Sunday, December 30, 2012

Closing the Door on 2012

Closing the door on 2012, while I haven't really even opened it here this year! My original plans were to concentrate on off the grid living. I have been negligent, so here is a year-end up-date.

POWER -A big concern for us living up the Jervis Inlet is power. We are off-grid and have an inverter system that is powered by a pelton wheel and a propane generator. We have water rights to the creek near our property. From this we run a pipe through a pelton wheel to generate electricity. When the wheel is clogged with debris or the water is low or we are using a large amount of electricity, we have a propane generator.

Propane costs have doubled since we moved here. Therefore, generating our own power is paramount. This summer all has gone well with the hydro system, until August, when the water level was very low. We had to use our generator much more that we wanted. Also we realized that our batteries were getting old and were not holding a charge as long as they should.

So we called Gary of Solar Plus to the rescue. Gary brought us new batteries and gave our inverter system a thorough going over. The four new batteries have the capacity of 6 of the original batteries. Not cheap either, $400 each but still we could have spent more. We know others off-grid who have spent $1000 each. Anyway, we now have no problem running our house daily, lights, radio, phone, including the occasional microwave, without ever turning on the generator, I usually turn it on to top-up the batteries while I wash clothes at the same time.

DECK AND GARDEN -  Another project this year was to replace structural lumber and decking on our lower deck. Actually all decks are on the list, but the lower deck was first. New stairs from the upper to lower deck was installed earlier.

Ran into a carpenter at the docks this summer who did a superb job for us. We now have a new lower deck. Plans are to extend it this spring so I will be able to have a container and raised bed garden. We will double the deck size. This is where all the sun is, so that is where the garden is too.

UPCOMING CHANGES - Soon to be enacted plans include changing from a propane refrigerator to an electric one. We run a small chest freezer now with no problem. The energy star appliances are so much more efficient that we are sure we can add an electric refrigerator to our system. I chose a bottom freezer style and now need to arrange pickup and delivery to our place.
Also on the list: upper deck will also be redone this summer. Jim's workshop will be finished. We will get extra wood into the wood shed next summer! Better stop, that is enough on the list for now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Not a Gardening Year!

Bok choy in recycled styro boxes
Good intentions and what I thought was a great start to gardening this season have all been for naught. I planted peas twice. Either the bluejays ate them or they rotted in the ground because it was so wet. Bok choy and lettuce  did okay. The broad beans are looking good, but that's about it. The tomato and pepper plants are growing very slowly. Some blossoms, but there just hasn't been enough sunshine and warm temperatures to bring on the fruit.
I did get a first flush of strawberries, but again not enough warmth. When we went down to Washington state last month it should have been the peak of strawberry season. But the crop was late. Too much rain and grey skies.
My favorite pink rose bush that just blooms it's heart out!
Not giving up though. Will plant second crops of greens and beans since they are the ones doing well.
Meanwhile the herbs and flowers seem to been doing fine. Have an abundance of chives, sage, thyme and some lovely flowers on the deck. So can't complain.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ready for Spring!

This has been a very cold and wet winter and I am ready for spring. We have had a few sunny days that remind us of the beautiful weather that will be here soon. Spent Saturday on the deck in the sunshine. Some of the early spring flowers are coming up. The hellebores were late this year. They usually appear in late January but were a month late this winter. They are such a welcome sight in the middle of a dreary, grey day. Also the slugs don't seem to like them, so that is a plus. I have spent a fortune on hostas which get devoured by the slugs. So the few I have now are in pots.
Some spring projects have begun. We have had Kelly and his boys over a number of times to work on different projects including repairing the back porch. Now it has a new roof and stairs. Clean up of the recycle bags. We are good about dividing our recycling items. The difficulty is getting them over to the mainland and down to the recycle center. There isn't any recycling in Egmont, except for cans and bottles at the community hall. So that has always been an issue. We have a whole season's worth of recycling and the boys are hauling it out slowly but surely.
We have purchased some more water pipe and hope to have a dedicated 2" pipe for the hydro. A few hundred more feet to go. One big problem with our water pipe is that it travels over logs, rocks and rough terrain to get from the creek to our house. This means dips and low parts that either freeze in winter or eventually gather sand and rocks that block the water flow. We hope to remedy that this year by tying up these sections to make the pipe more level.
Another project is the garden. I haven't gardened much the past couple of years, but intend to get back into it this year. The beds need amending and the grow boxes need some repair. One of the problems here is lack of sunshine because of the large trees. The only truly sunny place is the swest side which is on the rock bank above the dock. Years ago my son Mason and I constructed tiered growing boxes along the rock bank. They are in need of repair now. I will get to it. Growing herbs and salad greens along with some peas and beans isn't too difficult once the boxes and planters are set up. Planting time is fast approaching. So I have gotten out the seed packets: peas, onions, lettuce, chard, carrots will go in first.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Year's Plan

After some thought, I have decided to focus this year's blog entries on the practical living experiences off the grid and up the inlet. Our house is on face value much the same as anyone's. We have electric lighting, switches on the walls, tv, computers, etc. This seems to surprise many of our visitors. Because we live by boat access and  in such a remote area, people expect to see an outhouse and candles or oil lamps. We do have all of those but they are our back-up. We live a fairly normal daily existence as long as we watch our power consumption, maintain the batteries and keep the water flowing!
In many ways, that is what is missing from an urban existence. There is no accountability for your energy consumption that is as definitive as your battery going low and your electricity going out. Except for maybe a huge hydro bill when you consume a lot of electricity in a month. It would be an interesting experiment to have homes put on a metered system that shut off when you went over your allotment for the day or week. Sure makes you consider how much you are using when that happens.
We have been working on repairs and upgrades here and there this month. The dock has more buoys to shield the boat from ramming against the dock in high winds and waves. Our boat, the Expat is being repaired again. Another section of rubber railing has come off. The only solution so far has been to put the very large buoys off the wooden dock for protection. The drawback is that it makes for a very large step from boat to dock!
We almost lost a friend this summer as she tried to step on the boat and fell part way. No harm but her leg could have gotten crushed between boat and dock. Still working on this one.
Another project has been to shore up a corner of the back porch and add new steps and add a covered roof for that part of the porch. I plan on moving the recycling to that area so the immediate back porch off the kitchen is cleaner.
Still looking for a good place for the compost bin. It has been moved many times. I have one of the enclosed  plastic bins that rolls on a stand to stir the compost. It should be in the sun for maximum heat and composting, but that is difficult with all the trees. And it would also make it inconvenient to carry the compost from the kitchen. I had open compost bins originally, but found that attracted too many critters in the wilderness. So the enclosed bins are the way to go. Now I find I need to purchase another one, so I have one composting and another filling.
While we have had some lovely sunny days, it is still winter. Today the strong, northern outflow winds are blowing. It is cold and expected to go below freezing tonight. Sure glad we purchased a new and larger wood stove this fall!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year comes in cold!

It's a cold, cold new year that has blown in the inlet. 2010 ended well and I look forward to a good 2011. Right away though the new year is a challenge out here in the bush. Our water line has frozen as it always does when it dips below freezing.
The water pipe running through the forest from the stream is in shade and it eventually freezes after so many days of freezing weather. We prepare for it with a lot of 5 gal buckets of rainwater for washing and a drinking water supply on the back porch.
Our little pelton wheel is running but the smaller pipe to the house has frozen. Usually this only lasts a few days. We have lots of ideas to solve this occasional problem, but never seem to get around to it. The easiest solution would be to put some heat tape on the pipe from the house. We have never done this because of the electrical draw on our system. However, we have been getting an increase in amps from the system so we are thinking of trying it.
Just the beginning of fun problems to solve living off grid!
Happy New Year to everyone!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Community Projects Completed!

Been a busy summer and I am happy to report that two major  community projects I have been working on are completed!

Arnie with Bella and Ali carrying eagle w
Frog face on whale tail

The new 24 ft. pole at the Centre is fantastic. Arnie did a wonderful job. Two seasons of carving a cedar log donated by the Sechelt Community Forest. Arnie's clan is the frog. So he has carved three frogs in his memorial pole.  The pole is centered at the entrance to the museum and will have a native plant garden surrounding it.
Arnie painting killer whale

me, Arnie, Jess and Sonja

The Egmont Community Club Hall - hall foundation and renovation

New cedar shake porch roof. New porch comes later!
This has been a long process for the community. Started raising funds five years ago. Lots of raffles and other fund raising projects raised over $50,000 from the community. Grants from Heritage Legacy Fund $25,000 and Jervis Inlet fund / SCRD another $25,000. We have a perimeter, cement foundation now, a basement room that will become our Thrift Store and restored old windows and a new porch cedar shake roof. Whew! Now will enter Phase II - paint inside and out, kitchen reno, heater, and moving Thrift Store downstairs. More fundraising!!