Welcome to camp life 2013
This year I will sling snow. Release a trailer. Play in the mud. Sing a song of six packs.
I was away for Christmas and hanging out in town (thanks Ms. M) for alot of the early part of winter. The studio makeover took quite a bit of time, however rewarding. And the absence of a kitchen was a bit of conundrum. Nevertheless, as it was my first winter out there, it had real novelty value. I had fun.
The great things about off grid living in the winter
- getting up a three in the a.m. every night to feed the wood stove
- using the outhouse at -17, very cool. (Yes, that is a double entendre). You certainly know you’re alive
- barbequeing outdoors and cooking on the wood stove
The best thing about off grid living in the winter
— Snow blowing!!!
I had just bought this snowblower. The winter was almost over when I spotted the ad on kijiji. I called the guy. Ya, he still had it. Sure. Drop by and have a look. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found out he had the same tractor as me. Showed me it was working. And dropped his price $50 to help pay for gas.
I put a huge dent in my trailer hauling it home (and I had my trailer bed protector sheet in the truck, forgot to put it down). But hooked it up with ease: parked the tractor and went into town.
That weekend we had what the newspapers called “snowmaggedeon.” About 25cm of snow fell and wind blown snowbanks were up to 75 cm (2 feet).
This is what I saw when I got home from town
The snow at the entrance is hard packed. Over 50 cm deep. Am I glad I have a 4×4 with off road package. Oh ya. 4×4 low and I left drag marks from the springs all the way down the lane.
Then there’s the door to my studio
But, ha ha, I have the mighty Meteor
And my entrance way?
1200 feet of laneway so clean a Toyota Echo could use it. Which is important if I want Ms. M to visit.
I also did a video, which you can watch here
Woodn’t it be lovely
The other great thing about winter off grid is chopping wood. After you’re joints become conditioned to the impact of the ax; this happens.
Ah, one of the benefits of off grid life
This is hilarious. I’ve never been real muscle bound. And I’m old. You know, silver hair, half bald. Yet after a winter chopping wood, when I hit the beach in Florida and took off my shirt. People are coming by and gawking. What, they’ve never seen six pack abs and muscles before?
Enough of winter
Okay, that’s enough of my first winter off grid. Now it’s time to do some fine tuning. I try not to work too hard in the summer. Really, part of the joy of off grid life for me is free time. But I’ze still gotz some work to do.
#1 summer kitchen
First things first, I hack together a summer kitchen. One part on the outside.
Yup. I make so much solar power I can run a small 400 watt a/c unit.
Aaaaaand, one part on the inside. And here is where you’ll realize I’m a bachelor. cough cough. Just before I install the a/c unit.
It’s not that bad right? Right? I mean it’s only a hammer. And okay the window isn’t trimmed out yet. And maybe the dishes are piling up. And the garbage bag is hanging from the switch box.
My best summer innovation
Looking at my solar numbers one day. Because, well, I have a Morningstar solar controller and it gives me all kinds of information. I notice that I could have created 800 kw of power but I had used only 250 kws.
Well obviously this is bad. I threw away 650 kws and in very short order. So I start thinking. What would make my life easier. The first thing I can think of is a better fridge. The propane fridge in the travel trailer eats $1.25 in propane every day. Every day. And I am awful tired of hauling 30 lb propane tanks back and forth.
After a little searching about I find the Magic Chef. At 10 cu. ft. it’s bigger than my propane fridge/freezer. The freezer section is way bigger. And it only uses 311 kw/annually. Heck I still have 340 kws to spend on tv watching or …
So I go to the big box, the thing is on sale and free shipping.
Living off grid isn’t supposed to mean wearing a hair shirt. And I have to say, an electric fridge is a delight. A delight I say.
See ya later alligator
Now that I don’t need the propane fridge in the Hornet … I clean it up and sell it. The travel trailer takes a trip to a new home. It was a treat, got me started on my off grid adventure. However, I cheered the moment it left and did a little dance.
Time for summer lounging
Of course, no off grid home is complete without a hammock.
The biggest job of the year
Unfortunately, the biggest job of the summer; Putting in buried cables to carry electricity from the solar shed to the washroom and the studio … didn’t get documented. I don’t have a single picture.
Which is too bad, because is was a lot of fun. I don’t use the backhoe on my tractor often, but for this job I dig a couple hundred feet of trenches. 2 feet deep for non-traffic areas. And 3 feet deep where the lane runs.
I also lay cable. I use #10 underground to the switch box (for first responders/fire disconnects) and then #12 underground to the washroom and the studio. Then I bury it all. Ah, well. I’ll take pics next time.
Then I finish wiring the studio and put in some wiring (okay, one plug) into the washroom. In the washroom I also install a used GFCI and outdoor light. For some reason these two devices make trouble. But that story is still to come.
The flower hustle
Another summer job is planting out some flowers for the garden. Being an avid kijiji reader, I find an ad. “Retiring gardener can’t keep up with her huge gardens. Wishes to sell off many plants.” And the pictures are of these huge beautiful mature gardens. Eyes bugged out, tongue hanging I race to grab some of these beauties.
I get there, it was a pretty long drive. I got lost. I come up to this cute little home. I’m greeted by a not so ancient gardener. But the flower beds are spectacular. “Oh, come on to the back,” she cackles. We walk by fabulous garden bed after flower bed after … you get the idea. I’ve got my shovel in hand, ready to start digging.
Finally we walk around a small outbuilding and there is a cuttings garden. In the shade. These are the “many plants.” I’ve been hustled by a kijiji pro!
Still. I got a lot of nice plants for a reasonable price. And the story alone was worth the trip.
As I’m leaving she says, and I swear she sounds like the evil lady in 101 Dalmations, “I’m visiting a friend in Vancouver, I needed some extra spending money. Eeee hee hee heeee.”
I still laugh when I think about it.
Fall comes and it’s time to swing hammers
2013 was more about improving than building. One of the biggest improvements was the washroom. Along with electricity, I take out the plastic “windows” and put in real windows. I add to the 1″ polyiso sheathing with 1.5″ between the girts and another 1″ covering inside.
I also take the door out and put down 4″ of xps insulation on the floor and then refloor. Reinstalling the door 4.5″ higher. And I insulate the ceiling the same way I did the studio. 6″ of roxul and 1.5″ polyiso overtop.
Here you can see the extra 1″ sheathing board has been added to the right. On the back wall you see how I cut and fit the 1.5″ polyiso between the girts. This was a real squeeze operation and it stiffened the building considerably. Even in the wildest winds now the building is snug as a bug. It’s pretty neat.
Done anything differently?
Ya. You know, I can say I would have done things differently if I’d known that this would go from a 3 season washroom to 4. On the other hand, two years of off grid building research certainly didn’t hurt me any.
A friend comes and helps me slap some windows in. And I put in a room heater. Dang, no more -17C contemplation’s of nature.
The “shizzer shack” at -35, new windows in
The washroom goes from -17 to plus 17C. Here it’s -35 but you can see the sun flooding into the washroom. I might miss the cold contemplation of nature, but these windows are much easier to see through.
And they’re another kijiji find. Unframed they are $6 each. Not bad considering they are argon filled and Low E-coated for my climate.
And ever wonder how much water your propane heater puts into the air. Here’s the heater vent right at dawn. I put in a 13k btu vented propane heater.
Pretty awesome year
I actually got quite a bit done in 2013. I put up another 500 watts of solar and installed a second MPPT solar controller. I moved a shed. I installed windows. I fixed up a temporary kitchen. Eh. Not bad.
So here’s a panorama pic of the camp at the end of 2013.
Da camp 2013
Excited to see what happens in 2014?
Go to My camp build 2014
wait, missed the 2012 build season:
go to My camp build 2012