Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm a "do-er"

I would classify myself as a doer. I started life playing in the dirt and I love to touch everything! But being all touchy does not make me a doer. It does certainly set the stage though: actively interacting with the world around me to "feel" how it works. Although my chosen career is as a software programmer, it is the constant "touching, molding" of the code's behavior that so appeals to me. Still, I sit at my desk and long to put my hands in the dirt.

Update to my first rocket stove

Put a small charcoal grill on top, less the ash catcher. Et voila, an oven!

Don't put uncovered food directly over the vent or ash will stick to it.

In response to Dave Pollard's "How to find Community"

How to find Community inspired me to more clearly reveal my current actions and plans. In particular, Dave's comment, "...that I would not be prepared to spend a lot of money or invest a lot of sweat equity because I don't think life should be or needs to be that much work, or that expensive," needs to be addressed.

So Dave, you're right, sort-of. Unfortunately, there will always be an initial inertial cost to get things moving in the direction you want to move. After it's moving, if it takes much energy, then you know you're on the wrong path.

A permaculture forest garden, for instance, will need planning, soil prep, planting, and adjustment to learned lessons. Once you have it growing, it will only take small bursts of energy to manage successions. My own personal experience, which began this spring, has shown me that startup cost and effort are substantial. I've only achieved 1/10 of my goals -- just in soil prep! Yet, I can see the systems coming together. That 1/10th of soil that has been prepared only needs a few minutes a week to maintain now. The composting bins will soon start contributing organic matter which will displace the purchase of mulch, manure and top soil. The garden of annual vegetables is displacing some of my need to buy vegetables from half way across the world. The greenhouse (which has taken about a day to build so far and needs a couple more yet to finish) will allow me to grow food year-round and plants that can't survive harsh winters. I plan on putting a rocket stove mass heater in the greenhouse. Rocket stoves are very efficient, simple to make, and can burn carbon sources other than wood such as (dry) grass! Besides heating the greenhouse, the stove will serve three other purposes: creating biochar (Terra Preta de Indio), creating steam and creating ash. The char will further (significantly) increase organic matter and soil fertility while sequestering large amounts of carbon, and, some will cover and absorb nutrients from my future humanure toilet. The steam will efficiently create electricity and perform some of the hard work I don't want to. The small amounts of ash will be used to make soap, and possibly, biodiesel. Although I've only just started looking into it, the char generation also puts off wood gas which can be used as a gasoline replacement. Grey water collection and distribution systems will provide shower water and a buffer for the plants against short dry periods.

All of these complex plans serve the purpose of moving to closed, interconnected and redundant systems. In areas where humans live like this, we will be stewards living in harmony with earth/gaia rather than voracious, greedy, wasteful, destructive consumers.

The only thing missing from my plans? Community. Frankly, I think it will come. Very few people are at a point where they will accept the challenges facing us. If I can provide a real, successful example, others will come, where they, too, will overcome inertia to steward their small part of gaia. We will create an oasis of smart, balanced, natural living as civilization winds down.

Will this create a trackback?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Made my first Rocket Stove!

Used 3" ducting for a 2' flue and a 30 qt aluminum outdoor turkey deep fat fryer with stand as the body. Used sand as the filler/insulator.

First impressions:
- Simple to make!
- Considerably less smoke than from a wood stove, but more than I expected/hoped
- Burns wood fast and needs constant attention
- Soot formed on the flue
- Hot sparks shoot out when adjusting the wood
- Sometimes adjusting the wood caused flame to shoot out at least 2 feet -- that's four feet of flame including the flue!
- No hot spots on the aluminum container
- Two hours after the fire went out, the sand and pot were nice and warm

- When the flame shot out, there was nearly no smoke
- Need to figure out a configuration that allows it to burn hot more consistently
- Could easily add an "oven"
- Wondering how I can modify it for storing more heat since most of the heat escapes out the flue
- Wondering how I can add a kiln chamber for making char (terra preta de indio).

Update on bike commute

I finally got the rear rack put on my bike with the help of the staff of Summit City Bikes. The connectors that came with the rack were too short to connect to the frame so they hooked me up with some that fit. The also did some quick adjustments and I was back on the road in a jiffy. Although my bike is charcoal gray, here's what a similar model looks like: Specialized Expedition Sport.

The route is getting a bit repetitious but not yet tiresome. Would like an alternate, but there are so many busy roads in the area that are not safe for cyclists.

I've not had any issues with wrist soreness like I do with normal ten speeds or mountain bikes so the commute's been easy on me (except my knees :-)

Update on potted stevia

The main stem had a weak area and it bent and grew over the side. The plant's fine, just a little odd looking.

What's most exciting, is that a shoot has come out at the base of the existing stem and is also growing vigorously!

Lastly, it seems that the older the leaves, the more bitter the aftertaste. The youngest leaves have almost no aftertaste. Mmmm!