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Archive for November, 2010

Senate Bill 150., Safe Food?

This is very very very very important, even if you do not live on a farm or even raise a tomato plant.

Please write your senator and tell them to PLEASE not pass this bill.
Posted above is the text to Senate Bill 150.

My canary in a coal mine is to oppose anything that Monsanto and Cargill are for.. as they are usually always 99.99999% FOR anything that I am AGAINST. Monsanto guys are the one who wrote the law and then got a senator to sponsor it.

British Columbia did something like this a few years ago due to one of the ‘congress people’ lost her child due to some kind of tainted (STOREBOUGHT PROCESSED) food. What it did was kill farmgate sales (although we just did it where we were anyway) and after a few years, they revoked alot of the legislature on it. It also helped put many farms, CSA’s and ranchers out of business.

The new section 418 Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls applies a requirement to all businesses required to register under the 2002 Bioterrorism Act. This will ensure that farmers markets are endangered. This also puts CSA (community supported agriculture) in danger.

Interstingly, there is no reference to GMO Foods in this legislation. “Food safety” as referenced in S. 510 is concerned with controlling foodborne pathogens. The bill states food producers will have to register with the FDA, pay a $500.00 fee, submit to on-site inspections, and implement a complex “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) System. What’s the cut-off point? Is it acreage? Yield? Average income per acre of the previous year? Is it determined by crop? This sounds an awful lot like NAIS (The brainchild of Monsanto and crew regardling livestock) which is also not dead and just currently under the radar. Here is my rant about that:

This bill also goes further than just an apple out of hand. Us seed producers, especially seed exchanges and organizations that seek to preserve heirloom seeds will be affected. Did you know that the USA government imposed that Iraq farmers can no longer save seed? At all. This will kill Seedy Saturdays and also put small vegetable seed growers and maybe even larger ones out of business.

Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL] is the one who sponsored this bill and these are the newest amendments.

In short.. this bill:

* It would remove the right to clean, store and thus own seed in the US, putting control of seeds in the hands of Monsanto and other multinationals, threatening not just US security, but we are working our way to famine.

* Includes NAIS (see above), an animal traceability program that threatens all small farmers and ranchers raising animals. The UN is participating through the WHO, FAO, WTO, and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in allowing mass slaughter of even heritage breeds of animals and without proof of disease.
Biodiversity in farm animals is being wiped out to substitute genetically modified animals on which corporations hold patents.

* Threatens all safe and organic food and health itself, while mandating GM food, GM animals, pesticides, hormones, irradiation of food, etc.

* It extends the policy Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) – to all food, thus threatening to do to all local food production and farming what HACCP did to meat production put it in corporate hands and probably worsen food safety.
This bill S. 150 is very much like the C-6 bill in Canada. Bill C6 allows inspectors to enter and cross private property without a warrant, and it releases them from liability for damages they may cause. Bill C6 has a schedule of listed products that can be added to by the minister without going to parliament for approval. This could be used to restrict the health freedoms of Canadians by limiting access to health supplements and organic products. I am not sure how it stands currently, but I do watch the bills on each side of the border pertaining to agriculture.

Basically the plan is that they are voting in the bill and ‘addressing all the details later”.

Here is how to contact your senator.

In the last year ONLY 6,000 people died from ANY food related issues and the majority of that was processed foods, whereas 100,000 ppl died from drugs which were OK’s by the FDA in the same amount of time.



Rain Water Harvesting

One of our favorite projects is rain water harvesting. This is a great way to help ensure you have a plentiful, clean water supply. Rain water is typically much cleaner than groundwater (fewer dissolved solids), and is softer (almost mineral free), so you use much less soap for cleaning and showering, and no stains or pipe calcification. Combined with solar water heating, you have a very low impact water solution. We are going back to Anguilla in the near future, which is an arid Caribbean Island, and there is little fresh water available, so rain water harvesting is a big part of everyone’s life. We install solar powered pumps, solar water heaters, and simple filtration systems. We have a discussion group to talk about these solutions, and a suite of eBooks that describe how to build these solutions at


Picro-Hydro in a Bucket

by Sam Redfield

I recently returned from a 3-month stint with AIDG Guatemala. As part of their program in Central America, they are pursuing an ambitious project to develop cheap, small hydroelectric systems under one kilowatt known as Pico-Hydro. Prior to my arrival in Guatemala I had developed a small hydroelectric system housed in a 5-gallon bucket. Using a Permanent Magnet Alternator as the generator in the system and made almost entirely of PVC, we conducted field tests in the small community of La Florida to determine what the possibilities were for generating power with the device. La Florida had lost its primary source of electricity and was depending on candles and batteries for their energy needs.

read more at the AIDG website.


Educational Video: Solar Electricity Basics

As part of our effort to educate folks on the benefits of producing your own energy instead of being dependent upon the power company, their bills, and their pollution, please review the following videos.

We also provide at no cost a ebook on a basic emergency power system you can build yourself for under $500 at Free Solar eBook (plus more at FreeBooks), and newly enhanced material (RV/Camper Solar and Small Home Solar ) in our DIY Solar Plans.


Educational Video: Solar Water Heating Basics

Learn how to heat your water with the power of the sun. Depending on your climate and season , you can solar preheat your water, saving energy in your primary heater, or completely heat your water.


Can you REALLY live inside a steel shipping container?

By Alex Klein

I write a blog (and even books) about ISBU (Shipping Container) Home construction.

The blog is titled: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Ronin

It takes readers from wishing and dreaming about alternative, affordable, sustainable homes, to actually building them, all by themselves…

(Okay ALMOST by themselves.)

We help them. A LOT. Sometimes it includes financial support, too. We barter, beg, borrow, and scour thru junk piles looking for materials to recycle, re-purpose or reuse.

Why would anyone do this?

Well, the economy is crushing us. A LOT of families are looking for alternatives to big mortgages and trying to provide a hedge against “the evils of the times”… things like unemployment and foreclosures.

For example; we currently have (4) families that began building only to find that midway through the process, their plants were shut down or their jobs were “right-sized”. As in… their jobs vanished into thin air or moved to Malaysia or Mumbai.

No warning, no “Thank you for your years of dedication”… nada.

There’s nothing “right” about that. At least not in my book.

My book; “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings” was written to help families in need. It’s really where the money goes. The book (and the blog) are about helping families build personal freedom, by freeing themselves of things like mortgages and killer utility bills. My family lives pretty close to the ground, but we work with families daily that are “close to the street”. So those book sales, $9.95 at a time, buy things they need to keep building. There are things that you just can’t borrow or barter for.

And every family we wrap in Corten Steel is that much stronger and sustained. And WE are that much stronger for it.

People ask me daily about ISBUs, so here’s the “Thirty Second ISBU Primer”:

I’m often asked if you can REALLY live inside a steel shipping container.

Any box needs to be insulated if you’re going to live inside it. The house that you live in now is probably just a box made of wood. Your house would heat up if it wasn’t insulated properly. And ISBUs (Steel Boxes) are especially prone to heat build up. After all, your oven at home is just a steel box with a heating element (just like the sun) attached to it, right? So insulation is a must.

Is there an easy way to accomplish that? Did NASA solve the insulation problem, once and for all? NO.

Contrary to “myth and urban legend”, there is NO Miracle Ceramic Paint that “works just like insulation”. If there was, I’d be using it daily.

(And yes, I know all about Supertherm.)

I’ve been building ISBU (Shipping Container Homes) since 1977. I’m on my 141st (actual build) as I type this. In America. We have more, “out there.”

Everyone in the business knows ME. Ask around.

Basic ISBU rules;

* You CANNOT bury a container!

You cannot just pile dirt on top of it, either. If you do, it’s called a coffin. That corrugated steel is just to keep weather and bugs out. It doesn’t have the strength required to take that kind of load.

* The insulation goes on the OUTSIDE of the container, unless you’re nuts.

That’s right, I said it. Think about it. WHY make a small place even smaller? Even if you connect ISBUs together to form larger rooms, why rob yourself of living space?

* Use SPF (Spray Foam Insulation) on the outside of the box.

… and then cover it with siding, hardiplank, veneers, bricks, whatever you can find. You’ll thank me later.

SPF Provides insulation, a vapor barrier and a moisture barrier too.

SPF is an acoustic barrier too. Nothing is worse than having to listen to the neighbor’s loud music, or an endless stream of traffic, trains and aircraft.

PLUS, SPF glues everything together stronger than duct tape. THAT helps with shear forces and lateral loads. Shearing and racking for those of you who know about construction.

* OVERINSULATE. Again… you’ll thank me later.

The energy you save will be your own.

* Don’t cantilever or “twist-stack” containers.

ALL the strength in an ISBU is in the end frames – not the side rails. You’ll create point loading disasters. Disasters cost money to fix. Sometimes they cost a LOT of money to fix.

Oh yeah, I know that some of us grew up in the seventies listening to loud music at concerts, (so we’re probably already deaf) but…

* Cutting on shipping containers with metal circular saws or a sawzall is just madness.

Go get a hammer.

Now, go get your piggybank.

Now smash the piggy till his/her guts fall out, collect the shiniest parts, and then go rent a plasma cutter from your local home improvement store., Not only is it much, much faster, it’s going to do a better job.

(And it’s ‘seriously fun’!)

Trying to build a shipping container home using a metal circular saw or a sawzall is done by people who don’t know any better.

* Can you combine ISBUs with other types of alternative home construction?

YES. In fact, we have several projects in the works right now that combine ISBUs with Earthbag technologies, in several different US geographic regions from the Gulf Coast to the High Country.

* Can this be done “affordably?”

Is $50 a square foot “affordable?” That’s typical of what people are paying to build small ISBU homes in the USA, all by their “onesies”.

On my blog we’re talking about a project proposal for Haitian families that suggests that (1) 40′ ISBU shipping container be placed in the center of a building site and then a family could live in it and “build off of it” as time and materials allowed.

This technique is very close to what we have been teaching families for years, In fact, one of our first ISBU homes in 1978 looked (and was built) in just this manner.

Replace those “materials” with earthbags and plaster and you’ve just built a ‘massive’ home with your own hands for pennies on the dollar. Dirt and poly bags aren’t that expensive. In fact, I bet you have dirt in your yard… right?

Teamed with really talented guys like Steve Spence and Owen Geiger, I intend to help families do just that.

Wanna know more? Stay in touch, read the blog, or even buy the book.

If you buy the book, you’ll help families in need. Karma is a good thing.

If you feel inclined, we also have a donation button on the Renaissance Ronin blog site that allows readers to help families build homes. Every dollar helps tremendously.

And stay tuned because Steve and I are going to turn a 20′ High Cube Shipping Container into a Photovoltaic powered LED Greenhouse. I’m talking a secure, weatherized, protected (from everything but the kitchen sink) “Food Factory” in your backyard.

It’s going to be cool! I’m talking “I have to have one of those” cool!

Alex Klein
aka: The Renaissance Ronin


Making a Bag Garden

A short video from Uganda showing how to make a bag garden. Hope’s mum was helped by the charity Send a Cow and now she uses cow manure in her bag gardens to grow her own food to sell. Find out more about their work at

Making a Bag Garden in Uganda from Send a Cow on Vimeo.


Changing Water Usage Habits

TEAGUE Give Water from TEAGUE on Vimeo.

For more info on building this tracker, see


LED Grow Tents – Efficient Gardening Made Easy

Grow tents are fast becoming the easy and effective way to grow indoors and LED grow lights make it even easier. Grow tents have typically been used with High Intensity Discharge lights such as HPS and Metal Halide. Indoor growers have always faced problems when it comes to these HID lights because they get extremely hot. High output fans and sometimes even water-cooled reflectors are necessary for HID lights to run indoors. With the latest advancements in LED grow lights, growers are now able to avoid the high heat issues while using a grow tent indoors. LED grow lights allow for the most efficient use of electricity converted to light without high heat output, eliminating the need for cooling systems. This reduction in heat coupled with the use of an economical grow tent allows growers to operate efficiently, reduce heat problems and save money on electricity.

Grow tents and LED grow lights range in quality and it is worth noting that they often look the same. Be careful when choosing a grow tent or LED grow light because the benefits listed above are drastically reduced and sometimes completely void if your LED grow tent does not perform accordingly. Some grow tents are made of cheap white plastic and can actually kill plants due to toxicity. Cheap LED grow lights can also be sold as “top quality” lights but cause poor yields and usually fail within the first year. When looking for a high quality LED grow light and grow tent try to find a supplier that offers a 120 day money back guarantee and sells the product at a respectable market price. If the prices are very low compared to others in the market, beware! The best grow tent suppliers will have a long list of quality testimonials or reviews with specifics of their experience with the product.

In the modern world of high tech gadgets and technology, these new LED grow tents and LED grow lights are a welcome advancement in the indoor gardening world and offer a much needed solution to the old ways of growing indoors and the problems that came with it.


New American Chemical Society podcast: Stop wasting food and save energy

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2010 — Generations of Moms and Grandmas have preached the virtues of not wasting food. Now scientists are reporting a compelling new reason to follow this advice: It could save enormous amounts of energy, according to the latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) award-winning podcast series, “Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.” They say that the United States could immediately save the energy equivalent of about 350 million barrels of oil a year — without spending a penny or putting a ding in the quality of life: Just stop wasting food.

Reducing the waste of food in the United States could save the energy equivalent of 350 million barrels of oil a year. Credit: iStock

The new Global Challenges podcast and website describe scientific research explaining that food contains energy and requires energy to produce, process, and transport. Estimates indicate that between 8 and 16 percent of energy consumption in the United States went toward food production in 2007. Michael Webber and Amanda Cuéllar, in their study in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that it takes the equivalent of about 1.4 billion barrels of oil to produce, package, prepare, preserve and distribute a year’s worth of food in the United States.

They said that despite this large energy investment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that people in the U.S. waste about 27 percent of their food. The scientists realized that the waste might represent a largely unrecognized opportunity to conserve energy and help control global warming.

The new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from ACS at ACS encourages educators, schools, museums, science centers, news organizations, and others to embed links to Global Challenges on their websites. Recent podcasts in the series include the importance of hand-washing to stop the spread of disease; nanotechnology for more sustainable buildings and other structures, producing cost-effective biodiesel from sewage sludge and green exercise for better mental health.

Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st Century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. It includes topics such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of nutritious food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children; and improving human health.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society
1155 Sixteenth Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036
T 202-872-6042 F 202-872-4370

Michael Bernstein

Michael Woods