Mission Statement: To develop and maintain a secure, nutritious food supply that is not affected by outside influences for the betterment of ourselves and our communities.
Goals: Our food supply must be secure, environmentally sensitive, as well as economically feasible and self sustaining.
Objectives: to combine controlled environment aquaculture with other permaculture concepts to create a self sustaining food production system
But Who are we?
Well, that’s us… I’m Dan and the lovely woman in the picture is Karen, my best friend and wife of 32 years. Yes we are very real people, we have three children and our story is much like thousands of others here in Indian Country. It doesn’t start where you might think it would, in a remote community somewhere. It starts in the city. We met in Edmonton, Alberta through a mutual acquaintance and started dating while we were working in the city. It wasn’t long before we were “shacked up” in our first little love nest in downtown Edmonton. Now before you think that this little tale is going to be all sordid and filled with juicy details, nope, you’ll have to wait and buy the memoirs! Suffice it to say that we did all the things we were supposed to do, we worked and paid our rent and bills and did all those other little things young couples do. As a result, (did I mention we have three beautiful children?) we had to start thinking about what sort of environment we wanted to raise our children in. We knew downtown was no place for a kid, so we had to do something. We tried different cities, different areas, and we struggled. Again if you think you’re going to hear all the juicy details, forget it. Five words. Memoirs..for sale..next year. So finally, we moved down south to the Blood Reserve and we thought we would make this our children’s home. This is where our story really begins.
This is the proposed facility to be built this year.
HELLO WORLD! DECEMBER 5, 2014 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT So our new website is online and this is my first blog post in a very long time. So first things first, I need to thank the people who have helped us in getting us to where we are now.
Thank you Tim Wickstrom, the website is great and you’ve really taken a big load off of my shoulders! Thank you Morley Belle and all the fine people at Community Futures Lethbridge, without your help and vision we definitely wouldn’t be here! Thank you to Bill Halley from RINSA (Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta) for your vision and encouragement! Thank you also to Blood Tribe Chief Charles Weaslehead and the Blood Tribe Council for your vote of confidence and willingness to think outside of the box! Thank you also to Charlie Shultz, John Derkson, Clay Boyes and everyone at the Lethbridge Community College Aquaculture Center of Excellence, your leadership has inspired us! (oh, and thanks again for the worms!)
If I’ve forgotten to mention anyone please accept my apologies and make sure to send me an email!
So over the next few days I will be posting more of our story, some of it may not be pretty (or even interesting!) but all of it will be the unvarnished truth. Hopefully you will understand why we’ve embarked on this grand adventure and maybe, just maybe, one or two of you may be inspired to follow suit! Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTA Second PostNEXT POSTBlogging is Hard! BLOGGING IS HARD! DECEMBER 11, 2014 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT So I know I promised to keep up with this blog and I had every intention on doing just that. You know the old saw, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” somehow feels very appropriate right now. I have so much to do and most times I run around simply overwhelmed and of course then things get prioritized yet again. I’ll bet you can guess what sort of priority I give to writing this blog… When we were building our first little straw bale home I was often faced with the same difficulties. So many little details to figure out, weather issues, so few resources, cows eating the walls, OK so that problem was specific to the bale house, but you get the idea. How did I deal with it then? I just kept at it, broke the big problems into little problems, solved them as I came to them and tried to do a little bit each day. Really, it was quite simple, although at the time it was incredibly hard to do…something about “not being able to see the forest for all the trees” I think. So now it’s this business, and my bold assertion that I can build a year round food producing system that will work anywhere. I know I am close, I’ve built and tested all the sub-systems, the power generation, the aquaponics, heck I’ve even been playing with rocket mass heaters. All that’s left is the construction of the domes and figuring out the insulation so that it works even here on this bald headed prairie at forty below. So I was able to spend the day cutting the rest of the panels for the outer skin of the dome and the rest of the Lexan panels. Tomorrow will be spent putting the panels together on the dome. I’ll definitely be putting some pics up when I’m done. It felt good to finally have the time to build some of this stuff, it’s been too long. While there are still some issues to deal with, it’s nothing I can’t handle! As for this blog, I guess all I need to do is schedule a regular time to write, it’s not like I don’t have anything to say! Hopefully this will become easier as time progresses! I will write again! I promise! Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTHello World!NEXT POSTWhat are WE doing? WHAT ARE WE DOING? DECEMBER 12, 2014 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT So I was at the bank today in Lethbridge, Alberta which is the closest city to where I live and I saw something which gave me pause to think. I have lately been wondering if I should just follow the crowd and get a job and keep consuming, keep up with the Jones’ and all that. Give up on my dream of self sufficiency and just be another cog in the wheel. Then I saw him, a nice blue, lifted, Dodge Ram one ton Mega Cab with a slip tank. He parked beside me and kept his vehicle running even though it was about 12 degrees Celsius today as he went into the bank to do his business. Now I drive a diesel too, but with the prices nowadays, who can afford to idle a diesel sucking monster like a turbo Cummins? Unless you’re burning homemade fuel that’s just conspicuous consumption, plain and simple. So I thought, he’s a young guy, why would he not think more about the environment? Does he not think about the water his kids are going to drink, or his grandkids, or his great grandkids? They are currently fracking around our place and sucking water right out of the river nearby. Will there be any left when our kids are having grandkids? Then it hit me. No, the thought never even crossed his mind. He’s a busy guy, with important things to do today. To hell with the future, he probably doesn’t even want kids! As far as he’s concerned, as long as he gets his, he doesn’t care. Just don’t get in his way or he’ll run you down with that big assed diesel truck of his. I realized at that point (as I fantasized about his jet setting lifestyle) that I could never be that guy and that I must continue on this path that I’ve set for myself. I do think that we have to consider our actions on not just the next generation but on subsequent generations as well. What sort of person would I be if I used up everything in the world so that I could tell my grandkids “hey, we had fun, best of luck to you.” Now at one time I was just like him, that was before I had kids. That one (well three actually) event changed my entire outlook on my life, as I’m sure happens with every parent. No longer could I just think of my own selfish needs and wants, I had to think of the new life my beautiful wife and I had created. Not only that, there is the eternal hope that our children will have some of their own, and so on and so on. Thus our lineage is borne and our legacy ensured. That’s not going to happen on a planet bereft of water or unpolluted and fertile land. So I (no..WE) are going to continue with our dream of turning our little plot of prairie land back into the Garden of Eden that it once was using permaculture. As for the guy in the blue truck? Now that I think about it, I pity the poor guy. Until next time. Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTBlogging is Hard!NEXT POSTNew Year, same old Bullshit! NEW YEAR, SAME OLD BULLSHIT! JANUARY 4, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT So we are now into the year 2015 and I have gone back into the deep dark recesses of the internet to find my old blog “muskwa’s musings”. I began that blog to try and explain why we took the steps we did to look after ourselves. We had also hoped that others would try to follow our example and say no to being forced into poverty by some greed-head that only cares about his bottom line. Our ancestors flourished here on Turtle Island long before the advent of fossil fuels or supermarkets or even the welfare state. My grandfather built his home with his axe and his bare hands, he planted and tended acres of garden and hunted and fished to feed his family of twelve children. It is through his stamina and common sense that I am here today writing this blog. I am proud to say that I have tried to emulate his example to fend for myself and my own small family. It is my hope that one day I will have grandchildren that will be proud, strong and independent and that they will know that I didn’t sell out their future for my own gain. Unfortunately, I feel like I am alone in my hopes. Where we live (on the largest reserve in Canada) we seem to be plagued by the lateral violence that is the legacy of the residential school system. The managers and bosses (who are largely the old residential school bullies) still use the tactics they learned in their youth to get their own way, namely intimidation, slander and the threats of violence. They tried this tactic when we first started our home, even the Minister of Indian Affairs tried to bully us, but it didn’t work (you can read about that in the old blog “muskwa’s musings“). After rereading my old words, I’ve come to realize that not much has changed in the last seven years except us. We are being bullied once again, with threats of eviction and police involvement. This leads us to wonder if they are trying to go back on the promises Chief and Council made three years ago, namely that they will help us to rebuild our home that was destroyed in a wildfire (that could have been prevented!). Now don’t get me wrong, this is a great place with lots of good people (like the current Chief and Council) but just like any other place in the world, there are those bad apples that make life hard for the rest of us in the barrel. It’s just that this is a pretty small barrel and the bad apples tend to stick out more. I am not here to rant about the shitty way we are being treated by some of the people here, I want to bring to light what I think is the underlying cause of the crap that’s been going on here in our little part of Indian Country. Simply it’s about the notion that there isn’t enough to go around, so you better get yours while the getting ‘s good! Make sure no one takes yours either, and don’t share because there isn’t enough to go around, remember? Nothing could be further from the truth, there is more than enough energy that falls from the sun in a single day to power all of mankind’s needs for a year (forgive my paraphrasing of a honest statistic). There are ways we can work with Mother Earth to ensure our food is nutritious and freely available (think permaculture and food forests!), there are ways we can use the natural cycles of Mother Earth to feed ourselves in perpetuity (think aquaponics and alternative energy!). I know sometimes it seems like it is an impossible dream but we are living proof that it can be done, we’ve done it once and we’ll do it again. No matter what the greed-heads do. Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTWhat are WE doing?NEXT POSTOut of the doghouse…finally! OUT OF THE DOGHOUSE…FINALLY! JANUARY 6, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT So the matter has been settled, but it took intervention right from the top. After bringing the matter to Chief and Council it was determined that we are not being evicted in two weeks. I can sleep easier tonight knowing that the leaders of this community are committed to honoring their promises. I only wish that everyone could start just treating each other as people and not numbers, because I believe that’s how this all started. This is exactly why we chose those many years ago to live back on the reserve, because we know that it is a place where people still treat one another with respect and kindness. Not like entries in a profit loss statement. That belief was shaken Dec.31 when we received our notice (hand delivered in the evening) by a guy whose bosses must’ve thought was dispensable (you know they always figure the messenger will get it!). Well sorry to burst that bubble but I’m not really that difficult of a guy to talk to (the messenger left unscathed!), and that brings me to the point of this missive. In the three years we have been here, not once has the boss dropped by to see what we are doing even though I have been building domes, flying wind turbines, collecting parts, and even recycling old photocopiers! Why not just simply come and talk to us, find out what we’re doing instead of threatening us in a letter with police action if we don’t comply with illegal demands. I still think that this is a good place full of good people, who still believe in respecting others. That was made evident yesterday when we brought this matter to the attention of Chief and Council. We will be given the time we need to start planning our move back out to our original home, as we are now in a position to start rebuilding our dream of self sufficiency. When our original home burned down with all of what we had worked for, we were left with just the shirts on our backs. It was this community that rallied and supported us in our time of need and helped us to get to where we are now. We are grateful and we will never forget that kindness. Just another example of why I think that this place is a good place to live, because of the people. So once again from behind the cloud comes the silver lining. Even though there always seems to be one or two knuckleheads around who seem to delight in causing strife and discord, most people are still decent human beings. My faith in people has been restored. Another good thing to come from all this malarkey, since the fire we have existed in a kind of limbo, not really knowing when we would be able to go home. Well that limbo ends now. This spring we will be moving back to our home to start rebuilding our dream, and it’s here that you’ll be able to read about the adventure! I’m excited. Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTNew Year, same old Bullshit!NEXT POSTAnd into the Domes… AND INTO THE DOMES… JANUARY 8, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT The first dome is up. Let me tell you it was really quite a circus, put it up, take it down, put it up…well you get the idea….and it’s still not it it’s final location! I made a big boo boo when I first erected this behemoth (it’s made out of 2×6 lumber), I neglected to think about a little wall to put it on. I know, a rookie mistake, but in my defense, it was due to a little cash flow situation at the time of construction. My reasoning at the time was “how hard could it be? I’ll just use some levers and blocking, maybe get some buddies and just lift it, borrow some forklifts or equipment and do the same…” it all looked reasonable. So I built the dome right on the ground just to make sure I did it right. Well I did it right but I guess I really don’t understand how much 840+ lbs really is (65 pcs, each about 13 lbs avg is equal to 845 lbs). Turns out it’s a little more than I thought, after breaking several levers and having the dang thing start coming apart when the machines were used, I realized the KISS principle applied here. So I took it apart and moved it, easy as pie. You can be sure the next time I build one of these crazy structures (and that will be soon!) I will ensure that a proper base is included! In fact, the idea is to video/photograph the entire process from raw boards to finished dome. Then coupled with simplified plans, make it all available for free on this website so you can build your own. I have been covering the smaller domes with a UV resistant poly sheet that I get at a greenhouse supply store in Calgary, but we are covering these first two big domes in lexan sheets that we received from Bill Halley (thanks again Bill for believing in us!). Dan building the experimental dome. The idea is to make these domes able to withstand the harshest of weather. To be able to generate it’s own power, and to be heated cheaply with the ultimate goal of year round food production on a small scale. Also everything needs to be able to built by just one or two persons. I think we’re close to getting it right, the above small greenhouse was built for a friend and even in Cardston, AB it has withstood the winds for almost a full year now! In closing, a few people have asked me about the doghouse picture in my previous post so I thought I’d toot my own horn for a minute. I built that with an axe, a hatchet, a chisel, a hammer and a bow saw (and a log scribe!). It has a wood floor, uses saddle notches and took me about a week to finish. If you want one, let me know. Your dog would be the envy of the block! Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTOut of the doghouse…finally!NEXT POSTAnother first for us! ANOTHER FIRST FOR US! JANUARY 17, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS 5 COMMENTS My lovely wife Karren and I are so happy to announce the very first Net-Zero home on the Blood Reserve is now up and running! The house belongs to our friend Dr. Esther Tailfeathers and is somewhat of a landmark in the town of Cardston, Alberta as it is situated right on the main road to Waterton Park. This grid tied 5 KW solar system was installed by our friends at Energy Smart Canada from Lethbridge Alberta and we believe that it’s the first one on any First Nation in Alberta. Dr. Tailfeathers is a great person and a true leader in this community, the largest First Nation in Canada. While she is to be commended for having the vision and ability to do this on her own, it is a sobering thought that this is the first one on any First Nation in Alberta, perhaps even western Canada. The fact is it’s 2015 now, why aren’t these a common sight in every Native community, why do our brothers and sisters up north have to go through the garbage to eat? There are lots of things I could rant and rave about but I’ve decided that it’s better to just roll up my sleeves and try to DO something about it. That was how we built our first home and that is how we are going to rebuild our dream of self sufficiency. Hopefully in the process we can help and inspire others to do the same. Change is hard I know, but it can be done. Dr. Tailfeathers has taken the important first step towards building a more sustainable community. Both Karren and I are honored to have been able to help her with that step. Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTAnd into the Domes…NEXT POSTSo what’s in a name?
5 THOUGHTS ON “ANOTHER FIRST FOR US!” Ian Magill JANUARY 26, 2015 AT 10:32 AM Looking good, it was a pleasure to work with you Dan and Dr Esther. I too commend her on undertaking such a rewarding initiative.
Solar Photovoltaic systems are prevalent in everyday society the world over, especially in Europe, USA, and Ontario – Canada. The rest of Canada is just beginning to realize the benefits of such systems. Hopefully this is the first of what I’m sure will be many such systems on Indian land in the months and years to come. REPLY
SO WHAT’S IN A NAME? JANUARY 21, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT I have been asked several times now, “why Thunderbird, why did you name your place Thunderbird Farms?” and of course I couldn’t come up with a simple answer. Eventually the person who asked got a glazed look in their eyes as I rambled on about phoenixes, wildfires, sustainability, my general disdain of the way things are, my hopes for the future and they wandered away looking confused. So I am here to set the record straight so to speak, or at the very least I can reference this post when asked again. Now maybe it’s an interesting story, maybe not. You can be the judge. We lived in a little straw bale house for about eight years here on the Blood Reserve, little did we know we were pioneers on several fronts. We knew that we built the only off grid home anywhere in Indian Country, ok let me qualify that, we built the only place that generated it’s own power through the use of solar panels and wind turbines. It was also the first straw bale house on any reserve in Alberta. It was also tiny, make no mistake about it, as it was completely self financed and built completely of recycled materials, so now when I see the tiny house thing on the internet I think to myself “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”. Sadly we no longer live there as it was destroyed in a wildfire about three years ago, it was our Shangri-la, our happy place. It will also be the subject of another blog post as I now need to get back to the story. This is where the story takes a strange twist, the fire was a big one, destroying two homes and threatening the town of Coalhurst. It was deemed accidental as it was started during a sweatlodge at my neighbors place when the wind picked up. That morning I had received a call from my neighbor asking if I had an extra braid of Sweetgrass as they were going to have a sweat and he realized he didn’t have any. So of course I looked for the best one I had and said sure. As he left, he said he would pray for my family as well during his ceremony. Little did I know what was in store for me. That afternoon my friend Pat Eagle Tail Feathers and I were sitting around my straw bale shack pontificating on yet another business venture and playing with a wind turbine I was building. When the wind came up we retired to the cozy confines of the house to use the internet (high speed, wireless, another first!) and grab a beverage. While we were busy writing yet another business plan we noticed it was getting very cloudy when earlier there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Well let me spare you the gory details, but let me tell you this. My dang woodshed was made of wood and filled with wood (it was Nov.27 after all) and when it went up it went like a roman candle. The forty foot flames were hot enough to start the roof of the house on fire from ten feet away as the roof was made of…yup, wood, remember, recycled wood. But I digress, yet again. Suffice it to say that I was able to save the dog, my computer, and my t-shirt (haha got the t-shirt, hahaha!). We lost everything else though, all my tools, eagle feathers, books, mementos, everything that I used to think was important. However I do know now that it was just stuff, and so let me finish the story. I had become complacent with our situation, living in our little place, minding my own business and I wasn’t really moving forward with anything new or interesting. I figured I had solved our housing issue, solved our power issue and I was content to just go to work for someone else and let the good times roll! The Creator had other plans however, so that all went up in the flames too. There is a silver lining to all of this though, after our calamity we found out just what sort of a place we live in and what sort of people surround us. The community rallied and within a short time we were no longer homeless or destitute. Again we cannot thank Chief and Council of the Blood Tribe and the entire community enough for all their help in our time of need. So finally now to the name, we initially dreamed up Phoenix Farms when we were building our business plan (as we had been given a clean slate and from the ashes of our former life would rise an even greater project!) but the name was taken. So we thought why not Thunderbird, while not the same as the Phoenix, Thunderbird Spirits are protectors of humanity, and what better name for our project which is also designed to help our fellow man. After a careful search in which we found the name was available, it has become our moniker and even our website address! So there you have it, and although I have glossed over a lot of things in my haste to get this story down, I am reminded that there are many more posts needed and they will all need interesting stories. Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTAnother first for us!NEXT POSTWalipini, Wofati… wtf? WALIPINI, WOFATI… WTF? FEBRUARY 6, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT Ok, so once again I am remiss in my duties as a blogger. However in my own defense, sometimes things don’t happen all that fast out here. Case in point is our never ending (seemingly) struggle to get back to our own home (we are two months away from yet again becoming homeless, even though I solved that problem eleven years ago, or so I thought!). Once again however, I must leave that to another post, as my families future depends on me not ruffling anyone’s feathers. Such is life in Indian Country. So I will turn my attention to the future and try to explain what it is we are trying to do. Our (Karen and I) plan was borne from the independence we gained from living in our straw bale house. We were completely off-grid using solar and wind energy, and at the end of the month we had no mortgage. Pretty sweet. I am of course leaving out all the bad stuff, like the heat stroke, the vandalism of my camp and I am also glossing over all the good stuff too like the kindness of strangers, the help of friends. Those should be all good topics for other posts, don’t you think? But I digress once again….stay on topic. The last piece of the puzzle was food, and I like pizza. So we know how to make sausage, and we know how to make dough, and we know how to make sauce. All we didn’t know was how to make cheese, but we found that even in our little straw bale hut with nothing more than our old wood stove and a thermometer, we were able to make some delicious cheese! Well of course you need the raw materials too, and so was borne the idea of an integrated farm were we could produce ALL the raw materials for pizza. Oh and fish tacos, mmmm I love fish tacos, and fried chicken, and chicken fried steak and bacon and eggs and…oops, I’m getting carried away. You get the idea, and because of our limited space we need to maximize the amount of food we can create in that limited space. Enter Aquaponics and Walipinis and the fusion of the two, Aquapini’s! Oh and lets not forget the Wofati’s, thanks to the fine folks at Permies.com where the Duke of Permaculture coined the term. So instead of me trying to explain these concepts I strongly encourage you to visit these sites (and others) and find out for yourselves. Simply put however, a Walipini is a greenhouse that is sunk into the ground to take advantage of the thermal mass of the earth. Aquaponics is the science of using fish waste to fertilize food crops in a closed loop system and Wofatis are simply earth bermed buildings, usually pole barn like structures that also take advantage of the thermal mass of the earth. By using all these concepts in a simple low tech way, coupled with our power generation capabilities and a few small animals, Karen and I both know we will be able to create our own Shangri-La right here! Can you imagine a place that creates all it’s own food, all it’s own power, all it’s own fuel? In a manner that is easy to do, easy to maintain and above all good for the Earth? This is our dream, and we are on our way to creating it now. Please join us. Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTSo what’s in a name?NEXT POSTA Big Deal A BIG DEAL FEBRUARY 11, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT So most of my writing has been referring to what HAS happened in the past and very little has been written on what we WILL be doing here in the near future. From here on though that will be changing. Karen and I are super happy to announce that we have entered into a joint venture partnership with AgSpectra Ltd. The purpose of this partnership is to create the largest Walipini in North America right here on the Blood Reserve! Exciting stuff! It’s basically a big greenhouse that will grow a wide selection of food crops in a controlled environment, from this production we will be able to ensure that Thunderbird Farms will be a viable business for years! With our Aquaponics being housed in the domes, and a nice round barn or perhaps a wofati for our animals, we know our place will be a showcase for what can be done. While the details have yet to be finalized, it will be unique in that we will continue to operate off the grid using solar and wind energy with an eye to keeping the whole process easy to duplicate. We will continue to learn and share what we learn right here, Please stay tuned! Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTWalipini, Wofati… wtf?NEXT POSTAnother beautiful day in Paradise! ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL DAY IN PARADISE! MARCH 6, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT So our upcoming move is fast approaching and the weather is looking fantastic! The ground isn’t frozen and our business plan is looking great! We’ve begun to divest ourselves of some of the excess cargo we’ve accumulated over these past three years. It’s amazing how we’ve been able to recover from the loss of our home, and the future is looking even brighter! We did get a bit of a scare though, I was admitted to the hospital last Monday with another bout of meningitis, I have had this happen before, about sixteen times now in my adult life. They call it Mollaret’s Syndrome and apparently it’s quite rare. I guess it’s something I have to live with, although I hate seeing my beautiful wife worry so much. Being so close to the edge for so many times has taught me what is really important, it is what is reflected in my loving wife’s tears. This is why this project is so vitally important. I must be able to provide for my family in the inevitable certainty of my departure from this place. So forgive my optimism when I regale you of stories of what must come about here at Thunderbird Farms. I do it as a survival mechanism. So here’s the latest, after meeting with all the concerned parties, signing an MOU with our JV partner Ag-Spectra, negotiating a contract and developing the business plan we are now ready to develop the LARGEST Walipini in North America (so far as we know!). By using the best technology and the latest science we will be able to build a nice little business providing food year round for our community and to do it without having to poison our Mother Earth. Wait, that’s not all! By using our business model and our processes, we are going to spread this throughout Indian Country. It is our wish that not one of our relations should go to bed hungry. If we can do it so can others. That is the goal. I hope you’ll join us on this next leg of our adventure! Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTA Big DealNEXT POSTThe last piece of the puzzle…maybe THE LAST PIECE OF THE PUZZLE…MAYBE IMAGE MARCH 27, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT This past week was dedicated to finally getting some decent power from a wind turbine I am building using Hugh Piggott’s design. He is an electrical engineer from Scotland who was asked by the British Home Office to develop something for the electrification of third world communities. I am using his rather elegant design. As are many other people around the world, you can visit their website at www.otherpower.com They typically use rare earth magnets in these generators, however our financial situation precludes me from simply ordering three or four hundred dollars worth of magnets from E-Bay, instead I have to find what I can that I think will work. In my early days I used to fix microwaves and I know that there are magnets used in the wave guides so I figured why not? It just changes the math a little, I mean a magnetic field is a magnetic field right? No matter what makes the magnetic field . As long as it cuts the wire at 90 degrees you will induce a current in that wire, thereby creating electricity. Faraday and Lorenz both have laws named after them describing the math and physics of this process, I am sure glad those smart guys were born! I will have to find busts of them and others to adorn my man cave. I know Sir Isaac Newton said it first but I’ll say it again “If I have seen further it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants”. I of course will also include the aforementioned Hugh Piggott and my good friend R. Charlie Shultz (Aquaponics Researcher Extraordinaire) in that collection of giants! I digress once again, I start talking about what I’ve done and then I casting in the mold. realize I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without all these people throughout history. A sobering thought. However I can toot my own horn a bit, I’ve been able to take garbage (broken microwaves) and create useful energy without having to pay an arm and a leg! Thank you Hugh Piggott! So back to my problem with the magnets, I didn’t really know how strong they are. That is critical when you are doing the calculations to find out how many turns you need to wind for each of the six coils you see pictured above. When I first built this turbine: Hand-built turbine using appropriate tech. it only provided 7 volts at 300 rpm, Not good enough, although I was able to verify that it spun and was balanced enough not to shake apart under the stresses! An important discovery. If only for me. So now I knew that I could build a power generating unit from scraps, now I just had to make it provide the power I needed. That is, 13.5 volts at around 300 rpm and higher voltages at higher rpms, all I needed was enameled wire, at $11.50 per pound. So after doing the calculations again (and getting a grant to buy the wire!) and scraping enough to get the fiberglass resin, I was finally able to cast another stator. Here it is giving me 13 and 16 volts when I spun it up using the dremel tool (about 285 rpm and 425 respectively, but I only had a hand held tachometer to measure). So now I know that it will work well enough to charge some batteries, and that’s all that matters. Yahoo, I finally guessed right, I still don’t know what those magnets are made of or how much Gauss their magnetic fields produce but it doesn’t matter, it works. If you’re wondering, I used 1600 Gauss (at 1/4 of an inch away from the magnet) in my calculations. Enough of the boring stuff, suffice it to say that I can now produce power from garbage (I also use old bed frames for the frame which I weld together using an old Miller arc welder my Dad taught me to use, another giant!). So let’s put this in perspective. I am able to take a readily available waste material and by utilizing some physics and chemistry (think fiberglass!) and a little metallurgy and engineering, I am able to create useful energy that will power my dreams. Whoa. For all you kids out there, stay in school! Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTAnother beautiful day in Paradise!NEXT POSTHome, at last. HOME, AT LAST. JUNE 4, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT So Here We Are, Home Finally After three and a half years, we have finally come out of limbo and have taken up residence on our land. You all know how grateful we are to Blood Tribe Chief Charles Weaselhead for helping us in our time of need (after our home was destroyed by fire). We also know how much the community helped to get us back on our feet after we had lost everything. Again, words are not enough to express our gratitude but they’re all I have, so once again, Thank You all! The past few days has reminded me why Karen called this place “our happy place”, the peace and quiet here is nothing short of amazing. I can finally hear myself think, and the dogs haven’t chased anyone in days! When we lived at the feedlot/potato farm, the dogs were constantly chasing the guys who refused to slow down in the yard, I was always worried they would be run over by those inconsiderate boobs. No worries anymore though! We are finally home! A lot has happened since I’ve posted last, I know I need to keep all you adoring fans updated, and so I apologize. While a lot did happen, I was just in no mood to write about it. I know when I feel frustrated or upset that my feelings can come out in my writing, and I don’t want to scare you all away! So I will only write when I am not so stressed, trust me you’ll thank me! Speaking of stress, as an indicator of just how much we’ve been dealing with, I have been hospitalized twice with sudden onsets of meningitis over the past three months. I wouldn’t wish that pain on even my worst enemy. So what has happened you ask? Well, we received validation of our little project in a couple of key ways. Firstly, my friend and mentor Charlie Shultz, along with Bruce Swift of Tri-Gen Ltd, invited me to take part in a study of IBC Aquaponics at Lethbridge College, in which we were able to verify the economics of the system we will be using on the farm. The test results and my own projections were very similar which just lends credence to my initial business plan. Secondly, Thunderbird Farms was the proud recipient of a Micro Voucher Grant from the Alberta Provincial Government based on our Joint Venture with AG Spectra Ltd. This grant will be used to construct the largest Walipini in North America where we will be able to grow food year round. So finally some good news to report, I have been waiting a long time to be able to write these words! It is my fervent wish to be able to share with you all our journey from humble beginnings to a future where our childrens’ children can grow up, free from those constraints that have plagued us from the beginning. I think that’s what we all want, and I will do my best to share what I know as we do it. So in the spirit of that goal, over the next few months we will be incorporating more information into this website for free. Yes you read that right, FREE. No subscriptions for the good stuff, no buying crappy ebooks (although there will be ebooks for sale, just not crappy ones!) Just good ol’ fashioned free information! Like the inventors of the Internet wanted! (at least I’m guessing that’s what they wanted!) So stay tuned, I will have lots more to say in the next few days! Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTThe last piece of the puzzle…maybeNEXT POSTAnother Adventure ANOTHER ADVENTURE JUNE 17, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS LEAVE A COMMENT So here I am again, sitting in the Garden of Eden, just outside of Lethbridge Alberta. Almost the same spot I was in a little over eleven years ago, almost as in just 25 yards from where I pitched my tent the first time. Still pretty close though, both in the physical and the metaphorical. You see, we are going to have to do it all again, solve our own problems with our own resources and ingenuity. It was the same situation eleven years ago, we were essentially homeless through no fault of our own, we simply couldn’t afford our rent. My wife was working full time, I had just finished a website for the Federal Government where I had charged them a pretty good dollar for a reasonable amount of work, everything was good. Then something happened, actually several things in fact. Vehicle breakdowns, I got sick with meningitis, power and gas rates went up, it got colder, you get the idea. It was not the best of times. We are lucky though, in that we are blessed with having an extended family that were willing to help us with whatever little they had. So began the story of how we come to be sitting in an old RV powered by the sun (and soon to be wind) with hi-speed internet, building geodesic domes with Aquaponics systems and soon to be building the largest Walipini ever constructed. I am getting ahead of myself though, we had moved our three kids and all of our stuff to my in-laws basement, it was not a good situation but it was all we could do. I know that one of the first things you do when faced with a problem is to identify the root causes of that problem, then you can solve them. Our main problem stemmed from the fact that we were always broke, you know how it goes, pay the rent or pay the bills or eat. It’s a tough choice to make for many people ,I know. I imagine many people do the same thing I did, juggle as if your life depends on it. Rob Peter to pay Paul, make the minimum payment, basically lie to our creditors on a monthly basis. All because a bulk of our money each month was going to pay someone else’s mortgage. Dumb. Then serendipity arrived, I watched a documentary about 15 Mexican ladies who had solved their own homelessness by coming together and building each of them in turn a small straw bale house. When they were finished not only had they secured their families future by having a home of their own, but they had unintentionally created a small safe community where they all looked out for one another. Wow, that is awesome, but then I thought, if they could do it, then why couldn’t I? I mean after all, my Moosum (means Grandfather in Cree) built a log home in Saddle Lake that he raised twelve children in, using nothing more than a team of horses, a stone boat, an axe and an adze. All by hand. I could do the same. In fact I made up my mind then and there that we would use no power tools, there would be no generator, no skill saw or power drill. We would use the same tools my Moosum had, a bit and brace, hammer, bow saw and chisel. The summer we built our little straw hut, turned out to be one of the most memorable summers we have ever had, at least from my perspective (you’ll have to ask my wife what she thinks, maybe not so much!). From the starry nights, camping out in my old WWII army surplus tent watching the most amazing aurora borealis show, to the hot, hard days moving dirt and stones by hand, there are quite a few stories that come to mind. Far too many to recount right now, but good fodder for future blog posts! Before too long though, we had a place to live where we could be together as a family once again. That’s the important part. Being a family. So it was with one of our grandest adventures, the building of our “happy place” that I learned that important lesson. It was a little frightening. After all while I had some construction experience, building a whole house from scratch is a different story. Daunting would be a good word, insane maybe another one but definitely necessary due to the poor socio-economic situation of the place we’ve chosen to call home. For instance, if you go through the proper channels to get housing here on the Reserve, you could wait a lifetime unless you happen to be related to whomever is on Council at the time. The reason for this is that there seems to be only a finite amount amount of resources and an ever increasing need. I can’t say anything about the increasing need, the Indigenous population is growing in Canada faster than any other demographic, and shows no sign of slowing down if my nieces and nephews have any say! I can say something about the perceived lack of resources however. Bullpucky I say, complete and utter nonsense. Our culture teaches us that there is more than enough for everyone if we live in harmony with our surroundings. Never taking more than you need, being respectful of your Mother. Sharing. I know nowadays that sounds fanciful or even naive, but for me it’s a world view. One that I choose to pass down to my children, and to their children and maybe if I’m lucky, their children. I know that’s not everyone’s world view, and that’s why we’re in the predicament we’re in now! I am once again going off on a tangent, the building of our first home served many functions. It was a learning facility and a proving ground, we proved that we could look after ourselves with our own meager resources. We learned that there are other ways of doing things, we weren’t limited by anything. Then I became complacent, but I talk about that in another post, I don’t want to rehash my failures, if you don’t mind. Above all though, I learned how to mix concrete, I mixed all the concrete needed for the house in a wheelbarrow. 135 bags of portland cement, 20 cubic yards of sand and aggregate, over 800 wheelbarrows made by hand. Myself. Now I’m bragging…sorry. It had to be done, we couldn’t hire someone to do it for us, we had to do it ourselves, and no one else wanted to do it. So for all of you who don’t know, I will tell you the secret to making cement. 1,2,3. I part portland, 2 parts sand, 3 parts aggregate(stones) and 1 equal part water added a little at a time. That’s it. Oh and lot of elbow grease. Once you’ve done it a couple of hundred times, you’ll get the hang of it guaranteed. Now the end of that grand adventure was a tragic one, as I’m sure you’ve all read. However in every cloud there is a silver lining, and that silver lining became what we are doing today. Building geodesic domes, aquaponics systems, walipinis, wind turbines and changing the world. Well, our world anyway. So begins another grand adventure here in the Garden of Eden, I welcome you to come join us if you’re in the area, and if you’re not, well dear reader, just keep coming back here for updates. I promise there will be many, many more to come, please stay tuned! Post navigation PREVIOUS POSTHome, at last.NEXT POSTMy Shangrila MY SHANGRILA JULY 23, 2015 DAN MCGINNIS 2 COMMENTS So it’s been a month or more since I’ve posted a new blog and a lot has happened in that time. It doesn’t seem that way to me as I’ve been laid up the past month with a terrible case of what could only be described as sciatica. I thought it was only a movie line but man was I wrong, I could barely move, each step was agony. Yet here we are out in the bald headed prairie in an old RV and I couldn’t move. Thankfully my sons came out to help the old man with some of the harder tasks, like carrying water, and digging footings for the dome. We were also able to build a shed to house some of the stuff we’ve collected over these past few years. I could be a pack rat, and yes we finally got the dome erected, although not without some stress as I was totally dependent on the boys and I’m definitely the type that likes to get my hands dirty. Even my daughter and her boyfriend came to
But Who are we Really? Read about our journey to this spot in the blogs.
We are trying to create a zero input farm here on the prairies in Southern Alberta.