Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2013

Belated Merry Christmas 2013

...just taking a few minutes to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and of course, a Happy New Year. Our household has been busier than a pair of booster cables at the close of a redneck funeral, so to speak. It would take too long to elaborate, so just trust me. Ironically, I ended up with two interesting gifts that in a way, I thought I'd never own. As an "experienced" 35mm photo-nut, I always said I'd never bother with a DSLR camera. Simply put, there's no reason this day in age to have a bulky reflex mirror behemoth hanging from your neck. However, I could not help but notice the crisp  and stunning photos that such things render. Canon, one of my most disliked brands has been dumping their older T3 with a non-stabilized lens for the bargain price of $299. By using her "Optimum" points, Debbie was able to shave almost $175 from that, ringing it in at around $125 plus tax...ok SOLD !! So far so good, and yes I'm impressed...
A few sample photos...

Always playing Catch-up (Malawi 2013)

It happened again; another calendar month with no post from me. It's not that I couldn't find the time, I just didn't "take" the time. November seemed busier than usual. Back on October 24th, Debbie and I joined a team of 8 and participated in a short-term missions trip to Malawi. The 2-week trip was busy and a little tiring, but I think rolling up your sleeves and helping is always the right thing to do. In my experience, you need not labor or brood over this stuff...let me reiterate: if it involves helping someone, it's ALWAYS the right thing to do. In other words, you need not pray and ask Jesus what he meant by "go ye into all the world"...duh !
A significant part of our trip was undeniably the children we met. Of the 15 million people in Malawi, almost half are children. By most of our measures, they don't seem to have very much, and it was heart-wrenching to hear them in the villages singing "my cup is full and running over". I …

More winter preps

Had to finalize my wood storage before departing for Malawi because time is running out. This year, I constructed a new wood rack along the side of my garage. It's 24 feet long and can almost store 2 cords.
I now have enough for the winter that will soon be here.

Winter Preps 2013

I installed a wood stove/chimney back in 1998, and have been pretty much addicted to heating with wood ever since. It's a little curious because I never really grew up with it, except for a brief lapse in the mid 70's where my Father installed one of those Valley Comfort "12 hour burners" in response to the fuel crisis. It was much too large for our tiny home and it only survived a winter or two. I don't really save much money given the fact that I buy all my wood in city-slicker fashion (cut and split), but the comfort and peace of mind are invaluable. I took delivery of my last load yesterday, and recorded the "dumping...


There's probably enough for six weeks or so in that load. It's not quite dry, but I won't be using that particular wood until at least February. It's kind of comforting to know that if a winter storm knocks out the power, it won't really be much of an issue...drop by if you're in the mood for stackin'  :)

Thanksgiving and Stoving

This year, Thanksgiving afforded me an opportunity/excuse to try out an unused stove. Sometime last year I purchased a 2 burner campstove/oven combo unit. It sat idle until now. We had a bunch of people coming over for a Thanksgiving meal, about 15 or so. Saturday night I began to wonder if that lone turkey was going to be enough. We kind of have an unwritten rule in our home that nobody leaves hungry. Anyway, just to be certain, I ran out to pick up some backup protein. Alas, the stores didn't have much left late Saturday night. I resorted to grabbing two of those prefab Butterball stuffed frozen Turkey Breasts, concluding that the 6 pounds of extra white meat would set our minds at ease. Not my first choice but it would have to do...
They called for 4 and a half hours at 325F, so I thought this would be a good test, and it was nice and sunny out. Since I had never used this oven, I knew I was taking some risk, but who cares right ? Adding to the recklessness, I decided to use a…

Overnight Trip

...finally managed to get away for a little paddle and a night in a tent. Everything went perfectly. Nice weather, lots of sun, little wind, and good friends. ...got to spend the night in my Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 2, even though I was not the first (James broke it in on me previously). It was only one night but hey, it's one more than last year. I must be more aggressive in seizing the day...ha right...

Heritage :)

This is a photo of my grandfather from 1957. When I first saw it I wondered why he was carrying a briefcase...silly me. It's a Coleman Stove of course. So, I kind of come by this madness honestly...

Outback Lodge Tent

A good Kijiji find, and addition to my supplies; a single walled throwback tent, Cabelas Outback Lodge. They are $350 new. At 10' x 10', it's quite the mansion  :) It's seen some use, but is still in great shape. a classic with a single pole in the center... It "only" weighs in at 16 pounds. That's pretty light for a beast of such size. I'm hoping to try it out winter camping, but we'll see...

Keji Youth Canoe Trip

Over the Labor Day Weekend, Joel and James joined with some other youth and men from church for a three night canoe trip through the back country of Keji National Park. The two videos below were put together by Wayne Smith, from photos and footage taken along the trip by Brian Crooks. First up, the movie trailer...

Next, a slide show of some of the memories...pretty good  :)

Many thanks to guys like Brian, Pat, and Wayne who make it a point to seize the day and pull stuff like this off...the next generation is in good hands !

Summer. There it was, Gone !

Wow. I can't believe it's September 11th. The last half of summer has vanished and I can't come up with a reasonable explanation as to why or where. It's true that time and tide waits for no man, and you have to really seize the day as it were. Our life seems to be entering a new phase. Our boys are 17 and 18, and forging a life of their own. That, coupled with both of us working makes for a busy household. We're like the proverbial ships passing in the night. Thankfully, we still seem to sit down and eat meals together quite a bit, mostly thanks to Debbie's perseverance. Lots of activity though; Debbie went to Nfld for a week. Joel was away for much of the summer working. James lucked out and got invited to go to Nicaragua for a couple of weeks. It's good to have friends. We managed a few nights camping, and the boys took in a week of youth camp, along with a 3 night canoe trip.
Here's hoping for a less hectic autumn...right  :)


Deep Cycle Batteries

Another off-grid power component of course is the battery. There's not much point in generating electricity with solar panels unless you have somewhere to store it. There are many considerations. Many people opt to go with 2 6-volt golf cart batteries, joining them in series to produce 12 volts. I chose the less "hard core" option of 2 simple Costco Deep Cycle 12-volt batteries, wired in parallel. My considerations were centered around choices. For example, I can easily remove a battery temporarily and use it for another purpose, something that you can't really do if you go with the 6-volt option. I'm a bit of a scatter-brain, and might at any moment rip a battery out and embark on a different project etc. 
Costco has several Deep Cycle choices. Again, for the sake of options and versatility, I compromised and got two "Starting / Deep Cycle" ones. Each will function as a starting battery if needed, and they claim a respectable 115 amp hours. Time will …

More Solar / Power

Given the cumbersome nature of my recently created 110 watt solar setup, I decided to augment it with a semi-permanent addition. Over the last year, little amorphous 7 watt solar panels have been at Princess Auto for less than $20. 
7 Watts at 12 volts admittedly is not much. Nevertheless, over numerous visits to the Princess, I ended up with three of these panels. I kind of had a plan, but never acted on it...until now... Three of these panels mounted quite discretely, stealthly even, in my Vanagon's luggage rack, and you can't even notice them unless you're either 7 feet tall, or standing at an above the van vantage point. I ran the wires through one of the drain holes in the corner of the luggage rack and sneaked them into the van, attaching them to a small charge controller. From there I have a setup comprised of several options: First, I have a plug going to the main starting battery for trickle charging/maintaining that. Next, there's a barrel post connector tha…

More Solar

I found some time to putter...yay! Along with my two Coleman 40 watt solar panels, I dug out two 15 watt Canadian Tire ones that had been lying dormant. One of them was never even removed from the box. I thought of buying more, but resisted the urge. Sometimes it's best to use what you have, especially since none of this is critical. Nevertheless, a total of 110 watts is better than nothing, so I decided to try and make a "system" of sorts. Basically, I constructed a crude "suitcase" affair from 1x3 strapping and old panel board. Into this, I fitted the two 15 watt panels. Then I added the two 40 watt panels on hinges so that the whole thing unfolds...    Notice in the picture above, the 15 watt panels are physically larger than the 40 watt ones. They are several years older than the new 40 watt "polycrystalline" ones. This seems to be working out ok, but the whole thing is a bit heavy. However, it folds up and packs away nicely. This is all part of …

Solar?

I've been fooling with 12 volt power of late, and seeing how complicated or simple it might be to depend on it. For this, I chose a single task; the powering of my 12 volt cooler. I used a separate 110 amp hour Kirkland (Costco) Deep Cycle battery. The initial take-home message is that I need much more solar collection ability than I have. Combined, my two 40 watt Coleman solar Panels are simply inadequate. I'm not quite getting 5 amps of charge from them, and that's only in ideal conditions. Thankfully, the cooler is quite efficient. The unit draws a maximum of 46 watts, or about 4 amps. Also, it's only cycled on for less than half the time so I'd estimate about 2 amp hours consumption. Assuming one does not want to run their battery much below half-way, we're looking at the single battery easily powering the cooler for a 24 hour period, but not much more. Of course while driving, the battery can charge back up, but if you want to stay put for a few days, you…

Vanagon: The Personal Mobile Kitchen

"eating out" is one of the big money wasters of our time. While I'm often guilty, I also use my van to help minimize the pain. For example, last week I had to attend a 3-day Training session at a local hotel. I showed up quite early, often the case for me when trying to avoid traffic. I had an hour or so to kill so I made a coffee, and decided to take one more step and have a nice bowl of oatmeal. It was the instant variety, so I only needed to boil some water... Admittedly, I did go out to a nearby Lebanese joint for lunch, mostly for the friendship and company of colleagues...you can't be a total Hermit after all  :)
But I digress of course. On day 2, it was back to the van for an interesting concoction I've taken a liking to. Basically, it's Kraft Dinner mixed with Chili. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. It's good and hearty, if not a little sodium "rich"... All in all, the Camper Van is a good item to have parked outside the…

For the Love of Coleman

For many years now, I've taken a shine to old white gas Coleman Stoves and Lanterns. I like the fact that you can tinker with them, and the haunting hissing noise of a Coleman Lamp takes me back to childhood simpler times. Call me nostalgic, or nuts, I don't really care. Accordingly, I'm always keeping my eyes open at yard sales and on Kijiji on the off chance that a good deal will materialize. One that I've long coveted showed up this week, and it's $20 asking price was too good to ignore. It's a model 222a. This was kind of marketed as a "Backpacker" lantern as it's a mini version of the classic lantern. At only 9" tall, it's compact if not cute... Like most of these things, it came in its original box, and appeared to have been used maybe once. I pumped it up with the gas that was in it and it fired right up. This particular model was manufactured in 1979 under the "Peak 1" name. Interestingly, I purchased its sister stove b…

Early Birthday Present ?

Sometimes opportunity knocks, and often in my recklessness, I simply answer. Case in point: I've always seen the "need" for a small generator, mostly to use as a way to charge 12 volt batteries in support of a off-grid setup for supplying 110 power to a freezer for example, during a power outage. They have other uses of course, but I'm speaking of a small unit in the 1000 Watt maximum range. For several years now, I've owned an abomination in the likes of a 2-cycle Princess Auto Powerfist generator... This has been ok, but it's quite loud, and the workmanship is a bit sloppy; the threaded fitting in the bottom of the tank leaks for example. A constant pain as all the o-rings and gaskets in the world can't seem to fix it. I've fooled with it so much that I fear it's beyond fixing...just a minor leak that poses no problem when the unit is running, but leave it overnight and you're dealing with the stench of gasoline by the next day. The ultimat…

Walmart Score

I went to a local Walmart last night and struck a good emergency supplies deal. They were renovating, and had a bunch of shelves full of clearance items that they were trying to pawn off on some unsuspecting goon...then I came in :) First off, I have some tiny camp stoves that burn alcohol. A good source of alcohol fuel is gas line antifreeze, and one of the best varieties is the HEET brand in the yellow bottle. Normally, they are abour $4 for a 355ml bottle but Walmart had been selling them for $3. In this particular clearance aisle, they were marked down to a buck a bottle !! There were 14 left, and I'll leave it to you to speculate on how many I bought. Needless to say, I won't be buying any more in this lifetime... These are 12 oz bottles, and my tiny stove requires about one ounce to boil 2 cups of water...
My second find is a little less glamorous...the nicest way I can put it is "poop bags". Reliance markets these double walled toilet bags that have some sort…

Lunch-time Retreat

Yesterday it was mostly rainy, drizzly, and just plain dull. Nevertheless, when noon came, I needed to get away from my desk so I retreated to my van and started rummaging for a hot lunch. I found a can of Kirkland Chicken Breast meat and some cheap ramen noodles...Bingo !! Time to fire up a stove. The JetBoil is a bit small so I went with my Brunton Talon, and GSI Soloist Pot...
The stove is a tiny if not typical single burner canister stove. The orange canister is actually the one that came with the stove...I'm trying to use it up but it seems to be lasting forever. This is because it only takes 3-4 minutes to get a boil, which uses very little fuel. With all the cold dampness, I needed some heat. Enter the cheap butane heater from Rona of all places... ok how's the chicken and noodle coming? I'm not a big fan of these noodles, but an added can of chicken changes everything. So, in the span of 30 minutes I got to get away from my desk, play with some gear, and have a ni…