Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Northern Winds

NEC south side
Gray sky, strong northern winds, snow blowing; you would think it is one of those winter days you throw a lot of firewood in the stove. No, that’s not the case at all. We are again and again surprised how well the passive solar building style works: the Eco Centre stays nice and toasty on north wind winter days, because there are only a few small windows on the north side, and with the 18 inch thick, straw insulated, walls, the house hardly loses any heat. Today is one of those relaxing stormy days for us. The wind generator brings the power in, so I can work on the computer writing this blog, and the ground gets its, very much needed, snow insulation. Smiling faces.
NEC north side

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Presenting: a new local author

The Fires of Waterland

We invite you to come out to Nolalu Eco Centre on Friday, April 12 to meet local author Raymond Alexander Kukkee. Raymond will be presenting his new book “The Fires of Waterland”, a historical fiction novel. This is his first book in print, but those of you who are curious can read more of his digital works online, on his blog http://incomingbytes.com/fiction/books/ 
Meet and Greet will be from 3 p.m. till 5 p.m. Doors open 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

About the book:

Fletcher Williams, a boy from a displaced, dysfunctional and broken family, is forced to deal with the complexities of life and tragedy when he is snatched from those he comes to love. Torn away from Livvy, who becomes a lifelong friend, he is plunged into the life of an orphan. The brutal, stark reality of those surrounding him exacerbates the destructive darkness as human nature surfaces in the Fires of Waterland…..

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Creeks and Cranes

Usually our creek is just a trickle, but after all the rain we got dumped on it now looks and sounds quite spectacular. I am always amazed how much water this creek can handle.  We have some beaver ponds in the back, but after all the rains the water level is too high for the dam to handle and is overflowing.

On top of all this meteorological excitement we have some new visitors. Two big sand cranes are stepping high through our fields, close enough to admire them from the house. They even let us listen to the loud trumpeting sounds they produce. 
Big birds making big sounds. I hope they're no early risers...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Big Bus

It's been a busy summer for us, but things are calming down a bit now that fall is here. Don't think we're twiddling our thumbs, though, there's always something happening. Like the biggest house tour we ever had.

Thunder Bay's Rural 55+ Travel Club picked us for their fall outing and arrived here last Thursday with the biggest possible size bus this side of Detroit and 51 friendly folks inside of it (plus one very good driver). It was the biggest house tour we've had yet - and one of the most enjoyable ones, too, as these folks proved to be fun, interested and easy going.

For a casual passer-by it must have sounded like a wild party was going on inside, with one guest playing her favourite rag time tunes on our piano, mixed with happy conversation and laughter erupting frequently.

As we waved the group good-bye 2 hours later and watched the big bus just making it out of our driveway, it felt like we made new friends that afternoon. Yes, that was a good day.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Back to (Eco-)School

Yup, it's that time of year again: students are headed back to school. Same goes for us, as our "Living Green" courses will be kicking off again through Confederation  College's Continuing Education program.

We'll start on September 26: "Living Off the Grid", from 6:30 - 9:30.
Next is October 3 with "Intro to Solar Energy", also from 6:30 - 9:30.
Then is there's a new course slated for November 7, again from 6:30 - 9:30: "Intro to Small Wind Power", offered by popular request.
Follow the links above for more information, or check The Key's fall issue on page 31.

The great thing about these courses is you don't need to be living in Thunder Bay to enjoy them. The College has a number of "virtual class rooms" all over NW Ontario, hooked up to the actual class room via closed circuit TV. It's almost as though you're actually there, very cool!

There's always a high turnout for these courses, and with the recent (and impending) significant price hikes for Hydro, propane and gas, we expect they will sell out even faster now. Interesting how the economy can be part of the drive to be green...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

To Your Health

It doesn't happen very often, but when it does it makes so much sense: seeing the bigger picture, the fact we're all connected and do need each other. No one is an island - even though we sometimes like to think so.

But Thunder Bay's NorWest Community Health Centre gets it and did something about it, too. On August 17 they organized the first Rural Health Fair, offering everyone who somehow works on physical and mental well-being for the folks in our extensive rural area. Anything and anyone from Addiction Counselling to healthy food options and from Community Centres to churches and everything in between was there - all in all 67 different organizations.

Of course we were very happy to accept their invitation to be present; what better place for an environmentally-related organization to be? Living a greener lifestyle is so much healthier and saner, combining both body and mind in one fell swoop.
The busy afternoon provided a good way of introducing that idea to many folks for whom it was all new, or to those who are considering going that route. With almost everyone there it was also the good place to reconnect with others and to get to know some new faces and organizations. Who knew this area was so rich in resources, with so many skilled and community-oriented people?

A big thank-you to Shaun Peirce and Kendra Williams for putting it all together and making it happen. We're already looking forward to next year's edition!

Sunday, 14 August 2011


The weather forecast called for a chilly day of rain and thunder storms, but it turned out to be a gorgeous day after all. A perfect day to lower our wind turbine for its annual inspection - and hopefully repair. It hadn't been performing well since a bad wind storm did some damage to it last April, it was now a matter of finding out how much damage.

Coming down carefully...
As usual, Frank "the Solar Guy" who designed and installed the system was in charge of the operation. Lowering a 306-feet, $9,000 tower is not something you do lightly, it takes thorough planning and smooth team work. Fortunately we had a good group volunteering to help us out, which included a powerful Bobcat to do most of the heavy lifting.

Once the tower had come down we quickly found out what the problem was: a frayed tension wire in the turbine head had overheated and shorted the system. The good news was that we had the skills and the tools to repair it. Other than that there were no further issues or repairs, thank goodness.

Many hands...
Getting the tower back up proved a bit more of a challenge. Because of the slippery tall, moist grass under the Bobcat, its wheels began to spin. The solution proved simple: everybody pile on top of it to give some extra grip - and there we went.

All aboard!
Lowering & raising a turbine, even a relatively small one as ours, is always a hassle and time-consuming. On the other hand, it's also a great exercise in community building, with everyone pulling his/her weight, learning about wind power and adding to a wonderful day. But the end of the afternoon the turbine was back to happily cranking out green energy again.

Thank you, Frank, Jane, Mark, Dana, Paul, Brian, Will, Joey, Mel and Tyler for your help and positive attitude. Oh, and the happy dogs Will & Kate and Amber, too!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Comin' Down!

It's that time of year again: time to lower our wind turbine for its annual check-up. Our solar system has been performing flawlessly since it was hooked up 7 years ago and doesn't need any maintenance, really. But with wind, it's different...
All those moving parts at often high speeds make it a very good idea to make sure those parts are still performing adequately. Right now the wind turbine has some issues since we got hit by that big wind storm last April so we'd better have a look-see and fix what needs fixing.

Last year's wind turbine inspection
The date: this coming Saturday, August 13. Time: 2:30 pm.
Why are we posting this on our blog, you may well ask. Well, lowering a 106-foot steel mast is always a bit of an operation, so we could sure use a few good men and women to help us out (and ideally someone with a truck).

So if you're interested in being part of our annual wind turbine maintenance routine and have an up close & personal experience with green wind energy, give us a quick call and we'd be happy to fill you in on the details. Oh, and we'll provide the drinks, munchies and other goodies - and those dorky yet strangely sexy hard hats!