Saturday, January 28, 2006

Where to begin?

(scroll down for an update)

A few months ago a brother-in-law sent me something about a highly efficient small wood stove that gasifies the wood before burning the gases. I didn't get around to looking at it in detail, but it looked promising. Now via Kate, I find this article on using pelletized grass fuels, from R.E.A.P.-Canada (Resource Efficient Agricultural Production).

The grass part caught my attention. Just last night, I was thinking that my push toward self-sufficiency will have to incorporate some form of grass-eating livestock, because grass is what grows here. Then I got thinking some more, and realized that pelletized aspen wood fuel is another thing to look at.

Of course, the first thing to do is to fix up the weather seals around this house. No time like the present. Er, except I really have to plow through some piles of paper - arrgh! Well, while I'm sorting paper, I'll make a plan to reduce the amount that comes in here, and prevent it piling up. I wonder if I could pelletize it?

Update - I did some more reading on the R.E.A.P. site and found that the pelletizing process is just the familiar, large-scale, rather energy-intensive process that's used to produce feed pellets for livestock. It can also be done at a small scale, but with the energy involved, why bother? I also discovered on the R.E.A.P. site, the Mayon Turbo Stove, which uses rice hulls or other crop residues directly as fuel. That makes a lot more sense. I'll be reading some more. A plain old woodstove would be fine, but I'm interested in this gasification process that (according to the reports I've seen) burns the fuel more completely, getting more heat with less smoke. If you're using local fuels sustainably, your greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by new fuel growth regardless of the efficiency of combustion. But more heat with less smoke could help to keep the neighbours friendly, and it would also mean less work gathering fuel!


Pilot said...

Why not pelletize it? I mean if you can burn wood in some of those stoves, why not old paper? Just makes sense to me.

I found your article through the Sask Blogs Aggregator and I came by beacuse I've been looking into camp stoves... yours just kinda popped up into my head as something to read.

I was also intrigued about your "push toward self-sufficiency". A few friends and I have been discussing the ideas involved in self sufficiency and the possibility of a self-sufficient community.

Although we are in the VERY early stages of such a project, I would be interesting in having a dialogue with you on some ideas you may have and what you have in mind.

You can e-mail me at jeremy.pilon(at) or my blog is at Tho my blog currently has very little to do with self-sufficiency at the moment.

Laura said...

thanks for stopping by. It's almost amusing that you would mention a community, after the discussions I've been following over at maison madcap (here and here), as well as the response from Eleutheros. My "push toward self-sufficiency" is so new that it could easily be dismissed as a whim. Except - it has been an undercurrent to my thinking for a long time, and I've always tried to live somewhat modestly, and I grew up on a farm where self-sufficiency was a goal, and I have tried some very unconventional things like straw-bale construction and a bucket toilet (unconventional for here and now, anyway).

One thing that is very important to me is to stay where I am, work with what I find here, and continue to be a part of my own community, rather than moving somewhere in search of an ideal community. I will not likely move away from here in search of self-sufficiency, unless I have decided that there is no reasonable way to make a sustainable life here.

Laura said...

Pilot - as for pelletizing paper, I tacked that on as a joke, mainly, although I realize that it might make sense in some situations. Paper is collected here for recycling, but I don't know whether it actually makes sense to collect it and transport it from here. I also haven't read any detail about the pelletizing process, how much energy it takes, whether it could be done on a small scale, etc.

Pilot said...

Yeah I figured it was a joke, but it kinda hit me.. why not? Like you say, paper has to be shipped and what not, perhaps the most efficient thing would be to burn it.

Thanks for the e-mail, as i had forgot to send your URl home and it was stuck on my computer at work.

Keep pushing, as long as we all do a bit, alot can be acheived.

Pilot said...

Incidentally, I'm from Weyburn, so we're practically neighbors.

Laura said...

Pilot - "practically neighbours" - yes, if you drive a lot. I know people around here who drive to Weyburn and/or Estevan almost daily (sometimes more than once a day, picking up oilfield supplies, I hear). I drive to Estevan maybe twice in a year, Weyburn slightly more often, Regina perhaps once or twice a month. I think I could cut those numbers back a lot, if I put my mind to it.

But it's good to meet another blogger from the same general part of the world.