“My version of energy efficiency is to conserve my own energy”

“Nowadays people are talking about net-zero houses . . . My feeling is there’s a lot of overkill in a net-zero house. My version of energy efficiency is to conserve my own energy. It seems to me they are designing for the three coldest days of the year. Designing a house so it will keep you warm without any heat at minus 40 might be overkill. I say, design for 345 days of the year, and the other 20 days just burn some junk mail in the woodstove. I still have my farm out west, and these days I try … Read more

Urban Café Style Gardening

Coffee Beans BagsWith more than 17,000 vacant properties in the City of Buffalo, one would hope we could transform a larger percentage of those lots into productive space, even if only for a few growing seasons. Other cities, like Detroit, are figuring out ways to turn formerly residential land into small farms or large gardens that grow food for their soup kitchens, congregations or the needy.  The problem is that dirt you put a house on isn’t the same kind of dirt you grow tomatoes in.

What are some solutions? Most urban gardeners don’t have the patience to remediate soil over several years, so we either have to dig out the dirt and replace it with truckloads of soil OR truck in lots of soil to fill raised beds.  Another way is to make your own dirt.

I’m trying a combination of strategies with The Garden of Stewardship over on East Eagle. The garden is on the property of Sheehan Health Network.  It was a big fenced-in grassy area. We cannot dig into the ground because it’s a very thin layer of dirt covering an awful lot of clay.  The grass/weeds are using what little dirt there is.  So, I decided to smother the grass and build our soil on top of it.  I am calling the strategy, the Urban Café Gardening Method to acknowledge the fact that all the materials we’ll use are found readily in cities–cities with coffee drinkers anyway!  Here’s how you can replicate it in your space.

Read moreUrban Café Style Gardening

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Thursday grand opening!

Many replied they were sorry to have missed it, thinking the celebration was this past week. Well you didn’t miss a thing! ITS THIS THURSDAY! Come celebrate the opening of Rusted Grain and hear about all the awesome stuff ReUse Action has been a part of recently. July 21, 6:00pm – 7:30pm, 1212 Jefferson (big garage door in front).

Caring for your Strawberry Plants

There’s a rumor going around, “that Caesandra is stealing plants from the ReUse Gardens.” Well, that’s only partially true. Friday morning, I ran into board member, Keith James, as I was removing runners from the overgrown strawberry mound in the Children’s Vinery. I explained to Keith that the original strawberry plants–known as “mother plants” were in their 3rd year of growth. This means, their strawberry yield will start to diminish. The plants suffered a lot of trauma over the winter by not being mulched with straw or leaves.  The runners also taxed the mother plants to the point where there … Read more

Energy Demand Part One

I was recently having coffee with a friend and we began talking about the role of nuclear energy, specifically whether Indian Point nuclear power facility, which you can see from my parents’ front yard, should be shut down.

My answer is: No. Now before yelling and opinion starts, let’s take a few minutes to investigate this issue a little more logically.

New Appliances
People have long enjoyed labor-saving electrical appliances

 

Ever-Increasing Demand for Power

We, as a society, demand ever increasing amounts of electricity. Every electronic device draws power, from your refrigerator to your cell phone, to the little green light on light switches that stays on all the time. None of this comes free of charge. Even the industries that draw huge amounts of electricity do so at our demand because ultimately industry supplies things we use from food to online banking to the server hosting this website. I realize it’s generally considered poor grammar to use demand twice in the same paragraph but it’s important to realize electricity and power are produced according to demand, the demand you and I put on the industry. Electricity producers don’t produce power willy-nilly and cause us to become addicted to it. It’s precisely the other way around, we demand more and the industry builds and produces in response.

Wind Power; photo by flickr user strollers
Green Energy - This Thing Is HUGE!

In this series of articles I’ll begin discussing how power is made and distributed. Then I’ll compare “green” options such as wind power and solar power as alternatives to coal, gas and nuclear power and conservation. As will be seen there’s a startling disconnect between what people believe and what can actually be delivered in terms of electricity. We’ll always find electricity to meet demand, the problem arises in that Americans do not tend to want to use less or build (and pay for) more capacity to produce. It reminds of children who demand candy when they’re presented with spinach or broccoli with their dinner. It simply isn’t doable and eventually will land the child in bed early for the night. In our case this obstinance will simply give us higher energy costs. Suppose we live in an overly permissive household where the child gets candy for dinner every night. The child will get fat. In our demand for more power, we’ll experience ever increasing environmental damage and damage to human health.

The Grid

Power Grid
This is part of the New York State power grid

The grid sounds a lot like The Matrix or the name of some other sci-fi movie. However it’s simply the network of power lines connecting power plants and electricity users together. On a map it looks like a big messy net of connections, and in fact it is. The electrical grid is a non-linear network of electrical transmission lines and power plants existing at points all over this grid. This system has grown in an organic fashion since the early 20th century and exploded in size after WWII.

Read moreEnergy Demand Part One

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Official Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony at RustedGrain July 21!

The official ribbon cutting ceremony for RustedGrain (my woodshop)at Action HQs (1212 Jefferson) is next Thursday July 21st from 6-730pm. I would love if any or all of you could attend. It is not completely 100% set up, but work can be completed there . . . so why wait 20 years to hold an opening celebration when we can celebrate now?? Come celebrate and hear about all the exciting services RustedGrain and ReUse Action have to offer! I’d appreciate if you could RSVP – just send an email to rustedgrain {at} reuseaction(.)com, go to our contact page or if … Read more

Women in the trades

Working in an industry where females comprise only 3% of the workforce can be rough, especially in a blue-collar town like Buffalo.  I see behavior and overhear conversations everyday that show me society’s stereotypical female and male roles are very much alive and kicking. Yelled from below while reroofing my aunt’s porch: “All women crew?  Where’s your man to do that?” From a foreman on another crew: “A girl in charge today?  You’re too pretty to get dirty!  You should be in a nice office somewhere, not here supervising dirty boys! This is 2011.  And yet, as a woman in … Read more

Their Next Step . . . Apprentices in Action!

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more luck I have.” — Thomas Jefferson Our first apprenticeship class, that spent over five weeks facilitating a huge salvage effort of tubs, sinks, ceramic tile, doors, and molding, is proving that diligence and hard work pay off when pursuing job placements in the City of Buffalo. Since our last report a couple weeks back, seven of our nine apprentices have secured jobs locally. Many will be continuing work at the Hotel Lafayette starting this coming Tuesday, as they move on to the demolition phase of … Read more