Rewiring life…

Well we needed to update our electrical panel for insurance purposes…apparently the 50amps that we produced (at most) was way to much for a 60amp panel we had in the house when we moved in…in order to update the panel it needs to be inspected by esa…this I understand however it is a frustration as we are not plugged to the grid, however if we were to sell and someone else wanted to hook up to the grid it needs to be up to code. When the gentleman who built this place the esa inspection was not a needed requirement for off griders…

So here we are needing an inspection for a panel which results in needing to change where our generator is housed (including digging a new service ditch to run cable to the panel from the genny), grounding the house (was never properly grounded), and after finding out that esa needs to inspect all the electrical in the house I looked at some of the devices and decided it was safer to rewire the house (this has resulted in walls moved and opened up, fishing wires, lots of hours of work on top of working full time). I disconnected the generator from the house so it is no longer a danger after some of the interesting wiring techniques used in the past wiring of the house.

The silver lining at the end of all this is…wait for it….we will have an up to date, up to code electrical system that I know where every wire runs and what circuit runs what…but the best part is knowing it will be SAFE! That means my kids and my wife and pets are safe in the house with no concern over electrical issues of the past.

Quest for power….. part 1

I am going to apoligize now if this post gets a little long, so far we have learned lots, and had quite the adventure in the process.

We looked at this off grid paradise in December, covered in snow we went home that evening knowing 2 things.

1) We had to have it, it was the perfect mix of highlands rocks, flat fields and an abundance of water. The cozy house would accomadate our family of 5, and it was already off grid so we didn’t need to try and convert it.

2) We knew the 3500 watt generator wouldn’t meet the things we knew we needed for ourselves and we would need to upgrade to constant power and still maintain our desire of being self sufficient and thus produce our own.

This story our dear friends is the start of our journey for point 2.

We researched some and then some more and then lots more. We talked to people who are  living off grid, we talked to people with solar micro fit attached to the grid. We talked to Haliburton Solar and Wind(HSW) the solar guy himself.

HSW sent us a plethora of information the most important being how on earth to complete the dreaded load analysis. ( I will warn all you wanna be and future off griders this is at least a solid 2 week task) 

Step one you make a list of everything you own that uses power and I really mean everything even the things you don’t use often or forget you have ( your sons remote control recharging truck that you had safely packed away until spring). Then you make a list of all the things you may possibly want in the future ( because let’s face it spending thousands of dollars on power to then find out it won’t run the fun new gadget you just picked up is going to suck)…don’t forget every light bulb you use!

Step 2 figure out how many hours per day you run each item ( like when was the last time you notice your fridge kicks on approx every 1.5 hours for 13.574 minutes?)

Step 3 figure out how many running watts each item uses which has about 3 different mathematical ways I will allow you to Google yourself ( math isn’t my thing)

4. Does it surge? If so how many watts does it surge at? And how long? ….more math.

We complete this project and luckily enough for us the wonderful team at HSW sent us a fancy little excel sheet that totalled all our running watt, surge watt, daily running watt hour math stuffs for us. I send the fancy sheet back and presto that part was easy.

HSW worked out a beautiful system for us and it came with a beautifully unattainable price tag….. Back to the drawing board. After cutting everything we could cut good bye lava lamps, hair dryer, 2 light bulbs in 1  room, and forgoing the actual solar panels for now, We have a system design that fit our budget and our needs.

It’s a simple little plug and play kind of system, 8 batteries holding 21 kilowatt hours of power a tiny 3500 watt inverter and the current generator we already own. 

Our plan early spring installation…….

Just pause

 Trekked out to check sap buckets,

 On the way into the bush you stress about how fast you can walk out, how long it’s going to take you to get there, how many times you will fall through the snow and how much you have to do when you return. When you arrive to near empty buckets ( which you knew but decided you needed to check anyways) you experience that brief moment of wasted time taking up valuable space in busyness that is life.

If though when you sigh with disappointment you take a deep breath, I mean really breathe close your eyes stop thinking. Once you open them again you know you are right where you need to be.

After a week of work, of sick kids,  kids with allergic reactions and snow days in March. This peace, this calm is just what you need and if you walk slowly back to the house you notice the pair of mallard ducks on the still frozen pond. You realize that even though you are so ready for spring to really come the freezing rain makes the forest look so mystical. 
Your world becomes righted again that simple pause, that deep breath, the peaceful forest is just what you needed to face next week whatever that may bring. You are reengerized and recharged….. Remember that the next time you have to take that to far to long to much wasted time trek and slow down breath deep just pause.

Then there are those moments.

I’ve been loving the little start to farming we have begun. Waking up to let the horse out muck, hay and water. Bottle feeding my little goats ( love life with goats!) watching the quail argue over mealworms and collecting the tiniest prettiest little eggs. I am enjoying the earlier mornings, watching the sun coming up hearing the first birds sing it’s peaceful tranquility. 
Last wednesday kid 2 was sick, Thursday kid 1. Both have seen the doctor had some fluids.The following Tuesday kid 3 has hives!( I’m pretty sure he is allergic to the hay) 

This Wednesday morning kid 1 had a complete meltdown ( he is autisic) because I still won’t let him go to school. Kid 3 was still covered in hives it’s been a long week but we played cards and had a great time. …..

It’s Thursday today, I have work I have to go into do. I have blood work I need done at the lab and kid 3 wakes up his turn with the flu. It got cold last night I can’t get the generator to start so I have no water to make the milk for the goats with…….
Its just going to be one of those days,

 Looking at the sun coming up warming my face waiting for my knight in shining  to rescue me because this Momma is streched to thin….I got the generator running my knight will bring me coffee he is such a blessing to us. My day has turned into just one of those moments and peace has been found again ( mine might be off the farm today…..but found just the same) 

Blazing saddles!

So over night we find ourselves full into homesteading! We have goat kids (both bottle kids) living in the front hall. We felt the loss of piglets (to coyotes) a few days before we were to pick them up.

We are a homestead, to me that means that most things we bring onto the homestead needs to have a purpose, needs to add to our life, needs to have a job. 

We have chicks coming end of the month…they will contribute through eggs and meat, as well as keeping insects down around the outside of the garden and will help out as they range eating pests that others will not.

Goats can provide meat, dairy, and cashmere. They also will browse through the brush rather than graze (so this may be a good introduction into what may become a staple animal here on the homestead).The two we have are both castrated so one will become meat or go to the sale barn to offset cost of the other. The other has a job to do which will be a long term job of keeping our newest addition company.

That’s right we have added a new member to our homestead! We picked up over the weekend a large miniature horse. I laugh myself at the sound of that. I never intended on owning a mini. However we have one. He is a good boy. He is about 5 years of age and has been loved greatly by the place he called home until this past weekend.

His name is Blaze.

Now I never intended to own a mini because what do you do with a mini? They are small you might even say they are mini…however cute they are I don’t intend to feed a hat burner for nothing. So this mini horse has a job once he is broke to drive (he is broke to ground drive he just hasn’t been hitched yet). 

His job will be two fold. 

First he will teach our kids how to drive, as well as horsemanship. This is a good job for a mini. They read body language just like a larger horse. They respond the same. They are less intimidating for smaller children to get their experience with leading and picking feet up and the basics of horse care.

His second job will be to haul out firewood from the bush. Firewood that will heat our home in the winters…firewood that will be used to boil sap in the sugar bush…and firewood for sale and for camp fires around home when we visit with company. 

I look forward to seeing what he can do and to the enjoyment he will bring to our family.

Take time to explore and enjoy!

With all the crazy stuff going on the first month here we quickly lost sight of why we are here and it’s joys and beauties. Sunday we took some time to just enjoy, explore and fall in love again.

When we signed our offer Shane and I asked if we could snowshoe the property on Christmas day. We did. We fell even more in love and we got to meet the land owners. We learned that 1 road way is washed out.

So Sunday we snowshoed around this wash out followed a deer trail and found a beautiful creek of spring thaw ( I hope it runs all year)

We walked to the back corner of the 100 acre lot. We can see on the survey there is about a 10 acre pond we share with the adjoining property. Its not much in the picture

It was so breathtaking though…. Time to go back to house stuff hopefully next week as everything thaws and the sap is running we can spend all our time out there!

Busy balancing the busyness

Life here on the homestead has been busy. Most people can relate to bring busy.

I have been busy at work due to the amounts of snow we have been “blessed” with this year. I have been busy with bedrooms (the house came with one finished bedroom and a few that were in various states of being started or being completed). So I have added framing, drywall, mud and paint. It has been busy and that’s okay. It is an important task that needs to be done for all of our families sanity. We love each other dearly but we all need our space. We all need a spot to retreat and to regroup. So we have been making it a priority to acomplish these rooms so we can help create a better balance for our family life.

Part of this has been a hard struggle for me.  I can be focused on getting the task done and not want to be bothered by the kids and therefore lose out on teachable moments. One reason for moving to the homestead is so we can speak into our children’s lives and to equip them with tools and skills to succeed in life. This means that even if I might be able to get this done sooner on my own it might not be the right thing to do. So…I have had to remind myself to include them so they can learn. What better time to teach some simple skills by involving them in finishing their bedrooms.  

In number ones bedroom the screws in some parts of the closet aren’t burried quite deep enough that you will notice them for years to come (he put them in on his own) some he got perfect, some I fixed and some I didn’t as a reminder to both of us down the road that we all learn somewhere, and it might not be perfect but you can improve over time. 

Number two helped measure what cuts we needed to make for sheets of drywall to be hung…not sure how many extra cuts I made or how much extra time I spent going over how to measure.  But in the end it was worth it. Number two has learned some skills and learned that we need to stick through it and that we aren’t all perfect off the top but that we need to be taught and practice our skills to get better at them. 

All the kids have come up with their own ideas of how they would like to paint their rooms here is number two’s finished paint.*

We haven’t started on Number three’s bedroom yet. However Number three has more interest in helping with construction even though younger it is his personality. And he has always been this way.  I remember roofing a friends house a few years ago. The house was just behind the school so number one and two would walk over after school and play outside until Amanda came to get them while I continued my days work. Number three was in Daycare, Amanda would pick him up and come see the progress of the roof and take the other children home. One of these times she came up on the roof to talk to me and see where things were at. So while I was talking to her I heard a small voice asking what could he hammer! Looking over I saw number three standing on the roof holding a hammer, he had climbed the ladder by himself because he wants to be involved in the job in the work at hand. We calmly talked with him and got him safely down on the ground again.  The other children said later that they didn’t realize they were allowed up on the roof. It didn’t even occur to them to try it out. Number three is our risk taker who is ready to plunge into whatever you would allow him to (if your ready for it or not).

I am so glad to see our children learn new skills and confidence in their ability to learn new things. They have all been adjusting well to these changes in our life here on the homestead. I have been learning to balance getting it done and getting it done a little slower but empowering our children through the process. I think it is worth the wait. 

Amanda is so much better at having them involved in the things she does (I think it is a mom thing) than I am.  Thank you Amanda for doing that and reminding me of the importance of taking the time to do that.

And so we continue to be busy balancing the busyness with priority of enrichment of our children’s lives compared to the speed we could accomplish the task at hand.

*I will post pictures of the other bedroom paint schemes when they are finished.


Farm aches….already 

I love pigs!

We had a little pot bellied when we lived in town and I adored her. I mean that cute kissable snout how could you not.

So evidently pigs are in our farm plan- year 1. We looked and researched and found the ideal breed for our heritage farm- Berkshires on the critical list according to 2015 numbers from rare breeds Canada conservation with less then 35 sows being registered a year. Its a dark pig so not prone to sunburn, docile in nature , excellent meat quality and adaptive to different surroundings. Yup that sounds like our pig. 

In January before we moved I started the search purebred berkshire piglets, something weaning early spring. Oh the joy when I found just what I was looking for, born Dec 4th 2016 ready to go mid February ” Shane look that even gives us 3 weeks to settle in!” We dicussed back and forth and placed a deposit on 3 gilts 2 for the freezer and 1 for love …oh I mean breeding. I’ve been counting down the days until we get to pick them up.

The next challenge….. Where to put them in February on land we have never seen without snow that is currently waist deep? Well we have this.

It has alright bones and a steel roof it will get us through to spring. We purchased boarding for the sides, house wrap to keep the drafts out, plywood and 2x4s to make a floor off the ground.

Then I researched and researched feed settled on a premade organic for now, got a fun ball for boredom and was all set.

Saturday is our day and I am counting them down…At least I was until Thursday.

Thursday I got a message from the breeder and my heart sank alittle. Our piggies are coming from the Barrie area, they were born outdoors in weather similar to ours an ideal situation, the Barrie area however is struggling with a slight coyote issue. And alas our livestock isn’t even here and already we are dealing with predators. We lost our little piggies to a pack of coyote on Tuesday night. 

My exciting Saturday has now been put off until spring, nicer weather and new stock. 

 We are experiencing our first farm-ache.

Dogs being dogs again

When we lived in town the dogs couldn’t be outside for long without supervison or being locked in a fenced area to keep them home.The reason for this was because of a bylaw against noise and it was pretty sketchy as to what was considered a noise infraction. The dogs would also bark at all the sounds of town and the people walking by down town. There were plenty of smells and plenty of other dogs in the area to bark at. Out here on the homestead the dogs enjoy being outside! They aren’t being scolded for barking, and truth be told they are barking less and staying out longer. It seems that they are enjoying the freedom to roam, they run with the kids and they play with each other running around through the pines. It makes me smile seeing them get to be dogs again.

It’s good to have goals.

We are different Shane and I, in one very simple fact that largely impacts the way our life goes awesomely enough we manage to laugh through this difference often….

  Shane has this mind this crazy whirling mind full to the brim with thoughts, ideas,revelations, betterment of things, dreams.

 Shane is a dreamer.

I on the other hand tend to be very practical, with practicality comes doing, this is what we want it is logical and it makes sense. Do it.

I am a do-er 

And that is where it all comes apart Shane dreams, I do. We had big dreams once of completely downsizing and living in a camper our family of 5, I sold everything furniture, extra clothes, kitchen stuff, even our matteress ( it was a queen we only had room for a double) deciding what we really needed and what would really fit. Needless to say we never moved into that camper and we needed a new bed.

I spend a lot of time encouraging Shane to dream out loud. I love his dreams and his excitments. I also spend a lot of time reminding myself they are just dreams some forgotten by the next day, most will never come to fruition.

So naturally when we signed those first set of papers for Splitrock he dreamed, 33 properties we walked together, dreamed about until we settled here with this one…there we a lot of dreams.

There continues to be a lot of dreams and we get off track. So before we moved in, before we started doing, we set some goals, a 3 year plan of what we hope and dream to see happen and done here at Splitrock….. And in 3 weeks of being on the farm Shane has  dreamed and I have answered ” ok let’s do it!” ( for the record I think that makes me an awesome wife 😉).

So I  am going to publish our 3 year plan here in print for the world ( hopefully that will hold us to it and ground us some) dreams take money and time, sometimes we forget those parts until we are half way through the doing. Also to give you some insight to what we hope to do in the future.

Year 1 2017

  • Solar ( this has down graded based on pricing to battery back-up hopefully installed early spring)
  • To till, plant establish the exsisting garden ( 3600 square feet, seeds are here!)
  • Chickens ( we have ordered 25 silver laced wyndottes being picked up in April, we are realizing greatly impart to your interest in eggs we are going to need more this year)
  • Do 10 litres of sap by buckets for our personal use 
  • Build/ finish 3 bedrooms for the kids ( as of writing all walls are up drywalling is in process, thanks largely inpart to our great friend Jamie)
  • Start stage 1 of a tree house for the kids ( they are building themselves with guidance)
  • Shane take his hunters course and get his licencing for the fall hunt
  • Cut split and stack enough fire wood to get us through the winter ( I am hoping for 22 face cords, this is also an added bonus of clearing valuable pasture land, and maintaining our up and coming sugar bush.

Our ” if we get to it 2017 list” includes

  • Building a cord wood garden shed out of some trees we need to take down to clear future pasture approx 10 x10
  • Put up some fencing ( mainly stand back up exstiting perimeter fence)
  • Buy some pigs ( which we jumped the gun on and we should have 3 berkshire piglets here by mid Febuary.

    Year 2 2018 

    We need to maintain what we started in 2017 mainly garden, chickens and pigs winter wood for us plus: 

    • We need to purchase our second battery bank – 8 batteries ( we have about 18 months from the install of our first battery bank to add these or the life of all our batteries will be compromised)
    • We would like to produce family and friend maple syrup this year approx 20-50 litres.
    • Start the construction of the sugar shack in hopes of future production growth, this includes maintaining good tree growth and  opening up crown spacing to allow for higher sugar content.
    • Build a lean to with fenced in paddock
    • Build a hay  barn ( Shane would love a new shop and the existing drive shed would then convert to barn  and hay storage)
    • Cut access wood to sell, to off set cost of putting up a lean to and a hay barn or new workshop.
    • Purchase a small draft horse ( Canadian) to log with, and keep trails cleared ( also for Shane’s sanity)
    • Start 2 bee hives this includes making sure there is enough polinator friendly  plants near by and good fencing.
    • Hopefully in 2017 the pigs have cleared, tilled and fertilized my future fruit garden location and this year we can add some fruit trees, berry patch and melons.

    If we ” get to ” 2018 list

    • Add a greenhouse partition to the front of the garden shed
    • Add goats to the livestock list ( they will be great for clearing out some underbrush )

    Year 3 2019 

    Along with maintaining and growing above , pig breeding, more chickens, larger gardens, wood for personal and sale we hope to see 2019 include

    • Add solar panels use less generator!!
    • An evaporator added to the sugar shack and hopefully a gravity feed line system. No more buckets!
    • A second horse hopefully another Canadian to make a team
    • Some cows ( we are still disagreeing as to which ones so stay tuned)
    • Possibly some sheep ( which then would include a donkey)
    • Ducks

    Hopefully by this time its working kind well and it’s more maintaining then anything. If so maybe I can get a new kitchen put on the list!.

    This is the list we dreamed before we got here, before we settled in, before we even ever seen it without snow before there was opportunity for more dreams and more doing. Stay tuned let’s see if we stay on track!