Sunday, July 31, 2016

Foragers Beware....

Of course before you go picking wild plants to eat, you will need to know how to identify them.  Probably of greater importance is being able to distinguish plants that look similar but are poisonous.  Outdoor Life has an article on 3 Dangerous Plants That Look Like Edibles.  They are:

  • Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) looks like carrot or cow parsley
  • Moonseed (Menispermum canadense) looks like grapes
  • Horse nettle (Solanum carolinense) looks like tomatoes
Off-the-Grid News adds several more Dangerous Look-Alikes:
  • Water hemlocks (Cicuta sp.) look like carrot
  • Blue flag (Iris versicolor) and yellow flag (Iris pseduacorus) look like cattails
  • Indian strawberry (Potentilla indica) looks like field strawberries
  • Daffodils (Narcissus sp.) look like wild garlic
  • and of course, many edible mushrooms have deadly look-alikes.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Man with a Plan

Reverse Engineer posted his Energy Problem Solutions to the Doomstead Diner.  After having lost track of a wonderful article about growing algae for oil using carbon captured from a biomass-burning combined heat and power plant, I want to make sure I don't lose this:

Here is my plan for a sustainable Homo Sap society that is not down at H-G level.  I published it on OFW in the commentariat and it got about the same reception it would have received on NBL.

Energy Problem Solutions

I detailed in a prior post how to substitute distributed intermittent electric power for the current centralized on demand power grid for the public at large, as well as how to distribute out your factories and manufacturing in the places you can actually collect large amounts of renewable energy.  Such places are near large hydro facilities, near the ocean where you can capture steady Wave Action and Wind Power, in the Desert where you can capture reliable Solar Power and in geological hot spots like Iceland and Yellowstone where  Geothermal power can be captured in large quantities necessary for manufacturing.

However, these are not your only problems of course, the biggest one being transportation.

For this, you need to refurbish and upgrade the current rail systems.  Main long distance lines need to be electrified, with the power supplied all along the line through large solar and wind arrays.  Trains may not run continuously on these lines, they may have to wait for power to be supplied to the section of track they are on.  In the FSoA, these are only the main E-W and N-S rail lines.

Subsidiary lines which run off these routes can be run with Diesel-Electric Locomotives, utilizing biodiesel.  This brings goods within around a 300 mile radius to most locations in the FSoA.

Final transportation of goods is done with either animal power or small electrics which can be charged along the distribution route from wind and solar arrays.  Again, the transporter may have to wait a day or two to get enough power to continue with the journey to the final destination.

For Ocean Transport of goods between continents, we need to go back to smaller ships, primarily Sail.  However, there should be little need to move many goods between continents since all necessary items should be produced locally, such as food, clothing and shelter building materials.

The next area we are highly dependent on FF for is Agriculture, both for fertilizer and pesticides and for the machines necessary for large scale till farming of annuals.  We need to convert to growing mostly perennials on small plots of land cultivated through permaculture by individuals.  These biomes should be set up so there are competing insect predators to replace the pesticides.  Along with the permaculture biomes, we need to set up large scale hydroponics and aquaculture farms that are water and fertilizer conservative, and we need to recycle humanure into these facilities as fertilizer.

Most metals and other basic elements can be acquired scavenging from the debris left over from the Age of Oil.  What does need to still be mined can be done with electric heavy equipment periodically as power is available.  Large scale smelting of metal can be done with Solar Thermal plants, utilizing large fresnel lenses to concentrate heat.

Precursors for organic molecules we currently get from Oil can be grown and converted and polymerized as necessary, utililizing renewable electric production.

Now, will this syste support the current 7.2B people?  That is doubtful, but I do think it could support 700M.

The system will not be built from the top down, it has to build from the bottom up.  As the grand monetary system collapses, individual communities will need to set up their own systems for internal commerce.  Communities will need to be self-sufficient in food production for probably 50 years minimum before a larger food trading and distribution scheme could be worked out.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Creating Biodiversity

On Reddit, FlimFlamandFlamJam asks, "Let's say I bought 1,000 acres of monocropped farm land. What would be the best way to go about converting it back into land with a lot of biodiversity? And let's say it's just me and I don't have a team helping me."

My answer:

First question, is the land flat or hilly?

Second question, you say it's just you. Does that mean just your muscle power, you and any animals you can control, or you and some big machinery you can rent?

Because if it is just your own muscle power, I find 1/4 acre plenty to keep up with unless it was my full-time job, I couldn't even imagine 1000 acres. That said, and if your land is flat, the main thing you can do to increase biodiversity is just start introducing plants that you think will be useful. You can use mixes from places like Ernst Seeds if you want.

If the terrain is hilly, you can start in on a better option for increasing biodiversity: creating ponds. This is best done with the keyline system in any case, but if its just your own muscle power, this is critical.

With heavy machinery, you can go a little crazier, even on flat land. You still really need to pay attention to the contours, but you do have the opportunity to reshape them. In fact, the best thing you can do to increase the biodiversity of flat land is to change it into hilly land by creating hugelkulture beds. You can do this by hand, but on the scale of 1000 acres, it would take several person-lifetimes.
And when you make water features, swimming ponds where you can dive in from the shore are not exactly the best for biodiversity. You want to really emphasize the water's edge and make it as big as possible if you want to encourage biodiversity.

If you have animals, you have the opportunity to do more than just your muscles, but not as drastic as large machines. One thing you can do is look at abandoned areas nearby and see what takes over, and then figure out what will graze on that. That will help keep things in balance without requiring your constant attention. (But don't just graze willy-nilly, or they just might avoid the thing that tends to take over.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Finding Your Way

Tiny Yellow Teardrop has a good article on why you shouldn't rely exclusively on your GPS.  She recommends instead to use:

  1. Google Maps and Google Earth
  2. Paper Maps
  3. Ask the locals

Those are all fine ideas.  Another service to use is MapQuest. They generally give you a choice of routes (frequently they are: quickest, shortest, or simplest). And if you aren't satisfied with any of those, you can generally pick a point in the middle of the route and move it over and MapQuest will snap to an alternate route. And once you have settled on a route, you can print out directions, including both route map and optional turn-by-turn maps, or you can send yourself a text.

But you know what I really like to do when I am traveling a route to a destination that I frequent (and I'm not in any hurry)? Turn my GPS off and deliberately make a wrong turn and then see if I can find my way back to my route, without making a U turn. (If at some point I decide I'm truly lost, I turn my GPS back on.) I see a lot of interesting things that way.