Sunday, April 01, 2007

Chest Fridge

Here is the proper link to the Mt. Best post: Chest Fridge.

Buying online freezer-to-fridge conversion thermostat.

An update on the way-cool 0.1kWh/day chest fridge: It seems you can achieve the same super-efficiency in about 30 seconds by using one of these.

Via Hoptech a pre-fab external thermostat, for only US$59.95.

Pump & Seal Food Saver Vacuum Sealer

The Pump-N-Seal food saver vacuum sealer uses ordinary zipper-locking bags and glass jars as food storage containers. The Pump-N-Seal food saver vacuum sealer works by permanently vacuum packing food in a commercial strength vacuum, using the same jar and lid hundreds of times.

The Pump-N-Seal permanently seals many food storage containers, including ordinary jars, mason jars, wine bottles and coffee cups. It is also a vacuum bag sealer. This vacuum food sealer preserves freshness of coffee, cookies, fruit, meat, etc. Pump-N-Seal vacuum food saver prevents rancidity of cooking oils, prevents distasteful freezer burn, prevents colour and nutrient loss, and prolongs the quality and taste of refrigerated foods.

The Pump-N-Seal accessory, called the Bowl-Seal, is a set of two lids that can be used to vacuum seal your own pots, pans, and bowls (up to 8 and 11 inch diameters respectively) or for marinating steak and other foods in just minutes, not hours or days.

Black Twilight

Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE: BTU - News) is the world’s largest private coal mining company, supplying about 10% of the fuel for US electrical power production.

BTU’s proven and probable reserves are about 10 billion tons – equivalent to 243 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (10 times the annual U.S. natural gas consumption).

The three largest U.S. coal producers are:

• Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU - News)
• Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI - News)
• CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX - News)

Only BTU has free cash flow and it has the lowest dividend payout ratio. BTU also has a lower PEG ratio, but is more expensive than ACI and CNX in terms of P/E, P/B, P/S and EV/EBITDA.

Hot summers and increasing population in Sunbelt areas drives up demand and prices for coal. Coal assets have a place in a portfolio oriented toward energy.

Burning The Furniture

Total World Coal Reserves (2002)
Bituminous coal + Anthracite 479 billion tons
Sub-bituminous coal 272 billion tons
Lignite 158 billion tons

Each coal class has a different energy content:

Anthracite 30 MJ/kg
Bituminous coal 18.8–29.3 MJ/kg
Sub-bitiminous coal 8.3–25 MJ/kg
Lignite 5.5–14.3 MJ/kg

Only coal with a high heating value is suited for long-distance transport and in metallurgical processes. From the standpoints of size of reserves, energy content, and suitability for a range of significant uses, bituminous coal and anthracite are the most important.

90% of coal reserves are concentrated in 6 countries: USA, Russia, India, China, Australia and South Africa. The USA alone holds 30% and China 15%. The development of these two countries is a key for future coal production.

China will experience peak coal production within the next 5–15 years (2010-2020), followed by a steep decline. Once China cannot increase its production anymore, world coal production will peak. It is very likely that bituminous coal production in the US already has peaked, and total coal production will peak between 2020-2030.

If global coal peak occurs around a decade after the petroleum/gas peak (2010), this implies a 10-year interval, of relatively slow fall-off in total energy from fossil fuels, followed by a gradually accelerating decline.

Twilight (2005-2020)

Life Without Oil
New Oil Confederation

Matthew Simmons, Chairman, Simmons & Company International and Author of "Twilight in the Desert" warns that global oil supply peaked in Dec 2005.

He also expects Peak Oil to surpass Global Warming as the No. #1 issue between Sep 2007 to March 2008.

Inconvenient Truths


Peak To-Do-List

Peak Oil To-Do List

1. Recite this daily: "Today is better than tomorrow."

Healthy peak oil psychology starts here. This phrase has become a common mantra among Iraqi people to remind themselves not to put their hope in a miraculously brighter future. It is a remarkably honest and pragmatic way to face dark times.

Start thinking about life with less, not more. Seize the opportunity to act now with the resources that remain at our disposal. When we cling to hope that things will "turn around" we miss today's opportunities to prepare. What we have today is the most we will ever have. It will never get easier to act than it is today.

2. Forget your "little house on the prairie."

Start preparing to weather the storm where you are. Take inventory. Be creative. Use your hands. Evaluate your liabilities and do everything you can to turn them into assets. Your situation might not be ideal, but it's what you've got. Make the most of it and resist the fantasy that a sustainable life can be bought. It can only be built where you are, one choice at a time.

3. Grow some food.

Just grow something - anything - you can eat. It's a start.

4. Stop being a consumer.

Buy only what you must have. If possible, buy it at the thrift store. Peak oil guarantees that the ship of consumerism is going down. Be the first to get in the life boat by altering your lifestyle, and you'll do it on your own terms. Everyone else will follow eventually, but as an angry, frightened mob.

5. Host monthly peak oil potluck suppers.

Make an effort to get to know other crazies like yourself. You need them, but don't forget that they need you as well. Now, here's the important part: as a group, do more than talk about what's coming. Find out what you can do for each other - and then DO it.

People tend to overestimate what we can get done in the short-term, but underestimate what we can accomplish in the long-run. If we start now and do every day what we can do, then we have a good chance of making it - changed, but still here.

True Survivalist

Survivalists are individuals who have lost faith in society’s ability to protect its own, and who have taken steps to lessen their dependence upon society for aid in an emergency situation. Survivalists also realise that modern society is a long and twisted chain of interdependency and that each link of this societal chain is dependent upon every other link to maintain its integrity. Should enough of these links be broken, the entire chain may collapse.

They attempt to reinforce the chain of society by strengthening their own links. Many do this by actively learning and practicing the necessary skills to provide or obtain the basic necessities of life. And yes, they learn to defend themselves from aggressors when there is no one else there to protect them.

A true survivalist hopes deep in their heart that the good life never ends for anybody. They just know that trouble sometimes does happen, and want to be as well situated as they can be if bad things do come to be. A fireman is a fireman, not because he believes everything will burn, but because he believes much can be saved. Doctors don't believe in death, they believe in life, and a survivalist is not a survivalist because he believes everything must be destroyed and everyone must die, he believes that life and freedom can be saved, if people of good-will are prepared. A fireman does not start fires, a doctor does not make disease and a survivalist does not make disaster.

We survivalists have loved ones we don't want to see hurt or killed, we have homes we don't want to see destroyed, we are not fools to think that just because we are survivalists a world cataclysm would be fun for us or that we would not experience danger, loss, hunger, injury, cold or even despair and death. No, we will not be disappointed if there is no disaster to survive, anymore than the the man who buys an insurance policy is disappointed when his house fails to burn down.

Every person who has not made provisions for surviving without food, water, fuel and other essential needs from the outside is a mortal danger to his neighbours. What will a man do when he and his family are freezing, hungry, thirsty, sick and starving? Will he just go back home to die with his wife and kids?

We survivalists who stock up, which is not the same as hoarding, on food and other supplies now do a favour to society because what we now buy is replaced on the shelves, so there will be that much more available in an emergency. We survivalists won't be looting and killing for food. We won't be as much a burden on the medical facilities or a danger to the police. Since we will not need to turn on anyone, we may even be able to help at least some others.

Survival preparation should be regarded as a social obligation, one that every individual owes to his family and community and his nation. Survivalists are generally self-reliant individuals, who cannot help but see the imperative of preparing for the worst possible events, while hoping sincerely that they won't happen. Today's survivalist is an asset, to his community and to the world and should be proud to be called survivalist.

Doom Tis Me

Rational To Be Over-Prepared

I would like to respond to the annoying suggestion that we doomers are crazy, psychologically off, unhappy, irrational, all generally desirous of the world's destruction. We’re not. We are your neighbors and friends and colleagues. We are just as sane as you, and likely we do not want to see a collapse.

A basic rule of emergency preparedness, whether it is for a flat tire or a hurricane: prepare for the worst-case scenario, not for what you believe likely. I have never had a flat, but I certainly have a jack in my car, as well as flares and a small medical kit. One cannot go to extremes – I cannot carry in my car a new engine, all the tools necessary to change it, as well as an emergency ham radio. One has to balance out the diversion of energy, time, and other resources, and there is no clear formula.

I do not believe in a “hard crash.” A long-term, ever-deepening depression seems like the most likely scenario. I am not, however, preparing for the scenario I believe most likely. I am preparing for the what I do not expect will happen, the worst-case scenario, because that is logically what makes the most sense.

We have been distracted by the debate about why some of us believe in a possible crash. This debate cannot be resolved and is only marginally useful. Much more important is the quite rational and eminently resolvable debate on the logic of various preparations, or their value in different situations. It is better to be over-prepared, instead of under-prepared.

Flu Pandemic

During the 1918 pandemic, 675,000 Americans died. A comparable figure today is 1.7 million. Cities were hardest hit with the mortality rate at approximately 2.5%.

People are highly contagious for 2 or 3 days before they have symptoms and 7 days after symptoms end. A general rule is to stay at least 6 feet from someone to avoid contagion. Avoiding crowds or close contact is essential including public transportation, even elevators.

Flu pandemics tend to spread in three waves. In 1918, each wave lasted 6-8 weeks with several months between waves. There can be up to 12 months between waves. A highly contagious and deadly flu pandemic will cause major disruptions in government, communities, businesses, transportation, distributions systems. In 1918, most retail stores, restaurants, and many businesses closed and employees refused to work. In cities, it became very difficult to obtain food.

Preparations for 2-3 Months Self-Quarantining

- Purchase latex or vinyl gloves and N-95 paper facemasks. The NIOSH rated N-95 mask protected people from the SARs virus and is the best protection available. 3M brand N-95 masks costs US$80-$90 for 20. Masks need to be disposed of after each use.

- Prepare for possible electrical and water supply problems by stocking: working flashlights, portable radio, and extra batteries, potable water containers (1 gallon per person per day), oil lamps, long-burning candles, and kerosene heaters.

- Stock non-perishable food supplies to last 2-3 months: foods that you enjoy and would use over time anyway. Examples include: canned meat, dried beans and rice, salt, sugar, cooking oil, vitamins, powdered milk, toilet paper, light bulbs, candles, matches, cash.


Episodes of Hyperinflation

If history teaches anything, it is that government cannot be trusted to manage money. When currency is not redeemable in gold, its value depends entirely on the judgment and the conscience of the politicians. Especially in an economic crisis or a war, the pressure to inflate becomes overwhelming. A government in financial straits finds its easiest recourse is to issue more and more money until the money loses its value.

In World War I, Germany borrowed heavily to pay its war costs. This led to inflation. By 1923, the wildest inflation in history was raging. Often prices doubled in a few hours. A wild stampede developed to buy goods and get rid of money. By late 1923, it took 200 billion marks to buy a loaf of bread.

In May 1921, price inflation started and by July 1922 prices had risen 700%. The Reichsbank continued printing new currency, although more slowly than the rate at which prices were rising. The issue of currency proceeded at a fairly smooth steady rate, while the price index moved up in great surges, interspersed by periods of stability. After July 1922, the phase of hyperinflation began. All confidence in money vanished and the price index rose faster and faster for 15 months, outpacing the printing presses which could not run out money as fast as it was depreciating.

From Mid-1922 to November 1923 hyperinflation raged. The real wages of workers dropped badly. Unions obtained frequent increases, but these could not keep pace. Businessmen began to abandon their legitimate occupations to speculate in stocks and in goods. Thousands of small businessmen tried to eke out a living by speculating in fabrics, shoes, meat, soap, clothing - in any produce they could obtain. Each fall in the mark brought a rush to the shops. People bought dozens of hats or sweaters.

By mid-1923 workers were being paid as often as three times a day. Their wives would meet them, take the money and rush to the shops to exchange it for goods. However, by this time, more and more often, shops were empty. Storekeepers could not obtain goods or could not do business fast enough to protect their cash receipts. Farmers refused to bring produce into the city in return for worthless paper. Food riots broke out. Businesses started to close down and unemployment suddenly soared. The economy was collapsing.

The inflation was caused by the government issuing a flood of new money, causing prices to rise. As inflation gained momentum, events seemed to demand the printing of larger and larger issues of currency. It would be wrong to think that everyone was opposed to inflation. Many big business leaders accepted it cheerfully. It wiped out their debts. They knew how to protect themselves and even profit - by speculating in foreign exchange, by converting money into goods and fixed plant, by borrowing money from the bank and using it to buy up cheap stocks and competing companies. Their wage costs, in true value, decreased, swelling their profits. Businessmen found it very profitable to borrow money from the bank and buy up goods, shares and companies. Their debt was wiped out within weeks by the rapid inflation, and the businessman remained holding the valuable assets he had bought.

Once people lose confidence in a currency, they try to get rid of it. This makes circulation speed up enormously, and hence prices rise faster than the government can print new money. After the Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks introduced a new currency. They printed huge amounts of it and soon it became almost worthless. At the same time, some of the older Czarist currency still circulated and maintained its value in terms of goods. It appreciated enormously in terms of the new money. Why did this currency hold up? "Because there was nobody to print any more of it."

Effects of Inflation on Business

As inflation proceeded, people rushed to buy goods and get rid of their depreciated money. For similar reasons, businessmen hastened to buy machinery, to build new factories, to buy huge stocks of coal, steel and other raw materials. Those who had access to credit borrowed heavily for these purposes, and inflation wiped out their debt. There was a tremendous conversion of working capital into fixed investments. Business was booming and unemployment virtually vanished until the last stages of the inflation.

Farmers got rid of currency by heavy purchases of equipment, and later many were left holding large supplies of useless machinery. Shipbuilding was expanded beyond all market needs. Marginal mines were opened leading to serious overproduction later on. But while basic industries prospered, there was a severe depression in consumer goods industries such as textiles, meat, beer, sugar and tobacco. Too many workers and persons on fixed incomes had lost their purchasing power.

There was a tremendous move toward concentration of industry. Large firms or combinations found it much easier to raise prices, to obtain raw materials and above all to obtain bank credit. The rising stars were those of shrewd speculators and manipulators geared to quick trading and to jumping from deal to deal and from company to company. The most successful were those who saw the trend of events early, borrowed to the hilt and bought up goods, shares and companies at bargain prices. Most of these new mushroom combinations and conglomerates were speculative bubbles which were only able to survive as long as they benefited from ongoing inflation.

Finally, however, in the last stages of the inflation, the economy began to collapse. Retailers could not get goods or else could not sell at a profit. The money they received was depreciating too fast. More and more stores became empty. Now unemployment began to soar. On the whole, much energy and wealth was wasted in unproductive channels - speculation, paperwork and unprofitable equipment.

How Investments Fared

It is important to understand how hard it was to obtain real income during the inflation. Professionals, skilled workers and others used to enjoying good income found their real salaries disastrously cut. Those who depended on savings, pensions or investment income for a living faced a terrible situation. Interest from bonds or savings deposits soon depreciated to where they had no real value. Stocks paid meager dividends or none at all; corporate managements needed the money for working capital, or used it for capital building and speculation. Owners of rental property fared no better; the government froze rents, which soon meant that tenants were occupying premises virtually rent-free. The urgent need for income had important effects on the true prices of various types of property and investments.

Cash & Bank Deposits: Money held in cash lost value rapidly and soon became completely worthless. Of all investment forms, this was the most disastrous.

Bonds, Mortgages: As usual in an inflation, bonds and mortgages fell in value even faster than cash.

Real Estate: Farmers and holders of urban property seemed to benefit if their property was mortgaged; the inflation soon wiped out the mortgage debt. However, they received no income since rents were frozen. After the stabilization, heavy new taxes and the urgent need for cash forced most holders to remortgage their property, often more heavily than originally, so that their gains were illusory. Still, those who held real estate throughout managed to save the capital thus invested. However, those who sold during the inflation (often through desperate need for cash) fared poorly. Because it brought no income, real estate sold at extremely low real price levels during inflation.

Foreign Exchange: Those who held funds in dollars, pounds or other stable currencies, or in gold, saved their capital. The government set up rigid exchange controls as the inflation proceeded. As usual under such conditions, a black market flourished. The ones who fared best were the small minority who had the foresight to exchange marks into foreign money or gold very early, before new laws made this difficult and before the mark lost too much value.

Personal Property: Capital was preserved by those who early changed it into objects of lasting value - rare coins, stamps, jewelry, works of art, antiques - or into merchandise such as clothing, fabrics, etc. Of course, most people did not understand the advantage of accumulating such property until the inflation was well along. By that time the prices of all goods had risen so much that they seemed outrageously bad bargains. Cash proved an even worse bargain.

Common Stocks: In an inflation, common stocks are generally considered a desirable hedge to protect against or even to profit from the rise in prices. In practice, it is not so simple. Market fluctuations - the rise of exciting new speculative stocks, waves of fear or greed - all make it much too easy to buy or to sell at the wrong time or to go into the wrong stocks.

Those who bought a well-diversified list of stocks in solid, well-established companies quite early in the inflation and who held on throughout the period and also through the stabilization crisis saved much or all of their capital.

However, there were many pitfalls along the wayside for the greedy, the fearful and the over-clever. Those who did best were investors with a certain unemotional, stolid character, a basic confidence that strong, well-managed companies would come through, and an immunity to excitement, anxiety and speculative temptations.

Survivor Story

Since food prices went up about 200%-300%, people would cut expenses wherever they could so they could buy food. Some ate whatever they could; they hunted birds or ate street dogs and cats, others starved. When it comes to food, cities suck in a crisis. It is usually the lack of food or the impossibility to acquire it that starts the rioting and looting when TSHTF (Sh*t Hitting The Fan).

Whatever sort of scenario you are dealing with, services are more than likely to either suffer in quality or disappear all together. Think ahead of time; analyze possible SHTF scenarios and which service should be affected by it in your area. Think about the supplies you would need for these tasks before you actually need them. You have a complete guide on how to prepare the meat on you computer… how will you get it out of there if there is no power? Print everything that you consider important.

If you can build a well, set it as your top of the priority list. Water comes before firearms, medicines and even food. Save as much water as you can. Use plastic bottles and place them in a cool place, preferably inside a black garbage bag to protect it from sunlight. Estimate that you need approximately one gallon per person per day. Try to have at least 2-4 weeks worth of water.

Have two or three LED lights. They are not expensive and are worth their weight in gold. A powerful flashlight is necessary, something like a big Maglite or better yet a SureFire, especially when you have to check your property for intruders. A little-known fact is that only yellow and red LED bulbs last 120hrs in mini-flashlights while all the other colours (including white) only last 12hrs per battery.

Rechargeable batteries are a must or else you’ll end up broke if lights go out often. Have a healthy amount of spare quality batteries and try to standardize as much as you can.

I have 12 NiHM 2500Mh AA and 8 AAA. Rechargeable NiHM batteries have the disadvantage of loosing power after a period of time, so keep about 2 or 3 packs of regular Duracell batteries and check the rechargeable ones every once in a while.

Once the SHTF, black markets will take no time to appear all around you. What can be found at a local market? Mostly food and clothing, but canned food, spices, honey, eggs, fruits, vegetables, beer, and cured meat are generally available. Clothes are also popular and you can find copies of brand name clothes, imitations, or even original stolen new clothes, shoes and snickers. Children clothes, underwear, socks, sheets and towels are all very popular. Some offer their services and repair stuff or offer work as handyman.

Everyone wants to buy gold! “I buy gold. Pay cash” signs are everywhere! They deal with junk gold, like jewelry, either stolen or sold because they need the money. No one pays for the true value of the stuff, so big WARNING! Since it is impossible to determine the true mineral percentage of gold, small shops and dealers will pay for it as regular jewelry gold. Besides gold coins, buy a lot of small gold rings. They should be less expensive than gold coins, and if the SHTF bad, you’ll not be loosing money, selling premium quality gold coins for the price of junk gold. Buy a small bag worth of gold rings.

The primary weapon for a urban survivalist who has to function in a society even after the SHTF, is his HANDGUN. It’s the weapon that stays with him when he is doing his business around town of working on the field. Buy body armor! Get the concealable kind (Class II). I ordered it from USA through

Always have a survival kit with you. The kit I carry is very small (metal Bandaide box) with great thought to the contents:

1. A good quality Swiss Army Knife
2. Condoms for water storage, unlubricated.
3. LED flashlight, ligher and strike-anywhere matches
4. Water purification tables
5. Long strip of heavy duty aluminum foil to cook with
6. One small pack of hard candy for emergency energy
7. Small and light survival pamphlet

Having a survival kit aids in your sense of well-being. With the kit, you have the minimum to survive. It helps you realize the situation is not hopeless. Practice using your survival items before you need them.

Any kind of emergency Bug-Out-Bag (BOB) must be calibrated to weigh no more than you can comfortably carry the whole day. A jar of peanut butter for an all-round survival food. Nice to put some hard candy that won't melt but will provide emergency energy.
Compass is necessary, even if you don't know how to read a map. At a minimum, it keeps you moving in the same direction and avoid walking in circles.

Money (total amount divided in 4 equal parts and hidden in different places). Consider tucking in $500 or so in ten and twenty dollar bills, along with a a couple of small gold coins.

No need to reinvent the wheel here just look what the homeless guys are using to transport all their belongings - a shopping cart.

Bao Cap (1975-86)

Once Upon A Time, Amazing Hanoi (Part 1)

"Bao Cap, a period that Hanoi experienced State subsidies between 1975 and 1986. Every family had a food registration book and coupons used to buy subsided goods. My family of six got enough coupons to buy 60kg of rice, 3kg of pork, 1kg of fish, liquefied fat (used as cooking oil,) fish sauce... a month. Other commodities such as soap, handkerchiefs, fabric, singlet, bicycle spare parts… annually. Everything was always in short."

Once Upon A Time, Amazing Hanoi (Part 2)

"During Bao Cap, having Tem Phieu (food coupon) means you have food to eat. But loosing them means you starve. We improved our protein nutrition with eggs from home raised chickens. A meal with a boiled egg was a real fancy one. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) was a precious and rare additive to dull tasted dish."


Post-Abundance Era

If there is one thing that most inhabitants of the late 20th century shared in common, it was a perception of rising global abundance in virtually all fields. Most people in most places around the world saw a rise in their personal income and an increase in the number of things in their possession, along with the supply of energy to move or power their many personal goods.

The sense of abundance that characterized the late 20th century is likely to evaporate for the great majority of us. Now-affordable luxuries such as overseas vacations and meals out will become unattainable, and basic necessities such as energy, electricity, water and food are likely to become less plentiful and more expensive. This global austerity will produce great hardship for the poor and will force even lower-middle-class families to choose from among long car trips, restaurant meals, air-conditioning, etc.

This historic shift in global fortunes is a fundamental reversal in the balance between resource supply and demand. Many of the world's most promising sources of supply have been located and exploited, and exploration and discovery are producing increasingly meager results. We are increasingly relying on deposits found in previous decades to slake our insatiable thirst for petroleum - a pattern that cannot continue for much longer before we will begin to experience an irreversible and traumatic decline in the global supply of oil. The same is true of other vital resources, including natural gas, uranium, copper, and many minerals. There is not enough new deposits of these commodities to replace what we're consuming. So future shortages are inevitable.

This contraction in the global supply of vital resources will affect our lives in myriad ways. It will force us to consume less. These cutbacks will be minor inconveniences for some, but significant hardships for the poor, the elderly, and others on a fixed income.

The end of abundance is not the same thing as outright scarcity. Some commodities, such as oil, may become truly scarce but they will not disappear altogether. But the end of abundance will create a new gestalt in which expectations are lowered and struggles over what remains become more violent.

Collapse Gaps


Google Videos on Organic Gardening

According to the humanure ‘philosophy’, urine is an essential ingredient in the compost process. Human urine contains nitrogen roughly equivalent to the amount used in agriculture to grow our food. The humanure approach says put it in the heap with everything else, it is the vital ingredient to the hot compost needed to render human manure safe, it being a great ‘activator’.

There is another school of thought which argues that urine is such wonderful stuff on its own that you should separate it and use it on plants. This then would mean that you can only cold compost the poo, which means it will not be safe on food plants.

There’s no reason why you couldn’t do both. Keep a bit of pee on one side by peeing into a plastic bottle which you can mix 1-10 with water when you are watering your plants, and the rest of your doings go into the compost heap. Urine usually contains 90% of the nitrogen in your excreta.

Green Thumbs

There are a number of ways you can grow your own food. You should probably start with fruits and veggies. Give some thought to herbs and spices. If you have a balcony, you can grow tomatoes in a plastic garbage can, carrots in a tub, green onions in a shallow wood box. Tomatoes can make it without full sun all day. Once it gets big, you will have to water a tomato plant every day.

If you’re interested in growing your own food, you will have to provide the necessary nutrients. One way is to compost. The key to successful composting is to make it clean and easy. Have a separate holding can for the organic materials you use and want to compost. This will reduce the number of trips outside to dump your compost material. Any vegetable pieces or skins, stale bread, coffee grinds, tea leaves, banana peels - almost anything that’s made primarily from plant products can be safely and easily composted. In addition, egg shells and shrimp shells can be included. It’s not an especially good idea to compost meats or animal waste as these items can attract unwanted critters to your compost pile.

My solution is a small, stainless steel can. It includes a removal bucket I carry out to the compost pile. It has a lid that stays closed until I step on the pedal allowing me to dump in my scraps without touching anything. It’s small enough to hold several days’ worth of kitchen scraps and contain any odor. After I dump the contents, I use a hose to rinse out any scraps that stick to the bucket and I scrub it out with an old dish brush every few months. A simple solution for slight smells is to add a bit of citrus - a squeeze of lemon juice or a few orange peels just after empting the bucket. The acid keeps the anaerobic bacteria from getting established and causing a stink.

In addition to using kitchen scraps, you can compost fallen leaves and grass clippings. The leaves are mostly carbon and the grass clippings and kitchen scraps are mostly nitrogen. Both are necessary to promote a healthy compost pile. You’re looking for a ratio of about 25 to 1 or 25 times as much carbon as nitrogen. It’s easier to think in terms of brown and green. Most compostable material that is brown in color is made up of carbon. Most of the compostable material that is green in color is made up of nitrogen. Think more brown and less green.

There is another option for recycling your food scraps into compost. You can use worms to eat your leftover food and quickly turn it into worm castings, a wonderful compost for your garden. The term is called vermiculture - link

A system like this can be used indoors with almost no odor. You place food scraps in the top and the worms eat them turning the waste into castings that fall through into the lower chamber for your use in the garden. Vermicomposting is done with "redworms" (Eisenia Fetida), "tigers" (Lumbricus Rubellus) and Indian Blues (Perionyx Excavatus). The composting worms are placed in a box or bin along with "bedding" of shredded cardboard and /or paper moistened to about 75% water content. Worms need a moist environment in order to breathe. The bedding should be suitably dampened but not wet (like a wet sponge with the water squeezed out). Add a couple of handfuls of sand or soil to provide necessary grit for the worm's digestion of food. The pH of the bedding is very important. If it becomes either too acidic or too alkaline this will upset and possibly kill the worms. As a preventive measure, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of dolomite lime onto the food or bedding once a week.

Having a mixture of the 3 different species gives the group a wider range of suitable conditions. These species eat fast and breed fast. They will double their populations in 3-4 months under the right conditions. Worms reach adulthood in about 6 weeks and can reproduce up to 3 times a week for their lifespan (2-3 years). The worm population will be controlled by the size of their environment so you will never end up with too many worms.

Redworms can tolerate a temperature range of around 10 degrees C to 28 degrees C, although they will be most active at about 25 degrees C. Worms are sensitive to light and when they become exposed to it, they will burrow into their bedding. This is useful when you want to harvest your worms. You should have a damp cover (gunny sack or old carpet) over the worms to keep them dark and moist.

The ratio of worms to food waste should be: one pound per day of food waste, use two pounds of worms (roughly 2000). If you are unable to get this many worms to start with, reduce the amount of food waste accordingly while the population steadily increases. If you have the correct ratio, there is little to do other than adding food, until about 2.5 months have passed. There should be little or no original bedding visible in the bin, and the contents will be brown and earthy looking worm castings.

It is important to separate the worms from the finished compost, otherwise the worms will begin to die. The quickest way is to simply move the finished compost over to one side of the bin, place new bedding in the space created, and put food waste in the new bedding. The worms will gradually move over and the finished compost can be skimmed off as needed.

By the way, chickens love meal worms as a treat. Chickens can also be used to process kitchen scraps. I previously discussed chickens as a way to create compost here. Feed the chickens your leftover food and rake up their manure. You must allow the chicken manure to sit or cure for a while or it will burn your plants.

The only animal whose manure you can use immediately is the rabbit. Rabbits eat greens and produce round droppings that can be put directly into the garden to nourish your plants. Too many meals of straight greens may cause problems with the digestive tracts of rabbits.

Diaso Earth

Diatomaceous earth is fossilized bodies of diatoms (primitive ocean creatures). The fine powder cuts and dries the waxy coating on an insect’s body; such as beetles, slugs, snails, fleas.

Known You Seeds is a Taiwanese seed distributor, and they sell it in a 1-kg bag. Each bag cost about $16. Address: No. 5, Lorong Bakar Batu, #05-03 Macpherson Industrial Complx, Singapore 348742. Tel : 67468213

You can get big pots at Daiso, IMM Level 3. Daiso is a Japanese departmental store that sells things from kitchen items to bathroom items, hardware tools, stationaries, tibits/drinks, gardening supplies and many more.

There are many nurseries that sell big pots. I buy my pots & soil at a nursery in Kovan (just next to Kovan MRT). The nursery name is 1-800 flowers P.L. (subsidary of FarEastFlora).Tel: 62852239

565 Thomson Road, Singapore 298184
(located within Goodwood Florist)
Tel: 62512323
Come to World Farm... got all type and sizes of pots there... even got one big enough to bath inside. From Ang Mo Kio MRT, there is a straight bus ride of just about 30min that will bring you to WF. Or take Bus 17 from Yishun interchange. Alight after Khatib Camp. 5min walk to WF.

Walk along Bah Soon Pah Road (there is no shelter - do bring an umbrella) and you will reach World Farm somewhere in the middle.

Zeer Cooler

The world’s cheapest refrigerator runs completely without electricity. The zeer pot, or the pot-in-pot, is basically 2 large earthenware pots, one pot smaller than the other. The smaller pot is put inside the bigger pot, and the space in-between them is filled with sand. The sand is made wet with water (twice a day) and a wet towel is put on top of the 2 pots to keep warm air from entering the interior. As water in the sand evaporates, it carries heat away from the inner core, thus cooling the inner pot which can be filled with fresh fruit, vegetables or meat.

The zeer can keep tomatoes edible for 20 days, as opposed to 2, and meat will last up to 2 weeks. The zeer will keep water at about 15 degrees Celsius.

The key however, is a certain degree of aridness, for at a certain amount of humidity, the benefit of evaporative cooling disappears. Techniques which rely on water-based evaporation work great in the mountains and desert... and not at all in humid areas.

The pot-in-pot is one of several ingenious applications of cooling by evaporation. The city of Qena in Upper Egypt is renowned for its porous-clay cooling vessels. In Burkina Faso, the Jula people’s traditional jars are sometimes soaked in water before goods are stored in them, so that they stay cool by evaporation. In India, a rectangular enclosure of wet bricks is used to preserve foodstuffs from heat. Water seeps slowly through the porous bricks, evaporating from the surface and keeping the entire structure cool. An improved version uses double-brick walls with wet sand between them. Fruit and vegetables inside the chamber are maintained at temperatures below 20° C.

A similar low-tech way of keeping food cool is a tin box (6 or so cubic feet) covered with 2-3 wraps of burlap (old potato sacks). The box is filled with food and placed at the edge of a creek. The burlap surrounding the box is well-soaked. The end of the long piece of burlap that surround the box is placed in the creek so the box will be continually kept wet through capillary action. If the weather is extremely hot, every couple of hours, soak the burlap on the box with water. The evapouration of the water keeps the food good for several days.

Solar Cooker

HotPot Simple Solar Cooker

Solar cookers require direct sunlight to function properly. Shadows, clouds and inclement weather limit their effectiveness. In general, you can solar cook when the length of your shadow on the ground is shorter than your height. This is an indicator that the sun is high enough in the sky to cook.

You can typically solar cook two meals per day — a noontime meal and an evening meal. The sun is most intense between 10am and 2pm, which is when breads and pastries should be baked.

Global Sun Cooker

Light-Weight, Easy-To-Carry: The Global Sun Oven weighs 9.5 kg, folds up like a suitcase, and is equipped with a handle for easy transport.

One-Piece Collapsible Reflectors: Set up for use or taken down for storage in a matter of seconds. The reflectors literally fall into place at an angle that allows you to maximize the power of the sun. The reflectors are made of highly polished, mirror-like anodized aluminum that can be cleaned quickly and easily with glass cleaner, and they will never oxidize or rust.

Spill-proof Levelator: There is never any need to worry about your food spilling in a Global Sun Oven. While cooking, your food rests on a shelf that self-adjusts to always stay level as you refocus.

Self-Contained Leveling Leg: As the sun is at different points on the horizon the Global Sun Oven can readily be adjusted to follow it. A simple adjusting leg allows you to choose from 9 angled positions. All that is required is to watch the shadows created by the oven. When the shadows are even on all sides, the cooker is directly focused. A good rule of thumb is to plan to readjust every 30mins to maintain maximum heat.

At noon, the sun is high in the sky and moves quickly past the maximum focus point, creating the need to refocus more often. Later in the day, you will not need to refocus as often. Many meals can be cooked without refocusing. Global Sun Oven users often will put their ovens outside, focused for the mid-day sun, with their dinner in it when they leave for work in the morning.

Dark, thin-walled pots with lids work best. Dark pots change the light from the sun into heat energy. Lids are important because they hold steam in the pot. Shiny aluminum pots and pans cause light to be reflected out, thereby reducing the oven's temperature. Add 10-15mins of cooking time for each time the oven door is opened.

Alcohol Stove

Common Choices for Alcohol Stove Fuel

Here's a quick list of the most common alcohol stove fuels:

- Denatured Alcohol (hardware store, paint department)
- Pure Methanol (hardware store, paint department)
- Pure Ethanol (Everclear, liquor store)
- Fuel-Line Antifreeze (gas station or convenience store)
- Rubbing Alcohol (drug store)

Denatured alcohol is recommended as the best all-around fuel for any stove that burns alcohol. It is quite cheap and usually available in hardware stores. Denatured alcohol is mostly ethanol with some methyl alcohol added to render it unfit for human consumption. This form of fuel has anywhere from 1% to 80% methanol. One trick to test the suitability of a particular brand of denatured is to burn a small amount in a dish and reject it if there is any residue.

Pure Ethanol also makes a good stove fuel, but it is much more expensive than denatured because it is potable. You can find it in liquor stores as "grain alcohol"; Graves Grain Alcohol and Everclear are some brand names.

Pure Methanol (wood alcohol) burns very well in a stove. It can be found in the same sorts of places as denatured alcohol (hardware stores). Methanol is toxic. It is readily absorbed through the skin or mucus membranes.

Fuel-line Antifreezes are usually pure isopropanol or pure methanol. Look at the ingredients of the bottle to find out which is which. You can usually find these in gas stations or convenience stores. A popular brand is HEET; the red bottle is isopropyl and the yellow bottle is methanol. Isopropyl alcohol burns with yellow, sooty flames, indicating that it is not combusting completely.

Rubbing Alcohol (not recommended) is 70% isopropanol and 30% water. It won't work in many alcohol stoves. Alcohol with 91% or greater alcohol content will work, but will leave a sooty residue on your pot and brown water in your stove.

General rules to get the most shelf-life out of stored cooking oils:

#1 Exposure to oxygen, light and heat are the greatest factors to rancidity. If you can, refrigerate your stored oil esp after it's been opened. Buy your oils in opaque, airtight containers. If you purchase it in clear plastic, transfer it to a gas impermeable glass or metal container that can be sealed airtight. Transparent glass and plastic containers should be stored in the dark, such as in a box, at as cool a temperature as possible and rotate as fast as is practical.

#2 Try to not buy your fats in large containers. This way you won't be exposing a large quantity to the air after the you've opened it, to grow old and possibly rancid, before you can use it all up. Once opened, refrigerate cooking fats. If it turns cloudy or solid, the fat is still perfectly usable and will return to it normal after it has warmed to room temperature.

DIY Solar Power

How To Make A Solar Power Generator

Using parts easily available from your local stores, you can make a solar power generator. Great for power failures and life outside the power grid. Have one in the office store-room in case of power failures in your highrise.

1. Buy yourself a small solar panel (25W or 40W).

2. Get the biggest deep-cycle 12-volt sealed gel-battery.

3. Get a battery box to put it in. (This is good for covering up the exposed terminals.)

4. To run AC appliances, invest in an inverter. This will convert the stored DC power in the battery into AC power for your household appliances. Count up the number of watts you'll be using (Eg. a small color television = 60 watts with a VCR = 22 watts, you'll need 82 watts).

5. Use insulated wire to attach the meter to the wingnut terminals on the battery. Connect the negative (-) pole first. Only handle one wire at a time.

6. Put the solar panel in the sun. It takes 5-8 hours to charge a dead battery; 1-3 hours to top-off a weak one. It will run radios, fans, and small wattage lights all night, or give you about 5 hours of continuous use at 115 volt AC.

Human Power Generator

The Human Power Generator is small, portable, and can be pedaled or cranked by hand to charge 12-volt batteries. The typical average continuous power that can be generated by pedaling the Human Power Generator is up to about 80 watts. The maximum power obtainable through hand cranking typically is about 50 watts. The pedals and optional hand-cranks are interchangeable.

The MkIII Human Power Generator has a durable powder coated steel frame, large rubber feet, and vibration isolated generator. It is the tool for self-reliant electrical production.

Portable Power Pack

The Human Power Combo comes with the Mk III Human Power Generator and a stand-alone Portable Power Pack which includes: storage battery, 300 watt inverter (with 800 watt peak power), LED battery voltage readout, connection cables, and a 120-volt outlet.

Solar Charger

Petzl Tikka Plus LED Headlamp

The Petzl Tikka Plus is an incredible headlamp. There are three intensity modes, plus blinking, all controlled by a single button. The ‘low’ setting is easily bright enough for any indoor task. The lamp will operate for 150 hours in the low intensity mode on a single set of three AAA batteries. The build quality is excellent and weather resistant.

It’s simple to stockpile batteries, or, better yet, get yourself a solar battery charger and a few sets of rechargeable AAA batteries.

4 Watt 250 MA 12V Mono-Crystalline Solar Battery Charger Kit

This solar charger has one 12V cigarette lighter outlet to attach any car adapter to recharge cell phones, I-Pod, MP3 Players, and other electronics devices. It even can recharge a 12V car battery. It recharges the 10 built-in rechargeable AA NIMH batteries in 4hrs.

All our Solar chargers are using the best Mono-Crystalline Solar Cells. Amorphous or Dual Junction Solar Glass - cheapest but only 7% energy efficiency and 5 years service life. Poly-Crystalline - 25 plus years service life and 13% efficiency. Mono-Crystalline - 25 plus years service life and up to 20% efficiency.

NiMH Batteries

"I have some rechargable AA batteries from over 10 years ago. They have never been charged. Will they go bad over time, or will they still be good when I decide to charge them?"

10 years is really pushing it for rechargeable battery storeage. General rule of thumb, 3 years for NiMH, 5 years for NiCD. Beyond that you will likely encounter decreasing capacity and cycle life. Rechargeable NiHM batteries have the disadvantage of loosing power after a period of time, so keep regular batteries as well.

NiMH Battery Care & Tips

* Charge your new battery overnight (14-16 hours) before using it. This is referred to as initializing and will enable you to obtain maxium battery capacity.

* New batteries can be stored up to 2 years without cycle loss.

* Store new batteries, at room temperature, in cool dry area.

* Batteries which have been in storage should be charged overnight.

* When using a rapid charger, leave battery in charger for an additional 1-2 hours after the green light appears.

* Do not leave battery in the charger when not charging. Continuous charging will shorten battery life.

* Only charge batteries when they need it. If it isn't fully discharged, don't recharge it. Use a second battery for multiple/longer duty cycle applications.

* Do not return fully charged batteries to the charger for an extra boost. This action will significantly reduce cycle life.

* Stabilize battery to room temperature (22º C) before charging. Charging below 4.4º C or above 40º C will decrease cycle life.


First Time Usage - Do I need to charge my NiMH batteries. prior to using them for the first time?

Yes, before you use your new NiMH batteries for the first time you must charge them fully. For new NiMH batteries, it is often necessary to cycle them at least 3-5 times or more before they reach peak performance and capacity.

Holding A Charge (Shelf-Life) - How long can the batteries hold their charge if I leave them on the shelf?

At normal room temperature, NiMH batteries can generally retain 70% of their charge after 30 days. Normal self-discharge of NiMH batteries is about 1 percent per day at normal room temperature. Lower temperatures will cause NiMH Batteries to hold their charge longer. Use them within 5-10 days of their initial charge.

Not Holding A Charge - I have not used my NiMH batteries in several months and they are not holding their charge. How can I fix this?

NiMH batteries - like any rechargeable battery - will self-discharge if left unused. Generally, within 30-60 days, batteries will become almost completely drained. When using them, you will need to first recharge them. After extended storage, you may need to cycle them several times to regain normal performance. Conditioning can be performed using the conditioning feature on chargers such as the Maha PowerEx MH-C204F.

Long Term Storage - Are there any special precautions I need to know about if I store my NiMH batteries for several months?

- Always store your NiMH batteries in a discharged state.

- Do not expose your batteries to direct sunlight or temperatures above 35 degrees C during storage.

Care for Maximum LIfe - What can I do to maximize the life of my NiMH batteries?

- Never drop NiMH batteries on a floor or hard surface. If you do drop them, we recommend replacement even if no damage is apparent.

- Be sure to use a well-designed charger that will prevent overcharging. Fastest is not always the best.

- Never carry NiMH batteries loosely in your pocket. Coins , or other metal items could cause them to short, thus causing severe burns, or even a fire.

Rabbit Meat

Colony-style rabbit raising is a meat rabbit management method that, at its most basic, is simply putting a group of doe rabbits and a buck or two in an escape-proof area and allowing them to do as nature intended. Keep 4 to 6 breeding does and 1 or 2 bucks on hand at any given time, plus their litters.

To the upside, the amount of work for the keeper is efficiently minimized - keeping the communal feeders and waters filled is about it. Another plus is that production of offspring can be maximized. To the downside: It can be very rough on the does. They are capable of getting pregnant again the day they give birth. With no breaks, their bodies are under a tremendous amount of strain.

Butchering Time (About 8 weeks of age)

Modified Colony-style: Cycle the buck (or bucks) through the colony on a periodic basis but keep them separate (but adjacent) the rest of the time. This dramatically cuts down on the wear and tear on the does. It also allows us to regulate the number of litters and frequency of butcher days.

With just 4 does and one buck, it is possible to harvest 25-40 rabbits once a month. If kept frozen continuously, rabbit's meat will be safe indefinitely. For best quality, use frozen whole rabbit within a year; pieces within 9 months.

DIY Pemmican

The North American Indians invented pemmican as a condensed food for long overland journeys and winters. The lean meat of animals such as buffalo, elk and deer, was cut in thin slices and dried over a slow fire, or by the hot sun. Then it was pounded to shreds between two stones. The pounded meat was mixed with an equal quantity of boiling fat from the suet (inside fat), and packed in bags or baskets. Eaten cold, it is nearly tasteless at first but the flavor develops as it is chewed.

Some Indians added berries or wild cherries. Admiral Peary and his men ate it cold - one-half pound twice a day. He wrote that it was the only food for Eskimo dogs on a long Polar journey and: "Of all foods I am acquainted with, pemmican is the only one that a man can eat twice a day for 365 days and have the last mouthful taste as good as the first."

Men forced to live solely on salted meats, bread and cereals, suffered and died from scurvy: a disease which results from the lack of Vitamin C. Men who live on pemmican have no scurvy. It is unequaled for compactness, lightness, wholesomeness, palatability and sustaining power.

Home-Made Pemmican

Pemmican may be one of the world's perfect food. It is pure protein, fat, and carbohydrate in perfect ratio. It gives the body the densest nutritional value in a simple, hand-feeding manner. Its high energy ingredients keeps one from being hungry yet feeds the body everything it needs.

Meatless Pemmican
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried pumpkin or squash
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup acorn or cornmeal
1/2 cup hickory nuts
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup dried apples

In order to make sure that the acorn or cornmeal is bone-dry, spread it in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and place it in a warm oven (on the lowest setting) for 15-30 minutes. Then combine the dry ingredients and either chop them with a knife or grind them coarsely through a food grinder. Add the honey or maple syrup and blend thoroughly. Divide the mixture into 1/4-cup portions, press into cakes, and store in the refrigerator.

Suet-Less Pemmican
1 cup beef
1 cup dried berries
1 cup crushed nuts of any kind
2 tea-spoons honey
1/4 cup peanut butter

Grind (or pound) the dried meat to a mealy powder. Add the dried berries or nuts. Heat the honey and peanut butter until softened. Blend. When cooled, store in a plastic bag in a cool, dry place.