Archive for the ‘Energy conservation’ Category

Light Pollution

July 1, 2009

The noise post from a while back got me to thinking about how thecity_at_night_1024 light each of us makes impacts others.   As you can infer from my blog’s tagline, “Suburban survival for the stupid“, I live in the suburbs, so there is a lot of light around here.   To see the Milky Way I need to get into the woods, beach or up to the great north.

If your neighbor has a big motion activated metal halide, that’s going to impact your space.  Your neighbor’s light will prevent you from seeing the night sky like you otherwise could if he didn’t have the gulag light blaring down on you.  Light can even make someone lose sleep.

At night light travels for a real far distance.   So a little light can have a great impact.  If you have a floodlight outside try to have some respect for your neighbors and how your floodlight can impact them.  If you are driving towards people walking at night dim your lights.

When you leave a room shut off the lights.  Shut off any unnecessary lights anytime you can.

Light_pollution_It's_not_prettyThis picture above is the night sky looking at Orion from dark skies and from the Orem/Provo, Utah area. (Courtesy of Light Pollution, Wikipedia.)  You can see how much light interferes with the environment.

Shutting off unnecessary lights also saves energy.  Which saves $.  You look at a picture of a city at night and you know that most of the offices with lights still burning in them are now empty.  The worker bees having left the hive hours ago.

As civilization and urbanization continue to spread the problem has definitely and will continue to get worse.  I wonder if the day may come when our kids’, kids’, kids may not even be able to see the stars at night.  20040921144929!Usa_night

This is a picture of the continental United States at night.  You can see the cities and highways all lit up.  And just because you don’t see your neck of the woods lit up, doesn’t mean that light pollution is not a problem around you. I can’t help but wonder how much of the light is necessary and being used right at the moment this picture was taken.  How much light is the on at dusk off at dawn variety.

city-lights-building-nightThis picture is just over the top.  Chances are fossils fuels were burned to light up this city like that.  And you can be sure that you can’t see s single star at night.

Okay, that was all the neighborly stuff, now for the Suburban Survival stuff.  The other thing about light is that, like water, it will find small opening to seep through.  Light travels out of windows and cracks under doors.  At night people going by your house will be able to see light leaking through small openings.   Light also lets others look into your house and if you look out you won’t be able to see them in the darkness.     Be careful of making yourself a silhouette.  Don’t make yourself a silhouette.  In other words be aware when there is a light behind you.  If the lights ever go out for a long period you best be careful to seal up all the cracks and hang thick blankets over the windows.  Through a towel under the door.  Being the only one in town with lights burning could turn out to be a dangerous thing.  Nothing wrong with having some extra stuff on hand to reduce the amount of light you emit: plywood for windows, duct tape, tarps, maybe some black paint, caulking.  Don’t forget over flat treeless terrain a lighted house can be seen for a very far distanceAnd to someone hungry, cold or hurt light means the end to all of their suffering.   You can also use it to your advantage because light will draw people like moths to a flame.

This last picture was taken during and after a large east coast power outage.  You can see how much of the house w lightnight sky is visible when the power is off, and how much is hidden whan the floodlights and house lights come back on.   If someone were standing in front of the window in that house, you’d be able to see them standing there plain as day.


P1010001This bunny was even too small to eat.  Then again maybe I just wasn’t hungry enough.  I bet I got within ten feet of him.  What works for me is to not look at an animal as I’m approaching it.  Also, just like when fighting never approach straight direct, move at angles.

Wood stove

January 15, 2009

For those of you that haven’t used a woodstove this post will be about my woodstove and how I get her going.  Hopefully, it will let you know what I do and don’t like about my stove and also provide the basics about the parts of a stove and how to get one running.

A woodstove is basically a metal box.  They all have a vent where air comes in to burn and then the smoke is vented out the back through the stovepipe.  There aren’t that many moving parts.

  • A “valve” on the stovepipe that controls how much smoke (and heat) goes up and out.
  • A “valve” on the front of the stove that controls how much air is allowed in.  The more air you let in the faster your wood will burn.  There are all sorts of vents.  Some slide and some turn.
  • The firebox.  This is where you load the wood.
  • A handle of some sort to lock the door of the stove closed.

ws13This is my wood stove.  It’s obviously a Nashua.  This company is out of business now.  This particular stove is a big, honking wood stove.  It’s 32″ long * 22″ deep * 35″ tall.  A nice feature is the window so you can see the fire burning.  The knurled metal round things on each side of the Nashua sign are the vents that let air into the stove.  You spin em just like a screw.

ws24Spin em counterclockwise to loosen them and let more air in and spin them clockwise to let less air in.  This is one of the front vents fully open. Notice the space between the back of the vent and the stove.  That’s where the air rushes in that feeds the fire.

ws23This is the other front vent fully closed.  Notice how the back of this vent is snugged tight against the front of the stove.  No space = no air = no fire.

ws11This is the vent on the stovepipe.  This vent controls how much smoke and heat go up the pipe and out.  Imagine a metal pie plate attached to this thing on the inside of the stovepipe.   The metal pie plate runs the same way as the handle.  In this position the pie plate is turned vertically, just like the handle.  This is the full open position.

ws12This is the same vent fully closed.  That pie plate that runs the same way as the handle is now perpendicular to the stovepipe (parallel to the floor) so in this position the pie plate is totally blocking the stovepipe.  This would choke any fire burning in the stove.

ws26This is the handle to the door of the stove.  This is the locked position.

ws28And you flip the handle counterclockwise to unlock the door and open it up.

A neat thing about my stove is that there is a built in fan.   My stove is actually double-walled with an air chamber in the middle, outlets on the front and a fan and inlet on the back of the stove.  It sucks air in the back, that gets warmed in the hollow channel and then gets blown out the front.  This thing cranks!!

ws18This is one of the outlets on the front of the stove.  There is another one on the other side.  When the stove is heated up and I plug the fan in it blows out hot, hot air  at a high volume.


This is the fan on the back of the stove.  It makes a bit of noise, but it’s not too bad.  It really heats the house.

ws19This is a looksie at the inside with the door flung open.  Pardon the trash, but when you have a stove you start collecting stuff that burns well.

If I’m driving around and I see some fool citizen that pruned his trees, collected fallen brush and then tied them up and left them at curbside for the trash guys to pick up I sure as spit stop and throw the stuff in my car.  It’s beautiful, like a little bundle of campfire that some fool put together all nice and pretty, tied it with a bow and left it for picking.  I don’t get people.  You’re gonna cut branches, bundle em, tie em and haul em out to the street for the town to pick up??  It makes no sense to me.  Save all of our frigging tax $$’s and burn em on your own lawn or garden or haul em out back and dump em in the woods.   Make a stick pile for wildlife.   But I digress. Pallets burn well.  Keep your eyes open for free pallets.  My eyes are always open for foraging stuff.

This is my system.  Building a fire is like cooking – everyone does it differently.  Also like cooking, when you build a fire you want to have all of your ingredients together before you start the fire.  All I do is crumple up a bunch of newspaper on the bottom of the stove.  Don’t scrimp here.  I use at least 1/2 an entire issue.  Then I put a piece of wood running horizontally along the bottom of the stove.  You can’t see the horizontal base log because it is totally covered by crumpled newspaper.  Crumple up more newspaper on top.

ws20Lean some wood on the first piece you put in there.  Maybe a couple of smallish pieces leaning on the whole thing.  More newspaper.  Fire likes to run along the edges of stuff so the more edges (more little pieces and broken and splintered) the better.  Really, you gotta act like you are building a blaze because you are.  Plus, I always feel ashamed if it takes me more than one match to get a fire going.  Any fire.  Even if no one else is looking.   I guess the moral is to build every fire like you only have one match.

Don’t light it yet.  You need to make sure that the vent on the stovepipe is all the way open so make sure it’s pointed vertically and running parallel to the stovepipe.   You also need to open the vents on the front of the stove all the way.   When you first light the stove you want as much air as possible rushing through it.

Now after all the vents are open I light the paper, close the door and flip the handle to lock the door shut.  I then walk away and leave it alone for 10-15 minutes.

ws25Upon my return the fire is usually going.

At this point I’ll open the door slowly just an inch.  If you open the door too fast you’ll get a back draft of smoke in your face and the room.  So you open it an inch, wait a few seconds then open it slowly the rest of the way.  I’ll bang all the wood down a bit and spread out the coals and then I’ll load it up.  I pack it fairly tightly.  Leaning wood works well.  You don’t want to pack your wood in like you’re building a brick wall.  You want some air spaces between the logs.  Close the door.

Now I’ll turn the stove down a bit by turning the vent on the stovepipe diagonally so it isn’t fully open or fully closed.  I’ll spin the vents on the front down a bit too.  The secret here is the perfect balance between intake and exhaust so you get the maximum heat while burning your wood as slowly as possible.  Don’t goof on me, but it really is like the Zen of burning.  I mean once you get past that initial burst of heat when you first get it going you want to turn it down nice and low so that the pile of wood in there is just simmering slowly.  Like cooking.

After a few hours when it’s time to load the stove again you have to open the vent on the stovepipe again before you open the door.  Otherwise when you open the door the draft will be reversed and smoke will come into your face and room.  It becomes habit – open vent on stovepipe, flip handle, open door an inch, wait a couple of seconds and then open door rest of way.  Spread the coals out.  Load it.  Shut it.  Lock it.  Close the stovepipe vent down a bit again by turning it diagonally.


  • The whole thing with a wood stove is air movement.  You gotta get the air in your house moving around.  I have two other fans that I sometimes use in addition to the built in one in the stove.
  • Humid air holds more heat than hot air.  Get a humidifier or put teapots on the stove top.  I think humid air is better for humans to breath too.
  • My stove is kind of big so it takes a while to heat up, stays warm a long time and burns a lot more wood than a smaller stove.  It can burn for 12 hours on one load of wood.  I’d rather have one small one at each end of the house, but then there are two fires to feed.
  • I think having a stove is great.  It’s a different kind of heat.  It really feels warm, like the old fashioned radiators.  I’ve never been a fan of forced hot air; there’s no radiant heating.  It’s also a good backup to the forced hot water oil system.  Even if the electric goes out the stove will still heat up a good 1/3 of the house.
  • Another way to cook when your whatever else is on the fritz.
  • I clean my own stovepipe.  It’s not that big a deal.  The brushes are cheap.  You definitely don’t need to pay anyone unless you have a high or steep roof.  It just takes a bit of serious monkeying to get it apart and really serious monkeying to put it back together.  Make sure you wear crap clothes and spread a tarp out.
  • Be careful with the ashes.  They stay hot a long time and jeesh even if you think that they are out don’t ever empty them into a combustible container.  Wood ash is high in potassium and it’s an alkaline like lime so I add it to my compost and directly on the garden (out of season cuz it will burn roots and plants).  Wood ashes are also used to make lye to make soap.  Do not burn shiny magazines or Sunday circulars.  The inks used in shiny stuff is bad.  Anytime you deal with wood ash, or any fine dust, make sure you wear a dust mask.
  • Make sure you got the safety stuff – fire extinguisher and smoke and CO detectors.
  • Build every fire like you only have one match.  All that means is to make sure you got all of your kindling, fuel, paper and whatever else all together before you light it.  Just like cooking, you don’t want to get halfway through cooking something and realize that you need to run out to the store.
  • Every stove is different.  They’re like women.  You need to get to know one before you can handle her correctly.  And with a stove learn that balance between intake and exhaust.
  • Be leery of stovepipes that twist and turn.  In my experience you are always fighting to get a good draft going.
  • Having a woodstove is work.
  • You know what else looks good to me are those soapstone stoves.  They’re supposed to hold heat a long time.
  • Not a fan of the pellet stove.  They seem too specialized to me.  I mean they work fine as long as you got electric and pellets.

I’d recommend that everyone get a wood stove.

By now you know the chant, ‘get outside everyday.’

ws3This was my first skate of the season.  Someone abandoned a fishing hole.  Made me wish that I brought my traps and stopped for some shiners.  Stuck the hockey stick in, hmmmm, about six inches.  That’s pretty thick.  The ice was really nice and smooth.  Nice efficient way to travel.  One kick and you can glide 6, 7 or 8 feet.

ws2These guys had a fire and a bunch of traps set up.  My buddy told me that they got a five and a seven pound bass.  We skated around the whole perimeter of this lake.  I love the rythym of skating, skiing and biking.

Suburban survival

November 4, 2008

What is survival?  To me it’s being prepared for anything, being open minded and keeping your six senses working enough to acknowledge the world around you and adapt to ever changing circumstances.  Having a grain mill is great, but we also have to live in the everyday, that is go to work, go shopping, pay bills and tend to the homestead.

This is a wild turkey feather.

Wild turkey feather

Wild turkey feather

Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird because he thought that the eagle was too warlike.

Today I went to the big orange box store and bought some insulation.  I framed out a walk-in closet a few years ago.  One side of the closet is basically an exterior wall and the other side of the closet is an interior wall where we hang out a lot.  I noticed this closet stayed pretty cold so I figured that I should insulate it.  I also notice that the interior wall where we hang out is pretty cold to the touch.  That means it chills the air in the interior room.

The nice thing about having a cold, dark closet is that I can use it as a root cellar.  I’ve cured homemade cured pork tenderloin.  Check out this recipe.  It’s the easiest sausage in the world and involves no cooking.  I also store my root veggies in the cold closet.  When I make KimChi I store the fermenting bottles in the closet.

At the big box store I bought three rolls of Owens Corning Kraft R13 insulation.   I got the rolls that were 15″ wide which made it really easy to fit between the studs.   Kraft means it’s paper on one side.  R13 is the insulation’s insulative property.  The higher the R number the better the insulation.  Each roll cost about $10.  I had about 10 spaces between studs to slide the insulation into.  I kind of screwed up because I should have put the insulation in before I put up a bunch of pegboard for my tools, but I did not.  Luckily I was able to slide the insulation behind the pegboard and pull it up.

Owens R13 Kraft 15" roll

Owens R13 Kraft 15

It only took me about an hour and we will be more comfortable hanging out and also save energy.  Twenty dollars is a small price to pay.

Another product I like is the blow in foam insulation that comes in a can.  This stuff is great for electrical outlets and cracks near windows and doors.   You shake the can, spray it in to fill about 1//2 the cavity and as it cures it expands.   I highly recommend this stuff, but be careful not to over apply or the pressure it exerts on your windows/doors as it expands will make it tough to open or close the doors/windows.

Great Stuff

Great Stuff

With the cost to heat and cool being so great, you need to take advantage of every angle that you can.

Don’t be brave.  Use the correct equipment.  You wouldn’t remove a crew with a hammer or use a screwdriver as a chisel.  When working with insulation wear a mask, safety glasses, long pants and long sleeves.  When you shoot or use power equipment wear safety glasses and hearing protection.

So fills those cracks.  Fill those gaps.  Fill that empty space.

Some pics of a recent foray along the power lines.

Power line sunset

Power line sunset

Power line sunset 2

Power line sunset 2

There is beauty every where if you just open your eyes to receive.