In terms of writing for a green living blog, I couldn't pick a better article. It covers the gamut of green living, sustainable development, and sustainable architecture, which are some of the core topics we'll be writing about. My story begins with being a nature lover surrounded by concrete.
Phase 1: Getting Out of the City
About 20 years ago, my desire to escape life in the big city outweighed any misgivings I might have had about moving out to the countryside. In the midwest (particularly in Kansas), most of the land is privately owned, so we don't have the same level of access to wild places that you might find in other states. City parks are all fine and good, but they're not exactly what I would call wilderness experiences, and I was left feeling caged in with nowhere to go. The public lands were too far away to be easily accessible, and everything else was privately owned.
My goal was to find something far enough away from the city to avoid city influences (i.e. pollution, traffic, noise, development, etc.), and also far enough away to be affordable, but not so far away that having access to the city would be too prohibitive.
After about 8 months of searching in every direction, what I came to realize is that the bigger the city is, the farther you have to go to get away from it. My original intention was to find a small acreage - as close to the city as I could tolerate - with a livable structure already there. But those hopes were soon dashed. Anything I could find in a price range I could afford would either have a reasonable piece of land with an unlivable structure, or the land itself would be trashed while the structure on it would be barely livable.
It soon became apparent that what I was really after was good land, and the idea of more land with no house was more appealing than less land with a bad house. Eliminating a house from the equation solved lots of problems. Raw land was much more affordable than developed land. It was more natural and less tampered with. It didn't come with a mortgage which was disproportionately paying for a broken down old structure, so I could put the money into better land and more of it.
I wasn't keen on the idea of having to make such a big transition, and then having the problem of building a house on top of that, but every other option had been ruled out and I knew this would be the best decision based on what I wanted and what I could afford.
Phase 2: Purchasing Land
Once I knew what I needed to do, the land I ended up purchasing presented itself almost immediately. I had spent so much time thinking about what kind of land I wanted that once I decided to quit worrying about having a house on it, the property practically fell in my lap. It was in a beautiful hilly area (somewhat rare in Kansas), it had good sources of water, great soil, and a nice mixture of pasture and forest. It was close to a small town which had everything I needed, and it was also very close to two state fishing lakes which were some of the most beautiful lakes I'd ever seen in Kansas.
So when I found the land there was no question that I wanted it, but it was a much larger parcel of ground than I ever dreamed of owning, and I was afraid I would never be able to afford it. I had already been looking at property in the area however, since it was far enough out of the city to be closer to my price range. So because it had virtually no development beforehand (and land was also less expensive back then) it was more affordable, and the previous owner accepted my offer.
Phase 3: The Tiny House Solution
Even though the land was a great deal, it was still a lot of land to purchase so I knew that turning it into something I could actually live on would be a gradual process. Hiring someone to build a new home was out of the question. I looked at cheaper options like travel trailers and double wides, and those might have been good options to at least make it livable while I was building a regular house, but I hated the idea. For one thing, all of the money I would have to spend on a trailer could be spent right away on things like building materials for the house. Then once the house was built, I would have the problem of getting rid of an old trailer. I had other expenses to look at as well. This was raw land, so how would I run electricity and water, build a driveway? At the time I didn't even have a lawn mower or any other equipment I would need for managing land.
So I knew that whatever I did had to be cheap so I could afford everything else that came with it. I wouldn't be able to survive long term living in a tent, but I had no problem with living in small spaces - as I had done for most of my life. I actually preferred small houses over larger ones for a number of reasons, and the idea of a "cabin in the woods," or a tiny house on a big piece of land is what really appealed to my senses. The best part of it was that tiny houses are much cheaper and easier to build than larger ones, so for me it was the perfect solution.
Phase 4: "Building Thoreau's Cabin"
My thinking was that even if I could build a small outbuilding, it would be better than cluttering up the land with something like a trailer. It would be a permanent structure, I could put it wherever I wanted it, and design it to look good in it's natural surroundings. It would be a better investment and it would do more to increase the land value, it could be used for all sorts of things, and I could even use it as a living space while I was building a bigger house. Perfect! Off to the book store to get my hands on everything I could find on the subject of outbuildings.
I had some carpentry background, and while I was pretty sure I could build a house from the ground up, I'd never actually done it. I had only worked on existing structures or parts of new structures that someone else had designed, so I didn't know anything about how to engineer a house myself. So the first books I picked up were about how to build basic structures on a typical farm - outbuildings, barns, work shops, etc..
Some of the other books I bought had plans for buildings which were a step up from outbuildings, small but very nice buildings that could also be lived in. These got into the discussion of what it takes for a building to be a living space. For a building to be livable (and hopefully comfortable) you need climate control, and along with that comes the problem of engineering a good system incorporating insulation and vapor barriers. These issues are more complex than you might think, and to this day I can't find much agreement from other builders I've hired about what the best approach is. I did as much research on that as I could, and eventually settled on a system that I knew would be safe and reliable.
Out of the collection of books I'd amassed by then, my favorite was a more obscure title I found called "Building Thoreau's Cabin" by Stephen Taylor. I liked the author and thought he did a great job of explaining the finer points of building a house, and this seemed to be providing a closer model to what I wanted than the other books.
Phase 5: Tiny House Construction
The only problem with Thoreau's Cabin was that it was just too darned small. I can live in small spaces, but when you only have one place to live on a large piece of land, it's hard to imagine fitting your whole life into an 8 by 10 foot building. When Thoreau did this, he was basically camping out while he wrote his book about the experience, and I had more I needed to do than that. I had land to take care of, I had to keep making a living to pay for it all, and I was afraid that going too small would create more limitations than I could afford to live with.
In the author's book, his building was 8 x 12 feet, so just two feet longer than Thoreau's Cabin. With modern building materials, it's best to stick with dimensions which are in multiples of 4 feet since you end up with less waste. In the book there was one little note about scaling up his model, and he thought as big as you could safely go was up to 16 x 20 feet which gave me 320 square feet of floor space. It was as big as his building model would support, it was as big as a person could reasonably build by themselves, and I thought it would give me the room I needed without being too restricted.
So finally we get to the tiny house. Unfortunately I never had a decent camera until recently, so most of the documentation I did was with film or low quality digital cameras. The only shots of the construction are on film so I need to scan those, and I also need to take shots of the interior with my better camera. So I'll be adding quite a bit to this gallery, but for now you can at least see what it looks like on the outside (click thumbnails for larger slide show).[See image gallery at www.greenhubnetwork.com]
Some of these shots have appeared elsewhere in the site so you might have seen the snow covered shot on the home page for example, but now you have the story behind the image.]]>
Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In aquaculture, effluents accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity for the fish. This water is led to a hydroponic system where the by-products from the aquaculture are filtered out by the plants as vital nutrients, after which the cleansed water is recirculated back to the animals. The term aquaponics is a portmanteau of the terms aquaculture and hydroponic.
Aquaponic systems vary in size from small indoor or outdoor units to large commercial units, using the same technology. The systems usually contain fresh water, but salt water systems are plausible depending on the type of aquatic animal and which plants. Aquaponic science may still be considered to be at an early stage, relative to other sciences.
For complex systems like aquaponics, videos are some of the best resources to start with since they illustrate real world applications in action.
Our fist pick was "Backyard Aquaponics" because it demonstrates an operation which is small enough to be affordable for hobbyists, but also high tech enough to be scalable for larger operations.
Your state university extension service will always be a vital resource for anything having to do with agriculture, so we included a video below from Purdue University to show the information they provide for larger scale operations. The primary value from aquaponics comes from the plants, so the smaller scale systems often use inedible fish stocks like goldfish. This video shows several larger operations which include edible fish.
We liked "Internet of Food," since the author has done an excellent job with his aquaponics systems (his fish and plants appear to be in great condition). With a background in robotics he's developed some impressive prototypes, and he does a good job of explaining aquaponics.
One of the more well known experts in the aquaponics industry is Murray Hallam, so we've included one of his videos showing an example of a commercial aquaponics operation.
The unique advantages of aquaponic systems are:
Some conceivable disadvantages with aquaponics are:
This was the primary reason we saw the need for a green virtual community network. Sustainability is about so many things, and everyone has their own individual take on what green living is all about. Aside from the environmental issues you can think of, I could ask, is my financial situation sustainable? What about my career, my life, even my attitude about life? Anything that's not sustainable will sooner or later break down, so shouldn't we be asking these questions about everything?
This is why the subject is broad enough that everyone has a valuable role to play. Living a sustainable life is more challenging. It requires higher degrees of resourcefulness. It takes more diplomacy, more cooperation, more skills. It's not a go-it-alone kind of thing and none of us can rush out and "save the world" all by ourselves.
We'll be expanding on this subject and writing more about it, but feel free to share your thoughts. Let us know where you fit in. Nothing is too small for something this big!]]>
We recently added a new slide show on the home page, for example, which can be used for showcasing numerous featured images in any given article. It's set to auto-play, but you can run through it manually by clicking the back and next arrows on the images. The two icons on the lower right are for larger popups and full screen viewing. This is now integrated as a standard template feature, and it can be applied anywhere in the site - whenever we need the added horsepower for delivering larger slide shows.
This next slide show is also handy for certain types of content.[See image gallery at www.greenhubnetwork.com]
Some of your Public Listings will be invited to become featured posts in our green living blog, and this shows the different options we have for running slide shows if you have multiple photos to share. Videos like the one above are also easy to showcase if you have them hosted on a decent streaming server like Vimeo or YouTube.
Other future upgrades will include more advanced search features, Google Maps, Event Calendars, etc.. The sky is the limit as to what we can keep doing with a site like this, so stay tuned.
If you have other suggestions, your comments are welcome here. We're also open to suggestions for new articles about green living - or introducing new category sections for other sustainability issues - which can then become green living blogs themselves.]]>
Just sign in to submit a new listing, or browse through public listings already created by others. And be sure to sign up for our green living newsletter. We will also be adding additional sustainable resource links in the near future, so please stay tuned, and feel free to contact us if you have any questions or comments.
All of our Featured Articles and Recent Articles shown in the lower menu are open for comments, so please share your thoughts with us. You can also view the blog link (in the header menu) to see a full listing of our green living blogs.
The social network icons under the lower menu will take you to our facebook page, our twitter page, and you can subscribe to our rss feed.
The Green Hub Network Team]]>
And that’s as true right here in our local Heartland as it is ANYWHERE. The table is LOADED. We hope you’ll find some surprises, and enjoy some links that we like. We know you have more. We’d love to check out some of your favorites so SHOUT IT OUT!.
Do you provide sustainable resources in your community, or do you know of others who do? Have any links about Green Living that you like? Share them with us and we'll publish them here.]]>
So what do you have? Maybe you’d like to give away some mulch, or trade some, or sell some, or even barter to spread some…as long as it qualifies as “green” (i.e., not your Grandma’s green brooch) and is within the bounds of propriety (a green product, service, idea, concept, proposal or initiative), you’re welcome to give it, trade it, sell it, or barter it here. Continue reading and we’ll show you how easy it is to share your listing!
Click the Create New Listing or Account Options link in the right column. If you're not already logged in you can either Sign In if you have an account, or Register for a new account if you don't have one yet. Your email and password are all that's required.
Once you're logged in, creating a new listing is easy. Then click the Public Listings link in the right column to see your new post.
If you have any questions or comments about sharing new listings you can ask them here by submitting a comment below. You don't have to sign up for a new account to leave comments our green living blog, so this is an additional way for you to share sustainable ideas, concepts, and resources.]]>
Have any suggestions for better ways to connect with others in the Green Community? Share your sustainable ideas, projects and proposals with us in the comment sections and you could become a new featured post in our green living blog!]]>
Thanks for stopping by! If you’re looking to get acquainted in the Green Community and learn about others who share your interests [connect with others], wanting to buy local/eat local, and are a self-confessed farmers’ market junkie [discover new resources], or, if you just want to sell or trade your farm-fresh eggs or old tomato cages, [share your own listing] — you’ve come to the right place!
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To stay current with local resources and bring our amazing, wide-spread, green community together under one roof... or together at one table!
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