the animal's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

@C40 and Scott-Thank you very much for the kind words.

@Ego- I'm actually not entirely certain what I will do with the EMT. The forestry project I have been working for is looking to create a new position as a remote medic which could be interesting. There are rarely any incidents so it'd likely just involve building out a medical system for the program and doing any care in addition to regular duties. In the past, I was interested in joining a volunteer fire department up here. The time commitment is minimal, 2 shifts/month and my gf does it. I'm not sure I'm interested in that at the moment but maybe in the future. Those skills would certainly be useful there. I'm also unsure if I'll take the National Registry Exam. I think I have something like 3 years to take it now because of Covid... You should look and see if you can have your cert extended. They have changed things (at least in AK) due to Covid and I have a friend who had her cert expire at the beginning of the year, but it was extended because of the virus. Anyways, that NOLS course looks interesting. My understanding of the WEMT is that it is just a WFR + EMT? My WFR has expired but I'm currently WFA certified. I'll likely just wait until I can get my WFR training paid for by someone else.

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Over the past few weeks I've had intermittent talks with my gf about life visions and finances that have left me very energized and excited for the future. She is frugal by nature without much background in personal finance so I've been bringing up points about saving, FI, and the ERE mindset. She is largely on board and has the desire to reach a point where work doesn't dictate her/our lives (if we are not already there we are pretty close). I mentioned how I have an interest in getting my expenses as close to 0 as possible and she thought something like that would be cool. For the past month she has been suggesting and taking initiative on us living in a tipi on my land while we rent out my house. She is into homeschooling, has said no place is too remote and doesn't like going out to eat at restaurants. She issued a moratorium on all restaurant eating in 2021 (not much of a challenge as its only a handful of times a year anyways). We recently took a trip to Mexico which got her gung ho on bikes and she has started biking to work each day using my fatbike (in the dark both ways at temperatures far below freezing mind you!)I'm excited at what's ahead and would've never imagined I'd be in this situation and relationship even just 6 months ago. Fun times!

2Birds1Stone
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

Wow man, you won the GF lottery.

Having read and empathized with your search for a partner over the years, really happy for you.

Living in a tipi after building such a cool house seems a bit extreme though, don't you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor for a bit? What do you predict annual expenses will be staying in the house vs. in a tipi?

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Lemur
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Lemur »

Damn your GF sounds cool. :D Congrats.

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

Thanks guys :D . I forgot to mention her favorite state is Alaska. I'm don't know how it could have worked out better.

@2birds- Yes I'm in full agreement with that viewpoint and that has been my main objection. I think the tipi is more of a short term thing, live in it for a year or 2 and then use it as a guest residence for friends/family etc who want to come visit in the summer. I think, at least as of now, the house is the long term idea but I would like to live in it for at least a few months prior to doing something like the tipi. A very good friend of mine is interested in renting out the house so it could be a fun setup. If the house was rented out it would cover all house relates expenses such as land mortgage payment, property tax and would pay for all tipi related costs in a little over a year.

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

The end of the year went really well. I was travelling quite a bit and at a faster rate than I have in the past. I went to Dallas to visit my dad for a few days prior to heading to Miami for my sister’s wedding. It was a blast and the best wedding I’ve been to yet. It was in the backyard of her fiancé and after dinner my brothers and I kickstarted the party by jumping into the pool with tuxes on. By the end of the hour, everyone else had joined us in the water. My siblings and I were worried about WWIII as our parents and their spouses have a very negative history, but somehow it ended up with each side high fiving and saying nice things to each other. It was very weird but could not have gone any better.

I met my gf in Cancun for a trip in Quintana Roo. We enjoyed the warm weather and abundant sunshine but were both turned off by the extensive tourism development. We spent most of our time in Isla Holbox before heading down to Tulum. We did not enjoy Tulum very much and were wishing we were elsewhere. We found that in the future if we go somewhere it will have to be with something that we actually like doing, like hiking and camping. Many of these popular destinations attractions are limited if you are not interested in sitting in a bar/drinking (I do not drink). I did get plenty of chances to practice my Spanish. I felt like I leaned a little too much on my gf as a crutch (she's fluent and looks local) but there were moments when it was just I and I got by fairly well.

One of the most noteworthy things from our stay is the lack of phone zombies in Mexico. We spent the first night of the trip in Cancun and walked around and eventually found somewhat of a mini fiesta in a plaza. There were hundreds of locals, old and young alike, and I couldn't find one that was looking at there phone. For a little while there was a clown/magician that was performing and not one person took out there phone to record what he was doing. I was and still am awed by that night. It felt so different.

We visited with my family in Chicago for my birthday and Christmas before heading back north. I had a friend who had rented some cabins in a public recreation area near here and found myself on the trail for 3 days less than 10 hours after landing. The light is outstanding at this time of year and we had incredible vistas of the sun rising beyond the Alaska Range as the moon set to the north and then a couple hours later, the sun setting and the full moon rising against a sky of pastels. Amidst all the chaos in the world at large, 2020 turned out to be one of my best years yet. Here’s to building on that and making things even better in 2021.

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Things I am planning on accomplishing in 2021

-Eliminate all debt (land and student loans)
-Avg spending of $1k/mo. Past couple years have had big expenditures with land, new to me car, house and pilot's license. I don't forsee any this year and can now prosper off my base. I have no good reason or justification to spend higher.
-Walk across the Alaska Range. I ideally would like to do the Brooks Range instead. It holds much higher appeal/value to me and I'd like to avenge my first trip detailed many pages before in this journal but it's not possible due to covid. Next year.
-Read the bible. GF and I are doing a passage a day. I went to catholic school for 12 years so I am very familiar and have read a lot of it but not all. She was raised catholic as well. It shall be interesting to see what thoughts come of it this time as neither of us are longer much religious.

Happy New Year! Best wishes to all.

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Viktor K
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Viktor K »

Like a mini Tour de COVID 😇

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

Yes, somewhat I guess. I was a little uncomfortable on my flight from Dallas to Miami as it was full and that was the highest density of people I had been in contact with up to that point but overall I felt very comfortable on the whole trip and travelling around. I tested negative multiple times so I would be very surprised if I contracted the virus at any point or passed it along to another person. Nobody from the wedding has been sick or tested positive since that time (~3.5 weeks ago).

Viktor K
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Viktor K »

My mother is traveling more than you, though not as condensed time frame. She tells me to stop being a “hermit” lol... She also hasn’t caught anything.

I think I’ll be scurred until I get vaccinated. Me and gf both high risk...

My mother is high risk too, but me and her on different wave lengths

I’m in one sense jelly of your travels (being a traveler myself), but I a) know my gf wouldn’t be down and b) think I’d still be too un-customarily anxious to enjoy it 😭

Western Red Cedar
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Happy to hear you had such a successful year and a successful wedding!

Overdevelopment in heavily touristed areas has really soured me on certain locations. After a couple of those types of experiences it becomes easier to discern what kind of destinations will likely fit in well with personal goals and preferences. Luckily, you already live in an epic location so you should have years worth of untapped adventures within a short distance. This is what I try to regularly remind myself whenever I'm thinking about an international trip.

In terms of your goal for reading the Bible, I really enjoyed reading the first five books as part of an ancient literature course in college. I also grew up in the Church (protestant) but now identify as agnostic. Approaching the Bible as a piece of literature in a secular context provided a lot of insights that years of church and discussions never offered while I was younger. I think it helped that we had a professor facilitating the discussion and that I used the Oxford Annotated Bible. This version has loads of interesting annotations and references that aren't in traditional Bibles:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Annotated_Bible

Best of luck in 2021!

classical_Liberal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

That night you describe is really what draws me to the Latin American culture. I've had similar experiences in the past. Doing that type of stuff is what I envision an extended stay in Mexico would be like. Thanks so much for the updates!

It's funny you didn't like the activities there. An Alaskan is like a fish out of water on a warm, sunny beach. Believe it or not there are actually very physical sports based on water and sun. Even jungles to explore. :P It's kind-of the opposite of how I feel so cooped up in the upper midwestern winters. I feel like there's nothing to do outside. Although obviously, as you prove, there's plenty to do in the cold. For whatever reason, I just like the warm weather stuff instead. Maybe it's habits, or maybe a deep ingrained personal preference.

FBeyer
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by FBeyer »

theanimal wrote:
Fri Jan 01, 2021 10:45 pm
...there was a clown/magician that was performing and not one person took out there phone to record what he was doing. I was and still am awed by that night. It felt so different.
...
It's like the nineties all over again.

Did they listen to Nirvana too?

Also: So happy you're doing well dudeski! By the looks of your journal you've got a LOT of things going for you. Makes me surprisingly happy (even though we've never actually MET). :lol:

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

@ViktorK- Yes, not an ideal situation for anyone. Here's hoping it comes to a close within the year.

@WRC- Thanks for the recommendation! I picked it up from the library and it is indeed much better than the version I was reading previously.

@C_L- It's not that we didn't like the activities there, it's just that we found them limited. We did just about everything possible in both places, going to beach frequently, hiking, biking, my gf went wind surfing for a day, cenotes, Mayan ruins, bioluminescence water at night etc. There were some park areas further away that seemed appealing, but they were beyond the limits of our dilapidated bikes. Don't let my location fool you, I am a big fan of hot weather! :P

@FBeyer- No Nirvana or belly shirts in sight..but I probably just wasn't looking hard enough. Thanks man! Nice to see you back on the boards!

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

It seems that everything I read that inspires me just leads back to ERE as the path there. And no not early retirement extreme, but Emergent Renaissance Ecology. I’ve been going through a lot of resources recently that have solidified this thinking. Things like Rob Greenfields blog and podcasts with Ethan Hughes in addition to some books such as those below: :

-Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist
-Dystopian novels like Station Eleven/American War
-Unabomber Manifesto- Industrial Society and it’s Future
-Why We Drive
-Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
-Various Native American books

The life I want to live is one that is free of money and not dependent on an economic system to cater to my needs. A life where I surround myself with the people I love and care about, where I/we have the opportunity to do things on our own terms, not those mandated by some employer or other person. For many people in traditional society, the only way to achieve this is with $1 million+ or winning the bitcoin lottery. But as Jacob and others have shown time and again, the simpler way is to go in the opposite direction, insourcing your life and gaining skills/autonomy. I’ve been slowly putting the pieces together over the years and things are starting to fit together.

I was recently discussing the Riot for Austerity program with my gf and we thought it’d be fun to challenge ourselves in some of the categories Some don’t make sense for us as we are already far below the average (like water and gas). I am continually grateful and impressed at how on board she is with this line of thinking. In the same vein, we were also discussing the Why We Drive book and how automation leads to complacency and lack of skill. For example, how everything in kitchens has now been electrified (like Jacob’s personal favorite example, the electric can opener!). She has the same mindset, that at a certain point life became too easy and it’s not good for us as people in terms of both physical and mental well being. We are seeking to move away from that and test our limits. We’ll be doing a month of severely limited electricity (I’ll still be using my laptop for work) with kerosene lanterns and candles in lieu of lights and unplugging the refrigerator.

One thing that has dismayed both of us is our waste. Collectively, we go through about 1 regular kitchen trash bag about every 8 days, so roughly 4 bags per month. That is ridiculous! Some of it could be composted, but much of it is just packaging from foods (mainly produce). I like Costco, but I don’t like how much plastic they use for almost all their products, including fresh vegetables. We have been researching no waste websites and are contemplating how we can do better. (As an aside: many of these websites aren’t very useful and seek to promote less waste by buying their “waste free” products. Reminds me of Marie Kondo. The dissonance is strong!) This will be difficult as neither of us had made as much of an effort previously in this category as in other areas. One thing that will likely change in the short term is getting produce from another grocery store where there isn’t as much packaging. In the long term, continuing to source more foods from the land, whether hunting, fishing, foraging or gardening, where we can have a direct control of the materials involved.

The next thing that has been agitating me is food. I’ve become a lot more inspired and motivated by Barbara Kingsolver’s book as well as Rob Greenfield’s year of eating only grown/foraged food challenge year of eating only grown/foraged food challenge. At the moment, about 30% of my diet is composed of local food. This is usually in the form of meat and/or fish that I’ve gathered. The rest is primarily vegetables, eggs, and peanut butter. I plan on looking into if I can get eggs locally, I do have some friends with chickens. There are no local vegetables here in the winter time as it is impossible to grow anything traditionally with the lack of sun and severe cold. Now that I have property, my gf and I are planning a large garden for the summer. I am contemplating tweaking my diet so that I can be more local. I’m currently following keto style eating, but to make do with local vegetables on a year round basis I’d likely be eating Yukon gold potatoes, carrots, beets, rutabagas, and cabbage, with mixed greens seasonally available in the summer time. I do not currently eat any of those with the exception of cabbage and the occasional carrot. I’m not exactly sure where I stand in this tradeoff of current diet style vs incorporating locally available vegetables. Historically, the local style of eating prior to the arrival of white people is almost entirely meat/fish based with some berries and plants when seasonally available. I really like meat and fish but I don’t think at this point I like it enough to only eat that. If I did, I think eating 100% from the land would be within reach this year. But with the addition of gardening to a hunting/fishing/gathering regimen, I think I can get my percentage to over 80% composition of local foods. Regarding the latter method, a friend and I have been setting lines for burbot and are planning on starting to trap beavers (for food and fur) this coming week. My stash of caribou meat is about halfway down and the gf/I are looking to take another trip to go look around.

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I’m still looking for an ideal solution for local work. There is no composting available commercially anywhere here and I’ve considered something like that, but the season for composting is very short here. Admin work has increased slightly in my current role in the insurance gig as the company is looking to insource some services. This involves me talking to other companies and trying to find the right vendors to set up contracts. I don’t like it at all. I don’t understand how people tolerate this. Anyways, I think it might just be temporary, but I am looking for a more fulfilling and sustainable option. Forestry is available again if I want it, but I am unsure if I want to commit the time to that this summer versus having more time to do things on my own.

Trails have been outstanding here lately and I’ve been taking advantage with my skis and bike, spending a lot of time on the river. Recently, I have been skijoring/bikejoring with my dog. This is the practice of attaching oneself (or the bike) to the dog as he runs out in front assisting you along. On skis I figure we go about 11 mph on flats, outpacing bikers (on snow trails), and on the bike maybe slightly more. I’ve realized the dog is the natural version of an electric motor/ebike. Very fun so far!

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Sunset on the river.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Those are amazing photos. Thanks for sharing!

The plastic waste from produce drives me crazy. I refuse to shop at Trader Joe's (and don't have a Costco membership) because of how much plastic they use. We manage to buy most of our produce without packaging from a standard grocery store. I have a few reusable bags that are specifically for produce, but I don't use them that often. Sometimes I have to stop checkers or baggers from putting all of my produce in individual plastic bags.

In terms of eating locally, fermentation (or canning) is a good way to keep local vegetables in your diet through the winter. I know Kingsolver talked about canning quite a bit, but don't remember if she got into fermentation in much depth. I've been reading about fermentation more lately and realized I've barely breached the surface even though I've been making Kimchi for over a decade.

Traditionally, Koreans fermented Kimchi and other foods buy burying produce in large clay pots for extended periods of time - sometimes more than a year. Could be an interesting experiment or option if you want to limit reliance on electricity or modern appliances. A chest freezer is an easier option for eating local produce throughout the winter.

I'm keen to introduce local game into my diet, and have really appreciated all of your tips and writing on hunting.

mooretrees
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by mooretrees »

Really interesting to hear your thoughts about food and waste and what resources have been inspiring you lately. I've just found Ethan Hughes and am blown away by him and his work. Have you read The Unsettlers? That's where I read about the Possibility Alliance for the first time.

I wanted to echo WRC's suggestions to incorporate fermentation for stretching storage of veggies without canning or electricity. I've just recently experimented with fermentation and it was so fun and tasty. This year I plan on growing a ton of veggies for fermentation. It's more satisfying to ferment what I've grown. Don't forget about winter squashes. I don't know how long your growing season is, but they can store for four plus months, which adds another tasty veggie to store.

I just made beeswax candles for the first time and it was very simple and satisfying. Plus they are a beautiful light and romantic af!

jacob
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by jacob »

A big part of the reason that ERE leads "there" is that I have read many of the same books. ERE is essentially the individually actionable strategy to the concerns described in those books.

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One thing I noticed about garbage is that it depends a lot on "how" you cook. During last spring when supermarket shelves were experiencing shortages, we did very little shopping and I did 100% of the cooking. (Usually I do weekdays and DW does weekends.)

During that time we barely managed to fill one standard trash bag per month. (We compost organic material). Whereas previously we filled them at a rate of ~1/week. Turns out most of it is plastic bags, wrapping, etc. from various non-bulk food stuffs.

This experience did reset cooking behaviors somewhat. DW now bakes _everything_ meaning we don't buy any bread anymore. Also we're still using vegetables from the 338lbs harvest from last year so the styrofoam trays from shrink-wrapped produced has been eliminated as well, at least for now.

A couple of years ago we tried the zero-waste approach of bringing our own containers to the supermarket, but they didn't quite get it. We'd hand over the container and they'd shrink wrap the container. Old habits die hard :-P

white belt
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by white belt »

Really interesting stuff!

In regards to reducing waste and becoming more self-sufficient in terms of food, I think your lifestyle constraints have a lot of overlap with someone living in an apartment with minimal outdoor space. Maybe check out the Apartment Homesteading thread.

I’ve been growing microgreens indoors, which does require electricity input for grow lights (I use LEDs on a 12 hour timer, so it’s not much). And yet, I’m pretty sure it takes much less energy to grow a tray of microgreens indoors than the amount that goes into a package of spinach or salad greens. There is no packaging, no transportation costs, no pests to reduce the yield, just fresh greens growing in your living space year ‘round. Even in your climate, you could probably completely meet your greens requirements for you and your girlfriend with a set of lights and 3-4 trays (they take only 2 weeks from seed to harvest). This would allow you to focus more on growing outdoor root vegetables that are appropriate for your region.

To give you an idea of the energy usage, to grow a tray of microgreens that yields ~6 ounces of leafy greens takes about .64 kwH over its lifetime in my setup (they germinate for 3-5 days in darkness and then go under lights for 7-9 days). Water usage is going to depend a bit on grow medium, but is usually around .5 to 1 gallon per tray.

Edit: Quail might also be useful as a source of eggs because they can be raised indoors.

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

@WRC- Yes, I'm considering cancelling my membership for this reason. Almost everything that I can get at Costco is available at the other store but is not wrapped in a sheet of plastic. Thanks for the suggestion on fermenting, I don't remember Kingsolver discussing it either. I haven't ever done any myself. I do like cabbage so perhaps I'll like kimchi. Thankfully since I am so far north, freezing is an incredibly easy option from Oct-April. I need to continue to do research on food preservation.

@mooretrees- I haven't read it but I added it to my list. Thanks! I enjoyed his book on Suelo. I don't think winter squashes are possible here most years but I'll look into it. What are you planning on growing for fermentation?

@Jacob- Yes, I think as long as one is purchasing materials from elsewhere, one must accept a higher amount of waste involved. Once I up my garden and compost realms I think we will see similar results as you as the bulk of what we eat is produce (from the store) , homemade baked goods and local meat. I think the zero waste idea has limits in the current system as to how much friction someone is willing to endure to achieve no waste. It seems like it'd be a little tiresome to explain every time that you are looking to weigh food minus jar weight, don't need wrap, etc. Perhaps 80-90% of the way is good enough.

@White belt- Thanks! I'll have to take a look at that thread. I've had similar thoughts of growing food indoors during winter and do have a growlight but have run into 2 issues. The first was that in the last place I was living the temperature inside was too cold for any plants to germinate and grow. I had a full furnace in what was a ~400 ft cabin. If I left it on at night, it would kick on multiples times and wake me up. My sleep was awful so I ended up just shutting it off every night so that I didn't continue walking around like a zombie. The other issue I am trying to work around is that much of the winter it is extremely difficult to generate power in a renewable way. My place is off grid and will be powered by solar for ~8.5 months of the year. The other 3.5 months the sun isn't high/strong enough to provide any power necessitating intermittent generator use. I figure if I used a grow lamp daily I'd need to run the generator every few days. It still could potentially be less carbon than store bought greens mid winter but I don't imagine it's much better. I think storage and long term preserves is my only option here.

mooretrees
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by mooretrees »

Well, for sure I'll grow cabbage for sauerkraut. I think I'm too much of a wimp for kimchi. I'd like to pickle carrots, beets, beans and maybe radishes and summer squash. Garlic to ferment with honey for a hippie anti-viral booster and hmm, I'm sure I'll figure out more. I made pear and apple vinegar from foraged fruit and it was delicious. I drank most of the vinegar (heavily diluted) but this year I'll make a lot and start using it for cleaning/pickling. I liked Wild Fermentation and the Art Of Fermentation by Sandor Katz for some simple introductions to fermentation. Plus, I'd like to make mead though I'm not a big drinker.

white belt
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by white belt »

@the animal

Gotcha. That certainly is a challenging environment. What kind of indoor temperatures are we talking? Maybe you’ve already tried this, but is it possible to germinate seeds on some kind of thermal mass that can store the heat over night? I haven’t read back far enough in your journal to see what method you are using for house heat. I’ve germinated microgreens at 60 degree temperatures without issues and from what I’ve read, it is possible to germinate down to 50 degrees.

Another thing to consider is that if you position your microgreens intelligently, you can use the ambient light from grow lights for reading or to light a dark room (so you’re getting multiple uses out of the light). Obviously this depends on the layout of your cabin.

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