Cool, just wanted to make sure I wasn't gonna send some stuff you didn't want on property. I love to have those little USB handwarmers when I'm working in the snow and inevitably have to take off my gloves to fuss with some stupid bolt somewhere.
Kara: Y'all should be getting a care package of warm goodies in a few days from Amazon. Keep warm!
Based on my experience, comfrey roots survive just about anything short of sitting in water for months at a time. I've propagated plants in the fall before and they've come up in the spring. But I'd be willing to bet they'll do better if you were to wait until the spring.
The USFS keeps a good site describing some of the core principles of defensible space http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Defensible-Space/ — one thing to note is that this is defensible space, not fireproof landscaping. It means that your structure has a higher chance of surviving with the aid of human defense. The idea is less about specific plant types and more about avoiding fire "ladders" — a combination of horizontal proximity, vertical distance, and fuel timelags (how long it takes for a certain type of fuel to dry out and combust in a fire).
I would recommend contacting a registered forester and have him come do a site visit. While the general rules of "no flammable materials" is good advice for the public, the specifics of how fires work are extremely contextual. A large, irrigated area of wood chips with no woody plants is a very different scenario from a non-irrigated wood chip mulched area of densely planted woody brush and dwarf trees. The general idea is that you want the shortest fuels to burn out before the taller fuels can catch fire. You can usually accomplish a large amount of fire insurance by maintaining low grass heights, removing woody brush 100' from buildings, and cutting lower limbs off trees.
A few days ago we had our first sticking snow. Only about a 1/2" but it stuck around for about 3 days in the shady areas. Needless to say, everything's painfully beautiful around these parts right now with the Aspens/Oaks turning and the mountains with a fresh coat of paint. The last sticking snow was 6/11 so that gave us about 132 days of summer this year.
I didn't get nearly as much done this summer as I'd hoped. A combination of lacking help, repairs from a monster winter, and family obligations meant my gardening projects took a back seat. Lacking a fence, the apple trees took a beating from the deer. I'll be curious to see if they survive the winter after getting their leaves eaten off in the fall. This was all fairly expected, though. The garden is very much experimental until I get some more infrastructure in place.
I've spent the past couple of weeks prepping things for winter. The girlfriend spent her time moving a bunch of firewood from the wood shed to the porch to work as a snow fence. I'm hoping it slows down the endless torrent of snow in the winter, allowing me some porch room for an outdoor propane stove. Snow levels usually get up to the roof line, so it won't stop all of it. But maybe enough. I've been spending my time building a shed for the UTV. Always a bit challenging building structures that survive the snow load out here by myself, but it's coming along.
In the meantime, simultaneously stressing out about the coming winter and looking forward to snow season so I can take a break and get my snow toys out…
Love all of this. I'm intrigued by your spreadsheet approach — personally one of the things that drains me most is keeping track of maintenance requirements for various vehicles and equipment. I have a feeling it drains me because I'm trying to keep too many of the reminders in my head (how many hours on the tractor grease the drivetrain, how many generator hours since last oil change, etc). I keep good records, but records are only good for looking back.
Enjoy the moment of whatever you are doing. DO NOT think that as soon as you get X,Y and Z done you can pause and be content. It will never happen, by the time they get done, AA, BB, and CC will need to get done too. Instead just realize you have a few acres of land, a dream a lot of people wish they could live out. Enjoy just working. Working is a good thing and learn to be content in doing, not in the planning and finished stages.
I can't stress this enough. I struggled a lot this year as my partner ended up getting sucked into his day job a lot more than expected, and I ended up having to do a lot of things myself. I was so busy trying to get things ready for the winter, all my tools were disorganized and the main cabin was littered with random stuff. Earlier in the summer I was feeling defeated and pretty burned out, so a couple weeks ago I just went up to clean things up — avoiding my projects that needed completing. I installed a bunch of shelving in the tool shed, some hand tool hangers, and organized all my plumbing/screws/nails into neatly organized bins. I took all the random stuff in the main cabin and put it away, threw it out, or found a home for it. The end result is that now I feel a lot more enjoyment out of doing my projects and have a lot more energy to do more. When I'm exhausted at the end of the day, I get to go sit in a nice clean cabin and listen to an audiobook and enjoy being there instead of just looking around and being frustrated that the place was messy.
I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes you gotta put in work to make the process enjoyable. Don't get so caught up in finishing projects that you don't spend the time to make your environment pleasant.
I wouldn't use it as-is right now as it's had so long being anaerobic. But if you aerated it with a bubbler for a while and maybe added a bit of good compost to the mix I bet you'd get something that doesn't smell so bad and your plants would enjoy.
Muzzer: I think the key is that water systems are all one system, regardless of how they're connected. The instant the valve is opened, the water will attempt to find level however it can. If the turbine wasn't connected, the 70m head creek would definitely flow back up into the 60m head creek.
But the turbine is connected, which is why I'm not sure how to answer your efficiency question entirely. The turbine as it stands now is not really pushing back with 90psi of backpressure because it's allowing water through. Think about adding sprinklers on a hose… each one you add reduces the pressure of the others. The turbine is reducing the pressure by letting water through (that reduction in pressure is where your energy comes from). 70m is your static head (inlet closed), but your dynamic head (friction, joints, turbine) is probably a lot lower. So long as that dynamic head is 60m or less, the real pressure in the turbine should remain roughly the same, but with more flow.
Since the total head is so much higher than the difference (10/70), my gut says that the real pressure would remain the same at the turbine. But I'm not an expert! Just a guy who had to take an awful lot of fluid dynamics in school I think the far more important part is designing that junction and increase in pipe size without introducing turbulence.
Tom: Mortar isn't a moisture barrier, so you should be good on that front (everything I've heard is that in wet climates, don't use moisture barriers). I would just think that the moisture would get into the bags in the fall, and come winter, they'd turn into expanding bags of ice. The problem with letting them cure is that I wouldn't think they'd ever dry out in a wet/humid climate like that. Somewhere like Nevada where it's 0% RH and doesn't rain for 6 months of year makes the curing part easy, but I'd think it would be a challenge in upstate NY with the humidity levels.
I think your answer depends on whether the inlet to the turbine can take additional flow. If it can take additional flow, you will increase your power. If the diameter of the inlet is already saturated, you will not. As far as pressure, connecting those two pipes will result in 80psi (the lower of the two). I like to think about it this way: if you were to block the entrance to the turbine, you'd be redirecting the 80m head stream into the 70m head stream at a pressure of 10m head. Water is always going to flow out at the lowest point.
Personally, I wouldn't trust earthbag construction in such a wet climate. I can see it working very well in the high desert with close to 0% relative humidity and the bags have a chance to dry out inside. But in a climate where the bags never get a chance to dry out inside, it seems like they'd become huge targets for mildew, mold and frost-heaving. The frost part is solvable with various insulation methods, but it seems like those methods would increase the susceptibility of the bags molding on the inside (trapping moisture even more).
Are there many examples of earthbag construction in wet, cold climates? How do you maintain the balance between not using a moisture barrier and keeping moisture out before the cold season?
I have used this for about a year and it seems to work fairly well for a rough check on pH. I primarily use it for my worm farm and when I'm out exploring different areas of my property. I have only checked the accuracy in one location, and only versus a traditional soluble capsule based approach (the little capsules you dissolve in soil & water and compare the color to determine pH). I should be getting professional lab results on some soil soon, and I'll be sure to check the meter against that as well.
I know that the Instant Pot does have something they call a "foam shield" around the top of the pot with a little catch-basin for condensation, but to be honest I've just never run into the issue (I've also never cooked apples in it). It might be that it's large enough and I haven't made a big enough pot of beans (most I've done is 1lb of dried beans). I suspect the electric nature of it helps too — stovetop pressure cookers maintain constant pressure by releasing pressure, but the instant pot reduces the heat when pressure has been reached. I will say there are a lot of applesauce Instant Pot recipes online, so my gut would say it should be fine so long as you use a natural release strategy (let it cool to release pressure), Instant Pot or not.
Fish are weird animals. The more time I spend practicing the art of fly fishing, the more I realize they really just care about having a safe place to hide and plentiful food. Given an entire river to explore, they will happily stay behind the same rock their entire life should it protect them from ospreys and provide ample insects to eat. In terms of stress to the fish, I don't think burying them underground would have much effect.
But I don't think any of that matters with the setup you proposed. Maybe I'm misinterpreting your proposal, but it seems like surefire way to acquire a buried bucket full of rotten fish. It doesn't sound like they would get anywhere near enough air, and the fish would die of sitting in toxic water. If only the surface overflows, how does the fish excrement collecting at the bottom get cleaned out? How would you know if you were overfeeding the fish without being able to see them? It seems to me it lacks the basic needs of the fish. Do you have a diagram or something to help explain your idea more?
I think the biggest challenge for laws in the West is water. We have thousands of acres of native grasslands in California, but only those in the high country stay green past June or so (where we get thunderstorms and there's still snow melting). For the rest of the summer and into winter those grasslands turn a golden amber, a color people are unwilling to have in their own lawn until the spring thaw comes in February. Other places in the US that get summer rains don't have this problem. I will never forget the first time I visited Ohio in the summer and saw the ridiculous explosion of grasses all around. I kept wondering who was irrigating these empty fields by the highway — why would someone waste so much water to grow grass you just end up brush hogging?? Of course that's silly. That's just how grass grows in Ohio. That is not how grass grows in California.
For me, I see a few more challenges to sustainable lawns than soil health:
- Changing building practices such that lawns are built on topsoil, not compacted builders rubble. I would need several inches of compost (x 1/2 acre) for several years in a row to correct the soil health at my house in Dunsmuir. If you can imagine laying sod on top of a levee, that's roughly how it was built. Most new construction seems to follow similar plans.
- Integrating deciduous tree systems into every lawn, such that the entire lawn is in partial shade.
- Integrating water catchment systems on a massive scale for almost every home. I'd guesstimate a minimum of 20k gallon rainwater tanks per 1/4 acre, plus greywater systems in every house. Even that feels low (see attached water usage from University of California’s Centre for Landscape and Urban Horticulture). Most places in California get effectively zero rainfall May - November.
- Finding a solution to the lawnmower problem. Maybe it's changing regulations around animals in residential settings so you could rent some chickens/goats every once in a while to take the grass down, or maybe it's replacing our entire electrical grid with renewable sources so electric equipment has no emissions. Mowing is absolutely critical out here for wildfire control
Now, if I lived in Ohio where it rained all summer and my house was built before scrape-and-sod practices, I do think it would be as simple as tending the soil. But out here in California, I think there are a lot more challenges to making lawns sustainable.
I've lived in a double-wide manufactured home from the 70s for a few years. It's fine. It's not the most amazing place I've lived in, but it keeps the weather out and hasn't had any major issues. It feels like a real house so long as you don't look at the license plate. Repairing it is always a bit of an adventure since it seems like it was plumbed by a guy with a truck bed full of random sized pipes. I hope one day to remove it and build a more site-specific house on the concrete pad it sits on. Biggest downside to a manufactured home: there's really no re-use possible. You can't (really) add on to the structure. You can't re-use the building materials to build a better home. Once you're done with it, it's a big pile of aluminum that you've gotta haul off your property.
I've always loved the aesthetics of Yurts. With a decent amount of work they can be comfortable in the winter too. You can easily take it down and put it back up at a later point, re-purposing it in a different location once you're done.
A trailer + enclosure like the one Jim mentioned is a nice option if you don't mind the space. My parents have lived in a trailer for a few years now. Trailers definitely feel very plastic-y and flexible under your feet. It feels like you're in a trailer. But you can haul it anywhere you want it and sell it easy when you're done. Or haul it to a different piece of the property and rent it out.
My summary would be:
Trailer + Enclosure = cheap, easy way to have a livable structure. Good points on re-use.
Manufactured Home = expensive, but comfortable place to live. Not much re-use. Will probably outlive you.
Yurt = aesthetically pleasing, but close to the elements. Good points on re-use.
One thing I've been really fascinated by lately is the dramatic effect climate has on permaculture design principles. I got hooked on Permaculture through Sepp Holzer, and I think a large reason it really stuck with me was because his climate just so happened to mirror mine — high elevation, dry summers, mountainous terrain. His solutions made sense at an intuitive level because I was familiar with a climate similar to his. Conversely, listening to Geoff Lawton is a bit like listening to someone from another planet to me. His solutions for deserts and tropical locations make almost no sense in my context. And while I love watching Richard Perkins' videos, I've come to realize his consistent summer rainfall makes his approaches foreign in the West.
All that is to say… climate obviously matters a lot. We can always go back to P.A. Yeomans scale of permanence:
3. Water Supply
7. Subdivision Fences
In other words, climate should be the most important consideration for your designs, because it's the most permanent aspect of your land (and thus most difficult to change). The question I have is what are the important, measurable descriptors of climate? We have growing zones, which are great for approximating cold-hardiness of plants. We have topographic maps that describe landshape. We have methods to calculate watersheds for water supply. But climate seems to be so much more than that. It's about total rainfall, it's about the regularity of rainfall, it's about that rainfall's relation to the growing season, it's about growing degree days, it's about maximum temperatures and minimum temperatures — during the growing season and not — it's about…
Well, what is climate to you? How would you objectively describe your climate to someone else who has no knowledge of where you live? How would you describe the most permanent factors of your design foundations?
What I'm really curious about getting to the truth of are two things:
1. A way to tell people what their climate is (like growing zones, but more).
2. A way to measure changes as our climate changes.
Red wigglers need at at least 40-50˚F to survive. There's a few options though:
- Leave it be and let 'em die. The cocoons will not and they will return in the spring.
- Bring them inside or put them in a garage or similar place.
- Keep adding a lot of hot materials during the winter like coffee grounds, which will start to hot-compost increasing the temperature.
- Find a place to put them in the ground, with an open bottom. They'll bury down deep enough to stay alive.
- Add some kind of heater to your bin, heated water in pipes (circulated by a aquarium pump) is best, but most anything will do — heat tape, soil heating mats, etc. They just need some areas to escape to.
- You can also insulate your bin (with haystacks/coolers or similar), but that works best so long as you continue to feed the bins, so there's a heat source coming from inside. Really depends on your temperatures here.
Personally, I have a larger CFT bin and some soil-heating cable taped to the sides hooked up to a soil thermometer. I did this since I built the bin in the winter last year and didn't have enough material to keep it warm. I'm hoping this year the cables won't really be on that much. It's been getting down to low twenties at night so far, but the bin hasn't gone down past 68˚ yet. Larger bins tend to do better here as they retain larger thermal mass.
I'm a huge believer in debate, but I try (and fail) to stay away from it online. It sucks, but I think it's for the best. One phrase that really hit that belief home for me was how someone described the problem with social media: we can hear people talk, but we can't hear them listen. I think productive debate demands listening. That can happen online with a solid foundation of trust (ex: good friends in a chat room), but in a public forum it's just too hard to see someone else listening.
I can second searching for Low FODMAP — that's the usual tagline people refer to these diets as for cooking. I dated a woman who suffered from IBS for a while, and my love of cooking + difficulty of eating out meant I got a lot of practice cooking in that way. I used to have a lot of success searching Instagram for #lowfodmap and kind of making up my own recipe based on theirs. After a couple of months cooking that way, it was pretty easy to modify most recipes to be low FODMAP. Lots of green onions (low fructose), quinoa-based pastas, mozzarella (low lactose), potatoes, eggs, tomatoes, and trial-and-erroring mixing various non-wheat flours for bread-y things. The hardest thing for me was eliminating onions and garlic — it turns out a huge base of my cooking relies on that savory/sweet combo that onions provide. But you get over it.
For me it was less about what to cook with (most foods are fine!) and more about what I can't cook with. Avoiding onions, garlic, gluten, and dairy got me most of the way there. Avoiding fructose was always a little frustrating, especially since different fruits have different ratios of fructose/sucrose depending on their ripeness, but I rarely cooked with anything fructose heavy (aside from onions) anyway.
The Mojave is the product of the rain shadow caused by the Sierra Nevada mountains. California has some of the most extreme and obvious examples of rain shadows in the world. The most popular is probably Death Valley. In less than two hours, you can drive from the town of Lone Pine in the shadow of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States covered in tens of feet of snow and arrive in Death Valley, the lowest point in North America — one of the hottest and driest places on earth. Man has had no part in the creation of these places. Rain shadows are largely responsible for large deserts. Geology creates geography that alters moisture patterns in the atmosphere, robbing a large area of rainfall, and a desert is born.
Keeping a faucet dripping will prevent pipes from freezing, even if the house gets pretty cold. Installing insulation on the pipes is also pretty trivial — you can buy some of those foam covers at Home Depot and install them in a few minutes with nothing but a utility knife and a bit of scuffling under the house. I suspect both of those things will stop any kind of pipe freezing scenarios in a house that's lived in. I can definitely vouch for a heated mattress pad for keeping warm at night. They're the best thing since sliced bread.
Working in technology, I completely share your sentiment. Everyone believes their software idea is A Brand New Innovation™ and should be guarded like Fort Knox. I always try and remind these people that software has barely made any innovations past the spreadsheet. It's what most people use to get everything done, and what most software still aims to replace. Most software is losing.
I've long wished there was a better medium for sharing and iterating on ideas. I have my own personal workflow involving text documents and version control, but it's hardly a good model for the average person. I love how easy it is to clone someone else's software source code, modify it, and submit your changes to the author. I wish there was a similar method for ideas.
I don't have a lot more to add on this subject other than a few links that I really enjoy around this idea:
Farmhack is a community + plans of custom-build farm tools and modifications
Earlier this year, Invisibilia released a podcast (Invisibilia is a bit more like a long-form radio show) about Eagle's Nes, Minnesota where people have been living at peace with black bears for quite some time — feeding them from their hands and all together co-existing. It was one of my favorite episode's they've done, and I highly recommend checking it out: Reality Part One
As for me, bears are a reality of living in the mountains and I see them quite often. It hasn't made them less jarring of an experience, but I've yet to really experience anything aggressive from a bear either. Keeping calm usually results in them walking away. Bears don't like people for the most part (but they do love our trash).
Yes, more snow! I know it's an old thread and most people hate the snow, but I'm starting to get excited. We got our first snow about a week ago, just enough to clean up the mountain tops and give us some good scenery.
A while ago I realized it's much better to live in a place with a lot of snow and the city's prepared to deal with it than live in a place where it barely snows but the city panics at the very idea of it. Last year it snowed about 50ft in total here, but there was never a day I couldn't get around and accomplish whatever I wanted. Contrast that to some of my friends who lived in Portland and spent most of the winter in a state of infrastructure emergency over a decent winter. But you know as they say in Portland, it never snows in Portland, so there's no need to invest in plows or pass chain laws (it snows every single year).
All that being said, snow is still a bit of a love/hate thing for me. It's fine when I'm here in my house at the city and can walk around or drive on plowed roads, but I'm still working on consistent access to my ranch, which is 12 miles down an unplowed forest road. The good news: it sits adjacent to and below an old abandoned ski resort so getting there is easy. The bad news: have you ever tried to snowshoe up a ski run? This year I'm going to make more of an effort to spend more time there in the winter and get better at un-stucking my snowmobile. It may be 12 miles down an unplowed road, but it's only one mile straight up a mountain…
Sand is indeed a very good insulator, and not a very good conductor — which is what you want. I suspect the entirety of your troubles do stem from lack of direct contact between the copper pipe and the chimney. The more direct contact you can maintain over a longer distance, the more heat you will transfer. I really do have to stress how important the direct contact bit is. A small air gap between the stovepipe and copper pipe will result in orders of magnitude less heat loss — meaning 100x less efficient or more. I've attached an example picture of how tight you should be aiming for this.
Have you considered wrapping it around the top part of the stove between the handles and the top of the door? It would give you a larger circle to wrap around (easier to keep tighter) and get you closer to the radiant heat of the fire, which is going to be much more efficient than the stovepipe. I don't know how many wraps you would get out of your length, but two or three tight circles would do wonders right there since it's the hottest part of the stove.
One of the more unintuitive aspects of earthquakes is that structures that seem the least structurally sound are often the safest. This is because earthquakes don't create force like a tidal wave, hurricane, or snow load — they create displacement, which has a resulting force due to the mass and distance from displacement (ground). As a result, structures like RVs, trailers, and manufactured homes are often the most resilient since they were designed to be put on a truck and moved (displaced!) from one location to the other. Manufactured homes in particular are often made of lighter materials (aluminum) and almost always single story. Now, compare that to a large concrete building that stands hundreds of feet in the air deeply tied to the ground… mass + distance = massive force resulting from displacement.
All that's to say — don't stress so hard! Earthquakes happen, and you're well on your way to being extremely well prepared. Even if the house does collapse, it's likely you could jury-rig some kind of water cachement system with the roof pieces.
Earthquakes can most definitely affect wells, but the answer to your question is unfortunately "it depends". Earthquakes can collapse wells, bend pipes, and wreak havoc on everything in between the pump to the pressure tank. But earthquakes can also alter the aquifer. They can crack a hole through a previously impermeable layer, sending your water unknown depths further underground — and out of reach of your pump. They can also crack and shift other layers, raising the height of your aquifer or creating new springs. They can also cause tremendous uplift, pulling your pump up and out of the water. And they can release toxins into your aquifer, making your current water undrinkable.
And of course — they can have no effect at all. Which is the usual case.
I think the most important keys to water safety in case of an earthquake are water filtration and immediate water storage. Water filtration can be met by a backpacking water filter (also useful for backpacking!) or purification tablets. For storage, I like to keep 14 gallons of fresh water per person in plastic containers in the garage. If you can carry and filter water, you are in a great position. Since you're in the Pacific Northwest, rainwater is abundant. I'd probably lean toward investing in a rain catchment system instead of something like that earth straw.
As of right now, Bitcoin uses about 50KWh of electricity per transaction, which roughly translates to 4 gallons of gas or 37 pounds of coal worth of CO₂ emissions. Per transaction! There are other complications too — most obviously, the coins must be mined first (more electricity) and most of that is done in China, where electricity is cheap due to coal powered electrical plants — even more CO₂.
Personally, I cannot ethically support such a wasteful enterprise, regardless of the freedom from state that it theoretically boasts. It's not a matter of scaling issues or small tweaks, it's a fundamental design design that all blockchain based technology shares — powering transactions through greenhouse gas emissions (electricity use) in a purposefully wasteful (electrically expensive) manner.
In which way do you want to change the world? I'm struggling a bit with what you mean by that. I very much agree that people have lost touch with seasonality of produce, but I would probably pinpoint that primarily on long-distance shipping of produce (tomatoes from Chile in December) and a general distance from gardening/farming. People don't know that tomatoes are a summer fruit because they've probably never grown them, and if you go to the grocery store there's tomatoes year round.
Personally, I have never had anything close to success with direct-seeded vegetables (or really much even with cover crops yet). I suspect with the arid conditions we have here the problem is mostly due to irrigation. Direct-seeding most vegetables out here requires surface irrigation multiple times a day to ensure germination and that would require extensive irrigation facilities. By starting things in a protected environment, I can keep a more humid environment until the plants are large enough to reach the moisture under the surface. And that's nothing to speak of the squirrels and birds that dig up every larger seed (squash, peas, beans) I put in the ground. It's not so much that I've given up on direct seeding, it's just that I've found starts to be a much easier and lazier approach.
Roberto: I definitely just kind of avoided the legal aspects. That's a whole different layer to things, especially here in the US where all cannabis growing is being pushed indoors (don't get me started on using electricity to light up a building that blocks out the sun). I was imagining a world where we're just comparing the crops themselves. Without that, we get into terribly complicated calculus between laws, regulations, and subsidies that really makes it impossible to compare to other crops. As a side note, I do believe things will likely change in my lifetime — but then again, I'd have thought our corn subsidies would be gone by now given how bad ethanol turned out to be a fuel. And yet here we are.