EDEN Features & Tech

All American Sun Oven June 2020

All American Sun Oven

Testing of our new All American Sun Oven has been underway for the last few weeks. So far, we’ve cooked banana bread, cornbread, and baked potatoes. We’ve also used the drying racks to dry leaves and Bitter Melon slices. Temperatures of 300 degrees in full sun are easy to attain. The cooking chamber is spacious and all pots, racks, and accessories are included. It’s easy to use and more effective than we expected. It even browned the cornbread! Since we spend several hours in the garden every day, we can easily cook while we do our work. Best of all, no electricity (or cleanup) is required. This unit will pay for itself in a single season!

Rocket Stoves are fast, hot, and easy to use.

Super-Sized Rocket Stove May 2020

After testing the performance of our first version of the rocket stove, we decided to build a super-sized version. Using an extra block to raise the unit higher off the ground, we also added buttress blocks around the outside to provide a ledge for pots and pans. Then we bought a wonder pot (aka Omnia Stove Top Oven) that lets us bake bread! Rocket stoves burn hot with no smoke and they’re perfect for frying and boiling water.

Emergency Water Filtration 2020

The water quality in our area is great. We don’t need a filter for our day-to-day needs. But what would we use if we lose our city water source? To answer this question, we looked at a variety of portable options. After weeks of research, it looked as though the Big Berkey would be the best solution. From our perspective, it had a couple of problems.

First, it’s too tall to fit under the upper kitchen cabinets if we place it on the countertop in the kitchen, and that’s without the stand that’s needed to get it high enough to fit a glass under it.

Second, it’s expensive! Too expensive to store away for an emergency. Third, once filled with water, you can’t let it sit, or algae will build up on the filters and sour the water. Fourth, you can’t really clean the filters; they have to be replaced on a yearly basis (expensive!).

Sawyer SP181 All-in-One Water Filter Kit

Thankfully, a good friend (MH) directed us to the Sawyer SP181 All-in-One Water Filter Kit (about $65). It comes with a bucket kit that easily converts a 5-gallon bucket into a water source. Best of all, the PointONE filter removes 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli; and it removes 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium.

Click the button to learn more (and view a movie on how to install the bucket kit):

EcoFlow Portable Solar Generator / Charging Station 2019

EcoFlow Delta 1300

In an emergency, one of these units will run a full-size refrigerator for 24-hours. Unfortunately, it’s only good for about 300 cycles (one year of daily use) and it costs $1400. Fine for emergencies, but woefully inadequate for regular use.

The good news is that Inergy is planning a groundbreaking new product before this summer.

Click the button to learn more:

Storm Shelter 2018

This section copied from the 2018 Chronicles page.

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Shown empty (above), the storm shelter awaits an interior. The U-shaped attachment points welded to the roof will bear the weight of the interior cabinetry.

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To our knowledge, this is the only storm shelter with a cat entry (shown above). The cat entry has a sliding steel door and a staircase that connects the shelter to the house.

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Shown here after completion, the upper cabinet doubles as a cat cage. The doors of the cabinet are vented open in this image (above). Note how the cabinets are anchored to the U-shaped attachment points welded to the roof of the shelter.

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During testing, the camera in the upper cabinet/cage captured this image of Fluffy, who successfully negotiated the tunnel from the house, and the cat ladder to the upper cage. Unfortunately, the cats don’t really like the storm shelter and we haven’t been able to come up with a successful method for herding them inside in the event of a storm. Stay tuned!

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This image (above) shows Sheba climbing the cat ladder to reach the upper cage.

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Storm shelters are never large enough to hold all the stuff that you’d like to store inside the unit. The pantry (above) was installed behind the door.

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Fore more information on our storm shelter (and a movie on how it was installed), please see A Special Shelter 101617 on the 2017 Chronicles page.

OTA Antenna 2018

To investigate our entertainment options, we installed an over-the-air antenna (about $350) to pull in eight broadcast stations within an 80-mile range. Reasonably inexpensive, this solution works great when all else fails. We also continued our development of a Plex Media server (see Plex Media Server 2015 below).

Greenhouse 2017

A greenhouse saves about 90-days (per year) by keeping your garden alive through the winter months. Shown here, our 20′ greenhouse arrives in the nick of time.

A greenhouse greatly accelerates the Spring startup cycle, and it protects you from losing your most valuable plants. We use the greenhouse to ensure a constant supply of Moringa Oliefera, and to propagate stocks for early planting.

To learn more about our experience with the greenhouse (and a movie of it’s arrival in the nick of time), see Greenhouse Arrival 121017 on the 2017 Chronicles page.

Plex Media Server 2015

The OTA antenna (discussed in OTA Antenna 2018 above) is better than nothing, but it’s limited to local stations and it’s often affected by bad weather. After lots of research, we concluded that a personal media server is an optimum solution. Although it takes work and some basic technical skills, the cost is reasonably inexpensive and the results are well worth the effort. Except for this article, this subject is not discussed on this website.

Passive Infrared Radar 2015

PIR is one of the many security systems that we test.

Tier-2 Solar PV / Hot Water 2015

(1) Solar hot water systems are the best-kept secret in the solar realm, especially in sunny states like Florida. The net cost of a solar hot water system is about $3500. It provides 80-gallons of hot water (up to 150-degrees) nearly year-round (greatly reducing your overall electricity needs).

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(2) Our Tier-2 PV (solar electric) system earns 1 carbon credit per day. Currently, residential carbon credits are not very valuable (ranging from $5-13), but that’s expected to change quickly with the advancing green agenda. At some point, we expect to be able to trade our accumulating carbon credits in an open trading market. (3) Solar panels are warranted for 25 years, but they’re actual lifespan is almost indefinite. (4) Federal tax credits are going away (dropping to 26% in 2020). Get ’em while you can! (5) Dependable electrical service is not guaranteed (look at California). (6) Residential properties with solar sell faster than comparable properties without solar. (7) When leveraged with the other 3S (semi-self-sufficient) features of EBG, solar hot water and solar power work synergistically to enhance the overall value (from a sustainability perspective) of the project.

To learn more, see the Compass Solar Installation 111615 and Compass Solar Hot Water Installation 111615 sections of the 2015 Chronicles page.

Whole House Generac 2015

We’ve had our Generac for four years now. According to Murphys’ law; if you don‘t have a generator, you’ll surely need one; if you do have a generator, you’ll never need one. Before we installed the Generac, we experienced brownouts on a weekly basis. After we installed the Generac, we rarely experience a brownout. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. So, we installed a storm shelter. If you have a storm shelter, you’ll never get hit by a hurricane. Sounds silly, but this logic seems to work.

What’s the value of electricity when the power grid fails? A Generac is expensive and requires yearly maintenance. You can do the maintenance yourself (easy and cheap) or you can pay someone else to do it for you (expensive but convenient). A Generac is a well-built piece of hardware. Robust and dependable, a Generac will last a lifetime if properly maintained. And, our Generac installer has proved to be very dependable and easy to reach if you have questions or need help. Take it from us. The answer to the initial question is simple: the value of a Generac when the power goes out is incalculable.   

Raised Bed Garden 2014

18″ Raised Beds on West Boundary

In our experience, the best raised beds are constructed of 8x8x16″ hollow concrete block (each block is packed with sand); these beds are 18″ deep (including 2″ top cap) and have no bottom lining. We’ve had no trouble with moles in these beds. Concrete blocks never rot and can be re-positioned as needed to change the size of the bed (and they can be removed if you get tired of gardening). After building lots of raised beds with hollow blocks, we’ve learned a few tricks. The sandy soil in our area causes the blocks to move around (over time) just enough to throw them out of alignment.

As you’ll see on the 2016 Chronicles page, we’ve had to re-construct most of the tall (18″) beds, this time with the first course of blocks bedded in a light layer of dry concrete mix. But wait, there’s more! The best way to level a row of concrete blocks is to lay the first course atop a 2×10″ pressure-treated board (leveled at grade). This trick reduces a 6-hour job to about 2 hours.

For more information, see Raised Bed Wall Correction 120616 on the 2016 Chronicles page. There are several more articles on the 2015 Chronicles and 2017 Chronicles pages.

Rapid-Adapting Cover Frames

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Adaptable for sunshields, trellis supports, and miniature greenhouses, the steel cover frame of each bed is tilted off and the trellises (and bed) are cleaned. The compost is replenished, the frame is tilted back into place, and the bed is replanted.

Learn more in the Cycling Raised Beds #5 and #6 101017 section of the 2017 Chronicles page.

Misc. Interior Improvements 2014

1. Overhead lights to second and third closets; new shower walls, pan, counter top, fixtures and paint in the main bathroom ($7K)

2. Tile in bedrooms and bathrooms ($15K), and Florida room ($5K)

3. New 3-ton American Standard air-conditioning unit ($8K)

4. Vinyl windows in Florida room ($4.5K)

Security / Smarthouse 2014

Preliminary plan: ADT monitored security and smarthouse system

Although we never share the results (for obvious reasons), we deploy and test multiple overlapping security systems.

Rainwater Collection / Distribution 2014

Rainwater systems for gardens are relatively easy to design and construct, especially if you can do the work yourself. The design shown here uses a combination of above-ground and underground piping and is constructed from off-the-shelf parts. Use a strainer filter to keep leaves and debris from clogging up the system and damaging the pump. The hard part was tunneling under the carport to install the 4″ collection pipes. Total cost for a 5000 gallon system is comparable to that of installing a well, so consider your options carefully. Distribution of the collected water can be pressurized or gravity fed. Gravity systems are ideal for small gardens but will prove inadequate for anything larger. Starting at about $300, pressurized systems require a pump, a pressure switch, a pressure tank, and other components. Note the 1″ PVC pressure line running along the fence line in the photo below.

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Square-D Switch
Pressure Tank
Water Pump

For more information on the rainwater collection and distribution system, please see the design, construction, and testing progression on the 2014 Chronicles page. Additional articles can be found on the 2015 Chronicles page.

Concrete 2014 (Breaking Ground movie)

116 yards of concrete were added to provide a circular driveway and easy access to all areas of the property. “Dobie” (the robot) can use this surface to deliver cart-mounted battery packs to different locations, and eventually be capable of replacing discharged packs in Tiny Town, an off-grid community we’ve been planning for years.

For more information on the concrete pours (and the movie Breaking Ground), please see East Driveway Pour (First Pour) 102414 on the 2014 Chronicles page.

“Dobie” the Double Robot Guide / Battery Swapper 2014

Originally purchased and modified to lead tours at EBG, it was our hope that Dobie the robot could eventually be used to deliver hot-swappable battery packs to the off-grid micro-sized housing units of Tiny Town.

Modifications include the following:

  • The first mod was adding attachment points to “his” center post. The top point holds a battery pack for the sonar sensors of Dobie’s security system. The middle point is a clamp for attaching a tethering laptop or hotspot. The rear point acts as a counter-balance and lockable “wallet” for shopping.
  • The second mod was a hacked game controller for driving Dobie.
  • The third mod was the addition of a voice interface (via Macro Scheduler). Unfortunately, Dobie responded poorly to voice commands in English (due to soft consonants) and we had to resort to giving commands in Spanish (hard consonants are easier to understand).

The top attachment point is sufficient for holding recording equipment.

The middle attachments hold a tethered laptop that allows Dobie to roam. The rear attachment is used as a locking “wallet”.

Limitations include the following:

  • Overheating: Dobie easily overheats when operated outside.
  • Poor autonomy: Although autonomous operation is possible, it is highly impractical.
  • Inconsistent: Smooth tires do not produce accurate turning angles. Thus it is difficult to program his movements with any level of accuracy.
  • Obsolescence risk: Dobie is already obsolete. Intelligent models are expensive and not-yet fully capable of the functionality that is needed to fulfill our goals for EBG.

Unfortunately, Dobie “passed away” in 2016. Please see Tech Update: “Dobie” (the Robot) Passes Away 120716 on the 2016 Chronicles page.

Hydroponics 2014

Gen-2 Hydroponics Tanks

Our experience with hydroponics begins in 2015. Please see the articles on the 2015 Chronicles page. There are many other articles on the Chronicles pages.

20 Facts About Hydroponics—from the Coast Hydroponics Blog

We all know that gardening is one of the best ways to rid ourselves of stress. And it keeps us away from the couch, the TV and phone, and all those techno-gadgets. There’s nothing better than watching your first flower bloom, or smelling freshly cut herbs— and knowing you did it yourself. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than tilling the soil and planting your seeds, only to have your foliage and fruit eaten by bugs, killed by disease, or overrun by weeds. Frustration has brought many hopeful gardens to an early ending. Areas with poor soil are worse, as nothing you do seems to succeed for more than a short season and a small harvest. Raised beds are the next step up, especially if you have a good design and plenty of high-quality compost. You can literally grow anything in a raised bed, and you can do it inexpensively. The next step up from raised beds is a simple outdoor Kratky (hydroponic) system. From there, the sky’s the limit. Although not cheap, indoor systems offer the ultimate in environmental control and can produce year-round crops. Aside from cost, the main difference in these gardening methods is environmental control. Outdoor soilbased gardens offer little control over the weather, insects, disease, and other factors. Hydroponic systems give you control over nutrients, pH balance, oxygenation, and water temperature, while greatly reducing insect pressure. Indoor systems offer complete control over the growing environment, with the possibility of automation. Here are 20 things you may not know about hydroponics:

  • Hydroponics is old school newly modified. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were possibly hydroponic.
  • The Egyptian Pharaohs made sure that the fruits and veggies they relished were sourced from a hydroponic system.
  • Farmers claim that hydroponically grown crops use 90% less water than traditional farming methods.
  • You can plant almost 4 times the crops in the same space as traditional farming.
  • You can grow just about anything using a sterile grow media, balanced pH, nutrient solution, and oxygenated water.
  • Hydroponic plants grow 2 times faster than soil gardening as they are fed with the correct nutrients, water, and oxygen. Before 1936, hydroponics was restricted to labs and was only used to research plant growth and root development. During World War II, hydroponics using gravel was used as shipping vegetables and fruits to overseas outposts was impractical.
  • Hydroponic systems use less chemicals as there are fewer soil-based issues such as pests and soil-borne diseases to deal with.
  • Hydroponic systems are not limited to indoors but can be installed outdoors as well.
  • You can grow plants in a hydroponic system using either natural sunlight or artificial grow lights (in place of the sun).
  • Hydroponics is very popular in many US states, and has currently spread through half of the world.
  • A recent survey shows there are more than 1,000,000 soilless culture units in US households alone.
  • Hydroponic cabinets such as the “supercloset” can help you to start growing almost immediately after installing the unit.
  • You can grow in both alkaline and acidic solutions using pH tester kits that are readily available.
  • Hydroponic systems rely on responsible growers that monitor the inside climate and equipment. Basically, it’s an everyday job.
  • Brownouts require prompt action to ensure the system is working properly to prevent the loss of plants.
  • The preferred DIY setup is a wick system since it is the cheapest and easiest to design and install. It has no moving parts.
  • You can combine hydroponics with aquaponics to derive double the benefits.
  • Hydroponic systems can be as simple as using Mason jars, or you can design and build a complex automated system.

For Growing Kits and all your hydroponic needs, go to http://coast-hydro.com/ or visit the store in Pensacola: 850-912-8796

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Kitty City 2014

Lumpy and Tiny Tim

A favorite task is the challenge of designing equipment and solutions for the many secret sanctuaries of our area. For more information (and lots of cute kitty photos), please see the Kitty City page.

Organic Heat Shields 2014

Socket mounted, easily replaceable, and triple planted with Upo squash, Confederate Jasmine and Patola (louffa gourd), these PVC trellis frames were installed on the West side of the house to act as a heat shield.

These fast growing plants quickly covered the trellis and blocked out the summer sun on the West wall of the house (shown below).

In a few months, the West trellis filled out nicely (above). Unfortunately, high winds knocked it down in the Fall of 2016 and it had to be replaced with a shorter (6 foot) version (below).

2016_1016 Hurricane Gordon Trellis Damage

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