Blogs

Retrotopian Espresso

  • Posted on: 1 November 2020
  • By: Justin Patrick Moore

sothismedias.blogspot.com

This is a guest post by Andy Dwelly.
@adwelly

I've recently had the pleasure of re-reading John Michael Greer's Retrotopia novel, a description of life during the early part of the Long Descent in the Lakeland Republic. The Republic is one of the successors to the United States, that in the novel has broken up around a quarter of a century prior to the story. Centred around its capital of Toledo, the Republic has been forced by circumstances to face the reality of the end of the American Empire and declining energy supplies rather sooner than its neighbours. It must be said that they've made a pretty fair fist of things, and the novel itself is at heart a thoroughly optimistic one.

In between the descriptions of clothing, fashion, transport, newspapers, business law, and food, there's an occasional mention of coffee - but not the particular style of coffee that I drink, which is espresso. Espresso in its current form was discovered in 1948, but it evolved from a series of patents that were attempts to reduce the brew time of a cup of filtered coffee. In '48, the owner of a cafe in Milan called Achilles Gaggia invented a machine that pushed water through a puck of finely ground coffee at much higher pressure than was usual for the period. This had the effect of releasing a carbon dioxide foam from the beans that floated on the surface of the resulting tiny drink. In a stroke of maketing genius, he called this foam 'crema' and the result was pretty much an instant hit throughout Italy. A good espresso combines intense coffee flavour with a relatively syrupy texture and the natural caffeine kick, but if it's done right avoids both bitterness and acidity. Actually achieving that goal in a simple espresso takes some practice.

Espresso also makes an ideal basis for milk coffee drinks because the small size of the espresso shot will not dilute the natural sweetness of the milk. Both kinds are widely available in Europe and in the UK in both urban and rural cafes, but of course the cost of regularly buying a few speciality coffee drinks from an independent cafe or a chain soon mounts up. Lots of people have machines at home that attempt to make espressos and the lockdowns introduced in the wake of COVID-19 can only have accelerated the takeup of home machines.

I was in the process of moving house as the leading edge of the pandemic hit the UK, and the large shed at the top of my new garden got repurposed as a temporary office with power and internet. At this point, life furnished me with an example of almost Retorotopian diminishing returns.

I didn't have a home espresso machine and when I was given a gift certificate at a well known UK department store I jumped at the chance to acquire one. Modern home espresso machines are very high tech indeed. I got an entry level Sage (Breville in the US) Duotemp, it has a built in water filter, a high specification pump, a steam wand for people making milk drinks, and a great deal of electronics inside to make this all work. I should say right off the bat that it does work, the problem being that the particular machine is quite inflexible about timing, temperature, and pressure. This means that getting a really good espresso in the morning becomes a bit of a hit or miss affair, if the particular beans you are using are something like the sort of beans this machine is preset for, then all's well, otherwise the results can be a bit disappointing; to be fair Sage makes far more capable machines as well.

There's no doubt as to the internal complexity of these and similarly specced machines, they need regular cleaning, descaling, and backflushing to remove old oils and coffee grains that have gone astray, and there's no doubt that I live an a peculiarly hostile environment for such an appliance. I use them least twice a day, every day, and I live on a chalk down and the water out of my kitchen taps is unusually hard. Sooner rather than later a job would come up that I was not capable of, and it would have to go back to the manufacturer for maintenance.

A One Hundred Year Plan

  • Posted on: 22 July 2020
  • By: David Trammel

From time to time, I see really well done posts on other websites, that speak to the skills and principles we talk about here on Green Wizards. Recently over on Peak Prosperity, a more upscale preparadeness website, a member named VTGothic posted the steps he is taking to get ready. He gave me permission to share it here:

"Yes, you can repost. Thank you for asking. I’m pretty busy in the summer working on infrastructure, since Vermont summers are short. This year the primary task is residing the house – which is a project (!) as it’s a large house, in places reaching 2.5 stories. And, of course, cutting, splitting, and stacking 3 cord of wood for winter."

My 100 Year Survival Plan: A brief intro to our ark-building metrics
by VTGothic

I have my own 12-Step program for preparing, and for regularly evaluating how we're doing with the process. It's designed for someone with modest means, like me, and requires a corresponding greater commitment of time. (Money and time substitute for one another.) I wrote it 8 years ago and continue to use it to develop my "ark" for the coming troubled waters. I don't share it very much, but this seems like an opportune time and thread for doing so.

When The Air Conditioner Is Broken

  • Posted on: 15 July 2020
  • By: Teresa from Hershey

As our World collapses, energy prices will shoot up and equipment will break. You may not have the money for either. Green Wizard regular Teresa Peschel has this informative post about what to do when the air conditioner finally breaks. Enjoy.

Why we aren’t dying when the air conditioner died.

We have a whole-house air conditioner (AC). I love our air conditioner but I minimize its usage because it’s expensive to run. Air-conditioned air is also not like the outside meaning that if I spend too much time inside, I suffer more of a shock when I go outside and experience immense temperature and humidity swings. Heating in the winter is similar; I minimize the contrast between my home and the outside with lower temperature settings for the furnace.

To maximize the air conditioner’s efficiency, I use a whole-house method. I have strategically placed trees to block the summer sun (which take time to grow); insulation, light-colored shingles, roof and soffit vents (you’ll have to redo the roof); white window shades at every window; ceiling, room, and window fans; and opened windows and access doors when appropriate. I take full advantage of the programmable thermostat. I keep an eye on what the outside temperature is and whether or not there is a stiff breeze. Natural cooling is free.

Our whole-house air conditioner is tied into our heating system’s ductworks and uses the furnace blower. Change your furnace filter monthly. Changing the filter is, according to the HVAC technicians I’ve spoken to, more important for the AC than it is for the furnace. Because I have all these elements in place, with careful thermostat settings, I can minimize the time the AC runs while still keeping the house at a reasonable temperature.

What is a reasonable temperature?

Hobo Living in Alphabet City

  • Posted on: 1 April 2020
  • By: Justin Patrick Moore

(This is a guest post by Kid Krusty, a traveler, hobo, and deconstructor of alternative living spaces for transients, tramps, and people who couldn't make rent. This article originally appeared in the pages of Hobo Living, the premiere lifestyle magazine for train hoppers and those who live on the road. As Kid Krusty is a big fan of the Green Wizards website and philosophy he gave us permission to reprint the article here.)

Homelesscamping

In the era of anorexic buildings (read: supertall, undernourished, skinny skyscrapers) the robust cardboard shacks and multicolored tents clustered in groups in the alleys and sidewalks below them tend to stand out. No two shacks or tents, situated beneath the high-rises of the moneyed and managerial elites are the same. The haphazard cluster of makeshift dwellings becomes progressively incongruous as the latte wielding women in yoga pants navigate their way to the entrance of their downtown lofts.

Taken as a whole the block of tents at the bottom of the building looks unstable, as shaky as the arms of the guy with DT’s coming out of his box looking to spange some money for a bottle of Wild Irish Rose. The sight tends to remind the pedestrian fortunate enough to walk through it of a bunch of alphabet blocks thrown around the floor at random during the height of a hangry toddlers temper tantrum.

“This community was iconic before it was even built,” says Crawdaddy, the hobo mayor and leader the of the deconstruction council. Looking out from the flap of his expansive Boy Scout tent to the squatted sidewalks around him he is filled with a sense of pride. He grabs an old tin cup and fills it with some Folgers instant coffee crystals and hot water from his coleman stove.

“It’s an extraordinary feat of human will to survive off the scraps of those above us, all while shoving it in their foie gras fed faces.”

Battery Power in a Salvage Economy

  • Posted on: 21 March 2020
  • By: Sweet Tatorman

Here at Green Wizards we like to promote a "Renascence man (or woman)" style of learning, where you don't be a specialist know one subject well, but a generalist, knowing many subjects half way well. There was a time in American culture where blue collar workers, could and did discuss in the public square all sorts of important subjects.

One such Green Wizard is the gentleman who goes by the name of "Sweet Tatorman". If you've visited our forums, you will often see him sharing his plant, farm and garden knowledge. He knows much more and sent me this detailed discussion on battery tech.

Enjoy and learn...

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Battery Power in a Salvage Economy by Sweet Tatorman


A 21 cell grouping from a Ford C-Max Energi
A 21 cell grouping from a Ford C-Max Energi. The entire battery is comprised of 4 such groups.


Over the years I have given quite a bit of thought as well as performed hands on experiments on the matter of rechargeable battery power in a savage economy. In this post I will discuss what is available should the grid go down long term with a focus on low power usage such as LED lighting and low power electronics. My focus is not on large storage capacity arrangements such as a fully capable system sized for refrigerator/freezer/microwave oven etc. I will discuss available battery types and the characteristics and utilization of each type. Implicit in much of the discussion is that the charging means will be via solar panels.

Up until a couple of years ago I was considering only 12V lead-acid (Lb-acid) automotive batteries and small Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries of the type found in various consumer electronics and cordless power tools. My rational was/is that both types are readily at hand for everybody. A couple of years ago I broadened my focus to include hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full EV autos. Previously I had ignored these but I received a request from an in-law mechanic to develop testing methodology for evaluating batteries in hybrid autos suitable for non-dealership mechanics with limited resources. Fulfilling that request necessitated a close look at the state of hybrid auto battery technology leading to the conclusion that hybrid/plug-in hybrid/full EV autos should also be viewed as a battery resource.

A brief description of how the battery in a regular (not plug-in) hybrid operates is in order.

Walking the Straight Edge

  • Posted on: 27 February 2020
  • By: Justin Patrick Moore

sothismedias.com

((This is the fourth in a series of articles on the theme of "Down Home Punk" by guest blogger Justin Patrick Moore.)

On the bus ride home from work the other day I overheard an interesting conversation. Two guys were talking about their experiences in and out of prison, with the courts, with probation, with the criminal justice system in general. The two fellows talked about how the elevators at the justice center were broke for days on end, and how because the elevators were down, visitors weren’t allowed in. Not being able to see friends and family made their stay all the more miserable. As I sat there listening in I thought it sounded right on target, par for the course with societal collapse. As local governments lose funding for repair of public buildings, it makes sense that our jails might not be first on the list to get fixed.

One comment really stuck with me though. When the guy said he knew four dudes who OD’d on fentanyl while he was in the slammer, I wasn’t surprised, but I was shocked.

People on the street are dying from this stuff. Now it seems so are the people who get picked up off the street by the police and thrown into jail for possession. Now they can OD from the convenience of their jail cell. I guess those cavity searches aren’t going so well.

Being on the wrong side of the law hasn’t really been part of my experience. Unless you count the one trip I made to juvie for stealing cough syrup, or the time I got a slap on the wrist by a judge for some graffiti I got caught carving onto a picnic table at a park. Then there was the time I got a misdemeanor at age twenty-four when I contributed to the delinquency of a minor by buying my disabled, then nineteen year old cousin some booze. I hadn’t actually expected him to actually chug the rum. I panicked when he started falling out of his wheelchair due to being in a quick drunken stupor. I couldn’t handle the situation and had to call 911 for assistance. I did the wrong thing, then I did the right thing, and I got a hefty fine. My cousin and I are still real close, and he doesn’t blame me for the incident. I do accept the responsibility for the part I played.

So unless you tally the times I’ve gotten caught breaking the law, I’ve been a law abiding citizen.

What It Looks Like To Live In The Interstitial Spaces

  • Posted on: 28 January 2020
  • By: Blueday Jo

(Guest post by Blueday Jo)


(©Joe Mabel [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Here is what might happen to my partner and I on any given day – my partner gets a phone call from a friend who has another friend who works at the salmon farm up the river. A vital piece of machinery has broken down, hundreds of salmon have to be thrown out – they are fresh and perfect but can’t be processed – do we want some?

Do we what? Of course!

Interstitial spaces – the spaces between.

I read this phrase in one of JMG’s essays many years ago. I think it was in response to questions as to how we can possibly live in an ethical and practical manner in the monolithic culture that surrounds us – answer, live in the spaces between, the cracks in the system. This has been my challenge ever since, and continues to challenge me now. There is an infinite variety of ways to go about this project, and it would look different to every person, but here is how it looks for me.

Growing Onions Greens In An Apartment Window

  • Posted on: 15 January 2020
  • By: David Trammel

We here at Green Wizards talk a lot about gardening and learning to grow your own food. Its such a basic skill that no matter what style of Green Wizard your are, you should have a familiarity with it. You may not have a green thumb, but you should at least have a little bit of dirt under your fingernails.

It can be hard though, to experiment with gardening if you are like so many today, a renter. Income inequality, economic disruption, employment insecurity and other factors of the collapse of our society into the Long Descent make owning your own home or owning a home with enough land to garden difficult. Community gardening and share crop farming, gardening on someone else's property, can help you gain access to space to grow but there isn't anything like having a garden you can call your own.

Luckily the Internet and Youtube has a universe of examples of ways to grow food without land. Here is one great, low cost and easy way to do just that.

New Year's Resolutions and a Gift

  • Posted on: 1 January 2020
  • By: David Trammel

Its that time of year again, where we make grand promises to the God of Progress, which we promptly forget come January 2nd. I thought it might be better to start small, with just three habits I'd like to get into doing in 2020. Feel free to post yours too.

1) Take Better Care Of Myself: Whether its eating better, getting occasional exercise, learning to meditate, I want to take better care of myself and my body. You can't do much if you are always running at full throttle, which up until recently I was doing too much of. I'm not going to set any benchmarks, no walk 3 miles a day, eat home cooked meals 3 times a week. Seems to me that when ever I make it a contest, I fail. I'm going to just put "Do Better" on the white board in my kitchen where I'll see it.

2) Talk To Friends and Strangers More: Regrettably, having focused too much on my work life, left me little time for a social life. Not the grand, "Give Concerts in the Park" kind of stuff, but the simple things like having lunch with friends from time to time. I've realized that I have perhaps a half dozen people outside of work that I talk to on a regular basis.

And that means not just friends. I need to make an effort to try new things that involve people. Not just planned things. I need to learn to speak in public better so a visit to the local chapter of the "Toastmasters" seems to be something to look at. And not just planned events. Attending those concerts in the park and actually striking up a conversation with a stranger too.

3) WRITE MORE! Now that's a big one, lol. Time to stop writing down story ideas and outline, instead write stories.

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Along the lines of more writing, Ecosophia and Green Wizard regulars G.Kay Bishop sent me a copy of her submission to the "After Oil" Romance Anthology. It wasn't chosen because it was a bit long, but it is still a good story. You can read it, and discuss it here: "Ruinous Love" Discussion Thread.

Here's wishing everyone a good start to the new decade. May we still be here talking when the next one rolls around.

David

Green Holiday Gifts

  • Posted on: 18 December 2019
  • By: David Trammel

Its that time of year that we all hate, yes "Shoppingmas"! Get thee down to your local temple of spending, or log in online to the holy Ama-kin (one day shipping via angels available!). Really though, its the time of year that we do give gifts to friends and relatives, so let me offer some green alternatives.

Green Books
Top on my list to give are books. If they don't have a copy of Greer's "Green Wizardry", then that's a natural stocking stuffer. If they got that from you last year, then consider our own Teresa Peschel's "Suburban Stockade". Its a great second book on the skills we need to relearn. Other than that, hit the book stores and take a look at their discounted books. I've gotten several garden and herbal books for a deep discount. Don't forget some of your local bookstores too.

Give A Journal
Writing down what is on your mind in a personal journal is something I've recently stated doing. I never did before but I've found that keeping a journal really keeps me focused on the important things. I have one main one which I write in in the evening when I have some personal time, but I also keep a smaller pocket notebook on me during the day to jot things down for adding to my larger journal later. Good for teenagers, though they may roll there eyes at you for it. Don't be surprised if you find them writing in it later.

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