As expected, Nova Scotia weather is like the tropics compared to where we once lived. It’s all relative of course. We would generally have our first dusting of snow around this time of year back in northern Saskatchewan. (In fact, it was snowing on Monday, October 9th when I checked the weather while we, here in Nova Scotia, were at 74F, 23C.) And temperatures would certainly be on the brisk side. The last remnants of the garden would be going down to the root cellar; buckets of potatoes and carrots. Johanna would have transplanted cabbage, Brussel sprouts, leeks and celery into a cold frame in our greenhouse for the best storage and we’d be getting ready for the long winter ahead. Any warm days would be relished and we’d consider them a bonus. By contrast, Nova Scotia certainly has a more moderate climate. Here’s a Nova Scotia fall update on our off-grid home building efforts and other fun stuff.
I unfairly characterized our garden as pathetic in an earlier summer post. I have to take that back. Although Johanna would chime in that she is responsible for the success of our first garden out here, she doesn’t realize the role I play as “plant whisperer.” We have gotten far more out of this garden than we ever expected. It is by far better than our first garden in Saskatchewan. As you recall, we converted forest land to garden in both locations. It is obvious we have much better soil fertility here in Nova Scotia. And the climate is more favorable for a garden. Nevertheless, we will still use our bag of tricks to extend the season in both spring and fall. A greenhouse is a year or more out though.
Our First Nova Scotia Garden Harvest
The garden has provided us with lettuce that is still coming, a few peppers, potatoes, lots of tomatoes, small yellow squash, spinach, as well as several meals of peas, green beans, radishes, cabbage and broccoli. Not too shabby when you consider it was forest/shrub land only 4 months ago! It will only improve each year. I’m chomping at the bit to get the tiller in there and churn that and more area up for next year.
Well Water Tested OK
We had to test our well water twice. In an earlier post post, Digging our water well on our new off-grid homestead I discussed disinfecting our well and I gave a source of information also. The well digger disinfected the well and we did too but the first test came back with coliform bacteria.
The test is evidently extremely sensitive to detecting bacteria. Keep in mind, we installed a simple shallow well pitcher pump over the well. The pump is outside exposed to the elements. I made the incorrect assumption that if we pumped water for a minute or so, it would clean out any beasties that were hanging in the inside of the pump or spout. Wrong. The first test detected coliform and it was back to the drawing board. Although I was fairly certain the water was fine, we disinfected the well again. Then I took the pump apart, soaked the leathers in bleach, thoroughly wiped down the pump interior including the spout with bleach, and then pumped the well out again until the bleach smell was gone.
When it was time to take a water sample, I put a few drops of bleach in the pump to disinfect the leathers again, wiped the spout and metalwork down with bleach and then pumped water for at least a minute. Then carefully, I filled the sample bottle and we immediately took it to the lab. Test results revealed we are good to go. Clean water free of bacteria. The water is crystal clear, ice cold and outstanding with no off tastes or smells. We are and have been so fortunate. All 3 of our homesteads have had an awesome, pure water source. Although I hesitate to say “pure” until we take a sample for chemical analysis. That’s the last step. We are now living in a gold bearing zone and there is potential for arsenic contamination. Best to know for sure.
We cut and hauled in another cord of firewood. There’s no such thing as having too much firewood cut, stacked and drying especially when it will heat our home, cook our meals and heat our domestic hot water supply. We probably have 6 cords under cover but I regret I have not been able to devote any more time to firewood. The focus has been getting a roof over our heads.
For the last week, if you were to swing by after dark, you’d notice a bobbing and weaving light around the building site. That would be me with my headlamp on as I am bound and determined to get us a house this year. A little darkness won’t stop progress. I’m beat… but I keep pushing on.
I had two contractors who have done some work for us give me a huge boost with their comments. One said he has rarely seen a better job with a concrete footing and the other contractor told me he’s never seen a better footing. I think I’m within ¼ inch of level around the 44 X 36 footing. Both thought I had done concrete footings before. I told them no, actually I hadn’t. Of course my book readers know why I have an innate sense regarding concrete. It’s that ancestral thing.
Honestly, I don’t get it. How can the professionals not do as good or better? They have their fancy lasers and transits but I didn’t have any of this technology available to me. All I had was a good 4 foot carpenter’s level and a straight piece of 2 X 10 X 12 lumber. I mention this to make a few points. Don’t let inexperience deter you from tackling a concrete challenge. Or any other challenge for that matter. It can be done! And it doesn’t require thousands of dollars of high tech gadgetry. Using old fashioned techniques, you can be quite accurate in your work.
I must admit it takes time to do accurate work. I probably spent a day or more leveling the forms before the concrete was poured. But that has made all the difference and resulted in a footing that was level and square. In fact, word has already spread and someone in the area would like me to do a foundation for them. We’ll see how our project goes first.
I mentioned in a recent Facebook post that we had a bout of serious rain a few weeks ago. Everything was flooded including the foundation. Water was even coming into the tent via the stove chimney. It poured! At the time, I thought we had around 3 inches of rain. As it turned out, this local area was officially the wet spot with close to 5 inches of rain during the day. No wonder things got a bit “moist.”
Fortunately, we now have the drainage system installed around the perimeter of the footing so even if we have another deluge we should have no more flooding. The drainage directs water from the house to a low spot about 140 feet away.
Ready For The Big Concrete Pour
Now for the big news! You may recall we are using ICF to build our house. The first 6 courses of forms are up and we are close to pouring our first concrete walls. That should happen this Friday. What do you think of it? We are hoping the big bad wolf won’t be able to huff and puff and blow the concrete house down. Nor will a hurricane.
I will be so relieved to get the walls poured so I can get onto the roof. Johanna and I had some initial instruction from a pro in ICF construction and we continue to have occasional oversight by him. Although I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and progress is taking forever, slowly but surely, the house is coming.
In the future, I will have far more to say about ICF construction and will be much more specific in how we did all this. For now though, my focus will be to get us under roof as soon as possible. This warm weather won’t last. Although we are prepared to live in the tent, don’t you think a toasty, albeit unfinished house, sounds a little better?
Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!
Ron and Johanna
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