Monthly Archives:March 2005

Off-Grid Diaries

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There is a sense of purpose and accomplishment that comes from living off-grid, whther you are in a motorhome or a backwoods cabin. Being food and energy self-sufficient, not being affected if the area has a power outage, no utility bills…..

Lest some think it’s a problem-free idyllic life, be aware that when grid support is removed, and you are the primary repairman for a variety of systems, there can be many trials of character, and marriage.

The following links are a few off-grid articles and diaries of folks who walk the walk, and live off-grid. We will carry others in future stories

Making your own Biodiesel

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It was a busy day Saturday, at the Green Trust facilities in Winthrop, NY. We had a class come together to learn how to construct a biodiesel processor. This unit will take lye and methanol, react it with vegetable oil, and produce a direct substitute for diesel fuel, to be used in any diesel engine, with no changes or modifications to the engine or fuel system. From tractors to trucks, cars to generators, even your boat, if you have a diesel engine, you can make your own fuel, no fumes, no fuss.
We start with a standard electric water heater from our local Sears store, and a conversion kit from Biodiesel Warehouse. After removing the cold water inlet tube, we remove the bottom drain, and attach the valve “T” assembly. The pump then bolts on to the “T”, attaching the fuel transfer manifold to the top of the pump.

4×4 car rental in the UK

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Get into the car
Let’s go off-road

Want to explore the British countryside by car this weekend? Why not make it as adventurous as possible, and more fun, go off the main tracks to some of the most remote and rugged parts of the country – here are the best 4×4 car rental places online.

If you are worried about eco-impact – specify diesel and then fill the tank with biofuel. Remember to travel the wild parts of the country responsibly. Stick to rights of way and leave no permanent trace behind you.

In the UK try for rental of rugged 4×4 cars, pickups or people carriers: fill an enquiry form online or email 4× For luxury 4×4 cars email
Tel. +44 (0) 1236 765566 Fax. +44 (0) 1236 755760

The Autonomous House

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autonomous house
Off-grid Pioneer

BBC Radio had a great dive into the archives tonight (saturday), with a show about our past visions of the Future House.

From the 1970s it featured the first well-developed idea for an off-grid home — The Autonomous House designed by Brenda and Robert Vale. And from the 80s – Biosphere 2. Both were off-grid ideas that were ahead of their time. The Vale’s ideas are just coming to fruition all over the US and the UK

Listen to the programme

They practice what we preach

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Jules Dervaes urban homestead and its motley array of off-grid projects have turned into something of an obsession for the entire family. So far their achievements include a homemade solar oven, solar pv panels, home-reared animals, biodiesel-brewing for their car, and a vegetable garden growing a sizable percentage of their own food.

Situated on a 66’ X 132’ city lot (1/5 acre), with approximately 1/10 acre under cultivation, including 1,300 sq. ft of container gardening, they have integrated a blend of organic edible landscaping, permaculture and bio-intensive gardening methods to achieve maximum productivity. Their garden amazingly produced over 3 tons (6,097lbs) of fruits and vegetables in 2003 and 2004. Jules calls his project Path to Freedom.

The Good Shopping Guide – book review

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The Good Shopping GuideGuess what? Ecover is no longer the number one choice among eco-friendly detergents. (find who now holds that honour at the end of this article).

Lloyds TSB and the Royal Bank of Scotland should be avoided if you are looking for a home loan from an ethical company. Try the Nationwide, if you want a big company, or Ecology Building Society or the Ethical Mortgage Service instead. And Ecover has also been knocked off the top slot for house cleaners, dropping to number four.

These are just a few of the useful findings in the new Good Shopping Guide – click on the picture to buy the book. In dozens of handy sections from toothpaste to TVs, and Insurance to Ice Cream, the guide lists the main brands, and then rates them on an easy-to-read scale. Using 14 separate tests, including categories like Irresponsible Marketing, Animal testing, Environmental Reporting and Workers Rights, the guide delivers a point-by-point guide to each company’s activities.

PENNEY POYZER — Eco-dominatrix

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Newbie TV presenter Penney Poyzer is to Ecology what Jamie Oliver is to Cooking – the personality who will popularise living off the grid, and make it accessible to all.

Penney will be on the nation’s screens in June when BBC2 launch “There’s No Waste like Home,” a series about how to green your home. Penney takes families through the steps needed to save money and save the world – reducing energy consumption, recycling, detoxing the kitchen and bathroom. By the time she’s finished, the whole country will be talking eco-friendly.

The TV show is about becoming what Penney calls “conscious consumers.”

“Its not just a programme to me,” she told us during a break in her shooting schedule. “Its making sure it really changes the lives of the families I meet. That’s what I’m after.”

“I go and observe them for 2-3 days — look at their utility and shopping bills, see how much waste they are producing. I tip out all their waste. One family had 17 black bin bags per week, which was all being sent to landfill. They got it down to one bag being sent to landfill, and the rest being separated and recycled into the various local council schemes.

What do you do to relax?

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How do you relax? Yes, you , dear reader. We want to hear from you.

Meditation? Long walks? Weekends in the woods? What about short moments of relaxation? Do you have a special way to relax and drop off the grid for those moments or hours or days. Or even not such a special way. When you just want to get away from it all, what is the best thing to do? Post your comments below or contact We will be publishing the best ideas.

Water Motor

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We all know how an electric motor operates. You have a power switch, it turns electric current on and off to an electric motor, which then does work. That work can be pushing a cart, a fridge, a water pump, or any number of rotary devices. What do you do off the grid, in the mountains of South America, where there is no electricity? What do you use to power your motor? Enter my friends Ron & Diane, in Bolivia, and their “Water Motor“. A unique Micro-Hydro device that uses the power of a falling stream to power stationary devices like saws, mills and generators.