Trees of Power is a must-read for anyone who is tired of hearing about all the problems and is looking for solutions

I first met Akiva almost 15 years ago when he was working for Primitive pursuits in Ithaca, NY. I was curious about what Primitive Pursuits was, so I tagged along one snowy winter day when Akiva took my son and a dozen other children into the snow-covered woods. Although it was cold and wet, Akiva cultivated a sense of wonder and play. There were games they played and then everyone got together to make a fire out of wet wood without matches or a lighter. I was impressed both with his energy, the way he projected  himself and the way he felt at home in the forest.

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Investing in Solar Power vs the Stock Market

So I pulled the plug on solar and the contract has been signed. The numbers for solar are getting even more insane as Keith has found even more available Nyserda grant money. How I love Keith.

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So you can see that I’m getting a $26,891 solar installation for essentially $9,390 out of pocket. This article about how investing in solar compares with investing in the stock market and why I think that solar makes more sense for pretty much everyone.

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Because you can never have too much solar…

NY State is late. In 2017 they came up with a bunch of sweeping legislation which included a changeover on Jan 1, 2019 to switch to a ‘different rate’ for buying and selling electricity. By some divine act of providence, it turns out they are late coming up with that ruling, so there is still some time for me to get grandfathered in under the old system. It turns out that the net metering system on my current system is generating as much as it says it’s generating, but the problem is that I’m using a lot more than what the system is showing me. The problem is that when the power travels through my breaker box and gets used before it hits Nyseg, it never registers as power usage on the current flow clamps on the main lines. It’s not that big of a deal, it just means I’m going to need a lot more solar than I have right now. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I just got 24 panels 8.28kWand a 7kW inverter. I just signed a bid 5 minutes ago for another 9.66kW of panels and a 7.7kW inverter which should more than double my current capacity.


I’m already 20 grand in the hole, what’s another 20 grand right?

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What Not To Do When Planting Out 500 Hybrid Chestnut Trees From Seed

Last year I decided to start a tree farm, although in all honesty I really have no idea what I’m doing. This year I planted 500 Hybrid Chestnut trees from seed and next year I plan on planting 5000 trees. This article is about things I have learned, experiments I have done and all the stuff I learned along the way.

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Here you can see the piles of wood chips along the aisles

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Cut Your Solar Payback Time In Half By Billing Your Tenants For Electricity You Generate For Free

This year I decided to go solar at my house. The projections called for me to get the payback period within 15 years (and only 9 years if I manage to get all the tax rebates which is unlikely). I was not satisfied with a 15 year payback so I started thinking about ways I could cut that down to less than 5 years instead. Seemed to me there are 2 ways to do that :

  1. Use electricity instead of fossil fuels (buy an electric car, install an efficient electric air-air heat pump instead of using propane to heat)
  2. Sell some of the electricity I produce back to my tenants

I decided that the best course of action was to do both. Since I could not afford an electric car with the range I would need I purchased a 12,000 BTU Mitsubishi Air/Air heat exchanger from for $1599 shipped (available here). As a side not you need to get a line set with the heat pump which will add another $99-200 depending on the length. There are much cheaper Chinese units out (like 1/2 the price) there but my hope is that I’ll be able to get parts for it when it breaks and that it will last at least 10 years. I talked to lots of people with Mitsubishi heat pumps and they all love them. One thing that I really hate is this disposable society where people just throw things away rather than trying to fix them. I will do a separate article in the future on installing the heat pump and a review.


A Minisplit heat pump can heat with about 1/3 the amount of electricity as an electric space heater

This article is mainly talking about the process of connecting the breaker boxes for my tenants together and turning them into sub-panels and setting it up so that their electricity usage is automatically tracked and they are billed every month using Eyedro energy monitors.

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Shrub Willow Just Might Save Us, If We Start Planting Now

People are always putting off the idea of fixing climate change with the idea that some genius somewhere is going to invent some sort of Dr. Suess like machine that is going to magically take all of the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses out of the air and make big cubes out of it that we can then bury in the ground somewhere. There are many serious problems with this idea:

  1. We will never be able to develop this technology in time to make any kind of difference with climate change. The ‘final hour’ is upon us right now.
  2. Carbon Dioxide represents a mere 0.0391 percent of the air we normally use. In order to get any real amount of CO2 out of the air, our machine has to sort through an incredible amount of air to get to a relatively small percentage of CO2.
  3. These machines will need to use massive amounts of energy to function. Where is that energy going to come from?

Shrub willows can easily grow about 8′ a year

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Glutton for Punishment: Frost Seeding 650 lbs of Clover and Planting 466 Chestnut Trees by Hand

The last month has been taken up by me trying to accomplish the impossible. I’ve been preparing 42 acres of steep hillside that I ravaged with a bulldozer to become a productive chestnut & hazelnut orchard. The first step to doing this is to seed the disturbed soil. My original idea was to have a neighboring farmer come in with a large tractor and a discer and seeder to seed it with medium red clover. As spring progressed and my land got more and wetter, I realized there was no way that was going to happen, any heavy equipment was going to get hopelessly stuck in the clay mud. I still have 6-8 culverts I need to put in, and without them, most of my property is impassible by anything other than an electric bike (and marginally at that).


Having a Sur-Ron electric dirtbike makes it a lot easier to get around my hill

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The Madness That Is … Not Going Solar

I’ve been procrastinating about going solar for a long time, probably too long. I’ve been waiting for panels to get as cheap as possible while the incentives are the best they can be. With Trump’s tariffs on solar panels I didn’t think that now would be a good time to go solar, but once I ran the numbers I found out I was wrong. Today I signed my soul away to Renovous so I could go solar.


So here’s a bad image showing you how awesome my solar installation will hopefully be. Essentially I’m getting a $24,811 installation for $8,956 out of pocket. That includes 8.28Kw of solar panels and a 7Kw inverter. To give you a comparison my wife has an off-grid system with a whopping 1.5Kw of panels and she is into it for almost $10,000 and it was installed for free by a close friend of hers. Of that $10,000 about $3000 is batteries and she is already on her third set (spoiler alert, get Trojans, everything else sucks ass).

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Putting the ‘Tiny’ into ‘Tiny Chestnut Paradise’

My son and I have been working for about 1 day every week for the last 6 months on building one of the coolest tiny houses I’ve seen yet. The construction is not yet complete, but I thought I would give you a preview of how far we’ve gotten done in such a small amount of time. Typically we work only 4-5 hours so we’ve gotten to the level of completion in the video with only 300 man-hours of work (~125 each + 50 hours for the work party).

The first work party where a few of my close friends showed up to help put up the walls and the roof

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It Begins

It all began with 7 days straight of driving a bulldozer 7-8 hours a day.


The D5 dozer from Carson Rental in Ithaca was very affordable at only $2000 for a week (included delivery & damage waiver)

Cleaning off the frozen clay took me 14 hours with a pressure washer. I don’t advise doing projects like this in the winter unless you’re a masochist.


I was able to dig 14 ponds and swale out 30 acres in one week

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