John Pollard

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since Jan 25, 2013
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Recent posts by John Pollard

John Schinnerer wrote:I love how these topics go around and around and after 20 years the same guesses and assumptions live on and nobody seems to know about resources equally old.

Some actual research (whoever posted there's no science is incorrect) from University of Wisconsin, a compilation of a bunch of stuff, all under the heading "Use of scrap tires in civil and environmental construction" is here:

There was one major report - probably included in this compilation, and I have a hard copy somewhere still I think - that was pointed to by the Earthship folks back in the day. It basically said that used tire material buried in the ground doesn't seem to leach much of anything and since it's buried there's no offgassing and no UV-destabilization. The use case was chunked up tires as part of a subsurface earthen fill and/or embankment material for civil engineering. Any buried tire application is essentially similar, unless there are also solvents in the ground that degrade tire material, in which case the tire is probably the least of the problems.

What might be of major concern is the use of tires on actual cars, where they are a major non-point pollution source spread all over the country and emitting whenever they are driven on, spewing out tiny particulates that move with the air and water.
So for anyone concerned about reducing pollution from tires, the place to start is cars. Forget that old tractor tire planter in Grandma's yard. Minor issue. Do something about all those cars!

We have a winner. The guy behind earthips, Michael Reynoulds, looked into this a long time ago. Tires have a half life of something like 30,000 years when buried in a landfill situation.(one half life used=50% life remaining) There is no way to recycle them but you can re-purpose them. When they're shredded for playground mulch, they still get sun, freezing temps and high temps. That makes them break down pretty quick and then the nasties get in the soil/water. Burning them of course, is way worse unless. There is an industrial recycling process called tire pyrolisis

Currently, burying them is the safest option there is for tires. Burying them in landfills, they get mashed, mixed with other stuff, might stick out of the ground at times and will have rainwater flowing against them. Buried in an earthship, they're kept cool, dry and out of the sun. I don't know think a study of the half life of them in that case would result in. 100,000 years?

Meanwhile, you can make some cool looking outdoor furniture.

As far as out-gassing through the dry soil and whatever you coat your inside walls with, keep it fresh and crack free. I know some old tires guys that have been in the business their whole life and that's with dealing with stinky new tires and seemingly had no health problems at the age of 60 or so.  

Drive less and don't park your tires in the sun.
10 months ago
I've had that issue but it was on the "Old View" so I switched to the new view which I really don't like.
11 months ago
I build websites and have thought of this too. It's an enormous amount of work though for one or two people to put together. For community driven there's an issue of quality and consistency. You would have to develop a workflow so that everything can be checked by other people to keep up a standard. Organization and features for that amount of data would be a trick. That and if it ends up being huge and wildly popular, then there's a whole slew of new concerns including costs to run such a site. Your database has to be optimized and if it gets big enough, has to be split up onto different servers. Wikimedia, the software behind wikipedia, has it's limitations as far as features and navigation sucks as it's meant to be pages found via search engine or internal search because navigation for that amount of data is near impossible to design. Three or four clicks is the general rule, anything past that and people can't be bothered or will just get lost. Same with almost any pre-made system. None of them are built to do it all. Now we need a custom built web application. The cost of that would run into 5 figures. There's some distributed network systems that negate most of the huge single database and server load concerns but they're mainly for social networking and none of them are lickety split installations that work on cheap, shared hosting. Plus, with a distributed system, you lose control of consistency and quality.

The internet itself is the largest community driven dataset there is and most anything can be found. It's mostly a matter of knowing how to search and get quality results but sadly, what should be such a basic understanding of using the internet as a resource, isn't something a lot of people have a grasp of. That and profit based concerns tend to have more exposure than quality because they have the knowledge and put the effort into being seen. It's kind of the way of the world.
11 months ago
Seems like there's no one solution to fit all with the exception of some fairly expensive one. I've been using linux operating systems for several years now and finally settled on kubuntu/KDE because of the interoperability of the different apps. They're heavy on Personal Information Management. Everything from simple to do lists, more advanced to do lists, journal to email clients, contact management, calendars, office programs, note keeping, graphics programs, blogilo which will upload posts to most popular blogs. It allows you to work while not connected and upload when you are. Being linux based, it's open source so there's no costs. I don't use all KDE apps as I had already been using others that I prefer. I use CherryTree for a notekeeping app and it's available for windows and mac I think too. It's like a cross between an offline website(you can have links to the web, files or other pages within cherrytree) and a personal database. I like WordPress for site building as it's fairly simple compared to drupal and joomla. There's a lot you can do with some plugins for interacting with customers/clients.

To anyone using WordPress, there's a couple of must have plugins that will prevent a lot of misery. WordFence for overall security and wp-spamshield so that you can allow commenting without having to worry about comment spam.  
11 months ago
Here's a pdf of MS certified nurseries and nursery dealers.

It's 82 pages so that should give you something. Who's to say if any of them ship and I don't know if they'd be bare root or in a pot. It's never a bad idea to buy within your area as you know it will be adapted to the area.

Here's another from the Forestry Service and mostly bare root. Not all are in MS but in the SE at least. Some are natives like oak, pecan etc but I do see some commercial type fruits.

I searched for "Mississippi state nursery"
11 months ago

Tod duBois wrote:Myself and many others (off grid experts) are struggling to find a sustainable business model supporting off grid property owners (power, water and waste grids). The reality long term is that off grid living is not very sustainable. We have yet to see anyone build and maintain any off grid property with utility grade infrastructure thru a full family lifecycle. In other words, when you get old you can't stay in your off grid home. After a decade or so huge amounts of deferred maintenance mean the property and environment get compromised. Of course, if you don't want electricity, internet, water and waste systems that meet EPA standards when you are 80 - that's different.

There are lots of retailers making money selling equipment that is usually improperly installed, often unsafe and hard to maintain.

So several of us are trying to decide how to proceed. We are considering forming some type of national or international property owners association. The idea to become the consumer's guide and reliable technical resource. So much bad and even crazy info on the web. So much waste and potential danger to the environment and more importantly your families economic future.

What do people think?

Tod duBois wrote:Thank you, everyone, for pitching in, a lot of good insight. I've decided to shelf the idea or concept for awhile and return to academia (if they'll have me) and go earn a doctorate and be a professor (that's the vision).

It remains unclear if the university will allow me to study the off-grid community in an analytical way but who knows. Maybe I can use science instead of opinion in the future

Good luck and keep the lights on!

Wow, you stuck some old nerves eh? Community knowledge seems to be a good thing but far as a body of governance. The EPA, despite it's name, doesn't necessarily do a bang up job at protecting the environment. They approve Monsanto's RoundUp after all among other things. I think most of us are trying to get away from that kind of situation as it always seems to devolve into power plays, greed and regulations that stunt innovation. Some young people just think they're more open minded and/or smarter than the rest and so they 'rightfully' should be able to govern others and I think unfortunately, you may be coming off that way. But hey, that's politics.

Hopefully, your becoming a phd is just seeking knowledge that you can share with others and not meant to become the expert that wants to be a controlling entity. This forum and other web resources are our consumer's guide and reliable technical resources though we do have to think critically. Not everyone can and/or will do that but that's human nature. Up until the industrial revolution, humans didn't cause very much damage to the planet and people did live off grid for multiple generations.

Living off grid can is a lot of work. If you want a big house but don't put the effort into building and situating it properly, it's going to be a lot of work and/or not very comfie. If you use tons of man-made materials, you're probably not doing the planet any favors.

Should we be going forward with innovation or going backward to live like we did in the 1400s? There has to be some sort of happy medium between going forward and going backward and I think that's what most people here are striving for.

I'm 53 years old and 120lbs but I get out there and cut and split wood. My buddy just got a new airtight wood stove with updraft and catalytic features and that showed me that I need to get one. His stove puts out as much heat as mine with him burning a few pieces of 2-3 inch wood while I'm using 2-3 - 6 inch split pieces. Someday, I hope to have shelter that requires almost no wood and that wood will be sticks I pick up off the ground.

We just got on the grid after 7 years but mostly because I'm a fabricator and alternative energy won't run a welder, air compressor etc. Meanwhile, I've cut down my usage of electric equipment/tools. People out here will laugh or scoff at you if you start talking about climate change or desertification but I still have them swapping over to LED lighting. I didn't bother trying to do so with compact fluorescent because I worked with fluorescent  for years in the electric sign business and already knew about the mercury issue. LED uses even less electric so I'm able to swap people over with the cost savings. Same with gardening. I grew the best potatoes in the area on my second year here because everyone else, who had been gardening for years, never put organic material in their soil. Slowly, they're coming around but it's not from me telling them things. It's from me showing them. I'm in the Show Me State.

We'll all get there eventually but trying to govern and specify what people should do or buy isn't going to do it. Patience grasshopper and lead by example.
11 months ago
Ditto; Most new stoves don't really even need an in pipe damper as you can literally shut them completely down by closing the in stove vents. Even my old Fisher stoves will do that and the manual even says no damper required. Pretty much any stove that has a door gasket is like this. Before you open the door, simply open the damper and input vent all the way for 20 seconds, then crack the door and inch or two for a few seconds, then fully open. I have had the wind cause that too. Not so much the wind speed as the direction, height of pipe and shape of roof. Your pipe is supposed to extend two foot above the highest point of the roof. If your pipe goes through at a low point in the roof, that can be hard to achieve without an elaborate brace though. With my Fisher with double doors, I have a hard time opening the second door without some kind of smoke coming in but I also had a pretty short pipe on it. A shorter pipe won't give enough draft. Your manual will probably specify a minimum length/height for your pipe. Elbows also restrict the draft. Just opening the damper all the way, waiting for 20-30 seconds, cracking the door and waiting a few more seconds should do the trick for you as long as your pipe isn't too short.
11 months ago

Luigi Della Vecchia wrote:Hi John, thank you for the suggestion of adding my location and gardening zone! I am in central Missouri not so far from you I guess. Thank you for your reply I will try planting Daikon Radish and other plants that can help.

Ok so you've probably got clay and most likely rocky clay. I finally found a piece of property that isn't rocky but that's rare in the Ozarks. With little to no manual labor or machinery, it's going to take some years to improve the soil for veggies. Even with food forest items, you'll want a $200 hole for a $20 tree/bush(that's a landscaper saying), otherwise it will grow very slowly. It's not a bad thing to loosen up the upper soil once to get things off to a quick start. What you don't want to do is bring any subsoil up. I double dug my beds which is a LOT of work but it does a really good job. Dig the upper soil off with a forked spade, stick the spade down into the sub soil and rock it back and forth to crack it open, put the upper soil back in along with amendments. When I did that, I grew potatoes and had the best taters in the area and bigger harvest too. My neighbors have been at it for years but only til the soil while never adding anything except for commercial products so they still have the same clay they started with. It might have more nutrients but that only lasts one season. This was my second year on the property and they thought I was crazy for asking to rake up their grass clippings to make compost. Anywhere I've dug out here, I've found a hard pan, anywhere from 12-20 inches down. I'm not sure Daikons would even go through it. One thing about digging/cultivating clay, the timing is everything. Too dry and it's like concrete. Too wet and it sticks to your tools, plus you WILL destroy the soil structure. Those clods turn into rocks. Rain will break them down but it takes a few years. Like you, I had a lot of trees so I have to deal with roots when digging.

Sand; It would cost a small fortune to have enough to be effective, plus it needs to be coarse sand, else you're just making adobe. As someone said, there's nothing wrong with clayey soil, it just needs organic content mostly. If it's not red, red clay, it's clayey loam, silty clay, clayey silt etc. We got lucky and have clayey loam but with last year's rain and me not putting compost in it, I'm almost back to what I started with.

Your best bet for veggies might be raised beds and/or huglekultur. That way you don't have to worry about cracking open the subsoil/hardpan to get drainage. It does require bringing in some material unless you can make tons of compost. There's a place called St Louis Compost I believe and another in Seymour, MO. Both sell compost and garden soil. Also, check out Sqaure Foot Gardening You don't necessarily have to use his grid system but he has a recipe for the starting soil. After that, no input is required except for adding homemade compost and other organic materials. He's got two systems. The original calls for mixing the new materials in with 6 inches of your top soil so you end up with 12 inches of fluffiness. The new system calls for just putting the new materials on top which only gives you 6 inches of fluffiness and he claims that's all plants need. I like the original system because even our top soil is tough stuff and I think some plants need more than 6 inches.

You may or may not know but you're not far from the George O White State Nursery. It's in Licking and you can get food forest seedlings and other stuff for $0.40 each. All MO native stuff so you know it will grow here. They start taking orders in Sept and the edibles sell out quickly. They used to have a good selection of legumes aka nitrogen fixers but they don't anymore or at least didn't this season. I think it might be that some of them are considered invasive species. I planted 150 bushes along the edge of the property on the gravel road side for privacy and dust blocker this past spring but they haven't grown much because I didn't do 150 - $200 holes.

There's no shortage of sawdust out here. Just need to find a mill that doesn't charge for it. Look for the ones with the biggest piles that don't change much. We use the bucket toilet system aka humanure but I don't use it on food items yet as I need to get some compost thermometers and even then, I don't know if I could bring myself to do it. We use it on flowers and I put it around the dogwoods. I did have a volunteer tomato plant pop up in a pile this past year. Big beautiful plant and mates but I just couldn't bring myself to eating poop maters. Maybe if I knew it had gotten over 140 degrees. I also use it for chicken bedding and then mix even more of it in with what I clean out of the chicken housing.

You've got lots of leaves that can be made into leaf mold. Slow process but very low labor input and it's good stuff. If you've got wild blueberries and less so, wild blackberries growing, you've probably got low ph aka acid soil so some lime will help with certain things. Don't use it for potatoes and use very little on tomatoes. You can get a general idea of what your soil is here It's been years since I used it so I can't tell you how it works but it will give you the classification of your soil, description eg clayey loam, ph level, grade etc as a downloadable report. Since we have blueberries, it was no surprise that they said a ph level of 4.5 - 5.2. Somewhat well drained for part of the property and somewhat excessively drained for the rest was a surprise though and I tend to disagree with the somewhat well drained part due to my hard pan. I dug some 2 foot deep holes for poles and they filled up with water and kept water in them for two weeks with no rain. The somewhat excessively drained, I agree with as the soil is almost white. Any organics have been rinsed right through. Luckily that's a small portion and there must be some kind of nutrients down there because some things do grow. One of these days I'm going to get a soil test done. Not cheap here for some reason.

Potted plants, raised beds for as much as you can is about the lowest labor input. I fight back the weeds and grass every year with my non raised beds. Once clayey soil gets dry, you can't even pull weeds. Mulch helps a lot but takes quite a bit of work too and you need something for mulch. When/if I have plenty of compost, I mulch with it. A lot of nitrogen is lost to the air though.  
11 months ago

Taylor Cleveland wrote:
For my husband and I monthly:
groceries: $200.00
gas: $200.00

Is that gas as in gasoline or gas as in natural gas/propane? If it's gasoline, it seems high unless one of you commutes.

Family of four here, kids eat like adults now.

Food $450/mth
Gasoline $200/mth -- wife commutes 50 miles round trip -- 4 days a week -- full size pickup truck with V8 engine
Land payment $200/mth
Electric $100/mth
Phone/internet $50/mth -- was $80 but they just lowered it this month for some reason -- new tax rates maybe
Misc $250/mth

That leaves us about $300/mth to fix and build things -- if gasoline was $4.00+ per gallon, we'd have to get a 4cyl vehicle for the commute -- scary because of hilly, rural 55mph roads and it's dark when my wife commutes.

In the next year or two, she should be able to quit her job as I'll be working from home. That will cut the gasoline bill way down. I also have a small pickup for short daytime trips and around the property/neighborhood but it needs a little work. Food is also something to address. Grow more veggies, raise meat birds every year, eggs, pasture pigs/goats at some point. Sell some excess if possible. All that will take some investment of course. Land should be paid off in a few years. Need a root cellar, material for the high tunnel(already have the frame), chicken housing, fence, goat housing and we're living in a small drafty cabin so we'll be building something better, earth sheltered -- passive solar
11 months ago
Sure, that's how nature does it. It does take time. Using mulch helps too. Just watch for slugs if you have them in your area. Mulch gives them a good place to live. You might want to put your location and gardening zone in your signature. Most clay soil here in the Midwest USA, is acid -- low ph so adding lime every few years to start helps. Once you're soil has been improved with organics, you might be able to quit using lime. There's also certain things you can plant that will help with drainage. Daikon Radish is probably the most widely used plant for that.
11 months ago