C. Letellier

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since Nov 08, 2013
Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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Recent posts by C. Letellier

A different way to see the long term power of hugelkulture.  The affects can carry hundreds of years.

Henge showing in modern field

1 day ago
My mother talked about going with my grandfather and his pointing at a row of large cottonwoods something like a half mile or a mile of them.  Apparently as a teenager he had SPLIT all of those to make make fence posts and then built the fence and all of the posts grew into trees.  If a split log can grow into a tree guessing there is very little limit if the conditions are correct.
2 months ago
I researched using tires to do an earth berm some what in ground green house.  My thinking was using big scraper tires.   Big solid wall fast was the thinking.  What I learned looking looking at the research on tires was that small quantities of tires don't seem to be a problem for growing stuff.  Most of what comes off the tires is VOCs and zinc.  The zinc in trace levels is actually good for the plants.  And the VOC's some plants actually metabolize along with other life forms.  And in a green house that is heavily ventilated anyway they should be safe.  I gave up on the idea though because public opinion has tires as totally toxic.  So therefore any produce from such a green house would be toxic was the public feeling in nearly everyone I talked to.  In this case perception is truth no matter what the science says.  I did find one funny thing in all of this.  One of the guys I talked to was totally against tires in a greenhouse but turned right around and wanted to build a tire wall earthship home.
3 months ago
I have been researching for about 3 years on this.

Here is what looks to me like the best idea for earth banking heat.

self heating green house

Now a possible way to pull the heat down into the ground would be a solar collector used to generate air flow instead of heat.  The window screen box collectors seem to be winning the efficiency here.  The blower fan can still go on the inlet end but the system would then do something even without electricity.  Especially useful for getting a bit of annualized geothermal in the summer season.

Now some other things to add to your thinking.

Why are the trees at floor level?  If you go deeper with them then you have more height to work with inside the building.  So if your floor isn't level and you build some raised walk ways the base of the tree can be deeper still letting you have more height to work with.  You still need proper air flow to the roots  so you can't completely cover it but would pallets holding compost heating 6 inches up off the lower ground let you mostly surround the tree with compost heating?

The walls outside.  Many of the do it cheap green houses uses straw or hay bales around the perimeter outside as ground insulation.  It will add to your snow removal problems and but might be worth considering.

As for being able to do tropical plants are you also looking at doing greenhouses within greenhouses?  One of the commonly given rules of thumb is that you get roughly 1 zone for each greenhouse layer.  You might be able to surround your banana with water barrels on the back side and put it in its own green house.  For my thinking since the goal is earth banking I need to pull that air down somewhere so If I am pulling the hottest air in the greenhouse down inside a separate greenhouse I may be able to create a hotter climate still without losing much during the day and by getting the water storage warmer carry some of that heat through the night as well.  If you are constantly during the day flowing the hottest air in the building down past the barrels stratification wouldn't matter as much.  For night time use a simple waste gate that allows the airflow to bypass the inner green house would let you keep that heat in the inner green house.

What are you doing for summer ventilation if what you have shown isn't enough?  The worst case rule of thumb for natural ventilation says it needs to be 1/3 of the square footage of the green house.  It seems to vary between that and saying you need 20%(10 in 10 out).

Have you looked at maybe building a ridged foam board multifold door to cover the glazing inside? 

How are you using your other paths in the building.  Some of the stuff suggest doing vermiculture under them.

3 months ago
First off lets start with the creek.  I assume it is the blue line across the corner.  If so it should have at least a 20ft wide on either side of it riparian zone that that is fenced off and isn't grazed or a least isn't grazed very often.(there is some argument against never grazing it)  By the time you do that there isn't much of that corner left for grazing.  The bridge or pipe over the creek to let that corner be grazed without allowing the animals access to the stream is probably more work than it is worth.  So likely that whole corner of the property should be fenced out of your grazing plan and planted into an orchard or trees.

Now have you given thought to where the main manure is going to end up?  Ideally it should be as close to the garden as possible(unless you have big machinery to move it) and as far as possible from the creek for water quality.  Now if you are using a night time penning and day time grazing system you need to look at where the night time manure will end up.  Sheep it usually ends up where you bed or feed them mostly.  Now pigs are fairly hygenic and their's will usually end up about as far from the water and food as they can get or 50 to to 100 ft away which ever comes first.    Because of the sheep likely that means you will want a hay stack/straw stack area close to the garden as well.  Ideally its location should be such that it provides winter shelter to the animals and/or wind break for the garden.  And that will be decided by your prevailing wind directions.  Some thought on prevailing wind direction should also go into the manure location.  You don't want the house down wind of the manure.  So for example the wind basically never blows out of the east or north east in my location so ideally all manure should locate east of the house.

Question.  Seeing how close you are to the creek are you in the flood plain?  Can you even legally build a home there?  If so being that close to the creek I would likely be looking for the highest ground on the property for the home location.

Beyond that remember that every bit of drive way is land you can't use for something else.  While I would want to be farther from the main road for privacy reasons I would want to keep the drive way reasonably short too to avoid its using limited land.  So likely I would choose to put the home closer to the road and use trees to provide isolation from the road as best as is possible.

Now are you going to want to sell stuff from the garden?  If you want to do much that way, you want the drive way close to the garden to minimize the distance you need to carry produce.  Always plan for old age and lazy.

As for chickens something on my to try list is wrapping the chicken pen around the garden in an effort to control insects.  Off season the garden could all or in part become another graze area for the chickens.  If you are feeding grain how is it being delivered? If you have a neighbor bringing it in by the grinder mixer full is that in your plans?  If you are hauling pickup loads home is that in your plans?  Are you doing purely layers, purely meat chickens or some combination?  That will also affect your pen shape and size.  There again coup close to the garden for lazy man manure handling.  One word of warning here.  We had one winter that we got the seed cleaning residue for chicken feed.  It was really cheap and the chickens loved it and did well on it.  We cleaned the chicken house the following spring and put that directly on the garden and then spent the next decade fighting the weeds we brought by doing it.

Now other livestock.  You will likely want more at least 2 more pasture divisions especially with pigs.  Now lets look at what you will typically want with pigs,  Feeding area, watering area, dry dust area(likely under a shed), wallow area and manure area.  Now the manure area might not be needed if you free range to some pasture all the time.  But if you night time pen then it should be in your planning.  Pigs will typically locate it as far as possible from food and water areas.  A comment on sheds.  Having grown up around both pig sheds and sheep sheds with 4 foot ceilings at the back I swore I would never build a shed short enough to hit my head at its shortest point.  To allow for hay and manure build up I would say the shortest should be about 7 foot. Be aware you will likely need to separate sheds.  The pigs will pick their favorite and the sheep will be left with the other one if you graze them together.  Now how you handle the rotation will matter.  Do they have easy access to every pasture? or do you have to herd them?  Water central or water in every pasture.  Night time penning or free range.  Free range to avoid labor I would try for central water and one way gates.   Your pasture layout isn't conducive to that likely.  It will depend on how the fences are built.  There are again think lazy and can it be automated in your old age.

Fencing be aware it is hard to hold pigs with plain fence.  They will root under it and push under.  So plan on it having an electric liner fence.

3 months ago

Davin Hoyt wrote:

C. Letellier wrote:4.  I assume eventually the whole outside of the box will be painted black for that bit of heat gain?

No. Only the interior of the solar collector has been/will be painted. I believe we want the difference in temperature. At the back bottom of the dehydration cabinet, the air will need to rise and escape the system. I believe temperature difference will encourage air movement, and I fear that the increased heat would slow the system's air velocity. I have not done tests.

I would argue that wanting that difference in temperature is exactly why the outside should be painted black.  This system is driven by the difference between inlet and outlet temperatures and the height differential between them.  Inside the box where no heat is being added the down flow and up flow temperatures will roughly equal each other for a given height.  You can find that discussion here on Permies in the thread discussing up flow vs down flow solar dehydrators.  Painting the box black should result in a greater difference between inlet and outlet temperatures should result in more air flow.  Which should improve performance very slightly.

We all know that painted wood is more durable in most circumstances.  So the box should probably be painted anyway.

I can only come up with 2 counter arguments. 

1.  The shaded side of the box radiates more heat because of black body radiation than is added to the sunny side so the temperature difference driving the systems is reduced.   Experience around passive solar would say this one is false.

2.  Black body radiation means more heat is lost at night faster cooling the box down faster reducing the drying during the dark.  Possible but given how poor a heat conductor wood is I am going to say unlikely.  Plus any losses should be made up by sunny day gains.
3 months ago
Suggestion to try.  gather pond moss and save it for the next year.  I mulch trees with it and love it there for moisture holding.
5 months ago
Point to remember is that even if we don't grow all our own food the closer we are to that point the better our ability to ride out problems.  If we have trees planted now or garden ground fenced and ready even if we are not using all of it we are better prepared into the future.

Thing is this is all about balance and wise use of our resources.  Maybe it is Building a home and going passive solar so we don't need that 10 cords of wood a year.  Maybe it is building a combination of swales and hugelkulture so we can grow a bit of garden in a desert.  There is no one right answer or set of answers.

As for time and energy being limited can you trade your other resources to get what you need.  It might be trading garden space with a young family that can't afford it.  It might be your twenty year old apple trees that you are trading part of the crop for picking the whole crop. 

Another piece of this is designing everything for the long haul to save labor over the long.  Plan now for what you will need when you are old and gray.(or older and grayer)  In many ways we have more knowledge to work with than any previous generation so we should be able to do things smarter.  And don't forget automation.  While it may not be truly permaculture things like drip irrigation making better use of water combined with automatic watering can save some of that labor.
9 months ago
Some quick thoughts here.

1.  Would it be possible to use walnut stain as the base for the paint instead of water?  It might improve color durability and darkness of the finish.

2.  In my area because prevailing winds are out of the north/northwest and are common during the drying season the outlet would need a short chimney that opened on all sides with a rain cap roof over it.  This design would be very easy to modify to accommodate that.

3.  Also true of this area is lots of dust during the drying season.  So I would raise the collector bottom end just a bit so I could pull the air flow from behind the collector panel.  Then add furnace filters(or oiled fabric filters) behind louvered panels to collect the dust using the collector itself as the roof.  If this wasn't done then some of the dryed food would be alkali flavored with a fine dust texture.

4.  I assume eventually the whole outside of the box will be painted black for that bit of heat gain?

Beyond that one other one that may not be in keeping with the ideals of this project.  Window screen collectors with shiny back boards seem to be winning the collector efficiency tests every where and would be very little more expensive to build.

9 months ago
Another possible is just to convert a car.  Growing up there used to be a model T in this area that had been converted to horse drawn.  But any modern car should likely work.  Strip everything that isn't creature comfort that adds weight and add a pull point for the tongue/reach that connects to the wheels for steering.  Something like a mini van with its short hood would likely be idea.