Solutions for Self-Reliance

Running your Home as a Resilient System


I’m ready for the winter to end.

It’s been a good one so far, but the snow is keeping me indoors more than I’d like (despite taking every opportunity to shovel/clear snow that’s available).

With this extra time (beyond what I spend researching and writing), I’ve been spending my time planning my spring and summer home improvement efforts and learning a new hobby:  aquascaping.

Aquascaping starts with an aquarium that’s planted with live plants.  The goal is to create a living and breathing miniature ecosystem, that happens to look amazing.

The results can be pretty spectacular, as this picture and the rest of the winners of last year’s international competition demonstrate.

Aquascaping contest

The reason I’ve started this hobby is to learn more about managing a complex ecosystem.  I’m learning quite a bit.

One of the things I’ve learned is that to really zoom plant growth, you need to inject CO2 (carbon dioxide) into the water.  I’ve been doing this with a DIY kit.  Essentially, I put an inch of table sugar into a canister and add some yeast.  The yeast eats the sugar and pumps out a bubble of CO2 every 5-7 seconds for about 24 days.

Another thing I’ve learned is that even though this is an artificial environment, it’s rather easy to manage it if you set up it up correctly.  The systems you put in motion allow the tank to take care of itself.

Here’s what I mean.

One of the best ways to keep an aquarium in balance is to use biological media in the filtering system.  Biological media is a fancy name for porous rocks.

These rocks, like biochar and other porous material you can use in your garden, serve as homes for bacteria and storage locations for nutrients.  When you use biological media in your tank’s filtering system, the bacteria slowly grow to the level needed to clean your tank of harmful waste products.

As you can see, once this “colony” of bacteria sets up residence, it works for you.  They do this automatically, all you need to do is make a home for them (rocks with lots of places they can take up residence) and a plentiful supply of food (a planted tank + fish).

The same principle works in resilience.

To really become resilient, we need to build systems that work for us, day in and day out.  Systems that produce for us the food, energy, water, and products we rely upon (and things that can serve as income in a pinch).

For example.  Let’s say you have a couple of fruit trees in your yard and you need to keep them watered.

One of the ways to do that automatically is to landscape your yard to capture and divert excess rainwater into a location your fruit trees can easily access.  This “rain garden” works year in and year out with little maintenance, doing work for you by capturing, directing, and storing rainwater.

Here’s some of the basics of a raingarden from Tufts.


All it takes is the extra effort to put it into place earlier in the process, rather than later.

Be Resilient,




PS:  A systems approach requires a long term perspective.   This perspective is very similar to the perspective of the saver/investor of financial assets in the 20th Century.  In this case, the system you put into motion makes you able to produce more, become less dependent, and live a better life.  As you add more systems, the synergies between these systems compound this effect.  In the case of the 20th Century financial assets, the savings or investment account gets increasingly valuable due to compounding over the long term.

JR snow

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