Solutions for Self-Reliance

What I Found Interesting This Week 1/19/2013


What makes a home valuable in the 21st Century?

Increasingly, it’s whether the home or the community it is in produces food, energy, and water in abundance.

A home or community that does that well, is a gem.  A place and a way of life that will be sought after.   So, on that note, here’s some ideas I found this week on how to add this capability to your home and community today.

If you are like me, you love to own a greenhouse (or an green-atrium).   For me it’s both the productivity it provides and the aesthetics it adds to a home.  When I think about a greenhouse, I typically think of something akin to this suburban life support system.

Suburban Greenhouse

Note how the greenhouse is almost as large as the home itself — given that, I’ll give them a pass on the wasted yard space!

However, a greenhouse that big may not be something you can justify yet.  Over time, that will change as growing organic, healthier, high quality food at home and locally becomes easier and more desirable/necessary to do.  In the meantime, you might want to look at smaller, stand alone structures.

If you want to go fully DIY, using recycled materials, here’s a school project that used plastic bottles that may motivate you:

Recycled Greenhouse

For those into Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, here’s a simple kit called Starplate (you can purchase it here), that you can use for both a greenhouse and a chicken coop.   It’s basically a set of metal connectors, you buy standard wood (i.e. 2×4), cut it, and assemble it.


Here’s also a Geodesic dome kit and software tool for designing and building light weight domes yourself.  It was funded on Kickstarter in 2011 and it delivered ($99 for the kit).   Note that this kit uses dowels and flexible plastic connectors.  So, if you add a covering, it’s probably best to use it for “shading” plants with cheese cloth during extreme heat.  If you do, watch out for the wind.


Speaking of wind or heat… If you live in a place that features both, you may want to build a submerged greenhouse.  Here’s an example of one from project FLORA.  It uses the ground as a heat sink (a place that stores extra heat when you have too much or a source of heat when you have too little) and as a shelter against the wind.   This design will help the greenhouse maintain even temps and it will minimize damage to the structure.

Desert Coolhouse

If you like the idea of a convertible greenhouse — one that you can open and close with minimal effort — here’s an amazing design from a company in Montana.  Unfortunately, the systems are a little pricey and I haven’t found a good DIY design.

Convertible Greeenhouse

If you are really ambitious.  Here’s a self-contained greenhouse called the “Integrated Food and Energy System” that’s being prototyped right.  It combines solar panels (for energy and shade) and aquaponics to produce lots of food in harsh climates (from urban jungle to desert) with minimal inputs.

food palace

Remember, adding a greenhouse is a good way to improve the productivity of your home.  However, don’t over-invest in a greenhouse if you haven’t established a gardening routine yet.  I also suspect a greenhouse + some help from a local foodscaper (a local farmer or master gardener that delivers organic and micro-farming expertise to subscribers for a fee) would be an extremely effective combo.

Hope this helps get your head around the possibilities.  Keep adding value to your home and your community.  The future is what you make of it.

Resiliently Yours,


PS:  We’ll be talking with two of the leading innovators working on a prototype of the Integrated Food and Energy System on January’s Resilient Strategies conference call (Tuesday and 3PM).  It’s a nice compliment to the methods and ideas for growing food in harsh environments (from urban jungle to desert landscape) that were featured in January’s report.


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