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The AikiHomestead

Our Lifestyle Blog as We Create a Homestead in Northern Ontario

Repairing our Sonya SYW-70S Washing Machine

January 5, 2020

So! We’ve been enjoying this machine for an amazing four years now! I’m definitely at the point where if it blew up and I had to re-purchase, I’d consider it to have saved us in hassle and costs compared to hitting up the laundromat or something similar.

Last year though, when we left for Christmas, I made the error of not disconnecting the incoming water line from the machine. I guess I felt that draining the house water lines would also drain water out of the solenoid valve of the machine, but perhaps that wasn’t to be. When we returned and I attempted to do a load of laundry, lo and behold, no satisfying click, followed by the sound of water trickling into the washer.

I left it for a bit to see if it just was taking awhile to thaw out, but eventually gave up and decided that I had permanently damaged the solenoid.

My big brain came up with a great solution – just move the cold water connection to the hot water input, and then do hot water washes from now on (or at least, ask the machine to do hot water washes). This worked just fine, but did have a few down sides. The first was, previously, you could just pick your programme and press start. But now you had to preselect hot water before your programme. This also had trickle down effects all the way to the end of the cycle – even with a hot water wash selected, it defaulted to a cold water rinse. So we had to remember when we washed a load to cancel the programme and re-run another cycle without detergent to do the rinse. This also meant that the cycle ended prematurely, so AGAIN we had to finally run a programme of just spinning before we could hang the laundry.

This was all much easier than washing by hand or even the smaller loads but equal hassle of the Panda machine. Still, it was a bit disappointing compared to what we had been use to.

We worked this way for all of 2019 – until we returned again from our Christmas vacation in Southern Ontario. This time the machine was already pulled out from the wall, and I had correctly remembered to disconnect the hose and ensure everything was properly drained. I noted the screws holding down the plate over the solenoids, so I removed them to just glance inside. It looked like there were more screws holding both the hot and cold solenoids in place, and perhaps they were physically pressed into the bracket – not that fun of a job. I delayed for a day when I knew I had a fair bit of time to cipher out a way to exchange the solenoids.

The next day I unplugged the machine (Safety first! Or at least eventually…) and removed the cover again. As I brandished the screwdriver towards the machine threateningly, I had a sudden realization. The wires controlling the solenoids were attached with standard blade type connectors…

Why would I swap solenoids, when I could just swap the wires and “trick” the machine into opening the hot solenoid using the cold wires, and perhaps vice versa…

I simply removed all the wires, and connected back up the hot water solenoid to the cold water wiring (I did have to cut the tie wrap holding the wires to get a couple of centimetres of slack). Truth be told, I didn’t bother connecting the hot water wires to the cold water side – that solenoid still seems to be a lost cause, and we don’t have access to hot water anyway).

Whelp, it worked a charm. Took maybe three minutes work in total. Solved a problem we had just endured for a year.
I wish I was rich in money so I could just pay other people to fix problems as they occur. Then again, better yet, I’m rich in that I have a loving, patient family willing to put up with minor annoyances with few complaints.


do you know how to take out the bottom spinning disc inside the washer? i dont know what its called.. somehow i cant take it off cuz i think theres a lot of stuff inside there that my machine keeps stopping.. maybe its clogged.. if i do try to take it out maybe it might break
  • mike (2020-05-27)

Hey Mike,
Sorry, I don’t, I haven’t dismantled mine that far yet. Have you tried going down from inside the drum? There’s a little plastic cover in the centre bottom that looks like it could pop out and give you access to a removal bolt or something?
  • Stephen Garstin (2020-05-28)

Touching Base…

March 7, 2020

Wow! Two months since my last post – not sure if that’s a record or not.

It’s not that things haven’t been happening – it’s just that at this season, and this part of our lives, not much happens out of the routine. I’ll try to fill in a bit though, and as always, pontificate with copious verbosity.

I’m typing this on my newly re-formatted laptop. That’s always a mixed blessing. It’s nice to have a clean start, but it’s a pain in the neck to get everything set up the way you like. It’s too bad that Windows always seems to bugger stuff up eventually with it’s updates. Update 1909 really seems to be borking all my computers here at the homestead.

As part of my ongoing commitment to ensuring the safety of our data, I have given up on Dropbox – it never encrypted it anyway, but most egregiously, they raised the price close to 50% this year, while offering nothing enticing as a benefit. 2TB storage and the very flaky “selective sync” or “on demand” files just didn’t cut it for us. We don’t have quite those huge needs in space, and with slowish internet, on-demand loading isn’t really convenient.
So, I switched to Resilio sync a number of months ago, and have purchased three very small microcomputers running Windows 10, Resilio, and a few other small apps. I have one at the cabin keeping our personal files and Plex movies and tv series in sync, and in turn, it connects to another microcomputer I have set up in the city to syncronize the same data off-site. This also makes my video files available to family in the city.

Because I’ve begun storing important work-related files too, I have also decided to set up a third redundant server that I will send to Waterloo to be set up there to keep a third node in the cloud.

I like Resilio very much, although it does still have a bit to go to get to Dropbox’s really outstanding synchronizations. I find that often moving a file from one folder to another within the same Resilio sync still causes it to be re uploaded and downloaded to the other nodes.

This is about half as painful as it was a month ago – when our new local cellphone tower came on-line! We have been watching them assemble it since last fall. A few weeks ago they finally completed it and then replaced our entire canopy service – upgrading from 900Mhz to 3.5/3.6GHz. This has added about 50% to our download speed, and 100% to our upload speed. An embarrassment of riches! We’re now about 5 down and 2-3 Mbps up!
I have ploughed lots of snow. This past Thursday we received another 15cm. Not really welcome, but not the end of the world – especially since February was so sunny and mild that much of the snow on our roofs had melted and slid off. I ran less than a tank of gas through the generator in February!

The AGM batteries in the attic are working well. They are letting me know that the attic space is strangely much colder than I expected! It can be as much as 10 degrees cooler up there than in the cabin – which is odd as they are technically in a heated space (although I do have steel wool insulation between the main space and the attic – there is no vapour barrier.)

Our rentals in the city went okay this past year. Once again we “lost” significant money on owning and operating them. We definitely want them to be well kept and show well, and we are blessed with wonderful tenants. Hopefully this year we can see some sort of financial return on the work we have been putting in. Then again we’re always looking to add to our holdings, and each new purchase seems to eat up any benefits from the others. I suppose when we finally press pause on expansion though, that should change.

We would really like to travel somewhere different this year. Kenny has been a bit into castles for the past year or more, so it would be fun to show him some real ones (although
Casa Loma last year was a pretty good stand-in I think). It’s challenging though when we want to try to be eco-conscious too. At least our current lifestyle is hopefully somewhat easier on the earth than other paths we could have chosen. Raising a child definitely can change so many of your ways of thinking and plans.

I’ll keep trying to post in spite of other priorities competing. Wish me luck! Remember to rate, comment and subscribe in the
doobly-doo so I know you all care.


Changing from Blogger to WordPress

April 18, 2020

Whelp, after over a decade just letting Google handle everything and currently being even MORE isolated than living in the forests of northern Ontario could be (is this an outdated reference when you are reading this?), I’ve finally decided to take more of an interest in the back-end hosting and control of my blog. I also have been realising that Google can and will kill projects it doesn’t like with the loss of two properties that I loved dearly over the years. (Reader and Cloud Print, if you must know. And while I didn’t really “get” Wave, I was shocked at how quickly it got tossed on the heap just ahead of Buzz and Plus). (Thanks to XKCD for the above hover image).

And so here we are. I’ve owned the domain for as long as I have been blogging, and just pointing it to Google, and running ads, all in the hopes that I’d make big coin. Instead, when I view it from other computers, I see lame ads, that have made me $100CDN over the course of eleven years of blogging. I don’t think it’s much worth it. So for now, ads are off. Donna has been dabbling in side hustles, and talks about “affiliate links” – maybe I will explore those in future if I want to try to monetise my thoughts again, but obviously they aren’t even worth the proverbial penny (
long discontinued here in Canada).

If you are reading this post after an email alert from Blogger, and you want to continue to receive updates, I’d strongly suggest subscribing here on my own site!

Hopefully you are still interested enough in my sporadic posts to subscribe. The box is over there on the right (as long as I don’t move it) up at the top, then again, if you’re on mobile, it’s probably below this post. I’ve tried to put up the most important boxes over there again for your use. I’m happy to hear feedback about the layout and look of the blog.

That’s about it. I’ll try to keep posting my usual mix of little things I find interesting, along with mistakes I make trying to navigate self-employment, marriage, ageing, parenting, homeschooling, high AND low tech solutions to my day to day problems and whatever else I think is blogworthy.

As always, say hi in the comments – those are what keep me going!



Interrupting Sauna to Clean the Solar Panels

April 19, 2020

Sometimes when you realise that you’re not generating enough power, you gotta do what you gotta do.


  • Anonymous

Just How Disgusting Can a Keyboard Get?

April 20, 2020

I’ve learned an interesting lesson. HP Elitebook keyboards work just fine, but the spaces between the keys sure are a magnet for less than appetizing gunk. Consider the keyboard when purchasing a new computer.

To mitigate this situation I have in the past purchased silly putty – just pressing it hard on the spaces between the keys. It was easy to be delighted with the amount of hair and fuzz and other gritties that came out. But when some unusually
large speck of undigested beef (or something) got lodged under the home row the other day, I decided it was time to deep clean the offending interface.
I removed all the keys and X mechanisms, getting increasingly disturbed as I progressed until I finally was faced with this monstrosity.

In view of this, I washed all the keys in water and dried them in a wrapped up towel. I cleaned off the surface of the keyboard, and then contacted a client who was looking for anything to replace his dying Windows 7 desktop and offered him a replacement machine for cheap. Win/win. I’m not going to replace the keys (I’d rather buy a replacement keyboard at this point), and after purchasing my much lighter Acer Swift 1, I wasn’t really using that heavy old machine anyway.

Keyboards can get disgusting guys. Stop slurping ramen and eating chips while doing your digital work! (Who am I kidding? Just get a membrane cover for your keyboard…)


Improving my Posture at Home

April 21, 2020

For a couple years now I’ve been doing most of my computing at our Norden Ikea table here in the living room of the cabin. Sitting on a hard wooden chair (better now that my loving Sister V! gave us all fitted, personalized pads for our chairs) and hunched over the laptop.

Working on client computers I generally am standing though – I work on those in the other room on a lovely chrome shelf that is directly beside the router and, well, isn’t on our kitchen table!

Over the years I’ve developed some pretty annoying back pain. One of my specialists thinks it’s related to Aikido (I don’t think so), or perhaps a misspent youth (more likely, ask me about how not to demonstrate the dangers of the neighbourhood bike ramp). I also received a report from radiology that I have a slightly collapsed disc – that can’t help. Oh yeah, I also recently heard that my latest xrays have shown that I’m starting to have a permanent slouch – all things I’d rather not deal with.

As such, I’m working hard to remediate things. It was helpful to hear on
CGP Grey’s latest Cortex podcast that he endorsed kneeling chairs and something from my past that I use to love – the trackball!
I ordered up a kneeling chair from eBay (much better pricing than Amazon), and my old love –the Logitech M570 trackball (affiliate link)(this was faster and cheaper from Amazon).

After receiving these two new ergonomic “assistants”, I realised that I was still looking very much downwards at the laptop screens.

Hitting up Amazon and Walmart’s website for cheap standing desk platforms that I could put on the kitchen table, I quickly came across laptop stands, which would do the job much more inexpensively and require less investment in something large and bulky to move around the cabin.

Staring at the laptop stands for awhile, it suddenly occurred to me that Nana had gifted us an inexpensive Ikea stand for tablets which I had been using in the bedroom as a small technology platform. I quickly repurposed it into the kitchen and was absolutely tickled PINK to discover that my lightweight and snappy Acer Swift 1 fit it perfectly! I didn’t have to make a new purchase, and raised the screen of the laptop close to 30cm already!

Now I did have to dust off one of my wireless keyboards as the laptop keyboard is nearly vertical in the new orientation. It has a nasty, oversized dongle that I’d rather not deal with, and it has wide spaces between the keys,
perfect for catching crumbs.

As such, back to the internets, where I’ve ordered a bluetooth keyboard with better sealed keys. Oh well, again, I didn’t have to buy a stand.

It’s too early to say if this will be life changing, but at least I’m making the effort to move in the correct direction. I do find I have to alternate between the kneeling chair and a traditional one – kneeling isn’t so good at the supper table for eating, and my knees and back do get sore from being in such a novel position.

I’ll report back if things go sideways.


The Post in Which I Find My Keys

April 22, 2020

Look at this:

Under most circumstances, I would have simply walked past this rusty “garbage” lying on the bridge close to our mailboxes – but these weren’t “most circumstances”. You see, on a previous walk to our mailboxes back in deepest winter, I arrived home to sadly realise that I no longer had the mail key in my pocket. And with it was lost my favourite key tag. 🙁

Kenny was sure it flew out while jogging, but I was wearing boots and a parka, so it was unlikely that that was a day when we chose to run. I did remember visiting our neighbour, B!, but a search of his living room turned up nothing. In any case, we quickly borrowed Mama’s key and had a replacement (or two) cut the next time we visited the city.

Eventually I intend to replace this tag – it was a well-loved gift from Nana, but I don’t think it’s in any condition to be pressed back into service again. I’m not sure what I can put there again, likely some uninspiring swag.

15 years ago, when Donna and I purchased our first home in Kitchener, we received mail delivery “to our door”, but now that we live in some definite “rural” surroundings, things like mail keys are vital and important items. In fact, I now only carry three keys on my ring – two vehicle keys, and the mail key (detachable, I have a similar clip to what you see in this photo on the replacement key).

24 hours ago I was sure that my treasured “Star Wars” key chain was forever lost, but what a difference a day – and a keen eye – and some luck can make! And speaking of a keen eye, can anyone solve the secret puzzle I have hidden in this post for eagle eyes to spot? It’s not nearly as hidden as my keys were! Let me know in the comments!


So disappointed that no one has ever found the secret message in this blog post.

  • Stephen Garstin (2023-01-06)

The Post in Which I Lose My Keys Again, and Find Them Within the Hour

April 29, 2020

Well, I don’t know that I need to link to the post where I lost my keys, seeing as it’s the previous one to this post. But well, Proverbs 26:11 (yes, this is also a hint to the hidden code in the previous post) continues to ring true.

As Kenny and I prepared to walk up for the mail, I noticed that the mail key was not “in its’ home” – a euphemismish phrase for “is this object in the place where it should rest?” I felt my pockets from yesterday – nope, not there. Then I checked my pants pocket.

GROAN! These were my holy pants – the ones with a hole in the right, front pocket! Keys have already fallen through that hole TWICE previously, but Kenny has retrieved them immediately as he usually walks just slightly behind me. Sigh.

We grabbed both the spare key we had cut previously, as well as the rusty key that had been lost and was then found.

The mail pickup was uneventful. A flyer, and a spare power supply for this laptop. The original key worked, even if it was a bit beat up from a winter under the snow and ice on the shoulder of the road.

Luckily, on the walk home, there she was. Just a few hundred metres further down the road from where I had first found the old set of keys – yesterday’s keys.

Now – do I remember to patch the hole? Or repeat my folly?


The Disorder of the Garter (Snakes)

May 2, 2020

Today on our way home from the mailboxes we took an extra moment to glance in the area where our neighbour and friend B! had been telling us for some weeks that “the garter snakes all hibernate in a crack in the rocks”.

Imagine our delight and surprise when we saw a roiling, boiling coil of black and yellow stripes like nothing we had seen before! I quickly grabbed my cellphone and tried to capture it, but as I approached, all but three slithered away back under the rocks in a flash. I did manage to capture a couple of slower individuals.

As always, we strive to take seriously
the advice of the sagacious Barry White. So we backed off and returned home with an extra spring in our step, and a renewed love for snakes – Honi soit qui mal y pense!


The Wood Rack Moves On

May 7, 2020

So last spring you may remember that the lumber I had cut to build a new sauna had an accident while resting on the drying rack I had purchased.

As also mentioned, I had a very busy summer, and never did get to building that sauna. I believe we’ve decided that we’ll look into purchasing a kit or pre-built sauna this year, depending on the Covid-19 situation.
So last weekend, with some help from Kenny and Donna, we managed to unload the rack. I used my angle grinder to cut off the bent and broken legs, and with some grunt work and battered shins, managed to haul the rack up to the large quonset.

It has a lovely home in the back of the quonset now. Perfect for storing the off-season tires, as well as the ATV ramps and my jaws ladder. I think there’s likely room for other stuff too – we’ll see. At the moment, it looks so nicely organized I don’t wish to mess with it.
Just to be sure that it doesn’t have another “tippy” accident though, I used the straps from the ATV ramps to fasten the rack directly to the quonset. This should help greatly with stability.

I shouldn’t require the straps quite as much now that I have built that trailer to move the ATV back and forth on.
As for the lumber that was on the rack, we ferried it back and forth from the former sawmill location to our cabin, where we have been assembling some raised beds to greatly expand our gardening hobby.

Mallards Visit our Pond

May 13, 2020

As I was out on the deck a couple days ago, I was wearing only my reading/computing glasses, but I could see something moving on the pond. It wasn’t hard to tell that it was a lovely avian couple just visiting for a short while.

I am very impressed with the quality of the pictures Donna’s camera took – I was using the super zoom lens that normally I find very disappointing in cameras. These pictures are pretty darn good considering just how far off I was from the cute couple.

What a nice treat for
Mother’s Day!


Wildlife on the New Game Camera

June 20, 2020

So a year or two ago I bought a few game cameras to monitor and better secure the homestead. We’ve only had one or two occasions (that we’re aware of) when unrecognized vehicles have come up the driveway and then shown themselves back out again, but that was enough for us to want to know if anything untoward occurred, we’d at least have an idea who or what transpired.

Unfortunately, this past winter must have been too much for the cameras. They both stopped turning on this spring at around the same time, so we missed out on pictures for some months – luckily nothing has happened that we feel we lost out.

In any case, I ordered up a single replacement camera at first, and it arrived just last week. We installed it, and bang! Right away we got our first snap – it occured only twenty minutes after Donna left for work; she was followed down the driveway by this lovely deer. (Who I believe I saw again just this morning on the side of the road by our entrance).

I went to order a second camera, but the price had increased 50% in the past two weeks, and that was too much for me to take, so I ordered a different one of similar specs and a similar price, and I guess I’ll get to compare and contrast the two in future. I’ll keep you posted if there’s anything you need to know.


Tadpoles Aplenty!

July 3, 2020

All the chirping, croaking and ribbits of spring have paid HUGE dividends in our pond! We’ve really enjoyed watching this brood (School? Flock? Wiggle?) of tadpoles growing up this spring.


A Bear Visits the Homestead

July 5, 2020

This was an exciting surprise! The other Sunday morning our camera captured a bear!

We of course know they are around, but they’re remarkably shy – I hadn’t seen one near our property for a couple years now. But the new camera caught this one within the first week or so of being installed – that’s cool! At first I couldn’t understand who was walking on all fours on our driveway until I clicked the thumbnail. It took me longer to realize what it was than I care to admit.


Chili Dogs on the New Deck

July 6, 2020

So there was still some home-cut lumber left from the rack disaster/planned sauna, even after I turned it into some really nice garden beds.

I had planned on turning it into a small platform that we could set an outdoor table on to better enjoy the sun and wind during the brief summer season. It was Donna who suggested that instead of a completely separate patio – why not attach it to the existing porch so we didn’t have to transition from the “cabin” to the patio.
Once I had internalized the idea, I realized just how good it was and set to work. To my mind, it went surprisingly quickly, even if I was the only one working on it! The joists were all from leftover lumber, and I got some more rough cut pine for the deck boards themselves. At the time of our first Chili Dog and Tater Tot meal, I hadn’t yet put up all the good corner posts – but I clamped one up so that we could have a bit of a cover from the sun. Stay tuned for a view of the finished product!

Oh yeah, I purchased an electric grill so I wouldn’t have to worry about propane or charcoal around the homestead. I’ve moved the awesome green charcoal hibachi to camp, where it’s already been pressed into service to make some delicious meals there!


The End of an Era – Grandpa’s Woodshed Comes Down

July 7, 2020

Way back when we first built the yurts, Grandpa took charge of building us a woodshed to keep our winter supply out of the elements.

I scavenged the local shipping companies for pallets to get pressed into service, and in short order Grandpa created a sturdy and serviceable shelter.

With my later woodshed able to supply all our needs, and the new sauna planned to take over that location, the old shed finally had to be moved into a new phase of existence.

Of course, I chose a really hot, sunny day with loads of flies to start work. Kenny was awesome, pulling out a number of boards before the elements made him wisely bow out. I wasn’t so smart and pressed on to the end – enjoying a growing heat headache the whole time.

Now I have a pile of pallets that I will likely cut up for the coming fire season, and a nice cleared spot to put up a new sauna.


Another Iron Remediation Idea for the Well

July 8, 2020

After trying this, then this, then a bit of this, and moving onto this, I then tried a bubbler.

Ok, so
the bubbler only seemed to work for a little while and then things returned to a very taupe normal.
This time around I purchased a pond pump with a 15′ power cable. I attached a 10′ length of hose to it and tie-wrapped that to the power cable and dropped the whole thing down the well, removing the bubbler at the same time.

The bubbler had never been able to blow bubbles below a couple feet, and by the time Kenny and I removed it, it wasn’t even able to do that. I think the aeration stones had become clogged with iron themselves.

The new pond pump was able to pump water up a couple feet above the surface of the water, even when it was bumping into the rock at the bottom of the well, so I raised it just an inch or two off the bottom of the well and fastened it in place with the water splashing back onto the surface of the water. Let me assure you that standing on my head and leaning into the well and trying to mount and plug in this new pump, all while blackflies are chewing on my exposed skin, was not an easy venture.

Before doing this, the water wasn’t actually very pleasant looking. It was very murky and brown. My hope was that by keeping it circulating and oxygenated, perhaps the iron will precipitate better and be able to be captured by my 5 micron filters.

The pond pump is easier to determine if it is operating. In the early morning and evenings when the world gets quiet, we can hear the water splashing even from within the cabin if we listen carefully – it isn’t a distracting sound, it’s actually quite nice to me.

So far the result has been far to the opposite of expected. The water comes out much more stained than before – I’m hoping that’s just because the accumulated iron is finally being stirred up and flushed out. I’m going to stick it out though, as I have to believe that the circulating water is more palatable than the brackish stuff first revealed when we opened the well head a week or two ago.


Finishing Touches on the Deck

July 9, 2020

Building the deck and imagining hosting more guests in that space has made me want to make it a bit more cozy. With the corner posts in place, it was much easier to put up a nice sun screen. The other thing that made it a bit more comfortable was to run some jute cable around the perimeter as a bit of a visual cue for where the edge was. It isn’t tremendously high, but I’d hate to take a header off both it, and the cabin porch. As such, Kenny helped me to run jute right from the deck onto the porch and around the cabin itself.

After a week, I noticed that the tension from the sunscreen was drawing the corner posts away from perpendicular to the ground, so I added my favourite construction technique – structural pipes! Then I also added more jute string to hold the sunscreen up even higher from the deck surface.


Stressing the Log Splitter

July 10, 2020

So this spring my neighbour J! and I went halvsies on a load of birch. It was freshly cut eight foot lengths, so I wanted to get cracking on cutting it down to stove length and getting it split and out in the open quickly so that it would hopefully be dry by the burning season.

Some of the pieces were delightfully sized. Quick to cut with my small electric power saw (fourteen inches). And then one pass through my log splitter with the four way wedge split them nicely into four quarter pieces.

But then there was this monster – it took me loads of “beaverin'” to just cut through it with the power saw, and then a bit of grunt work to get it up onto the log splitter.

The first try with the splitter ended with it just giving up after denting the end of the log slightly. I started rotating the log and trying another pass with the splitter until finally – pop! And it was through.

I’m not sure of the logonomics whether these huge logs that produce many split pieces go any faster than many smaller, easier to handle logs that produce fewer pieces, but I know the smaller ones make me feel like I’m really moving!

I ended up selling half of my half pile to another friend B! who also wanted some wood for this coming season and also realized that there are tremendous efficiencies in having it all ready to simply buck up and split. I’m thinking next spring maybe we’ll repeat the process, and then surely I’ll have multiple seasons of heating dealt with.


The Summer of Chipmunks

July 11, 2020

Wow, we’re inundated by chipmunks in this part of the world! We had one regular visitor at the cabin who really was enjoying the new deck and sunflower seed we happily gave out to our “Chippy”.

Then at camp we met up with two especially bold (rodents?) who climbed onto the picnic table and were happy to eat right out of our hands.

Returning home we soon realized that Chippy may have been a “Chippette”, as there were three adorably tiny versions of herself scampering about the scrap wood bin and enjoying our seed offerings!
It’s truly a delight to watch and listen to these adorable critters. Our local “Bunny” must be intrigued by their antics too. I hope they are eating loads of bugs, in addition to our sunflower seeds.


The Crayfish

July 12, 2020

Man at hibachi with burgers and sausages.At camp Kenny and Donna found this crayfish. The way Kenny described it, it seemed like it must have been the size of a lobster!


The Big Salad

August 26, 2020

Gosh we did well with our spinach this year! The leaves were huge and delicious! We are tickled green at its performance. As always, radish is also a nice treat with its own speedy and tangy results.


Looks good, really good.
  • Papa (2020-08-27)


August 27, 2020

So I moved one of our new game cameras from one position on the driveway that was really challenging to access in winter, to another, more accessable location.

Imagine our delight when it captured this little fellow (or lady?)! I guess the lens is a bit interesting.


Hi Stephen, Donna and Kenny,
Thank you for sharing your life and experiences with us. I just signed up recently so I can now comment. The Pease family would like to send you all a message to say, how very impressed we are with you for your strength and determination. You three are amazing. Your little humming bird is pretty cute too! This message is from David and Gerry Pease, Michael & Kyle, Geoffrey and Alexander Pease. We all went to Aikido with you both many years ago.
  • Geraldine Pease (2020-09-12)

Thanks so much for this message Mrs. P! Tell Mike to reach out to me and reply to my messages more often - I feel like I'm speaking to myself most of the time I message him!

  • Stephen Garstin (2022-03-07)

Happiness is… A Full Woodshed!

August 31, 2020

I’m sure for the eagle-eyed readers, you’ll notice that the last bit of winter wood is all milled scraps left over from the earlier deck I built.


Finger Potatoes!

September 13, 2020

We tried planting some finger potatoes this year – so far, they’re delicious and healthy! Really pleased!


A Furry Snake Visits the Homestead

September 13, 2020

I was doing some fall chores, digging out the humanure hacienda, trimming some weeds around the cabin and prepping the site for the new sauna. While getting ready to warm up the ATV, I saw something dart past me in the garage – at first I figured it was one of our many chipmunks, but after it started to really run circles around me, I realized it wasn’t the same thing, even if it was equally as cute!


Decommissioning the Sauna Water Tanks

October 12, 2020

So the notion of keeping our fresh water pumped into tanks in the loft of the sauna met cold, hard reality early on in our adventures here. We rapidly realized that keeping the sauna (or at least the tanks) from freezing in winter was a losing prospect. As such, for the first year or two we simply hauled water from Donna’s parents next door, or worked feverishly hard to keep the water line open for pumping from the well far, far from the cabin.

After migrating to an indoor tank in the cabin and
putting in an entirely new well, closer the to cabin, all has been “well” (did you see what I did there?). The sauna tanks have been just pressed into service during the summer months to supply water for when we actually use the sauna.

As such, I was looking for something in the loft of the sauna and decided while I was up there, I may as well remove them and start thinking of that space as a loft for when we ultimately turn the sauna into a guest cabin.
Draining some funky water!Due to the dust up there, I opted to wear a mask – we’re all getting use to wearing them to help cut down the spread of COVID, so it was no big deal.
Much nicer to just have empty space!And starting to remove the bung and plumbing.I offered the tanks to our friends the C! family – but only if they sincerely wanted and could use them. Luckily they did want to assemble their own gravity fed water system and even more fortunately, I was installing a fire number nearby, so I even hand delivered them. Otherwise, I wouldn’t hesitate to take them to a thrift store or Habitat for Humanity.

Now the sauna well is simply hooked directly to the tap. Much nicer and less fuss, and most importantly we’re not using that space to store something unused and unwanted!
And starting to remove the bung and plumbing.You can see the iron stains on the left edges of the tanks that were facing down while installed.


Completed Wood Piles

October 13, 2020

King of the Castle!Just some satisfying pictures of the last of my birch cut, split and (mostly – until my pile fell over) piled. Much appreciation for Donna and Kenny helping out with these to make less work for me!
Whoomp! There it is! All set for a good start on next burning season!Going to be satisfying to see this finished!Where’s Wald… I mean Kenny?

Canned Green Tomatoes

October 14, 2020

I’m not a big fan of tomatoes at the best of times. I am indifferent to ketchup, the blandest of the bland condiments (although invaluable if you get some really bad french fries). I also don’t really mind pasta or pizza sauce. Salsa (or better yet Salsa-Mayo 50/50 mix) is good on nachos, but after that my indifference turns hostile. A slice of tomato on a burger or sandwich? Yuck! Or in a salad? Get outta here with that! It is such an overpowering, unpleasant flavour!

Well, it’s also a real common garden vegetable for people to grow – and Donna was no exception to the someone wanting to put some seedlings in the ground and enjoying the fruits of their labours.

Unfortunately, as is the norm here, our growing season can be quite short, and we ended up with mostly green tomatoes that showed little inclination to ripen on our window sill.

As such, on a sunny day, I decided to get them off the sill and into some empty canning jars I had available.
Like something from my nightmares!Some dill for flavour.Water and vinegar and dill all added.Ready for the canner!Still bubbling!I diced them all up nicely, then added them to the jars with some different springs of dill from our garden. I added a couple tablespoons of vinegar to each jar, and topped them off with our Berkey water.

Following canning directions, I pressure canned them and only had one seal fail. Donna (and a little bit of Kenny – until he swallowed a dill seed) worked away at them. Donna says they’re okay on her salads – I’m reluctant to try them myself, maybe some other time...


First Snow of 2020

October 17, 2020

It’s 0 and sunny outside, so I don’t think it will last…Here’s the traditional photo of snow on the windscreen!


Building a Sauna Platform

October 17, 2020

So we found someone to build us a sauna that seemed to tick off lots of our boxes. We wanted to have a bit of a deck to walk on around the sauna, so I opted instead to build another platform similar to the extra deck I built in the spring off the cabin.
Commence dumping!Exactly the spot!First though, we needed a couple loads of gravel to level the area near the old woodshed, as well as to fill in some rough brush that never got gravelled over in past driveway enhancements.
…and Nana and Papa arrive with the rPod!Between the arrival of the gravel and the arrival of the skid steer to level it, my parents arrived for a visit! It was amazing to see them after nine months of Covid-fueled separation.Skid steer arrives right after!He makes quick work of leveling the area.
Rough idea of the size and layout.Papa and I set to work immediately and in only two or three days had a platform ready for the arrival of the sauna. It also did double duty as a nice location to sit and enjoy a cold beverage in the late fall sun.Putting things up on the blocks and getting the bones in place.Kenny was a great help!Quick work of the joists with Kenny there.Laying out the floor boards. It’s pretty cool when you take the first steps.Now time for a break for everyone except the photographer!Platform accomplished!


Modifying our Sauna Stove

October 18, 2020

Our sauna stove always seemed to have one fatal flaw – the fellow who welded it for us felt that he no longer wanted to weld regular steel to stainless steel. This meant that our stainless tank was just “hanging” off the back of the stove. There was about a 1/8″ gap between much of the tank and the stove, which was plenty enough for the insulating effect of the air to make it very, very challenging to get the water HOT hot.

Fortunately, our awesome neighbour J! had a welder, and was willing to help me do the modifications. I purchased the rod for him, as well as several grinder discs, and agreed to come back the next day to act as assistant.
Careful, careful…Like a mighty hunter with his prey!A very cautious drive to get updated.But first we had to remove it from the existing sauna. I had planned on hiring some local muscles, but with Papa and I working very cautiously and with a dolly, it actually wasn’t that hard to get it out of the old sauna, down the stairs, and up onto the utility trailer I had built the previous fall.

We strapped it down and took it over.
Much nicer fit! The water is sure to boil now!The next day I waited for him to text that he was ready, and then rushed over. You can’t imagine my shock when it was completely finished! He had gotten up early and just started the project without me. A humbling and deeply appreciative experience I can assure you.

Much nicer fit! The water is sure to boil now!
We brought it back and waited for the sauna to arrive.

The sauna came the next day, and we had to cut the legs of the existing stove down with short notice – luckily there were still some discs for the angle grinder.

It fit perfectly after that!

Stay tuned for more on the next phase of our sauna shift.


An Interesting Reveal in the Sauna (SFW)

October 19, 2020

…that is to say, they were pretty darn toasty. I wonder how much longer until this would have been a problem???So when I removed the sauna stove and the insulation I had packed around it, it was interesting to see how well the beams of the wall had stood up to the heat:


Meeting a Salamander on the Road

October 20, 2020

N.B.: This post was suppose to have been published a few months back – not sure why the scheduler didn’t work, but I also didn’t notice it until now. So please understand that it is not seasonally accurate. Cheers!
Way too hot to be out walking across the highway!Several days ago on the way back from walking for the mail a little twitching movement in the gravel caught my eye. Low and behold it was a salamander trying to cross the highway! On a VERY sunny day. I turned him around and set him headed back for the swampy ditch – I’m pretty sure he’d be happier there than on the asphalt!What an adorable face. 🙂


Building a Stock Tank Shower or Bath

October 21, 2020

One thing we really wanted in our new sauna was a way to keep the cleaning process really contained. We felt that the quantities of water splashed about while washing up in the old sauna contributed to a number of boards with mildew stains on them and a generally icky feeling about how things were progressing there.

I had generally imagined purchasing a cheap shower stall and installing it in the new sauna and only plumb in the drain – we could use the battery powered shower that I purchased online (and it has been working to great effect all summer!)

Online research about cheap shower stalls was very discouraging though. They all got very poor ratings and reviews, in spite of price tags beginning around the $500 mark!

I was almost prepared to hire out someone to just solve the problem, when it occured to me that I had seen someone create a “hot tub” out of an old stock tank. They had put it up on cinder blocks and built a fire under it to heat the water. I wasn’t looking for something quite that rustic – but I thought a tank would be a decent place to start thinking.

A little internet research revealed that I wouldn’t be the first person to consider this idea. I found a YouTube video with a fellow installing one in his home, and with that, I had Donna’s permission to move forward.
Just as I pictured it in my mind’s eye.Use a hole saw designed for metal. I burned out a wooden one in seconds.I hit up Thunder Bay Feeds and they had exactly what I wanted! I was worried they would carry the Tarter brand, which has a very gaudy flag printed on the side. Instead the subdued Behlen label was much more in keeping with the calm charm I was striving for.

I installed a sink drain into the corner of the stock tank, and then cut out a corresponding hole in the floor of the sauna.

It fit great! I did shim with a small piece of 3/8″ plywood, and then it felt stable.
Using a rock inside a smock to round down the hole for the drain.
Need to cut those long sides down by 10″ to fit the space. Back to the city!This should give the idea. One mount to the ceiling, one to the wall.Near the V-joint, I definitely pre-drilled those holes!Three shower curtains for complete coverage – one across the back, and then two for the sides and to meet in front.LED strip lighting seemed like a good idea here.I liked it so much, I put it inside the steam room around a bit of the door.Next up was a shower curtain rod. I had seen the standalone rods that are used with old claw-foot bathtubs, and felt that they wouldn’t be sized correctly or appropriate for the sauna. Two trips to Home Depot for 12mm galvanized pipe managed to create a pretty serviceable curtain rod


I got to hand it to you cuz …. the homestead you, Donna & Kenny have worked so hard at. Real damn impressive!!
  • Terry (2020-11-02)

Nana and Papa can’t wait to try the new sauna on our next visit. We had a wonderful time with the three of you in September and Papa enjoyed building the platform for the sauna with you and Kenny’s help.
  • Sandi Garstin (2020-11-30)

A Chilly December Morning in the Cabin

December 6, 2020

Brrr!So I had a large fire on the last afternoon in November and we opted for no evening fire, although it steadily ran through from 24, 23, 22, 21 and then I went to bed. I woke up on the first of December to this:

We haven’t seen that temperature inside since. Not sure if we’ll let it get down that far again – the cabin gets better sealed each year, and we’ve actually been putting the stove into airtight mode often without having the blowback of smoke that has occurred in the past, so we may be more open to stoking a fire and then turning it down in the evenings than we have in the past.


Oh my goodness! I know of someone that stokes their fire every night, then turns it down once it is burning well and heads to bed… it is still warm in the morning and one piece of wood and it starts up again….embers every morning and keeps everyone toasty. With winter about to kick in….great idea I think.
Stay warm and enjoy the fire, it is not only warm but beautiful.
Talk soon.
  • Bonnie Ketchum (2020-12-12)

A New Path to the Post Boxes

December 7, 2020

For the past couple of years since Grandpa Oiva moved to the city, Kenny and I have been trying to walk up for the mail when it suited.

Unfortunately, Dog Lake Road has lately been inundated with pulp and gravel trucks in ever increasing numbers. I understand that this is the price of progress and economic activity in the area, but it definitely makes us afternoon mobility-luddites into nervous nellies.

As such, in the fall, I suggested we take a few days to work out an alternate path to retrieve our post.
A tough bit with alder bushes galore.Entering the deep, dark forest. Kenny and I are always careful to watch for Leshi here.The path here is more obvious than in pictures – there are no branches!Trying to stay on the far side of the guard rails on the highway.It wasn’t a difficult task to try to follow the existing game trails along the road all the way to the mailboxes. We did try to improve on our natural guides by straightening and widening certain sections – always when they were under the hydro lines that are already kept reasonably clear for safety reasons.

It has added perhaps a quarter of an hour to our overall round trip, but it’s a price we’re willing to pay for safety, and a more natural view. Mama even finds time to come with us when she’s home! Win win!
Cheating on this stretch that the ATVs also use


Great idea and though a little longer in time, it is more beautiful anyway. Stay safe
  • Bonnie Ketchum (2020-12-12)

This Year’s Christmas Tree

December 18, 2020

Since we moved, we only had one Christmas where we didn’t end up returning to Southern Ontario over the holiday, and between that and visiting the relatives here in Thunder Bay, we only put up a tree once. It was a bit of an adventure to harvest that one. Much like me, it looked most impressive in the dark!

With the current pandemic, travel is obviously not in the cards. So we decided to put up a tree again this year in the cabin.
A festive hat for a festive activity!After a bit of traipsing through the bush and heavy discussion, we chose one from the ravine and I whipped out the electric chainsaw and cut it down.
A good ornament distribution is essential!I dragged it home and let it acclimatise out on the deck for a week. Then we brought it inside and got it decorated – it only fell over once! And luckily I was nearby and it fell on me, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.

After stabilizing it further and tightening up the stand, we have a pretty decent reminder of the season front and centre in the cabin.
Thankfully we have a countertop nearby to get to the top!
And the nighttime atmosphere is super Christmassy!Best wishes for a peaceful and happy holiday from our household to all of yours!


Your tree looks awesome but will be missing you all this Christmas 🎄
  • Sandi Garstin (2020-12-19)