Canadian Renegade

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We Visit the Homestead to Pick a Yard Site


Matthew records the stream flow after the spring thaw. 2017

This past weekend we decided to take another look at the property during the spring thaw. We wanted to get a better idea of where water was flowing and pooling on the property so we could not only determine future potential pond locations but also design our driveway and yard site to be free of water issues. Hastily made driveways and yards often end up having water issues that are not seen until well after the work is done which can make rectifying the problem can be expensive and time consuming. We want to avoid this error.

We have a plan to keep our driveway as close to on contour as possible to avoid creating mud holes or areas that are susceptible to erosion during extreme weather events. Not having a steep grade also means less chances of getting stuck while getting into or out of the property during the winter months; steep driveways can be almost impossible to traverse when icy. As we walked along what will most likely be the driveway path, we identified one area where water appears to accumulate. Having the driveway cross this area will probably prevent  proper drainage, so we will have to take this into consideration when planning our final design.

The yard site itself will be up on one of the hills on the property next to established trees. Normally, building up on a hill can be problematic because you are exposing your house to the wind. While you may end up with a great view, the wind can be really annoying when you want to be active outside and makes miserable winter days feel so much colder. Additionally, leaving a house open to the wind can create unnecessary heat loss. Luckily, this location already has quite a few trees for shelter. If we clear out a small pocket within the existing trees we should be sheltered from almost all directions especially the prevailing north and northwest winds. With the tree coverage and driveway length this area offers sufficient privacy from the road.

After noting our building site observations, we checked out some of the valley lines we had identified from the topographic maps we created of the property. These valleys, while not showing visible signs of erosion, funnel a large amount of water and would be prime areas to build dams and create ponds in the future.


Living in a Tiny House: A Year in Review

Without a shadow of a doubt, there are some incredibly innovative and well designed tiny houses being built around the globe. We often find ourselves watching videos of these beautifully crafted and cozy tiny houses from our own humble abode.  We also find ourselves pausing from time to time to ponder is that really practical? Sometimes the answer is an obvious no, and other times the answer is it depends on your lifestyle, or how you’re using that tiny home. Some tiny houses appear to completely lack storage solutions, food prep areas, or basic necessities. But all of these choices could make sense if you’re on the move, you enjoy minimalist living, you live in an urban area where food is readily available, or other lifestyle factors. What these decisions really boil down to is what works for the home owner. This is also the most beautiful part of tiny living – the myriad of creative solutions waiting to be discovered!

Even so, when we see a tiny house that doesn’t make sense to us, we itch for that year-in-review episode to see if the design really was effective or if they would make changes. With that in mind, we decided to do our own year in review. We’ve been in our quaint mini mansion for a year now, and we’ve experienced it in all four Canadian seasons. We really wanted to be honest about what worked well and what didn’t. Would we make different decisions if we had to do it all over again? Probably. Do we regret building and living in a tiny house? Not at all! Take a look at what we discovered.

A Complete Review of the Splendide 2100XC – Washer/Dryer Combo
Fixing the Splendide 2100XC – Washer/Dryer Combo

A special thank you to Sustainable Me for granting us access to additional footage of our tiny house. See more about the Sustainable Me project here:

How To Create a Printable Topographic Map in ArcGIS Pro

In this video I demonstrate how to create a combination, aerial and topographic, map in ArcGIS Pro quickly and easily. I then go through the steps needed to create a printable layout for the map in any size you like.

My First Topo Map Tutorial

Splendide 2100XC Full Review

After using the Splendide 2100XC for a full year we give our opinion on the performance of this Washer/Dryer Combo and some helpful tips to getting the most out of it. Is it the best choice for a tiny house or RV?

The one main issue we had with this machine was when the internal exhaust tube became clogged with lint. The issue wasn’t too hard to fix and if it happens again we will be able to remedy it lot easier the second time now that we know what to do. The lint clog may be preventable with a different exhaust vent on the outer wall. We believe the reason for the backup was a combination of  condensation and cold temperatures causing the exhaust flap to stick shut. Other than that, we haven’t really had any major problems with the 2100XC. Here you can watch me Fixing the Splendide Washer/Dryer Combo.

For a machine that is the size of a dishwasher it performs quite well and is fairly easy on our water use at 9-16 gallons per wash. It also only uses 11 Amps 120AC power. We even considered putting it under the counter in the kitchen for awhile but decided we had more space to spare in the bathroom and having dirty undies in the kitchen was a bit weird.

The final verdict is that the Splendide 2100XC performs quite well for it’s price and size, and since it was made for RV use you don’t have to worry about it breaking as you drive down the road. We give it a B+ rating (and I’m stingy on giving high ratings, even on my wife’s cooking!)

Closet Curtain Install

I was originally going to install a double door to the closet in our tiny house but the more I thought about it the more a curtain made sense. I do a step by step walk through of the install.

Youtube Channel Update

A brief update on the future of this channel and a surprise!


How to make a FREE Topographic Map for Permaculture Design

A while back I heard that you could use topographic maps in the design process of a permaculture farm which sounded to me like a great idea! Since we bought our homestead back in October, I have been looking for quality topographic maps of the land with little success. One place I looked into was While they allow you to purchase topographic maps in print or as a digital file at a reasonable price, unfortunately, they didn’t offer the type of detail on their maps that I needed for planning our farm.

After spending a significant amount of time searching for detailed topographic maps, I came across one by ESRI which is very detailed and useful but what I really wanted was a map with satellite imagery overlapping the topographic lines so I could also see where existing trees and structures were.

Eventually, I came across a mapping program called ArcGIS that had the functionality to overlay these two types of maps. They have a free 60 day trial which means you can probably get maps of your property for free! When I set out, my intention wasn’t to get to get free maps but it sure is nice. If you plan on getting into permaculture design consulting ArcGIS looks like an invaluable mapping tool that is worth paying for. I played around with the program for 3-4 hours and barely scratched the surface of its capabilities!

Here is a brief tutorial on how to make topographic maps of your property using ArcGIS Pro. These maps can be used to get a better understanding of the water and energy flows on a property and give a different perspective than you get from the ground. Permaculture designs can be applied directly to the maps by hand or potentially designed right in ArcGIS although I haven’t learned all the features needed to do this yet.

**Update** I have a better tutorial for making a map here. You may still want to watch this video as there is a bit of information not covered in the second video.

**Update** In the video I mention that 1:6000 is the best detail on the topographic maps but 1:2000 actually provides better detail (1 meter elevation lines!) so even more detail than I originally thought which means it will be useful for even smaller properties!

This is the level of detail available. 1m contour lines.

Having maps like this will allow you to understand your land better and think about where roads, swales, trees, structures and ponds would be best located during the planning stage of your permaculture design. Of course, when the actual work is to be done a ground survey will be necessary.


Tree Nurseries for Cold Climate Permaculture Projects Part 2

There is a much wider variety of fruits and nuts available to the northern gardener than are commonly grown but you really have to hunt them down. Having more people work with these food producing trees and bushes will increase the odds of exceptionally suited selections of these plants being discovered. Many of the best fruit trees for northern gardens and farms were just stumbled upon in someones yard. The Evans Cherry is a good example of this as it was found in an old orchard in 1976 on a piece of land near Edmonton that was to be leveled for a federal jail. Up until that time the general consensus was that cherries couldn’t be grown on Alberta’s prairies. That tree had been there since at least 1923 just waiting to be rediscovered.

After recording the the first video on cold climate nurseries I came across several more nurseries worth mentioning and felt like another video was in order. I want to stress that ordering early in the year is important because nurseries often sell out come spring time. If you wait until planting time to order you may miss out on many varieties they carry or be past their designated shipping time frames.

Tree nurseries mentioned in this video:

Part 1

Salvaged Wood Pantry Part 2

In this video, I talk a little bit more about the construction of our tiny house pantry and briefly go through the groceries you’ll find in there. I also take a quick look at our bathroom shelves which were built using the same salvaged wood and construction methods.


Previous pantry video.

Tree Nurseries for Cold Climate Permaculture Projects

Something I forgot to mention in the following video is that mail order nurseries often sell out of much of their product months before they ship their trees out in the spring. In order to receive the specific product you’re looking for you’ll need to be placing your orders by January and February, otherwise the availability decreases quickly as spring approaches.

I Review the websites of several nurseries I have found online that have the best selection of trees for permaculture projects in cold climate zones. These nurseries have a wide assortment of trees, bushes and shrubs that are adapted to growing zones 2-5. Some of them are focused more on fruit and nut trees while a couple have a greater variety of support and wind break species.

The tree nurseries mentioned in this video:

Part 2

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