What I Found Interesting This Week 2/16/13

Step 8

Here’s a few of the things I’ve found interesting in resilience this week.

Make your own soil blocks for seed starts.  Stephen M. sent me info his block technique.  It’s pretty simple and the results speak for themselves.  Here’s more detail.

Can’t find a place to grow food?  You aren’t looking hard enough.  There are lots more community gardens out there than you realize.  Here’s an example from the Boston Area (click here for an interactive map).

Boston Area Community Garden Map


Don’t give up on food quality.  Take control.  This is from Cathy R (via GFNL):

“We’ve always loved to garden, but it recently became essential to my family’s health. My daughter and husband cannot eat gluten, a protein in grassy cereals like wheat and barley. Their gluten-free diet goes beyond avoiding breads and pastas, as gluten shows up in many unexpected foods, and gluten cross-contamination is common. We’ve learned that we can no longer trust food labels – the FDA has yet to set a standard for accurate gluten-free labeling of foods, and my family has been sickened from foods that, although “naturally gluten free” (like fruits and vegetables), were cross-contaminated with gluten in production facilities. To provide safe and nutritious meals for our family, we garden year-round in plant hardiness zone 6b, using low tunnels to extend the season. Each year, we produce at least a ton of produce from our backyard garden, which is less than a tenth of an acre in size. Many people use Hippocrates’ quote, “Let thy food be thy medicine” – for us and others with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, we live it every day, every meal.”

Here’s here home’s garden:

Cathy R garden


Cheap heating and cooling for your home?   If you use well water, you may be able to take advantage of super efficient geo-exchange heating/cooling.

One of the best ways to heat and cool and home is a ground loop heat pump.  What is that?

It’s simply a heat pump that doesn’t use outside air to exchange heat.  Instead, it uses a loop of fluid to exchange heat with the earth around your home, and the heat pump is located inside your basement/garage.

The advantage of this set-up is that the earth stays at a constant temperature nearly all year round at a depth of 6 feet and below.   This means that it’s always operating at nearly peak efficiency.  In contrast, the heat pump that uses outside air becomes an energy hog when temperatures drop too low or climb too high.

The problem with ground loop heat pumps is the cost of the loop.  Typically, you have to dig out a trench or swimming pool sized hole in order to put down the flexible piping.  That can be terribly expensive.

Well Pump Geoexchange

An easier, extremely efficient, and little used solution is to use an existing well.  In this approach, well water is pumped out of the well, circulated through the heat pump and then dumped back into the well.  Of course, there are some caveats, but it’s a much less expensive way to build a ground loop.

I’ll have more detail and exploration of this in a future Resilient Strategies report.

Until next week.

Resiliently Yours,



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  • http://optoutenmasse.com/?s=soil+blocks Scott James

    I’m another fan of soil blocks, not so much to get away from using plastic, but to eliminate transplant shock when either potting up from our grow lights to our greenhouse, or transplanting directing outside into our food forest.

    I’ve experimented with several different recipes. Here is the one working best for us, reusing spent potting soil from the previous winter that we used to grow salad in the greenhouse:

    30 quarts coconut coir (water added to rehydrate and break up)

    20 quarts sand or perlite

    20 quarts compost

    10 quarts soil

    3 cups base fertilizer (equal parts blood meal, colloidal phosphate, greensand)

    ½ cup lime

  • Plug Nickel Outfit

    The idea of implementing geothermal heat exchange has come up often as we finally get around to finishing one of the larger buildings on the property. A pond of sufficient size is unlikely to happen here, and I wasn’t thrilled about the amount of trenching required to do a ground loop. We’d also heard of using the well bore to run a closed loop of some sort of exchange fluid – but found that doing this in an existing well was illegal in our area due to potential groundwater contamination. The idea you mention is an interesting variant – but I suspect that reintroducing the used water back into the well would be a sticking point in terms of legalities for the same reason. Now – an abandoned well shaft could sure come in handy for such a purpose. What sort of regulations do you know of that might dictate whether one could reintroduce used water into a well – I’d think that would be a common restriction. Do you know of areas where this is allowed – or is it simply overlooked or not yet addressed?

    Currently our thinking is that we might install some large tanks or a cistern below ground for water collection (~10k gallons) from our ample standing seam metal roofs and use that as our ‘pond’ for running a closed loop.

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