Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Archive for September, 2007

Water Shortages

It’s been a mighty dry month or so. The well has been intermittent at best, and the water quality is substandard. We have been drinking bottled water ($0.25 / gallon in 5 gallon jugs), and limiting our water usage, but it’s time to put in the cistern we have been delaying. I dug up a couple of Amazon gift certificates, and ordered the best books I could find on rain water harvesting and storage. We will be drilling a DIY well on Oct. 25th, so take a look at A local concrete company will deliver into our hole, a 1000 gallon precast concrete cistern for $600. The last item we will need is a Aermotor Wind Pump to top the new well, and fill the cistern, which will also be fed from the roof gutters. Next years Green House will take the outflow of our greywater and use subsurface irrigation for our vegetables. This will require biofriendly cleaners, no chemicals, and careful analysis of what goes down our drains.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Vol. 1): Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain into Your Life And Landscape – Update: One of the best I’ve ever read. Highly Recommended. Very readable, understandable, and applicable.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Vol. 2): Water-harvesting Earthworks – Update: Won’t be available until January 2008. Volume 3 on cisterns and tanks is even further out. If they are as good as Volume 1, they will be awesome. See

Water Storage: Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Ponds for Domestic Supply, Fire and Emergency Use–Includes How to Make Ferrocement Water Tanks – Update: Fantastic reference, also a good read, and yet easily implemented.

Rainwater Catchment Systems for Domestic Supply: Design, Construction and Implementation – Update: Another required reference. Lots of background material.

New Addition:

The New Create an Oasis With Greywater: Choosing, Building and Using Greywater Systms – Includes Branched Drains – Art has a way of relating of relaying knowledge to the reader/implementer that is never “Dry”, and easily understandable.

We will be discussing the details of this project as we progress at, and keeping folks up to date here at as well.

Also see Dew harvesting and Rain Barrels.


Refrigeration: Out with the propane, in with the electric

After 4 years off-grid with propane refrigeration, we have our power system built to the point where we can afford the electric to power a fridge. OK, it’s not all us, refrigeration technology is advancing, efficiency is increasing, and the prices are dropping. For less than half the price of the propane fridge, we picked up a Kenmore 9.5 cu. ft. (Model 62912 – $350) that uses less electricity than a 100 watt light bulb, 75 watts running to be exact (750w startup surge, as reported by our Kill-A-Watt kWh Meter, for a total of .7 kWh / day with interior temps of 75F – 85F)*. Propane is common in off-grid homes because the power systems tend to be small, and some devices, like refrigeration, cooking, water heating, and drying, are not appropriate to be driven from a limited power source. Propane is the necessary evil. Now that we have moved to a energy efficient electric unit that’s within our generation capacity, our propane usage will drop, as well as the additional (but minor) maintenance that the propane units require. This is a big plus for us, as the electronic control module on our Norcold unit has died twice, and although a warranty repair, no local Norcold dealer will make a house call, the warranty is a depot repair only (parts & labor), and even though we have offered to pay for the house call, Neither Norcold nor the local dealers will oblige. We are done with Norcold.

* See the new P4460 Kill-A-Watt with builtin battery backup so memory is not lost during power outages or moving the meter. It also allows you to enter your “per kWh charge” to track usage costs.


Science Channel Visits Green-Trust / Woodhenge

This was a very busy weekend for the Green-Trust and Woodhenge teams, as The Science / Discovery Channel film team arrived to do a photo shoot on Wind Turbine construction as well as our other many renewable energy projects. We spent the day Saturday preparing for their arrival, cleaning up, setting up parts and supplies, and preparing blades and other sub assemblies. Saturday night, 5 of the crew showed up and went out to dinner with Jim and Krista Juczak, Sunday morning the rest of the crew showed up with the veggie powered bus and the cameras. The three hosts, Micah Donovan, Christopher Martin and Nobu Adilman, were a blast to work with. Some of their work can be seen at Peacepoint TV. More pictures will be uploaded shortly.

Steve and Jim showing the show hosts how to construct the wind turbine.

Veggie Bus with mini greenhouse and 120 watt solar panel on roof.

Film crew setting up the shot.


Hatz Diesel Veggie Conversion

Because this is an air-cooled unit, we needed a special way to heat the filter and tank. The coolant heater was ordered for the conversion. It’s a 1500 watt unit by Kats, as seen here, and typically costs less than $40. This will circulate coolant through the heated fuel filter and the heat exchanger in the 55 gallon veggie drum. The heat exchanger in the drum is a standard under dash heater core (about $30), and the filter is a Frybrid item, that sells for about $165.


Veggie Hatz Generator

We are in the process of converting the Hatz Generator to run veggie oil. On warm days like today (71F), the Hatz will burn veggie with no conversion. As the temps cool below 55F, the oil gets too thick to flow through the stock filter. What is needed initially is a electrically heated filter, as this is a air cooled engine. Our vehicle conversions use coolant heated filters. The next step is a heater for the fuel tank. We are using a 55 gallon drum for the veggie oil, and a stick on heating pad that runs on 120vac. This power comes from the generator itself, which is started on diesel first. We will post pictures and more documentation as the project goes forward. We are on day three of Hatz Veggie Power.


Weekend at Woodhenge

We spent the weekend working at Woodhenge. There was a new building site that needed preparation. We cut down a few trees, brush hogged the area, did some leveling, danced a jig when we mowed over a ground based yellow jacket nest, and other manual labor with a shovel and wheelbarrow. The well was extended an additional 100 feet, as it’s been dry, and so was the well. There was a clay/rock mixture that needed to be cleaned up after that procedure. We went to Pulaski and picked up a virtually new solar power system to be set up next weekend. The system consisted of 550 watts of solar panels, a outback charge controller and inverter, and a 24v, 800 amp hour L16 battery pack. We also obtained a 5500 watt Hatz diesel powered Winco generator (12 hours on the hour meter), and picked a bushel or two of veggies from the organic garden. It’s canning time at Woodhenge.


Chateuagay Wind Park

This weekend, we helped our daughter move back to Champlain College, in Burlington VT. It’s her Senior year. We passed the Chateaugay Wind Park that is under construction. Smaller than the Tug Hill project, but much needed and appreciated here in the North Country. They are very cool looking turbines, and I can’t wait to see them in operation.


Drill your own well, save thousands!

A friend of ours has developed a new method of DIY well drilling. Inexpensive, easy, and a good match for the homebuilt pvc deep well pump Jim Juczak of has developed. Check out Nathan’s compressed air drilling outfit he developed at using a compressed air drill, a lethal looking bit for sand, clay or rock, and water.