Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Archive for September, 2011

Deep well hand pumps, the non electric or solar option

When we went offgrid, we installed a 12v piston pump in our basement, connected to our shallow well. It had the ability to “suck” from a max of about 25′ deep. You can see this pump at

Many folks have much deeper wells, even several hundred feet. We are happy to announce that we have a non-electric deep well option. The “Simple Pump” consists of a submersible pump, operated by a “sucker” rod, that installs below the water level in your well. It’s able to push the water up to 350′, and at up to 5 gallons per minute. The “Simple Pump” can be operated by hand, but has a dc motor option that can be driven by solar direct, or by battery. It can pump into a cistern or open tank, or even a pressurized water system. You don’t need a professional to install the “Simple Pump”, it’s easily installed by the handy homeowner. Although it has a 5 year warranty, it’s designed to last more than 50 years.

The “Simple Pump” system is tailored to YOUR particular well, so there is no “Add to Cart” button.

Medium and Deep Well Pump
Hand operated or DC Motor.

Made in the USA, this durable, but simple pump is built to last! Submit a quote request at


Jerry Scovel, friend and fellow tinkerer has passed

Jerry was a big proponent on living sustainably on river rafts, and was a fellow tinkerer. He passed away a few days ago of a heart attack in his sleep. He started the group Riverats 4 years ago to get folks interested in the challenges of living offgrid on the water ways. He will be missed. RIP Jerry!

Death is a fisherman, the world we see
His fish-pond is, and we the fishes be;
His net some general sickness; howe’er he
Is not so kind as other fishers be;
For if they take one of the smaller fry,
They throw him in again, he shall not die:
But death is sure to kill all he can get,
And all is fish with him that comes to net.

Benjamin Franklin


The electric lightcycle

Have you seen the movie Tron? Not the original, but the most recent version? You may, like me, have thought the light cycles were awesome, and disappointing they weren’t real. Who wouldn’t want one? Well, now they are real, sorta. It’s electric, it can do 100 mph, and 100 miles on a 35 minute charge, and looks very close to the movie version. Enjoy the future, now:


More Aquaponics Projects

Many others are also building Aquaponics systems, and producing massive amounts of fish and veggies in very little space, and with few commercial inputs. The basic process is simple. Fish produce ammonia, bacteria converts the ammonia into nitrites, then nitrates, feeding the plants, and cleaning the water that returns to the fish. Here are some of our favorites that inspired our aquaponics project:


DIY Solar Bottle Lights

So here’s the scenario. From Brazil, to the Philippines (in any direction), we have very poor people around the world who cannot afford, or do not have access to, electric lights. They live in crowded, dark conditions, and need light. You have some very bright, enterprising locals who have an idea, or heard about an idea, and know a good thing when they see it. They are now in business bringing light where it didn’t exist, or was very expensive to provide. A soda bottle, water, and a bit of bleach can provide an equivalent amount of light as a 50 watt light bulb.


Aquaponics Project Finished

We have finally finished the Aquaponics project. The system was fired up today, and the new siphon is working perfectly, regulating the fill and drain process of the water tank and the grow beds. Once the system settles down, we will add minnows to get the biological process working, then put the catfish in later. Check out the video below to see the system in action, and learn more about the project at


Composting toilets

Composting toilets are an excellent way to recover the nutrients lost in a typical flush system, and reduce water consumption. 40% of a household’s water use is used for flushing toilets. By implementing a composting toilet, you reduce your water consumption, develop another source of soil tilth and fertilizer, and reduce the load on your current septic system. Some composting toilets compost in the toilet, others in a separate container, either attached, or separate. Our Nature’s Head is an example of a integrated toilet / composter, as is the SunMar. The Jenkins sawdust toilet is one example of a split system (you empty the bucket into a compost bin). The Clivus Multrum is also a split system, but the toilet is connected to the composting tank with a pipe.


Why Composting, and How to do it!

We have posted quite a bit about composting lately, and we have done that because we believe it’s so important. Valuable nutrients are being wasted by the ton in this country when folks consider everything as garbage that needs to be landfilled. This causes landfill space issues in addition to losing the nutrients being thrown away.

The breakdown of biological matter is called digestion. There are two types, aerobic (with air, better known as composting), and anaerobic (without air, used in producing biogas (methane)).

We cover methane gas production and usage (water and space heating, electrical generation and more) in other material at and

In this article, we are going to concentrate on aerobic digestion, more commonly known as composting.

There are several methods for composting. Some are outdoor methods, where materials are piled, sometimes in a bin, or in a row, and nature is left to take it’s course. Some are more intentional, where the material is turned or rotated, speeding up the process.

There are indoor methods as well, including worm composting and mushroom composting.

Worm composting produces a high quality soil amendment (worm castings), a liquid fertilizer (worm tea), and of course, worms, which can be used as chicken or fish food, or sold to fishermen. The most common composting worm is Eisenia Fetida, or red worm.

Mushroom composting is another option, especially with woody yard waste, which does not normally compost well. The byproducts are mushroom compost, and of course, mushrooms, which are a healthy food crop that can be used for personal consumption or commercial resale.

The goal here is to produce high nutrient value soil amendments and fertilizer, improving the soil quality, and growing better plants without chemical additives.

Another method is grub composting. The grubs consume all the biological matter (including “uncompostables” like meat and human/pet poo), so instead of giving you compost, they give you high protein grubs, to be used as chicken or fish food. As fish and vegetable gardens (or aquaponics) do not use dirt as a growing medium (it’s a form of hydroponics), compost is not needed, but high quality fish food is.

For all the above methods, there are a variety of DIY options as well as commercial products available. We have built worm and grub bins using plastic storage tubs, barrels and buckets, compost bins using old pallets, and mushroom beds using woodchips and logs. The following links will lead you to DIY plans, as well as the packaged commercial solutions.

These topics are discussed at

Further reading: is a comprehensive online destination for all things composting, encouraging people to reduce their ecological footprint and reconnect with their local ecosystem through composting, organic gardening, and promoting the Earth’s natural lifecycle.


Fowl Stuff Nest Box Update – Collect eggs from outside

A few weeks ago we posted about Fowl Stuff’s 5 gallon bucket nest box kit. Never content to set, Fowl Stuff has improved their 5 gallon nest boxes with a egg collection door from the outside. This makes egg collection quick, easy, and clean. Check out their video below, and visit their website.


Efficient Rocket Cook Stoves

The folks at Stove Team International are building healthier, more efficient cookstoves for 3rd world (developing) nations. These stoves are built upon the proven rocket stove principle, which combines clean burning with fuel efficiency. Here is their story, and you can see how their stove is built on their YouTube channel. Please support their humanitarian work!