Peter Ellis

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

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....
6 months 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 
6 months 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.
6 months 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...
6 months 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
6 months 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
7 months 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.
7 months 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.
SW Michigan in winter. In a travel trailer.  With a well and well head protected by a temporary shelter and a 4x4x4 insulated box. We have just about a foot of snow on the ground now, with forecasts for somewhere between three and nine more inches in the next couple of days.  It's been so cold that the well head has frozen on us, and the trailer's plumbing has frozen as well. We've been able to thaw out the well, but the trailer plumbing, not so much yet.

Winter caught us much less prepared than we had hoped to be. The frame over the trailer for the greenhouse cover didn't get more than halfway finished before the weather stopped work. The "skirt" of strawbales in plastic bags around the base of the trailer is no doubt better than nothing, but the plan had been for the overall cover to provide the protection against air flow - the strawbale skirting has too many gaps for that.

Part of what this means is that I've got to install plastic under the trailer, wrapping all the way around to enclose the space.  In weather with temps in the teens to single digits.  Tape isn't holding, and crawling around on the ground, in the snow, under the trailer.  Well, maybe you can imagine how this would have been easier to do before winter got here ...

For all the complications (I'm not going to call them hardships, it's all part of the adventure), we continue to love the area, the people out here, and our land.  The snowy woods have an amazing beauty.  Even if I did have to dig out the generator to get it started to run the pump

Since the last time I posted, we have hooked up to the electric grid, which should save us some money on gas for the generator!
7 months ago
Kind of funny thing - when we got started actually DOING the permaculture/homesteading thing, my time for chatting about it online pretty much disappeared.  We got a couple of videos up on YouTube, but our ambition to video document the whole process lost ground due to various technical issues (from running for the first few months with no AC electric power at all, so we couldn't use our laptops for video editing, a cracked laptop screen, very unreliable internet access - changing cellular providers has helped that). You can look for "Tenelach Farms" on YouTube for what we did manage to get up.

We bought wooded land with no development at all. Since May, when the driveway went in, we've been living here in our travel trailer. We've got the septic system and the well installed and are cleared to have our grid electric attached.  The electric is its own ironic frustration, in that the Only existing infrastructure on our land was the Consumer's Energy power line running through about 200 feet from the road, and less than 200 feet from our building site.  You wouldn't think getting hooked up to that would be difficult   Today I dug the hole for relocating our temporary electric service pole.  Where the electrician installed it (not where we told them to) won't work. So I get to move it. In December snow ..

While I wanted to get our small animal systems started this year, we were on bottled water for most of the time we've been here. We got the pump installed, but had no power for it.  Eventually got to where we are now running the pump as needed off our generator. Really can't do any scale of livestock with bottled water

We've had adventures with zoning and code regulations and the arbitrary interpretation of same, but we've got s permit to put in our foundation, and are waiting for the engineer's report on our planned timber frame. I've cleared roughly an acre, much by hand, and have been stockpiling timbers that will, hopefully, go into that timber frame. This winter should see more timber harvested for the frame, and some of the digging for the foundation.

There are plans for a pond below the house, and for the kitchen garden to run in swales that cross the slope between house and garden.  I've picked up several plastic 55 gallon barrels that will be the manifolds in our under house PAHS (passive annualized heat storage) system.
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Too much time has been sunk into building a frame for a winter cover (greenhouse) over the trailer.  Strawbales in plastic contractor bags are skirting the trailer, blocking wind and providing some insulation to the undercarriage.

Our attempt at a garden was a huge bust, including an education about deer pressure here (they like beans, all the beans), but we discovered we have blueberries all along the power line cut.

It's a huge adventure, an incredible amount of work, and the most rewarding stuff I have ever done.
8 months ago