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Archive for February, 2016

PostHeaderIcon Testing The New BioLite PowerLight Mini LED Lantern

BioLite sent me a pre-release LED lantern to try out. This is a small sized lantern with amazingly powerful light output. It is actually one of the most powerful lanterns, even beating lights much larger for brightness and battery life.

BioLite PowerLight Mini
BioLite PowerLight Mini

When I first opened the package I was surprised to find that there is a bicycle mount included. It is unusual and rare these days to get anything extra in the package. Plus there is a cloth braided USB charging cable, an owners manual, brochure and a warranty card.

BioLite PowerLight Mini Review
BioLite PowerLight Mini Review

The BioLite PowerLight Mini is packed in a stainless steel case to keep it thin and light weight. It weighs in at only 2.8 ounces (80 g) and measures only 3.35 x 2.01 x 0.59 inches in size. But although it is rated at 135 Lumens, it blows away most LED lights much larger with higher output ratings. I am truly impressed with this little light. The case also doubles as a heat sink, which allows the manufacturer to keep the light slim.

Stainless BioLite PowerLight Mini
Stainless Steel Case BioLite PowerLight Mini

Now I do not have to feel guilty when carrying a lantern out in the mountains, backpacking and on survival training missions. This handy light weighs very little and takes up hardly any space in your pack.

Plus it doubles as a cell phone charger and battery pack for USB powered devices. With its 1350 mAh Li-on battery pack it can keep your small electronics topped off in an emergency. Now there is no need to carry a light and a backup battery pack. This unit does it all. I love multi purpose devices.

I charged up the LED light the first evening and came back to it later on.

I ran it one evening until the light went out to see how long it would last. I was surprised to have it last 4 and a half hours before the light went into the dim setting and then ran another 15 minutes with the charge status indicator blinking to warn me that the light would go out soon. I love this feature. Rather than having the light suddenly go out in the night leaving you blind and lost – it goes dim and allows you to seek an alternative. Thank you BioLite!!!

This light also has multiple modes of operation. It has a normal light mode which I will get back to in a minute. It has a bright mode. It has a red light mode which I love for emergency or survival situations. For stealth red light is better in the night because it can not be seen as far away as white light. It has a flashing red light mode and a white flashing light mode.

The white light mode is amazing and super bright. My tiny house on wheels measures 10 x 24 feet. I can easily read a book at night with the lantern on one wall and I am sitting on the opposite wall. I have done this already with no problem. No other light I have tested was this good. You could also read across the other end of the tiny house if you want.

There is a stand built into the PowerLight Mini which doubles as a shirt clip. You can slip it onto your shirt pocket for hands free operation. You can also fold out the stand and leave it sitting up for a room or camp light. Or you can hang it from its clip as an overhead light. The bike mount is a plus as well.

For ultra light hikers, sports enthusiasts and serious survivalists this light is a must.

You can get one here: BioLiteEnergy.com

Check out my full YouTube video review here: Video Review: BioLite PowerLight Mini ~ My New Favorite Lantern

While you are over there please subscribe and follow my daily videos as I strive to become self sufficient on the off grid homestead.

PostHeaderIcon Snowy Day And I Am Preparing For The Maple Syrup Harvest

Since I am now buying 56 acres of land and am surrounded by beautiful maple, black birch and walnut trees I am going to get into tapping and making syrup heavily. Each year I try to improve my maple syrup production. But you can also tap many other trees for their sap. Black birch tastes so amazing I cannot get enough of it.

Some of the most popular trees that are tapped are, of course, the sugar maple trees. But you can also tap black birch trees, walnut trees and many others. Black birch is used to make birch beer which many people are familiar with. I have not tried walnut yet myself but I hope to get into it next year. I have to mark the trees this fall before the leaves drop so that I can tap the trees next year.

Black birch trees are easy to identify though because of their smooth gray bark.

Maple syrup sells for about $20 per quart around here on average. The price per gallon ranges between $60 to $160 a gallon. That is a lot of profit but then again you need about five gallons of sap for a pint to a quart of maple syrup.

There are higher and lower grades of maple syrup with varying prices but you get a pint of pure, homemade maple syrup for about $10. New York is very lenient on the regulations for producing maple syrup for sale. There are no licenses or fees involved. You have to go by the NY State grading policies and labeling and there may be random checks and controls on your syrup.

Last year I made maple syrup outside on a homemade maple syrup evaporator made out of cement blocks and BBQ grill grates. I managed to put away quite a few pints of maple syrup for my own personal use. But it was not enough quantity and not good enough quality to sell. This year I want to change all that.

Maple Syrup Processing
Maple Syrup Processing

I have two stainless steel restaurant pans. These are about 12 inches wide by 24 inches long by about 4.5 inches deep. I also got an old house wood stove from a friend. I plan to use the wood stove as a boiler for my maple syrup. I will remove the heat shielding on the wood stove. Then I will cut off the top to fit on the stainless steel pans. I have to cut the stove to fit the pans properly with no extra space for heat to be lost.

Wood Stove For Maple Syrup Evaporation
Wood Stove For Maple Syrup Evaporation

This will be a more efficient maple syrup evaporator. I have studied them online for years now and have learned that this is the most common way for small scale producers to boil down their maple syrup.

Stainless Steel Pans For Maple Syrup Evaporator
Stainless Steel Pans For Maple Syrup Evaporator

I also plan to build a sugar shack this year. One of my biggest problems in boiling maple syrup is the weather. If it is too windy or raining then the process cannot be done for the day out in the open. The trees are still producing sap but I cannot boil it down outside in bad weather. The sugar shack will be a simple shack built out of wood pallets. It will be 12 feet wide by 8 feet deep by 8 feet high. I have some free tarp materials from the local lumber yard which I will use to cover the shack on all sides to keep out the wind and debris. This will greatly improve the efficiency of my maple syrup production this year.

I will put my commercial sized meat smoker in the sugar shack as well. This will extend the life of the smoker indefinitely. It will also allow me to smoke meats in all sorts of weather.

Back at the off grid homestead it was snowing so I had to sweep off my solar panels. I also cut some more fire wood for the off grid tiny house on wheels. I am heating with wood only and the past weekend was so cold that I burnt through a week’s worth of wood in two days. The wind was brutal and the temperatures below 0 F.

It snowed all night and we got about 4 to 5 inches of heavy snow. But it turned to freezing rain in the night and started to turn to a sloppy slush by morning. It is supposed to rain heavily all day.

You can watch the video of my day here: Watch – Preparing For Maple Syrup Harvest & Its Snowing

While you are over there please subscribe to my channel and watch my daily YouTube videos. Thank you

PostHeaderIcon Off Grid Homestead Wood Stove Cooking – Cheesy Noodles

I have recently been cooking entirely on the top of my off grid tiny house wood stove. I figure since it is hot and burning anyway, why not use that free source of heat to prepare the meals in my tiny house on wheels.

It sometimes takes a little bit longer to cook on the wood stove depending on how cold it is outside. Why, you might ask? Because the colder it is outside the hotter I burn the wood stove. A hotter stove means faster cooking in my off grid tiny home.

I recently got a whole lot of noodles on sale at the grocery store so I have been coming up with inventive and fun ways to eat them. This evening I chose to make cheesy noodles with butter and swiss cheese.

I first put some water in a pot and put that on the wood stove to heat up. Next I tossed in some salt and some noodles. I added water to cover the noodles and left them for a while. In the mean time I sliced up some swiss cheese very thin.

Wood Stove Cheesy Noodles
Wood Stove Cooking Cheesy Noodles

When the noodles were cooked I drained them and added a mess of butter and the swiss cheese. Both started to melt right away. I put the lid on the pot and left them off to the side to melt through nicely. I tossed in some parsley for color as well.

It is winter so fresh foods are out of season so I opened up a can of asparagus and poured that into a pot and put it on the wood stove to heat up. This only took a few minutes really.

I checked back on the noodles and the cheese and butter had fully melted into the noodles. I stirred them up to mix it all nicely together.

I served up the noodles with a bit more parsley for color and had the asparagus on the side.

Cooking Cheesy Noodles On Wood Stove
Cooking Cheesy Noodles On Wood Stove

The noodles turned out perfect. It sure was a good dinner.

It was a very simple and very enjoyable meal. It was made all that much better because I cooked it on my tiny house wood stove for free.

Watch the YouTube video here: Watch – Off Grid Wood Stove Cooking Cheesy Noodles

While you are over there please subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow my daily videos as I strive to become self sufficient on the off grid homestead.

Thank You.

PostHeaderIcon Installed Tiny House Wood Stove Heat Shielding

I finished installing the tiny house heat shielding and stove pipe supports. I have a real heat shield that I got on clearance at TSC. It looks so good now in my tiny home with the wood stove properly installed.

If you missed the first half of the article, simply go back one and read that first. You can also watch the video that goes with it on YouTube.

I built a frame work that will hold the wood stove heat shield up away from the wall of my tiny house on wheels. There is also supposed to be an air gap between the heat shield and the frame to allow cooler air to circulate behind the heat shield and keep it cool. There is to be another air gap under the heat shield to allow cooler air to circulate underneath the heat shield and cool it down.

I used 2×2 lumber to make a frame which will hold the heat shield in place. This will then be screwed to the 2×6 which is the base of the heat shield, which I already put in place on the first half of the day.

Making Wood Stove Heat Shield Frame
Making Wood Stove Heat Shield Frame

After screwing the framing together I took the frame and the heat shield outside and put it on my garden tractor trailer so use as a work base.

I predrilled holes in the heat shield for each screw and stand off support. I have a kit with 10 ceramic stand offs designed just for this purpose. It comes with the ceramic stand offs, screws and wall board supports (if needed). Then I put each screw through a ceramic spacer and into the wood framing.

I did this with all ten of the spacers and then took the entire fame inside my tiny house.

Framing Wood Stove Heat Shield
Framing Wood Stove Heat Shield

The frame and heat shield slid easily into place between the wood stove and the walls. It fits precisely in place and protects the wall from the heat of the wood stove. I then took a laser thermometer to check the temperatures to be sure it was working well. The wood stove was hot. The heat shield was warm on the metal side but cool on the back side. And the wall behind the heat shield was cool in all places. I could put my hand on the back side of the heat shield in any place with comfort but not on the front because it was hot on that side.

I am very pleased with the appearance and function of my new off grid tiny house wood stove heat shielding and stove supports.

I cut a mess of fire wood to last me about a week. We are going into a deep freeze this weekend with powerful winds and wind chill warnings of -30 degrees F. So I wanted to get enough fire wood split and stacked in front of the tiny house door so I do not have to go outside in that weather. Even if I burn the stove hot and heavy I will have enough fire wood to easily get through the bitter cold weekend with wood to spare.

My only concern is the wind chill and the damaging effects of the wind out here. I get very powerful and damaging winds all the time. But they are calling for sustained 15 to 20 mph winds with 40 mph gusts. This can be dangerous out here because I get stronger wind than average and at those speeds things are flying sideways in the off grid meadow.

Next to the wood stove I have a chimney fire extinguisher. You open the package and toss the thing into the wood stove in case of a chimney fire and it somehow puts out the fire. I also have a brand new fire extinguisher on stand by for safety. I will put another one upstairs just to be extra safe in my off grid tiny house.

Finished Wood Stove Heat Shield
Finished Wood Stove Heat Shield

You can watch the video of the day’s work here: Watch – Finished Tiny House Wood Stove Heat Shielding

While you are over there please subscribe and follow my daily YouTube videos as I strive to become self sufficient on the off grid homestead.

PostHeaderIcon Heat Shielding For The Off Grid Tiny House Wood Stove

I was at Tractor Supply this morning looking at heat shielding and hardware to improve my off grid tiny house wood stove. I have been using a rusty piece of metal and a cement block all winter so far and wanted to get a real heat shield now that they are on sale.

I got a $69 heat shield on sale for only $35. This was an amazing price. It was marked at $47 but rang up even lower. I was not going to complain. I also picked up some hardware to secure my triple wall insulated stainless steel stove pipe. I want to make sure that it will never fall down due to its extreme weight. It weighs about 50 pounds or so and that is a lot of downward force on the stove pipes. Already one time while chasing the cats playing I smacked into it and the entire pipe came crashing down onto the tiny house floor. Fortunately the wood stove was damped down and it just got very smoky inside my tiny house while I manhandled the entire pipe back into place.

Tiny House Wood Stove Heat Shield
Tiny House Wood Stove Heat Shield

Well, I want to prevent that from ever happening again so I am fastening the pipe very well now.

I put the new heat shield in place to see how it would fit and I was very happy with the results. It fits perfectly. Like it was made for just this specific job.

But first I wanted to secure the massive stove pipe. So I took two fence stakes and used my reciprocating saw to cut off the rivets holding the flat piece of metal on the stakes. Then I drove out the rivets and had two long bars with predrilled holes in them. Perfect for the task.

Making Wood Stove Pipe SupportMaking Wood Stove Pipe Support

I cut a piece of angle iron which is also predrilled and bolted it onto the two legs of my new stand. I took it inside my tiny house to measure it out for size. It fits perfectly under the stove pipe. The idea is to have the huge stainless steel stove pipe resting on the flat metal of the angle iron. This will distribute the weight of the stove pipe onto the metal support shelf. This will ensure that the stove pipe will never fall down.

I went back out to my work shop and cut another piece of angle iron to use as a center support for the frame. Then I bolted it all together and brought it inside the off grid tiny house on wheels.

I had to put on some leather gloves for the next step. The edges of the metal pipes are sharp and I dont want to cut myself. I manhandled the pipe into the air and got the new support framing underneath and centered. It looks like it will really do the job.

Building Wood Stove Pipe SupportsBuilding Wood Stove Pipe Supports

Next, out in the work shop I cut a piece of 2×6 lumber to fit under the heat shield and to secure the new stove pipe supports with. This I screwed onto the floor so it is solidly in place. Then I screwed my support frame to that as well, making it solid and unmovable.

Keep an eye out for part two of the day’s work.

You can watch the video of my work on YouTube here: Freezing Temps & Improving Tiny House Wood Stove

While you are over there please subscribe and watch my daily videos as I strive to become self sufficient on the off grid homestead.