Speaker Post: Lyle Estill of Piedmont Biofuels

| 3/19/2012 11:17:23 AM

Tonight my son Arlo and I finished his “solar powered dehydrator.” He cleaned up the shop and got the unit ready for display, while I walked up to the house to fetch Tami for the final inspection.

Arlo was twelve when the two of us headed to the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. At the time I had only a couple of rules. The first is standard in our household: “We pay for any book you want as long as you read it.” The next was that he find something to keep himself occupied while I was “working.”

Arlo EstillIt turned out the latter rule was not a problem. He was immersed in everything from the “chicken whisperer” to the propagated plants to the “superior woodsplitter.” I barely saw him.

At the Fair’s makeshift bookstore Arlo was in heaven. He bought Eben Fodor’s The Solar Food Dryer; How to Make and Use Your Own High-Performance, Sun-Powered Food Dehydrator. And he bought Stephen Cresswell’s Homemade Root Beer Soda and Pop. He also bumped into Patricia Foreman, author of City Chicks. He had already read that one, and he was jazzed to meet such a “chicken superstar.”

One day we ducked out to play tennis together. We agreed that the Pennsylvania chestnuts were smaller and more bitter than the ones we grow, and that a loaded baked potato with an ear of sweet corn makes for a fabulous festival breakfast. I believe I beat him 6-2, 6-4.

What I had not factored into the budget was Arlo’s purchase of two coffee plants, two capers plants, and a couple of Aztec Dream herbs. All of them are still alive, on his window sill, but I question their utility. He says he is going to build a “Florida room” and go into citrus cultivation.

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