Fall into Winter at the Cabin

Photo Journal of Michael Campbell: A new picture every day (almost)


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Previous Entries: Spring into Summer 2015

September 5 though 7, 2015     Bottle Bricks, Water Tower, Exploring the River.

We enjoyed a lovely long weekend. It is time to begin a new page. The spring into summer page is taking too long to load and there is a hint of colour in the woods. Now that September has arrived the winter cannot be far away.
We continue to work on the wash house. I did all but two bottle brick windows and Javier put up the water tower. We should be able to flush the toilet about 250 times before refilling the tank. I am a little nervous about the stability and plan to put in some heavy bolts to support the nails.
We took Marlenys for a nice ride in the canoe up to the rapids. We were supposed to go fishing there but I forgot the tackle box. Later the girls went for a walk down to needle eye rapids. It was nice to have good cooks. The food was delicious.

First Colour

Exploring the River

Needle Eye Rapids


Wash House


September 12 Through 14, 2015     Bottle Bricks, Cedar Shingles and Wood Chopping

I went up alone as the usual crew was busy. Happy Birthday Javi! (should have spent it up north)

I installed 4 more solar panels and two more deep cycle batteries. We should have enough power now. We will see as the winter progresses. And the winter will come. It was only 4 degrees C on Sunday night. I needed to throw a few logs on the fire which kept the cabin comfortable. This prompted me to begin attacking the cut logs including two big logs down the hill which were too heavy to bring up whole. I did my chopping down below and hauled the fireplace sized chopped pieces up in pails Ranger Style.
Work continued on the wash house bottle brick windows. I ran out of cement and bottles at about the same time. Just two small windows to go. At night I lit the place up with several candles and three LED lights to take some time exposure shots from outside. Looks like stained glass windows from a church. Finally hooked up the water tower to the toilet only to be disappointed that the water won't go in (or out) of the inlet. Must be a valve that has to be adjusted or replaced. Meanwhile the toilet works with modifications. I connected a hose with a tap to the tank. When you need to flush you can fill up the tank by opening the tap for a few moments. It works fine, just not automatically. 
On Monday morning I went out for breakfast. For the first time I visited Ahmic Harbour. Once a bustling lumber town with several factories supporting the lumber industry at the beginning of the last century It is almost abandoned. There are a few long time residents still there, several cottages, a hotel and diner which served me a good breakfast. I took a picture of the abandoned church.
I also started the wash house shingles. I thought we should go cedar. They are quite durable and will blend into the forest. It was a good weekend.

Wash House

Four More Solar Panels

Beginnings of the Wood Pile

View Up River From the Beach

Trailer and Canoe

Bottle Bricks at Night

Abandoned Church Ahmic Harbour

September 19 Through 21, 2015     Potatoes, Solar Array, Wood Chopping
The fall is upon us. The weather was perfect and I was really sad to leave on Monday afternoon. There are signs all around that it will soon be winter and we won't have such perfect weather for long.  We finally had to get serious with the solar panels because they were just stuck on the roof which gave a western direction at a very low angle which was good for summer but will not be good for the winter. The memory of last winter is still fresh and I cannot see the panels charging with five feet of snow covering them and no reasonable way to clear them. Javier used some scrap lumber which we salvaged from the previous owner's failed projects and we built a stand for the solar array which will double as a place for the wood pile as well as storage for the batteries, generator and water pump. Now the panels are facing south and we will be able to change the angle in the spring to gain greater efficiency. If we get five feet of snow again this winter the panels are at a sharp enough angle to let the snow fall off. In any event they are now accessible with a ladder and long handled broom.
I was glad to finally finish the bottle brick windows. Next week we should finish the wash house floor, shingles and siding.
We harvested the potato crop. Not a lot there but they were delicious baked and served with fresh salad and barbequed steak.
No time to swim or fish but the river was beautiful.

Morning Mist

Javier in the Dead Ferns


Solar Panel Stand

Cabin Sept 21, 2015


River From the Beach

September 26 Through 28, 2015     Work on the Roof, Changing Fall Colours
We had to head back to the city early so things we wanted to do on Monday will be left for next week. The super moon eclipse was a no show as heavy clouds rolled in by the afternoon. Javier worked on the wash house roof and completed all of the shingles. I removed the last four solar panels from the roof of the cabin and installed the array on the south wall. I also put in the last MPPT charge controller so we will be getting a better percent efficiency from the array to the batteries, especially in winter. It was very good news that by about noon the batteries appeared fully charged and on trickle state. The charge indicator went down to 2/5 over night but there was no amber warning light. We even used the batteries to briefly run the skill saw and mitre saw as the construction generator blew a pull cord and I screwed the thing up trying to replace it.
It was nice that Joel and Marisol could come up. They went fishing and caught a nice bass. We had plenty of food so Mari cleaned the fish, froze it and we brought it back to the city. The leaves are turning by the hour. On the road out the change over the weekend was amazing.

Solar Panel Array

Wash House

View From Trailer

River September 27, 2015

Forest Colours

October 3 to 5, 2015     Getting Ready for Winter
Javier and I enjoyed a mild wet weekend. The rain was misting most of the time. In the evening it was lovely to hear the sound of rain in the forest. The interesting aspect was that it was not really raining. The mist all day was enough to collect water on the leaves and the sound of droplets was a symphony. I could imagine the scene in January. The mist would have been soft wet snow beautifully covering everything. It will not be long. I can see the weather pattern has turned. It is no longer summer.

Our big project this weekend was to start the spray insulation. It is getting a bit too cool for that as the chemicals have to be above 20 degrees C. We closed all the windows and heated the place for two days with a roaring fire and got everything up nice and warm. The spraying went very well but unfortunately one big kit is not enough. I will have to buy more this week and finish off the project next weekend.

We moved the solar batteries up to the platform from where they were under the cabin. It was a major wiring job as I had wired up the batteries wrong. I think they are ok now. We used the electricity for lights and the fridge, the satellite radio and music throughout as well as charging the cell phones and iPad.  I made a point of not being as careful as I might just to see. For example for a couple hours I left the lights on in the cabin even when we were not there. It was part plan and part careless practice but no issue whatsoever. Our lights stayed on and the supply indicator showed green all weekend.

Everywhere the trees are at peak colour. Javier's dahlias showed signs of frost burn. They are sensitive and it showed that at least one night it got down below zero. It meant a lot more firewood chopping. I got the bin under the solar panels filled and started an overflow. We also put up some plastic covering on the veranda as the north wind can blow quite cold through there. This year we are much better prepared. We have a supply of logs that were cut last year and they are nice and dry. We even have the supply cut for next year! Last year we were tramping through the snow to drag out soggy deadfalls that were very hard to light and burned cool.

I hope to see the large bull moose that wanders through the area. Dale saw it on Saturday by the river in front of the cabin. Apparently it had a spectacular rack of antlers.


River 2

River 3

River 4

Wash House


Ranger Javier with the Campfire

Dopy Fire Ghosts Dancing by the Fire

Red Carpet

October 10 to 12 2015     Happy Thanksgiving
We enjoyed the weekend with visitors. Mari and Marina were able to come up as did Eric and Joel. On Sunday Zoraida and Juselbio came up with Mother Theresa and Marlenys. We celebrated Thanksgiving with a big turkey roasted on a spit over hardwood coals.
Eric took over photo duties and so most of the shots here are taken by Eric. The leaves on the trees were truly spectacular. When we came home we drove the scenic route and it was breathtaking. The weather could not have been more perfect. I believe it was 23 degrees C on Monday. The Solar panels held up and we were able to enjoy music, lights and a fridge. All night the fan helped circulate the air. Javier finished the insulation and we were cosy all weekend.
As a bonus we were even able to watch the Blue Jays play off game on the ipad while sitting around the campfire thanks to the cell phone antenna and an app.
We got in the fall bulbs. I suppose we planted about a thousand bulbs, mostly daffodils with some long stemmed tulips, Dutch irises and other varieties. Either it will be amazing along the roadway next spring or we gave all the burrowing critters some nice treats for winter.

Holland Marsh
On the way early in the morning admiring ground fog




Our Roadway

Across the River

Going for a walk in the woods
Javier believes in frequent hydration
(If you feel thirsty it is probably too late)

Wild Swans
In a more savage time these might have ended up
on our Thanksgiving dinner plates
No worries they were welcome and safe

River October 11, 2015

Wash House at Night


October 17 to 19,  2015     Solar Pop Can Space Heater
Javier and I came up for the weekend. I was anxious to complete the pop can solar space heater and Javier wanted to get the concrete floor in the wash house completed before the heavy freeze set in.  The spray foam insulation seems to be working well. It went down to about 5 below Celsius on Saturday and Sunday nights but we were comfortable with the wood stove and the cabin was about 22 to 24 C.
The pop can solar heater was completed. It will need to be painted etc but it is essentially done. It will be fascinating to come up next weekend to see if it has been able to collect some heat. The idea is that if it goes down to minus 20 or 30 for a whole week the cabin gets too cold. It is all we can do to to get the building up to a comfortable temperature. All of the glass bottles and cans freeze and there is danger of breakage. The cans can swell up and the seals break which leaves open the possibility of food poisoning. I hope we can collect five or even ten degrees of heat from the solar collector and store it in the building. That way if it is minus 10 we might be lucky to have it only zero inside.
The peak of leaf colour is long gone. We at least can see the land and took a tour on Sunday. While I was working on the heater Javier took the chainsaw and sawed the trees we fell last year into chop able pieces. he also was able to collect some nice granite pavers and cemented them into the wash house floor. It looks great.
In the morning on Sunday the river steamed against the cold air. It looked other-worldly.

Steamy River

Cutting the Pop Cans

Placing the Cans

In and Out Vents

Solar Heater and Solar Panels

Frost on the Leaves

Our Driveway


November 01, 2015     Happy Birthday Marisol!

We went up Saturday afternoon and on Sunday celebrated Marisol's birthday. It rained quite a bit on Saturday night but on Sunday the weather was great. I fiddled with the pop can solar heater by installing a 12V computer fan on a timer so that we might get forced heat. I want it to turn off in the night so any heat collected in the day will not be wasted at night.
We thinned out a number of pine tree saplings and brought them over to the cottage for planting. The river is beginning to rise.

Computer Fan

Happy Birthday Marisol!

Bringing in the Pines

River from the trailer November 01, 2015

November 07 and 08, 2015     Starry Night

Javier and I went up to continue work around the place. I spent a lot of time carrying firewood up the hill and piling logs so that they can dry. We already have the wood in for this winter but now we are working on next year's supply. Meanwhile Javier began uncovering the granite behind the cabin and transferring the topsoil to the septic field. I marvel at his energy.
On Saturday night the air was clear and cold. I spent a couple of hours outside taking star shots. There was no moon but the trees were illuminated by the fire and cabin lights. Javier played disc jockey and we listened to music well into the night. I fooled around taking portraits in dim light with the camera still attached to the tripod.
I was really happy to be able to say that the pop can passive solar heater is a success. Usually the cabin is a few degrees colder than the outside when we arrive there on Saturday afternoons. That is because it gets cold in the night and the insulation prevents the heat from entering. Gradually over weeks the interior becomes like an ice box. This week the temperature outside was 4.4 C and inside  it was 9.6 C. That is more than 5 degrees warmer. The heater was able to collect the heat and the insulation acted like a solar battery. I changed the computer fan for a smaller one that fit perfectly in the 3" vent.
The river continues to rise. It is almost to the post that demarcates our property line.

River and Property Line Marker

River from the Cabin

Starry Night

Portraits of Javier

November 21 and 22,  2015     First Snow!

Last week I could not visit the cabin as there was a lot to do in the city. This week my usual companions were also busy but I could not miss the opportunity to experience the first heavy snowfall so I went alone. It is a month before the winter solstice and it will be two months before the sun is this bright. I am a bit worried about the solar panels ability to deliver enough juice.
When I arrived, around 4 in the afternoon the panels were covered in snow but still charging about 13.4 volts. I brushed off the snow and the charge rate went up to about 15 volts.  The next day in good sun the panels were generating about 21 volts.
I was surprised that by six at night it was so dark outside. The little solar patio lights were out. They were covered in snow and unable to charge their batteries. I am thinking it might be the same for the cabin. By 9 or so in the evening the charge indicator showed only 1 bar (out of 5) which is the lowest ever. I got up at 6 in the morning. It was still dark but I cleaned the 6 inches or so of snow off the panels and started the generator. I hooked up the battery charge and ran it for two hours until the sun began to generate power. By noon the charge controller showed 3 bars.
The passive solar heater seems to be working. It was about -4C outside but still 0 C inside even though it was cloudy all week. With a few logs in the wood stove I got the cabin up to a comfortable 20 C. With the Ecofans on the wood stove and the Haiku fan gently circulating the air down from the ceiling the place was warm and cosy all weekend.

It snowed hard all night and I was a bit worried that I might not be able to drive out. There was no problems except for the tree that fell across the road. On the way south from Parry Sound to Barrie the roads were almost impassable due to severe white out conditions as the early lake effect snow came in off Georgian Bay. They will be skiing early this year if this keeps up.
Here are some shots of the weekend. I slipped and fell on my way to the river and the camera got covered in snow. I tried my best to clean the lens but it was somewhat wet for some of the river shots. I suppose it adds to the effect. (reminder to self - carry a lens cloth at all times. Keep the camera under the jacket!)

First Snow

Property Line
(The river level keeps rising)

Long Exposure
(image taken at night with camera on tripod - about 4 minutes)
Note, no shadows because it was taken in total darkness

The trouble with Solar



(A few weeks ago this inlet was dry)

November 28 & 29  2015     Rising Water, Milling Lumber

Most of last week's snow has already melted. The ice melt showed up in the river which, according to Environment Canada, is up about a metre higher than it was last week at the discharge point in Georgian Bay. Up river at our place it is even higher. The isthmus that makes up our riverfront is now an island. We will not be able to reach it until the river freezes or next spring. Last week I took a picture of the iron bar which demarks our property line. It is now completely submerged.

This week the plan was to try milling some lumber. I have a portable Alaskan mill and I picked up a powerful chain saw so that we could make big slabs of lumber. Unfortunately we could not get the chain saw to light. We ended up putting a rip chain on the smaller saw and tried it out. It works but we are limited to 12 to 14 inches wide pieces and the logs we plan to mill are much bigger than that. So we just played around just to see how it might work. Javier didn't bother to attach a starting level as we were just practicing. The result is some wavy planks but it works! We spent about 2 hours and got about 50 sq. ft. of hardwood flooring about 1/2" thick. It will need to be properly dried and sanded of course but it works. We have an almost unlimited source of hardwood lumber which we can turn into furniture, flooring and wood panelling.

River From the Cabin

Property Line
(What happened to the Iron Bar?)

The Isthmus is now an Island

The Lagoon

Washing Dishes (Ranger Style)

Big Saw vs. Little Saw

First Cut
(Yes I know we were supposed to start with a level surface)

Milled Log

Lumber Drying

December 06, 2015     Quick Check Up

The usual crew was busy and so was I on Saturday but I managed a quick trip up on Sunday morning. I had some winter supplies like 4 boxes of fireplace logs which help start the fire. They are now selling 10 piece boxes which are heavy and not something I would like to haul 3 kilometres through the snow. I also brought up the MS 880 chain saw which I brought back to the dealer as we could not get it lit last weekend. We flooded it quite badly apparently. Anyway I started it and it works fine.
It was good that I went up as the Go Power 3000 watt inverter tripped. The warning light slowly flashed red which indicated that the unit shut down as the batteries were dead. That was around midnight some time in the last 7 days. We had left on all of the power bars with their assorted chargers, the cell phone antenna etc. I suppose it was too much.  I ran the generator to power up the battery charger while I was there and turned off everything except for the fridge. It is a good safety precaution that the inverter trips as dead batteries can freeze in extremely cold weather otherwise they are good to -50C.
It was a nice trip. I left around 6:00am well before dawn. Once I got through the fog there was a spectacular sunrise. The drive was good as there was very little traffic at that time of the morning, this time of year. I listened to some great music on the new Pono player. It does have impressive sound.
I had a nice walk through the grounds and on the way home saw a flock of wild turkeys. Now that Thanksgiving is done I suppose they feel it is safe to come out for a stroll down the road. The river is slightly lower than it was last week.

Sunrise on the Road

View From the Trailer

Property Line December 6, 2015

Our Road

Wild Turkeys

December 12 & 13, 2015     Getting Things Done Alone

The usual suspects were busy again so on Saturday afternoon I went up alone. I slept overnight and was able to get a good start on the electrical system. Sadly this time of the year it is very cloudy and the sun is at the lowest point. The charging panels are not very efficient.  I had everything except for the fridge turned off all week but when I arrived the solar system was about to shut down. The fridge is too big or our system is too small. I suppose in the spring I will invest in more panels.

Meanwhile I installed 4 receptacles, one outside and three inside.  The outside one is beside the generator. The rest are inside connected to it by a wire through the wall and the hole the wire goes through insulated with spray foam. So when the system fails we can crank up the generator, plug the system in and let it run on back up. I have a big battery charger also hooked to the generator and that helps charge the batteries.

Now we can also connect the infra red space heater to one of the "outside" plugs with the generator on to help heat the cabin when we first get there. It is much better than how it was before which was an extension cord through a crack in the door out to the generator.

Being up alone is interesting. I was a bit too busy to be lonely. I imagine it would get that way if I had to live like Robinson Crusoe for a long time but an over night stay is quite nice. I got a chance to write a bit, work on the weather station - (having issues with the remote sensor), climbed up the roof to put in an FM antenna - (we now get one FM station, have not tried AM), meditate and listen to some very good music via the Pono player connected to the stereo.  

Sometimes the sound of your own breath is enough.

I forgot the camera at home but took a couple shots of the river to show the waterline with the cell phone.

River From The Trailer

Property Line

December 19 & 20, 2015     Getting Things Done Alone....continued

For another week no one could come with me to the cabin. I braved the snow squall warnings and predictions of 20cm of blowing snow. The drive up north was uneventful. There was only about 1" of snow on the ground when I arrived.
The weekend saw useful work at replenishing the firewood bin. I chopped wood for a couple hours. It was a good workout. We have plenty of wood but the stove uses a lot. Fortunately the cabin retains the heat. On Sunday when I was working inside I needed to remove my long sleeve shirt and sweater as it was about 24C inside and -4C outside. It is comfortably warm but the stove goes through a lot of wood.
I also worked on the electrical system. We quickly tossed in four LED pot lights last summer when we first put in the solar array. One switch turned on all four. The fridge was also wired in rather sloppy. It worked but without style.
I continued re-wiring the cabin. I put in a nice LED spotlight for the dart board and began putting in light switches for the four main lights. Two are done. Next week (or whenever I can get up again) I will continue with the last two which will also be on another circuit. I also need plenty of sockets so that we have places to power up cell phones and run various things.
The sound system, especially connected to the Pono player sounds wonderful. I really enjoyed the stereo. It is perhaps the best sound system I have ever owned.
On Sunday morning I woke early. Perhaps around 6:00. I put on the only radio station we receive there. It has a program that came with an announcement that "The following paid program contains opinions and expressions that may not be shared by Moose Radio, its employees and advertisers". It was a gospel program from Halifax Nova Scotia. The message was the birth of Jesus. Interesting. I listened for a half hour or so while drinking my coffee and eating oatmeal spiked with freeze dried strawberries. I felt content like being on a retreat.
Sometimes the sound of your own breathing is enough to know you are alive.

Property Line December 19, 2015

River From The Trailer

Solar Array

Dart Board With New Light

Replenished Firewood Bin

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