National Solar Tour

The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is organizing its 27th National Solar Tour this year on October 1&2. Homes, schools, and businesses nationwide are participating in this event. The purpose of the tour is to increase awareness of the costs, processes, and economic and environmental benefits of going solar

Through self-guided tours, people are able to have direct contact with solar site owners about cutting energy costs, enjoying tax credits, improving property value, and asserting energy independence. The national tour offers a glimpse at how a variety of solar systems look in and around structures with different architectural styles. It is truly a wonderful opportunity to be in contact with real-life examples of how local people are harnessing free energy from the sun to generate electricity, warm and cool their homes, heat water and slash monthly utility bills.

To find a site near you, go to, for the ASES National Solar Tour map and more information about this non-profit organization, which since 1954 has been leading the renewable energy revolution. For information about the tour in my community, please review “spotlight” within this site.

Stalling Greenhouse Gas Effects

Is it possible to slow down the effects of greenhouse gases? Yes, but mitigation depends upon the lifespan of each of them and how they are propagated. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide (NO2), chlorine, and fluorine.

The last two in this list do not have specific lifespans because they have been formulated into combinations with other chemicals. Each of them can last in the atmosphere from less than a year to many thousands of years.

Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas” is destroyed in the stratosphere and removed from the atmosphere slowly, persisting for about 114 years. Sewage and fertilizers are sources of NO2 in our environment. 25% of its global emission is found in the ocean hotspots, also known as “dead zones.” These zones are caused by an overgrowth of algae and seaweeds which block out the sunlight for photosynthesis. The sunblock causes the death of living organisms below consuming oxygen as they decompose. That is why these “dead zones” are also called “oxygen minimum zones.”

Methane is short-lived and is removed from the atmosphere through chain reactions over a period of 12 years. Its sources are the breakdown of organic matter as in the decay of wetland plants, underground gas seepage, and food digestion by humans and animals. Interestingly, an increase in methane has been correlated with the widespread use of antibiotics over the past 50 years.

65-84% of global CO2 is dissolved in the oceans over a period of 20-200 years, with the remainder being much slower and may take several hundred thousand years. Trees and forests are the least expensive means of reducing CO2, and cleansing the air and water, with a potential of one gigaton removal per year or approximately 10% of CO2 production. Farms utilizing cover crops and compost reduce CO2 production.

Science is scrambling to develop effective carbon capture methods. Much needs to be known for the development of ocean-based concepts. Sped-up carbon mineralization is under development. It is estimated that when low or zero carbon energy sources have been perfected, one gigaton of carbon could be effectively scrubbed through direct carbon capture.

Meanwhile, reduced greenhouse gas production is optimum.

My Solar Home Hybrids

My first solar home hybrid was in the NC mountains in 1995, on a 75-year-old, 1100-square-foot bungalow. The installation was a result of survival mixed with an interest in renewable energy (R/E). The area at that time was plagued with power outages from severe wind, snow, or electrical storms. So, I had a system which at the flip of a switch could power my home, as well as continuously power my refrigerator.  My system included 4 photovoltaic (PV) panels, 3 solar hot water panels, 8 “golf-cart” batteries, a 500- gallon Carolina water stove to boost heating the potable water and heat the home through coils in the furnace, a Solar Frost refrigerator, a Trace inverter, and a Morningstar controller. 

It was a complicated system, which kept me busy chopping and gathering wood while being ever-mindful of weather conditions and the battery storage status. Also, its downfall was the circulating water from the Carolina water stove did not contain antifreeze.  In spite of the R/E features upon sale of the house, all of them were removed within a year or so by my buyer.

Here in Wisconsin, I have a 100-year-old, 1400-square-foot home with a conservatory.

My system has 15 second-generation ground- and roof-mounted PV panels with micro inverters, with an integrated control system that could support the installation of an EV charger, through Enphase monitoring and supply. I’m currently considering a battery back-up for certain zones in my home because of anticipated brown-outs and severe weather outages, as experienced in the aftermath of a recent tornado.

Both of my homes have been informative.  I’ve learned to appreciate every kilowatt hour I’ve been able to produce.  My annual net zero energy demand results from conservation and working with the weather. I’m impressed by the progress in R/E. My first installation could not provide energy to my computer, because it did not produce a modified Sine wave energy.  I’ve recently been informed that the next generation of PV panels will be capturing energy at night from temperature conversion!  It is exciting to be a participant in this movement.

To learn more from owners of R/E in your area, mark your calendar for the first weekend of October for the Annual Solar Tour sponsored by the ASES (American Solar Energy Society), which has been occurring since 1996. Currently, sites from last year’s locations are mapped on the  ASES site, but after mid-September, you will be able to see local tourist sites.  I will also be highlighting my village’s local tour on this site.

Ginseng, an Exemplary Adaptogen

Volumes have been written about and extensive research has been done on Ginseng, particularly the genus Panax Ginseng, or Asian Ginseng, The American ginseng is similar but not the same, with less “warmth” as viewed by Chinese herbal medicine.

As an adaptogen, its benefit is to normalize the body’s physiologic response to emotional, physical, and environmental chronic and acute stressors. Ginseng has therapeutic effects against inflammation, allergy, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer, as well as positive, beneficial, and restorative effects. Uniquely, as an adaptogen, it can both suppress and stimulate an immune response, and can have both an antihypertensive effect and also increase blood pressure to help maintain cardiovascular health. It can suppress anxiety, improve cognition and modulate moods. Because of its antiplatelet and antithrombotic effects, it could interfere with blood thinning medications. However, ginseng has an enhancing effect if taken before and through cancer treatment and before vaccines. It improves T-helper cell (specifically TH-1) function to enhance the effectiveness of many antimicrobial agents, mainly Amoxicillin. It is a vital component in traditional Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of impotence and to increase sexual performance. A polysaccharide in ginseng actually reduces hyperlipidemia (“high cholesterol”).

Finally, its influence on Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is particularly interesting due to the rise in the number of people who have AD recently. AD is characterized by tau pathology (one of the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications), deposits of amyloid beta plaques, inflammation, and neuronal and blood vessel damage. The amyloid precursor protein stimulates clumping (aggregation) of platelets, which can cause thrombi and subsequent blood vessel damage. As I already mentioned, P. ginseng has been found to counteract these damaging effects throughout the body along with improving cognition, so it could be valuable both in the prevention and treatment of AD.

Adaptogens are generalists by their nature. As in all herbal medicine, the effects are subtle and safe if taken in moderation and under the guidance of a knowledgeable herbal medicine or naturopathic practitioner.


A local organic tea farmer has a blend called “Inner Strength, for sustained energy”, of nettles, gingko biloba, American ginseng, and ashwagandha. The producer can suggest this effect because it’s a blend of adaptogens, commonly known as tonics.

“Adaptogens are associated with an increased capacity to adapt to stress and challenges in daily life, whether the challenges start from mental, emotional or physical sources”, according to Guido Mase in his book The Wild Medicine Solution-Healing with Aromatics, Bitters, and Tonic Herbs. Any response to stressors determines its impact. We can lessen our perception of the problem by not allowing the stressor to have an effect or shore up resiliency to endure the challenge longer.

The adaptogens in this blend, as with most adaptogens in varying degrees, help to protect the liver and brain from the effects of free radicals. Ginseng has been used for centuries to increase stamina. Gingko and ginseng have been found to relieve headaches, brain fog, and mild depression. Nettles are a source of many phytonutrients, including all of the essential amino acids, quercetin, coumarins, and fatty acids. All of this blend have polysaccharides that support interleukin-10’s effect to reduce C-reactive protein (CRP)- a biomarker for inflammation. Currently, the CRP level is a severity indicator of COVID cases.

I have highlighted only a few adaptogenic benefits from their phytochemicals. Commercial pharmaceuticals have been developed to dramatically enhance the effectiveness of many phytochemicals. It is therefore wise to consult a healthcare professional who is knowledgeable in the herb, nutrient, and drug interactions, especially while on prescribed medications and when considering herbal medicine.

Being Proactive on Sustainability

Countless people are attempting to make their portion of the world a better place. You may be among them, without realizing your impact. Actually, we all possess a high impact potential through our interactions and actions.

At the 2022 MREA Fair, people of all ages were interacting on sustainable and healthy living.  Sean Sherman, the Sioux chef, spoke about preserving his original people’s culture through food, with hopes to expand to other tribes across the nation and then the world. Grassroots organizers spoke on how they were able to introduce renewable energy into their school districts and community-wide efforts, by initiating a network system. All of the presenters spoke of their amazement at how a simple idea caught on with an ever-expanding group of people.

Pursuing a passion can truly pay off in unexpected ways. That was my experience this year, through my past decision to landscape with food sources for birds, pollinators, and me. In particular, I had a bumper crop of sour cherries from only 2 trees, which was able to supply 3 households with 10-20 lbs each, and the birds another 15 or so lbs. I made preserves, jams with pectin, a coffee cake, and froze a bunch for future projects. Native plant blooms, butterflies, lightning bugs, raspberries, and vegetables have also taken off. 

To “think globally; act locally” can be as simp[le as that. Have you been working toward sustainability and healthy living? How’s it going? What have you learned from your “failures”? What has surprised you about being proactive?

Harvesting Cherries

Years ago, my husband’s great-aunt gave us quarts of canned sour cherries.  I always appreciated making pies from them.  However, years later, I have come to appreciate her efforts even more.

Last year, when my 2 sour cherry trees were ready for picking, we had a heat wave.  Before picking most of the cherries, they went wormy and I lost more than half of the crop.  This year, so far, I’ve been more fortunate.  Within a week the cherries had turned from unripe to ripe, so I have been busy picking. Over the past 2 days, one tree has yielded 6 gallons of cherries, with at least 3 more gallons still ripening. The other tree is not fully ripened.

Pitting is my next project, which will take more than an hour per gallon. Once the cherry pits are removed, I can simply freeze some of the cherries for later pie making, or go through the more laborious process of making some cherry preserves.

I’m planning on following a cherry preserve recipe from the Ball Blue Book with a process that can be extended over 2 days. It involves 2 pounds of pitted sour cherries and 4 cups of sugar for a yield of approximately 4 pint-sized jars. The sugar is mixed with the cherry juice and then cooked until the sugar dissolves. It’s cooled, before adding the cherries, which are cooked rapidly for 15 minutes. That mixture is covered and allowed to stand in a cool place for 12-18 hours. At that later time, it’s brought to a boil and cooked for a minute, before being poured boiling hot into hot jelly jars. The tightly lidded jars are simmered for 10-15 minutes in a water-bath canner for completion of the process. Imagine how that will taste on a bagel or freshly baked biscuit!

Last Fall when I wanted to make some jelly from my highbush cranberries, I had to shop around for pint-sized jars. I was motivated to buy a case during Menard’s Anchor pint jar sale this week. I wasn’t alone, because a woman mentioned she was buying some as well because she had been making strawberry-rhubarb and plum jams. It would appear that jam and jelly canning is very much alive.

Annual Energy Fair

Here in the Midwest, from June 24-26th an energy fair will be held at the MREA (Midwest Renewable Energy Association) center in Custer, WI. Its theme will be: “clean energy and sustainable living for all.” There will be workshops and exhibitors on geothermal, family farm defense, net zero architecture, low waste, state and national legislation, solar applications, renewable energy investment, introducing renewable energy into your school district and community, and so much more. There will also be live music, keynote speakers, local food, family fun events, campsites, and EV chargers. I learn something every time.

The Fair –

Capturing Carbon

It’s difficult for me, and probably you as well, to imagine ways in which I can actually counteract rising CO2 levels and climate changes. A recent village newsletter and a few conversations have reminded me of what we can do locally, by reducing heat islands and encouraging photosynthesis for carbon sequestration, also known as carbon capture.

Heat islands are generally thought of as being solely in urban areas, but the components within those urban areas are found in small communities such as my own. Black-top streets, concrete sidewalks, and a few trees along boulevards and on properties come to my mind as being similar. The EPA recommends counteracting urban heat islands with green roofs, cool roofs, and porous paving with trees and vegetation. Shade trees not only give wonderful relief from the Summer-heat but are also known for their presence to instill a feeling of safety and hospitality from a caring community. They can co-exist with walkways of porous pavements, as seen locally on the WTC campus, where precipitation seeps down into the ground to nurture the vegetation, prevent run-off and erosion, and often reduce dangerous ice build-up. Although initially labor-intensive, brick and porous paving can also be utilized on driveways and parking areas. These are means which can be pursued locally and individually.

On average, an individual with a 2000-calorie diet emits 2 pounds of CO2 each day. Since trees capture carbon, do you know how many trees would capture those 2 pounds? The answer is fifteen! However, when you consider the average American’s daily fossil fuel consumption, it would take 730 trees or roughly 7 acres of forested land to counteract that individual’s CO2 level. For perspective, in my village of 2.10 square miles with a population of 1933, it would require 1,411,090 trees or 13,531 acres of forested land. However, our 2.10 square miles is equal to only 1,344 acres. It seems insurmountable, but I’ve figured that I am exceeding the original 15 tree equation and although non-specific, I’ve mentioned other things in a previous blog about further reduction of my carbon footprint.

Focusing on carbon capture by trees alone without considering other vegetation would be a mistake. Perennial native plants are excellent for carbon capture and are usually better than most worthy non-native plants. The native plants are already suited to the growing conditions of the region and will provide habitats for endemic beneficial insects and wildlife. Plus it’s best to mimic nature by diversifying because the plants will support each other in all kinds of weather and soil conditions. Growing from seed or planting perennials will keep soil and carbon stores intact. Since dead vegetation releases its carbon storage, perennials will reduce that loss.

Healthy Soil, Healthy People & More

It’s Regeneration International’s philosophy that healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals, healthy people, healthy climate, healthy societies–our physical and economic health, our very survival as a species, are directly connected to the soil, biodiversity, and the health and fertility of our food and farming systems. Indeed it encompasses global health and well-being related to the circle of life itself.

Plants and soil sequester 30% of our CO2 each year through photosynthesis, but the ability of the soil to sequester CO2 is slower than that of plants. Trees are generally slower than plants, supporting the necessity for biodiversity. Healthy plants are only produced in healthy soil. 

The Brix test can indicate soil fertility levels. If soil nutrients are in the best balance and are made available by microbes upon the demand by plants, the Brix reading will be higher. For example carrots could be poor @ 4, average @ 6, good @12 and excellent @ 18 readings.

It matters that a Brix test on vegetables and other plant foods rates high because they will not only taste better but will also be more nutritious. The Brix equals the percent of complex carbohydrates in the juice of the plant. The higher carbohydrate in the plant juice, the higher the mineral content of the plant, the oil content of the plant, and the protein quality of the plant. Plants with higher Brix levels also are more insect resistant and less prone to frost damage. The available soluble sugar is what gives taste and sweetness to plant food—the more calcium along with the sugar, the sweeter the taste. You probably realize from this that plants with excellent Brix readings could reduce the “sweet tooth” for refined sugars often found in processed foods.

When the gardener builds the soil to produce high Brix foods, the ground would be full of organic matter, beneficial bacteria and fungi, and the proper nutrient ratios. A simple soil recipe would be to mix ⅓ compost, ⅓ peat or coco coir, and ⅓ vermiculite as a base. Then add beneficial microbes and food for those microbes. Earthworm castings, mycorrhizal inoculants, compost teas, hummus, amino acids, humic and fulvic acids, copper sulfate (5-10#/acre), rock dust, and seaweed are the best soil additives.

Sunlight plays an essential role in a plant’s ability to produce sugars. Sunlight, as I have discussed in a previous blog, also helps to develop healthy humans and animals. Regenerative agriculture practices support biological diversity, natural resources, native wildlife habitats, and soil fertility. 100% grass-fed meat under this form of agriculture usually adheres to the requirement that those farm animals be raised with NO antibiotics, NO added hormones, and NO confinement feeding. Instead, graze rotationally on diverse forages in open pastures for their lifetime. I would add that glutathione, a form of protein, is primarily found in animals grazed. Glutathione counteracts the effects of radiation emitted by wi-fi, cell towers, etc.

Your money spent on this form of agriculture will support small and medium-sized farms and local economies, build and maintain your immune system, and reduce your healthcare costs or time-off due to illness. The payback is immeasurable.