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December 08, 2007



I feel we may be kindred spirits. This is a topic rather close to my heart too. I look forward to hearing what you found out.

When we were in CA, the lady we worked for had just installed several thousand dollars worth of solar panels. They figured it would take about 11 years before they had paid for themselves, but after that they wouldn't have electricity bills.

If you have, say, $60,000 worth of loose change floating around in your pockets, you might consider it. Otherwise, I'm clueless.


I think finding effecient sustainable fuel is probably one of the most difficult tasks out. Good luck wit that. Especially as trees go slowly and the need for heat can be a lot more immediate. Thanks for the great comments on my blog.


Our new place is off the grid. We will have PV stored in batteries, which we already have hooked up to our back up generator. It already is much more efficient to power the batteries as needed then draw from the batteries. We also will have solar hot water, one of the most cost efficient ways to introduce some sustainable energy into your home. If you can design a water storage tank and a system for heating the water when you have a wood fire burning, the heat mass storage factor is HUGE with water. So you burn some wood then the heated water warms the house, assuming excellent insulation and some sort of radiant heat set up. Just some ideas, especially with your handy husband who might design and constuct some of this, not that copper pipes are cheap though! Yikes!

Mother Earth News continues to be a great resource. And the New England Sustainable Energy Association. Maine might have an SEA. I know NH and VT do. I have gone to visit homes on the annual 'green house tour' each October. You can probably google some of these and get more info. Folks are remarkable open to talk about their sustainable systems -- great education and sense of connectedness at the same time. Good luck with your endeavors!


If you have 20 acres of woodland, maybe that is sufficient for coppicing a suitable tree (willow?) for firewood? Corn stalks and cobs may be good too, if they will grow well enough where you are.

Solar water heating (as opposed to electricity generation) may get you some free energy too.

Another idea: since you have animals, what about a composting bunker to generate methane for cooking and maybe a bit of heating?

Insulating the house better will help conserve what heat you do have.

I hope that these thoughts are helpful.


LJB- I didn't remember that you were going off grid. Bravo! What is your wall construction? A friend of mine had a home built by a certified green builder. It is a stick contruction but it is so tight and with the "proper" amount of glass in the right places (and properly managed during the sun cycles of the day) his house will never go below freezing even if he has no heat source. He does have wood and propane (radiant powered by propane)heating sources. He paid just over $300.0 a square foot for construction though! We can't take out loans for the new house--we are maxed now. We are looking at the ICF wall construction for the new house (this one is pine logs)The green folks don't like ICF because of the manufacturing process. We will use the PEX piping system for Radiant heating. We do have some great groups in Maine one is The permiculture group. besides creating a network of expertise in the art of sustainable living they are also creating a community where they gather as a group and work on projects at eachothers homes and teach one another their own individual talents.

TH -Willow & corn husks? I don't think I've heard of either being popular around here. I have Oak, Maple, ash, pine. I bet the willow grows faster that my hard woods. We use the propane to heat water and cook right now. The pine log construction could use some insulation for sure--glad it'so little. I'm using all the horse manure to hopefully change the acidic soil and get grass growing on the plots here and there that we've removed pine from.

Beckz -You're welcome and Thank You. --difficult yes, but I believe increasingly important.

Sarah(KSF;^) -Doing the Best thing energy wise right now is SO expensive! Same with food choices: Organic and local! I will let you know what I find.




We're also looking at going off grid as you know and these are two other forms of alternative energy we've come up with. We're also looking at yurt type houses now. I'm really interested in all you find out!


We built a timberframe with stressed skin panels, although they are no longer called that, sorry I don't recall their new name. *g* Cellar is ICF and we love that regardless of the controversy you mention. (Same controversy for the wall and roof panels.) We had some of our old farmhouse cellar replaced with ICF and it made a huge difference with heating this, our current house. We did not think things through in advance and should I ever have to build again, I would create something different. But this is turning out to be a gem. PEX going in right now for radiant heat. We custom built a 1500 gallon water storage tank within a custom built ICF 'box' in the cellar. Beware of theives when you go to build -- we had more than one cylinder of copper tubing gone missing -- ouch on the budget! Ouch on the violation vibes! It sounds like there are great community resources there in Maine -- yay for Maine! *g* We looked into wind power and if our budget allowed, or maybe someday when it does? we are situated in a great (steadily windy) spot for wind generated power.

Ask the Farrier

Great article, I couldn't agree with you more!

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