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The Middle of   Know Where?


Cabin Porn

Building the Barn

In November of 2011 we started the concept phase of our new cabin. By concept phase I mean we finished a bottle of Forty Creek whiskey around the fire pit in Northern Alberta in November and thought “#$%&!! It’s cold out here!” The next spring we began construction by completing the Pole Barn that came with our five acres.

Our cabin has been a labor of love and has been built solely by our family and friends…from setting the piers and posts through to the trim and cabinetry.

Some Other Photographs and History of the Property

There are so many side jobs that develop when you are building a dream in the middle of know where. Here is a list of those projects in order of priority. Some are required to make the cabin build go a little smoother and others are required to make the people go a little bit smoother.

Some Side Jobs & Supporting Projects
  1. Outhouse
  2. Fire Pit
  3. Water Cistern
  4. Outdoor Shower
  1. Archery Range
  2. Electricity
  3. Tractor Shed
  4. Satellite TV
  1. Wood Shed
  2. Tool Shed
  3. Cell Phone Booster
  4. Trampoline & Swing-set

The list keeps growing as side jobs get added but all work and no play make for a very unsatisfied free labour.

Building an Off-grid Shower

One of the truths around here is you get dirty. It can happen after a day of trekking around in the bush hauling out logs or finishing one of the many projects on the property. No one wants to go to bed in less than a clean state so one of our first projects was the completion of an outdoor shower. An outdoor shower has three main parts, the water supply, the fuel source and a tankless water heater. Our water comes from our local county fill station for residents. (There is no charge for water it is covered by your taxes.) Most people have a small transfer tank (35 – 60 gallons, 132 – 227 liters) or a water cube (264 gallons, 1000 liters) to fill with and transport their water. Once home, a small pump is used to move the water from the transfer tank to a larger storage tank. In our case a 750 gallon (3000 liters) plastic water tank that acts as our cistern. Once the water is in the cistern you will need to pump it to the tankless water heater. A 12 volt on demand RV pump will provide enough pressure to feed the tankless water heater. Our pump runs off a seven watt solar cell that charges a deep cycle battery and uses simple hoses to supply the tankless water heater. The heater itself uses propane from a twenty-pound cylinder to heat the water. The heater uses a spark is provided by two D-cell batteries which have to be changed every two years. The heater brand and model is an “Eccotemp L5 Portable Tankless Water Heater”. We have been using ours for six years and have not had a single issue with it.

Our shower “building” is an open roof design that is five feet wide by ten feet long. This gives us enough room for a separate wet and a dry area. There is a bench that run the complete length of the shower with plenty of shelves and hooks to store your towels, dirty cloths and clean cloths plus all of the materials for your wet and dry needs. Citronelle lamps provide Mosquito protection. The grey water run-off from the shower is reused to irrigate the plants around the shower. While not the spa experience our shower is very useful and is still something to look forward to after a long dusty day in the Middle of Know-Where. In the future we have plans to expand to include a cowboy bathtub created from a recycled horse water trough. There is nothing quite as relaxing as a hot shower after a long day in the woods and I encourage you to try your own off grid shower experience.

Mosquito Control Off-grid

One of the challenges of the warmer months in the boreal forest is the annoyance of biting insects. Mosquitos are the main culprit and we tackle them on four fronts. First we encourage our local bats with a few bat boxes, then we add a mosquito larvae eating fish to our pond. Keeping the grass around the cabin area short seems to help and finally we use citronella lamps in the immediate area where people are sitting.

I tried a number of different formats with the citronella before arriving at the solution we use today. Citronella candles are in ready supply from your local retailer. I have two problems with them, the wicks often fail before the candle wax is done or the candle overheats and flares in a dangerously spectacular fashion. The next option was a tiki torch. Sometimes expensive, the torches worked better but I found their construction to be weak at best, and better suited to the beach environment. A little research led me to this solution. I re-use glass bottles, filled with some aquarium rock for displacement then topped off with citronella oil. A tiki wick will be held by a ½ x ⅜ copper reducer which is then wrapped with Teflon tape to fit the bottle opening. A ½ inch copper cap will work as a flame snuffer and to keep the rain out when not in use. The torches can then be mounted using some spare pipe fitting hardware to posts. The result is sturdy, reusable and non-flaring while still being a pleasing addition to our deck and fire pit area.

Flowers and Bees in the Boreal Forrest

There are 1,000s of native bee species in North America, and while there is a lot of focus on honey bee decline many of our native bees have shown no evidence of decline, and some are thriving in highly urbanized areas. Sadly, some that were generous in one area have either moved or have become harder and harder to find. As scientists work to understand threats to our bees, it is important to provide habitat and shelter to try and mitigate threats specific to them. Encouraging native flowering plants and a few bee houses are simple things that anyone in the north can do to improve your little piece of the forest.

Check out our videos!

Our video on the development of Shiningbank Crescent Our new video on the months in the Middle of Know Where Follow the bear tracks to find a printable copy of the directions to the Middle of Know Where

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