Roberto pokachinni

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since Jan 21, 2014
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Just a little guy with big ideas, trying to get it done in the Canadian Rockies.
Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Recent posts by Roberto pokachinni

Phase 3 lock on the door so kids can't come in.

  I'd put this as phase 1.  It sort of goes with the First Aid mentality of ensuring no further hazards or danger before starting. 

Get your brother-in-law and nephew there, and wrap their brains around the project.  It sounds like your clay situation might be combining with an inadequate foundation/drainage situation to create instability in your walls and thus seriously compromising your arched roof.  

The thing to consider most, is, after a thorough mental assessment, is the cellar worth salvaging cost-wise, in relation to the costs of building a new one (that might function a lot better and a lot safer for a lot longer)?  You might be better off smashing this one up for urbanite and saving yourself the headache of time-intensive repairs/upgrades to something that has so many (potential) inadequacies.  It's like opening a can of worms.  You might repair it now, and spend a bunch of time at it, and then, if you don't manage to do it exactly right, then your grandkids will be doing it again, (possibly cursing your name).  Is it worth repairing? 

A new one can be built with a deep rubble trench with drain pipes on it's outside, a properly reinforced concrete footing, and sufficient quantities and engineered grids of rebar in your walls and arches to support the varied forces that you will be expecting.  Considering the years of service that such a structure can provide, the relative high cost should be calculated as spread out over decades of budget.  If you are planning a long-term investment in this family property, then it is probably best to simply suck of the cost, dissolve yourself of the nostalgia, and rebuild.

Three things to consider with building a proper root cellar are humidity, temperature, and air flow.  There is a balance that must be met between these factors, depending on the types of food you are trying to store.  Building the cellar with the idea of burying it with a good layer of dirt and sod (say a couple or three feet), would go a long way toward moderating your temperature.  It looks like your old structure has a vent pipe, which is good.  You need at least one, and best to have them set up so that they do not collect water, and so that insects and rodents can not go in them. These vents help with all three factors.  Additionally, shelves should be set up and food set up on them such that you have good ventilation.  Most cellars have a dirt floor, or at least one that is not solid, so it could be graveled or cobbled but shouldn't be concrete; this helps maintain humidity.  You do not want it to be wet, but you do want it to be damp looking.       
4 days ago
And your idea of using plants to draw toxins out of the water/purify the water/filter the water is a good one, if the water is clean enough to support them in the first place.  Cattails, rushes, and things like watercress are all able to aid you in the process.  Any aquatic plant will do something to draw toxins.  The cattails and bullrushes are more proven.  You could also, in time, harvest these materials, and dry and char them to utilize them as much as possible for the full series of processes. 

The socks of char, and the plants, act as 'scrubbers' which will definitely help to clean the creek.  To what degree is likely related to your parts per million of the specific toxins per water volume, the volume of flow coming from the contaminated site onto your land, and time.

Good luck with the project.
4 days ago

Is it feasible to try even if just as an experiment?

  Yes.  I don't know of biochar's particular abilities with heavy metals or salts, but I do know that it has the ability to draw stuff into it.

It would be best to know exactly what sort of contaminants you are dealing with for your own sake and understanding, but it is likely not relevant to whether the char will draw materials into it.

I wrote 'char' instead of biochar, because I think that char is likely all that you need in the creek.  I might be wrong with that, but I don't think that you need to inoculate it with biology.  It could be, however, that certain biological communities will help draw more toxins from the water. 

It couldn't hurt, for instance, to include some fungal rich compost tea, which also has a remediating effect.  There are specific fungi that are used in heavy metal contamination remediation that you can search out.  I would focus, though, on getting your charcoal socks across the creek, probably held in place with stakes, and when you feel that they have drawn what they can of the toxins from the water, then either burn them and dispose of the waste ash appropriately, or attempt to further remediate with fungi on land. 

This process with the fungi locks the heavy metals into the biology of the fungi in complex molecules that help make the toxins inert.  It's not fool-proof, from what I understand, but it is vastly superior to doing nothing. 

If you were to burn the charcoal, then burn it in as high a temperature fire as possible, so as to eliminate as much of the harmful smoke as possible.  A rocket stove would be best for such purposes.  I don't know where you would dispose of the ash.  The authorities doing the clean-up might be the appropriate people to accept it.
4 days ago
Chefs trick:  Instead of mincing your garlic... put a bit of salt on the cutting board... then place the peeled garlic cloves on it and press it with the large flat of your knife. Slide the knife and garlic across the salt which grips the garlic.  Turns the garlic to paste... much better and faster than mincing.
1 week ago
I don't know much about Tazmania.  It's always been a place I've been curious about. 

Up where I am, I would be leary of a West Facing slope.  The early sunrise light/heat is important in a cool temperate climate, so an East facing slope is a lot better if you can't get a sunward (In your case, North, in my case South).  The angle of the sun will come around to give direct light and heat to your plants at a much later time in the day, and this full intensity of late morning to middle day sun can be quite harsh on plants, particularly in early spring when young plants are struggling to get going.

That all said, it sounds like a nice piece of land that is worth considering.  The West face is not undoable, it's just not ideal.  Plenty of people are doing great farming in my area on the shady side of the valley.

The fire risk with prevailing winds coming at your slope should not be ignored.  Take heed to build ponds and plant herbaceous fire-resistant plants downslope of your house.  A pond system (maybe greywater system) directly downslope of the house might be a nice feature and would provide fire protection.  

3 weeks ago
I've been out of town for a couple of days, but have been following this thread on my phone. 

I wanted to say something that may or may not be obvious.  Humans are extremely adaptable creatures.  We might not seem so considering how we get caught up in manufactured or manipulative cultural traps, but consider it now from a wider view:  From nomadic Kalahari bushman, to the Inuit of the high North, to the Yanomamo of the Amazon, just look at the variety in culture, tradition, and how we have adapted to our environment.  Just look at the variety of traditional dwellings, and then go into the more conventional ones in the modern world and then branch into how people also live on the streets or in dumpsters or shantytown slums.  Adaptability is our Nature.  We are hardwired for this, but those wires have been either severed or fused, or are somehow disconnected.  I will get into this a bit, and what I think are the core reasons.

How could adaptability be taught to kids, in schools or out? How can adaptability be taught to adults? Learning the hard way is a harsh way to learn, is there such thing as video games that teach how to think adaptable? Because I think that part of turning this culture to adaptable will start with a higher percentage of people being able to think this way. 

The thing is, kids are naturally adaptable.  Drop a little kid into a third world country, and he or she is speaking the language faster than any parent could.  And it's not just language.  It's only with our programming and schooling that children become non-adaptive.  Kids are knowledge sponges and learn things naturally. 

The problem is teaching the adults who are full of experiences that have managed to get them through life.  People are always battling change, whether they are conscious of it or not.  I've heard this is so because people are constantly-on a subconscious level-equating their present survival with their past acts.  No matter how potentially unproductive, or potentially damaging, or counter-intuitive, or whatever the past acts were, they amounted to that person surviving, and thus... are,by some twisted internal logic, worth keeping.  So teaching someone to step outside this box is not so easy.  Taking a risk in this regard is not easy.  It's a leap in consciousness to break out of that fear.  I believe it can be taught.  But with adults, it will be different person by person on how they absorb or defect this information.  See the example of my mom below.    

Part of the issue, I allude to early on in this post.  Our school system, and our culture, in general, are not serving to teach us how to learn.  They teach us to remember facts and regurgitate them, and to follow the leader, even if they have no leadership qualities and respect authority-even if it's not necessarily authoritative on the subject/task.  These things teach us how to NOT LEARN.  This is partly because they are against the grain of logic, and serve only to create an unstable system where Authoritarian structures tend to insert themselves and dominate. 

So the beginning of it is to teach kids to follow their natural passion to learn things.  Our job as teachers is to figure out ways to teach the kids the basics through them learning about things they want to learn about.  So if a kid wants to learn about fish, he can learn reproductive biology, ecology, math, creative writing, physics, geometry, social studies...  it just goes on and on... but it needs to be guided properly by the teacher, so the kid isn't just learning about fish for fish's sake.

The next thing is to ensure that people understand what real leadership is, and then they are put in roles where they can delegate authority to get a complex job done.  Leadership can be taught.  Most people do not have really great leadership skills... and this includes most people who are presently in leadership roles.  <--Most of them are actually more interested in puffing up their own feathers, and or controlling others.

People have to want to learn.  They have to want to change.  This can't be forced at all.  You have to be gentle about it, for sure.

Choices are going to be key to teaching adaption.  Let your kids, and whoever you are working with and doing things with, make choices so they can be as self-determining as possible.  Nicole alluded to a lot of this stuff in her recent post.  

This can also be very difficult with adults.  My mother, for instance, is a shop-a-holic, and has, for the most part, always had her poor spending habits supported both by the greater culture and my father.  Giving her choices means that she buys stuff impulsively or basically does whatever she wants without thinking much about it.  She's basically like a badly schooled spoiled brat in an adults body, and with a credit card and freedom... I just shake my head.  I don't even know where to start, and at 70 years old, I doubt I'll be making any easy progress with her even if I put in a concerted effort.  It was pretty obvious from a pretty early age that my mom bought all the bad sides of the consumer culture dream pretty fully, but there was nothing a kid could do about it, but go along with it, and enjoy the tragedy when it spilled over into my side of things.  It wasn't like we were rich, or anything, but we weren't poor.  If we had been, I'm sure she would have learned to adapt slightly to deal with that... but I have a feeling she would not have learned much more about it than she did having more cash at her disposal.  I had to completely unlearn everything that she taught me as I became increasingly independent in my youth.  But it was not completely apparent just how much her programming had affected me until I moved out on my own and was forced to assess my needs and my wants and balance my budget.       
1 month ago
Hi Paul K.  Not exactly.  What I am familiar with is energy stored as compressed air that can be later used to run pneumatic tools. I'd be interested to know about the power generation aspect.
1 month ago
I don't know who's site.  Not familiar with the name.  I'm assuming that it might be one of his granddaughters husbands or something... but it could be anyone.  I'll ask at some point.  The video was edited.  Which is too bad.  All the foul language and dirty jokes are not apparent/are absent.  The guy has a great sense of humor that doesn't really come across.  Not that that matters much to the content. Even then, the guy knows way more than this video shows.  I've sat in his 'museum /inventory' and been given the tour of many an old saw with stories galore. This guy is a real historian with experiencing working knowledge of all things chainsaw. I do know the lady who did the background music.  She's a local forester.
1 month ago
Interestingly, the site's subtitle is Homesteading and Permaculture all the time.

Now Walter has likely not heard of Permaculture, but he's always keen to hear about my projects.  His opinion is never damning, but always asking get the questions that make me think more about it.  He's seen chainsaws evolve from their infancy... and his shop contains most brands that were common in my province over the coarse of the last 60 or more years. He's got a keen mechanical know how that is uncommon these days. There are a lot of reasons why that is pertinent to Permaculture,  including developing a relationship with a historical icon like him, and, even though his passion is toward this tool that burns petroleum, so too are those permits who choose to have a tractor or a chipper. 
1 month ago