Friday, December 4, 2015

Winter Upgrades 15-16

Age, weather, and other factors are prompting some upgrades around these parts. After 26 winters of snowblower avoidance, I decided to try my luck with a small 24" Canadian Tire "Yardworks" model. A $250 discount brought the $1000 sting down to $750 so I wrestled one aboard the old "Westy" and here I sit waiting for snow...

Also, my Drolet Pyropak wood stove is up for replacement. I'm still using it but the secondary combustion chamber has burned through...not really acceptable in my mind but I guess I just have to come to grips with the reality that you get what you pay for, nothing lasts forever, etc. etc. This time I'm trying one built in the good old U S of A. A small Englander...back to the VW mule again...
Woodstove in my van...Hey, this is giving me ideas :)
It's a nice little stove. I hope it works out.

So, there's a couple of preparatory projects to get tidied up before Christmas arrives. So far, everything is on track. I'll report back as to how successful each one is...


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lost cause...

Yup, when it comes to Time Management, I really am a lost cause in spite of me pausing to write this post. It's madness I tell you. Christmas is coming at me at flank speed and 2015 is all but over. Between work life and personal space, it's out of control. I can't seem to slow it all down and things are falling through the cracks everywhere. The funny thing though is I'm not really unhappy about it. I just remind myself of that old 2-step:

1. It'll all work out in the end.
2. If it hasn't work out yet it's not the end.

The cliches abound...so much to do, so little time...yada yada yada,,,

I'm hoping to sit down tonight and actually "Plan" the month of December...let's see how that goes...

 In the meantime, here's a collage of my son's recent side trip to Newfoundland for a little respite...

...and one last misc. shot...Debbie by a Pinzgauer we happened upon at a local restaurant...


That's all I have time for...later...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Winter 2015-2016 IS coming...

September has been really nice, but we all know what's coming. Preparing for the cold is always a busy but enjoyable and rewarding chore. I've been stocking up on firewood, and just generally getting things ready for the cold. I have a good friend that happens to be in to milling his own lumber and I sometimes get to enjoy the scraps. He recently purchased a quantity of nice large pine logs, and generously offered me some of the excess "slab-wood"...I'll be right out !!...
I'll split most of this up and have a nice supply of "crackly" kindling...the best...
A closer look...some of it is big enough to use as regular fuel  :)
...and the preparations will continue...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Summer Holiday 2015

...just recently completed a whirlwind 15 days or so driving the route outlined below. I'll add a few more specific posts soon. We started and ended in Halifax, completing the trek to Newfoundland, up through Labrador, down through Quebec and New Brunswick, and then back to Halifax...


Friday, June 19, 2015

The Solar saga continues

100w panel in the evening sun...
My main goal here is simply to be able to run a Thermoelectric cooler continuously. The cooler draws about 3.8 amps when running. Normally (a subjective word in itself), I'd estimate the cooler has about a 50% duty cycle. It cuts in alot during a hot day but not so much at night. Therefore, my calculations will be based on an estimated average current draw of 2 amps. For a 24 hour period, that's 48, so let's just go with 50 amp hours for each day of use. My Battery Bank is 230 amp hours, but you don't want to run it down much past 50%. Therefore, we're looking at about 2.5 days of use before some sort of charging is needed.

 Here's the cooler I'm using. It's a little better than the regular Canadian Tire variety. Most of them only cool to 20c below ambient...not good enough. This one cools to 30c below ambient. It also has a 7-position thermostat that cycles it on and off.


Here's my 2 x 115 amp-hour Deep Cycle Batteries. To help achieve the off-grid nirvana, I have a 100-watt Solar Panel. It's rated at a 5.8 amp maximum, so I'm hoping that on each sunny day, it will be able to supply about 30-40 amp hours of charge...
4.1 amps from the panel.
That may be a bit ambitious, so I plan on adding a portable setup of another 100 watts or so for any time we are staying put for a couple of days. Of course, any driving will result in a nice boost from the van's alternator, so I think we'll be ok. More to come...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Receiver Hitch Table

Nothing says "redneck" like 2" receiver hitch accessories. I just dug this out of my "stores", after forgetting I even had it...
Yes it's a small table that slides into a 2" hitch receiver... 
Bonus, the arm is long enough that I can even open and close the rear hatch with it in place. This should make for a nice picnic accessory. At the original $79.99 list price it would have been lunacy, but good things come to those who are patient...
I thought that the nice "curved" hunk of 2x2 steel might be good for something else too, a bed extender for example, for carrying long items etc  :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

More Power !!

Many of the solar solutions offered these days are frankly not very powerful. from the radios and flashlights with built in solar chargers, to AA solar battery chargers to those little 1.8W Battery "Maintainers", They all really don't amount to much. After toying with many of these, and even after using 40 watt panels, I admitted to myself that bigger is better, and more wattage is required if you want to even think about coining the phrase, solar "Generator". Well, as usual, a recent Canadian Tire sale was the catalyst yet again...
Now I realize that in spite of the hoopla, there are still cheaper options. However, the convenience of not having to wrestle with shipping etc made this a good choice. It did not come bundled with a charge controller. I have a couple, but I decided to try a cheap Ebay one to see how it performs...
...seems to be working ok. I'm going to try and secure it to the top of the van's luggage rack. It "almost" fits, so I have some work to do...
Attached to the tie-downs, it hinges pretty good for orientation purposes. I might raise it up on a box of sorts so that I can store stuff underneath, but we'll see...
all in all, a huge increase from my previous 21 watt (3x7) setup, which of course fits nicely in the luggage rack...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring Hope...

Finally, I think the weather has turned and Spring is indeed here...what a mood picker upper it is. In a bit of a panic, I wondered if we'd have some more final blasts of weather, and I loaded up on some fire logs...
Probably a bit of an overkill, but there was a deal to be had for buying 32 packages. No worries as it'll be useful for other pursuits such as backyard or camping. There's no such thing as too much preparedness.

I noticed a unique issue of Newsweek on the magazine stands recently. I had to grab it just out of curiosity.
Here's what Amazon had to say about it:
"Many ponder leaving the trappings of modern life behind and going off the grid--whether for safety preparedness or simply to see if they're up to the challenges of finding shelter, food and water and sustaining their own life. Off Grid is a guide to not only surviving, but thriving. Filled with first-person accounts, anecdotes, expert how-tos and tips-everything from besting a blizzard to which bugs pack the most protein to treating a burn with green beans-this is a must-have for anyone contemplating leaving civilization in the rearview mirror, whether it's for a day or for good."

A pretty good read, and interesting that this sort of preparedness-speak is becoming more mainstream by the month For me it's more of a hobby, but it's comforting to think that a hobby could really come in handy some day...

.Finally, really looking forward to the warmer weather and all that it brings...haste the day !!  :)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Carpe Diem Fail

Most of my friends, and sadly, myself too, have consumed allot of energy complaining about all of the snow this winter. It's been quite the mob mentality bandwagon actually. Social Media is replete with angry outbursts where nobody escapes blame. The weatherman, the city snow removal folk, mother nature, even God are at the end of an angry arm shake. This kind of makes you wonder about our collective failure to seize the day. Oh sure there's the occasional snowshoeing or skiing photo that appears, but largely it's been a negative affair. Through all of this of course, we've wasted a full 2 months of another new year that we've been gifted with. Children of course, don't seem to suffer from this affliction, with their innocent ability to love the snow in direct proportion to its quantity. I'm guilty as well, of not enjoying the time that I've been given. God help me. A recent Facebook post made me pause and think. It suggested that each day, your "bank" is gifted with a balance of 86400 seconds. Whatever you don't use gets flushed as the balance is reduced to zero, and then back up to 86400 for the next day. How much have I wasted? Since there's no point in wasting more time crying over it, all we can do now is purpose to do better, starting today. Carpe Diem !! Who's with me ?
To be fair, it's a little easier to be active and happier in the warmer weather, but realistically, we don't live in a warm place so we must either overcome, or be doomed to a life of complaining for 6+ months, Is that what we want ?
Some of course are fortunate: They routinely head for warmer digs each winter. That's nice if it's your thing, but it seems like a bit of a cop out that I'm not fond of. Anyway...food for thought...
To me, the lesson here is to invest some time and effort into stacking the deck in your favor. Here's some suggestions:

  • Get a snow-blower so that you can get the work out of the way and have time for play. I've notice often, that after spending hours shoveling, I'm not in the mood to go skiing for example.
  • Get organized BEFORE the snow flies and winter sets in. Then you'll be less likely to just throw in the towel and pray for spring.
  • Invest in dressing more appropriately. Too often, we venture outside under-dressed and complain about freezing. This sounds silly, but it's true.
  • Explore the whole concept of being mindful, living in the moment, and avoid wishing for tomorrow. This can be counter-culture thinking but really, it makes no sense to deny yourself everything for now, in the hope that you'll do everything in retirement...it's a BIG risk...
  • Consider some accountability measures. This can include joining some club or group so that activities can be scheduled. This is good if you lack motivation (like me).
  • Consider a separate "Winter Plan" for the December-March quarter. Draw on your former failures and successes and write down/schedule a bunch of stuff. You probably won't have total success, but just aim to do better than "last year"

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Man-Crafts

That's an odd title...let me explain: I recently got out to another February Men's Retreat at Bayside Camp. Even though the weather was cooperative, for some reason I spent more time indoors this time around...
Bayside Camp
One of the activities was a "Craft"...sounds a bit girlish but when I saw a compass rose was involved, and we would be using a sandblaster, I was sold. Some photos below but first, a little explanation: We basically made a "Coaster" from a 4" square ceramic tile. First, a compass rose was drawn on a rubber coating affixed to the tile...
 Then, portions of the rubber coating are sliced into with a knife, and carefully removed...
 


Finally, the tile is discretely sandblasted to get the final result...
Mine turned out ok I think...

So, quite a change from snowshoeing, but it was fun, and Debbie seems to enjoy her new coffee cup resting pod  :) There was also time for other manly pursuits...overall a great February undertaking...looking forward to next time...


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Make some noise for Jesus !

Here's a photo below I scammed from Instagram (Photo credit to Mark Colwell)...a young adults gathering...Joel on keyboards and James on drums. Our boys make us proud...I hope they never stop !!
A photo posted by Mark Colwell (@ydcolwell) on

Friday, January 9, 2015

Belated Happy New Year 2015

According to Gandhi; "There is more to life than increasing its speed". I agree, but at my age I'd kind of appreciate it if I could slow things down, not speed them up. I know it's about as cliche as you can get but where does the time go ? Another year has slipped away, and while I had a good year in general, I can't help but think of all of the things I didn't get done. With age comes the scourge of unfinished business...
speaking of unfinished business  :)
I'm not a fan of New Years Resolutions, mostly because they amount to little more than wishful thinking and little action. That notwithstanding, my main one would be to seize the day, live in the moment, or something like that. Sometimes, a little recklessness can go a long way and if life has taught me anything it is summed up in that classic H. Jackson Brown Jr. quote: ""Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." So here's to a 2015 of "throwing off the bowlines"...who's with me ?
a hint as to my plans for 2015  :)

Operation "Johnny Paycheck"

As I plan on exiting my current employment situation somewhere around mid to late 2019, I have launched what I jokingly refer to as “Operat...