When I was a student in Minnesota I attended the meetings of a loose association of alternative technology enthusiasts. Sometimes we visited someone’s solar house project or dome home. Sometimes we would meet with a guest who would tell us about windmills, permaculture or Amish technology. The emphasis was on sane alternative energy strategies focused on weaning ourselves from fossil fuel, but we touched on lots of other interesting things as well.
This is a house on Rt. 220, on the right going west, just before the Woodward Township Building. In addition to the obvious solar water heater in the middle, the arrows point to two photovoltaic panels. I only know that a real family lives there and PPL uses it to get experience with alternative energy. I'd like to know more about it, and I think perhaps other people are interested as well.

Beside the concern about dependence on oil, there was an exciting atmosphere of dialogue, tinkering, Yankee ingenuity and innovation! The meetings were so fun I took my girlfriend (who is now my wife) to some. I met interesting people who planted seeds in my mind that sprouted and grew decades later. I miss those informal, educational meetings, which leads me to wonder, “Could we have something like an Appropriate Technology Association here?”

I envision an association along these lines:

At its core there would be no organizational meetings, no dues, no regularity, no pressure to contribute anything, no paid staff-- just a list of e-mail addresses.

It could stay in this dormant form for months at a time and that would be OK. Then, as the spirit moves, someone might call a meeting, set up a field trip, write up an article, or review a book or web site. Other people might be content just to read e-mail summaries of goings on. Perhaps little sub groups will form: people interested in gardening, carpentry, hybrid cars, wood heat or solar collectors. Or maybe the whole thing will go dormant. Any level of activity and any outcome from growth to hibernation is OK.

I believe we should go into this with a “big tent” mind set. Whether old or young, socialist or free marketer, NRA or PETA activist, inexperienced or knowledgeable, vegetarian or carnivore, Prius owner or Humm…well, if you show up driving a Hummer, perhaps that will pique some lively discussion. My point is that everyone should feel welcome even we’re not all on the same page. If transportation to go to meetings is limited, we can set up some carpooling.

This is my wood-fired masonry heater which supplies all my heat and some of my hot water.You can read more about the advantages and the disadvantages of a masonry heater here.

I will kick things off by relating my experience with a northern European-style, wood-fired masonry heater which provides 100% of the heat for my house during the winter, and some of my domestic hot water. Based on my experience I can deliver an honest assessment about its advantages over a metal wood stove, as well as what the disadvantages might be for some people.

I will try to arrange some educational field trips and/or guest speakers. Then we can see what happens after that.

If you contact me I will put you on the list and inform you when something is happening.