Winter is upon us

Winter for most people is the often dreaded of the four seasons. Shovelling snow, bitter cold and ice aren’t fun for most. Where we live, you had better like winter or plan to move further south.

Winter north of Highway 11 in Ontario is long. We’ve had snow as early as mid-October and last until late May. The lake we live on usually breaks up late May. We joke that we only have two seasons here – winter and bug. I don’t know if we’ve really experienced spring season because as soon as the snow melts and the ground thaws, we’re already into middle to late June.

So far, this winter seems less harsh compared to two years ago. We have snow, but barely a foot. Couple years ago we had three times that amount by December 1st. Even the temperatures are below what we’re used to. Typical days are between 0C to -5C. No doubt that my writing this, we’ll soon plunge into a deep freeze lol.

Things are pretty quiet around here. For exercise, I’ve had a few walks along the road towards our other property, but the roads are a bit icy. Soon I’ll need to wear crampons. Last year I used to drive 25km to the nearest town and get a bit of exercise on the treadmill. Unfortunately, doing that more than a couple times a week isn’t worth the risk driving in bad conditions and wasting unnecessary gas. Purchased an indoor, non-electric recumbent bike. It’s been fantastic for “riding” 15 miles a day, yet I don’t use any of our valuable solar power.

We’re in the tough part of the year with regards to solar. From early November to late December, the sky is grey. Not ideal for generating solar power. Come January, while temperatures plunge into the -20 to -40 range, we’ll have blue skies. We should be able to get 5 to 6 hour days of sunlight. Far cry from summer when we had days of 15 hours of sunlight. Living this far north, the sun rises earlier and sets late…as late as 9:30pm in the summer.

It’s nice and cozy indoors as we have the wood-stove running 24/7. I laboured many hours this past summer building up our wood supply. We’ll use approximately 10 cords here at the house, and John will use another 6-8 cords at our other property.

Been doing a lot more baking as of late. In the past couple weeks, have made blueberry, cherry and apple pies. Today made a rice pudding. This past summer was really productive as I pressured canned about 70 jars of prepared meals – spaghetti sauces, chicken cacciatore, split pea soup and stews.

Yesterday decided to give the propane stove a break and made a pork stew on the wood stove. I like to call this cooking my “slow cooker” method. I’ll put all the ingredients into a cast iron dutch oven and set it on the wood stove. The house is buzzing with the aroma of the stew. Took about 6 hours or so…about the same time as a slow cooker.

Other than that, just sitting back and reading a lot. Soon the lake will be frozen over enough that I can safely snowshoe across. John is busy up at the other property with his hobbies, woodworking and fixing stuff. We are both well and healthy. As John jokes, it’s not hard for us to social distance – we have no neighbours for miles.

August 2020

Feels like fall today as it is the first day since spring where wool socks, slippers and a light sweater are needed. The overnight temperature last night was 12C, a far cry from the 30C+ we had been enjoying/hating. I dislike hot and humid sooooo much, and loved having the duvet quilt on the bed last night.

North end of our lake

Heard Canada geese flying overhead this morning, and the loons are still on the lake, but won’t be long before the only birds here are the ravens, chickadees and gray/blue jays.

South end of the lake

We’ve had a very busy summer tweaking a few things. For starters, our former propane fridge went kaput and replaced with a brand new solar fridge. What’s great, the old propane fridge used about one pound of propane per day while the solar fridge uses zero. The only thing using propane now is the stove. Happy that our propane fill up will only occur once maybe every second year.

Line running to a pump in the lake

Another big step for us is that we get our water to the house in a more efficient way. We have submerged a pump in the middle of the lake. No longer will we have to auger a hole in the ice, drag a pump and hose and connect in winter. Nope, now we just have to plug in a cord to the generator to melt any snow within the new hose, and within minutes, water can run from the lake directly the house.

Disappointing that this year, I didn’t get the greenhouse up. It was to be setup to the right of the house. We cleared some trees, got the ground prepared for the greenhouse, but then one thing led to another and it just didn’t happen. Next year lol.

View to the west

We did clear a lot of trees this year…trees that had the potential to fall on our solar panels. Unfortunate we had to cut down 60 foot trees, but we learned that lesson last year when a tree crashed down on our panels and caused $2,000 damage. We depend on solar for electricity…so it’s a big deal. And, big benefit of clearing a few dozen trees is we get more sunlight hitting our panels.

We’re coming up on our third winter and still loving it. I’d love to be more remote, and continue to look at other properties, but for the time being this feels like home. Last year we were lucky to put in a low bid on another property 600 metres north of us. I heard the previous owner accidentally burned his house down, and had just built a huge garage. Garage is about 1000 square feet, and has been the perfect getaway for John from me (haha) and storage.

John loves to tinker with stuff, repair & maintenance of vehicles, atv’s and tools. Garage will be perfect for storing our camper. The property also has another shed and lots of storage for firewood.

Now that the temperatures are cooling, I can get some canning done over the next month or two. Hunting season is coming up as well, and I have a lot of practice hikes. Before long, winter will be here, and I’ll need to make the drive to the closest town to use the treadmill at the local gym to keep in shape.

John and I will begin the drive to Georgia early March so I give the Appalachian Trail another try. We’re booked for a couple nights at a lodge at Amicalola State Park, then I’ll head out and John will begin the 1500 mile drive home. Fingers crossed no injuries this time.



Spring Hike on hold

Sadly, but no surprise, I’ve postponed my April 2020 hike. Biggest concerns were resupply issues on the trail, uncertainty as to which hostels/motels/restaurants would be open, and whether or not my travel insurance would cover costs related to Covid-19.

Fortunately, was able to get 100% refunds on travel insurance and 2 nights stay at Amicalola Lodge.

I’m contemplating a flip-flop in June, hoping things have changed by then. For my friends who aren’t familiar with “flip-flop,” this is starting the trail halfway (West Virginia), then hiking north to Maine. Once Mt. Katahdin has been reached, I would get transportation back to West Virginia and hike south to Georgia.

Fingers crossed that this virus will peak by then. In the meantime, lots of snow, but the weather is warming up. Forecast next two weeks suggests temperatures will be hovering around freezing.

Take 2

Just about every day that has passed since I left the Appalachian Trail in 2019, it has gnawed at me that I started, but didn’t finish. It felt like a crushing defeat and a failure.

Time and feedback from friends and fellow hikers have helped me to rethink what I did accomplish. I did the planning. I stepped foot on the trail and I hiked. I didn’t get as far as I had hoped, but I didn’t fail at trying. I’m not a quitter and have something to prove. Maybe it’s this year, maybe it’s next year. I will not stop trying.

I know what I did right, and what I did wrong. A lot to think about the past 12 months. I think the biggest change was being ill-prepared physically, and in the end mentally as well. A hiker saying goes something like this: don’t quit on a bad day. Well, I did. And I’ve regretted it every day.

I thought coming from northern Ontario, middle of winter and four feet of snow, that I could simply step on the trail and get my trail legs. Wrong! No trails where I live have elevation climbs greater than maybe 30 feet. I know I didn’t stretch enough which made my hip and knee joints very sore. And finally, I never drank near enough water.

So what changes have I made? First off, I joined a gym in a town 20km away. I’ve been using the treadmill couple days a week with a 25 lb. pack. At a minimum, I’m simulating carrying the pack and adding incline while I walk. Even after a couple hours I don’t even notice the weight of the pack. I also have a new before and after hike stretch routine.

Last year I had heard of a chiropodist in Kapuskasing. Visiting her was the best thing as I learned I had plantar fasciitis. I didn’t know it when I was hiking, but it sure explained why my feet were sore. She fitted me for orthotics and the result is my feet have never been better.

Yesterday I purchased travel insurance for six months. Pretty pricey, but going to the US without health coverage would be awful if something happened. The policy is $10 million coverage; likely enough coverage for a few nights stay 😆.

John and I will leave our homestead first week of April – just like last year. We’ll likely stop in Guelph, Cincinnati and then Georgia. John is planning to go to NC for a few days then back to Canada.

My plan while on trail is to write a short blog, but delay publishing for a few days for safety reasons.

Until then, we’re stuck in winter. Lots of snow, but it is warming up. Past couple days the temperature has been above zero. I spent a few hours on the roof yesterday shovelling near waist high snow. I think our log structure is sound, but want to be sure because when the snow starts melting and turns to ice, it’ll add extra weight to the roof.

Thats it for now


Almost 3 months since my last post

I can’t believe how bad I am at blogging. Consider me a part-time blogger as there isn’t a lot new in my/our world. What got me to providing an update was a post I made on Facebook, that for some reason, people find our new lifestyle of interest.

Two months ago, John and I were shopping at Canadian Tire. We saw an Instant Pot for sale, and thought why not. It didn’t appear to use too much wattage especially when we’re getting up to 14 hours of sun per day.

The IP (short for Instant Pot) has been amazing. Firstly, it cooks food much faster than say an oven. I cooked a 4 lb. chicken the other day in 20 minutes. And best part, didn’t have turn on the oven. It’s been so hot and humid here lately that the stove doesn’t really get used at all.

Second great thing about the IP, it has many uses aside from pressure cooking. It makes yogurt, steams, can be used as a slow cooker, and even make popcorn!

With all this success, I wanted to say via a Facebook IP group how much I like the IP. I went on to say I don’t think i’ll get much use out of it come winter. The problem is summer versus winter. The sun rises here in summer around 5:30am and sets 9:30pm. However, we don’t begin generating electricity until 8 or 9 am. In winter, the sun might rise around 8 or 9, but it sets around 4pm. So shorter days in winter, but the sun also isn’t as strong.

Given the difference, any appliance like say a toaster, microwave, coffee maker, or IP – has a heating element that uses a lot of amps. Only way to get around this in winter is to run the generator. It works, it’s loud, and uses gas. Our gas prices up here are over $1.35/L…or over $5 a gallon. We usually need to run the generator in winter for 3 hours a day, 3x a week.

Some suggest getting more solar batteries. Easier said than done, but they must be stored indoors. Our house has only two bedrooms – one for sleeping in, the other is a pantry and office. Currently, our 8 solar batteries are contained in two boxes in the bathroom. There is no room for more.

Back to the Facebook post. To my shock, it generated close to 4,000 likes and 400+ comments (about 1/5 are my comments responding to posters). My intent wasn’t to get attention, just to say how much I like my new IP. Surprisingly, people found our off-grid lifestyle interesting.

One comment I always get: “you’re not off-grid. You have cellphones and internet.” Incorrect understanding of what off-grid means, and simply means you’re not tied to the electrical grid. We generate our own electricity. Our water is drawn from the lake. We don’t have a septic system, but a compost toilet. We do not have cellphone service, but to get a signal, we have to drive out to the highway. Our heat source is wood stove. I hunt and fish a wee bit, and I can and preserve food. Next year our greenhouse will be up.

So yeah, we have internet via satellite dish. And we have BellExpress Vu via dish as well. Big deal. Winters are long here.

Other news….

We had our first guests – Pauline and Hoppy from Ottawa. We had a wonderful 3+ days of food, drink and card games. Guests are always welcome…anytime of year.

We bought a second property a few months ago. We had seen a for sale sign and called the agent. Turns out the previous owner had bought the property, built a massive 1,000 sq. ft. garage…then sadly, his house burned down. We got the property rather cheap. The garage is all John’s to tinker with. LOL, I doubt I’ll see him much at home as he’ll be up there. The property has an amazing view of the lake, perched high on a hill. There is also a massive shed for storage, plus a couple years storage area for firewood.

Things are quiet now, John has been in Ottawa for past 10 days, and will be returning in another ten. I’ve been trying to stay cool, try not to get bitten by black flies and mosquitoes. Bugs are nowhere near bad as I’ve heard they can be. I’ve also been hauling wood from this property up to the other one as it is better storage.

Blood sucking skeeters! I recently learned they’re attracted to screens, sensing the CO2 generated from propane appliances.

I guess the last thing is something always on my mind: Attempting the Appalachian Trail in 2020. I’ve been training, but haven’t committed 100%. I have a few hikes planned on the Coastal Trail at Lake Superior. There, I can hike the longer 120km or the shorter 60km one.

More to come on this…