Nova Scotia Fall Update

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.

A Somewhat Bountiful Harvest

A Somewhat Bountiful Harvest

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.

ICF Construction

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.

ICF Puzzle Pieces Ready For Assembly

ICF Puzzle Pieces Ready For Assembly

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.”

Foundation Drainage System Around Footing

Foundation Drainage System Around Footing

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.

9 Feet of ICF Wall Ready to Pour

9 Feet of ICF Wall Ready to Pour

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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9 Responses to Nova Scotia Fall Update

  1. Margy says:

    You garden produce looks wonderful. Mine is about done. I have one tomato plant and one pepper plant giving it a last go. Out in the float garden though I have my winter crops: carrots, beets, kale, chard and broccoli. I need to get out there and do some staking. With our extreme low water level we can’t pull the garden in because it hits the cabin anchor cables. The solution is to paddle the tin boat back and forth. At least with rain coming about once or twice a week I don’t have to go out to water quite as much. The wall look great. I’m sure with both of your work and determination you will meet the goal of getting done before the worst of winter arrives. – Margy

    • Ron Melchiore says:

      The garden was a surprise to us Margy since we got such a late start to it and it didn’t look all that great. That’s certainly a unique situation you have. Paddling over to a garden out in the lake. That just goes to show other readers, a little ingenuity goes a long ways. Although I do hope water levels come back up to normal for you soon. It sounds like maybe the dry spell is over for you with occasional rain which is good. Enjoy the rest of your fall harvest. Ron

  2. grandma says:

    Thanks for the update…that nice weather won’t last forever…hope you have a solid roof over your heads as soon as possible.

    • Ron Melchiore says:

      Hello Grandma,

      It was a chilly start to the day. Probably -3C (27F) We know the weather won’t last for us. We have concrete coming this afternoon so we are well under way. We’ll keep plugging as hard as possible. Thanks for following along! Ron

  3. Joe Gehrig says:

    Good morning Ron. I have read your book “Off Grid and Free”. I am very impressed by all the wonderful things you have accomplished. I will chime in more often in the future. Best of luck with you new home.We have had built an ICF home off the grid in southern Colorado and we just LOVE it.
    Thank you for all your insight you share with this blog community… 🙂

    • Ron Melchiore says:

      Hello Joe,

      Thank you so much for the book support and website visit. I’m happy to hear you have found both of value. Please do feel free to stop by and contribute. The more the merrier and we can all learn from each other.

      What ICF block did you end up using and did you go with a 6″ concrete in the walls? Have a great day Joe! Ron

  4. Joe Gehrig says:

    Ron, I have to check with my builder which brand he used. We have used 8″ for the basement and 6″ for the first and second floor. We followed the principles of the “Passive House Institute”( Extreme insulation (R84 in the walls and R100+ in the ceiling with triple pane windows. The wonderful thing is that we don’t experience any colder than 54+F in the middle of winter (with occasional night lows of -20F) with all heating systems turned off. Thanks to plenty of south facing windows we reach between 72 – 75F during a sunny day (we have a bout 300+ sunny days a year). We are at 8,500″ altitude.

    May I ask you a question? I came here from Switzerland in 1995 and noticed your last name being Melchiore which sounds very Swiss to me? Did you or your ancestors come from Switzerland?

    Sorry for being so long….

    Have a good night. Joe

    • Ron Melchiore says:

      Thanks Joe for the information. No need to call the builder. I was just curious what ICF blocks were being used out your way. As you found out, lots of insulation and south facing windows make a world of difference. Triple glaze windows help too. We will have triple glaze again.

      That’s an excellent link and I’ll check it out further. One thing I’ll research on the site is what they recommend for air exchange in the house. I installed a couple of passive air vents that we will incorporate for taking warm air from a greenhouse at some point to warm the house some and act as an air exchange as well. With our wood heat, I see no reason why air won’t come in the vents and we utilize the “chimney” effect to exchange the air in the house without the need for some powered contraption.

      My last name, Melchiore is Italian. Sorry Joe, no Swiss. 🙂 Have a great day! Ron

  5. Joe Gehrig says:

    Thank you very much for the feedback. I noticed you had a greenhouse in Saskatchewan and I am sure you know just about everything about greenhouses. But just in case there is an exciting greenhouse out there we are thinking of putting onto our property. It’s a geodesic dome and it uses about 70% less energy than a conventional one. Perfect for us off-gridders. The gentleman who came up with this product 30 years ago is from Ireland and his company is in Pagosa Springs, CO, just about 5 hours from our location. Check it out. It’s simply amazing!

    Have a wonderful day and good luck with your construction….


    P.S. Italian is just as good if not better!!! 🙂

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