Posts tagged diy

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Making Cheese

“Hi, my name is Solarious, and I am addicted to cheese.”

Why does cheese have to taste so good? And why is it in every processed food on the planet? Even the “healthy” foods are dusted with sharp, yummy cheeses to bring out their gourmet flavors. Of all the things I’m attempting to give up after reading that book, cheese manages to creep back in with scary regularity. Sometimes, it’s a slice here or a sprinkle there, but as often as not, I’m not even particularly aware of it until I’ve already eaten. Ever try to find an economic frozen dinner without meat? Even brands like Healthy Choices and Lean Cuisine basically only offer meat dishes. Add cheese to the list, and you’ve just blackballed yourself from the freezer section. And though I’m sure that awesome cheese alternatives exist (someone keeps telling me great things about some walnut “cheese”), I haven’t yet discovered them.

Homemade Cheese

So it’s time to rethink the paradigm. Sure, processed cheeses are bad, but like any other food, the homemade variety should be more healthy and fulfilling, right? While I attempt to figure out what yummy types of “cheeze” alternatives exist out there (please, share!), I found this great tutorial on making hard cheeses to try out. He’s got a PhD in chemistry – so I figure he’s got the cheese making thing down, too. Of course, he recommends starting with the beginning cheese making tutorial, and indeed, there’s a lot of great information and recipe/tutorials to get you started. There’s even a link to a DIY cheese press for all you super handy types.  Here’s another great site, sorted by type of cheese, with lots of recipes.

Cheese and yogurt making are great projects to try with kids, too. There are a lot of projects that can be completed in a day. It teaches them about long-term care and food making all at once, while teaching proper food handling safety. And of course, getting to eat the spoils of your devotion is always a great motivator!

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Wind Extravaganza: Another Easy DIY Turbine

DIY Turbine Plans with no laser cut parts from TheBackShed.com

theBackShed.com's DIY windmill

When I check out the stats on this blog, DIY wind plans consistently top the most-viewed posts list. Obviously, there are a lot of people out there wanting to get in on wind power without shelling out thousands for a commercial kit. It certainly fits with the “I built it in my basement” ethos so popular here in America, and, I’m sure, abroad as well.

So, for all you backyard alternative energy warriors, here’s another plan for you to tackle, designed to be easy to construct with found and easy-to-obtain parts. Of course, you’ll have to find the motor listed (or know how to mod the design for your particular supplies) and it will still take a bit of metal cutting, but at least you won’t be struggling to find a laser cutter to build your own parts. Nice pictures of each stage should make construction easier, too.  Happy building!

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DIY Wind: kid in a candy store

OtherPower.com wind experiments

This site, brought to you from the folks at OtherPower.com, is a great source of inspiration (and humorous things to try!) when deciding to build your own wind power system. Been looking at your hamster wondering if (s)he could be working for the cause? Well, they’ve got your answer. And there are a lot of projects her for you to try, with complete ingredient lists and a discussion of how each model performed after being built. Add in discussions on choosing proper equipment for the job, and you’ve got a DIY wind power mecca, right at your fingertips.

building a windmill

The biggest gift of this site is getting to see everything in the process of being made. I always have trouble figuring out where to start when people simply show ingredients and the finished product. But here, you see the steps as you complete them, and not only that, they discuss the evolution and performance of their machines over time, so you can choose one that suits your needs without all the trail and error.

When grid crash arrives, most of us won’t have the luxury of buying a pre-fab system to generate power. So the emphasis on using materials you can find in your local environment is important. Of course, you probably don’t want to wait until you NEED wind power to try building a system. So why not visit the site today and pick a design to try? They even have a web store to help you find all those parts for your project. With several “built in a day” options to try, you could be harnessing wind power tomorrow!

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BOOK REVIEW: How to Survive Anywhere

How to Survive Anywhere

I read this book after arriving home from hiking last week, and came away from it feeling like I’d learned some useful tips for future trips.  The most interesting sections I found were the discussions of edible foods, which contained several commonly found entries I’d not heard of being foodstuff, and the discussion of making ropes, which I was able to put into practice immediately using dried palm leaves from the neighborhood and other shreds of string around the house.  It’s kind of addictive, like meditation.

In fact, putting things into practice before you need them could have been the unstated theme of the book.  After all, do you want to be figuring out how to coax fire from a magnifying glass AFTER the disaster when you’re already tired and hungry?  The main focus is on preparing a site, making utensils, tools, and weapons for your later survival. Places to find potable water are discussed, as well as how to purify water that isn’t so palatable.  But once you’re settled in, you’re on your own. There isn’t a lot of discussion about HOW to use things once you make them, but if you follow Mr Nyerges’ experienced advice (he’s a respected teacher who has lived in MANY different improvised and off-grid places) and practice, then you should be all right when the disaster hits.

Recommended especially for people who want to more closely examine the potential for survival in an urban setting, as he covers this topic very well.

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Bathing Al Fresco

Ah, nothing like the wilderness to make you reevaluate your relationship to material goods. This past weekend, I arrived on the trail as the clouds and fog lifted from atop the mountains I was entering. A man told me it had been raining for three days… not good news (or so I thought) in the flash-flood prone desert. But it turned out, hiking after the rain was like a hidden secret ritual for many, who avoided the 100+ degree weather by following a storm through the hills. It was beautiful.

Superstitions after Rain

My hiking buddy and I set up camp by a lovely spring-fed stream in the heart of the wilderness. Barely any signs of humans passing through the area in decades, so the water was about as clean and refreshing looking as any can be. I wanted to go for a swim in the natural rock pools and then bathe in the open sun. But when I pulled my shampoo bottle out of my bag, and then looked in the water at the bullfrog tadpoles and other life, I couldn’t bring myself to use any unnatural products in such a pristine place.

Of course, I wouldn’t have thought twice about using that same shampoo at home, though it all ends up in the same water somewhere downstream. Conversely, I wouldn’t have touched water that had a tadpole in it at home, no matter how clearly I could see the bottom. As I said, sometimes it takes a little unfamiliar scenery to make up evaluate our own habits without colored lenses. So I chose to forgo the bath and simply enjoy a swim. Lovely.

When I arrived home, I was determined not to let this happen again, to find myself a potential life-killing polluter in one of the few places not already actively under attack by humankind. So I started researching natural soap, remembering something about “soaproot” from somewhere back in 5th grade when we studied the pioneers crossing the great American plains. Turns out, there are SEVERAL “soaproots”, and had I known what I was doing, there was likely one of them within fifty feet of the proposed bathing locale.

Ever found yourself in a similar bind? Here’s the skinny on natural soap:

Soaproot2

Indian Soaproot, Bouncing Bet, Soapwort

“Wherever Poison Oak grows chances are you will find Soap Root growing. You can harvest Soap Root anytime of the year and it looks the same year round, except for having tall flowering stalks in the spring. The part to use is the bulbous root, so you will need to dig it up. Usually one bulb is all you will need. Peel off the brown, furry outer covering until the white layer underneath is exposed. While using, keep it in a plastic bag to keep from drying out.” – naturalfamilyhome.com

This is the most commonly known of the soap-producing plants. It produces a nice lather for washing both body and clothes, and according to legend, it was also used by the Apaches to catch fish by putting it in the water. It has the most “bang for the buck” of lathering plants.

Yucca

The yucca plant comes in a wide variety of species, but all share the potential for lather. Some people recommend using the root for bathing, but using the root kills the plant. For a small task like bathing, you can simply pull off one leaf from the plant, shred the leaf into strips, and rub them back and forth in your hands with water until a lather forms. (Incidentally, this is also the first step in making yucca twine, another useful thing to know in an emergency!) Use this mix like a pre-soaped washcloth. This plant is so common in the Southwest, you can find it everywhere from ornamental gardens to the untouched National Parks. If I had known, I’d have had a yucca bath that day.

Wood Ashes as Cleaning Agent

Wood Ashes

In an emergency situation, you can wash your skin or pots and pans, etc with ashes from a campfire. It’s important to use clean ashes and not to leave them on your skin too long… ashes are caustic, as they contain lye, an ingredient used in making store-bought soaps.

Buffalo/Missouri Gourd, Mock Orange, Callabacilla

Small triangular leaves and a very spreading habit, this vine has small, orange shaped and sized gourds and a thick taproot that can be up to five feet long. The gourds can also be used as sponges. There is less lather in this plant than others.

Soapberry Trees

These grow in the Southeastern and MidAtlantic states, and are one of three varieties. They have small berries which lather when crushed in water.

Wild Lilac, Myrtle, Buck Brush

Grows in the Western states, covering the land with blue and white flowers in the Spring. The flowers can be used as soap, and are very fragrant, leaving the body perfumed.

Southern Buckeye

A Southeastern plant that is best for washing clothes and fabrics. Like the soapwort, it can stun fish when thrown in water, though this is illegal and should be reserved for survival situations.

Read more about soap plants here

Survival outline that includes a few more saponin-containing plants

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Ride the BioTour

More Information on joining the BioTour here

BioTour Across America

If you’ve been looking for an inexpensive way to spend a week of vacation while still contributing to a great cause, how about taking part in BioTour’s journey across America?  Biotour is a big school bus, converted to run on WVO (biodiesel) and solar energy.  A rotating cast of characters pilot the bus across the country making presentations to school children and politicians alike about the importance of renewable energy in our lives. Along the way, crew members educate themselves about the deeds and processes of progressive companies and towns across the nation.

The BioTour Bus

You can stay with the crew for up to a week for a suggested donation of $0-$100 dollars, a good CD of music to share, and some snacks for everyone.  They aren’t running an alt-travel agency, so you’re signing up to be part of the crew, slinging grease and working on broken parts alongside everyone else.  The past tour dates have included some impressive stops, and many interesting ones in between: it’s safe to say your week will be unlike any other that’s transpired in the past.  So pack up your backpack and hit the greyhound station to meet them along they way for a week of french-fried country education and fun.

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BOOK REVIEW: Peak Oil Survival

Peak Oil Survival: Preparation for Life After Grid-Crash

Peak Oil Survival

Just the name alone drew me to the book. Of course I want to know how to live after the bottom inevitably drops out from under us. The book was really a quick read. It looked much more dense textually than it turned out to be. But there was a lot of good information here, centered mostly upon three areas of expertise: Finding and preserving clean water, finding and making light, and heating and cooling of both environment and food.

The chapters are very short, and each show a few different ways to achieve the stated goal, depending upon your location and particular circumstance. Neither bending toward warm or cold weathers in bias, the book has something to offer for everyone. The one thing this book ISN’T is a handbook for surviving in the wilderness. Most of the projects use salvaged materials from a more populated locale than the wilderness affords. No, this is just what it says. How to make soda can shingles and dig an outhouse when Home Depot goes under and you no longer have city water running through the pipes.

I enjoyed reading the book, and found I came out with a fair understanding of most of the topics covered, especially the importance of water in a person’s chances for long-term survival. If you’re smart, you’ll put many of the ideas in here to practice long before the arrival of grid-crash. The only thing I felt missing was a solid discussion of making shelters, as I suppose it flew too far toward the wilderness for their intended audience. If they eventually write a companion guide to cover that enormous topic, I’ll gladly be in line to buy it.

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