The big news is that we finally broke ground.
After a couple of weeks of delays, we got the equipment on the site on the July 21st weekend and accomplished two major objectives: we dug up the building site to bed-rock (for the most part and we extended the drive way around to the front of the house.
We had Marty and Matt with the Hoe and the Bobcat working at it for a day and a half. They also dug up a hole for the septic system in the sparsely wooded area between the driveway and the house.
We also had the pleasure of having their family pay us a visit. Marty and Joanne live on the farm across the road and his family used to own this land, so it is just a step over for them and since they are super nice, it is doubly nice to see them here.
As for me, besides staying out of the way and letting the guys do their work, I also completed one major milestone: I purchased the solar system. I went and bought the whole complete package that will be fully re-used for the house when completed: 4 solar panels, one electrical panel that will include the inverter, the charge controller, and all that good stuff, all pre-assembled and pre-wired, and a battery pack (8 batteries). Delivery expected in 2 – 3 weeks. I bought it from Mike Weschke, Solar Depot in Bancroft. Mike himself is living on a similar system, he knows his stuff, and comes well recommended. See his coordinates in the reference section of the site.
Typically, there are two main strategies for defining the power and capacity of the various components: Either you buy more solar panels (which are relatively cheap) and less batteries, therefore you make more electricity than you normally need but you have less capacity, or you calculate the number of panels closer to your average need and buy more batteries so as to ensure 2 to 3 days of capacity. Batteries are expensive, but you will be using your gas powered backup generator during the period of the year when there is less sun and you also reduce the risk of discharging the batteries below the recommended level. We opted for the second strategy with 8 batteries.
Next: Prepare the installation of the solar system:
1 – Build a battery box. Batteries need to be properly enclosed in a box that needs to have a vent to the outside (for acid fumes). 8 batteries x 60kg each, so the box needs to be pretty solid.
2 – Build a shed (another one!). This one will house the batteries (in box) and the electrical panel for the next 3 years. It will be 4’x8’ but this time it needs to be really solid, particularly the floor (see the battery weight above).
The shed will be about 5 m from it and about 5 m from the trailer – Perfect! Of course this is exactly where I currently have my generator shed. So I will have to move this one a little, which I can do easily.
By the way, I may consider keeping the battery and electrical panel in the shed even after the house is built rather than bringing it inside the house. I could move the electrical shed to the back of the house. That electrical shed will not be so easy to move but it may still be doable. Hmmmm? Well, I certainly don’t have to decide now.
3 – Cut one more big tree: There is one big pine close to the trailer which needs to go (unfortunately) because it would be shielding the house from a lot of winter sun. However, that nice solid trunk would do a really good post to mount my solar panels for the time being. So I will cut it at about 8 ft from the ground.
Next: On the construction site:
1 – Get some fill and start filling up the hole that we dug, compacting it at the same time.
2 – Put in place the drain pipe below the floor level.
July 27 weekend:
I have bought all the wood for the shed.
I re-staked the house accurately so we can determine the position of the drain pipe.
I cut down the pine as planned. I was concerned that it could fall in the wrong direction and land on either: my trailer (Ouch!) or my generator shed, or Justin’s shed or out-house. So, I first climbed up and tied a rope from a point high in the tree to another stump. I was glad to have that rope on when my chain saw got pinched because the tree was leaning very slightly backward. Just a good pull on the rope and it came down right on target. A good lesson to remember: nothing wrong with a good backup plan!
But I must say that I miss that pine. I will need to make sure that another deciduous tree grows there.
Now my chain saw is dull again! Time for another sharpening. I went to the Home Depot to purchase a spare chain and I bought a new set of files. These things barely last for one sharpening then you have to throw them out!
Meanwhile, in the family, while my little story unfolds, an angel came to us! - See the 3 pictures above
In the previous blog, I was so engrossed in all my own personal things that I totally missed mentioning the most beautiful thing that happened to all of us this spring: Clara Charmet was born on April 16th. She is absolutely gorgeous and perfect and holding her in my arms is totally beyond words.
So I am posting a few pictures of her on the site. The truth is that I don’t see enough of her. Coming up to Bancroft so many week end, I often miss them when they come to Toronto. So I have to content myself with occasional short visits. But I will go to Ottawa on weekend Aug 10 to see her. After all, the project can wait, I got to spend more time with my grand-daughter. Along the same line, I also decided to go visit my sister as well this summer (on the west coast). I think that it is a great counterpart to spending so much time coming up to Bancroft and working my weekends away.
Aug 4th weekend:
A long weekend! I managed to meet a few of my objectives and still take some time out. So altogether it was a good weekend.
Objective #1: I managed to build about 80% of my “power” shed. Got a solid base, in place first and completed boarding the roof and the walls by Monday evening. I ran out of one board anyway! I did not put shingles on the roof yet.
Objective # 2: I did meet with my aggregate supplier and we arranged for him to dump 3 loads to start week during the coming week.
Objective # 3: Maintenance: repaint the trailer’s roof. I had seen that it was rusting away pretty badly. I bought a good steel brush, paint and spent a good part of my Saturday afternoon brushing the rust away (the really fun and back breaking job!) and repainted it. Now it looks like new; from a bird’s point of view, of course. Other maintenance: The chainsaw: In Bancroft, I find that the chain I had bought does not quite fit. Great, another store which sells equipment but does not sell the proper parts! I will have to return it. Since I had bought a set of files, I had to sharpen the chain with these. This time it worked well, but now I will be more careful with stones.
Objective # 4: Had some good leisure time: I had to push myself to stop working that weekend but when I did, it was so nice. Both Saturday and Sunday evenings were just gorgeous. What a pleasure it is to cleanup and enjoy a nice quiet barbecue with a good beer sitting in the setting sun. I even pulled the guitar out. On Monday morning, I left early with kayak on the roof and decided to look up Bark Lake (Justin’s recommendation). It is about ½ hour north of Bancroft, but it is a real gem. It is surrounded by crown land so there are virtually no cottages on it. It is a fairly large lake about 20km long). Just beautiful. I found my way to the hydro dam on the south east side and paddled out of there. Clean water, super quiet. Met with a few people camping on one of the islands. Nice looking campsites, free but on a first come first serve. They told me that they came on Tuesday to “reserve” by pitching a tent on it and that was the only one left available. I will definitely come back to this lake for some more exploration. I understand that the northern end of it flows into a water fall (part of the Madawaska river).
Next weekend I will be in Ottawa: family weekend!
Just got a call from Mike (Solar Depot). He has all the components and we will arrange for a delivery on August 17.