Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Self-sustained lifestyle

We are subscribed to Mother Earth News at home and I have to say, it is an eye-opener. People do all sorts of interesting things in their gardens and homesteads to ease their footprint on the planet as well as eat and live better and cheaper. Dacia and I have always been pretty independent people and we always wanted to be self-sustained. Our yard is about 1.3 acres and it seems only logical to try and grow our own food. We live in south-east Florida so the planting season is really any time ;).

The plan for the path to self-sustenance is:

1. Plant a vegetable and fruit garden
2. Build a jungle/rain forest room
3. Build a solar water heater
4. Switch the house to an off-grid solar electricity source
5. Buy a bio-diesel processor and produce our own fuel

These are costly plans and they will take time to reach. The jungle room is basically our patio turned into a rain forest environment and screened so that we and our birds and lizards can enjoy it permanently. To do that, we need to cut out and remove the concrete patio, level the ground and plant trees and plants of choice. After it has all been done, we will screen it and create a nice little green-house nook. An added benefit will be that the lush vegetation will act as a temperature leveler - in the winter we will be warmer and in the summer, we will be cooler.

The solar water heater is not difficult to build, it would appear. Mother Earth News had a few articles about it and they can found online. The cost of a new water heater is about $300 for a 50 gallon tank. We need to build an insulated box for it and find a sunny location to put it on. Finally, a plumber needs to connect the thing into the water system. I estimate the cost of this project to be in the $600-800 range. For comparison, a roof mounted solar water heater runs at about $4200-$5200 with state/federal rebates bringing down the price to about $2500. Still a bit pricy!

Switching the house to off-grid solar electricity is a major cost. I am estimating at least $35-40,000 minus a lot of rebates but still in the $20,000+ range.

We are awaiting delivery of six grown strawberry bushes, a grown cherry tree and three producing muscadine grape plants in the next few weeks. It will be so much fun to plant these and watch them grow and bear fruit.

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