When you boil it down, freedom simply means the ability to utilize for the benefit of yourself and your family the fuel you have collected and the food you have gathered, without masters and overlords commandeering their unearned share. This photo seems to encapsulate the idea in a very simple and direct way. I don’t know who took the photo. If I did, I’d gladly give credit.
Cook fried eggs using a Weber charcoal chimney and firewood sized for the Sputnik Wood Cook Stove. Compare the cost, utility, and fuel consumption of the Weber chimney to the Sputnik.
I started out with three sets of fuel (see below): a handful of dry twigs (center pile), a handful of seasoned, finely-split (1″ max. diam.) poplar sticks (right pile), and a couple of handfuls of larger-split sticks of seasoned beech (left pile). The fire was started with a hexamine fire starter cube (white cube in center of photo):
Place the twigs in the bottom of the chimney:
Add the split sticks to the chimney, making sure to intersperse the poplar with the beech (the small fraction of poplar sticks were to insure rapid ignition, and the beech sticks provided the long-term fuel for the fire). The chimney is tightly packed with wood pieces:
To insure a level cooking surface, make sure no sticks extend significantly above the top of the chimney:
Light the fire starter cube on a non-combustible surface:
Place the chimney directly over the fire starter:
Once the fire is mature, place two split sticks horizontally across the top of the chimney:
Place the frying pan over the chimney:
Cook some eggs:
The fire ignited very well with no hesitation. However, there were several issues worth pointing out. First, and until the fire is mature, the chimney generates a significant amount of smoke – even more than an open campfire:
The volume of smoke was sufficient to “flag” the camp area for a considerable distance, indicating pretty clearly to would-be SHTF bad guys where they might steal food and fuel. From a safety standpoint, this was not ideal:
Get out of there, Maggie! That’s too much smoke!(cough, cough…)
Smoke is visible over a wide area around my camp site.
The chimney lives up to its name. During the pyrolysis stage – where the wood was generating large quantities of wood gas – the flames were nearly 4 feet high. I had to release the tarp and pull it aside to keep it from being destroyed.
Four foot “jet” of combusting wood gas.
I was not thrilled about having to take down my tarp.
At least it was not raining…
I had to wait about 25 minutes for the wood gas to cook off and for the fire to reach a useful, mature stage:
One load of fuel gave me about 20 minutes of cook time. This was sufficient to cook the eggs and heat about a pint of dish-washing water to boiling. The two horizontal sticks that I used for pot support held up OK:
Strictly from the standpoint of generating heat to cook food, the charcoal chimney is perfect! It is economical, lightweight, durable, and readily available at big box stores or online. The chimney easily beats an open campfire for fuel efficiency and cooking convenience. The handle on the side of the chimney is very useful and makes it possible to relocate the fire or discard it if it should become necessary.
However, there are some significant drawbacks to using a charcoal chimney for wood-fueled cooking.
Smoky! During the initial combustion stage, smoke rolls out of the charcoal chimney. The charcoal chimney definitely fails to stack up well against the Sputnik stove in this respect. The Sputnik is effectively smokeless at all stages of fire maturity. At the mature combustion stage, the smoke generation from the charcoal chimney is less than an open fire, but it cannot be described as “smokeless”.
It was frustrating that I could not position the charcoal chimney beneath the tarp canopy. Had the weather been bad, this would have been a serious issue. The Sputnik is superior since it has a stove pipe for exhausting the combustion gases. By adding an inexpensive 3″ adjustable elbow to the stove pipe like the one shown below ($4 at most home stores) , you can redirect the Sputnik’s exhaust gases past the edge of your tarp while the stove remains under the tarp.
Fuel efficiency for the charcoal chimney was definitely less than for the Sputnik. The fire burned for about 25 minutes before it reached a usable state. The flames were 4 feet high during the initial stage of combustion, making cooking dangerous at worst and very inconvenient at best. During this time, the fire generated a significant amount of heat, but this heat was not useful for cooking. It was simply wasted.
The two horizontal sticks used for pot support eventually burned through and failed. It would be better to use a pair of 8-inch-long 1/2″ threaded rods, etc.
Even at the mature combustion stage, the temperature above the charcoal chimney was actually too hot for typical cooking, and there was no way to control the combustion rate. With the Sputnik, the air flow can be adjusted by changing the position of the fire box door. Further, with the Sputnik, one can reposition the cooking vessel on the cook-top to adjust the amount of heat transferred to the cooking vessel.
POT SOOT! After cooking over the charcoal chimney, the bottom of the frying pan was covered in carbon. No matter how careful you are, this stuff gets everywhere. It is also tenacious as hell, which greatly increases cleanup time and effort. The absence of pot soot gives the Sputnik a huge advantage over the charcoal chimney.
The fire can be relocated (carefully), but no matter where you put it, the chimney and its fire have to be at ground level. The Sputnik is superior in this respect. It can be placed on a picnic table, stump, tailgate, etc. Not only does this facilitate cooking (you don’t have to stoop to reach the cooking vessel), it also puts the generated heat at “body” level rather than at “foot” level. In cold weather, this is a significant factor in maintaining a comfortable core body temperature.
First, there is the application of effort to transform low-value materials into high-value materials. For example, by cultivating and building soil, planting and harvesting produce, we take low-value materials (compacted dirt and seeds) and turn them into food. By saving a few seeds and repeating the process each season, the value-addition become value-multiplication!
The alternative way to make a living is to wait for someone else to add value, commandeer that value, and consume it yourself – that is, to be a parasite.
I perceive no redeeming value in pirates, central bankers, politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, usurers, tax collectors, money-changers, or any other form of social parasite. That is why I want to consume and trade my own added value rather than living off value stolen or extorted from others. If you too fail to appreciate the Existential Joys of Being a Parasite, here is a partial list of general value-adding activities that you might pursue as you contemplate a foray into cottage industrialism. Each of these general categories is good for value-addition and encompasses a wide range of particular possibilities. Get back to your roots! Sink your teeth into one or more of these and pursue it. Sell or trade the value you’ve added on eBay, Craig’s List, or – best of all – around your home town.
Value-Adding Activities: Assembly
Retailing (retailing – if done honorably – is not parasitic)
Transportation (of materials/goods/people)
Let’s assume we wish to consume petroleum in a sustainable way. That is, we wish to consume oil at the same historical rate that it is generated by the planet. In this scenario, what’s your fair daily ration of petroleum? Several barrels per day? A few tens of gallons? Let’s find out, and let’s be extremely lavish and generous in our estimation.
Earth’s total endowment of petroleum is estimated to be equivalent to 7 trillion barrels of oil. This includes both conventional forms (crude oil) and unconventional forms (tar sands, oil shale, etc.). Just for fun, let’s imagine that this estimate is a factor of 1000 too low and that the real endowment is 7 quadrillion barrels. That is, we are claiming that there are 20,000 yet-to-be-discovered Saudi Arabias somewhere on the planet. Wow. That’s a lot. That’s about 200 undiscovered Saudi Arabias per country. Where might these resources be hiding? Anyway…
Let’s further assume that these 7 quadrillion barrels of oil were formed over the 600 million years that life has existed on Earth. Check that. We said we were going to be lavish. Let’s say that the 7 quadrillion barrels formed in just the past 100 million years. Thus, the rate of generation of petroleum under our assumptions is (7 × 1015 barrels) ÷ (1 × 108 years) = 7 × 107 barrels per year.
There are about 7 × 109 people on Earth, so each individual’s yearly share of this sustainable flow would be (7 × 107 barrels/year) ÷ (7 × 109 persons) = 0.01 barrels per year per person. Each barrel is about 55 gallons or about 7000 fluid ounces, so your yearly petroleum ration is (0.01 barrels/person/year) × (7000 ounces/barrel) = 70 ounces per person per year. There are about 350 days in a year, so your daily ration of petroleum is (70 oz/person/year) × (1 year/ 350 days) = 0.2 oz/day. Thus – in spite of our ridiculously generous assumptions – we conclude that the sustainable ration of petroleum is only about one teaspoon of petroleum per day per person.
Are you currently consuming one teaspoon per day? Me either. Hell, I blow through my entire annual budget of 1/2 gallon/year each time I mow my back yard. There’s simply no way we can continue to each consume several gallons per day. The stuff must run out.
Keep in mind that these estimates were made in an extremely generous fashion. Your daily sustainable petroleum budget is a teaspoon, and that’s assuming there are 200 undiscovered Saudi Arabias in your country. Your real budget is probably hundreds or even thousands of times less than a teaspoon per day. Given the fact that we are consuming petroleum at a rate millions of times faster than it is being formed, and given the fact that there is simply no practical substitute for a barrel of oil, Humanity’s predicament is dire.
Note to the Abiotic Oil Proponents: Before you pounce, think about it. Is the mechanism of oil formation really relevant to the above estimate? In order to sustain a consumption rate of just 1 teaspoon per person per day – and assuming that all the oil formed in just 100 million years, or just 1/40th the age of the Earth – we would need a minimum of 200 undiscovered Saudi Arabias per country, regardless of how oil is generated. If oil formed over a longer period then 100 million years, then the required reserves get even larger. Where are these vast reserves? If the answer is “50 miles underground”, the answer might as well be “on Titan”.
So, I had a few red potatoes in the pantry this spring that I had bought from the grocery store. At potato-planting time, they were too mushy to eat but had developed very healthy looking sprouts, and rather than throwing them away, I decided to plant them.
Sure, the people who sell certified seed potatoes tell you that planting store-bought potatoes is a bad idea. But, I figured that was mere scare-tactics.
Maybe it’s scare-tactics and maybe it isn’t. But one thing is for sure. My store-bought potatoes were infected with brown leaf spot (Photo B), a fungal disease very similar to early blight (photo A):
The upside? I saved $1.50 by not buying certified potatoes. Woohoo! Watch me zoom! The downside? I lost a huge chunk of my yearly potato harvest and lost 3 hours in the garden destroying plants and quarantining 12 large wheelbarrow loads of gardening medium.
Neither a good bargain nor a good decision. I’m not claiming that certified potatoes are safer. But, I can say that I won’t be using store-bought potatoes for planting again.