When the smartest folks in the country…

…are boycotting the TransCanada Crop pipeline, it’s time to take a look at that heinous crime yourself and get involved.

Map Your Neighborhood Step 10

There is a brilliant woman named Dr. LuAn Johnson in Olympia, Washington who created the Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) program. It has the nine steps to complete immediately after a wide scale emergency such as a tornado or earthquake.

For our small town, we are adding a “Step 10” series to various citizens’ nine step guidebook to bridge the gap between an individual set of neighbors and the larger community surrounding them. Steps 1-9 of Dr. Johnson’s MYN program ensure you, your loved ones, and your direct neighbors are cared for and secured. As we roll out our town-wide plans to connect our neighborhoods for both emergency preparedness and sustainability projects, the Step 10 series will shift the focus of specific individuals to securing entire neighborhoods and then the whole town (which happens to be an easily defined area – it’s an island).

Perhaps this list will be useful for your town as well. Here are a few examples of our Step 10 additions for citizens to pursue after they have finished their Steps 1-9. They will seek to travel (safely, short distances) to their neighborhood’s designated shelter:

  • Ham radio operators to begin communication coordination
  • Doctors, nurses, EMTs and CPR experts to to provide medical attention
  • Mechanics and engineers to ensure all generators are safely up and running
  • Members of the horse and bicycle communities to begin transportation duties (medical supplies, communication devices, etc) where roads are likely blocked by landslides and fallen trees

As we do further work on these Step 10 actions, we’ll document them on our main website, as well as excerpts here on this blog.

Keep Calm & Carry On

I have British friends who use this old catchphrase often and many times tongue-in-cheek. Which made me smile all the more when I saw the nearby graphic while reading one of my favorite blogs, Little Homestead in the City.

As we are ramping up our local efforts to build resilient neighborhoods on our island, it’s a good reminder to read about the history of victory gardens and related sustainability projects that our grandparents were quite familiar with, and that are becoming new again.

In her post Anais asks her readers their preparedness levels in these areas (at least one of which you’ll see we’ve not listed in our categories to the right – oops): Food, Water, Fuel Energy, Sanitation, Alternative Currency, Transportation, Communications, Medical & First Aid, Survival, Security.

I’ll prepare a future post regarding our sanitation plans in low or no power scenarios.

Peak Oil 101…now with humor

Love the folks over at Transition Voice, especially their post A Snarky Guide to Peak Oil.

Recommended reading.

The safety of energy

Don’t you love it when people smarter than yourself say exactly what you are thinking?

Especially when they do it in just a handful of sentences. Seth Godin brilliantly summarizes the energy debate between nuclear versus oil versus coal while riffing on this interesting graphic.

Maintaining grass without gas

Joel Salatin, the godfather of this blog says he’s just a grass farmer. Ha! he’s actually a farmer of a significant number of animals and crops, but his meaning is clear. He takes care of the grass in the fields, and everything else falls into place.

To date I’ve been using a variety of tools for grass management which include a lightweight electric mower for the proper lawn around the house, a serious gas-powered DR mower for the pasture (hiking paths, electronet chicken fence), an electric weed-eater for trimming, and more. In general, I’m completely dependent upon oil or electricity. Not good.

Enter the scythe. After just a few sessions trimming the lawn proper and prepping the pasture for a new installation of chicken electronet fencing, I’m already loving this thing. At $200 for a complete setup, that’s well below the price of any of my existing tools, which are noisy, smelly, and more dangerous than this giant blade.

When you’re using a scythe, you don’t need eye/ear protection. In fact, I did a work telephone meeting last week while using it. Just a slight (and pleasant) woosh sound while you are working. And it is significantly more time efficient when compared to the overall time of the power tools including gassing up, charging batteries, and annual maintenance. Just grab the scythe + whetstone and off you go.

I’ll be selling off our other power tools for grass maintenance this month.

R2D2 lives in my garage

The next energy efficiency project we’re tackling is getting our #1 electricity draw – our hot water – lowered on our bill. We originally spent months researching how to get it *off* our bill entirely via solar hot water tubes, but for our region of the country, that simply is not yet possible year round.

We decided the next best thing was to purchase an ultra-high efficiency model which will last us another 10 years, believing that solar technology will continue to rapidly improve in the meantime.

Which is how we came to have R2D2 living in our garage. Think of him as what happens when hot water heaters mate with heat pumps. The heat pump on top draws in the heat from the garage, applying it to water in the tank below, and then spitting back out cold air.

This is the GeoSpringTM hybrid water heater from GE, model #GEH50DNSRSA. Recommended with a fast payback time.

Best energy investment you can make

…is improving your existing structure with insulation. It’s a relatively inexpensive project with a one year (or less) payback.

As a follow-up to our energy audit, we hired a three-person crew to spend 12 hours under our house adding another layer of high R value insulation.

I would not recommend this as a DIY project. Three pros * 10 hours = 30 hours to do the job right. If I tried this myself, I would make enough mistakes and have to learn the basic efficiencies on the work at first, so we could safely double that hour amount to 60 hours.

And given that I could only work on it in the afternoons, and only on some afternoons since it would be difficult to get to my work phone while fully geared up for insulation (full head protection including a mask), I’m guessing those 60 hours would be spent in 3 hour chunks spread over 20 days.

Three weeks! Yikes. It was well worth the added expense to have pros do it in a single day.

Climate Patriots

Two interesting, new terms to me, climate patriots and “environmental security”. These guys are right on and our best hope for bringing climate change awareness (and action) to Middle America.

Climate Patriots is a short video that provides a military perspective on energy, climate change and American national security.  The Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate conducted a series of interviews with former military leaders to discuss the challenges posed to the U.S. armed forces due to the impacts of climate change and our energy posture.  The video features:

  • Senator John Warner (R-VA), Former chairman U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee;
  • Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy (Ret.), CNA Military Advisory Board Member;
  • Former Captain James Morin, U.S. Army; and
  • Admiral John Nathman, U.S. Navy (Ret.), CNA Military Advisory Board Member.

Heating with wood

While I was stacking up two more cords this week, I had time to reflect on fuel sources for heat. Wood versus electric versus gas. From the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings: assuming you’re burning sustainably harvested wood, the trees that replace the wood absorb more carbon dioxide than is created burning it. Interesting.

Hat tip to the hipster Umbra.