February 2012

By Michael Gorton, CEO, Principal Solar and Rebecca Halstead, Brigadier General (US Army, retired)

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has a tradition of accelerating technological advancements, serving as early adopters and impacting the broader commercial market in such areas as aviation, computing and GPS. For the past several years, the DoD has been playing this same role in the renewable energy space.

A new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts shows that DoD clean energy investments increased 300 percent between 2006 and 2009, from $400 million to $1.2 billion. Projections for 2030 are set to eclipse $10 billion annually, with an overall target of obtaining 25 percent of DoD energy from renewable sources by 2025. For the solar energy world, the DoD’s energy conservation investment program adds significant credibility to the conversation.

Driven by climate change and the need for energy security, the DoD’s plans are designed to strategically maximize military preparedness and effectiveness during military, disaster relief and humanitarian engagements. As the plans unfold, DoD will serve as a huge laboratory for innovation, laying the groundwork for widespread adoption of new ideas for optimizing efficiency and creating zero energy environments.  Efficiencies gained from a greater reliance on solar energy technologies will create energy independence and bring potentially enormous environmental benefits. Both issues have a direct influence on national security and the health of the U.S. economy.

Add to the equation the DoD as a massive energy spender. Right now, it has 300,000 buildings on its 500 plus installations, with 2.2 billion square feet of space, and spends nearly $4 billion a year on the energy needed to power them. These fixed installations are ideal test beds for next-generation energy technologies. Federal government energy goals have mandated energy reduction of 30 percent by 2015 and electric energy consumption from renewable energy increased to no less than 7.5 percent beginning FY 2013. These are ambitious numbers, but an analysis developed by the DoD’s Office of Installations and Environment demonstrates these goals are well within reach after determining that over 7,000 megawatts (MWAC) of solar energy development is technically feasible and financially viable at several DoD installations in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts of California.

The Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) has two key programs–the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP).  Last year, 575 proposals were selected for field tests in 2012.  These proposals were submitted by private firms, universities and federal organizations and covered five areas: smart microgrids and energy storage to increase the energy security of DoD’s installations; advanced component technologies to improve building energy efficiency; advanced building energy management and control technologies; tools and processes for design, assessment, and decision-making associated with energy use and management; and technologies for renewable energy generation on installations.

New construction projects, such as military family housing, require the use of energy efficiency products that are cost-effective. A number of military installations and bases are moving forward with plans to be “net zero,” consuming only as much energy as they generate, including Fort Bliss, a U.S. Army post with an area of about 1,700 square miles. The Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) program enables commercial companies to fund, build and operate projects in exchange for long-term leases of Army land. This program’s first renewable energy project is the Fort Irwin Solar (EUL) partnership with Clark Energy Group and Acciona Solar Power to build a solar electric power plant with a potential for 1,000+ MW of solar power production — the largest renewable energy project in the DoD’s history.


As the single largest consumer of energy in the United States, the DoD is in a unique position to introduce innovative, clean energy solutions on an enormous scale. By leading the way, they create the very real potential for curbing staggering energy costs and optimizing the nation’s overall defense strategy. These new policies will help to eliminate hesitation in the mainstream marketplace, leading to accelerated innovation and the creation of new and profitable markets. By maintaining its current trajectory, the DoD will continue to increase demand for partnerships, private sector financing and a considerable influx of investment dollars into leading-edge research, technology and business practices.

“There the Lord plays His flute, His eyes like lotus petals, and the color of His Body like a beautiful cloud; on His Head a peacock feather. So attractive is He that He excels thousands of cupids.”

Bhagavad Gita 8:21 1968 edition

[The] peacock feather must be there on Krishna.* [letter from Srila Prabhupada, 8 June 1975]

PP 2.3: The Main Worship

Last night I was watching PBS and they had a biographical piece on Cab Calloway in their American Masters series. He was a groundbreaking performer from the 1930s and 40s who reinvigorated his career with an 1980 appearance in The Blues Brothers.

He was , amongst other things, the first black to have a chart topping hit. He was a singer, band leader, and actor, but what he is most remembered for is he was an unbelievable dancer.

They did a bit with a dancer from Alvin Ailey, one of America’s premier dancing troupes, and the guy was commenting how Cab had evolved steps he used without any classical training, that the Alvin Ailey troupe still learns and does today.

Naturally a lot of stories were told about the old days by people who knew him. One was that his band would travel by train in Pullman cars between gigs.   Cab would bring a rooster with him on the train.  He would study how the rooster moved, how it would raise its wings, how it comported itself.

This reminded me of Krishna. Krishna wears a peacock feather on is head, and is said to do so because the peacock is his dancing guru.  I had always heard that but it had remained for me some arcane trivia but when I heard that the greatest dancer of his generation studied a rooster, it really struck me how the peacock could be Krishna’s dancing guru as well.

Peacock’s are very stately in their movements but quick when they want to be. I one time watched a young couple month old peacock who was sitting on a roost. A fly flew by and the peacock darted his head out and picked it out of the air for a little snack.

Peacocks are famous for eating snakes, and I know that requires quickness.  They are great show men who are very aware when you are watching and will put on a display. They are certainly qualified to be dance instructors for one with a keen eye for observation.

“The gopis celebrate with an even more ecstatic dance. Then Krishna imitates the dancing of peacocks.”

Vrindaban Days Memories of an Indian Holy Town (by Hayagriva) 14: The Dance

“Love is not a matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary. The insistence
on always having what you want, on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is “getting,” and grow up to the maturity of giving, without concern for getting  anything special in return.”

Merton, Thomas. Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors.
New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979: 30-31

“So Krsna is personally teaching. Why we should satisfy Krsna? Because there is no more a greater authority than Krsna. We are trying to serve here greater authority. Every one of us… We are going to office, we are going to party meeting, we are going to be elected president. So what is that?

“That I assure that “I shall satisfy your senses. You want this? I shall give you. Please elect me.” Everyone is trying to satisfy the senses. Either of own self… He’s giving false promise. Actually, he wants to satisfy his own senses. As soon as he becomes minister, he’ll satisfy his own senses. But he’s getting elected by promising satisfying…, to satisfy your senses. But the sense gratification is going on.

“But there is chaos because the point is missing. There is no activity for satisfying senses of Krsna. That is the defect of the modern civilization. Therefore one should learn that you are satisfying the senses of others. Try to satisfy the senses of Krsna, because there is no more greater authority than Krsna. We are satisfying the senses of greater authority. That’s all. Or my senses. Because my senses are also greater authority — kama, krodha, lobha, moha, matsarya. These are very strongly dictating me, “Do this.” I don’t want to do this. My conscience is willing (beating?). But my kama, my lust, is forcing me.”

Bhagavad-gita class 7.7 — Bombay, February 22, 1974

Yesterday Vidya set up a table by a large south window  and bought some seed starting mix at the local Co-op. It is that time of year for starting seeds that need an early jump.

This means peppers, because they are very slow and need to be started weeks before tomatoes in order to be ready at the same time.  Also the early tomato  because we grow that into a larger pot, not just the 48 or 32 to a flat for regular seedlings, they will be in 6-8″ pots by the time they go under cloches.

I’m trying some snapdragons which need started now as  they are slow germinators and get planted out early.  While there are a lot of snaps that can more easily be bought from some retailer, these are worth starting because in theory they are fragrant, which makes them an exception amongst snaps.

We frequently get disappointed by plants billed to be fragrant,which may have  to do with soil type and all the rain we usually get. Too much rain dilutes fragrance for most plants in my experience.   It takes a little adversity to develop character, even with fragrant plants.  So even though I am pessimistic the snaps will be fragrant, I try nonetheless hoping to find a gem.

We like the Italia sweet pepper best for taste and that variety is never seen at the retailers due mostly, I suspect, to its low yielding. When we used to do Farmer’s Markets it was worth it to start all our plants. Now it would certainly be less trouble to just buy them, but because we are fussy about varieties we still take the trouble.

The table by the window is sufficient for now and saves using the greenhouse until heating it is less of a demand, but at some point  we will move. But for now it is nice to have things under eye, right where we walk by it all the time.

We start a lot of seeds in a small box, then when they get the first set of true leaves prink them on into cells in flats, so initially the space requirement is low.  We use an waterproof electric heating pad under the starts as soil temperature is more important than air temperature and that helps pop them up. Once they sprout they move off the pad so even on a small pad, one or two flat size, you can start a lot of stuff.

8 boxes to a flat = 8 different things  started at once.  There is a succession of starting times so something is always coming off the germination mat and being replaced with something new.

As soon as I finish writing this I will go through my newly arrived seed orders and sort the seeds in various categories for easy access later.  Things that need to be started now, things to be started indoors in a few weeks, and seeds that can be planted  before last frost date like spinach, beets, peas, carrots, lettuce, kohlrabi and fava beans for example.

The when it is time to plant I grab the appropriate bag of seeds and don’t need to sort through everything.

I already have some spinach in cold frames that came up last fall and will be ready to pick by April 1st.  Or at least in a normal winter — as mild as this one is who knows when it will be ready, could be much earlier. I will plant lettuce out also in cold frames soon.

When in his twenties a poetry’s full strength
Burst into voice as an unstopping flood,
He let the divine prompting (come at length)
Rushingly bear him any way it would
And went on writing while the Ferry turned
From San Francisco, back from Berkeley too,
And back again, and back again. He learned
You add to, you don’t cancel what you do.

Between the notebook-margins his pen travelled,
His own lines carrying him in a new mode
To ports in which past purposes unravelled.
So that, as on the Ferry Line he rode,
Whatever his first plans that night had been,
The energy that rose from their confusion
Became the changing passage lived within
While the pen wrote, and looked beyond conclusion.

Forty years later, and both kidneys gone;
Every eight hours, home dialysis;
The habit of his restlessness stayed on
Exhausting him with his responsiveness.
After the circulations of one day
In which he taught a three-hour seminar
Then gave a reading clear across the Bay,
And while returning from it to the car

With plunging hovering tread tired and unsteady
Down Wheeler steps, he faltered and he fell
—Fell he said later, as if I stood ready,
“Into the strong arms of Thom Gunn.”
Well well,
The image comic, as I might have known,
And generous, but it turned things round to myth:
He fell across the white steps there alone,
Though it was me indeed that he was with.

I hadn’t caught him, hadn’t seen in time,
And picked him up where he had softly dropped,
A pillow full of feathers. Was it a rime
He later sought, in which he might adopt
The role of H.D., broken-hipped and old,
Who, as she moved off from the reading-stand,
Had stumbled on the platform but was held
And steadied by another poet’s hand?

He was now a posthumous poet, I have said
(For since his illness he had not composed),
In sight of a conclusion, whose great dread
Was closure,
his life soon to be enclosed
Like the sparrow’s flight above the feasting friends,
Briefly revealed where its breast caught their light,
Beneath the long roof, between open ends,
Themselves the margins of unchanging night.

PITTSFIELD, Ohio – If you want great milk, you need happy and healthy cows. At Conrad’s Dairy Farm, that means pampering their milk producers with waterbeds.

  • One of Richard and David Conrad's milk cows rests on a sawdust-covered waterbed at their Wellington, Ohio, farm.
    One of Richard and David Conrad’s milk cows rests on a sawdust-covered waterbed at their Wellington, Ohio, farm.

By Chuck Humel, AP

One of Richard and David Conrad’s milk cows rests on a sawdust-covered waterbed at their Wellington, Ohio, farm.

After 10 months of use, dairymen Richard and David Conrad gave the waterbeds a thumbs-up during a visit Thursday to the farm on Indian Hollow Road.

“You make them happy, they’ll make you happy,” explained Richard Conrad.

During the visit on Thursday, the curious cows crowded around visitors, gently nuzzling coats and clothing.

Now and then, a cow would get up or down from the waterbeds, causing a telltale jiggle on a bed’s surface.

When the waterbeds were installed in March, the cows were a little skittish because they weren’t used to putting their hooves onto the thick rubber bladders that hold the water, according to the Conrads.

But the cows soon discovered that lying on the beds was pretty darn comfortable, the brothers said.

The brothers paid about $55,000 for Dual Chamber Cow Waterbeds for their 240 cows and another $15,000 or so for the concrete bases on which the waterbeds rest.

On top of the waterbeds is a dusting of sawdust and lime for additional bedding comfort and cleanliness.

Richard Conrad thinks the waterbeds could pay for themselves in as little as three years because of an annual $6,000 savings in the cost of sawdust and a better price for their milk.

The farmers said the quality of the cows’ milk improved and the farm was able to lower its somatic cell count to about 100,000 cells per milliliter, compared with 150,000 to 200,000 cells per milliliter before the waterbeds were installed.

Somatic cells are white blood cells that increase in response to pathogenic bacteria.

The lower the count, the better, and the more stable the milk products produced from the milk.

The U.S. government requires a count of fewer than 750,000 cells per milliliter while the European standard is 400,000 cells per milliliter.

Using waterbeds for cows originated in Europe about 15 or 20 years ago and was brought to this country by Dean Throndsen of Wisconsin-based Advanced Comfort Technology.

Throndsen and his wife, Audrey, patented the design of Dual Chamber Cow Waterbeds in 2003 and have sold about 500,000 of the devices in 18 countries, including New Zealand, India and China.

Throndsen said that getting up and down — or lying for long periods of time — can hurt the cow’s front knees and rear hocks — or ankles.

That’s where the waterbeds come in, because they provide a cushion.

Throndsen is proud of the two-chamber design that supports both the front and back of the animals, which can weigh 1,600 pounds or more.

“When she hits that pillow with her knees, it totally cushions them,” Throndsen said.

The decision to put in waterbeds at the Conrad farm was a good one, according to Richard and David Conrad, the fourth generation of farmers at the property.

Some people laugh, or even think someone is pulling their leg, when they hear the farm has installed waterbeds, David Conrad said.

“I think everybody had the same reaction you had when you first heard about it,” he said.

However, he said they come around when he explains how the beds help eliminate sores and promote better health.

“Without the cows comfortable and content, they’re not going to work for us and make us money,” David Conrad said. “The people in the dairy business are serious about what we do — we love our cows.”

With fans and sprinklers to cool the cows in the summer, Richard Conrad said his mom jokes that she “wants to come back as one of my dairy cows, because they’ve got it made.”

“There are a lot of people who can’t say they’ve slept on a waterbed,” he said.

Out here in the country we can have problems that might not happen to city folk. One of them is birds crashing into your windows.  It occurs most frequently at our house involving cardinals during nesting season.

Birds are territorial during nesting season and males will attack other males of the same species.  It is common to have multiple nests in our yard at the same time but never two of the same species.

It will happen some years that a cardinal will see his reflection in a window and attack it to drive it away. Sometimes they attack so hard they end up laying stunned on the ground.  Different windows in different houses have this problem due to angles of light, what scene is reflected, time of day, all that.

Sometimes birds will fly into a window because they perceive it as just another part of the yard.   Expecially if they are elduing a predator like a hawk.

Here is a website with a solution:


While they sell a ready made product custom made for your window, they also include plans to build your own.


They claim 90% reduction in bird kills using the bird savers.

“When people think of bird mortality they usually think of cats, wind turbines, and pesticide poisoning, among other causes. In fact, in North America the largest number of birds are killed each year by glass!

“Windows in our homes and other buildings can be deadly to birds. Many people do not realize that birds are killed at the windows they look through unless they happen to be there when the bird hits the window. Birds that die directly under the offending window are often taken by scavengers – cats, raccoons, skunks, chipmunks, other birds, etc. If it is a window where many birds die from collisions, even though you do not realize that birds are dying there, scavengers know and routinely check the area for fresh food.

“Many times, the bird that just hit the window dies immediately. Other times, the bird may fly away only to die later. Sometimes birds recover if the strike is not too severe. …”

Read their whole Fact Sheet here.

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