Thursday, June 14, 2007

Needing little, we have much.

A good way to prepare for lean times, is to make sure you do not need much to survive. Our new downsized, efficient, off-grid log faced home should be ready to move into this fall. It's 1000' sq. ft., and heated with local wood, so it won't take any fossil fuels or electric to stay warm in our -40 winters. Our source of water is a seasonal spring feeding a cistern, with rain water harvesting. Indoors, there is a 12vdc pump, pressure tank, and a backup hand pump. Outgoing waste, isn't really waste. The compost toilet takes care of the humanure, and the grey water filter will prepare sink and bath water for irrigation purposes.

The solar panels, and our homebuilt wind turbine will provide the electric for our greatly reduced electrical needs. Where a typical on-grid home needs 30kWh daily, we are currently at 5kWh, and looking to slim to 3kWh daily. With the gardens in place, we are focusing on canning and food dehydration to get us through the winter. Our policy of no debt, no mortgage will get us through times of no employment, or under employment.

The big concern for us is healthcare, something we have not found a satisfactory solution for as of yet.

Another concern for us is community, building a network of likeminded friends and neighbors, where everyone can lend a hand in an emergency, or even share the labor, and the fruits of that labor in everyday tasks. There is a development in this area, which we will share soon.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Eating Sustainably

We are getting the materials together for our garden, looking forward to the end of cold weather. The last spring frost will be close to the end of May, but we will have our gardening beds prepared before then. We start with cedar 4" x 4" timber, in 4' x 4' squares. We stack and screw these together 3 layers high, giving us a 12" deep bed. We then fill these beds with our special organic growing soil, which is as follows:

  • 1 bag of coarse vermiculite (4 cu. ft.)
  • 10 pails (2.5 gallon each) of sand (3 cu. ft.)
  • 2 pails of wood ashes and charcoal
  • 30 pails of compost (9 cu. ft.)

This 16+ cu. ft. mixture is mixed well, and will fill one bed. We then plant in the Square Foot gardening method per Mel Bartholomew. One bed feeds one person for a full season. Our well aged compost is a mix of kitchen and yard/garden waste, plus bedding from the animal pens, from the previous year. We keep an indoor worm bed in winter to process kitchen compost, and dump that container into the main compost bin after spring warmup. Next year when we have the new rabbit pens installed, the worm bin will go under the rabbit cages.

Additional reading:

Square Foot Gardening
The Humanure Handbook
Worms Eat My Garbage

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Government Program Seeks to Tag Every Livestock Animal in the United States

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is embarking upon a new program that seeks to have every single livestock animal in the United States identified, tagged and possibly implanted with a radio chip. The highly controversial National Animal Identification System (NAIS) would require anyone who owns even one livestock animal – such as a pigeon, rabbit, chicken or horse – to register that animal and its location in a federal database.


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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Teach a man to fish ....

Our good friend Jim Juczak at Woodhenge.Org made an interesting observation recently:

The old quote; if you give a man a fish he'll eat for a day, if you teach him to fish he'll feed himself for a lifetime" isn't quite enough. It should be more like "if you give a man a fish he'll feel he's entitled to get one from you every day, if you teach a man to fish he'll be hungry until he gets good at catching fish".

I don't want to tell people how to survive a crisis. That's too short of a timespan. I want to show them that sometimes the simple stuff works the best, but just like advanced technologies have their pitfalls, so do simple technologies. The problems of modern technologies are pollution, resource depletion and depersonalization of peoples. The problems of simple technologies are having to learn them and practice them until you become proficient at them. No instant gratification here! You actually have to ask and talk to people to learn how to do stuff efficiently. Yes, you can learn from a book or how to DVD, and I do this a lot of the time, but I find my efficiency level goes up at least an order of magnitude when I learn directly from 'them that's doin'.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cuba Gooding Jr. Discusses Military Kids

With more than 700,000 children of military families under the age of five separated from their mother or father this holiday season Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, has responded with a program geared to address the challenges military families face with deployment. The half-hour television special, entitled When Parents are Deployed, will be hosted by Academy Award � winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr., premiering Wednesday, December 27 at 9pm ET/PT on PBS (check local listings).

When Parents Are Deployed reveals candid and intimate moments with the parents, caregivers and children impacted by deployment. They express how they are coping with the daily stress and fears associated with having a parent depart for military duty, and how families deal with that member when they return home after serving their country. As the holidays can be a very difficult time for military families, Sesame Workshop saw this special as way to illustrate how this group of Americans is managing during times of extended separation.

More ....

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Al Rutan - The Methane Man: Materials available once again!

We received plans and descriptions of Al's methane digesters and the process of anaerobic digestion from Al's family. Video's are also coming soon. articles will be posted shortly at and the video's and documentation will be available on CD for a nominal fee, the proceeds going to building Al's methane digesters for off-grid communities. Woodhenge will be one of the first recipients of a Al Rutan digester. More info will be posted once the video tapes are converted to cd, and the documents scanned, ocr'd, and regenerated as PDF's.

The following articles will be published to our websites this weekend, time permitting:

  • The History of Anaerobic Digestion
  • Guidelines for the Process
  • Building a Methane Digester
  • Specifications of a Methane Digester

Additional info can be found in the back issues of ESSN Magazine, Homepower Magazine, and Alternative Sources of Energy Magazine.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

More gardening titles

In addition to the Square Foot Gardening title we are re-reading, we picked up a copy of Ruth Stout's "No-Work Garden Book" from the local library book sale for $1. A fascinating title that claims that you can garden with little effort, we have come to believe and agree, although her ideas on composting in place have not taken hold here, as we enjoy our composting bins and the dark earth that results, and use the end product where it's needed. Much like Gus Portokalos from My big Fat Greek Wedding's use of windex on everthing and anything, Ruth's answer to every gardening ill was mulch, to great success. A wonderful review of this great lady and her ideas can be found at Homestead.Org

Square Foot Gardening - maximizing space & effort

We are re-reading one of our favorite books, Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening, and are intrigued by a question he raises in his introduction; "Does anyone know the real reason people garden?". For us, the answer is easy. We want a sure supply of affordable healthy food. We want to be sure that our food is chemical free, available when we need it, and won't break our budget keeping us fed. Mel shows how in a single 4' x 4' square, you can grow in two months the following supplies:

  • 32 carrots
  • 12 bunches of leaf lettuce
  • 18 bunches of spinach
  • 16 radishes
  • 16 scallions
  • 16 beets
  • 9 Japanese turnips
  • 5 pounds of peas
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 4 heads of romaine lettuce
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 head of broccoli

If you need more, grow another square, and many more vegetable types are explained in his book. His method almost eliminates the hours typically spent maintaining a garden in a healthy weedless state. Well worth the read.