Daniel Ray

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since Feb 04, 2014
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food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
Stevensville, Montana; Zone 5b
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Recent posts by Daniel Ray

Love Paul's description of the humanure bucket walk when you have been procrastinating emptying. I had to make that walk many time and digging deep into the pile to deposit sucks when all you want is an empty bucket. I've now converted to a double chamber toilet, the second bucket is heaven when this problem arises.

Huge thanks to Paul and Shawn for this. Great stuff, keep em coming.
2 days ago
Hello, love this thread. I am a librarian in Stevensville Montana and love to see people loving their libraries. There has been a lot of talk about what you love about your libraries, but what can libraries do to improve?

As an awesome bunch of Permies, I would love your opinion on what the library could provide to make it better. Sorry for hijacking the thread and I do obviously believe that libraries are still relevant.
1 week ago
Hi John, expansive clays are not ideal for cob construction. They can absorb large amounts from the air and weaken the structure with their swelling. Cob is generally 70-80% sand, fines, silt and 20-30% clay, though this differs from soil to soil. You want a good amount of straw as this provides the tensile strength of cob and allows the cob to fluctuate without cracking--think rebar in cement. Straw doesn't add anything to the insulation value of the clay/sand. Cob has a R value of .5-1 per inch with a much better U-value. You do not want to use chopped straw in building applications, the longer the better as this helps knit the whole structure into one piece--try tearing a handful of long straw in half and you get the picture.

There are great resources on how to build cob houses, the best are in book format and are available at https://www.amazon.com/Hand-Sculpted-House-Practical-Philosophical-Building/dp/1890132349/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=3CT0RCY25PCQ60J9GGVR and https://www.amazon.com/Cob-Builders-Handbook-Hand-Sculpt-Your/dp/0965908208/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_3?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0965908208&pd_rd_r=3f0ed204-f327-11e8-b4a1-71fe8814db4b&pd_rd_w=BqZBa&pd_rd_wg=VApzR&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=6725dbd6-9917-451d-beba-16af7874e407&pf_rd_r=KAPE2E97F16H9SMG44JD&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=KAPE2E97F16H9SMG44JD

These are the best books on building with cob. Your local library should be able to get you a copy if you do not want to purchase, but I highly recommend having your own copy to consult whenever you need.

More cob info can be found at:

Get the books, they will explain everything you ever need to know and the rest Permies will help you with.

and i'll plug my site too: http://www.spiritwoodnaturalbuilding.com/p/about.html
1 week ago
Hi Simon, beautiful looking property.

1) Land is hardly ever flat, find the contours using an A-frame level https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0DxX2d4L0A which is extremely easy to build and use. Swales will work best to slow, spread and sink your moisture into the ground. Plan fully the entire area before doing any work or you may have to undo what you put hours into. Swales can work really well for generating a food forest--see attached photo.

2) I"m not sure if that was Geoff who said that, but considering the small size of your property and the relatively low profile, I would go small.

3) It is said "do your earthworks first". This is good practice and will help develop your food forest. Swales will create a zone to begin planting your overstory, establish crops and ground covers.

4) I don't think you should have too much of an issue increasing nutrients on your property. It looked like you have a lot of organic material that can be put to good use in creating a very healthy forest floor. Remember that not all you initially plant in a food forest goes to production, a majority goes to benefiting your future food producers.

5)not sure about this. what are others in the area building? What resources do you have at hand to build a sustainable building with?

You also mention using hugelkultur. While it is great for retaining moisture for plant beds and also creating wind breaks and privacy, the main function is long term--to break down large amounts of organic material that are otherwise without use and eventually use that to benefit the surrounding soil. I wouldn't focus too much on doing hugelkultur unless you have a lot of large timber or brush that can't be used as mulch directly.

Post photos--it sounds like an awesome project.
1 week ago
I'm suspect of your transition area being too small. The pipe leaving the barrel is 6" diameter and really should be more of a bell shape--think about replacing this with a reducer that narrows from 8" to 6". The problem with the current dimensions is that the transition is probably not using all 6" of pipe diameter--the gases are moving down the barrel and not up from the floor so they are only entering the run from the top half of your transition. This makes your csa cut to 3/4.

Peter has stated this as a common problem in stoves and recommends making the  manifold area have some depth as well. I couldn't find the permies page where he discussed it so if someone here could link it that would be great, but I believe he suggest raising the transition 4" from the bottom of the barrel to allow the gases to move into your horizontal run from all directions and not just from the top. The goal is to make the gases have a much easier time changing direction so rapidly and not slowing down too much.
2 weeks ago
I don't have any specific design in mind although there is a really nice one here http://www.balewatch.com/895spiral.html

However that design is not built to withstand the type of weight in a bermed structure. A circular building with the same window/glass placement would allow better light distribution without the walls. Of course any circular home would stI'll need interior walls that would block light.

Support for a living roof could come with a reciprocal roof, but I'm unsure of the diameter to bearing loads for round diameter timber.

It is a cool design, are there any real life examples of this anywhere you know of?
3 weeks ago
What is the benefit of such a design over a simple circle or spiral? If the walls curved in a circle rather than cutting back in, the interior space would be much greater and the surface area of the walls would be much less meaning lower costs in materials.
3 weeks ago
That is pretty cool. I wonder how plausible it would be for the future though when we can't even get people on board with using pee in the garden. Fecal and urine phobias will undoubtedly be too much for people to construct urine based anything. Cool article though.
1 month ago
In what capacity are you using the liner? for the riser? They can be used, but they can crack from the extreme temperatures--I've heard of people here on permies cutting them to create an expansion joint--remember that they still need to be insulated to offset the temperatures inside and outside of the riser.
1 month ago
I'll mention diet again as vitamins are extremely important. I was surprised that nobody mentioned oil pulling--lots of hype around it but I have found it very effective. Even if the benefits are small, it is cheap and easy to do an a regular basis.
1 month ago