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.
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)
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.