Wednesday, 27 July 2011


They were back again last week: the Ontario Junior Rangers, for their 3rd annual visit. A group of positive, fun, hard-working girls who spend their summer working on all kinds of green/environmentally sustainable projects, including ours. 

We kicked the day off with a house tour and cold drinks, but then they got into their gear and unphased stepped outside into the muggy heat.

The previous two years they helped us paint our place (see here and here); this year they cleared trails, weeded and hilled our potato plants, stacked firewood, and sanded down the stucco guest house walls. They worked so hard we almost ran out of chores for them!

It's become a summer highlight to have these girls around with their infectious energy and laughter filling the air. Positive vibes all around.
Thank you so much, gals! Here's looking forward to next summer!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Heat Wave? What Heat Wave?!

Up here in NW Ontario we're never sure if summer's actually here. Winters are crazy long and cold, and it's been known to snow on some Canada Days. But this time there's no doubt about it. The heat wave we've been having lately leaves little room for thoughts of snow, although this stifling heat almost makes you wish for some of the white stuff.

It's just too darn hot to do anything other than trying to keep cool. Stay in the shade, go to a beach, eat ice cream. Crank up that air conditioner and try not to think about your next Hydro bill, not to mention your carbon footprint.

As for us, we stay inside and enjoy our built-in "air conditioner": plenty of heat-absorbing thermal mass, 3-feet overhangs that keep direct sunlight out and especially the thick, super-insulating straw bale walls keep the indoor temps at a very pleasant 20C to 21C. Costing us not one penny.

Outside: pushing 35C.  Inside: a cool 20C - without air conditioning
Yup, life here is good - as long as we don't have to go out and do stuff. Hmm, but the grass needs cutting, there's still lots of firewood to be split and stacked, and the gardens need watering... Guess we'll have a cool one first, though!

Friday, 15 July 2011

B&B Bonus

One of the bonuses of our Eco Bed & Breakfast is we get to meet these wonderful people without having to go anywhere. This week for instance we had Larissa McLean spend a night here as she was travelling from Calgary to Southern Ontario. Larissa plans to one day build an off-grid straw bale home herself, but also turned out to be an accomplished print maker and water colour artist. A lady of many talents!

A summery stroll through our fields full of flowers produced a gorgeous field bouquet, the perfect subject for two water colour paintings she did that same evening (in about the same time we need to do the dishes).
Here's one of them:

water colour by Larissa McLean, July 2011
Most of our guests share sweet, funny or inspiring stories with us and leave delightful comments in our guest book. Not many leave a piece of artwork behind, a delicate souvenir of summer and a reminder of another wonderful guest.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Get Me To The Market!

Have you noticed? Local country markets are sprouting up just about everywhere. More and more people are aware now of the the many benefits locally produced produce and baking offer. Here in Nolalu the local local market went into its second year, with even more vendors than before. It found itself a new place, too, on the Nolalu Community Centre's parking lot, well visible and easy to find, every Friday from 4:00 - 7:00 pm.

So next time you're heading out to the lake or going for a drive in the country, stop by at the Nolalu Country Market for delectable pies, fresh veggies, baking, plants, even some arts and crafts. You'll get to meet the folks who grew/baked/made it all themselves, you know it's as fresh as it can possibly be, and you're supporting the local economy. Oh, and did I mention it's healthier and tastes noticeably better, too?

Buying local is a big part of a greener life style. Everyone benefits of a strong and healthy local community, it's a win-win situation for everyone. And as far as shopping experiences go, buying at a local market sure beats going to any super market, any time.

You'll find the Nolalu Country Market every Friday afternoon from 4:00 - 7:00, until October 1st. And if you're not in this area, go shop at any of the many other local country markets! Enjoy!

(for the latest info, visit the market's Facebook HERE.)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Firewood? Must be summer!

After a long winter that just didn't seem to want to let go, summer's finally here. And with the hot, seemingly endless days, the summer chores kick in: putting in gardens, setting up watering systems (thank you, water barrels!), some basic house maintenance, encouraging a few dozen insecure 3-year old trees using home-made compost, but most of all: getting next winter's firewood bucked, split and stacked.

The distant sound of chainsaws whining is the tell tale sign that we're not the only ones working at it. Common wisdom has it you'd better have your wood bucked and split by Canada Day (July 1st) so it has enough time to dry out before winter rolls around again. It's hard, hot work, yet strangely satisfying. We pretty much hit that target, most of our wood is ready for next winter and it even looks like there's enough left for the winter after - bonus!

Getting your firewood done is one of the bigger chores connected to living in the country. It's also a vital one: no firewood, no heat! And given our long cold winters and temps that routinely hover around the -30C to -40C mark, you'd better have your woodstove going!

Fortunately our large straw bale house proves very well insulated, using only about 3.5 cords of wood each winter - about one half to one third of similar sized homes out here. That saves a lot of work! And as I'm slowly working my way through what seems like a mountain of wood in the summer heat and surrounded by hungry mosquitoes, that's something I'm very grateful for right now...!