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Foraging for Food - Part Eight, Dandelions

Every part of dandelions is basically useful for something.

The flowers, the leaves, and especially the roots.

But actually digging dandelion roots out of the ground is tricky. Collecting the flowers or leaves, that is easy. The leaves are practically brittle, they rip clean from the root very easily.

The roots however...

They are surprisingly deep and hard to dig out.

I discovered this back in July this year when I went foraging for dandelion roots for the first time and I had neglected to bring any ideal tools for the task of digging.

What I found on the way there was a large sharp piece of granite, which I thought would suffice as a digging tool. Boy was I wrong...

So I was digging away, getting very little actual root and lots of leaves, the granite rock I was using ended up snapping in two.

Yup.

Not kidding.

The dandelion root was so strongly held in place that it snapped a granite rock in roughly in half.

I then proceeded to use the slightly large half of the rock to continue digging, before eventually calling it a day. It was 7:45 PM and I needed to go.

I had lots of leaves and a little bit of root to show for my efforts. No flowers, they weren't blossoming at that time.

NEXT TIME, BRING DIGGING TOOLS.

Update this another day.

The Secret Hideaway Home / Underground Bunker

Imagine you wanted to build an underground bunker (I hesitate to use the words bomb shelter), what is the quickest and easiest way to do that - and do it off the grid?

STEP ONE, DIG A BIG HOLE IN THE GROUND

Large enough to fit in one or more shipping containers. Really depends on how big you want your bunker to be.

Easiest way to dig the hole is by using a tractor, backhoe, or similar machinery.

Make the hole with a large ramp so that the shipping container(s) can easily be taken down the ramp and placed in the position you want them to be in.

Once done, cement a floor at the bottom of the hole.

Note - Before choosing where to dig the hole, make sure the location is not on a flood plain. Last thing you need is your bunker to flood. You should also try to avoid any area that is swampy or has a water table.

STEP TWO, BUY SHIPPING CONTAINERS

Search for used shipping containers online that you can buy locally and have delivered. As-is containers starting at around $1,500 and like-new or modified containers will cost between $5,000 and $8,000. Make sure whomever you are buying from also delivers.

One shipping container itself will probably not be enough unless it is meant to be a short term bunker only.

If it is long term bunker, for 2 or more people, then you need to be thinking a lot bigger. Possibly as big as 3000 square feet, including a 400 sq foot greenhouse which will supplement the food supply.

Once you get them, tow the shipping containers down the ramp and into position.



STEP THREE, ADD ANYTHING ELSE YOU NEED

You will need air vents, water, sewage disposal, and possibly electricity unless you are okay with using candles/lamp oil.

Build everything you need during this step, including:
  • Entrance
  • Secondary Exit
  • Air Vents with air filtration, multiple.
  • Water source and filtration
  • Sewage
  • Optional - 2nd shipping container with all your electricity and utilities.
  • Optional - Underground Greenhouse for growing food.
  • Everything else you think you need.
You need to make the shipping container "livable" on a permanent basis before progressing to any of the steps beyond this one.

If it is meant to be a long term bunker with a supply of food, you need to determine the logistics of how much food you need, for how much time, and how you disposing of your bodily fluids.

If you are building an underground greenhouse (and possibly using your waste as fertilizer) then you need to work out the logistics of that and get it working properly, and solve any problems first.

You will also need to store everything from light bulbs to food to cooking oil to anything else you might need, and storing all that stuff requires a lot of space.

STEP FOUR, STRUCTURAL REINFORCEMENT

You don't want your shipping container to collapse under the weight of any dirt or rocks you place on top of it. Thus you need to reinforce the structure so it can take extra weight.

Dirt weighs about 100 lbs per cubic foot. The amount of dirt above the shipping container can add a significant weight to the structure, enough weight that even 18 inches of dirt on top is sufficient to cause the roof of the shipping container to start caving in over time (see image below).


So how much structural reinforcement does it need?

Well it depends... how far down are you burying this bunker?

If you are burying it under 10 feet of dirt (1000 lbs per sq foot), then you should aim to reinforce it for 3 times that amount so that each square foot can support 3000 lbs if it needs to.

Even if you only bury it under 6 inches of dirt, you should still be reinforcing it in case any vehicles are being driven over the top or parked on top of the structure.

STEP FIVE, PROTECTING THE STRUCTURE FROM DIRT

So here is the thing about dirt: Dirt is acidic, caustic, and wet - all of which causes steel to rust faster.

Wet, acidic and caustic dirt will slowly rust your shipping container away over a long period of time, causing it to eventually structurally fail. To prevent that eventual failure, what you need to do is place something in between the dirt and the steel.

Something like cement.

Now the good news here is that the cement will also serve to reinforce the structure, so you should take this into account when building it and determining how to reinforce the structure.

The bad news is that you better be done STEP THREE completely and everything can be repaired or replaced without needing to rip apart tonnes of cement, because one the cement goes in it will not be easy to bring back out if you need to conduct repairs.

STEP SIX, THE DIRT

Once everything else is done, everything works fine, then comes the dirt. Finally. This is the easy part. Just pile dirt on top of the structure and hope you did everything correctly...

Because the last thing you need is for the bunker ceiling to collapse in the middle of the night and kill you.

CONCLUSIONS

Can you make a shipping container bunker? Yes, but it is not ideal.

Should you? Not unless you are willing to put a lot of effort and money into it, because they don't actually make ideal bunkers. It would almost be easier to make a submarine than to turn one of these into a safe-to-live-in bunker.

So what about alternatives?

So you just used tonnes of cement to bury a shipping container, because by itself the shipping container cannot withstand the weight of the dirt, and the dirt and water will make it rust easily. When you really think about it, the shipping container is really a waste of time as a bunker. It is not ideal, as it is too small, not structurally sound, and rusts easily.

So why not just SKIP the shipping container entirely?

Option A. Just Use Cement

Build a round cement bunker. Or a square one. Whatever.

Design it with the greenhouse and living area in the middle and chambers around the sides for utilities like water, electricity, sewage, air filtration, extra living quarters, kitchen, bathrooms, machine shop, etc. For a family of 4 you will want at least 3,000 sq feet, including 400 sq feet for the greenhouse.

Option B. Buy An Old Nuclear Silo or Bunker

So in Northern Ontario there are a number of old nuclear silos dating back to the Cold War which have since been ripped apart and the missiles moved elsewhere. The properties have since been sold off and a variety of people now own such old missile silos.

Thus it is possible to just purchase an old missile silo or bunker. You don't need to build one.

Option C. Buy A Cave, Cavern or Mine

There are a number of places in Ontario which are privately owned caves. As well as old abandoned mine shafts. Buy the property, renovate and reinforce the cave or mine shafts to suit your needs.

Option D. The Ready-Made Bunker

There are companies that make and sell ready-made bunkers. More expensive? Yes. But this is also the fastest and easiest way to have a bunker made, and they could certainly build a giant underground home if that is really what you wanted.


Does your "bunker" really have to be underground?

Actually it does not.

If you are not near any place that is likely to be a nuclear missile target, then your "bunker" could be above ground and simply camouflaged and well hidden. You don't need to bury it.

You could paint it to blend in with foliage...


You could bury only part of it so that most people from a distance cannot see it, and add lots of trees, flowers, bushes, etc.


Or you could just build a normal "home" with them and trust that the trees on the property will keep away prying eyes. Why make it harder if it doesn't have to be?



The Final Say

Maybe just skip the bunker and build a home instead.

And if you are that worried about intruders or whatever, build booby traps and bear pits.

Win Movie Tickets! Subscribe to Project Gridless on YouTube

Hey Toronto!

Would you like to win two movie tickets to see an advance screening of the film "Peppermint" on Wednesday, September 5th?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas at 7:30pm. 

To get a chance, subscribe to my Project Gridless youtube channel and leave a positive comment on one of the videos.

On the evening of Monday September 3rd I will browse the comments and randomly choose a winner out of my Ducks Unlimited hat.

Unfortunately this offer is only good for people who live in or near Toronto, as the movie theatre showing this advance screening of "Peppermint" is at Yonge and Dundas in Downtown Toronto, so you really have to be from the area (or visiting) to be able to use the tickets.

Plot synopsis?

Peppermint is about a mother whose family is killed and there is a conspiracy to cover up the murders, so she disappears for 5 years to train like Batman / Sarah Connor and comes back to get justice. See the trailer below.



Note - While I don't see any archery or crossbows in the trailer, I hope that they do somehow end up the film. There should at least be knife throwing judging by the trailer.

Toronto Solar Panel Companies, Part Two - DIY

Last month I asked the question of whether I could find a solar panel company in Toronto that does installations to provide quotes for a 600 kWh per month solar system plus a battery system so that a home can be completely off grid.

Most of the companies I contacted didn't even deign to respond. The 1 company that did respond refused to provide a quote unless they were allowed to invade my privacy.

See Toronto Solar Panel Companies, Part One.

This month I am still looking for the Holy Grail - a 600 kWh per month system, but I am looking at solar panels that can be purchased through Canadian Tire and then the homeowner installs the panels themselves.

Canadian Tire is a good example, because there are quite a few locations in Toronto, plus they are a nationwide company so the prices in Toronto should be same prices you see all across Canada.

But I won't just be looking at Canadian Tire. Home Depot is also in the solar panel DIY business. So we will also be comparing prices for solar panels (and their battery systems) for both Canadian Tire and Home Depot.

Lastly, the size and efficiency of the solar panels is also a factor. If a solar panel is smaller, but provides more energy in its smaller size, then it is more efficient. So we want to be comparing how much energy the solar panels provide based upon their size and their price. Power per square foot and price per square foot... all with the goal of reaching that 600 kWh per month system

Why is 600 kWh per month so important? It is the number needed for an average 2 or 3 bedroom home to go off grid - to be completely off the grid. (The bonus of which is you pay less land taxes for your property.)

For reference, 1 kWh is equal to 1000 watts sustained for 1 hour. So a 600 kWh per month system need to provide 20 kWh per day on average, or the equivalent in watts. Clearly 20,000 watts in 1 hour is not going to happen, but 2,000 watts over the space of 10 hours is certainly doable.

The Canadian Tire Vs Home Depot Solar Panels Challenge!

Coleman 100W Crystalline Solar Panel, 2-pack for $1,059.98
Dimensions: 40 x 26 x 1.3", x2
Available at Canadian Tire

Together this two pack of solar panels provides up to 200 watts of power.

Dimensions wise is 7.34 square feet for 1 panel, so two panels is 14.68 sq feet. However 7.34 sq feet per 100 watts is a good measurement of its efficiency.

So the price of 10 of these (20 panels total) would be $10,599,80, and would take up 146.8 square feet of space, and would provide a maximum of 2000 watts over a 10 hour period of daylight.

Note - You don't have to buy 2 packs of this solar panel. Single units are $529.99.

Grape Solar 400-Watt Off-Grid Solar Panel Kit for $2,768.85
Dimensions: 88 x 48 x 2" (total dimension of 4 panels)
Available at Home Depot

Designed for RVs and boats this kit includes 4 solar panels providing a 400 watt system, including a 30 Amp digital charge controller, 2,000-watt inverter with two outlets and 1 USB port, cables and manual. Great if it is just for a RV, not so good if you want to buy multiples of this for your home.

Dimensions wise it is 29.33 square feet total for the 4 panels. It is 7.33 sq feet per 100 watts, so almost exactly the same as the Coleman panels.

The price of 5 of these (20 panels total) would be $13,844.25, they would take up 146.66 square feet of space, and would provide a maximum of 2000 watts over a 10 hour period of daylight.

So definitely more expensive. But do you really need 5 copies of the owner's manual, cables, power inverter and the charge controller? A single kit for a RV might be good, but for a home this is silly.

Now perhaps it was silly of me to choose a kit to be the example, but it was the most expensive solar panels on the Home Depot website so I just went with the flow.

Coleman Multi-Purpose 150 Watt - 12 V Crystalline Solar Panel for $599.99
At the moment I am writing this it is on sale for $299.99.
Dimensions - 59 x 26 x 1.3"
Available at Canadian Tire

The sale price really caught my attention here. Any time you see solar panels on sale, especially half price, that is a good time to crunch the numbers for cost and efficiency.

This solar panel offers 150 watts and is only 19 inches bigger than the 40 x 26 model also made by Coleman.

Dimensions wise is 10.65 square feet for 1 panel. That is 7.1 sq feet per 100 watts, so it is slightly more efficient than both the smaller Coleman panel and its Grape Solar rival.

The price of 14 of these solar panels would be $8,399.86, they would take up 144.9 square feet of space, and would provide a maximum of 2100 watts over a 10 hour period of daylight.

So that is actually a big step up compared to the other options. You save money and it provides an extra 100 watts of power due to the fact that 150 cannot be evenly divided into 2000. So rather than do 1950W I decided to go above and beyond to 2100W.

And now for the kicker, because those solar panels are on sale (again, at the time I am writing this) they are only $299.99.

So do the math... 14 x $299.99 is $4,199.86.

So that is an amazing price, they take up less square feet of space, and they provide 5% more maximum power. Clearly the lesson today is to buy solar panels when they are on sale.


Nothing else on the Canadian Tire or Home Depot websites are going to compete with the amazing deal people can get when they buy solar panels on sale... so lets move on to the next issues.

Charge Controllers / Battery Power

Coleman 30A 12V Solar Panel Charge Controller for $129.99
Well that seems reasonably priced.

But can it handle the charge of 14 solar panels all at once?

"Handles up to 30 Amps of current and 450 Watts of solar power"

Well, no. But 5 of them could handle 2,250 watts. So you could get 15 of the 150 watt panels, 5 charge controllers, and that would do it. But is it practical to use 5 different charge controllers? No. Not really. They really should sell a single unit that does all of it.

Then you just need to be able to store all that electricity.

Unfortunately there is a problem. Canadian Tire doesn't currently sell battery systems. The solar panels are really meant for RVs, boats, cabins, etc so people can charge their electronic gadgets easily. They aren't meant for someone to do a DIY solar panel off grid home. It probably hasn't occurred to them that they could also be selling battery systems for that purpose.

However...

Home Depot does sell certain items that Canadian Tire does not.
  • Nature Power 3000-Watt Inverter with 150-Amp Inverter Charger for $2,400.93.
  • Nature Power 2000-Watt Inverter with 55-Amp Inverter Charger for $822.97.
  • Nature Power 2000-Watt Inverter for $627.00
So it really depends on how many watts and amps you need. More amps means you can use heavier appliances like power tools, large electronics, home appliances and air conditioners.

So it is a bit like asking "Do you want air conditioning with that?"

Yes, I like air conditioning.

So the 3,000W system works. Better to have extra just in case, and better to have the extra amps for a variety of uses.

With that much wattage you could get 20 of those 150W solar panels and just have an abundance of solar power.

But again, still the problem of battery storage.

Alas we run into the same problem. Home Depot only sells smaller portable battery storage. The kind of thing you stick in your RV, boat, etc. Nothing larger meant for a home. They do sell a "RV Kit" that includes a mid-size battery storage that is roughly the size of an air conditioner, but it doesn't have the capacity for a whole house.

So neither Canadian Tire or the Home Depot can handle battery storage. Not at least in terms of a "specially made for this" way.

Rather they sell car batteries. So basically what you are expected to do is buy a bunch of car batteries, connect them to the power inverter and store your power that way. There are alternatives out there. eg. East Penn Canada sells batteries for home storage.

The Home Depot website does mention several types of batteries in the description of the power inverter...
"will charge different type of batteries from Get, Flooded, AGM, and Fixed."

So for example AGM is not a company brand, it just stands for "Absorbed Glass Mat", which refers to the design structure of the battery.

AGM Batteries compared to Flooded Batteries
  • "Higher tolerance against damage from deep discharge. (Optimized amounts of electrolyte (which is also referred to as “acid-starved”) allows the battery to use the power in the acid before the power in the plates. This minimizes the destructive nature of ultra-deep discharges. Ultra-deep discharging is what causes plate shedding, which can destroy a battery).
  • Longer service life with superior cycling capability.
  • Superior performance in high current, high power applications, and in extremely cold environments.
  • Superior vibration resistance.
  • Superior protection against plate damage from extended power draws.
  • Lower internal resistance for quicker power flows and faster recharge rates.
  • Slower self-discharge rates for better off-season storage.
  • Safer operation from spill-proof, leak-proof design which protects people and equipment, and enables installation in virtually any position (upside down installation is not recommended).
  • Maintenance free, never-add-water design."
Source: http://www.eastpenncanada.com/agm.html

AGM batteries are often used in car batteries because they last longer since they are charged and recharged so frequently.

There is also Gel batteries, but they decline faster in colder temperatures and thus may not be well suited for off grid purposes.

Yada yada yada. I think I am done for today.

I am going to research battery storage again another day.

Part Three? To be continued...

Want to keep reading and learn more? Subscribe to Project Gridless for future updates.

Replacement Parts for Compound Bows

So I found this website that sells replacement parts for compound bows:

http://www.huntersfriend.com/Repair-Hardware_c_72-1-2.html

To a compound bow repairman like myself, such websites are invaluable, as they give the client and myself more options when it comes to repairing their compound bow.

So for example if the client wants new cams or limbs or other bits on their bow, they can simply order the parts they need, bring me the bow and the new parts, and I can replace the parts for them.



Sometimes I might determine there is a broken part on the bow that really needs to be replaced, in which case I would inform the client that the part needs to be replaced and the cost of buying the new part plus shipping before any purchase is made.

For more information about Compound Bow Repairs in Toronto feel free to ask.

projectgridless {atsymbol} gmail .com

:)

The Cottage with Sliding Walls

The cottage in the video below moves, expands and has sliding walls. The architect who made it (for his mother) tends to ramble and repeat himself (something I do myself sometimes), but the concept is an interesting one.




What this home is missing however becomes pretty clear:

#1. A proper kitchen.

#2. A bathroom with a sink, toilet and shower.

#3. A large living space for entertaining guests.

#4. Additional bedrooms.

#5. The space is very narrow.

#6. Don't bother buying lots of stuff. There is very little storage space to be had. No library of books for example.

How could this be design be improved upon?

#1. Instead of 4 sections that slide, have 8 or 10. This would allow for additional rooms containing a kitchen, bathroom, library, etc.

#2. Make the width of the structure bigger. As demonstrated by the architect, a single person can move the individual sections by pulling with 1 hand. By making the sections wider this would add a lot more space in terms of width and it wouldn't feel so narrow and cramped.

#3. Additional structures could be made adjacent to this structure that houses the bathroom, kitchen, etc - but that would require leaving this building and going outside to a different building just to use the bathroom. Not very practical.

#4. Make the sliding section the upper floor of the structure, with the lower floor being stationary and containing all the plumbing - kitchen, bathroom, etc. They could even add extra bedrooms and a 2nd floor balcony if they wanted to.

Note - To make the first floor more interesting it could be built into the side of a hill to offer more insulation, for easier heating and cooling.

Conclusions

At present this cottage is a nice novelty, but it isn't practical to be living in long term. The design definitely needs improvements.

Foraging for Food - Part Seven, Mushrooms

So I met a lady at a Farmers Market recently who was selling mushrooms, and she started blabbing about how great mushrooms are for curing cancer - and specifically shiitake mushrooms, which coincidentally are more expensive and sell in retail grocery stores for $8 to $15 USD per pound.

The rumours that mushrooms - and specifically shiitake mushrooms - can prevent or cure cancer is certainly out there, but today I am supposed to be talking about foraging for mushrooms.

So here is the thing...

I would argue it is better to actually plant and garden mushrooms instead of picking random mushrooms in the woods. The reason? Not all mushrooms are edible, as some of them are poisonous.

Haha, you say. All mushrooms are edible - once, you laugh and snicker.

No, no, no.

You see people seem to think that the word edible means "whether or not you can physically eat them", when that is not the definition of edible.

The Definition of Edible

ed·i·ble
ˈedəb(ə)l
adjective: edible
fit to be eaten (often used to contrast with unpalatable or poisonous examples).
"nasturtium seeds are edible"
synonyms:
safe to eat, fit for human consumption, wholesome, good to eat.
So here is the thing. All mushrooms are consumable. Not all mushrooms are edible.

Warning! Do not attempt to identify an unknown mushroom by matching it with pictures alone; compare all the listed characteristics of the mushroom. Never experiment with eating a mushroom that you cannot positively identify with 100% certainty. A poisonous mushroom can definitely kill you.

Agriculture Canada keeps a list of edible and poisonous mushrooms on a PDF (a 346 page document) you can read from the link below. Not all the mushrooms in the document are found in Ontario, but there is certainly a lot to read if you want to become a mushroom expert in a hurry.
http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2013/aac-aafc/agrhist/A43-1112-1979-eng.pdf


The following is a list of edible mushrooms found in Ontario:
  • apricot jelly mushroom
  • bear's head tooth mushroom
  • beefsteak fungus
  • black morel
  • blue chanterelle
  • chicken of the woods
  • comb tooth mushroom
  • common puffball (poisonous if not cooked properly)
  • fairy ring mushroom
  • giant puffball
  • golden chanterelle (aka chanterelle)
  • hedgehog mushroom
  • hen of the woods
  • hexagonal-pored polypore
  • horn of plenty (aka black chanterelle, black trumpet)
  • horse mushroom
  • indigo milk cap
  • ink cap
  • jelly ear (aka wood ear)
  • king bolete (aka cepe)
  • larch bolete
  • lion's mane
  • lobster mushroom
  • meadow mushroom
  • mica cap
  • oyster mushroom
  • red cracked bolete
  • saffron milk cap
  • scaly hedgehog
  • shaggy mane
  • slimy spike cap
  • yellow swamp russula
  • yellow-gilled russula

Identifying Mushrooms Correctly and Collecting Them

Above is a handful of Oyster Mushrooms, which according to the lady from the Farmers Market come in a variety of kinds. She was selling Blue Oyster, Brown Oyster, Yellow Oyster and various other kinds of mushrooms. Telling them apart can be tricky, as the blue oyster has only a very slight blue tinge to it.

Thus since mushrooms can be almost identical, it is really best that people get a book on the topic so that they know exactly what kind of mushrooms they are looking at.

Worse, many poisonous mushrooms are lookalikes for normal edible mushrooms. So the plants are basically making an active attempt to trick you. Before you pick any newfound mushrooms, you should first identify them and compare to all known poisonous mushrooms that look similar.

Thus you will want:
  • A good quality guide book to mushrooms. eg. "Mushrooming without Fear"
  • A knife for cutting mushrooms.
  • A gardening trowel for digging up mushrooms. Sometimes half of the mushroom is hidden in the dirt and you need to dig it up.
  • A mirror for easily identifying mushrooms by looking at their undersides.
  • A basket to collect the mushrooms in - preferably something which allows spores to drop through holes in the basket, spreading more mushrooms around the woods.

Storing and Preparation

The experts recommend storing mushrooms in brown paper bags in the fridge, as the paper absorbs moisture, keeping the mushrooms fresh.

You will want to eat them within 3 days of harvesting them to get the best taste out of them. Anything over a week and they will have gone bad. The best methods of preserving them varies.

Chanterelles can by sautéed and frozen.
Porcinis and morels can be dried out and dehydrated, and later reconstituted.

Clean mushrooms when you need them. Use a paring knife, old tooth brush or tea towel to remove any dirt and debris. Avoid using water if possible. If you do use water, try to eat them the same day you clean them.

Mushroom Recipes?

There are lots of recipes you can use mushrooms for. Pastas. Pizza. Hamburgers. Soups. Salads. Pick one. Lots to choose from.

Happy Foraging!

Project Gridless on YouTube + Notes

A few weeks ago I watch the following video by Survival Lilly about the state of her YouTube business and some of the difficulties she has encountered, having left her job as an accountant to become a successful professional youtuber, wherein her channel focuses on survival and camping skills.



Does she make decent money making youtube videos? Yes. Is it a lot? No.

Does she enjoy doing it more than being accountant? Definitely. Even with the sick psychos who harass and stalk her because of her fame.

So for me, I look at this as a glass is half full situation. Do I want to do the same thing, but focus on off grid living? Yes. Do I expect to make a lot of money? No.

In fact... I only recently monetized my videos, and it will be awhile before the Project Gridless channel gets reviewed by YouTube. That is when you enter the big leagues.

To get reviewed YouTube requires that I have 1000 subscribers (last I checked I have 53) and people need to watch 4000 hours worth of my videos in the last 12 months (last I checked, I was at 1235 hours).

So I need to get 20 times more subscribers, and I need to more than triple the number of hours being watched annually.

But to get subscribers and more hours of view time I really need more videos. Subscribers will come later, but to get them you really need the quality videos. It is truly a case of "if you build it they will come".

One of the ways I have been trying to increase my number of videos is trying to get interviews with people on topics true to the idea of Project Gridless. People with solar and wind turbines would be great, but honestly since I am new to this I will interview anyone who is into any of the topics Project Gridless focuses on.

Awhile back I was trying to score an interview with someone in Toronto who had backyard chickens. But she ended up being chicken about having her face on camera (she works as a food critic and likes to be anonymous) so no luck there.

Perhaps I could find some local companies that sell / install wind turbines / solar panels, and ask if its possible to get an interview.

And I have many more ideas for videos too...
  • Animal Videos - Falconry? Hunting Dogs? Agriculture?
  •  Archery / Bowmaking Videos / Arrow Making
  • Make My Own Bow Press (this is something I am already in the process of doing anyway)
  • Or... just buy a bow press and review it?
  • Repairing Compound Bows
  • Repairing Steve's Bow
  • What is in my Bug Out Bag?
  • Alternatives to the Bug Out Bag
  • Camping Techniques / Gear
  • Product Reviews - gear, archery equipment, hunting books, tools, etc
  • Cooking Off Grid
  • DIY Building Stuff
  • Solar Power videos
  • Wind Power videos
  • Hydro Power videos
  • Exercising Outdoors / Sports
  • Farming / Gardening / Foraging
  • Fishing videos
  • Items for sale (eg. bows?)
  • Green Homes / Sustainable Architecture / Real Estate -  Find a real estate agent willing to collaborate and wants extra exposure?
  • Crossbows, reviews, toys, homemade
  • Hunting
  • Recycling Materials DIY
  • Sailing / Boats, Horses, Dog Sleds, Bicycles, Alternative Transportation
  • Survivalism
  • Off Grid Tourism
  • Trapping
  • Treehouse
  • Interview Vegans
  • Woodworking / Tools
  • Zombie Apocalypse
So what I really need is taking some of the ideas above and running with them. Just make lots of videos, and make sure the quality is good, because that is how I will get subscribers. Good quality videos.

At present I only have about 30 videos. Contrast that with Survival Lilly... and she has so many videos it is difficult to count. For example, she has so many that she moved all her restricted videos (too violent for regular youtube) to a separate account called "Survival Lilly Restricted". She only has 16 videos on that channel currently, but she currently has over 24,000 subscribers to that tiny channel.

Her main channel meanwhile has just over 300 videos and 675,000+ subscribers. I could make a video every day, but the quality would likely be horrible. Nobody wants to subscribe to a channel that makes junk videos.

So for now I think I need to set myself a goal of making 100 quality videos. Two per week would be nice. That way it just becomes a weekly habit and I get better and better at making the videos, and increase the quality over time as I learn more about the best ways to make videos.

Note - Best Days to Upload a Video: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. 2 PM is the best time on weekdays. 9 AM is the best time on weekends. Bold days are the best days.

Awhile back I added an intro video and started using intro and credits with my new videos in an effort to make them look more professional. And get more subscribers.

Example Below: Burd's Family Fishing in Stouffville video.





Toronto Solar Power Companies, Part One

If someone living in Toronto (or the GTA) wanted to go off the grid with their home, how much electricity would they need to be producing, and how much would that cost to produce that much electricity using solar power?

That is the question today. (July 5th.)

And for simplicity's sake we shall use a 3-bedroom home with 2000 square feet as an example (pretty much the most average home you can buy in Canada) when asking companies for quotes, which typically would be using about 600 kWh per month. Some people obviously use more than that, some a lot less. I found one website where a person said they used to use 700 kWh per month but have since cut their usage down to 180 kWh per month. Clearly there are two ends to the spectrum with the average in the middle.

So I sent the following message to various websites asking for quotes:

"Hello!

I am looking for quotes for what it would cost to install solar panels and a battery system on our property to produce 600 kWh per month.

We would like to be completely off the grid.

We are also interested in learning more about solar thermal too."
The problem with such websites is that they are actually selling leads to other people. I submit to one website, I will probably get 5 or more quotes from different companies - and they are paying for the potential lead. The people contacting me are salespeople... they just want to make a sale.

They don't know I am only researching this to determine what companies are out there, and what prices they are offering for their respective systems.

Thus I submitted the above text to 5 websites. If I only get 25 quotes or less that will be more than enough for my purposes.

July 20th Update - During the last 15 days I got only 1 company to respond. So much for my guess of 25 quotes. I got 1 and they refused to even provide a quote.

THE RESULTS

#1. "Please send us your phone number."

The first company to respond asked for my phone number. I don't give out my phone number online, except to friends and clients. Why? Because then people start phoning me while I am teaching an archery lesson. My clients are typically paying $0.66 to $1 per minute for my archery lessons (because I am really good at teaching and really expensive to hire). So even a short phone call means I have to extend the lesson so the client gets their full monies worth... plus it interrupts the flow of the lesson and the learning process, so I really prefer to keep my phone number private.

eg. I usually only answer calls from my wife or my mother while I am teaching, and only because it might be an emergency.

I strictly only want quotes via email.

The companies to respond so far by asking for my phone number were, in order of responding:

  1. New Dawn Energy Solutions


Update - And that is the only company to have responded thus far. It has been 15 days, 1 response.

#2. Negotiable Prices plus Haggling

I notice that a lot of these companies don't like to list their prices on their websites. Is this because the prices are negotiable? In which case, can a person simply lowball their quotes and offer a different amount for the job to be completed?

Clearly if the prices are negotiable, then it means that the initial price they offer is intended to gouge the customer for their money by overcharging them. So a smart customer should then demand a lower rate for the same products and service, because clearly there is some haggling involved.

And haggling inherently means that if you push them on the issue, they will eventually offer you a better price. Makes me want to just email them with the following line:

"I see you don't list prices on your website, which means prices are negotiable and people are expected to haggle. So lets haggle."
Maybe then they might rethink their business strategy and then list the prices on their website.

#3. "Please provide your address."

Hi Charles,

We would at least need your address to provide a quote. Kindly let us know your address. Thank you.


Sincerely,
Prasanna Yoganathan, E.I.T
Project Coordinator
416-855-9377 Ext:. 216
www.NewDawn-ES.Com

Hello!

What difference would my address make? I live in Leaside. Would it make a difference to the price if I lived in Rosedale or Beaches? Do you quote different prices based on the neighbourhood?

I just want a quote for a solar system that produces 600 kWh per month that includes a battery system. Is that not sufficient enough to give me a quote?

If you cannot provide a quote for such a system I will take my business elsewhere.

Sincerely,
Charles Moffat

And no response after that. Clearly I was not being cooperative, however to be fair I am asking a simple question and my address in Toronto really should not matter at all.

Conclusions

Don't bother contacting solar companies through 3rd party websites that promise to forward your inquiry to multiple solar companies, because frankly only 1 company has thus far responded and I contacted them 15 days ago

Now is this because I refused to provide my phone number and my address in Toronto? I think it is deeply connected. I also think these companies are basically stalkers looking to make a sale, and they have no respect for privacy.

I left negative reviews for "New Dawn Energy Solutions" on both Google and Yelp. Maybe when they notice the reviews they might actually provide a quote, but even if they did I would recommend people to NOT hire that company because any company that refuses to give a quote because they really want your phone number and address is a company so focused on sales that they have forgotten the saying "The customer is always right." and what should be a new saying "Respect the customer's privacy."

Clearly the price of installing solar panels isn't the only hurdle. It is their horrible customer service.

But is that just 1 company?

Well nobody else responded. Say what you want about New Dawn Energy Solutions, at least they responded - and later snubbed me when I refused to provide an address.

Last Saturday I was talking to someone at the Toronto Archery Range and they mentioned how these companies can now use Google to input your address into a map search, they can then calculate the size of your roof and provide an estimate of how many solar panels can be put on your roof, and how much energy that will provide, and how much it will cost.

While that it is handy, the home in my situation hasn't been built or purchased yet. I want to know the cost of installing what I want, BEFORE I go out and buy the house. This way I know how big the roof needs to be.

But the companies are so focused on using their little map gadget they are ignoring a simple enough question.

A roof can always be extended or lengthened to add more room for solar panels. If someone really wants the extra solar power, they can just make the roof wider.

This whole ordeal makes me more interested in wind turbines - which dollar for dollar provide more electricity than solar power does. And likewise hydro power - which is trickier to do because you need a stream or river on the property, and you are probably not legally allowed to dam it and would need to use other methods of gaining hydro power from it without a dam, but hydro power provides way more energy than either wind or solar, and thus it is worth investigating.

Solar is still an option, but finding a company that can provide a quote may be a challenge.

I may have to just phone companies and point blank ask them for quotes (and refuse to give details about where I live). "The property hasn't been built yet." Whatever.

I still want answers.

To be continued...?

The Ethical Choice for a Compound Bow Repairman

Back in June someone came to me with an old PSE Nova compound bow (likely circa 1997-98) which according to the customer had been dryfired and needed to be restrung.

Sounds like an easy fix to me, but as usual I ask one rather important question:

"Yes, I can fix it.

Anything else wrong with the bow that I should be aware of?

Would you be able to drop it off tomorrow or Tuesday?"

So you may note the second question I have highlighted in red. It is a rather important question. It lets me know if there is anything else wrong with the bow that might interfere with its ability to be fixed. eg. Broken or twisted cams.

Now sometimes the owner is not aware that there is something else wrong with the bow. It is always possible they didn't know it had a fatal flaw.

In this case the bolt insert for the upper limb had been stripped and pretty messed up. If you adjusted the bolt, it would barely budge unless you exerted some serious pressure.

The customer brought me the bow more or less assembled, with one of the limbs on backwards and the bowstrings and cables haphazardly also on backwards (normally the bowstring is closer to the archer and the cables are closer to the riser, in this case they had been reversed). So whomever re-assembled it that way had basically just did whatever looked right at the time and then stuck in the case for transport. They had probably realized how complicated stringing the bow would be and given up, deciding to leave it for someone who knew what they were doing.

When I examined the bow before attempting to repair it, I determined that is should be an easy fix.

  1. Take everything off since it was incorrect anyway.
  2. Get the limbs in the correct direction
  3. Retighten the bolts to hold the limbs in position.
  4. Put the bow in a press
  5. Restring it.
  6. Re-add the cables.
  7. Done.
 But when I got to step 3 the bolt on the top limb wouldn't budge. I decided to remove it completely and inspect it.

Inside the insert you could see pieces of aluminum that had been stripped off the bolt. I clearly most of the metal, and attempted to put the bolt back in but it would slide into an incorrect angle and become stuck. I tried again, trying to keep it in the correct angle, but it would still become stuck.

Worse, my attempts to get the bolt back into position were just stripping more bits of aluminum out of the insert.

Now here in lies the problem...

Yes, I could use a tap and die set to fix the insert, but that would further compromise an already compromised insert which is part of the riser itself and cannot be removed. A tap and die set can realign the threads on the insert, but it would never be completely perfect ever again, and would always have problems with it.

Worse, an archer using the bow afterwards would always be in danger of the insert, riser or bolt slipping or snapping in some manner, resulting in the limb flying back and striking the archer.

Anything repair I did would only make an unsafe bow even more unsafe to use.

From my past in the bicycle industry I know that bicycle mechanics will sometimes conduct an unethical repair on a bicycle to please a customer, even though they know the part they are repairing has been compromised and is unsafe. They do this because they want to make the sale and get paid, and are putting their own private greed before the safety of the client.

I was faced with a similar dilemma, except I was repairing a weapon/tool used for hunting as opposed to a bicycle.

How unsafe was the insert? Honestly, it is an unknown.

It is possible if I repaired it with a tap and die set that it would function normally and never pose a risk.

Or it is possible if I repaired it that it would break under pressure (as compound bows often are put under a great deal of pressure), and then pose a serious safety hazard to the archer using it.

So because it is an unknown, I give it a base 50/50 chance it is unsafe.

And do I really want it on my conscious if it does break and injure the customer? Not really.

I also believe in karma*.

* My idiot neighbour who assaulted me back on April 30th was in a car accident about a week later and totaled his car. He cut off a bus and got T-boned, and he got a neck injury. So from my perspective, that is karma in action right there. Especially since the accident happened right outside my window and I got a front row seat to the police and ambulance, etc. Other incidents in my past have also resulted in me receiving weeks or months of good luck (good karma), so there are multiple instances where clearly I did the right thing and ended up reaping the lucky rewards.

So what did I do about the PSE Nova compound bow?

I tell the customer what I had discovered about his bow, that it is unsafe, and that it is basically only good for parts - not the riser with the bad bolt insert clearly, but the rest of the bow was in good or decent condition.

I therefore offered to give him $20 for the pieces so I can use the bow for parts. He accepted my offer. He showed up later that evening after 7 PM to pick up his bow case, arrows, etc and my $20.

I got out of it:
  • Two Y cables.
  • One bowstring.
  • Two cams that are in good condition.
  • Two compound limbs.
  • Two limb bolts.
  • A peep sight.
  • An old 3 point sight.
  • A whisker biscuit arrow rest that is in decent condition.
  • An old metal stabilizer with camouflage paint on it.
Oh and an aluminum riser that effectively would make a good paper weight.

I wasn't expecting for him to let me have the sights, arrow rest and stabilizer, but he evidently didn't care about them. So they were basically a bonus.

I think he was mostly just thankful to get rid of a junk "lemon" of a bow and could go get himself something nicer.

Indeed he would be hard pressed to find a buyer for a broken old compound bow, as most compound archers prefer to buy the "newest 2018 model" that is available. The resale value of old compound bows is pretty bad as they depreciate in a hurry.


ABOUT PSE NOVA COMPOUND BOWS

Not all PSE Novas are "old" per se.

The bows and variants of them were made between 1997 to 2011, with various draw lengths, draw weights, brace heights, alternative designs with different let offs and IBO speeds. The model was eventually discontinued, likely due to poor sales.

During its heyday the PSE Nova was considered to be a good starter bow for beginners who wanted to get into compound archery without having to pay an arm and a leg for a decent bow.

You can see specs for different versions of the bow by visiting: http://compoundbowchoice.com/brands/pse/nova/specs/

Old used PSE Novas now typically sell on eBay for about $75 USD, but it is a case of buyer beware, as the bow will likely have problems with it after years of use (or misuse).

The PSE Nova was never considered to be a desirable bow. Rather, they were a cheap "decent quality compound bow" for a reasonable price. They are not something a person would want in their collection for historical reasons. My vintage Jennings and vintage Black Hawk compound bows on the other hand, those are collectors items and definitely desirable.


So what should I do with those spare parts?

Honestly, I have lots of options.

I could:
  1. Build a wooden compound bow riser, with roughly the same dimensions of the original Nova riser.
  2. Make a "Frankenstein compound bow" where I mix and match parts from different bows.
  3. Make a stone compound bow*. 
  4. Make a stone compound crossbow*.
  5. Build a compound crossbow.
  6. Build a reverse compound crossbow.
  7. Or... just keep the parts handy for whenever I might need them.
I am leaning towards options 1, 4 and 7.

Whatever I do with them, this is a project for me to work on during the winter when I have more spare time.

* The stone compound bow is an interesting concept. Essentially the arrow acts like a plunger that goes forward and bumps a pellet that is roughly the size of a marble (or literally a marble), and then the pellet / marble is the projectile that shoots forward through a barrel and is launched towards the target. Sort of like the "arrow gun" shown below.


In the case of the stone compound crossbow, there is no need for the arrow itself. The pellet / marble is loaded into a barrel with slits down the sides. The bowstring then pushes the pellet through the barrel and it is launched towards the target.

The stone crossbow is an ancient design that worked a bit like a slingshot, but modern variants have determined that the bow gets way more accuracy if it uses a barrel design instead.



A reverse compound stone crossbow... would that be a first of its kind? Has anyone but me even thought of making such a thing? Am I the first?

I bet Joerg from the Slingshot Channel on YouTube hasn't even thought of that, and he is a pretty crazy German guy who qualifies as a mad scientist in my opinion.

Like the insane video below in which he builds a trebuchet that shoots saw blades...



Because clearly if you are going to build something that crazy, you need a German mad scientist to do it.

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