Category Archives: Conservation

My rig, and simpleness

I thought it would be interesting to post up a picture of my bicycle here.  Most of the time a bike is posted on a blog it’s to talk about how fancy it is and all the features and what they cost.  Blah blah blog

A picture of the road bike.

I’m much more into simple and functional.  And cheap.  Now that’s not for everyone.  If I was older and not able to handle discomfort perhaps I would care that my bike is just a little bit small for me.  Or that it only has one gear.  If I was riding across the country, instead of across town, I would certainly care about the gear part.

Missing derailleur

But as it is, I usually ride 5-10 miles and this works just fine for me.

What you are seeing here is a $50 investment in an old frame and adding about $175 in components (and bike shop labor) making the bike a fixed gear bike. I’m a fan of simplicity and fixed gear bikes are that.  And cheap. If I were to buy a new fixed gear frame it would cost around $400 just for the frame.

I think a bike like this is a good metaphor for America in a lot of ways. We, as Americans, always feel like technology will be the answer for us. Whatever is next and newer and better is always better. I’m not so sure. James Howard Kunstler talks a lot in the Kunstlercast about the diminishing returns of technology.  I think we are squarely in the middle of this.  No one needs a bike with 30 different speeds, or carbon fiber or special low resistance wheels.  What we need are bikes that are simple, reliable and efficient.

Some technologies do make your life better. As I’m writing this I’m sitting on the back porch using a WIFI connection to “work” while I listen to birds (and not bite my kids’ ears off because they are so loud) and enjoy some peace (not withstanding all the lawn mowers chugging away).  The WIFI connection has enabled me to make any room of the house an office instead of one central spot.  It has done amazing things for the way I work while in the office as well, and for others.  To me, this is a good example of a technology that has an increasing return on my life.

Think about the technology in your life and figure out which ones make your life better, and which ones actual create a drag on your life’s momentum.  Do you still need them?  Can you jettison them?  To me, asking questions like these are the basis of living simply.


I’ve Got Worms!

I combed through the worm castings tonight. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it, but I did. Last year I chickened out and just dumped the whole bucket on the compost pile. Today I actually dug through it and pulled out as many worms as I could.

This bucket is full about 2 inches deep across the whole thing. And worm castings are way stronger than compost. I’m anxious to get them on the tomatoes and the corn.

The burden of receiving a gift

Recently my work place gave me a gift card to Target for some extra effort work I did.
(This is neither here not there, but the extra effort wasn’t that much.  I think they set the bar too low, but I still appreciate it.) 
Anyway, it’s for $200, and I’m going crazy trying to figure out what to do with it.  I’m obviously watching my consumption, like always, but this is “free” money.  It was given to me.  And what should I get with it?  That’s the first idea that pops into my head.  
I could buy a CD, but I’m not much of a music person.  In fact, the last time I bought a CD was probably 2 years ago after I watched Walk the Line.  I thought about a handheld stick blender, but my wife raised a valid point of how much I use our current blender.  A food processor then.  I’ll surely use that, and a lot.  But, I’m not so sure.  My friend doesn’t seem to have a problem letting me borrower hers (probably because of the items that come back with it as a thanks), and borrowing is better than buying something, even if the money is free.  My wife put in a claim for some weights for when she works out, but I think we can find those used somewhere else, not new from a store.
So what then?  What’s left?  Should it just be used for boring everyday items that I need to buy from the store anyway?  Should a gift like this cause me so much stress?  My co-worker gone one also, and her opinion is that a little should be used for a splurge that you wouldn’t normally allow yourself, but the rest should be for every day items.  Maybe that’s the route to go.  Either way, the company will get their money.  If it’s not used in a reasonable amount of time Target will take it and that will be all there is. 
Who would think that a gift would drive me so crazy?

Almost time…

It’s almost time. Only one more day until the big day. Which is good, because I’ve spent to much time in the kitchen I think my kitchen utensils have become extensions of my hands.

12-23-07-009.jpg I’m to bring the bread to Christmas dinner, but with my schedule I had to make it today. I hope they taste OK by Tuesday. I made rolls, which is my first attempt at that. I simply made my whole wheat bread recipe, then rolled little chunks into balls and put 4 in a muffin tin to make a clover leaf type of roll. I sampled one and they taste fine so that’s good.  Now I’ll have to get to work on the squash dish…

It’s my little lady’s birthday tomorrow, so we celebrated tonight since it will 12-23-07-007.jpgbe hectic tomorrow night. Usually she has angel food cake, but tonight we had a pineapple upside down cake. My first attempt at that. (Certainly not local but at least homemade) It needed more pineapple, but otherwise it is pretty good.  You can make this with apples too, which I’ll try, but it didn’t look nearly as good as I knew the pineapple one would be.

We got a ton of snow last night, so there has been quite a bit of snow time the past few days. I wouldn’t be shocked if we had 8-10 inches. I know it was at least 6. I’ll get some pics up after I get a chance to resize them and get them looking OK.

As an interesting note, we moved our corn stove upstairs from the basement to heat our house more easily. This necessitated that we redo our clothesline situation, so now our family room looks like this.

12-23-07-010.jpgThe corn stove is straight in front of my wife (you can sorta see the very nicely laid tile floor under it, along with the dog bed which she was happy to have us move).  We have two retractable clotheslines that stretch across the room to hang clothes on. We’re still working out the kinks, but it appears that with two busy weekend days we can get all the clothes washed and hung up to dry. Put away is a different story, but we can at least dig them out of clothes baskets after they are clean.

Our house is kind of like a mullet in reverse.  It’s casual in the front but all business in the back!  Hope you all enjoy your holiday time doing whatever you do with whoever you do it with!

The world is thirsty

Sharon tipped me off to this article, but it is really sobering how no one is talking about the implications of the drought conditions we are having in different parts of America, and across the world. 

Has our population grown so much that we are already too large to be supported by nature?

Do we just need to stop wasting so much water showering every day and watering our yards?

What needs to be done to use water more efficiently?

I live in an area with what seems like plenty of water resources, but should I be concened anyway so we can protect and better manage what we have?  Should I worry about refugees coming here because of our water resources?

These are interesting questions.  As the article points out, there are no easy answers. 

When will we be able to start making the tough choices we need to all make? 

Hell, a lot of these choices are easy.  It’s time to use some common sense folks.

Carefree spending of our tax dollars

According to this article there are 101 Million residential houses in America. 

I have read news blurbs that suggest the current bill for the war in Iraq has passed the $1Trillion mark.  (No telling where it will end, and don’t forget the annual budget in excess of $500billion for the Pentagon.)

That means that we have effectively spent $9900 per house for this war in Iraq.

$9900 would pay for a pretty nice beginning solar array for each house in America to reduce our need for electricty. Or a nice package of new windows and insulation to tighten up the houses.

Granted, the war in Iraq was about oil for cars, but reducing our needs at home would help our country’s energy profile immensely.

Imagine what could happen in America if we would approach our energy wants in a different way.


Designs on permaculture



This is a picture of my house. Click it if you want to enlarge it. I’m enlisting some advice from any of you that might be perma-culture people. We want to increase the food production of our little lot while still maintaining a “normal” front yard and also attempting to shield the house from some of the sun during the summer.


In this picture you are facing north, which means that the front of the house faces south. In the winter we get great solar gain from this but I want to shade more of the house during the summer. Especially the windows on the right and left of the front door. I was thinking about planting cherry trees about 5-6 feet in front of those windows to provide some sun blockage in the summer. I expect they will grow about 8-10ft tall so that seems like it would work.


We are also trying to determine what other trees to add to the front of the house. I think we will only add two trees. The existing tree you can see on the left is a maple tree that is almost dead, but I left it there to provide some shade until it completely dies. Any trees we plant in the front yard will be mostly on their own as the front yard is the play yard at our house. Behind our house our neighbors have an apple tree and a pear tree that we are allowed to assist with tasty fruit removal so keep that in mind. Personally I’ve been interested in paw paw trees, but I’ve never had one and I don’t want to invest in a tree until I have one. I just haven’t found one to try yet.


Also, we want to remove the evergreen bushes you see on the front. We’re thinking about making those blueberry bushes, but I’m not sure if that would be too much sun. Most likely I think it might be. I also would like to add a rosemary bush in there somewhere. And over to the far right by the clay pot, which isn’t there yet, will be the spot of our solar water heater, so I have to keep the need for full sun for that in mind when I place the plants in their spots.


Well, do any of you have any ideas on what we can do to get some Gaia going on over here?