Earth Week and Beyond! Movies, Motorcycles, and Chickens!

by Ben N on May 2, 2012

What a blur the last couple of weeks have been!

Spring is always my busy time. In Wisconsin, many of us usually get pretty excited once the snow melts and it starts warming up. Too much cabin fever, and then we finally get outside! Besides just having weather that’s suitable for going outside again, Earth Week keeps me busy as I try promoting clean transportation and the DIY Can-Do Attitude!

Our local group, GREENER OCONOMOWOC (City of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, USA) put on two movie showings on either end of Earth Week – WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? and FRESH.

The Chevy Volt, with the Nissan Leaf behind it.

For WHO KILLED..?, we not only showed the movie, but also had a Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Plug-in Prius on display for the crowd to admire. It’s wouldn’t be a live event without Murphy’s Law intruding… Although we did a technical test ahead of time, the DVD just plain didn’t work at all when it was showtime. We did have limited internet access though, in the end, we all got to watch WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR off YouTube in ten minute chunks at a time….. with GREEK subtitles!

The next day, I was over at the Unitarian Church, where they were not only holding an Earth Day Faire, but have an AMAZING PV Solar Array AND the “Garden For Good”, a volunteer community garden where all food is donated to the local food pantry. I was showing off clean transportation alternatives and had my wife’s plug-in Prius and a friend’s Brammo Enertia electric motorcycle on display near the solar panels. What’s really been keeping me down is that I unfortunately had an incident that resulted in a broken foot several weeks back. Makes it hard to get around having to use crutches. The really cool thing though is that right now, I can put enough weight on my left foot to lift a motorcycle off its kickstand. Most electric motorcycles, including the Brammo, don’t even have a transmission, so once  you’re on the bike, the left foot doesn’t have to do anything!

Charging from a 17KW solar array

Sweet freedom! Leaving the crutches behind, I could fly off on that motorcycle without so much as any exhaust behind me. (For my full review of the Brammo Enertia, click here.)

On the home front, my Dad has been working on a couple of projects. Several weeks ago, my wife, 18 month-old daughter and I were over at his place. He had wanted to hang up a toddler’s swing in the backyard, but was disappointed in what was available at the stores. It wasn’t just the cost, more how over-the-top they were with safety features, seat belts, and anti-pinch this and that, and were made-in-China plastic. So, my brother and Dad just started seeing what they could do with some rope and a 5-gallon bucket. With about ten minutes of hands-on design work, we had a toddlers swing made from a bucket and rope, using just a jigsaw and drill for tools.

We hung up the swing, and my little girl played in it for well over an hour – this from a girl who usually doesn’t spend more than ten minutes in a swing. Later, I made another swing of the same design for my backyard, and even drew up plans so that ANYONE could make their own. I printed those out as flyers for Earth Day as a fun D.I.Y. family project. (Click here for more on the 5-gallon bucket swing.)

The other big project my dad started was a CHICKEN COOP! When I was pretty small we had chickens. That was a long while back now. I remember those things being pretty big and mean. They were roasting chickens, and I’m pretty sure they had the word “Giant” and part of their name. 30 years later, my Dad is now building a chicken coop for a dozen laying hens. Nothing like fresh eggs, but first you need the birds and a place for them to live! 

The baby chicks are currently corralled in the back of the garage, with plenty of food, water, and heat lamps. In the back yard, the coop is going up – it’s a big box on stilts, which not only takes care of the un-level ground, but makes it so the chickens go in and out through a TRAPDOOR in the bottom of the coop! The chickens will be able to live in the coop, under it, and in a fenced-in chicken run. The coop also features some pretty nice windows. My father is a remodeler by trade, so most of the materials for the project are all items that he already had around. The large window in the coop was an expensive mistake the lumberyard made when they placed an order, but MISMEASURED the old window. The small window in the end is actually a sample. Never intended to actually be installed, it’s compact so that window salesman can carry it around to show to customers! But it’s the perfect size for chickens!

The coop will be finished with an exterior that matches the barn building it’s right next to. The coop is easily visible from the road and the neighbor’s house, so it will be nice to have with good-looking exterior!

In coming events, it’s going to be a busy summer! Tomorrow, I have an interview on June Stoyer’s “The Clean Energy View” radio program. Coming up soon is also the Mother Earth Faire in Washington state. I’ll be a presenter there, talking about electric motorcycles and DIY Hybrids! Our buddy Paul Holmes will also be there with a presentation of making electric vehicles affordable. You might remember him as the secret ring-leader of the Open Revolt project, which now has a 1000 amp controller, and looks like we’ll be working on one especially for plug-in hybrids in the future.

I’ll also be at the MREA fair in June, and then the other Mother Earth News Fair in September. Right around then, I’ll also be teaching a hands-on seminar in converting a farm tractor to electric!

So, I still have to let my foot heal, hook up my solar hot water system, and start work on my DIY Hybrid Pickup Truck. Sounds like it’s going to be a great summer!


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