Survivalists say if you’re ever lost in the wilderness the first thing you need to do is ensure you have enough heat to last the night. So maybe this should have been part 1!
There are many heating options but based on my personal experience and learning, while creating off-grid geodesic dome living there are three sustainable “goto” technologies to this date.
First is propane. Technically this is not off-grid since it’s a fossil fuel that is very much like centralized distribution. But here you are strictly paying for the fuel you use, not infrastructure and not 3rd party delivery (if you pick it up yourself). With propane you can provide heat and it’s a cooking fuel and you can make hot-water. It’s hard to beat for convenience. And it’s proven to be mobile as you find it on most RV’s.
Second on my list is wood heat. Wood fuel is everywhere so heating would be next to nothing. But there are a couple big disadvantages. You have to deal with smoke which requires a stovepipe and because of the heat you need wall clearances. There are a few wood heaters on the market which are relatively portable but the issues are the same. And as with standard wood stoves you can’t thermostatically control the heat level in your space. Finally, most users end up losing their heat at 3am. This makes mornings a bit of a task if you have to restart the fire.
The best heat source in my books (and most ecofriendly and cheapest) is passive solar used with thermal mass. The technology on how this works is slowly seeping into the general population and the terms thermal mass, annualized solar heat gain and passive design are becoming better understood amongst designers and builders alike.
In the GeoStudio tiny dome of the future, the structure will be in-place and it will be designed with solar gain in mind by placing the right amount of glazing at specific angles to let the sunshine in. The floor will have thermal mass built in (adobe, concrete, masonry, almost any rock and yes even hemp crete) and the heat will be sequestered well below ground in July for wintertime use. For sustainability, costs and maintenance passive solar wins hands down.
OFFER: The use of one GeoStudios dome for one night in a campsite in an off grid area with a natural spring and 50 steps to a river. The campsite is close to a newly built outhouse, there is a fire pit and a propane barbecue available. Plenty of firewood. It's a little rustic. Stay here for $35/night. OR offer your help and you stay for no charge.
REQUEST: We're building an ecovillage in a campground! We seek people who want to help us create a year round off grid getaway. We're looking for people wanting to spend time here and help us create that by sharing their talents. As long as you can share your skills, you can stay at no charge. We’re looking for people who are not only interested in alternate off-grid living but people who are willing to do something to make it a reality.
There is a long list of things to do. Some projects will be broken down into simpler tasks so you can enjoy some free time at the campsite. There may be other people around helping out - extra hands make lighter work! Here is only a beginning list of what we want to make; rock garden, solar shower, outdoor quiet space, compost areas, tree care, deck building for riverfront viewing, creating a beautiful garden space, finding a means of keeping the deer from eating the vegetables, a food forest, a “water ram” to irrigate those gardens, organizing future events and more.
As these sustainable permaculture projects get completed you will get to know the others involved and hopefully want to spend still more time there. There will be "work records" kept and those acquiring “seniority” will get first dibs on time blocks. That’s why it’s wise to get involved now - and really, little to lose if you decide to not to continue. BTW, if you just need quiet time let me know - the rate is presently at $35/night. Presently there is room for two adults and in a pinch, two adults and a child.
By now you may see that the bigger picture is about creating an ecovillage in a campground. And we’re doing it by exchanging people’s efforts for stays in the dome. Lots of work to do!
TO LEARN MORE: I need to know/meet anyone who wants to contribute their special skills to move this to the next level. My philosophy is that we all have something to contribute so if you tell me you don’t have a skill to share I will probably disagree. :)
Call me, we'll have coffee. 403.593.2030.
One life, live it well.
I wanted to preserve a wooden bench I’ve built for the Good Spirit Acres dome.
We know that regular pressure treated lumber is not the most eco-friendly option we have if we want to put wood outdoors and not rot in 5 years. Or so I thought. Then I ran across something called Eco Wood Treatment. It’s simple to use, you get a package of powder and mix it into a gallon of water. When applying it really is like just putting water onto your wood. Use a roller, brush, spray gun, sponge, anything. In fact the directions state you can even just submerge your wood in the product. Way easy! I got this package, which makes one gallon, at Windsor plywood for about 20 bucks.
Now to wait to see if it really is effective. Time will tell. One very interesting feature about this wood preservative is that it changes the colour of the wood to a kind of grey patina so that it appears as though it’s aged. Especially good if you’re aiming for that antique look. New meaning to 50 shades of grey!
In case you've been losing sleep over how those GeoStudios windows were made, here's the story. First, I could have went with triangular windows in the GeoStudios (much easier), but the idea of a round window had greater appeal to me from day one. While the challenges to building a round window frame are unique, I feel the reward is worth it.
First you need your medium. I chose 1x8 by 8’ long regular lumber. Then cut it into three equal lengths and made it into a triangle. The triangle is not only glued together, it also has metal reinforcements in back to hold it all together. (A couple of lost frames showed that glue alone is not enough.)
Then I routered a circle into it. (Being sure not to router over the metal!)
My circle jig (not the square dance) is just a short piece of plywood with the outline of my router cut into it. And it reaches to the centre so I just spin around that point. The hardest part is finding the centre. That's basic math. Once you got that figured out you’re off to the races.
The finished frame, sanded and ready for priming and finished with elastomeric paint. This triangle is from my previous red & white dome many of you have seen. It will be re-purposed as a window triangle for the campsite dome.
As well all know by now, the real value in our garbage is in separating it’s components. Separate your food scraps from the garbage and you have compost. And so is the value of the UDDT. That’s the Urine Diverting Dry Toilet, whose function should now seem rather obvious, if not humourous.
With the toilet divided into a front and back half (it’s ok guys it’s not any less macho to sit), it collects two valuable waste streams. And I make no apologies for the pun.
Gardeners everywhere will back up the science of spreading your liquid compost around. Pissing on the tree hasn’t always just been for dogs.
And even the solid stuff, (if everything is working as it should) can be of value. After all, it seems to me sheep manure is a thing.
But we humans are exceptional it seems. Our shit not only stinks but can be downright toxic. No problem. Lead a healthy life, have a good diet and avoid too much pharma and your donation to the UDDT toilet will be every bit as good as sheep shit.
And don’t forget to bury it. I learned that from my cat. Then be ready to actually use it in, oh six months or so, in the back 40 as part of your soil amendments program.
Dealing with shit needn’t be that complicated.
Gilles Leclair is the founder of GeoStudios. Somewhat eccentric, fairly environmentalist, politically aware, he believes the world should have more off-grid communities... many more.