Indefinitely sustainable plan

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Maast
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Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by Maast » Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:00 am

I think I've figured out a plan that will provide food in addition to cooking, lighting, and small engine fuel that I can keep going for decades if need be and keep me and mine in a fair amount of comfort and even thrive with if things go to pot and stay there.

Please read through it and make sure I haven't screwed something up or missed something obvious.

It centers around 4 things: growing potatoes, an amylase producing bioreactor, running a true reflux fractioning still, and solar cells.

With which I can make/obtain 95% fuel ethanol, syrup, vinegar, and lots of calories.

Potatoes and food:

I happen to live in one of the best potato growing regions in the world. Local commercial farmers see average yields of 30 tons per acre - I believe intensive cultivation with properly composted & sanitary humanure will achieve at least 8 tons per year on my back half acre of arable land, probably more if I need it. Irish peasants got 80% of their daily calories from potatoes. Potatoes are ~20% starch,~5% protein, and ~75% water. After much research I believe I can intercrop with lentils, squash, kale, sunflowers and a few other things to provide variety and full nutrition @ 2500 calories a day without impacting potato production. Of course I'll grow several varieties of potatoes so I'm not relying on a monoculture, they'll be initially grown from certified virus-free seed and then propagated by cuttings and selected for best production in my particular micro-climate.

I've also got rhubarb all over the place around here, it grows like a weed just about anywhere. Rhubarb is an intensely useful plant; not only is a great flavoring; the stems are full of malic acid which can be easily extracted using ethanol and a blender, and the leaves can be used to make a pretty good organic pesticide. Even the roots are useful, they can be used to make a good colorfast brown dye.
I can grow rhubarb on my front quarter acre without too much worry about it getting stolen for food, there's a lot already out there as part of the landscaping,

Malic acid is the compound that makes crabapples and other things extremely sour. A 3% solution has a PH of ~2.5. It'll be needed to adjust the PH of the potato mash for optimum yeast growth and ethanol production as well as being used as an acid wash to help keep my yeast strains pure and bacteria free.

In front of the house in addition to rhubarb there are several rows of canna edulis as decorative borders which is a very edible and high producing starch (25%) tuber plant - which happens to look like a decorative lily. The leaves are (dry weight) 10% protein and so should make great rabbit fodder. Canna is the primary backup crop if my potatoes fail, secondary backup is a plant called oca, third is mashua.
Unlike the nice round conveniently sized nutrient packages from potatoes, Canna Edulis tubers are big messy multi-pronged sprawls that can get up to 20 inches long. You can make pretty good noodles from them though, and it makes a decent wheat flour substitute. We've also got loads of roses so we can use rose hips for flavoring and vitamin C.

There will also be free range guinea fowl and rabbits for a bit of meat and eggs. The guinea fowl are bug eaters and we have plenty of those but because of the PITA factor I might skip having those around pre-PAW and just see if I can get my hands on chickens (and goats) post-PAW.

Airlift bioreactor:

A fancy name for an aerated fermenter. I'll be growing a fungus called aspergillus oryzae, it produces both alpha and beta amylase enzymes in large amounts. Amylase enzymes turn starch into glucose, they're in sprouting grains, ginger root and you have them in your saliva.
A oryzae is used to make Koji which is in turn used to make sake and other Asian dishes and can be found online with a quick google search. Producing it is as easy as just brewing it up in a potato broth and strain out the liquid when its done & using the strained out solids to inoculate another batch. It can be easily concentrated and purified in ethanol or just used straight after I figure out how much yield I'll get per batch. There are things I'll need to do to keep my cultures bacteria free and I'll need to do the occasional petri dish culture, isolate, and reinnoculate the starters with the good strains.

In addition to making my potatoes fermentable I can also use the A oryzae amylase to make a glucose syrup from potato starch for home use or trading. The syrup will be almost identical to standard corn syrup, for example Karo corn syrup is a glucose syrup. I believe sweeteners will be in very short supply so syrup will be an outstanding barter item.

Fractioning reflux still and yeast:

A moonshiners still doesn't make fuel, it makes moonshine that's at best 110 proof. To use a coil still to make fuel grade (95%) ethanol you have to run it through several times and you lose about half of the ethanol in your initial ferment.
A reflux fractioning still can take the ethanol from your ferment to fuel grade in one step. It consists of a boiler with a 3-6 foot column with a water cooled condenser at the top of it.
In general the taller the column the more pure your distillate. Inside the column there are perforated plates, copper/stainless steel scrubby pads, ceramic rings, or even lava rocks to increase the surface area where condensation and re-evaporation happens and produces a purer distillate the farther up the column you go. The more internal surface area you have the shorter your column can be. At the top of the column the product is removed.

The still I'll be building is called a boka still - probably the easiest and best producing still there is to make. It'll be all copper, 3 inches in diameter and have a 9 inch condensing reflux head over a 36 inch column packed with 1/2" pieces of lava rock. My boiler is going to be a 55 gallon stainless drum, there'll be a silicone gasket between the two to help prevent galvanic corrosion. The drum will be both the mash tun and the distiller boiler. For now it'll be propane fired but I intend to start experiments with wood gasification to feed the burner and provide controllability - if worse comes to worse I'll build a charcoal fire under the boiler with the charcoal left from the gasification chamber (a 30 gallon stainless drum).

My planned runs are 30 gallons using 3.5 pounds of potatoes per gallon. Yeah, that's a lot of potatoes to mash but if I can buy or make a 15 quart stainless food mill it should make the job a heck of a lot easier - and I'm pretty good at fabbing things. I should realize 5 gallons of 95+% ethanol per 30 gallon run and each run should take 4 days to a week.
If I've got mains power while fermenting I'll keep the drum warm with an electric tun warmer and insulation. If the power is gone I'll use a small alcohol burner or a pilot-light style small gas flame. The spent yeast after fermenting is a good feed supplement since its ~45% protein.

The physics dictates that the best you can get is 95.6% purity in standard atmosphere, it can be used as-is as a small engine fuel but if you want to mix it with gasoline (mainly to make the engine easier to start) it has to be further dried by running it through a desiccant bed of zeolite or silica gel. Otherwise the "wet" ethanol will not mix with the gasoline and separates. 100% ethanol if exposed to atmosphere will very quickly suck water out of the air to revert to its natural azeotropic 95.6%.

It turns out that potatoes are a great source of nutrition for yeast with the one exception of free available nitrogen, potatoes have some (in the form of protein) but not nearly enough for good growth. For that matter even wheat grain is nitrogen deficient and it has 3 times the protein of potatoes. Commercial fuel ethanol producers use urea - just like what human bodies excrete 10-20 grams per liter in their 1-2 liters a day output. There are other nitrogen containing compounds in human urine but I'm using 10g/day as my starting guideline. In fact almost everything in urine is a great nutrient for yeast, even the salt. Funny how that worked out....

Yeast need ~500PPM free available nitrogen, not all the nitrogen in urea is available so when I ran all the numbers it turns out I'll need to supplement my 30 gallons of wort with 3.5 quarts of human urine - the wort is boiled to deactivate the amylase and to sterilize everything prior to fermentation. 3.5 quarts is probably WAY too much but yeast do just fine up to 1000PPM according to a couple of studies I've read. I'll have to adjust once I start the process for best results.

One problem with urea in brewing/distilling is that it eventually makes small amounts of ethyl carbamate - class 2 carcinogen. Since I'm making fuel I don't care too much about that. if I do a run intended for human consumption I'll use a different nitrogen source. I'm not sure how much makes its way through the distilling process but I'm not taking any chances.

BTW, you need a free federal permit to distill alcohol for fuel for personal use as long as you make it not drinkable (denature). Its not hard to get but if you don't do it the feds get a little testy when they find out you've been distilling.

Brewing and distilling is a HUMONGOUS subject, if you get into it you'll need to educate yourself in detail before you start. There is a hell of a lot to learn. Luckily just ethanol production is a lot easier, people get PHDs in beer brewing. A great starting point to learn is http://homedistiller.org/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; and their forums.

So with ethanol I can also make vinegar - in fact I have a batch brewing in my office using a "mother of vinegar" starter I got from Braggs vinegar I bought at the grocery store. Its converting a couple of bottles of riesling that we didn't like. It's not pretty but it's certainly making vinegar - phew! After its done and strained I'll freeze concentrate it to boost its strength. All the acetic acid bacteria need is a 8-10% ethanol solution and some nutrients (sugar and nitrogen mainly). The end result is what's known as "distilled white vinegar" - so called because its grown on distilled ethanol.

I'll need to keep my yeast strains pure and bacteria (and wild yeast) free in addition to the periodic acid wash with malic acid I'll need to grow streaks on agar medium, isolate the good yeast, reculture it, and make new starters from single cell colonies about every 10 generations or so. To do that I'll need various bits of lab gear and a pressure cooker (poor mans autoclave) for details take a look at: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/entries/pla ... onies.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I can also have a continuous yeast culture on petri dishes as a yeast bank and just re-inoculate from that.
Acid washing is when you take a portion of yeast from the settled ferment and "wash" it with a 2.5 PH solution for an hour or so. The yeast take it just fine but it kills everything else. Then you can re-use the yeast you just washed for your next ferment. BTW, yeast do NOT like acetic acid (vinegar) so you can't use it as an acid wash.

For now I'm going to make a very large batch of Lalvin EC-1118 starter culture and freeze almost all of it, with a little help of a 20% glycerin solution as a cryoprotectant. As long as the power stays on it'll keep almost indefinitely, its when the power goes out forever it'll need it and it'll simplify things for me. For a detailed yeast freezing how-to check out: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/entries/freezing-yeast.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I'd love to get my hands on a strain called "Ethanol Red" but I can't find a vendor. If you know where I can get some please let me know!

I can stockpile powdered agar, or I can make my own easily enough from potato syrup and gelatin. The gelatin is easy enough to get: You ever boil a turkey carcass for a long time after thanksgiving? That gel that forms on the top after it cools down is gelatin - perfect yeast food. Boil any kind of meat long enough and you'll get gelatin.

Solar cells and power:

Eventually I'm going to use up all the diesel I've stockpiled, or the diesel generator is going to break bad enough that I can't fix it - and in any case it'd be better to keep the diesel for vehicle use. Long term (couple months+) power generation with a generator just isn't viable.
To meet my long term power needs I plan 2000 watts of solar and 600 watts of thermo-electric generators on the wood stove. The various aeration pumps, magnetic stirrers, and still head cooling circulation pump combined don't equal 120 watts. That plus a few LED lights, the occasional blender use and a laptop recharge should be met easily. With the six APC Smart-UPSs and the two actual inverters and all the spare electronic parts around here converting battery power to 120V wont be a problem for a very long time. My main worry is getting the power into the batteries in the first place. Having only one charge controller is a potential failure point, however the good ones are very expensive so I may end up with a good Midnite Solar 200 charge controller, and a couple low power chimart charge controllers as backups - I'll probably be able to keep those running.

Misc:

IMO ethanol is the best all-around liquid fuel there is for long term sustainability. You can make your own, it makes a decent small engine fuel, it's odorless, doesn't produce soot, AND it doesn't produce carbon monoxide so it's safe to burn inside for indoor cooking or lighting. It also makes a great process solvent, you can drink it (watered down), or use it to sterilize things.

You can buy a alcohol stove like the Origo alcohol stove that's used on boats; it has two controllable burners of 1000-7000 BTUs each and one alcohol fill up lasts for several days.

Personally I'm going to make a couple of self-pressurized stoves, a self-pressurized stove is where the ethanol is continually wicked into a evaporation ring by capillary action and heat from either a priming burn or continuing operation vaporizes it, where it then goes through a controlling valve and to the outer burner ring. The evaporation ring and burner ring is arranged that the flames from the holes in the burner ring just brush the evaporation ring. A burner like this can operate from 3000 to 20000 BTUs and is a lot more convenient to operate.
Being able to cook indoors in the summer without firing up the wood stove is going to be a blessing.

Alcohol lighting; even if all my electric power production us used up by aeration, still cooling circulation, and potable & irrigation water pumps the same self-pressurizing principal works on mantle lamps in where the heat from the alcohol flame makes a coleman-lantern style mantle glow bright. I intend on making a few of these too. You can find examples of alcohol stoves and mantle lights on youtube. A commercially produced example is the petromax lantern.

I've been futzing around since last spring with converting a Chinese clone of the 50cc Honda GHX50 to run on ethanol for a motorized bicycle w/ trailer so local motorized transportation is possible.

Long term consumable limitations:

Clothing - which we have NO way to produce (other than stockpiling fabric), lantern mantles - stockpile a lifetime supply. Water filtration - more stockpiling. Engine lubricants - stockpiling. Small engines - stockpile, spare parts, and repair tools. Chainsaw chains - stockpile. Fasteners, cordage, tools, etc.
Backups and spares for the pumps as well as copper pipe and brazing/solder supplies since copper eventually corrodes when exposed to flame and I'll need to repair the lanterns and stoves, properly cared for the still should last a lifetime+.

About a thousand large canning jars, reusable rings and lids, and a wood fired dehydrator and I think everything is covered! I live in a forest, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of trees readily available for the use. Cut down (with my ethanol powered chainsaw), split, and season as needed.

Sanitation, all human and food waste is composted with sawdust, made sanitary and reused to grow more food.

I haven't mentioned water because its not a problem, I live in the wet part of the Pacific Northwest so rainwater collection and the stream that goes through one corner of my property will far exceed our needs.

Once I get the still and bioreactor built I intend on continual production of ethanol to stockpile 300 gallons or so, I've got an unlimited supply of empty hydraulic fluid steel drums from work to store it in (well away from the house).

So what do you think? Have I missed anything critical? Guns and ammo are a given, I've already got that well covered.

Hopefully somebody else can use the information and ideas.
Last edited by Maast on Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:14 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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raptor
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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by raptor » Mon Dec 16, 2013 8:12 am

This is an amazing and useful post. I wish I had the knowledge to critique your plan regarding distillation. I do not but I suspect others on the forum will be able to help. Thank you for sharing it. Please do keep us posted on the project.
Last edited by raptor on Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by Boondock » Mon Dec 16, 2013 8:29 am

Rhubarb is the bomb. I hope to plant some in my yard this spring. Makes a tasty pie, too. Nice post.

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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by gundogs » Mon Dec 16, 2013 10:11 am

Basically,I think your plans are great!
It does seem that you're relying too much on potatoes,though. What if a crop fails? How about using some space for sugar beets?

Also,my experience with solar is that the controller is a weak spot & fails more often then other components.
You should definitely have a couple backups. 300w range ones are pretty cheap

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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by Murphman » Mon Dec 16, 2013 10:57 am

Agree with gundogs. Being so potato-centric could lead to problems down the road. Even though starting with multiple strains does not mean that all those strains will propogate effectively to continue in future years. Beets are a good option. Do you have a pond or wetland area? Cattails produce as much starch as potatoes. Have you thought about Sorghum? Sunchokes?

You will need to rotate the potatoes for 3 year periods to avoid soil diseases and pests (especially nematodes). So, your original 1/2 acre means 1.5 acres, or only 1/6 of an acre of production equaling 2.67 tons of potatoes, per your calculations.

Also, your yeast strains will be almost impossible to keep pure in a PAW situation, simply due to hygiene issues. Honestly, I have found wild strains on apples that make better cider than what I can purchase in any store. The problem with that is you take the chance of getting a horrible cider before getting an excellent one. Get someone else to be the initial taste tester. :wink: Maybe I am not as versed in brewing, but I like the idea of mixing strains to get a better genetic diversity. I brewed a brwon ale from a bottle conditioned strain a few years ago that came out better than the original, by far. I am sure that was from some wild yeast on the grain I used.

Don't alcohol engines use up parts faster? Solar cells certainly run out of life.

I guess when I think indefinitely sustainable, I think forever. I am not trying to be Debbie Downer, but I honestly don't think a PAW plan exists to accomplish that. Man made items wear out. At some point you will need to make intricately cast parts that require molten iron/steel or shave crystals to create new solar cells, and that sort of technology is not easily attained now, let alone after the SHTF.

On that note, your plan is good, but thinking it is 100% sustainable is reaching for the stars. Go for it, but understand the limitations when adding "man" into the equation.
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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by therianthrope » Mon Dec 16, 2013 1:36 pm

This is awesome, a well researched plan to be sure. But I question the practicality of it on, say, a 50 or even 20 year scale, not to mention something that can be passed on to generation after generation (which seems to be what you're trying to achieve).

The weak points specifically IMO would be the solar cells, mechanized digester and the desire for sustainable internal-combustion-engine fuel production (and use of ICEs).

As mentioned by others, solar cells surely and indeed most machinery (but especially internal combustion engines) in general are by definition not sustainable on their own - nor probably on a one-man/family scale. These are all consumable goods with planned obsolescence being a defining characteristic of their designs. Not to mention the consumable goods (oil, filters, spark plugs, wiring, brake-pads, etc.) necessary to make them function even on the short term. Year on year, solar cells lose capacity, simply from abrasion of air-blown grit.

Truly sustainable transport is incorporating horses (and all that entails - feed, rearing, etc.) into your plan, and sustainable power would revolve around eliminating all non-absolutely-necessary power consumption (i.e. your laptop and blenders... :roll:), and maybe moving towards a steam engine and probably having a machine shop capable of constructing the basic parts most susceptible to mechanical failure (rods, gears, valves). But in reality, probably means eliminating electrical power-generation from your plan completely. The PAW will not be a place of modern comforts. Regarding the power and mechanical needs of the digester, that whole thing wouldn't be necessary at all if you eliminate fuel-production from your plan, yes?

I guess basically it just seems to me that you'd be investing a lot of your preparatory resources into these things which will fail after enough time/without the facilities to keep them running, and to keep the things that keep them running, running, and so on. If you're trying to be an island (100% self-sufficient, indefinitely), KISS.

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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by quazi » Mon Dec 16, 2013 4:54 pm

Great post. I hope you keep it updated because your plan is pretty close to the one we've been working on.

We grow quite a bit of potatoes every year, but if things went bad fast I'm sure we will eat all of them and won't have any left for seed. We want to plant more than we normally use, just in case, but we don't want to be wasteful. We could always compost them but we figure it might be a better idea to try producing ethanol.

If you're going to be raising rabbits anyway what about a few angoras for future clothing production? They would be higher maintenance, and if you have the space stocking deep in clothing isn't that expensive. Just a thought.

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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by kwailo » Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:36 pm

I haven't been able to get potatoes to ferment out higher than 9%, and that was with Turbo yeast. My 50/50 potato to 2 row fermented to 13% with US05 and 16% with Turbo. Potato is certainly more abundant and less labor intensive than grain, but the back end labour and fuel cost would be higher. Is your plan to mash 3.5# of potato into 30 gallons of water, or to mash 105#, and add enough water to get you to 30 gallons?

I like the plan, but the managing amylase reactor seems tougher than malting some grains for the enzymes. Are you able to rotate grains into parts of the field? You would also get good food for yourself, and animal feedstock doing this.

I freeze slants of yeast, and thaw them to make a starter before I brew. I am able to keep yeast strains going for years without issue this way, and it is easier for me than washing. I only start from scratch again if I find either an infection or an off flavour, and if I was making ethanol for fuel, the off flavour wouldn't concern me. There may be a benefit I am not seeing of course.

I look forward to updates, I intend to have brewing beer and fuel distillation a large part of my PAW life.

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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by Halfapint » Mon Dec 16, 2013 6:18 pm

Couple things.... Couldn't you use brass instead of copper for your pressurized stove and lantern? It doesn't wear out as fast as copper....

Also trying to harvest how many tons of potatoes is going to be VERY labor intensive not to mention storage of said potatoes. But you do have that post with you digging out your crawl space so maybe space isn't an issue. But without machinery you're going to be spending a lot of time in the field digging potatoes. Maybe in the paw you'll have more friends/family to help you but from someone his parents has about a 45x20 plot in which to grow potatoes that's a hell of a lot of work.

Looks great, also I haven't found a pressurized alcohol burner if you have a link to a video on how to make one, or a how to post I would love to see it. I've hot about 40 gallons of denatured alcohol saved for my cooking fuel. I have been trying to rig something up with a pump system like a Whisperlite. But it doesn't work well.... Granted I'm using Arizona ice tea cans and DIY copper tubing and such.

Great post I though keep us updated on future plans, also pictures are awesome ::wink wink::
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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by Maast » Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:20 am

Sorry I'm not quoting the individual questions or comments, that many quotes turned out to be way too cluttered:

Oh I agree the internal combustion engines won't last forever, but I'm pretty sure I can keep any one running for at least 6-8 years of intermittent use, probably a lot longer. On the other hand there will be thousands of weed whackers, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, post hole diggers, etc within a mile of me. All of them not running because of a lack of fuel and I'm sure their owners (if there are any) would be glad to trade them for a bushel of potatoes, a jug of syrup, a couple gallons of ethanol, or a rabbit. It's REALLY easy to convert a small 4-stroke ICE to run ethanol if you know what you're doing. 2-strokes are even easier but they require synthetic oil (or castor oil) to mix with the ethanol.

Along the same lines there are hundreds of cars & trucks within easy reach, all of them with 4-12 liters of motor oil in them their owners would be glad to trade. Motor oil doesn't "wear out" really (well it does, but it takes a LONG time) and it can be cleaned up for reuse.

Decades worth.

And I'm sure somebody will be growing castor beans I can trade with when that runs out. I'll keep a castor seed stock just in case if they're not and maybe convince one of my surviving neighbors to make castor oil to trade with. Castor oil can be squeezed out mechanically, or (more productively) solvent extracted with ethanol.

And in any case, using ICEs isn't absolutely necessary - but they sure make life easier (and more productive!) while they're there and that's a huge amount of backbreaking labor saved, the labor savings are worth prepping for. Everything a ICE would be used for - timber processing, crop tilling, transportation - can be done by hand or foot (or pedaled) but why bust your butt when you don't have too. Horses are resource, feed, and time hogs. I'd rather have a donkey or some oxen.

BTW, neat ethanol doesn't corrode metal much, its when there is a lot of water in it that causes the damage.

Transportation: The real limitation isn't the engines, its the tires. Rubber tires will dry out and crack within 10 years if they're just sitting there on a vehicle. They can be stockpiled and protected from degradation but salvage for usable tires will be severely limited. Osage orange (aka Paw-Paw tree), the tree/shrub that makes such a good living fence, has large amounts of latex in their fruit seed pods that could solvent extracted/purified (with - you guessed it, ethanol). In theory somebody could extract it, mix in sulfur, mold solid rubber tires and heat it up to vulcanize it, but it'd be a handcraft industry. Dunno how practical it would be. Maybe I could convince another neighbor to give it a go.
I want to secure my boundaries with osage orange, I planted a few seeds a year ago as an experiment and they're growing okay but I need to get back to that, but there are so many other higher priority projects that I never get back to it.

Regarding the electricity: a good quality solar cell will put out good power for 40 years, acceptable power for another 10 years past that. I'm not sure how long the thermo-electrics will last but I'm guessing only 10 years or so. Batteries; If need be I can make lead-acid batteries well enough by reusing battery lead, casting new plates, and electroforming them. They won't be very energy dense but they'd work. The limitation there isn't the physical battery structure - its the sulfur to make the sulfuric acid, the sulfuric acid in dead car batteries is a one way chemical reaction to hard lead sulfate crystals that I don't know how to reverse in a cottage industry setting.

The lack of sulfur is what's going to eventually kill all the lead-acid batteries, hopefully it'll be available for trade because I have no way to make more. I'll stockpile a lot, but it'll eventually run out.

Its not going to be the production of electricity that'll be the limiting factor, it'll be the things to use it with. Even LED bulbs will eventually run out, the pumps will stop working, the inverters will die, etc at around I'm guessing 15-20 years. While the electric machines are there they make life easier and 15-20 years worth is a whole lot of labor saved.

I actually don't care too much about the lights - I'll have alcohol lanterns for that. It's the pumps I'm going to stockpile the hell out of, and several extra sets are going to be 12 volts.

For the alcohol mantle lights and indoor cooking alone it's worth distilling alcohol, the engines are just a big bonus - not to mention the syrup and vinegar. Heck vinegar production itself is going to be hugely valuable in food preservation and trade.

The idea is to plan for graceful failure modes: for example if the charge controllers goes outs I'll rewire for 12 volts and have the solar panels feed the batteries directly through a power diode (I can scavenge power diodes for a thousand years, they're everywhere) with overvoltages managed by a shunt diode (again, they're everywhere). It's not nearly as efficient, but it works.

The bioreactor is an example of the same thing, while it works it save a lot of labor, but I can culture a orzae without it: Traditionally, koji is A. orzae cultured on a bed of steamed white rice, then the amylase is extracted from it by soaking in water & straining the solids out, the aerated fermenter just makes the process much more productive and easier.
If I had to I could culture it on a bed of cooked potatoes smashed up into chunks. It would just take longer.

Growing barley (which has the highest grain amylase) would take up way too much time and be yet more labor the 8 of us

BTW, examples of self-pressurized lantern and stoves:

Lantern: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOiQFMhoqMM" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Stove: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7oAK2ERRuw" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
This particular stove is designed as a backpacking camping stove, the stationary stove with two nested rings is a different design but accomplishes the same thing, only with a lot more heat. I can't find the link I read about it just now, I'll have to get back to you.

Brass is too hard to work with, it's too brittle to bend easily in a garage shop. I've thought about nickel plating or chroming the copper tubes after fabbing, decided its too much of a PITA for not much more corrosion resistance - maybe if I was selling these so they'd look pretty and sell better.

I'm planning on 30 gallons + 105lbs of potatoes, it should work out to 36 gallons after the amylase reduces it down to glucose. I've given it some thought and I might just produce lots of the syrup and store that for alcohol production, its a lot more compact than potatoes.

Its really cool to watch amylase turn potatoes into glucose, I bought some brewers amylase and played with some store bought potatoes, after mashing the cooked potatoes I added the amylase and brought it up to alpha rest and then beta rest on the kitchen stove. The mashed potatoes just melted and turned kinda clear and I ended up with glucose water with chunks of skin in it.

Our place IS the BOL for my family, 8 have said they're definitely coming here, but potentially there could be 19 if everybody shows up, and I'm sure there will be guests they bring with them, they'll be welcome - there'll be a backbreaking amount of work to be done.

I've been planning on having 18 months (two winters worth) of food stores on-hand for 10 people to get the farm up to full production. Its almost all rice, beans and crisco for the bulk of it but its better than starving. There are a couple of lots near us that maybe could also be put into production, my next door neighbor is a single lady in her mid-60s and has no family any more on this side of the country, she's a good friend of ours and she'd probably be okay with housing some of my family.
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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by itzybitzyspyder » Tue Dec 17, 2013 3:06 am

Three words: great potato famine. How many varieties are you growing?
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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by Murphman » Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:27 am

Ok, sounds like you have the contingencies planned. Impressive. :D I still think that moving beyond a mono-crop is a something to look into as a CYA.

Also, Osage Orange and Paw Paw are completely different trees. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maclura_pomifera" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; versus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_pawpaw" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;. Eating an osage orange probably won't kill you, it won't be enjoyable either. Pawpaw's are delicious.
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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by MasterMaker » Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:41 pm

All that is missing is a means of hunting that doesn't use an irreplaceable consumable(ammo), no matter how much ammo you can store/get it would still be preferable to not use any of it unless you had no other choice.

Bow making is a valuable skill and it really would put meat on your table indefinitely(and your children's, grand children's and so on), and making bows and arrow to trade just makes it even more worthwhile as others will also start to think along the lines of preserving ammo sooner or later.
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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by Maast » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:03 pm

kwailo wrote:I haven't been able to get potatoes to ferment out higher than 9%, and that was with Turbo yeast. My 50/50 potato to 2 row fermented to 13% with US05 and 16% with Turbo. Potato is certainly more abundant and less labor intensive than grain, but the back end labour and fuel cost would be higher. Is your plan to mash 3.5# of potato into 30 gallons of water, or to mash 105#, and add enough water to get you to 30 gallons?
So how much attenuation did you get? According to what I've read lack of nitrogen stops the yeast well before all the sugars are used up unless you add large amounts of nitrogen nutrients.

The turbo packs not only have huge numbers of yeast cells, they also have a lot of nutrients in the pack, that might be why you saw the difference.

"50/50 potato to 2 row" so was that half and half of potato to barley by volume or weight?
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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by kwailo » Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:55 pm

Maast wrote:
So how much attenuation did you get? According to what I've read lack of nitrogen stops the yeast well before all the sugars are used up unless you add large amounts of nitrogen nutrients.

The turbo packs not only have huge numbers of yeast cells, they also have a lot of nutrients in the pack, that might be why you saw the difference.

"50/50 potato to 2 row" so was that half and half of potato to barley by volume or weight?
When I signed up to ZS, I was told there would be no math, but, here goes.
An OG of 1.075 and a FG of 1.007 gives just shy of 9% ABV, and an attenuation of 90%, using the formula Apparent Attenuation % = ((OG-1)-(FG-1)) / (OG-1) x 100%.
I rarely check the attenuation, as most of my brewing is done with US05, and I have been satisfied it is performing well. I think it may have been better to have said in my first post that I don't know how I could have taken my OG much past 1.075 with just potato.

I run most fermentations on yeast cakes, or a large cultured starter, but you are correct, I may have had a low nitrogen count in the batch fermented with US05.

My 50/50 was a by weight ratio.

I thought a fair bit about this thread today, and wanted to add some things that could be planted in rotation. Sweet potatoes, sugar beet and corn are all around the efficiency of potato, with sugar beet being higher.

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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by gundogs » Wed Dec 18, 2013 7:09 am

kwailo wrote:
Maast wrote:
So how much attenuation did you get? According to what I've read lack of nitrogen stops the yeast well before all the sugars are used up unless you add large amounts of nitrogen nutrients.

The turbo packs not only have huge numbers of yeast cells, they also have a lot of nutrients in the pack, that might be why you saw the difference.

"50/50 potato to 2 row" so was that half and half of potato to barley by volume or weight?
When I signed up to ZS, I was told there would be no math, but, here goes.
An OG of 1.075 and a FG of 1.007 gives just shy of 9% ABV, and an attenuation of 90%, using the formula Apparent Attenuation % = ((OG-1)-(FG-1)) / (OG-1) x 100%.
I rarely check the attenuation, as most of my brewing is done with US05, and I have been satisfied it is performing well. I think it may have been better to have said in my first post that I don't know how I could have taken my OG much past 1.075 with just potato.

I run most fermentations on yeast cakes, or a large cultured starter, but you are correct, I may have had a low nitrogen count in the batch fermented with US05.

My 50/50 was a by weight ratio.

I thought a fair bit about this thread today, and wanted to add some things that could be planted in rotation. Sweet potatoes, sugar beet and corn are all around the efficiency of potato, with sugar beet being higher.
Also,beets are easier to harvest & the tops can be eaten by humans and chickens. We use young leaves in salads & steam older leaves.
One can harvest a third of the leaves as the plant grows without affecting root growth. We also can them for use in soups and stews.
Potato tops can be (are?) toxic. Seed potatos stored for the next year take up a lot of space,must be kept above freezing temps and are subject to rot,
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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by Maast » Wed Dec 18, 2013 1:27 pm

kwailo wrote:I thought a fair bit about this thread today, and wanted to add some things that could be planted in rotation. Sweet potatoes, sugar beet and corn are all around the efficiency of potato, with sugar beet being higher.
I'd absolutely love to grow sweet potatoes, but it's too cold here. I'm in a hardiness zone of 8A and sweet potatoes need a zone 9 or higher. Anecdotal reports of people on the web trying to grow them in my climate say that even under black plastic (to warm the ground) if they can get them to grow they don't yield very well.

I might try a short season variety called "Georgia Jet" and see how they do but if they require a lot of hands-on care to get them to grow I'll have to skip them. Man-hours will be a precious resource and I'll have to focus on the most productive use of it.

I also want to try a starchy potato-like plant called "Oca" thats a zone 6 and up that's supposed to be high yielding and very nutritious.

Heh, I looked up PawPaw (multiple uses of the name evidently) fruit and it looks like it'd be pretty good fruit tree to plant on the borders of the field along with the apple trees I was thinking of.

Beets have always been on the menu, I looked at sugar beets and they don't do very well as food. I also looked at them as a source for fermenting but they're too limited and potatoes would be more versatile. I might get some seeds anyway and just have them on hand if the need ever comes up.

We're going to be limited in fruits, they take up too much room to produce usable amounts of food.

I think I'm also going to plant Goji berries in the front as pre-PAW edible landscaping, it's unusual looking and doesn't look all that terribly edible so it should be safe from hungry neighbors. I'm also going to try Mashua as a edible landscaping plant. It's another edible tuber plant that puts out showing vines with flowers.

The biggest constraint I'm working under is that I just don't have much room to feed a potentially lot of people so I have to squeeze every square inch of arable land until it squeaks. And then try to think of ways to turn un-arable square footage into food producers.
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Re: Indefinitely sustainable plan

Post by Halfapint » Thu Dec 19, 2013 2:47 am

One thing I might add to your food list is mushrooms, they grow like crazy here. You could try to get them to take root in or around your living hedge. Possibly even nearby or in neighbors yards (with permission of course). My parents did that with a neighbor, he had the perfect are for it so my dad asked the guy he was all for it as long as he got some (duh). But he moved and the new guy landscaped. So dad got creative, they live next to a buy out area that's open to the public for biking and walking, so he planted some in areas people don't frequent. Now he's got about a half or more acre of chantrell (sp) and morel. He used to go picking back there years ago, never thought of trying to get them to grow. Because they are so bloody fickle. Anyways.... Just a thought.... You could grow those button mushrooms in a dark area, there are dozens if mushrooms in Asian store I live next to....

Edit: got to thinking..... Another MAJOR food/trade/sweetener/fermentable item you haven't mentioned is honey. If you're looking for PAW necessity. Honey I think would be on a list higher then an extracted sweetener. Plus.... It's shelf stable. You can ferment it into Mead (I have a batch going as I speak). It does cost a bit to get into at first, but is well worth it.
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