This era in history may be remembered as the "Peak Age", a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources to be using. There are hundreds of examples of resources, currently embedded in our industrial society, which have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010, but the one which will most impact our society is petroleum.

The goal of living for 100 days without oil is to understand the extent of our dependance on oil in American society today. Specifically, how it will affect my life, as a 25 year-oil living in Minneapolis, MN. By using myself as a metric I can take a close and conscious look at where oil dependance occurs in all aspects of our daily lives : How we transport ourselves from one place to another, what we eat, how much waste we create, how water is cleaned and transported, where oil is used as; an energy resource, in conventional medicine and for hygiene and how oil affects how we entertain ourselves and communicate with others. By demonstrating how someone would be forced to live without using any oil resources, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits, we can can identify the many systems which will have to be re-designed in a world without cheap oil, and explore a new way of living in which we live in an energy balance.

(At the bottom of this page is a link to my version of a flow diagram of 'Where Petroleum Exists in Our Daily Lives' (using information from the Energy Information Administration-Annual Energy Review 2008 fig 5.0 Petroleum flow) click and zoom to enlarge)

Monday, August 30, 2010


29 August 2010

After some failed vegetable spouts and a rapid depletion of variety of foods available at farmer's markets already, I've decided to re-work my grow table plan a bit.  I have some vegetables coming up as sprouts still, but many were fried when it got too hot (and I left the lid on).  One of the problems I'm having is the sprouts look fine and I transplant them and they seem to die in the middle of the stem.  My basil is shown here, it literally just can't keep itself up anymore and flops over (stem in the middle is really thin now).  A project we studied while doing our greenhouse project this summer was a winter-CSA run out of a greenhouse in Milan, MN.  It is about 16'x22' and feeds 20 families, mostly growing microgreens, without any supplemental lighting and barely any heating.  What is interesting is they grow all the greens in rain gutters (only 4" deep).  They can have a continuous supply of nutrient rich microgreens (greens harvested after only a few weeks) by planting new ones every week.  Being that I am already almost out of greens I can find locally, I am going to make this the new main goal of the grow table.  This way I can grow food fast enough that it is useful to me when I run out of other supplies. 

My friend John donated a gallon bag of sunflower seeds to me the other day.  He buys this stuff in 50 gallon bags at garden centers as birdseed for about $25.  You can buy it at the Wedge for $4/gallon, I'll take the birdseed.  Turns out growing sunflower spouts is a super easy and popular thing for people to do in kitchens in the city.  Its nice because they are ready to eat in less than 10 days from planting.  After watching a few videos, my process was this:

video I followed was this raw lady:

1_dump a few cups of sunflower seeds into a mason jar and rinse
2_let sit for 6-8 hours in water and rinse again
3_hang in a mesh bag, or thin strainer to drain all water out till seeds are dry
4_pour back into mason jar and rinse twice a day for a couple days (the seed start to sprout in the mason jar)
5_as soon as most of the seeds are sprouting, put them in a container filled with organic soil (I used a black seed flat, the lady in the video used a plate) doesn't sound like the soil needs to be too thick
6_put seed on top of soil, very densely.  Not so dense they are on top of each other, but John describes it like a 'blanket' of sunflower seeds.
7_sprinkle a little bit of soil on top, not very much.
8_cover with a dark top of some kind (I layered my seed flats, John says the 'cover' flat can actually be resting on the seeds because as soon as they begin to sprout they push the top up they are so densely planted. 
9_allow to sprout for a few days (not sure how long yet)
10_cut with scissors at base of sprout and put in sitr-fry, salad, smoothies, sandwiches
covered with seed flat on top (keep dark and warm)

after 2 days of growth (still covered)


28 August 2010

I wish I had some good pictures of today because I got to impose my lifestyle on my old roommate Beth for the weekend who was visiting from San Francisco!  I admit I had a couple slips, I HAD TO, HAD TO take her to my favorite restaurant in the city (Himalayan Restaurant on Franklin), definitely not local. 

We had a pretty perfect (almost) no oil day in Minneapolis.  Wake up to a breakfast at Common Roots (local restaurant close to my house), no coffee.  We walked to Hidden Beach (East Beach) on Cedar Lake.  It always surprises me how quickly you can walk places that I think are much farther away.  Because my bike is my primary form of transportation, I really don't walk anywhere farther than 5-6 blocks away.  Because of this, I always think it will take a long time to walk somewhere 1-2 miles away.  The walk to Hidden Beach is 1.8 miles and it only took us 35 minutes however.  Although our dinner wasn't local, we DID bike there (4+ miles away).  Minneapolis has one of maybe the largest bike rental program in the country (largest?) that was just started this summer here.
The program is definitely set up for people to take quick trips by bicycle instead of the bus, or car, or walking.  While you have to put a deposit down (up to $250?) the bikes are $5 a day if you keep each trip you take under 30 min.  This program isn't really helping people who can't afford cars to become more mobile (not everyone has $250 to deposit), and it isn't great for renting a bike for an afternoon if you are a visitor.  But you can take short trips for really cheap. 

I also drank my first green smoothie from the wedge today.  They use compostable cups, so I got one to see how long it takes to compost (or if it actually composts).  I cut it up into pieces except for the lid before throwing it in. The good thing about composting food containers is you don't have to rinse them!  Less water, more food for worms!  Speaking of the worms, the compost is slowly starting to lose its smell, you can no longer smell it without opening the top anymore, starting to smell more earthy. 


27 August, 2010

With a big deadline and no food prepared already didn't have time to spend even 20 min making breakfast this morning.  Definitely a day I would have grabbed a pop tart and a coffee and ran out the door :)  I need to start making a schedule of what I plan on eating every day and pre-make foods.  EVERYTHING just takes so much longer, but if I had things somewhat pre-made already it would go much faster.  This goes for more than just food: laundry takes time, getting water and carrying to where I need it takes time, biking around doing errands takes time...I need some structure, something like this:

SUNDAY-grocery shopping for week's worth of food (veggies at farmer's market-only buy what you can eat! and freeze anything that is almost out of season (milk and grains at co-op)
MONDAY-make bread for the week (pizza dough, or bread for spreads), cut fruit (melons)
TUESDAY-make sauces (spreads for bread, pesto, tomato sauce etc), hard boil eggs
WEDNESDAY - farmer's market again, run any errands (not as many to do when you can't buy anything)
THURSDAY - work on vegetable garden, plant new seeds, transplant seedlings
FRIDAY - make products (cleaners, lotions, deodorant)
SATURDAY - laundry day week (hand washed with surplus water from previous 6 days, about 45 min)

When I really think of how much there is to do it is overwhelming, breaking it down into doing one thing each day might help. I'll see how this works.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


26 August 2010

So I'm playing catch up a little bit here translating my notes into postings....Life has gotten in the way of the project the last few days with other project deadlines, out-of-town visitors and a new roommate.  My goal with the blog is to post everyday, because everyday I come across TONS of new information just talking to people about the project.  Literally EVERYONE I talk to has something to offer, whether it be an article they read, some advice about growing plants or simply putting me in contact with someone I should talk to.  Its really great to see how much people really already collectively know about many of the things I'm doing/learning for the first time during this project.  I feel like I know at least one person who is really an expert on at least one of the categories of this project: friends who bike around the city know the best routes, lots of people who garden and can give me tips on starting plants, people who have home-composting bins....  In an age when we will need to be re-learning how to live more self-sufficient lives its great to know that there is a wealth of information from all kinds of sources and that really everybody has SOMETHING to offer....

Today I started making my own candles.  This is kind of a nit-picky detail of the project, however, by learning to make your own products (of any kind) makes you really think about what goes into those products.  As I run out of conventional products I have (lotions, shampoos, cleaners) I'll be making those as well.   I've been burning off the last of my "oil" candles (made of paraffin wax as most conventional candles are).  I got soy wax chips instead (had to order these because I couldn't find a local supplier).  Its easy to do, and a bunch of small mason jars serve as excellent candle holders.  I had an old candle jar so I used that.  You simply melt the wax, center the wick in the container and pour in.  It took a few hours to harden afterwards but now I have an oil-free candle!  This process got me thinking about the kinds of things like candles made from oil-products that we use everyday.  It is actually really surprising to me that nobody really thinks about air-quality issues with burning paraffin wax in your home.  I don't know much about this at this point, but I would assume that something that is a by-product of oil refining is a fairly toxic material, and burning it releases it into the air to be inhaled.  With so many "holistic therapy" kinds of uses for candles its surprising that there aren't more soy-based ones.  I have seen these at my co-op and similar stores, but the typical candle is made of paraffin wax.  The soy based flavors are plant products and are therefore, not toxic and burn longer. 

Also, I've begun looking into how to stop junk mail from getting mailed to be everyday.  I'm collecting all of my waste for the 100 Days so minimizing waste as much as possible is important.  I mentioned earlier that I wasn't sure what use I had for lots of paper, especially junk mail.  A lot of junk mail is coated in some kind of wax, and uses toxic dyes so composting isn't a good option.  Somebody mentioned to me that a lot of this mail might actually be a vegetable wax coating, I'll have to look into that.  A friend sent me this link to the 'opt-out' website for junk mail: 

more 'catch up' posts to come tomorrow!  many people have mentioned that they check the blog daily, which I really appreciate, so hopefully from here on out I can get in the habit of daily posts to get the most organized feedback from everyone :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


25 August 2010

miles biked -21
water used -

Today was a big day for the compost, a new beginning really.  John Steingraeber, a fellow architecture thesis student with me last semester, has done a lot of research (and just in general knows a lot) about local foods and composting.  He came over this morning to assess the compost situation (which I've been afraid to look at for a few days now).  When we opened the compost, it was a bit moldy, but didn't look terrible.  John has his own composting operation that's been going for 7 years now.  Its similar to mine, in a rubber tub with a drainage system in the bottom.  He keeps his in his kitchen. His is a worm-compost operation and he brought me a cool-whip container full of worms to start my own that way.  I was a little wary about the worms because so many people have been telling me not to use composting (red) worms.  They are not a native species, and the worry is they will get out and destroy the soil and forest habitats.  However, as John explained, the worms (not being Minnesota natives) cannot tolerate temperatures below 55 degrees.  They will just die (and apparently smell really bad).  This means that the bin basically HAS to be kept inside if composting with worms because the temperatures are already dropping below 55 at night here (50 degrees expected tonight).  This means that even if the worms did escape into the wilds of Lyndale Ave (where they wouldn't have anywhere to go really) they would die the first time it got below 55 (which is basically all the time here. 

Will Allen, the head of Growing Power (a huge local food operation in Milwaukee) uses composting worms as well.  His are actually outside, but underneath a huge pile of compost.  Because compost (especially huge piles like his) generate so much heat as they decompose, the worms can stay alive in this environment through the winter.  Because the worms are getting food from the compost and heat, they don't have any reason really to go anywhere else, and if they did-they would freeze.  This made me feel better about the worms. While I'm a little scared about having my bin inside, John explained that you can tell if compost is working if it doesn't smell bad.  Well-my compost smells pretty bad right now, but he says his just smells like soil.  So we put the worms in.  I told John that I had seen maggots in the bin a few days ago, and as we started turning the compost ALL THESE DISGUSTING MAGGOTS WERE UNDER IT.  Gross.  And it smelled so bad, we were both gaging.  So we decided it was best to just trash the nasty stuff, especially because I was going to be bringing it inside, and start over with the worms.  John fearlessly dove into the maggoty (actually considered a word according to spell-check) compost with his bare hands and scooped all the nasty stuff out into a bag.  Oh my gosh John, thank you SO much, there is no way I would have been able to deal with that.  Gross. 

With a new start, we put the worms in again I shredded a couple City Pages of newspaper bedding for them.  We got the bedding wet (not soaking, but not at all dry) and put in some new organics from my kitchen composter (99 cent can from Goodwill).  It is important that the bin keeps wet, and that the liquids have a place to drain.  The bin still has a bit of a rank, but hopefully after a week or so of worm action, that will get taken care of.

The other really great thing I learned from John was that he has about the same size tub as I do (18 gallons) and has only taken compost out of it ONCE in seven years.  Basically, the worm population self-regulates itself and just eats so much of the compost that it literally disappears.  Magic.  Worm Magic.  Amazing.  This had been one of my concerns because I was planning on using a bit of the compost for my indoor garden, but was thinking I would end up with way too much and would have to find a way to get rid of it. 

When I first learned about composting I had my doubts that it really made a difference in the waste stream.  Questions I had were:  (1) Since the stuff is organic, doesn't it just decompose in the landfill anyway?  and (2) If you turn it into compost and don't have anywhere to put it, are you really helping to reduce waste (if you have just as much compost soil as you did organic matter?  I now understand that: (1), organic matter put into landfills cannot decompose because it is in an anaerobic environment at that point.  Organic matter needs air to decompose (which is why you have to mix newspaper and other things into it) and in a landfill it is packed so tightly without any air (anaerobic) that it just turns into a sludge, taking up space.  Secondly (2) According to John, the worms are eating so much of the waste that it doesn't really accumulate.  The more food you give them, the more they eat.  Apparently they eat just about everything in John's compost (egg cartons, newspaper, sawdust...)  If you are planning on using it for vegetables you need to keep toxic things out (such as printer paper with ink) but it can go on flowers or houseplants just fine that way.  So I need to figure out if my purpose for it is for the garden or just to help me eliminate waste (especially paper waste which I'll have a lot of).  Also, the worms should be able to eat the butcher paper the meat is wrapped in at the co-op (allowing me to buy it!).  Oh worms, thank you. 

Its really been a day of people helping me out (and giving me food), which I am really really grateful for.  John left me with sunflower sprouting seeds.  He buys these for about $25 for a 50 lb bag labeled as birdseed at garden centers.  I found it going for $4 a lb at the Wedge.  The sunflower sprouts, which I sampled at Common Roots the other day are delicious and nutritious.  They have some of the highest protein content of plants, and are most nutritious as sprouts.  And wait-it gets better!  The sprouts can be spread in a seed flat as a thick blanket and are ready to eat in 10 day.  John just cuts them like grass and puts on sandwiches, stir- frys, salads. etc. Other contributions today were: A co-research assistant at CSBR has way too many vegetables and left me her mini eggplants, hot peppers and herbs in the office today.  My friend Katy left me some of her parents famous garlic on the window sill.  And some other friends- Jessie and Mark - have a friend with a hobby farm who hooks them up with eggs every week.  Although I can get local eggs at the co-op, they are 39 cents each meaning a dozen is $4.68.  Jessie/Mark will give them to me for $3 a dozen, and it gives me a reason to run around the city looking for food :)

The egg pass-off location today was Birchwood Cafe (I'm exploring local food restaurant options).  Birchwood Cafe (  is known for their founder Tracy Singleton's efforts to provide Minneapolis with fresh, local foods.  Located in Seward, its about a 4 mile bike.  We got a wild rice salad with fresh veggies and some bread (flour from Whole Flour Milling).  Pretty good, busy atmosphere and not much outdoor space.  Also, of their beer/wine, no wines were local (though there are a lot of options) and only about half of the beers were local.  We asked the lady working at the register if EVERY ingredient was local or just some of them.  She said that was difficult to determine.  For example, they use olive oil for anything needing oil.  This is surprising because on their website they have a list of CSA's (Community Support Agriculture farms) they are supplied with.  I get my sunflower oil (local olive oil substitute) from Driftless Organics (a CSA on their site).  Why can't they use sunflower oil made from a CSA that is already providing them with fresh produce?  It seems like some of these small details could get worked out more completely.  I am hoping to meet with Tracy at some point to get her perspective...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


24 August 2010

miles biked - 18.76
water used -

One of the goals at the end of this project is to compile a local foods recipe document of things I ate during this project...This means I need to start making some good, local meals!  Today I ate a better meal than I have had in 10 days, pizza dough from scratch with pesto and local veggies.  Believe it or not this was my first time EVER making pesto (and pizza dough from scratch for that matter).  Without being able to buy pre-packaged foods EVERYTHING has to be made from scratch so I've a some learning to do.  Luckily, the bread maker uses quite a bit less energy when only mixing dough and not baking bread.  Baking in my toaster oven is way more efficient than in the oven as well (numbers to come on both of those appliances). 

The one ingredient that was not local was the pine nuts. As you may guess, Pine nuts come from pine cones found on pine trees.  While we do have a lot of pine trees around and often associate pine trees with northern climates, pine nuts grow on species of pines which grow in the Southwest, California and Mexico.  From wikipedia: In North America, the main trees  are three of the pinyon pines, Colorado Pinyon (Pinus edulis), Single-leaf Pinyon (Pinus monophylla), and Mexican Pinyon (Pinus cembroides). The other eight pinyon species are used to a small extent, as are Gray Pine (Pinus sabineana), Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana), Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana) and Parry Pinyon (Pinus quadrifolia).  Because I've never made pesto before I figured I should try it the traditional way first and then branch out into using local nuts (probably hazel nuts?)  They are the only local nut option available at the co-op, but there may be others... Besides the nuts, all ingredients are local and organic, and bought in bulk. 

The other big event I should mention is I bought cheese for the first time!   It is a locally made, organic Parmesan made by Sartori called 'Sarvecchio'.  Apparently it won some awards: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that SarVecchio Parmesan from Sartori Food Corp. in Anitgo was chosen as the best cheese in the United States at the annual U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.  It is pretty good.  While all cheese is wrapped in plastic at the co-op (a law that they have to package it behind the counter), being that I'll be accumulating a small amount of waste throughout the project, I can only buy it every once in a while.  Packaging is a tricky and touchy subject at the Wedge because for a while they allowed customers to bring in their own containers for the deli items.  This privilege was abused however, and people began bringing in containers that were too dirty, risking contaminating other containers and creating law suits...After speaking with a deli gal the other day it sounds like there are still a few options for getting cheese without the plastic.  All cheeses arrive already packaged in plastic except the wax covered ones.  This is tricky as well because if it is paraffin wax (an oil product) then I can't use that either.   I call ahead and ask what cheese is local and came in wax (so I know it didn't use any plastic).  I can special order local, oil free cheese this way, have yet to try this.  This limits my selection to only cheeses that come in wax, however, so if I want any other cheese, I have to buy the plastic packaging and store it in my non-compostable waste.  The idea I have with waste is that I don't end up with more than I could personally transport by bicycle to a waste facility.  This, of course would also use energy (as all waste is burned in Minneapolis).  I'm a little unsure what the best solution will be for the little waste I create during the project.

On to the recipes, below is what I used:

Pizza dough for bread maker:
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp maple sugar
4 cups bread flour (I used 3 white and 1 multi grain in this case)
4 tsp active dry yeast

2 cups packed basil
1/2 cup pine nuts (to be substituted with local ingredient)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/4-1/2 cups sunflower oil (depending how creamy you want it)

Pizza dough must rise in a warm place for 30 min, then pushed into a bread pan (I used only half today) and allowed to rise for another 30 min.  I brushed sunflower oil on top and then spread the pesto and topped with garlic chunks, tomato, and onions.  Bake for about 20-25 min on 425 (depending on how thick the crust maybe longer).  Pretty good eating I must say, then again, a little variety goes a long way these days :) Any other recipe ideas appreciated...


23 August 2010

miles biked - 13
water used - 9.0125 (surplus 5.9875)

mom and dad :)
While my seedlings haven't made any great improvements (except I got one jalapeno sprout today!) my parents offered to help me make some improvements on my grow table.  The table is slowly but surely taking over the entire dining room ha, today it went up a second story.  We made a hanging structure 3' off the table height so the grow lights can be suspended instead of being stacked on bricks.  The grow light is supposed to be about 6" away from the top of the plants, so having a way to adjust it as plants get bigger is important.  I'm guessing part of the reason the plants got fried was the grow light was too close?  Now it is farther away (about a foot) and casts a nice (but less intense) light on almost the whole table. 
updated grow table

Speaking of food, I made a meal for 3 (parents and I) for $8 tonight. It was my usual (potato and vegetable mix) I got fingerling potatoes, gypsy peppers and red bell peppers, onion, garlic and cilantro, with a sweet corn cob for everyone.  All local, all organic.    As I mentioned in my 'Week 1 summary' post, food for the whole week cost $48 that's $6.85 a day and includes a lot of bulk items that will last a while (oil, butter, sugar, flour, maple syrup and yeast).  Who says its too expensive to buy healthy, organic food? :)

Lastly, my parents officially took my car off my hands when they left.  They'll be using it for the next 100 days instead of having it sit unused in my parking lot.  No temptation now! Its all biking from here!



Day 1 - 12 miles biked
Day 2 - 24.1 miles biked
Day 3 - 0 miles biked
Day 4 - 12 miles biked
Day 5 - 18.5 miles biked
Day 6 - 14 miles biked
Day 7 - 46 miles biked

While I already was in the habit of biking the 12 mile-round trip to work and back, biking to run all of my errands was a new task.  Without a car (ample space) to put things I had to start getting in the habit of carrying bungee cords with me to strap things on to my bike rack, and thinking all the time about what errands I need to run and where I will be that day to minimize extra biking around. 




A list of local, organic vegetables found this week:

purple potatoes, yukon gold, fingerling potatoes, red potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, carrots, soybeans

blueberries (last week), cantaloupe, apples

oatmeal, whole grain bread flour, white flour, cornstarch(Whole Flour Milling)

milk (in returnable glass container)

basil, cilantro, garlic

sunflower oil, maple sugar, honey, maple syrup, butter (Hope Creamery in compostable vegetable wax paper)

_potatoes and vegetable mix, cooked in sunflower oil
_oatmeal with milk and berries
_whole grain bread

Looking back I'm surprised by the number of times I ate the SAME THING everyday.  My advisor Virajita related the experience of trying to eat only local like being a baby learning to feed yourself (and do anything for that matter) for the first time.  That's sort of how I felt this week, like I was just stumped by how I could cook a lot of different meals with the available ingredients.  It is certainly possible to make a variety of meals. I am hoping next week to explore some more creative/interesting meal options...suggestions?

It was also difficult to get in the habit of making time to cook meals.  Because I can't buy anything in a box (and it usually isn't local and organic) I have to break the habit of just grabbing something to eat-especially breakfast-and go.  A couple days I literally just went hungry for a while when I had to go to work and hadn't had time to make breakfast :/  this must change. 

On the other hand, it is AMAZING how different I feel after only a week of having produce be the majority of what I eat.  Giving up coffee left me feeling pretty drained the first few days, and by day 5 I was craving sugar and bread like a crazy person (that was remedied- see post).  It has been an interesting experience so far, and I've found that your body really TELLS you what you need (salt, sugar, fat etc).  I had a few slips binging on any chocolate still left around the house (in roommates cabinets, etc...) sorry karli.  While I had cleaned out most of the most that I wasn't able to eat during this 100 days, the things I left were all the things I never found that I ate anyway and just had around (and would keep for 3 months).  It was amazing how those foods that were "last resort" foods (cans of soup, frozen garlic bread, etc) all the sudden looked SO GOOD to me.  I think I'm going to have to give those away as well, its just too tempting to grab a pre-made meal when you are busy. 


Day 1 - 12.2625 gallons used (2.7375 surplus)
Day 2 - 15 gallons used (0 surplus)
Day 3 -  7.5125 gallons used (7.4875 surplus)
Day 4 - 5.95 gallons used (9.05 surplus)
Day 5 - 8.0125 gallons used (6.9875 surplus)
Day 6 - 7.3875 gallons used (7.6125 surplus)
Day 7 - 7.8875 gallons used (7.1125 surplus)

I ended up with 33.875 of "surplus" water this week.  My water quota (my share of average daily rainfall that lands on the roof)  each day is 15 gallons  (calculations on Day 1 post).  I was being fairly conservative about my water use this week because I had no idea how much I was going to use and need.  After a week of using about 7.5 gallons on average a day, I am realizing that in a world where it is necessary to capture use only the rainwater that lands on your roof that in Minnesota this will be one of the lesser challenges.  Any location throughout the country will have its advantages and disadvantages in a world without cheap oil.  Minnesota is blessed with a lot of rain, but will suffer because of the short growing season and the need to heat for a large part of the year. 

I think my goal for daily water use can be around 12 gallons a day.  I get 105 gallons a week (15 x 7 days) and if I want to keep 5 gallons for a longer shower and 15 gallons for cleaning the house and doing laundry I am left with a little more than 12 gallons a day.  These numbers make me happy because (unlike electric use) water use doesn't require much of a sacrifice.  The hardest part so far has just been breaking the habit of turning on the tap.  The first thing I have to do every morning is fill the rain barrel to 15 gallons so I have water to use for the day. 


Even though oil does not contribute much of electricity use, a goal of this project is to live in an energy balance.  Most of our electricity comes from coal (at least in this part of the country), and with coal being another fossil fuel (basically a younger version of oil (Hartmann)), it is important for me in this project to use only the electricity which I can get from renewable resources-thereby allowing me to use only the sunlight-energy which is landing on the earth's surface each day (as opposed to sunlight-energy resources which were formed over millions of years such as oil and coal).  Using only the daily amount of sun which lands on the surface of the earth each day will allow us to live in this energy balance again, creating a way of living that can truly sustain itself.    A great explanation of this is Thom Hartmann's book The Last Day's of Ancient Sunlight, really interesting book!

Ok, so I'm still in the process of getting some second opinions and harder numbers for what my electricity budget each day can be (based on how much solar power I can capture on my roof).  Hopefully by next week I will have a final number.  So far, however, I have been tracking how much all of my appliances use (lights, computer, kitchen appliances....):

Grow Light - 175 watts/hr
Refrigerator - 68.1 watts/hr
Electric Stove - to be determined
Computer - 27 watts/hr

While I have been tracking how long I am using all electrical appliances, I won't include total numbers here until I can get calculations for everything I'm using.  Its an interesting process to discover what are the huge energy users in your house.  My grow light is by far the largest energy user (1.4 kWh/day), the refrigerator is only about a third of the wattage of the grow light but being on for 24 hours it uses (1.6 kWh/day). 


First week of having compost has been a bit of a failure.  Luckily I have some great resources around me (friends who have composted) and hopefully I can work my problems out soon.  My "tub inside a tub" system with a lid proved to not allow enough ventilation.  My quick-fix was to replace the plastic lid with a sheet, but I'm looking into introducing worms into the bin (to speed things up and moderate the environment a little bit better)  So far however, I have accumulated the following non-compostable waste:

_plastic milk rings
_some packaging from hardware (grow table)
_plastic magazine cover
_paper waste

I'm hoping to find a use for the paper waste because that will be a difficult one to eliminate.  Beginning to call companies to reduce junk mail could help.  I can't compost the paper I don't think because it has oil-based (toxic) inks and dyes in most of it.  Newspaper, however, is regulated to be printed with only soy ink so it is safe to compost.  I'll be collecting the waste I create throughout the entire 100 days, it has been surprising to find how easy it is to NOT create waste, by buying in bulk (also cheaper and fresher food). 


For the most part, I am finishing off what cleaning products and personal hygiene products I already have before diving into creating my own "oil free" products.  I stored away any products which won't be used up within the first month, so at some point within the project I will have to create all of my own products from scratch.  On the medical side of the health I've begun reading about non-conventional medicines, for example- how do you treat pain relief without taking a pill (with oil additives). The purpose of this is to outline what form medicines may take without cheap oil.  Without making a statement (yet) about how alternative medicines compare to conventional medicines, hopefully this exploration is beginning to prepare myself for any medical situations that may arise during this 100 days. 


I've included this category because considering only our needs for survival in an exploration of what our world will be like without cheap oil would have left out a crucial part of needs as human beings; the need to connect to each other, communicate with people across long distances (especially with more-expensive travel), conduct business and entertain ourselves.  This category has less quantitative metrics because it is a measure of quality of life.  I haven't quite put my finger on how I can best document my experience of how these needs were met.  Part of the neglect of this category is that finding ways to meet my needs for survival has been occupying most of my time this week :)  I think as I get more in the habit of this new lifestyle, I will have more time to explore what role communication and entertainment will take in a time beyond cheap oil. 

Thanks to everyone who has been reading so far, creating a summary of each week helps me to organize my thoughts a bit better and find out where in the project I've been able to meet my goals, and where I need to do more research.  I can't believe it has only been a week.  It is amazing how adaptable we can be, like anytime life changes dramatically it is interesting to see how easily we can fall into place.

Monday, August 23, 2010


22 August 2010

miles biked-0
water used-15.575 gallons (-.575 of surplus)

My run of luck has run out the past few days as far as being able to do things right the first time.  My compost bin has been eaten through by creatures and is molding and most of my seedlings are looking pretty fried.  I noticed yesterday that the compost bin had a mysterious hole in a strange place.  Because my porch has already had some documented strangeness happening on it recently, my first thought was that it had been vandalized.  The past few weeks someone has been leaving trash (beer bottles mason jars) on the porch. Being that we are right on Lyndale Ave and on the first level I certain amount of unwanted waste can be expected.  However, what really got to me,  was when I went out to my bike on the porch one morning to find a half eaten croissant balanced carefully on my bike rack.  Seriously? How does that even happen?  What kind of random person goes up a flight of stairs to leave a croissant on a bike rack?  At what point when deciding you don't want the rest of a croissant do you decide the best place for it would be to balance it on a bike rack?  Do people leave half-eaten croissants on cars?  I don't think so.  Its one thing to trash a porch, or a sidewalk, but a bicycle? Come on people, work it out. And respect bikes :) 

Anyway, after examining where the hole was, it really doesn't make any sense that a human would have done this, it must have been mice, or other things (which I don't really want to know about).  There were all kinds of strange flies I've never seen before flying around in and out of it (I'm going to call them compost flies).  The bin has also been growing mold. I want to avoid the number of bugs that can get into it, but increase ventilation to get rid of the mold.  A friend suggested that I cover it with an old sheet.  I did this today and strapped it down with a bungee cord.  I noticed a bunch of white worms in the bin (I'm guessing the compost flies laid eggs) so gross.  Does anyone know anything about good and bad pests in compost?  I think I'll be introducing some worms to the bin to help things out, but at this point I'm wondering if it would be best to clean it out and start over? 

Another recent failure is my garden is starting to look totally fried.  Its been pretty hot the last few days and with the heat mat (raising the soil temp another 20 degrees) I think it might have been getting too hot for them.  What was strange was when they first sprouted they all looked fine and pretty healthy, however after a few days exposed to the hot air they started to wilt and die.  3 or 4 days ago (when things started sprouting) I had a green bean, soy bean, a few lettuces, tomatillo, lemon balm and basil coming up.  Now, the only the green bean and basil is holding on.  A transplanted a cucumber sprout because it was getting tall, and that too start to wilt.  :/  I realize that many of the vegetable seeds I am germinating want different temperatures so it was already a risk to be germinating them all in one seed flat at a constant temperature. However, I'm not sure what the ideal climate for them is when they first sprout.  I'll probably start another flat of seeds and watch the temperature inside in flat to make sure it doesn't get too hot.

As my thesis chair-Tom Fisher-put it,  " design, as in life, there are no mistakes, only new opportunities to discover and relationships to make." I That's a good way to look at it.

On another note, today I calculated the amount of water "surplus" I had (the difference between the water I used everyday and the possible 15 gallons)  I've only been using about half of my water quota, partly because I've been being really careful with it.  Now that I know how much water I can get by using, I feel more comfortable using more of it.  I had a total of 33.875 gallons of water surplus after one week!

Water breakdown of week 1:
Day 1 - 12.26 gallons used (2.73 surplus)
Day 2 - 15 gallons used (0 surplus)
Day 3 - 7.5 gallons used (7.5 surplus)
Day 4 - 5.95 gallons used (9.05 surplus)
Day 5 - 8.0125 gallons used (6.9875 surplus)
Day 6 - 7.3875 gallons used (7.6125 surplus)
Day 7 - 7.8875 gallons used (7.1125 surplus)

Total surplus = 33.875 gallons!

I do expect to have a surplus of at least 15 gallons each week so I can take a real shower (meaning a 5 gallon solar shower -water heated by the sun) and use 10 gallons for laundry and cleaning.  I've been 1-gallon bucket showering all week, which allows me to get clean but isn't enough water to wash my hair.  It was nice to wash my hair finally today! But it felt a lot cleaner after 7 days than I expected it to.  This is partly because I can't use any product (oil-based ingredients).  My hair after a week of not washing actually looked quite a bit like it does after using hair products for only a few days without washing.  A little sweat and oil = volume my ladies!  Its a little ironic how hard we try to get "clean" every morning, when the first things we do (and I did before this project) is dry hair and put product in it to make it not look quite so clean haha.  I'm liking this new, product-free hairness . A little teasing and natural oils and my hair looks pretty much the same and is probably quite a bit healthier without blow drying (too much electricity use) and covering in product everyday. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010


21 August 2010

miles biked-46 (lost and confused)
water used- 7.8875 gallons (7.1125 surplus)

Today, Garden's of Eagan (an organic farm which supplies my co-op with a lot of their produce) put on an event of touring the farm and buying local (Farmington) foods.  The farm is about 35 miles from Uptown Minneapolis, and our plan was to leave at 10, leaving 3-4 hours to bike down, tour the farm and bike back in one day. We loaded up with a burley trailer (thanks Jim) and my solar-powered bike stereo (made for the bike across Iowa this year).  

 Well..... we didn't end up leaving till about 11:30, and (optimistic as we were) didn't write down very clear directions to get there.  About 12 miles into the trip we got lost the first time (around the airport and had to backtrack a few miles.  Another 7 or so miles later we (again) realized we had taken a wrong turn which had sent us 5 miles in the wrong direction :/  At this point, with another 15-20 miles to go, we realized we weren't going to make it to the farm before the event was over (especially hauling 40 extra pounds between the trailer and the stereo) and sadly, sat under a tree by this Lockheed Martin to contemplate our situation over dry bread and an apple.  While sitting there being sad about our situation we noticed a Granite City restaurant/brewery across the street.  Granite City advertises that their beer is locally brewed even though they are a Midwestern-wide chain restaurant. There are signs on the doors of "Support your local brewery".  We decided to check out this self-proclaimed local beer.  We ordered a few drinks and an excited waiter came over and (because we were really sweaty and bike-ish in general) told him we had biked here from Minneapolis.  He was really excited about this and it gave us the idea that restaurants should offer some kind of discount to people who arrive by bike.  This would help both the patrons of the restaurant (they would be healthier) and the restaurant itself (they wouldn't have to provide as much parking, and would probably sell more food and drinks because people would be more hungry and thirsty after biking :) )  We asked him about the beers we had just ordered (because the building wasn't nearly big enough to be brewing 5 different kinds of beer).  He explained that the beer was actually brewed in a central location and just fermented in each local Granite City location.  While this is better than some options, it certainly shouldn't be labeled as "local".  These labels can be very misleading and frustrating :/ 

Needless to say, we didn't stay for a second semi-local beer, and instead headed back to make a truly local meal. 

(Those of you who were thinking about going and couldn't, its really for the best, next time Garden's of Eagan! We will find you! Ha, sad.)


 The design of the stereo is from an instructables: with some modifications to fit my bike and such. I haven't tested how long it last continuously playing, but on the week we biked across Iowa with it (at least 5 hours of riding every day it didn't need any extra charge). It is a 5 watt solar panel (about $50 on Amazon) which trickle charges a 7amp battery and that feeds the speakers/amp. The entire thing can be switched on with the black switch in front and has audio and usb cable holes on the front to plug and charge my Ipod which is attached to the top tube of my bike with industrial velcro. Its heavy (about 20 lbs) and fits in the milk crate on the back of my bike.


20 August, 2010

miles biked-14
water used - 7.3875 gallons (7.6125 surplus)

While I got some initial calculations from Jamie Borell at Innovative Power Systems, I needed some specific information about  my hypothetical PV solar array to maximize my electricity budget.  While most solar arrays are sized to the need of the particular house, my solar system was sized in the opposite way-maximizing the amount of sun energy I can capture to determine what my electricity budget will be.

Here is how it was calculated:

There are 3 main factors to consider when sizing a solar array:

1_The square footage of your house
2_Options for solar panel orientation
(A) Solar panels can be angled at 45 degrees (for a MN climate) in which case they are maximized for the most energy captured per panel.  however, with this system there must be room left for shadows which will fall on panels located behind.  This reduces the sq footage of the roof available for sun capture by a factor of 2.5.  (The square footage of your house divided by 2.5)
(B) Solar panels can be placed flat on the roof.  This way, you are able to use the most roof area for solar energy capture, however, the angle is not ideal and the efficiency of the panels is reduced by 20%.
3_There are different "efficiencies" for solar panels, outputs range from 8watts/sq ft to 20w/sq ft (and probably more options exist).  Generally the most expensive the panel, the greater energy output in watts/sq ft you can achieve. 

To calculate the amount of solar power you can capture on your own roof:

1_Find the square footage of your house (mine is 1790 sf)
2_Decide if you would like to go with 45 degree panels (cheaper) or flat panels (more panels required=more expensive)
    Divide the square footage of your house by 2.5 for 45 degree angle panels (this is your available sq footage)
3_Determine the watt/sq ft output of your panels (this information is found on manufacturer's websites) (I'm going with 8w/sq ft)

(Available square footage of your house for solar) x (Efficiency of panels in watts/sq ft) = Size of your system in watts

(Size of your system in watts) x Either (1.28 kWh/watt installed for 45 degree panels) or (1.043kWh/watt installed for flat panels)

Divide by 365 for kWh/day

Being that my goal is to maximize my solar power (regardless of cost) I am going with the flat solar panel arrangement. This system would be more expensive (because there are more solar panels involved, but would result in a higher energy output, see calculations below):

45 degree angle option(1790 sq ft/2.5) reduction in sq footage due to shadows:

1790 sq ft/2.5=716 sq ft x8w/sf =5728 w system (5.7kw system)
(5.7 kw) x1.28 kWh/watt installed =7331 kWh/yr =20.08 kWh/day (3.35 kWh/person/day)


Flat solar panels option covering all 1790 sq ft:

1790 sq ft x 8w/sf =14,320 watt system (14.3 kw system)
(14.3kw) x1.043 kWh/watt installed = 14,935 kWh/yr (14.9 kWh/yr) =40.9 kWh/day (6.82 kWh/person/day)

so my electricity budget per day is 6.82 kWh.

(Thanks to Pat Smith at CSBR! (numbers from previous Weidt Group calculations))

Other noteworthy things happening today was it was the first time I've eaten at a restaurant since the project began.  Common Roots is only a block south of me and an excellent source of local foods.  As much as possible, their food and drinks are local.  While I have to ask about specific meals because the sourcing changes constantly, they are a great local restaurant option (they are gonna get really sick of me by the end of this project).  I had radish cakes / seared and topped with sunflower sprouts and toasted hazelnuts and a local Brau Bros (Lucan, MN) sheephead ale :)  I also got some great advice from friends about local food options and extras from gardens.  Thanks Dan, Nate, Sarah and Katy! Get me that garlic Dale :)


19 August, 2010

miles biked-18.5
gallons of water -8.0125 (6.985 surplus)

Today has been a big day for expanding food options.  Raw foods for at least part of my diet are going to become essential because of my limited electricity budget.  I began researching raw foods and what motivates people who have switch over to this diet;  one family, who's website is here ( has an interesting story:
they also have some wacky videos-if you've got some time to kill :):

This isn't the only story I came across about people reversing serious medical conditions through eating more raw, organic greens and vegetables.  The film "A Beautiful Truth" ( trailer here: ) talks about Dr. Max Gerson, a physician in the early 1900's who came up with a cure for cancers and other serious diseases that centered around eating a raw, vegan diet full of nutritious organic foods.  Like many people who solved problems in radical and unconventional ways, he was perceived as a threat to conventional practice and was eventually poisoned with arsenic.  His family continued his legacy, healing people by teaching them about "Gerson Therapy"-a method that allows your body the ability to heal itself when fueled with powerful nutrients found in raw organic foods and continue to run a healing center in Mexico.  While I haven't done much research on raw foods yet, there does seem to be a significant evidence that eating raw foods can be a huge health benefit, and is a much easier way for our bodies to digest food (allowing more nutrients to be absorbed). 

Virajita (who has been working on integrating raw foods into herself and her families diet for a few years now) explained to me that after starting to eat raw she began to look back into her own cultural foods in India and consider why almost ALL traditional Indian foods are cooked. Being an ancient culture it is unusual that so many foods are cooked. She found that because India is such a tropical, hot climate, these recipes evolved out of a need to kill bacteria in raw foods.  She began to look at the ingredients in each recipe and found that almost all recipes included some kind of digestive agent (such as cardamom) which would be necessary for people to properly digest these foods.  Evolutionarily, our bodies are designed to digest raw foods much more easily than cooked foods.  Many ancient recipes found in different cultures around the world contain digestive agents of some kind if they are cooked, and also often contain a balance of fats, acid and nutrients necessary for digesting and absorbing these nutrients. 

This brings us to processed foods.  If our bodies have a hard time digesting and processing even cooked foods, lets think for a minute about how hard of a time we would have digesting and using foods that have a huge amount of preservatives, and color and flavor additives.  hmmmm :) oil.

With all kinds of fresh, local vegetables available to us even in a climate like Minnesota, why aren't more people cooking and eating these foods instead of eating fast food or pre-made meals from boxes (both packed full of oil-based or oil-enabled additives).  The answer is probably convenience, and a general lack of education of what kinds of nutrients you can get from fresh produce that you can't find in a box. 

I had an idea that I that I ate a fairly healthy diet before starting this project a week ago, however I have been amazed at how much better I feel on even day 5 of this project only being able to eat local, organic vegetables, dairy and meats.  The other thing I've noticed is that I ate the same vegetables/fruits all the time (zucchini, bell peppers, onions, strawberries and bananas).  I'm now realizing now how much variety of local foods there are, and the need to eat a variety of vegetables to get the range of nutrients we need.  A lot of foods that I never really ate have become staple foods while in season. The only problem with this new diet; the only sugars and fats I have eaten are in the sunflower oil I cook with, and sugars found in fruits and honey.  I never quite feel full eating this kind of diet, and I'm constantly craving something with more substance, bread, fat and sugar.  

I can't buy bread from the co-op because even though its made locally, the ingredients may not be local. I got on craigslist to look for bread makers and found a lot, but when I started looking at them many were in surrounding suburbs.  This normally wouldn't be an issue, but now that I can only get around by bike, even a 20 mile one-way trip becomes an all-afternoon or all day event.  Finally I found a bread maker for $10 in St. Anthony (8 miles away).  While at the co-op looking for bulk flour I came across two amazing finds: Local, bulk maple sugar and Hope Creamery Butter packaged in a vegetable wax paper which can be composted!!! YES!!! Butter and sugar!  I also got local, organic maple syrup for sugar and flavoring.  There is bulk maple syrup at the Wedge as well, so when my container runs out I can use it to fill again. 

A last note, I'm watering a friend's garden while she is in Belgium and get to reap the benefits of everything being ripe in August.  Fresh picked cherry tomatoes and mint.  I made mint tea today which was excellent (iced and hot).  Thanks Arlene!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


18 August 2010

miles biked- 12
water used- 5.95 gallons (9.05 surplus)

day 4 seed flat
This morning I woke up to find my seeds are already sprouting!  After only 4 days!  So far, I see basil, tomatillo, edamame and cucumber sprouts.  Throughout the day, the spouts were literally growing before my eyes!  There is hope.

basil babies!
On the topic of food, I am fairly certain I live in the PERFECT location to be doing this project. I live within yelling distance of two great food resources: three blocks from the Wedge Grocery Co-op and 1 block away from Eco-Politan  (raw foods).  I was able to meet with Marcos Lopez-Carlson at the Wedge before starting this project and he helped me outline what foods would be available and meet my criteria.  Marcos explained that I was lucky to be doing this project in August because almost everything which grows locally can be found in August at farmer's markets and at the Wedge.  I made a list today of what I saw at the Wedge, it became clear that I need to find out when the END of the growing season for many of these foods is, to avoid a total and unexpected dry out of food supply. 
cucumber baby!
baby tomotillos!

Here is what I found today that was local and organic:

_Bell Peppers
_Gypsy peppers
_Yellow squash
_Portabella Mush
_Maybe Syrup
_lots of greens
_really expensive blueberries

_lots of variety of bread flours
_sunflower seeds
_rye grain
_hulled spelt kernels
_hard wheat berries
_rolled rye

Basically the only bulk items which are local are grains and oats.  To be honest, I don't even know where to start with most of the grains. I guess I should start making bread. The company which supplies most of the grains is Whole Grain Milling.

While this company grows some of their products locally: Oats, Hi Lysine Corn, Buckwheat, Yellow and White Popcorn, Spelt and Soybeans, the rest arrives as raw ingredients which are processed locally and distributed.  Because the concern for most people who are motivated to buy local products is to support the local economy, the Wedge's definition of 'local' reflects that.  Any company which receives raw ingredients and processes them locally can be called 'local'.  This means that even companies like Peace Coffee are defined as local.  Peace Coffee is likely the most environmentally responsible choice for coffee's in the Twin CIties because they receive green beans and do all the processing and packaging locally, meaning the product does not have to be shipped around the country to various processing and packaging plants. However, in the context of my project (in which local means minimizing transportation as much as possible) the definition doesn't necessarily apply.  This means that I need to look into each company and find out where they are sourcing their product from.  Fortunately, this is made really easy with the Wedge's website, it is amazing and totally great how transparent they have made the information about where food comes from.  

My compost bin is molding, I'm going to guess this is a normal thing to be happening?  Because the food is rotting to turn into compost?  I shake the container up everyday and add some newspaper shreds, any advice on this?

Still working out my electricity budget, mostly because I got an answer that I can't accept haha.  I spoke with Jamie Borell at Innovative Power System's in St.Paul and based on my 1790 sq ft roof he had the following advice:

"Ballpark, cocktail napkin-drawn numbers:

You can fit 6kW on the roof or (30) 200-watt solar modules, producing 600kWh/ month or 7,200kWh/ year. This solar electricity offsets 900 pounds of CO2 per month or 10,800 pounds of CO2/ year and is the equivalent of planting 720 trees"

If I'm doing the math right, it sounds like 20 kWh a day total, divided by 6 residents is 3.33 kWh/day as an energy budget.

To give you an idea of what the breakdown of electrical use I have recorded so far is:

Daily these items use:
Grow Light - 175 watts/hr (8 hours a day) = 1400 watts or 1.4 kWh
Refrigerator - 68 watts/hr (24 hours a day) = 1634.4 watts or 1.634 kWh
Computer - 27 watts/hr (8 hours a day) = 216 watts or .216 kWh

As you can see, I already log a total of 3.25 kWh/day using only the essential things.  I haven't turned on a light in four days (except for the occasional forgetful light switching) and haven't been using my stereo or TV.  I have yet to calculate the energy used from my electric stove (which is a lot), and heating is obviously not accounted for yet. uh oh.

me in the dark :/
I haven't quite adapted to the darkness thing yet, and I have to admit that I have been using my headlamp to find things.  I wonder how hard it would be to make an solar powered LED headlamp.... Candles are difficult and annoying to carry around.  I can waste A LOT of time trying to do things without ample lighting.  Luckily, when using my computer I don't need any extra light, so my schedule has shifted somewhat to doing all the tasks I need light for during the day and working more on my computer at night.  A friend had a suggestion that I change my schedule to wake up earlier when the sun comes up to maximize the amount of daylight I have.  I am surprised every morning how much easier it is to do everything with LIGHT.  Note to self: do the dishes before it gets dark.  Oh my gosh, the things we don't appreciate.  I am looking around for any place locally that sells soy wax (suggestions?)  I can't make regular candles (paraffin wax) because paraffin is a by-product of crude oil.  Soy wax candles are supposed to burn cleaner (clearly) and last longer, we shall see...