Monday, November 1, 2010

Cuckoo for coconut oil?

Went to NYC this weekend and gave away some of my creations that I’ve made thus far…my cutting board and the very first spoons I’ve ever carved. In making these, I have become increasingly interested in how wooden objects are made, how woods vary, and how to maintain the wood in the proper manner. Who knew there was SO much to learn about wood? Though I knew it was the case, I am still surprised that there is life beyond a 2x4, ha!

Lately, I am into learning about different treatments for wood, especially for wood that will be used in eating, such as cutting boards and spoons. I have learned that once again, it is simply a matter of common sense; if I would not eat the oil, I should not put it on the wood I will be eating off of. Seems self-explanatory, no? Then again, susceptibility to rancidity must be taken into account. For example, I should not treat wood with olive oil since it is much more susceptible to rancidity than say walnut oil or almond oil. …but walnut oil is not extremely common, is it? I opted for coconut oil…I read it is a good way to treat wood due to its low rancidity…we’ll see how it works out. Secondly, something I did not even realize, which may be an extremely important topic to consider if giving wood gifts as a present, is allergies. If someone is allergic to walnuts, don’t treat the wood with walnut oil. Same with coconut. Makes sense, but if you are not allergic to any foods, it is not something that would immediately come to mind in choosing finishes.

So I am getting a good lesson in finishing wood, but what I really need to practice more is joinery…will hopefully practice and return with a post later in the week. The other thing I want to reflect on and discuss in a blog post is non-profit and for-profit structures, which has been a major discussion throughout my whole travels. I am wanting to evaluate the viability of something like Yestermorrow operating in a for-profit structure. I have much to say regarding this idea, and so perhaps there will have to be two posts this week! By the way, I will post much of the home repair stuff I am learning on the BuffaloBasics blogsite as well, just to continue to increase access to a wide variety of will be the same post, but there may be additional information on upcoming workshops at my house in Buffalo. Taught by me, taught by Brendan and Pat, taught by Maura...a very loose free school structure!

Class 2: DIY Hot Water, the PAIN mound.

Last weekend I took a class called DIY Hot Water Systems. The class was based on the idea of the Pain Mound, a concept championed by scientist Jean Pain, of France. A Pain mound, according to the instructor, uses the heat generated from the process of decomposition to heat water lines fed to your house, in turn decreasing the need for additional water heating appliances that consume fossil fuels.

How does it work? The simplest explanation is that water lines are buried within a tightly packed mound of decaying organic products, the water in them heats up as they travel through the mound, and they re-enter the house at a much higher initial temperature, thereby reducing costs for water heating.

Is it realistic? For Vermont, perhaps. A rural setting is preferred given that the space required for such a massive Pain mound would be the size of many city backyards. Also, in a rural setting there are no neighbors to complain about an unsightly mound whereas in the city, you can be sure to expect some inquiries from neighbors, not to mention inspectors.

Cost-benefit? At this point, the cost outweighs the benefit in my opinion. Though I have no evidence for it, it would seem that the cost of wood mulch, plumbing fixtures and piping and the labor involved in building the pile would be greater than the money saved on simply heating water using fossil fuels. If, however, the benefit of not being reliant on fossil fuels is more important than any costs associated with being off the grid, then perhaps it is worth it for you. For me? Not so much.

If you are interested in learning more about this concept, how it was built, the specifics of costs associated, the BTUs generated from the pile…I’d be more than happy to share documents…get in touch with me by leaving comments or by emailing me…