A blog by Mel Riser about LifeBoat Permaculture and Solar Villages

Thursday, April 12, 2012

long time. but here to say

Solar is cheaper than ever!

We recently bought 4000 watts of panels for 3600 hundred dollars... yes INDEED.

200 watt panels for 180 each... delivered. WOW

let's hope the trend continues!

got solar?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fuel Cell Offers to Save World: World Says No Thanks


February 19, 2011
Each Bloom box shown provides 100 kw cheap, clean energy for CalTech. Other clients include eBay, Google and Coke.
One year ago, the venerable televison news program 60 Minutes broke a blockbuster story that (as The Daily Impact observed at the time —Hope Springs: Can a Fuel Cell Save Us?) made even energy pessimists feel a pang of hope. (Okay, 60 Minutes didn’t exactly break the story, but they did introduce it for the first time to a mass audience.) Bloom Energy of Sunnyvale, California had brought to market a reliable, efficient, clean and relatively cheap fuel cell that was scalable from a coffee-can-sized power source for a home to a greyhound-bus-sized industrial plant.
The technology was exciting. Its inventor, Bloom Energy founder and CEO K.R. Sridhar, found a way to make a 25-watt fuel cell from a wafer made of sand and coated with special inks that made one side of the wafer the cathode, the other the anode, of the chemical battery. Its manufacture was thus less exotic, less dependent on rare and hard-to-get materials and less toxic to the environment than that of previous versions of the fuel cell. Moreover, the Bloom cell can make use of a wide variety of fuels, from the existing and widely available petroleum derivatives to biogases.
All of this would have been fascinating enough as theory, or as a demonstration project, but the jaw-dropping 60 Minutes piece went on to reveal that industrial-size Bloom Boxes, as they inevitably came to be known, had for some time been serving key installations of companies such as Google, eBay, FedEx, Staples and Coca-Cola.
But the truly stunning part of the revelation was the vision of the future that the product made possible. This was, it seemed, the closest anyone had come to the mythical, always-imminent technological breakthrough that the industrialists and technophiles have been assuring us for decades would come along in time to save us from our energy gluttony and replace oil as the heart of our consumptive lifestyles. Suddenly we could actually, realistically imagine a future in which electricity would be produced where it was needed, without pollution, without necessarily using fossil fuels (although the first units are using natural gas), andwithout transcontinental transmission lines. It could at last be the end of strings-on-sticks providing the shaky foundation for all our high technology. If we could turn that corner, quickly, maybe we could avoid the catastrophe that the end of cheap and plentiful oil holds in store for us.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg grasped these implications: “My first reaction was this was a company guaranteed for greatness. When we look at Bloom Energy, we are looking at the future of business, at the future of the economy, at the future of America.”
That was a year ago, and that, as far as the mass media were concerned, was that. Bloom held its formal unveiling of the project the next day, and after a smattering of perfunctory “Can the Bloom Box Save the World?” stories, sank from view. (Note the journalistic technique: first, burden the technology or methodology with the need to save the world, all of it, and then find somewhere a skeptic to say it probably wouldn’t, couldn’t, or oughtn’t save the whole world, and thus can be disregarded.)
Sic Transit Hope.
It’s happened before, of course. As readers of Brace for Impact: Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age by Sustainable Living(and few others) will know, a man named Jack Shaeffer showed us in 1969 how to end point-source water pollution in this country. Period. Not only did it work, it caused the Congress and the Nixon administration to declare as a national goal of the United States the ending of all pollution of waterways by 1985. The only catch was that cities and real-estate developers would have to set aside a little bit of land for each sub-division and office park, to deal with the pollution where it was generated. Like Bloom, Shaeffer systems were installed by hundreds of communities and businesses, and worked as promised. Like Bloom, the Shaeffer solution was enveloped by a vast silence, punctuated only by the occasional yipping of professional skeptics funded by industrial polluters. Shaeffer’s solution vanished from the industrial world. Can Bloom’s be far behind?
Would it have been different if Bloom had not concentrated on the big, profitable, corporate installations, and instead had rolled out and promoted vigorously a $3,000, breadbox-sized power source for individual homes? Probably not. The deep national silence about the deadly problems we face, even about the solutions available for those problems, is armor-plated with money, protected by wholly-owned politicians and ratings-mad media, and apparently impenetrable.
The silence of the damned.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cooling Towers and Solar Fans

Space cooling and heating can account for up to 45 percent of your total home energy use every year, but there are numerous strategies you can employ to reduce cooling costs. For instance, a ceiling fan used in conjunction with air conditioning lets you raise the thermostat by as much as 4 degrees while maintaining the same comfort level in a room. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that each degree below 78 degrees on your thermostat will increase your air conditioning bill by 8 percent. You also can use natural ventilation to capture and create breezes, or to help you take advantage of nighttime drops in temperature.
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Other money-saving ideas include minimizing heat gain, weather sealing, insulating, window shading and glazing, roof lightening and landscaping (see “Best Bets for Passive Cooling”). Because natural ventilation is one of the most cost-effective ways to cool your home, we’ll examine it here in greater detail.

Natural Ventilation

Natural ventilation makes the most of air motion to cool you and your home. This is the primary passive cooling strategy in all climate zones, but the nuances of its application vary by region. Understanding seasonal wind patterns will help you adjust your window openings, outdoor spaces and windbreaks to increase your comfort without relying on nonrenewable fuels.

Take some time to think about the breezes and winds around your home:

• At what time of day and year are the winds strongest?
• From which direction does your prevailing wind come (the one that blows most of the time, when there are no storms)?
• From what direction do storms come?
• Is there a noticeable breeze or wind most of the year? Does it vary much from season to season?
• Do your local breezes shift daily?
• Is local air movement influenced by geographic features or landscape elements?

There are several ways to learn about local wind direction and intensity, such as observing for yourself (at different times of the day and year), accessing weather data and asking local farmers or other people who work outdoors what they observe.

You also can hang a windsock in your yard. A friend who lives near the ocean has done this; she and her family enjoy being aware of changes in the wind’s direction and force, making them feel more like part of their natural surroundings: “Our prevailing wind comes from the northwest, so most of the time the windsock points to the southeast. But sometimes it suddenly turns and points north, and then we know there’s a storm coming in.” A weather vane on your home or garage can provide the same information.

Becoming familiar with local weather patterns can help you decide on a natural cooling strategy. In hot humid climates, for example, maximum airflow combined with shading is the dominant strategy. In hot arid climates, ventilation is welcome in the hot seasons, and night cooling of thermal mass is particularly useful due to lower nighttime temperatures. In cold climates with cool summers, there may be little need for enhanced natural ventilation. Many temperate and mixed climates will require a variety of tricks as the seasons move from one extreme to another. As you read on, think about your own climate zone and your experiences living there; focus on the approaches that feel most relevant to your situation, and see how you might improve the existing relationship between your home and the breezes.


This is very similar to the setup I created at my house.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Types you find in a Survival Forum or email list...

Average Joe

This is by far the largest group of survivalist on the Internet. They basically never considered themselves a survivalist until they read the Internet. They tend to see self-preparation as simply logical. Their tendency is to very much prepare for the most likely and mundane before preparing for EOTWAWKI. They'll have fire alarms, CO detectors, a fire plan, a communication plan, some food and water preps, home defense plan for common crimes, and decent to fair short term power outage plan. Average Joe usually has excellent information and gets the most from his internet experience, however he isn't one of the more entertaining personalities on the internet.

Jeremiah Johnson

Jeremiah is one of the oldest posting survivalist types and is typically found on the sites in existence before this one. He sees survival through the rose colored glasses of 1840 and the classic mountain man. His solution to most things leans towards minimal technology and nature. Jeremiah tends to shun technology and high tech gear. The fact the average mountain man was lucky to live beyond age 35 is totally lost on him. All he needs to survive is a good knife. This is a loner type or in very small numbers. Though Jeremiah believes in guns as a defensive weapon by far his tactic preference is guerilla in nature or avoiding confrontation. Long-term food production, farming/husbandry, isn't on his list of priorities for nature will supply his needs.

The Hermit

The Hermit too is one of the older Internet survival types. This is the classic loner approach to survivalist. His approach to everything is I'm on my own and will live in a cave, compound, or bomb shelter while the world goes to hell around me. He totally ignores that no man is island. His approach to society is to withdraw from it completely. Unlike Jeremiah, the Hermit usually depends on long-term food production in his planning but not bartering. This type also favors the gun however usually defensive only with a stratagem of shoot them first and let God sort them out. The Hermit usually gets along pretty well with the Jeremiah on the Internet and is often found on the same sites. The Hermit and Jeremiah are probably the first to condemn others on the Internet. They're there primarily for others to praise their knowledge but not really teach others for others don't fit in their personal plans.

Mr. Conspiracy

Another of the older types, Mr. Conspiracy has some secret knowledge only known to him about this master plan to enslave human beings in one way or another. He often uses the words "They" and "Them" to describe the unknown masterminds of this dastardly plan. He has a real problem with authority and almost incapable of teamwork. Mr. Conspiracy is the first to throw up the flag of revolution but probably the last to ever partake. His take on survival is based on paranoia and fear. Nuclear winter, a massive asteroid strike, civil war, government oppression, and EOTWAWKI in general are typically favorite topics. Given enough data this guy would believe we didn't land the moon. Paranoia is his life and his tool. He's a very entertaining read on the Internet but really offers little actual preparation information.

The Gear Whore

This guy totally sees the answer to all survival issues as equipment or gear. He usually has the best of the best brand name based on what someone told him on the net was the best or the coolest image. Having and collecting the gear is often more important than using it and typically he's long on advice and short on practical experience. His BOB is typically at superhuman strength weight load. Although you can typically count the times he's used his gear on one hand, he's quick to be the expert for after all he has the gear. Although he can quote specification after specification on gear, he tends to fall short on the mundane such as cooking or even making a fire for there is little gear involved. The Internet feeds the Gear Whore's ego and he seeks attention and approval of his approach.


Rambo sees survival as the gun. He typically has the state of the art tactical hardware including weapon systems and vests but wouldn't last a week should Walmart close its doors. He lives for the invasion and ultimate warfare. He looks towards this ultimate warfare as almost romantics dream that he desires above all else. Oddly he is hardly ever a veteran. Rambo tends to lean towards weapons training almost to exclusion of all other preparations. Although this site has had its share, the majorities of Rambos is typically on the newer gun sites and often don't post in the Survival sections due to the mundane topic matter. Rambo's favorite color is camo. Rambo's solution to survival is the gun and he doesn't even realize that if he implemented his plan the odds would be very high that he'd be shot on sight or hung from a tree.

The Poser

This is the most dangerous type on the net. The Poser is totally convinced he knows the secret to survival and is the expert based primarily on what he has read and not what he has lived. He is the ultimate pretender for he believes it. They are the hardest to find out unless you meet them. He won't be comfortable outdoors or using his gear. He typically will have too much gear and once again the top of the top in tactical hardware. If this guy went hunting one day, he's the expert. If he goes camping, he's the expert. The Poser and expert go hand and hand. It's your first indicator. Since his experience is primarily on the Internet, he's one of the first to start his own site or take a dominant role in a new site on the web. They tend to be long on advice but seldom if ever actually go out of their way to meet people. Usually a couple times they will since they believe their expertise is real. After that they decline due to the negative responses afterwards. Anonymity is his ally and as he realizes the extent of this anonymity, his experience at least on the Internet becomes more extensive. He seeks attention and admiration above all else even at the sake of reality. The Poser is often caught up in his lies and exposed by others. I've met some real winners in this category from fake military to fake LEO.

Farmer Bob

Way too few of this sort on the web. This is the guy who has dirt under his fingernails. He isn't planning for survival but living it on the farm. He visits the Internet for tidbits of information but really doesn't have time to spend a lot of time on the web. He's a fountain of information. If he's on the web, he tends to be all over it but seldom a notable web personality.

The Ships Captain

This is Mr. Bugin is my only plan. Totally dedicated to "The Titanic Syndrome" (my plan is invincible), he'll have unbelievable amounts of supplies but about all his planning is lost with the striking of a match. He's determined like the captains of a ship of yore to die with his gear if the need calls for it. The Ships Captain approaches almost every topic except the destruction of his home or the eventuality of leaving it.

Mr. Fincial

This guy sees finical security as the secret to survival. Historically he has a good basis for his opinion. He's usually a good source of information on finical planning but a tad short on anything outside the home such as wilderness skills or bugging out. He tends to be more practical in his planning with it based on the most likely economic scenarios. Typically this type has something to worry about in this regard and why he's such a good source of information. You see the really rich don't worry about such things.


BOBby is very prevalent on the web. He sees his backpack as the ultimate survival tool and only tool anyone will ever need. He realizes the need for a prepared lifestyle but lacks the dedication to go beyond a backpack. BOBby is usually new to the survival scene and not bad guy, just inexperienced.

The Wannabe

The Wannabe could probably be called "The Wish I Had" just as easily. He's the guy who understands the need for preparation but uses the movement to live that aspect of his life he wished he had such as military, LEO, outdoorsman, or doctor. He usually gets along quite well with Rambo or say Jeremiah Johnson but typically not both. In this regard is bias is a tad hypocritical. They are usually quite entertaining Internet personalities and often have lot's of good information. The difference between the Poser and the Wannabe is the Wannabe knows he isn't and just wants to learn or experience what he missed. The Poser is convinced he is what he dreams of. Though typically an amusing Internet character, the Wannabe really rubs the real things the wrong way.


Most posters become jaded with time and then many get over it but some never do. They have learned to ignore the entertainment value of survival forums and feel the information repetitive. Simply put, they are bored. They tend to progress from high entertainment forums to more technical forums until they realize they are even more boring. Its then they either drop off the web or slowly go back to the high entertainment forum. The Jaded will often call for large volumes of technical information not even realizing that should a forum be nothing but lists of information, they'd read it once and never read it again.

The Newbie

The Newbie has just come to realize being prepared is a wise thing to do. He simply doesn't know where to start. Like a bull in China shop, he wades right in. He's a delicate poster still influenced by non-preparation types that early acceptance or denial heavily influence his decision to continue posting or not. He tends to approach topics seen a million times before. The Jaded tends to be his nemesis since they bored with the topics. Every Newbie has the potential to be become one of the other personas. He is the future growth of a forum an essential to the flow of information for every fresh eyes approach to even an old topic reveals new information. His threads are usually a wealth of information if you take time to see it for every time you review the basics, you are actually reviewing your own preparations. Many of the old forums don't have patience with the Newbie and is why they are so stagnant. You see survival isn't an elite club but a way of life.

The Heckler

Last and by no means least is the Heckler. This guy visits the survival forums just so he can feel superior making light of others. The Heckler thinks most survivalist are nutcases and finds what he perceives as their ramblings entertaining. He thinks by ridicule he gains Internet personality status and does not see survival forums as information sources. They live their lives comfortable in their safe zone confident their world will never be shattered and anyone who tries to tell them it will be shattered has to be a nutcase. The media often heavily influences the Heckler or what is popular. Truth be known, they will probably be the first one loaded on a bus in a crisis.


It's a combination of these personas that give a survival forum its entertainment factor. It's the core of this entertainment that keeps bringing people back to read and to post. Otherwise, we'd all just go to the library or browse the net for specific topics. Like a soap opera where you have characters you love to hate, they draw the reader to come back like a light draws bugs. For the average reader, its actually an enlightening experience to realize that the entertainment factor in a forum is what brings them back to the forum. All of the personas play a role.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Some great information for Permaculture

1. Change the way you look at everything. Rethink your entire lifestyle.
2. Develop discernment about people.
3. When you invest, invest first in the right people.
4. Honesty, look at yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses.
5. Seek the counsel of others you trust.
6. Find like-minded people who can be part of a mutual support group and who you can cooperate with.
7. Find alternate methods for doing everything.
8. Develop an instinct for what doesn't feel right. No matter how good something looks or sounds on the surface, go with your gut feeling, with your instinct, with your intuition.
9. Eliminate non-essentials from your life. Eliminate all time wasters and money wasters, and things you don't need - i.e. clothes, furniture, junk, etc. Eliminate television from your life.
10. Simplify your lifestyle - learn to say 'no' to things or activities which do not make you self-sufficient. Learn to place
God and yourself, and not other people.
11. Develop physical, mental and spiritual disciplines.
12. Learn to treat everything as if it were irreplaceable.
13. Buy things that will last, even if they cost more.
14. Acquire tools that do not depend upon electric power.
15. Learn to spend time alone with yourself in total silence - think, reflect, reminisce, and plan [or strategize] in silence.
16. Learn to spend time alone with yourself and your family, apart from superficial entertainment and distractions.
17. Learn something from every situation you are in everything you hear, see, touch, or feel has a lesson in it. Learn a principle from every mistake you make, from everyday life situations.
18. Make sure your trust is in the Lord and not your own preparedness. Pattern your preparedness according to the guidance of the Lord. Listen to what the Lord puts in your heart - don't use only your
reasoning power.
19. Learn to enjoy simple pleasures from the smallest things - have measure of joy and happiness that doesn't come from creature comforts or entertainment.
20. Store up memories for times of isolation or separation from your loved ones.
21. Establish priorities for all of life [i.e. relationship, needs, present needs, future needs.] Set goals for areas you'll be proficient or self-sufficient in. Set a schedule or time line based on money and time you can invest in self-sufficiency.
22. Examine the concept of civil disobedience [from the Bible and history.] At what point should the people of Egypt have said 'no' to killing the male babies in Moses' day? At what point should the
people of colonial America have said 'no' to King George? At what point should the people of Germany have said 'no' to Hitler? At what point do we say 'no' to despots in our day - when they take
over money, our property, our guns, our children, our freedom? Decide what is your choke point - when do you move to civil disobedience? [For many throughout history - it was when evil
leaders handed down edicts that were directly contrary o God's Word or commands.] Don't set your choke point too early or too quickly, nor too late, nor never. Think through or calculate a
strategy - then never look back.
23. Learn to ask the right questions in every situation. [In 'Operation Waco,' nobody asked the right questions.]
24. Bring orderliness into your life. If you live in disorder it will pull you down, it will break your focus. Think focus versus distraction. Eliminate the distractions from your life.
25. Self-sufficiency [or survival] principles are learned on a day-to-day basis and must be practical.
26. Always have more than one way to escape, more than one way to do something. Have a plan B and a plan C.
27. Everyday life [and especially crisis] requires 'up-front systems' and 'back-up systems' if the first line of defense or 'up-front systems fails.
28. Real education [or learning] only takes place when change occurs in our attitudes, actions, and way of life.
29. Wisdom is making practical applications of what you know. It is not enough to know everything you need to know. It will only serve you and others if practical application is made of that knowledge.
30. Fix in your own mind the truth about your capabilities. In a crisis situation this principle will keep you from cockiness [or overconfidence] and will provide you with confidence.
31. Decide ahead of time before a crisis arrives, how you will react in a given situation so that you are not swayed by the circumstances, the situation, or your emotions.
32. Beware of being spread too thin in your life. Decide on the few things in life that you must do and do them well. Think focus versus distraction. Make sure that unimportant, non-essential distractions don't keep you from achieving your important objectives.
33. Learn to quit wasting things. Be a good steward of all that God provides.
34. Buy an extra one of everything you use regularly and set the extra one aside for the time when such items may be difficult or impossible to obtain.
35. In every situation, train yourself to look for what doesn't fit, for what's out of place, for what doesn't look right.
36. Teach your children [and yourself] that they are not obligated to give information to a stranger. You don't have to answer questions [not even to a government official] that are none of their business.
37. Sell or give away things you do not use or need. Consider giving away or selling 50% of your 'stuff,' [i.e. the non-essentials.] Simplify and streamline your life, lifestyle and possessions.
38. Find someone who lived through the Great Depression and learn from them how they were self-sufficient, how they made do with little, and how they found joy and contentment in the midst of hard times. An excellent book on this subject is We Had Everything But Money: Priceless Memories of the Great Depression.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

100 things....

so I joined a new Survival Retreat Group today... ( like I NEED another email list to keep up with )

good information here...

take it to heart...


This list is based upon the "Top 100 Things that Dissapear First in a Crisis"
list which has been circulating in various forms for several years.

Members of Survivalretreat and JerichoCBS on yahoo groups added to this and catagorized them to make them easier to follow as an outline and shopping list to check against your preparations. Please refer to it every now and then, as it serves as a good reminder that you have considered at least these things.

Water Filters/Purifier, Water containers, Bottled Water
pumps & siphons (for water and for fuels)

Sanitation, Laundry, Cleaning:
Portable Toilets, TP, related supplies
Washboards, Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)
Bleach (plain, NOT scented: 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite), Vinegar
Laundry detergent, soaps, cleaning products
Clothes pins/line/hangers

Generators, Solar Panels, Windmill generator
Gasoline containers, Stabil (or other additive for fuel storage)
Mini Heater head & Propane Cylinders
Seasoned Firewood (or fuel you use that can be stored)
Cook stove (Charcoal, Propane, Coleman & Kerosene) & Lighter fluid,
Matches (thousands)

Food Production/Gardening
Garden seeds (Non-hybrid preferred)
Garden tools & supplies, orchard pickers, etc.
Goats/chickens/rabbits (easiest animals to raise on small farm)
Fencing, chicken wire, animal feed in bulk, salt licks
Beer, wine making, syrup making (ie. maple syrup)

Pantry & Kitchen:
Milk - Powdered & Condensed
Rice - Beans – Wheat -Vegetable oil , Flour, yeast & salt
Tuna Fish (in oil)
Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, etc.)
Honey (stores well) / Syrups / white, brown sugars
Graham crackers, saltines, pretzels, Trail mix/Jerky
Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Nuts
Garlic, spices & vinegar, baking supplies, Baking soda, powder
Soysauce, vinegar, boullions/gravy/soup base, cooking oils
Teas, Coffee, Cigarettes, Wine/Liquors (for bribes, medicinal, etc.)
Chewing gum/candies
Chocolate/Cocoa/Tang/Punch (water enhancers)
Hand-Can openers & hand egg beaters, whisks
Cast iron cookware (sturdy, efficient)
Canning supplies (Jars/lids/wax)
Reusable Plastic food containers air tight
Aluminum foil Reg. & Hvy. Duty
Kitchen utensils, pots, pans, necessary for cooking from scratch
Grain Grinder (Non-electric)
Knife set and sharpener, butcher set, fish fillet knife

Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Archery, Bats &

Pharmacy, Health & Hygiene:
Stock up on your prescriptions as much as you can….
First aid kits and more supplies, cold and flu medicine, aspirin,
Tylenol, etc.
Vitamins, Food Supplements (such as fiber)
Alcohol (IsoPro), Hydro C, Iodine, witch hazel, etc.
Baby Supplies: Diapers/formula/ointments/aspirin, Baby Wipes
Soap (bar and other), shampoo, tooth paste and brushes, floss,
waterless & Anti-bacterial soap
Feminine Hygiene/Haircare/Skin products, tampons, oils, creams
Men's Hygiene: Shaving supplies (razors & creams, talc, after shave)
Mouthwash, nail clippers, hair clippers and hair cutting products
Toilet Paper, Kleenex, paper towels
Reading glasses

Insulated ice chests
Flashlights/LIGIITSTICKS & torches, "No. 76 Dietz" Lanterns underwear
Bow saws, axes and hatchets & Wedges
Mosquito coils/repellent sprays/creams
Fishing supplies/tools
Knives & Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel
Backpacks & Duffle bags
Sleeping bags & blankets/pillows/mats, misquote netting
Paper plates/cups/utensils (stock up, folks...)
Rain gear, rubberized boots, etc.
Cots & Inflatable mattresses (for extra guests)
Lantern Hangers
Hats & cotton neckerchiefs
Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lampsm, Coleman Fuel
Mantles: Aladdin, Coleman

Clothing and Linens (appropriate for your region, esp. for winter):
Winter coats, boots, gloves/mits, hats, appropriate for your winters
or worse
Workboots, belts, Levis & durable shirts
Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, etc., hats, scarf
Woolen clothing, scarves/ear-muffs/mittens
Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc. (extras)
Thermal underwear/sweat shirts and pants
Wool blankets, down blankets,
Scissors, fabrics & sewing supplies
Sunglasses/eye protection

Books and Reading:
Journals, Diaries & Scrapbook
Writing paper/pads/pencils/solar calculators
Home Schooling basics, books, etc.
Board Games Cards, Dice

Bicycles... Tires/tubes/pumps/chains, oil etc.
Wagons & carts (for transport to & from open Flea markets)
Compass, good maps (Gazettes, topo, showing great detail and
Tools, parts, supplies to keep what you have working as long as

Misc. Household and Supplies:
Batteries, Strike anywhere Matches (thousands of them), Long Burning
Garbage cans Plastic (great for storage, water transporting - if with
Big plastic storage bins, as air and water tight as possible
Garbage bags; Duct tape
Fire extinguishers
Carbon Monoxide Alarm (battery powered)
d-Con Rat poison, MOUSE PRUFE II, Roach Killer
Mousetraps, Ant traps & cockroach magnets
Roll-on Window Insulation Kit (MANCO)
Lumber (all types)
Screen Patches, glue, nails, screws, nuts & bolts
Paraffin wax
Glue, nails, nuts, bolts, screws, etc.

Chain saws, Wood saw, axe, wood splitter
Basic tool kit, and auto tool kit
Bolt cutter, crow bar, jack, winch


Buy in Bulk – Sam's, Costco, Big Box Stores
Shop Discount Stores
Watch for sales, coupons, clearance
Be a pack rat – save your old stuff that may not look perfect but is
still useful

Good Will Stores
Local Garage and rummage sales
Auctions and Estate sales
Ebay.com (or similar)
And finally, other's people's trash…..

Monday, December 01, 2008

Crop Insurance Failures and Propane shortages at grain elevators...

This does not bode well....

Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 0815 AM PSTLast week I received a very concerned call from South Dakota farmer and agronomist Bryan Lutter. "Neal, we're out of propane!" I figured this was personal distress – he and his family farm over three square miles of land and I know this has been a tough year for many people. He promptly corrected my misconception when I tried to console him. "No, everybody is out, all three grain elevators, we can't get fuel for the bins, and we're coming in real wet this year."There are equally dramatic issues due to the bankruptcy of Verasun and the apparent insolvency of the nation's largest private crop insurance program. Payments that would have come in June or July of a normal year are still not dispersed at the end of November and this has grim implications for next year's crop.I started digging into the details and unless I'm badly mistaken people are going to be starving in 2009 over causes and conditions being set down right now. It's a complex, interlocking issue, and I hope I've done a good job explaining it below the fold ...(I just submitted my personal story and a vision for the nation at change.gov - you can see my vision for this problem here.)* Stranded Wind's diary :: ::*The Dakotas have faced fuel restrictions for at least the last two years. They're at the far end of the pipeline network and after complete outages in 2007 everyone orders their diesel well in advance. Vehicle tanks are kept fuller and the on farm tanks are not allowed to run low. Gasoline supply dynamics have changed as well; British Petroleum shuttered three hundred stations in the area, citing the high cost of trucking fuel to the locations from the pipeline terminals.This year propane is in short supply. Rural homes in that part of the world are heated with propane and the grain elevator and on farm drying require it to bring corn moisture down for storage. There is no sense that homes will go cold this year, at least not due to supply issues; the grain drying season is a short period of intense usage that will draw to an end within the next week. Pray to whatever higher power you recognize that the unheard of figure of 18% of the crop still in the field is brought in before the snow flies.The Dakotas were very wet this year and the corn is coming in at 22% moisture. A more usual number would be 18% and for long term storage it must be dried to 14% to avoid spoilage. That doubling in the moisture reduction needed, an 8% drop instead of 4%, pretty much doubles the amount of propane used. Right now the harvest is at a dead stop. What can be dried has been and what is left can't even be combined without the fuel to make it ready for storage; it would all just spoil in the bin if put up wet.I wondered if this was a spot problem in that particular part of South Dakota, but Bryan said it was widespread – he'd talked to farmers as far away as St. Louis and they were reporting similar issues. I made a few calls to try to figure out how broad the problem was. I ended up talking to Rollin Tiefenthaler at fuel dealer Al's Corner in Carroll, Iowa about the issue.The Iowa crop comes matures earlier and is brought in earlier, so that is done, but he confirms that propane is being trucked long distances because local terminals have outages. They did have one farmer's cooperative run out of propane and they scrambled to get them enough, but in general it wasn't a problem. These are plains cooperatives, operations with thirty employees, dozens of vehicles, and tens of millions of dollars in inventory and commodities under management, so one running out of fuel is a problem that would affect a whole county.Diesel has been a bigger concern for them – instead of the thirty mile drive to the Magellan pipeline terminal in Milford they're running as far as Des Moines or Omaha, each about two hours away, and the added time and cost for running more trucks is eating them alive.The die has already been cast in the Dakotas, they'll either get the crop in or they won't. If they don't and it winters in the field they not only lose 40% of the yield on that ground they lose 20% of next year's yield in soy beans. The corn makes an excellent snow fence, trapping drifts six feet high, and they're slow to clear in the spring. The farmers have to wait until it's dry enough to plant before they can finish bringing in the corn crop, then they plant their soy, and that delay cuts into the growing degree days available for the soy beans and thusly we see the yield drop.A few of you might not be from farm state and thusly won't know the normal work flow. The corn crop is still partially in the field, but the soy beans are already done. Soy matures and dries earlier, so it gets tended first. There would never been an instance of soy being left to overwinter just based on crop timing and I don't think the small, thin stocks with relatively fragile pods would prove to be terribly durable under snow banks.I wrote earlier about the famine potential we face due to the underfertilization of the wheat crop. Wheat that gets enough ammonia is 14% protein, if it is unfertilized closer to 8%, and that 43% reduction in total plant protein is going to cause unimaginable suffering in places like Egypt, where half of the population gets subsidized bread. Global end of season per capita wheat stocks have been about seventy pounds my entire life, except the last three years where they've dropped to only forty pounds. One mistake in this area and one of the four horsemen gets loose, certainly dragging his brothers along behind. That mistake may already have been made in the lack of wheat fertilization this fall.The fall nitrogen fertilizer application has been 10% of the norm. A typical year would see 50% put on in the fall and 50% in the spring. During fertilizer application season the 3,100 mile national ammonia pipeline network runs flat out and the far points on the network experience low flow both fall and spring. If they try to jam 90% of the fertilization into a period of time when the system can only flow a little more than half of the need much of our cropland will go without in the spring of 2009.Finances as much as weather are the issue with regards to fertilization this fall. Crop prices have fallen to half of what they were, ammonia prices have dropped but ammonia suppliers here, receiving 75% of their supply from overseas, still have product in their storage tanks purchase at the historical highs last spring and summer.When farmers plant they record the acreage and they purchase crop insurance - $20 to $40 an acre depending on the crop. If they have a failure they file a claim, an adjustor contacts them, and they get a check to cover the deficit. Some of this runs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and some of it is through private insurers.My conversations with farmers earlier this week lead me to believe that the largest private insurer, Des Moines Iowa's Rain and Hail Agricultural Insurance may be insolvent. Flooding claims from this spring were filed and payments would have typically been received by the end of June or beginning of July. It's now the end of November and payments are not being dispersed. Individual farmers are told there was something wrong with their paperwork, but this is nonsense – some of these guys have been farming thirty years and they all didn't forget how to fill out a simple form all at the same time. Iowa did have its second five hundred year flood in a decade and a half this spring which certainly has something to do with the situation, but I suspect Wall Street's sticky fingers got hold of Rain & Hail's assets, just as they've done to every pension fund and state run municipal investment pool.So, we're already facing what Bryan Lutter calls "the mother of all fertilizer shortages" next spring and on top of that local banks won't lend to farmers.The local bank was quite willing to lend to a farmer on a crop despite the weather related risks just like they'd lend on a car despite the driving risks. So long as the asset was insured the risk was deemed manageable. There were sure to be losses here and there, but they'd be administrative hassles associated with well known risks. If the auto insurance companies were viewed as untrustworthy no one would be getting a car without 100% down at the dealership and the same rule is now in effect for farmers.Farmers without financing can't afford nitrogen fertilizer at $1,000 a ton, which translates to $100 an acre at current application rates. They won't be paying $300 for a bag of 80,000 hybrid corn kernels, again a $100 per acre expense. The average farm size in Iowa is four hundred acres and planting to harvesting would run about $120,000.This looks incredibly bad. Bryan and I are both puzzled as to why the mainstream media isn't covering this. Perhaps the need to sell Christmas season advertising trumps the need for the public to know about the troubles that are brewing.This is already 1,600 words and I haven't even touched Verasun. Executive summary? The nation's second largest ethanol maker took corn from farmers, went bankrupt without paying many of them, and a whole lot of family farms are going to be foreclosed upon in short order if something isn't done.Take ActionThe instant the Obama administration and the 111th Congress take their seats, before anything is done about Detroit, before anything is done about pension funds caught up in Wall Street's massive fraud, yes, even before they touch universal health care SOMETHING has to be done to protect our agriculture system from the volatility flowing from Wall Street's death contortions. This won't be a giveaway – it'll be a genuine investment with known risks and known returns for products that will experience ongoing demand. We, as a nation must provide our farmers with a fair, stable financing and insurance system or we're all going to pay a terrible price.If you're not in an agricultural state and you see something come up about a plan to address these issues please take the time to call or write your delegation members and let them know that you realize how important this is, even though it doesn't directly affect your state.My Personal ActionPerhaps this is the first time you've ever noticed my work. I'm the executive director for the Stranded Wind Initiative, an organization founded to develop local uses for renewable energy in places that don't have transmission lines available. A few months back a small group of the volunteers from SWI formed Third Mode Energy, a commercial venture aimed at building renewable ammonia fertilizer plants. We're working on projects in New York, Iowa, South Dakota, Indiana, and I think one is going to start in Ohio. We're looking for about fifteen more sites nationally and we need local leaders to take these projects in hand. We're going to be producing a package of information on this for legislators and media figures active in environmental and economic issues which will be ready in the first few days of January, with the intent of getting some of that stimulus money directed at local, renewable ammonia production.If your town is down and hurting we might just have a partial solution to the need for jobs and energy. We've got a group for more detailed discussion on Kossacks Networking.If you look here you will see an article from last spring - our first attempt at plant development for renewable ammonia. That one didn't go but we learned a lot and the story should give you a sense of the renewable fertilizer, greenhouse produce, and other good things that come from such development.If you look here you will see an article I did on wheat fertilization on The Cutting Edge News.(UPDATE:I've received the usual class of complaints about my dairy: You're trying to start a panic! You're totally not right about the facts! Etc, etc, etc. My only answer to this would be to point out the diary I did regarding Iceland's crash ... which called that one five months ahead of the real thing. Or all of the other stuff I've picked up from The Oil Drum or The Automatic Earth and written about well in advance of the Meat Stick Media(tm) picking up the story. I have a nice quick reference page with my first 192 diaries on it so you can flip through the titles on one screen if you'd care to go looking ...I've received the usual suggestions about how our large scale grain production should be done organically. I have no ideological opposition to this and in fact I'm generally vegetarian and eat organic as much as I can lay my hands on it. The problem is that none of the proponents can describe to me what it would look like to cultivate an entire square mile in that fashion, let alone defining a plan that would allow a neat conversion of all of the forty to fifty thousand square miles of the state of Iowa to such methods. It's an admirable concept, but it doesn't seem executable. I do not at all accept that it's "big agriculture" keeping the farmers down. If there was a way to get similar yields without paying $100/acre for fertilizer and another $100/acre for seed the typical Iowa farmer with his 400 acres would be busy stuff an extra $80,000 a year into the bank. This is not the case today.Kossack cordgrass is going to be disappeared to Guantanamo or worse for speaking the truth. Let's wish he or she a fond farewell:Real news, useful news that could predict the future is no longer in the MSM, precisely because hedge fund managers and people like that make money on the future. Knowing what is going to happen in the future is money in the bank. The more people who know the future, the less money the investor will make.Here is an article from The Grand Forks Herald about the propane shortage.And here is a direct quote regarding the wheat fertilization. The set of numbers indicate a fertilizer with 18% nitrogen, 46% phosphorus, and in this case no potassium. The source was Bryan Lutter, my agronomist friend in South Dakota. I redacted the farmer's name because I don't have permission to publish it.Neal,It's very frustrating there is not enough news on the lack of newssurrounding the under-fertilization of USA wheat. Example, NAME REDACTED is a large farmer in New Underwood, SD. He normally uses 5 semi loads of MAP (18-46-0) in the fall for his wheat. He used just 1 this year. The wheat is in the ground, and the die cast.He explained his reasoning for reduced use very well. The extra yield boost costs too much. It's actually cheaper to simply buy the extra bushels which the fertilizer would provide.Bryan(UPDATED UPDATE:Giving credit where credit is due, none of the work we've done this year to set our fertilizer industry on a renewable footing would have happened without the assistance of Jerome a Paris, who provided advice on the path we're taking.The guy behind our plant designs, Kossack nb41 is a member of Energize America 2020 and Kossack A. Siegel introduced us.I'd have died last spring without the timely assistance of Alan from Big Easy over at The Oil Drum. Seriously, dead and buried.Dr. John Holbrook and Dr. Norm Olson invited us to appear at the fifth annual ammonia fuel network conference and they've otherwise been a tremendous resource for us as we've tried to set our nitrogen fertilizer business on a renewable footing. I should also point at that ammonia powered truck that was driven from Detroit to San Francisco last year - the first bank deposit I ever made for work in this area came from NH3car.com.[link to www.dailykos.com]