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12 Examples of Watery Off Grid Architecture

So back in September and August I did two posts on the following topics:

12 Examples of Earthship Off Grid Architecture
12 Examples of Off Grid Home Architecture

During which one of the images featured a round egg-ish shaped home surrounded by water. This one:


Which got me thinking.

What other off grid architecture exists that is surrounded by water, built on / very close to the water?

Well, here are 12 Examples of Watery Off Grid Architecture...














Survival Schools in Canada, Alphabetical List

I made this list for several reasons.

#1. To provide an useful resource for other people who are into survival training to use.
#2. To help me research the competition, as I am starting a "Winter Survival Training" program. So this list is for my research. Essentially I wanted to find out what other survival schools are teaching, how much they are charging for their programs, what they offer during their programs, and so forth.

Note - If anyone in Toronto wants to sign up to be guinea pigs (aka, my first students) just email me (projectgridless {atsymbol} gmail .com) and we can set up some one-on-one survival lessons. I have been teaching archery full time for 9 years so I do have lots of experience teaching, but this is really a shift of topic for me. Teaching archery lasts from March to November each year, so I have been wanting to find something I could do/teach during the winter to bring in extra income.

Lessons would be on weekends only, by appointment.

My Winter Survival Training would focus on the following survival skills:
  • How to make cordage and knotmaking.
  • How to build a fire with no tools. (Only the tools you can make yourself.)
  • How to build a shelter with no tools.
  • How to find/make clean water during the winter.
  • How to forage for food in the winter / build hunting tools (survival bowmaking and arrow-making).
Each of the above skills is progressive. Meaning you have to complete the first to be able to effectively and easily do the next. It is possible for the individual to skip a step, but for example it is much easier to make a fire if you have cordage. Thus it makes sense to learn how to make cordage first, that way making a fire is so much easier and time effective. Likewise building a shelter is easier if you have cordage and know how to do knots, as is building effective hunting tools. Knotmaking is essential to many survival skills.

I am not sure how much I am going to charge yet for these lessons, but I will figure out a price later.

In the meantime I also planning to make a series of survival skills videos which will be available on youtube for free. You can subscribe by scrolling up and clicking the YouTube button at the top right of this page. (You will need to be logged in to YouTube for it work.)

Anyway, here is the list of Survival Schools in Canada. I have organized the list alphabetically so that there is no favourites. I cannot vouch for the quality of any of these schools, but they are most certainly more experienced at teaching said skills than I currently am.


Survival Schools in Canada, Alphabetical List

A to H


Honourable Mention

Coalcracker Bushcraft is an American Survival School located in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. They are not Canadian, but I have decided to give them an honourable mention because they are certainly worth looking into if you are serious about learning wilderness survival skills and bushcraft, and you are willing to travel to learn such skills. So if you are willing to travel, you should at least consider this American school as an option. Plus Americans might also be reading this, so they should also have an option for where to go.


coalcrackerbushcraft.com

And since they didn't pay me to say them, I will make a point by not giving any link to them.(Everyone in Canada however gets free links.) I am just mentioning them because I happen to like them and I am also a subscriber to their youtube channel, which is definitely worth looking into as well.

12 Examples of Earthship Off Grid Architecture

Last month I did a post about 12 Examples of Off Grid Home Architecture, and at the time I was making that article I came across many examples of Earthship Homes. Thus this month I decided to do a similar post, but this time focusing solely on Earthship Architecture.

Here you go!

12 Examples of Earthship Off Grid Architecture














Snake in the Grass Archery Target, Snake Hunting

Some people like to hunt snakes.

Possibly because of pest control. Or possibly because some people also like to eat them. They really do taste like chicken.

Myself, I like to "practice hunting snakes" on fake rubber toy snakes, like the kind you can find at the dollar store.

Why?

Because it makes for very good archery practice and it is fun. The snake makes a very thin target, so to hit it you need a good deal of precision. Thus as an archery target, it is a hard one to hit.

For extra fun, tie a string or cord to the fake snake's head and ask a friend to drag it closer to you, thus you now have a moving target which is both skinny and a moving target.

Also if you can feel free to prank a few friends when you arrive to see if they jump at your fake snake. Always good for a laugh when someone jumps away when they think a snake is real.


Bowhunting for Snakes - the Real Ones

Now there are people out there who do hunt snakes - and eat them. And they use the snakeskin for a variety of leather products.



Tips for Bowhunting Snakes

#1. Make sure any venomous snake is dead before you interact with it. Sometimes snakes can play possum, so if in doubt chop its head off with a machete or an axe before picking it up.

#2. Wear gloves when interacting with any venomous snake's head. Even though it is dead, if you accidentally pricked yourself with the fangs you could still get poisoned. (Some people even collect and preserve the snake venom, which is useful for hunting bears, wolves and large predators. To do this you have to milk the venom glands, which can be done by massaging the glands manually while the snakes fangs are grasping a glass jar, or you can do the same thing using electricity instead of massaging the glands.)

Note - Milking a venomous snake is also a method for creating antivenom. Venom also often has multiple medicinal uses.

#3. Beware of other snakes in the vicinity. Where there is one snake, there is often many more of them - all gathered in one spot because of an ample food source, a great location for making dens, or because they are breeding.


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.

12 Examples of Off Grid Home Architecture

If you are looking for ideas for how to build your off grid home, here are 12 examples that you can use for architectural ideas.














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

:)

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