halifaxearthtech: workmen stand outside Alexander MacKay school in 1918 (fair shares)


Those who follow my blog will have noticed I try to offer productive solutions to the environmental problems we face, no matter how small, personal or trivial they might seem at first. This is not because I disagree with pressuring our elected officials to take stronger actions and leadership toward leading more local, communal and accountable lives, and it is to do so in fact that I write today.

Our houses are designed with several serious flaws, one of which is that without constant supplies of fuel oil and tar paper shingles our houses become moldy death-traps. Gypsum wall board is a most unwise material with which to build our houses; when it gets wet through leaks or condensation they easily breed toxic mold which can be deadly. Gypsum is also a non-renewable resource with a racist name that is often mined from what would otherwise be productive local farmland.

I think we can see bold new feed-in options for home owner beyond solar hot water that would pave the way for strong legislation for new as well as existing buildings. I am in the fortunate position that I will likely be able to build my own house in the next decade: one of a reasonable size which is oriented correctly toward the south for maximum passive solar heating and passive ventilation and made out of breathable materials and non-toxic earth plasters. My house would take care of sewage and gray water on site and produce more energy (and food) than it consumes. We already have the technology.

These thoughts comfort me as I camp out in my in-laws' spare room with a very preventable lung infection. However this will not help the hundreds of thousands of renters in our city, many with uninsulated homes who will still face a plague of unprecedented proportions as soon as the dirty road of heating oil and tar paper shingles sputters out. Will we see leadership in providing housing that works beyond CEDIFs and solutions for well-to-do homeowners, or will we take the ultimately more expensive option of toxic housing?
halifaxearthtech: photo by Lykaestria from Wikimedia Commons (Energy)
It finally looks winterish in Nova Scotia. In spite of a few very late very warm days into the double digits, we did have a white Christmas, and now the lakes are thickening up and it looks like we might even be able to skate on them this year.

On my locavore diet I find I need to supplement my vitamin c with some orange juice a couple times a week. Greens are scarce, I failed to harvest dandelion roots before the ground froze to force grow in the dark in my basement. I am making do on cabbage, sprouts, kale chips and some pricy greenhouse greens and some imported things, as well as some peppers I froze earlier on. The frozen berries are long gone and I am into the jams and syrups. I am planning some cold frames to start spinach as early as possible in late February, after the day length is greater than 10 hours according to Niki Jabbour. My husband and I went away for the holiday to spend time with family. We both felt much healthier after returning to our diet of root-cellar local, seasonal and organic vegetables and dry goods: flour, rice and beans. Ah well, Christmas is also a time for excess!

We are also thinking of ways to bolster the growing and house-heating power of our south-facing porch. It already heats the house a bit especially on sunny days but desperately needs to be insulated and have proper windows installed. These days I am building a rack which will hold bottles filled with water and painted black: thermal mass to capture solar heat and distribute it slowly throughout the night. The ultimate goal would be to have that room not freeze at night so we can grow plants in there year-round.

Winter is a time for planning, reading, administering and building. Winter is also a time to build soil. The city is always fileld with the raw ingredients of compost: horse manure from the Bengal Lancers on Bell road, grinds chaff and burlap from cafes and coffee roasters, and right now, christmas trees. This is a pile of chopped up christmas tree in my backyard that I am hoping can eventually become mulch for the native garden beds I am planning for my front yard.

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