Earth Day 2012

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For Earth Day 2012, we didn't quite have the gumption to put together a big booth for the annual City Repair event as we've done in years past. And our friend Gus has been trying to persuade us to visit his home town of Silverton for a while -- plus, we knew of a guy named Hank living in the same area who's working on closed-environment life support systems (CELSS), basically miniature ecosystems that recycle air and water and provide other key services for a spaceship or space colony (or for other purposes). So we decided to head south, although ironically, we didn't actually manage to meet Gus on this trip.

Visiting Hank's place

After a Weekly Service Call with Eric joining in via Skype, Brandon, Shelley, Sequoia, and Ben got in the Sanders family car (known as Harold) and headed toward Silverton via a scenic route which was supposedly not much slower than taking the freeways. But by the time we approached Silverton, we were close to being late for our appointment with Hank, so we just kept going.

Despite a thick fog bank and some difficulties with the directions, we made it to Hank's place on time. The first new thing we learned about Hank was that he has three goats, six cats, and a large photovoltaic array. The second, and more startling, fact we learned was that Hank's family runs a woodworking company making frames for needlework. In the same room as the wood milling equipment is a small steam engine, which Hank demonstrated using compressed air, much to Sequoia's delight. When hooked up to a yet-to-be-acquired wood-fueled boiler, the steam engine will produce a similar amount of electric power to the solar array.

Hank's place.JPG
Hank's steam engine.JPG Hank's solar array.jpg

We then sat down to a picnic lunch inside the framework of a 26-foot geodesic dome, photos of which are available on Hank's Facebook group (which is why Ben neglected to take any good photos of it for this page). There we learned something else startling about Hank and his family: They're not just planning for a spacefaring future, but also for a "bug-out" scenario for surviving as a small isolated group after a (hopefully temporary) collapse of civilization as we know it. The overlap between these two endeavors is surprisingly large, since a typical near-future space mission will involve a small group becoming almost totally isolated from civilization on Earth and having to produce and maintain everything they need for survival. One major difference is that in space, you probably won't have to worry about fighting off brigands who want to steal your stuff, which is something a lot of survivalists focus on, but Hank and company don't seem too concerned about that angle.

The fog cleared out while we were eating, and the weather was wonderful for the rest of the day. After briefly observing some of Hank's small-scale experiments in indoor agriculture, and some of his wife's beautiful needlework art, we headed back to Silverton.

A couple notes by Hank on the photos above: The left hand one shows the oak lumber drying that we made with our sawmill from the oaks we cut down for the new house we are planning to build. The one with the steam engine also shows some of the winter squash we grew last summer. The experiment was to see how well they would keep in the minimum 50 degree temperature we maintain in the woodworking shop. The solar panel is a 5kW array that is grid intertied so no batteries.

Earth Day at the Oregon Garden

Historic oak tree at Oregon Garden.jpg
Silverton's big Earth Day event was held at the Oregon Garden (where Gus is hoping to start a Mars garden demonstrating "ET agriculture" techniques). Ben's parents, Steve and Judy, arrived early enough to see a presentation on gardening techniques that allow rain to soak into the soil rather than becoming runoff. The rest of us caught the tail end of a presentation on art made from recycled objects, and a lengthy talk on Oregon's raptors during which we got to meet a great horned owl, a kestrel, and a red-tailed hawk.


Recycled art.JPG
Great horned owl.JPGKestrel.JPGRed-tailed hawk.JPG

After that, the Sanders family headed for home while the Sibelmans spent some time wandering around the gardens. When we got back to the Seed Village, the Sanders garden was also looking quite beautiful (so much so, in fact, that Ted and his new partner Celeste decided to get married there). John, Heather, and their kids joined us for pizza bread, broccoli, brownies, and another SolSeed Service to wrap up the day.

The Sanders garden.jpg

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