August 2004 Archives

Mission Green Part Two

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I wanted to wait to post this until after Garry had his update done on the Mission Green site so that I didn't "scoop" him. It's a nice article with some really nice pictures, obviously the secret to good interior shots is to take them when it's raining outside.

Around 2pm, right as a huge thunderstorm hit, the convoy rolled up. I grabbed all of our umbrellas and headed out to greet everybody. Once safely inside we gathered in the front and Garry told everyone about Mission Green and some of the goals they hoped to achieve, and a bit about his own history.

With that squared away he proceeded to ask a series of well thought out and focused questions about all aspects of the house. I highlight that because I get asked a lot of stupid questions about the house and so it's a pleasure to answer smart ones. Let that be a warning to you if you're coming on the House Tour! Not a single one of them cracked a Three Little Pigs joke, they were a class act. Pete Mack and Simon Boone were there as well and both had to field questions on the off-grid system and the straw bale structure.

After touring around the house we headed outside to check out the trucks. We largely ignored the big Yukon SUV since the only difference between it and the regular one is that its engine has been tweaked to run the special 85% pure cellulose ethanol made by Iogen. Nice, and certainly a very definate improvement to what would normally be a very non-Green vehicle. But what really interested all of us rural geeks was the hybrid Silverado pickup. You can find out all you need on their site, I'm not a GM PR person, but the feature that really thrilled all of us was the two exterior 120V 15A outlets in the pickup bed. The truck can act as a generator, it has an inverter and will feed 120V off the batteries until they get low and then it will start the engine (!) to charge them back up! I wish we'd had that when we were building the house, no more listening to the generator idling all day.

All in all it was a very nice visit, I really enjoyed meeting Garry and his team, and I'm pleased and honoured that they chose to visit us.

Just testing some photo-blogging software

Coboconk House

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I spent a good portion of the week helping build a straw bale cottage up on Balsam Lake. The property is owned by a lovely lady named Gerarda Schouten, a retired schoolteacher who has decided to make the lake her home.

It's a nice simple design with a bright and airy main floor for Gerarda, with a deck and straw bale sunroom, and a walkout basement with full guest quarters.

We've been doing bale work for the last two weeks, stacking, stuffing and stitching, work that I didn't get to do much of on my own house. When we were doing the bale work here I spent most of my time dealing with the building inspector, the roof, the architect, and the infinite number of other questions that cropped up. It's a running joke with Pete and Tina that the owners stack the first bale because they might not get a chance to stack another! At least not until the next day when things have generally calmed down. Next week they'll be plastering and I'll be out there again for a couple of days, baling isn't easy work but plastering is HARD work.

A reporter came out from the Lindsay Daily Post to do an article on Gerarda and her new home.

But what you really want are the pictures... right?

Mission Green

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Mission Green is coming here.

Mission Green is a cross-Canada tour that salutes 85 local Canadian environmental initiatives that are creating a cleaner, healthier environment for all Canadians. Garry Sowerby, renowned adventure traveler and world record setter, hits the road in GM's advanced technology vehicles to highlight what we all have in common - a shared concern and compassion for the places we call home. Follow the journey with us as we tour Canada!

We've been asked to be one of the stops on the tour. Garry and his team will be coming by next Friday afternoon for a tour of the house, some pictures with local press and all that fun stuff. I'm pretty excited to meet Garry as I've followed his career for some time and even have a well worn copy of Road Fever, the book written by Tim Cahill about their drive from the bottom tip of South America to the northernmost edge of Alaska.

July - August 2004 Solar Stats

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It's been a pretty crappy summer, and I'm saying that as a guy who doesn't even really like summer. It's been rainy, cloudy and cold. We openned the top windows once and within three days had the ladder back out to close them again. Whereas last year we were sleeping with the sliding doors and side windows open this summer we've mostly kept them closed. A friend was saying that we're going to have a really cold and snowy winter but this summer has been so weird I can't help but wonder if there isn't a reasonable chance that it's going to be 30C in December.

June Solar Stats
Monthly Total: 1225.3 AH
Daily Average: 40.84 AH
Best Day: 54.7 AH
Worst Day: 19.3 AH
Days Below 5 AH: 0

July Solar Stats
Monthly Total: 989 AH
Daily Average: 31.9 AH
Best Day: 57.6 AH
Worst Day: 0 AH
Days Below 5 AH: 0

I haven't been very disciplined about my record keeping this summer so there is some margin for error in those stats. They look about inline with last year though; June was better with 1225.3 AH versus 1174.8 AH (based on daily average for June 2003. July is a bit down with 989 AH versus 1066.8 AH for 2003.

What a July....

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I'm stuck sitting here just trying to come up with words to describe the roller coaster ride that was July 2004. Really stuck. What a month.

The month starts off well enough, work's starting to pick up after a slow start to the summer, and then my laptop dies. The screen turns grey and that's the end of it. Fortunately I bought AppleCare (Apple's extended warranty) and so I place the call.

"The screen is dead."

"OK sir, please reboot."

"OK, it's rebooted."

"Good, now what do you see?"

"Nothing, the screen is dead."

Repeat with subtle variations for half an hour.

"Well sir, it sounds like your screen is dead."

*sigh*

There are a thousand stories like this on the web, now I'm one of them. So off it goes to Apple Canada with a note that this is my main machine, please rush, can't work without it, etc. I call all my clients and explain that I'm down for a week or so, hang in there, I'll be back up soon, Apple said I should have it back in a week.

I take the opportunity to drag in Pete, Tina and Stephen and we stucco the front of the house. The time is not wasted the house looks great!

While we stucco Gator suddenly gets very sick, he can't keep anything down, he's shivering convulsively. Off to the vet he goes. Gator has swallowed a stone. It is lodged in the juncture where his large and small intestines meet. They cut Gator open and remove the stone. With all the diagnostic x-rays and such it's a $1200 procedure.

While all this is going we learn that Joanne's grandmother, her last surviving grandparent, has been admitted to hospital with pneumonia, she is 94 and she is not expected to live through the night. She does, she's a fighter to the end but passes away early the next morning. We take the dogs to my parents and head off to Burlington for the funeral.

We return and I still don't have a computer, "Maybe early next week." They said that last week to so I decide that I'm going to need to buy a new computer. My clients have been very patient but it's been three weeks of no work and that's three weeks of no billing. I buy a new computer that I really can't afford. Of course I get my laptop back three days later.

During the no-computer hiatus I get an email from the editor of MocoLoco saying that they'd like to show our house on their site, could I please send pictures? I really like MocoLoco, I read it everyday, I'm thrilled and send off pictures.

A couple of days after the MocoLoco posting I'm reading WorldChanging another site I like and a group of people that I really respect, and I start yelling, "Joanne! Worldchanging! Linked! Worldchanging!" I could play it cool, but I'm just way too excited, first MocoLoco and then Worldchanging, I am chuffed.

By late July the site has long since passed the most vistors that we've ever received in a month and I'm reading the stats every night wondering how high it will go. The house is starting to get mentioned on a whole variety of sites. On July 28th we get picked as a Hot Site of the Day by USA Today's online edition. All told almost 19,000 people visit the site in July, and we serve over 64,000 pages. That means that a fair number of people that visit the site stick around and read more than just the home page.

While all this is going on Gil learns to sit up, crawl and then stand up on his own (while hanging on to something). Suddenly we have to pay very very close attention to him, because man, he can move FAST when he wants too. The dogs seem slightly alarmed that the noisy little attention hog is suddenly mobile. The safety plugs go into the outlets, the floor lamps get moved away, and the glass end-tables and coffee-table in the living room are packed for temporary storage.

Then, on the 30th of July, Gator starts throwing up again. He starts shivering and quivering. I take him into the vet, he's x-rayed and there doesn't seem to be anything inside him, we figure he's just really sick, they advise me to give him some Pepto-Bismol and bring him in the next day if he throws up again. He pukes several times during the night. Back to the vet. This time they do a barium series: they feed him barium and then x-ray him to see how it moves through his system. There's a blockage, same place as the last one. It's the 31st of July, the date of the annual Hunter family picnic, I've spent most of my day at the vet clinic, talking to the vet on the phone or waiting for her to call, I walk onto my parents back-deck three hours late and announce, "They're cutting him open again."

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