Solutions for Self-Reliance

This Family Saved $2,400 on Their Utility Bill Last Year, Can You?


I get lots of great letters everyday.  Today, I thought I’d share some with you.


Here’s some practical insight on financial survival from David, a generous reader.

David sent me some numbers on the value of his wood stove and his garden:

Real short and to the point here: Winter before last we had bills of > $500/month for electricity. We bought a stove (soapstone) last September, done the installation ourselves, except the pipe through the roof, cut our own wood, which took a couple gallons of gas and sweat.

Our family is three. It was work but it was fun working together gathering wood. The highest electric bill we had last year was in the $100 range. The math is easy $400 x 6 (November – April) = $2,400. Our investment will be completely paid for this year and the best thing is………our house is warm, not like never being warm with electric heat.

We are working on other resilient things also. We started our garden 4 years ago and have expanded every year. We know have about 2,000 square feet. One of our really good success stories was our potato crop this year. We harvested 200 pounds of potatoes from < 400 square feet; everything was great. We double cropped everything: two crops of corn, two crops of beans, two crops of tomatoes and on and on. Our conservative value of produce this year is ~ $4,000; and we have food stored for winter just like my Mother and Father did when I was growing up on the farm in Ohio.

Thanks David!  My experience has been the same financially.

Further, the “fire room” is the most popular room in our house.  The warm, dry air being blown out of the stove combined with the comfort you get when sitting around the fire (this love of sitting around a fire is built into our DNA) is a morale boost during the darkest days of winter.

Note:  I, or someone in the community, should do a write up on soapstone stoves.


Mary asks:  I live in a hot part of the country.  How do I keep my house cool if the power goes out?

I have lived without air conditioning during hot summers. It’s possible.  You get used to the heat.

However, even if you get used to it, productivity and quality of life drops.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to cool a home resiliently.

The passive ways to cool a home? Reflective roof, natural air flows, heat sinks, insulation/thick walls, etc. These don’t cost energy to run but they are usually installed during initial construction or during an overhaul.

Active ways?

One is a whole house fan (big fan in attic with louver in ceiling of top floor).  That’s an amazingly effective way to cool a home in the desert, where it gets cool at night.

Geo-exchange cooling is effective too, if you can afford it.  You can either set it up as a swamp cooler (forced air) or as radiant cooling (but only in very dry environments due to condensation).

A key to active, resilient cooling is to lower the energy cost of it so that a small backup power system can handle it.

Note:  I need to write a report on resilient cooling.  Lots of details to share here.


Update on the New Economy

A couple of weeks ago, I pointed out that a new economy was being built right in front of our eyes:

A good example of the emerging resilient economy is a venture called the Solar Pocket Factory, founded by two MIT grads.  This venture is dedicated to finding new and better ways to manufacture Microsolar cards.

Here’s some good news, they made their funding goal before the funding period was up.


Being Overweight Makes You Fragile

I’m not a fitness fanatic.  I don’t think everyone needs to be rail thin, with rock hard abs.

I do think, based on my decades of personal experience dealing with challenging environments and situations, that being overweight makes you needlessly fragile.  It reduces your chances of success in a world that may get much tougher in the near to medium term.

For example: How resilient is the woman riding the mobility scooter through Burger King drive-through below?

People usually send this picture, and pictures like this, around as a joke.  I don’t think it is that funny.

The lesson is pretty simple.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that if you get sick or injured, being overweight makes recovery slower and harder.  It also adds complications/expense to every medical procedure.

Further, if you find yourself in a situation that requires substantial physical activity, extra weight will make it harder or impossible to do.

Worse, being overweight in a tough situation makes you a drag on your family, friends, and community.

So, if you are truly interested in building a life and a community that thrives in an uncertain future, start by losing some weight.  Here’s an overview of how I did it (40 pounds+ in a couple of months), I hope you can do the same.

More on how to lose weight and keep it off soon.


I’m going to be speaking at the New York City Maker Faire at the end of September. I’m not sure about the exact time/date yet.

Maker Faires, if you haven’t been to one before, are a celebration of the independent inventor.

See me at Maker Faire!


Resiliently Yours,


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