Friday, September 19, 2014

Permaculture Design Certification and Starting a Permaculture Business

I haven't written about it yet, but I received my Permaculture Design Certification from Geoff Lawton last month.  I've been wanting to complete a PDC for as long as I've had this blog, so it's pretty exciting for me to finally be certified.

I mentioned in my last post that I'm thinking about starting a permaculture education center someday.  While that is part of my idea for a permaculture future, it's not the whole thing, or the first thing.  I have some rather big ideas that I'd like to get started on right away when we get settled in Olympia.

First of all, I'm going to start a design business.  One of the most important things that can be done to turn our future around is to get permaculture into as many households as possible, particularly in urban and suburban areas.  I want to charge as little as I can for a design while still being able to keep a business going, so I'm going to work out of my home for a while to keep costs low.  I want to offer group discounts for neighbors who all want to get permaculture into their yards, because it's easier to design for 3 households right next to each other rather than 3 households far apart.  This can also help foster community amongst those neighbors, which is a worthy goal in my opinion.

Once my business gets its feet on the ground and has some traction, I'm going to start teaching classes and workshops.  Eventually, I have interest in becoming a certified permaculture teacher, even though it isn't really required to start teaching PDC's.  I think being a PRI certified teacher will bolster my credibility and the value I can bring to my students.

Once I'm an official teacher and have plenty of workshop experience, I'd like to expand into the actual education sphere, offering young people and alternative to college.  Initially it will probably be a design/technical school of some kind, but if it gains momentum I might someday consider going for accreditation, even though I don't necessarily believe in the merits of that system.  Accreditation would make my school more attractive to people who aren't quite sure about permaculture as a future.

From there, I'd like to work backwards from the college level to the secondary, middle, and elementary school levels, designing permaculture education for young people of all ages.  Part of my vision is to help young people see the world through a permaculture mindset from an early age, helping them interact with the world as an ecosystem rather than something to be exploited or taken from.

Obviously at this stage all of these things are pie-in-the-sky ideas... this blog post is the most formalized way I've described them so far.  But as everything progresses and opportunities open up for me, I look forward to fleshing them out more and more, and getting permaculture into as many brains as I can.

What is your permaculture vision?  What do you think of mine?  Please share your thoughts and feelings with me in the comments!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Future Plans for More Land

Even though in my last post I discussed the ~1.5 acres that we're trying to buy, we're still making plans for more land.  There are just some things you can't do on an acre and a half, and there are some projects and experiments I have in mind that I think requires raw land to accomplish.  So today I'm going to share some of our ideas for getting more land.

First of all, we're planning on staying in the house we're trying to buy for 15-20 years.  Not only are we planning on having kids sometime in the next 3-5 years, but to me it makes better financial sense to stay in a house longer than not, so you can make the house work for you and earn back some or all of the interest and work you invest into it.  This house should be more than enough for us to raise a family in, so we're planning on making the most of it.

Additionally, there is a 5 acre parcel right across the street that is owned by the county that we're thinking would be nice to try to buy from them, and do some bigger permaculture on.  Having 5 acres across the street would make it a "sort-of" contiguous 6.5 acres, which is a really good sized parcel to grow a lot of food for a future potential family of 4.  We'd be able to have some more livestock, a larger food forest, a pond or two, and a sizeable farm forestry zone.

Beyond those 5 acres, we'd like to attempt the method that Paul Wheaton of has implemented in Montana.  He has a smaller parcel of land he calls "Basecamp" where he and many of his interns/visitors reside, and are much larger parcel he calls "The Lab" that he does broader scoped things.  There are miles between these two parcels, but he's getting work done on both of them and it seems to be proceeding nicely.

We're thinking that once I get my design business up and running, the additional income from that business could help us buy 40-80 acres somewhere within an hour drive from our new house.  I could use this larger parcel to experiment with my broad acre ideas, start a permaculture education center, start a small eco-village, or all of the above.  Having my own "Lab" could be a service to the permaculture community at large, offering access to land for permaculture practitioners with lesser means, and improving their quality of life and the quality of permaculture research and design that I'm doing in my own work.  Also, having a larger parcel of land could help me fulfill my sense of obligation to the next 7 generations, giving them access to land that can better take care of the needs of an expanding family tree of my own.

So I haven't dismissed my vision of having a sizeable chunk of land, but the plan for getting there and what it will be when I do has changed.  In the meantime, I look forward to implementing permaculture on the 1.5 acres we probably will have, and getting practiced at some of the smaller acreage techniques that are so useful in zones 1 and 2.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Finally Getting Access to Land!

The spread of permaculture faces many challenges.  Zoning and permitting laws can get in the way of implementing a design in the most ecological way, especially when it comes to earthworks.  Water rights and the legality of harvesting rainwater is a problem in some states.  Money is an all-pervasive problem, keeping permaculturists from having the tools, seeds, resources, and land that they need to do great work.

Access to land is one of the biggest challenges, in my opinion, and it has been one that until the very near future, I've been dealing with the entire time I've been interested in permaculture.  As a renter for my entire adult life, I've been faced with a decision that many other permaculturists find themselves faced with as well.  "Do I invest some time and money into planting trees/designing a garden/doing earthworks/etc. on my landlords land?  Or do I use that time and save that money to bring myself closer to owning land of my own?"

Many permaculture designers and practitioners do implement some sort of permaculture design wherever they are.  Perhaps they have no interest in acquiring their own land, or perhaps they just cannot help but put permaculture into everywhere they live.  For me, however, the decision fell on the side of saving up for my own access to land.

And that, finally, is going to happen for my fiancée and I.  We're under contract to buy a house back up in the Olympia, WA area.  If all goes well with the house buying process (and so far we think it will), then we'll take possession of our new house in late October.  The house is a somewhat large 3 bedroom/1.75 bathroom structure with a garage.  It is situated on roughly 1.5 acres.  The front 1/2 acre includes the house, garage, large back deck, driveway, side yard, a small storage shed, and the large .25 acre front yard.  Behind the deck is the remaining 1 acre which has nothing on it but some trees and a medium sized shed (that I'll probably relocate), but it is mostly a grassy field.

My fiancée and I already have plenty of thoughts about things we want to do with the property, but we want to take it slow so we can make everything we do function as part of a harmonious whole design.  With that in mind, here are my initial thoughts on the process we'll follow, and some of the projects we'll implement.

As far as process goes, I want to sit back and observe the property for a while before launching any major projects.  Olympia get a tremendous amount of rain from October to April, and I definitely want to observe the natural flow of water over the landscape so I can best figure out how to utilize it.  We have a small but important depression in the landscape right in the middle of our property, and I need to figure out how best to utilize that space without flooding out the middle and lowest part of our land.  So, we plan on focusing on the interior of the house for the first half-year we're there, which will give me time to observe the outside.  I plan on sitting down and creating a formal design sometime in February or March of 2015.

The house itself was built in 1988, and although it is in need of some updating, it is in tremendous condition.  The current owners put a new 40 year roof on it within the last couple years, so we shouldn't have to worry about replacing that for several decades.  When the time comes, perhaps we'll think about replacing it with an even longer lasting metal roof of some variety.

The house is well insulated, especially in the attic, which will help with heating and cooling.  And speaking of heating, the house has a system we already are pretty excited about.  In the living room there is an existing woodstove, and the rest of the house has electric forced air wall heating.  Additionally, in the living room there is a thermostat way up high on the wall, that initially confused us.  It turns out that the thermostat detects when the air high up in the living room is getting pretty warm, and it kicks on a fan that sucks woodstove-heated air from the living room and pushes it through the rest of the house via the existing forced air ducts.  With some judicious use of our firewood, we'll be able to heat the house easily without using the electricity for our heatpump itself.

Speaking of electricity, the house (particularly kitchen) is entirely electric.  While I prefer cooking on a gas stove and in a gas oven, I'm not keen on relying on fossil fuels too much.  So, until I can devise some kind of home-scale methane biogas capture/production system for this house, we'll continue to use our electric appliances.  With this in mind, I plan on installing some solar panels on the roof to supplement our electricity needs, and devising other ways of creating electricity for when the Pacific Northwest winters get a little gloomy and our energy production drops off significantly.

The house also has a private well and septic system.  Although the well is 52' feet (which is quite enough in that area), I plan on putting in a 5000 gallon rainbarrel or two, which would help us better utilize the almost 110,000 gallons a year that will fall on our roof.  Olympia receives 50+ inches of rain a year on average, so water is not in short supply, but it never hurts to put it to better use.

In the backyard near the deck, I would like to build an earthen oven and outdoor cooking space.  I love cooking, roast my own coffee, and just plain think cooking outside is awesome.  When I roast coffee in my regular oven, it can heat up the house significantly, as well as make our house smell like a coffee shop, so I'd prefer to do it outside.  I've never roasted coffee in an earthen oven, but I'm sure I can figure out a good system.  In addition to the earthen oven, we plan on adding some kind of awning/roof over the deck in the backyard, so we can keep it cooler during the summertime and dry during the wintertime.  This will also add square-footage to the roof, which will allow us to harvest more high quality rainwater runoff.

Finally, inside the house, we'll be doing some remodelling to pass the time that I'm observing the land before designing it.  The couple selling the house to us is a somewhat older couple, and the design of the interior shows it.  We want to repaint many of the rooms (with the most eco paint we can find of course), redo the counter-tops in the kitchen and bathrooms, re-floor the entryway, kitchen, and living room, and install water-saving appliances in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Lastly, since the house has three bedrooms and we don't have any kids yet, we'll utilize one of the spare bedrooms as a guest room (perhaps you can come stay a spell with us!), and we'll use the other spare bedroom as an office.  With my newly acquired certification from my recent PDC, I'm working towards starting a permaculture design business, and I'll be able to work from home in my very own office space!  The location of the house is also convenient in that it is only 3.1 miles by bike from the hospital where my fiancée will work, so it's a mere 17 minute ride!  For the really dreary rainy/snowy days when she just can't bring herself to ride, it's only a 2.7 mile drive, for which we plan on replacing our current car with an electric car that can easily handle that commute.

With that, I'll bring this very long update to a close.  It's a very exciting time for me, as I've been waiting to have some land of my own since I first starting writing this blog!  I'll finally be able to turn into reality the dream I started having even before July 2nd, 2009 when I started the Permie Homestead blog.  While five and a half years is a long time to wait, I've learned so much in that time, and I'm excited to put my knowledge to use!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Accelerating Velocity of Life

A lot has been going on for me recently, and I want to write a post about some of it.  As usual, I'll try to be more consistent with writing my blog, but my track record speaks for itself, so saying so doesn't matter... only doing so.

I think it's worth noting that The Permie Homestead Blog is coming up on its 5th Anniversary.  It's crazy to think I've been bonkers about permaculture for so long, but it's also easy to understand considering how fascinating and important I think sustainable human settlement design is.  I also feel like my 6th year of interest in permaculture is going to be a big one.  I'll explain why.

In March, I FINALLY signed up for a PDC, and I will be finishing in about a month.  I'm taking Geoff Lawton's online PDC through the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) of Australia, and it's been amazing.  There has been anywhere from 3-5 hours of content released each week, as well as a .pdf document that gives the important information for each chapter.  Additionally, Geoff spends 3-5 hours a week answering student questions on video... he's really an amazing teacher who is extremely dedicated.  The final week of content will be released on June 21st, and my final design project is due on July 21st.  If I successfully meet all of the requirements, I'll be a certified designer shortly thereafter.

So what am I going to do with this new certification?  I plan on starting out on a traditional (I think?) permaculture path, and incorporating a permaculture design and consultancy firm.  There are a BUNCH of business type things that make me feel like I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, but the prospect of getting my hands dirty with permaculture excites me so much that I'm willing to start teaching myself the ins-and-outs of being a business owner, even if it feels really corporate to do so.

Future plans for business or services that I plan to possibly start or offer include design, consultancy, project management, a privately-operated composting service for the city of Portland, education, government-contract design (for public spaces and/or utility properties), and quite a few others.

Other things that are going on:

  • I'm the new resident garden manager for my apartment complex.  It's laborious because the previous garden manager let the garden fall into disarray over the winter, and ownership of the apartment complex isn't really letting me do it entirely in a permaculture fashion, but it should still be cool, and at least they're letting us keep the garden space.  I plan to try to post updates on the garden as I can.
  • I've been playing around with some interesting balcony garden experiments.  So far they're going really well, and I'll post future updates specifically on this as well.
  • As part of my PDC, I've been reading each chapter of the Permaculture Designer's Manual (PDM) in it's entirety while going along with the content released through the course.  I was doing well until we got to the climate comparison chapters (chapters 10, 11, and 12 if you're curious), which I've found are just too long to get through in the week that I had to read them.  I plan on going through them more carefully when I'm done with the course.  Anyhow, reading the PDM while also taking a PDC has proven to be AMAZING.  I feel as if I have a far more thorough understanding of permaculture than I've ever had before, and it's awesome.
  • I'm still working my day-job between 25-32 hours a week.
  • I'm volunteering for a permaculture podcaster as much as I can (which hasn't been much recently, but will be picking up soon) in what seems to be somewhat of a research assistant capacity.  He's agreed to let me offer him some help and in return is offering me advice on the podcast I'm working on (more details later), and I think it's going to be quite cool.  I'm going to resist giving him a plug right now, because I want to clear it with him that I can share that I'm helping before I do, but if I can I'll let you know soon.
On top of all the exciting stuff going on in my life right now, I'm also finally engaged to my sweetheart Kelsey, and we're planning on getting married next fall.  As anyone who has gotten married before will know, there's a lot of planning that is coming up for that, so my hands are QUITE full nowadays.  We're also not too many months away from buying our first house, which means I'll really get to turn up my permaculture volume, because I'll finally have an urban homestead space that I can design and implement into an awesome demonstration site.  I'm busier than ever, and going to keep getting busier, but luckily, it's all exciting stuff!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Revisiting My Strategic Homesteading Goals: Productive Shelter, Part 2

This is the long awaited (by me, at least) continuation of Part 1 of this topic.  Long ago, in 2012, I revisited the first of the strategic homesteading goals I wrote about in 2009.  Near the end, I mentioned that I would discuss heating and cooling and my strategies for reducing the amount of energy I would need to accomplish these things.

With my current plan of homesteading in the Pacific Northwest, likely somewhere in the Columbia River gorge area, there are a few geographical considerations.  Cooling the house is probably not going to be a huge expense, as the summers in the PNW are usually somewhat mild.  However, considering for the likelihood of warmer summers each year, I plan on building in some backup cooling that might become useful if things progress as they seem like they will.  With all that said, I think heating the home during the winter might be the more "expensive" endeavor for at least a few years still, and it is certainly the more potentially life-threatening annual extreme here in the PNW.  So, let's talk about what kind of structure I'm planning on living in, then we'll talk about cooling it first, and then go into the more in-depth ideas I have for efforts at heating.

When Kelsey and I buy land, we'll at first likely be living in a trailer, tent, or off-site until the main structure gets built.  Our ideas for the main structure have circled around quite a few plans, but for at least the first structure we've settled on building a yurt.  Not just any yurt, of course, but a really nice one that is built right here in Oregon, by Pacific Yurts.  Go ahead, take some time to ogle some of the pictures they have of the beautiful yurts people have built with their kits.  I'll wait.

Ok, now that you've had time to soak in what a cool structure a yurt is, let's talk about cooling.  In the hottest part of the year, the part of the Columbia River Gorge where we'd like to buy land can reach into the 90's and occasionally into the 100's.  This will be slightly exacerbated by the fact that I'm going to make sure we get south-facing land, so we've always got a good aspect on the sun for growing plants. Temperatures in the 90's can be uncomfortable, but are not usually fatal, so active cooling isn't too much of a concern.  First of all, a nice big deciduous tree like a maple, placed where it can shade out the house during much of the late-morning and afternoon sun, will do quite a lot to block the heat and direct sunlight during the summertime.  Next, Pacific Yurts come with the option to have a ceiling fan hanging off of the dome, and Kelsey and I will certainly go with this option.  Open a couple of windows in the shady parts of the yurt, turn the ceiling fan on so it blows up and out of the roof, and you have a low-powered system that blows warm air that's rising to the ceiling up and out of the yurt, and is thus replaced with cool air from the shaded open windows.  It might not be a system that keeps the house 65 degrees when it's 95 outside, but it'll keep it cool enough to sleep comfortably.

Now, on to heating.  First of all, let's revisit the deciduous tree on the south side of the yurt.  It's wintertime, and our nice shady maple has dropped all it's leaves.  The sun can shine right through the now bare tree branches and help warm the yurt on sunnier days.  But this is the PNW, and sun during the wintertime is a rare commodity.  Enter the Rocker Mass Heater floor.  If you don't know what a RMH is, get started by watching this.  Rocket Mass Heaters have been anecdotally known to reduce wood use to as little as 10% of what you'd use in a regular wood stove heater.  They heat using radiation, convection, and conduction.  The materials are cheap and easy to find, and eco-friendly.  They're not really child's play, but they're easy enough that any diligent person can build one.  And because they're not industrial (yet) they're completely custom.  You can build your mass into just about anything, including a floor.

Now that you have a good idea about RMH's, check out this photo album to see where I got my inspiration to make the floor of a yurt out of one.  Yurts use a space-blanket like technology in the wall and roof fabric to hold heat inside, and as far as I know it's rated R30, which is very similar to the pink, nasty, itchy insulation that most houses use.  Having a floor that is kept heated throughout the day by a Rocket Mass Heater will radiate some of that heat into the air inside the yurt.  If the walls and roof work as well as advertised, it should be relatively easy to keep a 30 ft diameter yurt, with thousands of pounds of warm cob and gravel radiating heat up into it, at a comfortable 65+ degrees all winter long.  I'm not yet sure how much wood it might burn through in a winter, but if it's anything less that 2 cords, it's likely I'll be able to harvest clippings and trimmings on a 15+ acre lot, and use that as my firewood on a yearly basis.

As a side note, I even have some plans to turn the barrel of the RMH into an electricity producing device, kind of like this camping stove, just on a MUCH larger scale.  The engineering still has a long way to go, but as I get land, time, and money to pursue these projects, I'll keep this blog up to date with all my accomplishments and setbacks.

So, that's the heating and cooling as we see it now.  I have some more ideas for a yurt constellation, connected by greenhouse hallways that help heat during the winter, and are shaded out by vine plants during the summer, but I think those ideas and my other ones probably warrant a post of their own.  Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Planning for Spring

I just received the Territorial Seed Company 2014 Spring Gardening catalog in the mail.  This means it is already time to start planning out not only my spring garden, but my spring in general.

With all the freedom and extra time I have right now, I think this year will easily sport the best garden I've ever had.  I may or may not be able to eat vegetables out of it every day, or even every week after food starts to ripen, but I'm certainly going to try in the tiny 35 square feet or so that I have at my apartment complex.  I'm going to try to focus on fermentable vegetables this year, as I'm taking an interest in fermented foods and their health benefits.  Cabbage, beets, cucumbers, garlic, onions, and plenty of others I don't even know yet will go into the garden this year, and I look forward to them very much.

Why the interest in fermentation?  Well, as any good permie has probably already guessed, I recently picked up a copy of The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition, by Bill Mollison.  I haven't yet started reading it, but it's high on my list for the remainder of this winter.  As soon as I read it, not only will I be using what I read to start planning my garden, by I'll also try to do a chapter by chapter review of the book, and help you decide if it might be something you're interested in.

So what else am I planning for the spring?  I'm likely going to apply to become a carpenters apprentice this March, as carpentry might become the single most important skill I could learn at the beginning of the homesteading once we purchase land.  I'm still toying with ideas of self-teaching some of the basics, but being a licensed carpenter is another avenue for income that will help the homestead come sooner rather than later.

Finally, I'm planning on doing my best to take a PDC this year.  I'm keeping my eye open for the next time Geoff Lawton does an online PDC, and I'm going to try to sign up for that before it fills up.  Online classes and learning tend to suit me quite well, and Geoff Lawton is the best there is.

More to come as all these plans unfold.  Thanks as always for reading, and have a great 2014!

Friday, January 03, 2014

Thoughts On Climate Change, Delayed Suffering, and 7 Generations

Today I want to talk about responsible resource use, and share a thought that I recently had about how what we do today impacts future generations.  It may end up seeming like a somewhat disjointed post, as my thoughts keep shooting out in different directions that I feel are related... but I'll try to keep it sensible and make a solid point if I can.

The Law of the Conservation of Energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but that energy can changes forms and flow from one place to another within a system.  For example, a ray of sunshine might contain x calories of energy.  When that ray of sunshine hits the green leaf of a plant, through photosynthesis the plant converts the sunshine into x calories of carbohydrates.  The plant uses those carbohydrates to grow fruit to procreate or more leafy surface area to be able to capture more sunlight.  Along comes an herbivore (lets say a cow) that eats the leafy plant, and eventually converts the plant's carbohydrates into animal protein.  Now that cow contains the x calories of sunshine in the form of protein.  Finally, a human comes along and eats the cow, using the x calories of sunshine contained in the animal to plant a garden that has plenty of leafy green surface area to capture more rays of sunshine and start the process anew.

This simple (and yes, obviously, oversimplified) example demonstrates one cycle through which energy can flow... changing form and function each time, but always containing the same amount of energy, even if that energy is parsed out and spread around.  Generally, the only way for the energy in sunshine to leave the isolated system that is the Earth is if it is bounced directly back into space (as in when it hits a reflective surface like snow or ice) or through gradual heat loss via the upper atmosphere.  If the Earth had less of an atmosphere (or no atmosphere at all) and could not support lifeforms that could capture and use its energy, it would be a very barren place, like Mars or Mercury.  If the Earth had too thick of an atmosphere, and captured significantly more of the sun's energy in the atmosphere than it already does, it would heat up and become inhospitable to life as we know it, like Venus.

According to the biogenic theory of petroleum formation (which is the almost universally accepted theory about fossil fuel formation, and the one to which I choose to subscribe), millions (and possibly billions?) of years ago, plant life was capturing the energy in sunlight in much the same way as it does today (different plants, but same concepts).  That energy flowed around via the animal life at the time just like it does now, and eventually much of it "pooled" together underground and after much time and pressure from geological forces, became the petroleum we know and are addicted to today.  Essentially, a barrel of oil is hundreds if not thousands of years of stored and converted plant life, which really means hundreds or thousands of years of stored and converted sunshine.  The same is true for other fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal... different geological circumstances lead to different forms, but they all derived from sunshine which was "captured" in the lifeforms of the day, which fossilized and was stored and converted over very long periods of time.

This leads me to the thought I had last summer, and how it got me thinking about a certain way energy flows through our systems, and how we choose to handle it.  Ultimately, it got me thinking about what impact our energy use will have on future generations, specifically 7 generations out from us, people we will never meet.  This is a very specialized case, and it doesn't hold up in all conditions, but it gave me a thought model that allowed me to project empathy 7 generations into the future.

My thought process started last summer in Portland.  My apartment was 88 degrees Fahrenheit, which for my partner Kelsey and I is borderline uncomfortable.  On a sunny day it can reach over 90 degrees in our apartment.  Kelsey and I have a small window fan that we turn on to try to blow the hot air out of our apartment's front (south-facing) window, and hopefully create draw through our bedroom (north facing) window to pull in the cool air on that side of the building.  It nominally works on most days, and during the hottest part of the day we can typically cool it down inside by a few degrees.  I've done no calculations, so pardon my rough estimations and guesswork, but I imagine that the energy required to run the fans in our house amounts to a one or two gallons of oil equivalent per year.  I would also estimate that a gallon of oil contains the accumulated energy of hundreds if not thousands of years worth of plant life.  This ancient plant life's carbon was converted via time and pressure to the fossil fuels that we are burning to generate the electricity that runs our fans.  The carbon in those fuels goes into the atmosphere somewhere, and stays there until it is recaptured (also known as sequestered) by some other plant life, as described by the carbon cycle.

So, we are burning thousands of years worth of stored energy in the form of plant carbon to cool our place temporarily, and that carbon is being released into the atmosphere.  Collectively as a species, we are burning millions of years of stored sunlight and releasing the carbon into the atmosphere each year.  That carbon only comes out of the atmosphere when captured by a plant through respiration, or by the ocean through similar processes described in the above link.  At the rate at which we are burning through the carbon, it is hard for the carbon cycle to keep up with us, and so more and more carbon dioxide is staying in the atmosphere.  I realize that for many people the theories of anthropocentric global warming and/or climate change are controversial... but it is indisputable that we're putting more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere all the time, and one only needs to look at Venus' atmosphere to admit that it could be a bad idea to pump known greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.

So, finally, the "point" that my brain made to me that flipped a bit of a switch for me.  I do believe that humans are responsible for the warming trend our planet is experiencing, at least in part.  By burning fossil fuels in order to temporarily cool off my apartment, I am essentially saddling that heat onto my progeny.  Obviously the heat isn't 1:1, as I am just cooling off my apartment and the impact is spread out across the entire planet.  Unfortunately, much of the rest of the country and the developed world is also burning fossil fuels to try to cool off their abode, so it's a stronger impact on the future than just my apartment.  And the metaphor holds... in order to cool off my place, I'm heating up the future.  In order to cool off all of our places, we're heating up the world for our children and their children.  (I'm also aware that the elegance of this analogy breaks down when talking about wintertime rather than summertime, but it still struck me profoundly.)  By cooling myself now, I'm warming my children and grandchildren.  And, though a discussion of peak oil would make this post FAR too long, I believe that my descendants won't have the fossil resources to "control" their climate and cool themselves off that I now enjoy, especially since they'll need more of those fuels to bring themselves down to the same comfortable temperatures that I enjoy.  When this thought struck me, I went around the house and turned off the one light and the two fans that I was running.

Obviously, turning off the lights and the fans will do little to help the big picture, and it's not the whole solution.  And compared to most Americans, I'm doing pretty well with limiting my energy consumption, so getting it slightly lower by turning off the fan isn't even doing as much as it might sound like.  I take public transportation nearly exclusively, and I'm even reducing that as much as I can by riding my bike more and more.  Kelsey and I pay extra to offset our electricity use with electricity sourced entirely from renewable resources.  I haven't been able to find out exactly how it is that my electric company does this, but it's something.  So what else can I do?  What else can we all do to try to help?

As part of an answer, next Friday's blog post will resurrect an old series of mine about my Strategic Homesteading Goals.  This part of the series will be about my ideas for alternative housing, particularly how I plan to heat and cool my house.  If you haven't read part one, you can go to it here, and you'll be caught up enough to follow along on Monday.

As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year, New Opportunities

2014 will bring a slew of new opportunities for me and the Permiehomestead Blog.  My partner graduated nursing school last year, and is working full-time as a nurse now, which not only means I'm not a single income, but that her income alone is greater than our combined incomes have ever been.

One thing this means for us for now is that we'll be staying in Portland.  We wanted to try to move out to the Columbia Gorge, which is where we think we ultimately want land.  But the job she landed is in Portland, which means I can keep my current job, but I don't have to work so many hours in my current nearly minimum wage position.  (OK, it's not as near minimum as it could be, but it's really not far off.)  I'm going to be taking the extra time I have after stepping down to part-time and write more, work on more projects, and take care of the household.  I consider it homesteading lite.  I'll get to cook almost every day, I'll get to experiment with homesteading skills like brewing beer and wine and preserving food more often.  I'm also considering getting a carpentry apprenticeship in order to develop a very useful homesteading skill.  Finally, I should have the time, and we should have the money, that I should be able to attend some workshops and get some certifications.  All of these things mean that I'll have much more to write about.

I'm planning on trying to write about 2-3 blog posts per week.  I have a couple of other writing projects I'm working on, so I may miss some posts here and there, but I think 2014 is the year that I finally stick to writing consistently.  I've always suspected that not having enough to write about that falls under the scope of this blog has been my biggest hurdle, and this year I suspect that hurdle will be removed.

Keep your eye out for more content.  If you haven't already, follow my blog on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter, and as always, please make sure to participate with comments here on the blog. It always makes it more interesting when it isn't just a one-way conversation!

Thanks for reading!