Category Archives: Crafting

Making Clay from Dirt: Supplemental

I wanted to say that I do this writing free of charge. I don’t want to put this kind of writing behind a paywall or a Patreon. Much of this I learned free on the internet, and then experimented with it, and I want to offer it to you the same way. That being said, this kind of work is… well.. work. It takes a fair bit of labor to type this all out for you. So, if you want to donate $5 or whatever to help support me, my Paypal is here. Again, not required, but donations are appreciated! Thank you for those that have already donated! 

Hello again folks!

Now this one isn’t a full how-to, but more information that you may find useful about my previous post about Making Clay from Dirt. That is why this one is called a supplemental!

(Captain’s Log, Supplemental. You’re welcome.)

Maybe you don’t know diddly squat about dirt, or the land your reside on. Maybe this is the first time you have ever held a shovel in your life. Hey, there was a first time for all of it. I’ve been digging holes since I was a kid (much to my parent’s dismay, at times), but there was a time when I had no idea what I was doing, and we all start somewhere. So, for today I want to share with you a quick an easy way to learn a little more about the soil, especially if you want to make clay from it.

Materials:

This one is real easy.

  • You will need an empty jar, I used a mason jar

  • Something to dig some dirt with. A shovel is probably your best bet, because we have to dig down into the “banking” layer of the soil to have the best chance to find some clay.

  • A water source, a sink worker well for me

  • A spoon, or stick, or something to stir mud

  • Sifter, optional, but it helps.

Soil Horizon.

(A quick refresher)

Just a quick reminder, layer B is the layer we are after. Clay minerals leach out (because of water weathering) of the upper layers and move down into the B soil layer. There is usually a noticeable color change, (my soil turns tannish after the darker brown of the upper layers.) But in some ways each soil is unique, and there can be a lot of variety based on both the cultural and natural history of the land we are digging. My home land is an old onion farm, so it’s been turned over, and over, and over. Wet soils (river beds, swamps) may have clays a lot closer to the surface, others may be deeper down.

The cool part of what I am about to show you is that you can do it more than once, and really get a good feel for the clay (sand, and silt) content of your soil. This is really good information to have on hand.

The Process

Take your shovel and go out to wherever you are wanting to dig clay from. Make a small hole that gets you down into the banking layer. It helps me to make the hole wide enough were I can clearly see the layers in the wall of the hole. You can scrap the wall with your shovel or a trowel if you really want to see the layer changes.

Once you have your hole, you need to fill your jar around half full with dirt. Do you best to avoid lots of organic matter (roots, twigs, debris), gravel, and stones. You don’t want these in your sample. You can sift your soil quickly if that helps, but this part is optional if you are careful.

Now that you have your jar of dirt, take it inside and add some water to it. Don’t overfill it, but you need enough to be able to liquefy your dirt. Grab yourself a spoon or fancy stick, and stir that dirt up real good. You want a dirt cloud when you are done.

Now set it aside for a few hours or a couple days and let the dirt settle. This is going to allow the dirt to settle, and the particles are generally going to do this by density. Sand and gravel will settle towards the bottom, followed by silt, and on top.. Clay!

That’s the process, but now we explore the why.

The Soil Texture Chart

(My sample, clay is the smoothest layer on top. Followed by silt, and then a buttload of sand.)

The information we get from this short process is really valuable. Look at my sample above after a few days, and tell me what you see? Alright, I’ll tell you. This short little process gives you an idea of the proportional makeup of your soil. Ignore the water, and just focus on the layered soil. Mine is about 10% clay, 20% silt, and the rest is sand.

With that information in hand, let me introduce you to the Soil Texture Chart. It’s a triangle that covers most of the soil types you will encounter.

(Soil Texture Chart)

Also, there is handy online tool from the USDA that is super helpful here. Once you have your proportions, you can enter them into the tool, and it spits out your soil type. You only need fill in the percantages for sand and clay, and it will highlight your soil type on the chart above.

My soil type is called “Sandy Loam” in the bottom left, which means I get a little bit of clay, and a mountain of sand when I make clay. Your soil may be different, from really clay rich soils at the top of chart, to really silty soils at the bottom right. And that’s it, that’s the whole process. Now you know a little bit more about your soil, and this has wide implications beyond just making clay. It is also important for things like gardening (plants like minerals), agriculture, and even things like carbon sequestration. But I don’t have the space to go into all that here.

Future Posts

As this was a slightly shorter post, it gives me a little bit of space of what I am working on right now. I think my next skill sharing post will be about making charcoal, as that is another important building block for future projects. I also want to cover traditional pit firing of clay, and there will also be a little bit about slip casting (poured clay) in the near future. Ideally this is building towards a few posts on blacksmithing and metal work. (clay and charcoal are both components.) There are a few other things I may talk about along the way, woodwork, forestry and some other stuff too. I also have more folklore and animism I want to tie in too.

As always, thanks for reading!


Making Clay from Dirt

Making Clay from Dirt

Hello again folks!

I hope you are all doing well! I am still in quarantine until the end of April, so I have found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. I would tell you I have been getting a lot of writing done, but that isn’t really true. Getting a little done around the house, but not much to tell beyond that.

Which I why I wanted to start posting about practical skills. It gives me something to write about, and I get to share with you all things I have learned over the year. It’s a way for me to teach and share, without having to leave the house. It also keeps me busy, and keeps me from going stir crazy.

Before we jump into the deep end here, I wanted to say that I do this writing free of charge. I don’t want to put this kind of writing behind a paywall or a Patreon. Much of this I learned free on the internet, and then experimented with it, and I want to offer it to you the same way. That being said, this kind of work is… well.. work. It takes a fair bit of labor to type this all out for you. So, if you want to donate $5 or whatever to help support me, my Paypal is here. Again, not required, but donations are appreciated!

About Clay and Soil

Now, for a little bit of background. Soil varies a lot, and can come with all kinds of different compositions, textures, and mineral content. The soil outside your door may be very different than mine, and it helps to have a familiarity with that. You may have a clay rich soil, and this could be an easy process. Or you can have real sandy soil like mine, and so for every bit of clay you produce, you are guaranteed to have more sand than you know what to do with…

Without going into too much detail (I’m trying to keep this short, so I may expand on this in another post), clays are the result of mineral weathering, when certain rocks and minerals break down and leach into the soil. One of the chief producers of clay is water. Specifically, low energy water. (Low energy deposition is the technical term.) Think slow moving rivers, lakes, and especially wetlands. Some of the best clay I have ever dug came from a swamp! So if you have a river or a lake nearby, those will probably yield the best clays. But you may be able to get it out of your backyard as well!

Faster waters tend to flush clay minerals downstream, and into river deltas and things like that. Clay has been easier for me to find in low energy water bodies, and so the clays are all deposited on site, in river banks and such.

Clay is formed when water breaks apart rocks, minerals, and soil; and separates out the clay minerals. This are tiny particles that are smaller than gravel, sand, or even silt. It’s the very fine nature of the clay minerals that gives clay their distinct plasticity. That is why our ancestors learned to cast, shape, and mold clay into all kinds of cermamics and pottery!

A Little Animism

Again, without going too much in depth, as a practicing animist, it goes without saying that working with the earth and with clay has a deep spiritual component for me. The Earth is the planet from which all life we know shares a common heritage and ancestry. Digging into the soil is creating a close relationship with the Earth, and deepening that connection. As a former archaeology student, the land beneath our feet is in a very real the living memory of the Earth, the layers of geology and human prehistory are like memories of the planet. More than this, clays and ceramics are one of the oldest materials that our ancestors learned, and for me the process is a deep way of connecting with them as well. This could also be a whole other article in itself, but I wanted to briefly touch on it.

Materials

Alright, let’s begin! One of the best parts of digging clay is that is pretty straightforward, and doesn’t have a lot of material needed;

  • Approximately 3 – 5 gallon buckets. (I tend to use about three buckets, but the number varies based on how much you dig.)
  • A shovel. Preferably one with a long handle, for your back and because the hole you dig may get deep.
  • Water. You’ll need water, and a fair bit of it. I use a hose at the back of my house. You can also use an extra bucket or two filled with water.
  • A fine screen. Something with about 1/8 inch holes or so. I literally just have a roll of fine-ish metal mesh from Home Depot. This is for sifting out organic material, rocks, and other debris.
  • A stick. For stirring up mud in a bucket. I use an old shovel handle.
  • 2 or 3 pillow cases. Cheap ones from like Big Lots, or old ones. Nothing too fancy. They will be filled with mud.

Step 1 – Dig Dirt

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_horizon

Now it’s time to dig some dirt. You notice I’ve included a picture for this section. This is a soil horizon, and this is important context for HOW to dig dirt for clay. You don’t really want the first two layers (O & A “topsoil” layers) , as you don’t want all the organic stuff, and at least in my soil, there isn’t much clay in these layers. What you typically want is the B layer, the subsoil. As clay minerals weather, they move down deeper into the soil. The B layer is sometimes called the “banking” layer, because it stores a lot of minerals that can be “withdrawn” later by the plants above. But we are interested in the clay in this layer, so this is what you want to dig. In my own soil, this is a really sandy layer, and pretty easy to dig through. Your mileage may vary.

To start out with, I typically will fill one of my 5 gallon buckets about half way with dirt. You need room for water, afterall. So now, you have a bucket of dirt! Hurray!

(Alright, I have two…)

Step 2 – Make Dirt Slurry

Now that you have your bucket of dirt, it is now time to make a mud shake. Carry your dirt to wherever your water supply is (outside preferably, your housemates will thank you). You want to pour water on top of your dirt, and generally you want more water than dirt. Take your stick and stir it all up! Make yourself a runny mud-shake… The boys won’t show up in your yard for this one. Probably.

The idea here is to completely liquefy your dirt sample. The reason why will become apparent in our next step.

Soup is ready! (Do not eat.)

Step 3 – Screen and Filter

The reason we wanted to make a mud slurry is because it will separate your dirt into all it’s various components. Clay will suspend into the water, organic debris will float, and sand and rocks will sink to the bottom. Now we have to do the work of separating it all out.

This part can get heavy, so heads up. Don’t hurt yourself alright, as buckets of water and dirty aren’t light. Lay your screen/mesh over top of an empty bucket, near to where you made your slurry. Stir it up real good the first time, and then strain the bucket of slurry through the screen and into the empty bucket underneath. The screen will catch a lot of organics, rocks, and even some of the sand. Once you’ve strained it, take the screen somewhere and shake it off, and maybe give it a good rinse.

(Bucket with screen.)

In my experience, you will probably do this step a couple of times. Stir, strain, repeat. If you are using the same bucket over again, be sure to rinse it out before you strain the slurry back into it. Otherwise you’re just putting it back in.

While you are straining, you may notice that the sand settles to the bottom. Getting that out is our next step. The straining will get some of it out, but not all of it. Here, we take advantage of the fact that sand sinks. Stir up your freshly strained slurry, and let it sit a couple of minutes this time. Now pour it back into a clean empty bucket, slowly. The sand will be stuck at the bottom, so don’t pour that into your clean bucket. Dump the sand out, and do it again. Rinse, and repeat as needed, until all you have is mostly clay suspended in water. Again, you may have to do this a few times to get all the sand out.

Typically, I will strain at least twice, and separate the sand out at least twice. As I said before, this can get heavy, so take your time and save your back! If you need to take a break, do so. Stuff may settle, but you can always stir it back up if it settles too much.

(Screening out debris, and leaving behind the sand.)

Step 4 – Pour into Pillow Cases, and hang to dry

When you are all done, you should have a bucket of mostly dirty water. No rocks, debris, or sand should be evident. Depending on the clay content of your soil, this could be a thicker or thinner slurry. Either way, the density isn’t a big deal right now. What matters is you have some amount of clay suspended in water, and free of stuff you don’t want. Now, we have to get the clay separated from the water.

Into the bucket with you!

In a clean empty bucket (likely one you already used, and cleaned. It doesn’t have to be dry, just clean), take one of your pillow cases and use it like you would a trash bag. Line the bucket with it, and pull it over the edges. Pour some of your slurry into this pillow case/bucket combo. Some will leak out into the bucket, and that’s okay. The idea here is most of your clay-water is contained in a filtering pillow case. Now, just hang up that pillow case and allow it to drip out the water.

It is okay if you use more than one pillowcase during this process. In fact, it’s best to not dump a bucket full of clay slurry into one case, break it up. It will dry out faster, and you won’t have to hang up one heavy case full of water!

What will happen is that the clay will settle in a corner of the pillow case, and act as a filter for the water. This works better on warmer days, as the water can evaporate too, leaving just the clay behind in a pillow case.

Mud on a line, wasting all my time…

Also, it’s best not to let it completely dry out. (You can, but then you have to crush up the dried clay into powder, and add water again.) Grab the pillowcase on occasion, and you can tell by touch when the clay is ready. This drying period can take a few days depending on temperature. Also, don’t leave it out in the rain, as that defeats the purpose.

Step 5 – Clay!

Ball of clay!

When your pillow case has filtered out most of the water, all you have to do is turn it inside out and extract the ball of the clay inside. Congratulations, you have made clay from soil! Or maybe not, sometimes it takes a little trial and error to get it right. Sometimes you get clay, sometimes you don’t. I’ve gotten sandy balls of kinda-clay, and things that are best just tossed back into the hole. Soils vary a lot in color, minerals, and clay content. While the backyard is a great place to start, I dig soil from all over the place, and each result is a little bit different.

Each clay can be different too. They can vary a lot in color, plasticity, and how the clay responds to later steps such as throwing, casting, and firing. Some clays will cast great, but throw poorly. Some will throw and coil like a dream, but cast like hell on wheels. Some will fire fantastically (to all kinds of temperature ranges), others will blow up dramatically. There is a lot of trial and error to this, so don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go right the first time.

Please feel free to ask questions or ask for clarification as needed. This is my first how-to, and again, that trial and error thing. At the end of this post is a short list of additional resources and Youtube videos, so you can go above and beyond what I have explained here. Google is also a fantastic tool!

As always, thanks for reading!

Additional Resources;

The King of Random – Youtube (This one really helped me get going!)

WikiHow Article


Pandemics, Permaculture, and Projects

Hello again folks!

There is a lot going on in my own life and in the world at large right now. I’ll be honest, this post is a little more stream of consciousness than anything. There is just some things I want to talk about.  I have took a voluntary furlough from work, and so have had a lot of free time on my hands. Hopefully that only lasts a couple of weeks or so. We are all in the midst of a global pandemic, which is causing all kinds of chaos. So I’ll start there, since it is in the title after all.

Pandemics

Alright, so we have the Covid-19 virus spreading across the globe. In my home state of Michigan we are under a “stay at home” order. This means that non-essential businesses are closed by the order of the governor, and most of us need to stay home unless it is for work or groceries. It prevents the virus from spreading to other people, and especially vulnerable populations. Short version, stay the fuck home and don’t be like Ash.

In addition, especially for those of those of us in the United States, this virus is making the flaws and problems in our system real obvious. In short (as I have a LOT of thoughts about this), the need for universal healthcare and paid time off is apparent as it’s ever going to be. Heck, I think it’s time to talk about working less hours as a society, as well as things like UBI as well.*  We are the only major industrial country in the world that doesn’t provide those things, and we sure as hell can afford it. I mean, Congress just passed a 2 trillion dollar spending bill, with at least half of it as a give away to large corporations. Same kind of thing we did in 2008 when the last recession hit.

In line with this opinion piece, I think this pandemic and crisis is an opportunity to address the failings and flaw in our society. We can start the process of building a more just future by prioritizing people over profit. This is the path I hope we take as a society. In addition, how we handle the Covid-19 pandemic could teach us a lot about how to handle the climate crisis, as they are both global problems.

I think it could also go the other way, such as the Patriot Act in 2001 and the recession in 2008. The trend towards authoritarianism could increase, and big banks and companies get handouts while the working class and the poor go hungry. That’s not desirable, and I much prefer the former to the latter.

In addition, I think this change should ideally come from the bottom up. I’m not going to hold my breath and hope the Trump administration suddenly develops a conscience. That ain’t gonna happen. If we want change, it will have to come from the roots.

Permaculture

“The first idea is that every organism on the earth is intimately and irrevocably connected to every other and to the nonliving elements of the planet. We unite with our environment to form communities and ecosystems, whether we know it or not.” – Edible Forest Gardens, Volume 1

I’ve been thinking a lot about that, about building alternative systems to the one we have now. To building a more just and ecological future. One that places people over profit, and we all enjoy our lives a little more. I’m a bit of a dreamer, I know, but I think it could happen if we are willing to do the work. If you are interested, I’ve been talking a bit about what that looks like over at my Facebook page, Solarpunk Animism. (Plug, plug, check it out!)

We have to entirely transform our society to mitigate climate change; food, land use, energy, transportation, buildings, cities, and materials. We desperately need models to show what that future could look like. Real world practical systems we can copy, paste, modify, and scale to fit our needs. I think permaculture, and especially agroforestry, gives us some examples we can use to redesign our food and land-use systems. I’ve been reading a lot, and making some plans and projects in light of that reading. Here are just a few books that will, some day, be added to my list of recommendations;

There will be a lot more for me to talk about the deeper I get into this, and these books are really animistic in their material. Ultimately, there will be a lot more to explore, especially the interconnections between permaculture, ecology, and animism.

Projects

Leaving that where it is, I wanted to talk a little bit about all the plans and projects I MIGHT get to this year. I say might because, well the pandemic has thrown a lot of uncertainty over it all. That said, I still get to plan for these things, and someday, I hope to get to them. I am the steward of a few acres of land, including my household. Much of it is forests, but some of it was once old farmland. My long term goal is to create a forest on the farmland, and to be a responsible steward of the forest land in my keeping. Again, we are back to the agroforestry thing. Did I ever say forestry was my first love, and originally what I wanted to major in? Alas, transfer credits and finances got in the way…

Anyways, a lot of the projects I’m exploring are somewhat permacultural in nature, and definitely ecologically based. I want to do my part to do better for the planet, and for me that starts with the local natural communities, and the land literally beneath my feet. The expanded goals are manifold, and cover the gamut from food production, to fuel, self-sufficiency, resilience, and carbon sequestration. I won’t have the space to lay out all the details in this post, so I created a fancy flow chart to perhaps illustrate how this is shaping up for me. Some of these projects are already underway (phase 1), others are planned or dependent on earlier projects. (Phase 2, ect). Ha! I made a tech tree!

 

(Phase 1 – Green, Phase 2 – Yellow, Phase 3 – Red. Blue are land systems, ect.)

 

This is getting a bit long already, so I am going to end this post here. There will be a lot more material to come in the future that expands on all of this.

Thanks for reading!

*I only support UBI in ADDITION to a robust social welfare program. Universal healthcare, education, and public services should be part of the package in addition to a kind of universal basic income. That’s the only way it makes sense to me. Healthcare (including child and elderly care), education, and some extra money for food, shelter, and other basic items.


Space Engineers

This looks like a good place for adventure. (Me, playing Space Engineers)

Hello again everyone!

This is kind of a ‘just for fun” post, but something I think is important to talk about all the same. It should come as no surprise to anyone here that aside from being a fiction writer, I’m also a gamer. I like games, and I make no apologies for that. Oregon Trail, Super Mario Brothers, SimCity, Minecraft… All of it. I have been gaming for a long time (and this includes tabletop). Games aren’t real life, but it has always struck me how informative games can be when it comes to thinking about real life. There are important lessons to be learned from games.

Games are designed to simulate some aspects of real life, and so can help us think about all sorts of issues. I really like sandbox, exploration, and building games; so games like Starmade, Minecraft, and Simcity have a lot to teach us about building, crafting, and even urban design and energy policy. It’s the last I really want to focus on today, through the lens of a game called Space Engineers.

I really enjoy Space Engineers, because it is a game built around creativity and exploration, using technology inspired by the real world, in a near future scenario. We see a lot of energy technology that we have at our disposal right now, such as wind turbines, solar panels, hydrogen engines, and even nuclear reactors. There are no fossil fuels in the game, so it is a really useful lens for thinking about energy policy, and the current state of our energy systems.

Michigan

As games and fiction are can be useful for imaging the future, I want to take you on a bit of thought experiment today. We are going to use my home state of Michigan as an example, with Space Engineers as a lens on our energy policy. So here is our current energy mix for electricity generation;

(From here and here.)

Alright, so we can from the chart above that Michigan has four main electrical power sources; coal, nuclear, natural gas, and renewable energy (wind, solar, and hydro; primarily.) By contrast, Space Engineers uses all clean sources (though not necessarily renewable) sources of power as I have already pointed out. So can we use Space Engineers to rebuild Michigan’s energy system? Release the army of engineers!

They took the scenic route in their solar/hydrogen powered vehicle.

According to the recent IPCC report, we have to drastically reduce our usage of fossil fuels, and they need to be zero by about 2050 if we are going to have any chance to mitigate climate change. So on the above pie chart, that means that coal and natural gas have to go, so we will start there.

Coal & Natural Gas

Coal and natural gas in Michigan make up about 63% of our total electrical energy supply. As such, well over half our energy system comes from fossil fuels, and would have to be phased out by 2050. Coal is definitely the worst of the two offenders, as natural gas is slightly ‘cleaner’, but in the long run it should go too.

Starting with coal then, and utilizing our full army of Space Engineers, we have to replace 37% of our energy sources. The most obvious sources (leaving nuclear aside for now) are renewable energy, especially wind and solar. Michigan has tremendous wind and solar resources, so our limited factor is energy storage more than production capacity. However, with increasing efficient battery technology, and local Michigan pumped hydro storage, our engineers have no problem replacing coal with renewable energy by 2050.

Which brings our renewable energy percentage up to 45%. Drawdown lists on-shore wind, solar farms, and rooftop solar in the top ten solutions to combat climate change. I don’t see 45% as an unreasonable number, as it may be technically possible to run Michigan on 100% renewables.

Unleash the wind and solar! (Yes, I’m flying. Big whoop.)

The next kicker in our energy mix is natural gas. Like coal, natural gas energy is a form of combustion. Basically, burning a fuel to turn a turbine, which creates electrical energy. There are a lot of variations and methods of this, so I’m not going to go into the technical details all that much. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel, produced primarily from oil wells. And while it is ‘cleaner’ than coal, it still produces quite a bit of carbon. Methane is it’s chief component, which is carbon with four hydrogen atoms. So how do we get natural gas out of the mix?

Well, our engineers are good at what they do, so we could just expand more renewables and bring our mix up to 71% renewable. That is possible too, and again the IPCC report says 70-80% renewable energy is about where we’d need to be. So that is one option. We will call that scenario one.

But our Space Engineers also give us another option. One of the big sources of energy in the game is hydrogen; which is used for everything from jetpacks, to rocket engines, to hydrogen engines. So this gives us another option, the hydrogen economy. By using clean renewable energy (as opposed to current techniques), for electrolysis, we could produce abundant amounts of hydrogen from water. If we built up the infrastructure for safe transport and storage of hydrogen gas  (which is quite volatile), we could use hydrogen in everything from transportation to gas turbines. In short, it may be pretty easy to convert natural gas power plants to use hydrogen. If we use pure oxygen in addition to the hydrogen, the only waste would be water vapor. So 26% of our energy could also come from hydrogen plants. We will call that scenario two.

Now this is only a hypothetical situation, as there are several aspects of hydrogen and renewable energy that aren’t quite there yet. The only way to make hydrogen viable would be clean, renewable primary energy. That isn’t the case, as we still are mostly using coal and natural gas. Also, the infrastructure isn’t in place yet, though it is growing.

Nuclear

Moving on, the next big energy source in Space Engineers are nuclear reactors. I have used these in the game for a lot of different applications, from factory power to starship reactors. There are some things in the game that require quite a bit of power, and nuclear works nicely for this. In addition, in the real world Michigan gets 30% of it’s energy from nuclear power plants. We have three plants in total.

Drawdown ranks nuclear as #20 on it’s list. This power source has the potential to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, but it comes with a whole bunch of risks and drawbacks. Drawdown lists nuclear as a regrets solution, and has this to say on the topic;

“At Project Drawdown, we consider nuclear a regrets solution. It has potential to avoid emissions, but there are many reasons for concern: deadly meltdowns, tritium releases, abandoned uranium mines, mine-tailings pollution, radioactive waste, illicit plutonium trafficking, and thefts of missile material, among them.”

However, Drawdown goes to say that plausibly; “we assume its share of global electricity generation will grow to 13.6 percent by 2030, but slowly decline to 12 percent by 2050. ” It is important to note that this is global generation, and regional generation can vary a bit. For example, right now global energy production from nuclear is about 11%, whereas Michigan’s percentage is 29%.

With nuclear being both and option in the game, and in real life Michigan, I am going to assume our engineers use the resources we have, and upgrade them to newer, safer reactors. Maybe they even deploy some of those generation IV reactors we hear so much about? (Most reactors in existence are second generation, built in the 70-80’s)

The Scenarios 

Alright, so our army of engineers have scoured the state of Michigan, and made huge improvements and refinements to our energy system. They also changed out our transportation system, which works mostly now on electricity and/or hydrogen. So where does all this leave us in our game inspired fantasy? With two unique scenarios for a possible sustainable energy future.

Scenario 1: 29% nuclear, 71% renewable.

Scenario 2: 29% nuclear, 45% renewable, 26% hydrogen

I like scenario 1 a little better, because it makes a few less assumptions and relies more on technology we know to work today. The hydrogen economy is a little more of a stretch, because there are a lot of technical details and infrastructure that just doesn’t exist right now. But this imagined scenario is 2050, so our wonderful engineers may have worked that out. It is also technically possible, that the grant us a third scenario that eliminates the nuclear.

Scenario 3: 100% renewable energy, or 100% hydrogen/renewable.

Could the last be possible? I think so, and our engineers are a brilliant sort. It would be the ideal scenario for sure, but engineers are also very pragmatic. That leaves nuclear an open question.

Even though Space Engineers is a game, again, I think it is a great tool to help us think about the future. A future where space travel is real, and our civilization is sustainable. So I leave you with this thought and image. A ship powered by hydrogen and electric thrusters, with energy supplied by a mix of solar, hydrogen and nuclear.

It’s my ship, and thanks for reading!


Updates 2/15/17

“Have I awakened
Deep inside some madman’s dream?
This is not my country
This is not what I believe
Have I awakened
Deep inside some madman’s dream?
I can barely recognize
The place this used to be”

Assemblage 23 – Madman’s Dream

Good evening folks!

Well, it is evening here anyways. I cannot speak to whatever part of the world you may be reading this from. I just wanted to post a (hopefully) quick update blog, so you all can stay in the loop and read about all the exciting things I am working on.

Plus I needed another filler post here as I work to get another post with a little more substance ready…

So here I am, letting you know I haven’t forgotten about you all.

Okay, so here are some updates;

  1. I am coming up on the halfway mark on another manuscript. That’s approximately 35 -40k words for those of you playing the home game. I am working away on a cyberpunk/cybershaman type novel, and I have to say it has really been fun to write so far. I get to play with some pretty interesting topics; such as spirituality, sustainability, and how all that relates to technology. I also really enjoy speculating about what the world might look like in the not-so-distant future.
  2. I have announced it on Facebook, but I will relay that here as well. I have been accepted to write for Paganbloggers.com. Currently I expect that to start moving sometime in March, and I am really excited about this new opportunity. In addition, they are running an Indiegogo to help fund this new site for pagans, by pagans. You can check that out here!
  3. I have finished up editing the fifth book in the Elder Blood Saga. The final book in the series!  I will be getting the artwork for that started in the near future.
  4. I continue to do my best to grow and expand the shop! Have you checked out The White Wolf yet? The link is over there —> It is the home for my writing, crafting, and other work.
  5. Currently, I plan to start a 2+ year shamanic intensive in March. It seems to be the next step in my spiritual journey, and I am anxious/excited to take that next step.

I think that pretty much covers what is going on with me. There is certainly a lot going on in the world, and I’ve been doing my best to keep up with it all. I post a fair bit about many things over on my personal Facebook; not limited to science, spirituality, politics, the environment.. You know a lot of the things I talk about here.

I don’t want to go into that all too deeply here, especially the political bit. Primarily, this is not a political blog. I will delve into that from time to time of course, as it intersects with a lot of what I do talk about here. I think I could even make a fair argument that politics is part of the whole Anthropology thing, as it is concerned with humans; and politics is part of how humans govern one another. There is certainly a case to be made there, as well as topics such as building a sustainable civilization, religious freedoms, and the environment. Plus add the fact that I am sci-fi writer, so on occasion, politics does come up.

There is a lot to say on that front to be sure. The first month or so of the new administration in the US has been… overwhelming. I have been trying my best to keep up, but it seems like every hour something new is breaking. It is also fair to say that many of the things that are coming out of Washington trouble me deeply, and run contrary to many of my views. It just creates this baseline anxiety for me. I’m worried for myself, and my friends and family. Many of them fall into the “marginal” categories, and their rights will be the first to be questioned.

Needless to say, I am part of the resistance. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, and I have serious questions for both parties. Another Republican in charge wouldn’t have bothered me as much as #45. I never thought I’d wish for Bush Jr back. But truly, the administration of #45 scares me.

But, I am both an optimist and a realist. I am an optimist because I believe that humans have so much potential. I am a realist because I realize the amount of work that it will take to get there. That is why I am trying to stay positive about all this, and inspiring and hopeful as I can. This does not means I don’t think the days ahead aren’t dark.

However #45 is a reaction to 8 years of Obama, and vI like to think that the counterreaction to this administration will be fierce; and the further it tries to push things, the more fierce that counterreaction will be. I also think we will have the opportunity to build a better world on the far side. A more global, interconnected, and sustainable world.

I like this Positive Reframe a fair bit.

But that doesn’t mean there is a lot of hard work ahead of us, and I won’t lie to you and say that work will be all unicorns and rainbows either. People are going to suffer under #45, good people. My people, and I will stand with them.

If you feel called to resist, do so. I will stand for our environment, for science, for my spirituality, and for minorities of all stripes. I don’t know at the current time how far this will go, but I will stand by my values all the same.

Here is a piece I like from Scientific American about resisting.

I particularly like this bit;

“His writings, which have been translated into dozens of languages and are available on the internet, describe a wide variety of tactics: worker strikes, student strikes, mass petitions, underground newspapers, skywriting, display of flags and banners, boycotts of goods, boycotts of sporting events, refusal to pay rent, withdrawal of bank savings, fasts, mock trials, occupation of government buildings, marches, motorcades, teach-ins, pray-ins, ostracism of collaborators, publication of names of collaborators, seeking imprisonment, formation of parallel government and mass disrobing.

Many of Sharp’s methods involve mockery, which the !Kung and other hunter-gatherer groups also employ against the swell-headed.”

Yes, I realize not all these actions are legal. It will be up to each and everyone of us to decide where our “Sacred Cows” are, and what we are willing to risk.

That said, by all means protest. March, rally, strike if you have to. Take a tip from the Natives at Standing Rock, and pray as well as protest. Write, make memes, share reputable news sources, learn the facts, make memes… Do whatever calls to you, and do it.

And hopefully the next world awaits…

 “Build me a future,
Splendid and graceful.
Make it better by design.
Perfected strategies, applied technologies.
A brighter future for a darker age.”

Vnv Nation – Streamline

 


Reflections and Meditations on 2016 Part 3

For this part, I really want to talk about a lot of things that are forthcoming. For lack of better phrasing, this will be the “what is next?” section.

There have been plenty of other exciting things going on as this year. I got two more books published, and I am really excited about that. There is another one coming in the beginning of the new year. The very last book in my Elder Blood Saga, the fifth book in the series. That book is in editing right now.

In the writing realm of things, I am aiming to publish two more books next year. The first I just mentioned, and the second is the start of a new series. It is a kind of “Michigan Werewolf” novel, a contemporary fantasy inspired by the work of Jim Butcher and Carrie Vaughn. I’ll start editing the first book of that series in the new year, and see how it goes.

There is definitely a lot of thoughts in that regard. With the new series comes new artwork, and I am still trying to decide how I am going to approach that. I have also considered approaching a smaller more “traditional” publisher. I will tell you folks, honestly being self-published is a lot of work. All the marketing, editing, writing, artwork & design, all that falls on me to coordinate. It is a lot of work for very little return. Still, I felt it was the best option for someone at my level.

There is also plenty of writing to do. This blog will likely go on hiatus soon while I start work on a longer project. There has been one rolling around in my head for some time, and another story not too far behind. I really wish I could do this full time. That would be swell. Ah, but I am dreamer after all.

Being an author these days is kind of rough, but there are also a lot of exciting new avenues people can explore. They each have their pros and cons to be sure, but I can honestly say that without things like Amazon and Createspace, I would not have any work published at this point in time. I have the rejection letters to prove it.

In many ways the market it changing. It pains me to say it, but it some ways the publishing industry has followed the pattern of the more general labor market. You know, the bit that says “entry level, must have 5 years of experience.” A lot of the “traditional” publishers I have approached are in business to make money, and so they like things that are already established, and this includes authors as well as plot line formulas. I am thinking about trying that route again, so I can focus more of my time on writing. I can maybe shift some of that weight off my shoulders.

Plus, as some of you may noticed, I opened my own shop this year. There has been a lot of work on that front, and plenty more still to go. There is a lot more learning to do, and each piece I make teaches me something. I am hoping in the coming year to expand into in-person vending. This year I was building most of the basic infrastructure for my shop. Next year, I want to expand on all that.

I am looking in to my options for that, comic cons (writing), bazaars, flea markets, anywhere that might give me an option to sell my work.

In a more general sense, there is a lot more I got to learn. I want to expand a lot of crafting skills, and try some new things. I also want to seek out some mentors to show me some new things I haven’t thought of just yet. There is plenty of studying to do.

This applies on a spiritual level as well. I mentioned in the first part of this post how I am largely self-taught (spirit taught?) in a lot of things. Still, in many ways I feel like I need more training; and I am not entirely sure where that is going to come from at the moment. One of the big reasons I am building the shop is partly because I feel a spiritual push to do so. It is something I want to do, yes; but there is also some outside pressure there. It is kind of two sides of the same coin. Where my personal desires intersect with those I work with.

And there is still so much to learn there. I want to go deeper, and I think this year has started that process. Where it goes I am not really sure yet. Still, what has been asked of me is substantial at this point. I am basically taking this one day at a time.

On another front, I think next year is going to get very interesting on a much more general scale. I already talked about the election cycle this year, and it really helped me to clarify a lot of my own positions on various issues. It has also been very depressing, mostly due to the fact that our new President-elect and his administration are pretty much openly hostile towards all the things I value the most.

So, in short, I think that the coming year will also be a year of resistance for people like me. Alone, I don’t have much in the way of power or influence. But I also know I am not the only one out there, that there are people that believe as I do.

I for one, have no interest in seeing all the progress we have made as a country tossed out. I want to preserve many of the hard won gains we have made, especially under the Obama administration. I for one, will fight to protect our environment, our basic Human Rights, our Civil Rights, and anything else I think that is worth defending.

Thanks for reading!

See you folks in 2017!


The White Wolf Lives!

Alright folks, after much delay, I am ready to announce my new project! Well, in fact it is a business!

nick_logo1

I am really excited about this, because it brings many wayward parts of my life together into one endeavor. Just for a taste, here are a few things I hope will come to bear fruit from this project.

  • Obviously, it will be a further home for my writing, and bring together many of these things in one central location.
  • It will hopefully help provide funding for future writing and research projects.
  • At the current moment, the forge and iron works is operational. This means that I will be able to provide material support for the pagan community, or really anyone that wants it. Stuff like this!imag0233
  • This project will draw heavily on my archaeological background, so it should come as no surprise that I will likely be trying my hand at replicating artifacts. Stone, wood, leather, iron and steel. Also, anything else I feel like. Stuff like this!imag0158
  • There are other parts of this project that are still under construction, and in the future I hope to expand into bowmaking, as well as general wood and leather work.
  • One of my main communities of focus would be the pagan community, and so I would be offering creations for mundane as well as spiritual reasons.

That is the short list of course, but I am hoping this endeavor will turn into more than this. For starters, I want this to be a “community support” project. This project is not all about me, so it would be a springboard for collaboration and support as well. Obviously, I would love to be able to make a living off my own projects, but this isn’t just about me. As such, provided everything goes well, I will be using some of the profits from shop to help support the community. Just as examples of few of these things might be;

*Help support artists and creators do their own work.

*Donate to causes and/or projects that support my values

Really, this project brings together my educational background, my writing, my crafting, and my spiritual life into one little endeavor. There is a lot of promise here, and I really am looking forward to what the future might hold. And I hope you might join me on the way.

For now, this blog will serve as the “homebase” for this project, along with the Facebook page. I will try not to crowd out my regular projects with a bunch of marketing, so I encourage you folks to follow the Facebook page, as well as the Etsy shop. That is where most of this endeavor will be taking place.

Check it out!

Facebook

Etsy