Living Sustainably

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Archive for December, 2005

January 2006 ESSN, 1 year anniversary edition is up!

The January issue of ESSN is live, and it’s a good one. Go check it out. You might have time to read it before the Ball drops tonight in Times Square. It’s been a busy year for us at Green-Trust, and we were happy to share our experiences with you, and grateful for your feedback.

A friend of ours put it well:


Well here we are again — another assemblage
of 365 days draws to a close.

A year both like unto, and unlike from, those
that preceded it: times of ups and downs, highs
and lows, some sorrows and some joys. With various
‘learnings’ and changes along the way — some endured,
some dreaded, some sought and some relished.

And through it all, family and friends — some old
and perhaps some new ones — to share the joys and
laughter, and ease the burdens.

May 2006 be a time for you of more joys and growth,
of experiences and achievements to cherish, and, above
all, a year to remember fondly when the time comes
that it too passes into history and the years that
follow it then have their opportunity at imprinting
themselves on, and hopefully enriching your life.

All the very best wishes are sent that you and
your family have a marvelous, enjoyable,
and prosperous year.


See you all again in 2006, it’s been a great year, thanks for reading us.


About Our Local Currency

By issuing a local currency, the North Country Notes project aims to encourage vibrant and diverse local economic activity (you can read more about the point of a local currency). The initial focus of the project will be on the Potsdam area, though the scope may expand to include more North Country communities in the future.

Local currency projects have been successful in other communities. The most notable effort is Ithaca Hours, which has been active since 1991. Though we started with the Hours model as a foundation, North Country Notes differs from Ithaca Hours in several important ways:

* NCN denominations ($1, $5, $10, $20) match US currency denominations (Hours denominations are based on fractions of labor hours, which are difficult to convert to US currency equivalents—especially when making change).

* The value of the NCN dollar is anchored to the value of the US dollar. This feature means that the NCN currency system cannot “float” in value and is not subject to its own inflation or deflation. This feature also makes currency conversion completely painless.

* NCN bills can always be exchanged back for their equivalent in US currency. Thus, there is no risk in “buying” NCN bills with US currency or in accepting NCN bills as payment for goods and services. (Hours bills generally cannot be exchanged back for US currency, placing businesses that accept Hours at risk of getting stuck with large quantities of unusable Hours bills—the upshot is that most businesses only accept partial payment in hours to reduce their risk).

These features together make NCN much easier to use than Ithaca Hours, and we hope that this ease-of-use encourages wide adoption of the NCN currency in our economy. Despite its relative success after more than ten years of circulation, Ithaca Hours has not been adopted widely enough to have a major positive impact on the Ithaca community. Thus, the Hours project can be seen as an interesting, thought-provoking experiment, but little more. We hope that the NCN project can have a much more significant impact.

Read more at North Country Notes.

PS. A friend asked “Why local currencies, what’s the point?

E. F. Schumacher argued in “Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered” that from a truly economic point of view the most rational way to produce is “from local resources, for local needs.” Jane Jacobs, one of today’s foremost scholars on regional economies, emphasizes Schumacher’s point through her analysis of a healthy region as one creating “import-replacing” industries on a continuing basis. A well-developed regional economy which produces for its own needs is possible only when control of its resources and finances lies within the region itself. At present, the ownership of land, natural resources, and industry and the determination of conditions for receiving credit have become increasingly centralized at the national level. Now all but a few large urban areas find that their economic resources are controlled from outside the area. –


UFO Power, V100 at 28F

Finishing up the Used Fryer Oil (UFO) heating system, we now have it to where we can startup and shutdown the VeggieGen without diesel, even at 28F temps. We cut out all the old filters and fuel plumbing, and with the engine heated green-house, can keep indoor temps to the point where diesel is no longer necessary, just straight waste vegetable oil (WVO). We will see how it goes when temps drop to -40 ….

More pics in our Photo Album.

Read more about it in the 1 Year Anniversary edition of ESSN on January 1st!


Look Ma, no batteries!

It’s always handy to have a flashlight around the house or in the car, especially when you live off-grid like we do. Going out at night to get wood for the stove, or to shut down the generator, we are always using ours. But batteries are expensive, are usually dead when you need them, and although supposed to be recycled, are usually landfilled, causing environmental issues. So what can one do? I went the rechargeable route for years, which was an improvement, but now there is a much better solution. Santa came early this year, and delivered a bright LED flashlight that needs no batteries, just give it an ocassional shake. One of the best inventions ever in my book, it’s ready to go whenever it’s needed, and for less than you’d pay for batteries for a year. Drop us a line, and We will make sure you get the last flashlight you will ever need to buy.


New Projects

We have a couple of new projects we are working on. We finally got the greenhouse / generator shed re-sheathed in plastic, built the new heated fuel filter for the waste vegetable oil, and embarked on a microcontroller based environmental control for a friends root cellar. The microcontroller is called a Basic Stamp, and is ideal for the hobbyist to build a program an inexpensive system for monitoring and control, robotics, and other electronics projects. Check out our brand new discussion group / club page at

Another project we are working on is a combined heat and power project based on a 25hp diesel Lister Clone, with used fryer oil as fuel. Discussion and project status will be centered at

Both of these groups are brand new today, so come and start the fun!

See more pics at


Oil, Water, Energy, and Famine

There is a lot of talk over wars for oil and the incurred costs and availablity. The next round of wars may be over fresh drinking water. Here at Green Trust we are evaulating our consumption, and looking for new ways to provide these needs in a self sufficient manner.

Between the garden and the root celler, we hope to be completely indendent from the grocery store for our veggie needs year round. We may buy some wants, but the needs will be taken care of. Next year, we will have a few goats, chickens and pigs. Then no more meat, eggs or milk will need to be bought. I have the greenhouse constructed (50’x15′) and next year all our wood for heat will come from our own woods. The water table is 12′ down, our well is 25′ deep, so water is never an issue. I am finishing the rain water harvesting system as well for backup and for irrigation. Although the PV system is small, on sunny days there is a deposit into the battery banks of about 21ah. A new homebuilt wind turbine will help out in that arena.

There not a lot of excuse for going hungry for the country dweller. Even the city dweller can find a few feet of space for growing some food.


VeggieGen Fixed and running V100

It’s been a hairy couple of weeks. Nothing major wrong with the Veggiegen. When the overheat safety activated after the the engine overheated from the original alternator failure (water pump runs from alternator belt), the reset that pulls the fail safe intake block didn’t function, so the air was shut off to the engine. We had fun disassembling the engine and learning a bit about it anyway. Got the engine back up and running, but the original alternator housing broke, and we were down again. Put on a used alternator, and everything is back online. 10F outside and the veggie barrel is 150F. Takes about 30 minutes in the morning before we can switch from diesel to veggie oil. The whole crew here has been down with Sinus/Flu symptoms, making life doubly interesting. Internet access has been spotty, so bear with us as we deal with a backlog of email.

Pictures of the ordeal can be found in our photo album.