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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Off-Grid Caribbean Cabin

What does a off-grid energy system look like for a beach side cabin in the Caribbean? Francoise has simple needs. A couple of ceiling fans, a couple of compact fluorescent lights, a boombox, a portable dvd player and 12 volt pump connected to a rain fed cistern. The twist? Hurricanes and salt laden moisture require a portable system with weather proof quick disconnects, and rust proof hardware. So here is the system we designed for her:

1 Kyocera 130 watt PV Panel
1 set of single panel mounts with hardware.
1 Xantrex C-12 Charge Controller
1 30 amp fuse holder with 2 fuses.
15 feet of hookup wire.
1 Morningstar Suresine 300 watt inverter
1 2 gauge inverter cable set
1 100 amp fuse holder with fuse
1 Concorde 89 AH, 12vdc AGM Battery
1 Trimetric AH Meter with connector kit
2 battery lugs with allen wrench
30 Feet of UV shielded, PV cable with weatherproof connectors.
1 Weatherproof fitting for PV box
1 Xantrex temperature sensor
Wiring diagram and full tech support
Everything needed for all mounts and hookups.

Total bill came to $1847 delivered in the lower 48 states. Want us to design a system for you? List the devices you want to power, and the amount of time each day you want to run them, and we can put together a package that will meet your needs.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pig Pens, Visitors, and Solar Design

The last few weeks have been very busy. We have had several visitors.

Eric and Janet, and their children were here for a couple of weeks. They learned about renewable energy, veggie diesels, and living off-grid, we learned about the different intentional communities they have stayed at. Originally from Texas, they travel the US in a camping trailer, which we showed them how to charge with solar, and convert to 120vac with a inverter. We took them to Upper Canada Village, a 1800's working village with lots of ideas for living simply.

Francoise was here from Anguilla, spec'ing out a PV system for her island Yoga center, and learning about electricity. She will be getting a 130 watt pv panel, a 12v, 80ah AGM battery, and a 300 watt sinewave inverter. From her we learned about cooking healthy with organic veggies from The Martin's roadside stand and greenhouses.

Dan was back again this weekend, building a fenced in area (20'x20') for our three pigs. He reused some old fence wire that was still in good shape, and cut fence posts from our young maples that our woods is full of. No power tools were used in it's construction.

Melvin is working on mounting brackets for the alternator that will be installed on the Veggie Lister Cogen system. I planted pinto and kidney beans, parsley, and hot peppers.

And finally, we are preparing for a whitewater rafting trip in Watertown next weekend, on the Black River.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Slice of Organic Life

Interview with Sheherazade Goldsmith, Editor of “A Slice of Organic Life”

Steve: What was the thought process behind the “A Slice of Organic Life”?

Sheherazade: I think there is a huge misconception that living an eco friendly life usually means being self sufficient therefore living in the countryside. I wanted to prove that this is not the case. That you can live anywhere and still make a contribution to the environment without actually making any sacrifices. The books projects are divided into sections that reflect the type of homes people have and what things they might be able to do.

Steve: I guess we are part of that misconception, since we do live in a very rural area, are off-grid, and pretty self sufficient. But I found very good ideas on becoming even more so. one person can't begin to know everything.
This book was a group project, wasn't it. articles submitted by a variety of writers, collated and managed by you?

Sheherazade: Yes. I was very fortunate that through my husband's magazine 'The Ecologist' I had access to some amazing writers such as Pat Thomas and Matilda Lee. The book is a reflection of the changes I have made to my own lifestyle. The projects are all things I have tried out myself and have found not only enjoyable but also very easy. As you said previously this is a journey in sense and how nice to discover something new everyday

Steve: two of my extended family members have read the book, my dad is reading it now, and some of our community members are buying their own copy. My Dad is the one who raised me with a yearning for a closer tie to the earth, and a simpler lifestyle. I'm 42 now, he's retired and now lives in town, and has started to implement some of your ideas.

Sheherazade: It's so wonderful to hear things like that. Very flattering. I hoped that the book would inspire people to make as little as 2 or 3 changes to their lives. As we know collectively these small changes such as using energy efficient light bulbs or buying local can make an enormous difference. I also found that once you start considering what effect you have on the environment you can't stop. It's like a domino effect.

Steve: this was our first year that we switched from row gardening to the square foot method. Much less labor intensive, and makes gardening more fun. I find that if things are broken down into small, easy steps, folks will tend to try it sooner, and stick with it.

Sheherazade: Again, there is a huge misconception that being green is more labour intensive, more expensive and means giving up all your creature comforts. As you have discovered through your gardening this is not actually true. More often than not you are improving your lifestyle be it through eating food that has a better taste because it is seasonal and grown without all the usual highly toxic chemicals or using chemical free cleaning products in the house. There is nothing more satisfying than cooking with home grown produce.

Steve: has living simply and healthy been a lifetime goal of yours, or something more recent?

Sheherazade: No certainly not a lifetime goal. In my twenties I couldn't have cared less. But when I became pregnant I started to consider what sort of future I wanted for my children and the value of good nutrition.

Steve: I totally agree. I sometimes give away a cheap compost bin kit that I get from a company called Harbor Freight to folks. Get people used to composting organics instead of tossing them away as waste. This then leads them to want to do something with that compost, typically a garden. Baby steps….

I was raised on my Dad's knee, reading Mother Earth News, and other sustainability and renewable related materials. It's been a life time thing for me.

Sheherazade: Having been a city girl I am know raising my children in a rural environment and they absolutely love it. In a sense I am learning about these issues with them and together we have great fun tending to our animals, growing strawberries and making jams.

Steve: my youngest is 16, and he and his brother (18) are heavy into cars and trucks. so I have taught them about running veggie oil, biodiesel, and ethanol, instead of preaching "automobiles are bad". This works with their innate love of mechanical things. The gardening they are not interested in, but the homemade wind turbines that we build, and the lister veggie generator does grab their attention.

Steve: I want to thank you for your time today, and for producing such a wonderful reference. I'm sure it will kick start a lot of people into positive action. If you have any thought you’d like to share with our readers in the future, please send them to me, and I'll make sure they get published. Thank you again for being patient through the technical issues.
For those who would like to experience this reference, full of useful, and easy to implement steps in efficiency and healthy living, you can find it at

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Good Food, Good Business

"Good Food, Good Business" is a collection of insights from growers, a grocer, a restauranteur and experts on the innovative connections being used to open new markets and increase profits.

The owner and staff of an urban organic farm build ties with families through a successful community supported agriculture business (CSA) and mutually beneficial relationships with top local restaurants.

Owners of a mid-size organic farm focus on opportunities to listen to commercial customers and consumers so they align with trends, manage growth and remain good stewards of their land.

A restaurant owner-chef relies on relationships with local growers to help them flourish and allow him to serve the fresh, top quality food that has garnered national awards and the highest industry ratings.

The owner of a nationally recognized chain of grocery stores embraces the idea of connecting regional farmers and customers to create a sense of community within the food supply chain.

Also, national experts, businesspeople and organization leaders offer their thoughts about the links between the food industry and consumers, as well as opportunities in the expanding local and organic food markets.

Interviews include: Brian Rohter (New Seasons Markets), Shari Raider (Sauvie Island Organics), Bill and Karla Chambers (Stahlbush Island Farms), Cory Schreiber (Wildwood Restaurant & Bar), Martin Goebel (Sustainable Northwest), Dave Williams (ShoreBank Pacific), Bob Willard (author and corporate trainer on sustainability) and Anthony Cortese (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education).

"Good Food, Good Business" is designed for the following audiences: higher education agriculture programs, CSAs, organizations supporting local and organic food production, food marketing leaders, chefs, culinary schools, government agencies linked to food production, grocers, and business leaders in the food industry.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

New Books and Gear Shop

Green Trust has rolled out the new Renewable Energy Books & Gear Shop, which provides books, movies, and renewable energy hardware in conjunction with Amazon. Items we have personally tested are listed on "Our Recommended Picks", and all categories are topical to the goals of the offgrid or sustainably minded individual. Learn about Solar, Wind, Methane, Permaculture, Organic Gardening and more. Check it out at

Monday, July 02, 2007

Water Harvesting, Water Recycling

One of the projects that has been on our back burner is a total sustainable water solution. Harvesting rain water, filtering it, storing it, and using it efficiently is the first part. The second part is what to do with it once it's used. By switching out the flush toilets to composting toilets, we have eliminated blackwater, which leaves us with graywater, a recyclable resource. We will be using the gray water for irrigation until we can get our biological filtration system up and running. This summer this project is being moved to the front burner, and we will document our progress.


The New Create an Oasis With Greywater: Choosing, Building and Using Greywater Systms - Includes Branched Drains (Paperback)

Builder's Greywater Guide: Installation of Greywater Systems in New Construction & Remodeling; A Supplement to the Book "Create an Oasis With Greywater"

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Vol. 1): Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain into Your Life And Landscape

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Vol. 2)
: Water-harvesting Earthworks

Ecomachine - Biological Filtration, Ocean Arks International.

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