Cooking oil: an unsolved problem in local living


As a thought experiment, imagine what you would eat if you lived in Stokes County and could eat only foods grown within 50 miles. If you had a good garden, you could eat quite well. However, local sources of vegetable oil would be a problem. Our ancestors in these parts relied on butter and lard. However, keeping cows and pigs takes far more land (and effort) than most people can manage. Not to mention that butter and lard aren’t the healthiest fats.

A number of crops can be grown locally that produce good, healthy oil — sunflower and peanuts would be easy. Flax seed would work. Walnuts, if you can get them. But how do you get the oil out of the seeds?

A little research turns up fairly big, expensive, motor-driven units aimed at the biodiesel market, but small, hand-powered devices are almost unknown in the United States. It would be easier to buy a hand-powered oil press in India or Africa than in the United States.

Some people have tried to solve this problem. At, they have plans for an oil press that uses a simple jack with a piston and cylinder that could be easily and cheaply built in a machine shop. The plans originally came from Organic Gardening magazine in 1979.


Hmmm. I wonder if I could barter a little computer work to get a machinist to build me one of those. Press the oil out of sunflower seeds and feed the rest to the chickens.

Google Earth'ing my land


I’d been waiting for something like two years for Google Earth to get high-resolution images of Stokes County. Finally they do!

Here’s a Google Earth view of my land. The property line is the white triangle in the lower left foreground. That’s Hanging Rock State Park looming high in the background. The elevation of the park is exaggerated a bit by Google Earth (the park’s actual altitude is over 3,000 feet, compared with 910 feet for the highest part of my land).

For scale, my road frontage along that gravel road is 763 feet. As you can see, I’m on the south-facing side of a little valley. A small stream runs across my property and intersects with another small stream at the lower end. The conjoined streams then run to the Dan River about 1.5 miles farther down.

More about the roof line

The complete roofline, and the other dormer windows, are not apparent in the drawings of the gothic revival cottage that I have posted previously.

This angle clearly shows the gabled roof and the front dormer:


And this angle shows the hipped roof and the side dormer:


The front dormer lights the stairs and the upstairs hallway, and the side dormer lights the upstairs room that I will use as my office and radio room. The stairway and landing are to the left of the front door. The stairway and landing are so well lit, including a side window facing south and the front window facing east, that I need to figure out how to make the stairs double as a bit of greenhouse.

And the rear view: