Generating our own Solar Power

We have installed Solar Panels on our barn roof that could generate up to 10 kW per year in electricity. We feed this electricity back into the Ontario Power grid and get paid a guaranteed rate per KW/hr for twenty years. This is a great investment for the future, and I am pleased that the Ontario government supports renewable energy.

The panels were installed and running in December, 2012. Unfortunately January and February were very cloudy months, and the panels were often covered in a thick blanket of snow. But now it’s April, we’ve made it into Spring and the sun is now here and the panels are quietly generating lots of energy.

Drink up Ontario – I am glad I can now contribute power to the grid.  Every little thing we do counts to making this world a more sustainable place.



Winter Wonderland

My last post was in early December and all is great.  In fact we are experiencing one of the best winters here in Ottawa that I haven’t written to tell you all about it. I have been out enjoying all the snow we have received, snowshoeing, riding and sleighing often. We haven’t experienced the annoying freeze/thaw cycles or freezing rain, that have come to characterize our winters  in the last couple of years.

All the Horse-drawn Vehicles

Early in November, we decided it was time to organize Bill’s vehicles – his horse-drawn vehicles that is. Over the past five years or so, he has learned how to drive his horse Panda. Now this activity seems rather quaint and innocent enough; yet it does necessitate having the tool for the job.

In our case that has meant vehicles for training the horse to pull something, usually starting with a tire and moving up to a stone-boat – essentially a reinforced wooden pallet with a seat on it – ours has a very stylish brown school bus bench seat on it. Now that Panda and Bill are quite comfortable with moving a vehicle down the road, trail or in the pasture, it has led to Bill acquiring a covered wagon; a doctor’s buggy, several sulkies as training carts and of course some sleighs!

Last month, we got ready for winter by sorting out Bill’s Storage Building. This building was purchased for the sole purpose of sheltering all the horse-drawn vehicles that he has accumulated over the past five years. It is really quite striking to have them all under one roof.

Logistically I needed to work on the “Order of Go” for the storing, so that we could maximize the available space and yet ensure that we get access to the weather-appropriate vehicles in a timely manner.

Thus our little red Quebec Jumper- which used to convey Keith’s family from Vars to Russell – was placed near the front entrance. We use this very often during the winter, though we can’t seem to get more than three very friendly adults into it at once. Another sleigh was placed near the front so that Bill could work on it over the winter – getting its upholstery renewed. Many generations of mice enjoyed its straw stuffing.

Our covered wagon was re-homed. We had stored it at our neighbours’ place – and so pulled it home with our ATV. Our neighbour sat on the back of the ATV holding the chain; while I steered the wheels.

Now that all our horse-drawn vehicles are under one roof, it is difficult to deny just how addictive a habit this can be.


Preparing for Winter

Today we worked to protect Bill’s workshop from the local pigeons and get it ready for winter.  Last winter, some of the soffit pieces were blown out of the eaves. Our local pigeons decided that this access to our attic provided a dry and warm nesting site. Unfortunately, they don’t improve the insulating values of the insulation in the attic. They were bunking down on the nice fluffy pink batts and making them less fluffy and less pink. So we decided to gently close off their access to this spot, and shoo every last one of them out.

I think they will have time  to find other nesting places before winter sets in- we have plenty of trees with holes in them… I don’t really want them to get dependent upon us for their warmth and well-being.

A Murder of Crows

I noticed crows congregating in some fields near me, causing me to wonder if crows migrated in the winter. Some do, but a lot of them stick around our area in Ottawa all winter long. They seem to prefer gathering in large flocks or “roosts” at dusk.

Crows are fascinating – they usually mate for life, and have evolved quite a sophisticated family structure with some siblings remaining with the family to raise the following year’s brood.  They use tools and they can recognize  individual humans.

When I see them gathering in large numbers in fall and winter I try not to read a sinister omen in these “roosts” or “murders”; but rather one more sign of winter’s approach.