Dayle Laing

The ‘coolest shade of green’ is the sustainable choice. Dayle Laing is a Professional Speaker and Author who uses her experience and training as an educator, a designer and a LEED Accredited Professional to empower Conscious Consumers to make practical yet beautiful choices for sustainable living, reducing their carbon footprint while enhancing their body, mind & spirit.

coast_mountain_expeditions_350Have you ever wondered what you would have to give up to live off the grid?

Are you willing to live without some of your daily pleasures? Does this have to be ‘all’ or ‘nothing’, and can technology solve it all, so we don’t have to choose?

Freshly returned from my 7th annual sea kayaking adventure with my two sisters, I am pondering our experience of staying at an off-grid lodge on Read Island near the coast of British Columbia.

Nestled at the top of Evans Bay, surrounded by rugged coastline and rich sea life, and located several kilometers from the nearest post office at Surge NarrowsCoast_Mountain_Expeditions consists of a main lodge, several guest cabins and a family home. We were hosted graciously by Ralph and Lannie Keller and their grown son Albert, celebrating 24 years of sharing their wilderness adventure lifestyle.

dayle_kayaking_350Albert and Ralph provided expert guiding and instruction for our daily kayak trips. Emphasizing safety skills, they refined our techniques to make the paddling experience more efficient and enjoyable. We were blessed with perfect weather (nearby Campbell River on Vancouver Island logs almost 5 feet of precipitation per year). Ralph commented “you don’t appreciate sunshine until you’ve gone camping in the rain”.

Almost immediately, the wildlife sightings began.

bald_eagle_250A patient Bald Eagle perched atop a tree, waiting for fish on which to prey. The tide dropped, revealing a myriad of starfish, crabs, and just off shore, some graceful jellyfish. A Great Blue Heron circled lazily over an oyster farm. Ralph led us into a tiny island cove where we ‘nimbly’ exited our kayaks and clamoured over the barnacle encrusted rocks to a viewing point where dozens of Harbour Seals sunned themselves, called socially to each other, and then silently slipped into the water to cool off and curiously gaze up at our discreetly distant spot. Ralph cautioned us to never disturb the seals by kayaking too closely.

starfish_200crab_200jellyfish_200great_blue_heron_200harbour_seal_200harbour_seals_350Meanwhile Lannie and her summer helpers tended Lannie’s magical garden of vegetables, fruit and perennial flowers from a small clearing up the hill to produce exquisite meals for the dining room harvest table. 

off_grid_washing_200We washed up at outdoor sinks while carefully not leaving the water running. Treated to home made breads – pita, focaccia, multigrain, self-milled and expertly baked in off_grid_dining_200Lannie’s propane fired gas oven, we overindulged in her delicious vegetarian plus seafood cuisine and sumptuous fresh raspberry-apple pie and cheesecake. Her hot houses extend the growing season for tomatoes, delicate herbs and lettuce. 

solar_panel_200

Refrigeration is powered by its own photovoltaic solar panel, located directly below the dining room window. Ralph explained that the refrigerator and freezer operate more efficiently on direct current (DC) than from the AC batteries of the larger solar unit.

organic_hen_200Every morning, my sisters gathered warm fresh brown eggs from the 10 hens, and fed them yesterday’s kitchen scraps and peelings. (Chicken favourites are spaghetti and whole grain pancakes!) The chickens previously were ‘free range’, but a Bald Eagle with its ‘eagle eye’ found them and Albert said the hens were thereafter “lunch boxes on legs”.

ralph_keller_200How were we treated so well? Ralph explained their power and water supply systems. A large photovoltaic (PV) solar panel provides most of their summer electricity needs with 600-700 watts. Only 100 of those watts are required to power the compact fluorescent and LED lighting. The lodge has good daylighting through the south-facing windows, and lights are only turned on when needed. There was never a feeling of compromise or ‘doing without’, merely a consciousness of being thoughtful about our activities. Why not wash your face and brush your teeth before it gets dark at night?

thermal_solar_200Two 60-gallon hot water tanks are heated by an Apricus thermal solar unit, which faces south to passively track the sun by heating copper tubes located in a series of vacuum glass tubes. The unit sends the hot water by gravity, down to secluded semi-outdoor showers and a fabulously hot sauna beside a cool mountain stream.

off_grid_shower_200It never becomes hot enough in the mountains and trees to make air conditioning necessary, and Lannie manages well without an ‘energy-sucking’ clothes drier. (We were encouraged to bring our own sleeping bags and towels to limit her laundry.) 

bigleaf_maple_200In the winter, Ralph drains the thermal solar system because it rains most of the time. The lodge is closed and the family heats their home with local wood and 3500 watts of hydro electric power generated by 2 small turbines from the mountain stream on their property. 

The composting toilets perch on the hill with a fabulous open window on the bay well below. Wood chips collected from chopping are added after each toilet use to keep the odour down and the composting action working efficiently.

coast_mountain_expeditions_200bioluminescent_plankton_200Lannie runs the business end of the lodge with internet and telephone transmitted by satellite. What do they do without? One could argue, not much, when they have a Steinway piano in the lounge. Sue, one of the other kayakers, treated us to her musical talents before or after meals. We were invited for an evening paddle to witness a new moon sky, brilliant with stars. Each paddle stroke stirred the Bioluminescent Plankton, shimmering golden droplets emitted by the salt water plankton in the black bay – an experience beyond anything television could ever offer.

kayaking_read_island_350Ralph summed it up. “Technology is not going to rescue us from climate change. We need to make fewer demands on the planet.” While not everyone is prepared to live like him, he did encourage us to consider some solar power to reduce our reliance on the grid, as it does not have to be ‘all or nothing’.

For more information on solar power or to book a seminar on sustainable design, please contact the office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..albert_dayle_lannie_250ralph_keller_kayaking_200

dayle interviewing ralph 200

Comments (6)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Dayle: <br />What a great article and I love the photos. It must have been an amazing trip. In our high-stressed world, everyone should take time to enjoy the splendor of nature. We should all treasure this great planet called Earth.<br /><br...

Dayle: <br />What a great article and I love the photos. It must have been an amazing trip. In our high-stressed world, everyone should take time to enjoy the splendor of nature. We should all treasure this great planet called Earth.<br /><br />Cheers and best,<br /><br />Linda Leatherdale<br />VP Marketing and Business Development<br />Cambria Canada<br /><br />Hello Linda,<br /><br />Thank you for the comments. It was a wonderful trip and since it is summertime, I thought a fun article linking my experience to this great example of off-grid living is just the right pace for this time of year!<br /><br />All the best,<br />Dayle

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Dayle,<br />It was great to read about your trip. What an eye opening experience it must have been. We can all learn from that for sure.<br /><br />Hi Nanette,<br />Thanks for the note. It did feel very luxurious compared to camping! I was quite...

Dayle,<br />It was great to read about your trip. What an eye opening experience it must have been. We can all learn from that for sure.<br /><br />Hi Nanette,<br />Thanks for the note. It did feel very luxurious compared to camping! I was quite taken by the Keller's systems -- high tech, but not apparently so, as you can see from the photos. Even the solar panels seem to blend into the surroundings.<br /><br />Kindest regards,<br />Dayle

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Hi Dayle, what a fantastic experience. It is great to see others also taking the steps to be as "energy independant" as they can be. There is so much misinformation in the building markets around what is possible. After living off grid for 4...

Hi Dayle, what a fantastic experience. It is great to see others also taking the steps to be as "energy independant" as they can be. There is so much misinformation in the building markets around what is possible. After living off grid for 4 years I know it is VERY feasible with only small changes to our lifestyle to live off grid. We still had the washing machine, fridge, satellite internet and of course the expresso machine. All powered by solar and microhydro. <br /><br />Biggest challenge I found in doing something like this is convincing tradespeople that it can be done!!<br /><br />Thanks for this Dayle.<br /><br />Brendan<br /><br />Hi Brendan,<br /><br />In this instance, I believe the owner did most of the work himself. It does take time to educate the tradespeople, as you experienced. At the Canada Green Building Conference I attended, I heard how on one hand, tradespeople were engaged on a project and found more efficient ways of installing the green products that saved time (money) and on the other hand, one official told me he saw a contractor installing a window and not sealing the perimeter. He claimed that windows "need to breathe"! So education is really crucial for us to move forward!<br /><br />Cheers,<br />Dayle

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Hi Dayle,<br /> <br />Enjoyed reading about your kayaking trip - looked amazing! There's something so rejuvenating about being out there in the middle of nature!<br /> <br />Thanks, Susan<br /><br />Hi Susan,<br /><br />I agree about the...

Hi Dayle,<br /> <br />Enjoyed reading about your kayaking trip - looked amazing! There's something so rejuvenating about being out there in the middle of nature!<br /> <br />Thanks, Susan<br /><br />Hi Susan,<br /><br />I agree about the rejuvenation. Being in nature is a great prescription for cutting stress!<br /><br />Kindest regards,<br />Dayle

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You have explained the things very well. Really I was looking for informative article on this topic. I feel lucky to be here and read your article. I appreciate for your efforts and sharing this article publicly.
Keep it up guys

Thank you.
Jeremy...

You have explained the things very well. Really I was looking for informative article on this topic. I feel lucky to be here and read your article. I appreciate for your efforts and sharing this article publicly.
Keep it up guys

Thank you.
Jeremy David

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Jeremy, thank you. I had the great pleasure to return to Coast Mountain Lodge, where they continue to provide a wonderful experience while living consciously, in harmony with nature. Ralph and Lannie are an example to all of us. Cheers, Dayle

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