It has been a year and two months since we moved in and we are very pleased with the results.
As you know I live in an earth-bermed passive solar house in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Today is a rainy, overcast, and relatively cool day at12C or 60F and our house's current temperature without any heating is at 69F or 20.55C.
It has been a year and two months since we moved in and we are very pleased with the results.
Originally this year we thought we would construct an underground greenhouse, and we still might, next year. We changed our minds due to the fact that our land is a mix of hard and soft and you just don't know until you dig....and the thought of a building a retaining wall within the underground green house put us off this year and it would interest the expense and well we only budgeted so much to built one.
So we decided to use what we had to modify and that gave us this almost finished straw bale greenhouse that you see to the left.
Process: We started with our existing shed and its south facing exposure and added three raised beds using recycled pig penning or PVC with some recycle wood. We then built the frame using the raised beds and shed structures to support clear plastic roofing made to let the sun in. We considered framing it in all the way, however decide we could remove the straw next year and use it to grow potatoes while letting our green house breath for the summer. We haven't yet and it isn't shown but we will be adding plastic sheeting on the inside and outside of the straw bales to keep moisture out. Since the shed is directly outside our east end door of the house we have easy access to water, however we plan to eventually add a rain barrel to collect water. Finally, we plan to add shelves on the wall of the shed to use in seedling/starter seeds in the spring.
This project cost just the price of the roofing - clear corrugated roofing panels was approximately $300, the remaining materials were free to us, including the straw. The size of the greenhouse is 10 feet by 14 feet.
Our house was built using ICF or insulated concrete forms and I'm sold on them...our house is a great temperature year round without any air conditioning and heating with only the sun or 2 cords of wood for back up heat. This brings me to papercrete, I read about it and liked the idea of using recycled paper for the insulation part and concrete to make it solid and add thermal mass, the fact that it is cheaper and possibly easy to build with, has me looking at it for a future shed or bunk house on our property.
And this is the experiment to make one block to see how it works. I'm not doing anything fancy, just as simple as possible because that is my style. NOTE: NOT PROFESSIONAL ADVICE....I'm experimenting for my personal use.
Step 1: Gather materials. (Dry Portland cement, papers shredded (colour or no colour no problem) and water) Some people add dirt and make it 1/3 of each cement, dirt, and shredded paper...you decide.
Step 2: Decide on the shape and form you will use. I'm using a coconut water box since it looks like a garden square. Others have used bricks, or larger retangles, etc.
Step 3: Container to mix your papercrete in before pouring into your mould or form. I am using an empty coconut oil bucket.
Step 4: Decide on your mix we used 1/2 cement and 1/2 paper to give a good solid one to work with.
Step 5: Start the process.
a) Shred paper and put in a bucket with water to soak for a few days...softens it up and makes it easier to mix.
b) Add cement and mix vigorously.
c) Pour into form after you notice it is well blended. Wait 20minutes to 30 minutes to remove all but the bottom coverage of cardboard. Note: Use cardboard under the papercrete to make it easy to remove.
I'm waiting now for it to dry to see what it looks like and if it will be ok to use in building....next blog I'll share how it worked or didn't....hoping it is a great mix and solid brick to use.
Overview what it is "Unlike concrete or adobe, papercrete blocks are lightweight, less than a third of the weight of a comparably-sized adobe brick. Papercrete is mold resistant and has utility as a sound-proofing material."
DIY - Papercrete Yurt and a good FAQ website
UPDATE: See the finished product below. It does shrink as it dries so keep this in mind. Overall, happy with the finished product, now to apply this in a project or two.
I had a ton of kale and while it is great for juicing, salads, etc I was looking for some other uses. That is when a friend told me she tried Kale Pesto...great idea. I tried and it is delicious. Then another person suggested garlic scrapes instead of basil for pesto...equally good idea. So here they are for your enjoyment!
Kale or Garlic Scrapes Pesto
4 cups lightly packed Kale (stem removed) or garlic scrapes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup walnuts (or pine nuts or almonds)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste
Parmesan cheese if you like but I don't add cheese to mine.
1. Put all ingredients into a food processor and pulse or grind to chop finely....then add oil and process until pasty like the picture above. Add into cook pasta by tossing it or even add it to other dishes to add flavour.
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The vineyard is planted - speaking about grape vines....complete with lavender planted underfoot. We have pictured at top left 28 blueberry bushes, then 46 grape vines (top right), 5 black currant bushes (bottom left) and about 10 various types of cherries - bush variety(bottom right). Strawberries, rhubarb, black raspberries, blackberries, aronia berry and goji are in too! The next few years should be fruitful - ha! Then we have our fruit trees - chum (half cherry half plum), Asian pear (looks like an apple and tastes like a pear), paw paw and regular plum so far. Hazelnut trees are doing well since being planted last year and this year we added two almond trees....really hoping they last the winter.
I think we are finished our fruit planting for this year.
Every year we try at least one different crop in our garden and this year was no exception. Pictured at right is a small sample of our 'new to us' crops. The large picture to the left is Angelica Archangelica, next to that is Astragalus both are herbs. The top right picture is celery, underneath that is golden flax and the bottom right is goji berries. The pictures are taken at the starter stage...hoping I'll have full grown photos at the end of the season.
Salt Spring Seeds in British Columbia is where I bought the bulk of my seeds this year and so far they are proving to be very good suppliers.
Angelica Archangelica - interestingly is said to come from the Greek word "arkhangelos" (=arch-angel), due to the myth that it was the archangel Michael who told of its use as medicine. It grows 4-8 feet high as a bush with huge celery-like leaves and large ball-flowers. Great bee plant.
Astragalus a perennial, immune-boosting root, growing to 6ft. And according Wikipedia and herbalist "A. propinquus is used in traditional Chinese Medicine for healing and for diabetes. A. propinquus has been asserted to be a tonic that can improve the functioning of the lungs, adrenal glands, and the gastrointestinal tract, increase metabolism and sweating, promote healing and reduce fatigue."
Celergy and flax likely need no introduction and well goji berries are a powerhouse of nutrition - seed purchased from Sask Power Goji Nursery
We have tried a number of other new crops this year and I hope to post them as they develop. It is amazing what we can grow in Canada. Happy gardening!
The two certainties in life death and taxes and by coincidence they both cost money. Much like you can simplify a number of things your life you can simplify and save on your funeral and even have some environmentally friendly choices.
Casket - you can have a simple pine wood casket. Monks in Canada make them starting at $1,500. They also note your rights that you should know when dealing with a funeral home in Canada.
Our ancestors did things simply and buried or burned their dead. Now a days there is much fanfare and business around funerals. The song by Great Big Sea - The Night Pat Murphy Died gives a great overview of a simple funeral. When you died they dressed you at home, put you in a casket maybe made by your family and they 'waked' you at the house or Church.
In the simplest terms you can have the following:
- bury the person right away and you don't need to embalm them
- build your own casket or purchase a simple pine box as noted by the monks business above (it is what they use to bury themselves)
- host the wake at home or Church and hold the service from those locations too
- create a simple and long lasting head stone, concrete maybe
- where you can bury or scatter ashes is definitely regulated check your local sources
Government regulations are the only thing you need to be well versed in - here is a consumer handbook to review.
Just know you have choices to have an inexpensive and simple funeral according to your needs and loved ones wishes.
Went to Jonesport, Maine for a weekend to learn about solar panels and solar electricity and came home with a solar battery charger kit (to finish at home) and a completed solar cell phone charger. Photo at the left is a broken solar cells cut to make one string and being tested to see if they are drawing electricity from the cloudy day (and yes they certainly did) to use in the solar batter recharger that Darcie is showing at the top. That bottom photo is me holding my just finished solar cell phone charger...that was pulling in 6.6 volts when tested even on a very cloudy day...still enough to charge a cell phone in a couple of hours.
I learned about a lot of very interested projects that Dr. Komp is doing worldwide, creating great business opportunities for third world countries and helping those at low income create a living for their families or how to generate their own power.
Hoping to have a seminar on PEI to teach people how to do these projects too and trust me if I can learn than anyone can! These projects were done with broken solar cells so that made them cheap and a great recycle project. I'm now looking into suppliers so if you know of any let me know.
The first session in the Sustainable Living series was on Renewable Energy with a look at an introduction to solar panels, solar furnace, and rocket stove. David Mackenzie did a wonderful job in giving a brief overview of his off-grid small system for his small cottage and then how he plans to use on-grid for his current house. Here is a brief overview of what you need to keep in mind.
Step 1: Know how much electricity you use see an electric bill at the left pictured. This is important to know so you can 'size' your system. Or find out how many solar panels you will need to power your electrical usage.
Step 2: Start to reduce your usage The less energy you use the less infrastructure you need to add and most importantly it helps you save money and decide which type of system you will chose off-grid or on-grid. Here are a few suggestions to reduce your energy usage:
- Few tips here Top 10 ways to stop wasting money
- Energy Calculator to show where you use the most
- Replacing your typical lights with LED is an easy way.
- Stove, hot water, refrigerator etc.
Step 3: Decide - will you have an Off-Grid or On-Grid System? The decision isn't as simple as you might image.
Off-Grid (Diagram if you click title)
- You are independent and creating your own energy.
- If the power goes on the grid it doesn't impact you.
- Can cost more because you need extra components compared to an on-grid
system i.e batteries
- Unless you have a back up generator you are on your own so if you use up your stores you have no electricity.
On-Grid (Diagram if you click title)
- It requires fewer components so can be cheaper.
- You have the grid to back up your power supply so if you are short in your production of power then they give you what you need.
- If the grid goes down so do you.
- For PEI residents we currently have net metering which means you can't earn money but they do give you credit if you are using some of their electric one month and you are giving them electric another month or netting out to zero. If you give them more - you don't get any extra and lose the credit at the end of the year. And you still are required to pay the monthly service fee. More Information
Step 4: DIY or Hire Someone
This will depend on your comfort level and your budget.
Solar Furnace - Darcie Lanthier presented her class project (Renewable Energy at Holland College) on a solar furnace that she uses to heat her chicken coop in the winter. This isn't Darcie's video but gives you an idea of what she built. Solar Furnace Darcie used aluminum column cut in two and the total project cost just under $50. Very interesting and maybe we can do a fall session where we are shown how to build one.
Rocket Stove - Rory Beck presented on what a rocket stove is and how it works this link gives a great summary for you to see. A rocket stove is similar in some ways to a wood stove or masonry furnace but cheaper to build. A rocket stove uses 15% less wood approximately then a wood stove and small sticks can be used rather than logs. Well done presentation. Rory had the experts come to PEI to build his rocket stove which is in their barn. Insurance/regulatory issues need to be addressed on this type of heating but would certainly be worth looking at. If you are interested in building a small demo here is a site that shows you how.
Next Sustainable Living Session is Saturday, April 20th 1:00pm is a Start a Garden Demo and 3:00pm to 5:00pm will be Sustainable Transportation more details here.
Tracey Allen loves to research, learn and write on all topics to do with gluten-free cooking, whole food cooking, saving, sustainable living and living life to the fullest.