Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

2.5 kW Arkansas Solar Install

arksolar2We just got back from a Off Grid Solar Install in Arkansas. We helped the homeowner install nine 275 watt solar panels ( 3 banks of 3), twenty four 6v batteries ( 3 banks of 8 in series), and a power panel that included a 80 amp MPPT charge controller, a 48v 3500 watt sine wave inverter/charger, and associated breakers and disconnects. The Outback Mate 3 now includes a network jack for monitoring your system with a computer, either locally, or remotely. The install team consisted of myself, Ricky Todd, and Nathaniel and Crystal Burson. The homeowners were happy to see their deep freezer, lights, fans, and even a window A/C operating from sunlight. There is a ac input for times of low sun that can plug into the grid or generator for emergencies.

Now we are off to Mexico for the methane digester and aquaponics install.








The $50 Mexico Water Purifier

For my trip to Mexico next week, I’m taking the parts to build my DIY Berkey Filter. This is a homebuilt version of the venerable British Berkefeld water purifier used around the world for generations, producing potable water from bacteria ridden sources. The DIY version consists of two filter candles, a faucet, and two plastic buckets. No Montezuma’s revenge for me!


The DIY Cider Press

ciderPressWe have an awesome freebie for you today! Detailed plans for building your own apple cider press.

There are few drinks so satisfying as a well-made home-brewed apple cider and the process is a simple one. You simply grind the apples into a pulp that you then press to extract the sweet, flavorable juice. You can grind small batches in a blender, or buy / build a grinder for large batches. This free DIY article explains how to make an inexpensive press.

Cider Press Excerpt

For this project, and 24 more awesome DIY Self Sufficiency Projects:

Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency

1. Cider Press

2. Herb-Drying Rack

3. Solar Oven

4. Solar Fruit Dryer

5. Backyard Fire Pit

6. Firewood Shelter

7. Frame Loom

8. Solar Still

9. Manual Laundry Washer

10. Pet Door

11. Metal Kit Shed

12. Post & Board Fence

13. Cothesline Trellis

14. Two-bin Composter

15. Basement Vermiculture Bin

16. Potato-Growing Box

17. Soil Sifter

18. Octagon Strawberry Planter & Cover

19. Teepee Trellis

20. Jumbo Cold Frame

21. Raised Bed With Removeable Trellis

22. Pallet Planter

23. Chicken Coop

24. Brooder Box

25. Bee Hive



Are We Freegans Now?

freeganWe have embarked on our journey of Freeganism. What is Freeganism you ask? Well, think of dumpster diving for food. Not actual dumpster diving (although some do) as our free waste food comes straight from the grocery store shelves. We recently connected with a source of this still quite edible (and delicious) food that is just out of date, or has some easily removed bad spots. Included in this bounty were Melons, citrus, grapes, pineapple, even kiwi and mango, as well as cucumbers, corn on the cob, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower. Other fruits and vegetables are available at times as well. This method of recycling may be available to you, and can take a significant chunk out of your food expenses.

Wikipedia talks about Freeganism:

Freeganism is the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded. Freegans and freeganism are often seen as part of a wider “anti-consumerist” ideology, and freegans often employ a range of alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.

Freegans “embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.”

The word “freegan” is a portmanteau of “free” and “vegan”; not all dumpster divers are vegan, but the ideology of veganism is inherent in freeganism. Freeganism started in the mid-1990s, out of the antiglobalization and environmentalist movements. The movement also has elements of Diggers, an anarchist street theater group based in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco in the 1960s, that gave away rescued food.



Mexico Aquaponics & Methane Digester Project

thechildrenWe have been asked to come to Mexico and show a village how to set up a aquaponics system to feed themselves, and set up a methane digester to provide gas for cooking and electricity. We are also setting up Black Soldier Fly Larvae Composters to produce food for the fish.

We will post project details and photo’s when we return. Many projects like these fail when the designers and volunteers leave because there is no local buyin or ownership of the project. Not the case here. The local mission and villagers are the ones being taught to build and maintain their systems. They are emotionally and physically invested in the project!

We have tentatively set the trip for the first week of August, but they need your help with the expenses. You can read about the Mission, their work with orphans and abused women, and place tax deductible donations for the trip at More information about the work they do in Mexico can be found at

UPDATE: Got the funds for the plane tickets, but still need some materials. Please consider helping out. Pictures, diagrams and details will be posted.


Shake Lights, No Batteries! (DIY)

shakelightMany folks have seen or used a batteryless shake light. The concept is simple: A magnet slides up and down in a tube wrapped with wire, charging a capacitor, that feeds a LED.  Well, now you can build your own. You will need a cheap flashlight, a bridge rectifier, capacitor, magnet, and some wire. A few other incidentals, but with scrounged materials, you may be able to build this for less than $10


Emergency Heat When The Power Goes Out

bigbuddyOur tradition has been to share what works. We have been using our Big Buddy portable propane heater for many years (7+), in our off grid home in NY, on the road in our camper (we full timed for 2 years), and even here in SC where the heating season is very short. The Ice Storm this winter left us powerless for a week, and the Big Buddy kept us warm!

The Big Buddy takes 1 lb. propane canisters, and although they can be stored pretty much forever, they run out quickly when it’s really cold, and they are expensive. They can be refilled from a larger bottle (20 lb grill bottle), but we find it easier to just use the 20 lb grill bottle with an adapter hose.

Very effective radiant heat, and uses 4 D batteries (I use rechargeable NIMh) for the fan. This one get’s an A+ from us for longevity, ease of use, and effectiveness.

Big Buddy –

Big bottle (20/30 lb) adapter hose –

1 lb bottle refill adapter –

Qty 4 Rechargable NIMh D Cells –

NiMH Charger –



Does Skim Milk Make You Fat?

It’s hard to resist a glass of cold, creamy whole milk with a warm brownie or a piece of pie. But resist we do, because for 50 years scientists have been presenting evidence linking fats, especially saturated fats like those found in animal products, with cardiovascular disease.

Fat-phobia has become a dietary axiom.

Pediatricians’ advice to parents to switch to low-fat or skim milk has become the norm. Some school districts in Connecticut are even considering banning whole milk for small children.

Yet new studies show that drinking low-fat milk is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater – and can even lead to obesity.

A 2013 long-term University of Virginia study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood shows that skim milk actually makes children heavier than whole milk.

More –


A Gourd based Hand Washer – AfriGadget

mukombeThe Mukombe is a gourd that is used to hold water for hand washing. The diagram really is self explanatory, tip to use, and refill the gourd when empty for the next person. Soap hangs from a string underneath, so as not to lose it, or get it dirty.

The mukombe holds about 2 litres of water and can provide enough water in a single filling to give about 35 hand washes.”

More info:



Win a free Baofeng GT-3 Dual Band Ham Radio!

gt-3.1Win a free Baofeng GT-3!

Just join the forum at and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a free Baofeng GT-3 dual band HT! A new radio given away each month to a member of the pool that joined that month. Get in for May!