Still Truckin’

What to say after such a long time since our last post!  Well, to begin we’re still here and we’re still working.  Big projects, little projects, and unexpected projects!

Our biggest unexpected project was a gas leak we had in the basement over this past winter.  And by a gas leak I mean 3 gas leaks.  (Most of the gas lines haven’t been touched since the house was built in 1903!)  So, Tabor and I got to working on it.  It was an easy fix – or so we thought…Long story short and three trips to the hardware store later we ended up hooking our furnace back up to the line since it was going to be down to 14 F that night.  We left the gas water heater and stove disconnected that evening.  “Well, this off-grid’ing project really accelerated itself,” Tabor said between swigs of a well-earned beer.

The next morning I said, “Dammit Tabor!  You’re a genius,”  Which I say every morning but it was extra special that particular day.  I mean, why hook these appliances back up when we’ll be disconnecting them eventually?  It was over winter break so I didn’t have any classes – what a great opportunity to have the time to get this done.

I called up my dad who is a retired electrician and he came over and we figured out what kind of electric hot water heater I’d be able to operate once I switch over to my own electrical production.  W purchased and installed a small 20-gallon hot water heater.  Everyone always asks me if we run out of water but I’ve tried to run out of water in the shower and can’t.   Since we installed low-flow shower heads, it takes over 20 minutes to run out of hot water.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Our gas oven range was the next appliance which needed replacing.  We swapped it with a toaster oven and hot plates we had laying around.  Both run on electricity.  Too easy!  I want to expand on this but I really don’t know what else to say..  The toaster oven is silver-y in color.

“But Rob,” you say, “You’re still getting your electricity from Duke Energy which uses coal to fuel their power plants.  And that coal comes from the Appalachian Mountains where over 400 mountains are slated to be leveled to get at all that yummy coal.  What good is it switching from gas to coal?”

Well, we thought of that and switched over to an electrical provider called Ethical Electric which sources all 100% of their electricity from renewable resources.  (Hit me up if you switch too and we can both get some mullah off of our bill.)  So, all of our electrical power is provided by either wind or solar!  It is about .03 cents per kWh more expensive than using coal which, if my calculations are correct, means that for every 100 kWh I use I spend $3 more dollars than I would have.  Bad.  Ass.

I originally thought gas was going to be the most difficult utility to disconnect from since there are three separate appliances: stove, water heater, and furnace.  But, in less than a week we disconnected from two of them!  You know what they say: Necessity’s mom makes inventions.

The Chickens Today


Busy busy the morning of 7/29/15

We at the Earnshaw Ecohouse value biodiversity (as any good ecosystem does). This summer has seen a massive increase in the variation of both flora and fauna, but it all began on May 10th, right when the weather started to rapidly warm. On the way home from a house camping trip in Indiana, we stopped in Mt. Healthy to celebrate Mothers Day by adopting nine tiny hatchlings. They spent a few weeks in a little plastic tub being coveted by Amelia’s hungry gaze before they were migrated to their cozy coop on the west side of the house. It’s been amazing to watch them grow in this short time! It’ll still be a couple months before they start laying eggs (or before we know how many of them are hens, for that matter), but in the meantime it’s been a blast getting to know ’em! By far the cutest thing about them is the fact that they tuck themselves in at night. In fact, the sun’s going down so I better go downstairs and shut the door to the coop!


Hey I’m walkin’ here!

Mindfulness by the Bucket

We’ve disconnected our kitchen sink from the sewer system. It didn’t take much – just a matter of unscrewing a couple of PVC fittings. Now, instead of being but a drop in the eighty million gallon bucket that is the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, our dish-washing water slowly fills up a five gallon bucket. When it’s full, we find other ways to use that water.

This practice has reduced the house’s water consumption by about thirty gallons per week. But it’s a little more difficult to put a number to how much it has benefited me in other ways. Doing dishes had always been a mindless task. I would even look forward to it as such. There’s nothing quite like repetitively washing junk off stuff to quickly transport oneself to a state of relaxation and disengagement. But now, the trickling of water into the bucket serves as a constant reminder that what I’m doing is work, the resource I’m using is a gift, and this kitchen isn’t what it was built a hundred years ago to be, but rather what we decide it is today.

I moved into this house for a lot of reasons, but as the months go by I’m realizing that what I value most is the opportunity to practice being present – to do whatever it is I’m doing with all my might. And while part of me may miss those mini holidays at the kitchen sink, a bigger part of me delights in having found a few more minutes in my day to spend in the now.


Cincinnati, underfoot

By and large, we’ve grown accustomed to only seeing and interacting with the top layer of Cincinnati. I seldom appreciate that beneath the level and impervious pavement of Highland Ave, besides the municipal infrastructure, there is soil, a biological history of erosion and ecological succession.

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In purpose, the urban, as a dense and hardy human habitat, is no less natural than an ant hill. In function, on the other hand, the urban is increasingly discordant with the more-than-human ecosystem.

The taproot of ecological consciousness is likely the appreciation that all human endeavor is contained by but also comprises nature. Ecohouse practices like water catchment, composting and gardening begin to harmonize our urban experience with the functions and cycles of the local ecosystem and accumulate, in mind and matter, to produce an ecohouse culture. These simple practices reveal that culture is, to some degree, a choice we make daily. The ecohouse is simply a context that empowers a few Cincinnatians to cultivate values and practices of a deep(er) ecology.

Paraphrasing the resident ecohouse oboist: intentional community is mindful daily routine. If, through more mindful daily routine, a single household can incubate a hyperlocal culture that appreciates the city as a single layer enmeshed in a broader ecology, then why shouldn’t we expect — and demand — the same from the city?

Suggested reading: The Work of Local Culture by Wendell Berry