Chris Kott

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since Jan 25, 2012
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Recent posts by Chris Kott

Hey guys,

Thanks for your well-wishing.

I would have posted sooner, both since moving and with this response, but for the amount of work I have to do. I am working 10 hour days, four days a week, with a half-day on Fridays, which doesn't sound like much of a change, but I'll tell you, on top of the shift to rural life, it takes it out of  you. I'm hoping that my adaptation will speed up as the daylight increases with the progression of the seasons.

A "carolinian forest analogue" is my term for an agroforestry approach I am going to try that uses the base structure of a carolinian oak savannah, but structured for maximum human utility on the specific site in question, using edible contemporary analogues of what wild elements a carolinian oak savannah would comprise.

In this context, that means gradually replacing less productive or useful species of mast or nut tree with more productive ones, replacing wild rose with, for instance, a rose variety that produces larger rosehips, and fleshing out the secondary canopy with productive apple, pear, and stonefruit, with hazels and mulberries in the shady understory, and raspberries, for instance, with cultivated grape varieties, either table or wine, according to what the site and homesteader needs, occupying the vining category, or paw paws, if it's warm and humid enough.

I feel similarly, John, about the forever home versus flipper discussion. For me, it's my forever home until it's not, at this point. But if I do it right, the property will yield more operating as a permaculture food forest farm, and serving as the nucleus of a business, a seed of expansion, than if we were to sell, barring the property value skyrocketing at the same time that something with more house and land in a better location pops up and begs me to buy it.

As to the motorcycle, my morning commute occurs at 0530, dark most of the year, and deer are a real threat. And we get snow here quite regularly. A snow-covered commute in my VW stationwagon is fun, if challenging, at 0530. I don't think I would enjoy a bike. Here, I need a small pickup, hopefully one for which parts are readily available, and that is easy for a novice mechanic to fix themselves for most things.

As to Mizzou, I miss her every day. The truth is, though, that as soon as she injured herself, it was a struggle for her. She couldn't thump when displeased, she couldn't binky when happy, couldn't run, couldn't flop over to her side easily. And she was in pain, for which we had to medicate her daily, which put her to sleep and messed with her eating. We ended up cutting her dosage in half, which made her more mobile and increased her appetite, but not to the same level as before. She just couldn't live her best bunny life, so when she was sure we were safe in our new space, she decided to move on.

Thank you all, by the way. I look forward to being able to generate more new content in this space.

Good luck, and have a great day.

2 months ago
Greetings, all.

I just wanted to post an update.

Happy news: We decided to quit our jobs in the city last September to fuck off and live in the woods.

We got really lucky a number of times, and in a number of ways, because it all started with our notice of renoviction in May from our Toronto apartment, and the comparables had us outpriced in that market anywhere commuting distance to our workplaces.

I found a job at a bindery in Campbellford, Ontario, and we bought a two-bedroom cabin on an acre woodlot halfway between Toronto and Ottawa on Hwy 7. My much better half is now able to commute to the job she was previously staying out of town for every month, and all she has to do is get up at 4 with me to drive me to work.

We're currently renovating to make the place livable, including painting, updating the countertop, sink, and faucet, and trying to find an end-of-season deal on a good woodstove. Yes, I would much prefer an RMH, but I don't have the time to pour proper footings or to pour a slab foundation for it.

It's mainly temperate hardwoods with some conifers in our patch. I have seen maples and oaks. I plan to observe and tweak the hydrology, and perhaps run our greywater trench high up on our property. It's gently sloping, with two step-downs, almost terraces, though it's unfortunately to the north. It's gradual enough that I don't anticipate shading-out issues.

When I have time for projects, I anticipate starting culinary and medicinal mushrooms first, with as diverse a sampling as I can, but just watering with greywater should make any edible fungi already there come up more reliably, and we are living in the land of the chanterelle. I also want to pursue beekeeping, considering how well bee forage grows around here, and the distinct lack of corn/soy agriculture in the immediate area.

I should be able to carry out a working homestead model of my carolinian forest analogue, structured into swaled silviopastoral alleys on-contour, separated by food forest hedges comprised of apples, pears, stonefruit of all kinds, and an understory of hazels, mulberry trees, different species of raspberry (to spread out the flowering and harvest season), and probably some currants.

For next season, the best I will be able to achieve for gardens are probably raised mounds surrounded by chickenwire-wrapped tripods, but I am already planning to start tomato and pepper plants, perhaps this weekend, and I will basically make as many tripods as I can and plant out all my old stock of seed and see what germinates.

We're already feeding the local songbirds. They're amazing to watch. I am hoping that their increased numbers will draw the local redtailed hawks in greater numbers, and end up taking care of the unbelievable number of squirrels and other rodents in the area

We are two-thirds of the way up the southern side of a bowl, so we are somewhat exposed for being surrounded by forest. I anticipate using some wild-harvested chanterelle spore-inoculated jackpine (the symbiotic partner for the eastern variety) in alleys on our north and western perimeters for some structured wind breaks. I will probably introduce wild blueberries from wild sources if they don't just sprout when I let more light in the windbreaks. I will probably also mix in some christmas tree favourites and a future overstory of white and red pine. I will scout richer areas of soil and plant the white pine there, and the red will go in the shitty soil, as that's where they thrive.

I want to be able to get laying hens, but a dog comes first, and truthfully, I don't have the time and resources to start that up yet. But I should be able to do that here too, eventually.

We might have timber-grade lumber just waiting to be milled hung up on surrounding trees for a season or more, or else at least firewood and materials for split-rail fencing, and there are people with portable sawmills offering their services in the area, so we may have our new roof sitting unmilled outside our window. I want to change our conventional equilateral triangle truss roof to an open barn truss to give us a full second story, and probably put an enamelled raised-seam metal roof on it so we can hear it properly when it rains. That said, we also have southern exposure, want to put a greenhouse on the southern side, and like the idea of solar, so nothing is set in stone; we also really like green roofs, with the sole complicating factor being my want to collect rainwater. So we'll see what happens. We might also glom on an A-frame addition to one side or the other, and maybe that's where the masonry heater will go. Who knows?

On a sad note, Mizzou died. She injured her back and legs jumping off a chair this spring, and there was progressive atrophy because of her paralysis. She made it here, and had some weeks of hopping around outside, where the green treats sprouted up from the ground. She died while we were both home, working on our home, on Hallowe'en, and we buried her under some maples by the drive. She now has lots of room for infinite ghost bunny binkies.

I don't know if we'll be here forever, but there's a ton I can do here, including underpinning and digging out the basement for more space. I wouldn't dismiss building a wofati freezer and root cellar combo, as the terrain favours it in several places, and whatever I'm doing is going to involve squash and root veggies, and canning, drying, and freezing food.

Apart from renovating the house, our next step, as soon as we can, anyways, is finding a fuzzy guardian friend. The kicker is, she (probably a female, but we're flexible) needs to be hypoallergenic, and I would like her to be an LGD, ideally. Accordingly, we're checking out Komondorok (singular: komondor), but there are a variety of poodle crosses that might also suffice, like a Newfypoo, or St. Bernadoodle, or a Bernedoodle, or any number of poodle-LGD crosses. I would prefer a komondor girl, but we'll see what we can manage. Pulis, the small cousin of the komondor, are also on the table.

So I hope everyone is doing well. Hi to any permies that happen to be in my neck of the woods. Drop me a moosage or respond in the thread. I'd love to see if anyone is around.

I will post some pics soon. Take care, and good luck in your efforts.

3 months ago
Great discussion.

I just want to add, trapping heat in a ground-based heat loop, even one as simple as an air exchange system taking exhaust heat from the roof peak of a greenhouse or hot shop, would be like trapping the heat in a bench, but bigger and longer-lasting.

My much better half is a glassblower when she's not engraving things with sharp spinny metal. This is my plan for waste heat reuse. I think my secondary use will involve powering a retort to make biochar.

Incidentally, the dirty exhaust that, as a byproduct, creates lovely patterns in woodfired kilns can also negatively affect the colour of glass, especially clear glass. That's why wood gas exhausting from the retort will not be fed back into the furnace, but will, instead, fire a secondary burn under the retort on its own, probably using a one-way pressure valve and a venturi tube/manifold from a barbeque.

8 months ago
I agree with Trace. If you find yourself about to utter the words, "Do as I say, not as I do," you're in the middle of a teaching moment where you can correct your own behaviour and educate your child.

I also agree with Robert. No battle plan ever survived contact with the enemy, to paraphrase the saying.

It is difficult to parent as part of a person. You can't really compartmentalise yourself as some would like to do, to be the work person at work, and the dad person at home. I mean, you can try, but one persona invariably bleeds into another, and you find dad person acting in ways perhaps only after-work person allows.

Basically, you have to own your own shit. Kids will pick up everything, most especially those things you try to hide from them. You'll think you're doing fine, and then you'll mash your thumb with a hammer and yell, "FUCK!" Suddenly, it's the only word they know, and it's hilarious to them. (To us as well, though we can't admit it).

Behaviours are the most important. If you come home from a day of work and plop yourself in front of the TV while your significant other does all the home tasks, you're ingraining into your children what it means to go to work and come home. If as a person and parent, you're constantly not only deferring to, but waiting for, your significant other to make the decisions, you're teaching your children that it's the job of the male to shirk the mental load, and that it's the job of the female to do all the planning and execution, excepting the tasks she specifically allocates to the male.

If you're going to focus on one thing, let it be the sharing of the mental load between couples. It's good to check in, even constantly, with the other partner in the mix, to make sure you're on the same page, but it's critical that each do their share of the heavy lifting where it comes to not only execution, but planning.

As to the future, you can't dictate what your kids will like or decide to do. The best you can do is design your property to do what you need for it to do for the rest of your life, so you can age with your land. If they're of the same mindset as you, they will want to be a part of it. If not, they won't have to worry about you as you age, because you will have taken care of your collective needs already.

And after you're gone, they might decide to sell. But you won't be there to suffer that. And hopefully one of your children will see the value in it, to carry on for another generation, at which point they will face their own version of this question.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

8 months ago
Really cool idea.

I was thinking of a barn-truss pallet structure, where the trusses were formed by the joined sides of pallets. Essentially, the roof would be assembled in barn truss arches of five pallets each, and set atop a box of pallet walls of appropriate size. At least a two-bedroom, maybe three with a loft.

Unfortunately, pallets in useable condition are becoming more expensive with the increased cost of lumber. You obviously found what you need. I would suggest deconstruction and reuse rather than demolition and burning when you're done with this iteration. Though by that time, pallet prices might have come down.

Great idea, though. I was considering a yurt recently, but the land we're buying has a cottage on it, so we'll work with that first.

8 months ago
Hi Edward.

We all get that from time to time. I feel that while bitcoin mined using renewables is better than otherwise, it's still a misuse of energy.

The anger is one problem. I try to do productive things with regards to the subject matter that's upsetting me. If I don't, it either rules me, and I externalise it onto people that don't deserve it, or I internalise it, and it builds into anxiety attacks.

Bitcoin is another problem. I have figured out a solution that would actually help the earth that uses the cryptocurrency model, but I have no outlet for it. It's a bit complex, yet simple, so here it goes.

Mine cryptocurrency using swarms of solar-powered satellites intercepting some of the sun's energy at the intervening lagrange point in the Sun-Earth system.

The only thing that's cheap right now to safely transport from the earth to orbit and back again is information. We do it every day, multiple times a day; our civilisations depend upon it.

SpaceX is launching multiple satellites per rocket launch to deploy Elon's Starlink project. The technology is there to launch satellite swarms.

The I.S.S. has what they refer to as R.O.S.A., or Roll-Out Solar Array, which is proof-of-concept that deployable solar panels can function correctly. I would be more comfortable with something origami-based, that looked like a lotus or chrysanthemum or something, but I suppose rolls will do.

So the swarm would harvest energy to maintain synchrony, to block out enough solar energy from the earth to do the job of cooling it, and would mine cryptocurrency to pay for itself. It wouldn't even add heat to the atmosphere because everything would be taking place in space.

Earth gets a solar heat shield that pays for itself and starts funding industry in space. Who can say how well a cryptocurrency that literally staves off the planet's roasting and whose long-term operational costs would include an occasional replenishment of satellites within the swarm could perform?

Sounds to me like a better option than wasting valuable energy here on the planet to crunch numbers, with exhaust heat as the byproduct.

8 months ago
The diagram reminds me of the macguffin from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Khaaaaaaaaan!), especially the way nuclear waste, which is literally underlined in green text reading "radioactive," is thrown in there without an explanation as to why it's there or what it's doing. It's like the protomatter in the Genesis device. It's the mysterious component, along with "catalysts" in the hydrogen, that is responsible for and explains the "transmutation" responsible for energy production over unity.

Two things stuck out to me before Ian launched his very detailed deconstruction. The first was word usage. Real scientists are definitely not going to use a term traditionally linked to alchemy to describe any new process. They'd use the terminology available to them in their field to come up with a credible and descriptive term that doesn't make one think automatically of alchemy, and people trying anything they could think of to remain young, or alive, or to create vast wealth for no work.

Any explanation that smacks of magical thinking is suspect.

The second thing I noticed was that nobody else in the world is really talking about them. If it had as much potential as is claimed, wouldn't we be hearing at least as much about Aureon as we are about the Bill Gates-backed synchronised solar mirror array set to replace fossil fuels in industrial processes requiring heat?

You'd have to silence the NIMBY party, but I bet that those heat engines the OP referred to, decomissioned coal and aging gas plant infrastructure that still heat water to make steam to move turbines, could be powered in at least half of the untied states year-round by such synchronised solar mirror arrays distributed in the areas to the immediate north of power plants retrofitted to be heated that way.

Is the term "overunity" used in professional circles, or is it an artefact of alternative energy conspiracists?

And the electric universe idea again? Everyone knows that the universe is underlaid with a vast network of interdimensional mycorrhizae.

8 months ago
True. But check out some of Malthus' writings on the matter.

He essentially observed that humans had this propensity to utilise abundance for population growth rather than for maintaining a high quality of life for all. It mirrors the animal dynamic, one example of which can be seen in relation to masting tree species.

On the oak savannah, during mast years, there is an abundance of food for nut-eaters. So their populations explode. They experience increasing food stress, then starvation, whereupon the population shrinks, until the next mast year, when the population explodes again. Rinse and repeat.

The predators of those nut-eaters have a similar pattern. Their abundance happens when the nut-eater population explodes, thus causing a population explosion of their own. When the prey population dwindles, so does the predator. Until the population explosion following a mast year.

And we do exactly the same thing. The only way we can do any differently is to consciously change our behaviour. Sating our need for stuff is one stand-in for having more children in the animal sphere, but it still results in material waste, which leads to either poverty or food scarcity, or both.

This is why the war on poverty or hunger is doomed to fail until we increase a Kardashev level. We need sustained abundance to enable an educated society (I mean where everyone gets a university or equivalent education, on the whole planet), for long enough that we build abundance-building feedback loops beyond ones that act like mast years, or fossil fuels. A jump lasting a mere century that makes a small portion of the global population obese toy-hoarders isn't advancing humanity out of its Malthusian catastrophe anytime soon.

Educating everyone, but women especially, can improve conditions societally, such that a giant safety net made of your surviving children isn't required for survival past your working years. It also greatly increases one's potential working years, and increases their individual value.

I feel that population growth is the wrong metric to track. I feel that educating everyone, at the public expense (with everyone paying taxes, and preferably at a rate that increases as you take more out of the system through hoarding of wealth rather than reinvestment) is the only real way to approach any true social justice, along with creating a world where such education is not only a boon, but critical.

You know Star Trek, where so many engineers are required to keep society functioning that it forms a third of Starfleet (maybe way more; I seriously doubt that you need as many command and security personnel as you do engineers and, to a lesser degree, scientists)? That's the kind of society where we'd have enough highly technical jobs to do to satisfy a highly educated populace.

It needn't be solely engineering, although you could broaden the meaning of that concept by including one word: systems.

Systems engineers would work with systems designers to create systems of systems whose individual "waste" is fed into other systems that use it as a feedstock. This applies if you're talking about a Galaxy-class starship, a Cardassian space station, or terraforming projects, just to name a few examples.

Realistically, we need to expand the system. There has to be a beneficial outlet for the education we're giving to these people who otherwise had none, and no need of it, because literacy in agrarian societies, say, where being literate doesn't help your survival by getting you more resources, is a luxury. But if suddenly you have neighbours with electric traction for their fields, and knowing how to read gets you education in electric tractor repair, or solar panel installation and repair, or any one of a number of farm-related time- or risk-saving technologies, which gets you paid and the farmers greater yields, thus money to pay you, there is then a payoff.

So it's not just education, but that's a crucial piece. There has to be a need for that education that pays off for society, but more importantly, for the individuals and their families.

8 months ago
I am not a fan of soy or tofu, but for the most part, that's just a culinary dislike, along with a general disfavour for a thing that requires so much processing, which becomes potentially dangerous in an industrial food setting.

So much about soy and tofu gets better if you're doing the processing yourself, at home. But some things do not.

Apparently, and I will try to find the article that mentioned this, soy fields are devoid of much of the life present in other crop situations because nothing sees it as food. That might be great from a pest perspective, as it would naturally require fewer to no pesticides to cultivate, from the conventional agriculture perspective, but it's not so good in terms of animal life down to the smallest level living adjacent to those fields.

Are there no other types of bean that can be used in the same way, one that, although perhaps still a result of the Columbian Exchange, has been accepted by microbial and other life here?

It's a good idea if you have the time and resources. Honestly, if I won the lottery, or if some organisation was arranging funding to pay for all this, it's exactly the type of thing I would want to put into place.

Understand, though, that being away for extended periods will probably mean choosing your sites with a view to collaboration with local community.

My fear, were I managing several sites by myself, is that during my absence, literally anything could happen, including someone destroying my site by using it as an ATV stunt site and camp ground, or someone seeing something of value they could take and sell, and doing that.

You could also see loss due to predation, even if it's hungry bears tearing down your fruit trees to get at the top branches.

But if you decide that you're going in to create a partnership with local community, giving members things of value, like jobs and perhaps even a community stake in the business, you suddenly have someone on-site year-round, who will value the project at least as much as you, if it is designed and created with a view to supporting the community.

I like to think of semi-nomadic bison farming as an example. If I buy a bunch of rangeland with lots of grazing, drop some bison on it, and hightail it for somewhere else, the bison could survive with only an annual culling of yearling or two-year old males above the population required for healthy genetics in the herd. I could also come back to find that someone decided that this herd was tasty-looking, and would fetch a fine price.

But if I were to start up and invest in such an operation in consultation with a ranchers' organisation looking for such an opportunity, or better yet, an indigenous group that could embrace that lifestyle and use it to both build the herd and bring in income, it's money in their pockets and food in their families' mouths when it succeeds; they have lots of reasons in that scenario to care for the project like its their own.

So you know what? Do it. Set up a semi-nomadic bison ranch somewhere in their traditional range. Set up food forests all over north and south america. Hell, grab a piece of beach in Jamaica or somewhere else and set up a seafloor-based vertical mariculture operation.

But just like you choose species that are appropriate for your conditions and for how you want them to all work together, select the operations to match the sites, and the people with them. The people that look after sites, even just to live near them and make sure people don't mess with them, are critical infrastructure if there are people there at all.

In some places, usually where there is perceived or real disparity between locals and those from away, the affluence required to come in as an outsider, arrange for the land through lease or purchase, and then develop it, could easily offend, just like showing up somewhere and trying to supplant their traditional knowledge with other ways.

If advice is sought, however, right from a project's inception, not only do you avail yourself of local knowledge about natural patterns and weather conditions, you get people on your side who might otherwise look askance at your wealth and see it as a reason to steal from you, or otherwise not intervene when some misfortune befalls.

That's my take on creating and maintaining multiple permaculture sites. If you don't plan to include people, especially if they're anywhere near it in the first place, they will likely be your downfall, or at least an obstacle instead of the boon they should be.

8 months ago