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Letters To The Editor

December 6th, 2010

Dear Editor,

Just a couple of comments—first, regarding off-the-grid machines. A really efficient and cheap washing machine is a (new, of course) toilet plunger and a 5-gallon bucket. It takes a little elbow grease but plunging dirty clothes in a bucket of water with a little laundry soap is a great way to get them clean. I often use this when my husband has a particularly dirty pair of work clothes that I don’t want to put in my washing machine. Just make sure to mark your washing machine plunger so it doesn’t get used for the “other” plunger task!!

And, regarding your comments to Annoyed—you are completely correct about the government interpretation of food and our interpretation of food. More than 30 years ago, my parents had a small grocery store in a rural community. They sold onion sets and seed potatoes. These were shipped in burlap bags and were put out for display on the floor. The customer would use a scoop to fill a paper bag with the amount they wanted which was then weighed at the counter. Imagine how shocked my parents were when the county health inspector fined them for having “food” on the floor!! No amount of pleading or frustrated explanation was able to deter the inspector from issuing the fine. “Food is food and rules are rules” was his comment.


Dear Kris,

I like your plunger idea! The next time my husband comes in with a greasy, dirty pair of jeans from working on the tractor, I’m going to use the bucket! (Like you, I hate to put them in my washer!)

And your story about your parents’ run-in with a health inspector only reinforces my conviction that, as the Roman philosopher Cicero said: “A bureaucrat is the most despicable of men, though he is needed as vultures are needed, but one hardly admires vultures whom bureaucrats so strangely resemble. I have yet to meet a bureaucrat who was not petty, dull, almost witless, crafty or stupid, an oppressor or a thief, a holder of little authority in which he delights, as a boy delights in possessing a vicious dog. Who can trust such creatures?”

‘Nuff said…

The Editor

Dear Editor,

A recent edition of Off the Grid News featured a well-done article on home heating alternatives. When building a new residence, some thirty years ago, my wife and I opted for a set of simple energy-efficiency standards, including three basic principles.

As new construction, in upstate New York, we oriented the building so that 55% of the total glass in the building faced solar south which takes advantage of low angle of winter sunlight. Summer sunlight which comes from the sun higher in the sky is prevented from adding to building heat by shading the windows. Trees which lose their leaves are an ideal shade mechanism.

Occupants of any structure are equally comfortable at a given temperature regardless of whether the heating plant is operating or not. Personal comfort is a function of temperature rather than whether the heating plant is running or not. The heating plant is not in place to provide warmth, but to replace the heat lost by the building; therefore, retarding the operation of the heating plant is to be encouraged through the use of insulation and other means to minimize loss of heat by the building.

In northern climates, such as upstate New York, double glazed windows allow a cold film of air inside the building to fall to the floor and shatter like glass. This produces the effect of a draft and the normal reaction is to turn up the heat. Adding a third layer of glazing, either new windows or an accessory interior or exterior glazing raises the temperature of the air film next to the window to a temperature where it no longer falls, shatters and creates the impression of a cold draft. As the impression of a draft no longer exists, there is no longer the need to turn up the heat to compensate, saving energy use.


Dear Steve,

Thank you for sharing your experience with us! You have some good suggestions for further insulating a home against the weather. You’re also an encouragement to those who may be contemplating building their home from scratch to incorporate energy savings from the start so that they are a little more independent of the grid. Common sense strategies (such as orientation of the building) are things folks can do that will add little or no cost to the finished construction, but will save them immeasurably over the years as electrical or fuel costs rise.

The Editor

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