Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

Tag Archives: electrical

Winter Reading: Off The Grid

As future farmers and homesteaders, Eric and I aspire to live off the grid- providing our own electricity, water, and sanitation needs without the power and utility companies. Nick Rosen’s Off the Grid, tackles the complex question: why do people live off the grid? The first section of the book provides the reader with a bit of a history lesson, describing the early days of electricity, explaining the industrialization of electric and water suppliers, and discussing the new era of the so-called “super grid.” There were more than enough reasons in just the first chapter to make me want to live off the grid.

The second (and larger) part of the book chronicles Rosen’s adventures around the US, seeking out and meeting people who live off the grid. Rosen has categorized the off-gridders based on their motives- some choose to live off the grid to be more in tune with nature or to be self reliant, while other people have no choice, unable to pay for the utilities (or even a place to live), or living in an area not serviced by the grid.  Through the journey, Rosen shares a lot of reasons why people live off the grid, but I wish that some sections had been more detailed, specifically how some off-the-gridders implemented their self-reliant lifestyle. There is little mention of how his subjects access water or handle their waste, though Rosen includes water and sanitation in his definition of the grid.

Fortunately, Rosen has a website, with a blog, forums, and other resources that have answered all of my concerns. If you’re interested in homesteading and self-sufficiency, you should really check it out at off-grid.net.


Frugal Friday: Beat the Heat

We’ve had a week of 100º+ days here in St. Louis, and the weather service says 33 states are currently under a heat advisory. We do run our air conditioning, but there are some other fun, frugal ways to beat the heat.

Shot-cicleShot-cicles: We’ve been making some homemade popcicles lately. We don’t have popcicle molds. so we use shot glasses- or you can use anything where the rim isn’t narrower than the rest of the glass. Fill with three parts juice and one part almond or coconut milk (you can omit these milks, but we like the creaminess they add). Get creative-  throw in dash of vanilla or cinnamon depending on the flavor, or mix in fresh fruit. Freeze for about 10 minutes until the juice is frozen enough to support a popcicle stick (or chop stick, like we used above).  The popcicles will be ready in just a couple hours.

Ceiling fan adjustment: The direction of rotation makes a difference because each fan blade has a tilt. Most fans have a switch to change the direction. In summer, you want the leading edge of the fan blade higher so the air is pushed downward (this is counter-clockwise for most fans). In the winter, the leading edge should be lower, so the air is pulled upward and the warmer air above is displaced. Just having proper air circulation makes a big difference in your indoor comfort.

Heating Cooling pad: Some heating pads can be used as cooling pads, like this one I made last winter. Keep it in the freezer and it’ll be ready when you need it!

Anyone else have cheap, creative ways to stay cool?

Frugal Friday #2: Grow Light Fixture

Today we made another grow light for our seedlings. Store-bought grow lights are pretty expensive, so after doing some research and combining a few ideas, here’s what we came up with.

We started with the cheapest double-sided light fixture from the hardware store. The wires had to be routed up through the top of the fixture, with the threaded knob facing up.  We cut the female end off an extension cord so we could splice the wires together.

For the hood, we used 6″ diameter aluminum duct work/dryer vent, cut down to a 2 foot length. (We actually scored this for free; the hardware store was out of this particular size, and a customer nearby overheard and gave us a piece he happened to have in his truck.)  Threaded rods were drilled through each end for stability.

We exposed the wires of the extension cord and stripped the plastic off to expose the wire. Wire strippers are best for this job, but we used a box knife with great care.

We drilled a hole in the center of the aluminum hood and the center of the white plastic cap that came with the fixture, which allowed us to use it as a nut. The wires were threaded up through the top of the hood and the fixture was secured by tightening the plastic nut.  We then connected all three wires from the extension cord to the corresponding wires of the light fixture. As you can see below, yellow wire  nuts were used to make a tight connection and for safety.We wrapped the wires with electrical tape from the white plastic nut all the way up past the yellow wire nuts.

We used the threaded rods to hold the aluminum hood in the right shape. We planned to use nuts to secure the rods in place, but cutting the rods to size with bolt cutters left the ends uneven so nuts couldn’t be used. Instead, we used electrical tape on either side to prevent the hood from sliding.

This is our finished product. We will hang the fixture by attaching chain to the threaded rods on all four corners. We use compact florescent bulbs for energy efficiency, with low heat and high light output.

We’ll use this fixture for  more seedlings to be started this weekend!