I recently overheard Albert Bates of The Farm make mention of using strawbale walls in greenhouses. Typically strawbale construction treats the straw walls with a lime and clay plaster to create a breathable, weather and bug resistant barrier. If not the bales rot. However when the bales begin to breakdown the process gives off heat. Mr. Bates leaves the strawbale greenhouse walls untreated so that they will decompose over the winter and give off heat to keep the plants warm. The following spring the partially decomposed walls are used to mulch the garden. I scaled down the idea a bit and built myself a strawbale cold frame. Here’s how to do it.
On our own, nongroovy websites Matt and I have been talking about the great autumn resource of fallen leaves from deciduous trees. Sure you can rake the leaves from your yard and use them as mulch or add them to your compost pile but what about all those bags of leaves you see on the side of the road piled up as other people’s trash? The process by which trees produce leaves that then fall and decompose is how soil is created. Those people are throwing away soil. Are they crazy!?!? Every year 25 billion tons of topsoil is lost to the world. The way I see it I have a duty to stop and pick up those bags and make sure that they are indeed turned into life supporting soil. Sure they’ll rot wherever they end up but why not in my garden helping me to grow yummy, superlocal food?
So here’s the challenge. Matt, I bet I can pick up more bags of leaves (soil) than you can. If you accept my challenge and I do pick up more bags, you will have to do something. But if you happen to collect more bags of leaves from the side of the road then I will have to do something. And we’ll let the readers decide what that something is. What do you say?
In the spirit of this newly announced competition, I put together a larger compost bin to collect our (and yes, possibly our neighbor’s) leaves this fall. This will supplement our smaller secure bin that we use for kitchen scraps – It keeps the skunks out.
Killing two birds with one stone, I got rid of a good portion of my “reclaimed wood pile” (that was not Mrs. B’s favorite), and built myself a fine compost bin.
A picture is worth a 1000 words, so without further ado: (click more to see pics and for dimensions)
I guess that this “hack” from a chest freezer to a super-efficient refrigerator has been around for a year or so (2005). This just proves that you have to poke around to find something good, and when you do share it with others. (I wonder if the folks from path to freedom have seen this one yet.)
I found Mt. Best via farmlet, 2 great new sites to bookmark (new to me anyways), both out of NZ.
Here’s what they have to say about their fridge:
” My chest fridge (Vestfrost freezer turned into a fridge) consumes about 0.1 kWh a day. It works only about 2 minutes per hour. At all other times it is perfectly quiet and consumes no power whatsoever. My wind/solar system batteries and power-sensing inverter simply love it.
It is obvious that a truly energy efficient fridge does not cost any more money than a mediocre one. It actually costs less. It also has extra features, such as digital temperature display that gives you full control on the temperature settings inside.”
Jeffery Brown throws out a challenge to the main stream media.
“Who among you is going to have the courage to step forward and “break” the story that the lifeblood of the world economy–net oil export capacity–is now declining?”
Mr. Brown says, “I estimate that oil exports from the top 10 net oil exporters are probably now falling at a double digit annual rate.”
He’s an independent petroleum geologist from Dallas by the way; not one of them economists that thinks you can put dollar bills in your gas tank and drive to work. I once told two smart friends of mine, an engineer and a medical student, that physics trumps economics and they said I didn’t understand how the world works. I don’t. But I do think that as oil is physically less available “laws” of economics are going to spin on their heads. Just a little prediction for you this afternoon. Here’s one more. It will be obvious that we’ve peaked in oil production by the end of 2006. It’ll take a few more years, two maybe, for the most optimistic of oil cheerleaders to admit so (read up on the history of the peak in production in the U.S. – 1971). Then, suddenly everyone will be saying, “Yeah, of course we’ve peaked. That’s what oil fields do- Duh!” But by then the scurry to find the next source of fuel for our mobile lifestyles and our transportation dependent economy will be on in full force. My favorite are the news headlines that read, “How Will We Fuel The Cars of Tomorrow?”, or, “Is Ethanol The Answer?” No ethanol isn’t the answer. It’s only suggested as a part of the solution because Iowa is the first stop on the road to the White House. It seems very few people are stopping to consider ways of living that require less driving. Supply-side solutions will not solve the problem of the declining rate of petroleum production.
This morning I fed my daughter Keaton carrots. Not yet six months old and I am already learning from her. The task of introducing solid foods to our baby has fallen mostly to my wife. Today is was my turn. After a few successful bites I started to think to myself, “Maybe I can feed her all these carrots without getting any on her face.” What an impossible goal! As she first began to get dirty I felt a twinge of disappointment. I wanted to feed her perfectly without any mess. The goal was not achieved. I had failed. But wait; I stopped myself and realized that I was successfully teaching another human being to eat carrots. She was learning a skill she’ll use for the rest of her life. I was introducing a healthy food and even went to the trouble of preparing it myself. I boiled the carrots and mechanically smashed them with my own two hands (I did use a masher). I was raising a daughter. Not all at once and not with individual burst of perfection but I was making progress on the road towards a happy, healthy human. What a success.
Please allow me this chance to reprint a letter from one friend to another.
It was good of you to write and ask about how Jenn and I have been doing since graduation. It’s been a while since you and I have been able to sit and talk on the front porch like we use to do in college. I don’t want to go getting all sentimental on you but I did enjoy those conversations. Everything’s going well here. Our daughter Kay is growing up fast (I hope you got the baby announcement- Jenn made me give her all the guys’ addresses). Sometimes it feels like if I blink she’ll be all grown up. Work’s fine and we like living in a small town. I never thought I’d say that but Atlanta just wore me out. All that driving made me feel like I was spending my whole life in the car. So we made the move. Jimmie and the NYC crowd make fun of me for living in Smalltown, USA but we like it. I can even bike to work. We’ve got a garden in the backyard and it’s been easy to meet neighbors, especially with such a cute baby girl (says the proud papa). We live in a small neighborhood on the edge of a pretty cool little historic town. There’s a tavern about a mile away and all the other stuff too that comes with a small town of course- an ice cream shop, a local grocery, the usual. Now I’m just babbling so I’ll get to the real reason I wanted to write.
Now this is a little more like it. It’s amazing what can occur when an actual government gets behind renewable energy. In a step that’s sure to please environmentalists while making RE investors salivate, the ‘Government is proposing changes to the Building Regulations which will make the use of renewable energy compulsory in all new builds from 2008′ The new changes will apply to all new homes, company, and public buildings making solar hot water, roof photovoltaics, and small wind generation madatory in under two years.
Almost four thousand households will benefit immediately from the new systems. Those families on low incomes will also receive 100% grant assistance to install solar hot water systems for more than 500 homes. From the article,
‘Launching an 8 million renewable energy Household Programme, Peter Hain said that Northern Ireland is leading the rest of the United Kingdom in green energy. I Am fully committed to the use of renewable energy and I know how effective it can be. In my home in Wales, I have installed PV panels on my roof and this has resulted in my energy bill being halved. As a Government, we are also moving forward in changes to the building regulations to help and encourage greater use of renewable energy.’
This is your last chance to submit names for the 10 urban chickens we’re raising here at Groovy Green. The winner of our contest to “Name That Chicken” will receive one of these sweet T-shirts. Reply below with one or more names you think we should use on our animal additions to my backyard.
The chicks themselves are doing fine. They’re growing with great speed and it’s becoming obvious which ones are roosters and which ones are hens. Can you tell the ladies from the gents? I’ve started to give them time outside of their enclosure when I get home from work. They stay close by. When I first started to raised backyard chickens I thought they would do their best to escape but in reality they never wander to far away. At the first sign of danger they take off towards the safety of their chicken house. They did eat several seedlings from the garden. I have to remember to keep them out of newly planted areas, but for the most part I like to let them wander through the garden. They eat bugs and deposit fertilizer and are just fun to watch.
Be sure to leave a few names in reply and who knows, maybe you’ll win the coveted chicken T-shirt for your efforts.
Coming up this Sunday evening set aside some time to check out the Discovery Channel’s feature on global warming:
Discovery Channel visits global warming tipping points across the planet, talks to the world’s leading experts, and examines the latest evidence about global warming in GLOBAL WARMING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Produced by Discovery Channel, the BBC and NBC News Productions, and hosted by award-winning journalist Tom Brokaw, the two-hour special presents the facts and leaves it up to viewers to determine their own opinion about global warming. GLOBAL WARMING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW premieres Sunday, July 16, at 9 p.m. ET.
A recent article on the illegality of selling raw milk caught my eye.
“Arlie Stutzman was busted in a rare sting when an undercover agent bought raw milk from the Amish dairy farmer in an unlabeled container.”
On the surface it would seem that the government agency responsible for this sting has way too much time on its hands. Further investigation into unpasteurized milk reveals that it can carry harmful bacteria. It is also true however that the pasteurization of milk does has negative effects that are seldom discussed in the press.
The pasteurization of milk:
Cell phones are cool and all–but most people simply shove them in a drawer–or worse–chuck ‘em when they’re finished. In fact, almost 130 million surplus cellphones are created each year in America–weighing in at clost to 65,000 tons! Well, TerraPass has some up with a unique way of solving this problem by partnering up with RIPMobile. From the press release, “RIPMobile recycles used cell phones and PDAs. They also happen to be leaders in their industry for environmental best practices. Unlike many recyclers, RIPMobile will accept any used cell phone, regardless of economic value. They’ll even pay your postage. RIPMobile handles all materials according to EPA standards and in compliance with the stringent requirements of the Basel Action Network.” The great thing about this new partnership is that TerraPass will pay you in gift certificates for your old phones. So, if you’ve been delaying off-setting your SUV with some carbon credits, now’s your chance to kill two birds with one stone! Almost every phone will net you some type of value–from a lowly old Motorola for $2 to a new RAZR for $75. (My expired Samsung came in at $32–not too shabby!). Check it out at TerraPass and–while your’re there–get that car taken care of!
Anyone else here dig the TV Series, “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer“? Giles and the gang always foiled evil plots to destroy the world while Joss Whedon integrated humorous banter and creative twists to the storyline. Awesome show..but I digress. Anyways, apparently California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine is a fan of the show, since his aptly titled “The Vampire Slayer Act of 2006″ has recently been approved by the California Assembly. From the release, “AB1970 would force companies to put labels on devices that tell consumers how much energy is being used while the device is in standby mode. AB1970 supporters claim that the average household will pay an additional $200 per year due to electronics on standby.” In the other corner of the arena are the Vampire Sires, the Consumer Electronics Association, Electronic Industry Alliance, etc. They’re all claiming that such a move will simply confuse consumers; just like the early complaints issued by the Tobacco Industry when health warning stickers were placed on cigarettes. C’mon–anything to save a few bucks is worth it and I would love to know what’s eating from my outlet well after I’ve turned off the lights. If Assemblyman Levine has any trouble at least Buffy and the gang are a stones throw away in Sunnydale. Nice job, CA!