Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why Stack Rocks?

Quite often, the people who are out on walks past our property will stop for a minute and ask us the following question: Is there a meaning behind your stacks of rocks? They often go on to say they have seen this sort of thing before, in places like Sedona, Arizona or in Alaska. There is a meaning behind rock stacking, even though our reasons for stacking rocks did not have to do with this explanation.

In a number of native cultures, including the Hopi Indians of Arizona and many of the Eskimo Native
Americans of Alaska, a stack of rocks was
seen as a symbol of a protective entity.

Because a vertical stack of rocks looks like a human figure to some extent, these stacked rocks were seen as entities protecting the property, perhaps warding off harmful spirits and helping to protect the sacred space of a particular outdoor area.

We actually have the same tradition in Christian culture, where gargoyles were fashioned out of stone and added to the borders of cathedrals constructed from medieval times through the renaissance, for the purpose of protecting the sacred space of the cathedral from infiltration by malevolent spirits.

So placing stacks of rocks around one’s property might be seen as a pragmatic way to do to ward off negative influence or predatory energy.

Our own reasons for stacking rocks were not so esoteric. We wanted a fence to separate our property from the adjoining park that would let the dogs and kids know where the park ended and our property began. But a chain-link fence seemed too utilitarian and a solid fence was too closed off. Both kinds of fences are not all that aesthetically pleasing. They are also very expensive.

So what we did is plant a series of small arborvitae bushes every 10 feet alternating with a stack of rocks between each bush along our property lines. This creates the illusion of a fence, and to our taste, is much more interesting, organic and artistic.

We were inspired to do so by the art of Andy Goldsworthy, who uses found objects in nature, including rocks, icicles, driftwood, twigs, leaves, rocks, and a host of other nature mediums to construct his art. The picture is from his roof top exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

And if these stacks of rocks also ward off evil spirits… all the better.

- Richard Chandler.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bonnett & Richard’s Solar Project - Part II

How We Lowered Our Carbon Impact Along with Our Utility Bill (If you missed Part I, you'll find it in the post just below this one)

So here is how it works: Our water is piped from the city water system into our mechanical room. Just after the meter, the water splits into two pipes… one for cold water and the other as it travels toward the hot water heater. A few feet prior to where this ¾” copper pipe enters into the natural gas hot water heater, we soldered a series of valves and two copper pipes enabling us to divert the water in a way that follows a parallel pathway to the pipe that leads to our outdoor faucet for watering the lawn.

These two pipes connect to two new outdoor faucets and the faucets in turn are connect to six interconnected 120’ lengths of ¾” commercial grade black hose. This hose totals 720’ and is the solar collector.

The parallel lengths of hose are set into the inside corner of the house and travel up onto the roof where the hose is wrapped around the roof vents to keep it in place.

After gathering heat from the sun and the surrounding shingles it travels down again, into the return faucet, copper pipe, inside valve and finally flows into the gas hot water heater at a very warm temperature when the sun is shining and at the outside air temperature when the sun is not shining. Through this process, our gas hot water heater has only a little firing to do when the sun is out as the water is now much closer to the optimal temperature.

Once we again return to freezing temperatures, all we have to do is to drain the hoses by disconnecting them from the outside faucets. I will use gravity to do most of this work and hook up a small air compressor to one of the hoses to make sure the water is blown out for the winter. Inside the house we simply turn the inside valves to reopen the direct flow to the hot water heater and shut off the diverted flow which goes to the outside.

To get the very most out of this solar system we will focus our times of doing laundry and running the dishwasher during the day when the sun is out. Because hose is only ¾” in diameter, it doesn’t take long to heat up a fresh batch of hot water.

Even though our old Maytag washer worked perfectly fine, at the end of 2007 we purchased a frontloading clothes washer which has significantly cut the gallons needed to do each load by over two thirds. Since we have a very busy massage therapy practice, we do a great many loads of laundry in addition to our personal laundry.

Our new solar collector combined with the new washer will significantly reduce our use of energy, saving us money and lowering our carbon footprint. Even though this project cost us some money, we feel our financial investment will be paid back in a couple of years. Prior to the monetary payback, we take pleasure from knowing that we are immediately helping our planet in a small way. We are also gaining confidence that as individuals we can find many more innovative and low cost ways to go green. We have compiles a few environmental and commentary quotes here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bonnett & Richard’s Solar Project - Part I

How We Lowered Our Carbon Impact
Along with Our Utility Bill!

In a nutshell, we wanted to do something more. While our florescent light bulbs were in place throughout our entire house and we just finished converting our outdoor light fixtures to accommodate the new fluorescent floodlights, we wanted to do more… something more dramatic.

The idea of preheating the water with the sum before it entered our natural gas hot water heater had been percolating for sometime. It seemed simple enough… find an inexpensive way to route the water out of the house and into some kind of solar collector, and then back into the house a whole lot hotter than it left. Have it leave the house just before entering the hot water heater and then back in and directly into the gas hot water heater at a nice hot temperature.

While this idea works well for the months before it freezes, it can’t be used in the colder seasons, so any system we constructed would have to allow us to easily switch it back to a direct route into the hot water heater as well as to drain the water out of the collector.

Even for us Minnesotans, limited as we are to only 7 months when water doesn’t freeze, it seemed to us that if the system was easy to build and install, and didn’t cost us too much, it would pay back the cost of it in a few years and give us some savings from then on. More environmental quotes and commentarty here.