Renewable Energy: Being handy helps

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

With difficult economic times, growing numbers of people are pursuing the goal of increased self-sufficiency. Whether producing food, assuring heating and cooling for a home, or meeting other needs, being able to do for oneself produces a sense of strength and independence.

Several workshops at this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair Aug. 13-14 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill., will provide thought-provoking ideas about meeting basic needs.

One of the first basic needs people consider is food. Growing food for the family not only can provide a fresh, healthy diet, it can also produce a sense of independence. Mary Eberle will share tips about growing vegetables in small spaces, including containers and square-foot gardens. She will also discuss urban fruit gleaning, including what fruits to find, where to find them, and how to harvest and use them. John Barnhart will discuss the nostalgic American dream of an organic garden. He and his wife, Cindy, have been in the organic farming business, which he explains is not complicated, for six years.

Saving seeds can assure continued growth of favorite plants. Caron Wenzel will not only share techniques for seed saving, she will help participants learn how to use plants for natural dyes. Sherry Piros and Lin Vogl will demonstrate simple methods of food preservation and will share their bounty in an expanded version of their popular workshop.

For those who want to go beyond providing fresh fruits and vegetables, helpful hints on raising chickens for want-to-be small-scale chicken farmers will be offered by Lin Vogl, Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) sustainability coordinator, who began her adventure only two years ago. A portable chicken coop will be available for sale.

Annie Warmke’s “Natural Care for Goats” will provide information about raising goats without chemicals. Her book will be available for purchase and signing.

Jeff Ludwig of Miz Bee Haven will explain the life cycle and how bees are raised and housed. Ludwig offers a course on beekeeping at the Byron Forest Preserve District that has stimulated substantial interest in the activity.

Health maintenance will be addressed by Linda Conroy’s “Choosing Herbal Remedies for Sustainability” and Nancy Gouch’s “Nature’s Holistic First Aid Kit.” Conroy will also offer insights that will help people make informed choices about sustainability.

Two all-day workshops will help participants learn how to make simple, inexpensive, useful products that provide nearly immediate benefits.

Watch as Solar Chef Bob Croteau in his “Solar Hot Air Collector Do-It-Yourself Demonstration” (all day Saturday) whips up an affordable do-it-yourself solar hot air collector. Watch it rise out of a pile of ingredients into a fully functional solar furnace that you can mount on the south wall of your house, garage or workshop. Learn to whip up your own in a weekend.

Glazing will be available for sale. Tad Vogl will lead one-hour participation workshops all day Sunday making inexpensive rain barrels that collect water to use in the garden, avoid runoff and erosion, and save on water bills. Barrels will be assembled on site. Components will also be available to take home for assembly. Barrels and kits will sell for $45 each.

For an interesting, informative look at self sufficiency, attend the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair at the Ogle County Fairgrounds Aug. 13-14.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail

From the July 13-19, 2011 issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!