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…

Few photos of our place

We had a brand new solar power system installed last year. The sun usually hits our panels around 10am, even though sun has been up for 4 hours. Great news, sun doesn’t set until 9pm. We generate enough power to watch tv, charge devices, lights and so on.


Entrance to garage on left…and the right is tool shed. As you can see, we still have a couple feet of snow. Where you see the propane tank, we have a dual fuel generator. In winter we hardly get any sun, so the generator charges our solar batteries sometimes twice a week.

Looking through the window in the distance is Indian Lake. Very messy!

Very messy house! We have propane fridge and stove. No dishwasher here except me. We get propane fill up twice a year. Today I’m making Guinness Stew.

Our bathroom has a claw foot tub, compost toilet and sink. Also housed in the bathroom are our solar batteries which need to be kept from freezing.

Couple of my bows…and a recently installed dartboard.

Main source of heat is the wood-stove, but we also have a propane furnace that is used to keep house warm when we’re not here. This prevents all our food from freezing. The big metal cylinder is a 500 gallon water tank. We draw water from the lake that we use for dishes and washing/bathing. For drinking, we filter the lake water through a Sawyer filter.
Our of our two bedrooms.

Looking southeast from inside screened in porch. So much snow! Going to be a while before that canoe sees any water.
Looking northwest from the porch, one of our many, many stock piles of firewood. Beyond the firewood is compost area.

C-o-o-o-l-d!!!

Eek! Another cold day here in the North. Current temperature is -36C, but windchill adds another -7…So about -43C.

So yeah, we’re experiencing our first winter up North. Neither of us are new to cold…well we are Canadians. I’ve lived north of the Arctic circle (Inuvik) for three years, and I lived 17 years in Northern Saskatchewan.

What is new, is how the cold affects us living day to day. Our pipes to the bathroom have frozen. No surprise there. Fortunately, we still have running water in the kitchen. I’ve setup a bowl for us to wash our hands for the time being.

John is trying to get to Kapuskasing today, but one of our vehicles won’t start. We’re on solar, so plugging in the vehicle isn’t an option. He’s running the generator now to boost the engine.

We have a fire going 24/7, but still can’t get our place above 20C. I’ve closed the bedroom door, opened the blinds to let the sun in. We go through a lot of firewood. Yesterday, I went to one of our woodpiles to collect a sled full of wood, it was -36. The cold doesn’t get to me, but it was a tad hard breathing in. Darn near impossible to get the humidity up past 18%. Even with a giant pot of water, cast iron kettle of water and two fans on the woodstove, the humidity barely budged.

There is an upside. Yesterday we had 8 hours of sunshine. Forecast for today and tomorrow is 8 hours each day. For most of early January we didn’t get even an hour of sunshine, so 8 hours is awesome. It’s just after 9am, and we’re already seeing a charge in thensolar batteries.

Not much else to do other than wait for a break in the weather. I have some rabbit snares setup throughout our property, but I think even the rabbits aren’t going out. I’ve made some pretty great trails through the forest that I snowshoe on. Snow is about 3 feet deep in some places. (Update: two rabbits so far)

Baby, it’s cold outside.
View is facing East.
View out our back door. Mustang covered in snow, SUV, two pickups…and the outhouse.

Jan. 11, 2019

Thank you to a very dear friend of mine who suggested putting together a blog about our life off-grid. Rather than rehash the past year, I’ll begin with what we’re up to right now.

Up north where we live, it’s pretty cold. Temperature this morning is -27C. Our daily ritual begins with John tending to the woodstove and me making coffee.

A year ago, living in Ottawa, we simply turned on the heat when we needed it. Now, it’s a bit more work. We have a propane furnace, but we only keep that going if the inside temperature falls below 15C. This ensures nothing freezes while we’re asleep or if we’re away. As we only get propane delivered a couple times a year, we try to limit how much propane we use. The big problem isn’t the cost of propane, it’s that the propane company can’t always get their truck in. We are 11km from the highway, snow covered and sometime icy. Thankfully, last month when our propane was at 35%, the propane guy put snow chains on his wheels so he could reach us.

Our main source of heat is the woodstove. It has a nice fire going that runs all day and night. Of course, that means we need wood…and lots of it. We’ll typically go through 15-20 pieces a day. On the woodstove are two cast iron fans that distributes the heat, a cast iron kettle with water to help with humidity, and a large pot of water that is generally used for washing dishes. We do not have hot water taps. For bathing and washing, water needs to be heated on the wood or propane stove. We do have a hot water heater, but it takes an incredible amount of electricity to run. During the winter, just doesn’t make sense.

You may wonder where we get our water from. Well, it’s free but we have to pump it from the lake. This involves John hauling a long hose, attaching it to a portable pump, and dropping it in the lake. Obviously our lake is frozen, so we use a gas powered ice auger to cut through the foot thick ice. Once attached, the water runs up to the house and into a 500 gallon cistern. The cistern is beside the woodstove, so it’ll never freeze. We need to fill the tank about every third or fourth week.

Last year we cut, split and stacked 25 cords of wood. Throughout the property are shoulder high stacks of wood. Once a week we drag the sled to the pile, fill up the sled, and bring to our porch where it is stacked and protected from the snow.

Another daily routine is cleaning the snow off our solar panels. We don’t get much sun right now, but on the odd day we do, well, it’s free electricity. We went two weeks without sun, which meant having to run a gas generator to charge the solar batteries. Today, we’re expecting 5-6 hours of sun.

Another chore that John enjoys is hopping on the ATV and snowplowing the road. Places where we can’t get in with the plow, like the compost pile, he’ll use the snowblower.

I’ve been out hunting a bit, but nothing is out with all this snow. Lots of rabbit and coyote tracks, but animals typically aren’t out during the day. We have a couple gray and blue jays that I toss crusty bread to. The gray jays will grab bread right out of your hand!

For entertainment, we have the internet via satellite dish. We typically don’t watch tv until late afternoon, and even then, it’s only on for three hours or so. During the day we surf the net, watch the stock market, read, play games. Not much else to do when it’s near -30C outside.

I continue to love to cook. Sometimes I’ll cook on the woodstove to simulate “slow cooking” in a cast iron Dutch oven. Other times, I’ll use my propane stove. Some days I’ll make a simple roast dinner like last night, while other nights I’ll cook something from one of my Julia Child cookbooks. French cuisine is my favourite.

So that’s a bit about our daily routine. Stay tuned for more posts.