While there are many things governments can do to reduce our carbon footprint, Courtenay resident Stewart McIntosh says there is a lot we can do in our own backyards—and he IS doing it!
Steward has encountered enough hardships for a dozen lives, but hardships have only spurred Stewart’s enthusiasm for building a better world one home at a time.
Consider for a moment Stewart’s inspiration, the “100 foot diet”. In Stewart’s view, we can significantly reduce our carbon pollution foot print, but still live well and bountiful lives. And throw in a good healthy diet, and an interesting, enjoyable home and property! Stewart created a “100 foot diet” by planting fruit and nut trees, various berries, and various grape vines for both wine making and eating by planting both table and wine grape varieties — 11 that he planted and 1 he let a neighbour train onto his arbours for a total of 12 varieties. That is what rounds out the vegetable and culinary herb gardens he created that are all about 100 feet from his kitchen! Drawing on his knowledge as a retired Certified Arborist, and adding a new strategy by implementing the “Heart of the Garden” concept, where you put your composter(s) in the heart of your garden, rather than outside it, to dramatically increase the fertility and productivity of the soil in the garden! The size and quality of the vegetables, and root crops he gets is truly outstanding! He divided his garden into quadrants, and set up 4 Earth Machine composters so that they represent the 4 Cardinal points of the Compass, so he has an E, S, W, and N quadrant system, for crop rotation purposes, and is bountiful yields are the proof in the pudding that this system works extremely well!
He also built a shop extension that doubles as an arbour system, so he could plant an Apple, Pear, Plumb, and Apricot tree in each quadrant of the wall structure, to train these trees in espalier, and thus augment the produce from the Cherry, Quince, and Hazelnut trees (3 types) that he planted to be free standing. He also built 205 feet of arbours around his back yard to create the structure to train grape vines against, and this is also where the Blue, Black ( 3 types including thornless) Saskatoon, Goose, and 2 types of Raspberry berry plants grow, as well as some of the 3 types of Kiwi he planted! There are also Red and Black currents, as well as some flowering vines like Clematis, Virginia creeper, Honeysuckle, and Trumpet vines in the system to attract pollinators like the Mason bees he built hotels for.
All these perimeter plants, trees, and vines get fertilized by the seed eating birds attracted to feed there. They have plenty of perching and nesting opportunities, and they quite simply convert bird seed into organic fertilizer and distribute it—for free! All he does is fill up 1 big bird feeder in a location where they can scatter seeds without any worries, because the ground beneath the feeder is grass, and wide open, so they can’t get ambushed by predators—cats mostly. Stewart says, “The great thing about ‘employing’ seed eater birds in your garden is that you get the advantage in the Spring and growing season of them doing ongoing pest control for you to feed their chicks, and of course they are also fertilizing for you as well, to create truly organic and sustainable gardening feed back loops… they also work cheep! Cheep, cheep, cheep,” which Scotsmen, like Stewart, really appreciate! The best bonus of all is you get their very pleasant company in your yard, and they sing songs of appreciation for Stewart that raises my spirits when he is outside doing chores.
This is all part of Stewart’s plan that has saved him over $1,200.00 last year, which will be an ongoing bonus, and is all part of his “sustainable urban living formula”.
His at home designed Honda Ruckus, Transformer Trailer system, the Solar Canoe, the Canoe Pup, and especially the Solar Super Saver(see below) are also all part of Stewart’s sustainability strategy which, by applying in his own yard shows what is possible. With 1 cylinder firing his Honda Ruckus now does the work of 8 cylinders firing. ONE CYLINDER is plenty for shopping and every day errand running, which goes quick because the Ruckus is such a fun and capable little scooter/trail bike, that can take advantage of short cuts, trails, and pathways where cars and true motorcycles would be excluded! All the money he saved was in the way of unused fossil fuels like the natural gas, propane, gasoline, and the oil. The money saved is an extra bonus because it is a form of tax free income, and in terms of an advantage, that’s a good one!
Stewart loves to tell the tale of creating his Solar Super Saver. “Here’s one of the small scale projects I accomplished back in late September 2012, and which has now been operational, and working great, for 3 going on 4 years on my home.! This is my 4th winter it is going through. I created what I call a “Solar Super Saver”, which preheats the water going into your hot water tank, and is operational for 8.75 months of the year, from 1st week of March to the 2nd week of November each year, when it is all drained by gravity (in about 8 minutes) for the winter freeze up.”
“I have got my gas usage for a whole month of normal living down to as low as $0.75! My Fortis bill is still about $16.50 a month during the time the SSS is working, because of all the fees and taxes they have the “authority” to charge people, some of which are preposterous, because they are billing for the same thing twice, if not three times, just by describing it with a slightly different word. My typical bill for a month is about $30.00, and that’s for normal living with a shower each day, and using my dishwasher, and washing machine when needed. I have got my gas usage down by more than 80%, as the mighty Sun heats the water in the SSS to as hot or hotter than what the tank is set at for an 8 hour window each day. From 10:00AM to 6:00PM the Sun is providing me with free energy, free hot water, as the gas system does not fire to heat the new incoming water supply, and only the pilot light is burning.”
“Apparently a pilot light burning uses about 75 cents worth of energy (natural gas) in a month, which was the lowest cost I achieve in July and August, but the other month’s use was just as impressive at $1.24, and $1.43! I’m very proud of these figures, which are the proof in the pudding, as is the log-book I began to keep in 2014, to show that this concept works extremely well! I built this system without any special tools or equipment for about $850.00 (with taxes in), and the materials (hosing) are rated for 30 years, and are readily available at the hardware store in 325 ft lengths. It’s a logical and simple system for people to build as a DIY project for able bodied folks, and quite doable for you average home owner. The system has handled everything Mother Nature could throw at it in the way of wind, and wild wet weather (including snow on a shingled roof with gutters where it can’t slide), and I have been quite impressed with just how well it is all working as a low profile system, that is not visible from the front or sides of my house, and is quite organized and easy to look at on the sunny side of my roof. These would look just fine on a home if their sunny side was the street side, as it is a logical system that people can easily understand, and appreciate, and it is orderly in appearance.
The feed back I have got from neighbours, and other curious people walking by has been excellent, and they are blown away by the stats the system is yielding when we discuss the system, because it is not only saving energy, and saving pollution, but it is also saving money, which for me is about $130.00 to $140.00 each year! In the not too distant future the Mighty Sun will be buying me a case of beer each month for the hot time of the year, and that only seems right and fair in my mind! The SSS system will pay for itself in about 6.5 years and is easily expandable to a larger volume for larger families. My system is 12 gallons, but it would be very easy to make one 24 gallons, or 36 gallons or 48 gallons, which is the volume of hot water on top of what is already in your hot water tank! So with my 40 gallon tank, my 12 gallon SSS gives me 52 gallons of hot water to work with throughout the heart of the day, each day, for about 3/4s of the year! It’s about $1.00 per foot to build, with taxes in!”
“There are also 2 solar showers in my system, one in the main bathroom, in the tub and shower stall; and one on my back deck, near the hot-tub, which is the one I like to use the most. It’s like having the World’s largest bathroom, as it is sunny skies, birds and bees flying around and feeding in all the flowers in my gardens, and it is truly refreshing to have an outdoor hot shower (behind a privacy screen) for most days of the year! It starts my days just right, although I do have to have my solar showers (which last for 8 minutes) before 9:30 AM, or just slightly after, as the Sun gets the water too hot otherwise!“
Thank you Stewart for showing us how we can all make changes that are good for our atmosphere, good for our wallet and good for our health.
I would love to hear from other changes we can make that are good for person, people and planet!
Write to me at ngreynoldsng (@) gmail(.)com