Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Archive for March, 2011

Solar Panel Raffle benefits Clean water for the needy

Green Trust is raffling off a 205 watt 12v solar panel. Tickets are $10 each, and proceeds will be used to send water purification systems to missions groups in developing nations where services like clean water are lacking, and for disaster relief. All ticket purchasers will get our DIY solar ebook as a thank you. Raffle ends and drawing will be held April 30th.

The difference between an emergency and an inconvenience is preparation. –


The Energy Efficient LED Flashlight

We have been updating our flashlights to energy efficient LED’s, and replacing the batteries with solar recharged NiMH batteries. This gives us very long life on the batteries, the bulbs, and free recharging.

We start with the venerable MAGLITE , but you can use any 2-3 cell flashlight.

We then add a TerraLUX high power LED replacement for the standard incandescent bulb commonly found in these flashlights.

You can find more bulbs like these at

Then you’ll need a set of Energizer Rechargeable NiMH Batteries
batteries and a charger like the AccuPower AP2020-1 Accu-Manager 20 Battery Charger for AAA/AA/C/D or 9-Volt NiMH, NiCD, or RAM Batteries.

This charger has a 12v auto adapter, so to charge with it, I recommend a 60+ watt solar panel, a appropriate charge controller (Morningstar makes a good series of charge controllers) and a 12v buffer battery like the Walmart type 27 marine deep cycle. This allows you to charge when the sun isn’t shining.

You might think this is an expensive set up, but you’ll cut way back on battery expenses and landfill issues. You’ll be able to recharge batteries for all your portable devices. Even if you don’t go with the solar setup, just having reliable energy efficient light is a plus.


Build your own Berkey Water Filter

We are sending Berkey water purification units to areas of the world without clean drinking water, and want to show you how we build them. The Berkey strips out almost all known contaminants (specifications). You can build your own version of the venerable Berkey purifier.

We have adopted the Bornman’s who are ministering to the Tarahumara people of Mexico. They are getting the first batch of Berkey water purifiers. Help us send more filters by purchasing your own kits below, or donating at the left of this article.

DIY Berkey Kit $125 (two filters, faucet, and instructions):

Replacement filters $99 (twinpack):

Arsenic/Fluoride option (set of 2) $60 (screws into above filters):

See your purchase, and checkout:


Cisterns making a comeback

Water storage has a long history in Keys

By Dick Conklin
Keys Sunday contributor

The Keys have always had cisterns.

The environmental movement has attracted new interest to the ancient technology, which uses storage tanks to store collected rainfall. They can be underground (such as converted septic tanks), at ground level, or on elevated stands that use gravity feed instead of a pump to deliver the water, even when the power is off. When their water is not pure enough for drinking, they can be used for irrigation purposes. Cisterns sanitary enough to store potable water can be used to offset the need for utility-supplied drinking water.

Another benefit of cisterns is that they can divert water from buildings, streets and parking lots that would otherwise become stormwater runoff — greasy, dirty water that ends up in the ocean or bay, damaging the living reef that surrounds the Keys.

But can you drink it?

Hammerstrom says yes. “Because most, if not all utility water is pumped from the ground, they have a disadvantage compared to rainwater harvesters because water — the universal solvent — picks up any contaminants that are present. When the water one uses is pumped from the ground, all of the chemical contaminants of our modern society are potentially present and can be pumped along with the ground water.

“Utilities spend lots of money to clean up the water, and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority is one of the best. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a long list of contaminants that are allowed in small quantities, however. In the news lately is the fact that the EPA does not require testing for, nor do they have standards for a broad category of chemicals known as Personal Care Products and Pharmaceuticals.

“Rainwater, however, suffers from fewer contaminants. Rain is fundamentally distilled water. It evaporates from surface sources, becomes a cloud and then precipitates the condensed water back to earth. There are airborne contaminants, but in the Keys, and in South Florida in general, we have far fewer airborne contaminants than folks downwind of a coal-fired power plant, for example.

“Removing those potential airborne contaminants from rainwater is much less difficult than removing the much longer list of contaminants from ground water.

“As a result, we use the filtered rainwater for our primary drinking and cooking water source. It is very pure and tastes great.”

Read more, and get links to free resources at

Build your own Berkey Water Purifier. See


Chicken Tomato Vegetable Stew

My wife and I cook differently. She has a whole bunch of cookbooks, marked with family favorites, some for 5 generations. It’s all good stuff.

I’m the scientist in the kitchen. A cursory look in the pantry, grab a few things of whatever is available, add a bit of this and a bit of that, and hope it all comes out in the end.

Today’s Experiment:

I found some chicken strips in the freezer, so I heated up some oil in the skillet, and stir fried them.

Found two 8 oz. cans of diced tomatoes, one with chilies, one with lime and cilantro. Dumped them into a stockpot.

Grabbed two 16 oz. boxes of chicken broth, dumped them into the stock pot.

Dumped in a 3/4 cup of barley.

Added a tablespoon each of sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.

Chopped the chicken into 1/2 cubes, dumped them into the pot.

Boiled for 45 minutes, and added 1.5 cups of mixed frozen veggies (corn, carrots and green beans).

We have a keeper!

If the women don’t find you handsome, let them find you handy, especially in the kitchen (and clean up after yourself)!


Our LED Grow Light seed starter

We have our LED Grow Light seed starter up and running. Currently there is a lettuce medley basking in it’s glow, which will not make it outside. Other seed pots (broccoli) are currently under the light as well. We will set up a comparison bed without the LED’s to show the differences, be we are confident that the LED Grow Lights will show superior growth.


Turning yards into gardens

This weekend was a busy one, helping friends convert extra yard space into garden space. As the economy gets worse, and the valuation of our dollar drops, effectively increasing prices on food, fuel, and other objects of desire, it’s important to have a secure food supply. After wrenching a bit yesterday on the old tiller, we got it working, and after fine tuning it more today, it’s really humming along. It’s a rear tine unit, but with all the roots we found, it still beats us up a bit.

We will be adding soil enhancements, like composted cotton gin waste and animal bedding shortly, and are almost ready to plant our heirloom non-hybrid seeds (allows us to save seeds for next season).

I’m trying a new gardening website that was recommended to me today, so I’ll be documenting our work at


Yellow Heat (TM) Babington WVO Burner

Yellow Heat (TM) Babington Burner is now in commercial production. Yellow Heat , Model 250, is the only waste oil burner designed from the ground up to burn 100% recycled vegetable oil. And only Yellow Heat does not require any Prefiltering or Preheating of the WVO! It is set up to operate directly from that cubie of WVO. Just take off the cap. upend it, push the button and it will provide clean-burning, safe, low cost and easy vegetable oil heating. It is a complete system, there is nothing else you have to buy.

Be sure to download and read our 24 page Operation Manual

Come by and see for yourself, quick, before this winter is gone!

Tom Leue
Homestead Inc.
1692 Cape St.
Ashfield, MA 01330


Extracting Broken Bolts

I have a broken starter bolt stuck in my engine block. The typical way to get these out is to drill a hole into the broken bolt, and back it out with a Easy Out bolt extractor. Reviews say the Harbor Freight kit is too soft, and won’t do the job on steel bolts in an iron block. WD-40 is a help as well. Here is a article that explains the process.