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Jesse's Ant Village Videos  RSS feed

 
Lab Ant
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New Video up for you. If you enjoy seeing what is going on here in the Ant village through the lens of my cell phone camera, please check out my Patreon page. The support I receive from my patrons is a huge help in giving me the time and ability to make this video series.

After my truck broke down, my plans for the winter quickly changed from traveling elsewhere to find work, to quickly building a simple shelter on my Ant Village plot. I went with an above ground structure for simplicity, and began by building a raised earth pad and sinking posts into the ground. After raising the posts and cutting them to length, the next step was to notch the three main beams. I used some creative methods involving my chainsaw mill to get the notches cut in the proper locations, before the beams were ever raised into place. Once the excavator made it back to my plot, Josh and I were able to raise the beams into place and start installing the purlins to complete the roof structure. Unfortunately, a large rainstorm rolled into Western Montana forcing me to delay working on the structure, and causing me to question if I am already too late to build a house before winter.
 
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Awesome video! I've watched it now at least three times, coutusy of my son who wanted to see it again and again and again (his current favorite things are drills, hammers, saws, shovels and excavators, and your video has them all!). I'm amazed at the fast progress you've made and hope the rains will let up and you'll be able to get your shelter made in time!
 
pollinator
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I find it very interesting to learn from your videos (as well as from Evan's posts) how important it is to start building at the right time, long before winter falls in!
I hope you will at least have a dry shelter soon
 
steward
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I watched this one twice as well, because my daughter wanted to watch the structure go up. Real life Lincoln Logs!

That darn rain. Are you still going to pile it on/next to the building because after all it wil dry faster raised up, or is it better to wait until the soil has dried out in the spring/summer?
 
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You do good work, Jesse. How is that electric Stihl chainsaw working out? Does it give you much working time between recharges?
 
Jesse Grimes
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Thanks Gary. That stihl saw is awesome for this kind of work. Cutting 2x6s and the like I can work half the day on one battery, and they charge in 20 minutes. Of course, a sharp chain makes a big difference.
 
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Awesome work, and I thank you for taking the time and effort to record and post these videos.

Nothing like building a shelter in safety gear and pajama pants.
 
Jesse Grimes
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Haha, that's right Sean! On rainy days it is important to never change out of your pajamas, no matter what.
 
Jesse Grimes
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Happy Thanksgiving permies! I've got another video uploaded for you to watch while you digest your feast.

The heavy fall rainstorms gave me an opportunity to witness my newly installed water harvesting roads in action, some very important observations. The rains also gave us a chance to take a break and make another trip to Mike Oehler in Idaho, to visit with him and view his underground houses. He urged us to visit one of the few remaining old growth cedar groves in the world, and we were certainly glad we made the detour. Once back at the Ant Village, the work site had dried up enough to allow me to continue construction on my earth sheltered tiny home. I was able to finish installing the roof purlins and boards, and move into adding diagonal bracing into the structure to help counteract the forces of burying the roof in earth. Some simple tricks allowed me to get the angles cut and the heavy logs installed with little difficulty. Along the way I realized that the addition of the bracing also allowed me to extend the floor space inside the home an additional four feet. Work is continuing at a good pace, even as more winter storms blow in, bringing the first snows of the season, and adding some more challenges in the race to finish my house.
 
Gary Huntress
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Looking good, Jesse. It's amazing what one can accomplish by themselves; along with a bit of thoughtful determination and careful innovation. I especially liked the way you figured the angles on some of those supports. A very skilled carpenter once told me, "Never measure what you can mark."
 
Jesse Grimes
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Three and a half weeks straight of working every day, in the cold, tired and sore, but I managed to get my house built and closed up enough to stay dry over the winter. It is certainly not finished yet, and I don't have a stove to heat it, but it is somewhere to keep my stuff protected and dry over the next few months. Even though I didn't get it finished enough to stay in myself over winter, it sure feels great to have built it myself and see it standing there on my plot. I have arranged to stay with Mike Oehler for the winter, to help him finish the amazing ridge house and learn all I can about underground houses and earth sheltered greenhouses. I will be back in early spring to start working on all the plans I have for next year, now that I've made enough mistakes to know what not to do... hopefully. More about all that in the coming videos, but for now I present part three in the saga of building my house.

It's getting Cold! The days are filled with chilling winds and flurries of snow, but I've still got a house to build. Luckily the main structure is up and all that is left is to install the walls, windows, and doors to close it up. As I fill in the spaces the house starts to show its final form, and I develop an appreciation for the Ant Village's cordless electric chainsaw. Close to running out of materials, I get the house closed up and get to experience the feeling of standing inside a house I built with my own two hands...
 
Gary Huntress
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Very cool!
 
pollinator
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No heat, and some cracks, but still it would be interesting to know the difference in temperature from inside to outside. It would also be interesting to know how it feels subjectively.

My family and I once piled up some logs on the beach on a cool, windy, rainy day. The cracks were much bigger than what you have (as much as 6 inch gaps between) even on the side facing the ocean where the wind was coming from. Inside this little hut (no more than 5 foot high and about as wide) it felt like the wind stopped (40KMH outside) and it felt warm.

I have been enjoying watching your progress.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Just have to say thank you again for these videos. We really enjoy them! After watching your video, my son decided to get his toy chainsaw and then went around trying to reenact finishing your house. I love seeing him learn from your videos, even as I learn so much.
 
Jesse Grimes
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Aww, now that's a video I would like to see. As I was making the video I was secretly hoping your son would get a kick out of it.

Edit: it is awesome that you gave your son a toy chainsaw!
 
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Jessie! You are quite a good journalist! Have you ever narrated documentaries? You are a natural. Very enjoyable videos. Thanks!
 
Julia Winter
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Your house is wonderful! Congratulations.

I think learning from Mike Oehler is an excellent plan. He sure has a lot to teach, and he could use some help from younger arms. It reminds me of Joel Salatin talking about hooking up his interns with "curmudgeon old farmers."
 
Nicole Alderman
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Jesse Grimes wrote:Aww, now that's a video I would like to see. As I was making the video I was secretly hoping your son would get a kick out of it.

Edit: it is awesome that you gave your son a toy chainsaw!



He was at it again, today--running around chainsawing everything, and, in his words, "Finishing the house". I'd post a video, except not everyone on the internet is as awesome as us Permies. His grandpa gave him the chainsaw for his birthday--it's an awesome little battery-operated Stihl chainsaw, so it even looks just like yours .
 
pollinator
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Congratulations Jesse! What a way you've come since arriving. Your own house, built with your own hands...that's awesome.
 
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Jesse Grimes wrote:Three and a half weeks straight of working every day, in the cold, tired and sore, but I managed to get my house built and closed up enough to stay dry over the winter. It is certainly not finished yet, and I don't have a stove to heat it, but it is somewhere to keep my stuff protected and dry over the next few months. Even though I didn't get it finished enough to stay in myself over winter, it sure feels great to have built it myself and see it standing there on my plot. I have arranged to stay with Mike Oehler for the winter, to help him finish the amazing ridge house and learn all I can about underground houses and earth sheltered greenhouses. I will be back in early spring to start working on all the plans I have for next year, now that I've made enough mistakes to know what not to do... hopefully. More about all that in the coming videos, but for now I present part three in the saga of building my house.

It's getting Cold! The days are filled with chilling winds and flurries of snow, but I've still got a house to build. Luckily the main structure is up and all that is left is to install the walls, windows, and doors to close it up. As I fill in the spaces the house starts to show its final form, and I develop an appreciation for the Ant Village's cordless electric chainsaw. Close to running out of materials, I get the house closed up and get to experience the feeling of standing inside a house I built with my own two hands...



I use corn/canola oil for my bar oil on my chainsaw, Jesse. It's something I picked up from the Amish, who use chainsaws on their property and depend on pond ice for the years ice supply. It's worked well over the years.
 
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awesome! congratulations! that looks amazing, that really was an inspirational video. what are you planning to use for insulation?
 
Jesse Grimes
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Thank you everyone for your encouraging comments! I had a lot of fun building my house and I am happy I could share it with you.

Don Dufresne wrote:I use corn/canola oil for my bar oil on my chainsaw, Jesse. It's something I picked up from the Amish, who use chainsaws on their property and depend on pond ice for the years ice supply. It's worked well over the years.



Do you have problems with it getting too thick in the cold? Paul used canola oil in his saws here last year, but I heard that it started to solidify when it got freezing and gunked up the saws.
 
Len Ovens
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Jesse Grimes wrote:Thank you everyone for your encouraging comments! I had a lot of fun building my house and I am happy I could share it with you.

Don Dufresne wrote:I use corn/canola oil for my bar oil on my chainsaw, Jesse. It's something I picked up from the Amish, who use chainsaws on their property and depend on pond ice for the years ice supply. It's worked well over the years.



Do you have problems with it getting too thick in the cold? Paul used canola oil in his saws here last year, but I heard that it started to solidify when it got freezing and gunked up the saws.



I have had vegetable oil get sticky when used as lubricant. Of course with canola/rape seed oil I am not sure what one would use it for... Fuel? Don't know as I want to eat it.
 
Jesse Grimes
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judd ripley wrote:awesome! congratulations! that looks amazing, that really was an inspirational video. what are you planning to use for insulation?



The insulation is something I am still trying to figure out. For the non-earth sheltered portions of the walls above the windows and door I can install wood on the other side of the posts, leaving a cavity that can be filled with some type of soft insulation material like wool or commercial denim insulation. I'd like to avoid purchasing any commercial products for obvious reasons, so I have thought about using wood chips or straw, but I would have to make sure it was completely sealed up to keep the critters out. For the earth sheltered portions, I am considering installing an insulation watershed umbrella as described by John Hait in his PAHS book. However, he uses hard foam insulation which is out of the question here at the Lab, so I have to figure out how to make some sort of natural replacement that wont be compressed under the weight of the earth. Paul uses wood chips in the Wofati umbrellas, but I feel like they will lose much of their insulating value once they are compressed. So I am searching for alternatives, perhaps I will start a thread about it.
 
Len Ovens
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Jesse Grimes wrote:

judd ripley wrote:awesome! congratulations! that looks amazing, that really was an inspirational video. what are you planning to use for insulation?



The insulation is something I am still trying to figure out. For the non-earth sheltered portions of the walls above the windows and door I can install wood on the other side of the posts, leaving a cavity that can be filled with some type of soft insulation material like wool or commercial denim insulation. I'd like to avoid purchasing any commercial products for obvious reasons, so I have thought about using wood chips or straw, but I would have to make sure it was completely sealed up to keep the critters out. For the earth sheltered portions, I am considering installing an insulation watershed umbrella as described by John Hait in his PAHS book. However, he uses hard foam insulation which is out of the question here at the Lab, so I have to figure out how to make some sort of natural replacement that wont be compressed under the weight of the earth. Paul uses wood chips in the Wofati umbrellas, but I feel like they will lose much of their insulating value once they are compressed. So I am searching for alternatives, perhaps I will start a thread about it.



Insulating the umbrella is something that is always done, like a vapor barrier. Has anyone built a PAHS house with half the umbrella just vapor barriered with no insulation? This cottage: http://sugarmtnfarm.com/home/cottage/ even though the text says "super insulated" was not the last time I checked. The barrel roof was just concrete at least for the first winter and yet heat was not a problem. I know it is not nice permaculture materials, but in fact soil should be better.

It is easy for me to suggest ways of building things, but I don't have to live in it. I would like to build one and I will probably insulate the umbrella... it is a lot of work to retrofit if it doesn't work.

Were Mike O's house's insulated mass?

 
Don Dufresne
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I store it inside, in extreme cold, so it's ready to use. The saw heat keeps it fluid, obviously. I set my oiler so it's using a tank of bar oil per gas change. Try to use it up or empty bar oil when finished for the day.
 
Jesse Grimes
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Len Ovens wrote:
Were Mike O's house's insulated mass?



No, the earth around an Oehler structure is not insulated, but burying the house below ground level takes advantage of the moderating effect of the below ground temperatures. He uses wood stoves to heat the house, but the insulating effect of the earth itself makes that wood heat go a lot further. It would be super easy to heat my little house with a wood stove if it were simply covered in dirt, but I am considering doing the whole insulated umbrella design just to have some practice for future buildings. It's a lot easier to do it now than in the future.
 
Jesse Grimes
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Don Dufresne wrote:I store it inside, in extreme cold, so it's ready to use. The saw heat keeps it fluid, obviously. I set my oiler so it's using a tank of bar oil per gas change. Try to use it up or empty bar oil when finished for the day.



I may give this a try with my gas saw. It would certainly be cheaper. Maybe mixing a bit of the biodegradable stuff in with the canola oil would help it stay liquid.
 
Len Ovens
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Jesse Grimes wrote:
No, the earth around an Oehler structure is not insulated, but burying the house below ground level takes advantage of the moderating effect of the below ground temperatures. He uses wood stoves to heat the house, but the insulating effect of the earth itself makes that wood heat go a lot further.


Thats what I thought. It seems to me the vapor barrier was right next to the wood form as well, rather than closer to the mass surface. So the earth mass was not only not insulated, but it was able to have the water from rain bring cooler temperatures close to the structure as well. Interesting. Yet it was/is still effective. I think that says good things for the design. I think that says that is the insulating lay settles or crushes somewhat, it is not "the end of the world... we have to dig it all up". It appears to be the same with the vapor barrier, holes are not good, but not the disaster one would think.

My thought is that "warm" is a changing thing. The idea of a large mass to supply most or even all of the heating needs is great. The question is, should it be warmer than we want sometimes or cooler than we want sometimes? And how do we tune such a structure once it is built? We can measure earth temperature down to 20 feet or so and see the gradient. Hmm, we could dig down 3 feet and put a tarp down 40 feet square and then measure after a few years if the gradient has changed. We could put straw bales on top with another tarp on top to protect the bales and see if that makes a difference. How many years do we measure? What happens when we finally build a structure based on whatever we find from such tests? Now we have added warm bodies, cook stoves, windows (aka solar collectors).

I have to admit I am frustrated in my research into PAHS type houses. I know of two for sure that are actively being lived in. One of them has owners who (because there has been so much interest in their project) are not willing to talk to people at all about their experience and how is this house 20 years down the road. The other claims to be comfortable over the years too. The rest (including the earthship) have exciting tales about the build and then vanish.

Oehler's structures while having served as successful living spaces for some time, are not fully PAHS houses in the model most depicted. Sorry to dump all these tings on you, most of it is just musings. I really don't want to build 5 or 10 houses to get one right. I guess I am starting to wonder if this fancy multi layer umbrella needs to be so complex to work. I am also wondering if I really want a house with no wood burner. Times when I might like to sit on a warm bench without living in a sauna. One of the reasons I am asking you, is that it seems to me you are staying with someone who may have some worthwhile opinions. You have been around the two wofati for a bit and may have some feel for their comfort in two or three seasons as well. (even when they were open to the air)
 
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Jesse Grimes wrote:

The insulation is something I am still trying to figure out. For the non-earth sheltered portions of the walls above the windows and door I can install wood on the other side of the posts, leaving a cavity that can be filled with some type of soft insulation material like wool or commercial denim insulation. I'd like to avoid purchasing any commercial products for obvious reasons, so I have thought about using wood chips or straw, but I would have to make sure it was completely sealed up to keep the critters out. For the earth sheltered portions, I am considering installing an insulation watershed umbrella as described by John Hait in his PAHS book. However, he uses hard foam insulation which is out of the question here at the Lab, so I have to figure out how to make some sort of natural replacement that wont be compressed under the weight of the earth. Paul uses wood chips in the Wofati umbrellas, but I feel like they will lose much of their insulating value once they are compressed. So I am searching for alternatives, perhaps I will start a thread about it.



Very inspirational building Jesse!

Is rice husk available in Montana? I got a pickup load near Sacramento for free last year to insulate under my waterproofed deck. Rice mills here seem happy to get rid of it. It has a pretty good R value, won't rot and insects don't like it.

It has been added to earth blocks so it seems a good fit for the umbrella.
 
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"The insulation is something I am still trying to figure out. For the non-earth sheltered portions of the walls above the windows and door I can install wood on the other side of the posts, leaving a cavity that can be filled with some type of soft insulation material like wool or commercial denim insulation. I'd like to avoid purchasing any commercial products for obvious reasons, so I have thought about using wood chips or straw, but I would have to make sure it was completely sealed up to keep the critters out. For the earth sheltered portions, I am considering installing an insulation watershed umbrella as described by John Hait in his PAHS book. However, he uses hard foam insulation which is out of the question here at the Lab, so I have to figure out how to make some sort of natural replacement that wont be compressed under the weight of the earth. Paul uses wood chips in the Wofati umbrellas, but I feel like they will lose much of their insulating value once they are compressed. So I am searching for alternatives, perhaps I will start a thread about it."


Hi Jesse, I have been inspired by watching you build your own house - just watched your latest video and the house looks so nice - great going! I am newly interested in permaculture, and this is the first time I've posted so I hope I don't sound like an idiot. People where I live (northern Minnesota) use flax straw to insulate things when they don't want critter problems because they say it's so scratchy that mice and critters don't like it (you probably knew that, but just in case, wanted to share it with you).
 
Jesse Grimes
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Len Ovens wrote:

Oehler's structures while having served as successful living spaces for some time, are not fully PAHS houses in the model most depicted. Sorry to dump all these tings on you, most of it is just musings. I really don't want to build 5 or 10 houses to get one right. I guess I am starting to wonder if this fancy multi layer umbrella needs to be so complex to work. I am also wondering if I really want a house with no wood burner. Times when I might like to sit on a warm bench without living in a sauna. One of the reasons I am asking you, is that it seems to me you are staying with someone who may have some worthwhile opinions. You have been around the two wofati for a bit and may have some feel for their comfort in two or three seasons as well. (even when they were open to the air)



I welcome your musings Len, that is what is so great about permies.com. We can geek out on this stuff in a supportive environment. My understanding of the Oehler structures is that the vapor barrier is right up against the wood, with "wet" dirt all around, so he obviously isn't going for the full PAHS effect. BUT I'm my opinion, and along the lines of what you are saying, I don't really think it is necessary to achieve a fully passive house. Plus, there are some big advantages to burning a wood stove, especially in a wooden house. From what I have observed and heard from Mike, the PSP houses hold up great as long as someone is living in them and burning a stove. The heat drys out the wood and keeps it dry. The original $500 house is still holding up, while newer structures on the property are starting to degrade. The difference is that Mike still lived in that house for many years while the other structures sat empty for long stretches. He told me of a sauna he built very early on that was regularly used for bathing. It lasted 20 plus years with no signs of rot, but once he got a real shower and stopped using the sauna, it was gone within 5 years.

Some other thoughts on a less than passive system: the effect of earth sheltering alone is huge. Wofati 0.8 has not received it's umbrella yet, so it is currently covered by a 2 foot layer of "wet" earth. In the summertime it is always comfortable inside, around 70 degrees I'd say, even though it may be 105 outside. I haven't experienced it in the winter time or run a heater inside, so I'm not sure what the effect of the mass is on cold Temps. I would imagine it would have a moderating effect on all temperature swings, but I could also see the dirt getting wet and pulling heat out of the house when the heater is running. I think that simply enclosing the mass in a waterproof layer, without insulation, would have a huge effect. My neighbor Evan has talked about trying to achieve a monthly thermal inertia, in which you run a heater for a day or two and the mass absorbs enough heat to last a month. Theoretically you could build a super efficient house, aproaching fully passive, while only having to build your umbrella out a few feet instead of 20.

Personally, I would like to make an attempt at achieving a fully passive house, simply because I like the idea of it and want to experiment with how to make it way cheaper and more natural. This is very much in line with Paul's wofati concept, except I am not placing as many restrictions on the design. For example, I will certainly be incorporating solar aspect into my designs. Of course, I am still young and have a passion for building things, so I don't mind making mistakes or having to build several houses to get it right. If I were older I might be more conservative with my goals.
 
Jesse Grimes
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Paul Miller wrote:
Is rice husk available in Montana? I got a pickup load near Sacramento for free last year to insulate under my waterproofed deck. Rice mills here seem happy to get rid of it. It has a pretty good R value, won't rot and insects don't like it.

It has been added to earth blocks so it seems a good fit for the umbrella.



I am very interested in using rice hulls. I did a bit of research into them when doing the Alerton Abbey project, and they seem like an ideal natural insulation. Great R value, naturally fire resistant, dirt cheap, and they don't compress much. Unfortunately for me, the major rice growing regions are the California central valley and around Alabama/Texas. The cost/energy of transporting the rice hulls to Montana makes them no longer a good choice compared to other materials like straw. If I were in California I would use them in a second. I did find one brand of wild rice that is grown in Idaho but I couldn't find any information about where it was milled or if the hulls were available. I may look into it further as Idaho is quite close.
 
Jesse Grimes
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edith zahn wrote: People where I live (northern Minnesota) use flax straw to insulate things when they don't want critter problems because they say it's so scratchy that mice and critters don't like it (you probably knew that, but just in case, wanted to share it with you).



I did not know about flax straw, thank you for teaching me something new! I will have to look into its availability in western Montana. Flax seed is a pretty common bulk product in natural food stores, so I imagine it might be easy to find organically grown flax straw. The anti-critter effect is very interesting.
 
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Jesse Grimes wrote:Unfortunately for me, the major rice growing regions are the California central valley and around Alabama/Texas. The cost/energy of transporting the rice hulls to Montana makes them no longer a good choice compared to other materials like straw. If I were in California I would use them in a second. I did find one brand of wild rice that is grown in Idaho but I couldn't find any information about where it was milled or if the hulls were available. I may look into it further as Idaho is quite close.



I wonder if buckwheat hulls would have similar properties.
 
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:

Jesse Grimes wrote:Unfortunately for me, the major rice growing regions are the California central valley and around Alabama/Texas. The cost/energy of transporting the rice hulls to Montana makes them no longer a good choice compared to other materials like straw. If I were in California I would use them in a second. I did find one brand of wild rice that is grown in Idaho but I couldn't find any information about where it was milled or if the hulls were available. I may look into it further as Idaho is quite close.



I wonder if buckwheat hulls would have similar properties.



Just my two cents... wild rice does not equal rice. As suggested by the reference to buckwheat (which is not wheat) wild rice and buckwheat are related. So even if wild rice husks are available locally, I would not substitute them for rice husks without more research.
 
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Yeah, I don't know much about the properties of wild rice husks, and I couldn't find much info when I was researching into them. It would be nice to get my hands on some just to see what they do. There are some buckwheat hulls on the lab already inside some matresses, but organic buckwheat hulls can be very expensive.
 
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I've been taking a break for the holidays, but I've got a few videos coming out soon to catch you up on my adventures. here's the first!

Well my house is built, but nowhere near finished, and with winter most definitely upon Western Montana I decided that staying in an unheated house with no insulation probably isn't a good idea. So, I made arrangements with Mike Oehler, author of the "$50 and Up Unerground House Book" and the "Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book", to stay on his land over the winter and help him with some of his projects. I am looking forward to learning from Mike, but first I made a trip to Southern California to visit my family for thanksgiving. It was quite an adjustment being surrounded by the concrete jungle of Los Angeles after spending the last 6 months living in the quiet of the forest. To me, Los Angeles represents much of the failures of modern civilization, but there is still hopeful signs to be found, such as more people becoming aware of their desert environment, food growing in people's yards, and the work of some very dedicated permaculturalists, like Rishi Kumar of Sarvodaya Farms. Check out my video tour of Sarvodaya Farms here:

One of the best parts about being back in my former home was the chance to ride my bicycle again, on one of my own co-creations built in one of the pockets of wilderness left in orange County, and where I first conceived the concept of the permaculture bike park. Before I left, I had the chance to ride another rider-built bike park in LA, which winds through an old orchard and reminds me much of what I envision in the permaculture bike park. It left me with renewed inspiration for the work I will begin next spring in the Ant Village.

 
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Perennial Vegetables: How to Use Them to Save Time and Energy
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