Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming

Pesticides linked to bee deaths must be banned, scientists say – Technology & Science – CBC News

BeeWe do everything we can to invite pollinators into our yard. We have Mason Bee houses, a Butterfly house, lots of flowering plants and we certainly don’t use any chemical pesticides.

Unfortunately, all around us are neighbours that just don’t understand or care about what is happening to our natural world. Please have a look at this CBC article that, once again, sounds the warning from our Scientists.

Pesticides linked to bee deaths must be banned, scientists say – Technology & Science – CBC News.

Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

Dryer Heat Recovery and Dark Sky Lighting

These are two nice DIY projects from George Plhak’s blog.

Dryer Heat Recovery Using a Furnace Filter

Venting clothes dryers to the outside is very wasteful.  It wastes the heat contained in the vented air stream, much of which could be recovered for space heating.  And, venting the air to the outdoors causes new air to be pulled into the house which then has to be heated to the house temperature by the furnace.  The energy wasted can be as much as 4 KWH per dryer load — clearly one of the largest potential home energy savings available.
While there are various approaches to recovering dryer heat, the simplest one is to just vent the dryer air stream inside the house.  One problem with this is capturing the lint in the dryer stream so it does not end up in your house.  George has worked out a nice way to vent to the inside and to capture the lint using a furnace filter.  The furnace filter provides a lot of filter area, is easy to replace, and is inexpensive.
The dry vent filter box is on the wall next to the dryer.
The filter goes in a slot in the box.
Important Note: For some climates and some homes, venting the dryer inside can result in moisture problems, so if you go this way, be sure to monitor the situation after you starting venting inside.  Also, this is for electric dryers only — gas dryers should never be vented inside.

A DIY Garden Light that Preserves Dark Sky

This is a very nice design that uses inexpensive and recycled parts to make a low energy use (LED) garden light that does not allow any upward light radiation that would pollute the night skies.
The light in action.
It uses a used stainless steel mixing bowl and a jelly jar to hold the LED and reflect its light downward toward the ground.  Makes a very nice light pattern on the ground.
The mixing bowl and jelly jar to house the light 
George’s blog has a lot of interesting material, including his extensive work on a DIY concentrating solar water heating collector.
June 17, 2014
Posted in Healthy (& Tasty!) Eating

Mussels with Italian Turkey Sausage, Tomato & Basil

Mussels with Italian Turkey Sausage, Tomato & Basil Recipe
When mussels and turkey sausage meet up with white wine and tomato, pure kitchen alchemy occurs in this quick dinner recipe. The broth that brews at the bottom of the pot will make you feel that a piece of crusty bread (for soaking, of course) is your new best friend.

Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

Update on Confined Earthbag Building

Small earthbags are compacted with a plate compactor.

Small earthbags are compacted with a plate compactor.

I love hearing about innovative natural building projects. Ed, a long time reader, sent me an update on his earthbag home in Ecuador. Ed is using confined earthbags that sit within a reinforced concrete frame. This is a good method for those who need to meet building code and for areas that are vulnerable to hurricanes and earthquakes.

Compacted earthbags are set within a reinforced concrete frame with barbed wire between courses.

Compacted earthbags are set within a reinforced concrete frame with barbed wire between courses.

“We finally installed the last of the roughly 2,000 bags it took to build the house. Took a bunch of pics to show the process I finally ended up with. The bags we used were smaller than what you use, compacted they are 4x9x21 inches. [This works because the bags within a concrete frame.] They weigh about 45 pounds apiece. After plastering this still gives me a wall a little over 12 inches wide. I used cadenas through out (the rebar cage that’s $19.50 for one 6 meters long and made from 3/8ths rebar), no buttresses. All bags were filled and compacted in a form then installed compacted. The last batch of bags we did I decided to keep some good records. It took 3 of us 2 hours to run enough road base through a 3/8ths screen for 55 bags. It then took us 1 hour and 15 minutes to mix about 10% clay in a cement mixer and fill the 55 bags. It took us 40 minutes to compact the 55 bags using a plate compacter I bought. It took 35 minutes to install the 55 bags. [Total time: 2 + 1.25 + .45 + .5 = approx. 4.5 hours for 3 sq.m. wall area. Also note, try to buy good soil that doesn’t required extra ingredients and mixing.]

The bags are polypropylene or as they call it here, polypropelina and cost $190 for a thousand of them. The strength of this stuff never ceases to amaze me. On the front part of the house where I have one wall that is 11 feet tall I had to pour the concrete for the bond beam single handed. My problem was how to get the concrete up the ladder because there was no way I was going to carry all of those buckets up the ladder. I decided to try an experiment so I filled a bag with wet concrete to the brim and then just stuck the hook from my chain hoist straight through the weave of the bag with no reinforcement of any kind. I then hoisted the bag to the top of the wall and emptied it. After I had hoisted the bag to the top of the wall 25 times and emptied it there was no indication of impending failure but I got scared of it so I changed the bag. I used this technique for that whole wall and never had a bag fail. I figure I have about 25 cents worth of road base in each bag. The 10% clay is free. Barbed wire is about $20 for 200 meters. Sand and gravel are $22 a meter. A 50 kg. bag of Portland cement is $8.00. I would die a happy man if they started making 25 kg. bags of cement. I pay my workers $2 and hour which is actually about 50 cents an hour above the going rate and they work like freaking mules. Really good guys.

I didn’t take pictures of the concreting but you can see finished examples in the photos. Anyway we are now done with this part and I think the house could take a direct hit from a tractor trailer traveling 50 miles and hour and all it would do is piss the house off. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for all of your help and if and when we ever finish it I’ll send those photos.”

Confined Earthbag Construction
Confined Earthbag
Interesting idea: You could build a simple foot-levered device that raises the earthbags out of the form after they’re compacted. Also note how the end product is essentially rammed earth or large compressed earth blocks (CEBs). No need for a special CEB press using this method. Resell the plate compactor when your house is finished. Rammed earth requires expensive and time consuming formwork and expensive compaction equipment.

Update on Confined Earthbag Building is a post from: Natural Building Blog

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The post Update on Confined Earthbag Building appeared first on Natural Building Blog.

Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

A Large Shop Thermosyphon Solar Air Heating Collector

This is Ivan’s large shop heating thermosyphon solar air heating collector.
It is 6 ft high by 40 ft wide. This 240 sqft of collector will likely provide in excess of 40,000 BTU per hour on a sunny winter day.
The finished 6 by 40 ft collector
These collectors are very effective heaters and since they rely only on thermosyphoning to move air through the collector they do not need any fans, controls, or power. The only moving parts in the whole collector are the simple backdraft dampers that prevent reverse flow at night. At about $3 to $5 per sqft of collector, these are one of the fastest payback solar projects that it is possible to build.
This is the south wall of the shop before the collector was added:
Ivan just built the collector right over the windows.  This allows a nice, wide and simple collector. I think this will work quite well as the windows will still get quite a bit of light through the collector absorber (which is two layers of screen).  How to handle existing windows is a question that comes up quite a bit in adding collectors, and I think Ivan’s method is definitely worth considering.
The collector frame is built right on the existing shop wall.  The upper and lower vents that connect the collector and the shop are visible in the picture.  After the frame is done, the back wall is covered with rigid insulation, painted black, and then the two screen absorber is added, followed by the outer glazing.
The glazing being applied to the collectors, which already have the absorbers installed.
This diagram shows how simple the collector is.  The solar heated absorber heats the air, which rises out of the collector and draws new air into the bottom.  No fans, no controls, no electricity, no maintenance.
June, 9, 2014