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Buildings and Renovations,Food

Off Grid Upgrade: The Quest for Running Water

18 Aug , 2017   Video

This project was started just after the roof ice ripped off the main water supply pipe.
Instead of replacing it and having the same problem again in a few years, I decided to take the water barrels off the roof and bring them inside and under the cabin.
Due to the lack of resources, I had to reuse all the existing parts. As I was fumbling around through the plumbing box of fittings, I figured I had enough stuff to upgrade the system and bring the water barrels under the cabin. One of the biggest advantages was running water could be utilized longer into the fall and cold months. When the barrels were on the roof, they were acceptable to cold nights where the temperature would drop down below freezing and pipes would crack.

I also had a decent RV water pump that could be plugged into the 1000 watt inverter on the battery bank. After 5 years, the system was coming together. It was a good feeling.

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Buildings and Renovations,Heat and Cooling,Relaxing

The Cowboy Hot Tub Project – Part 2

16 Sep , 2016   Video

cowboy_hot_tub_and_woodstove Lots of changes to the project, but the end results was a hot bath in an off grid situation. The first was to move the tub to a better location for my family. The old tub was located down at the lake, which can be tiresome walking up and down the hill to use the washroom, get more beer, etc. The plan was to put it where the current outdoor shower was located in between the outhouse and the guesthouse. The only setback was a large Pine tree was in the way. So, instead of cutting down the tree and getting distracted from the task at hand, I decided to use the existing 5′ long, cast iron claw foot bath as the tub. It was a little bit easier to move around and the water would heat up faster.

The next step was to use something to contain the heat around the copper coils. The campfire worked but it didn’t get hot enough. After my wife’s suggestion, we had a spare wood stove in the guest cabin. The previous owner purchased it and it was not installed. It was a perfect size, not too heavy and it fit nicely in the new space.

cowboy_hot_tub_woodstove inside of wood stove McCleary Kitchen Heater No9 woodstove

Once the tub and wood stove was in place, the next step was to run the 1.5″ PVC water pipe from the main line to the tub. I had to do some careful planning and ensure everything fits the future plans for the water system. (Which was to move the water barrels off the roof and under the cabin. As similar to an RV set up, we would use a 12-volt pump to move the water up to the tap) I was really pleased that there were spare fittings that could be utilized for any kind of angle. Once the fittings are glued, there were no second guessing. Only had one screw up a forgot to glue the pipe together under the guest cabin. Not the end of the world, but I’ll have to keep the psi of water pressure to the minimum.

cowboy_hot_tub_ports The next step was to modify the copper water coil to fit inside the McClary woodstove fire box. To make a water coil, one end was capped and table salt was poured into the copper pipe. The pipe then could be rolled or bent into a shape without kinking/splitting the pipe. With a little time and patience, I managed to form a pretty good coil. The next plan for a coil would be about 6 inches in diameter.  The water coil was placed into the McClary woodstove fire box. The “in” and “out” ports were inserted through the stoves side vent holes.

By this time, it was the end of the day and getting late. I still wanted to test out the woodstove and the water pump. Did a test with a large metal crab pot and ran the water through the line. It took a while to get the fire really hot in the firebox. I’m sure if the water coil wasn’t in place it would heat up much faster.  After 40 minutes and lots of small, dry twigs, the fire really started to make some luke warm water. I threw a couple of dry cedar logs in and stopped for dinner. About an hour later there was some coals and the water circulating was gradually getting hotter.

Music credit: “Rural Stride” by Josh Kirsch/Media Right Productions & “Swamp Stomp” by Silent Partner (YouTube Audio Library)

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Buildings and Renovations,Hauling, digging, etc

Getting Stumped in July Series

29 Jul , 2016   Video

Getting-stumped-teaser Part 1- The project for July was to remove a stubborn Douglas Fir tree stump. The tree was diseased at the top and had to be cut down last February. The stump had to be removed for a series of steps leading down to the lake. Started digging on the side of the tree stump that was downhill. I thought it would be a lot easier to attack the roots from that angle. At first, the digging was a little strenuous, but once I got through the layer of small roots, it was fairly easy. My kids all came out and leant a hand digging a removing dirt from the hole. They came up with a clever paint-can-on-a-rope-hoist- system. It was good to work together. After the 2nd weekend, we were 3/4 of the way around the stump and had to pack it in for 2 weeks.

Come-a-long Part 2- After the 2 weeks, we came back up to the cabin and managed to get all the roots cut. I didn’t bring the truck up and the 2-ton Come-a-long hand winch but didn’t have enough pull the stump out of the hole. Asked my next door neighbour if he could lend a hand. After an hour or so and the use of his ATV winch, my Come-a-long winch and the bigger Warn winch on his Jeep, we managed to pull the Douglas Fir tree stump to the road. It was hard work, but it was worth it.

Click here for YouTube video

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Buildings and Renovations,Firewood

Solar Firewood Dryer/Kiln Project- Part 1

8 Feb , 2016   Video

The first part of this project takes place at our full-time home in the suburbs. We are located on the west coast of Canada, just above Seattle, WA. It’s the only part of Canada that receives very little snow in the winter. The downside, rain, lots of cold rain and high humidity. Anything that is not covered gets just soaked from the pouring rain. Storage was always an issue, our lot is not very big and land is very expensive. You have to make do with what you have.

The goal was to enclose the split firewood inside a tent made from heavy-duty plastic. Happy sun picture

With the aid of the sun beating down on the enclosure, it will heat up like a greenhouse and dry the firewood faster.

The firewood sits on 4′ x 4′ pallets found free off craigslist.org. I like to have firewood off the ground. It prevents water wicking, improves air flow and dries the wood faster. I plan to leave a 3″ gap in the bottom for air flow in and a gap in the top to let the moist air out.

I try to find spots to cram firewood to dry. Under tarps, next to the house and the shed. The best spot, was under the deck and stairs for the second story kitchen. Most of the 9′ x 12′ space was used for my spouses wedding stuff, but I have managed to store some large cedar rounds for drying. The split firewood is neatly stacked under the stairs. It’s a good spot, gets good afternoon sun and it protected from the occasional west coast rain squalls.

Solar-firewood-dryer The structure for the solar firewood dryer has to be lightweight and temporary. It was made from materials repurposed from other projects. It’s a basic, rectangle frame from 1″ x 4″s. Eight feet long by four feet wide. 1″ x 2″ Strapping was screwed and glued every 12″ and ran the overall length. Since it was to be screwed into the existing stairs, the overall weight had to be light. I had made a previous design out of 2″ x 6″ x 12′ lumber and it was really heavy to move into place. The roof and walls will be covered by 6 mil vapour barrier plastic. The budget for this project was $50. If the canopy does it’s job, I would use it as a prototype for our off-grid property in the mountains. The roof would have to be reinforced for snow load or just construct it in the springtime.

If the canopy does the job, I will be a prototype for firewood at our off-grid property in the mountains.

The next step is to secure the plastic to the walls, create an air intake and an outtake at the top. Then add a thermostat and take a moisture reading of the wood.

Thanks for stopping by and another video will be in the works for the spring..

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Buildings and Renovations,Wildlife

How to Make a Bat House from Scrap Wood- Part 1

24 Sep , 2015   Video

This video will show you how to construct a bat house from lumber and plywood scraps.
This is a fairly easy project and can be constructed with only a few tools. Most of the materials can be found free from a lumber yard or left over from a home renovation project. (Plans to come)
Bats are a critical part of our ecosystems. A bat house is a good way to increase the bat population and to control nocturnal insects.
I would like to thank Margaret from www.BCbats.ca for her suggestions on plans and where to mount the bat house.

Bat-house-painted

bat-house-material-break-down

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Buildings and Renovations,Hauling, digging, etc

Cousin Lee Lends a Hand Moving Trees

10 Aug , 2015   Video

Had a family member drop by for a visit earlier in the summer. It was a relaxing to hang out with a person that was in the same mindset with the off-grid lifestyle. Lee and I as children were lucky to travel to the family cottage on weekends. It was the opportunity to make epic tree forts, build sand castles and go fishing all day.
A few days into the visit, Lee offered to give me a hand to move some trees for the future stair project. The trees were just over 50 feet long and weigh around 2500 lbs. We had to use smaller logs as rollers and lumber as levers. Lee and I would rock the tree and my son would use a DC (battery) powered winch to pull the trees. It took a long time, put the trees eventually were moved into position for drying. Next year, the tree will be used as stair runners.
Thanks for watching!
Music credit: Cielo by Huma-Huma, YouTube Audio library

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