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Doug Kalmer

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since Nov 27, 2013
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Recent posts by Doug Kalmer

Researching keyline plowing, I found this-

To measure the effects of keyline plowing, we collected soil and forage samples from the keyline plowed pastures and from similar adjacent pastures. For good measure, we also tested penetrometer resistance and rated the pastures conditions. We sampled before, during, and after the two years of plowing.

With thousands of soil samples, and hundreds of readings and scores, we found nothing; no increased organic matter, no changes in penetrometer resistance, no change whatsoever, unless you measure in worms. We did find more worms in our treated pastures.

There are folks out there, who are very nice people, who believe in the use of the keyline plow, who will be alarmed at these results.  So next week, we’ll describe more about this trial and it’s results.  We’ll even tell you more about worms and why more of them may not be as positive a result as you might think.  Down the road we’ll also share some results from a study on the use of keyline plowing to enhance carbon sequestration.  In the meantime, if you have experience with keyline plowing, and you have any data, please share it with us!
1 year ago

Yen Yus wrote:

Doug Kalmer wrote:I have built several masonry tanks, both above and below ground. They can and will leak unless waterproofed inside. This is the best product I have found, and it is rated for potable water- I have slipformed tanks, used CMUs, and helped plaster a tank built with just wire and cement plaster, Doug

Hello Doug

How you doing?

Drylok sounds amazing. Although we dont have it here in Cyprus. Also would you be concerned about pollution using a product like Drylok?

No, as it is rated for potable water-meaning safe to drink from.
1 year ago
I have built several masonry tanks, both above and below ground. They can and will leak unless waterproofed inside. This is the best product I have found, and it is rated for potable water- I have slipformed tanks, used CMUs, and helped plaster a tank built with just wire and cement plaster, Doug
1 year ago

When I decided to build my first and last house, I knew I would use alternative building methods. The problem was deciding which alternative to chose. I knew I wanted earth sheltered passive solar, but that still left many options. Choosing to go alternative is easy; finding your way among the myriad methods is not. So, after much study, I chose to use timber frame (post & beam), infill that with cedar stack wall, and slipform stone and concrete foundation walls.
Trying to conserve both money and planetary resources, I cut the timber framing from my property, scrounged cedars where I could, and gathered every stone I could find (and lift) within about five miles of my place.

Slipforming is an old building method where wooden forms are set up wall thickness apart. A flat-faced stone is placed against a form, and concrete is poured in behind the stone, forming a wall with embedded stones facing out. Once the concrete has set up, another layer of forms is placed on top, and the process is repeated.

Now, with two (or more) layers of forms up and concrete set up, you can remove the bottom forms and leapfrog them up the wall, thus greatly conserving form lumber, as you work your way up and along the wall.

Most stones are not very large and heavy. Flat-faced stones do not have to be very thick to cover a fair amount of wall. The heaviest piece of wood in my house is easily heavier than the heaviest stone.

In my search for stone, I found several old home sites where the only evidence of a home having ever been there was a stone chimney or pile of stones. This is a tribute to the enduring quality of stone. It won't rot, burn, or get eaten by insects. After you have it mortared in place, it will remain right there, looking exactly like it does, virtually forever. An added benefit is that externally insulated stone is an excellent heat sink, or thermal mass. It soaks up excess solar heat on cold sunny days, and returns it at night.  Conversely, it keeps indoor temperatures cooler during hot days, acting as a thermal flywheel, evening out temperature fluctuations in either direction. And we get all of these benefits from a free resource!

We mixed our own concrete, which helped to keep costs below the cost of a block wall, not counting labor. I feel I should mention that the stonework is, in the opinion of many, the most attractive walls they have ever seen.  Another benefit is that unlike the typical stick-framed wall, once you pull the forms and mortar, you're done: no sheet rocking, painting, etc. Plus, there's no maintenance ever. Thick stone walls do not transmit sound very well, either, making for a quiet, attractive, evenly heated interior space.  The walls can be insulated on the outside by applying sheet insulation and stucco.
Slipforming is an old method, but it is also still used in modern commercial buildings as well. Basically it means using reusable forms, I built mine all 18" high, and either 4', 6' or 8' long, they were 2x4 frames with plywood or boards on one side.  The frames are drilled on the center of the 2x4 every 2', so they can be bolted together.  The process of using them we called "Space, Lace and Brace".

Space: We started on a poured concrete footer, and placed two 8' forms 12" apart, facing each other, this is for a 12" thick wall. We then took 12" sticks and placed them in a few spots between the two form faces, to keep them 12 " apart.  

Lace: We then wired thru the forms, tightening the wires by twisting nails into the wire, to tension the forms against the sticks.

Brace: Then we braced the forms by temporarily nailing a 2x4 to the top edge of each form and the other end to a stake in the ground to keep the form plumb.

We had collected a large pile of stone, any stone with a flat face on at least one side can be used, I just placed one stone at a time against the inside face of the inner form, and then placed concrete behind them, filling in the concrete with what we called "uglies", or stones without a flat face, to use less concrete. Bolt more forms end to end, and go along the wall, building up to the top of the 18" form. We would do about 30-40' a day, mixing concrete in an old gas mixer. After the bottom layer is set up, bolt another layer of forms above them repeat the process, and then when the second layer is set up, you can remove the bottom layer of forms, and use them for the third and successive layers, "leapfrogging" the forms up and along the walls. This process is described in the Nearing's books, which is where I got the idea from, except we put the stone face on the interior, and insulated the exterior for thermal mass. BTW, excellent concrete can be made with less Portland cement by using crushed limestone base mix, it's what the state uses for the base of roadways. 7 parts base mix to one part Portland.

After the walls were built, I troweled on a thin coat of masonry cement to the exterior, called a parge coat, and then painted on a thinned coating of Portland cement to fill pores in the parge coat. After applying waterproofing, I used construction adhesive to adhere two inches of foam board insulation all around the outside walls before backfilling.

For further reading: Build Your Own Stone House by Karl and Sue Swenke and
Our Home Made of Stone by Helen Nearing.
Stone House: A guide to self building with slipforms by Tom Stanley


Pictures at-
1 year ago
Steel quonset structures or ‘culvert homes’ are usually not rated for underground residential use. From what I’ve heard, most quonset hut manufacturers will not sell to anyone who intends to bury the structure. Covering a building with earth adds enormous weight on the structure and manufacturers don’t want any liability issues in case of collapse. This is unfortunate because quonset structures are well suited for underground homes, rootcellars and storm shelters. For one, they’re quick and easy to build. The main step involved is bolting the arched sections together with cordless drills.
If you’re interested in building something like this, I suggest finding the strongest quonset you can find and then consult with an engineer on the loads it can carry. There’s a good chance additional reinforcement will be recommended. Offhand, I can think of four general ways of reinforcing quonset structures for underground use.
2 years ago
Trifoliate orange
The cultivar "Flying Dragon" is dwarfed in size and has highly twisted, contorted stems. It makes an excellent barrier hedge due to its density and strong curved thorns. Such a hedge had been grown for over 50 years at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, and is highly student-proof.[6] The plant is also highly deer resistant[7]
2 years ago
I have been making sun tea for decades- but I make it in a solar oven- which-with enuf sun-brings the temp over 165*F which will kill the bacteria. We use our spring water filtered thru a silver impregnated ceramic filter. It makes the best flavored tea, as we let it steep most of the day. We then add liquid stevia for a little sweetening. Sundug
2 years ago

Charles Heller wrote:Okay..... Now, it seems you are suggesting I stick with the design I suggested - One 20gal (?) batch tank and flush it daily. So is the implication that legionaires takes longer than 24 hours to breed?

IF - I were to go with a design with a coil... How does this sound? What if I built the system above and plumbed the sinks and washer to it - but included a coil inside the batch tank that just fed the shower....? AND - what if the water from the coil then flowed into a seperate "closed" (?) tank so as to have more volume available for shower...?

--- Thoughts on tank sizes in any of these scenarios?


If using PEX instead of copper, it takes about 3 times as much to get the same ability to heat the water in the coil. The coil should be placed as high as possible in the tank, and if a large enuf length and diameter PEX is used, like 1", it will contain enuf heated water for a decent shower, meaning you could skip the second tank, using the coil as storage. . Allow some time before the next shower for the water in the coil to heat. Check out-
Also, There should be no "heat traps" in the collector to tank loop. A heat trap is where the line goes up and back down between the tank and collector. If there are any valves in the loop, they need to be full flow, as in ball or gate type. My wife and I have both taken a decent shower from one filling of a 5 gallon solar shower bag. Sundug
4 years ago

Charles Heller wrote:What I'm not quite clear on is where the "hot water out" pipe goes... I get that the hot stuff will be on the "top" - but, as a non-pressurized set-up, I will have to pick a point on the side of the tank - right? -- So, essentially, if I used a 20 gal drum and put the outlet a third of the way down the side, I might have 6 or 7 gallons of "really hot" water before the temp starts decreasing much - right?

And it just seems like if "stuff" grows below 150 degrees, I shouldn't be using it if the temp in the tank goes below that - ? At what point in the tank would you measure the temp of the water?

Thanks! - You guys are GOOD!

(and I like the foot-rinsing hose!!)

The hot out should be as high as possible on the tank for the hottest water. YMMV, but my solar hot water tank is often below 150*F, and have had no problems in 24 years. It is closed and pressurized, but only to about 15lbs, as my water is spring fed from an open spring tank. Sundug
4 years ago

Charles Heller wrote:

Charles Heller wrote:Thanks - I will be back... holidays and all....

Okay - Holidays are over...

I'm leaning toward something like this:

- unpressurized - float valve - plastic tank of some sort - PEX pipe.... There is no normal hot water heater in the house. What I build will only supply a shower and a sink.

I'm not to worried about water that's "too hot" - only used by adults and there will be mixing valves at each spigot.

USVI is pretty much 70-90 degrees year-round. From what I read I should have no problem keeping it above 150 degrees, but bacteria makes me paranoid...

So.... the storage tank will have a "temp gradient" - right? What do you expect that range would be from bottom to top?... What is the location of the hot water outlet pipe? - top 3rd of tank - maybe?

Should I install a temperature sensor and gauge somewhere?

Hi Charles,
So you live in the Virgin Islands? A thermometer is useful but not necessary, with temps like you have, you can leave off insulation on at least part of the plumbing to feel the temp of the pipes. I see they didn't insulate the pipes at all, but consider that sunlight photodegrades all types of plastic. Even a coat of paint will halt this process. I would be concerned about various growths in the tank, just keep an eye on it at first to see what happens. To enhance thermosyphoning, the bottom of the tank should be above the top of the collector, and flow resistance should be reduced by minimizing elbows and using larger diameter pipe. The hot water connection should be at the top water level, and the cold into the tank should be at the bottom. Not sure what gauge you are referring to. Sundug
4 years ago