New blog site

As of May 21 we have officially moved to our new blog address.

Posts from the start of our journey up to mid May 2019 can still be found on this site however all new content will be posted at Maritime Homesteading.

Maritimehomesteading.com

We invite you to continue following us on our journey.  

Thank you!

 

May 2019!

Welcome to off-grid living!

We moved to the Maritimes in late 2014. In early 2017 we found a beautiful offgrid home in a remote area that was just what we were looking for. This has begun a journey of living more sustainably and starting a homestead. I invite you to follow along on some of the projects, day to day challenges and rewards that we encounter. Please leave us a comment. Thank you :-)

Last day of April

I know its still April until tomorrow, but for some reason I can’t post any more on my April page.  I decided to start my May page one day early!

Yesterday I started the electric fence installation around the bee hive.  I used rebar for the posts. I originally bought 5/8” (they call it 15mm) but the plastic insulators won’t fit on that size of rebar. I guess I should have probably read the package better for the insulators.

I went back to the hardware store and bought the smaller 10mm (3/8”) rebar. 

The ground around the hive is pretty rocky.  It is gonna be a challenge to get any post into the ground  Packed sand/clay with large rocks.... sounds fun!

After a battle with the sledgehammer and rebar I got the 6 steel rods into the ground about 1.5 feet.  I don’t think one ended up staying where I first started it.  Either it hit a rock a few inches down or somewhere around 8-10 inches.  The rebar was about 6’5” in length so there was around 5 feet out of the ground.  I installed the insulators over the rods and then my wife and I ran the wires.

DARE fence insulator for steel posts

Why do we need insulators?

We use insulators so that the bare metal fence wires do not touch the steel rods that are hammered into the ground for support.  The ”insulators” are plastic which is non-conductive.  

We ran 5 wires as was recommended in a article I read online.  If you are using electric fences to keep predators out of an area, 5 wires are suggested alternating between positive and negative.  It is also sugegsted to start with a positive on the top and end with one on the bottom.

After we ran the 5 wires around the perimeter,  I started to tension them up.  The rebar bent in towards the center of the area the fence was surrounding as I tightened! What was I thinking????

I was hoping the rebar would work, and was originally planning on using the 15mm rather than the 10mm diameter. I went back to the hardware store and bought 4 seven foot fence t-bar.  My only worry was if I would be able to get them hammered into the ground.

I pulled the rebar out and inserted the pointy end of the tbar into the hole from the rebar.  After some serious hammering the tbar went down about 2 feet into the ground leaving about 5 feet exposed. T-bar by design is much more resistant to flexing than rebar.  It should have been my first choice I guess.  Tomorrow I will energize the 5 wires and hopefully it will keep bears from having a snack. 

Rebar was exchanged for tbar

Firewood Processor

It looks like I might be buying a Hakki Pilke firewood processor.  It is a smaller one of the models available. It is also a few years old but was a demo unit.  Although it has been run it has very low hours on it and is a good price.  This particular model is run via the PTO off a tractor.  

We plan on driving to Windsor NS tomorrow which is a few hour drive from where we live, to have a closer look at the unit and try it out!

We plan on stockpiling alot of firewood for our place so that we have a good supply of dry firewood over the next few years. I am also hoping to get 3-5 customers that would buy some wood from us.

The bees are enjoying the warmer weather

Its a beauty day!

Today started off overcast and cool but it   turned out to be a nice day. Sunny and warmer, but not tooo warm. No flies yet to contend with except our bees are out and about. The warmer weather has them active.

I connected the top wire, the third wire and the bottom (5th) wire all together then it gets connected to the positive of the electric fencer.  The second and forth wire are the negative/ground wires and get connected to the fencer and to ground.

I have a fairly new deepcycle 12V battery I bought last June for the trailer and it was stored in the shed.  I checked it a few days ago and it was only 2volts!  I spoke to someone at the store where I purchased it and they willhave a look at it to see if it is salvageable or will be replaced under warranty.

I should have it back or a new one by tomorrow and I can then energize the fence.

Fence wires connected

All little bit of tremclad goes along way!

Painted black

I finally had time to paint the brackets that I had made for one project and then painted the forks I had made for our tractor.

Tomorrow afternoon I plan on installing the brackets on our ground mounted solar array. An electric actuator (kind of like a hydraulic cylinder) will be mounted between the brackets to tilt the array.

Solar Motion Light

I installed yet another motion flood light on the duck pen. Actually the light was installed on the inside.  There are three on the perimeter and we only had one on the inside.  This should make a difference. Often we check on them before bed and top up their drinking water and give the pen a quick check. The more light the better when we are out there.  They are fairly expensive if you pay full price but on sale they're $59.

Solar Array upgrade 

Being able to tilt the solar array a few times a year is going to increase your energy production significantly.  The sun in the summer, at our location, is about 70 degrees above the horizon at mid day.  In the winter however the sun only gets to about 20 degrees above the horizon. If you can tilt the solar array with the seasons the amount of energy production will go up substantially. We tilt to about 30 degrees, measured from the horizontal, for summertime, to 45 degrees for spring and fall and tilt it to a steep 70 degree angle for winter energy production.

I took some time today to install the upper and lower mounting brackets onto the ground mounted solar array.  I also mounted the tilt actuator and tried it!

It works!!!!

Tilt actuator installed

Tilt actuator trial

Do’n a litt’l till’n

Getting the potato garden ready

Sunny and cool

 It‘s a beauty day today.  I’ve been working outside for several hours and thankfully it isn’t any warmer out! I’m sweating and it is only 15C. 

I took 4 buckets full of wood scraps that were about 30 feet away from the southeast corner of our field garden.  There was a pile left there and it would have been okay but it’s a bit of an ”eye sore” and I plan on expanding the garden in that direction. Unfortunatley you can’t scoop it up with the loader so it’s all been hand loaded.  Some boards are rotted and some have alot of nails still in them. I think two more loads later this week and it should be cleaned up.

I made 1L of sugar water for the bees. It is a 1:1 ratio as previously mentioned. I read online that 1 cup of sugar weighs 200g. So in a bag that weighs 2kg )or 2000g)  there would be 10 cups. I mixed 5 cups of sugar (1000g) with 1000mL of water.  Thats alot of sugar to get into 1 liter of water but slowly warming the water allowed it all to disolve.  If you try this make sure not to let the water boil after the sugar has been added. Apparently something could happen to the solution that is not good for the bees.

I let the solution cool and filled up the entrance feeder and stored the rest in the fridge.  The bees are very active today with the nicer weather. 

I cleaned out the duck house and their pen of any wet straw and wood shavings that were used for bedding. One of the feed dispensers had damp ”caked” food in the trough. Im not sure what smells worse than wet duck grower pellets.  I scraped the caked food off the bottom of the dispenser and wiped it clean.  We picked up another water dispenser today as the female ducks go through alot of water!

Water dispenser for ducks, geese etc

Busy day with the tractor 

The tractor got a few hours added to the hour-meter today! 

I fixed the driveway in several locations. 5 bucket loads of gravel with the tractor spread out on the rough areas then I back bladed to smooth and compact it.

We then used the tractor to move 4 loads of rocks that were scattered in various places where we didn’t want them.

And then we used the tractor to unload the firewood processor! If the tractor was 1” lower or my truck was 1” taller it wouldn’t have worked. With my bucket fully raised it was barely high enough to raise the unit off the bed of my truck. I hooked the chains so they were as short as possible and it still was difficult to get out. My wife was a great help raising the loader bucket then driving the truck ahead while I stabilized the load and ensured (prayed) we didn’t end up with a dented truck or wrecked wood processor.

 

 

Moving some rocks. Spot the small one!

Unloading our new Hakki Pilke

Installed gate handles for electric fence

Widened the garden by 7 feet!

17 Pounds of Seed Taters

My wife purchased about 17 pounds of seed potatoes from a local greenhouse. We got 3 different varieties, Kennebec, Superior and Chieftain. I hope to cut them up tomorrow and let the cut sides dry overnight. Don’t let them dry in the sun as this will cause them to turn green which is a sign that they have also produced solanine. Solanine is a mild toxin which usually makes you nauseous.

One pound of seed potatoes will produce approximately 10 pounds of potatoes! Hopefully we get a good harvest and we can store them in our planned root cellar.

It is suggested to grow 15-20 potato plants per person for a year supply. We are planting more than this however we plan on harvesting some early. Small early harvested potatoes are “new potatoes” which are sooooo tasty. We will likely give some away to our friends so they can enjoy ”new potatoes” on the BBQ too!

JR Comeau Greenhouse

I went to JR Comeau’s greenhouse today and checked out their awesome selection of trees,  shrubs, plants etc.

They are located in Saulnierville NS which is about 45 min away.  I bought a peach tree, two blackberry bushes, one gooseberry bush, three blueberry bushes and two grape bushes! They have very good prices there.  My wife loves blackberries and it was the first time I saw them sold here. We often have several of these berries in our cereal.

Wild flower mix

Wild flower mix

We sprinkled an entire container of wild flower mix along the east edge of the garden. (It is a similar product to the picture above.)  We also had enough to do the east side of the duck pen where there was a large pile of topsoil just days ago.  The tractor came in handy once again... about 10 buckets full of top soil was used to enlarge the back garden.... back to the wild flowers, they’re primarily for the bees but I may pick some for my wife.

 

Spuds... aka Taters

We planted 56 seed potatoes this evening.  That might not sound like a big job but we have been super busy lately and this morning we left at 5:30. We went to Amherst, which is about 4.5 hours away, as my wife was asked to do a church service there for 10:30 am. We got back at 7:30 tonight and I didn’t really feel like doing alot lol. 

What exactly are seed potatoes anyways?

It is better to grow potatoes from certified seed potatoes as they have not been sprayed with growth inhibitor like grocery store potatoes have. Also if you use potatoes that you grew from the previous year, any disease it may have had will be passed on.

Berry bushes

After supper we planted 3 new blueberry bushes next to our existing 4, and then planted 2 blackberry bushes.  We also added one gooseberry bush to our existing 2 from the previous year.

3 new blueberry plants