Ronen Hirsch

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since Oct 21, 2011
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Recent posts by Ronen Hirsch

I am surprised to find myself saying this ... but ... well done Paul ... this follows my response to the previous kickstarter:

I didn't think I would be willing to back another one of your kickstarters ever again ... but here I am ... looking forward to it. It feels like you made a real effort to address the faults and shortcomings of the previous production and I appreciate and respect that very much.

Have you considered offering a bundle that will include Erica's new upcoming book (for shipping purposes, if for no other reason)?

I think the one thing "wrong" with this offering is that you are associating it with the previous RMH kickstarter. I think the previous DVD set does an injustice to you, your work, your intentions, Erica and Ernie and rocket mass heaters (yes, that is how poor a production I think it was). Reshoot it and reproduce it ... but otherwise discontinue that set.

The way you present it in the rewards also re-opens the wounds of how I felt cheated with it. You have essentially deprecated the $100 contribution I made to a value of $30 (or less). The only way I can see that as "right" is that it continues to line your pockets. In every other way, I can think of, it feels wrong. It is the one thing that curtails my enthusiasm for the new kickstarter.

I wish you well with the new production.
As food-preservation time is coming around again I've been experimenting (again) with using an outside cooking rocket stove for roasting (mostly aubergines and peppers). I've tried:
1. placing a metal surface on top of a simple L stove.
2. placing a metal surface on top of two simple L stoves.
3. placing a metal surface on top of a full height J stove.
4. placing a metal surface on top of a L stove with an expanded top chamber that is sort-of-sealed by the metal surface except for a small venting opening.

I've tried using a 5mm steel surface and I've tried a very thin (don't know what kind of metal it is, old roofing lying around) surface. The thin surface seems to perform slightly better ... but nothing to brag about.
In both cases roasting works best right on top of the flame path and performance drops rapidly when moving away from it.

I feel like I am failing miserably ... at least I think I am. It works but takes a long time.
Any ideas on how to make this work better or should I be reverting to a grill on top of an open fire?
7 years ago
Hello Rob,

I'm grateful for this opportunity to ask you questions directly. I've been living with two of your books for the past year+ ... not so much for the overall method of construction ... but for a deeper understanding of reasoning and endless bits of information that are helping us make design decisions.

The context for all these questions is plans for an underground (not bermed) house build of a combination of earthbags and post&beam framing.

1: Light
I watched the two old videos that were a tour of your house and property. One of the things that struck me was how dark it seemed in the rear part of the house - where natural light doesn't seem to make its way. Is this really the case? If so, does it bother you?
We've been trying to deal with this by dividing a one story house into two levels ... so the rear part of the house is approx. half a floor up ... making it possible to add high windows for direct light into it (this does introduce some complexity).

2: Ventillation
(how) do you get fresh air into the house in winter? do you believe this is an important issue?

Have you heard of John Haits PAHS method? Do you have an opinion about it? To us (at least theoretically) it seems like a game-changing approach (we live in a cold -20c climate).

4: Bond Beam
We prefer to put in wooden plates instead of a concrete bond beam. Is the thickness (height) of the plates significant?

Respectfull Yours
7 years ago
how would you go about selecting amongst people who show interest in this kind of thing (I'm assuming there will be more then you could accommodate)?
how do you deal with ownership? if someone builds a house on this property, do they own it? if so, when they leave what happens (kind of hard to take it with them)?

we are currently in a similar position and initial signs of community are appearing. we believe community is precious (and key to sustainability) ... but it is still mostly a mystery to us.
we too are leaning towards a model where we have last say about what can or can't be done on/to the property ... stewardship of the land defines our "leadership rights"
7 years ago
For a long time I've been searching for a good book/source on chemistry. Good = inspiring, accessible, respectful of nature and life, spiritually inclined ...

All of my attempts (so far) to take on chemistry (as a foundation, scientific building blocks) have failed ... too technical, ultimately boring and lacking in context. Yet I have a thirst for it on so many levels (soil, plants, animals, fire in a rocket stove, finishing in wood working, the workings of cob and natural finishes and on and on ...).

Has anyone come across such a source?
I just wanted to call out this inspiring film I am very much looking forward to seeing - currently raising funding on Kickstarter:
8 years ago
Hello Geoff and Paul,

Some thoughts and comments after listening to the podcast. We are relatively new homesteaders in a village in Romania (neither of us with background in gardening of farming).

I have been trying to approach the vast sea of permaculture (where I still get lost very often) by viewing it through another framework I am more familiar and comfortable with - Yoga ( I have often dealt with the question of "is this Yoga?" so I could relate to the question of "is this Permaculture?". In Yoga I am more interested in how a practitioner leaves the practice space then her actual practice - it is when you are back behind the driving wheel or on the phone that sheds light on your true qualities. I believe that holds true for Permaculture as well. Creating a super efficient and sustainable biological system is great and definitely addresses the first ethic "care for the earth". However if you achieve this and end up being an angry prick, impatient or rude towards people - then, in my eyes, you've failed when it comes to the 2nd ethic "caring for people" - you've failed both yourself and others. Influencing the biosystem is, I believe the easier aspect of the journey (can be achieved dominantly using intellect). Letting the biosystem influence you is a more difficult aspect of the journey (and demands a surrender of mind and an opening and softening of heart). I wouldn't be surprised to find that in Permaculture, as in Yoga, if you actually apply that second ethic as a filter ... then many "professionals" who have been through PDC courses (and may have already taught others) would fall outside of the permaculture ethic circle.

I have found in my own efforts that pushing too hard (using my quality of self-discipline) usually ends in me feeling not well (physically, emotionally, spiritually). It goes right to the point your brought up of "fun". If I am able to find patience, compromise, softness, appreciating the nature of myself and the world around me ... I find myself in more correct effort ... and enjoying myself. I have also found that my "pleasure" directly correlates to the state of the biological system. When I go out and try to work the dead clay earth we inherited I get depressed. When I put my hands into a spot of top-soil we have managed to recreate I have a smile from ear to ear and love working in the garden.

We would love to see a DVD produced on food-forests in temperate climates (temperate as in Zone 5 Romanian snow-covered winter, not UK cool). We intend to convert some of our typical-abused-Romanian-pasture into food-forests - so if this project comes to life we would be happy to offer our land-transformation efforts for this production.

All Things Good


8 years ago
Since I've posted this question I've come across some really interesting information. It seems that clay soil is only expansive and only a problem because of moisture ... or to be even more precise ... changes in moisture. Clay expands when it absorbs water. So, if you keep the soil dry ... it is no longer expansive and therefore no longer a problem. The solution is basically an insulated (moisture and temperature) umbrella that spreads 6 meters beyond the house ... and it is part of an entire system of insulation that does wonders for energy efficiency & air quality (goes way beyond the superficial "south facing passive solar" mantra) ... more on that here:

Ironically, in recent weeks we've been thinking about looking into earthbags ... because getting used tires in Romania has proven to be very difficult. I am still just getting started with earthbag theory and don't know, yet, if it can be feasible to build with them underground.
8 years ago
Hello Erica,

re:Kindle - I do not own a Kindle and since I work on an open-source operating system (Ubuntu) I don't have access to reliable Kidle software and I do not want to be connected to Amazon in this manner. I've already "not purchased" a product that was released this way and I feel that doing so, especially with an ecological-mindset is ... not ecological This is true for any product that forces me to register and participate in a such a commercial system and proprietary format (but that's just me).

Yes "the create X in five minutes" is a false promise (I've actually tried communicating that to the WordPress folks). Figuring it out requires a learning curve. Having someone walk you through it can make life that much easier.

You can try out WordPress for free by opening an account at - just to get a feel for what publishing content can be like with WordPress (you don't need to know any HTML). You can even create the website in private mode so that only you can see what you are doing.

As for WordPress and eCommerce you would need to look at Plugins. From my latest review, the most mature one seems to be this one - it's by a well reputed service provider in the WordPress community:

If you want to see example of WordPress based eCommerce, this is one showcase with a different plugin (though very popular, has a shaky reputation among WordPress professionals) - though it should answer your question if this is possible: .

The way I (and I believe any professional does) build websites is to work on a temporary site that you can tweak and change and author until you feel it's ready to launch. Only when you decide to launch, the new website replaces your existing one.

If you are looking for a way to make a "doggone button that actually does something" then you are looking in the wrong direction (unless you are looking to advance your web-development skills). Whether you choose to integrate Paypal buttons (the code for which is generated by Paypal and copied into your WordPress pages) or use a commerce-plugin - you should be able to do so with much less effort then coding it yourself.

By the way, if you want to stick with your own web-pages than you can simply paste into them the same button code generated by PayPal (the same code you would paste into WordPress).

You can start making a spreadsheet for your products ... but it may need to evolve and change once you choose how you want to actually sell them products.

All Things Good

8 years ago