Farming with Mules

And they said I was an idiot to believe that there would be an energy descent…

With Gas Costs Rising, Farmers Take to Mules : NPR

Two Tennessee farmers have found an old-fashioned solution to the problem of high prices at the gas pump: They’ve hitched their farming equipment to two mules named Dolly and Molly. T.R. Raymond and his son Danny say it’s a lot cheaper to fuel their mules than to fuel their tractors.

I had previously predicted that horses would be used, but in this case I’m happy for the farmers, and the mules.


From my previous post…

New World Transportation | UrbanWorkbench

Bullock teams were used extensively in early colonial Australia to haul large and heavy items such as logs from the forest to the sawmills. Horses have been popular around the world for both fast personal transport and heavy hauling. Other animals include mules, donkeys, dogs and elephants (think Hannibal crossing the alps!)

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Oil Driven Design

Conventional Suburbia is the result of plentiful cheap oil and our dependence on it.

  • What will happen when that cheap oil runs out?
  • Will we be saved by technology?
  • Will we have to fend for ourselves?
  • What will the world our children inherit be like?


Attribution, Non-Commercial by fd 

The realities that our generation may face are overwhelming and are being trivialized by greenwashed arguments and products in almost every sector of society.

Suburbia, McMansions, our reliance on cars and trucks, food that travels thousands of miles to reach our supermarket shelves, all of this oil driven design is unsustainable.

It’s not about what light globe you purchase or whether you use plastic shopping bags, the issues are infinitely bigger than these feel good club-like campaigns. These build awareness but may also immunize many consumers from looking further at their lifestyles and changes that need to be made.

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Koch Creek Hydro

Today I was sent a message by one of my readers about a public meeting being held regarding Koch Creek in the Slocan Valley, Kootenays BC.

Koch Creek Hydroelectric Proposal
7:00PM, April 16th
Crescent Valley Hall

Come see what the proponents of this project are proposing… and come and tell them what you think about it…

The Friends of Koch Creek think it’s a bad idea.
Here are some of the reasons why:

We the people of British Columbia own Koch Creek and all the other threatened waterways in the West Kootenays and throughout the province. Under the current BC Energy Plan, private companies will profit from exploiting our publicly owned treasures with little or no benefit to the local economy.
The privatization of power generation in BC will lead to higher energy prices, less community control and a degraded environment. These projects are not about energy security. Once their sweetheart contracts with BC Hydro run out, private companies, not the people of BC, will own the right to sell the power to anyone they please.
This power is simply not needed. We do not have an energy crisis. Even if we did, we would need to be very thoughtful and to take time to examine how to proceed in the best possible ways. We must not be panicked into accepting shortsighted, "greenwash" solutions. To push these contracts through, the BC government has passed Bill 30, which takes away from all local governments all rights to have any say over what happens with these private power developments. Koch Creek Canyon is beautiful. We love it and propose it be designated as a park. It has the potential to lift the hearts of anyone who goes there. This is its real power potential.

Last summer was the first time I’d explored this beautiful area, unfortunately I witnessed a single vehicle accident and didn’t get any fishing in, but my family has a camping trip planned out this way this summer.

As this invitation states, these smaller scale hydro projects are not always as green as they seem, and the power to decide should be returned to the local government and the people who live in the surrounding communities.

Thanks Eva for this public notice.

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Cargo Kite Sailing

Sailing ships have always held a fascination for me. From daydreaming while learning about Captain Cook’s amazing voyages to the ends of the known world while sitting in a classroom in the summer heat, to watching the Sydney to Hobart yacht race cruising out of Sydney Harbor under spinnakers, I’m not a sailor, but the sight of these vessels racing with the wind is pretty awesome. But sailing ships became a thing of the past with the advent of the steam engine, and later on diesel powered engines. For a while these two technologies cohabitated, in case of engine failure, or to get some extra power under favorable wind conditions.


A new way of harnessing the wind has been developed in recent years with the advent of stronger, lighter materials to make massive kite sails. A German ship has made history as the first commercial cargo ship with additional propulsion by a towing kite system…

Green shipping blowing in the wind – World –

When the 10,000-tonne Beluga SkySail is well clear of land, it will launch a giant kite, which wind tunnel tests and sea trials suggest will tug it along and save 10-15% of the heavy fuel oil it would normally burn. If the journey from Bremen in Germany to Venezuela and back is successful, it could become common to see some of the largest ships in the world towed by kites the size of soccer fields.

Not quite the sailing ships of old, but a great use of technology to see energy savings in the transportation of heavy goods. For more information about the original blending of steam and sails, see this page at the National Maritime Museum in the UK.

To give you an idea of the value that this technology could bring, have a read of these stats…

Nearly 100,000 cargo ships transport 95% of world trade by sea, and the world shipping industry is expanding rapidly as countries such as India and China become major players in the global economy. But the cost of shipping or “bunker” fuel has nearly doubled in the past two years, forcing the industry to consider alternatives. At the same time, concerns have grown about climate change and air pollution from shipping. It is estimated that commercial shipping uses nearly 2 billion barrels of oil a year and emits as much as 800 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 4% of the world’s man-made emissions. Shipping also releases more sulphur dioxide than all the world’s cars and lorries.

Bring on the renaissance of wind powered shipping!

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Compact Migraines

Seems like everything “good for you or the earth” has a downside or maybe just a flipside. Today’s bad news is that Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs may be causing migraines in some people.
Energy efficient bulbs may trigger migraines, UK group says

Energy efficient light bulbs could be causing migraines, a British migraine lobby group said Wednesday. “These bulbs do trigger migraines for some of our members — it’s either the flickering, or the low intensity of the light, causing eye strain,” Karen Manning, a spokeswoman for the British Migraine Action Association, told the BBC.

I’m no expert on lightbulbs or migraines, however, I’d have to say that our electronified world can’t be helping headache sufferers or the quest for lower energy consumption.
My tip for those who use a computer all day, (under any lighting conditions), is to take regular breaks, look away, find something to look at far away and rest your eyes. While you’re at it, go for a walk too!
We just replaced the lighting in my office with halogen lights to help brighten things up in there for the winter. The energy use is higher, however the light feels much better for working in, but during the day, I just open up the curtains and let the natural light in.
I doubt this research will sway the resolve of governments around the world to ban incandescent bulbs, there is too much public perception at stake, whether it solves any of the global warming/greenhouse gas/power consumption issue or not is almost irrelevent at this point.

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Duped into Walking?

Have you ever been duped? I mean really duped?377239545_3e6af87a30_m

Have you ever really been duped into thinking that you are doing something for a cause, and then say, you found out that it wasn’t as good as it were made out to be, or perhaps that there were really no Weapons of Mass Destruction.

After reading this article in the Times Online, I’m feeling duped….

Walking does more than driving to cause global warming, a leading environmentalist has calculated.

Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.

Walking to the shops ?damages planet more than going by car? – Times Online

and that’s not all, from the same article…

  • Traditional nappies are as bad as disposables, a study by the Environment Agency found. While throwaway nappies make up 0.1 per cent of landfill waste, the cloth variety are a waste of energy, clean water and detergent
  • Paper bags cause more global warming than plastic. They need much more space to store so require extra energy to transport them from manufacturers to shops
  • Diesel trains in rural Britain are more polluting than 4×4 vehicles. Douglas Alexander, when Transport Secretary, said: ?If ten or fewer people travel in a Sprinter [train], it would be less environmentally damaging to give them each a Land Rover Freelander and tell them to drive?
  • Burning wood for fuel is better for the environment than recycling it, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs discovered
  • Organic dairy cows are worse for the climate. They produce less milk so their methane emissions per litre are higher
  • Someone who installs a ?green? lightbulb undoes a year?s worth of energy-saving by buying two bags of imported veg, as so much carbon is wasted flying the food to Britain
  • Trees, regarded as shields against global warming because they absorb carbon, were found by German scientists to be major producers of methane, a much more harmful greenhouse gas

So what’s a wannabe greenie to do? Can we do anything right? Are we destined to screw things up which ever way we look at it?


The solution is in the details.

The either/or may not really be an option in any of the above examples. There has to be a left-field solution out there for every problem, and generally the answer is in simplifying your life.

The takeaway lesson from this is that we should be embrace green concepts, but be weary of any claims of great  environmental benefits, even implied ones. 


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Wiking Around – Thoughts on Buying a Bike Trailer

Wike Shopping TrailerWe live approximately two kilometers to the nearest supermarket, (no organic markets within walking or biking distance for us I’m afraid), and I’m getting sick of driving to the shops for the odd grocery, or even for the larger shopping trip. It not only feels wasteful and wrong in these times of high gas prices, but it is terrible for the environment. Apparently something like 60% of all vehicle trips are less than 5 miles, meaning that we do an awful lot of driving really close to our home or place of work. This is from an article I read a while ago, and found again, just for this quote…

The Planning Report – Solving the Public Health Crisis with Smarter City Planning

If you walk one mile, you put one gram of carbon into the atmosphere. If you drive the best possible Prius, you put 460 grams per mile into the atmosphere.

We ain’t got no Prius. Our minivan doesn’t count on the environmentally friendly scale. This site also looks at the cost of driving, (including some environmental factors).

I’m considering a bike trailer as a remedy to this situation. There are a number of options out there for trailers, most of them involve pulling kids around in something that looks like a jogging stroller strapped to the back of the bike. For shopping I think I’d like something a bit more purpose built, or if not purpose built, maybe just less built for kids to sit in?

Wike Trailers


Wike has a range of purpose built products ranging from the ubiquitous child trailers, kayak and canoe carriers, golf club trailers (now that’s cool), shopping trailers and dog trailers, to all purpose flat bed trailers and even a do-it-yourself kit trailer. Really there is a trailer for everyone and every situation, a lot of thought has gone into the concept

Now how about you get your bike serviced, get out riding and even hook up a trailer, it’s not just for the kids or the hardened bicycle tour fanatics to tow the kitchen sink. Take this quote from a satisfied customer…

Wike Bicycle Trailers: City Shopper Bike Trailer

I am a retired 63 year old male. I do not drive and recently purchased one of your City Shopper trailers. I cannot tell you what a Godsend it has been for me. Grocery shopping was always a major problem. I either had to take a taxi or walk. I could only carry enough groceries for a couple of days. Now I am able to bring home a weeks worth of groceries in the trailer. The trailer is very easy to tow and I was very impressed with the quality. Thank you for making my life a lot easier. Thank you and God bless you…

If I’m pulling my shopping on a bike trailer when I’m 63, I’ll be pretty happy, I don’t get enough opportunity for fitness as it is, I’d love to be able to make better use of the warmer weather by running errands on my bike.

Check out this Canadian company and discover another way to lessen your carbon footprint by riding to the shops instead of driving. This is not a paid post or review, I just really like the idea of this product, from the reviews and comments I’ve read, it is a simple functional design that is durable and easy to use.

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Local Cooling

So I’m in the middle of a short series on ways to green an existing house, but a quick interlude to point you to a neat little application that is a bit smarter than Microsoft’s built in Energy Saving settings, and certainly, most people I know just set their screensaver to run, but don’t think about their energy consumption.

Computers are terrible energy hogs, and they’re the type of appliance that just gets left on in offices and homes all around the world. I’ve had this program running for a couple of months now and it unobtrusively shuts off the monitor, harddrives and eventually puts the computer into a hibernated state if I so desire, (note that some software and USB peripherals really don’t like being put through a hibernation cycle so be aware of this one).

More than 30 billion kilowatt-hours of energy is wasted because many of us simply forget to shut down our computers when we’re not using them. If we could just improve the efficiency of how we use our PCs, the savings in energy costs would be over $3 billion! The CO2 emissions from just 15 computers are equivalent in energy terms to the gas consumption used by one car.

Source: Local Cooling

Anyway, I thought I’d show off my stats (but the widget was looking funny, soI’ll work on it a bit!), of course like most things web2.0, the catch is in the community implementation and the tracking. If you’re in the Kootenays and are reading this, I’ve started a group in the account settings called “Kootenays”, where we can all become happy friendly local coolers.  I don’t think I’ll put it as a widget on my blogs at this stage, but maybe I’ll randomly add it in as a link on posts.

I’m also working on the March Newsletter, so stay tuned, you can sign up for it by the link on the right sidebar, we respect your privacy and would never sell your email!


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