Biodiesel Class Write-Up: Weekend One.

First some history:

At some point, Melinda and I came up with a bit of a manifesto, or… maybe a code.

Hell if I know what it is exactly, but somewhere along the way we came up with a purpose to live by.

It all started with TV.

We don’t have cable. In fact we haven’t had cable television since college, which marks a bit over a decade now, and no, we never used rabbit ears.  We found the content to be lacking (to say the least) and everything had some covert or overt agenda.  We certainly gave it a shot, but it didn’t take long before we realized we weren’t watching it at all.  Add to the fact that we were paying for something we weren’t using and the decision was easy.  We just pulled the plug.  It was surprisingly easy and we found we had more time for ourselves and each other.  Sounds nice doesn’t it?

But what did it all mean?  It meant that we lived with a bit of a filter in our lives.  We didn’t get our news from the then conventional means; we didn’t get the paper and though we had dial up, the internet was, comparatively anyways, still in it’s infancy.  About the only way we did get news of our surroundings was through the radio (NPR, it calms me as well as informs…).

Man was it liberating.

What made it so was that it was self monitored. We were not force fed by the mass media and it changed us in a lot of ways that we never could’ve foreseen.  By these means, we’ve been able feed our brains selectively, through choice, taking in the bits that seem to make sense, and ignoring the ones that don’t.

In other words, we’re in control.

That’s the way it’s been for a long time now and, for the most part, it’s worked.  Sure we still get the odd bit of propaganda and once and a while we are amazing oblivious to some major happening.  But over time and through various aggregators, we’ve been able to customize the flow everything around us. And over the last few years, I think we’ve finally been able to filter out the bullshit from what actually matters.  It’s not some army of well pressed suits telling us how to live our lives.  We’re choosing what we want to know, (notice I didn’t say “hear”) and we actually read the news that interests us and decide for ourselves.  It’s a bit unorthodox and it certainly isn’t what a lot of folks would call “easy”, but it works for us, and it works well. Incredibly well in fact.

It’s been in small steps for sure; ditching said cable, trying to grow our own food, becoming more self-sufficient….  But it’s all starting to slowly simmer down to a life that is truly ours.   One where we can depend mostly on ourselves, asking for help from family or dear friends whenever necessary.

A basic, fulfilling and simple life that is ours and doesn’t infringe on other’s.

Now, that said, fast forward to present day…

One of the main things that tethers us all to something much larger than ourselves, is the fuel we run in our vehicles.  It’s gotten to the point that it would seem that we have no choice in the matter.

Or do we?

We do!  Well, some of us do anyways, specifically diesel auto owner/enthusiasts.  That choice is biodiesel.

Biodiesel has become quite the dinner table buzz word over the last year or two, and there is something to it.  We desperately, as individuals and as a country, need to cut our ties to oil, both foreign and domestic.  It’s running out folks.  It’s not renewable, once it’s burned up it’s gone baby gone (an excellent move by the way)!  So it should make sense to anyone to find a good alternative before we use it all up completely.

Many certainly are trying to find a fuel we can use tomorrow.  But diesel owners actually have a choice and can actually make difference right now!  Not only can they choose biodiesel, a fuel made from any kind fat, but they can also make it themselves, on that little chunk of land they call “home”.  The home brewing biodiesel has been around for decades but it is only now starting to form a sort of grassroots movement and with the ingenuity of a few very resourceful folks, there have been a bunch of open source community efforts that have been aimed at creating affordable biodiesel reactors.  Reactors are the vessels that help spawn the chemical reaction the create biodiesel.

One of which is called the “Appleseed Processor”.


Created by Maria “Mark” Alovert, it uses a sealed water heater to help create a closed, safe environment that produces a clean, very local and sustainable fuel source for your diesel engine!  Through her efforts, Maria (or “girlMark” as she’s referred to out in the online/offline biodiesel community) has single handedly spearheaded a movement aimed at informing and empowering anyone to take their fuel needs into their own hands.  Until then she’s kinda been a myth out in the ethos of the interwebs for me, quite present, but unapproachable all the same.

So when I saw that she was actually teaching a series of weekend classes at the biofuels coop I’m a member of (Piedmont Biofuels) I jumped at the chance.  It was the perfect opportunity to learn the process of making fuel for the Golf and to find out if I’d have the resources and time to make fuel at home afterwards.  So I signed up immediately and attended the first round of classes this last Saturday and Sunday!

It was extraordinarily hot that weekend, and by hot, I mean in the 100’s.  I had fleeting hopes that class would somehow be inside with the AC blaring, but I had also been to coop several times in the last year and kinda knew that there wouldn’t be any.  So when I showed up a the coop Saturday morning, with a gallon of water in one hand and my notebook and pen in the other, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the class was being taught outside in a three sided barn.


It was almost the worst case scenario that I had been conjuring up in my head on the way there, only at least we were in the shade.

Mark, showed up a little late, but got the class going immediately, setting an almost militant pace, steam rolling through the history of biodiesel, it uses and how it’s been made through the years.  It was a little intimidating meeting someone so ensconced in one topic but also incredibly enlightening too.  Such passion for such a good cause!  She was all business to start, demanding that everyone stay on topic, but by the end of the day on Sunday she loosened up a bit and was smiling and cutting jokes with the rest of us.  Everyone who attended had a good time and it was awesome being around some many people that were gung-ho about diesels. It was great to swap stories, advice and knowledge!  We all smiled through it all. I guess you really had to in that kind of heat.

But when all was said and done, I actually created my own fuel!  I finally experienced and contributed to something I often talk about and promote on a sometimes weekly basis!


It felt good. :smile:

And while the process needs to be precise (it’s going in your car engine after all), and can be incredibly unforgiving if you mess up (extremely dangerous chemicals involved here folks),  I was so glad I did it.  I’m still out on whether I can bring the whole process into my life and I still have one more class to take (this weekend we’re building an appleseed reactor!! WOOT!!:eek:).  But, at the very least, I know if given the time and the patience, I could make (and already have made) my own fuel to put in the Golf.

Aside from that fact being incredibly bad ass, it’s also liberating, bringing Mel and I one step closer to that life we seem to be hurtling towards; one of simplicity and independence.

I honestly can’t wait to get there and with experiences like these under my belt, we’ll be armed with some incredible knowledge.:mrgreen:

I’ll write more on how this next weekend goes once I complete the class!


3 thoughts on “Biodiesel Class Write-Up: Weekend One.

  1. Pingback: Ruminations, Musings and Other Stuff… » It’s Funny How Often Things Don’t Turn Out How They Are Planned….

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