Jan 2018 Reflections Needs, Wants and the Number Zero

January 7, 2018

First, an update on our driving:

 Miles Driven Year ended 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Krista’s car (’96 Subaru) 7927 6313 7370
My car (’89 Toyota) 5241 2336 4472 4107  1880*
My pickup (’87 Toyota) 1059 2078 1576  966  935  841
Prius (2010) 7318  9756  14139
LEAF (2011)  2910*  4133
Totals  14227  10727  13418 12391 15481  19,113

*sale/purchase mid-year
Prius includes RT to Yellowstone and Oregon Coast and multiple trips to Boise (@600 ea) for Krista’s work and Charter Commission.

I think this is the year to get rid of the pickup truck. See reflections below about “zero.”

Wants and Needs

A rainy day in a hotel watching HGTV gave focus to my musings. The Tiny House show made the confusion between “need” and “want” most evident; turns out people “need” full size appliances and bath tubs in tiny houses. Between eposides the T*Mobile ad suggested a New Year’s resolution to “binge more.”
For the last several years, my end of holiday reflection has focused on my carbon footprint. This year I have been trying to think about the pull of commercialism and its unsustainability. With that in mind, my goal for the season was to focus on “necessary” purchases. But what does that mean?
After Thanksgiving I got new snow tires for my electric car. My car “needs” them after we got a few inches of snow. But stepping back, I “want” to drive my car, which creates the “need” for tires. Further, my “want” makes the city think we “need” wider streets, more bridges and parking everywhere with the associated footprint to construct and maintain.
Awhile back I wrote a letter to the DNews exploring the challenge climate change places on us for “drastic changes soon.” My habit of defining “wants” as “needs” is what I want to explore and try to break in the New Year.
Zero is qualitatively different from other numbers
I’ve also been thinking about the difference between “zero” and “less.” The thing about zero is getting there may be hard, but departing from there is obvious, ask a vegetarian. It’s the reason I’m trying to get to zero natural gas appliances. Zero-car would have a qualitative impact on my needs and behaviors.
I ran across this quote “Other than for the smallest handful of customers — transit, construction, farming, delivery, emergency/first responder — customer use of fossil fuels and other capital is non-remunerative waste, for pleasure-fun, convenience, status, etc.” I think it gives the urgency to get to zero — even driving to work doesn’t create any remunerative outcome. So a way of thinking about getting to zero could be in terms of zero uses that do not provide some direct economic benefit.
As we see in my driving log above, driving “less” is not happening; true, some of the driving is with zero fossil fuel (renewable electricity) but it still has the implicit carbon footprint of tires, streets and parking places. A goal for 2018 is to get rid of the Toyota pickup. I think a trailer hitch on the Prius will meet the limited needs to haul to the dump and other local tasks. Some other vehicle will need to be borrowed/rented for longer hauling. The decrease in carbon emissions may be small. The advantage is I will have zero pickups cluttering my driveway and zero costs on my insurance bill.
Reflection on 2017 goals
I’m not sure what happened in 2017, but I didn’t make progress on the carbon reduction goals I’d set. Didn’t get rid of any natural gas appliances: still have 2 hot water heaters and 1 clothes dryer. I didn’t get the solar hot water pre-heater going, but I did get solar PV on the cookhouse. It does not supply all the electricity used, even in the best month. The solar PV offsets renewable electricity supplied by Avista Utilities’ Buck-a-block, so there is no reduction in carbon emissions from it.
2018 Goals
In Sept I finished a 600 sqft patio south of the Cookhouse. This is going to be a great space for collaborative cooking and just entertaining. One goal is to get the mud oven from 2010 installed along with a BBQ grill. One of my big discoveries in 2017 was the positive impact of building retaining walls on my gardening (Walls were completed after the gardening season 2016). I got an opportunity to rent a trackhoe in Nov 2017 and did the rough-in work for 3 more walls — one of which creates a terrace for a large greenhouse. That work, along with an addition to the Kramer’s cabin will probably be all my budget and back can handle in 2018.



Drastic and Soon

November 15, 2017

Appeared in DNews Nov 2017

    Thanks for the Nov 8 editorial about a recent federal report on climate change, you note it calls for “drastic action” “soon.” I decided to explore unpacking those words. I posed the idea for this letter on Facebook and learned that “drastic” is relative to a person’s state of denial.
This spring, in “A roadmap for rapid decarbonization,” Johan Rockström and others provided better definitions of those terms. They proposed that during the decade of the 2020s emissions must be reduced by half, and half again in each subsequent decade thru 2050.
I have been working steadily to reduce my direct burning of carbon, replacing natural gas appliances and two older cars with a Prius and an all-electric Leaf. Avista’s Buck-a-block program sells me wind power, avoiding the fossil fuel component in their fuel mix. None of this feels drastic.
Google found me a graph of U.S. carbon emissions from 1950 to 2015. Emissions under Truman were about half what they are today. In 1950, my newly married parents didn’t own a car. Moscow’s 1950 era houses tell us things were smaller and simpler here, too. 1950 predates the big build-up of the interstate highway system and air travel was limited.
“Drastic” for me would be to have no car, to walk, bike or bus around town. The impact of fewer cars would be less demand for roads and parking, with their many direct and indirect carbon footprints. I’d move closer to Main Street.
Your editorial the day prior suggested it’s time to finish widening U.S. Highway 95. “Drastic” in the eyes of some of our community would be to abandon that project entirely, eliminating the carbon footprint of its construction. “Drastic” would be to abandon the airport realignment which supports more flying.
When will we start to contemplate “drastic” actions?

6 Americas not 2

October 1, 2017

Appeared in Dnews Oct 2017

Regarding two letters from climate denialists Larry Kirkland and Varnell Williams, your readers may know the data from the Yale Program on Climate Change “Global Warming’s Six Americas” indicate there are 6 perspectives: Alarmed (18%), Concerned (34%), Cautious (23%), Disengaged (5%), Doubtful (11%) and Dismissive (9%). Nick Sanyal’s class at the UI repeated the Yale survey finding Moscow numbers agree with the Yale’s results. Further, the dismissive group is a small (but clearly vocal) minority.
The majority of your readers may be interested in a 2015 interactive graphic from Bloomberg, “What’s really warming the world.” For those interested in the success of models, in March of this year, Forbes published “The First Climate Model Turns 50, And Predicted Global Warming Almost Perfectly.” Google provides scholarly articles about modeling success and the frontiers of knowledge still to be conquered.
More interesting, your Nov 17 story about the Idaho Climate Summit quoted Mary DuPree that we needed to be planning for climate migrants coming and the implications they will have, for example Moscow’s water supply.

A year before, on October. 20, the New York Times published “Where can you escape the harshest effects of climate change.” The article named Boise among nine cities in North America. When I see maps of places being impacted by climate change, our region is among the least impacted.

This is not a conversation about foreign refugees or immigrants; it is a the real conversation about “Growth is Moscow” we should have had during the election — American citizens, residing in other parts of the US, where hurricanes, drought, or heat waves are making life increasingly difficult.

The good news is that Moscow’s P&Z has solicited advice from the Sustainable Environment Commission to add a new section to Moscow’s Comprehensive Plan that begins to address local climate change.

Jan 2017 Resolution Thoughts

January 1, 2017

Using the analytic categories from 2015 about reducing my carbon footprint, here are things I’ve done in 2016 and my next steps planned for 2017.


The Prius was new to us when I wrote last year and now after its 100K tune-up the milage improved closer to 50mpg (get some data)


Last year I was thinking about replacing my white ’89 Toyota wagon (22-25mpg) with an all-electric Nissan LEAF for in-town driving. Mid-May I accomplished that. The 2910 miles in the table below were charged at home with renewable power via Avista’s Buck-a-Block. I pay a couple dollars a month premium on my electric bill (a voluntary tax, which helps incentivize my conservation).

The other replacement activity was to remove the natural gas works in the cooking stove in the Peterson Barn and convert the stove to a dual burner induction cooktop.

A natural gas water heater and clothes dryer in the Peterson Barn are also on the list for replacement with electric.

Car mileage log.

 Year 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Krista’s car (red) 7927 6313 7370
My car (white) 5241 2336 4472 4107  1880**
My pickup (blue) 1059 2078 1576  966  935
Prius (silver) 7318  9756
LEAF (red)  2910*
totals  14227  10727  13418 12391 15481

* Partial year. Sold white car for LEAF 5/16/16  **estimated
TOTAL of White+LEAF = 4790
Prius includes RT to Glacier Park est 700 miles & 2 RT to Seattle


Late in the fall I started a project to install 10 solar panels (KW rating?) on the Cookhouse. We put up the rails for 15 panels, but currently the use of that building does not justify more panels. As the kitchen gets more use and the upstairs gets finished, it may be that more panels will be warranted.  I’ve also opened a conversation with Avista about “combining” meters (Cookhouse + Barn) which would increase the demand and justify more panels.

I made a little progress this year on finishing the solar hot water pre-heater in the Cookhouse. It is my intention to get it completed in 2017. The concept is to warm water en route to the conventional electric hot water tank. City water enters the building around 40-50F. My hope is to warm maybe halfway to the final use temperature. If that is successful I might consider a demand water heater or super insulation to reduce storage losses from the conventional tank.


The 2910 miles represents about 120 gallons of gasoline not consumed in 2016. The 9756 miles on the Prius at twice the milage of the old Subaru is about 200 more gallons conserved.

Finishing the cookhouse, both the gardens and hardscape as well as the construction and water pre-heater are priorities because in Aug Krista and I celebrate 30 years of marriage and I want the party here and the Cookhouse to be a model of a renewable building.

Jan 2016 Resolution thoughts

January 6, 2016

Using the analytic categories from last year about reducing my carbon footprint, here are things I’ve explored and directions for 2016.

Substitution. In December 2014 we bought a 2010 Prius to replace Krista’s 1994 Subaru Legacy. The change in mpg was from mid-20s to high-30s (most of her driving is in Moscow, it does better on longer runs on the highway using cruise control so it can do more of the thinking).

Our milage data shows her car drove about 7300 miles in each 2014 and 2015, the latter with a 50% improvement in fuel efficiency.

Replacement. On the other hand, my work has me driving around Moscow. I find that I need to get between places faster, or take things larger, than bicycling facilitates. That is, I can’t achieve the driving reduction behavior I want, so I’m thinking about replacing my ’89 Toyota wagon with a used Nissan Leaf and moving to a carbon free automobile. I drive almost exclusively in Moscow and occasionally to Pullman and rarely to Lewiston. It seems the Leaf will meet my needs.

 Year 2012 2013 2014 2015
Krista’s car (red) 7927 6313 7370
My car (white) 5241 2336 4472 4107
My pickup (blue) 1059 2078 1576  966
Krista’s Prius (silver) 7318
totals  14227  10727  13418 12391

In 2014 I gave away our 15 year old riding lawnmower/snowblower. For two years now I’ve contemplated replacing the remaining gas lawn mower (self-propelled walk behind) with a reel mower and/or an electric (corded or cordless) mower. I think a purchase needs to happen in 2016, even if I keep the gas mower as backup.  Key issue is storage, I need a way to put either of those devices away out of the weather.

More Substitution. Karina and I used a Kill-A-Watt to measure the energy used by our refrigerator (part of a campaign to get a new fridge). Over a 3-day period (73.75 hrs) it used 9.06 KWH for an annual rate of 1076 KWH/yr. Karina has found replacement refrigerators with Energy Star ratings and energy usage ratings as low as 466KWH/yr and multiple options below 650KWH/yr. Now, realizing that the rating is like an EPA milage number (your milage may vary), it’s still hard to imagine we can’t get a better performing fridge.

We pulled out the fridge, it was made in Aug 1998 (17+ years ago). Googling how long a fridge lasts we found 3 sources: 80% last between 9-15 years; 10-15 years; and average 13 years.

SO, owning a refrigerator for its lifetime has 2 energy costs: operational cost and construction cost. One is paid daily, one is paid every 10-15 years.

As an aside, I wondered if there were a fridge that would pay for itself in energy savings (compared to keeping our current fridge (if it would last another 15 years)). I looked up the Avista power rate and multiplied by the KWH savings/year of our current vs potential new fridge = $45/year.

Karina was reluctant to search for a refrigerator that was 18+ cubic feet, 450KWH/year and priced under $700, but she found one (I think). Her reluctance stems from a desire to buy the features in the more expensive fridges she has found– which maybe should be a new category for this analysis: Too much vs Enough.

However, the analysis raised another question. When talking about payback period, are we talking the best sale price we can find, or the suggested retail price? That is, what does price measure: cost of inputs or other intangibles in the merchandising process?

Generation. I regularly observe that the solar air heater is in operation in the Cookhouse. I have resolved to get its water heater running. I intend that project to be the pilot one, with the home water heating to follow. The Barn is partly ready for solar hot water and solar air heating conversions, but it will be the third project to tackle. The house uses gas for hot water, the Barn uses gas for both water and space heating, so I have several opportunities to reduce direct carbon use through generation.

Cold Pizza for Breakfast

January 25, 2015

Richard Heinberg just posed a long essay Our Renewable Future (Or, What I’ve Learned in 12 Years Writing about Energy) which is a worthwhile read and something to return to later.

Near the end of section 7 he writes:

[there is only] one meaningful indication of success in all these [renewable energy] efforts, and that would be a decline in society’s overall energy use… What we need is not just to trim energy use here and there so as to save money, but to reconfigure entire systems to dramatically slash consumption while making much of the remaining energy consumption amenable to intermittent inputs. (emphasis mine)

‘Intermittent inputs’ is a reference to the idea that the wind does not always blow nor the sun always shine. He’s suggesting we need to organize ourselves to both make hay when the sun shines and be prepared to do something else when it doesn’t.

I already live with some intermittent energy supply. We heat the house with a woodstove. My evening ritual involves making sure there is enough fuel and kindling on the porch that I don’t need to make a morning trip to the wood pile in my bathrobe. The morning starts with lighting a fire. It gets stoked or relit periodically during the day/evening, depending on the day’s needs.

Energy storage is a way around intermittent supply, but it comes at a cost. Today I was thinking about what it would mean to my morning routine if I used only intermittent energy to start my day. After the fire, step two is making coffee. I use an electric kettle to boil the water. Since the winter sun is not up, I’d need a battery to power the kettle, or wait for the stove to heat the water. Step three is often making some toast.

Then comes the shower. My explorations at energy reduction have included making the hot water supply intermittent. Right now that involves putting my conventional hot water tank on a timer, its off when we typically don’t use hot water (eg, while we are sleeping or at work). Heinberg has me thinking about what it would mean to have the hot water heater “on” when the sun is shining.  I’d want to time my hot water use for late afternoon, and with an insulated tank, into the early evening. Morning would be the time of tepid water, and maybe not for wake-up showers.

Summer vs. winter is another way to think about periodic inputs. Perhaps I need to think differently about winter hot water, when I can’t count so much on the sun. Do I need two heating systems, the woodstove and a solar collector? Or do I need much more storage for hot water to “make more hay” when the sun does shine?

Perhaps I should I learn to like cold pizza for breakfast.

2015 Resolution – Reflect on Conservation

January 3, 2015

Progress on reducing my direct carbon footprint

Following on my conceptualization for the solution to reducing my direct carbon footprint (this analysis), here is the year in review:

Reduction. I think my theme for 2015 needs to be reflection on conservation, and its nuances.

In previous New Years posts I have tracked our car milage and was pleased to see our progress reducing miles driven. Alas, the reduction was lost in 2014. The lesson: bike/walking to reduce miles in town is easily overwhelmed by driving out of town, which should be obvious, it takes quite a few avoided short trips in town to equal the milage of one trip out of town.

2012 miles 2013 miles 2014 miles
Krista’s car (red) 7927 6313 7370
My car (white) 5241 2336 4472
My pickup (blue) 1059 2078 1576
Prius (silver) new 12/4/14
totals  14227  10727  13418

My friend Stephen has a longer dataset and can demonstrate real progress reducing his driving, so it is possible.

spaeth carbon wedge car

In our cars, reduced use requires constant vigilance. In contrast, the area of lawn I mow is being reduced steadily by orchards, gardens and landscaping at the Cookhouse. I haven’t used the 15-year old riding lawn mower/snowblower in 12 months. Since, I’ve proven its possible to manage what is left without the rider, it needs to go away this spring.

Another notable experiment in reduction was to put a timer on our hot water heater. Now we make hot water for morning showers and again for evening dishes. While the savings from not maintaining hot water is small, we have proven in the past 6 months that we don’t lack for hot water when we want it. This experiment needs more study. For example, can we time the water heater so we use up much of the hot water and only store tepid water (rather than having the water heater reheat the water we just used and then storing that hot water)?

Substitution. Another of the strategies to reduce my direct carbon footprint is to substitute technologies.

The Cookhouse was built with all LED lighting and I thought I was done converting the Barn, but the other day I found one more CFL — a small one in a reading lamp. The house is partly converted, the Kitchen, family room and bathrooms are done.

My efforts at substituting LED lighting for CFLs are producing limited results; my home electric bill is not going down much (if at all), because the refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher and electric dryer are such a large fraction of the use that they overwhelm the savings in the lighting.

The used Prius that Krista will drive in place of the “red” car appears to give her 40+mpg vs the previous 25+mpg in “red car,” so if we can hold the miles driven steady, it should be a decrease in fuel used.

Replacement. The oven in our gas stove died last spring and (sigh) there are no parts to repair a 10 year old stove. The process of deciding has been slow, but we are headed toward an induction stove, all electric. The decision process was explored in this column. Replacing this appliance will produce a permanent decrease in our direct use of carbon, but a small one compared to the gas water heater. I’m having the electrician get me ready to do the water heater, but can’t afford that change yet.

While the 15 year old gas lawn mower is still running, I’m considering replacing it with an electric one. Since I’m not sure how that will work in when the grass grows fast in the spring, I’ll keep the gas one around for another season.

Generation. I have some more data on the impact of the solar air heater in the Cookhouse. My previous report was from a short duration observation. Now I have a year’s worth of data which appears to show April, May & June readings with less consumption than heating degree days would predict. Since the structure is still unoccupied the only energy use is for heating. Goals for 2015 are getting hot water preheating going in the Cookhouse and in our house. This data are also encouraging me to develop solar air heating to supplement in the barn.

849 electric usage

Electric heating in the Cookhouse for 2014

Local Food Dinner in February

February 23, 2014

Last year my wife and I sold seats for a local food dinner as part of a fund raiser. I picked February for the event, intentionally to make it challenging — and to see what I would learn. The guest list required that the meal be vegetarian, but not vegan.

Lessons & Compromises. The biggest lesson was about storage and volume of our local producers. Ingredients that we know are are grown locally were not available commercially in February. I checked with a couple local farmers, they had already emptied their storehouses. Some ingredients we had stored in our cold cellar (apples, carrots, garlic), others (beets) not. Milk came from Spokane, WA (80 miles); I could not find butter or cream locally. The cow milk feta cheese could have been local, but I could only find Brush Creek’s marinated feta and wanted their fresh. Probably an issue of storage and low sales volume.  Oils — I used olive oil and butter  (as oil) and neither has a local source or a local work-alike.

It took some time and advance planning. The pumpkin puree in the rolls was made the week before– emptying out the last of our stored pie pumpkins. Hydrating and cooking the garbanzo beans took the whole morning the day of the dinner. The rolls are slow rising and they were started about 8am and were rising by the wood stove before 10am. I ended up using commercial vegetable broth for the soup– making broth ahead didn’t happen.

Best Discovery. Mushrooms from Rosalia.


Appetizer: Chili-Lime Roasted Chickpeas  Fresh lime was a compromise, but I understand that citrus historically was shipped long distances and kept well (eg British Navy use of limes to prevent scurvy) so it may be possible to consider a limited amount of citrus if some amount of low-carbon transport is available.

Soup: Roasted Garlic & Potato with Homemade Croutons  I got day old bread from a local bakery. (It did not contain the most local of our whole wheat supplies, but was organic and regional.) Garlic was from our yard. Potatoes and beets could have been very local, but were only in-state. Carrots and onions were local commercial, but I had stored them.

Roll: Pumpkin Dinner Roll No local buttermilk, I made it up from powder. Commercial dry yeast. Same flours as the pie crust. I made the pumpkin puree. Butter was not local, because we lack the dairy processing.

Main Dish: Vegetable Frittata with Corn Bread Crust  The pleasant surprise was grey oyster mushrooms from Rosalia WA. I also used mixed varieties of baby potatoes, carrots, golden beets and previously blanched/frozen local asparagus. I had dried the tomatoes and made the garlic scape & olive oil. (No olives are not local)

Salad: Apple, Beet, Carrot

Dessert: Cherry – Rhubarb Pie with whole wheat crust. Half whole wheat flour from our most local mill, half durham flour from the USDA Wheat Lab at WSU (actual origin and milling unknown). 100% whole wheat makes a crust that my family does not appreciate. Filling from our freezer.

Passion for trees

February 14, 2014

Appearing in Moscow Pullman Daily News, editorial page, Feb 14, 2014

HIS VIEW: Pitching in as a volunteer urban forester

byline: Nils Peterson is a member of the Moscow Tree Commission, who celebrates his passion for trees by building timber frames such as the Berman Creekside Park picnic shelter.

I am passionate about trees. When I was in 4th or 5th grade my parents took us to see the wooden naval ships in Baltimore Harbor. That is my first memory of being impressed by big wood. Since then I’ve been awestruck by both individual redwoods and old growth forests.

My passion for trees increased when I discovered the Timber Framers Guild and their efforts at recovering a lost building art. I find that working with hand tools allows me to attend to idiosyncrasies of timbers, which helps me appreciate trees as individuals.

Working with wood gives me a deep appreciation for Eric Sloane’s great little book “Reverence for Wood,” and inspired a talk I gave a few years ago at the Unitarian Universalist church in Moscow. The beginning of the presentation invited the audience to engage in one of my favorite activities in the church — staring at the floor. The floor is red fir, installed 100 years ago. Its knot free straight grain suggest to me that it grew in an old growth forest and was maybe 100 years old when it was harvested — saplings at the time of Lewis and Clark. That wood connects me to ecosystems and to time.

The birch tree that stood in former Moscow resident Lynn Unger’s front yard now spans the center of my barn.  It unwittingly turned me into an urban hardwood lumberjack. I discovered the diverse beauty of the trees growing in our city. Ash, box elder, chestnut, cherry, elm, linden, locust, maple, Russian olive and walnut all found places in the barn before I finished. I made friends with some of the area arborists and became something of an ambulance chaser after local hardwood.

Harvesting urban hardwoods also connected me to some of the area’s wood turners. They often took pieces too small or knotty for me and turned them into art. You can often see examples of their art at Farmer’s Market.

Now I have a small orchard, mostly plum and apple. Pruning the young trees each spring is a meditation, a chance to see how each tree responded to last year’s cuts and to choose my next step training the tree. And then in the fall I learn if my efforts are bearing fruit. The orchard is teaching me patience in a collaboration with the life of the trees.

But perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned from my passion for trees is about community. Barn raising requires community. For me, almost two decades after raising my first timber frame, the whole activity is less about building and more about engaging, sharing, connecting. The process, and the trees, have become my teachers, helping me to be more in tune, more connected, more reverent.

Cultivating Moscow’s urban forest is also a community activity. Inevitably, I suppose, my passion for trees and they lessons they taught, brought me to the Moscow Tree Commission. Recently the DNews reported on a new project of the Commission, “Adopt-a-Tree.” (Feb. 1&2)

The idea of Adopt-a-Tree is like Adopt-a-Highway, to provide a mechanism for individuals and community service organizations to volunteer assistance to Moscow’s urban forest by providing specific services to select trees that are on City property and Rights-of-Way. The goal of the program is to extend the resources of the Parks Department staff, promote civic pride, and enhance the urban forest.

I hope this program creates a channel for community members to direct some of their own passion into enhancing our community trees.  Learn more on the City website, or come see the Commission when we have a booth at Farmers Market. And follow your passion for trees.

New Years Resolution Jan. 2014

January 7, 2014

Analysis of 2013 Resolution and Results

As with 2013 it took me awhile to formulate a resolution. I learned from the last one to be more concise and more specific to help the subsequent assessment.

What is not clear in my previous goal is if a main goal can be met by meeting one of the subgoals (eg. examples) or if the goal required meeting all the subgoals. [Previous resolution is here]

Perhaps my biggest gain was not in meeting my specific goals but sharpening my conceptualization of the problem in this analysis of how I can eliminate my direct carbon footprint.

Review of 2013 goals
Substitution. I did make headway on substituting technologies. I started Avista Buck-a-Block on the house and Barn to use offset renewables in place of fossils for my electricity generation. I’ve been exploring LED lighting and buying sample bulbs from TMart and on eBay. The CREE 60W (equiv) is the best of all of them but at twice the price. I think I have replaced half of the most commonly used bulbs in our house, started on the Barn and committed to making the Cookhouse LED from the start. The biggest wattage gain was finding this 5W LED spotlight to replace some 50W halogens.  I also researched with an electrician swapping out the gas water heater and gas dryer in the Barn for electric ones. Wiring is not in place but the breaker panel has enough capacity and the distances are short. Major de-cluttering of the barn’s basement is required to make the task feasible. I’m not sure I understand what I really intended by the local food substitution goal. I’ve certainly fiddled with that, but it needs to be re-phrased.


Progress — we reduced our total driving by 25% (measured as miles driven) compared to 2012.

2012 miles 2013 miles
Krista’s car (red) 7927 6313
My car (white) 5241 2336
My pickup (blue) 1059 2078
totals  14227  10727

Green Production. I have built a solar air heater in the Cookhouse and its reducing some heating demand. The solar water preheater is still under construction, but its part of the plan. And the Cookhouse itself is all electric with Buck-a-Block in place, so it has carbon offsets for all its utilities. My cooking experiments have been sporadic, but I’m better at using the Crockpot, with several soup recipes that I make as a batch and re-heat for my lunch. The next leap here will come with an installed and easy to use solar cooker to replace the crockpot. That has to wait finishing my current building project. Similarly, the mud oven needs a permanent home and roof to become more than a novelty.

Path to a Steady-state Economy. This was a rosy goal, but I don’t know what it means. Perhaps it was really an overarching goal to the others.

Upgrade my Bike Trailer. I’ve been riding my bike and even using it for some shopping, but my only progress on the trailer was finding a place to buy a better tow bar/hitch.

Resolution for 2014

What I should have named in 2013 was that the Cookhouse would take much of my energy for projects. The goal for 2014 is to: (1) finish the Cookhouse (which means getting a Certificate of Occupancy for at least the lower floor and at least one commercial cooking use); (2) implement the solar water pre-heater, and (3) instrument the building so that I can begin documenting its performance.

Time and energy allowing, another goal is to get the solar water pre-heater on our house finished and a solar air heating system implemented in the Barn. Each of these is partially started and each has run into various hurdles that work on the Cookhouse is informing.