Really interesting video from engineer775 Practical Preppers
What is Cob?
Cob is a natural material used to build houses, barns, and smaller structures. Cob is made of earth (subsoil), water, fibrous organic material such as straw, and sometimes lime is mixed in. You mix this natural material with your hands and feet to form lumps of earth mixed with either sand or straw. It’s an easy construction to learn and one of the most inexpensive forms of building
A cob house is cool in the summer and will remain warm in the winter. Cob is resistant to rain and cold conditions. As well as resistant to dry and humid conditions. Alternative building methods that use earth to construct homes are 100% recyclable, non-toxic, require no special equipment, and use only natural, sustainable materials.
The basics of building with cob.
1. Compress the land.
Even out the dips in your building site and make sure there are no soft places that could possibly sink in. Once the house site is compressed, cover it with a layer of sand to ensure the building site is even. You want a flat, smooth surface to begin.
You could build a concrete foundation all natural is better. Simply form a cob floor. Cob is durable once dried. You can paint it or sprinkle sand on top of the floor and seal it and it will be skid proof. There are many different options and different designs when building using cob construction.
3. Mix the cob.
Once your main ingredients are mixed. Pull out the longest pieces from straw bales and mix together with the mud mixture until you form balls that do not flatten out when dropped.
4. Build cob walls
After mixing, form lumps and add a handful at a time, forming a wall, smoothing out and shaping as you go. You will want to make sure the wall is the same thickness from bottom to top so it doesn’t thin out at the top leaning inwards. You can work on building a cob house for months. You can add wet cob to dry cob and it will bond, unlike concrete.
5. Doors and Windows
The best option is to form both windows and doors using frames. You can sink wood directly into the wet cob. The wet mud mixture will not destroy the wooden frames. The cob will dry causing no harm to the wood and giving you a strong frame. You can then fit suitable doors and windows.
6. Special Additions
This is your cob house. Make it as personal as you desire. You can build an oven out of cob. You can build and shape your own nooks and crannies to store your books or other items. You can form bookshelves right into the cob walls. You can shape shelves into the wall to display your personal belongings. You can even add staircases. Make the stairs straight, curved, or they can also be built right into the wall. You can be as creative as you want, add your own personal touches. This is your cob house, your home.
At the top of each cob wall, you can form a roof with wood or beams. It is your choice on how to construct your cob house’s roof. Whatever you choose, tin, mud, solar panels, etc., be sure the roof will be able to hold up against the weather and elements of your site location.
8. Almost finished
Did you know you can paint cob once it dries? You can paint the interior and exterior of your cob house any color you choose. Build a cob barn or coop on your land to match your new cob house. Stick with being eco-friendly and green. Raise your own animals and build a huge garden.
You are probably wondering about hygiene and electric. During construction, when forming your cob walls is when you will add in these functions. If you want electricity or plumbing, simply build the pipes or wires into the walls. The cob will not harm them in any way. You may need to add insulation depending on the climate. You can also add insulation when constructing your home. If you want these features, do not forget to add them as you are building. You would not want to destroy your home and rebuild it if you forget to install something important.
Alternative Building Methods
There are other ways to build sustainable homes that are made of natural materials beside using cob construction.
• Strawbale- Stack strawbales and finish with plaster or earth.
• Logs- A popular and beautiful structure, a log cabin. A house built using logs.
• Adobe- A clay brick method similar to cobconstruction. This a hard and laborious form of construction. The clay brick mix is similar to concrete. Once, you form the bricks and they dry. You will then build your structure. Not an easy task depending on the size of the clay bricks.
• Rammed earth – Soil that is compressed into a mold.
There are countless other methods as well. I’ll stick with building a house using cob construction. A cob house is sustainable, fireproof, the walls have a high thermal mass to keep warm in cold weather and stay cool in the hot summer. You may need to upkeep the exterior walls every decade or so due to rain. Or you can simply buy a waterproof stain to cover your house with to prevent the rain from wearing down the walls if you are in a place with constant, heavy downpours. On the contrary, cob houses are made to last. Homes built using cob construction will withstand the wears and tears of time. After the construction is complete, the cob house will last for generations to come.
Many people have already fallen in love with the idea of helping the planet by recycling. This is an old idea that has been around for many years. But did you know there is a different way to recycle that can benefit the environment and your wallet at the same time? Today we are going to learn how everyone can benefit from starting a worm farm, even if they live in an apartment.
What Is Worm Farming?
When you recycle by composting with worms you are not only getting rid of old newspapers or food scraps, you are creating organic compost that can be used to fertilize your plants. One of the best parts of owning a warm farm is that can start out very small. A small worm farm can be set up in even the tiniest of apartments. All you need is a small container to put your worms in and a nice cool place to keep them. It can be a kitchen counter top or a small closet.
The Benefits of Worm Farming
Below you will find eight of the top benefits of owning a wormery. These benefits are wide ranging and they offer something for everyone no matter the size of their worm farm.
1. Worm farms can be small or very big depending on your needs: As stated above a wormery can as small as a large shoebox or as big as an entire building. Depending on your needs you can scale your worm farm to any size necessary.
2. They produce organic compost: Worm farms produce chemical-free compost that is 100% organic. This compost works great on just about any plant and it will help your garden grow healthy and strong all season long.
3. A wormery can make you money: If you have a medium to large sized wormery, you can make money selling organic compost, fish bait and worm tea (a compost made from worm castings). This will allow you to be more economically sound and it cost very little to get started.
4. They are super low maintenance: Smaller worm farms only take a few minutes each day to take care of. So even if you are a super busy person, you can still find time to have your very own wormery.
5. They are great for kids: Small children are very fascinated with the natural world and a worm farm can teach them a lot. The classroom is the perfect place to start a worm farm to teach school-aged children to learn about composting and the soil conservation.
6. You won’t need to buy fertilizer: Owning a wormery will give you all the fertilizer you will ever need for your plants. As any gardener knows organic fertilizers can be very expensive to buy so having a worm farm can save you lots of money.
7. They produce no bad odours: Unlike a traditional compost pile, that gives off rotting odours, a worm farm is orderless. This will allow you to keep a wormery in your home without anyone noticing.
8. Worm farms help reduce global worming: Instead of allowing your food waste to be placed in the local landfill, why not feed it to the worms. Worm farms give off no greenhouse gasses which helps reduce your carbon footprint.
If we’ve convinced you that you need a wormery there are a host of helpful courses and ebooks to help you. Here are three I like.
Keeping chickens in your back yard is a trend that has been rising steadily for quite a few years and you can easily see why. Fresh eggs are first on the list but chickens are actually more useful and interesting than that. Lets take a look learn more about these interesting creatures.
Self-sustainability to free therapy are just some of the reasons below to keep chickens in your own backyard:
Fresh eggs…perfect in the morning when you can’t be bothered changing and dragging yourself to the shop to buy eggs. A healthy and fresh breakfast straight out of your yard.
A diet of soy cottonseed meals and corn is fed to caged hens – three GMO crops we don’t want in our food. If “you are what you eat” means something to you, then you will be very wary of eating eggs coming from these types of hens. With your own chickens, you will know exactly what they are eating.
Eggs from a free range chicken in your backyard have much more nutritious than battery eggs.
Vitamin A and Beta Carotene (essential for good eyesight) levels are seven times higher and Vitamin E is almost double in free range eggs. Omega 3, an essential fatty acid (necessary for healthy cholesterol, heart and mental and behavioural health), free range comes out in front with a huge 292mg,compared to a miserable 0.033 mg in other eggs.
Nutritious and organic, you can be sure that your scrambled eggs are cruelty free. It is possible that you already believe that by buying free range, you are supporting a life free from cruelty for farmed chickens but the fact is the “free range eggs” that are commercially marketed are not as good as we think. The percentage of free range chickens in the US is less than 1%.
Chickens have an amazing memory and are able to tell the difference of over 100 animal or human faces? They feel pain and distress, they dream, and they love to play. They are fantastic mothers-while theirs chicks are in the egg, they talk to them. When we hear the saying “Pecking Order’ you should know it didn’t come about for no reason. Hens have a social structure which is based on hierarchy.
Save a Hen
Save an ex-battery hen from the slaughterhouse. There are hundreds of millions of chickens which are crammed into cages which are incredibly small. Give them a chance and you will have a fantastic companion as well as an endless supply of free range eggs.
Fertilizer for Free
If you’re proud of your garden, then free manure is something to celebrate. Chicken manure has high nutrient levels making it one of the best manures. It is also important in organic and sustainable agriculture.
It is said that keeping 5 – 10 chickens would give you the amount fertilizer that you need to look after your yard and vegetable garden for a year. It makes a perfect addition to your compost too.
How You Can Use Eggshells In Your Garden
The perfect buddy for every gardener. No need for pesticides or chemical bug killers once you get your backyard chickens! Chickens eat almost any bug, slugs, grasshoppers, beetles and ticks so no more chemical pest control is needed.
17% or 29 million tons of waste that finds it’s way to landfills is food scraps, waste from the yards is actually around 33 million tonnes. Chickens will be a great help here!
Chickens will eat almost any kitchen scraps in addition to chicken food. They will devour almost anything from bread, vegetable and fruit scraps and cooked rice just to name a few. Best to avoid animal by products and meat though.
Not all chickens are created equal and not all are any use as meat, some are bred to get the maximum eggs possible. This means chickens look much different from their forefathers.
If you take on a heritage breed be sure to get the right one for your based on your location, space and their temperament.
The perfect source of manure and pest control all at once, your garden will no longer have weeds taking over.
Recommended Reading: Garden Weeds: 8 Of The Most Effect Ways To Get Rid Of Them For Good
Chickens have been used as therapy to assist the elderly and people with autism. Children with autism feed and care for them which promotes independence. Dementia and psychiatric patients have been helped as chickens move, peck and socialize constantly, and they have a calming quality.
Where Does Food Come From
Fantastic for teaching kids about agriculture, nature and caring for not just these beautiful animals but for all animals.
Watching these lovely animals with such individual personalities can keep you occupied for hours.
Less Food Miles
Keeping your own chickens cuts this impact on the environment right down. No transporting from producer to consumer.
Keeping chickens ensures free eggs, keeping away pests and weed control and fertilizer.
With chickens in your yard you can add a little bit of country to your home.
Backyard Chicken Raiser Communities
There are loads of backyard chicken raisers out there in real life and on the internet. Chicken keeping is great for starting conversations too.
An Amazing Hobby
Low maintenance and rewarding as a hobby. Sunday afternoons spent with your chicks….perfect.
Don’t Build The Chicken Coop Yet
Chickens are dependent on you for everything. Ask yourself a few questions to be sure that you can adequately care for these lovely animals.
Can you protect them from predators? What about the elements?
Will you care from them in their old age?
What if it isn’t a hen but a rooster? Are you OK with a rooster crowing at the crack of dawn?
You will need to look at the cost of food, hen-sitting-if you go away or are ill.
All these things need to be taken into account before you decide to take on backyard chickens. They are beautiful creatures who need to be loved and cared for properly.
If you decide you want to keep chickens I thoroughly recommend “Chicken Keeping Answers”.
Solar systems in homes should be installed by professionals as there are many risks and hazards. It should be fitted with suitable AC and DC wiring to reduce fire risks, proper earth grounding to eliminate shock and lightning threats, correct battery and placement to minimize gas buildup and an accurately sized solar array or panel.
Solar energy in itself, isn’t something new. The Solar Foundation reports that currently over one hundred thousand people are employed and are working successfully in the United States solar industry. “Apple” as well as “Google” is making use of solar energy to run their companies. It is a greener form of energy and is renewable which can be used to any extent unlike the exhaustible form of energies. It is been reported that Apple will be manufacturing solar panels to help improve the usage of solar energy instead of fossil energy.
Using Solar Energy Today
Technology plays a key role in such shifts. Since the twentieth century, technology has been the central change bringing nucleus. When these changes and system shifts are combined with problems that humans create, such as population explosion or global warming, it often forms a reaction that human beings cannot control at all. This may be termed as the environmental reaction.
Using solar energy is one of such major developments. Technology enables us to use the power of the sun to harness electricity. And a good off-grid solar power system is one of the best examples of solar power mixed with technology.
So, how can you make your own small off grid solar power system?
This is a complicated task and should be undertaken by professionals. But many enthusiasts and people want to install a small solar power system in their cottages or vacation cabins where there is no electricity. This guide will show how to make your own solar power system based on battery for lighting a few bulbs and powering a DC freezer or water pump. You need to stick to the guide and use all the items as mentioned specifically.
Here is a look at a step by step guide that will help you do it easily.
Words of caution
Using 12 volt DC equipments and tools to build anoff the grid solar power system poses minimal risk of shock threats and many lights and electrical appliances can work on this load. Still it is essential to practice caution as use exactly the same materials instructed.
The deep discharge batteries are loaded with stored amps ranging in hundreds that can melt wires and start a fire. A good way is to purchase ready made solar power kits available in the market.
Battery power and amount
The number of batteries and how many you will need depends on your power consumption. Generally two 12 volt batteries will suffice for turning on the light in two to three rooms. If you want to add a DC freezer or pump to the list then you will require two to four 6 volt batteries. Refrain from using standard car batteries as they are not suited for regular household use. That is unless you have access to plentiful and very cheap secondhand ones, they will last a while and can be used as a stopgap.
Ideally you’ll be using 12 volt RV batteries or the 6 volt batteries used in golf carts. They can be found easily and the price is not very high. GEL or AGM version batteries can be a bit expensive but they do not need any maintenance and cut down the threat of explosive gases.
Sealed batteries can be useful in a cabin scenario with not much space to spare. Battery banks in colder regions with temperatures less than 35 degrees should be properly insulated to conserve their battery charge.
Solar panels and array
The number of batteries installed in the bank decides how many solar arrays you need. The location of the panels is also an important factor that comes into play. The less sunlight the panels get the more you’ll need. A poor climate will obviously need a lot more panels than a spot in the middle of a desert.
Location of Solar Array
Solar modules are lightweight and can be mounted on poles, roofs, upon a raised frame mounted on the ground or any place receiving enough sunlight. The system should be properly put into place using durable and long aluminium screws that bolt into the main frame or pole. There are cases where strong winds have torn solar arrays from their fixings.
Angle of Solar Array
Most of the sunlight comes from the south so your solar modules should be faced in that direction. Some places receive sunlight during later part of the day and making the angle towards southwest is beneficial. The optimum all year round performance can be achieved by tilting the panels at an angle equal to the region’s latitude. A lesser tilt results in more power output during summer while a steep angle works for the winter. Adjust the angle of the solar modules according to the time of the year.
Size of Solar Modules
The wattage you require to charge your batteries will impact the array sizing. The basic 12 volt solar modules generate lesser than 100 watts. Typically a single deep-cycle 12 volt marine/RV battery or a 6 volt golf cart battery stores around 1 kWh of electricity at a time when discharge is 50%. Considering that, four to five hours of sunlight in a day needs to produce approximately 200 watts of solar module power to charge a battery fully in one day.
The loss of sunlight can be encountered by increasing the number of arrays or cutting down on power consumption. People sometime think it is better to use numerous batteries and solar arrays through parallel connection but there are many problems. It is wise to go for high capacity arrays and batteries which last longer and perform better than local and cheap low range models.
Precautions for Wiring and Safety Equipment
The amount of amp current increases even when the voltage is less in case of DC connections. An electrical appliance working on 120 volts AC requires ten times more amp current while running on 12 volt DC. The wattage remains unchanged even when voltage fluctuates. For example, two light bulbs of 100 watt require 1.8 amps to glow at 120 volt AC (200watts/120 volts). The wiring can be done using a #14 sized wire with an amp rating of 15. But on 12 volt DC, the same bulbs draw a load of 18 amps (200watts/120 volts). So it cannot be wired using the above sized wire of 15 amp rating. The same sums can be used for 240volt areas.
Using low voltage powering system does not cut down risks of fires or overload. Every wire carrying a load in the cottage has to be fitted with proper fuses and circuit breakers. Generally the DC compatible fuses and circuit breakers are much expensive and larger than their AC counterparts of the same wattage. They are not easily available in shops so it can be a hard task to get one.
One product from Square, the D “QO” range of AC circuit breakers is compatible with DC supply up to 48 volts DC. You can purchase the Square D “QO” subpanel with eight circuits and 10 to 15 amp circuit breakers of the same model for single poles. Do not go for fixtures used in cars as they are unfit for household use.
The power generated by your solar power system will not last long if you use standard light bulbs. So you should buy energy efficient lighting and appliances to conserve the power. The local boating or RV electrical supply store is a good place to find proper lighting gear and fixtures, which is made easier because you’re using 12 volts..
Most of the 12 volt lighting and appliances are weather resistant and fit for outdoor use. It is better to go for lighting systems with internal power switch as it eliminates the need of additional purchases. Furthermore, DC switches are difficult to come by and the process also increases the total expense of wiring.
The cottage can be provided with basic plumbing system using a 12 volt DC pressure pump. It can send the water to the bathroom shower or the washbasin without the need of a deep well pump. The storage can be placed on the cottage and can be refilled with stream water, river water or any clean source nearby.
The water may not be suitable for cooking or drinking unless it is a clear running stream. You can boil the water or use packaged drinking water. The water tank should have proper outlets located at the lower part so that water can be drained out. It is necessary in cold climate to prevent freezing inside the tank.
Refrigeration or Freezer
Using a refrigerator on a solar power system hugely increases the load. It means you have to have larger arrays and battery backup. Another alternative is buying a specialized off the grid 12 volt DC freezer or a propane powered one.
This can be bought from the RV or the boating store and are quite expensive. They range around £600 to £1200 but can be a fruitful investment if you want to use them for a long term. Sunfrost and Sundazer companies have some 12 volt DC freezers which consume less power and can work efficiently on a solar system.
All wiring and fixtures should be used in accordance with regulations where ever you are. It is better to use a wire of larger size if the total wire length required in more than 50 feet. It is safe even though the load may be small. We already discussed that wiring for 12 volt DC carries 10 times more amp current than 120 volt AC. So increasing the wire sizing reduces the electrical resistance and leverage’s output. Opt for copper wiring as they have higher amp rating than cheap aluminium wires. Also use copper connectors and wiring equipment to save on cost and hassle.
Location of Circuit Breaker
Your DC lighting equipments and appliances may not come with power switches. To makes things convenient, place the circuit breaker near the front door. This way you can switch the loads easily through the circuit breaker. AC switches do not work with DC connections and should never be used. IF you want a plug point, you have to buy one marked for DC connections.
Solar Array and Battery Wiring
The solar modules are equipped with male and female connectors and the smaller ones have an electrical junction box on each of them. They have to be connected together through parallel wiring for the 12 volt batteries. Using a combiner box is helpful which cuts down the hassles of wiring. A charge controller is necessary to keep the batteries safe from overcharging.
There must be a charge controller connecting each module to the battery. You will need a large capacity charge controller if you run more than four solar arrays. You can cut down on parallel wiring and do it in series to get 24 or 48 volt solar modules connected with a 12 volt battery bank. Install a fuse on the positive wire connecting the solar module and the charge controller. Put another one between the charge controller and the battery.
We are operating at low voltage, still it is necessary to have a proper grounding for the power system. It can get damaged by lightning or produce shocks. The solar arrays have specific holes built-in where you can connect a bare copper wire and connect to the ground. You should use a ground rod and connect the bare wire to it. The other end can be screwed with a plate to the grounding hole in the array. Proper grounding needs to be done for fuse and the circuit breaker. You can use a #6 copper wire for the purpose.
Testing and Power Up
All wiring should be checked thoroughly with a volt-ohm meter. Ensure there is no short connection and all the positive leads and negative leads are connected to their respective counterparts on the battery. Using multiple batteries often bring up the problem of voltage mismatch.
You have to check them out and see if the voltages are correct. After this you can turn on the power and get electricity flowing in your off grid solar power system.
If you want more in depth information on installing solar systems I recommend “Free Energy Options” which will discuss every type of power generation you’ll need. Check it out here.
A generator can come in handy if you need large amounts of power for your particular needs, especially if you live off-grid. But you don’t necessarily have to invest in a large, loud and expensive generator that may not even last as long as expected. Rather, consider going for a Listeroid or Lister clone diesel engine, which is relatively more robust, reliable, and efficient.
Lister diesel engines were first introduced in 1929, with a horsepower of 5hp at 600rpm. These were soon replaced by the 6hp 650rpm standard engines. These cold-start engines came out in various models before their production ended gradually between the 70s and 80s. When you see the build quality it is not surprising the old engines are still going strong today, sometimes used along a more recent group of “Listeroids”.
The Listeroids are Indian versions of the original English Lister engines. These are sold in varying degrees of price and quality. The primary components have a high quality covering, but the engines need to be cleaned to get rid of any sand on the casting that may quickly damage your new engine. The most common grievance is mostly reported on the finishing and final assembly. Once they have been thoroughly cleaned and checked they provide similar power and reliability as the original engines.
You can use the original generators that came with the “Startomatic” Listers or a more modern
generator or alternator to charge your battery tank or operate demanding equipment. But there is much more to a Lister engine than just making electricity than those benefits. It can power any older machinery with a belt drive, as well as modern equipment such as water pumps.
The slower rpm and indirect fuel injection of the Lister engine enhance its ability to reduce wear and burn alternative fuels. Waste oils such biodiesel and waste vegetable oil are great alternatives to run diesel for your workhorse. Lister diesel engines have been shown to run for decades with little to no maintenance.
Any maintenance it does need should not be a source of concern. The limited number of components and simple design of the engine allows anyone with minimum experience to conduct most maintenance tasks. The engine can weigh up to 1,000lbs, but fortunately, once situated it is not necessary to move it even in the unlikely event of major work being needed.
It doesn’t matter if you are buying a Listeroid or reassembling an original Lister diesel – these engines come with lots benefits, including long lasting performance, simple construction, and multiple fuel choices, making it an ideal alternative for most homesteads.
Land is expensive in the UK. Agricultural land is pricey and if it has a house or some sort of permission to live it can be extremely expensive. It’s not at all uncommon to see £1,000,000 plus prices for quite small houses if they have a good area of land attached. This is a function of the large population and small land area available. You can find smallholdings in Wales or some other areas for under £500,000, sometimes even under £250,000 but that’s still ten times what you’ll pay in Spain or Portugal.
Living on the land
Planning permission is very hard to get in many country areas and is bitterly opposed by some locals. You can stay on the land for limited periods in a caravan or tent but for permanent habitation proper permission is required. Effectively you have to have some capital or be connected, lucky or very determined.
Climate is generally benign compared to continental area. Being surrounded by water Britain suffers far less in the way of temperature extremes than other larger land masses. Rainfall is between 600mm and 800mm for most of the country. Parts of Scotland and north west England go up to 1200mm with the absolute extreme being the far north west of Scotland getting over 2000mm (take a wetsuit and aqualung).
Regulations and taxes
If you are an EU citizen you could go and live there with no problematic visas however this may change as and when Brexit takes place. Apart from the planning permission problems council tax can be expensive. It will almost certainly be £1500 plus per year. However this is offset by very much better than average taxation for the self employed. National Insurance is half or less of most EU states and self assessment means paying income tax can generally be avoided with a decent accountant or some reading up on the regulations and tailoring your business to that.
Property rights are very good and the legal system is probably the most reliable you’ll find. Not always fast or cheap but thorough and with a good solicitor you are unlikely to have ownership issues unlike many countries with more “flexible” legal systems.
Overall the UK is a good place to go off the grid if you have access to land with permission to live on it. Plenty of rainfall, good property rights and tolerable taxation. Biggest downside is that initial purchase of land is going to be expensive or difficult.
If you manage to get going in the UK drop me a line, send some pictures and tell me how you did it.
Simply put, a food forest is exactly what it sounds like it should be, except that it doesn’t have to be planted in a forest. In fact, these gardens are so diverse that they can be planted anywhere, as long as there is a patch of land available. A food forest can also be described as a type of land management system or one of various different gardening techniques. In a food forest, the environment imitates the ecosystem of a forest, by replacing usual greenery with edible plants such as annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs.
On the lowest level of the food forest’s ecosystem is where the edible annuals, perennials, and shrubs reside. Trees are at and occupy the top-most level of the ecosystem in the food forest.
Food forests are typically designed to not only resemble the ecosystem of food forests, but to resemble the patterns that plants that would usually grow within a forest, such as which plants can be found growing near or next to each other. It has been described by experts as not necessarily gardening in a forest, although this can be an option, but gardening like a forest. These patterns have previously been described as being mutually beneficial for each plant. Occasionally, food forests will also include plants that mimic the effects that forest animals have on the ecosystem.
Examples of foods that can be grown in a food forest include, but are not limited to, vegetables, nuts, fruits, mushrooms, and herbs. Each food forest is different. Many common products harvests by food forests include fuel, fibre, food, and fertilizer.
When designed carefully, a food forest planter can create a beautiful garden that yields a large amount of growth. Whether created by a professional or an amateur, if designed properly, a food forest can be mostly self-sustaining and maintaining.
Petrol and Diesel Generators for Off the Grid Living
Power is of the utmost necessity nowadays and lack of it can be a problem. That’s why in the case of an outage, many activities are paralysed and a whole city may come to a standstill. That isn’t a problem for off grid situations as they will already have other means of generating power. There are several ways of doing that- solar panels, wind turbine or generators.
Power generators come in various forms and one may not be sure which to purchase. Popular options include petrol and diesel generators. So as to assist you in coming up with an informed choice that will be worth your money, let’s take a look at the pros and cons to these generators:
These are usually the popular option and for a reason. Here are some pros to show you why. The first advantage that diesel generators have over petrol generators is that they are very efficient with fuel. Due to the motor’s high compression of fuel, it ensures that more of the fuel ends up in combustion and less goes to waste.
Doing a cost comparison to petrol generators, diesel generators are cheaper to run. For this reason, diesel generators are found providing the power in most industries. As such, if you are looking for an off grid power option but on a budget, a diesel generator is a viable generator.
Another good point of diesel generators is that they last longer. This is because diesel generators do not have to work as much as petrol generators so as to get equal power output and they are generally built more robustly. This means that the engine parts usually under less stress than the faster running lighter weight petrol alternatives. Also, another contributing factor is that diesel is usually self-lubricating. This means that the fuel delivery system to a diesel generator lasts longer than in a petrol generator.
Disadvantages are they emit more fumes compared to petrol generators per litre of fuel. However, the fact that they use less fuel may give them the upper hand.
They can be expensive to fix so even though they may be long lasting, once they fail, you can get a big bill. Be aware this is not always the case, particularly with older designs.
Compared to diesel generators, petrol generators have a wider choice of models to choose from, particularly for the smaller models, which means that you can get a model that suits your price range easily. Even though diesel generators are hyped on being fuel efficient, petrol generators come in various kinds of economy models and additional features which ensure that gap is bridged.
Petrol generators are lighter weight so if portability, for power tool use or similar, they can be better.
Unfortunately for petrol generators, the fuel is more volatile than diesel. This means that it is less safe to transport in bulk due to the risk of accidents.
Having to generate a spark for ignition means they can be more prone to breakdown. This also leads to more maintenance issues compared to diesel generators. They also tend to heat up more than diesel generators. This means that they tend to suffer more wear to their lighter weight parts leading to a shorter lifespan.
Overall I’d have a petrol generator for short term portable use and a heavily built diesel for long term fixed applications. Depending on your situation and mechanical aptitude I’d suggest looking at vintage Lister generators for really long term reliability. You can read about them in my other posts. If you just want a plug and play generator that has electric start and requires no more mechanical knowledge than you can get from the owners handbook then go for a modern quality make (petrol or diesel) and you’ll be very happy with your choice.
What are polytunnels?
Polytunnels that you can refer to by other names such as poly house, hoop greenhouse, hoop house, or even hoping tunnel are tunnel made of polythene. The tunnels are semicircular in shape resembling the popular glass green houses. The tunnels are made in such a way that any warmth absorbed cannot escape from the tunnels enabling plants to grow with enough warmth and regulated amount of light.
The wall of the tunnels can be fitted with equipment’s to help regulate conditions such as temperature humidity and ventilation. Having you crops protected from hash conditions will guarantee you better quality of the produce and also increase of the harvest. This will in turn fetch high prices making you revenues override the costs. The polytunnels are therefore a good investment despite the cost that you may incur in purchasing them.
Uses of polytunnels
Polytunnels will mainly come in handy in temperate regions however they can be used practically almost everywhere. They are mainly used in organic farming of fruits and vegetables and also flowers. Their structure is in such a way that it provides higher temperature /humidity than that which is provided by normal temperatures. Polytunnels in most cases will be used in floriculture and nurseries as the returns are high hence making them worth to be grown in the polythene tunnels.
Types of polytunnels
Polytunnels have the same basic structure however there maybe variation depending on your farming needs. The main types are:
Regular polytunnels- this is a single span tunnel with opening at both ends. The tunnels have straight sides to ensure good working space. The cover is normally fixed by either trenching or fixing to abase trail. Their cost is relatively affordable and easy to maintain.
Solar tunnels-the tunnels usually come in a standard straight sides tunnel design the cover is not a single sheet as in regular models ,the tunnels ate usually covers by a double=layered mesh filmed with a green nylon mesh. This feature makes them more resistant to damage better insulation but light transmission is poorer
Panel houses- the panels are usually a hybrid between regular tunnels and green houses. The structures have a variety of polytunnels type frame to support plastic panels. The best types of plastic polytunnels are made of a dual wall with bubbles embedded between the layers giving a very strong covering. The major limitation however is the cost involved.
Self-build tunnels- self-build tunnels are simple structure which persons can build using a self-guide on the internet. Some of the materials that you may need are rigid plastic piping and lumber. The structure I anchored to the ground to make it firm. The limitation is that the plastic piping will become weak with time due to the effect of ultraviolet rays.
Advantages of polytunnels
Allows farmers to grow organic foods throughout the year even in times considered to be harsh for growth of plants such as fruits and crops.
Some of the high tech polymer have space heating systems as well as soil-heating systems to purify systems that allow soil purification of unwanted viruses bacteria and other living organismsThe polytunnela provide enough space to allow for the farmer o prepare bedding for his pants such as vegetable from the seed so as to ensure quality strains are produced.
Also allows the farming of crops that would otherwise not grow well outdoors, such plants include melons, cucumbers, okra, peppers, tomatoes, flowers and aubergins.
Polytunnels provide convenient working space during harsh weather conditions for example when it is raining, during winter and even harsh summers. Polytunnels are considerably cheap and affordable as compared to greenhouses made of glass. Some of the limitations of having to use polytunnels. Though polytunnels have advantages there are also shortcomings the come with having using polytunnels.
You have to ensure that there is a reliable water supply in the tunnels which can be easily regulated. Due to poor lighting in the tunnels fungi growth may be encouraged hence there is need for careful management to avoid such problems.
The doors need to be opened and closed regularly to allow for air movement which may call for most of your time. Polytunnels may serve for a period of time; however they may not last forever as light transmission decreases with age. Another disadvantage is that due to static the polytunnels are likely to catch a lot of dust making them unsightly
How to maintain your polytunnels
Polytunnels are normally large in size. Taking care of them will require dedication and a lot of hard work. However large your polytunnel is, it is always advisable to wash it inside out once in a year, this will ensure that the hoop house allows light penetration which dust will hnder.
The covers are likely to last for a maximum period of three to four years after which you need to replace them, however some of the latest versions of polythene sheets can last up to 10 years.
Another important aspect is in planning your tunnel .The crops in the tunnel should be well spaced to avoid overcrowding for maximum yield and better returns from your farming.
Overall a polytunnel can provide a lot of protected growing space for far less than traditional greenhouses at the expense of a shorter lifespan. An ideal stopgap whilst finances are short or, if you don’t mind replacing covers every few years, a long term option for large indoor growing.
Off The Grid Living in Spain
This is an article in a series that may help anyone thinking of relocating to various countries to live off the grid.
This is all information I gathered when looking into doing exactly that. I wanted to buy some cheap land, live off grid, sell a few vegetables or fruit and generally do my own thing and mind my own business.
I’m going to start with Spain as that was the one I identified as having well priced land and tolerable planning laws.
You can buy land very cheaply. In one area, near Tarragona in Catalonia, I’ve seen 4 hectares of land with a ruin selling for 6500 euros. Others I’ve seen go for anything from 15000E to 100000E and include 50 hectare properties with liveable farmhouses. Prices are similar across Spain but obviously in tourist areas you’re going to pay more. Land is surprisingly cheap compared to holiday villas in Spain. In some countries you will pay a large premium to have a house with land in the country but not Spain, almost the opposite.
Living on the land
There are ways and means of arranging to live on the land either in caravans, yurts rebuilt ruins, converted barns. If there is already a house there it makes your life easier as permits can be obtained to “repair the roof”. Locals use this as an undercover way to virtually rebuild the whole place but be careful, check out the local way of doing things as regulations and levels of tolerance do differ greatly. Ask some people who are living off grid there already if you can. It is possible to just roll up in a caravan and live there but a surprise visit from the authorities after a tip off might make your life hard.
There is a very big variation in temperature and rainfall in Spain. Along the northern coast there is very high precipitation throughout the year. Up to 1200mm, which is a lot. I thought England got a lot at 700mm but 1200mm- wow. The Pyrenean mountains also get high rainfall and lower temperatures. Down the eastern coast there is tolerable amounts- 300 to 500mm lessening the further south you go. Contrary to the old saying “The rain is Spain falls mainly on the plain” it actually doesn’t. The central plain is high, quite cold in winter and mainly pretty dry. Good ways to estimate the sort of rainfall you’ll get in a particular area is look at rainfall maps that are easily available online. You’ll be able to see where to avoid and where to start looking. Then have a look at satellite pictures on Google Maps. The greener the area the higher the rainfall. Personally I’d want 450mm+ as anything less will make your life a lot harder.
Regulations and taxes
If you are an EU citizen you could go and live there with no problematic visas however you have to register with the local town hall if you live there more than 3 months. Then you are either a temporary resident or permanent resident. Obviously if you’re running a farm or other business you’ll probably be a permanent resident. To register as permanent you have to show you have the means to live in Spain without becoming a burden on their social security system. Fair enough. If you have a pension no problem, foreign income no problem as long as you’re not working in Spain. If you are employed no problem, your employer will sort taxes. However, if you want to be self employed in Spain you have to register as an Autonomo (autonomous individual- which I thought we all are anyway).
An autonomo has to pay social security monthly. That payment is a lot more than we pay here in the UK. It is 265 euros a month. 3180 euros a year. Add to that the cost of an accountant 100e pm upwards, income tax, VAT (which is payable on the first euro you make unlike the UK where I have never in 25 years of self employment been VAT registered).
Now if you’re going to start a big business or earn lots of cash from consultancy or other high powered work that’s not so much of an issue. If, however you’re going to flog a few olives now and again just to pay your very low costs on a permaculture farm or supplement your pension doing a bit of eBay selling then you’re going to be paying out a lot more than you’re getting in. You will be needing 500 euros a month to pay your dues before anything else. Yes you can claim lots of expenses and maybe get a refund sometime in the future but I wouldn’t like to have to wait on the completely bankrupt Spanish government to pay me back when they get round to it.
This is a massive issue in Spain and has led to very many would be entrepreneurs being discouraged or leaving Spain. It is also why many Spaniards evade taxes and work in the black economy. I don’t blame them, who wouldn’t? It is certainly a big factor in Spain’s abysmal economic performance but this fact is totally ignored by the state of course.
There are workers cooperatives that take some of the tax burden off you but you still have to pay them and they don’t really work for cash businesses like farmers markets.
One good thing about taxes in Spain is that local council tax is very low, around a tenth of what you pay on a very ordinary house in England.
So beware. Do your homework and see how these factors affect your situation. Things may change and I recommend that you check these facts as bureaucrats have a habit of changing tax rules very often just to catch you out and justify their miserable parasitic existence.
If you decide to move there and make a beautiful off grid food forest farm send me some pictures and remember I’m always available to come and have a holiday on your piece of paradise.
The Food Forest
This is an amazing concept that I came across online, the best way of growing food I’ve found. It is, essentially using on contour ditches (swales) and ponds to hold rainwater on the land rather than allowing it to drain away immediately. This replenishes the water table on your own land and others below you. A good water table on your land is like money in the bank- really nice to have.
Once you have plenty of ground water you can plant all kinds of ground cover, fruit trees, vegetables and just about anything else that will eventually give you an abundance of food without the constant weeding and watering that conventional gardening requires.
I recently helped a friend, Mike dig a system of swales on his land using a towable digger like in the picture. This sort of digger is absolutely ideal for small holdings or self build projects. In the UK you can buy them secondhand for between £1000 -2000 (about $1200 to £2500). Compared to hiring expensive JCB machinery repeatedly it is an absolute bargain and it will run all day on less than a couple of gallons of fuel. Of course you could dig all this by hand but they ditches we dug in 2 days would have taken weeks of work by hand and my back certainly would not survive that.
His land consisted of 2 acres of south east facing gently sloping grass which made the design really easy. As it is in England south east facing means it has the most sun possible and is away from the prevailing winter wind. We dug the swales three feet deep and four feet across running along contour lines that my friend had previously laid out using an A frame and spirit level (total cost $15 or £12).
The spoil from the digging was laid on the down slope side of the ditch and then planted with several species of pioneer pants to prepare the soil for later plantings of apple and pear trees plus raspberry, gooseberry and other types of low maintenance fruit and legumes. The exact mix of plants will depend mostly on experience on the site. No matter what you think you can grow and what experts tell you will grow nature is the boss so reinforce success. If something doesn’t want to grow in a certain place it won’t, try something else. The idea is to make a self sustaining food forest that will provide food at minimum cost in effort which is very welcome if you’re getting as old (and grumpy) as Mike.
Since digging the swales the plentiful English summer rain has confirmed they work holding thousands of gallons of water onsite. Two new natural springs have started running and the early planting has progressed well. We have high hopes for the land and reckon that the next 3 or 4 years should dramatically change the look and productively giving a good surplus of food to either sell or distribute to Miles family.
To be honest I was very surprised at the ease of the project. For some careful thought, a few days work initially then regular inputs of planting and modifications you can drastically increase productivity on a relatively small underused field making a real food forest.