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.

Anyone Can Compost!

I would like to start off by explaining that the Pest Repellent series will continue after a short break.  I will bring you a couple of posts that share a bit more of what my contributions will entail.  So, to get right into it – I am taking a look at Composting Technologies.

Composting is a natural process that takes organic materials and converts them into rich soil that can be used for growing plants.  Composting can be done by using a composter or by using the old-fashioned method of piling up organic material in a compost heap.  When choosing the best compost bin for your lifestyle, there are some important factors to consider.

The first thing to think about when deciding on which composter to purchase is how much space you have available in your home or garden.  If you live in an apartment, then you might want to look at composters that are designed for small spaces such as the IKEA Kompost Bin or the Nature Mill Classic Composter.  If you live in a house with more space, then you might want to consider purchasing something like the VIVOSUN Outdoor Tumbling Composter

Countertop composters are a great way to compost in the kitchen. They are practical and easy to use, and they do not take up much space.  Countertop composters are an efficient way for urban dwellers to compost.  They can be used for all types of food waste, including meat, dairy, and bones.  Composting is a sustainable practice that reduces waste and promotes healthy soil.  It is important to note that it does not have to be done in a backyard or garden – countertop composters make it possible for urban dwellers to do it right in the kitchen!

Composting is a great way to reduce your waste, and it’s also a great way to make sure that your local landfill doesn’t get too full.  There are many different ways you can compost at home. You can buy a composter, you can use a compost tumbler, or you could even use an old garbage can.  There are so many options out there, great companies to work with, and technology that is making it feasible for anyone to compost.  Are there any ideas I missed or didn’t elaborate on?


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.

Pest Repellents – Ultrasonic/Electronic Options

This entry in my series of Pest Repellents is focused on ultrasonic and electronic solutions.  Attempting to identify benchmarks and potential ranges to look at with these products, I found some oddities surrounding this option.  Further research on these electronic options started to confirm and validate my own suspicions.  Ultimately, I do not believe this to be a solution we should continue to foster.

There is a wide variety of ultrasonic and electronic products for pest control.  Oscillating sounds, omnidirectional, and a plethora of other fancy-sounding names.  I wanted to better understand how they work to better share with you what would be the most favorable solution.  That is when I found something to be a bit off.

The types of companies producing these products didn’t feel appropriate.  The ones claiming to be of a sustainable mindset didn’t have much of a presence.  I could be off and would love some conversation on this.  None of the companies I looked into producing and pushing these products showed a track record of being environmentally conscious.

Looking into this matter further, I found studies that backed my suspicion on the products themselves.  How did these things function, how do they compete with each other, and what would be the best one?  Similar studies have already shown they are little more than glittering generalities and misplaced claims.

Thank you for your understanding in my delay as I wanted to be sure I had this information was accurate before making sure a statement.  I am very open to discussion and welcome new information.  As it stands, my conclusion as these are not viable solutions for pest control in any fashion.

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?

Pest Repellents – Part 1

Pest control has been around since the dawn of time.  The need for pest management is an issue that will never go away.  It’s estimated that over 100 million dollars are spent every year on pest control services in the United States alone.  This number is only going to increase as our population and urban sprawl grows.

With all the various methods of pest control, what are our best options?  I am hoping to find some key solutions that can help us all out.  This multi-part blog will explore sustainable pest control methods and how they can be used to solve our current environmental problems.

With part 1, I want to bring up the various options I will be exploring and reporting back on:

  1. Ultrasonic/Electronic Options – designed for rooms, outdoor spaces, and everything in between.  This option uses ultrasonic sound waves to safely repel pests
  2. Sprays & Salves – the most traditional of methods, though what are the newest formulas out there?  I want to find us the most up-to-date and earth-friendly options.
  3. Alternative Options – environmental changes, habit changes, and anything else I can dig up for us.  I will be looking for more technological options, determining the more modern options available.

There will be plenty of work put into these reviews, so bear with me as each part might take some time to come out.  The best bet is to stay tuned as this unique series progresses.  Feel free to share ideas or questions you may have, it would help shape these blogs to benefit you the audience!

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.