Friday, December 28, 2007

How To Heat Your House

There are three viable heating sources for a sustainist. Wood, passive solar and diesel are the only heat sources that do not rely on external production and delivery systems. Viable in this sense means that you can gather or produce the raw material to heat your home without relying on electric or petroleum based products. A good reliable heating system will incorporate at least two of the three methods listed.

Wood Heating

Bear Ridge is heated with a small wood stove. I love heating with wood, it is relative cheap, renewable and gives off a good quality of heat. Wood can be gathered from anywhere including scrap piles for nothing except a little work on your part. Unlike petroleum based fuels, which are expensive and have long unreliable supply lines, wood is everywhere.

The ash is a great cover for your composting toilet and a wonderful nitrogen supplement for the garden. Anything cooked on an oven can be prepared on a wood stove including bread. The heat is great for drying cloths and the flames produce useful light in the evenings.

On the downside you have to cut the wood which can be tremendous work especially in cold weather. Wood stoves need filling every few hours. My stove can hold heat for about two hours on one filling. Not a problem during the day but at night it get really tedious. Every hour and a half my alarm gets me up to fill the box. Also you can't leave the house for an extend amount of time without the fire going out and it can take a few hours to completely get the house warmed up when starting a fire.

A good secondary heat source addresses the above problems without creating an unnecessary reliance on petroleum based fuels. Water heating and cooking need to be addressed with the secondary heat source if possible.

Passive Solar Heating

If possible orient you house to the south and put it on a thick concrete slab. Passive solar heating is free and very effective. A think slab of concrete exposed to the southern sun with glass windows will keep your home pleasantly warm throughout the coldest winter night.

Water can also be warmed in the slab and stored in a preheat collection tank for showers and laundry. Specially designed solar collectors can easily heat water to scalding temperatures during the day.

For centuries people have been preparing a large variety of foods in solar ovens. These cookers are inexpensive and can be purchased or built with relatively ease.

My problem is that the cabins design does not allow for easy retrofit to passive solar. And although I have added large southern windows there is no thermal mass to store the heat through the night. It does quickly warm the house in the mornings and keeps it nice throughout the day.

Diesel Heating

Fuel oil is another name for diesel fuel. This petroleum distillate has been heating homes for years. It heats well but is expensive and has all the baggage associated with other oil/gas based products. BUT here's the cool part, diesel fuel can be made from any organic oil heavy plant product. This is called BioDiesel and with some inexpensive equipment and training it can be made easily by anyone.

The military has been using small diesel units for years to heat tents and temporary shelters. Homes across America have been heated for the last sixty years on diesel. This fuel can be expensive but unlike propane or kerosene it is readily available at any gas station. It is easily purchased until you can start producing your own.

Diesel units can quickly warm a room, heat for extended periods of time unattended and with large fuel storage tanks can last all winter on a single filling. Diesel is not free like passive solar but you can easily retrofit a home to utilize this heat source.

There are on demand water heating unit that run on diesel. These run from high end equipment designed for large homes to small less expensive units made for RV's and yachts.

You can also purchase diesel cooking stoves designed for yachts that can prepare food and heat a small home.

Diesel will be the back up heating source for Bear Ridge. Although I like passive solar better it will be easier to retrofit the cabin for diesel. And when I start producing biodiesel it can be traded or used in diesel fueled trucks and generators.

Other Heating Sources

At this time propane is a tempting choice because it is cheap and the heating hardware inexpensive. This will change as natural gas passes it peak production. There is a reason utility companies are spending billions to build thirty some off shore natural gas terminals. America is running out of domestic natural gas so cheap propane's time is also running out. As we start importing natural gas from overseas the price of domestic heating and electricity will skyrocket. You cannot produce propane on your own and it should never be used for heating your home.

Electric is out of the question for heating. A large percentage of domestic electricity is produced with natural gas turbines. As natural gas goes up in price so will electricity.

Pellet and corn burning stoves make great heat but you are relying on external supply sources out of your control. For this reason I can not recommend them.


The primary heating system should be either wood or passive solar with diesel used only for backup. These recommendation only apply to rural homes. City living creates its own unique set of heating problems that will be discussed at a later time.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Full Moon

Full Moon on December 23, 2007.

We were frantically gathering firewood when I noticed the moon rising in the east. My partner and I always spend Christmas at the cabin and in a rush to leave the house we forgot the chain saws. It was bitterly cold, I usually just start the kerosene heater until the wood stove warms up but fuel was forgotten with the saws. So we cut up enough dead wood for the night with a life saving bow saw.

Monday morning a friend of ours from town brought us out a load of firewood. It was the first time I every purchased firewood and I loved it. I will never cut wood again.

We had a great time after the house warmed up and spent a few relaxing days enjoying the peace and quiet. We ate, drank, entertained some friends and pretty much had a wonderful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wine Making

Well it's more like a hooch.

Here is the super secret recipe for Bear Ridge Blue.

Take one gallon of Ocean Spray Cranberry/Blueberry drink. Heat to boiling and add 2 cups of white sugar. Pour into the fermenting carboy and let cool to room temperature. Add one half tea spoon of regular baking yeast and cap with an airlock. Let the stuff sit for about a month then drink.

The sweet tasting wine will knock you on your butt.

This recipe is very close to prison toilet hooch but I use real yeast instead of moldy bread and a clean carboy in place of the toilet bowl. It the little things that make all the difference.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Budget Survival - Basic Food Storage

Hardcore survivalists say you should store one to three years worth of food for each person in the household. This means nothing to the average person. We are going to look at some realistic numbers that will help you visualize and plan for the amount of food you should store and how that relates to your daily nutritional requirements.

We use 5 gallon buckets for storage. They are easy to move and hold a considerable amount of food. Here is the math 1 gallon = 16 cups so 5 gallons = 80 cups of whatever you are storing.

Rice Stocks

Lets say you eat one cup of dried rice per day. This is a common high energy food so one cup a day would be reasonable. That's 365 cups of rice per year or 22.8 gallons. Lets round that up to 25 gallons for the sake of easy math which gives us five-5 gallon buckets per person annually.

Note that it takes about 30 pounds of rice to fill a 5 gallon bucket. It will cost you about $60 for your 150 pound annual rice supply.

One cup of dried rice will make 3 cups of cooked rice with a total of about 650 calories.

Bean Stocks

You should eat one cup of dried beans every day. Beans have a very high nutritional value and one cup should do. That's 365 cups of beans per year rounded up gives us 25 gallons or five-5 gallon buckets per person annually.

It takes 32 pounds of pinto beans to fill a 5 gallon bucket. This will cost you about $90 for your yearly supply. I would recommend purchasing several different types of beans for variety. Do not mix the beans in the buckets, each bean type needs its own container. Pinto beans are used in this example because they are a good average bean. All varieties will have roughly the same caloric values.

One cup of dried pinto beans will make 2 1/2 cups of cooked beans with a total of about 620 calories.

Flour Stocks

Using the following simple ingredients you can make one loaf of bread; 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons (1 pack) of yeast and 1 1/8 cup of water. There are roughly 14 fat slices per loaf and you will eat 4 slices per day totaling two loafs per week. Our 5 gallon bucket of flour holds around 26 loafs of bread. At two loafs per week our bucket of flour will last 13 weeks.

You will need four-5 gallon buckets of flour per person annually. Now lets throw in an extra bucket so you can make bread for trade and possibly some cakes, that brings our total up to five-5 gallon buckets for one person every year.

Every bucket holds 25 pounds of flour and 26 packs of yeast. Just put the packs of yeast in with the flour this keeps everything that is necessary for the bread together. A five bucket supply will cost you about $82 per year per person.

One slice of bread contains 110 calories four slices per day contains 440 calories.

Other Stocks

Additionally you will need spices, sugar, barley (for beer), powdered milk and instant potatoes. We are not going to delve into amounts or costs of these items because
they are not necessary for survival and will vary greatly depending on personal preferences. You should also stock a several year supply of multi-vitamins.

The base stock of food will fill you up on 1710 calories per day, not nearly what Americans normally consume but nutritionally adequate. Personally I would recommend augmenting this plan with some dairy (powered) or egg products (freeze dried) and some Twinkies.
Only purchase dried foods that will not freeze, no canned food. This storage plan does not cover infants, growing children or people with special dietary needs. An adequate water supply for food preparation is necessary and not addressed in this plan.

Everything here can be prepared on a wood stove or in a solar over. The list is meant to hold you over until your garden can start producing. The basic one year per person supplies listed above will run you around $230 total, on a personal note I am ashamed to admit that I have spent more than that on a single meal. Think about how much we currently spend on food as a society and how many people that would feed world wide using this plan.

After analyzing the needs addressed above I realized that my partner and I only had about six months worth of food stocks rather than the one year supply I had originally assumed. Over the next couple of months we will be up stocking our supplies to total about two years worth of food. In January I am also going to attempt to live off the supplies listed above minus the Twinkies.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Acupuncture and Herbology

As medicines become to expensive and traditional western doctors are exclusively retained by the elite the common people will once again turn to the ancient arts of Acupuncture and Herbology.

I was talking to this kid a few weeks back about his majoring in information technology at college. He was interested in my twenty plus years of experience in the field and wanted to know what I thought of his career choice. My response was simply that information technology is a dead industry and that he should go into nursing.

In retrospect I should have pointed him to either acupuncture or herbology. These two proven areas of health care have been around for thousands of years and are only discounted by corporate medicine because they cut into profit margins. It is not good business sense to tell a depressed person to go eat a fifty cent raw potato when they are feeling down when you can hook them on antidepressants at forty dollars a week for the rest of their life. Would you go to Walgreen's and buy an eight dollar tube of burn ointment if you could break off a piece of aloe vera plant growing in your back yard and sooth the burn for nothing. Where would the drug industry be today if you could replace most of their products with plants grown in your home garden?

I have two small dachshunds that I love very much so when a friend of mine told me her small wiener dog Joey hurt his back and could not walk it put me in a slight panic. She took Joey to the vet and was told it would run about twenty five hundred dollars for surgery which, she was informed, might not work. The vet suggested putting the dog to sleep. My friend then took Joey to a pet acupuncturist to see if anything could be done.

Now I admit that when she told me this I dismissed it as grief. A month later after four visits and four hundred dollars Joey was running and playing like nothing happened. He was cured without invasive surgery or extensive drug therapy at a fraction of the cost. Think about that.

The next time my back goes out rather than spending a week laid up on muscle relaxers and pain drugs I will be going straight to the acupuncturist. My partner had a recent health expo at his office. They had an acupuncturist there who stuck some needles in his ear for "general health". Now at first I thought this voodoo but he did not catch this flu bug I am just now getting over. I am becoming a convert.

My point is that Acupuncture and Herbology are two areas that will thrive in the coming years and if one could master these skills they would become indispensable to any society.

By the way that potato thing really works. Just get a raw baked potato, wash it and start eating. Something in the vegetable puts you in a much better state of mind.

Rule of Three for Survival

I just find this real interesting

You can go 3 minutes without air
You can go 3 hours without shelter
You can go 3 days without water
You can go 3 weeks without food
You can go 3 months without love

Sickness and Medicines

I have been sick a lot this fall and just got over the flu or something. My recent illness made me think about how I would deal with health issues living at the cabin. Not that I am worried about getting to the hospital or anything like that, I have great neighbors, but what about healing and for that matter getting sick in the first place.

Would that fresh cool air of the San Luis Valley help with getting over the bug? Would a healthy diet lacking fast food and 7-11 snacks aid in the recovery? The cabin has a little box full of the basic health care needs; Imodium, Tylenol, ibuprofen, Benadril, couple of different cough syrups and a big bottle of multi vitamins. Occasionally a pharmacist is necessary for proper drugs, what is a good general antibiotic that's easily stocked? How do you get prescription medicines with out proper prescriptions?

Personally I feel that a shot of whiskey, a cup of chicken soup and a few hours laying in the sun is the best remedy for anything that afflicts you. If not cured then at least you are in a much better mood. Sometimes I take a handful of vitamins if it seems to be real bad.

I work in a very unhealthy environment. My office is in an old raised floor server room located in a windowless basement that I share with about eight other people. The office is cold, dark and has its own air handling unit designed for server rooms, it cools without adding fresh air from outside. The job is tedious, depressing and if one of my co-workers gets sick invariably we all get sick. On the upside the work does not require a huge emotional investment and pays really well until I can move to the cabin full time.

The holiday season also forces us into revoltingly social situations surrounded by people coughing, sneezing and oozing various mucal substances. They all want to touch you and being somewhat introverted this can be quite stressful. Don't get me wrong I am not an isolationist I just want to be more selective with my company.

So, will being removed from this squalid mass of disease reduce the frequency of illness? Will living in the relative stress free alpine freshness of the San Luis Valley benefit my health? I am planning to move to the cabin in late May of 2008 let's hope I make it till then.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Evolution of an Idea

Its time for some honesty. In January 2000 when I first thought of purchasing land a sustainable lifestyle did not even enter the picture. I was living in Denver and tiring of the city life. Don’t get me wrong, I love Denver, it is a great city with a large and diverse gay population. I was really quite happy there. But being somewhat of an introvert I longed for solitude and seclusion. I wanted a place where I could run naked, have trees, a mountain view and no one around. They tend to frown on that running naked thing in the city.

So the criteria list of was a short three items: naked running in the trees, located close to Denver and reasonably priced. Well, there is no land close to Denver that is reasonably priced. After broadening the search I happened on Bear Ridge in the San Luis Valley and fell in love with it.

That first night camping on the ridge was incredible, I had never seen so many stars. There was a warm tent, a roaring campfire; I was naked, alone and it was great. After a few hours nature called. As I was squatting there chuckling to myself about a bear shitting in the woods I made a couple of life changing observations.

First, I wanted to live at Bear Ridge not just on weekends but full time, this was to be my home. Second, I would need a few modern conveniences because that whole squatting thing would be old real quick.

Over the next couple of years I built a super little cabin on the hill side with a stunning view of the mountains. During that time I learned a great deal about designing and building in a self sustaining manner. The cabin is completely off-grid and yet very comfortable with many “normal life” conveniences such as running water, a shower, lights, a stove/oven and even small hot tub out under the stars. The cabin is heated with wood and passive solar the power is generated with solar panels.

Now I did not set out to build a self sustaining cabin, it just evolved out of necessity. Had I planned self sufficiency from the beginning I would have chosen land that was flat, close to power, had shallow well depth an unobstructed southern exposure and employment opportunities. Also soil quality would have taken precedence over privacy. As it goes I am on the northern slope of a very secluded ridge at the end of a lane five miles from the nearest power with a four hundred foot well depth. Additionally, Costilla county is one of the poorest counties in the country with no industry other than potato farming, which I admire greatly.

Even though my little patch of mountain paradise is not exactly easy to maintain I would not trade it for anything. I now see the benefits of the sustainist movement; from the land, to the cabin, to me it all has to work together if a self sustained life experience is to be realized.

It’s the challenge that makes this whole life project interesting and fun. Check out my cabins website if you are interested.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bad Solar Oven

Alright, I built a solar oven last month and have tried in vain to increase the temperature. It gets up to a high of 170 degrees which is hot but not hot enough to bake bread. Beans were cooked in the oven a couple of times and they turned out good but I am concerned about not boiling them, they had to cook all day to be edible.

The problem appears to be the large design of the thing. It is a two by two foot square that one foot deep with a glass cover. The inside is lined with black sheet metal backed with half inch polyurethane insulation. The whole unit is tilted to align with the sun. There are no mirrored collectors on the front.

I will rework the unit with a smaller interior area and external collectors to see if that makes a difference.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bear Ridge Brewery

It was not the plan to make a dark beer but hey we got one.

Bear Ridge Black is our latest offering. This is a hardy dark beer with a robust swarthy aroma that stimulates the senses and enslaves the soul. The bubbles rising through the dark ale reminds one of stars filling a moonless mountain night. Best enjoyed on cold winter evenings in front of a roaring fire curled up with your partner naked on a bear skin rug.

If you prefer your beer light, Bear Ridge Morning Wood is an airy light brew whose fragrance and color reminds one of sunlight dancing across a dew covered stack of mountain pine at your local lumber yard. This energized lager can take the edge off the most difficult roofing project or lubricate the social wheels of any outdoor occasion, especially camp outings and rugby matches. It should be enjoyed in jeans and work boots…shirts are optional. This was previously brewed under the name Bear Ridge Bush Beer.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Update on the Farm

This is just a quick update on how the farm is coming along. The big planter in the foreground has two bean bushes and a pea plant. The far container holds three tomato plants started in mid October. The lower flat hold the rest of the tomatoes.

On Sunday more of the tomatoes will be replanted into larger containers. There are three tomatoes per container. Hopefully the fourteen inch planters are large enough for that number.

The rest of the farm is located in another south facing window in the other room. Grow space is becoming an issue and some shelves are going to be necessary in the next few weeks. The above plants are located in a south window on the back porch. There is really good sun but no heat in that part of the house so those plants are brought into the kitchen at night and sit for a few more hours under a low wattage plant lamp.

The beans and peas are now being started by placing them in a folded warm,wet wash cloth. They germinate within twelve to twenty four hours then are planted in the growth cups. The peppers, onions and carrots are still problem children. And the broccoli is coming along nicely.

A small herb garden was started in the eastern kitchen window and is come along nicely with parsley, rosemary, mint and oregano. They are being grown in small eight inch pots.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mandatory Health Insurance Coverage

Guaranteed Profits

Insurance companies know that difficult times are coming. Massive personal debt and a shaky economy are forcing many Americans into cost reduction life adjustments. This will involve cutting their insurance burden. The insurance companies want to stop this income loss by having the government force Mandatory Health Insurance Coverage onto the public thus guaranteeing corporate profits.

This model was used by the banks with the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005. The financial establishments saw very bleak times ahead; mass bankruptcies would eat into their profits. Calling it bankruptcy reform the banks created state sanctioned indentured servitude by eliminating the ability to erase your debt.

Under the guise of universal health care the insurance companies will force American's into a broken system built to move wealth from the working class to corporate pockets without guaranteeing coverage. As long as corporate profits are the goal of the insurance companies the system will remain broken.

The average premiums for a family of four in 2006 were roughly $11500. Research has shown that of the total insurance premiums used to cover hospital and physician care, 21 percent is spent on insurance administration. Another 13 percent is used to cover other administrative tasks.
Only 66 percent of every insurance dollar is used for patient care. Compare this to Canada's national health insurance system which spends just 1.3% on overhead, and the U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs having administrative costs of between 2-5%.

Additionally insurance companies vigorously deny payment on claims; deny insurance to the high risk populations or people with preexisting conditions; and charge higher premiums for people who have been without health insurance for a time. These practices are legal, encouraged and done to maximize corporate profits.

Single Payer System

The United States is the only industrialized country to not offer universal health coverage to all its citizens. This country spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product on health care than any other nation but ranks 37 out of 191 countries on performance of that care.
Forty-five million are uninsured; an additional 50 million are under-insured. Free market based, for-profit health insurance does not work; why can't we just eliminate it in favor of a streamlined universal single-payer insurance system.

It has been estimated that a single-payer system would dramatically reduce administrative costs by at least $150 to $200 billion a year. Also the single-payer institution could drive the cost of health care down by negotiating contracts that award health care providers for prevention of illness rather than prolonging sickness for profit. Our current insurance system will not do this; if the public is kept sick they can charge more for premiums.

Police departments, fire departments and the public school system are examples of critical support structures that were institutionalized for the greater public good. Corporate greed is the only reason a universal single-payer insurance system is not in place today. Presidential candidates of both parties will release plans in the coming year talking about universal coverage. These plans are nothing but variations on mandatory coverage, authored by the bosses in the insurance industry and dressed up to look like universal coverage. The United States government is guaranteeing corporate profits at the expense of its citizens.

Average Household

In 2006, the median annual household income according to the US Census Bureau was determined to be $48,201.00. Which is roughly $37,000 take home after taxes.

Look at how mandatory health insurance impacts a family of four. Husband and wife both thirty years old, non-smokers in good health, a son and daughter seven and ten respectively. The household income is forty eight thousand a year earned primarily by the husbands contracting business. Wife takes care of the children and handles the books for the contracting company.

Their yearly expenses are: $12,000 rent, $13,000 food and toiletries, $3,360 car payment, $3,120 gas, $2,400 power, $1,200 business cell and home phone, $720 mandatory car insurance. Notice that there are no extravagances or high credit card bills and they rent their home. Total expenditures for this family is $35,800 per year which leaves them with roughly $1,200 yearly for discretionary spending.

The family is forced to purchase a reasonably priced insurance plan to cover their health care costs. A $2,000 dollar deductible plan with a %20 co-pay capped at $8,000 (not including deductible) is available for about $1,250 per person or $5,000 yearly for the family. This is an additional $416 monthly expense of which half may be refunded through tax credits at the end of the year. The family still must come up with the monthly payment. This technically bankrupts them but for the sake of argument lets go on.

Before their mandatory health insurance coverage kicks in this family must pay at least $7,000 out of their pocket; $5,000 premium plus $2,000 deductible. (The deductible is $2,000 per person by the way but we will not even go into that today.) Additionally they are responsible for a %20 co-pay capped at $8,000 not including the deductible. If someone in this family has a catastrophic illness, they are responsible for up to $15,000 yearly. That number assumes that the carrier actually pays for the procedures and does not drop the family or simply deny coverage which is the normal operating procedure for insurance companies.

The package mentioned above is real, the deductible can vary between plans but premium differences make them all about the same. The plan does not include dental or eye care and has a $15 to $60 dollar co-pay on prescriptions. This family would not carry insurance on every family member, they may choose to cover the children or one of the parents but the cost of health insurance today is to high for many citizens. Additionally the benefits received from this insurance package do not justify the ridiculously high price. If your family made $100,000 a year and your salary was reduced to $40,000 the first thing you would cut is health insurance. It is the first thing companies cut when profits sour and it will be the first thing families cut. The health insurance industry and their lobbyist know this.

American families will be forced into supporting the insurance industry through mandatory enrollment. If you chose not to participate your wages will be garnished or you could be jailed. Mandatory health insurance coverage is just another example of corporations buying candidates to guarantee profits at the expense of this counties citizens.

Health insurance companies are not health care providers. The quality of your health care will not be impacted in any way by moving to a single payer system. Americans health would actually improve when it became less profitable to keep us sick.

Mandatory coverage is not universal coverage and should be rejected.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Keep Your Seeds Warm

For seeds to germinate they need a soil temperature of around 70 degrees.

The Bear Ridge farm was started with a 250 watt heat lamp suspended over the seed trays. This seemed to work very well. Seeds germinated and sprouted quickly. Once sprouted the plants tended to "burn" and the soil dried out under the powerful lamp.

The owner of a local greenhouse recommended using tray warmers. These are weak heating pads that sit under the germination trays and run about forty dollars. These pads warm the seed trays from the bottom up to about 15 degrees above ambient temperature. This method does not appear to work nearly as well. The seeds are not germinating and are molding in the soil.

For now germination will be moved back to the heat lamp. When the seeds have sprouted they will be removed from the "hot" area to a south facing window.

After relocating to Bear Ridge the seeds will be germinated next to the wood stove.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

10 Steps to Fascism

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps. As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy

2. Create a gulag

3. Develop a thug caste

4. Set up an internal surveillance system

5. Harass citizens’ groups

6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release

7. Target key individuals

8. Control the press

9. Dissent equals treason

10. Suspend the rule of law

The full article
by Naomi Wolf looks at each step in detail can be viewed here:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Death of a Lifestyle

Dependence on Foreign Oil

In 2005 the United States consumed roughly 21 million barrels of oil daily compared to the global daily consumption of about 84 million barrels. Contrast these numbers with the 2002 daily statistics of 19 and 75 million barrels respectively. From 2002 to 2005 the United States oil production dropped from 8.1 to 5.1 million barrels per day, a production decrease of roughly 3 million barrels per day! Although we have approximately 20 billion barrels left under our feet this oil is of a lesser grade and much harder to pump thus driving the cost per barrel higher. Where does the rest of this oil come from and what will happen when that supply is no longer available.

Oil production peaked in the United States in 1970. This means from that point it cost more and more to pump oil with diminishing returns. The oil that is left in the ground is harder to reach and of a lesser grade. Additionally new reserves are not being found because they do not exist. This has forced the United States to import the majority of its oil.

In 2002 oil cost roughly twenty five dollars a barrel. Estimates show that the global production of oil peaked somewhere between 2005 and 2007. Current prices around one hundred dollars a barrel certainly bare this out. Not only has production peaked but global consumption is skyrocketing with the emergence of a strong middle class in India and China.

The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. Additionally, Iraq was not invaded to guarantee the American people an uninterrupted supply of high quality oil. The invasion and subsequent occupation were conducted to secure the last stock of cheap oil for corporate interests. Due to unending war and frugality on Saddam Hussein part Iraq’s oil production is not set to peak until 2020 this means they have very cheap oil. Saudi Arabia and Iran’s oil production have both peaked in 2007 and 1998 respectively. Iran is running out of cheap oil this is why they are a threat to stability in Iraq. They are loosing their one resource and are just as desperate as the United States to secure an uninterrupted cheap oil supply. The companies that control the cheap oil will control the world. The United States armed forces will be protecting corporate interests in Iraq until the last drop of cheap oil is removed from the ground. It does not matter which party controls the White House our troops are there to stay.

The United States lives on oil. Every product you consume every trip you take requires oil. Anything plastic takes oil to make, all food produced in this country requires tractors and transportation that run on gasoline or diesel, both oil derivative. As the cost per barrel continues to climb what will happen to the cost of oil dependent products? Sixty eight percent of the oil consumed in the United States is for transportation. $100 a barrel oil will translate into roughly four to five dollar a gallon gas. It is estimated that $200 a barrel oil will bring eight to ten dollar a gallon gas. That’s $160 to $200 to fill up the twenty gallon tank on your SUV!

These escalating prices will not come down. It is taking more and more money to pump the oil out of the ground and as long as there is a demand these costs will be pushed onto the end consumer. Very few people in the United States can afford a mortgage payment equivalent in gas every month. The urban sprawl that we have created is not conducive to walking; very few subdivisions even have sidewalks. What is going to happen when the majority of Americans can not afford to drive to work let alone the grocery store? Will they sit quietly while they try to decide between the children getting feed or driving to work? They won’t sit quietly and the government knows it.

Population Control

The War on Terror is a front for placing surveillance and police control mechanisms in America. Billions have been funneled into local police departments to beef up intelligence gathering and detainment facilities. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintains in-depth records on every American including purchases, travel and web activities. DHS monitors all communications through involvement with telecommunications companies and maintains a national privatized police force through contracts with mercenary groups like Blackwater USA. These private mercenaries can be called upon any time the local officials fail to carry out government orders.

DHS routinely conducts mass arrests in coordination with local police department. These are conducted under the name Operation Falcon and are dress rehearsal for future crackdowns on potential enemies of the state. The three Operation Falcon exercises conducted in April 2005, April 2006 and October 2006 netted 30,110 fugitives. Why does the DHS need to practice coordinated mass arrests and detentions. Who provides the detainees names? Is this the ultimate goal of the Terror Watch Lists which as of this writing contains 750,000 American names? If this is truly a foreign terrorist threat why so many American citizens.

It is interesting that the bulk of the money spent on deterring terrorists in the United States is directed towards surveillance and tracking of American citizens. If DHS was truly interested in foreign terrorists then they would secure the boarders and inspect the tons of cargo coming into our ports. A person with a vial of small pox could walk across our northern or southern boards at any time. A large nuclear device could easily be smuggled into an American city in a cargo shipping container from anywhere in the world. Why not invest these billions on a border fence or border surveillance system. Perhaps hire inspectors to investigate the millions of cargo containers coming into the country.

Clearly there is no foreign terrorist threat. The real threat comes from a displaced and unhappy population of American citizens, forced onto the streets by a lack of jobs, foreclosures and runaway gas prices. Up to this point in American history the government has never needed to track their own citizens. What has changed?

Controlled Economic Collapse

The United States is in a controlled economic collapse. For a global economy to work the playing field must be equal. Regions must compete with each other for the small amount of wealth shared by the corporate elite. Profits can only be maximized if this competition takes place. This cannot happen in a country with a strong wealthy middle class. The middle class in the United States is disappearing and the dollar is being devalued and eliminated so a more profitable North American Union can be established on the ruins of this once great empire. The wealth has been reallocated from this county to other nations and global corporations through trade deficits and government contracts. The American way of life must be destroyed for Globalization to work and for the United States to transition to a post oil economy.

Nice paying jobs in the technology and manufacturing fields are outsourced to countries with slave labor. This has destroyed the middle class in America. The service industry is replacing the higher end jobs at a salary of roughly one quarter. This was temporarily offset by the artificially inflated housing market; a well laid trap many Americans are now caught in. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were created in the real estate, construction and banking markets. These jobs helped slow the economic decline while control mechanism were established.

It also stuck home owners with mortgages considerably larger than the value of their home essentially tying them to their property. If they loose their jobs in this environment it is game over for the family; they will be on the street or squatting in their repossessed home.

You will be cold and trapped in your five thousand square foot McMansion trying to convert your decorative natural gas fireplace into something that will burn your $4000 oak dining room table for heat. The children are hungry; apparently that card board soaked in the last of the Wesson oil was not very filling. And you are dreading tomorrows ten mile hike through the snow to stand in the ration line at the local Salvation Army shelter.

Rather than helping the citizens of the country with direct support the congress will pass a Debt Relief Act. This bill will “protect” your family and home by allowing you to work off your debt as a laborer bound to the lending institution. Rather than starve, most will accept this “compassionate” option. Corporate profits skyrocket and the people become a commodity as the Globalists had envisioned. The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005, for all practical purposes, has already established this. You can only declare bankruptcy if you are below the median income level. If everyone is jobless and broke then no one qualifies for bankruptcy and you are forced to repay under a court order. The banks and corporate elite saw the end coming and have been planning for their continued profitable existence for many years.

In the very near future our farms and remaining oil infrastructure will be maintained with debt laborers. Your debts will not be erased with the collapse of our society, this is where that immaculate record keeping and tracking systems come in. Debt labor will be traded like oil is traded today. A corporate farm in Kansas needs 6000 workers to bring in the wheat crop. They call the Bank of America debt laborer department and arrange to have the indentured workers brought in on a train. For your work on the farm Bank of America credits your small earnings, less a processing fee of course, against the owed debt. The debt labor program allows your family to stay in the five thousand square foot McMansion you purchased plus a small food stipend redeemable at Wal-Mart. Fuel can be diverted from farming to policing and war efforts.

Trouble makers, perceived trouble makers, free thinkers and those who refuse to work will be labeled as radicals; rounded up and relocated to detention facilities. These detention camps are already built and ready to receive laborers.

As far as the cities go marshal law will be established with the flipping of a switch. The government will simply shut down the Visa network and close the gas pumps. They can then round up the radicals at their leisure. Private security personal, desensitized during their training in the carnage of Baghdad, will have no trouble shooting looters or anyone out after curfew. The citizens, after hearing of the roundups and killings, will quietly settle into their new way of life.

Solar Oven

I tried my hand at building a solar oven this past week. The unit is a 2x2 foot box that tapers from 14” to 10” on the sides. It is lined with sheet metal painted black and there is a one inch gap between the metal and the wood. The front is covered with an old storm window. In theory the unit is set on the larger end to pick up the winter sun and laid flat during the summer months. The oven has not yet been insulated and the glass covering is not sealed properly against the open side of the box. I will post some pictures sometime this week.

When I leave for work the unit is faced toward the morning sun. I walk the dogs over lunch and the thermometer consistently reads about 150 degrees at that time. Apparently more heat needs to be held in the box. This afternoon I will run by Home Depot and pick up a 2x4 foot polyurethane insulation panel and some sort of sealer for the window. The temperature I am shooting for is 200 to 250 degrees. Additionally the size of the oven might be to big.

Bear Ridge Bush Beer

This is a good starter beer recipe, simple and inexpensive.

2 5 gallon buckets with lids and air locks (home brew store)
1 3 lbs can of hops flavored malt syrup (home brew store)
4 lbs cane sugar
1 pack of beer yeast (bakers yeast will work but beer yeast settles better)
5 gallons of water

Boil malt, 4 Lbs. sugar and 3 gallons of water for 30 minutes, cool slightly, then pour into a sterilized food grade plastic bucket marked at the 5-gallon level. Add cool water to the 5-gallon mark, cover with a plastic trash bag secured with rubber bands. When cooled to room temperature, add yeast cover with bucket lid that has air lock and let it work until only a few bubbles are breaking the surface (about 5 days at room temperature.)

Next, siphon your beer into another sterilized bucket, leaving the gunk (lees) that's settled to the bottom behind. Cover with air locked lid and let settle for about 3 days and bubbling has ceased. Your beer is now flat and ready to bottle, except that you must add 1/4 cup of sugar per gallon so it will carbonate in the bottle. Do this by dissolving 1-1/4 cup of sugar in about a quart of boiling water and pouring it into a sterilized bucket (first bucket), then siphon the beer into it carefully to leave the gunk (lees) behind again, mix and bottle. Let beer set for 10 days then enjoy.

Regarding bottle strength, use only bottles that require a bottle opener to remove the cap. Bottles with twist-off caps are thinner and prone to explosion, or use the 2-liter plastic containers. You should buy new caps and a capper from a home brew store. 5 gallons of beer makes 54-12 oz bottles or around 28-22 oz bottles. I use 22 oz bottles.
This was a good first beer. I use glass carboys now instead of buckets and have adjusted the recipe slightly. I would recommend buying new bottles at a home brew store. Next big step is to try brewing with the malt seeds instead of malt syrup. I will include pictures in the next few days.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The First Bean

The Bear Ridge Project is proud to announce that it has produced its first bean plant! After a couple of failed attempts at growing the illusive plant one finally popped its head above the soil a couple of days ago. The plant pictured is only 3 days old! Two more had broken the surface as of noon today.

The original beans apparently were planted to deep. The packet said to plant them 1 to 1 ½ inches down and even with warmed soil they failed to germinate. The latest batch was planted ½ inch down and sprouted after just a couple of days. The first type up was a Tender Improved Bush variety. None of the peas have sprouted yet. In the background you can see some broccoli. Broccoli apparently is a very delicate plant when it is young, it is hard to believe these will grow into the large heads you see at the market.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Farm

Part of my preparation work for moving to a sustainable lifestyle is understanding the growth and usage of various vegetables. It is necessary to learn how to live off the garden before I have to live off the garden. The technical aspect of gardening is not difficult, it is the nuanced tweaking that I am looking for.

These are some of the growth questions I am researching. At my altitude what temperature should I keep my starter soil? How much water does each plant need? How deep do you really plant a tomato seed? How long does it really take to go from seed to table? What do the young plants look like? How much grown room will I need? How much food does each plant really produce?

The obvious next step is what to do with the produce. How do I make spaghetti sauce? What is the best way to prepare green beans? How do I cook an egg plant? At what point can I eat the broccoli? How do I do canning?

Here is my approach. Every week a certain number of seeds are planted. They are planted in small plastic cups with holes cut in the bottom for drainage. They are stored under a heat lamp that cycles on twenty minutes out of every hour. After they have sprouted they are place on a shelf in a south facing window. Everything is watered daily.

The starter garden has the following items planted every week:

Beef Steak Tomatoes 3 per week
Bush Green Bean 2 per week
Peas 2 per week
Bell Peppers 1 per week
Broccoli 6 per week in flat
Green Onions 1 per week
Egg Plant 1 per week

The Beef Steak Tomatoes have been growing for about a month everything else was started last week. I did start some Green Beans and Peas about the same time as the tomatoes and they did not come up. My guess is that I planted them to deep. This round they were planted about a half an inch down.

The theory is that by planting every week you can have fresh produce throughout the winter. What I don’t eat can be traded or given away. I will keep you posted on the progress.

Canned Food is Bad

This is just a quick note on stocking food for the winter. A couple of years ago I stocked the cabin with enough canned food for a couple of months survival. It was not meant to be a transitional food supply just enough to get me through a blizzard comfortably.

Canned food freezes and become a crystal looking inedible mess. So unless your home is well heated or kept above freezing all the time do not stock canned food.

Go to the market and buy some dry bean and rice. Try the flavored instant potato packets possibly some instant stuffing. I like buying Ramón Noodles they are easy, hot and are very inexpensive. Make sure you have coffee and instant pancake mix for breakfasts. Salt, pepper and assorted spices are also helpful. Be sure to put your food in a sealable plastic bin or bucket this insures that the mice can not get to it. Remember this is your emergency snowed in food supply not your escape from society stocks.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gun Nuts at Rampart Range

Normally target practice takes place on Bear Ridge with a water jug on a stick. This years elk season has forced us to visit our local firing range. The elk take refuge in the private properties that surround Bear Ridge and I really hate disturbing them with unnecessary gun fire. Plus the gun fire brings truck loads of hunter in your direction apparently attracted by the sharp staccato of the powerful 22 rifle. There is nothing quite as disturbing as four business men dressed in well pressed camouflage suits tearing up the road towards you with huge guns bristling from their fifty thousand dollar penis truck.

This was our first trip to an actual shooting range. The Rampart Range Gun Park is located about five miles into the foothills above Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs. It is an unsupervised firing range, meaning that there are no officials or structure for that matter, to get in the way of your shooting pleasure. A gun nuts paradise to be sure. There were three distinct shooting areas. The first was a shotgun range, the second clearing apparently for rifles and small artillery and a tiny third area with green targets that faintly resemble cutouts of little people or fat aliens, not sure which, for hand guns.

I have two 22 rifles one a bolt action the other a semi automatic, an old nine shot 22 revolver and a 12 gauge pump shotgun used exclusively to defend against zombies. The 22 bullets can be used in any of the guns except the shotgun of course. This arrangement is very economical with 22 LR bullets costing about ten dollars for a case of five hundred. This is an efficient collection that can kill anything that needs killed. Though I must say that my guns feel rather anemic after viewing the arsenal assembled on the mountainside Saturday afternoon.

We arrived around two and decided to spend some time on the shotgun range. Now I love shooting a shotgun the gun is heavy and has just the right amount of kick. One of the goals for the day was to get my partner comfortable with the loading and firing of the manly weapon. Remember the zombies can come at any time. He did great and it was much fun. He had some trouble with hitting any targets but that will come.

After switching guns we moved to the rifle range. Everyone watched as we walked to the end of the shooting stations and eyed us as we open our case. I swear I heard a few snickers as we pulled our 22’s out and prepared to fire. Apparently we were not showing the proper reverence to the larger guns around us as we kept getting bad looks even though we hit what we shot.

A gentleman standing directly to our left had what can best be described as a large machine gun with legs. I didn’t know that you could really buy those things. He was having some trouble balancing it and kept shooting the ground about thirty feet from the table which sprayed everyone with dirt. But it was a very big gun so everyone just looked in awe as he finally righted himself and emptied the magazine into the distant hillside while screaming Yeahhhhhhhhh. As the last bullet left the barrel he said “Thank you Jesus”.

Now not being one easy shaken let me tell you that I found it very difficult to concentrate well enough during the firing rampage to reload my small insignificant bullets. We shot a few more rounds under the scornful eyes of the true gun nuts and started packing up.

Glancing towards the handgun range I saw a man with a very large pistol on his hip. He was nursing a cannon like device mounted on a tripod. There appeared to be some loving talk between him and his strange gun although I could not make out the words over the ringing in my ears. He proceeded to shoot the small green alien standing about twenty feet from the end of his muzzle. The innocent visitor fell to the ground with a hole in its center. The nutter then pulled the gun from his hip and emptied the clip into our fatally wounded friend. Apparently aliens are as big a threat as zombies.

I noticed a couple of important things this Saturday afternoon. First a bullet kills equally well weather it comes from a 22 or a small cannon. So choose the weapon you want and are comfortable with. Secondly our founding fathers knew what they were doing. As long as these wonderful gun nuts are armed as enthusiastically as they are we will never fall under tyranny at the end of a gun. There are many other ways to oppress a population but in the United States it will not be by the end of a gun.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Books and Bikes

Books and Bikes should be added to the four basics. These two item, more than any others, represent simplified existence.

Bikes will move to the forefront in transportation over the next decade. As oil prices continue to skyrocket with the passing of Peak Oil and citizens are forced into lower paying jobs; alternative transportation methods will become necessary. Get a comfortable bike that can be ridden to the market or to visit neighbors. Since most of your food is home grown that daily trip to the supermarket or fast food joint is eliminated. A large basket or lightweight trailer allows for the transportation of tradeable goods or tools. Learn the operation of your bike and how to service it. This skill will be in demand in the coming years.

Books are our escape and connection to the knowledge of the past. Find your local library and join. Books are divided into two categories. The first is entertainment. These books you get from the library or your local book bank and represent your preferred literary genre. The second is your personal reference library. These books include topics that are necessary to survival such as planting or building techniques, possibly first aid or basic veterinary skills maybe an old set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. You should scour the local used book stores for inexpensive additions to your reference library. Search for topics that will aid you in transitioning to a sustainable existence.

I can imagine that it would be very satisfying to once a week get on your bike, ride to the library, pick a couple of books and ride home.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Know Your Horse

Part of the planning for moving to a sustainable existence was finding a vehicle that would get me around and not cost alot. Initially the search was for an older diesel pickup perhaps a VW diesel pickup or maybe a diesel Toyota pickup. They are small get good gas mileage and could run biodiesel which the neighbor and I have discussed producing.

At the moment, these types of truck are in great demand and finding one is difficult. So I got rid of the new five hundred dollar a month truck and bought an old 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. It was purchased for a few hundred dollars knowing that it would need a little work.

The nice thing about new vehicles is that if they break someone comes and takes them to be fixed. This is very convenient. Driving up La Veta Pass this past Saturday the jeep started to overheat and slow down. I had just taken the jeep into the muffler shop the weekend before because it seemed that the catalytic converter was plugged. The muffler people said it was fine and that it had an exhaust leak instead which they fixed. They also gave it a tune up.

Long story short it took an hour to get over the pass and longer to get back on Monday. This put me in a panicked pissed off mood all weekend. I made it to a garage in Walsenburg where they said the catalytic converter was completely blocked. They notched the exhaust pipe before the converter and it ran great the rest of the trip.

I am still looking for the older diesel truck but in the mean time, I will be studying up on the inner working of my current horse.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bread, Beans, Bullets and Booze

As the American economy and the dollar continue their downward spiral and mass inflation and unemployment loom on the horizon skills will be needed that are not based on current monetary methodologies. After reviewing problems encountered during my stays at Bear Ridge, I have come up with a list of four basic skill sets necessary to survive in a trade-based economy.

The Four Basics are Bread, Beans, Bullets, and Booze.

Bread is pretty evident. The ability to make various breads from scratch is a valuable commodity. Freshly baked bread are sold at farmers markets or traded for goods and services. Everyone should stockpile several five gallon buckets of flour and as much yeast as possible. The flour will keep for several years in a sealed bucket and most yeast has at least a 3-year shelf life. Learn how to bake bread in a propane, solar and wood-fired oven. A great additional skill is building solar and wood-fired ovens.

Beans are actually meant to represent all gardening and vegetables. Learn how to grow various plants under different conditions. A large diverse garden planted in the summer will give you plenty of nutritious food for trading or canning. Buy a large canning pressure cooker with jars and preserve your vegetables for winter. Seeds should be purchased now and stored in a cool dry container, buy a lot of them. Try planting a few of your favorites each week over the fall and winter and grow them in a south facing window. You will gain experience growing the plants and have fresh vegetables every week. Additionally decide on a few beans you like and buy them dry from your local store. Fill several five-gallon buckets with these and throw in a couple of buckets of dried rice. This reserve of food holds you over until the garden is producing.

Bullets are for hunting and protection. At minimum, every household should have a 22 rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun. The rifle can be used on small game and for target practice. The 22 is not a large gun and the bullets are incredibly cheap and can be purchased in bulk cans. Nothing beats a shotgun for protection, great accuracy is not needed and the weapon itself is very intimidating. Buy plenty of shotgun shells and a reloading kit. The reloading kit saves money and gives you a valuable skill useful in trade.

Booze is certainly the most valuable commodity know to man. The ability to brew a fine beer or vint a robust wine gives the artisan a distinct advantage. Alcohol based beverages are easy to produce and can be sold or traded for just about anything. Learn and understand the fermenting process. Stockpile malt, sugar, brewers yeast, hops and bottles. Home brew beer usually is made in 5-gallon quantities; purchase a brew kit if possible. People in a depressed society look for an escape. The person furnishing that escape becomes invaluable to that society.

This certainly does not cover everything but it is my starting point. This journal is dedicated to developing the above skill and sharing lessons learned. Let me know what you think or anything I should add.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Bear Ridge Project

The goal of the Bear Ridge Project is to develop an off-grid, sustainable life existence for my partner and I on less than one hundred dollars per month. Our cabin is off-grid and self sufficient, but at this time we are not. Over the past few years the realization emerged that building shelter was only half the battle. Moving from a consumer driven economy to an independent existence is a very difficult task.

Understand that my partner and I are very skilled at our jobs. We make good money which we exchange for food and other supplies that are needed to sustain life. The two of us are very good at this. Unfortunately these skills are useless in a lifestyle that in not based on money.

Growing a potato in a cup of water thirty years ago is the extent of my practical knowledge in agricultural. My bread has always been purchased in a plastic sleeve and my beer comes from the liquor store. And although I own guns it is doubtful that I could hit anything moving faster than a tree. My hunting experience consists of two hours when I was five complaining to my dad about being cold and tired. My partner’s experience is roughly the same as mine although I do have more experience in agriculture.

This journal is a record of my journey to gain the valuable knowledge necessary to live an independent, sustainable life. As well as the reasoning behind this desire. So enjoy.