The wait is over.

Well, I am happy to say that the wait is over. After a period of hibernation and some time to work on other things our building permit is finally here.

Today I spent the day poking around and trying get ready to have some people back on the site. There is a lot to be done and soon.
By the permit, we must have an inspection of the masonry stove footing before we can pour the pad that the stove will be built on.

Next, we will be getting an eletrical rough-in inspection and the framing inspection, but there is still some prep work before that. Then there is the two front dormers that need to be built before the framing inspection.

Tapping Trees

I have tapped 8 holes on maple and black walnut trees. I have read that black walnut trees can be tapped and produce a nutty darker syrup - yummers! Need some lids for them though, the rain and bugs can get in. Yesterday I saw a spider in the bucket...crawling across the surface of the snow that had fallen on top of some frozen sap. I guess things are waking up and perhaps not feeling so rested - it was a short winter night.

It is estimated that each tap can produce about 1 litre of maple syrup meaning I should get 8 litres, but I was thinking of tapping more trees. Anyone interested in cooking some maple syrup? Bring a few old tires we can throw on the fire, it makes a nutty darker syrup.

Today I finally finished or at least got the fan blowing in the solar kiln I was working on.
The fan will be on a timer and will start an hour after sunrise and an hour before sun set.
The solar kiln works by basically collecting hot air in the black lined collection chamber, then blowing the hot air forwards, down and then back through the spaced out stack of wood.
More specifically, the blower pushes the hot air across the concrete blocks and down the front of the stack of wood. The stack of wood is spaced with 'stickers' of wood which allow an air gap to let air blow through - the air is forced out of the back of the kiln.
The wood in the kiln is wood we milled from our land it was at about 35% moisture content - it needs to be at 6-8% to be used in any furniture or millwork for the house.
Right now we have long 2" cherry planks that we will be using as stringers for the stairs and all of the wood for the treads too. The wood should dry in about 3-4 weeks and then I think I'll make walnut toilet seats.
The kiln was built out of:
  • Old garage door panels -(you can use them for anything.)
  • some ash 2"x6"'s ripped from wood salvaged from the garage
  • one of Wally's old furnace blowers
  • 4 litres of black latex paint - as low lustre as possible
  • some clear polycarbonate Palruf panels about 20$ each
  • some plywood out of the old kitchen cupboards from the house
  • a few peices of telephone wire for the moisture sensors


Strawbale - Discovery

I must give extreme props to my friend James Brylowski for his Solid Porcupine. Here he is on the left...I couldn't get a picture of his Solid Porcupine.

Over the last 1 to 1.5 years, james has been working on his own video/photography company called Solid Porcupine. James is also the fella that made the video for our wedding, and instead of one of those 5 hour long grainy nightmarish wedding videos, he compacted it into a funny, fast moving 20 minute one.

Right now James is preparing to go to the Cayman Islands to shoot some beach footage for something or other, and has recently spent time in Honduras and Nicaragua shooting some promotional videos for Intercontinental Hotels. He really gets around.

The Real Discovery

James recently came to our house to get some footage of strawbale construction and then went to interview Ben Polley of Harvest Homes and put it all together for a short downloadable movie for The Discovery Channel entitled Strawbale - Discovery. Its just a little basic knowledge about strawbale construction but highly entertaining.

Do you want to see this video?

Go to Solid Porcupine and then to the video section and click on Strawbale Discovery.

Good work and thanks James!


Waiting, Waiting, Waiting.

Waiting for something you really want or like can be a frustrating experience, but one that makes it that much sweeter when it finally comes to you. Right now, before we continue any further on our project, we are waiting for a few key pieces of the puzzle.

Before there were township by-laws regarding the power of the Grand River Conservation Authority(GRCA), or a 100 year flood line as high as it is now (thanks to Hurricane Hazel1954), houses could be built in many areas they are now prohibited in. Our house is one of those cases. As it stands right now, the house has one of its corners in the floodline, is within 120 m of a wetland, and close to a steep slope all of which are considered hazards by the conservation authority. This means of course, before getting any sort of permission to construct or alter anything on the house outside of its current footprint, we must get a permit from the authority. This means of course more money to them. I have no problem with a conservation authority protecting water ways in fact I support them, but I must say, they do take their time..

An interesting note is that before we can get any permits issued from the township (ie building) , we must have all permissions cleared from the GRCA to move on. It's a sequence of events that must be followed in a certain order or much time will be wasted back tracking. I'm a little ashamed to say that we have spent some time back tracking - but we now know the process for next time.

In our house, we have planned to use composting toilets. With this in mind, we originally opted for only a greywater system. We spent time and money getting a system designed by some very intelligent and talented people. In the end, our township denied our request because of our proximity to the floodline and the system although stamped by an engineer (who is a specialist in his field) was not provincially approved.

This means that we have had to move ahead and install a traditional septic system instead, which is way more intrusive than a greywater system in its installation. Also, the septic system will be dealing with greywater only which may be a problem on its own, because this is not what they are designed to do. It will be interesting to see in time how the septic system will deal with this huge amount of greywater.

So the waiting continues. Lately we have been biding our time attaching garage door seconds to the inside of the garage walls for insulation and preparing other things for the time when the building permit is ready. I am told that the GRCA has a meeting today, and if the results of the meeting are good, we may finally have a building permit in a few weeks, and then the shit will hit the fan. Lookout New Dundee!


Let us begin.

This is it, the first one. Not quite sure how to begin. I guess it really began when I was but a wee lad. I would help my Dad build things and renovate the house I grew up in. I guess I was a natural but didn't think I would make a career out of it.

Fly ahead 20 some years, and I have been a volunteer on many green building projects, have worked on the construction of over 25 houses green and non-green and have renovated or aided in the renovation of 12+ houses. Recently I completed my apprenticeship and became a certified electrician and although I don't see myself as a career electrician, it is a skill when added to the ones I have already, further deepens my view of the house as a whole system.

My partner Kata and I are currently in the process of renovating our own house. We are in the process of taking this 100+ year old farmhouse and using it as a showcase for our own collection of green ideas. The house shown here (for now) has a face that only parents could love but will soon get a lift once the cold weather leaves.
We have many ideas for what this house will include: solar hot water, masonry stoves, earthen floors, strawbale insulation, home-made paints, and lots of salvaged materials and re-use just to name a few things. This house is the focal point for the start of our farm but I'll talk more about that later. For now this will mainly be about the renovation and perhaps other projects Terra Construction is working on. Thanks!