Living Sustainably

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Archive for June, 2006

Tim from Tang, The Reason Why!

My Grandfather was born in 1900, before fossil fuels had really changed the lifestyle of ordinary people in an enormous way, he farmed organically and without motor powered machinery until the 60’s when my Dad was a young man, at this stage my father was going to ag college and learning about the new chemical and mechanized farming methods that have given us the world which we live in today. My Grandfather died aged 80 in 1980 whilst carrying a sack of barley across the yard (50Kg on his shoulder at 80) dropped down dead with a stroke and all his knowledge with him.
My second daughter was born in 2000, and will see the end of cheap fossil fuels in her lifetime. I wish I had all the knowledge that my Grandfather had to pass on to her, for she will sorely need it. My father is currently terminally ill and although he has some of my grandfathers knowledge he has always farmed in the modern way, and the time that he has left is not enough for him to share this knowledge.
For example when I recently put an earth floor in the strawbale house that I am building, I had to go back to first principles to find a recipe/mix that worked well with our local soil, 75 years ago this knowledge was held by many of the older people in our area who had direct experience of installing earth floors, I could have just asked somebody.

The point that I am trying to make is this, If we accept that we are going to need to drastically reduce our energy consumption in the next 50 years, we are going to need to learn again, generations of knowledge about hand tools, horse farming, construction, organic agriculture, all the stuff of life as it was 100 years or so ago, this will I fear prove impossible in just a single generation, which I fear is all we have before the crisis is upon us.
It is therefore our responsibility to investigate all of these old methods to the best of our ability and to save as much of the local specific information for our own climate and area, and to pass this on to our children. If we do not do this, then our children will be among those who starve.
It is all very well to assume that some solution will present itself and to blunder blinkered into the future, but this will not help your children to survive and prosper, which I suppose is really what life is about.
We need to take the attitude that we look after the land (and resources) that we have for our children, we do not own it!! It belongs to our descendants, and to theirs.
What is missing from many people in the modern world I feel is their link to the land, and the realization that without the land we would all starve (fossil fuels or no), and with Global warming proceeding apace the future of the land (and the filling of our descendants stomachs) is far from sure.

Mankind is currently crippled by short term thinking, we no longer think in generations or centuries because we all move around too much, and for our children we assume that a good education is the best that we can give them to assure their future prosperity. We do need to educate them, but not in tech or marketing, rather in the things that they will need as fossil fuels come to an end (and I am NOT talking nuclear power here).



What’s for dinner?

Back when we were oblivious to environmental issues, we used to use styrofoam bowls and plates for picnics and camping. As we became more aware, we switched to paper products, still not fully understanding the processes involved in producing them. Now we have fully compostable, chlorine free dinnerware available. We’ve been using it for some time now and are very pleased. Ask your grocery store to carry these products:

New EarthShell® dinnerware combines organic materials like potatoes and corn starches with inorganic materials such as limestone, resulting in an exciting new material that is 100% biodegradable. Just like leaves and grass, EarthShell® dinnerware biodegrades and is recyclable through composting!


Solar Hot Water -2

The first panel has arrived. Petro-Sun International was the manufacturer, and their solar division was aquired by Thermo Dynamics Ltd. We will be pressure testing this weekend, and hope to have installed and generating hot water by next weekend.


Solar Hot Water

A friend is delivering two used solar hot water panels. These units are 4′ x 7′ each, and we hope to significantly reduce our propane usage by implementing these. One has broken glass, and the manufacturer quoted $175 to replace it. We will be pressure testing the panels this week, and hope to implement with a 12vdc drainback scenario.


Making your own batteries – low tech style

As an experiment in making a environmentally friendly DIY battery, I built a lemon battery using a fresh lemon (electrolyte), a galvanized (zinc coated) nail and a 3″ length of 12 gauge solid copper wire left over from a wiring job. The zinc gives up electrons to the copper, and gets “eaten” up by the process. Four lemons in series lit up one of my mega bright 10mm White LED’s, another string of four paralleled provided more current. An article titled Build Your Own Battery (.doc file – safe) suggests a nicely laid out lab experiment that tests the differences in electrolyte concentrations. With the info on different galvanic materials, one could test a variety of electrodes as well and come up with a recycled material battery at virtually no cost, and environment friendly, as these are recycled materials. Sea water, if available, salt water (made from commercial or “found” salt), and other electrolytes (potato, apple, banana, orange, etc.) are possible.


Propane fridges installed

The two fridges arrived yesterday. Hooked up a “T” to the gas line, a new valve, and new hoses to the units. Crimped connectors onto my 12 gauge wire for the 12vdc controls, and ran the wire to my 12vdc breaker box. Turned on the gas valve, set the controls to LP (12vdc or 120vac optional modes), and we were off and running. The units were inserts, not “freestanding” like we ordered, so there is no cabinetry of finished look. I”ll build cabinets and door panels for each. I also have to reverse the doors on the one unit so that they swing away from each other.


PV Tilt Angles

It’s a quiet rainy Sunday after noon. Linda is in the kitchen making goodies (Beef Pot Roast), and I’m at the dining room table figuring out seasonal tilt angles for the new PV array. Using some references I had put up in 2000 on my Find Sun page, I determined my Latitude and Longitude to be 44.68 N Latitude & 74.7 W Longitude. I then went to Wattsun’s page to get seasonal angles. There is a neat calculator that lets me convert those angles into lumber dimensions, assuming I want one 90 degree angle. I’m not sure that I do. Given a 90 degree angle, I worked out 3 different configurations, Dec/Jan, March & Sept, & June/July. Given a 3′ high PV panel “c”, and one 90 degree angle “C”, and 3 seasonal “A” angles of 30, 45, and 60 degrees, I get “b” and “a” dimensions of 1.5′, 2.12′, and 2.6′


Richard Heinberg – End of Cheap Oil

June 9: Location: Unitarian Church, Canton, NY

Richard Heinberg, well-known author of the books The Party’s Over and Power Down, will give a talk on Friday, June 9 (7pm) at the Unitarian Church, 3 E Main St.(across from the town common), Canton, New York. He will address the coming end of cheap oil and its far-reaching ramifications for our society on all levels, as well as options and actions we can take to bring about a smoother transition to a more locally-oriented, post-carbon world. The event is sponsored by Community Energy Services. For info: 315-379-9466.

We will be attending this. Jim Juczak will also be there. We have some old tape drive motors and super bright white LED’s for him to play with, plus he has some upgrades for the wind turbine he wants to discuss.

The propane refrigerators will be delivered Monday.


Bio-Methane Refrigeration

In preparation for this summer’s bio-methane digester project, two Norcold N600 Refrigerators were ordered today. At 6.3 cu.ft. each, there’s plenty of cold food storage for our off-grid home. These are 3-way RV fridges, so we have the option of 120vac generator input, 12vdc battery input, and our primary power source, bio-methane (propane in the interim). More info on these units can be found at Norcold’s website, and our dealer, PPL Motorhomes.


Axial Flux Permanent Magnet Alternator

The heart of our wind turbine is the Axial Flux Permanent Magnet Alternator. It was developed by Hugh Piggott, improved by Dan Fink and Dan Bartmann, and in continuous development by Steve Spence and Jim Juczak. We are developing versions for pedal power, water power, and engine driven battery charging. The model we built for the wind turbine makes a nice 100 amp battery bank charger when installed under a push mower, replacing the blades. The next generation of improvements in the design include;

  • magnet rotor plates that take a magnet the same size, but have a hole for a flat head machine screw to anchor the magnets instead of superglue and the rotor plate has also been milled to allow the magnets to seat themselves in a recess in the steel plate.
  • milling a solid piece of 1/2″ thick plastic to allow the windings to be pressed and then epoxied into place.

Plans and parts kits will be available. Register to be notified of this and other projects we are working on, and visit the Axial Flux Yahoo Group for discussion and be part of the development team.