Saturday, February 28, 2015

Working on the blog

After 400 posts, I am seeing a need to declutter a bit. And clear themes have developed over the last few years. Believe it or not, I did not start this blog with any intention to focus on electric things with wheels - I started it to offer hopeful suggestions on living a sustainable life and creating a livable future for us and our planet, regardless of who we are and what we believe.

I grew up as a compulsive reader who loved nature and things with wheels. I spent my youth on a bicycle, then became distracted by bigger things with wheels. If you have followed the posts around here, those are probably obvious. Along the way, I came to love literature, puns, and a beautiful woman named Toni. And I have come to know Christ through her and nature.

A few other things show up in here too: I am cheap! You can call it frugal or pennywise, but it all boils down to a single idea - I hate spending money for frivolous things when there are so many non- frivolous things that need our attention and resources. And I like building things. I grew up working with my hands while dreaming things up with my brain. I have been blue collar and white collar and over the last few years I have added green sleeves to the outfit. I am happiest when my brain and my hands get to work together.

All of this is to say that you will soon see pages of links off to the right side of this page. So, you tiny house fanatics will now have a little home(page), and you aquaponics anonymous members will have a place to school. You tire(d) recyclers will have a place to park your cans.

Thank you, as always, for taking time to read this blog, and for any actions you take to make life better for all.

May you live long and prosper! (Godspeed, Leonard Nimoy.)

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Boxx Electric Scooter Lives!!!(?)

One of the frustrations of being an electro-dork like me is the steadily waning excitement of watching a new vehicle go from protoype to (wait for months or even years) actual production and public availability. Lots of those things never materialize (Brooklyn Motorized) or almost materialize (Copenhagen Wheel) or materialize only to those who live in select counties just south of San Francisco (it's a long list) or something like that.

I first became aware of the Boxx Scooter in December of 2011. I wanted one! Who among you has never fantasized about stealing a Macintosh computer, converting it into a 2-wheel-drive electric scooter, and zipping around town on it? (Really? Just me and Keith?) Over the years since then, the Boxx has popped up on the radar here and there, but I have never heard of one being spotted in the suburban wilds. And I have to admit, my enthusiasm for it has waned. It's a cool machine to be sure, but it never really seemed to materialize and the website has barely changed over the years.

Imagine my surprise today when a Boxx Scooter ad showed up on the local Craigslist:

You can check it out for yourself here:

Boxx - The 1 meter vehicle

I want the Boxx M (54mph!!!) at the Boxx E price ($2997 - delivered!), but the one in the middle looks very Goldilocksian for my needs - just right. I'll take mine in blue.

May you be the dork who enjoys the ride greenly!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

PCR: There is a leek in the garden - reproducing itself!

PCR = Personal Carbon Reduction

There is a blizzard going on outside, so naturally, I am thinking about gardening. A few years ago I found a bag of potatoes that had been in the pantry a little too long. I took them out beside the house, dug a few holes, and dropped a potato in each. With very little watering I ended up with some impressive plants. Then I became busy at work, quit watering the plants, and they promptly died, snagit! But I have to admit, the initial stages of the planting were pretty cool.

Today I ran across an infograhic from the Cooking Stoned blog - it's not what you think - that shows several kitchen veggies (and a little fungi) that can be grown from kitchen scraps. Click the link to see the graphic and check out the blog:

Food That Magically Regrows Itself from Kitchen Scraps

I am thinking green onions, celery, garlic, potatoes, and leeks - leeks are an important source of punnery.

May your gardening skills sustain and prosper you while the garden monster munches carbon!

Bonus link for today: "Green Onions" Booker T and the MGs

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Minipost: A Tale of Two Vans

It was the best of vans. It was the worst of vans. That blue beast-box is my last van - a 1961 Ford Econoline. I miss it a great deal - in theory.

In reality, it handled terribly, had poor brakes, smelled always of gas and exhaust, was hard to see out of, was incredibly hot/cold/noisy inside, and it liked to overheat. I bought it for myself on my 40th birthday. I kept and drove it for five years. It now lives in Paris - Paris, Texas that is.

I had grand plans for the EconoBox. I wanted to two-tone it in torquoise and white. And I wanted to convert it to electric. It had lots of virtues as an electric donor, especially if I built it for town speeds and not for highway travel. It was light, simple, and had lots of room for batteries. And it had a roof that could accommodate a fair amount of solar power. No more than I drive, it could have been a self-powered machine.

And it was a really great way to meet people - everyone loved that thing. And everyone had a story or a dream that somehow involved a similar van. It could have been a great electric vehicle ambassador!

But I have come to a harsh reality over the last few years - I am a blogger, not a do-er, so I sold the van to a Paris guy who had dreamed of owning one for 20 years.

All of that was just to say that I really like funky electric vans.

On today I saw an Electravan that is pretty cool and that I would love to drive and all that good stuff, but the reason I wanted to share it with you is to offer you the same chuckle I had when reading its seating capacity:

5 people or 15 clowns. I just built a 
seatback to make the battery box into a 
back seat. Apparently this was a 
factory option. Had 3 skinny people 
back there yesterday and they said it 
was fine. 3 skinnies can squeeze 
across the front too, but it is trouble 
for shifting/emergency brake. With a 
smaller battery box it could be 
configured for 3 rows of seats for 
small people. Which would be 

The moral of this story - maybe funky electric van drivers are just as much fun as funky electric vans.

May your green transportation fill you and others with mirth - that would definitely explain electric car designs such as the Leaf and MiEV.

Ps. That van has the same size tires as my Vespa - it is tiny!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Simplest Aquaponics Setup I Have Seen - elive aquaDuo Aquarium Filter

There we were standing in line at Mr. Aquarium this weekend when I looked over and saw a photo of a plant sticking out of a power filter. I admit I was intrigued. So, I left my wife and her new fish Luna (half-moon betta) in line and went over to check it out. The elive aquaDuo is just what it appeared to be - a power filter that incorporates a live plant as part of the filtration system.

The elive sell sheet

Online reviews for it are a bit spotty - pretty equal on the love and hate. I am wondering what plants would be most appropriate since the roots would stay constantly submerged. [I read the manual - they recommend peace lilies, arrowhead plants, pothos, and lucky bamboo.] At this size (and price point) I can not see it feeding a village, but as a novelty item, I am pretty tempted.

The manual

Points for Mr. Aquarium, which is already one of my favorite local businesses, their prices are actually slightly lower than the ones available on Amazon. $24.99 for the 20 gallon version and $19.99 for the 10 gallon version. If I come across any extra spending money this week, I will pick one up and report back to you on it. Maybe the tadpoles would like to hang out under a locally collected semi-aquatic plant...

May your thumb be green and green!

A Tale of Two Ebikes and an 80’s Movie (plus a free shipping offer)

I am a child of the 80’s, so pretty much all of my thought patterns can be traced back to John Hughes and/or Savage Steve Holland movies. Picture if you will, an archetypal romantic movie plot – boy has hots for a really hot and unattainable girl and fails to notice the really hot girl who has been his friend, supporter, and secret crush. You can switch gender roles or whatever to suit your own needs and desires. In Savage Steve’s Better Off Dead, the unnoticed girl is the French foreign exchange student. In Hughes’ Some Kind of Wonderful, she is a tomboy named Sticks. The object-of-infatuation girls are Beth and Miss Amanda Jones, respectively.
So, what does that have do with Mesquite Hugger and ebikes? For argument’s sake I offer up to you the GenZe E-Bike (Sticks) and the Faraday Porteur (Miss Amanda Jones).  (I only brought up Better Off Dead because I really like that stupid movie!)

The elegant Faraday Porteur

A quick Rundown of Similarities
Both have a 250 watt geared hubmotor, both have a 36 volt battery incorporated into the frame, both have a passive assist mode and a throttle mode, both have disc brakes, both are offered in multiple frame sizes, and both have a 20 mile electric range. Both are light weight. Neither has any suspension. Both have built-in lights.

The industrial GenzZe E-bike

A Quick Rundown of Differences
The Faraday has a front motor and the GenZe’s is in the rear wheel.  The Faraday has a belt drive and the GenZe has a chain drive. The Faraday offers an accessory front rack and the GenZe doesn’t. The Faraday has bamboo fenders and the GenZe has none. The GenZe has a removable battery pack – the Faraday does not. The GenZe has an impressive LCD display – the Faraday has none. The Faraday is a work of art that comes in multiple colors; the GenZe is a fairly plain, silver bicycle. The GenZe is offered as a step-thru or a top-bar frame; Faraday offers only a top-bar model.  The GenZe is available for purchase now. The Faraday can be pre-ordered for March Delivery. The GenZe costs $1499; the Faraday costs $3499.
So, what’s going to be, ebike fanboy/fangirl/fanperson?

If you are leaning toward the Genze – here are a few more points of interest – pun intended: Genze offers financing (interest pun) and you can get free Amazon shipping if you act this month. The bike also comes with an 18-month warranty.

May you be happy with your choice and may the world be better for it.
Ps. If you are heavily impacted by gravity (like me) you probably need to look for something a little more powerful - say 500 watts.
P-Ps. Forever the gearhead: My favorite part of Some Kind of Wonderful is Sticks’ no-emissions car:

Friday, February 20, 2015

How efficient is an electric car in your town?

Not the most flattering view, but that, my friends, is a plug-in hybrid Ford in my parking lot!
I have not been seeing very many battery-powered cars around town lately - and I do look for them. On my way to work this morning I caught a glimpse of a Nissan Leaf. Then, when I pulled in the parking lot I saw a Ford C-Max Energi. Mostly I see Leafs (Leaves?) and Volts. Occasionally I see one of the Ford Energi models. I don't know of any public chargers in town - unless you count the one at the Nissan dealer. And the one electric bike for sale on Craigslist has been there a few months now. Lubbock, in general, has not embraced electric transportation.
When I talk to people about electric cars and why many people do not care for them, I am often told that they are just as "dirty" as petrol-powered vehicles. Then I hear a lame spiel about coal-fired electric plants and dirty power through the plug-in. Yes, it is true that we have lots of coal-powered electric plants, (Yes, Lubbock gets most of its power from coal and is very unfriendly to anyone seeking solar power.) but it is still cleaner and more efficient to deliver the electric power directly to the car rather than using that electricity (plus petroleum) to produce, refine, and deliver petroleum for use in cars.

Recently, the EPA put out a really cool online tool to help you determine how clean or dirty an electric car would be in your town. Unfortunately, many media outlets threw out misleading headlines that made it sound as though electric cars are much dirtier than we originally thought. Aaarrrgggghhhhh!!! If you are not in the USA, I apologize - the tools in this post are less helpful for you.

Plug your zip code in here to learn about local conditions:

Learn a lot more about it here: (48 pages!)

Check out the complete infographic and a fun cartoon here:

So, yes, electric cars are less than perfect, but they, even under less than ideal conditions, are still cleaner and more efficient than petroleum burners. And, as we as a society move toward cleaner electric production, electric cars will become cleaner by proxy.

May you drive the cleanest and greenest joyfully! (Or fall in love with a bicycle!)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A DIY Hand-made, Recycled Ukulele May Not Save the World, but... just might make the world a more joyful place!

[This one is for Bella - my favorite ukulele-ist, and her mentor  - the infamous Aunt Linda]

A few months ago, we heard a very talented ukulele-ist playing at the Yellowhouse Coffee on a Saturday morning. (Ukulele lady, I apologize for not knowing your name - it was a great show.)

Last week I posted a video from the site that featured a couple of  ukulele-ists building gardens and singing about pallet romance or biology or something like that.

Keith (Yea, Keith!) sent me two ukulele videos today that were truly amazing to listen to and watch:

Imelda May, Dreaming (Blondie cover)
Jake Shimabukuru plays Bohemian Rhapsody

And where would the list be without the best of all crowd-fed DIY websites? This week one of the featured Instructables explains how to build a rather cool ukulele using just a pocket knife and some easily acquired scraps and hardware.

Make a ukulele with a pocket knife by titchtheclown

May your days be filled with DIY music!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Frustrating Mitsubishi MiEV

[This post was prompted by seeing this article on Green Car Reports yesterday: 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Electric Minicar To Start Deliveries Next Month]

[A disclaimer - if you are interested in electric cars because you want fast (Tesla) and elegant (Tesla) and upwardly mobile (Tesla), you might as well just move on. The MiEV is a basic car that would satisfy the needs of most drivers most of the time. If your drive keeps you in or near town and you want basic functions like a heater/air-conditioner/smartphone-friendly-stereo/cheap-to-buy/cheap-to-feed/cheap-to-maintain/enviro-friendly, this could be a great option for you and I invite you to keep reading.]

I spotted my first and last MiEV at the Mitsubishi dealer in Waco, Texas, about three years ago. And I wanted that thing, but it was still a very expensive vehicle at that point. I regret that I did not ask for a test drive. I had some wierd misconception that the opportunity would present itself again.

In December of 2013, Mitsubishi announced a massive price drop. The car dropped to $23k. Here where I live I could take advantage of the $7500 federal tax break and the $1500 state EV incentive, so a brand-new Mitsubishi electric car with a full factory warranty could be had for $14k. I became very excited! So I went to the Mitsubishi cars website. The MiEV had almost no place on their site. It was not even listed under the Models tab. You had to dig deeper into the site to see that they even had an electric offering in the states. I learned most of my MiEV info from and They would tell me about great lease deals and dealer incentives - for those who live in the Northeast or the West Coast. The nearest actual cars I could find were in the Dallas area - about 350 miles away. And I am a little leary of buying a car with a 70 mile range from a dealer five times that distance away.

[A Mesquite Hugger sidebar: I have purchased only one brand-new, factory-built, electric vehicle, and it left me a little cynical about buying such things. I purchased a 2011 Zero motorcycle. It was delivered to me with a defective battery pack. The motorcycle with an advertised 25 mile range really struggled to travel 10 miles per charge. It took a few trips to one of the nearest Zero service centers to truly determine the problem, and it took a lot of increasingly nasty phone calls and emails from me and from the dealer/service center to get Zero to do anything about fixing it. Also, the service center was 400 miles away. When I sold it, it had spent a lot more miles in the back of a pickup than it had being the efficient commuter I had bought it for. So, it proved to be a pretty miserable ownership experience. Had it performed anywhere near its advertised specs or had it been fixed promptly, I would have loved it. I really enjoyed the bike when it ran, but I learned never to buy an electric vehicle without a local service center.]

So, the Mistubishi MiEV might as well be a unicorn here in the middle of the country. I kept waiting to see when the car would be available here - you know, like the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt, the Ford Energi series; there's even a BMW I3 in town now. But there are no MiEVs. Journalists (like John Voelcker in the article above) always make reference to how low the MiEV sales have been for Mitsubishi. For me there is a simple explanation - there are none to buy. Snagit, it's frustrating!

May green transportation be available, affordable, and non-frustrating!

For those of you still reading at this point - be sure to read the comments at the bottom of the John
Voelcker article - there are lots of detractors commenting, but the MiEV owners sing its praise - even when comparing it to Leafs and Teslas they have also owned. Even more frustration, snagit!

Two examples:

I have both a Model S and a 2014 imiev. I much more enjoy driving the imiev to the locations it will reach. Much easier to maneuver in tight places. Adequate performance. I'm 6'4" and the imiev has plenty of room and storage space. Were the imiev a 200 mile car, I probably wouldn't have the Tesla. Here in Texas, the Tesla is an $85k car with $7.5k in incentives. The imiev is a $26k car with $10k in incentives.
I have a 2012 iMiEV and Nissan Leaf and I enjoy driving the Mitsubishi more. It is my daily driver. The average range is 60 miles, about the same as our three year old Leaf. (I did drive it 84 miles in one shot up to Austin, TX to lend it to a friend last summer.) We never need that much range so it is not an issue. The range remaining meter on the Mitsubishi is about 100x better than the Nissan. Also, there is not a car out there that is easier to drive in a tight metropolitan area than the iMiEV. It is narrower so it will fit in any parking spot and it's turning circle is the smallest of any car I have ever seen. The rear seats fold flat to make a surprisingly nice sized cargo compartment. I even put a new 60" tv in the back a few weeks ago. Several people joked that the tv was bigger than the car. I really cannot say enough good things about this car though. It just does everything I need it to so well. If you have a Mitsubishi dealer local to you that still has a 2014 then you should take an hour off and go drive one. It is really a great car!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

PCR: A Brave and Trashy New World - Composting at Home

This thing fit the Mesquite Hugger budget beautifully!

A compost pile, vermicompost, a compost tumbler, closed bin, open bin - I have been on the fence getting started with composting. Then it came to me in a dream. No, that's not right. Then I was driving home while lazily daydreaming and I saw a sign - "Free". And I was inspired by that sign. So, I pulled Lucy over and loaded up the free 2'x4'x3' shipping crate and hauled it home.

Now it's in the backyard filled with some overly ambitious spring weeds, some newspaper, coffee grounds, and lots of 1" holes.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The EPA Advice for Composting at Home

The EPA Composting .pdf

Do I know what I'm doing? Not at all, but it's a start. The goal? More of that personal carbon reduction. Less garbage in the landfill and some healthy soil to grow vegetables. And I can use the compost on our planter.

I am now thinking of going compost crazy - I want to get some worms and do some vermicomposting, I want to build a tumbler from an Instructables plan. We can have three competing methods of compost and do a comparison. Compost party anyone?

I will keep you (com)posted.

May each step turn our garbage into something good.

More on Vermicomposting (Worms!)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lubbock on a Bike: Cyclists Be Heard Tonight (UPDATED 2/17/15)

I had the good fortune to ride my bike to work three times last week - that is 60% of my commute for the week. It's been a rough winter on many fronts, and biking just hasn't been an option much lately. It was a good week. I find that I like people, myself, and work better when I get to ride. And I noticed a lot of other people riding last week as well; and, even though they looked a bit winded, most of them were smiling.

More bikes = less cars = healthier people = cleaner air = more enegy independence = more funds = an ongoing list of advantages in increasing the number of bike riders in our town.

I have been following the cycling in Lubbock issue closely since the mayor referred to cyclist concerns as a "niche issue", and I was glad to read that there will be a public meeting tonight at 6pm at Cavazos Middle School to deal with the possibility of making our roads safer and more inviting to bicycles.

City exploring feasibility study to address cyclists' concerns

So Lubbock cyclists, here is an opportunity to have your voice heard. May we work together for a safer, heathier, happier town.

Snagit! That was frustrating. The city was not exploring a feasibility study to address cyclists' concerns -  the city was informing North Lubbock residents about the North University beautification project. Basically, they discussed nicer and more accessible sidewalks along with new streetlights.

At least fifty cyclists showed up for the niche issue - most can be found linked out from this page. I am assuming (yeah, I know the danger in that) that most were road cyclists; there were lots of jerseys, but the cyclists had no voice in this meeting. We milled about frustrated and confused.

I did find some irony (before knowing the miscommunication) in the meeting's location. I realized on the way there that I would have been very intimidated by traffic had I been riding my bike to the meeting. Yes, Mr. Mayor, we are a niche issue - we are too damned scared to ride in our town.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

PCR: Another form of self-watering garden - cheap and easy!!!

While searching out the method for building the self-wicking raised-bed planter, I ran across another interesting form of subterranean (big word points on that one!) watering setup. This one is simple, cool, and ancient. And it's cheap and easy to build. And it's been used for centuries. And it's easy to install. It's the olla - pronounced oy-uh.

These beauties are from the Growing Awareness Urban Farm (link below)

Yes - you can buy fancy, artsy, beautiful, ready-made ollas; but here at the Mesquite Hugger alternative growing lab, we believe in things like cheap, like DIY, like quick, like cheap, and ugly does not bother us if it's cheap and effective. Besides, these things are designed to be buried.

Check out the Closer to the Dirt link below to learn more about making and using your own ollas.

Closer to the Dirt: Experimenting with Ollas

For those of you who are not cheap and do have an eye for the aesthetic, check out this site from Albuquerque. They have some beautiful ollas with very reasonable prices (especially if you are local and do not have to pay shipping). The site is very informative and inspiring. I urge you to spend some time poking around there to see people who are working hard to make a difference in their community.

Growing Awareness Urban Farm

May we not ignore the past when learning how to thrive in the future.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Techno Detox: The Joy of Missing Out

I realized yesterday that I was very nervous. I noticed that any little downtime in my day had me reaching for my phone to keep my brain distracted. I seem to have lost the ability to just sit. I woke up about four this morning and decided to try something like meditation - to focus on one idea, to ride along on one train of thought. I could not do it. Every 30 seconds or so I would realize that I had jumped the rails and was wandering about the wilderness. I am really struggling with it. I find myself more productive at work if I have music pumping into my ear to keep me distracted enough to focus - without it my brain just wanders and little work gets done.

I used to think that we all walk around starring in our own little movie (or novel, vine, comic book, whatever) but I am starting to understand that I am more of a bit part. See if you can find me in this little video: I forgot my phone

An article on TH yesterday pointed out a book that discusses what I am going through and offers some help for us techno-addicts.

'The Joy of Missing Out' shows us how to find balance in a wired world

Do I have the patience to read it? Which app should I use to download it? Admitting you have a problem is the first step to...

May you have a phenomenal...

Does anyone have a spare phone charger?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Personal Carbon Reduction (PCR):The 1st Food Is Free Planter IS Built!

The carbon-munching garden (almost) lives!
A busy weekend with a project started and (mostly) completed - the first Food Is Free Project Self-Wicking Raised-Bed Garden is now built. We only need to add a little more soil and some plants. (What a mouth full!)

Thursday night I made my wife watch the FIFP videos that had me so excited. She was even more excited than I was by the time the videos were watched - so the project was green-lighted and fast-tracked. Friday at lunch I picked up free pallets from a Craigslist ad. After work I swung by my favorite sign shop and snagged some used coroplast signs. We found a neighbor with a new fence and acquired some of the old fence pickets for trim work. We had a tarp left over from one of my wife's neighborhood garden projects. We had an ugly old sheet that was ready for retirement. We had a few boxes of screws around. It all came together rather nicely. I did have to purchase some PVC and river pebbles. (Snagit, I wish our fair city had a working glass tumbler/recycler!!!!) We started buiding Saturday around noon and (even with significant interruptions) had it done by evening.

Swartzy stopped by and we put him to work. Thanks, man!
Now, we just need to get some plants going and a little sign to talk some neighbors into joining the revolution - the revolution won't be televised, but it will be blogged!
Do you want to build your own? If so, set aside 20 minutes and watch these three videos in this order:
FIFP: How to Build a Wicking Bed Garden (Quick Overview)
FIFP: How to Build a Wicking Bed Garden! (Detailed video with ukelele music)
May you learn to love your neighbor, eat healthier, and strike a blow for carbon reduction with one tiny little garden - get out there and kick some carbon-munching garden butt!
I'd like to thank my wife, the Swartzy, the Food Is Free Project team, the pallet guys, Jennifer the pallet hurler, our favorite sign guy,Lucy the Wondertruck, and the weird guy who kept walking by our house and offering suggestions.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ready for a new Tesla with a super-low carbon footprint?

Finally, a Tesla for the masses!

Check out this Gas2 article for further details: Gas2: New Tesla Announcement

May we all be this lean and green, and may you have a wonderful day!

Bicycle Commuting Products: A new variation on skinny biking - Flipcrown

If you poke around Mesquite Hugger much at all, you have probably seen a post or ten that mentions biking being a path to being skinny. Last summer I dropped about fifteen pounds in the National Bike Challenge and I have kept that weight off through the winter. And I hope to drop that much again this spring and summer. For me, biking is a path to skinny.

The internet is an amazing place, and it constantly amazes me how far this little local blog reaches. Last week I was contacted by Patrick Jacquet. Patrick is half of a pair of self-proclaimed cyclophiliacs from Ghent, Belgium who do design work. (Digging their bikes and their linguistics!) Patrick contacted me to ask if I would check out their new bike products and their Indiegogo campaign that starts today. I did, and I must say that they have some cool offerings for bicycles, especially for bike commuters who find their bikes to be tough to store, park, or transport. In essence, these guys have created some sleek hardware to help you make your bike really skinny and easy to manage.


If you want to convert your own bike for skinny storage, they can hook you up with several options - and they will even offer you a way to hang your skinny bike on the wall. On the other hand, let's say that you want a complete skinny bike, these guys have some really beautiful bikes for sale - the kind that you would not be embarrased to hang on your living room wall. Who says that a bike can't be living room art as well as your way to work? (My ebike has been hanging out in the dining room for a week, and my wife has shown amazing patience with my piece of "art".)

Patrick and Rob, I wish you success in your campaign and commend your beautiful work.

May you and your bike be as skinny, adaptable, and beautiful as you want to be.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Personal Carbon Reduction: Planning the Raised-Bed Garden Monster

Yep, that's what people look like in South Austin.

Earlier this week, I wrote about personal carbon reduction through gardening, so I have been looking around a bit to figure out how to get started. And I found something out of Austin that has me feeling inspired.

First, let me tell you that I do love Austin. I especially love South Austin. I have not found a cultural attitude like it anywhere else in Texas - defintely not in our conservative and often stifling Lubbock.

I also love white-board animation and pallet-based projects, and I am not opposed to ukele music.

All that is to say that I was really excited yesterday to find a Derek Markham  article on Treehugger that features some South Austin greenies teaching me how to build a self-watering raised-bed garden out of pallets and political signs. The project is almost completely out of repurposed materials and can be built by people with limited tools and skills. (All of which fit my budget, tool collection, and skill level!)

Treehugger: self-watering raised garden bed

And that lead me to watch a series of videos from the the Food Is Free Project - and I really like their idea of building better and healthier communities by encouraging neighbors to build these raised gardens to create a neighborhood food system of tiny shared gardens. (And their videos have white-board animation and ukele music.) I am impressed! Now, I just need to snag some free pallets and talk to my neighbors...

May your small projects lead to big changes!

(Does anyone have any Randy Neugebauer or Glen Robertson signs I can cut up and use to keep the fertilizer where it belongs?)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Razor Ecosmart Scooter vs. the Storm Ebike

How much do you like to gamble? Say you have $600 in your pocket - would you be comfortable plopping your money down on a gamble, or would you try to do something practical with it? How patient are you? How fearful are you of being accused of being a dork? If you are in the market for a low-cost electric cycle to get you around, you might spend some time answering those questions for yourself.

With all of the buzz around the Storm Ebike Indiegogo campaign, I have been thinking about other ebike options in the under $500 price range. The Storm has indeed created a storm - pledges have flooded the campaign. In a little over two days, more than $2.4 million has been pledged for the $500 fat-tired ebike - and that price is before shipping. If my math is correct, that means that 48,000 ebikes have been "ordered". The logistics of that many ebikes being built and delivered in 3 months - staggering! I imagine that a lot of people are in for either a long wait, a lot of disappointment, or both.

So let's say that you have been tempted but have been holding off. You really want an inexpensive option for scooting around on electrons instead of decayed dinosaurs. What can you do?

Well, here's an option for you to consider - the underrated Razor Ecosmart Metro Scooter. (See, I wasn't kidding when I stated that Razor is becoming one of my favorite EV companies.) I first became  aware of the Ecosmart when I started seeing a young lady in my neighborhood who has one as her sole means of transport. (That kind of thing is phenomenally rare in West Texas.) And she loves the ease and practicality of hers. For less than $400 you can have one sitting on your porch, and you could be riding it next week. Remember all those questions in the first paragraph? Go back and try to answer those again.

Honestly, the Razor is not as sexy (or fat-tired goofy) as the Storm. And it does not have the (advertised) range. While I have no recommendations for the making that beast sexy, the range issue can be fixed somewhat easily. Switching the lead batteries out for smaller-lighter-more-powerful lithium batteries could easily double or triple your range while making the scooter a bit lighter. And you can even save up for those during your first year of ownership. (Lead batteries generally show signs of degradation after a year or so.)  You can also go to larger or more lead batteries and have a big impact on range. There are several resources available for scooterists who want to up the performance of Razor scooters.

If you care to learn more, here are a few links for you to check out:

Razor EcoSmart Scooter Review - youtube Ecosmart page with link to owner's manual

Modified Electric Scooters: Razor Battery Options Forum

Do I think the Ecosmart is the best option for everyone? No. Do I think it offers a great deal for the money and will fill the needs of many consumers? Absolutely.

Subtopic: Recipe for Pimping My Ecosmart Razor (If I had one.)
Upgrade to a 48V lithium-ion battery
Upgrade the controller and throttle to 48 volts
Add some bigger brakes
Fuzzy dice and a fake fur seat seat cover
Some big Elton John shades (circa 1973)

May your commute be fun and clean, and may you be happy with your choice.

A Tiny House Even Closer to Home!

A tiny house in the LBK!

You may remember a few months back when I was excited to learn that Spur, Texas had become the first American town to declare itself tiny-house friendly. Well, imagine how excited I was this week to find a tiny house right around the corner from my own house! Sasha snd I went for a walk and (BOOM) there it was. We talked to the neighbors, kicked the tires, and looked through the windows - this thing is cool!

It's actually pretty big for a tiny house - notice the triple axle trailer and the substantial height. The inside is unfinished at this point, but you can see that the windows are well placed for passive ventilation. It also has two lofts, so it has the potential to be a two-bedroom affair. It is being built by Sherwood Construction, and their work looks great.

All the excitement wore Sasha out! (Other Sasha Sightings - Thoreau and Sashadoption)

I will try to get you more details as the project comes along, but I was excited to share this with you. For me, this was just as exciting as the day I saw a Tesla passing through Justiceburg.

May greener living be welcome in your town, and may we all reap the benefits.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mesquite Hugger Opposites Day: Lots of Free Stuff or Pursue Minimalism?

Yesterday was a day of much inspiration in the Mesquite Hugger office complex. Besides the Treehugger article about carbon-eating gardens and a really long Endless-Sphere thread about the validity and controversy over the Storm Ebike, my brain was also kharmic-ly b*&^%-slapped by two more articles. These two were about the stuff in our lives.

The first came from Keith. He and I have both been busy lately, so we mostly communicate by sending each other cool articles. He definitely won this round. I don't post them often, but I follow articles about dumpster diving. They always seem to play into the epidemic of food waste. Well, he sent me one about a guy in Austin who dumpster dives behind non-food retailers. It mentioned finding lots of profitable stuff for resale and for building cool stuff like electric mini-choppers and electric skateboards. And it dealt in financial numbers significant enough to put a Mesquite Hugger family member or two through college. (Wowser!) It's a long article, but definitely worth the read - and a little too inspirational for a guy who loves alleys like I do. It came from Wired magazine. (Don't quit your day job!)

While reading it, I could just picture the mountains of cool stuff one could garner for virtually no money. My dreams of minimalism slammed into the stony mountain of stuff!
Then I ran across an article on Green Living Ideas that offered me a bit of help.
This article challenged me to do things like declutter my digital life, participate in a no-complaint day, and clean out my closet. It also encouraged me to downsize my beauty collection, but I wasn't sure if I should give up my soap, my shampoo, my deodorant, or my toothpaste. (My officemate would encourage me to skip that particular step.) Overall, however, if you are considering doing some kind of cleanse, a person could do vastly worse than this 30 day list.
So, what's it gonna be? Put on the snorkel and flippers in preparation for diving OR invest some quality time in cleaning out the old brain? Whichever you choose, may it help us all to have a better life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Personal Carbon Reduction: The Carbon-Munching Garden Monster

Thanks to Greenpeace for the image!
With Spring on the way, things are changing around the Mesquite Hugger home. I hope to spend a lot more time outside, and I hope to ecologically clean up my act. That's generally a three-sided proposition for me: conserve water, reduce petroleum use, and cut down on carbon release. It's easy to point fingers at everyone else, but every revolution needs to begin at home.

Conserving water has already been happening - conservative fixtures and the homemade rain barrel have helped a great deal. We'll step it up with some rain gutter additions and another rain barrel or two.

The electric bike, the non-electric bike, and the bike trailer will help with petroleum reduction.

And the carbon thing - well, that's an area where we definitely need to step it up.

On Treehugger today, a great article appeared that explains the impact a garden can have on CO2 levels. And I am feeling pretty inspired in that direction. Check it out for yourself. I hope you find it as inspiring as I have.

Treehugger: Your garden eats carbon (so please feed it well!)

Along these lines, I hope to be posting more carbon reduction and gardening articles. I invite you to join me in gardening and cleaning up our acts this season!

On a more personal note, our family landscape has changed. There's a six-year-old whirlwind moving to town, and I am hoping to turn him into a junior backyard-farmer. I hope to share our adventures with you as well.

May we all chip in to make this world a very liveable place, and may you know peace.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fat-Tired E-Bike on the Cheap? Hmmm...

$500 Act Now! (Feb 6, 2015, it goes up to $599)

Okay, call the Mesquitehugger a cynic, but I am having a hard time believing this one - I do not see how anyone can offer a $250 bike with $500-800 worth of electrical components for $500. Even with economies of scale, no one has yet been able to offer a decent 36 volt lithium-powered e-bike in that price range. Sure, it is a limited time and they are trying to generate operating capital. And the "guarantee it will be less than $194" shipping definitely puts a squeeze on the bargain factor, but I am having a hard time buying into it.

So, check this thing out and ask yourself the following questions:
Can Storm deliver this thing to your front door for less than $700?
Can they deliver it in May of 2015?
Will those fat tires make you look skinny?

If you decide that you like your odds, go ahead and sign up for the two-for-$998 deal. I will take mine in blue!

The indiegogo crowd is definitely eating this one up. Today (Feb 1, 2015) is the first day for the campaign and they have already hit 367% of their funding goal.

You can check it out here:
Storm Ebike on Indiegogo

May eco-friendly transport truly be this inexpensive!