A 1-acre self-sufficient small-holding


We’re shopping for land in Hungary and while prices are relatively low, when compared to those in Scotland, it’s possible that our budget will only stretch to a 1-, or 2-acre plot. Ideally we’re looking for 4 or 5 acres minimum however 1 or 2 acres will be suitable.

With this in mind I’m collecting information and learning how to “survive” on smaller plots.

Download: Start-a-1-acre-self-sufficient-homestead

No Knead Bread

A simple bread that requires no kneading.
It looks almost too good to be true – this method makes what is often referred to as “artisan breads”, the kind that cost a small fortune in the specialty bakeries. Who knew how easy these breads were to make?
Read the article

How to grow …


How to grow quinoa

Quinoa, pronounced “keen-wa”, and its seeds are high in protein which makes it a nutritious grain to grow. The protein is considered a “complete” protein, a rarity in the plant world. It’s leaves are also edible. This makes quinoa a popular food among vegans and vegetarians.
Read the article


How to grow amaranth

Amaranth that is grown as a grain crop is related to but not the same as the smaller plant grown for its flowers. Taller grain amaranth does still have the same brilliant colors and flowers though.

It’s not a kind of grass as most grains are, but amaranth is grouped together with the other grains anyway. Amaranth seeds are very high in protein, and its a very high-quality protein closer to what you find in soybeans. Unlike other grain plants, amaranth is quite attractive and blooms in shades of red, burgundy, and purple before the cascading spikes of flowers go to seed. The seeds are the grain that you will be harvesting.

Amaranth can be cooked in various ways, either mixed in dishes or just served by itself like you might do with rice. You can also grind amaranth for a gluten-free flour that makes great pasta. Aside from the protein, amaranth is also high in fiber, iron and phosphorus.

Optimum orientation of solar panels

To get the most from solar panels you need to point them in the direction that captures the most sun. But there are a number of variables in figuring out the best direction. This page is designed to help you find the best placement for your solar panels in your situation.

This advice applies to any type of panel that gets energy from the sun; photovoltaic, solar hot water, etc. We assume that the panel is fixed, or has a tilt that can be adjusted seasonally. (Panels that track the movement of the sun throughout the day can receive 10% (in winter) to 40% (in summer) more energy than fixed panels. This page doesn’t discuss tracking panels.)

Solar panels should always face true south if you are in the northern hemisphere, or true north if you are in the southern hemisphere. True north is not the same as magnetic north. If you are using a compass to orient your panels, you need to correct for the difference, which varies from place to place. Search the web for “magnetic declination” to find the correction for your location.

The next question is, at what angle from horizontal should the panels be tilted? Books and articles on solar energy often give the advice that the tilt should be equal to your latitude, plus 15 degrees in winter, or minus 15 degrees in summer. It turns out that you can do better than this – about 4% better.

Optimum Tilt of Solar Panels

Equation: If your latitude is between 25° and 50°, use the latitude, times 0.76, plus 3.1 degrees.

Solar panel pitch for Budapest (47.4547N, 19.0498E)

Winter: (47.4547 * 0.89) + 24 = 66.2347ᵒ
Summer: (47.4547 * 0.92) – 24.3 = 19.3583ᵒ
Spring/Autumn: (47.4547 * 0.98) – 2.3 = 44.2056ᵒ
Full year (no adjustment): (47.4547 * 0.76) + 3.1 = 39.1656ᵒ

Solar panel pitch for Mezőszentgyörgy (46.9969N 18.2752E)

Winter: (46.9969 * 0.89) + 24 = 65.8272ᵒ
Summer: (46.9969 * 0.92) – 24.3 = 18.9371ᵒ
Spring/Autumn: (46.9969 * 0.98) – 2.3 = 43.757ᵒ
Full year (no adjustment): (46.9969 * 0.76) + 3.1 = 38.8176ᵒ

Tools to assist in sun calculations

Solar panel pitch for Daruszentmiklós (46.8363N, 18.8594E)

Winter: (46.8363 * 0.89) + 24 = 65.6843ᵒ
Summer: (46.8363 * 0.92) – 24.3 = 18.7894ᵒ
Spring/Autumn: (46.8363 * 0.98) – 2.3 = 43.5996ᵒ
Full year (no adjustment): (46.8363 * 0.76) + 3.1 = 38.6956ᵒ

Heat your home using energy from the sun

Radiant floor heat has become increasingly popular and it’s easy to understand why. This type of heating system works by pumping hot water – or water and propylene glycol (antifreeze) – through a system of tubing under the floor. This means houses using this heating system get warmer from the floor up. In the winter there are no cold floors underfoot – instead the floor is the warmest part of the home.

Heat Your Home With Solar Hot Water Read the article

Nashville’s First Straw Bale House

Local USGBC members and families build Nashville’s first straw-bale house
The owners of the house, Bob and Irma Bernstein, worked with general contractor Ryan Nichols to create this eco-friendly structure that not only draws upon pioneer tradition, but incorporates proven ideas that pre-date the founding of the New World. Straw, used as insulation and then covered with a natural earthen plaster, allows the house to breathe, and is also less expensive and fire-retardant. The project was sponsored by Green Home and Manuel Zeitlin Architects.
Read about the house
Read about the architects

A simple off-grid electricity system

Prepare to evaluate the current system

Buy a multimeter. A £10 – 15 will do.

Check the current system

Check for 10.5 – 15 volts supply from the current system components.

Buy new system components

  1. a 300W DC Inverter,
  2. a 700VA Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). This should have it’s own battery,
  3. a 12V DC inline Fuse Holder,
  4. 35 Amp fuse and sufficient 12V cable to connect all components.

Set up the new system

Run the cable from the panels/turbine to the fuse to the inverter+UPS. Connect the multimeter in-line in Amps-mode and connect to the inverter. Plug the Inverter into UPS. Plug all the appliances into the UPS.


  1. Build It Solar http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/PV/pv.htm
  2. Simple Solar homesteading http://www.simplesolarhomesteading.com/
  3. Off-Grid Forums http://www.off-grid.net/forum/
  4. Bright Hub Engineering http://www.brighthubengineering.com/power-generation-distribution/74980-generator-battery-home-backup-systems-living-off-the-grid/
  5. Build Green Energy http://www.buildgreenenergy.info/ambigrid/

Parallel Chord Pallet Trusses

I’m becoming more and more enthusiastic about re-using pallets.
If you have access to small diameter trees and wood pallets, and live in an area not restricted by building codes, then this truss design is one good low cost roof option. Small trees are rapidly renewable, and pallets are plentiful and often available for free. Pallet trusses are especially appealing where other sources of wood are unavailable. This design is exciting to me because gradual improvements in sustainable building help make housing more affordable.

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