Peter Ellis

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since Apr 04, 2013
Fennville MI
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Recent posts by Peter Ellis

It's been just a little over two years since I started this thread (?)and just a little less than that since we got onto our land. Pretty much been running too hard for spending time on Permies since then! House isn't built. Foundation isn't even in yet. Lots of the timber for the frame has been harvested and prepared but lots more still to go. Michigan winters in a travel trailer are a special kind of "fun". Doing timber falling is exciting and chainsaws are tools that you have to give proper maintenance (and full respect!). Moving large oak timbers without appropriate equipment is extremely hard work and takes absurd amounts of time. Took Matt Powers' Advanced Permaculture Student Online course over this past winter. The design for Tenalach Farms is my PDC design. The house is my Advanced Permaculture Certificate Project. Round wood timber frame with strawbale infill, attached greenhouse, PAHS system under the center floor of the home. Shed roof facing south by southeast, going with metal roofing, planning on a rocket mass heater for supplementing the passive annualized heat storage.

This spring summer and before it gets too cold in fall I want to push the house build as far as I can. Target is to get the frame up and the roof on before winter. At that point we can wrap it in used billboards and create a sheltered environment in which to keep working through the winter.

Annual garden is mostly in and an all wood fence is more than half done around it. Inspired by Scandinavian fences, it uses almost no hardware (I screwed some parts together) and is made entirely of saplings that need to be thinned out of our woods one way or another.
1 month ago
I guess there are as many questions as there are answers in this discussion ;) What is "affordable" varies so much. Availability is so dependent upon location. For us building in SW Michigan in a rural area, I drive five minutes to a farm and pick up bales. They were $3 each for two string bales two years ago. Haven't checked since. Estimating we will need 300 bales for our build. 1,600 sq. ft. house and about $1,000 for the bulk of the walls sure seems affordable, but location, location, location. I'm doing the work, including harvesting the timber for the timber frame right here on our land. Some elements of the house will be coming from trees that had to be cut to clear the footprint for the house, so zero material transport ;) There's a cost in terms of time when you're doing your own labor. Everything takes ten times longer than with a professional crew...
1 month ago
Another new development for us.  We have joined the GRMakers group located in Grand Rapids.  This is a maker space operation with some pretty substantial resources for working on all sorts of projects. With many of my tools still in storage and zero sheltered work space on our homestead, this is a terrific resource for us, even with a one hour travel time in one direction. While some might debate whether a CNC machine or laser cutter/engraver are "permie", the idea of a community using one of these tools to serve dozens of people is very much permaculture.

http://grmakers.com for anyone in the greater Grand Rapids area who might be interested....
1 year ago
First thing, I like the idea of using concrete reinforcing mesh for an inexpensive fence construction. I already have a 150 ft. roll I bought for just that, and a 50' roll originally intended for something else, but now fated to be fencing. Having horsed the 150' roll around, it's not exactly something you just unroll Having unrolled some of the 50' roll to make a container for a compost bin, getting the one third weight roll to unroll was a struggle.  The stuff does not want to uncoil and it fights back all of the time.  Not to be discouraging, just forewarning that managing the wire requires some significant work.

I'm intrigued by your idea of getting the wire to support itself, rather than using fence posts. I had just been planning on cutting a bunch of posts, as our land is forest. Now, I'm considering your design pretty seriously.

Something I see as a potential problem is the low visibility of the tension/support wires.  I can see a deer not spotting them and getting hung up because they misjudged their leap. This might injure the deer, and it also might knock that section of fence right over, depending on how much tension is in those wires.  So I would plan on using something to make sure they see the support wires.  String old CDs on them, aluminum foil flags, something.

My inclination would also be to stake the mesh down.  The wire staples used for pinning down garden fabrics are cheap and might be sufficient.  I have a few pounds of them sitting around and I think I'll see if they do anything....

The pallet idea isn't bad either, but I might recommend angling the boards.  I think that would better distribute the load on the fence...

Something else I like about this concept is that it's relatively portable.  Yes, moving 150' of remesh isn't a casual job and yes, the tension/support wires need to be anchored - but it doesn't require a dozen or more fence posts and detaching /re-attaching the fencing to the posts.

I'll need to chew on this a bit.  In our case, there's another factor - all the trees everywhere.  I can probably just nail the mesh to trees and run it wherever I need it off of them  
1 year ago
Having built hoophouses and an attached greenhouse using pvc pipe and plastic electrical conduit, I recommend never using them for these jobs. Why? Catastrophic failure, that's why. They aren't intended to be structural elements in constructing any sort of building and they do not perform well in that role.  I used them because they were the least expensive option I found - but since they Failed, they were not so inexpensive after all.  If you live someplace that has snow - don't use the pvc pipe or the plastic electric conduit for building structures.  If you get significant winds, or heavy rains, again, I urge you not to use them.

I'm not speculating about what might work, I'm sharing my experience of something that failed, in the hope that you won't have to go through the same experience.
1 year ago

J Howard wrote:Awesome thread. As far as blades go, I don't have a particular item I recommend, but I'd like to point out the importance of a quality sharpener. My best knife was $3 brand new, only the best because with it I bought a $20 sharpener with it. Also, what's the purpose for the chains surrounding each three blocks of wood in the Splitz-All picture?


Don't know if you ever got an answer to your question.  The chains hold the logs as they're being split, so you aren't chasing around after the pieces to split again or just load out.  Why did they use three logs? No idea, I've generally seen the trick used for axe or maul splitting and usually just one log at a time...
1 year ago
I'm somewhat inclined to say that the list of things you can't make for yourself is likely shorter  I'm not going to make my own steel, for example.  But if I have some steel, there is quite a list of things I can make for myself from it
1 year ago
Most of my tools are either in a tent, or in our shipping container storage. Next spring summer we work very hard to get the house built, during which I also get some better, still temporary, housing for my "shop".

My benches, sawbuck and shaving horse are under the snow ...

Can't get the picture off my phone right now
1 year ago
There are a number of other options besides bamboo, which has substantial downsides.  Willow has been recommended - grows fast, can literally grow from a green stick poked into the ground.  There are alders that are fast growing and fix nitrogen, some very fast growing poplars. there are a number of choices other than running bamboo.

One thing - you seem t be focused on one purpose only - blocking the sight line to the neighbor's house.  What else can you get out of what you use to do that? What other goals might you have for something growing in that pasture?

Do you have a sense of how high the screen needs to be to block the sight lines?  Photos don't convey a sense of scale very well.

If you went with the running bamboo, how would you contain it? What uses might you have for it, so that the work that goes into maintaining it yields something more than just a  barrier between you and your neighbors?

Something like sea buckthorn could make a highly effective barrier - both visual and physical, while producing extremely nutritious fruit for your family.  

If it were my situation, I would be looking for something that would get me the visual barrier while producing some other, additional benefits and not adding a significant amount of unproductive work.
1 year ago
I think Chad and Peter VanDerWal are on the right track with vinyl billboards.  That's probably about as good as it gets.  I'm afraid what you're asking for is made from unobtainium, but the billboard vinyl is likely a close secon.