PEEK IN THE FOREST , by Fr. Charles Brandt



Peek in the forest, Nov. 2-2017 - Chalres Brandt


“Humanity and nature,  Charles Brandt teaches, are braided into a continuity of
being and divine purpose that makes them essential to one another.”


Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun Newspaper Columnist


ENCIRCLED (St. Hildegard–2)


Reflecting St. Hildegard – Part Two


Good People,


Most royal greening verdancy,

rooted in the sun,

you shine with radiant light.


Verbena at the lake Oct. 7-2017 - bruce witzel photo


In this circle of earthly existence

you shine

so finely,

it surpasses understanding.



Painted tongue on Victoria Lake - Oct. 8, 2017 - bruce witzel photo



God hugs you.

You are encircled

by the arms

of the mystery of God.


Meditation point (2) Oct. 17, 2017 - bruce witzel photo


St. Hildergard – poet, prophet, lover of the earth



Chantrelle mushroom in the Pacific coast rainforest Oct. 23-2017 - bruce witzel photo


Cheers ~  Bruce

Mountain Ash a-glow at the Lake


Reflecting St. Hildegard – Part One


Autumn day on the lake, Oct. 24-2017 - bruce witzel photo


It is easier to gaze into the sun, than into the face of the mystery of God.

Such is its beauty and radiance.



Autumn colour at the lake, Oct. 24-2017 - bruce witzel photo


The earth is mother of all that is natural, all that is human.


Autumn at the lake, Oct. 17-2017 - bruce witzel photo


                       (St. Hildegard was a 12th century Abbess)



Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.  ~ St. Francis


Feast of St. Francis ~ October 4th


A well worn cardboard solar cooker

My niece Jade, showing a simple  home built, well worn and weathered cardboard solar oven.


Assisi Diocese among 40 Catholic groups to divest from Fossil Fuels
Link to National Catholic Reporter Article, Oct. 3, 2017


“The Church that hears ‘both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ cannot stay indifferent in front of the catastrophic consequences of the climate change that are unfairly affecting poor and vulnerable communities,” said Assisi Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino.”


And also. . .


God requires that we assist the animals, when they need our help. Each being (human or creature) has the same right of protection.   ~ St. Francis




Gulls at Neurotsis Inlet


Cheers ~ Bruce

Fire and Fury (and smoke)… like the world has never seen.


                                                 A Picasso -  Photo by Bruce Witzel

We’ve all heard the expression “business as usual”. However, considering current world politics I believe that many of us will admit that we live in unusual times.  Picasso illustrates it well. Life is such a paradox.

I imagine Tomas Merton calling out.

“Take thought, man, tonight when it is dark, when it is raining. Take thought of the game you have forgotten. You are a child of a great and peaceful race. You are son of an unutterable fable. You were discovered on a mild mountain. You have come up of the godlike ocean… Take thought, man, tonight. Do this. do this. Recover your original name.” 

(from Raids on the Unspeakable) 


Photo by bruce witzel - unknown artists


Recently I have kept a low blogging profile – partly from lack of initiative – more importantly, to focus on work and gardening as well as personal reflection and home improvement.


Garden from above



Fressh tomatoes from our garden Aug. 16, 2017 - bruce witzel photo



Telegraph Cove Kayakers, Aug. 5, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

Kayakers on Northern Vancouver Island


Here in British Columbia our recent provincial election of May 7th brought an amazing progressive shift. The Green Party won three seats and now holds the balance of power in the BC legislative assembly, in an agreement made with the newly elected New Democratic Party. This alliance holds a one vote margin over the Liberal party.


BC Election result 2017


The close election required 3 weeks of re-counts and one month of political negotiations before the “business oriented” Liberal Party was defeated in a vote of non-confidence on June 30, after almost 16 years in power. The Liberals do deserve parting credit for instituting the progressive British Columbia Carbon Tax Shift in 2008, the first jurisdiction in North America to do so. In this plan the Carbon fee charged on most fossil fuel transactions is then re-disbursed via tax credits – a sizable portion to lower income people. However, they dropped the ball in support of this important initiative, and then began to support various mega-projects like Site C damn on the Peace River and Liquefied Natural Gas development.




The current leader of the BC Green Party, Andrew Weaver, was originally elected in 2012. He is a well known climate scientist and a past lead author for the IPCC, the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change. He and his caucus is creating a big shift in the body politic and there’s hope it will spread.

Speaking of climate change, British Columbia experienced a record breaking heat wave a couple weeks ago. Coupled with extensive and growing wild fires since early April, the province is experiencing the worse fire season ever. Today it’s effected 894,000 hectares and fire crews have now reached day 100. Many of these emergency teams worked on the BC spring flooding immediately prior to the fires. 


Smoky skies  - fran guenette photo

Smoke on the lake comes from 100’s of miles away.


Tens of thousands of people and livestock have been  evacuated and many people in BC and nearby American states are experiencing health debilitating effects from the smoke.



Nasa Satellite Image – July 31, 2017 – Wildfire Smoke over British Columbia


The added financial burden is immense. A small example is that wood prices have skyrocketed as numerous mills have shut down due to the fires. This is one of many costs not factored into the true price of burning fossil fuel. 




Recently I finished a novel, Convenient Mistruths, by Geoffry Strong. He’s a local atmospheric scientist who recently came to our local library for a reading. Strong sets the plot of his novel in 2020 and the main setting is the Canadian North. Large scale Arctic drilling and rapidly melting perma-frost is occurring.

Amidst murder and intrigue, the author adeptly weaves into the story the science on climate change, meteorology and changing weather patterns as well as their social and ecological impacts. The novel’s Prologue includes a short vignette about a migrant family from Syria. It makes clear his family lost it’s home drought and desertification caused largely by global warming. Civil war is a mere side effect.

The main antagonist of the novel is a few ardent American climate change denialists – funded by Big Oil of course. The main protagonist is a Canadian law student who is spending the summer gathering testimony in the north. She has been hired by a large construction company to outline the legal ramifications of a proposed oil pipeline.

Meanwhile, a Russian Climate Scientist working in Siberia discovers that methane readings are going off-the-scale. Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent to global warming than Carbon Dioxide. An international crises ensues. Climate scientists and world leaders are left stunned. The urgency of runaway climate change stares humanity in the face.

Wow! Thumbs up to the author. This novel made me think about my own personal dependency on fossil fuel. Also, we use firewood to heat some of our home and water, so a lot of our energy requirements (including driving and flying) result in significant Carbon emissions.


Bruce with new stove just arrived - francis geunette photo

 Replacing our 24 year old woodstove


Our new alderlea woodstove Aug. 11, 20167 - fran guenette photo


Bruce with new stove


The novel also made me see that in general, poorer people have a small carbon footprint – they can’t afford many of the luxuries derived from my fossil fuel dependency. And yet, many who are downcast pay for climate change with their lives.


Charcoal drawing in Ottawa Art Gallery - artist unknown

Charcoal drawing in Ottawa Art Gallery – artist unknown


We must all work diligently to reduce our own carbon footprints. As a personal example, how do I connect my fuel addiction to my many other faults  – my arrogance, my quick judgements, my over eagerness, my heavy heart? And this is the tip of the ice berg. I need to match my action with my words – and to do this with genuine love and faith.


         the_dalai_lama__the_vancouver_peace_summit-500x500                                   Jesus-Holy-Wisdom-Robert-Lentz



In the closing lines of his 2011 book, Generation Us: The Challenge of Global Warming, Andrew Weaver says:

“It’s time to recognize global warming for what it is: the most self-empowering issue we will ever face. Every consumer of energy is part of the problem. Every person is therefore part of the solution. We are entering an age of creativity and innovation unlike any modern society has experienced before. Rather than fearing this change, we need to embrace it.”




In the paradox of it all I recall the words of Thomas Merton:

”I remain aghast at our own weakness, our own poverty, our evasions, our infidelity, our hesitancy…. In such a condition there is no use in forcing the issue. Great patience and humility are needed, and humble prayer for light, courage and strength.”


Photo below by Thomas Merton 1968 – Hut in the Himalaya’s

photo by thomas merton


In peace – Bruce


MICRO HYDRO – a site specific ecological alternative to fossil fuel generators.

On Earth Day (a few posts back) I posted about our off-grid energy system and how it’s evolved since early 1980’s. Included were details of solar and wind power, with a promise to to expand on the micro hydro aspect of our electrical production.

I fore-warn you – this post is lengthy and quite comprehensive – lots of photos though. Here is part Two.


In mid 2009 we began our most recent energy system upgrade which involved months of planning, engineering and building new infrastructure. By February 2010 we had a new water powered turbine and a bigger solar array, up and running.

The little stream pictured below, now provides more than half of all our electricity. A good part of the success is because we conserve energy and use it efficiently.


Top of waterfall May 10, 2009 - 45 gpm waterflow - bruce witzel photo


Here’s the stream again – on it’s last tumble before it feeds into the lake.


Waterfall time exposure at the neighbours, Dec. 31, 2010 - bruce witzel photo


In our temperate rainforest along the the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island snow melt from the mountains doesn’t last long  – even less so, with reduced snow pack due to climate change. Hence, the stream becomes a mere trickle in the summer months and the water powered turbine becomes in-operational.

During the other 8 to 9 months of the year the normal flow of the stream is nominally impacted by utilizing the hydro power system. Part of the reason for this is because water for the turbine is taken from a nearby tributary. Here, the intake also has a special stainless steel screen designed to protect all riparian life as well as to keep debris out of the penstock.


Coanda Filter Screen for water intake - bruce witzel photoIntake flume with Coanda Screen

Although the lake is excellent habitat for trout, they are unable to migrate more than 100 feet up the stream because of its numerous waterfalls. Also, salmon are unable to migrate into the lake past Bear Falls.

All these factors ensure the micro hydro system has a small ecological impact.

 Another view of the lake, June 15, 2016 - bruce witzel photo


The Installation of the Micro Hydro System:


Conceptualized Micro Hydro Plan from 1996


Micro Hydro  Study @ Lake 1996


Before installation, summer 2009:          After installation:

BEFORE -looking down


Looking down the flume from standing on the concrete wier, March 24, 2017 - bruce witzel photo








These two photos were taken in nearly identical locations looking down the stream. In the left photo I’m standing where the concrete wier (or dam) is to be built. The wier is shown in the foreground of the right photo. It diverts water out of the stream via a wooden flume and then into a 3” pipe (or penstock). The water flows through the pipe to run the turbine much further down the stream.


Sectional Plan (as built in 2009):


Micro Hydro @ Lake as built 2009


Looking up to the the site (before development).


BEFORE site  developed - bruce witzel photo

In the first stage of the project I used a chain saw, ropes and come-along to carefully cut and manoeuvre a large log (top left) that had originally fallen across the stream. Shored up with rocks, the log later became the base for the wooden flume.

 Oct 20  @ beginning -bruce witzel photo

A buried blue intake barrel is under the plywood on the right. The black pipe exits the barrel.


This photo shows the finished concrete wier that feeds water into the flume…

Wier and flume - bruce witzel photo


Here is some of the concrete formwork for the wier during construction, midsummer 2009. The two black pipes temporarily diverted the water flow of the stream. Note the reinforcing steel embedded in the stream bed and the metal chase that will later hold the wooden flume.

Formwork for concrete wier, August 2009 - bruce witzel photo (2)


These photos show the concrete wier, the wooden flume and intake screen built in place:


After concrete wier is poured - bruce witzel photo  After formwork of wier removed - bruce witzel photo

AFTER12 HRS RAIN - OCT. 21st - 4x7 inch flume is full - supplying probably 250 or 300 US gpm and stream still running full  

 Lower flume and screened intake, March 2010 - bruce witzel photo  Intake barrel - bruce witzel photo

To reiterate – the blue barrel is located below the wooden intake structure on the left.


Here’s the whole intake infrastructure operational. Notice that a large volume of water from the flume goes back into the stream. Only a small amount is required to run the turbine – about 60 gallons per minute to create full output of 1 kilowatt. 

AFTER - flume supplies hydro screen with abundance of water - bruce witzel photo


For the project could be properly designed, my wife Francis and I first measured the vertical drop from the proposed intake (above) to the proposed turbine site.

This diagram shows how we did this:


Measuring Veritical Drop.


We also had to measure the flow of the water, over a period of time. We timed how long it took to fill this 5 gallon bucket.


Proposed intake & weir @top of falls May 18 - bruce witzel photo


Peter Talbot of is a solar specialist and a leading expert in micro hydro based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. Consulting via email we planned and collaborated on the system, and he later supplied and installed the electrical components. His website includes the technical aspects of our new power system.

With compliments to Peter, I’ve included his written summary, along with a few of my added notations.


Pete Talbot of HomePower with a Siemens solar panel


Combination Solar, Micro Hydro and Wind Home Power System

– by Peter Talbot (with Bruce Witzel)


Statistical Overview:

  • Turbine: Bronze Turgo runner with four nozzles
  • Generator: Induction motor, 2 HP at 240 volts
  • Operating Head: 175 feet gross
  • Rated flow: 110 gallons per minute
  • Output: up to 40 amps at 28 volts nominal, or 1120 watts
  • Inverter: Magnum pure sine wave, 4.0 kW, 24 volts
  • Solar PV (photo-voltaic): 1000 watts
  • Wind Generator: 300 watts (now defunct, due to an extreme weather event)


This project was an extensive upgrade to an existing system that had been in operation for over ten years. However, the 300 watt solar array and 300 watt wind turbine was too small to supply sufficient battery charging for much of the year.


Our wind generator and lake sunset - bruce witzel photo


As is often the case with solar only systems, a gas generator was frequently used to top up the old battery bank.

Modified dog-house & generator shed - bruce witzel photo 









    The generator is housed in a re-purposed dog house and now rarely used.





 We did a complete rebuild and added 700 watts of PV with an MPPT tracking regulator and a 1 kw hydro turbine.


 Hydro turbine and transformer before installation - bruce witzel photo     Bruce Witzel at turbine shed during installation - peter talbot photo


In addition, new batteries, a new 24 volt inverter, controls and breakers were added. As is usually the case, it is necessary to convert over to 24 volts when DC power levels get to the 1 kW range.


The system includes the 1 kW solar because the stream dries up in the summer.


Cabin, wind genertor and solar panels, Feb. 22-2010 - bruce witzel photo


This project was in three stages –


First Stage:

We added 700 watts of new PV in the form of four 175 watt BP modules on a custom designed rack that would holt both the old and new modules. This was all fed to an Outback maximum power point tracking regulator.


Bruce Witzel building rack - peter talbot photo


Peter Talbot of Home Power, installing solar array - bruce witzel photo

Second Stage:

We installed am entire micro hydro system, capable of producing up to 35 amps at 28 volts for about 1 KW.

 Main flume and water intake with overflow (2), March 24-2017 - bruce witzel photo


Flume under construction with no water diverted - bruce witzel photo


The intake filter and flume feeds the 1000 foot long, 3 inch polyethylene penstock.


Bruce intsalling penstock


 3 inch diameter penstock for turbine and fresh water - Feb.2-2010 - bruce witzel photo



1 kilowatt hydro-turbine, March 24-2017 - bruce witzel photo     Turbine warning sign - bruce witzel photo

Turbine shed, March 25-2107 (2)- bruce witzel photo


 The penstock drops down about 170 vertical feet creates 72 psi of pressure at the turbine site. Here is the original pressure test at turbine site.


Pressure test Sept. 2009 -72 psi! - bruce witzel photo








                68 psi net pressure 145mm nozzle  = 79 GPM (calculate)  (nozzle is slightly larger than nine sixteenths of an inch)









The outtake pipe built under the turbine shed returns water back to the stream.

Turbine  foundation  with drainage system

Shed before turbine installed - bruce witzel photo        














Peter Talbot building turbine valves - bruce witzel photo

Peter Talbot – building turbine nozzles


Turbine with 4 nozzles, operational  - bruce witzel photo

Installed water turbine – operational


Third Stage:

The old batteries were replaced with a new set of 500 amp hour, 2 volt cells.


24-volt-battery-bank - bruce witzel photo

The new battery bank, with the lid not installed – the white pipe vents Hydrogen gas.


In addition, a new 4000  watt sine wave inverter and all necessary switching, regulation and protection completed the upgrade.


Witzel electrical room - peter talbot photo


The 12 volt system can also be charged from the new inverter using an existing old Todd 50 amp charger. 

The existing 12 volt wind turbine and two of the old PV modules were left connected to the existing 12 volt battery. This is used for LED and other 12 volt lighting and small electronics.


  foyer-lighting - bruce witzel photo

“The lovely home is equipped with all the modern electrical gadgets.”


Peter Talbot –  (original article here)


Bruce Witzel's Home Interior - peter talbot photo


Conclusion & Current Status of the System:

Over 38 years the system cost has added up to about $40,000, an average annual cost of $1050 per year.  

Today we were running the stream engine at 12 amps or about 250 watts, which brought us 6 kilowatt-hours of electricity over the past 24 hours. The solar panels brought in an additional 2 kilowatt hours, for a total of 8 kw-hrs. 


Cabin electrical meters - bruce witzel photo

in this photo we have a heavy load on – maybe the electric oven?

The fridge is running, we did 2 loads of laundry and a bit of cooking, I used the skill saw today, and now we have lights, computer, fan, etc. As Peter says – all the modern gadgets.

The battery is 72% full, and its charging at 1.2 amps or 30 watts. All in all – a good day, of off- grid living.


  Cheers ~ Bruce 









I put a capital N on Nature and call it my church – Frank Lloyd Wright


Celebrating Frank Lloyd Wrights 150th birthday (born, June 8, 1867)


Taliesin East, Spring Green Wisconsin - Frank Lloyd Wright's home, August 25,2015  - bruce witzel photo

Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Taliesin East -Spring Green Wisconsin – August 25, 2005


Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West - photo of a photo, original photographer unknown


“Whether people are fully conscious of this or not, they actually derive countenance and sustenance from the “atmosphere” of the things they live in or with. They are rooted in them just as a plant is in the soil it is planted . . . They now have a certain dignity and pride in their environment; they see it has a meaning or purpose which they share . . .”  Frank Lloyd Wright


Fennel in our garden - francis guenette photo

Yarrow in our garden – photo by Francis




Organic Architecture - Hanna's Honeycomb House - bruce witzel photo


Plaque at entry to Hanna House, Stanford California - bruce witzel photo


Hanna House Window Wall - bruce witzel photo

Hanna House by Frank Lloyd Wright – May 27, 2010


Office and library of the Hanna House - May 23, 2017 - bruce witzel photo






Hanna House patio - Bruce Witzel photo




Bruce at the living room entrance of the Hanna House on May 23, 2010 - buce witzel photo

“We no longer have an outside and an inside as two separate things…

they are of each other.”     ~ Frank Lloyd Wright ~



Cheers ~ Bruce


a flower - bruce witzel photo


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