Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Building a Workshop

Sorry I haven't written for awhile dear readers.

Under Grandpa's tutelage I have been building a workshop/garage that is shaping up quite nicely.

Already last year Grandpa had marked out and cleared the site, and with the spring giving me the opportunity to cut up the large log pile by the sawmill, we had the materials to get cracking.  Grandpa laid out the heavy beams for the base and leveled and squared them up.  We put up the walls and roof, and I ordered up the steel for the roof.
Taking shape.
In the course of a morning we managed to get the roof on, with only the final panel being screwed in completely crooked and needing to be reset.

A few days later I added the ridge cap, and then it was off to Killbear Provincial Park to meet with my family for an awesome camping session.

Kenny got up to many antics, and Aunt V! let me try out the standup paddleboard that she had rented.  I must point out that I did not fall off.
Steady as she goes.
Back in Waterloo it was awesome to spend time with Nana and Papa and see their award-winning garden.  They really set the bar high for everyone around them.  Sigh.

In Waterloo I did also try to fill in a few computer calls.  As with most things in life, these turned out to be far more involved than I would have expected!  Oh well, I managed to struggle through them and still enjoy my time with my parents and see my Grandma.
Kenny has to write larger for Great Grandma 8)
Towards the end of our time there I started to feel sick all the time.  This was a bit of a disappointment because one of the highlights of returning to Waterloo is enjoying the foods that I came to love there.  I didn't get a real chance to enjoy Mr. Doner Kebab at all.  It breaks my heart.

No Pizza Pizza after 8pm in Cochrane?!  Even on the weekends!  Luckily you can pickup at Greco's Pizza, and it was awesome :).
The illness persisted the entire trip back home, and even a week after we were back in Thunder Bay.  I finally went to see my very nice Nurse Practitioner, and she has given me some medicine that seems to have helped very much.  While I don't always refer to it, I have an ongoing health situation that causes me noticeable issues.  It remains to be seen if this is related or not.  My NP is going to consult with a gastroenterologist and get back to me.  In the meantime, I'm still due for lots of pokes and prods and a little surgery over the next little while, so please be patient (pardon the pun) with my posts.

A few days ago with the thermometer pushing thirty degrees again, Mummu and Grandpa and our family all piled into his new car and headed down to camp.  I set up the cool hammock my friend J! gave us from Paraguay, and Kenny entertained us with his acrobatics.
A future Olympian?
Yesterday was another crazy hot day.  I did a bit of straightening up in the Tardis, and then decided to walk over to Mummu and Grandpa's house to load up some episodes of Coronation Street on a flash drive for their viewing pleasure.

As I passed the property line, I heard some twigs snapping a few feet to my right.

You can imagine my surprise as I looked up to see this fellow chowing down on the bounty of blueberries we are all enjoying.

Hide yo blueberries!
Gathering my thoughts, I decided the best course of action was to continue on to Mummu's house, but perhaps at a more brisk pace.  My friend looked up and took off towards our cabin.

I got to Mummu's and phoned Donna to give her a head's up.  She called Kenny inside and managed to snap the above photo looking down the path to Mummu's house.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Another Crack at a Solar Shower - Using a Pesticide Sprayer as a Pressurized Shower.

It's getting hot and humid occasionally here now that we approach Canada Day.  I started to crave even the old bag solar shower I first used while we were still in the yurts.
Then, as happens so often, I remembered that I had come up with a solution years ago already.
Back when I worked for ProMark-Shankman (now ProMark Window Film and Blinds) I often used a large, black pump sprayer to install window films, and the water would get noticeably warm when the sprayer was left in the sun.
At the time I had a sailboat, and declared that if I ever was heading out into deep water, I would buy one of the pump sprayers to use just for showering.
The remembrance of that idea struck me the other day in the city and so I opted to purchase the cheapest pump sprayer I could find to test my concept out.
The cheapest I could find
It worked well the first sauna - but Kenny and I found that we did have to use the "pesticide" spray attachment, otherwise the water and pressure ran out much too quickly.
Next up, I painted the whole thing black so that it could better absorb the solar energy pelting us.
Thank you Plasti-Dip

All ready to heat up!
Of course, the next two days were overcast, and so last night I put two kettles of hot water into the sprayer and Donna and I both had mini showers in that manner.
I like the convenience, although having a more powerful shower, in the cabin would be even better, I don't see how that's realistically possible yet.
Donna *seemed* to think it was okay, she neither criticized it, nor praised it.  We'll see how much we come to use it in the future.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tripling Our Power Production

The weather lately has been pretty good.  Of course, within the past week we did get another evening with the temperature dipping down to around zero.  That was pretty hard on our SECOND batch of tomato plants.  It's a good thing I don't like tomatoes anyway!

We're down to just one - but it seems to be doing okay.  My sister gave us an upside down tomato planter and so I gave it a try - it must have the advantage of being slightly more frost tolerant in that position.
But I, I will survive - as long as I know how to hang I know I'll be alright!  (You can see the less hardy members of this family on the table in the background.  Hint:  They're brown.)
On one of our sunnier and warmer days, Ryan and Kyle Ranta from Ranta Construction showed up to repeat their previous performance of installing my solar panels.  I purchased six new panels that were rated for 250 watts each.  1500 watts of extra power - exciting to me!  We have been doing well on 690 watts for the past year or two, although in November and December it was challenging and annoying to run the generator every day or two.  I was hoping to be able to reduce this as much as possible.
Tight vertical tolerances!  Note the new panels are actually slightly smaller even though they are more efficient!  Also, you can see that the frames are black, not silver.  Grandpa also pointed out that they are more reflective - perhaps the original glass has faded slightly?

Room for nine more!  (Don't even think about it!)
The addition of the 1500 watts of power brings us up to a total of 2190 watts.  If I did achieve this possible output it would actually be more than my 60 amp charge controller would permit.  I am not going to be obsessing about this theoretical loss of my peak output.  It will almost certainly only occur at times when the batteries are already nearly fully charged and I start using some sort of heavy load.
Oh yeah!  This is only a short time after I threw breaker.  Almost double the highest production we've previously had.  1.2kW coming down :).
Besides, the reason I over supplied the charge controller wasn't to give me tonnes of power during the theoretical summer glut, but to be able to harvest more during the much darker and shorter days of November and December.  The past two days have been overcast and rainy (although not DARK dark), and both days the batteries have managed to get to float by late afternoon, in spite of me doing laundry and pumping water.  Last night we even ran our panini press to make pizza in hot dog buns (which was awesome, by the way.)

So far I'm extremely pleased.  I have seen maximum production of 54 amps the first day of installation when it was sunny outside, and I ran the microwave oven to heat my leftovers.

The REAL test will come in October, November and December as we attempt to diminish our reliance on the noisy, fussy and carbon producing generator.


Donna made the pizza last night.  It was awesome.  Here is how I saw her do it so that you can try for yourself:

She took parchment paper and put some frozen asparagus spears in it and grilled that first.

Then she used a mix of hot dog buns (whole wheat for her, white for Kenny and myself) with sweet chili sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese as the basic pizza.  Then on mine I also got mushrooms, pickled peppers and the asparagus.  She skipped the pickled peppers - her loss!  Just to be clear, the hot dog buns were CLOSED, so they grilled top and bottom and the messy sauce and cheese wasn't directly against the grill.

Using parchment paper on your grill is awesome.  You can just take a sheet that fits under and over your sandwich and that makes cleanup a snap.  It's totally a great idea!  I've previously used it for PB and J sandwiches, as well as grilled cheese.  Next up will be perhaps trying it on chicken breasts or something similar.