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1st RMH

I have just finished building my first Rocket Mass Heater (RMH).  And I am amazed!   WOW.   The center burn chamber sounds like a rocket engine on just a couple newspaper pages.

I’ve been following the RMH discussions on permies for a few years and saw a couple RMHs first hand while living at Lost Valley ecovillage and visiting Aprovecho, (global leader in rocket stove technology) and I’ve built a couple small ones for demos outside.

What is an RMH?   It’s a modern version of a European  masonry heater (albeit a LOT smaller). 

The one I built is a ‘J tube’ configuration which means you load the small wood stocks upright and the horizontal flame shoots through the burn tunnel and up the …..

Many thanks to Ernie & Erica  and also to Paul Wheaton (world dominator wanna be 🙂 .  I used their plans from a Portland building code project.  And it worked the first time.

There are four main components to an RMH:  Feed chamber, burn chamber (cylinder), recirculating ‘barrel, and the exhaust piping.  that’s it!

 

Here are the construction steps I took (using existing stuff):

  1. find/count all existing bricks:  80 clay, 35 cement, 30 fire brick.
  2. Found 10″ OD burn chamber with 6″ ID – 48″ long, and 30 gallon steel barrel.
  3. Measure floor area, design, calculate… revise, revise again.
  4. Draw out rough plan on floor in-place, lay (dry) first course.
  5. Think about it, ponder, redesign, refine, redo.
  6. Stack 2nd, 3rd, 4th (dry) courses. Conserve firebricks.
  7. Put inner chamber and outer barrel on, test fire: WOW it drafted!
  8. Mortar up 1st and second courses.  Mix perlite/clay/sand.
  9. Fill burn chamber with mix.
  10. Finalize entire brick base, put barrel in place and test fire.
  11. Install exhaust piping,  hole in outer wall, test fire again.
  12. Final sealing to eliminate all indoor smoke.

I’ll post some pictures soon….

Advice/lessons learned:

Two most important things are getting a quick fire drafting through, and avoid any indoor smoke.  i learned that the hard way… and now put one little newspaper way inside the feed chamber…making sure the burning newspaper doesn’t get sucked into the central burner cylinder.

Don’t try to brick&mortar exhaust port to barrel – just cut a hole in the barrel for the exhaust pipe and seal with Fire retardant caulking.

I used thick glass putty (fired & cured) to seal lower barrel lip tightly to prevent smoking.

going locavore… really local

Try eating local for a day or a week:  only food grown/raised within a 50 mile radius of your home.   Yeah, eating local – really local – is hard to do.  The first thing you’ll probably have to do is get away from processed foods –  – unless you’re close to an industrial park loaded with food factories.

I was always proud of my consumption habits,  especially with food — until now (see article below).   I don’t think I could ever eat 100% local… heck probably not 50%!   I’d have to give up sushi, most pizzas, bananas, coffee, tea, beer (hops), most fish… yikes!

Let’s start with most people’s first morning routine: coffee/tea. How can that get local?  The closest coffee/tea growers are somewhere down south… last I heard there was a small coffee plantation around Santa Barbara.  Teas – I have no clue… guess I could make my own. But, how can most consumers in 1st world countries get coffee beans that are GROWN locally?

I am lucky to live in California. Within 100 miles are hundreds of hectares of rice, vegies, fruit, organic chicken, seafood, beer, wine… I can easily get local if only… if only I wasn’t so spoiled.

timing is everything…

The seasonality of local food presents a BIG problem for eating local in cold climates.  We are presented with any fruit/vegie 365 days a year.   One solution is to food in root cellars, do some canning, fermentation or dehydration etc.  But that only goes so far.  Again, I am spoiled in California. The Salinas valley on the coast has year-round moderate temperatures and hectares of greenhouses. Can we extend the 50 mile radius to 120 miles?  please?  🙂

Solutions for everyone…

I think greenhouses, vertical and urban farming have tremendous bright futures as fresh, local food becomes more important to every human. But are these ‘greenhouses’ really local?  The current battle being fought with the FDA over aquaculture and greenhouses being able to use the ‘organic’ certified label is being contested.

The label ‘local’ and ‘regional’ are not regulated. A supposedly local farmers market can include devious industrial farmers from over 500 miles away. Transportation complexities can mix up local and far-away produce, so no one can differentiate.

The best bet is your local CSA and farmers. Find them, visit them, buy directly from them, trade your skills for their products… most local farmers discard so much that is not ‘perfect for the market’ … that you can get a bounty of lo-cost produce…

Here’s a great article that got me started on this whole thing…

German DW article

http://www.dw.com/en/would-you-eat-local-for-a-week-i-tried-and-discovered-what-eating-green-really-means/a-36751273

solitude

We tend to associate solitude with either and essential element of life, or as someone who is an outcast.  Solitude is an essential ingredient for human well-being.  Some people associate ‘Walden’ with an idealistic view of solitude.  But Henry Thoreau was anything but solitary: he was a fully engaged & passionate activist his entire life. Our romantic stereotype of him living a luxurious life of solitude in a cabin in the woods next to a pond is in-escapble. I was drawn to the deep forest by this view. A new book ‘ ‘ does a wonderful job of reviewing…… (see NYTimes Book Review Link: www.nytimes.com/ )

* NOTE: It’s taken me over two months to put this blog together. The words solitude and loneliness are generally taboo in our western culture. They tend to have negative connotations of isolation and being an outcast or just plain weird. There’s either sympathy or irreverence for people who are either. How sad. No wonder so many people SILENTLY feel depressed, outcasts, or worse.

my experience
For the past 12 years I’ve gone into purposeful exile from the ‘dreadmill’ (modern slavery in urban jungles), to solitude and isolation at WinSol. From running three Aptek offices, having a dozen employees, a handful of big clients, and jetting around the world – it all came crashing down at meeting in El Segundo with Northrup Gruman and a fire that destroyed WinSol2 – both in 2002. Luckily I came to WinSol full-time around 2006 and mostly avoided the crash of 2008. (and I am ready for an even bigger crash soon). WinSol is surrounded on three sides by NFS (National Forest) and one side leads to unlimited trails and abandonded logging roads.

Fast forward ten years: In the last five years I’ve had many wonderful helpers and friends spend time at WinSol. I’ve learned how to avoid letting my peers’ & society’s judgment and social pressures affect my chosen lifestyle. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve found new appreciation and purpose in living alone at WinSol. The continual peer pressure from society and my ego to ‘rejoin the treadmill’ and many friends’ view that WinSol is too far out there, have contributed to this difficulty. I am more steadfast now that my initial sojourn to WinSol almost 20 years ago, was well-founded. But lately I’ve evolved to seek a more mainstream balance and to re-enter the dreadmill again – albeit with a more centered ‘self’. Turn that around and it again becomes taboo: being self-centered. And that’s good.  One can dance with the devil if one knows and loves them-self.

I take solace in the concept that we must re-invigorate what solitude really means in our modern, technological, world wide web, social media based life:  the constant peer pressure, the steady stream of enticements from emails, facebook, linked-in, etc.The general view of the internet and our on-line ‘presence’ is like a   black plague that we have yet to experience in it’s full demise.  As the philosopher Heidegger once said:  ‘… technology will enable us to fill ALL our desires…’ for good and bad.  There’s nothing ‘good’ about treating people like lab rats and commodities to increase ‘unique web hits’.

A meditation and local Buddhist sangha has helped me. There’s a wonderful book by Sarvananda: ‘Solitude and Loneliness: A Buddhist View’,

In his new book,‘Solitude and Loneliness: A Buddhist View’ Sarvananda explores the themes of solitude and loneliness and how a Buddhist might deal with these emotions. He suggests that, despite the statistics, we still ‘very skillfully, and often unconsciously, organize our lives in such a way as to avoid loneliness.’ Although increasing numbers of us live alone, we are also continuously coming up with new strategies to distract ourselves from our solitude.

Human societies throughout history and all over the world have organized Themselves around living with others. Yet in the last 15 years, there has been an 80% global increase in people living alone. We’re wealthier than our ancestors and the cultures we live in value individualism and independence – we have the freedom to house ourselves in smaller family units or without a family at all. 34% of UK households now have just one person living in them. So is the modern individual more familiar with solitude than ever before?

Yet Sarvananda suggests that facing up to our essential aloneness is ‘where the spiritual life begins.’ ‘Buddhism challenges us to train ourselves to be more and more at ease in our own company,’ he writes, ‘to try and be with ourselves without distraction.’ This means confronting our habitual and repetitive responses to solitude which rely on the approval and reassurance of others. ‘Distrusting our capacity to alone, we too quickly look to others to save us, often from ourselves,’ Sarvananda argues. ‘We become addicted to other people.’

 

I can truly say that I am at ease and very comfortable in my own skin: alone. I am not addicted to other people – although occasionally I do crave for a seat at any Panera or (yikes!) Starbucks – but I get over that pretty quickly. I do have many distractions at WinSol.   I find them more fulfilling than an urban kaleidoscope would be. Gardening tasks, earthen/forest construction projects, learning center improvements, staying 100% off grid, 100% rainwater, <1%waste, etc. But the BIG one that solitude brings is keen observation of nature’s rhythms. The pesky squirells and lizards eating in my gardens, the vagaries of weather extremes, staying within an off-grid ‘budget’ without ‘powering up’… etc.

deepening desire for a certain kind of self-sufficiency.’

Paradoxically, however, it is in facing up to our aloneness that we come to recognize how essentially connected to others we truly are. ‘Although we are essentially alone, we are also essentially related,’ Sarvananda explains. ‘As Buddhists, we are practising in a context: with others and for others. The way out of loneliness or isolation, then, is to love more deeply. It is in going beyond the ego that we also go beyond loneliness and isolation.’

Although our modern societies may value solitude as a living arrangement, it therefore seems that a deeper kind of solitude – a still silence and spaciousness – is still undervalued. In Sarvananda’s words, ‘Solitude needs more championing.’

’The technological advances of modern society allow us to communicate with others even when we’re physically isolated from them – I may be sitting on my own in my flat, but thanks to instant messaging and social networking sites I can still feel connected with my friends and family (and perhaps also a large number of people that I have never met). Our hundreds of facebook friends and Twitter followers ensure that we’re never lonely, even if we’re alone.

 

drawdown

Project Drawdown is a solutions based project that facilitates a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.

The book,Drawdown,reports on this research to map, measure, model, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming. Iis the first detailed plan to reverse global warming

Drawdown hit #9 on the NYT bestseller in its first week, stayed on the best seller list for four weeks, and is in its 4th printing. It was the first book on the environment or climate to attain that ranking in over 25 years.

For each solution, Drawdown describes its history, the carbon impact it provides, the relative cost and savings, the path to adoption, and how it works. The goal of the research that informs Drawdown is to determine if we can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within thirty years. All solutions modeled are already in place, well understood, analyzed based on peer-reviewed science, and are expanding around the world.

DAPL protest

It’s the water.  We need it to live.  We really shouldn’t be mixing it with oil or natural gas or methane.  Ultimately the upstream solution is to totally disconnect ourselves from fossil fuels which are the real ‘alternative energies’.  el Sol is the only true energy source for Gaia.

So I went to a protest in dowimg_20161115_082203ntown SF… the second one in 5 years (occupy was earlier).  There were 2,000+ there – and mostly young-uns!  wow – that is so cool. I do hope this stuff about skipping generations is true, cuz the GenXers sure never woke up to protest our endless wars in the Middle East.

This protest ‘theme’ has my full attention and passion.  Not only is it VERY specific (about water)  and proposes specific solutions (no pipelines close to rivers & aquifers, but it is ALSO about not infringing on the sovereign rights of indigenous people – the ones we did a genocide on which we still have not dealt with!  So Standing Rock and all it’s supporters around the world … ROCK ON.  (note:  this is only the second of many, many pipeline protests to come… the first big-un was the Keystone Excel, this is gettin’ legs, babeee!)

So here I is….

dapl-protest

 

 

img_20161115_075048

 

DAPL = Dakota Access PipeLine

 

Lukewarming

Ok, I admit it:  I’m not really a climate change group thinker or believer anymore , BUT neither am I a  skeptic or climate denier – perhaps I am a lukewarmer,  What the heck is that, you ask???

When it comes to climate change – aka global weirding – I am classifying myself now as a lukewarmer. 

I’m a bit tired of the pop media and group think around climate change – it’s a bit too much – it’s like the environmentalism of the  80’s & 90’s:  let’s do less bad… and if you are not with us you’re against us. We’re about to battle this in Congress when climate science gets in front of Trump’s climate deniers. Oh such entertainment!

Climate change pundits and most scientists focus 100% on emissions.  This is wrong.   Climate change is redundant – it always changes.  And yes, humans are a major contributor – but I sure wish people would stop making us feel guilty about it.   Instead of doing less bad things,  how about we start doing some GOOD things:  like putting biochar back into the soil.  All climate changers keep doing is pounding us with having less CO2 emissions,  having a smaller carbon footprint: stop buying this, start eating that.

Like Dr. Braungart once told me:  if zero emissions are our goal, we should all be DOA (dead).  Humans are part of nature – we’re organic aren’t we?  So it’s quite natural for us to have ’emissions’.  His co-author in ‘Cradle to Cradle’     and partner Bill McDonough just published a paper on a new language for carbon — if we can change our carbon language to do more good, rather than less bad – perhaps we can design a world that will reduce carbon emissions as a by-product rather than declaring a WAR again…

Bill talks about living, durable and future carbon, rather than zero emission.   Here’s a synopsis: “The world’s current carbon strategy aims to promote a goal of zero. Predominant language currently includes words such as “low carbon,” “zero carbon,” “negative carbon,” and even a “war on carbon.” To show progress, according to McDonough, the design world needs values-based language that reflects a safe, healthy and just world. In this new paradigm, by building urban food systems and cultivating closed-loop flows of carbon nutrients, carbon can be recognized as an asset rather than a toxin, and the life-giving carbon cycle can become a model for human designs.”  http://finance.yahoo.com/news/william-mcdonough-offers-language-carbon-160000133.html Continue reading Lukewarming

GMO – here we go again…

…with another consumer scam sponsored by ‘Profits-R-Us’ corporate food greedies. BUT this time it’s a bit different: WE  HAVE A CHOICE.  Please pass this on to your friends…

IGNORE ‘non-GMO’ food labels.  Please, it’s good for you.

the story behind the story…

Consumers are starting to focus on buying non-GMO labeled products. This trend may decimate the organic industry.  Consumers unwittingly think that ‘non GMO’ is also organic. It is not. The dirty secret is non-GMO certified products have nothing to do with organic, and can freely use all industrial farming and heavy pesticide practices among other things.

Consumers are ‘eating up’ (pun intended) the non-GMO label more than the ‘organic’ label and are unwittingly increasing sales of industrial food conglomerates that use pesticides, …. other non-organic practices here….

It gets crazier: non-GMO labels are appearing on dairy and meat products. This is meaningless!

There have been several peer-reviewed scientific studies done debunking the notion that animals being fed GMO feed ‘transmit’ that GMO into their blood stream and into milk, eggs, and meat. There is NO DIFFERENCE between non-GMO labeled dairy and meat products and those that don’t have that label – except price (sometimes 2-3X higher). GMO grain fed cows, pigs, chickens do not produce GMO milk, beef, pork, eggs.

The new label of ‘Non GMO certified’ is a Trojan horse if there ever was one. It basically means it could or could not be organic (most aren’t) and everything else (besides the non-GMO) is industrial farm grade: pesticides, harmful practices, round-up, dirty water, etc.

Your better buy is to look for both labels, side by side (but they ARE duplicative since USDA organic already omits GMO):

Here’s details from an SF Chronicle article:

…organic farmers who objected to the label feel that the non-GMO designation takes away from organic certification, which already requires that farmers avoid using genetically engineered seed and animal feed. Meanwhile, some conventional dairy farmers said the term “non-GMO milk” makes their perfectly safe product sound scary…..

….. Eenennaam’s research has concluded that DNA from genetically engineered feed is not passed to milk or meat. Her 2014 scientific review of 30 years of livestock studies showed no difference in the health of animals given genetically engineered feed and those consuming unmodified feed, or a difference in the nutritional makeup of their meat or milk.

“We are really talking marketing here — developing a product line to differentiate it from a product that already does not contain GMOs,” she said. “As a company they of course can develop whatever products they want and if they see a profitable market — then it is a good business decision.”

It just doesn’t stop! Why do corporations continue to confuse, deceive and mislead consumers in the name of profit? Why is the media not more omnipresent and on top of these things?

On another note, the name ‘Monsanto’ is soon to disappear into ‘Bayer’ and everyone things that Bayer is an aspirin company. Bayer is almost worse than Monsanto when one looks at the ‘sudden bee collapse’ that Bayer’s nicotine based pesticides are mostly responsible.  More info here… link.

Nutrition myths

A recent NYTimes article    SHARE

“Is Sushi ‘Healthy’? What About Granola? Where Americans and Nutritionists Disagree”

This article explores the different common beliefs and expert nutritionists beliefs.  It’s an eye opener!  Quinoa  anyone?

Foods considered healthier by experts than by the public:
Percent describing a food as “healthy” Nutritionists Public Difference
Quinoa 89% 58%
31
Tofu 85% 57%
 28
Sushi 75% 49%
26
Hummus 90% 66%
 24
Wine 70% 52%
18
Shrimp 85% 69%
 16

Later down the list, the only one that surprised me were the granola bars: probably too much sugar & sodium in them?  AND:   I’m not about to give up chocolate chip cookies and a few other things on the lower part of the scale – but maybe I’ll be moving them more into the 10-20% frequency range – or at least that’s my intention :-).

Here’s the NYTimes article link:

 

 

 

Brexit op ed

Disclaimer: Please forgive me if I get political here for one blog: this is the one & only time in my ten year blogging history I will entertain politics.

I’m flummoxed over the UKs Brexit vote on Wednesday. Let me explain:  Brexit (short for Britain Exit) is the first time UK citizens vote on whether to stay as part of the European Union (EU) or not.

One of the three legs of sustainable living is social justice. With the ‘Brexit’ vote a few days away, it will send a global message about social justice and affect global futures for years to come.

  • Is it a local decentralized vs centralized issue?
  • Is is banks & finance vs. Main street?
  • Is is autonomous vs …?
  • Is it jobs vs trade?
  • Is it rich vs poor?
  • Is it micro vs super capitalism?

The short answer is YES, it’s all of these and more.

Before the Brexit vote it’s been the UK’s government, banks and corporations driving decision with the EU. For the first time now, it’s the English people’s turn to decide. There’s a lot at stake. You can read all about it in the pop media, but the story behind the story and its implications are more subtle. Here’s a couple links:

the Economist          USA Today

I can boldly say this one of the first big popular votes on super-capitalism by a western country. I am almost in favor of a ‘yes’ Brexit vote, just to see how corporate capitalists will react and spin the results to their benefit, and if other EU countries will follow suit. I can also argue for a ‘no’ Brexit vote because of all the people that will be displaced (mostly immigrants) and how once again lower economic sector, aka poor people, will suffer the most (jobs, inflation, taxes, etc).

But there are so many sides and complexities to the Brexit vote. For one, you have to look at the long-term history of England’s relationship to the rest of Europe. And, most importantly you have to look at the whole history and cultures within Europe.

Some of the immediate short term impacts will include:

  • The British pound will be devalued
  • Jobs will be lost (lo-wage ones disproportionally)
  • Borders will be closed
  • Tourism will decrease, visas required
  • Trade will suffer (both exports & imports to the UK)
  • NATO may be affected
  • Cost of doing EU business will go up
  • Energy prices affected
  • Right wing conservatives, isolationists will be emboldened
  • Central bank costs, trade costs will go up

My personal business experience with British business-persons was always fine because they presumed I was an American. When they found out (way later) that I was native German (and proud of it), they somehow seemed to distance themselves from me. My company landed many jobs in the Germanic and Scandinavian countries, but never one single one in the UK, even tho they were the leaders of PPP (Public Private Partnerships) – but that’s a whole other story. Back to Brexit…

The UK is way more aligned with the USA than it is with the EU. That’s a fact on many levels. The UK also needs the EU for finance, business and market reasons – that’s also a fact. What the UK doesn’t need, is a bunch of Brussels (Hdqrtrs of EU) bureaucrats telling them how to run their country. And most other countries in the EU feel the same way. And there’s the rub: One cannot compare the EU to the USA. The EU is not comprised of multiple states that are united together. The EU is a collection of age old cultures and countries with different languages, own armies, own banks, own currencies, etc before they all agreed to share everything but their languages and cultures. And therein lies the rub. How can multiple cultures come together and share? How can Greeks and Germans agree to austerity programs? How can Austria and Hungary agree to border controls? For the last twenty years the success of the EU always has been and will continue to be on financial and trade reasons. It’s big business! Or super-capitalism. If small is beautiful, and everything good is local, local; then how in the heck did the EU ever agree to ‘get bigger’? The answer is simple: money and competition.

In a world of every increasing trading partners and trading blocks (NAFTA, SEAT, PTA, etc) how could 28 small countries possible compete on the global stage? And so that’s one of the question in front of British voters in five days: Do you want to return to being a small fish within a big pond? Do you want to survive on your own, close down your borders, re-create your own banking and business centers?

Surely there will be short-term flashback from the EU if Brexit is passed. The EU has already fired many salvos across UK’s bow, warning it of dire banking and financial consequences. But do the people care? Do they want to be told what they can and cannot do? Will fear mongering of foreign ‘terrorists’ prevail? Are the people sick and tired of Banks and Corporations driving them further and further down economic parity? Stay tuned to June 23rd.