Michael Cox

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since Jun 09, 2013
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books composting toilet bee rocket stoves wood heat homestead
Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Recent posts by Michael Cox

My research suggests that this is still very poorly understood. Do what feels best, but please do write it up!
8 hours ago
Your comment about how your knife isn’t getting sharp using the pull through any more - my experience of using a pull through is that it really only touches up the micro bevel. Eventually the true bevel will need to be touched up, at which point you can probably apply a micro bevel with your pull through. I personally add a tiny micro bevel by hand on my kitchen knives. They are slightly less sharp that way, I think, but the edge is a bit more durable so I can go a bit longer between sharpening.
16 hours ago
I bought a set of japanese knife sharpening stones about 15 years ago. I absolutely adore them. They work on pretty much any knife, and can take a blade from dull-as-a-spoon to razor sharp. They do take practice to use, but so worthwhile.  I have taken old knives that others are throwing out and put a lovely edge back on them.

They do take some skill and practice to learn how to use them without a guide, but it is a relaxing thing to do. I spend half an hour once every couple of months going through all the kitchen knives, which are generally in pretty good condition when I get back to them.

It can take me an hour to fix up a knife that is totally wrecked though.

Recently I reflattened my knife stones - they had worn unevenly over time - and this made a big difference. Rubbing them on the back side of a large tile was enough to reflatten them. That is the only maintenance the stones have needed in a decade or more.
1 day ago

She is back outdoors now, despite still showing obvious signs of vent gleet. Her prolapse seems totally healed though, and this morning she laid an egg.

Not sure what to do about the persistent vent gleet, but she can't stay indoors any longer.

I have used some anti-peck spray on her nether regions, and they were not bothering her this morning when she was reintroduced to the flock. I put her on the roost bars after dark and all was well this morning.
2 days ago
Thanks for the replies. I’m not sure why but permies didn’t notify me of the responses!

Chicken is still in our laundry room. She seems pretty good now. Eating and pooping normally. No blood, no prolapse.

She does still have some nasty dried gunk (poo? Dried white discharge from vent gleet? Scab material?) just inside her vent. Repeated soaks in warm water has loosened most of it, and been gently removed by hand. Poor thing has been thoroughly manhandled!

We are hoping to put her out again tomorrow with the others, and I have brought some nasty tasting spray that is supposed to prevent/deter pecking. I’ll give her a thorough coating round her rear end before putting her out.

I’m a bit concerned that she hasn’t laid an egg in over a week. I’m hoping that this is a temporary hiatus due to stress, and not permanent sterility triggered by the infection.

6 days ago
I'm genuinely struggling to see what design problem this proposal is hoping to overcome. You are choosing to not use the combustion energy of the wood fuel itself in exchange for using solar, but I still don't understand from what has been written above why you think that is desirable enough to pursue? Do you find that you can't make biochar by combustion for some reason? Does normal combustion have some other problems associated with it that you need to overcome?

The external energy needed for me to make a pit full of biochar is - literally - that of one match. It burns clean and smokeless, and produces fabulous crumbly biochar. You still need to find a way to safely handle the gases produced from your solar kiln, which if they escape to the air, are the very worst set of complex hydrocarbons, smoke particles, carbon monoxide etc...

My portable "pit" is half an oil drum cut down it's length. I take it to where the brash is and just start burning. No complex set up, no need to haul bulky brash to a permanent structure.

I see other design problems as well. You mention keeping a retort at high temperature for 3 or more hours using solar. This is highly dependent on long hours of uninterrupted sunlight, and a lens setup that can accurately track the sun over that time period. Your retort will end up heating very unevenly - one side of the retort will get the direct heat from the solar reflector, while the other will be in shadow and losing heat all the time. To ensure even, complete pyrolysis you will need a mechanism to agitate the contents of the retort. I had similar problems in my old designs, where the heat would be uneven within a drum, one side would be untouched and the other near burned away to ash.

Solar for intense heating has so specific issues. Here in the cool and cloudy UK it would be a complete non-starter. In countries with enough consistent sunlight, those hot sunny days often also coincide with high fire risk days. The components of powerful lens/mirror systems can start fires at a considerable distance unintentionally, especially when conditions are dry and hot.

Overall this feels like a solution looking for a problem to solve. You could spend a lot of time, money and energy building something that works less well than an oild drum cut in half and has a whole host of extra safety and pollution issues.
1 week ago
We have hens trouble free for a year, but the past two weeks we have had a string of issues. On hen injured herself being trapped under a piece of wire, another had vent gleet (now resolved after daily washing and TLC) but now we have one with an inflamed vent, partial prolapse and some blood from where she has been pecked.

I have had her indoors for a few days and been washing the area, and it all settled down nicely. She went back outside with the flock the morning and just now she is bleeding again, and some of the hens were overly interested in her blood. Very gross.

I'm trying to work out what the root cause is - I suspect pecking while she was egg laying - but now that the others have started pecking her how the hell do we get it to stop? She is coming back indoors again for a bit more TLC, but she can't stay in here indefinitely.
1 week ago
I almost forgot exclusively use the mobile view on my phone to access permies. There are a few little quality of life features like this that could benefit from tweaking.

Various buttons that you want to access regularly that only appear at the bottom of pages, so require massive scrolling.
We gave some friends a box of our lovely eggs today when we met up with them. Some, but not all of them, are hardboiled.

It has the added benefit of suspense, until they actually use them.
1 week ago