Growing Potatoes in a Spud Barrel

This year, I plan to test out the “Spud Barrel” method of growing potatoes.  If you have never heard of a spud barrel, this is essentially a process of growing potatoes in a barrel (or trash can, a stack of old tires, or some other type of cylindrical object) and filling it with new soil as the potato plant grows higher.  Once the growing process is complete, you tip it over and – VOILA! – you are rewarded for your efforts with pound upon pound of potatoes.  Or so I’m told.

I haven’t tried this method before, but I have considered it.  I seems entirely reasonable and considering my limited growing space, I like the idea of using containers that I can place pretty much anywhere.

If you have limited space, don’t want to give up garden area for potatoes, or if you just like trying new ideas, the “Spud Barrel” might be something you’d like to try, too.

An excellent description of the process can be found here: http://www.weidners.com/spud_Barrel.htm

Mother Earth News has a good article on how to grow potates in a barrel as well: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1980-03-01/Taters-in-a-Barrel.aspx

I’ll report on the spud barrel as the project progresses.

Homemade Gas (Biodiesel and Ethanol)

When talking about self-sufficiency and zero inputs, the thoughts of most folks turn to organic farming, composting, natural growing methods, and raising your own food. But what about your energy inputs? If you run a vehicle or a tractor, what do you fuel it with.

The thought of fuel inputs has been on my mind as I think about how I can become more self-sufficient. This has been especially on my mind after last year’s run-up in gas prices. We have become so reliant on outside sources of energy that any disruption in that supply could threaten life as we know it.

Biodiesel

How about making your own fuel at home? Great!

For about 70c/gallon? Even better!

Freedom Fuel America is the place to shop for your own setup. I’ve also found these courses on making your own biodiesel fuel at home:

Also, check out biodiesel.org and journeytoforever.org.

Ethanol

Another consideration is Ethanol. I have been looking at the E85 fuels which are quite interesting. E85 is an 85% grain based ethanol blend. While cars and trucks that use the E85 don’t seem to get any better gas mileage, I believe the cost of operation coupled with the cleaner burning fuel make for a popular combination. Add in that mass implementation would make us more energy independent, and you might have a winner.

I know that Ethanol has gotten a bad rap in the media – mainly it has been painted out as a government boondoggle because of subsidies to producers.  While government intervention is not a good thing, the bad press given to ethanol has made people turn away from an otherwise good thing.

I don’t want to get into a debate on ethanol fuel here, but rather point out that brewing your own alcohol based fuel is real alternative for the homemade energy enthusiast. An E85 vehicle is already equipped for you to run an 85% blend of alcohol without modification. All you really need to do is brew the alcohol. This can be done with a home-based still, and as long as you license it accordingly with the BATFE, it is quite legal (Go to the BATFE web site to download form TTB F 5110.74 – Application for an Alcohol Fuel Producer Under 26 U.S.C. 5181). You may even qualify for a tax break on the fuel you produce.

If you would like to learn about making your own ethanol, here is a place to start.

Get additional information on E85 at www.e85fuel.com and the US DOE here.