Category Archives: Environment

hobbit home update

A while back I shared a few hobbit-style homes people had built, but my favorite so far has to be the Low-Impact Woodland Home that Simon Dale and his family built in Wales:

Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry.

Main tools used: chainsaw, hammer and 1 inch chisel, little else really. Oh and by the way I am not a builder or carpenter, my experience is only having a go at one similar house 2yrs before and a bit of mucking around inbetween. This kind of building is accessible to anyone. My main relevant skills were being able bodied, having self belief and perseverence and a mate or two to give a lift now and again.

Whether you agree with his motives and philosophy or not, it’s a fascinating story. The beautiful photos are  worth a look for their own sake, and there’s even a gallery of similar homes. New Hobbiton, anyone?

Electric Buzz

Debby on Alice -- Barefoot\'s proof of concept electric ATV

Yep, that’s me looking all farmer-like last winter sitting on Barefoot’s electric ATV prototype named “Alice.” My crew and I have had the luck of being able to test this Barefoot Motors prototype; which basically means driving it all over our vineyards and trying to break it. And we did — except all it needed was a quick cable reconnect and a replacement 12V battery and we were up and zipping around again.

You can see Alice in action on this Mythbusters clip: Barefoot ATV on Mythbusters!

I don’t know if you’re familiar with regular gas ATVs, but if you’ve spent anytime in that saddle, then you know how loud and stinky they are. Oh yeah, still fun, but loud and stinky — and HOT. Hot right where your legs are supposed to go since you are basically sitting on a combustion engine and gas tank with four wheels. Not something that is enjoyable to ride for the hours we put in on them while working on the farm vineyard. Plus all that exhaust and noise are not so good for the environment. So, when I first heard about what Barefoot Motors was trying to do, I was pretty excited.

Recently, Barefoot had a release party at our winery (read more here: Electric ATV Easy on Environment and Budget) — and I got to test drive their new prototype named “Betty.” Where Alice was a gutted and retro-fitted Polaris, Betty is a complete redesign from the ground up (by the well known electric vehicle designer Ely Schless, no less!) — the only thing she had in common with Alice was a Polaris skin. I took her for a spin (sorry no pictures, but I can show you the bugs that got caught in my teeth) around our ranch and, like the Bionic Woman, she is better, faster, stronger. And so quiet the rabbits didn’t even know I was coming.

Barefoot is still working on options such as cruise control as well as better torque control, but we’ve got our deposit down and are looking forward to getting our hands on our own vehicle once they build it for us. In the meantime, we are very happy beta-testers.

Colliding Over The Hadron Decision

Hmmm, let’s see, some dudes in Hawaii are apparently VERY pessimistic. I mean really, just one little poofy black hole. What’s the worst that could happen? (But they are strangely optimistic when it comes to the justice system; I mean, really, Hawaii has international super powers?)

But, I on the other hand, tend to take a brighter view of the world. Apparently, I am not alone: When charged particles of more than 5 TeV pass through a bubble chamber, they leave a trail of candy.

Oh, XKCD, what would we do without you to put the world of science in perspective?

Green Roofs: An Introduction with Pretty Pictures

green roofMake that drool-inducing gorgeous photos of places I’d love to see in person. EcoGeek (now added to my regular feeds) has a fun piece on green roofs. Not just solar tiles or recycled materials, though; these roofs are actually green, with grass and other plants.

It’s not just for hobbits anymore. The logic of green roofs is becoming more apparent. We can minimize our bills while maximizing the beauty of the urban landscape. And every day it’s becoming a little easier to live in a house that just happens to have plants growing on it.

Maybe for you, my friend. Maybe for you. The rest of us will just watch and dream.