Surviving a cold winter

Back in November, I built an outdoor wood stove (I’ll post details of the design and construction, soon), because I had lots of wood to burn and my heat pump wasn’t working. Winter came early and it was harsh, as I’m sure most of you know. I burned through all of my firewood pretty quickly, so I spent a good deal of time searching for dead trees to cut up and split. I managed to get through most of January heating my house 100% with wood. Finally, we got some nice weather, so I went out and found the defective part in my heat pump and ordered a replacement. I’m still supplementing my heat with what little wood I have left, but the heat pump works well in this milder weather. I’ll be better prepared for next winter.

My electric bill for November-December was $30, December-January was $40, and January-February was $70 (because I relied on electric heat for part of the month). If I have a nice, dry stockpile of hardwood for next winter, I should be able to keep the electric bill around $40 a month for the entire winter.

Regarding the outdoor wood stove, I have photos of it’s construction, and I am planning some improvements to make it more efficient and easier to control. I’ll cover all of that in a future post.


This probably isn’t news to anyone who knows much about the Nordic countries, but Denmark was, once again, selected as the happiest country; or something like that.

What I found interesting was a sidebar about the economics of bicycling …

Researchers found that for every kilometer traveled by bike instead of by car, taxpayers saved 7.8 cents (DKK 0.45) in avoided air pollution, accidents, congestion, noise and wear and tear on infrastructure. Cyclists in Copenhagen cover an estimated 1.2 million kilometers each day –- saving the city a little over $34 million each year.

The entire article is here: Denmark is Considered the Happiest …

The comments on the article are also interesting. Many Americans don’t even consider the things that we could implement here, but rather they say Denmark only enjoys a high standard of living because the U.S. is proving security for the world. I wonder; does that mean we can’t bicycle more? Does it mean we shouldn’t strive for gender equality? Does it mean we can’t improve our education system or social programs? I think they’re kind of missing the point. Alas, brainwashing and pride are impediments to clear thinking.


I’m not a Facebook denizen. I don’t choose to lend my udders to a corporation, so they may milk them for advertising revenue. This choice has devalued me in the corporate Internet world. I can’t “like” their products or their self-aggrandizing pages. Lately, I’ve found, it is also impossible for me to post comments on many web-sites, including The Huffington Post. If I don’t have a “verified Facebook account”, I can’t use Facebook connect, which is required to leave comments. Of course, if I sign up for Facebook, and I use Facebook connect, then everything I read will be tracked by Facebook.

I know I am the sheep who won’t follow the flock, and soon they will turn me into mutton, because I’m too difficult to shepherd. I’m sure they will say it was for my own good. If allowed my freedom to roam, a far more violent fate would surely befall me.

I don’t want a Facebook account. Does that really make my point of view less valuable? The more they try to coerce me into signing up for Facebook, the more it feels like a corporate conspiracy, and the more I will resist.

Too much sun?

solartowercoveredMy solar water heater is an over achiever on clear sunny days. The fact is, I only need a couple hours of sun to heat the water I use in a day. So, when the days are long and the sky is clear or partly cloudy, I get 80 gallons of water at 160 degrees or higher. I can easily go 3 days with no sun. Unfortunately, having super heated water in my house when I’m trying to keep it cool inside, is not really a good thing. Even with heavily insulated tanks, the hotter the water, the faster the heat escapes.

Well, I got the idea to make a cover for the heating panel to keep the sun from heating it so efficiently. I figured I would have to uncover the panel for a couple hours to heat my water, but it turns out that the panel still keeps my main storage tank (40 gallons) above 130 degrees; as long as the sun is shining. I don’t use as much hot water in the summer, but it still amazes me that I have excess hot water, even when I’ve shielded the collector plates from the sun.

The good news is that the water isn’t getting nearly as hot, the circulation pump doesn’t run as much, and I don’t have to take the cover off to heat my water. I’m in my 3rd year, using only solar for my hot water. So far, it’s working out great. It hasn’t paid for itself, yet, but I’ve saved roughly $20/month for the past 27 months. Since I paid for the system out of pocket. Every month with free hot water feels like profit. However, it will be about 5 more years before the system has paid for itself.

New Bern, NC, March Against Monsanto Video

I didn’t shoot much video on May 25, but I did shoot this short presentation by Kathleen Bailey, and some short clips of the protestors. Kathleen has some things to say about the reasons for our protest. There is so much more that she doesn’t have time to include here. The Federal Food and Drug Administration is like a subsidiary of Monsanto. We are, essentially, Monsanto’s guinea pigs. I’m not going to tell you that I can prove the effects of GM crops, crops that are, themselves, pesticides, or pesticide and herbicide residues on our food, but I can tell you that the health statistics show some very alarming trends, and more research is necessary before we should feed our children these potentially dangerous products.



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I’ve been suffering from these sinus headaches for years. They are brought on by caffeine, and some other things that I’m not as sure about. Lately, eating out at restaurants has resulted in a sinus headache. What makes these sinus headaches such a big deal is that they last for 3 days. They aren’t just a headache, either. They just tap my energy and make me feel ill. As you can probably guess, I’ve tried various pain killers and decongestants, although I haven’t tried that many, because I hate putting unnecessary chemicals in my body. The last decongestant I tried had no significant benefit, but later in the day, my headache got even worse.

Yesterday, on the way home from the protest march, I stopped at a restaurant for dinner. By the time I went to bed, I had a raging sinus headache and I was looking at suffering through the next 3 days.

When I have one of these headaches, I spend an inordinate amount of time lying down and thinking about how I can get the pain to stop. Today was no exception. Not long ago, I read that basil contains an anti-inflammatory agent. That fact popped into my head as I lay awake in bed this morning. It just happens to be that I grow basil in my garden, so I went out and harvested a handful of basil leaves and ate them. At least I know the stuff from my garden doesn’t contain any chemicals. There was absolutely no risk in testing the basil. The results were not instantaneous. The headache abated some after a couple of hours, and I ate more basil as the day progressed. About 6 hours after the initial dose, the headache was mostly, if not completely gone. I’m pretty excited about the outcome. I can’t say, yet, if the results will be repeatable, but I’m optimistic because this headache had a full 2 days left.

I know you herbalists will say, “duh”, and I suppose I should spend more time researching herbal remedies, but I’m a really healthy person, for the most part, so when I read that stuff, I tend to forget it soon after I read it. Since I don’t grow many medicinal herbs, there isn’t much I can do with the knowledge anyway. I’m surely not going to buy a bunch of dubious concoctions from some on-line store that claims to have the cure for everything. I’m way too frugal and skeptical. I am definitely going to keep lots of basil on hand, and I may attempt to grow some other herbs that could prove useful. Right now, I’ve always got a good supply of aloe, basil and plantain (the weed). Heretofore, I thought the basil was just for cooking.

So, the bad news is that I am still very sensitive to what I eat, and I seem to be getting more sensitive. The good news is that I may not have to suffer so long when I slip up and eat or drink something I should not.

I hope this information helps someone. I don’t know when I might get another headache, but I’ll report whether or not the results are repeatable, when I do.

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