Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why I'm loving my new home

Where we used to live, I always felt like I was a bit of an extremist. I didn't talk to people about what I really thought or knew or wanted. I came here for that to some extent. I was one rant shy of the loony bin.

Here, I feel like an extreme moderate. I feel like just another person trying to figure out the best ways to live on less - less energy, less money, less stuff... less everything.

Let me give you an example: A few weeks ago, not long after I bought Otto the Wonder Car, I started looking into local biodiesel options. While I don't think biodiesel will ever solve our energy problems, I do like the idea of using waste materials to power my car. I looked into making it once upon a time, but it seemed like more than I could take on in my spare time.

Anyway, this area seemed like the kind of place where I might find some people who were homebrewing the stuff, and thought maybe some of the might sell their surplus. Instead, what I found was Piedmont Biofuels - probably one of the best run alternate fuel operations anywhere. And fueling stations within five miles of both my home and my work. For a 10% surcharge, they'd deliver it to my house if I asked. If that weren't enough, I could pay for my fuel with well-established local currency.

Let me give you another example: Last weekend e5 and I spent an afternoon hanging out with a crew of what I can only describe as neo-hippies. They didn't live in a commune, they lived in a housing co-op: Two long one-story apartment building with a fenced community garden in between them. Rain barrels at every door. Salvaged materials put to good use in all kinds of ways. But no tie-dies or patchouli, or weirdness. Just regular people taking a different path - and one that happens to be of great interest to me.

The reason for our visit was to watch (and help) with building an earth oven (a.k.a. a cobb oven). I always thought it would be a cool project to build one of these, but after reading up on it, I got the impression that you could only get so far on your own. Many of the descriptions of the process rely on tactile references that just can't be adequately spelled out in print. And that was definitely the case.

I asked a million questions of the two experts on hand, and watched with interest as the oven came together. Once I realized the process was going to be fairly slow, I started to worry that e5 was going to get bored. But he found a college-aged friend who helped him sculpt a frog in the sand pile - a "fire-bellied sand frog" of course - and then she went back to her place to retrieve her ferrets. What more could a seven-year-old ask for?

One more example of why this place is a good fit for my worldview: Today I was able to buy a really nice rain barrel - used, so it wasn't putting more plastic into the world - and I purchased it from a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, thereby supporting an organization I've always admired.

Now if you throw in a beautiful lake down the road where you can rent a canoe for five bucks, a local Public Works that offers all the free compost you can haul, a very active Cub Scout troop that doesn't go too overboard on the God and Country stuff, and the fact that it's the first of November and the trees are still gorgeous and I haven't really used my jacket yet.... well... can I just say that I love this place?



Sunday, October 10, 2010


I am not doing very well with this blogging thing lately. Work has been busy as the learning curve is a little steep. I can't just "do" any more. I have to follow processes and procedures. Only I don't know them yet.

The long commute has cut into my free time too. That situation will improve in February, but I'm not there yet.

Throw in a fun birthday weekend (the Big Four-Oh - yikes) and an unavoidable trip back to Ohio, and I've lost a lot of "getting stuff done" hours. Boxes, boxes everywhere. Well, they're slowly concentrating in the garage and the basement. But I suspect them of reproducing down there too.

But all in all, this has been a very good move for us. Maybe at some point I'll find the time to tell more stories about it. But the short version right now is that I'm geeking out on all the sustainability stuff going on around here. And still trying to decide where the garden and the chickens will go.

Tonight, I am exhausted.

But tomorrow I don't have to work. Still have to get up before 6am. But I'll take it.