Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Archive for February, 2007

Hand Cranked LED Flashlight & Radio

We stopped at our local Kinney Drugs pharmacy today to pickup windshield washer fluid, and saw a much needed gadget on the shelf. It was a crank to charge AM/FM Radio and LED Flashlight. Not a clockwork mechanism, so no spring to break, no bulbs to burnout, no batteries to replace, just turn the handle. On sale for $15, it was easy to justify.


Want to charge your cell phone with solar energy?

Popular Science had an article on building a solar bag charger for cell phones and iPods. We believe the basics of that article can be expanded into many other similar projects. Check it out in our knowledgebase and participate in developing new applications and improvements. Larger pv panel, in-bag battery storage, power source for lighting, pumping etc. Great hiking or camping tool. The possibilities are endless.


Organic, rain-forest grown, Yerba Mate

We recently received a package of Yerba Mate in the mail. We are big tea drinkers, so this sounded like a very good ecological replacement, that is also good for you.

Yerba mate has been shared daily among friends as a healthy and energizing drink, providing 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and abundant antioxidants. Revered for centuries as the “drink of the gods”, yerba mate triumphs as nature’s most balanced stimulant.

In South America, yerba mate has been revered for centuries as the “drink of the gods” and is drunk daily for optimum health, sustained energy and mental clarity. Of the six commonly used stimulants in the world: yerba mate, coffee, tea, kola nut, cocoa, and guarana, yerba mate triumphs as natures most balanced stimulant, delivering both energy and nutrition. The leaves of the rainforest mate tree naturally contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, abundant antioxidants. In fact, The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society in 1964 concluded “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value” and that yerba mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.”

About Guayakí
Our name Guayaki (Gwy-uh-KEE) honors the Aché Guayakí people. The Ache live in the sub-tropical rainforests of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, home of the yerba mate tree. Guayakí Yerba Mate is grown and hand-picked below the shade of its native rainforest canopy, then traditionally wood-aged to complement its natural earthy flavor.


Eating Sustainably

We are getting the materials together for our garden, looking forward to the end of cold weather. The last spring frost will be close to the end of May, but we will have our gardening beds prepared before then. We start with cedar 4″ x 4″ timber, in 4′ x 4′ squares. We stack and screw these together 3 layers high, giving us a 12″ deep bed. We then fill these beds with our special organic growing soil, which is as follows:

  • 1 bag of coarse vermiculite (4 cu. ft.)
  • 10 pails (2.5 gallon each) of sand (3 cu. ft.)
  • 2 pails of wood ashes and charcoal
  • 30 pails of compost (9 cu. ft.)

This 16+ cu. ft. mixture is mixed well, and will fill one bed. We then plant in the Square Foot gardening method per Mel Bartholomew. One bed feeds one person for a full season. Our well aged compost is a mix of kitchen and yard/garden waste, plus bedding from the animal pens, from the previous year. We keep an indoor worm bed in winter to process kitchen compost, and dump that container into the main compost bin after spring warmup. Next year when we have the new rabbit pens installed, the worm bin will go under the rabbit cages.

Additional reading:

Square Foot Gardening
The Humanure Handbook
Worms Eat My Garbage


Preparing the "Barn" for the new animals

We just got word that we have piglets arriving in April/May, and baby turkeys as well, so it’s time to get the “barn” ready. We will be using a section of our Geodesic Quonset, siding it with slabwood like we did our woodshed and generator shed, and configuring sections for the different animals. We may be adding two milking goats to our little farmstead as well.


Thoughts of Spring

Our thoughts and attention are directed towards spring, even though there is over a foot of snow on the ground, and temperatures near zero degrees Fahrenheit. It’s time to pull out our old favorite, the Square Foot Gardening book, and make plans for feeding our family in the upcoming year. The compost has been cooking for over a year, and I have a couple of big bags of vermiculite to mix in.


Snowshoeing with friends

It was a much needed weekend to relax. Linda and I spent Friday night at a friend’s Bed & Breakfast (White Pillars) near Canton NY, had a wonderful homecooked breakfast the next morning, then met my friends and coworkers for snowshoeing near Harrisville NY that afternoon. The weather started turning bad towards evening, and it took 2 hours to drive the 60 miles home in blinding snow and greasy roads. Saw one car in the ditch, but no one was hurt.


E.U.’s EuP (energy using product) Initiative

The E.U., a bureaucracy that perhaps even overshadows our own, set a date of July 6, 2007, to put the directive in place. Its goal is “establishing a framework for the setting of eco-design requirements for energy-using products [EuP].”

EuP will require manufacturers to calculate the energy used to produce, transport, sell, use, and dispose of almost every one of its products. It will require that the manufacturer go all the way back to the energy used when extracting the raw materials to make its product, including all subassemblies and components. And in time, it will set limits on a product-by-product basis of how much energy can be used in a product’s entire lifecycle.

Part 2

This will actually be a cool thing, if there is a rating on each item, so that you could compare two washing machines, and see the total lifecycle “cost” (an item with a 400 has more impact than a similar item with a 350?). The cost (manpower, etc.) of implementing such a process could be horrendous.