Andrew Parker

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since Feb 13, 2012
Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Recent posts by Andrew Parker

Let me see now, there's more than one:
- Water below ground and mulch over the soil.  Gravel mulch may be necessary if there is a shortage of biomass, but you need a strong healthy back.
- Keep the wind off your plants.  A desiccating wind can kill a garden in an afternoon.
- If you container garden, plan on flushing out the soil once or twice during the summer to get rid of salt buildup.  Salt buildup can also occur in the ground, especially if you don't mulch, so keep a watchful eye and be ready to flush salt buildup away from the plants and their roots. (I have looked into grow bags.  It is an interesting concept, but not ideal for hot, dry and windy.  You will need some sort of barrier to slow the airflow, but still allow a reasonable rate of air movement.)
- Salt grass and other halophytes can take salt out of salt poisoned soil, just don't plan on mulching with the cuttings.
- A diffusing glazing, film or fabric (like light row cover) seems to help plants in the strong, high-contrast light of the high desert.  The high desert requires at least a tunnel in order to increase the growing season predictably, and it solves the light and wind issues.
- Xeriscaping can be problematic.  Even if you put down weed barrier and cover with gravel and rocks (they make great micro-catchments and mini-windbreaks), windblown detritus will build up in the crevices, creating little pockets of soil waiting to host a weed.  I say, if you can't beat them, join them.  Design for the inevitable and plant what you want to see before the weeds move in.

You know you were raised in the desert when 30% humidity is muggy.
4 months ago
Since my last post, I have found a liquid extract that includes a large portion of agaricus brasiliensis.  The product is MyCommunity by Host Defense.  (In double checking information for this post, I notice they now sell Blazei Extract, which contains only agaricus brasiliensis.  I might order some.)  Again, I do not use it orally.  I use it topically, as needed.  It stretches a bottle out pretty far.

There is another product in the US market, Lipopo by Umeken USA.  The primary active ingredient is fermented wheat extract.  It is kind of (ok, very) pricey, but it is the result of nearly 30 years of study, so if you think you need it, it is worth it.  If you take it as a sublingual, rather than just swallowing the pills, it might be more effective.

If you are a home brewer, you might be able to approximate it with some experimentation.  You would start by making wheat gluten, but instead of tossing the rinse, you process it in a centrifuge, then take the supernatant and culture it in a fermentation tank.  The trick is finding the right food to feed the P. agglomerans, without feeding stuff you don't want.  A good brewer could figure it out.  You will also need some bio lab experience to do assays to know if you are getting the right things to grow -- or maybe just drink a lot of wheat beer or wheaty kvass.
4 months ago
I was only in Manabi once, about 30 years ago.  My then future brother-in-law's future (now ex, a lot happens in 30 years) in-laws had a large hacienda a few miles outside Balzar (there was no bridge across the Daule back then, only a balsawood ferry.)  They were hosting a prenuptial get-together at their country house.  It was of typical rural construction, cement block ground floor, for work and storage, and a wood and bamboo upper story with a veranda, for living space.  It was quite comfortable with a light breeze blowing through the bamboo slats.  I have a picture of it somewhere, buried among 30 years of stuff.

Did you see the article on the house near the epicenter that was split in two and separated by, iirc, 50 meters?  That would have been an apocalyptic experience.  Most of their cattle were swallowed up, but miraculously, no human lives lost in that household.

Much of the injury and death was due to the collapse of concrete and masonry.  They infill those concrete post and beam walls with bricks or tiles that are not tied into anything.  When the earth shakes, the masonry falls out and there is nothing to hold the posts in place, so the whole thing comes down.  I hope the code is improved and enforced for any new construction.  They could retrofit older construction without too much investment (though when you don't have money, any investment is too much).

We have a little cuadra in our kitchen (the folksy textured paintings that you can purchase at the Mercado Artesanal in Guayaquil)  that shows a bahareque hueca wall with the bamboo partially revealed.  I will post a foto of it;... probably... sometime.
2 years ago
I saw this article, "Casas con caña guadúa se proponen en Manabí", which proposes building homes made of bamboo to replace those destroyed in the massive earthquake in Manabi, Ecuador earlier this year.  Guadua is a variety of bamboo found in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru that is used traditionally for construction.  A quick google search for "caña guadúa" and the architect named in the article, Jorge Moran, yielded some interesting documents, among them: "PROPUESTAS CONSTRUCTIVAS SOSTENIBLES. LA CAÑA GUADUA Y LOS BTC DE TERRO-CEMENTO COMO MATERIALES DE CONSTRUCCIÓN. TRADICIÓN E INVESTIGACIÓN EN NUEVOS PRODUCTOS", "La caña guadua es la fuente de inspiracion de los ecomateriales" and "Construir con bambú “caña de guayaquil”".  The last one is long and very detailed.  Colombia also has a long tradition of using guadua.  Here are some documents: Manual de construccion sismo resistente de viviendas en baharaque encementado, "LA CULTURA DE LA GUADUA EN COLOMBIA", Cultura Arquitectónica del Bahareque en Colombia.
2 years ago
It will lose some insulative value while it is wet, but after it dries out, it will return to normal.  Perlite, pumice and foamed glass are ostensibly closed cell, however, on the exterior surface of the aggregate, there are exposed cells that will latch onto water, while the interior of the aggregate will remain dry.  You will want to sandwich any insulation with a waterproof membrane and engineer effective drainage into your project.  Long-term studies have shown that even flotation foam can get waterlogged after prolonged exposure to water.

If you are dealing with a high water table, don't go underground.  Try super-insulation and/or earth berms, above grade.  You can insulate earth berms to get a similar effect to underground, especially if they are well compacted.
2 years ago
The earth will want to equalize the temperature inside the hot house to the average soil temperature around it.  If you isolate (thermal and water) a large block of soil, as with the PAHS and wofati designs, you can raise the soil temperature in that block to match your target temperature for the hot house (it is an inexact science, so your mileage may vary).  If you have a high water table, you will need to isolate underneath as well as on the sides and top.

There has been a lot of discussion about underground insulation on other threads.  I have advocated the use of perlite as a cost effective (hopefully) alternative to foams that will not crack with the inevitable settling.  It is used in conventional construction as under-slab insulation.  Pumice and foamed glass aggregate can also be used.  Mineralized wood chips may be another alternative.
2 years ago
Raccoons are an invasive species in Utah (and probably anywhere west of the Rockies), so relocation is discouraged, and sometimes unlawful, depending on the jurisdiction.  One year, I had several rows of sweet corn stripped bare.  I put out a box trap and caught a mother and then four pups.  At that time, the Fish and Wildlife folks took care of urban wildlife and they provided a kill box at their office.  Now, you have to do everything yourself and hope for the best.  I used a boiled egg and peanut butter as bait.  If you don't want to catch skunks, and you really don't want to catch a skunk in a wire mesh trap, put the trap up at least 18 inches off the ground.  I used cinder blocks.  The raccoons will climb right in, no problem.

Raccoons are cute, intelligent, vile little devils that will strip your garden bare, kill your poultry and even small dogs -- and yes, their poop reeks.  If you stumble onto a family group, don't confront them.  I heard some interesting battle stories from the Fish and Wildlife control officer.
2 years ago
Shade makes a huge difference, if you can get it.  The sun will sublimate water vapor from snow and ice, even at sub-zero temperatures.  If they can position the ice stupas so they will be in shade, or mostly shade, until they want them to melt, there will be more water available when it is needed.
2 years ago
In locations that experience temperatures below freezing for at least part of the year (and perhaps only at night), artificial ice caves or large insulated blocks of permafrost might be built that could be used for cooling through the rest of the year.  The ice could also be used to condense humid nighttime air in arid climates.

In areas that get snow in winter, making large snowman sized snowballs in permanently shaded areas will reduce, significantly, moisture losses through sublimation, especially if you can cap it with a layer of ice.  If you can encourage drifting into shaded areas with strategically placed trees, shrubs and snow fencing, much of the work is done for you, you may still want to run a heavy roller over the drifts to compact them.
2 years ago
I can assure you that mummified rodent remains will reconstitute in humid weather (or use of a swamp cooler) and stink until they dry out again.  I vote for losing the existing straw bales, but I am also congenitally cheap so I can appreciate the desire to just plaster it and hope for the best.  Whatever you do, be careful with rodent feces, urine and remains.  You can catch all sorts of nasty, sometimes deadly, things from them.
2 years ago