Category Archives: General Update

June 2018

Yes, it’s June. I realize I haven’t posted in a month so I’m here now to work on that. This is going to be a mish-mash of several things.

So Dave, how is the Earthship coming? Unfortunately, the answer to that is not pleasing. The engineer we’re working with is now fully licensed and has his official engineer’s stamp now. The problem we have now is a financial one. My employer is in some dire straights, as it were, and I am owed a large amount of back pay that has yet to arrive. With this being a single income family, we don’t have a lot of extra funds for building projects and applying for building permits.

One might ask if I am doing anything about my lack of income and I can say “yes” to that. I have been in talks with the local college to possibly do some teaching for them. I now have two degrees to my name (one in Computer Science and one in Biotecture) and the range of topics I feel qualified to teach people covers some fair ground. The only bummer is it’s summer right now and there won’t be any teaching until the fall term starts.

But enough of that, let’s move on to other interesting things. As some of you know, I do quite a bit of cooking here. Our usual setup is I cook the meals and Kat does the dishes. It’s a good partnership.

I recently made my very first vegetable terrine.

The bottom layer was carrots, the middle was spinach and the top was parsnips. The sauce is parsley based. I found the recipe in one of the Canadian Living cookbooks we have. It was quite different to eat, but quite tasty. It was also more filling than I thought it would be.

Kat’s birthday was last Tuesday, and as per tradition around here, I made her a special birthday dessert.

That, my friends, is a chocolate brownie turtle cake. Here it is again from the side.

I didn’t cheap out and just buy the caramels for the gooey layer either; I made caramels. Well, it actually turned out to be more like toffee as it came out a little harder than it should have. Fortunately, if you melt it down and add a bit more cream, it softens up really nicely. It worked well for the cake too.

The main cake layer is just like it sounds: chocolate brownie. I put in some chocolate nibs and chopped pecans into it to add some excitement. Covering that is the caramel layer and then the chocolate ganache to cover it all. This is one of those cakes that you cut into 16ths because an 8th would cause you overload.

From food we move onto wood processing. Yeah, we’re still working on that. I did get my replacement chains for the chainsaw in and it’s been running smooth ever since. The wood pile at the back of the trailer is coming along really nicely. The basic process is to head up into the forest, cut down some dead elm and haul it back to the trailer. Often I just cut it into logs and do the rest of the processing down at the trailer using the saw buck.

Kat is my log loader and we can process quite a bit with one tank of gas. From there, we toss it into the to-be-split pile and then go at it with the axes. I say axes, but to be technically correct they’re splitting mauls, but I don’t like that word cause it conjures up images of large crowds of people moving from store to store expressing their blatant consumerism.

Some of the pieces of wood are easier to split than others. Take this one for instance.

I had buried two wedges in it trying to get that thing to split. It did, in the end, but it was a lot of work. I also broke the handle off one of our splitting axes today after I buried it in a similar piece and I couldn’t dislodge it. Yay, another thing to replace.

The spring time is a great time to be a bird watcher. We always have a huge amount of birdie activity at our feeder. Sometimes we get some unexpected visitors too.

That was a wild turkey that was hanging out under the feeder. She kept coming back for almost a week, but we stopped putting seed out near mid May and it didn’t take them long to clean the place out.

Which really aggravated this guy.

That is a rose breasted grosbeak. After the regular bird feeder ran out, he decided to try the hummingbird feeder. He was very determined, but just couldn’t figure out how to get his beak in those yellow plastic flowers while still holding on with his feet. He was a little big for it. Fortunately, he didn’t try that for too long.

I know I’ve posted a lot of pictures of autumn, winter and spring but I don’t know how many summer photos I have taken of our land. I do realize it’s not quite officially summer, but it sure seemed like it here today. It was bright and sunny and no clouds at all the whole day. This is what it looks like looking out from our trailer.

This one is a forest path that leads over to the neighbour’s place to the north.

Our pond is doing very well. It is full of life. You can’t see them in this picture, but there are a tonne of tadpoles swimming around. The spring peepers have quieted down so we’re on to the next stage of growing the new batch. You might say we’re working on creating our own plague of frogs.

This, of course, is the picture of the road heading up to the top of our hill. Yeah, it’s a lot grassier now.

This is a nice one showing the rest of the driveway heading down to the road and the beautiful blue sky we had today.

Green canopy shot with solid blue sky.

There are so many things we should be doing, but are put on hold due to funds. We’re also behind in our gardening, which we should get moving on. As soon as things change, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

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Springtime 2018 Action

After April, we have been really looking forward to some warmer weather. Fortunately, spring has finally arrived and things are warming up quickly. The snow is all gone, the lakes and ponds are ice free, the trees are all in bud and the spring peepers are in full roar.

That means it’s time to take the plastic shield down. Here is a before picture.

We decided to make it easier on ourselves come winter and just roll it up so we don’t have to go through the whole pain of trying to reinstall the shield from scratch. This also means we didn’t have to find somewhere else to store it either.

It also made the job much easier and quicker too. Here it is all rolled up and bungied into place up at the top under the eaves.

Kat also took the pick-axe to the ice pile that was in front of our water cube and released it from its frozen prison. We now have access to it again and are actively collecting water to put in it.

With the snow having all melted, we were also able to take a few loads of tires that we had down by the trailer up to our master pile. You can’t do that during the winter unless you want to walk them up the hill wearing snow shoes. Yeah, not my cup of tea.

The other major project that we need to get moving on is firewood for next winter. We like to do this in April, but with Kat being away and the weather not cooperating we’re working on it now.

Here is me last Saturday wandering into the forest for our first set of trees.

This is what we managed to harvest that first day.

Since then, the usual routine is to get up in the morning and split what is ready to be split. After lunch we either go up and cut more trees or work on processing the logs down into reasonably sized pieces.

It was during this processing phase where we ran into a snag: the chain broke on my chainsaw. Here you can see it wrapped around the log I was cutting at the time.

No injuries were sustained, thankfully, but now I have a chainsaw without a chain. If you’ve never worked with a chainsaw, let me just say that there are a huge variety of sizes, cutting features, tooth frequency and brands. Figuring out what the specs are for your saw is the first step. Then you need to find somewhere where you can get it.

I looked online and finally found the one we needed at Amazon, but they only came in packs of 3. We drove into town yesterday to see if any of the local shops would carry the size we needed, but the local saw chain selection is mighty slim. I ended up ordering the pack of 3, but now we need to wait for it to arrive. Unfortunately, this means the black flies and mosquitoes will more than likely be out in force by the time it arrives.

In the mean time, we have split everything that was already processed except for three pieces that I can’t get the axe through. I have a splitting wedge somewhere around here, but I haven’t been able to locate it yet.

Here is a picture of the start of the new pile. This was after the second day, so it is not up-to-date.

Life does have it’s ups and downs. Fortunately this situation isn’t all that bad. I’m sure we’ll get our firewood finished eventually. In the mean time, we’ll just have to find other interesting things to keep ourselves occupied.

It’s Official

It’s official that I am now and official Earthship aficionado.

I don’t quite have that piece of paper in my hands yet, but it’s in Kat’s hands so I figure that’s close enough. She will be receiving one of these herself at the end of the month. Then we’ll both be official.

In other news, I found our very own ice wall on our property as I was wandering around it a while back.

It’s not that tall, maybe 3m (10′) but it is a lot of fun to look at. If I were more adept at image manipulation I’d put some Lego persons doing the ice climbing thing on it.

It’s April and that means highly erratic weather up here in this part of the world. Some days it’s nice and sunny and all of the snow is melting, then the next day you get this.

I also managed to snap a shot of a chickadee in mid-flight on his way out from the bird feeder. (Left side of the picture)

Mix in some rain, ice rain and heavy wind with all of that and you never really know what the next day will bring from mother nature. It hasn’t been very cold, so I guess there are some good parts.

As you may know I’m up here at the trailer taking care of things while Kat is away down south. While some might imagine this means wandering around in my underwear eating hot dogs and KD all the time, let me put those thoughts to rest. This is what I had for dinner tonight.

Those are baked chicken thighs in a peanut/salsa sauce with mashed sweet potatoes (with added pecans) and some sweet and sour purple cabbage. For those who know me, you know that I do most of the cooking when Kat is here, so eating well isn’t a problem. The only difference now is I have to do the dishes as well 😛 I’m sure I can handle this burden that has been placed upon me.

Stay healthy!

Australian Wrap Up

Technically, we’re back in Canada now, getting over some major jet lag, but I kinda lagged a bit at the end there in making posts. It got a bit complicated with all of the traveling. So, I’m going to use this post to go over some of the stuff we did in our last few days down under.

On our last full day in Cairns, we decided to go check out the Cairns Aquarium. It included some terrarium stuff too, so not everything was wet. Let’s start with a doozy of a spider.

This spider was so big, that if you laid her on top of a cantaloupe, her legs would cover a full half of it. The one beside her wasn’t all that much smaller either.

These next ones are giant armored cock roaches. I’m sure you’re very happy to see them.

Of course, no trip to Australia would be complete without some pictures of crocodiles. It would have been nicer to get some pictures of them in the wild when we were on our rain forest tour, but that wasn’t to be.

Moving on to the more aquatic life, this is a picture of a crayfish.

Yes, he’s about the same size as a spiny lobster from down in Florida. I don’t know what the distinction is between a crayfish and a lobster, maybe it’s colour, cause these guys were pale blue.

Next we have a general bunch of fish.

Honeycomb moray eel, conveniently sticking his head out so we can see him.

The reef stone fish. Also known as the most venomous fish in the world.

Moon jelly fish. These were the things we swam through out on the Great Barrier Reef.

Another pleasant aquatic scene.

Big sea anemone with fish in front of it.

I don’t know what this next thing is, but it looks like a bright purple hamburger patty with bright neon-green hairs. How could you not take a picture of that.

Shark!

More sharks!

Sting rays too.

That’s it for the aquarium and that was it for Cairns. The next morning we flew down to Sydney to spend two nights there. We arrived in the late morning so Kat and I decided to go on walkabout.

We didn’t have to go very far before we ran into more greenery, which is good because Sydney is a typical big city with all of the traffic and hustle and bustle. It turns out the Royal Botanical Gardens weren’t all that far from our hotel and it being a rather lovely sunny day, we indulged.

Here is the entrance.

We encountered a lot of these birds, and not just in the gardens, but all over Sydney. I don’t know what they are called, but they kinda remind me of Gonzo from the muppets.

Huge leaning tree.

Of course, if you’re going to wander around some botanical gardens, you should stop and smell the flowers while you’re there. Like this rose.

Or maybe this one.

I caught Kat just after she had been on a sniff-a-thon.

Here is me being overwhelmed by the size of these aloe plants. That is what we assumed they were, but someone suggested that they might also be agave.

Picture from above looking down in to the parkway.

This little fellow is a kookaburra. He was quite used to strangers too. Kat was able to get close enough to tickle his tail feathers, but he drew the line at that and flew away to another perch.

They have some ginormous trees down there.

Here is Kat beside one for perspective.

Here is another example of one of those trees that are made up of lots of little trunks.

Coming out the other end of the gardens, we came upon a rather famous Sydney icon: the opera house.

It was fascinating to see it up close as you really don’t get the feel for the scale when you see it in pictures. It’s rather huge.

After that, we wandered back to our hotel. I have to take this moment to point out an interesting difference between the light switches down there and here in Canada.

They are tiny, and they work backwards compared to ours. When the top part is pressed in, they are off. I think that may simple be that they are on the underside of the planet and everything there is upside-down.

We had one more full day in Sydney before we needed to fly home, so we used that opportunity to go visit the zoo. This gave us a good chance to see all sorts of really lazy and tired animals because it was the middle of the day and it was too hot to be moving about.

We can start with a Komodo dragon, which technically speaking, isn’t native to Australia at all.

Lizard in a tree.

Really big python.

Iguana just hanging out.

A pile of gila monsters. Pink and black are great colours for these guys.

Another iguana, up in a tree.

Taipan, a really, really poisonous snake. He was up and moving around too.

Not sure which snake this one was, but he totally looks like a worn out bicycle tire inner tube.

Did someone say giraffes?

Not to worry, it’s just a mere-cat.

They also had two Sumatra tigers, which are on the severely endangered list as there are only about 400-500 still in the wild.

Big horny herbivore.

This is an otter that has the tail of another otter stuck in his mouth. All three of the otters were playing around.

This is a fishing cat.

The infamous kangaroo who just seem to be chillin’ in the afternoon heat.

Emu alert!

The third largest bird in the world is a cassowary. The tour guide for our rain forest hike was really hoping we would see one in the wild, but they are pretty rare. Fortunately, they had one at the zoo.

Wooohooo!! Lemurs! Who doesn’t like lemurs.

If you go into the gift shop, they have all manner of stuffed animals of all sizes that you can buy. Including this rather huge stuffed octopus that was putting the moves on Kat.

This is a red panda. Apparently the word “panda” literally means bamboo eater.

We took a selfie of ourselves as well, just to show that we were there.

That pretty much wraps up the whole trip. We caught our ride to the airport at 8am the next day and then hopped a flight from Sydney to Hong Kong. That took close to nine hours. We had a short wait in HK then a 14 hour flight from there to Toronto.

Get off in Toronto, do all of going through customs stuff, get your luggage, recheck your luggage, change terminals, and then hop another flight to Ottawa. Easy as cake.

Except for the fact that we have some hardcore jet lag going on right now. Waking up at 3am and crashing at 3pm has happened several times.

Oh well, it was all worth it.