Sunday, 30 August 2009

Our Daily Food

To continue this blog’s food-themed focus: today we had our first full home-grown organic supper! Beets, chard, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, zucchini… Sure, we’ve been eating plenty of veggies from our garden for weeks now (despite this crappy summer), but this time everything on our plate came from there! No pesticides, nothing genetically altered, no chemical fertilizers – just Mother Earth doing her thing (okay, with lots of help from Jacomyn).

Not only is this food very healthy and extremely flavourful, there’s also something intensely satisfying about growing and eating your own food. We’ve become so alienated from our food sources, we often don’t know where it comes from, who grew it and how it was grown. The food and fertilizing industries are colossal entities, only designed to make profits for their share holders – at any cost.

We’re lucky here in Nolalu where we have plenty of space and good enough soil to grow our own. Friends and neighbours around us provide us with organic eggs, chicken meat, beef, pork and even more veggies & fruit than we can ever dream of growing ourselves.
All we need now is a way to store all this yummy goodness for when winter comes…

Friday, 21 August 2009

A Greenhouse For –40C Winters…?

Our North Ontario winters are crazy long & cold. If you want to do any serious vegetable gardening, you’ll need some sort of greenhouse to beat the short growing season – or it will beat you. Add to this free trade and low oil prices, and it’s no wonder that most of our produce here is trucked in from vast distances, losing much of its freshness and nutrients in the process.

Some people are getting a little nervous about that. For with oil prices steadily climbing, so has the price of that trucked-in produce. And with energy and environmental crises breathing down our neck, they are beginning to wonder what may happen if those crises will make it impossible to get our food here. How will we feed ourselves then?

Enter Nolalu resident Leo Hunnako. Leo’s got a Big Idea: to build a greenhouse for North Ontario’s mind-numbing cold winters. Yep: winters. You know, our long plug-your-car-in, square-tire winters. That’s when Leo’s greenhouse will be happily producing fresh organic veggies. Solar powered, almost all year round. Mind you, this is not your (grand) daddy’s greenhouse. This one’s super-insulated and sheltered from the biting winds. Lots of thermal mass will retain the sun’s warmth that pours in during our short but sunny winter days. Solar hot water collectors will store even more solar heat that gets piped through a sand-filled wall and underneath the veggie beds. Insulated double pane windows will be covered up with more insulation material at night to keep the warmth in.

It’s scheduled to be operational by early October, the first of its kind. The idea is that with Leo’s help (and after extensive testing) many more will follow. We can’t wait to see how it will perform.
Our survival may depend on it.
Leo Hunnako can be reached at leoh @ (first remove the spaces in the email address - spam protection)

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Toys we really need (no, really)

Click, clunk, whirrrrrrrcrrrack!! And repeat. And repeat. And repeat...
Now that our wonderful new chainsaw has produced the 5 cords of firewood required for this winter, there’s one more task to do: splitting it (well, there’s also the stacking it and building the woodshed, but that will have to wait till this fall).

Of course you can take your trusty axe and wood block and do it all by hand, but believe me: that’s only fun and games for the first hour or so. The other umpteen hours… some may call it invigorating, but “back breaking” is closer to the truth.
Enter the electric log splitter, courtesy of our wonderful friends Ron & Kelly (who also own a camp near us, a little piece of heaven with a sauna overlooking a quiet lake – but that’s another story). And suddenly, that big wood pile seems a lot less daunting.

Some purists will prefer the blistered hands, the aching back, the sweat-drenched shirts, and hey: go for it if that turns your crank. I prefer the elegance and convenience of this electric miracle. Click, clunk, whirrrrrrrcrrrack! Powered by our own renewable energy, of course.
The only disadvantage: this is only a loaner… Anybody got a small electric log splitter they want to get rid of…?!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Things That Go Bang! in the Night

Our solar hot water system has been out of commision for a while now. It had been doing just great – until one cold night this past winter (-32C plus a nasty wind) we heard a loud bang: the system had frozen and burst, despite the glycol in it (a biodegradable type of anti-freeze).

Of course we had to wait repairing it until the frost was gone (which took well into June this year!), and then we just got too busy to actually get to it. But yesterday we finally got up on the ladders, took the solar tubes off and temporarily stored them (picture below) and took the manifold down for a closer look. Frank Ilczyszyn (below, right), who designed and installed our entire solar and wind system, was once again our go-to guy to help out with this 2-person job.

Fortunately the damage wasn’t all too bad, we should be able to repair it later this week. I'm looking forward to get the system up and running again, it does a great job at producing hot water from the sun, even on overcast days. Last summer we used solar hot water exclusively, it was so efficient we could simply turn our conventional water heater off. I got quite a kick out of that. I'm telling ya, nothing beats a steaming hot solar shower in the morning!