Machinery for a Post Collapse World: Charcoal Tractor

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 17, 2018

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Welcome to my kick off post. I find it the height of arrogance to blog as I claim no mastery in the subjects that interest me most. I’m a greenie, a builder, a single dad, an alternative energy enthusiast, a gardener, and deeply concerned about the sustainability of the world we have created. I probably won’t write all that often but look in from time to time as I muddle my way through building a better life. For today the topic will be My charcoal powered tractor.

Years ago I launched a search for a fossil fuel free way to charge my batteries in my off grid home. The amount of useable sun in the winter on my solar array would drop to 1.5 hours from a summer high of 5. Most off grid homes resort to propane generators to make up the difference. Propane was not cheap and like any good doomer I understood how precious it was. Steam, thermo electrics, stirling engines, Hydrogen brown gas, you name it I researched and tinkered. The search for an alternative led me to Gasification, specifically charcoal gasification, as a possible locally appropriate solution. Hidden in history I discovered hundred of thousands tractors, buses and cars ran on the stuff during the second world war. Some were jury rigged but there was also also factory made kits, standardization of fuel, Fuelling stations, government pamphlets, standards of construction, government regulations and guidelines, it was all there and vanished as soon as gasoline became available again. Don’t buy it? Just another conspiracy theory?  here is a great photo montage done by another woodgas nut like me. What strikes me here is just how normal this fuel was:

Imagine my surprise that a fuel that could run all my machinery with minor modification could be made at home while I heated my house…

This article is too short to go into the ins and outs of gasification, charcoal versus wood and how it works so take a look here for a primer on the subject:

If you want a glimpse into the modern masters of the technology check here:

As often happens in life priorities change. For me it was kids, a busier work schedule and correspondingly higher electrical usage which had me choose to grid connect my home to replace the generator. For a while projects around resilience took a back seat to all that make families work. It was always there though. I’ve decided to revisit these themes over the next few years as I attempt to refocus my life towards greatly increased food production, renewed energy independence, and fossil fuel replacements. Right now food comes first.

Fossil fuels have come to be critical to food production. I won’t debate the effectiveness of permaculture, lasagna garden bed making, french intensive methods, organic farming, or the joys of draft animals here. I can tell you that in times of crisis we will need millions of new large gardens seemingly overnight and one thing all those above methods are not is fast. Tractors are able to convert a manicured lawn into a plowed field in a matter of hours. With all that in mind my contribution is my 1953 Ferguson TEA20 tractor converted to run on charcoal. It was cheap and available but appropriately its from an era of simpler machines designed to run forever and be repaired by an owner in the field with minimal tools. On a sunny october afternoon it turned my weed filled 2250 sq ft garden back into the food plot it had once been. One hour of charcoal powered cultivation replaced what would have been 3 days of back breaking work for one person. Total fuel consumed 10 gallons of charcoal ,just shy of 14 Lbs., roughly equivalent to 1 US gallon of gasoline. I make my charcoal in my wood stove over the winter. This would have represented the coals from 24 hours of mid winter fires but honestly it probably took me 2 evenings of shovelling coals to accumulate this much as I’m not a fanatic or desperate. This is not a solution for a thriving society basking in economic prosperity and cheap energy. It works best if you have access to wood and are used to processing it so probably rural dwellers, who are land rich but money poor and heat with wood. It will not power an economy of commuting suburbanites but it might be enough for my northern tree covered slice of the world.

I’ve committed to plowing up 2 garden plots for friends this fall if time allows. I will be running on charcoal and will record the process. For now just some stills and some background videos will have to do. As a teaser that same 14 lbs of charcoal would have produced between 6 and 8 kW Hr of electricity for battery charging… That is another post though.


It all starts with making charcoal:

A walk around in the tractor’s early days:

All nice and shiny running on charcoal gas at an agricultural fair. It’s never been that clean since!

Ultimate Tiny House Design

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 16, 2016


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Please note the last diagram in the addendum of this article was incorrect and the correct diagram should be this one:



The latest internal configurations shown here represent what I describe as the penultimate and ultimate passive solar and plumbing designs for a tiny house on wheels. If in the future I am able to tweak things to achieve additional improvements, I reserve the right to describe later revisions as the "super ultimate version" or "superduper ultimate version" etc, etc, outrageous ironic hubris intended.

In all versions I have always located the LPG stove and wood stove side by side (and the sink next to the LPG stove) so that a single rangehood can extract vapour from either stove, and to facilitate quick transfer of hot pots and pans from either stove to the nearby sink.

As mentioned in previous articles, passive solar heating requires broadside orientation of the dwelling to the sun, expansive double (or triple) glazed glass windows/doors on the sun-facing aspect, thick insulation of floor/walls/roof and a source of thermal mass. For a tiny house on wheels, concrete is not appropriate thermal mass, it is dead weight on the chassis. Water however has a high specific heat capacity and, weight for weight, offers superior thermal mass to concrete. Water tanks can be emptied when the tiny house is transported.

My initial intent was to locate internal water tanks(s) under the lounge seats to provide thermal mass, however solar heat transfer would be inefficient in that configuration and it would represent a great deal of dead weight on the chassis. I subsequently decided, for reasons previously explained, that a header tank for the cold water system will be an important component, however combined with the hot water cylinder and under-seat tank(s), the all up weight just for these water filled components will be excessive, around 700kg. It would represent an adverse long term load on the chassis. Hence I have now decided to eliminate the under-seat water tank(s) which alone would contain 400 to 500 litres of water and thus weigh more than 400 to 500kg.



The steel header tank, if uninsulated and painted matt black, despite its smaller size (150 litres), could still confer good thermal mass, in addition to its primary function of providing the pressure head. However, is there a way to make this thermal mass even more efficient? My advisers from the Tiny House Company (Lara Nobel, Andrew Carter and Greg Thornton) suggested that a mid point stair configuration will be more space efficient than my original design with stairs at the west end. This new configuration in fact offers a number of improvements. As the header tank can now be located almost directly above the wood stove, it makes sense to take advantage of this arrangement to design a gravity/thermosiphoning circuit between the backboiler tank of the mini wood stove and the header tank.


This will effectively harvest heat from the wood stove, for later slow release of heat from the header tank after the fire is out. One danger of this arrangement may be overheating of the water in the header tank, however this can be avoided by always ensuring the tank is full of cold water before firing up the stove and by not running the stove for extended periods eg more than two hours. The intent here is to utilise the header tank water as thermal mass, and NOT to turn the (uninsulated) header tank into a hot water cylinder (the header tank will not and cannot replace a proper, dedicated hot water cylinder supplying the taps).



The next natural question is whether it may be feasible to harvest heat from the wood stove to supply the hot water cylinder, while also using the same cylinder to gather heat from the solar thermal array, all by means of gravity thermosiphoning which, not requiring pumps or sensors, will be the most reliable and robust system possible. The answer is yes, however it will require particular design of the hotwater cylinder according to custom specifications. If you live in an area prone to frost, the heat transfer from the external solar thermal array into the cylinder must be indirect, via copper coils containing a glycol solution. Heat transfer from the backboiler tank of the wood stove to the cylinder can however be direct. Hence the hot water cylinder design should be as shown in Figure 2


For adequate thermolayer separation within the cylinder, a tall vertical cylinder is best (rather than a squat horizontal cylinder).


It is essential to consider the requirements for effective gravity thermosiphoning which are:

  1. To drive a circulating convection current, the heat source(s) must be below the hot water storage cylinder, and the hot pipe must be relatively higher than the cold(er) pipe.

  2. Adequate flow requires minimum resistance within the circuit, which requires that the calibre of pipes be large (at least 28mm), that there are few or no right angle bends (gentle curves/bends in the pipes are allowable) and that the pipes should be relatively short (which requires close proximity between heat source(s) and hot water cylinder). Short pipes also minimise heat loss in transit (which is inevitable even with good pipe insulation).

  3. The higher the temperature gradient between hot and cold pipes, the stronger the convection current. Hence the intense heat from the backboiler of the wood stove will still enable effective thermosiphoning through a long circuit, whereas the less hot solar thermal array should have a shorter circuit to function effectively.


As such, my ultimate iteration based on these plumbing considerations is as shown:


Solar heating of water

In the "ultimate" version, there is no connection between the (cold water) header tank and the wood stove. For thermal mass purposes, the most efficient way to transfer solar heat to the header tank will be for this uninsulated matt black steel tank to sit directly against a double glazed window on the sun-facing aspect of the house. Obviously this surface area for solar heat gathering will be tiny compared to the volume of water in the header tank. Nevertheless, a modest five degree rise in water temperature within the header tank (eg 15degC to 20degC) will be excellent for thermal mass purposes. However 20degC will be completely inadequate as a source of hot water for the taps. The uninsulated header tank cannot and will not replace an insulated hot water cylinder as the supply for the hot water taps.

A dedicated solar thermal array feeding a dedicated insulated hot water cylinder is necessary for the latter purpose. This outdoor solar thermal array, if located directly in front of the hot water cylinder, could potentially suffer from shadowing from the timber deck (and its overhead awning) in the morning, hence the array may be better located toward the west end, despite the slightly longer pipes required (which of course must be heavily insulated).


Passive Solar Heating of the composting toilet:

Proper composting of faeces to kill pathogens requires high temperatures and adequate duration of composting. High temperatures can be naturally achieved by exothermic reactions within a large mass of decomposing waste, however the volume within the bin of the composting toilet is way too small to achieve this. Hence to speed up the initial decomposition of such a small volume, it makes sense to enlist passive solar heating. It is therefore important to locate the composting toilet on the sun facing aspect of the house, immediately adjacent to double glazed frosted windows. Indeed, now being located at the north western corner, the toilet will receive heat from the evening sun as well. Obviously when one is using the toilet, the frosted windows will be blocked off by pull down modesty screens.

Full time use of the Nature's Head composting toilet by a couple may require that it be emptied once per month. Minimal composting will have taken place by then (indeed no decomposition of freshly deposited waste will have occurred). Odour is actually eliminated during active use of the toilet primarily by means of dehydration (continuous ventilation) and coverage with sawdust/wood ash. Fresh compost within the full bin (now removed from the toilet) will be sprinkled with fresh water, because additional moisture will be required for further aerobic decomposition. The bin will then be transferred to an outdoor "solar storage" greenhouse chamber where it will undergo further passive solar heating for a month, by which time the waste will be truly innocuous. Further composting will need to be conducted by emptying this bin onto a larger composting mass the size of, say, a rubbish skip (with a rainproof lid). The month old compost will deposited on the top of the larger, older mass of compost. The oldest compost (perhaps two years old) can be harvested from a cutaway opening at the very bottom of the skip. This biologically safe compost can now be scattered at the base of trees.


General comments:

  1. Uneven weight distribution in tiny house: there is significantly more weight from the header tank and HWC on the sun-facing side of the dwelling despite the fridge and washing machine being on the opposite side. This should not be an issue if the weight (when parked) is not borne by the tires but by jackstands or footings (important to locate jackstands or footings not only at the corners but also under the mid point of the chassis, thus directly bearing the weight of the header tank). This uneven weight will not be an issue during transportation when the water tanks are empty.

  2. Standard mains pressure in domestic taps is around 3 metres of water height. The same pressure can be achieved by locating the header tank outdoors, on top of the roof, which will however eliminate the possibility of greenhouse heating of this header tank. The pressure head will be lower if the header tank is located indoors on the loft floor, but lower flow rates can be overcome by using wider calibre pipes to the taps (perhaps twice the standard bore).

  3. Water overflow from the header tank should be directed to the exterior, proud and clear of the wall of the house, by means of a gargoyle poised above the kitchen window. Figure 4. This overflow will be visible through the window from inside the house, signifying that the header tank is full and that pumping of water up to the header tank must cease.


Comments on the "penultimate" design:

  1. In this configuration where there is connection between the woodstove backboiler tank and the stainless steel header tank via copper pipes, electrolytic corrosion of both tanks can be prevented by the simple application of a magnesium anode in the header tank. The advantage of this configuration is that it confers residual heating to the house after the fire from the wood stove is out. The disadvantage is that it does not heat water for the hot water system. However it will be easy enough to just boil a kettle and mix that with cold water in a bucket to obtain tepid washwater.

  2. If the header tank has a loose lid (and hence the water in the header tank is connected with the atmosphere of the house), and if this water is warmed excessively, it could result in copious condensation on the inside walls and windows of the house overnight. The way to prevent this is to construct the header tank to be airtight, however it will need to have a wide bore venting/overflow port near the top, which must be vented to the exterior, which will also allow the moist air to escape outside, via the gargoyle,


    Comments on the "ultimate" design

  1. The vendor I sought who makes custom hot water cylinders, Trevor, specialises in copper cylinders. I am uncertain if the copper hot water cylinder and copper pipes connected to the steel backboiler tank will in the long term lead to electrolytic corrosion of the backboiler tank. Mark of Salamander stoves was unable to advise me about this, apart from saying that after five years of use (with copper pipes) he has personally not detected any problem in his backboiler tank.

  2. When the wood stove is fired up, water in the HW cylinder can easily become scalding hot, hence adequate care must be taken to dilute hot with cold water when operating the taps. Rather than depend on complex electronic sensors (which regulate the water temperatures in modern domestic systems), the philosophy in this design is to depend on simple common sense.



In view of the above considerations, I am actually partial to the "penultimate" design rather than "ultimate" design at this time.


G. Chia March 2016
















Plumbing the Tiny House

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 9, 2016

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1 ColdWaterSystemOverview

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Plumbing the Tiny House

Geoffrey Chia, February 2016

This continues the series of articles by which we hope to empower readers to exit the "killing fields of the future" (the cities), to help you achieve and maintain a comfortable offgrid lifestyle for at least a couple of decades after TSHTF (assuming you have purchased sufficient spare parts for maintenance and/or are creative in your repairs). For example, solar evacuated tubes invariably break, therefore it will be prudent to purchase many spares, in addition to those in your working solar thermal array.

In this article I outline my plumbing preferences for my tiny house which, to say the least, is a little unconventional compared with "standard" arrangements. The plumbing here is specifically configured for my tiny house design which I have described in a previous article:

2 ColdWaterSystemNoExternalTank3 ColdWaterToHotWaterConnection4 ConventionalSystemUsingMicroprocessor&Sensors


Preferences for the cold water system:


  1. A steel rainwater storage tank within the lounge (under the seats) doubles up as a thermal mass tank which picks up passive solar heat in the daytime. This minimises the need to operate the wood stove at night. The water in this tank (eg 500 litres) may not last long depending on the rate of use, hence my preferred configuration is a permanent connection to an additional external rainwater tank with capacity of perhaps 1000 to 2000 litres.

  2. In off-grid configuration, the 150 litre header tank is all-important feature and serves three main purposes: first and most important is that if a tap is accidentally left open, the greatest amount of water that can be lost is only 150 litres (even if a hot water tap is left open, the last 50 litres of water in the cylinder will not be lost because at the end there will be no pressure head left to empty the cylinder). If however the system is directly connected to a community shared large (eg 40,000 litres) water tank uphill, it will be possible to lose many thousands of litres. The second reason for a header tank is that the ritual of filling of this tank each morning, either by electric or manual pumping, will reinforce the value of fresh water and encourage daily limitation of water consumption (of course this is not true rationing because the header tank can always be refilled at any time, but being creatures of habit we will probably just fill it once a day or even on alternate days, thus limiting water consumption to <150 litres per day per tiny house). Thirdly, a header tank eliminates the need for a frequently operating electric water pump (triggered by the pressure drop detected by an electronic sensor whenever a tap is opened). It eliminates another layer of electronic complexity (even though a high volume electric pump is part of my configuration, it does not require any electronic sensor and also has a manual backup). Another purpose of this header tank is additional thermal mass.

  3. This system includes the option of direct connection to town (reticulated water) supply at normal mains pressure. This high pressure port will also be suitable for permanent direct connection to a larger water tank situated uphill, although as stated before this is to be discouraged.


The diagrams are self explanatory

5 TypicalHotWaterCylinder6 HeliatosVendorsDiagram7 Mini10EvacTubeArray

Preferences for the hot water system:


Contemporary conventional solar / hybrid hot water systems are highly complex and depend on sophisticated electronics. I initially describe my general preferences, then outline the workings of proven "standard" setups, then go through a process of deconstruction and simplification to pare things down to the bare bones system I personally prefer.

My general preferences:

  • I prefer solar heating of water with an evacuated tube system (the "heat pipe" type evacuated tubes, NOT the hollow core type) with no integrated gas or electrical backup. Evacuated tubes are more efficient in temperate climates in winter compared with flat panel arrays*. Best orientation is facing the equator (ie facing North if in the Southern hemisphere) and permanently angled around 15 degrees higher than your latitude eg if you are 40 degrees South, it should be angled around 55 degrees from horizontal, which is optimal for winter. Suboptimal angling for the summer sun is in fact desirable, to avoid overheating in summer.

  • If there are several overcast days, the wood stove (or LPG stove) can be fired up and hot water obtained from the backboiler tank or by heating a kettle. Adding the hot water to cold water in a bucket will create a comfortably tepid wash mixture. For me the expense and complexity to plumb a system which connects pipes from the woodstove backboiler (eg from the Salamander Hobbit system) to the hot water storage tank is not worthwhile.

8  Heliatos configurationWithTubeArray9 PassiveThermosiphoning10 PassiveExternalStandaloneSystem

Conventional systems:

  • Contemporary conventional domestic solar hot water systems use a microprocessor controller with electronic sensors. The "Heliatos" system obviates the need for microprocessor control of the pump. I have no pecuniary interest in Heliatos but mention them repeatedly because their components and configurations enable simplification of conventional complex solar systems (and easy retrofitting of non-solar to solar systems) while still working well, and I have had productive dealings with them previously. The key components are the "bottom feed connector" and a simple 12V DC electric pump + 10W photovoltaic panel. The standard Heliatos configuration assumes the solarthermal array is on the roof, ie above the level of the hot water cylinder, and the cylinder incorporates backup gas/electric heating. Typical cylinders operate at around mains water pressure. Whenever hot water is taken from the top of the cylinder, cold water under mains pressure replaces it at the base to keep the cylinder full, to enable ongoing sourcing of hot water from the top. The entire water mass in the cylinder is always kept hot because backup heating kicks in as needed, as determined by temperature sensors. Please note: all pipes containing hot water must obviously be heavily insulated, this is not shown in the diagrams for simplicity.

  • My modifications:

  • My modifications involve use of evacuated tubes rather than the Heliatos flat panels and placing the tube array on the ground rather than on the roof for ease of cleaning and maintenance (also easy to cover with a tarpaulin to shut down the system if it overheats or to protect against a hailstorm). Tubes are thus located at a lower level than the hot water cylinder. I also choose not to have backup gas/electric heating. The mode of operation is described on the diagram. Thermosiphoning during the day should be enabled, thus eliminating the need for an electric pump and PV panel.

  • My aim is to reduce complexity (resulting in only minor inconvenience) and thus ensure long term robust performance. This configuration is pretty much guaranteed to work, because there are already well proven "stand alone" outdoor evacuated tube systems which utilise passive convection currents, with the tank situated above the tubes. Such standalone outdoor systems are suitable for warmer climates such as Queensland but not ideal for cold climates such as New Zealand, where it is best to locate the hot water cylinder in a warmer indoor environment for greatest efficiency. I sought the opinion of the Heliatos consultant, Dr Abtahi (Phd) about my split system preference, who emailed me back that what I propose is not only workable, it is actually not uncommon. Thus I cannot claim any originality here and can be quite confident of its feasibility. His main caveats were that the pipes must be properly insulated and the array should be tilted so that the hotter end of the manifold sits higher, to kick start thermosiphoning in the morning.

  • It is always important to seek the advice of your local plumber, which I am also doing. We can expect problems to arise if the sizes of the tank and solar array are mismatched between each other and also with regard to the climate. For example of the tank is too big, solar array is too small and winter sun is too feeble, you can expect persistent poor heating performance. Conversely if the tank is too small, solar array is too big and summer sun is too strong, the system can boil away the water in the tank and cause the tubes to overheat. The good thing about "heat pipe" evacuated tubes is that one or more tubes can be removed from the array and the system will continue to function perfectly (obviously with less heating power). So you can reduce the array size in summer and increase its size in winter very easily. Alternatively simply cover one or more tubes if the day is too sunny.



11 ExternalHeatExchanger12 PassiveThermosiphoningThruInternalHeatXchanger




  • If frost is a likely problem, a glycol solution must be run through the manifold and this circuit must be kept separate from the domestic water. Heliatos have an external heat exchanger which connects to the bottom feed connector, hence if retrofitting, there is no need to purchase a hot water cylinder with internal heat exchange tubes. The Heliatos external heat exchange system requires two pumps and a 20W solar PV panel in the usual "high panel" configuration (compared with the standard Heliatos arrangement which uses one pump and a 10W solar PV panel).

  • If establishing your system de novo, obtaining a cylinder with internal heat exchange tubes will be preferable and more efficient. As the internal heat exchange tubes will be much wider than the tiny tubes of the Heliatos external heat exchanger (thus posing less resistance to flow), there should be no need for any electrical pumps at all in the "low panel" configuration. This arrangement may turn out to be the simplest yet most robust configuration, which can suit all climates (even with freezing winters), as seen in the final diagram. Hence this is my preferred configuration. As in all things the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the end user must try their own system out for themselves and tweak things if necessary to make it work. There will be different specifications of different components purchased by different users in different climates, hence no two systems are likely to be identical and some customisation may be necessary.


Exclusive use of rainwater will avoid the problem of lime deposits from hard water.


CONCLUSION: This article outlines a variety of options. Different configurations will suit different people depending on whether they want roof mounted or ground mounted panels and what level of complexity they are happy with. Conventional systems are convenient (hot water is available at all times with backup heating which however requires complex electronics) but also have more potential points for failure. I do not mind some inconvenience (no hot water in tank after several heavily overcast days) but prefer an easily maintained, simple and robust system with greater longevity. Just remember to buy good quality components from the outset and obtain plenty of spare parts (eg extra evacuated tubes, magnesium anodes etc) and you should be able to enjoy using the same system for at least the next twenty years.


G. Chia Feb 2016



Boat based solar thermal arrays must by necessity be mounted flush on deck, which when stationary will be horizontal (or near horizontal), but due to boat movement will be constantly varying in angle. Evacuated tube systems are not feasible for boats because:

  1. Irrespective of latitude, the tubes need to be angled at least 20 degrees from horizontal to allow convectional forces to operate within the tubes

  2. Even though designed to cope with small hailstones, tubes are easily shattered (whereas a flat panel with polycarbonate cover will not break if a heavy shackle drops on it)

A boat based, horizontally mounted flat panel system will therefore require water to be circulated by electric pump: there is no option for passive thermosiphoning.

















Boomer Doomers

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 1, 2015


Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner when I first discovered the world of oncoming Doom back in 2008 in the Aftermath of the Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers collapses, I had no idea about Peak Oil, and my only knowledge or recollection of Doomers were what I had thought of as “psychos” at the time, the folks back in the 70s who walked around with placards declaring “The End is Nigh”.  Turns out here they weren’t wrong or psycho, just way ahead of their time.

DDlogoMy first internet communications and discussion on Doom concepts came on the Peak Oil Forum in 2008-2009, and there I ran into the whole panoply of Doomer Archetypes, Survivalists, Nazi Eugenecists, Permaculturists and of course the Doomsteaders, which is where the Doomstead Diner title for this Blog comes from.

What is a Doomsteader?

Doomsteaders are people who have sort of exited the regular economy and moved out into the boonies on a patch of property they are trying to make resilient and survivable when the final crash of the industrial economy arrives.  There are quite a few variations on the theme, depending on how much the Doomsteader wants to keep things like Electricity running and how much money they actually have to set the place up.

Some will fit out with Solar Panels, Generators that will run on a variety of fuel inputs, Battery Banks for storing the juice, Charge Controllers, the works here.  They have hydraulic log splitters too, and tractors they plan to run with biodiesel to keep the whole operation running after TSHTF.  Others try a more 18th Century model, trying to fit out with Wood Stoves, Candles and Horse drawn plows, in the Amish model.

Here’s a short Bio for some of the Doomsteaders I have run into since the Peak Oil Forum days.  By no means is this complete, there were many more, but this is a basic cross section.


Duke was a Peak Oil commenter who was very full of himself and liked to brag about all his preps, which included every techno gimmick he could buy to make his Doomstead resilient.  Besides having the hydraulic log splitters and all the rest, Duke ALSO had an Armory the National Guard would be proud of, with automatic weapons, night scopes, rpgs, the WORKS here.  The only thing he did not claim to own was a Tactical Nuke.  Insofar as I could tell though, this Doomstead was only occupied by the Duke and Duchess, and it was hard to imagine he had any friends who would join him there since he was insufferable even online.  LOL.  So I never figured out exactly how Duke was going to defend this place from the hordes of Zombies he himself projected as coming out of the wood work once TSHTF.


Pops was a Peak Oil Forum moderator (I think he still is) who caught on pretty early to the Peak Oil problem, and presciently sold out of his California home prior to the crash in 2008, and used the proceeds from this to buy himself around a 20 acre Doomstead in Missouri, not all that far from where my sister lives in Springfield.  As a result, during one of my vacations visiting the relatives down there in the Lower 48 before mom died, I had a chance to drive out and meet up with Pops IRL.  His farmhouse was quite nice, but the place is not that removed from the population at large, and unlike Duke, Pops was not collecting an Armory to try to defend it with.  So this place also assumes a kind of BAU will take place after TSHTF.


BC’s Doomstead is somewhere in Maine, and he is EXTREMELY careful about revealing its actual location to anyone. Careful is being polite here, really he’s totally PARANOID about this. LOL. Unlike some of the more recent Doomers, he has been a Doomer himself and building on this location since the 1970s.  he’s very conversant with all the techniques talked about in the permaculture community, and in fact teaches on it when he ventures off the Doomstead periodically.  His security plan is to be hidden and far enough off the beaten path that the Zombies won’t find the place.  The problem with that is that it is probably not Zombies he has to worry about, but local Cops and National Guard, all of whom know exactly where his place is.  Even I was able to deduce where the place is, and I don’t have all the tricks available that the military and police do, just good deductive ability and a knowledge of how the internet works.  This freaked out BC2K so much that he dropped off the internet entirely, but I am sure he still has his phone operational, so there is no real way to hide here and still participate in some manner in the economy.

Doug Casey & Simon Black

These two Doomers fit another category, the Uber Rich Doomers who aren’t just setting up a subsistence farm somewhere in Amerika, they have enough money to build and develop entire compounds which they are selling Condo style to other rich folks, sprinkled around the Globe from Argentina to Chile.  South and Central America seem to be the locations of choice for this bunch of Doomsteaders, which includes the Bush family which has its Doomstead in Panama.  Things are so bad here in the FSoA in terms of Taxation and accelerating Fascism that these folks figure to escape to these much SAFER and MORE FRIENDLY  locations.  Except one kind of has to wonder exactly how Safe or Friendly such places will be when the economic system TANKS and the impoverished Argentinians surrounding the compound decide to come for a visit, and knock down the compound walls?

There are many more examples of various types of Doomsteaders, Albert Bates who was a founding member of The Farm in TN fits the category, so does Orren Whiddon who is founder of the 4 Quarters Interfaith Doomstead in Pennsylvania.  Running a somewhat different idea and paradigm is Ray Jason, the ex-Street Juggler who runs the Sea Gypsy Philosopher Blog.  Ray’s concept is to remain Mobile, and to use small sailboats as the ticket to Freedom & Sustainability.  Problem with this is that most all sailboats are chock full of technology, they are terrifically insecure when moored anywhere, and you just can’t carry all that much on them unless they are quite large.  So this paradigm has its own set of problems.

What do ALL of these Doomsteaders have in common though?  They are all BOOMERS, aka the demographic of people pursuing this paradigm generally is from around 50 years old to 70 years old.  There are some older ones than that as well, but once into the 80s they tend to stop discussing their Doomerism with others on the net.  LOL.  Have a look at a photo from the Age of Limits conference where for the last 3 years  Doomers gathered to discuss oncoming Doom

Now, there are a few younger folks sprinkled in there, but the preponderance of this crowd is Gray Hairs.  I can tell you also that the general demographic of Diner readers are Gray Hairs also, though we do have sprinkled in at least 1 20-something in Monsta, 2 30-somethings in Lucid Dreams and Gypsy Mama and a 40-something in WHD.

Why is the Doom Community so overwhelmingly OLD?  More than a few reasons for this.

The first one is Economics.  Just about everyone who sets up a Doomstead has to have pretty substantial money to do this to start with, and then to be able to live on it without having a job in the regular economy (since even the close in ones are in areas where there is not much employment to be found), they have to have an Income coming from Investments, Pensions and Social Security, etc.  VERY few people who have Doomsteads grow or raise 100% of their own food, and they still have taxes and other expenses to keep the place running.  You can cut down the amount of outgoing FRNs you need with a subsistence farm to pretty small numbers, but you can’t cut it out entirely.  Nor can you usually entirely feed yourself and family on what such a subsistence farm can produce each year., if your Doomstead relies on things like Solar PV Cells and Batteries, pumping motors and the like to bring up water from wells or run Hydroponic Systems, most of this stuff will start to fail on you within 5-10 years, its not sustainable outside of a supporting Industrial Economy.

Most 30-somethings do not have money enough to even get GOING on one of these Individual Doomsteads, much less make it work to raise a family on it.  So they are shut out of this economically, and being so shut out you don’t even want to think about or consider what you will do when TSHTF, because there is nothing realistic you CAN do.  At best, you become as Self-Reliant as possible and learn as many skills as you can, but otherwise to dwell on Doom is pretty counter-productive.  Much as you might WANT to move out to a Doomstead in the Boonies, it is out of reach economically, and it’s somewhat depressing I think for people who are so shut out to read about how some retiree is building a Windmill on his property to pump water to his Raised Beds.  You would like to do that too, but you can’t.  It costs MONEY you don’t have to set up a Doomstead, even the El Cheapo variety.

Other major reasons are Experience and Psychology.  If you have been around 50 or more years, you have had a chance to observe what is really a long ongoing downspin, and to extrapolate out from there where we are headed is not too hard.  You are also quite a bit closer to your own personal trip to the Great Beyond no matter what occurs, so it’s a bit easier as a result to accept that everyone is Doomed.  If you are 30 years old with some young children, you definitely do not want to believe everybody is Doomed, and will resist this idea as long as you can.  Even if it is not Everybody but just MOST people you do not want to accept this idea, since because you cannot afford your own Doomstead to try and ride it out, you are probably one of the ones who gets a Ticket to the Great Beyond TM.  Your kids too.

What is the outcome of this dynamic?  Well, it seems that the vast preponderance of people who are in some way prepared for an oncoming collapse are all the OLD FOLKS! Great Doomsteads with all the preps to keep them going for another 20 years, but THEN what?  If they do have kids, the kids think they are Nutty Doomers and they don’t spend time on the Farm learning how to care for the pigs and chickens and harvest the heirloom seeds to keep growing the squash from one season to the next.  In fact, probably 90% of the people who have subsistence farms don’t save their own seeds, they just buy new ones each year from some heirloom seed distributor on the internet!

The bottom line on this is that this type of Doomsteading is itself Doomed, you are not going to get a sustainable culture from mostly Gray Hairs past reproductive age who are running small “sustainable” Doomsteads.  These Doomsteads are not sustainable because THE FOLKS INHABITING THEM are not Sustainable!  20 years from now, they are gonna be DEAD no matter WHAT, or best case drooling octogenarians who can’t even find the switch to turn on the Solar PV system.  LOL. very people you really NEED to make a sustainable system here are precisely the people who are SHUT OUT from making it happen, the 20-40 year olds who still are fit and of reproductive age!  Even if you ARE an Aging Boomer Doomer, the likelihood is that your kids do NOT want to join you on the Doomstead to milk the cows, their psychology hopes things will get better and they will eventually get a better job than working as a Starbucks Barrista.  Even worse if they are currently successful Doctors and Lawyers, are they gonna give that up to go cow milking on your Doomstead?  Highly Unlikely.

How does this paradigm play out after TS actually DOES HTF?  The Old Fogeys with the Doomsteads can’t keep operating them, and the Young Whippersnappers who should have been out there learning how to milk cows and save seeds and keep a Doomstead running have no knowledge of how to do that, so even if they drop in and dispatch the Old Folks and take over, the system fails because they don’t have knowledge enough to keep it running!

Besides that is the fact the vast preponderance of these well-outfitted Doomsteads are built with plumbing systems that can go awry, roofs covered with tar paper that need to be replaced or resurfaced every 5 years or so, septic systems that need to be pumped out periodically, not to mention of course the possibility of various types of weather related damage from Tornadoes to Hurricanes to Snowstorms to Flooding to Wildfires to just your own Personal Fire from the Wood Stove malfunctioning.  OOOPS!  Bye, Bye, Doomstead!  lol.

My favorite unsustainable system is water pumping from deep wells.  OK, you have off grid power from your Chinese manufactured Solar PV cells guaranteed by Kwai Chang Solar Industries for 20 years, but what do you do to get the water up from 200′ under ground when the impeller gives out on your pump?  Hope you have several back up pumps and parts in your Barn/Warehouse!  Home Depot has been Outta Biz for 5 years by now.  Even if your well is shallow enough to use a Hand Pump from above, the gaskets on these things wear out too!  If you can’t operate your well with a rope and bucket arrangement, you are SOL in this location.

Given that these “sustainable” Doomsteads are supposed to be living arrangements for the post-SHTF world, exactly where in that world are you going to get replacement plumbing parts, new roofing materials, new batteries for your Off Grid Solar PV setup, etc?  Even if some of these things are available to Scavenge from abandoned McMansions, how are you going to get them from the now vacated suburbs to your Doomstead in the Appalachian Mountains?  You’re going to hitch up the horses to your Wagon and mosey along the decaying roads to the Alexandria VA suburbs, strip some McMansions of plumbing and then with your now loaded wagon have your trusty team of horses Nellie and Betsy pull the load back to the Doomstead?  Remember here, by this time you are around 70-80 years old!  lol.  This is Magical Thinking at work.

Basically, the whole notion of individual Doomsteads run by age 50+ Doomers is totally ludicrous, and it’s only slightly more realistic if they have their children and grandchildren on board to help them, which few do these days.

Is there a SOLUTION to this?  There is, but insofar as I can see at this moment, it is not being undertaken anywhere.  You can’t set up Individual Doomsteads and make them Sustainable, particularly not if you are 50+ years old.  What needs to be done is to develop entire COMMUNITIES with a full range of demographics from children to old folks, and these communities and their living arrangements cannot be dependent on the various types of plumbing and electrical systems that we take for granted today.$web_zoom$&/1308302308/lodge-cast-iron-round-skillet.jpgPeople need to re-learn how to live in very simple housing, use outhouses for bathrooms, make clothing from hemp fibers etc.  It doesn’t need to be complete Stone Age for quite some time, since many things like Cast Iron Cookware made today will likely last another Century.  There isn’t much that can Fail in a Cast Iron Skillet.  Similarly, quality Damascus Steel Axe Heads and Knives also have a good long lifespan if well maintained, oiled or greased daily to slow rusting etc.

This is not to say that if you do set up such a community TODAY, it can’t or shouldn’t have Off Grid Solar, Indoor Plumbing etc.  If you can afford all that stuff in setting the community up, GO FOR IT! Keep the creature comforts of the Age of Oil as long as you can, but set up the BACKUP systems that work without any of the fine manufactured parts that will disappear as the industries that produce them shut down.  Do NOT set up your Sustainable Community in a location where the only water available is 200′ (or even 100′) under the ground.  That is NOT SUSTAINABLE!

What the Boomer Doomer is doing in setting up one of these Doomsteads is not developing a sustainable living paradigm, they simply are trying to finish out their lives in as close to the comfort they had during the Age of Oil as might be reasonably possible if collapse is fairly slow , and the next 20 years just sees gradual diminshing of services and products, but still the core elements of society keep functioning to one extent or another.  The main core there is Law & Order & Property Rights of course, since once those fail few Boomer Doomers could Protect & Defend their Doomsteads from either roving gangs of Zombies OR the local Sheriff or National Guard commander turned Warlord.   However, really these things do not have to fail completely for the paradigm to fail, all that has to fail is the Impeller Pump on your well.

The question for all of us is how to join together to build sustainable communities, not how to go out and buy your own little Dream Retirement Home and die in peace out in the boonies of Appalachia while the World Burns.  That is the question we have to answer here on the Diner, and with the SUN project.


Propper Prepping: What’s What With Watt?

Off the keyboard of Cognitive Dissonance

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Published on Two Ice Floes on February 25, 2015

Solar Panels 2 - Clean

Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner

Regular readers may remember a humorous post from November of 2014 by Mrs. Cog titled ‘Amps Times Volts Equals Watts. In that article Mrs. Cog relates with a giggle her struggle to understand the basic fundamentals of electricity, something she had previously given no more thought to for her entire life than where is the nearest outlet or light switch. I think I enjoyed that piece more than any other article by Mrs. Cog to date. If you haven’t read it, please take a moment and do so before proceeding. This article picks up (sadly sans most of the humor) where that one left off.

I wrote an article some time back describing the process of physically and financially decoupling from the Matrix. In it I described how we were selling assets to eliminate as much debt as possible in order to reduce the need for cash flow. While we are grateful some of our assets contained capital gains, we were not delighted with the idea the tax man would remove a sizable portion of ‘our’ money for ‘its’ despotic redistribution. Unfortunately the process of withdrawing often involves becoming more entangled, or at least still feeding the beast in many unexpected ways, even if this is temporary in nature and leads to less involvement in the system and a more sustainable lifestyle.

Needless to say the tax man’s wrath was felt in 2014, making us reluctantly resigned but very unhappy campers. Unfortunately, in a financial system which rewards those who continue to double down, the escapee who walks away is heavily penalized. Still, we were looking to repurpose some of the cash into tangible working assets of the sustainable homestead nature. If doing so happened to provide a tax credit, thereby reducing the tax man’s cut from a pound of Rump Roast to a twelve ounce Porterhouse, then all the better for us.

While we had always planned to install a more extensive photovoltaic (solar) electric system at some point down the road when money and time allowed, several stars aligned at the same time to propel this project back from the future and into the recent past. When we purchased our homestead, the prior owner had already installed two small fifteen watt solar panels and a tiny charge controller to keep two six volt lead acid batteries charged. These batteries were used to power a winch to lift heavy logs into the outdoor wood stove boiler. I expected I would eventually expand upon that existing system and repurpose it for household use.

Late last year in October of 2014 Mrs. Cog and I were discussing ‘What ifs’, an exercise we often engage in to see where we stand in our progress towards creating a more sustainable living environment and how far we have to go. A well known critical vulnerability was the lack of an easily accessible alternative source of potable water if the electrical grid failed and we eventually ran out of propane and gasoline used to fuel our backup generators which power the submersible pump in our well. While we have a robust creek on the property, accessing it requires a 200+ foot vertical descent down an old logging road to bring water back up, perfectly acceptable during an emergency but not a viable long term solution for this old fart.

A solution (notice I did not say ‘the solution’) was to provide an alternative renewable power source for the well pump, returning our thoughts once again to photovoltaic. Traditional submersible well pumps draw a relatively large amount of electrical current, especially initially in what is termed the ‘surge current’. After measuring a draw of 55 amps for two tenths of a second at 240 volts before settling down to less than 10 amps, it quickly dawned on me my planned ‘small’ photovoltaic system wasn’t going to cut the mustard. Time to Zig instead of Zag.

A second water ‘solution’, one we implemented at the same time as the photovoltaic to provide an extremely low tech backup to the well’s submersible pump, was a mechanical pumping system integrated into our home’s pressurized potable water supply system which can also be powered by a DC motor energized by solar power. The entire mechanical pumping system is installed in the same well casing as the existing submersible pump, pipe and electrical power line. I will be presenting an article on that system at some point in the future. Obviously the Achilles Heel to both ‘solutions’ is the single water supply, a drilled well that can go always bad. We still have the creek as a backup, though I need to give that problem a great deal more thought.

As Mrs. Cog learned, amps times volts equals watts. Since most photovoltaic systems are described in terms such as a 3 Kilowatt (KW) system, meaning a solar array capable of producing a maximum of 3,000 watts of electricity while the sun shines its strongest (not to be confused with an ability to draw 3,000 watts from the system for a full 24 hours, a much higher hurdle to overcome) I needed to determine how much surge wattage was required to start the pump. My calculator indicated 13,200 watts of power was needed for an instant and around 2,400 watts for as long as the well pump was pumping. Gulp! The 2,400 watts were certainly doable for a ‘reasonable’ amount of money, but being able to ‘surge’ 13,200 watts, even for less than a second, was an entirely different matter.

While I have a great deal of experience working with AC (Alternating Current) residential electrical systems, having extensively rewired the homestead and installed my own Generac 17KW propane standby generator with an automatic transfer switch and 16 circuit electrical panel, DC (Direct Current) systems, particularly photovoltaic electrical systems, are a different animal with its own electrical code, cabling, electrical components and specifications. It was pretty clear plenty of research was in order, so I hit the Internet and dove right in.

Many websites selling photovoltaic systems and components often have sections of their website devoted to educating the consumer on the ins and outs of the genre. If there is one piece of advice I can offer, it is to visit several vendors’ sites and study all they have to offer. Then visit solar websites devoted to your photovoltaic education without trying to sell you something at the same time. As helpful as I found the vender websites to be while researching, there is an inherent conflict of interest which isn’t always readily apparent at the time you’re doing your due diligence. Case in point; rarely do they suggest components or brands they do not sell, which for me was a real stumbling block when I began to research alternative inverters and charge controllers.

Every situation and installation is unique, so buying a cookie cutter solar ‘kit’ (assuming you will be installing it yourself) may work just fine in your situation…….or it might not. Because I had already wired our homestead with a separate standby generator electrical panel plus the homestead essentially uses two 200 amp service panels and a hodgepodge of sub panels, my situation was very unique and would require a custom design and installation even if I wasn’t trying to power the well.

Solar Control Panel - Clean

Charge Controller, Inverter, Transfer Switch, DC Switchgear, AC Switchgear, Control Panel, Communications Box, Battery Bank Exhaust Fan, Grounding, Conduit and Wiring.

My goal was to build a photovoltaic system that would not tie directly into the electrical grid, but rather be ‘off grid’. This ruled out a ‘grid-tie’ system, a photovoltaic system which basically remains connected to the grid whereby if the solar panels cannot supply all your needs, you draw the rest from the grid. If your solar panels are producing more electricity than you presently need, essentially you sell any excess power back to the power company in real time. Unfortunately, if the grid goes down when it is dark you have no power unless you also have a battery backup. I wanted to be able to cut off the grid completely if needed or desired and be self sufficient by supplying my basic electrical needs. Anyone who thinks power company electricity bills will remain ‘low’ indefinitely is just being naive.

However, I wanted to be able to integrate the photovoltaic system into portions of my house electrical system and be able to switch back and forth between the solar panels and the grid or generator as needed. I wanted this flexibility because several days of cloudy weather means the solar panels are barely generating electricity. This condition will exhaust the battery bank in a few days and require a return to an alternative power source for those household circuits wired to solar. The ability to do so with just a flick of a switch was important if Mrs. Cog was also going to operate the system.

I also wanted to be able to add additional house electrical circuits to be energized by solar power as I expanded the system capacity at various points in the future. In addition I wanted to be able to charge the battery bank either by the solar panels, the electrical grid, the whole house standby generator or any reasonably sized portable generator. Finally I wanted the ability to expand the system by a factor of three or four and add a wind turbine or two at some point to take advantage of the near year round winds up here on the edge of the Blue Ridge Plateau. It was a tall order to fill and as previously stated money was limited.

Because this article series will delve into greater detail in later chapters I don’t wish to get lost in minutia for this piece. Suffice to say there is a large and growing selection of photovoltaic components on the market, a major improvement over just a few years ago when I last looked. But……if you buy just what you need now and you wish to expand the system in the future, you will waste a lot of money if you are forced to replace components later which have exceeded their capacity or capability. While going cheap may solve an immediate need or desire, after living with the system for a short time buyer’s remorse often sets in. There is nothing worse than dumping several thousands of dollars into a system only to realize you are stuck with something that doesn’t fit your needs or can be properly expanded.

This is why the very first thing to be done is to identify how big a system you wish to create and not how much you can afford. After you use an online calculator to find out how big of a system you want, (for example here is just one of many calculators found on the web) the shock of discovering the cost of your wants will quickly help you pare them down to basic needs. In order to truly comprehend the difference between your needs and your wants you must go through this exercise. It is a rare individual indeed who truly understands how much energy they use on a daily/weekly/monthly basis when all they see is the electric bill each month.

If you are serious about building a photovoltaic system I guarantee that after doing some research you will suddenly be looking for electricity usage labels on your TV’s, refrigerators, freezers, computers, monitors, toasters, blenders and so on. We tend to be much more aware of power usage when we are generating our own power. Suddenly compact florescent and LED lighting look much more attractive even with their high cost. Speaking of cost, for only $30 a ‘Kill A Watt’ Meter or similar device is real handy for measuring electricity use, either instantly or over time, of any plug in appliance, computer, light, radio, clock etc. It is well worth the expenditure just to know where you ‘waste’ electricity even if you never purchase a photovoltaic system. Google ‘electricity vampires’ for a quick education.

Mrs. Cog and I could not afford to purchase all that we wanted now, but we knew we would eventually do so. Designing the entire photovoltaic system to fit only what we could afford now would severely limit what we could do in the future. For example, if I eventually wanted to power half the entire house via photovoltaic year round (something I expect to eventually do) but could only afford a system that would power 10-15% of the house now, many of the components I purchase now might not be able to be expanded later unless I carefully planned to do so before purchasing. Planning ahead meant I would need to buy certain components which are bigger than what I need now, but are just right for later.

Unless you are buying very small solar panels (less than 100 watts each) your existing solar array can usually be expanded in the future, though you will likely need to rewire them into a different configuration. We began with ‘just’ four 265 watt solar panels in our solar panel array for a total of more than 1000 watts of production during maximum sun. But we also planned for significant expansion in the immediate future, so other intermediate components were sized (and priced) accordingly.

Your battery bank (a grouping of similar batteries) is another matter to carefully consider. A 12 volt DC battery bank, usually employed strictly with small systems, is very hard to expand into a 24 or 48 volt bank, especially if done much later and with dissimilar batteries and manufacturers, a no-no in any professional designer or installer’s book. You can create more than one battery bank, but this complicates matters significantly and doesn’t solve the problem of dissimilar battery bank voltages. Again, if you plan to expand in the near future this must be taken into consideration now.

We walked the middle ground and created a 24 volt battery bank using eight 6 volt flooded lead acid deep cycle batteries, with plans to add an additional four more of the exact same batteries within the year. A general rule of thumb is you will spend as much on your battery bank as you will on your solar panels. Take a look at these pre-configured battery banks with cables included, which are priced anywhere from $1,000 to $8,000. I have even seen preconfigured battery banks selling for more than $20,000.

Battery Bank - Clean

Our 24 Volt battery bank inside a deck box in the basement.

If you plan on expanding your battery bank, pay particular attention to the connecting cables. If you select battery cables initially which are too small for future expansion just to save some money now, you will regret it. I bit the bullet and went with the largest 4/0 gauge high quality battery and inverter cables upfront. Surprisingly this was a significant expense, amounting to well over $400 just for the battery cables. But I will never need to replace them with larger cables and with proper care and maintenance will last for the rest of our lifetime.

From my point of view the most important aspect of planning a flexible photovoltaic system is selecting the proper control, switching, charging and inverting equipment, the heart of the system if you will and located between the solar panels and the battery bank. Money properly spent here will not doom much of the system to obsolescence the first time you wish to expand.

Of primary importance is selecting equipment that can be easily expanded (‘stacked’ is a term often used) and which was designed to do so directly from the factory. Jury rigging dissimilar equipment together exponentially increases the chance of a system break down under stress, precisely when you need the system the most and are least able to repair or replace.

The downside to greatly increased component selection to choose from is the proliferation of cheap junk disguised as inexpensive alternatives. After pricing high quality pure sine wave DC to AC inverters (3 – 4KW) in the $2,000 – $3,000 plus range, the temptation is nearly irresistible to snap up an inferior alternative claiming the same specifications for less than half the price. Let the buyer beware, however, because not all electrical components are created equal.

While I have no desire to name names since I have no firsthand experience or knowledge, there are plenty of people out there who have been burned and are more than willing to share their experiences. Take the time when conducting your due diligence to be thorough in your investigation. This will require you to learn some of the electrical concepts and technical jargon of the industry. Do not be penny wise and pound foolish.

That said, there is a distinct bias in the upper reaches of the photovoltaic industry against ‘Chinese junk’ which is not always warranted. Several of the top name brands are supposedly American made, thereby inflaming the belief foreign manufactured components equates to poor quality. This is misleading since one cannot competently and fairly compare two components located on either side of the price spectrum. Quality electrical components are expensive. Lower quality is less expensive.

In addition, electrical and electronic devises originating from China are not all bad since many of the ‘American made’ components contain Chinese designed and manufactured parts within. Be careful when researching that you do not accept as ‘fact’ repeated declarations that are sometimes little more than opinion. Nor should you accept as gospel what is said in the ‘review’ sections on the vender websites.

Many sellers offer photovoltaic ‘kits’ for sale, both in different configurations and applications. While these are helpful when examined closely in order to see which components are being used where, the dirty little secret in the business is that often major components are missing from the ‘kits’. One site entices you with a low price only to discover no batteries or battery cables are included.

Often interconnecting cabling, disconnect and transfer switches or other code required components are missing from the low price. While I understand these areas depend upon the specific application, most people will not understand this is the case until well into the purchase process. To be fair kits rarely include solar panel mounting racks and hardware because of the wide variety of roof and pole mount systems. Keep this in mind when pricing a system. This site has the most complete kits I have found, but that doesn’t mean others website are not better.

Completed System - CleanControl panel with battery bank inside brown ‘deck box’.

All the vender websites encourage you to call their sales people with questions and to allow them to design a system for you. Just as long as you can resist the sales pressure I strongly urge you to do so if for no other reason than to examine what the sales ‘experts’ advise you to do in your particular situation. The true value gained here is to examine the customized systems offered between the venders as well as the differences. Be careful you are consistent with all of them when answering their questions, otherwise you will not be offered comparable systems.

This means you should do some research before calling so you at least know what you wish to power in your home and you have a modicum of understanding of the basic components and what they do. Don’t change specifications between phone calls to different venders. You can always repeat this process if you find the price is too high or less than you thought. The key is to compare similar ‘bids’ to see what is missing and what is included from offer to offer. This is a great source of information and a cheap education if conducted properly.

Something I find missing to some extent on the seller websites, and even to some degree on pure information sites, is the cost and technical challenge of connecting your midsized photovoltaic system to your house electrical system. Once again I suppose this is because of the tremendous variance in electrical systems in homes all across America, particularly if they were built more than 30 years ago. Still, much expense can float to the surface in just this area alone even if you have a modern home.

Unless you are installing a very small system (i.e.500 watts or less) which provides just one or two outlets with which you plug small items into, or you are dropping $30-40,000 into a whole house grid-tie or off grid system which makes the system tie-in relatively easy, trying to mesh a midsized photovoltaic system with an operating grid-powered home electrical system is no small matter and must be executed carefully and with much prior planning. This way be dragons if not carefully and competently navigated.

The only thing worse than ignorance is knowing just enough to get yourself into deep trouble, a condition I am quite familiar with since I am always hip deep in doo-doo. Just because you are familiar with some aspects of AC (standard house) wiring, maybe because you wired up an electrical sub-panel in the basement or changed out a circuit breaker or defective outlet, doesn’t mean you know the ins and outs of DC or how to interconnect DC and AC. The same holds true for professional electricians. While they must demonstrate a working knowledge of DC before being licensed by the state, in practice most residential electricians have very little experience with DC and particularly with DC-AC photovoltaic power systems.

If you do not wish to install this baby yourself I strongly urge you to hire someone who works in this field exclusively to do the work for you. Paying the local electrician for his on-the-job training is not the best solution and it still doesn’t mean the job will be up to code, an unpleasant situation you might only discover when it breaks or you try to sell your home and the buyer’s home inspector tells you the bad news.

Finally I offer a warning to the wise. While I am not trying to discourage you from doing it yourself, other than a small system designed to provide one or two built-in outlets with which to power a few plug-in items, anything hardwired into your house electrical system should not be attempted unless you know what you’re doing or are willing to learn. Just because it is Direct Current doesn’t mean it can’t, or won’t, kill you. My relatively small battery bank produces enough power to melt a crescent wrench if dropped across the battery terminals. This is quite a bit different from the tingle received when placing a 9 volt battery on your tongue. I threatened my daughter’s new boyfriend with electrical torture if he crossed the line with her, and I’m fully capable of backing up that threat. J

The point is basic; if you are not willing to educate yourself beyond the bare minimum you really shouldn’t be installing the equipment. Hurt ego aside, serious harm can come to you and your loved ones via an improperly installed and maintained photovoltaic system. Particularly with preconfigured ‘kits’, the assumption by the manufacturer and seller is that you know what you’re doing and you know what questions to ask. As mama always said, to assume anything can make an ass out of you and me.

Please check back regularly for additional chapters as I continue to write about the good, the bad and the ugly of our photovoltaic solar system. If you would like to read other articles about our homestead and the various projects we have completed over the last two years, please click here.

The Kayak of Sanity

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on January 3, 2015


Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner

Well, now that the last firework has fizzled out, the hangovers have dissipated and the new year’s resolutions have already begun to crumble for most people, we find ourselves looking down the long cold barrel of 2015. Let it be said, 2014 wasn’t the best of years, unless you were a hedge fund manager, a member of ISIS or a Satanist, but on the whole it wasn’t markedly different from 2013 or 2012. We still find ourselves desperately trying to stay afloat in the kayak of sanity on the white water rapids of media misinformation, bare-faced propaganda and other forms of cultural hysteria.

I mention kayaks because I’ve got them on the mind at present having recently picked up a bargain sea kayak from someone who bought it, tried it and didn’t like it. It has holders for fishing rods in the back so I can head out into the bay and line-catch mackerel and, if I’m lucky, sea bass. This is just one manifestation of why, for me, 2014 was actually quite a good year. Because despite spending most of the year in a state of penury and having to endure calls from well-meaning but misguided relatives to ‘get off my backside and find a job’ I find that I actually achieved rather a lot — far more than I would have done had I been sitting next to a potted plant in an office and fiddling with a spreadsheet. A quick rundown of the highlights would include:

– Planting some 300 trees in my woodland and making some good inroads in turning a compacted and barren field into the early stages of a forest garden. I completed digging the pond by hand (it only took a year) and it is now lined and filled and ready to start receiving organisms.

– Digging out the basement of our house (also by hand). About 100 trailer-loads of soil was removed and transported to the woodland where I used it to build a level base for the poly tunnel that will be going up in the spring, gods willing.

– A plethora of small-scale experiments with growing, catching and preserving food was carried out. Cabbage was fermented, wine was brewed, cider was put in oak barrels, mushrooms were grown in coffee grounds, squirrels were shot and cooked in red wine, chestnuts were foraged and medicinal herbs were learned about and planted. Furthermore, we now get a weekly box of vegetables delivered from the local community organic farm, allowing us to move one step further away from the big box supermarkets.

– Chickens were hatched out of eggs in our incubator and are now roaming around in the basement. A coop has been purchased and will be put up in the back yard as soon as the chicks are big enough to live outdoors. Having adopted a more-or-less paleo diet for health reasons, we get through a lot of eggs so having a few chooks roaming around in the back yard is just what we need.

– I wangled a free trip to Denmark and Sweden courtesy of the MIL and spent two weeks roaming around in the wild by myself in Thoreauesque contemplation.

– As a direct result of said trip I have almost finished writing a book which uses that journey as a narrative framework to explore ideas surrounding the psychology of the long descent, with a special emphasis on experiential nature knowledge and the ideas of the Stoics. I ate hallucinogenics, got thrown out of a shopping mall, met a caterpillar and swam in a sacred lake. I’ve shown it to a couple of people and they have said positive things about it such as “It’s completely uncategorisable”. Expect to see it soon in ebook format and then in other formats soon after if I can raise enough funds.

– Also in writing, I saw my article on genocide in Laos published by Dmitry Orlov in his book Communities that Abide, and had a work of speculative fiction selected by John Michael Greer for the forthcoming book After Oil 3: The Years of Rebirth (in fact After Oil 2: The Years of Crisis has just hit the shelves).

– I attended the first meeting of the nascent Cornish Coppice Federation (the CCF — yes, I know. The organiser conceded “Every time a new acronym is coined in the field of forestry, somewhere, a wood elf dies.”) The aim of this group is to create a network of small scale coppice workers across Cornwall to help revive this old and sustainable craft. As a result I have learned to make charcoal and have an order for 100 bags of it in 2015. It’s a start.

– I discovered an ancient bronze age settlement partly straddling my land. Archaeologists came and looked at it and congratulated me on my discovery.

– I got to meet some inspirational people. Most of them were just regular folks doing their thing but being amazing about it. Ones you might have heard of are John Michael Greer, whom I cornered for a couple  of beers in Glastonbury one evening after a Druid celebration. And just a couple of weeks ago I was invited to a lunch with Natalie Bennet, the leader of the UK Green Party, who turns out to be very down-to-earth and not like a politician at all. Of nuclear power station she said “Let’s just forget about whether people are for or against them, the truth is we simply can’t afford them.” Refreshing honesty.

So, purely from a creative and resilience perspective, 2014 was not a bad year for me. I continued to build my library of useful books, purchased a few more quality tools for maintaining my land and developing my crafts, and also gained greater depth of insight into what we might call the spiritual matters which I see as increasingly important to facing up to the present and future as the narrative of eternal scientific progress picks up speed in its unravelling.

And what applies to me applies to other too. One notices — and I’m generalising here — looking at the threads below articles in the collapse sphere, that reflections on 2014 tend to be maudlin and gloomy with the exception of people who have actually broken out of the mind prison, hot-tailed it out of Dodge and are building things up for themselves in the teeth of the prevailing system. For it has come to pass that even the simple act of growing a chilli pepper plant on your kitchen window is an act of defiance and a step in the right direction towards the kind of freedom that has been expunged from the over-developed, over-regulated and over-manipulated countries of the world.

I have to sadly contrast such acts of defiance with what is continuing to unfold here in Britain, where food banks are becoming commonplace, children are going to school with empty stomachs (or stomachs full of Red Bull because parents seem to be under the impression that it is nutritional) and a general feeling of bitterness has seeped into the public discourse. The mainstream media doesn’t get it — all they can do is harp on about how great the growth is, not realising that it’s a growth in debt as the real economy shrivels up like a banana skin left on a sunny windowsill. No doubt about it, there’s plenty to be angry about. Fracking, underground coal gasification, the politico-banker vampire squid class, TTIP, a warmongering EU, road building, people getting their heads sawn off … the list goes on.

And there’s a rising anger too. Perhaps it’s all the debt or all the crass media screaming about immigrants. Or maybe it’s the creepy feeling that the good times are over which crawls around in the fetid basement of the collective psyche like a greasy rat gnawing on the electrical cables that light up the house. Maybe it’s all the war propaganda, the empty promises of the scientific progressive narrative and the unspoken fear that everything could be taken away in an instant. I see and hear the anger everywhere. It’s in the people bawling obscenities at each other in the alley that runs beside my house, it’s in the white-knuckle drivers who overtake me on blind corners because I’m sticking to the speed limit and it’s in the fingertips of the bedroom trolls who prowl the internet seeking to pour invective and hatred on anyone who stands out.

All in all it’s not a pretty situation when one looks at the broader view. 2015 looks set to see the thermostat cranked up a few more degrees in the Dante’s inferno of modern rage. I’m not a great one for predictions but knowledgeable people I know have said that various planets are aligned and the tealeaves don’t look good. The plunge in the price of oil signals something momentous stirring. Whether or not the rickety financial structure on which the US fracking boom has been built can continue to support both the weight of a loss-making industry and the dreams and delusions of a nation remains to be seen. But if and when it comes crashing down it’ll be one for the history books. The situation isn’t that much different here in the UK where it has been revealed that 70% of North Sea oil projects are unprofitable and in danger of collapse. I made a prediction three years back that we would see some form of energy rationing in the UK before the end of 2016 and I am still happy to stick to that. Meanwhile the delusion-making spin machine churns faster and faster, spitting out dreams of colonies on Mars, bubble cities at the bottom of the ocean, fusion reactors in our iPhones. Otherwise intelligent people still send me links to articles that say we can have sleek cars that run off nothing but air, and that a global conspiracy is stopping us from harvesting the infinite energy the exists, er, somewhere just behind our left ear.

So, in 2015, gods willing, I’m hoping to build on 2014. My new year resolutions include taking up smoking and experimenting with drugs. Yes, I’ve bought a nicely-carved briar root wood pipe which, when packed with rich cherry tobacco, provides moments of relaxed contemplation as I’m working in the woods. As for the drugs, I am experimenting with growing a range of medicinal mushrooms in felled logs. Having read the work of fungal pioneer Paul Stamets I’ve become a believer in the idea that there is a lot of knowledge and wisdom that’s been lost in this world and that we have our work cut out to try and rediscover it — and that mushrooms can help us on that quest. Thus I’ll be quite scientific about it, making notes and observations.

This slacker shall continue to work every day in 2015. For me, my life has become entwined with and inseparable from my work. In a good way. I hope to get bees this year, and I’m sure there will be a lot of learning to do. What with writing, producing charcoal, cultivating mushrooms, nurturing Fox Wood and growing food, I have to remember to leave time for the other good things in life, such as walking on the beach, cooking, swimming, reading, listening to music, and now, kayaking. I do all of these enjoyable things with my kids too. I don’t see why they shouldn’t grow up learning that the more enjoyable things in life are usually free.

So, to anyone reading this, I hope 2015 will be a good year for you, that you will grow wiser and more resilient, that you will continue to move in the right direction away from the unfolding train wreck of our modern world, that good health keeps your cheeks rosy, that you don’t take yourself too seriously and that you continue to keep your balance as you navigate your kayak down the creek of chaos and avoid ending up it without a paddle.


Off the keyboard of Jillian Vriend

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Published on the Soul Full Heart Blog on October 3, 2014

With this article, I welcome a new Cross Posting Blogger to the Diner, Jillian Vriend.  Jillian is the author of the SoulFullHeart Blog, and recently moved with her husband Wayne down to a Planned Community/EcoVillage in Puerto Vallarta, Mejico called Rancho Amigos.  You can find out more about this by visiting the SoulFullHeart Blog and Website.Although this article probably fits better on our Sustaining Universal Needs website, since the Diner has BY FAR the bigger circulation, I will publish some of Jillian’s articles here on the Diner to keep people informed about the possibilities for off-grid living and sustainable communities. Jillian contacted me by email yesterday, and I found her story very interesting and it dovetails with many of the Diner concerns.  It will be interesting I think to hear about their transition to living down in Mejico.RE

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Three Countries, Seven States In 14 Days: Exodus To Sanctuary

soulfullheart_logoThis blog title has been floating around in my mind for two weeks, yet this is the first time that I’ve really had a chance to sit down and write about our journey so far. A journey that has, indeed, brought us through three countries (Canada, the United States, and Mexico) and seven states (including two in Mexico) in a short fourteen days.

We made the decision in June to leave the west coast in British Columbia, Canada and move to the pacific coast in Mexico. Motivating our decision at that time was our increasingly urgent sense that significant global collapse is coming; a collapse of industrial society that will bring the end of easy gas, easy water, easy electricity, easy food. A collapse that will call us to become self sufficient and yet compel us to be in community at the same time. I’ve written more about that here and here. We felt that the most practical course of action was to move to a place that has a long growing season, temperate weather, and is already living a more simple lifestyle with less infrastructure to collapse.

During our months of planning, we imagined many scenarios about our initial journey to get to our sanctuary, an eco village two hours south of Puerto Vallarta. Our biggest tension feelings were around my husband Wayne being able to cross the U.S. border after receiving a five year ban in 2009. He got this ban due to us living together as an engaged couple in the U.S. and after having a ‘record’ of many years of monthly crossings into the U.S. from Canada for the emotional and spiritual work that we were both involved with in Ashland, Oregon. We were outraged and devastated when he was banned at first, but adjusted our life to Canada, including raising my daughter there until she graduated from high school. Our plans were hopefully optimistic about Wayne being able to cross into the U.S. now that the five years were up and we hoped to do some camping in Yellowstone and Zion National Parks, and also spend a few days taking in the vortex energy in Sedona, Arizona.

However, none of that was to be. Wayne called me after being refused at the border in an attempt to cross by Amtrak. He had been allowed on the train in Vancouver, made it to the border crossing in White Rock, and then been escorted off the train and told he needed a waiver to cross. A waiver that would take a minimum of five months to get. The biggest distress he experienced was being handcuffed as he was escorted off the train by four border guards carrying weapons and wearing bullet proof vests, treating him as if he were a dangerous criminal.

We digested this experience over the next few days and decided that Wayne would fly to Puerto Vallarta and we would meet him in a town close to the Mexican border crossing in Nogales (this turned out to be the fairly large city of Hermosillo) after Christopher, Kathleen and I traveled for about a week through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and crossed into Mexico at Nogales, Arizona. Although this was an easy decision on one level, it was heartbreaking for us on another as we had all been so looking forward to taking in these sacredly natural places in the U.S. with Wayne.

The whole incident seemed to reinforce our desire to leave the U.S. behind and, as a citizen, I felt a deep disgust at the punitive way the situation was handled and further distancing from feeling like an U.S. citizen in any way. This situation illuminates how vulnerable border crossings are and anyone expecting to be able to cross easily post collapse is in denial. These borders are already militarized and the border guards are the judge, jury, and executioner. You cannot appeal what happens at a border crossing and you are completely at mercy of their discretion.  It is easy to imagine how easily these borders will be shut down once collapse begins, especially if it is a disease like Ebola which causes the collapse. This is one of the biggest reasons why we are leaving now while travel is still relatively easy.

We began our one week journey to cover 1,000KM in two cars with three dogs, one of which weighs over 90 pounds. We discovered very quickly that we couldn’t drive more than six hours in one day as the dogs needed frequent breaks, Kathleen is a newer driver, and I didn’t feel comfortable driving one of our vehicles- a large passenger van packed with our belongings- which left that driving to Christopher. We shuffled in and out of hotel rooms, trying to maintain our vegan diet (we only ate a bit of dairy but no meat) and some kind of daily exercise for the dogs. Every day, every city was an energetic adjustment, along with every hotel room offering its own frequencies of goodness and density.

There were many times that being in the U.S. felt like being in a foreign country, one whose priorities seemed to be majorly screwed up. This was demonstrated in the never ending succession of factory outlet malls, fast food restaurants, subdivisions created around the illusion of unlimited sources of easy gas and electricity. The cities built unsustainably in desert locations, their water sources diminishing every day. The acres and acres of monoculture, chemically dependent agriculture, and even evidence of chem trails in the sky near Spokane, Washington. moment sticks out to me as deep evidence of the trouble that we are in related to climate change. We drove over Lake Powell, Arizona- the primary water source for Las Vegas and Phoenix as well. The water level is now so low that you cannot see the water when you drive over the bridge spanning it. There is evidence everywhere of greatly decreased water levels. We spent a total of six days in desert conditions- including in a campground in San Carlos, Mexico, with temperatures hovering in the 90s and even low 100s. Our every thought became about surviving the heat and keeping the dogs cool as we made go of it without air conditioning. It is impossible to imagine how the millions of people who live in these areas will be able to survive without air conditioning, trucked in food, and piped in water. We were all relieved when we passed into more tropical and temperate conditions as we headed to Mazatlán.

It is more difficult to see evidence of collapse in the U.S. as the infrastructure as been so deeply created to support the current lifestyle. It became much more evident as we entered into Mexico, especially into the poor border state of Sonora. Many of the concrete dwellings along the toll highway there have been abandoned and even the resort like settling of San Carlos suffers from unfinished developments and bankrupted businesses. But still, it feels like more people here in Mexico get that modern conveniences are a luxury, not a given right. The water is already undrinkable, the roads are already falling apart in many places, the local economy is already experiencing contractions. The fall is much closer and not as far as the U.S.

Right now, we are in a campground in Mazatlan. We were blessed to be here during the ‘off season’ and are able to camp right on the beach with a ‘million dollar view’ that is only costing us 500 pesos or less than $50 a night. We are sleeping tents while empty high rise condo buildings surround us on both sides. We are letting the waves and sea air aerate us and rejuvenate our energy before we move on to our final destination in P.V. We experienced a tropical thunderstorm last night and every thunder boom and lightening strike seemed to remind us that we are guests on this planet and very vulnerable to the weather. This is what we’ve forgotten in our dry wall, air conditioning existence. This is what we must remember and will be forced to remember very soon.

Jillian Vriend is co-creator of SoulFullHeart, parts work facilitator, author of a  book about connecting with the Divine Mother and on this blog, and sacred humanity-Divine Feminine teacher.

A Spaceship called Eschatology

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

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Published on Resource Crisis on September 29, 2014


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This article appeared on “” on Aug 12, 2014.

Image from NASA

“Eschatology” is a Greek word meaning “the science of the end.” In ancient times, it used to be popular with theologians, but today it seems to have picked up interest to describe various kinds of catastrophes which could happen in the future. Things like giant asteroids falling on the Earth or, in the far future, the sun becoming so bright that it will cause the oceans to evaporate and wipe out all life.
Now, if eschatology means big, rapid and irreversible changes, you could argue that we’re going through a full-fledged eschatological event right now. It is a mineral eschatology caused by humans. Gigantic amounts of minerals have been extracted, processed, and dispersed in the atmosphere, in the oceans, and in the ground. It took hundreds of millions of years to create the ores we have destroyed in a few centuries. Hundreds of millions of years will be needed to recreate them – if indeed that will ever happen. The Earth is not any more what it used to be when humans first appeared on it, and it will never be the same again.It looks like we’ve built a spaceship called eschatology that’s transporting us to an alien planet on a one-way trip. A planet hotter than the one we are used to living on because of the greenhouse gases generated by the mining and the burning of fossil carbon. A planet with many characteristics we might find very unpleasant: from the flooding caused by the melting of land glaciers, to the persistent pollution caused by the heavy metals and radioactive minerals we’ve dispersed everywhere. But perhaps the greatest difference is that in this new planet we won’t find any more of the rich mineral ores which have provided us with energy and resources we used to build our industrial civilization.We may be able to adapt to a hotter planet, although that could mean enormous suffering for humankind. Within limits, we can also clean up the pollution we have generated. But how to live in a planet without cheap mineral resources?

It is true that minerals are never destroyed – so they will still be there and, in part, could be recovered from industrial waste. But, in the long run, in order to keep mining we would need to mine the undifferentiated crust, and that would be unthinkably expensive in term of the energy required. To say nothing of the disaster it would be in terms of pollution. The essence of the eschatological event we are living in is that the time of mining is almost over, at least in the form we have known it for centuries. That is, from miners with their picks and helmets in deep underground tunnels.But if eschatology means the end of something, it may also mean the beginning of something else. If mining is heading to an end, we can still have minerals if we are willing to change the wasteful and inefficient ways we’ve been using to get them. We must close the exploitation cycle, and completely recycle what we use. It is possible, but it needs energy – much more than we needed to mine pristine ores. This energy cannot come from fossil carbon: that would simply accelerate depletion and worsen the climate problem. We need clean and inexhaustible energy: mainly sun and wind.It is unlikely that this energy will ever be so cheap and abundant as the energy that was provided by fossil fuels at the beginning of their exploitation cycle; so, we’ll need to use it wisely. We’ll need to be much more efficient than we are today: we’ll need to create more durable industrial products, use energy carefully and substitute rare minerals with ones more common in the Earth’s crust.

Clean energy, recycling, and efficiency. This set of strategies is our ticket for survival in this interplanetary trip. In the end, spaceship Eschatology could give us a chance to abandon the ever-growing and never happy civilization of today and create a new civilization which could have enough wisdom to live and prosper on what is available and no more.
– Ugo Bardi is Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Florence and author of Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014). 

Powering Down

Off the keyboard of Eddie

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 16, 2014

PowerDown_FYI2I’ve been reading about collapse topics voraciously for about three years. I’ve read all the major bloggers, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways to prepare for the most likely scenarios that I can envision.  I’ve trained myself fairly relentlessly by taking the most appropriate workshops and training I could find, and I’ve watched a ton of good videos on topics like rocket stoves, solar PV tech, intensive gardening, and permaculture topics. I’ve read a lot of books.

I’ve networked with individuals from a lot of diverse places and different walks of life, and tried to work toward community building.

Some conclusions are forthcoming.

Number one is that there is no shortage of reasonable steps that we can take as individuals and families to increase our resilience, food security, and to prepare for a lower energy lifestyle.

Number two is that we could live fairly comfortably using energy resources that would represent a tiny fraction of our current consumption. For most of us it would be fairly easy to cut 80% or more of our fossil fuel and electricity use, if we moved closer to where we work and only used electricity for our real needs, and stopped wasting so much.

Number three, perhaps not as obvious, but true, is that most of us could grow our own food if we applied ourselves assiduously. Using whole systems approaches like aquaponics appears to hold the key. And on a large scale, indoor farming using lights and grow wheels holds great promise, if we could repurpose some of our remaining energy resources in a more sensible direction. Even the daunting specter of climate run amok might be manageable, and we might be able to feed billions of people well into the future…if we took the proper steps.

The problem, as I see it, is mostly one of denial, selfishness, mental inertia, and a lack of will.

Politicians aren’t going to fix anything. Complaining isn’t going to fix anything.  Inflating various asset bubbles in an attempt to kickstart what we refer to as “The Economy” won’t fix anything, and in fact takes us down the hill toward collapse faster by wasting resources that we could better use for more important things.

Transition towns are an interesting aberration. They represent the best model of living we have, imho, but there isn’t much interest in actually building them, except among people with no means to do so. I hope that changes, but as of now, I don’t see them popping up all over.

Last week, we had a gathering of like-minded folks here in Texas.  Nine people, including children. We came together, had a party, worked a little on some of my current projects, and then five of us took a workshop at Monolithic Domes. As meetings go, it wasn’t anything earth shattering. But it was a start, and it did show that an internet forum can bring people together. It showed that we can make some positive steps toward building communities.

I don’t necessarily think that the nine of us are going to build a single community. What I do think is that all the people who came here are going to go home and build their own communities, and that all of us will remain connected. I believe we will be able to help each other in various ways, and that our far-flung network will persist. This is because all of us are willing to do more than talk about the state of our world. We’re actually taking steps to be the change we want to see.

Domesteading at Monolithic: Day One

Off the keyboard of Eddie

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Published on SUN4Living on April 8, 2014

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SAMSUNG CSCToday was our first day of what looks to be five pretty full days here at Monolithic Domes. Today we heard from a couple of speakers, including Monolithic’s founder and CEO, David South. It was probably worth the price of admission to listen to David, who is one of those visionary geniuses who has managed to combine his passion with a business that builds exactly the kind of structures that he once dreamed of.

Regardless of whether I ever build a single dome, it’s been good to meet and pick the brain of someone like this guy. He is way ahead of us Diners in many ways, not only having already figured out how to build these extremely functional buildings of his, but also how they can fit into  the paradigm of energy descent as affordable housing for working poor people and retirees with limited means.

He actually already has a community of tiny rental domes here on the company land (where many of his family members and employees also have dome homes), as well as a couple of others in nearby towns. It is a working, functional model that does not depend on government assistance. They operate as residence inns that rent (currently for $125 per week).  It’s an interesting model to me, because it seems like one of the only landlord/tenant arrangements I’ve ever seen that works out to a win/win for both owner and tenants.

Another vision at Monolithic is their Grow Domes, which allow intensive indoor gardening indoors, requiring minimal energy inputs.

It makes me dream of an affordable community of tiny domes and dome fourplexes with access to onsite grow domes where residents can grow their own food in an environment protected from the vicissitudes of climate change. In my view, such a community would have the potential to free people up from the hamster wheel of low wage work and allow them to live with a great deal more resilience and dignity.

The only thing I’ve seen that I can criticize is that domes are constructed using a lot of closed cell polyurethane foam, which requires specialized equipment and chemicals that are noxious during construction, although it appears to be safe enough after it dries and is covered with sprayed on concrete plaster. Of all the building designs I’ve studied, only the Global Earthship rivals the Monolithic dome as a dwelling.

The 1st Diner Convocation II

Off the keyboard of Lucid Dreams

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Published on Epiphany Now on March 20, 2014

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In 2007 I read James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency, and my life changed irrevocably due to the information I received from that book. Shortly after, I joined the Kunstlercast forum and posted many threads and had many in depth conversations about collapse, peak oil, and the ramifications of our infinite growth on a finite planet paradigm. I also began digesting collapse related books with precision and efficiency, and I would often order five or six books at a time by authors like Richard Heinberg, Dmitry Orlov, John Michael Greer, Michael Ruppert, and Jared Diamond just to name a few. Figuring out what the collapse of our modern petroleum dependent civilization meant to me was no easy task. I’m an Aspie, so it wasn’t an emotional affair for me to deal with, but it was stressful nonetheless, and collapse became a “special interest,” and it’s a special interest that is still current for me. Mostly because I’m unable to not abide in the truth of things. It seems this to is part of my Aspie brain (I’ll be writing about Asperger’s Syndrome much more in the coming months because I have just recently stopped being in denial about the diagnosis…but this particular blog is not the time to do that).

I was a daily contributor over at the Kunstlercast, and it was the first forum I’d ever been a member of. I greatly enjoyed communicating with like minds on that forum via the written medium. I fell in love with it actually, and the regular contributors became my friends (which was great since IRL friends are difficult for me to acquire). This was a set of people whom would talk about the truths surrounding PO with me for hours on end, which is still next to impossible to do with people IRL. Threads that would stretch for days and days. I was a conspiracy theorist at this time in my life and had been for about five years. The “Kcats,” as we called ourselves, helped open my eyes a bit about the nature of conspiracy theories and their many half truths. Around 2009 or so I got tired of the same old shit being discussed over and over again via countless incarnations on the Kunstlercast forum. It got boring and I decided to leave the forum without a word about it really. I just sorta left one day and never went back. I also deleted my facebook account around this same time and focused all of my writing on this blog.
The only blog I was reading at this time was John Michael Greer’s Archdruid Report. He came up with the concept of the Green Wizard, and a forum was devoted to the project, which I frequented for a while. I had shifted my focus from understanding the nature of our predicament to wanting to act on the information. What became important to me was the answer to the question “what am I going to do about collapse?” The Green Wizard Project (GWP) was exactly what I needed. The GWP was mostly designed for solitary green wizards, and it was about using appropriate tech and about developing strategies that would help with minimizing the impact that the Long Descent would have on the GWP participants. The psychological component of the GWP can be summed up by JMG’s own acronym “LESS.” Less entertainment, stuff, and stimulation. JMG advises us all to step back into voluntary simplicity and learn how to live more in tune with the natural world and it’s cycles and it’s renewable pace. I became a Druid as well. For the next couple of years practicing green wizardry was sufficient for me as a response to collapse, but that to began to change as my understanding of our predicament began intensifying.
I realized that the only chance of survival in a shit hits the fan scenario, or even just a long descent scenario, would be real community. As far as I can tell, real community has gone extinct in our imagadget, narcissistic, techno delusional, American Hologram deployed and Matrix controlled consumer waste generating stank of a society. I had found fellow blogger William Hunter Duncan’s blog, Off The Grid in Minneapolis, via a comment he left over at the Archdruid Report. William resonated very strongly with me (which interestingly enough, William now works with autistic people as his job). I began following his blog, and he began following mine. He may well have been the first “follower” of mine on this blog. We became good virtual friends and even exchanged books we were writing for back and forth criticism and suggestions. He told me about a new forum that he was an administrator for called the Doomstead Diner. I went and had a look, but I still had a sour taste in my mouth after boring with the Kunstlercast forum. I looked around and it appeared to be just about the exact same thing as the Kcast forum with different avatars. After a short visit I decided that I wasn’t interested in joining as a member (and I just found out, via going to the kunstlercast forum to copy the web address for the hyperlink for this blog that I’ve been banned from the Kunstlercast Forum for some unknown reason).
Several months later I left a comment on Morris Berman’s blog and RE, the man responsible for the existence of the Doomstead Diner, saw it and it peaked his interest enough to come over here to see what I was about. William had commented on that blog and RE saw this and apparently formed the opinion that I may be a good match as a cross poster on the Diner. It felt good to have somebody seek me out for my writing, and I was more than happy to have my essays published on the Diner. I figured since I was going to be publishing my blog on the Diner that I might as well have a more focused look around to see what was shakin’ in the Diner world. I’ve been an active participant and a Diner ever since. Not long after I arrived at the Diner fellow Diner Roamer arrived and posted a thread titled “Community OwnedDoomstead.” That thread lit a spark that found good tinder and began smoking. Roamer knew about 150 acres in NC that an elderly couple owned and were interested in allowing more able bodied individuals to cultivate the land in permaculture fashion. My wife Gypsy Mama and son Ayden Zen and I all drove to NC to meet Roamer in person along with his on again off again lady friend. We met in a coffee shop across the street from the university my wife graduated from, and we all instantly liked each other. It was the first time I had ever met a virtual friend in real life…making Roamer an “in real life” friend as well. This was a very exciting and important step for the Diner. As it turns out, Roamer, GM and I’s meeting was foreshadowing the now not too distant future. The 150 acres didn’t work out on account of dementia and Cat Food Carol, but that’s a long story (and you likely already know it if you’re reading this blog). We came a pubic hair away from the first Sunstead (at the time it had been dubbed the Foxstead) within weeks of the first attempt that the Diner’s made for a community owned doomstead.
We’ve since been working towards figuring out how to bioneer our way into a petroleum scarce world. We’ve been trying to figure out how we move forward from this point. How do we structure a new way to inhabit the land and use it’s resources to meet our basic human needs in a sustainable and healing way? We don’t want a commune, but we want something intentional that empowers the Sunsteaders, and gives us autonomy and meaningful community at the same time. Eventually the new effort was dubbed the SUN project (sustaining universal needs). Our driving ethic is to “save as many as you can.” This translating into a tribal unit we are currently calling the “Sunstead.” We want the Sunstead to be a self replicating template that will pop up like mushrooms in spite of the Near Term Human Extinction (NTHE) meme. NTHE being the idea that all life on Earth will be going extinct sometime in the next two decades (as soon as five years from now) due to run away positive feedback loops running amok in the climate control mechanisms of our planet. They may be right, but I refuse to live in a world with no hope, and I recognize that there is no way anybody can know what the planet will do. While our civilization is definitely collapsing, and while we are doing our level best to shit all over the planet that sustains us with our incessant chemical creation and consumptive waste generation, our planet is a living organism which we cannot study under a microscope.  We can’t possibly know how the Earth will react.
The Sun Foundation is now a 501c3 non-profit organization, and we are currently waiting for the magic government letter to arrive so that we can begin accepting charitable donations from people like you, whom care about the reality outside of the Matrix, and our engagement with the wasteland we’ve inherited. In a little under two weeks a select few Diner members are going to converge on the Toothstead in Texas for the purposes of the first Diner Convocation, and for training in Monolithic Dome construction.
The coming Convocation is proof that we’re not just a bunch of keyboards circle jerking into the endless night about how fucked it all is. We want to do something in the real world about the predicament our civilization’s in. The writing is on the wall, and food prices are fit to bust any time now due to drought and ever increasing super storms. I could go on about all of the problems our crumbling civilization is dealing with, but I’ve done that countless times here already. If you don’t know what the problems are at this point than it’s because you are willfully deluding yourself, or just don’t have the desire to extricate yourself from the Matrix’s mesmerizing hologram. We’re going to meet in Texas, in person, as a symbolic act, to look each other in the eyes and validate the reality of our typed expressions, desires, goals, and to engage with reality of the real, rather than reality of the virtual persuasion. We’re going to drink beer and break bread at a real Doomstead Diner table. We’re going to study Monolithic construction and plant some real seeds of change. We’re going to build a rocket mass heater, have a hole diggin’ contest, possibly film a spoof on the NTHE movie trailer 22 After, and get to know a handful of Diner’s in person. I’ll be bringing my family and my boomerangs.
Most importantly we’re going to ferment in a real life think tank. That’s what the Convocation is ultimately about. For me, it’s a vetting, and it’s a chance to look my fellow Diners in the eyes (I know, ironic considering my Aspie status, but I’ve always been atypical even amongst the atypical…consider that the majority of the medics thought I was weird when I worked EMS to gauge how weird I am…as it turns out, not weird just not neurotypical) and see what I see. Is the SUN Foundation worth my time? Is it something that can be real? Can we actually bioneer a Sunstead, or a Waterstead, or a Foxstead, or a Doomstead? Can we actually be the force that begins fixing this clusterfuck of a predicamentation civilization? Does RE really smoke six packs of cigarettes a day? Is William really bald and in love with the Goddess? Can Eddie fix my fucked up mouth full of metal (just kiddin’ Eddie…at least this time). Will Haniel and I see Aspie to Aspie and relate to one another?
I’m looking forward to finding out the answer to all of those questions. For me, the Convocation is my chance to show everybody that I really am a 6′ 4″ bad ass Aikido ninja permaculture green wizard druid Aspie Diner. It’s my chance to look them all in the eyes, Haniel included, in an attempt to pull as much of their true intentions out so that I can shine my hyperfocused understanding of the human psyche onto them. Here’s hoping we’ll all be comfortable, and that William won’t get his feelings hurt when I dig a bigger hole in the Texas dirt. My wife Gypsy Mama, and my children Ayden Zen and Harper Tribann will be there as well (as far as I know they’re the only children Diners…hell, Harper Tribann was born a Diner). Several Diners will converge in two weeks. To hear RE tell about it, you’ll all get a chance to participate in real time on the net. I hear he’s bought all of the recording devices he could find. If nothing else, for the first time, Diners will break bread at a real Diner table…in Texas…and I’ll get too drunk and throw my boomerangs.

Encouragement for a Young Non-Conformist

Off the keyboard of Ray Jason

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Published on The Sea Gypsy Philosopher on March 15, 2014

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AVENTURAThe sky was as dark and nasty as the soul of a Dostoyevsky villain.  Huge, powerful clouds that looked like charcoal dipped in molten lead, were blasting down the mountainside towards AVENTURA.  I let out more anchor chain and checked the deck for any loose items.  Then I went below to await the tempest.  It did not disappoint!  Fierce wind ushered in rain as strong as a tropical waterfall.  After 20 minutes the worst of it passed and the sky lightened to a sort of pewter gray.  The rain decreased from torrential to steady.

This was the perfect accompaniment for my present task.  I had just responded to a heartfelt email from an unknown teenager who found solace in my writing.  He was struggling with the awareness that he was different from most of his classmates; and that he did not fit in.  High school can be a very cruel environment for someone who does not conform.  I sent him an encouraging email, but then realized that there are so many others in their formative years who are battling the same demons.  And so I decided to write an essay dealing with their difficulties in the hopes of bolstering both their spirits and their resolve.
This is familiar psychological territory for me.  A focal point of my own youth had been my recognition that I was unusual.  It wasn’t so severe that I felt like an outcast; nor was it so ennobled that I viewed myself as a crusading rebel.  Instead, I just knew – vaguely but with certainty – that I was different.
I tended to look at things more deeply – to analyze words and actions carefully in an attempt to see what was really going on.  And my emotional sensitivity gave me a low tolerance for strife.  Family arguments that might easily be laughed off by other temperaments, weighed very heavily on me.
On a less personal level, when I looked around the world I saw a planet of astonishing beauty and riches; and yet a human project that was plagued by poverty, injustice and senseless bloodshed.  It puzzled and troubled me that a species with so much intelligence and ingenuity could not solve these problems.
The great blessing of those difficult years was my wonderful mother.  Even though she only had a minimal education, she seemed to possess maximum Wisdom.  She never belittled me for my non-conformist way of looking at life.  In fact, she vigorously encouraged me to follow my own path – as long as it harmed no one.  My mom was an extraordinary nurturer; and she remains a lifelong inspiration.
The reason for this little autobiographical profile is to assure you that as I address this topic it is not just from a theoretical position.  I have been there … and I know your agony!  So let me share with you the meandering path that I followed which allowed me to cherish my non-conformity rather than regret it.
Of the various definitions for “philosopher,” my favorite has always been “a lover of Wisdom.”  Early in my search for a deeper understanding of the human condition, I discovered three powerful quotations that guided my explorations.  They helped me navigate through many of life’s tribulations and they brought me soothing comfort in dark times.  Perhaps they can do the same for you.
The first quote is from Socrates.  “The unexamined Life is not worth living!”  These seven words are so timeless and so illuminating that they have been passed along from generation to generation for over 2,000 years.  For the non-conformist these are celebratory words.   They empower you to resist just getting swept along by the tides of modern living.  They implore you to scrutinize and evaluate those currents.
Most of your peers are addicted to their smartPhones or to the Mall or to the latest MileyJustinSelena scandal.  They probably mock you for perceiving the shallowness of such pursuits and for not joining in.  But take comfort in this – almost all human betterment has been empowered by people who were out of step with the herd.  Those in the mainstream do not advance the river of human flourishing – they impede it.  History is shaped by those on the fringes who disturb the waters with their uncomfortable and inconvenient insights.
Rage on!
The second indispensible quotation that has sculpted my life, comes from one of my great heroes, Henry David Thoreau.  “A man is rich in direct proportion to the number of things that he can live without.”  Not only do our possessions end up possessing us, they also suffocate us.  If you embrace a life of voluntary simplicity you will not have to spend so much time in the pursuit of money.  Instead, you can dedicate yourself to the quest for knowledge.
Too much stuff also robs us of our powers of perception.  To truly examine the world, a certain slowness and tranquility is required.  Look around you at your peers.  Do they seem relaxed and introspective or do they appear frenzied and confused?  I recommend that you minimize your desire for possessions which mostly nurture the ego; and maximize your love of philosophy which nourishes the soul.
Simplify on!
The third quote that seared itself into my worldview comes from the great populist mystical poet, Walt Whitman: “Question much – obey little!”  Not only are these extremely wise words, they have also proven to be exceedingly prophetic.  Almost all of the over-arching elements of the so-called “civilized” world have been grossly corrupted.  Government no longer serves the people – it serves the rich.  Education doesn’t encourage critical thinking – it encourages “hivemind.”  Capitalism does not “raise all boats” – it drowns the poor people living on the shore.  The media does not report the truth – it distorts the truth in order to serve the ruling elites.
It is the non-conformists who have the courage to question the status quo and challenge the dominant paradigm.  And with the increasing cleverness and ruthlessness of the Powers That Rule – a far more accurate term than the Powers That Be – in manipulating public perception, the need for alert and brave people of conscious is greater than ever.
Question on!
Those three wise adages from Socrates, Thoreau and Whitman were immensely valuable in helping me adhere to my own personal path of non-conformity – my own road less traveled.  I suspect that they will be equally helpful to you as well.  But because the writing of this piece has forced me to visit the misery of my own teenage years, and because I wish for you to experience as little of that as possible, I am now going to share with you some of the contemporary writers who have had a transformative impact on me.  None of these sources were available to me when I was your age; and so it is gratifying to be able to acquaint you with their work.  There are many more that I could include, but this list will be an excellent primer to get you started.  Enjoy!
·        THE REAL AMERICA – Howard Zinn, Chalmers Johnson, William Blum, Morris Berman, Chris Hedges and Paul Craig Roberts
·        THE ILLS OF CIVILIZATION – Daniel Quinn, Chellis Glendinning, Derrick Jensen and John Zerzan
·        THE PROBLEMS WITH CAPITALISM – Michael Parenti, David Korten, John Perkins and Jerry Mander
·        DEEP POLITICS – Charles Hugh Smith and Peter Dale Scott
·        THE POSSIBILITY OF COLLAPSE – Dmitry Orlov, Carolyn Baker, Guy McPherson, James Howard Kunstler, Chris Martenson and Richard Heinberg

When I had completed the longhand version of this essay, I put down my clipboard and headed topside to see if the sky had cleared.  To my astonishment I discovered three little birds skittering happily around my self-steering vane.  Had they been up there cavorting for the entire time that I had been writing?  I smiled at the image of these three tiny, joy-filled birds playing the role of miniature muses for this often inept philosopher.

Sea Gypsy Clarity

Off the keyboard of Sea Gypsy

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Published on the Sea Gypsy Philosopher on March


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ray-at-new-transmissionMy hands just would not let go! For 30 seconds they remained attached to my lovely AVENTURA even though I was already standing in the launcha ready to head off on the first leg of a long trip back to the so-called “real world.” Finally, the boatman said, “Ramon, are you okay?” This shook me out of my trepidation trance and I replied, “Sorry, Ignacio, vamanos – let’s go!”

I have now returned from that journey – and my hands were right. Each reunion with “normalcy” staggers me so thoroughly that I wonder whether I can ever go back again. For a sea gypsy like me, who experiences it only every few years, the modern world looks like low-grade lunacy.

  • The frantic yet fruitless frenzy of the car culture – accelerating up to sixty mph even though the next gridlock stoppage is clearly visible 100 yards ahead.

  • The sad and tragic disconnection of those who believe that they are so “connected.”

  • The cultural mean-spiritedness that worships competition and power and ridicules co-operation and sensitivity.

  • The Everywhereness of Television. In this NSA version of our Cowardly New World of 1984 Plus 30, it is even more troubling knowing that The Screen is probably watching us as much as we are watching it.

  • The ever-increasing incompetence and unpleasantness of the bureaucracies that are utterly inescapable in the modern world.

Admittedly, for those marooned in this society, they have become so gradually acclimated to it, that the insanity of it is barely noticed. It is the old dilemma of asking a fish about water. The tuna is so immersed in it, that it cannot perceive it. Here are a couple of examples of the absurdities that I experienced first-hand.

I always buy a little $10 cell phone when I arrive in Key West so that my friends will be able to conveniently contact me during my visit. Obviously, I do not also buy a 2 year contract but opt for the purchase of a modest amount of minutes. When my $10 worth of time was running low, I called to buy some more minutes using my debit card. I spent the requisite 5 minutes maneuvering through the non-human phone tree. They required all of my normal info such as card number, expiration date, the 3 numbers on the back, but now they also want the phone # for when the debit card was first activated. Since that was many years ago it was also many phone numbers ago. After another 5 minutes of telephone bumper cars, I finally made it through to an actual breathing human being. However, this person who was presumably addressing me from somewhere on the Indian sub-continent, was totally indecipherable. I couldn’t even unravel whether it was a male or female voice.

So I attempted to purchase some more minutes via the internet. I went to the website and typed in my new phone #. It asked for a password. Nobody had provided me a password. But alas, if I clicked a link it would text me a password on my new phone. Presto! It did so quite swiftly. I typed it into the appropriate box and retyped it again for verification. I expected to then be quickly shifted to the page where I could buy some more minutes. But instead, it informed me that without my CURRENT password it could not assign me a new one. Perhaps it is just me, but that seems to beg the question: “If I knew my current password, why the hell would I be requesting a new one?” And so, I hopped on my bicycle and pedaled 3 miles back to the “cell phone provider” and purchased some more minutes from an actual human. more ominous encounter with Bureaucracy Nation was my attempt to obtain a new passport. When getting my picture taken at a place that specializes in passport photos, I was told that they would have to do it over again. When I inquired why that was, she said because I had smiled. I assumed that she was joking, but in fact it is now a law that you cannot be smiling on an official passport photo. It felt like the ghost of Kafka was now writing the passport regulations.

The Miami passport office was horrible the last time I renewed mine about ten years ago; but this time it was a veritable daytime nightmare. When I arrived at the door it was locked but there was a large blue arrow pointing down the block. I proceeded in that direction but found no office. The Miami Design College was there for the next 4 doorways or so. Eventually their doors ended and there was an entrance to a parking garage under the building. Assuming that couldn’t be it, I retraced the 70 yards back to the original large blue arrow. There I discovered in very small print that the office entrance was now…in the parking garage.

So back I went at least feeling comfortable that I had pre-arranged an appointment over the phone. But apparently I was not alone in this regard. There were 54 people in line ahead of me. We all stood there in this grim concrete garage inhaling auto fumes with the line not moving at all. Forty minutes later the queue still hadn’t budged and yet nobody provided us any explanation for the delay. There was no drinking water and no bathrooms. Eventually, I just walked away from such blatant indignity and decided to try my luck with a U.S. Embassy overseas.

The philosopher in me could not help but question what all of this is about. Why are we so bludgeoned in the so-called advanced world by these bureaucratic SNAFUs that seem purposely designed to degrade us? Why must my passport photo look like a criminal mug shot? Why are automated phone trees – that rob people of their jobs – not even efficient? Why must I show my passport to a TSA guard and then show it again to another one 6 feet later? Why is it that almost all bureaucracies seem to have forgotten what basic human decency means? Why…oh why…oh why?


But these were just personal nuisances and aggravations. However, while back in the U.S. I noticed two items in the alternative media that were extremely foreboding on a societal level. Our ruling class – oops, I mean our government – is stealthily attempting to further reduce Freedom of the Press by having federal observers in newspaper, radio and television news rooms. They will monitor what they term “Critical Information Needs.” A cynic might suggest that they will be there to insure that information that is critical for supporting the government’s position on any particular issue is the “need” that these neutral observers will be tracking. Is it too big a stretch to imagine them also compiling lists of journalistic troublemakers who are not willing to toe the government line?

Presumably, the ruling class – oops, I mean duly elected representatives of the Multi-National Corporations, Too Big To Fail Banks and the Military Industrial Surveillance Prison Complex – believe that this latest insult to a free society will not be greeted with pitchforks and torches. But just in case one of their actions eventually does nudge the citizens beyond the “can’t take any more” tipping point, there was another extremely disturbing revelation in the non-mainstream media.

The Pentagon has built a 300 acre “fake city” in Virginia complete with a bank, a mock subway station, and a sports stadium in order to train troops in advanced urban combat techniques. If this has you wondering whether this is designed for overseas operations or for responding to domestic violence, you are not alone. It certainly seems like the army is being trained for homeland police duties even though that is strictly forbidden by the Posse Comitatus Act which has restrained the military ever since 1878.


So, my recent journey convinced me that corporate and governmental bureaucracies have become even more ludicrous and soul-sapping than ever. And then combine that with two more examples of the U.S. steadily sliding from freedom towards tyranny, and I gained even greater clarity about the value of my sea gypsy path.

My wanderings on the Wide Waters have been driven by two main motivations. The first is the sheer enjoyment of it. And the second is the fact that an ocean-ready sailboat is probably the ideal survival platform should the world face a severe emergency. Here are some of the joyous aspects of this life choice that make it so wondrous:

  • As a sea gypsy I don’t visit Nature – I live cocooned in it. My days are not spent in a world of concrete, asphalt and steel. Creatures of the Sea and the Sky are not rare visitors – they are my neighbors.

  • My life is slo-mo. At warp speed my boat barely achieves 7 mph. Back in the real world, its frantic pace genuinely unnerves me.

  • The freedom to “just sail away to somewhere else” is a powerful elixir. If a situation deteriorates, it is pretty intoxicating to be able to pull up my anchor and head for greener pastures or bluer waters.

  • There is much more community in the sailboat cruising world than in suburbia. There are frequents pot lucks, swap meets, beach volleyball games, etc. And neighborly helpfulness is the norm rather than the exception.

These are some of the wonderful characteristics of my life aboard and abroad. The second aspect of my sea gypsy existence that is very reassuring is the fact that should there be any sort of large-scale emergency of a societal or environmental or political or economic nature, my AVENTURA is an ideal survival platform. And she offers the prospect of not just making it through the black swan storm clouds, but of actually flourishing after the calamity has occurred. My carefully considered thinking in this regard is detailed in my 4 “Sea Gypsy Tribe” essays that are available here on my blog.


So now that I have returned from my latest visit to Insaneistan, I have another reason for embracing my sea gypsy path – ESCAPE! Rather than passively surrendering to an Un-Culture that is mean-spirited and numbing and that grinds a person down, I have actively abandoned it for a better way of living. I have voluntarily rejected its insipid artificiality – its Reality Television and Celebrity Worship and Shopping Mall Nirvana. I have sailed away from a United States that is so different from that of my youth – a nation that is now widely scorned because it has become a global bully and a police-surveillance state.


Arriving back aboard AVENTURA, I opened all the hatches and portholes to let her air out. A sailboat can get pretty musty when battened down for 3 weeks. Then I went on deck and eased myself down into my dinghy. And just as I had done 3 weeks earlier when trepidation was sweeping over me, I held onto her.

Many of my friends insist that AVENTURA is a dream machine that dooms me to a life of fantasy. Well, I have just returned from the Real World – and I find it unacceptable. And to me the great mystery remains … why do so many people surrender to it?

Open Letter: Nobel Prize Economics Committee

Off the keyboard of Ray Jason

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Published on The Sea Gypsy Philosopher on February 12, 2014

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ray-at-new-transmissionIt was Nautical Swap Meet day in my quiet corner of the southwest Caribbean.  Sailboats were arriving from all over the archipelago to buy, sell, trade or give things away.  We affectionately refer to the goods as “treasures of the bilge” but many of the items could just as easily be described as “donations for the dumpster.”  The event, which takes place every couple of months, is not just about commerce – it is also about friendship.  Many people attend with the primary intention of just visiting with their sea gypsy pals from the far shores of our little inland sea.

I love these events – not just for the camaraderie – but because they are proof positive that economic activity does NOT have to be convoluted and incomprehensible.  It can be honest and fair and beneficial.  This face-to-face, no middleman type of commerce is such an abnormality in our world, that it got me pondering the nature and purpose of modern economics.  In order to make this complex topic more understandable, I decided to frame this essay as an open letter to the Nobel Prize for Economics Committee.

Before getting into my actual communiqué to the jurors, the back-story of the award itself should be shared with you.  Alfred Nobel did not establish a Nobel Prize for Economics.  The fields of human endeavor that he wished to applaud and encourage were Peace, Literature, Medicine, Physics and Chemistry.  The award for economics is an “add-on.”  Its formal name is The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.  And guess what the Sveriges Riksbank is?  If you answered “the Swedish Central Bank” then you passed your Econ pop quiz.

Now a skeptic might contend that this award is riding on the coattails of the Nobel Prize reputation.  And a cynic might add that the glorified phrase “Economic Sciences” indicates profound self-doubt as to the genuine merit of this field of study.  A quick glance at the 2013 prize tarnishes the image of this prestigious award even further.  The committee described it in this language: “The recipients were honored for their empirical analysis of asset prices.”  But amazingly, two of the 2013 laureates have completely opposing theories on asset prices.  It is like awarding the physics prize to someone who argues that gravity forces objects downwards and then sharing that award with a scientist claiming that gravity propels them upwards.

In the world of common sense this is absurd, but in the kingdom of academia it appears to be meritorious.  It certainly seems like the goal of many scientists and academics is not to simplify and clarify, but to complicate and confuse – perhaps as a way of protecting their profitable fiefdoms from those who do not possess their specialized knowledge.  My suggestion to the Committee is that if they truly wish to legitimize and ennoble the study of economics, they need to reward research and theories that are understandable and also valuable to the society as a whole.

Dear Nobel Prize for Economics Committee,

Let me begin by commending you for encouraging insightful thinking and writing in the field of economics.  The lives of everyday people are greatly affected by both politics and economics; but the more dominant influence is that which you survey – economics.  To a certain extent politics can be ignored or avoided, but economics is all-pervasive in our daily lives.  So it should be unceasingly examined and analyzed.

My purpose in writing to you is to suggest that perhaps the committee’s perspective has become too narrow.  The broad river of any discipline tends to branch off into tiny meandering tributaries of specialization.  This creates battalions of experts who cannot see the forest because they are looking at one leaf on a single tree.

Perhaps this is an appropriate time for you to seek out and encourage economists who are generalists and not specialists.  Here are some bullet point observations about the impact of economics on our planet and its creatures.  Most of these conclusions are obvious to the average person in the street, but somehow they are imperceptible to those in the ivory towers.


A system that once encouraged individual creativity and hard work, is now so totally ruled by those at the top that it has become a private club for the uber-elite, who suppress opportunities for all others.  A perfect example is the gargantuan chain stores that bulldoze their way into community after community destroying small local businesses wherever they go.  In biology they would be deemed an “invasive species” but in contemporary economics they are honored and forgiven on the grounds that they are a “good business model.”


The so-called “financial sector” has metastasized from a tiny portion of the economy into a Godzilla-like dominator of global markets.  But the “products” that they market have almost no intrinsic or tangible value.  The bankers and hedge fund managers who rule these kingdoms are sleazy conjurers who merchandise worthless “financial instruments” that are so esoteric that even their creators barely understand them.  The world simply does not need “credit default swaps.”  But it does need rice in the bowls of the starving millions.


We currently live in a Darwinian “survival of the most ruthless” economic system.  Under an Ethical Economics, the three “P”s would be reversed.  Profits would be subservient to People and the Planet.  This would mean that workers jobs could not be taken away from them by robots or “off-shored” to laborers working for slave wages in Dickensian conditions somewhere in China or Bangladesh.  And the wonders of our miracle planet are not simply commodities.  Forests are not just “board feet” and rivers are not latent “hydro-eledctric power.”  Worshipping “profit” is worshipping Greed.

TOO BIG TO FAIL” ARE FOUR DIRTY WORDS   The most enormous and powerful banks are allowed to reap obscene profits when one of their endeavors succeeds, but when one of their programs fails, the taxpayer bails them out and eliminates or minimizes their losses.  This situation is so perverse that it could only have been conceived by the lobbyists for the banks.  But our politicians are also complicit since they pass the legislation that allows it.  They do so after receiving huge “campaign contributions” which is the deceitful way of saying “bribes.”  And the regulatory agencies, which should be overseeing such malfeasance, are packed with former executives of the very banks that they supposedly monitor.


Despite the fact that every single fiat currency in history has failed miserably, the Central Bankers of the world are engaged in this practice once again.  But this time the consequences will be far more catastrophic because our economies are so interlinked globally that a sneeze in Brazil can lead to pneumonia for the whole world.  Anyone who lived through the horror of the Weimar hyper-inflation would cringe at the possibility of such a plague spreading across the entire planet.


In human biology unlimited growth is known as Cancer, but in economics it is considered Nirvana.  Petroleum is the best example of the destructive consequences of unchecked growth.  The world has become utterly dependent on affordable petroleum products for transportation, agriculture, manufacturing etc.  As the supply and affordability of oil reaches critical levels the entire panorama of modern techno-industrial society will change and probably crash.  And this “threshold of collapse” scenario is also playing out in many other areas such as oceanic fish stocks, drinking water, the desertification of former farmland and many other resources.  Ignoring these problems does not solve them.  In fact it exacerbates them.  The consequences might not be just terrible but genocidal.

And so, in conclusion, as you search for future laureates for the Nobel Economics Prize, perhaps there are candidates out there who are less focused on the minutiae of the subject and are instead more conversant with the bigger picture and with its consequences.  If the everyday Jane and Joe in the street can perceive the aberrations and injustices of the current economic template, surely there are experts who can also do so – and who can offer meaningful and wide-ranging improvements.

Homemade Bread and a Dying Infrastructure

Off the keyboard of Gypsy Mama

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Published on The Butterchurn on February 16, 2014


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The more aware I become of our food system and how preservatively poisonous it is, the more I desire to cook at home where I can control the ingredients. Bread was chosen among the first of the foods I learned to produce homemade.  When I began making bread, I chose a recipe for a homemade bread that consisted of four simple ingredients: Water. Flour. Salt. Yeast.  You’d think that mixing together four ingredients into a bowl would provide the same results, consistently.  Nope.  I had the worst luck. I’d mixed those ingredients into a bowl over and over and OVER again.  I’d followed the recipe to the mark.  Many times.

After awhile, I went rogue. I tried kneading the dough against a “no-knead” recipe.  I tried different oven temperatures.  I tried different amounts of cooking time.  I tried different depths and shapes of scoring.  I mixed flours.  I changed flours. I added more yeast.  On and on it went, a slew of rock hard, gooey centered, bland tasting, fall apart failures.  Every now and then, I’d get a decent loaf…but I wouldn’t know what I’d done differently to achieve it.  The process became a science experiment.  WHY was I failing?  How could I cuss up such a simple recipe?

About four months ago, my husband researched water purification systems for our home.  Up until that point, we’d used PUR and BRITA brand filters on our kitchen faucet.  He wanted to make sure that we were getting the most for our money.  A final decision was made that we should invest in a Berkey water filter system.

Water was not something I had considered as an inconsistent ingredient to my basic recipe. Each and every time I would make bread I’d pour water directly from our kitchen sink faucet.  The recipe called for tepid to warm water, so I’d adapted to turning on the hot water knob until the water was at the desired temperature.

I guess that was a bad choice considering that I now live in a house that is connected to city water.  Through one of many conversations with my husband, I learned that the water systems that are set in place for most cities are OLD.  The water itself, as you should know, is treated with… well…

I heard a story once about a guy who used to work at a water treatment plant.  He told a troublesome tale about how he’d just “spray whatever seemed enough” of the “treatment chemicals” into the water that was being distributed to all of the residents of the city he worked for.

Nice.  Regardless of the fact that I can’t cite that source, that’s quite the slap in a trusting American’s face, now isn’t it?  It sure straightened my eye sight a bit.

As I was pondering over how to write this blog and tell this story, I began thinking about my history of bread making.  When we owned a house in Rock Hill, SC, we had a well.  I loved that we were not connected to city water because I knew that Fluoride, among other “just enough” treatment chemicals couldn’t “get us.”  The bread that I made in Rock Hill was more or less consistent, so long as I stuck to the recipe and didn’t mix in too much whole wheat flour, etc.

As I look back, I kick myself for not putting it together that the water itself could have been the culprit when it came to my inability to produce a successful loaf of bread.  Thankfully, I finally came to my senses.  During the in between, however, I was working well to convince myself that operator error must have been the cause… and I took that anger and frustration with myself out on a many innocent failed loaves of wasted time and energy= death by chicken.

Earlier this week, I was mixing together the four ingredients my bread recipe called for. (yields two loaves)

  1. 3 cups of tepid water
  2. 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt (we use sea salt)
  3. 1 1/2 tablespoons of quick rise bread machine yeast
  4. 6 1/2 cups of flour

To make room for the mixing bowl, I had to move the gallon sized glass jug of filtered, husband provided, Berkey water from my less than desirable kitchen counter work space.  As I sat the mixing bowl down, something fired inside my brain that caused my simple mind to connect that, umm…maybe I should use THAT water in my recipe?

Needless to say, I baked two perfect, beautiful loaves of bread that day.  They were both eaten in about two days.  Could I succeed again, or was this just a fluke?  A few days later, I had produced two more loaves of beautiful, edible bread.

I am pretty convinced that the city tap water was causing inconsistent results when it came to my bread making.  Yeast, after all, is alive.  It is frightening to believe that the very water provided to us in a system that we’ve been raised to trust could KILL my bread!  But how can I question this belief after seeing the proof “pan out” in my oven?  The variables (ingredients) in my experiment were consistent– or so I thought.  Who knows what dose of what chemical (or worse) I’d been mixing into my dough?  No wonder I was beginning to feel a bit insane.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

All of those times I’d repeated the steps.

All of those ingredients I’d measured delicately.

All my efforts wasted because of the inconsistent variable in my experiment:  CITY WATER.  A variable that I had the audacity to believe was CONTROLLED.




If you want to try this recipe yourself, just mix together all of the four ingredients(using filtered water, of course) in a large mixing bowl.  Stir them together until the flour has been absorbed into the mixture.  Cover the bowl and leave it somewhere it won’t be disturbed too much overnight.  In the morning, mix all of the dough into a ball in your bowl.  Grease two bread pans (coconut oil is THE BEST) and separate the large dough ball into two parts.  Turn each of your two smaller bread balls into each other (like you’re folding socks together), put ‘em in the pan and bake them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
If you’re into it, I’d be happy to spend some time writing a more detailed instruction to this recipe (with photos of preparation in between) so that you can try your hand at homemade bread of your own.  My focus of this blog, of course, was to imbed into you, oh wise baker, that filtered water WILL create better bread.  Always.

Also, if you’re wondering, we chose to purchase the “Big Berkey” with fluoride filters and have been very happy with that choice.

This amazing system reduces bacteria, viruses, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and trihalomethanes to purification standards and lasts thousands of gallons. – See more at:


As a side note, I want to make sure that I mention that I had the worst outbreak from eczema  that I have ever had in my life after moving to a house that was hooked up to city water.  Heavy metals (Copper, Zinc, mercury, lead, Arsenic, Cadmium) are commonly found in decaying water line infrastructures.  Nickel is listed among the suspected causes of my particular form of eczema:  Dyshidrotic Eczema.  Suspicious.  I’m obviously still on the hunt for some answers to this ailment.  The cause may be different for each person, but I still don’t know exactly WHY I was a victim.  I feel as if that question of “WHY” should have an answer by now.  The medical community has not done enough research on this matter, I fear.   As I continue my search for an answer, I’ll occasionally share my thoughts on the matter in this blog through posts and comments.

Exposure to some metals, such as mercury and lead, may also cause development of autoimmunity, in which a person’s immune system attacks its own cells. This can lead to joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and diseases of the kidneys, circulatory system, and nervous system.–

Nickel toxicity, specifically, was evaluated by researcheres at Michigan State University who found it presented a multi-tiered toxic attack. First, nickel causes essential metal imbalances. It severely disrupts enzyme action and regulation. Finally, it causes and contributes to a high amount of oxidative stress.–

The primary source of nickel in drinking-water is leaching from metals in contact with drinking-water, such as pipes and fittings. However, nickel may also be present in some groundwaters as a consequence of dissolution from nickel ore-bearing rock

Uncertainty Principles

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on December 29, 2013


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It is the wee hours of Christmas Morning here on the Last Great Frontier, and I have been awake since Midnite after taking an early evening Nap on Christmas Eve.  For the first time in I cannot recall how long (maybe the first time EVER!) , I have managed to avoid getting invited to anybody’s house for Christmas Dinner, or any Christmas Parties either.  Well, there is a small Work Party I will attend on Friday, but nothing here on Christmas Eve or on the Big Day itself.

People who aren’t Loners get all bent out of shape about the idea of “being alone” on Christmas, like this is some kind of Mortal Sin.  You are SUPPOSED to get together in a big crowd of people, open lots of Presents and then eat a massive Turkey Dinner.  After a full month, you should have digested the Thanksgiving one, and finished the Leftovers too so it’s time to stuff your face again!  You are supposed to revel in the joy of watching Happy Children’s faces as they open their newest Toys, this year probably the latest Ipad or XBox game.

I admit to being pretty astounded by this technology, and I buy some of it for myself too.  Well, not Apple Shit, I buy Samsung Shit.  I don’t buy Xbox games either, even though I enjoyed playing the earliest Arcade Games like Space Invaders and Missile Command in my College years, and the Strategy Game Civilization after I got my first ACER Computer sometime in the early 90s I think it was. (That sucker had only 500MB on the HARD DRIVE!  Talk about the Jurrassic period of computers. LOL.) I got pretty badly addicted to that game too for about 6 months until I finally learned how to beat it and win all the time, sometimes destroying all other Civilizations and taking over the Planet, crisscrossing the continents with Railroads and whatever High Tech stuff that early version of Civilization had to offer.  Other times I would build the Spaceship to go Colonize other Planets.  Those were your two choices basically if you won the game.  Either GET OFF the Earth first, or DESTROY everybody else on the Planet.  There were no choices there for a Genetic Bottleneck and massive crash of the human population or for Near Term Human Extinction either.

I had to wait until just recently to get a game like that, this time for my Samsung Tablet called PLAGUE.  In that one, you get to design a Plague of varying types and the objective is to wipe out all of humanity.  I got good at that game faster than Civilization, and wiped out Humanity numerous times with Viruses, Nano-Viruses, Bacteria and Fungi.  There are a few other choices too, but I haven’t had much time to play lately, what with battling out the REAL problem here right now on Earth.  LOL.  Computer games just don’t measure up when the REAL THING is staring you in the face.  At least for an adult this is true anyhow, not so true I think for the current generation of kids opening up their Xbox games this Christmas. I was touring our local Fred Meyer retail outlet, at the entrance they had a big display of the latest in Xbox games playing on a Big Screen LCD TV, and the ACTION and rendition of this stuff is amazing now.  No more little Pac-men munching bits along a track, no more Super Mario Brothers cartoons jumping up and down, now you got 3D simulated Homo Sapiens that are getting so darn close to looking like Real Actors they probably won’t NEED real actors anymore to make movies, least until the system collapses here anyhow.  So your typical Kid Gamer Junkie now can use his Joystick to control the action, whatever it is from blowing away Zombies to flying Drones to being an NFL Quarterback, all in the comfort of Mom’s Basement, long as the McMansion hasn’t been foreclosed on yet anyhow.

So, plenty of distraction out there for the young’uns, but anyone past the age of 30 or so now who is oblivious to the writing on the wall has to be close to Brain Dead.  Really, my co-host on the Collapse Cafe Monsta is in his 20s, and he can see it, so you don’t absolutely need to be an Old Fart with many seasons under the belt to catch the drift here.  It doesn’t take a Weatherman to know which way the Wind Blows after all.

Far as the Weather here is concerned, the Weathermen on NBL predict a Near Term Human Extinction, based on their best Super Computer Modelling, and since we hooked up with these folks to help them cure a variety of website problems related to spam and hacking, I have been spending a decent amount of time offsite here battling what I consider to be counterproductive NEGATIVITY on the issue of how you REACT to all the problems we face down at the moment.  Not sure there is a real good reason for arguing with people who are CERTAIN Extinction is in the offing here by Mid-Century, anymore than I am sure there is a real good reason for arguing with Christians about whether Jesus Christ was the Son of God, but I do it anyhow. LOL.

Absolute CERTAINTY of anything leads to fanaticism, particularly if what you are so certain of cannot be proven.  Data on Climate Change is a lot like Data in the Bible, it all relies on assumptions made about the past or future, neither of which can be known with certainty.  You can cross-correlate all you like to beef up your arguments, but Uncertainty remains in there always.  I think many if not most people are uncomfortable dealing with uncertainty, they pick a Conclusion that fits their thinking and then they get to STOP thinking about it, because the problem is resolved for them.  If things are Uncertain, you constantly have to re-evaluate and the Sands Shift Beneath Your Feet all the time.  You are always swimming in the Sea of Uncertainty, and this is exhausting. on the type of certainty you have, it also leads to a kind of paralysis.  There is no purpose to playing a game anymore once you become certain of the result.  I stopped playing Civilization and PLAGUE! because once I was good enough at both those games, I was certain of the outcome, which was that I would win.  If you went to a Baseball game and were certain of the outcome, it would cease to have any excitement or meaning.  Yogi Berra phrased the reality of it most eloquently when he said “It ain’t over until it’s over”.  I remember one time leaving a Mets game with my dad in the 7th inning because he had some deal he hadda do, and the Mets were behind by like 6 runs and it looked like it was OVAH.  Riding back into Manhattan in the car listening to the game on the radio, Cleon Jones hit a Grand Slam in the bottom of the 8th inning, and then in the 9th Bud Harrelson singled in two more runs and the game was TIED!  Tug McGraw was called in from the Bullpen to pitch in Extra Innings and it went into the 11th inning before sadly the Mets lost that game, but WHAT A GAME!  I shoulda still been there too, but Dad the Pigman had more important things to do.

I get battered over the head with data references when I engage the Uber Doomers on NBL, “Have you LOOKED at the graph on Ocean Acidification?”.  Like I can’t read a graph as well as the next math genius out there.  LOL.  I am also fully aware of the 400+ Nuke Reactors out there which are Ticking Time Bombs and of the fact that the Arctic Ocean is bubbling up Methane like a warm bottle of Champagne.  What this all tells me is that at the moment Man is ahead in the Destruction Game of the Earth by 6 runs, but in this game as Guy phrases it, Nature Bats Last and I don’t know what Nature has up her sleeve here or what it is possible for her to do in the Bottom of the 9th. do know that during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) the earth was a good 10 C warmer on average than it is today, but it didn’t keep going up and in fact reversed itself over time.  I also know that while there was a massive Extinction Level Event during this period, all life was not extinguished either.  It did not get sooooo hot that all the proteins denatured and no living thing could survive.    Without a good explanation for why the warming reversed at the end of the PETM and why it won’t again this time or at what average temperature level such a reversal might take place, I can’t be CERTAIN of the outcome, and so the game is NOT OVAH.

There are some things here I can be certain of, for one that BAU will not continue on here much longer.  Industrial Civilization as we know it can’t continue onward without copious amounts of cheap energy oozing up out of the ground from holes poked in GAIA’s skin by Homo Sapiens, and said cheap Oil is just about exhausted, with only very energy expensive Oil left to try to suck up from deep on down or wedged tightly into rock formations.  It’s not economic on an energy level to extract this stuff so eventually the wide open Credit Spigot for doing the development will trickle out, and the Black Gold will stop flowing.

It is also pretty certain (though not as certain) that along with the decreasing amount of per capita energy available, we won’t be able to support the vast sea of humanity we have bred up here through the Age of Oil, and a very significant Die Off of Homo Sapiens will take place.  What is uncertain and also very important here is precisely when this Die Off will begin in earnest (it already has begun in some places) and how rapidly it proceed across the Globe.  Still more uncertain than that is precisely how society and civilization will react and adapt once this commences.  You can be sure there will be some kind of reaction, you just can’t be sure exactly what form that will reaction will take.  A High Probability event of course is increasing Warfare and also major political dislocations and Goobermint changes/overthrows.  What is uncertain in this one is how that will affect your neighborhood and then how you will deal with those eventualities as they occur. if not most people on the Planet right now have very limited choices in what they can do or where they can live.  The vast majority of the world population lives in desperate Poverty in places like Calcutta, Nairobi and Mexico City.  They can’t afford a bus ticket out much less a plane ticket, and about nowhere else on earth wants to take in new refugees either. In the Great Depression, this was imortalized in the sign, “Jobless Men, Keep Going.  We can’t take care of our own.” Even here inside the FSoA, most of the population has very limited choices, means and knowledge to “Exit the Matrix”.  The folks Freezing in their Detroit apartments after the Christmas Ice Storm took out their electricity don’t know what to do, even if they had some money they wouldn’t know what to do.  The situation these folks are in is hopeless, they cannot be saved.  That is reality.

For the readers of websites like the Doomstead Diner or Nature Bats Last though, this is not the case just yet.  It may be as time goes by, but not there quite yet. Although most people do not have means to set up their own Private Doomstead in the Boonies of Maine or the Highlands of Wales, it remains possible at the moment for people to organize up here even with limited means.  That of course is why we set up the SUN4Living website. Here in the FSoA, you have to be pretty darn far off the cliff to not be able to connect to the Internet and network somehow.  You can still go to libraries for free internet access if you don’t have your own computer or smartphone.  Even if you are homeless and at least have a Netbook, you can drop in a Coffee Shop or Laundromat and use their WiFi.

Besides the Infant Project of SUN, there are other networking possibilities in existence longer. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) provides one such type of networking, though I think you generally need to be fairly young and not encumbered by a family to pursue this paradigm.  Long in existence projects like The Farm in TN and Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary in PA provide a wealth of knowledge and information on transitioning off Industrial Living. any of these ideas and methods long term Sustainable in the face of the many problems we face down here now, from Climate Change to Nuke Puke being Vomited Up all over the Planet?  Probably not, they only provide a Bridging Solution for the near to medium term as we exit the energy intensive civilization we live under now. However, Bridging Solutions are important for numerous reasons, whether or not the End is Extinction in the Near Term.  Extinction is GUARANTEED in the Long Term, so it is mainly a matter of timelines here on how long this actually takes to play itself out.  Extinction would occrur regardless of what Homo Sapiens ever did or will do in the future.  The Biosphere has a very limited timeline on the Universal Scale, it won;t support life for more than another 500M years no matter WHAT.   So why get all bent out of shape if it occurs inside the next century?  Bound to occur sometime, everything dies.

Anyhow, in the long term, you cannot win this game, that is a CERTAINTY.  All life will be extinguished on earth at some point here, you just cannot be precisely certain how long it will take.  So there is no point to playing a game where you expect the outcome to be LIFE FOREVER, unless of course you buy the Star Trek meme of Interstellar Travel, which I do not.  Even there, the Universe eventually comes to a close, either Imploding on itself eventually or expanding and randomizing to Absolute Zero over time.  In this game, all you play with are TIMELINES.

So, in such a Game, what is Winning?  Winning is lasting longer than the Weatherman predicts.  If the Weatherman predicts I can only survive to Mid-Century, I play the game to last longer than that.  When I cross the Great Divide into the Great Beyond, I will meet up with the Weatherman, and I will Lord this Over Him.  “See? You were WRONG!  Homo Sapiens did NOT go Extinct by 2050.  it took until 2150 because we played a better game than you predicted as possible.”  LOL.

Never QUIT, Never say DIE until you are well and truly DEAD.  It ain’t OVAH till it is OVAH, and the Fat Lady Sings too.  The Game is afoot, and I play to WIN.

See you on the Other Side, Guy. 😉


A Sea Gypsy Christmas

Off the keyboard of Ray Jason

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Published on The Sea Gypsy Philosopher on December 23, 2013

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It is Christmastime down here in the Banana Latitudes. Far to the north in the Frenzied Latitudes, the shoppers are body-slamming each other with vigor and venom. In a little Panamanian town square, I savor the sight of the Indio families in from the hills letting their children marvel at the lights and the decorations. Compared to El Norte, it is all so calm and unhurried and moderate. Surely gifts will be exchanged on the big day, but there is none of the fevered gluttony for stuff that soils the holidays in the First World.

As I leave the park to head back to AVENTURA, a faint, sweet music whispers from the little chapel across the street. I cross over and answer its call. It is a choir of children practicing Christmas carols. The beauty and innocence on their faces is enough to inspire a Leonardo to reach for his canvas and brushes. I am spellbound by the sound of these old English folk songs exquisitely rendered in Spanish. Their last song is a playful version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

It is still joyously cascading in my head when I step back aboard my lovely sailboat. Since eggnog is not available this close to the Equator, I improvise and combine some warm milk with some Bailey’s Irish Crème. It keeps my festive joy simmering; and I settle in to ponder what might “my true love give to me.”



AVENTURA under wayI chuckle at the realization that I don’t have a “true love” to bequeath me twelve days of gifts – or even two days of gifts. What woman would wish to mate with an impoverished, sea gypsy philosopher who is already becalmed in his Middle Years? But as I scan AVENTURA’S small but handsome interior, I realize that my boat has been my truest true love. Through heart-stopping dangers and heart-soaring delights, she has been my companion and my enabler. She has allowed me to embrace a tough but extraordinary “path less traveled.”

When I begin to meditate upon this more deeply, I am pleased by how swiftly I can tally up twelve days worth of blessings that my sea gypsy life confers upon me. And so I enumerate them on my little Socratic clipboard. (Yes, I often write without a computer!) Then I explore each of them more thoroughly. None of these can be purchased or wrapped or packaged – but what fine life gifts they are!

  1. CONTENTMENT To be happy and healthy in the here and now of one’s daily Life, is the greatest gift that any true love could provide. And this condition is even more remarkable in our modern era, because it is so difficult to unshackle ourselves from the powerful Discontentment Machine. The relentless juggernaut of our materialistic culture does everything in its power to convince us that we are sadly inadequate, and can only be complete if we buy more stuff.
  2. IMMERSION IN NATURE My sailboat and I do not just visit Nature, we are immersed in it – both literally and symbolically. Suspend your reading for a moment, and ask yourself if you know what stage the moon will be in tonight. Or can you distinguish the call of an osprey from the sound of a laughing gull? Such things might seem inconsequential compared to the latest iPhone app, but there are many who believe that Nature Deficit Disorder leads to enormous problems in the modern world. Drop one of the few remaining hunter-gatherers into a sprawling, concrete city and observe his extreme distress. We delude ourselves by thinking that we are civilized and urbanized humans. But we are still hard-wired as hunter-gatherers and when we are almost totally separated from Nature, it causes significant psychological damage in both the individual and the society.
  3. FREEDOM I know of no other way of life as independent as that of the sea gypsy. And for me it is not just geographic emancipation, it is the joy that comes from not being a part of modes of living that profoundly disturb me. I can completely liberate myself from the Empire Machine, the War Machine, the Shopping Machine and the Rape of Mother Earth Machine.
  4. COMMUNITY The sense of togetherness is far more pronounced in the sailing fraternity. And I am not speaking in vague, ethereal terms, but in brass tacks reality. This morning most of the sailors gathered on the VHF radio for a daily communal network where we shared information and assisted the newcomers. Two of today’s topics were the Christmas Eve potluck that is being finalized and some questions about nearby low-cost medical care. The bonds of support and harmony are much stronger here in our water world than they are in terra world.
  5. SOLITUDE Although I cherish the wonderful sense of community amongst the sailors, I also relish the solitude that I can so easily find by simply hauling up my anchor and sailing a short distance away to an isolated, pristine cove. There I can reconnect with my other community – my animal friends who live in the sea and the sky. For a contemplative spirit, this seclusion is essential. Indeed, for a philosopher, tranquility is one’s friend and frenzy is one’s foe.
  6. FERAL-ICITY Most of humanity is totally disconnected from the wild, untamed aspects of our animal nature. The 80 or so remaining indigenous tribes scattered around our homogenized planet, view us as domesticated animals –as cows or sheep. On the other hand they view themselves as jaguars or eagles. They do not rely on a keeper – they fend for themselves. This sea gypsy life allows me to swim naked, howl at the rising moon, spear a fish for dinner, greet the sunrise with a blast from my conch shell and generally embrace my Inner Tarzan without worrying about neighbors on the cul-du-sac.
  7. SELF-RELIANCE For most people, the joy of repairing something has become a quaint relic from by-gone times – something only seen in Norman Rockwell paintings. But for the ocean sailor, it is not just a nostalgic memento, it is a life or death requirement. Smash into a floating container that has fallen off a big ship, and you will be in a race with Captain Grim Reaper. Being able to swiftly fix that hole with a patch and some underwater epoxy is a life-affirming rush if ever there was one. Relying on one’s tool kit, spare parts and skill is a wondrous experience.
  8. ELEGANT SIMPLICITY The ocean-going sailboat is probably humanity’s finest combination of form and function. At sea, AVENTURA is strong, fairly fast and she has a sea-kindly motion even in maximum miserable conditions. At anchor she is a perfect little bachelor writer’s pad. Small – but spacious enough – with a bright yet warm teak and mahogany interior accented with brass lamps and bronze portholes. All of her systems are as simple as possible. The pumps and plumbing are manual and the electrical equipment uses basic on/off toggle switches. The sun and the wind provide the power. Although I am often reclusive, I am not a monk eating grubs in a spidery cave. Mine is not an ascetic existence but a pleasant one – with a fine library, good music and even a stash of classic movies. It is the physical manifestation of one of the pillars of my personal philosophy. “Enough is good, but more than enough is BAD!”
  9. PAYING FORWARD As an unrepentant hippie, I still believe in the importance of trying in some tiny way to help make the world a better place. By adopting this sea gypsy life, which is so affordable and time rich, I am able to dedicate myself to what I call The Way of RATAWI. This is my acronym for “Reading and Thinking and Writing Inspirationally.” Fully aware that my little blog will probably never influence the wider world even minutely, it still feels meaningful to me – even if it is a fool’s errand.
  10. RAY JASONECO-FRIENDLY As a part-time Tarzan, who loves being cocooned in Nature, it is deeply comforting to me to have such a tiny carbon footprint. My water comes from the sky to the spigot with no electricity whatsoever. Almost all other electrical power for fans or lights come through my solar panels or wind generator. I use about 2 gallons of diesel fuel per MONTH! Each night AVENTURA and I can rest comfortably knowing that we are not harming Mother Earth or Mother Ocean.
  11. COLLAPSE CONSCIOUS Most deep-ocean sailors embrace this mantra: “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!” I have also applied that motto to my carefully researched beliefs that Captain Catastrophe may be lurking just below the horizon. As I thoroughly described in the three “Sea Gypsy Tribe” essays that are easy to find here on my blog, I suspect that calamitous troubles might await us. AVENTURA continues to be a test-platform for how to survive if indeed there is a bad moon arising. I could literally sail away tomorrow and survive comfortably at sea for a few months with the food, water, supplies and tools that I have onboard as I complete this sentence.
  12. FUN My hippie brothers and sisters would likely characterize most of the essays here at my blog as being “heavy.” And indeed, I do traffic in serious subjects and attempt to speak powerfully and provocatively and poetically about them. But this does not mean that my sea gypsy life is also heavy. In fact, I know very few people who are as happy as I am on a daily basis. Now that I have sailed into my Middle Years, I understand that it is important to battle the Malignant Powers; but it is also important to embrace the joy and beauty that our Earth Ocean planet bequeaths us!


Suicidal Growth

Off the keyboard of Ray Jason

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Published on The Sea Gypsy Philosopher on December 10, 2013


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Sailing down the decades, my sweet little boat and I have witnessed some amazing meteor showers while alone at sea. During those nights I always listen to Debussy’s lyrical masterpiece “Reverie,” while lying on my back and marveling at the falling stars. And what makes it even more sublime is being the only human presence in that sector of the planet. It reminds me of how utterly tiny Homo Sapiens is in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, back on land the dominant perspective is just the opposite. Humanity considers itself the Grand Actor in the center of the cosmic stage, and Nature is merely the backdrop.

But my almost visceral understanding of just how miniscule our species is, inspires me to view our human project in a radically different manner. Spend as much time alone at sea as I have, and you too might find yourself transformed from being an Accepter to a Questioner. In this essay I will discuss a topic that is almost universally embraced and yet never challenged. That subject is Growth. How can somebody argue against Growth you might wonder? Well, hopefully I can do so calmly and convincingly.


Even a sixth grader understands that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. This is not an “economic issue” to be debated. It is an ecological fact that must be addressed. Our planet has limited resources and our survival hinges upon our ability to allocate and preserve them. The two great enemies of sustainability on Earth are Runaway Population Growth and Conspicuous Consumption Growth. Together they are a recipe for biological botulism. overshoot has been fervently debated ever since Thomas Malthus first introduced it back in 1798. In the 1960s, Paul and Anne Ehrlich reignited the discussion with their cautionary book, THE POPULATION BOMB. The timeline of their predictions did not come true, because they had not foreseen the Green Revolution that massively expanded industrial agriculture. But now food output HAS peaked while population expansion continues to accelerate. So a significant population decrease is essential.

But there is a huge force in the world which will not allow this to happen. That obstacle is Big Religion. The major monotheistic churches want their membership to grow as enormously and rapidly as possible. But they never admit to such selfish motives. Instead, they claim that they are merely following god’s edict that birth control shall be forbidden and that the flock shall go forth and multiply.

If you doubt the truth of this indictment, consider this. If the Catholic Church injunction against birth control is not just designed to increase their enrollment, then they will not object to this suggestion: Let every other child that is born to a Catholic parent be raised as a Muslim. Observe how the church fathers respond to that recommendation, and you will quickly understand that their birth tyranny edicts are not about god’s will, but are instead about increasing their membership and their power.

Another more subtle impact of Big Religion’s dictatorial population stance is how it affects education. There is a direct link between a higher level of education and a lower birth rate. The least educated segments of society tend to be the most religious. And so women who are forbidden by the church to use birth control devices soon become birth increase devices. Since they are burdened with almost constant childbirth, they have little time for education or for the widening of their personal horizons and opportunities. They become slaves to reproduction and to Big Religion.

Besides the bishops and mullahs and rabbis, there are other factors contributing to out of control population growth, and I will deal with them thoroughly in a future essay. But one thing that I can’t emphasize enough is the fact that this issue does not even get discussed in any meaningful way. If you think that bringing up politics and religion is a sure way to derail a conversation in polite company, just interject the issue of population control and notice how almost everyone considers it a taboo subject. And yet overpopulation is a major element – if not THE major factor – in the history of every single civilization that has collapsed.


The second type of growth that is so hazardous to our planet and all of its creatures is our lust for stuff. Although the USA is largely innocent when it comes to causing population problems, it is unmistakably guilty when it comes to promoting rampant consumerism. The American Way of Life is worshipped and imitated around the globe. Through its movies and television and product saturation, the American Empire spreads its own religion with missionary zeal – The Church of the Mall. The message of that gospel is that happiness is achieved by owning things. The corollary to this is that more stuff equals more fulfillment. Embracing such a vapid worldview has dire consequences for the Individual, the Society and the Planet.

For people, it means that values such as the affection of friends, the solidarity of community, the appreciation of beauty are all subordinate to the less meaningful and often endless craving for more stuff. I contend that the world is not better off with cars that talk to us or 671 types of “yogurt products” or phones so expensive that one has to take out a loan to purchase them. of my sea gypsy years have been spent in Third World countries. I have carefully observed that there is a direct correlation between personal happiness and owning a lot of things. But it is an inverse relationship. Only 30 yards from where I am now typing, I will often marvel at Indio children playing joyously for hours with just a coconut and a stick. And yet just down the dock, first world kids will be miserable because their electronic game console is not the latest version. from the damage that insatiable consumption inflicts on the individual, it also has extremely harmful consequences for the larger society. When a person fixates on buying more things and interfacing with more machines, they forget to exercise their power of critical thinking. They are so mesmerized and distracted by the latest iEverything, that they don’t even notice their slide into consumer slavery. A society with a colossal wealth discrepancy between the rich and the poor, with meaningless work that is numbing and degrading and with a tyrannical police/surveillance grid should be cause for code-red alarm. But instead, most people barely notice it because there is an enormous plasma TV in the way.

But our addiction to more and more stuff is not just harmful to individuals and to societies. It is utterly catastrophic to our one and only life-supporting planet. Our constant-growth consumerism pollutes the air, decimates the ocean fish stocks, poisons the rivers and blows away the topsoil.


This combo platter of increasing population growth and unceasing consumer growth is a recipe for societal suicide. Too many people and too much stuff are ravaging all of the support systems that keep us alive. We need breathable air, clean drinkable water, fertile land, plus renewable and non-renewable resources. But we are decreasing all of these vital necessities and at the same time we are increasing all of the waste products that our excesses are generating. This cannot end well! But it CAN end horribly!


P.S. For excellent information on how to steadily decrease population without coercion, visit Bill Ryerson’s site He has nobly dedicated 40 years of his life to this unpopular cause.


Pit Composting

Off the keyboard of Lucid Dreams

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Published on Epiphany Now on December 8, 2013

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Compost is about like anything else as an isolated subject.  It can be as simple as a stinky anaerobic mess in a pile, or as complicated and expensive as a mechanical device with aeration holes that spins on a timer.  Personally I’ve tended towards the former during my career as an aspiring green thumbist.  When I first started gardening in 2007, composting was the first piece of the gardening puzzle I gazed upon with Aspergian hyperfocus.  I read books written about composting and nothing else.  I studied composting…a process that occurs naturally, regardless of the books or the study on my part.  I made large piles of organic nitrogenous materials mixed with the more ubiquitous carbonaceous biomass, at the perfect ratio of 1/30…or 1/20…depending on your source, and I turned those piles with a pitchfork on a regular frequency.  I sprayed the piles with water to keep them at that perfect and mythical “wet as a wrung out sponge” dampness.  I even stuck pvc pipes with holes drilled in them down into the piles to increase oxygenation.  All of this effort was to achieve the perfect black gold to amend my intense garden beds with, and to do so as quickly as possible because that was the challenge.  For a while, I was composting kitchen scraps (and anything else of organic origin) with a sense of pride and achievement.  After I tackled the art of making perfect compost, my gaze was focused elsewhere in the gardening world, and I began my decent back towards anaerobic piles covered up with enough biomass to stunt the stinch.

After reading Gaia’s Garden, I was convinced that the compost pile was a waste of effort for myself.  You have to pile the kitchen scraps up somewhere, at a bare minimum, to create compost.  Then you have to apply that compost somewhere, at least for it to be of some use to you.  Last season I dumped a five gallon bucket full of kitchen scraps into a simple compost bin, and covered it up with straw or mulch or weeds, and repeated all season long.  I probably dumped 20 buckets onto a heap that stayed at about 3 feet in diameter and about 3 feet tall…all year.  The compost was literally being eaten by the soil life, and I imagine it became so rich in that place that nutrients began leaching into the sub soil, into the water table, and away.  While this situation is certainly better than sending all of that biomass to the landfill, it wasn’t much of a yield for me.  I ended up with one wheel barrow load of compost that I applied to one bed.  All of that effort just for one garden beds worth of amendments.  Granted, any chance to participate in any kind of garden alchemy, I’m game, but this seemed too…inefficient for my liking.  I’ve since converted from composting in piles above ground, to pit composting.

Pit composting is an idea I can get behind.  It’s simple, effective, and it minimizes work on my part which frees me up for other things (like telling my son no, and stop that, and put your wiener up).  It certainly isn’t a method for everyone.  Dig the hole deep enough, and cover it up, and even dogs will leave the mess alone.  You can literally compost anything you want (pending it’s actually compostable in the first place).  You won’t have to concern yourself with nitrogen/carbon ratios, moisture, or oxygen content.  No turning of a pile, no checking of temperatures with compost thermometers, no worrying about a pile bursting into flames, no worrying about unwanted volunteers sprouting up, no concern for attracting varmints, and no obnoxious smells to piss the neighbors off.

Dig a hole
Dump 5 gallon bucket full of kitchen scraps in hole
here you can see that I dug the hole on the down hill side of a berm
Allow local feral fauna to inspect and taste kitchen scrap slop, to determine it’s of no interest
Fill hole back in
Enjoy couch meditation in front of the idiot panel with your children, secure in the knowledge that you are saving kitchen scrap from the landfill, and increasing the fertility of your land by enlisting thousands of different life forms beneath ground to do your work for you.  If you listen closely, you can hear the earth worms thank you.

Here Comes the SUN!

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Published on SUN4Living on November 12, 2013

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SUNround * Genesis of the Sustaining Universal Needs Project:  Birth of the SUN *

A few years ago I became a Blogger on the topic of Economic Collapse. I did not start my own Blog back then, rather I blogged on Message Boards and Forums concerning themselves with the topics of Economic collapse and Energy Depletion issues, most specifically the message board. I migrated around quite a bit over the intervening time, to OPBs (Other People’s Blogs) and my own little Yahoo Group Reverse Engineering before setting up the Blog & Forum Doomstead Diner in 2012 with my friend Peter and a few other friends I got to know over the years of Collapse Chat on the internet. first I saw the problem mainly through the lens of Economic Collapse of a Monetary System, I had not back then really worked through yet all the problems which accrue from that, particularly once you factor in Energy Resource Depletion. At first I thought of it something like the Great Depression of the 1930s, but after not too long I saw that the problems were much greater now because of Population Overshoot and depleted Energy Resources. At first I thought like many still do even inside the Collapse Community that we could Reverse Engineer to some earlier technologies like Railroads and Sail, and develop a Sustainable Living paradigm from that. I no longer think so, for a variety of reasons too complex to go into here.

At a certain point in this timeline, not sure precisely when, I realized that simply writing about what was occuring was not sufficient, something more active and constructive was necessary. After many long discussions with friends on the Diner, we developed the idea of the SUN Project. It is built around the concept of Community Action on the small to medium scale. Large Government structures are no longer either responsive to the real needs of people, nor are they very effective in meeting them either. One Kludge after another is dropped into place to keep the system we have running another day, but it is living on Borrowed Time. It is a difficult thing to accept that the way of life we have known here with easy travel by car and jet plane will not persist, harder still to grasp that within many of our lifetimes we likely will not have electricity on demand either. Again, the reasons why this is so are deep and complex, though over time here on SUN we will make further explanations of the problems involved. Not today though in this introduction to SUN.

Creating a structure to harbor resources and Develop Community in our current environment is very difficult. People come from widely disparate economic means, and for most people it is economically out of reach to buy their own patch of land, grow their own food and try to live by more sustainable methods. Even if you DO have means though, and Individual “Doomstead” is not in itself really a very sustainable paradigm. You require quite a few people working in Cooperation to make any type of Sustainable System for Homo Sapiens, just on the lowest level of being able to Protect and Defend your patch of land you need quite a few. So early on in our discussion our core members pitched the idea of small Doomsteads in favor of trying to build a larger Community, with many people involved. The problem here is that in our fractured society as it stands, bringing together many people of disparate means and life experience is pretty difficult. The Infant Project of SUN is designed to try to overcome these problems.

The first and biggest problem for most is one of MONEY, they just don’t have much (in fact quite often NONE). So Fundraising is Primary as a goal to make SUN a reality, and to do that we formed our 501c3 Non-Profit corporation, Sustaining Universal Needs. We created a membership system that allows people to “buy in” at a nominal cost, or to gain similar membership through “Sweat Equity”, working to build the organization in numerous ways. paradigm for living is one much simpler and less dependent on energy input than the current one, which includes much more simple housing as well. Mostly we do not believe in putting up permanent structures for housing, but rather smaller and more portable ones. This is not to say we think everybody should be living in Tents either though! There is a middle ground to be struck here which is sustainable, and still has a decent amount of Creature Comforts most of us are used to. Even if some of these middle ground housing arrangements are not long term sustainable, they are less energy intensive and can hopefully provide a bridge toward long term sustainable living.

Similarly, though long term it may be impossible to keep Electrical systems working, that does not necessarily mean you can’t keep some electricity working in your community some of the time, even if your local electrical grid goes down. Most of us would prefer not to give up this marvelous invention of the Industrial society sooner than we absolutely have to.

The greatest problems faced are in terms of Food & Water Security. Access to these most basic needs for life is essential, and in a failure of our larger system of Just In Time delivery and the monetary system that serves to distribute these products, it is necessary to build your own resilient local system to replace that. Here on SUN, we seek to find and develop the best means for doing that with the lowest energy inputs possible and least damage to the surrounding environment possible. This is ongoing work for SUN members at all levels.

In the end, the goal is to disseminate the knowledge, to teach more people to be self sufficient while at the same time securing our own needs in this world. Following beneath this page you will find the Prospectus for the SUN Non Profit, its directions and goal, its means and methods as we begin to change our way of living, together. We hope to find many more people through the SUN Website who will join with us in this project and contribute what they can as they can to its success.

No Man is an Island. There are hard times ahead, and though the society at large probably will not change direction until it is too late, Individuals and small communities CAN come together to make the necessary changes. Read through our Prospectus if this interests you, and talk with us. Help us to pave the way to a Better Tomorrow.


For Whom the Bell Tolls
XVII. MEDITATION.John DonnePERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

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