I’m at my desk, not working, in the warming sun – wearing a sweater again – enjoying a coffee and listening to Bach’s Matthew Passion (Emma Kirkby soprano) after what must be years, that particular piece of music, not the rest. Though, honestly, it feels like years since I’ve sat here not frantically writing emails, composing spreadsheets and posters, tinkering with sundry websites… Just relaxing, writing.

You’ve noticed, I’m sure!

Here’s what I’ve been up to.

A lot of my Summer went to  Moving Planet New England, with grass-roots and person-to-person outreach to many organizations, large and small, in some 20 communities in the Metrowest, trying to get them all to board the same train into Boston on 24 September. I have met many great people and learned a lot from them: how to motivate and support people, how to “work the press” and organize a big event.

Moving Planet is a regional effort for me as well as a local one, since Transition Wayland will make a (hopefully) big showing at the Rally after Walking to Walden and then hopping on that (hopefully) packed train. Now that the flurry of regional outreach is done, we’re working on banners and billboards.

Transition Wayland is taking off again after the Summer doldrums, during which many of our people were traveling. After Moving Planet and Walking to Walden we’re kicking off a big communal project called Wayland Walks – mm, anyone see a pattern here? Our town is big on conservation, and we have many woods, wetlands and trails  protected against development. But many of these trails have fallen off the map. No one walks these trails any longer, owners don’t even know a trail (and easement) runs through their property, and many have become impassable, forgotten. The plan is to put all of it back on the map. We will develop an online, interactive map where groups and individuals can record their walks. We’ll also help organize group tours with themes and experts: someone who can identify the birds or plants, connect us spiritually with our little piece of the Earth, help us do holistic science near the watershed, or regale us with local history.  That way we’ll locate these trails, assess their condition, and invite friendly conversations with the property owners. The idea is to light up the map by the 375th Anniversary of Wayland and build great community and sense of place.

There, that’s  the pitch.  You like it?

The idea is not for Transition Wayland to organize this, of course (the thought!) but to initiate the project and to  facilitate its organization. We’ll get all the conservation, trail, nature and community groups in Wayland together in a room and see what we can come up with.

We’re also showing the movie In Transition 1.0 – and people are *loving* it – and doing our Climate Change event, called Treading Water at different locations, speaking with the local Clergy, and in October we’ll actually be doing the sermon for a large congregation. People are recognizing us and the responses are always encouraging. I’ve many thoughts that I want to share about Transition….

The Green Team is school-related but that doesn’t mean we’re off in Summer. It runs all year long now that it has taken on some big projects. The biggest one at the moment is composting and deep recycling in the entire school district, a coup for Massachusetts. We spent one whole hot week in Summer building compost bins and now we’re training the kids and staff at one school to get the system down. Once that pilot is successful, we’ll quickly help the other schools do the same.

Here I am working on a bin

The Green Team was my “entry” in volunteering and the Wayland community at large, last year, and it was thanks to this passionate and encouraging group that I came to believe that Transition Wayland would be possible, and that I could do it.

~

Wait a moment! “At my desk, not working”?! My coffee’s cold, the music stopped a while ago…  I’ll sign off now, and go tend my garden.

This is the Riot for the months of June and July 2011 – months 32 and 33. We are at present 4 to the family, so the per person counts are for 4. Our first year’s averages were calculated here, our second year’s averages can be found here.

Looks like Sharon is trying to get the Riot (and the calculator!) up and running again!

Gasoline.  DH carpooled to two conferences in Montreal and Quebec City. Calculating that in, we consumed:

14.4 gallons per person pp. per month

35% of the US National Average

Electricity. The calculator reckons per household, not per person.

369 KWH for June, 433 KWH for July = 401 KWH on average (all wind)

13% of the US National Average

Soon it will all be solar! Soon… (red tape).

Heating Oil and Warm Water. This too is calculated for the entire household, not per person. It’s up from the last Riot because there are more of us using the hot water for showers, which is basically all our heating oil is used for these days.

10 7.45 gallons of oil

17% 12.1% of the US National Average

{UPDATE} 3 Jan 2012: The way I have been calculating our heating oil consumption is by reading off the furnace how many hours it ran, then multiplying it by .85 because that’s the amount of gallons of oil I *thought* it used. Now DH just told me that our furnace is more efficient than that and the correct number is .65. Hence the correction

Trash. After recycling and composting this usually comes down to mainly food wrappers.

10 lbs. pp per month

7% of the US National Average

Water. This is up, don’t know why. The weather has supplied us with a good and regular amount of rain, so I’ve not had to water the garden with tap water. Still… {CORRECTION} I forgot to average this number over two months. So we did well!

875 437.5  gallons pp.

34 15% of the US National Average

It’s already 6 April but I know I doubt I’ll have  time at the end of the month, so here are our numbers for March + 5 days of April. It’ll all even out. Our first year’s averages were calculated here, our second year’s averages can be found here.

Gasoline. Same as usual. I’m doing a lot of driving around for Transition (paradoxically).

10.83 gallons per person pp. per month

25 % of the US National Average

Electricity. The calculator reckons per household, not per person. We are rolling on the solar PV, so in a few months this number will look very different. That number is up quite a bit this month, as in previous years, because I’ve got a heat mat and a whole battery of shop lights on 16 hours a day to keep my seedlings growing.

579 KWH (all wind) per month

15% of the US National Average

Heating Oil and Warm Water. This too is calculated for the entire household, not per person.  We are planning on running a long line of PEX underneath the solar array for an outdoor shower in Summer. Busy busy…

32.3 24.7 gallons of oil per month

45% 40.1% of the US National Average

{UPDATE} 3 Jan 2012: The way I have been calculating our heating oil consumption is by reading off the furnace how many hours it ran, then multiplying it by .85 because that’s the amount of gallons of oil I *thought* it used. Now DH just told me that our furnace is more efficient than that and the correct number is .65. Hence the correction.

Trash. After recycling and composting this usually comes down to mainly food wrappers.

10 lbs. pp per month

7% of the US National Average

Water. We brought  our usage down by yet another percent from last month. Don’t know really what it is that makes the difference. I guess we’ll just keep going the way we have been…

426.3 gallons of water pp.   per month

14 % of the US National Average

stack of PV panels

We’re doing it, we’re putting solar PV on our roof.

Though many went before it, taking delivery of the stack of panels felt like the first step. It was the first time something happened, not just talk and research and calculations. It was also irreversible: that’s $16,100 worth of panels, paid for and delivered, sitting in our carport!

This week the second big step follows: the taking down of about 10 big trees in order to get the shade off the roof. Next we enter the paperwork with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Then we wait. When we get the funding, the panels will be installed sometime during the Summer.

It’s a big project and I must admit I am nervous about it, for three reasons.

First of all, it involves a large amount of money up-front, and it has wiped out most of our other plans for the summer, like chickens and drip irrigation. But (on paper) the thing pays for itself in 7  years, and then we should get about 13-23 more years of use out of it.

Also, we use 390 KWH a month, on average, so this system should be able to take care of all our electricity needs (using the grid as the battery). And that doesn’t mean that we’re going to party it up now. On the contrary, we’ve already decided that we can become a little more frugal, so we can plug in an electrical on-demand water heater and take our hot water off oil. (That’s still being researched).

Moreover, this electricity will be renewable, non-polluting (as of installation), and decentralized. It will be an eye-catcher too, a statement, and an opening for a conversation.

My second reason for hesitation is the real costs of these panels. I am not ignorant of the manufacturing or “back side” of solar, which includes:

  1. toxic chemicals: arsenic, cadmium telluride, chromium, and lead.
  2. greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide from coal-driven plants, oil used for transporting the parts and the panels

I’m still trying to figure out what those are for our system. The amount of facts and especially opinions on the net is staggering. I’d like to talk with people like Richard Heinberg and Bill McKibben, who are aware of all the facts and who try to live a principled life, about their panels.

Last, but nor least, there’s the trees. It will take one day to take them down, and the whole summer to cut them up into firewood and to grind out the stumps. Their removal will drastically change the aspect of our property,  and for the better. It will:

  1. bring the sun to the garden.
  2. free up  land for more perennials and herbs.
  3. free up land for an orchard (every tree down will be replaced by one or two dwarf fruit trees),
  4. make possible the glass porch up front that could warm up our main family room in the winter – resulting in less oil again.

Sometimes changes and the resulting opportunities, though for the better, are overwhelming!

Solar eye

Today we talked to the tree removal people, and the quote they gave us was reasonable. We’re talking a lot of trees, here: six largish-large oaks (some white, some red), one massive beech and one younger one, and three tall pines. Then there will be stump removal (necessary because we want to plant an orchard instead, matching each cut tree with at least one new dwarf one) and splitting and chopping fire wood. We’ll leave the first to the experts, but are planning to do the second and third jobs ourselves. I plan on becoming an expert in chopping and stashing away two more years of firewood while also gaining a kick-ass figure!

So far we’ve received three (ball park) quotes for a 5 kilowatt solar PV system and a solar hot water system. They too, given the incentives, could be within our means. We need to crunch more numbers, but one thing is for sure: it will be nice to open up our canopy for the gardens, but if we decide not to go with the solar array(s), we won’t take down the trees.

Above is the image one of the installers took when on our roof, which at that point still had 2 feet of snow above a good 10 inches of ice on it.  That was excitement enough for me!

The last month for which I calculated our Riot was August 2010. That was month 22, so the calculation here will include the last two months of our Second Year of Rioting. Our first year’s averages were calculated here, our second year’s averages can be found here.

Gasoline. I haven’t been able to calculate in our trip to India (wish the Riot Calculator  was back online!). Without that trip, we used:

10.78 gallons per person pp. per month

25 % of the US National Average

(First year’s yearly average: 24.8%)

Electricity. The calculator reckons per household, not per person. We did well, got our usage down more. We have  made some serious solar PV plans and have calculated that with this kind of usage we could get all of our electricity from the sun. 

398 KWH (all wind) per month

12 % of the US National Average

(First year’s early average: 18.2%)

Heating Oil and Warm Water. This is warm water and back-up heat during the night and when we’re not home to build the fire in the wood stove and keep it going. This too is calculated for the entire household, not per person. (I didn’t figure in the cord of wood, because I don’t have enough data to calculate what that does to our percentage of the national average).

Considering (or wishfully thinking) that the coldest months are over, we did well.

48 gallons of oil per month

80% of the US National Average

(keep in mind that is is for what I hope are the coldest months)

(First year’s yearly average: 77% / Second year’s yearly average: 42%, see here)

Trash. After recycling and composting this usually comes down to mainly food wrappers.

10 lbs. pp per month

7% of the US National Average

(First year’s yearly average: 7.3%)

Water. We did quite well here too, bringing our usage down by another percent or so. If we could rig up a plumbing system that would pipe the bath and sink water into the toilet tank…

458 gallons of water pp.  per month

15 % of the US National Average

(First year’s yearly average: 16.5%)

The last month for which I calculated our Riot was August 2010 (month 22). In the meantime the Riot site has been taken down and bought by a link farm. That means the calculator is gone too. The Riot Yahoo-group has looked into restarting it, or at least putting the calculator up, but it hasn’t happened yet. While I was waiting I failed to record the numbers at the end of Year Two, so for the last two months of Year Two (September and October 2010) I have to hypothesize. Our first year’s averages were calculated here.

This is the outcome for Year Two:

Compared with Year One (red):

1 = gasoline / 2 = electricity / 3 = hearing oil / 4 = water

We used a lot more gasoline in Year Two mainly because of Amie’s and my trip to Europe, which brought that month’s percentage up to a whopping 302%! Not calculating that trip, we did better than Year One.

The biggie is heating oil. In Year One, when we had our super efficient, new oil burner, but no woodstove yet, we scored 77% of the US national average, which comes down to about 50 gallons per month. In Year Two, our average went down to 26.6 gallons, or 42%. So with the help of the stove we almost halved our reliance on heating oil! What  a pleasant surprise this was. If we get to add a solar hot water system to our roof, our third year would see this number lowered even more.

In electricity we’re doing better by a little. This is one of the hardest category to tackle, I find. We’re mulling the installation of solar PV on our roof – a 5 KWH system that, with this usage, would produce all our electricity. Stay tuned!

As for water, Year Two saw the expansion of the garden plus a relatively much drier year than Year One (when blight struck because of the swampiness). Our rain barrels were frequently empty so we had to look to the tap.

What about trash? I now always calculate our trash production to be at 10 lbs per person per month, or 7% of the US national average. I just don’t weigh it anymore. That’s about the same as Year One.

Riot for Austerity fist with ThermometerThis month there were 4 1/2 of us -  though one was a teenager and in my opinion teenagers count for 1 1/2, but okay. In any case, these here are the calculations for one month of (not very conscious) rioting for two adults, one four-year-old and one teenager (my nephew from Belgium) for the whole month and one adult (Amie’s grandmother from Singapore) for half of that month. Last year’s averages (calculated here) are mentioned as a baseline. I use this calculator. Don’t ask me how it works, all I know is it keeps me honest.

Gasoline. Two round trips to NYC (from Boston area) to pick up and drop off my nephew from and at JFK, and more trips for DH to his office in Cambridge than usual because his shuttle doesn’t operate in summer. I also had to drive the kids to their summer farm camp for a week. This adds up to an unusually high gasoline bill. I’ve been eying the listings for light diesel pickup trucks and instructions for making one’s own biodiesel, not just because of the gasoline, but also because it’s been one thing after another with our cars – the dashboards are lit up like Christmas trees with all the warning lights.

17.84 gallons per person (pp) in cars

43 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 24.8%)

Electricity. Our electricity bills is up a bit. We’ve had fans going (we don’t have AC) on the hottest days and nights. And what can I say, teenagers are not very good at turning off unused light and computers.

489 KWH (all wind).

14 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s early average: 18.2%)

Heating Oil and Warm Water. It’s just our warm water. As there were more of us – more showers – it is up a bit, because this is calculated for the entire household, not per person.

11.05 gallons of oil.

18 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 77%)

Trash. This one I’ve got down really well, and since I’m still the one buying things, I’m still the one controlling the amount of trash, which after recycling and composting usually comes down to mainly food wrappers. 10 lbs pp.

7% of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 7.3%)

Water. Our rain barrels are have been mostly sufficient. I’ve had to water the garden with tap water once or twice.

723 gallons of water pp.

24 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 16.5%)

Riot for Austerity fist with Thermometer

Well, it’s again 2 months since I calculated our last riot. I’ll average May and June. Last year’s averages (calculated here) are mentioned as a baseline. I use this calculator.

Gasoline. 14.528 gallons per person (pp) in cars + 10 miles pp on public transport.

35 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 24.8%)

Electricity. Our electricity bills is back to normal: 352 KWH (all wind).

10 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s early average: 18.2%)

Heating Oil and Warm Water. It’s just our warm water that was heated now with 9.35 gallons of oil.

15 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 77%)

Trash. The usual: 10 lbs pp.

7% of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 7.3%)

Water. Our rain barrels are paying off but there were still many periods when I had to water the garden with tap water. Hence the still unusually high number: 1134.5 gallons of water pp.

38 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 16.5%)