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Herman Franke

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since Sep 17, 2012
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Recent posts by Herman Franke

If you have IBS or other upset (such as Crohn's but I haven't read about that specifically) it is highly likely that you are not getting along with the microbial ecosystem residing in your large intestine. A microbial mafia has probably got the place locked down, to the detriment of your health.

Have a look into "resistant starch." It is starch that is indigestible by humans and therefore makes it into the large intestine intact, where it acts as food for our microbial allies, such as bifidobacteria. It is probably the most important food/gut related discovery of the last 20-30 or however many years.

The number one source of resistant starch is raw potatoes. Another good source is cooked and cooled potatoes. Cooking destroys the starch in its raw form, but what's called "retrograde" resistant starch forms during the cooling process. Both raw (RS2) and retrograde (RS3) are highly beneficial.

Resistant starch appears to have been a critical part of our ancestral diets and very important to our evolution. For example we even have cellular receptors in the lining of the intestines that are activated directly by RS2. Yet it is nearly absent from the typical modern diet.

The world leader in resistant starch information is ordinary-guy Tim Steele, who has a blog https://potatohack.com/ and put together the book "Potato Hack" which is an enjoyable read. The potato hack is a weight-loss method where you eat only potatoes for 2-3 days every now and then. Seems to work for a lot of people, and not just for weight-loss. Check the Amazon reviews for interesting testimonials.

Although resistant starch is fermentable, it isn't an ODMAP so it isn't technically a FODMAP, even though it is similar. The low-FODMAP diet may help with symptoms in the short-term but it is no way to eat in the long-term because it starves your large intestine microbial enemies at the cost of also starving your microbial allies. From the potato hack blog (https://potatohack.com/2016/12/27/potato-diet-prebiotic-probiotic):

A well-fed large intestine may weigh 6-10 pounds when full.  A dehydrated, low-carb, fiber-poor large intestine may only weigh half that.



For health you want a flourishing large intestinal community just like you want a flourishing microbial community in your garden soil. Carpet-bombing or starving your large intestine kills the microbe-mafia and reduces symptoms of illness the same way carpet-bombing the soil or using a sterile growing medium can temporarily reduce pests and disease in your crops.

I think resistant starch is to your gut the way carbon is to the soil. If you only have the time to focus on one thing for your soil, add more carbon. Similarly, if you only have the mental space to think about one thing for your gut health, or overall health even, plow resistant starch into your diet (or "mulch" with resistant starch if you prefer, don't want to trigger anyone especially giant men named Paul).

Keep in mind I am not a doctor (thank goodness), I only play one to friends and family.
1 year ago
As I understand it, the mineral content of soils is determined primarily by geological forces such as rainfall amounts and history of glaciation that operate over huge spans of time.

For example, because of the low rainfall amounts, soils in arid climates will generally have plenty of minerals due to the low rate of leeching. It is soils in very rainy climates that tend to run low on minerals, not because people eat the animals (or vegetables) and flush the toilet into the river, but because rainfall (slowly, over immense periods of time) washes the soluble minerals out into the rivers/oceans.

Thus, the challenge in a humid climate is that the absolute mineral levels may be low. In arid climates the mineral content is liable to be high but it is not available for biological uses due to lack of water and biological weathering processes and whatnot.

The main point of the book "Soil Fertility and Animal Health" by Albrecht is that if you look at rainfall amounts in the US moving from East to West (ignoring the Pacific Coast), you get the highest rainfall in the East and then decreasing amounts as you move West. So the soils in the East (especially Southeast which was not glaciated) are poor due to mineral leeching. The soils in the Far West are poor due to aridity. The soils in the Midwest are just right, not too leeched and not too dried out.

(Albrecht seemed to have a Midwest superiority complex. It really gets old reading that book if you don't live there. Like, Midwest soils uber alles, ok ok, give me a break.)

The Allan Savory stuff (and Yeomans too) is not about making minerals appear in arid soils where they don't exist. It is about using animals to maintain the grass and root cover in arid climates, causing water to remain in the soil rather than evaporating, making the minerals that are already there available and useful to biological activity. Of course, a lot of gaseous elements such as carbon to do get moved from the air to the soil, where they weren't before.

Also, from Savory, Yeomans, and Albrecht, (also see Andrew's post above) it seems that the biggest factor in increasing soil fertility is roots growing and dying back, not animals decomposing or pooping/peeing (animals usually don't decompose anyway because they get eaten), nor leaf litter. In theory it is the effect of live animals on the roots that allows the water to be captured and soil to be built underground.

I would love to see Savory's and similar ideas fleshed out in good research. There do seem to be a lot of misunderstandings surrounding them.
3 years ago
Some projects require wattage. You can't drive a telephone pole into the ground by hitting it with a hammer no matter how much time you devote to the effort.

Take a young man who isn't sure but suspects he might be capable of big things, give him a project that others with more experience and authority than himself have failed at, with a near impossible deadline of one month, with a cartoonishly tangible outcome (one MEEEEELLION dollars, bwa hah hah hah), and the chance to be a hero = MAJOR WATTAGE!

It is possible that with a deadline of 18 months you would have lacked the wattage to tackle the project as well (but not all that likely I'd say).

But you still have to have the analytical and creative qualities required to accomplish that task, which you have, which is cool. There are a lot of software developers and only some of them have those qualities as you know.

It may also have nothing to do with wattage, just that you were the first one assigned that task who had the analytical and other qualities necessary to achieve it.
3 years ago
It might be helpful to set aside gapper psychology of a moment and think about gapper physiology. Two or three months (maybe even weeks) is probably about how long one can exceed one's capacity for physical work before starting to experience burn out. People tend to be unaware of just how little physical work they are capable of performing on an ongoing basis.

Around 20 years ago I was a wwoofer for a short while. I worked with a pick-ax 8 hours a day outside (despite the 4-hour a day rule at the time) and during week 3 of a 4 week commitment I hit the wall and got sick and left a few days later. In retrospect it's no wonder. I was just out of college, and although I had played an intramural sport here and there, and enjoyed raking my parent's yard while visiting, I had never done daily physical labor in my life. The truth I was in piss-poor shape after haphazard exercise, poor sleep, drinking, studying, and eating crap food everyday. No way was I capable of transitioning directly into a full-time manual labor. And that was pre-internet!

You don't realize your limitations at the time. You just think about how you feel so good when you work hard on your parent's yard/house all day and then go and eat dinner and rest and if you could do that every day instead of wasting away at a desk in front of a computer or whatever, how much better would life be! You'd be in such great shape! But string together five of those days in a row and you start hitting the wall. Now if you need that job to survive maybe you'll be able to perservere for a season or a year and adjust, and no one gives a shit if you are miserable, but if you are just a gapper you don't have that survival motivation and in theory you're not supposed to be miserable.

I know a guy in his sixties who recently built his own house on weeknights and Saturdays. He told me he would hire two high-school students to help him out on Saturdays. They'd each do a 5-hour shift so he could get 10 hours in. He said you think since they're young they have more energy than older folks but he found that they had very little work capacity.

These are the people who will be showing up at the lab out of high-school/college/sedentary jobs. Chances are also good that in an effort to improve their health they are frequently becoming vegetarian/vegan, which is only going to make things worse for them (speaking from experience).

Only now am I becoming aware of just how little room there is to maneuver between productive exercise/labor and overtraining for anyone who has a sedentary job and is deconditioned. The only way out is to very carefully proceed with training and really staying on top of it so that you always leave gas in the tank. It takes a lot of patience. It's the tortoise and the hare. You have to be the tortoise. Maybe you should have a tortoise village!

It will take a wise ant villager to titrate his/her level of exertion to keep it underneath the level which will lead to burnout or injury. But that is probably more of an option for an ant villager than a for a gapper toxically obligated to work a certain number of hours per week.

But anyway, something to think about. For the resort experience you would need not just a cook and janitor and farm mentor, but also a physical coach, who will set limits and bring the gappers along physically at a pace that is sustainable for each individual.

Good luck with lab 2.0.
One more graph.

Air temp is not the be all and end all as we know, but I also measured the temp of the wall across the room from the heater, and its temperature basically tracked with air temperature. So in the graph below air temp (blue line) represents the outcome variable. Let's just say the residents of the house would like it to be above 68 (dotted green line) for ample comfort.

The red lines are averages of some of the heater readings at different heights, so they are like an index of the heater's activity. They are displayed on the secondary axis just so that they don't dominate the graph. By coincidence they end up underneath the air temperature so you can imagine them trying to push up on the air temperature. They are only visible during times when there was a fire going.

The dotted black line is the exterior air temp from a nearby weather station.

Before the first burn I covered up the rest of the surface area of exposed chimney, and better covered the living room entrance with a blanket. It took about 4 hours to get the air temp above the comfort line. It stayed above the line for several hours after the burn. I was thinking I might have found the culprit in the chimney exposure at that point.

However, I next ran the fire for around 3.5 hours, during which time the air temperature declined!

The plot of the outside air temperature explains why. It goes from the balmy upper 40's just before the burn to the lower 20's by the end of it. It was incredibly windy during that time as well. Circulating all that cold air through the crawl space no doubt.

The next morning the house was back at around 52 degrees, with outdoor temps in the lower teens. A 4.5 hour burn only brought it back up to 60 indoors.

I'm thinking the house is just not adequately insulated. The cold temps outside are applying too much downward pressure on the surface and air temperatures in the house. But curious to hear any alternative interpretations.
4 years ago
Attached is a graph of temperature readings on the side of "bell" 1 at various heights. Started the fire in the morning so I could measure it as it cooled down. I assume this kind of curve is typical but have no experience to go by. Just putting it out there.

FYI The temps at 4' are probably bunched up against the temps at 6' just because 4' is right in the middle of where the heat riser opens into the bell.
4 years ago
I installed one of the Condar probe-style flue temperature thermometers. Results in graphs below. Below 100 degrees I can't really estimate the reading. There is an extra graph showing the temps relative to the ranges displayed on the thermometer. Gives some perspective relative to a woodstove. The temps don't seem too high to me but I need to do some more research.

Also, maybe an hour after the burn when I'd had the wood feed closed off with firebrick I noticed heat still rising out of the top of the chimney. Is that normal? I know the firebrick cover is not totally airtight, nor is the damper, and the chimney would be warm after over five hours of a fire, so maybe it would naturally release heat for a while. Might cold air be expected to flow into the chimney to replace the warm air leaving it? In which case the cold air would fall down into the bottom of the heater and fill it up to the level of the exit into the chimney but no higher. The hot air inside the heater should pool at the top of the heater and refuse to be displaced any by incoming cooler air. But if such a thing does happen, then the bottom of the heater would help cool the rest of the heater off. Is that why they install those wire-operated chimney cap dampers? Don't know if what I'm describing would actually happen.
4 years ago

Erik Weaver wrote:According to ASTM standards your walls should be something like 4-inches thick, if I recall right, and four inches distant from your walls. You already have something like 2-inches with the clay and split lining, so if you added shinners (bricks laying on their thin edge, showing their maximum surface area outward) you'd be close to the 4-inch mark. Do think about expansion however. Look at masonry heater builds. I've seen a number where they lay in corrugated cardboard as an expansion joint. You might try that. Then enclose the bells with the shinners, or cob over it all if your wife likes that South Western Adobe style look (that'll be cheaper than brick, if you can dig much of the clay out of your yard).



I haven't heard the 4-inch thick rule before. The current thickness is probably around 3 inches, and we were planning on cladding it with 3/4 inch thin brick, so with the mortar it should come out close to 4". There isn't much room to fit thicker material between the sides and where the floor begins.

I did adhere to what I could find regarding the code. Can't find my notes with the numbers, but I think it was at least 8" from the ceiling, and this one is 10.5" from the wood beam above. Peter suggested a bigger separation in the forum linked above, so I may have to keep an eye on that. Also there is a greater than 4" gap from the rear corners of the heater to the nearest wood framing which is next to the chimney. The firebox opening is also separated from the wood floor on all sides by more than the (I think) 12" required (assuming the firebox opening is equivalent to a stove door). The chimney liner is also rated for zero clearance, ie should be up to code.

I asked about that expansion joint in the planning stages and the explanation was that the amount of btu's a traditional masonry heater puts out per time is massive, because they take a full load of wood and there is much more of it burning at any moment than in a rocket stove. That means the heater has to be able to handle a lot more thermal shock than you could produce with a 6" J tube. That cardboard expansion joint allows the masonry heater to accomodate that much faster thermal expansion, but it is less necessary for a system like this.
4 years ago
Thank you all for the interesting ideas. I've ordered the flue thermometer. That should help confirm whether or not the heater is capturing an adequate percentage of the heat. Also maybe whether or not condensation could be a problem.

Satamax you are seeing right. There are three ports, one 14" tall at the bottom, and two smaller ones starting at 2' and 4' from the floor.

Wish I knew more about the physics of air/fluid movement. I can't intuitively grasp what the air is going to do. Some amount of air will always be exiting, I suppose you want to achieve a pattern that results in only the coldest (or rather least-hot) air exiting, rather than a mix of cold and hot. In my mind I imagine that the hottest air is going to rise almost regardless of the configuration. It sounds like what you are saying is that with the extra ports the air is going to end up flowing in a such a way that the tendency of the hot air to rise will be overcome by the flow pattern?

Closing up the two extra ports shouldn't be very difficult. Much easier to close up existing openings as opposed to adding new openings, so perhaps I erred in the correct direction. I like the idea of the diagonal barrier in front of the exit too. Will definitely consider those options.
4 years ago
Also, the volume above the chimney exit is roughly 16 cubic feet, total volume 20 cubic feet. Not sure how that affects things.

If the system continues to draw so well I wonder if I could add some mass in the form of another layer of firebrick in certain areas, or perhaps several vertical ribs of firebrick sticking out into the first bell. It would reduce the volume and perhaps increase physical friction, but I might have plenty of power to overcome it.

I'm still thinking the main problem is heat loss through radiation via the house though. I should mention that Sandy Mathieu was really helpful and spent a lot of time on the phone with me working through the build. Early on she said these work best in well-insulated houses. My thought was ok my house is a normal house and like Paul says, I want it to be a bit drafty, so let's talk about the heater. But now I realize that you want your house to be a bit leaky with respect to air but totally stingy with respect to radiant and conductive heat.

Also, like Peter mentioned in the forum linked above, this form of heater just doesn't seem likely to hold heat for 24 hours like a rmh. If it could make it 8 to 12 hours that would be cool.
4 years ago