Monday, March 13, 2017

Inspirational Kindred Spirits: The Sycamores of Permaculture Lifestyle

I discovered the internet work of the Sycamores today:
They live on a half-acre homestead in rural Simpsonville, Kentucky, where they grow our own food and raise chickens for eggs. By day, the two of them work on a farm, helping tend to a two-acre, chemical-free market garden. In the meantime they work together to write, podcast, and also maintain their website:
They are Dedicated to the pursuits of self-reliance, natural living & ecological thinking, and their blog posts and podcasts are great.
This one particular entry really strummed my heart strings, and I want to share it in part here. 

"What does it mean to be illegible and irrelevant to the dominant culture of destruction and exploitation?

It means reclaiming a greater sense of autonomy, a self-directed lifestyle, freedom from the rat race and the pursuit of financial capital.

It means rejecting the distractions and false narratives that are manufactured to divide and conquer the non-elite classes of the world.

It means rebuilding our divided communities and taking direct interpersonal action to achieve harmony through the common goals and values that we all share.

We can design intentional systems and lifestyles for ourselves which generate yields that the system doesn’t understand.
We can generate non-monetary forms of capital that can’t be taxed by a system that only knows how to rationalize financial value.

If they can’t measure it, they can’t tax it.
I think that making ourselves illegible is a very practical, pragmatic way of responding to the bizarre and dysfunctional zoo of civilization.
If we don’t wish to participate in our own annihilation, then we need to put our money where our mouths are — which is to say, we need to generate and exchange value in ways that don’t involve money.

That’s liberation permaculture: the fertile intersection of ecology, anthropology, rewilding and anarchist theory. (Please don’t let the A-word scare you off!) Sustainable land design and resilient communal networks will never be organized from above. It’s up to us to make the spaces we occupy into the world we wish to see — and we can start today.

Listen to the latest episode of the Permaculture Lifestyle podcast through the blog -- or on iTunes. . . . . ✌🏼️

Build your Tiny House with light gauge steel!!!

Please, if you arr going to build a tiny house, especially one on wheels, with weight being an issue, use light gauge framing  steel! The strength to weight ratio of steel as compared to wood is unbeatable, it won't catch on fire or mold, and there is tones of it in dumpsters of commercial construction. It is also really easy to recycle by using in your project. But, the best thing, I think, is how easy it is to take it apart and make changes.
Like, for instance, the wall of the bathroom, made with two pieces of scabbed together steel center stud, needs to be moved over about 14 inches. So, I just  I just backed out the screws! 

 No more stud.
 The wall on the floor.
Re-built where I need it. All in about 15 minutes.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Experiments in small batch water filtration/recycling

Now that I have the kitchen cabinets done (except for the doors ;-) I can get back to the plumbing design, because I know what size/shape space I have to fit it into. That takes me back to the water recycling experiments I started a few YEARS ago, when I built these DIY sand filter buckets to play around with. Originally I was following the work of this guy and his sand filter designs, despite his buckets being about 10x larger than mine.. When I built the buckets the first time I made baffles to go inside, but quickly abandoned because they were so small they got clogged. So, I have done away with the baffles and just used a kitchen sieve like one would use for sifting dry ingredients together to keep the sand in place. My goal is to be able to wash my dishes and get the water clear/clean enough to dump into the tank under the floor. From there it gets pumped through an activated charcoal and a biological filter back up to the faucet to be reused. So, this sand filter step is pretty important.

After eating a whole bunch of good food I have made a mess. So, let's go outside and wash some dishes, see how much water I use to get the job done on a daily basis, and then what I have to do to treat X volume of water. So far I seem to use 3 batches of water: one to pre-rinse, one to wash and one to finish rinse.
This is the pre-rinse water. The total volume I use on average is about 8 gallons of water total.
 Packed into the bucket is about 20lbs of pool filter sand, and added to it is about a palm full of alum, a mineral salt often used in pickling, but also municipal water filtration. Alum changes the ionic composition in the water and attracts particles to it, which sink to the bottom if allowed to sit.
In the bucket goes my swill.
 After sitting overnight I opened the spigot at the bottom of my experiment bucket, and out come clear, clean, soap free water! I would feel comfortable drinking it after running it through the charcoal and bio filter.  For now I feel comfortable using it as the pre-rinse and soap/wash steps of my dish washing routine. Now all I need to do is find a bigger bucket that can hold the total volume of water used at a time. I suppose I will also be wise to buy a couple of enamel pans to go on the sink that I can use while actually washing dishes to help keep track of the volume of water as I go along. The tank under the floor can hold 15 gallons, so I could have 3 total loads worth of water in the system at any given time: 1 in the filter under the sink and 2 in the tank under the floor. Weight is of course an issue, with each gallon of water weighing 8lbs x 24 gallons + 50lbs of pool sand that's 250lbs! I will have to make sure that when I travel I empty the tank and dump out the filter. I want to implement the same design in principal in the bathroom/clothes washing water recycling system, but the space is much more crowded back there, so I'll have to figure that out. Projects! Never boring!

How to true up a rough cut board

 Well, this is the last unclaimed space in the whole house, the last cabinet to be built with the last little bits of box elder I have. Here's a little drawing of the two piece shelving unit I have in mind.. but anyways....that will be a story for another time.

  Today I want to post about how to true up a piece of rough cut lumber. These are the last four pieces I have of the box elder I have been using. It is all gnarly in the edges, trapezoidal, and uneven.
 There are a few ways to straighten them up, but my favorite way, what I have found to be the fastest and most reliable is to screw an already straight piece of wood to the board you want to create a clean edge on, and then run it through the table saw with the machine edge against the fence. Then take the pattern board off and pass your lumber back through the saw using your new edge against the fence. The box elder has character worm holes in it , so I had to think even less about the finished product because the screw holes will just blend in with the character of the wood. But if you have a finished side verse and back side make sure your screw holes will be on the back OR you can use the old carpenters trick of making wood fill putty with the saw dust from you lumber and some wood glue mixed together to fill the holes so you can't see them. Batta-Bing Batta-Boom!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

FAQ: Composting Toilet System: Worm Composting

One of the most nervously asked frequently asked question is: How do you deal with your toilet?
I use a home made toilet box/bucket system that separates wet from dry waste, and then I feed the dry + bedding + food waste to red wiggler worms. Worms can eat 1.5 times their body weight a day.
 Made of cedar, a cut up piece of counter top and an old toilet seat.
 With a little compartment opening in the back for sawdust, or peat moss, which worms LOVE!.
 I built a little gutter to catch urine so the bucket stays dry,
 The door on the front opens so I can empty the wet bucket easily.
 The whole thing is on wheels.. easy to move around and I may want to ride it in parade or something. To keep the whole box from being too high to practically sit on I mounted a piece of a bucket on the bottom for the 5 gallon dry bucket to drop into.
 Little food waste compost bucket in the kitchen.
 The stacked work composting bin lives outside.
 I got a pound of fresh worms to re-populate the bin, gave them some starter compost to get cozy in,
spread out some food scarps to get them started, and then added the next tray with the dry "bio-waste" for them to crawl up to and get started on.

 Cover the pile with a wet layer, in this case a compostable bag, but really wet newspaper works best.
 And then I wrap the whole tower with a cardboard box and piece of black tarp to keep them warm and dark under the porch.
  I got my latest pound of worms from Winterville Worms, which I biked out to the other day.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Down To Earth Energy

Little Road trip today out to visit Down to Earth Energy in Monroe GA. about 20 miles from Athens. It is a solar powered, small batch, recycled grease bio-diesel facility, producing 3,300 gallons of B5, B20, B1000 a day. They have three buildings aside from the rebuilt barn where they make the bio-diesel, each roof completely covered in solar panels. It is a 115kw system, which provides 80% of their power, and they are working on installing a diesel generator to run on bio-diesel to provide the rest.
Hard to see, but the B20 is $2.40 and the B100 is $2.30 a gallon.
They partner with Clean Energy Bio-Diesel, an Atlanta based company that picks up used grease and delivers finished bio-diesel. Their biggest customer is Whole Foods in Atlanta.

 Solar hot water system is used to keep the finished bio-diesel hot, and for a variety of other work at the facility.

The roof space of 3 main office/production buildings provide power with  a $750k solar system. 

The bio-diesel is produced here in this re-built barn. This type of facility is the future: self sustaining, recycling, small batch production for regional delivery. 

When we went out to Down To Earth Energy the other day we saw a 2005 VW Golf for sale. Just about all VW diesels before 2005 will run on bio-diesel with no conversion. Just run some B20 mixed in with your regular fuel for a bit. Otherwise crud from the inside of the tank will dislodge & clog your fuel filter. This one had been running on bio-diesel from the plant for years, and was being sold by one of the chemists. So...he bought it! It gets 50mpg, 80% cleaner than regular gasoline, we can put our folding bikes in the back, & travel long distances with-out looking for charging stations. Our transportation choices are as fossil fuel free as we can be! 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Finish with Vegan Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Been really enjoying having the kind of life where if things get side ways I can just stay at home and work on my projects! Finishing the kitchen counter tops.

 Fitting everything in place. I tried to cut these small tiles with a glass cutter, to break them neatly over a piece of wire. Well, that took way too long, and so I ended up just smashing lots of the extras and picking out ones that fit into the spaces nicely.
 Lid for the stove recess, so if I'm not using the stove top I have a more counter space.
 Making a mess in a small space.
 Cut away a section to allow the faucet to pass through, and building a cedar trim plate to mount the faucet through and cover up the gap between the counter top and the nose cupboards.

 Plumbing access hatch in the floor and the long narrow counter, (perfect place to roll out pasta), with the little arms to hold a basket for storage.
 Everything all fit in place with a first coat of read paint.

 Copper finishing the underside of the stove lid; been saving these pieces of copper for years too. So gratifying to finish a project that I have had in mind for so many years, saving things, sitting and looking at the place and thinking about how it will be...and in so doing proving that I am not a hoarder!!! I collect things to use, and even if it takes me nigh-on-forever, I use them!
 In preparation for the final step, the mortar and grout for the tile work, I made a double layer vegan chocolate cake and home made, vegan "buttercream" frosting..just to get my mixing and spreading technique down pat!

Boom! In Place, dry over night. Next step, mix up grout, not as thick as peanut butter.
 Spread grout over everything and make a big mess. Let is set for about 30 minutes, then sprinkle more of the dry grout over the surface of the mud and rub in a circular motion to work the grout evenly in to all the spaces between the tiles, and to help build up an even layer, cleaning the tiles as you go. Let this dry for about 2 hours, and then wipe all the tiles again with a wet rag, making sure that all the clumps of grout on the tile are removed. There will be a thin film over the tiles, but that wiped off with water in a few hours more after drying has progressed.

Finished with a couple coats of grout sealer. It's kind of amazing how finishing such a simple project can make such a HUGE difference in my daily life! I almost can;t remember what it was like to cook everything on my little Super Cat camp stoves, and my little plastic folding table. There is still lots to do: FINISH THE SOLAR SYSTEM, build the final work cabinet, finish connecting the bathroom and kitchen  plumbing at the faucets to the drains, and other small tasks...but this project feels like a real accomplishment.