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

Having grown up in an area where a lot of it is mined I would be leery of getting much of it in the garden.  Understand that by itself bentonite is basically water proof.  It needs organic to maintain a water pathway into the soil.  Now be aware if you are looking at plating that how it is milled makes a difference here.  
1 month ago
I would vote tractors too, but I as a farm equipment mechanic want to list one other disadvantage for tractors that everyone seems to be missing.  Whether it is used or not there is a certain amount of deterioration and expense in owning a tractor that is time based.  For example lets take tires.  Say the rear tires are $2500 to replace and in a shedded environment they will have a life expectancy of 25 to 40 years if not worn out before then.  Lets use 25 years just to keep the math easy.  That means the cost of owning that tractor is $100 per year for the rear tires.  Then add the other costs belts, hoses, spark plug wires, wiring in general, battery, antifreeze, oil and so on.  Even things like seat cushions appear on this list.  Most low use farm machinery the belts and hose have a 5 to 10 year life expectency.  Nearly all will make it to the 5 year mark but the failure rate begins to rise. By the 10 year mark replacing simply for the sake of replacing becomes a smart move as after that point failure climbs dramatically.  Now I am aware of a few machines still running 30 year old belts and 50 year old hoses but that is really rare.  The battery will there again need replacement and low use is actually harder on the battery than working it.  So if the battery costs say $100 and it averages 4 years then there is another $25 per year cost.   And the list goes on.  Even simple little things like orings and seals get hard and fail over time.  The part may cost nothing but the labor to replace it can be large.  And there are other less visible failures that you can pay now or pay later.  For example antifreeze.  The antifreeze part of antifreeze basically never wears out.  But check the manual and you will find a 2 year replacement interval.  Why?  Because antifreeze is more than just something to keep the water from freezing.  It contains lubricants for the water pump seal.  It contains antifoaming agents as well as corrosion inhibitors, pH buffers.  Over time those chemicals are used up preventing corrosion or because they simply deteriorate over time.  You can either replace the antifreeze on a regular basis or at some point you can pay for the damage not changing it has done.  Either way there is a yearly expense.  
Have you looked at worms?  You can have more dry matter to reduce smells and cover smelly problems.  Worms running properly produce almost no odor.
2 months ago
We have used plain wood circular saw blades put in backwards.  Fairly course tooth plain steel blades not carbide tipped as the carbide running backwards is torn off and become projectiles.  Works well on heavier corrugated roofing but modern light siding steel it produces a bit of distortion.  Big advantage over abrasive cutting is the steel stays cool so no burning finishes or plating off.  Edges are fairly smooth with a few tiny flakes of tear off attached.  Fairly clean and fairly easy to clean up with a sander.  
2 months ago
Really missing the boat here.  There are a number of products that come with plastic lids the lids will fit.  For example the green sprinkle lids listed above come on sprinkle cheese containers.   They also work for straws.  The straw goes in a sprinkle cheese shaker hole. Not all of them work but some of the Parmesan sprinkle cheese container are mason jar thread.(still trying to decide if it is brand or just the current jar supplier for a brand.) Some small peanut butter lids work.  Some mayo and salad dressing lids also work as does at least miracle whip lids.
2 months ago
Suggest looking at a different but similar process.  Here is one I tripped over here on permies that shows real promise.  It beats most of the problems inherent in active solar thermal collectors and does refrigeration as a side affect.   The problem with the normal liquid filled active solar collector panel is moving pieces and need for outside power. There are a few systems that will run without but they are sensitive and fickle. Otherwise it only works if the system has the condition of being able to have the collector as the lowest point with the storage tank above it and the place of heat use higher still it will function as a thermo-siphon system without a pump. But that condition is rare. Usually the desired location for the collector panel is above everything else and there is no system to reliably and durably push heat down with no moving parts and no outside power source.

Batch box ice maker

It is intended as a batch box ice maker for locations with no power. It has no moving parts and it should definitely drive the heat downward. It can't over heat. It also gives the possibility of giving not only hot water but free refrigeration. Now it has some problems. The 3 biggest are 1. it is a batch box design so it has a limited run time and it only does 10lbs of ice worth of cooling per cycle. Because of heat transfer characteristics and efficiency it should produce way more heat than cold but that is also limited by the batch nature of the design. 2. The ammonia refrigerant used in it is toxic which is why it is not commonly used in home situations.  And it involves a fairly large volume of refrigerant.  3. The batch box needs to be open to radiate heat between batches.

Now here is what I am thinking as modifications.

1. To solve a major chunk of the toxicity danger if the ammonia pipe were enclosed in a water pipe or tank any time the line was inside the house the danger could be greatly reduced. Small leaks the water would chemically absorb greatly reducing the risk and simple electronic leak detection would provide warning. In the event of a big leak if the water was there to absorb a lot of it and then the tank was vented to the outside the risk could be reduced but not eliminated.

2. To solve the batch cycle problem several steps would be needed.
A. Add a reflective shutter between 2 heat absorption pipes. By hinging it up or down it would be possible to reflect the sun at either pipe as it came from the stationary reflector. Still a moving part but at least a really simple moving part and outside the sealed system not inside.

B. Each pipe system would need 2 check valves added, a return line through a refrigeration evaporator and an expansion device. The refrigeration outlet line from the refrigeration tank would need a dip tube going right to the bottom of the liquid refrigerant tank so instead of chilling the cold box it chilled whatever followed the expansion device.

3.  The door needs to be open.  
C. Because of the batch box nature of the cold chamber in this design needs to radiate heat for a bit from its open door before making ice as cold storage. To deal with this ideally the box should have high thermal mass and the ability to store cool/cold. So lets make it a small cistern that is designed to freeze solid at times. The water would help provide protection from a leak and provided the final bit of cooling for the refrigerant tanks.

So the system would push the heat into a heat storage tank built like the one in this video starting at 1 hour and 10 minutes and running through 1 hour and 29 minutes. Work with the stratification. If you are interested in home construction techniques or passive solar watch the rest of the video as this is a different way of looking them.

Home design/ hot water storage system.

Then the refrigerant would go to the cold tank. At the inlet to the refrigerant tank would be the first check valve. That tank would radiate the heat to the water in the cold cistern around it. Now the question is how do you cool the cool cistern? Lets add 2 other technologies to this. Lets add a heat pipe to carry the heat up. A heat pipe is a separate sealed system that moves large quantities heat with no moving parts. In this case because it would be installed vertically with the heat on the bottom it could be simply constructed without an internal wick and has the advantage of acting like a check valve against heat movement back into the system. Then tie this into a radiant cooler aimed directly at the sky built like a cone shaped solar cooker. This would be located on the north side of the building to avoid getting sunlight into the cone. By aiming the cone at the night sky it is possible for it to cool 20 degrees below ambient on clear sky nights. It it was built as a thermal chimney too it would at least act as a thermal chimney and should cool to at least ambient on cloudy or smokey nights. See the following link for this information. About in the middle of the article it discusses using the solar cooker for cooling at night.

solar colletor / radiant refrigerator

For the refrigerant to get back to the heating element pipe when regenerating a dip tube to pull the liquid refrigerant from the very bottom of the tank to the next expansion device and then to the evaporator to pull the heat from the fridge freezer.  Then past the second check valve and back to the big solar hot pipe.

For the fridge/freezer if you built it as a walk in fridge with a second room inside that, that cycled freezing or fridge and used that space to store wheat, rice, flour, pasta etc that has possible bug problems it would serve to isolate the freezer more and add thermal mass. Then inside the 2nd room put the real freezer. I know from running a camping cooler inside a camping cooler that the inner cooler doesn't hardly begin to warm up till all the ice is almost gone in the outer. By layering this the inner cold should be able to be stretched over longer periods.

A back up electrically driven system might still be needed for the heat of the summer but most of the year it should cool I would think.

Okay where is my thinking going wrong? Am I missing something in the science?
2 months ago
Ours was punched up through the valley between the ribs.  It meant a certain amount of leakage but the building is still standing with the chimney hole there nearly 40 years later.  The hole was slightly off center so water could route through a narrow valley beside the chimney pipe.  Guessing one rib isn't critical.
2 months ago
2 questions.

1.  For those composting carcasses with black soldier fly larva, what about prions?  The post about deer carcasses was what brought it to mind.  In this area white tails are having major problems with chronic wasting disease.  But other prions could possibly be passed too.

2.  Is there an herb or other scent to either neutralize the scent of the larva compost or hide it from the egg laying adults so it can be used for worm composting?  It would need to be something that was acceptable to earth worms.  For example some insects can be driven off with peppermint.  So could the top of the pile be covered in something that would worm compost but keep the adult egg layers away.
2 months ago
Has anyone tried using aircrete to build bee hives?  The equipment to make the foamed concrete is easily doable.  It is light weight, insulating, fire proof, rot proof.  Below is one of many possible link on doing foamed concrete on a small scale.



My current thinking is walls about 2 inches thick.  Do the outside so the boxes stacked look like lap siding to help shed moisture and also act as handles.  If the outer mold had a skim coat and fiber mesh troweled in as the form was assemble the outer skin would be a thin layer of real concrete.

There are a couple of online articles on doing hives in concrete using light weight filler/aggregate such as vermiculite or polystyrene beads but I can find anything on anyone suggesting aircrete instead.  Since supposedly its insulating value is nearly that of foam it should be ideal for helping overwintering hives survive.
3 months ago