Posts from — March 2007

North Uist rivalries in song
by NICK ROSEN on MARCH 31, 2007 - 0 Comments in EVENTS

a musical landscape dominated by all that’s young and urban, an artist who sings centuries-old songs in Gaelic would not be expected to get much farther than the Inner Hebrides.

But with a celebrity following that boasts Ricky Gervais, Radiohead and Andrew Marr, Julie Fowlis has become the hippest singer-songwriter around and has set about making the dwindling language cool.

The 28-year-old folk singer from North Uist in the Outer Hebrides has attracted a huge and growing fanbase for her lilting, pure voice, with a beguiling appeal which Mark Radcliffe at BBC Radio 2 compared to Bjrk, Kate Bush and the Cocteau Twins.

Though Fowlis sings in a language understood by only 60,000 people in the far north of Scotland, she has captivated young followers south of the border. Her current four-week tour of England and Wales to promote her new album, Cuilidh, meaning treasury or secret hiding place, is expected to be a sell-out, helped by exposure on Women’s Hour, and forthcoming appearances on the shows of Marr, Radcliffe and Andy Kershaw. Now having signed with Shoeshine Records, an Indie pop/rock (rather than a folk) record label, she is poised to cross into the mainstream.

No one is more amazed by the sudden attention than Fowlis herself, who says things just rocketed after she won the BBC Radio 2 Horizon Folk Award for best newcomer last year. She sold 5,000 albums on the back of it. Her new album is expected to sell 1,000 in its first week. Nine videos of her performances are posted on YouTube. Her MySpace website has been visited 53,609 times. It was here that Phil Selway of Radiohead enthused about her beautiful voice and wrote: You’d need a cold heart indeed to not be touched by her music. Ricky Gervais, meanwhile, offered his pithy assessment of her album. It’s great. But I have no idea what she is on about, he wrote.

Radcliffe, more readily associated with indy guitar bands, believes she is a big new talent. Her voice is captivating and because of the language, there is a bit of mystery.

Fowlis was brought up on North Uist, where her parents ran a hotel, and music was a regular part of life. She moved to the mainland as a teenager and studied classical music at Strathclyde University, but her passion was to sing in Gaelic. North Uist is where she still sources all her material. The newest song on her album is probably about 100 years old they are mostly love songs or tell stories about events on North Uist. She has resisted pressure to sing in English: That would be doing it for all the wrong reasons.

While Puirt a beul sounds fantastic in Gaelic, in translation one song, for example, is about how the cabbage was ruined.

Fowlis received another boost when she was signed up yesterday by Paul Fenn, of the Asgard agency, who represents Dolly Parton, Steve Earle, Joan Baez and James Taylor.

Gaelic passion beyond language

Her vocal beauty and her passionate, engaging stage presence are such that the listener doesn’t need to understand the words to be able to enjoy her music

Debbie Koritsas, Living Tradition magazine

The sincerity and passion with which Julie sings, goes beyond any language barriers and reaches through the depths of your consciousness to unearth the most intuitive of sentiments.

Mike Wilson,

Though Fowlis voices tales of intense rivalries between North Uist and South Uist, she could be singing about Rawlplugs for all we know . . .

Peter Culshaw, The Observer

How to build a Water Motor
by SSPENCE on MARCH 31, 2007 - 6 Comments in ENERGY
The Water Motor
The Water Motor

We all know how an industrial electric motor operates. You have a power switch. It turns electric current on and off to an electric motor, which then does work. That work can be pushing a cart, a fridge, a submersible water pump, or any number of rotary devices. What do you do off the grid, in the mountains of South America, where there is no power supply? What do you use to give power supply for your electric motor? Enter Ron & Diane in Bolivia, and their “Water Motor“. A unique Micro-Hydro device that uses the power of a falling stream to power stationary devices like saws, mills and generators like home generators and so on. (more…)

My off-grid school, by Oprah Winfrey
by ELENA on MARCH 28, 2007 - 0 Comments in EVENTS, OFF-GRID 101, SOLAR

Glitz is good

Oprah’s opened a new school as part of her Leadership Academy in South Africa

The Google of Renewables
by TECHSTAR on MARCH 28, 2007 - 1 Comment in ENERGY
Nanosolar Founder and CEO Martin Roscheisen

Alternative Energy is the Internet of the new millenium: world-changing new technology that is causing a Venture Capital stampede. The question is: how to pick the winners.

All solar technologies balance the three requirements that make solar power price-competitive with other methods of power generation: efficiency (the fraction of light energy that is converted to electricity), manufacturing cost, and longevity.

Using nanotechnology, a private company called Nanosolar claims it has optimized these three requirements. and can build solar panels which are more efficient, cheaper and longer-lasting than any other company. “Our mission is very simple,” says their web site: A Solar Panel on Every Building. (more…)

Solar pool heaters
by ELENA on MARCH 22, 2007 - 2 Comments in OFF-GRID 101, SOLAR

Solar pool
Fancy a swim?

Solar hot water heaters can be a cost-effective way to heat the swimming pool at your off-grid palace. Even multi-million dollars homes in places like Monterey, California, have installed solar hot water heaters to reduce the potential energy costsof their swimming pool.

This isn’t just a celebrity trend, though you can buy ready-made solar pool kits to that are easy to install in the off-grid shop starting at $220 (J125) – whereas you’ll have to dish out around 700 on ebay, and for US customers kits start at around $600 going up to $1,175.00. You’ll need to provide the PVC piping, diverter valve and a support or rack system for some of these.

It’s even possible to build your own from a discarded radiator and a can of black paint. (more…)

Branson’s New Toy
by ELENA on MARCH 21, 2007 - 0 Comments in ENERGY, LAND, OFF-GRID 101, PEOPLE

Richard Branson
Mine, all mine

Richard Branson’s got himself another island to play with. There won’t be a huge hotel complex or golf course instead, Branson is hoping to make Moskito Island into an eco-resort. Or does that sound too good to be true? Branson’s first tourism venture was the Residencia Hotel in Majorca where his people famously barred the public from using the local beach, cutting down old trees as a barrier.
Branson’s new island takes its name from the Moskito Indians who lived in the area from before the 1500s and not from an excess of mosquitoes as it might suggest. It’s only 124 acres in size and one mile away from another Branson celebrity retreat, Necker Island. Branson wants his latest purchase to serve as an eco-friendly example to the rest of the resorts out there.

He said: “I was terrified that Moskito would end up in the wrong hands and be ruined. (more…)

650 Festivals and Camps – 2007 Calendar
by DYSLEXIC_FARMERSWIG on MARCH 17, 2007 - 2 Comments in COMMUNITY, OFF-GRID 101

Festival girl
Festival year starts soon

This is the launch of our regularly updated Festival guide focusing on places where you are expected to stay off-grid in tents or vehicles but including every kind of Fest.

Thanks to Sing Out! for much of the information. Please email us at Off-grid if you want to add to our listing. This is a free listing, from a variety of sources. To have your event listed, e-mail the information to us.




5/1-6; SHENANDOAH APPLE BLOSSOM FEST–Where: Winchester, Va. Info: John H. Rosenberger II, Exec. Director, Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, 135 N. Cameron St., Winchester, VA 22601; Ph: 540-662-3863; Fx: 540-662-7274. (E-mail: ; Web: < >). 649 to go…. (more…)

Bush sees the light
by ELENA on MARCH 16, 2007 - 0 Comments in SOLAR

Bush in shades

It seems George Bush has been listening to the light gods he’s recently given White House funding to a project trying to harness energy from sunlight and interior light to wirelessly power everything from cellphones to signboards.
The company Konarka Technologies takes its name from an ancient temple in India dedicated to the sun god Surya, and was founded by Berke and Alan Heeger, who shared the 2000 Nobel Chemistry prize for showing that certain plastics can be made to conduct electricity. (more…)

Mobile Homesteading
by SSPENCE on MARCH 16, 2007 - 0 Comments in MOBILE

Schoolbus RV
Schoolbus RV

Check out the Mobile Homestead. Michael & Millie have documented their mobile, school bus conversion so others can learn and duplicate their work. The 1991 GMC/Ward 66 Passenger School Bus is shown at the various stages of conversion, and all the steps taken to convert it into a rolling home are documented. They have other projects, like a travel trailer and talk about their composting toilet as well.

Other School Bus Live-ins:

“Bus Links”

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