the cold spell finally broke and it warmed up to somewhere around ten below. This was my cue to do some more of the electrical work.

I drilled out a hole on the back of the ATV where I inserted a 12V barrel socket. Then I was able to hook a fused wired from the positive terminal of the battery to the centre of the socket. With that in place, it was an easy job to hook another wire from the barrel of the socket to the frame of the ATV.

Looks stock!
I stripped the wires on another socket and just wired them directly to the garage battery. I may try to clean that up in the summer, but for now it works just fine.

It’s not pretty, but it works…
I had purchased a long, 12V male to male cable (also fused) and plugged it in – and low and behold! The voltage jumped from 12 to 15V! It works!

Looking good!
We’ll see how it plays out in the long run, but for now, it’s a nice way to ensure the ATV is always charged up (even after I replace the regulator), or even to recharge it if it does go low.
As well, it will open up the ability for me to use 12V (or even small 120V appliances with an inverter) out in the bush!

Kindling Splitter Review

January 22, 2019

So now that I don’t have the mill providing me with loads of weird, thin slabs and offcuts, I have focused on making firewood cutting as easy and productive as possible. I’ve purchased a couple of items that I had hoped would help and didn’t really, but sometimes I get something that’s pretty good. A log arch is super, super helpful for bringing the logs in to buck up closer to home.
A timberjack is also great for getting logs off the ground when you want to cut them into stove lengths.
An electric log splitter is fantastic – makes it go so fast and uniform, you actually enjoy splitting!
For sure, one of my best investments was a set of log tongs for easily picking up logs to move to the splitter. I think it’s likely my best purchase!
And recently, my new fun toy – a kindling splitter!

Previously, I had just taken thin boards or slabs out front of the cabin where there was a pile of flat rocks stacked by Grandpa when the cabin was first raised. I would take a small hatchet and an afternoon and just go to town. At least twice I hit the webbing of my left hand and ended up quitting prematurely and in a crabby mood.

This year I ran out of kindling early, and was just splitting it with the same hatchet, but this time on a table that Kenny had built during our first year here on the homestead. I didn’t enjoy it, and didn’t feel it was sustainable. I was sure that eventually Kenny’s table would give out, or my aim would.

I ordered up this kindling splitter, as the style appealed to me more than the ones where you hammer a log through a ring onto a wedge.

At first, I was shipped an arm for a three point hitch. That was annoying. Double annoying – they refused to ship the correct part until they received the incorrect one back first.

At least they paid the shipping, but still – I had to wait more than triple the normal time to receive the wrong part, ship back the wrong part, then receive the right part – when you account for my days to both realize the mistake and get to a post office to return it. Thumbs down to Princess Auto on that count.

Ready to install! Note Kenny’s table underneath.
Otherwise though, it works really well with a slight caveat. I screwed it to the corner of the woodshed, trying to actually keep it low so that I could use some bodyweight on the lever if needed.

Nice and secure on the outside of the shed. Screws are some GRK I have been playing with.
Right away one notices that it is designed for short pieces of wood. I usually cut about 40 cm, but ideal lengths for this machine would likely be half to two thirds that amount.

Commonsense leverage tells you that the angle between the wood and the cutting blade should ideally be 90 degrees.
The longer pieces I would just try to “pinch” from above, or hold from the side until the blade dug into them. As soon as it digs in though, it is enormously satisfying to force through the grain.

Grasping from above – bare hand only for clarity, it was -30 when I was snapping these, and I wasn’t in the mood to dawdle.

Slightly different angle. I would probably be comfortable even holding the wood directly, as the blade moves very slowly.
I suspect you could even hold the wood directly under the moving blade, as it moves very slowly through the wood and with full control – my only fear would be if my feet were to somehow slip while applying excess force – not very likely I agree.

In any case, I often have so many shorter pieces of wood from bucking up the firewood that I believe I could easily dedicate it to kindling. I’m excited to see how it fares on some of those.

A Recipe For Using Up Leftover Pizza

January 21, 2019

So the other day Kenny and I were in the city until late. Mama gave us permission to bring home pizza for supper, and I grabbed two “Hot N Ready” from “Little Seizures.”

By the time we arrived home and were able to commence eating, it was revealed that our eyes were much larger than our stomachs, and we ended up with essentially a whole pizza uneaten.

Mama repackaged it neatly and put it in the fridge for future consideration.

I wasn’t enthused with the notion of reheating this particular brand – the crust gets rock hard very quickly – moreso than its competitors. So I came up with this solution. It’s essentially one of those “make-ahead” breakfast bakes.

I cut the pizza into ribbons and squares, and arranged it in a baking dish. If we had a true casserole dish, I would totally have gone that route.

Just a jumble of Tetris pieces.
I like to make our own alfalfa sprouts, so I threw the last of them on.

Ewww, looks like fuzz!
We had some leftover spinach, so on it went too. Also the last of the sliced cheese – not as much as I would have liked, but hey, we can’t all win the Cooper’s Hill Cheese.

Cheese makes everything better.
Then I scrambled nine eggs with nine tablespoons of milk (the perfect ratio for scrambled eggs, I must say.)

I like to put them into a mason jar, pop on the lid, and just a few shakes to scramble.
I poured the mixture on top of everything, and put it in the fridge for the day.

The eggs only fill up about half at this point, but they double in volume when baked.

Lid on, ready to soak for hours in the fridge.
Baked in the oven at – you guessed it: 375 degrees “Frankenstein” for 45 minutes (well, with a woodstove, you just bake stuff until it’s done…)

Already gone through the first trench! Smiles all around! [Dim evening light made photo fuzzy?]
It turned out really well! I slathered mine with leftover french onion chip dip and barbeque sauce for so, and I was in flavour country!

Chip dip and pizza are a match made in tongue heaven!
Definitely a great way to use it up – especially if it’s a bit stale! The egg mixture rehydrates the bread nicely!

Electrical Shenanigans With The ATV

January 19, 2019

The last dump of snow was another fairly big one. I was here though, and ready to get things moved with the ATV.

It was early in the morning when I began, before the sun had come up, so I opted to use a combination of the ATV lights and my headlamp to “get it done”.
I managed to plough out the front driveway but it seemed to me that the winch was getting slower and slower as I went along, and the lights were dimming significantly as I utilized it. Eventually, by the time I got to the cabin, the whole display board of the ATV was lighting up whenever I tried to raise or lower the snow blade.
Annoyingly, I stalled the ATV at this point, and the battery no longer had power to restart it.
I managed to restart the ATV using my battery booster box, but it couldn’t raise the blade, so I dragged it back to the garage and let it idle there for ten or more minutes, hoping that the alternator would recharge the battery. It’s annoying – that’s a very new battery, as I had replaced it during the summer after burning out the old one while using the winch. It’s an AGM battery, which I still believe is a superior battery technology, although my neighbour J! seems to have a rather poor opinion of them.
When I returned to the ATV, it could raise the blade but struggled mightily to do so. I parked it, and then hooked it up to the solar batteries in the garage and let it charge up that way. This isn’t how they are suppose to work though!

Charging the battery via my solar power system.

And at the other end of the jumper cables – my “garage” battery. I really need to get it into a box and looking more professional. Another project for the summer.
A few days later, J! was gracious enough to look at it with me, and his opinion was that I had simply overwhelmed it with the use of lights AND winch. I accepted his explanation, although in the back of my head, I did remember in the past using both without any problems, and that was with a very old, stock battery to boot!
One thing we agreed on as a good idea, was a way to monitor the battery situation of the ATV while it was in use, so that if I was beginning to draw it down in a problematic way, I could at least park it before the battery went too flat. I ordered up a small, digital voltmeter and only had to wait a few days before it arrived.
It was a very easy install – I removed a few bolts and plugs to pull off the plastic cover between my legs, and was able to unscrew and remove the rusted out remains of a 12V cigarette plug. The wires to it were simply blade type connections that matched the voltmeter exactly, so it was only a second to connect the voltmeter in place, and its barrel tube matched the cigarette plug exactly so it looks like it was meant to be there!

Looks stock! 12.1V is not really that high for a 12V battery though. 12.7V is supposedly resting voltage.
Con: the plug is live at all times, it isn’t keyed. So the LED display is always on, even when the ATV is not in use. I don’t think this is a major issue; that battery should be able to power an LED display for weeks without a bit of worry. It also means I can see if the ATV is having an issue without having to turn the key – I can just glance at it!
My next project is to install a NEW 12V plug near the rear of the ATV to make it easier to plug it into my solar system to charge up the battery or keep it on a “trickle” charge system. I’ve already ordered the parts, so I’ll outline that experiment when it warms up enough for me to fiddle with more electrical work there. It will also mean that I have a plug on the ATV that I can use “in the field” for running 12V accessories. Not sure what they will be, but the possibilities are interesting…
I did take the ATV for a test plough with the new voltmeter, and can see that the battery is not really charging much between winching – I’m back to suspecting that it isn’t getting a charge from the ATV after all. I’ve also learned that ATVs don’t have alternators, they have voltage regulators – so I’ve ordered one from Amazon ($35) instead of our local Can-Am dealer ($215) to see if it makes a difference. Even if that Amazon one is a cheap knockoff and fails within a year, it lets me know where the problem exists, and I can buy an expensive one that is still a fraction of the local price. And don’t get me wrong – I want to support the local guy, but those markups are just punishing.

Expensive Stovetop Thermometer Review (First Impressions)

January 18, 2019

So last Thursday I got the call from Purolator that a parcel had arrived from Condar Canada – unfortunately it came too late for me to drive to their depot to pick it up.

Condar is the company that imports the thermometer from the U.S., so I knew that’s what it was.

Kenny and I had no excuses to return to the city until yesterday when I had to return to the hospital for a set of yearly tests. We ran many errands, including visiting two of our rental houses, and then picked up not one, but TWO parcels at Purolator! I’ll let the other parcel be the subject of a hopefully near future review.

In any case, we got home last night and I plunked down the new thermometer alongside the old. I’ll let the pictures tell the tale:

“Not Fair!” you say? Okay, I’ll move them closer together… (Golly, that kettle looks dusty!)

Note that the firebox is actually on the left side of the stove, so that thermometer is closer to the flames.
It’s cool that they made one thermometer that works on both the flue, as well as the stovetop, and doesn’t shackle us with the strange and demented system that is Fahrenheit. It’s quick and easy to read, and useful in multiple situations. Kudos so far. At that temperature, my non-contact gauge was reading just a shade over 350 – so it seems to be accurately calibrated to my mind. I’d be melting my stovetop trying to get the Chinese thermometer to register as “Overheat”.

Cheap Stovetop Thermometer Review

January 12, 2019

Living with a wood cookstove is a bit of an art, as well as a science. For a nervous person like myself, it can also be a source of stress.

Two nights ago it was very windy outside, and I made the mistake of loading up the firebox and then closing it down airtight for the night. For some reason, once or twice a year, the wind blows just so and creates a weird downdraught that pushes the smoke out into the cabin. It was especially bad that night, and required two doses of Tullamore and some extra good snuggles from Kenny to help alleviate the worst of my anxiety.
I’m always watching the stove, trying to keep it in that sweet prescribed temperature zone of 200 to 350 Celsius, where it’s not producing creosote, but also not stressing the metal of the stove or stovepipe. I suspect that with a stainless steel stovepipe, I probably should worry much less than I do. I have a friend who seems to be unconcerned about having multiple chimney fires each year – I guess it cleans his pipe for him? I would die of panic if I had even one.
Up until two years ago, I had a non-contact thermometer that I would constantly be using to monitor the surface of the stove and often the stovepipe as well. Then I discovered the “Inferno” thermometer – it wasn’t cheap, but I decided to try it anyway as it would be much, much more convenient than the non-contact one. It was. It was a great investment. But then this fall, it stopped dropping back to zero when the stove wasn’t in use. Later it stopped moving smoothly, and instead would “jump” suddenly up and down in temperature, until finally it barely moved at all.
Cheapskate me thought that it was a simple device, so I hit up a Chinese retailer online and ordered two inexpensive versions of the same thermometer and duly waited three or four weeks for their arrival.

Looks great!
I was happy to see they began at zero, and so I put the first one on the stove and the second one aside for if and when the first one failed. I didn’t have to wait long.
After firing up the stove, I used my non-contact thermometer to calibrate the new stick-on one, and was slightly annoyed to find that it was reading 200, while the stove was actually 250. I figured it was just lagging, but as the stove got warmer and warmer, it stubbornly refused to move.
I put the second thermometer alongside the first, and was even less impressed to see that they were consistently reading about 75 degrees differently.
I lived with it for the day, annoyed, but at least they moved. I figured I could just “get use” to the needle not pointing at actual numbers, but the fact that neither thermometer pointed much beyond 250 no matter how hot the stove was, weighed on my mind.
The next day I put on a good fire and sat down to do my paperwork. After a few moments, I thought Mama’s morning coffee was especially pungent. Then I realized that it wasn’t the regular “burnt” smell of coffee, but something more “painty” – I bolted to the stove and saw that the thermometers were finally reading about 300. I checked with the non-contact thermometer which registered closer to 400. Crapsicles!
I closed all the vents and used a fork to lift the thermometers off the stove.
Very, very annoyed with them now – and the paint had baked off to the point that I could barely see any of the markings anymore!

What the heck? I need a camera flash to see the text!
I have subsequently ordered another thermometer that I believe is made by the same company as the original Inferno – the only difference I believe between the two is that the new one no longer has Fahrenheit markings on it, only the “sweet spot”.
I’ll report back if it disappointments me even a fraction as much as these cheapo thermometers.

Wildlife Update: 27 December 2018 (Hare)

January 6, 2019

The snow has weighed down the branches over most of the field of view – but just underneath you can see a cute little bunny doing bunny things. I’ve removed the offending branches.

Happy New Year 2019!

January 5, 2019

We returned from a Christmas break to find the cabin a rather chilly -9. It took two days before we got it back up above 20 (although we did return to the city to spend the night with Mummu and Grandpa).

Thankfully J! from next door kept our driveway clear while we were gone, and even shoveled the steps and deck so we could get inside easily.

There must be a dip in the water line between the tank and the bathroom – even though I drained the water lines, it seems the bathroom is frozen. Hopefully it will thaw eventually now that we are keeping the cabin much warmer.

Note to self – even empty thunder box pails still smell. I set one inside before we left, and the cabin had an off smell for the first day after we were back. I won’t do that again.

I think the intake valve on the washing machine may be damaged from a little bit of freezing – the cold water is a constant trickle, whether the machine is on or not. That’s not good. I switched the line over to the hot intake and it still works good, but of course, only halfway through the load did we realize that it then switches over to a cold water rinse. I’ll perhaps try to dismantle part of the machine and see if it can be fixed. This is an economy Chinese machine, so I really doubt if parts or repairs are very easily had.

The woodshed is now 2/3 full. Not sure if I should be concerned or not. We’ll see how it progresses. There is still a good amount of wood in the sauna shed, and the sauna is getting much less use than previous years thanks to my indoor “shower”.

We’re also closing on another house. Exciting times!