Peeing in Yogurt Containers, The Romance of Off-Grid Living

By Jack
(this is a re-post – Jack wrote this early on in our blogging effort just a couple months back and it did not get the attention it deserves…)

We were hangin’ last week laughing about all the “romantic” things that turn out not – the constant “grass is always greener” kind of imagining about living this way or that, and the more seriously unfortunate romantic notions like eager young men going off to fight in a war for “an honorable cause” only to come home (if they’re lucky) with post-traumatic stress disorder and painfully disillusioned.

Well, living off-grid has not so much life-death drama (well, can have…) but many off-grid-wannabe’s do over-romanticize the whole she-bang just out of plain in-experience.

romance and adventure just a click away (maybe…)

YIPEE! 18.4 BELOW Zero Outside, 31.6 In!

Challenges of the Solar Greenhouse by Jack

It’s the dead of winter here. No – it’s not like, say, Minnesota, where I spent some time in that un-holy frigid icebox. But the 6500 foot elevation of our high desert plateau is still no tropical island paradise. Last week when the snowstorm gripped the whole of the US and the jet stream dipped into Mexico and swooped across the southern states as well – we got slammed. I thought our rows of bok choi, chard and mizuna were goners.

On the coldest night, the temp slid all the way down to 18.4 degrees BELOW zero Fahrenheit (only 6 degrees short of a century-record low!). The greenhouse is almost 2000 square feet – so we’re talkin’ a pretty big space with only plastic for sides to keep warm. But by morning, when the sunshine happily broke over the far mesa and immediately started relieving the chill inside (it was still 14 below outside till noon), the greenhouse stayed just the tiniest nick under 32 degrees – 31.6.

No big deal, you say? Well YES it is! You see, we’re running a “solar” greenhouse, not a fossil-fuel guzzling heated greenhouse where ya just set the thermostat and close the door (and listen to the dollars wizzing up in smoke…).

warm up by reading about this cozy place in our frigid season

Solar Hot Water Booster, Cheap and (mostly) Easy

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Cartoon by Pete Pascoe

Hey – Jack here from the DaiaSolGaia community to talk about another of my building projects. I am DaiaSolGaia’s “jack of all trades” (yea, i know …  sorry for the pun …).

I want to tell ya about another of our “experiments” that has become pretty integral in our life out here off-grid and away. I’ll also warn you right off the bat that the water heater that we built is a “below the mason dixon line”  water  heater – that is – the kind of solar hot water booster I’m going to tell you about here is not suitable for areas with extended low temps with accompanying extended lack of sun. That said, there are reasonable options for solar hot water boosting depending on the configuration/orientation of your more northern (or higher altitude) house. The links for the pretty good “How To” books are just below.

Read more on this hot wet topic here 🙂

Re-Mineralizing our Food Supply, Healthy Organic Soil from Scratch

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Hello from green-thumb Ravi, (the green-thumb’s a gift of the universe, not a brag!…)

A Big Issue Often Ignored

One of the less-discussed but *very* relevant  discussions of our food supply is the condition of the soil – both for the plant matter do choose to eat and more important to the lacto-paleo crowd, the plant matter the animals eat who nourish us.  Pasture grass-fed is pretty much an *absolute* for those of us who feel that the animal products from ruminants are the most healthy to consume (NO grain fed/finishing). But if their plant food grows on poor soil – what can their bodies be made of (or milk be made of) that we then eat? Ditto on the plants we eat directly.

Jack, Sunna, Lola and I have built our version of a “solar” greenhouse – for those of you who are now scratching your heads in your mind thinking “aren’t ALL greenhouses SOLAR?” – Well yes of course – but the term “Solar Greenhouse” refers to a specific approach to building, orienting, and, most importantly, equipping a growing greenhouse space with passive heat storage in such a way that it will capture and hold the immense amount of sunlight energy and heat that enters during the day in order to have lots of heat in greenhouse thermal mass storage to release during the cold extended-season nights in early spring and late fall (or even winter, depending on your location).

more down and dirty dirt to read here

Cookin’ with the Sun, Solar Box Cookers for Everyday Use

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Greetings from Ravi. First off, realistically, I’m blogging this one for the sunnier parts of our lands – solar cooking is a very practical, easy and nutrition-enhancing cooking method but, of course, you need pretty good sunlight. 3 years ago I researched and built and experimental solar cooker based on what I felt was the most practical design I could find – a “box” style cooker, one that was stable, large enough for full meals (and more) and effective as a potentially daily use cooker. more hot food cookin info follows here