Ron Helwig

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since Jul 28, 2014
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forest garden hugelkultur tiny house
New Hampshire
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Recent posts by Ron Helwig

That's why doing it in an RMH is good. It burns it hot enough that you don't get that stuff.

It's also why I'm pissed that the town I'm in shut down their incinerator. So now instead of completely burning that stuff and getting rid of the bad stuff they're now putting it in the ground.
4 days ago
I've been burning lots of trash all winter. Plastic bags, plastic spoons, water bottles, paper plates, packaging including plastic wrap.

I always wait until it is really hot and has a good draft before putting any plastic in. I also always have a fan ready to help with the draft to make sure there's no blowback.

I don't think it has significantly extended my firewood but it certainly has helped lower the amount of trash going to the dump. And because the RMH burns so hot it is likely turning all the bad stuff into CO2 instead of putting it into the air.

I'm also not using the ashes in areas where I'm wanting to grow food, just to err on the side of caution.
4 days ago
I live at a place where we have a Tiny House Makerspace in New Hampshire, and we're seeing out first client get going.

The trailer is the foundation so making sure it is solid enough is important. If I was going to build one I would buy a $3-5K trailer built for making tiny houses. I think it is that important.

I have taken apart 3 camping trailers and I have two main thoughts on them. First, YUCK! They always have mouse nests in them and usually a good amount of rot and mold. I wouldn't want to live in one unless I had no better options. Second, the trailers are made cheaply and you have to be very careful when building on them to keep your weight down. If you want standard appliances then you are very likely to be over what a camping trailer can handle.

You should be able to look at the tires and axle to see what they are rated for. This will tell you how much it can hold. And if you weld more metal onto the frame to make it more solid, you are adding weight to the frame so there will be less you can build. The companies that build camping trailers really skimp on the quality to make them light enough for the cheap trailers they use. For example, the wall studs are usually 1x1s instead of the 2x4 or 2x6 you'd expect.

[As an aside, you might think that the wood used in a camping trailer might be good for burning in your rocket mass heater. But you would be wrong. They use lots of staples instead of nails or screws, so the wood is infested with metal and it isn't worth trying to remove it.]
1 month ago

William Bronson wrote: Found this old thread while researching an idea.
When I dumpster dive I often find places that have post consumer waste- leftovers from fast food places, mixed with plastic and paper waste.
I was wondering if chooks could reliably sort the foid from the trash.

Yes, but it's damn messy.

We've been getting the kitchen scraps from a restaurant for 3 years now. Often the barrel has those disposable gloves the workers wear. There's often twist ties that were around bunches of herbs. But maybe once a year we accidentally get a barrel of table scraps that have napkins, plastic glasses, and other assorted stuff in them. The birds do fine, but then there's a bunch of trash in the pile that needs to be manually picked up. It's a pain to do that so I would suggest only getting restaurant refuse if they agree to separate out the good stuff.

Oh, and if the trash has styrofoam in it, avoid it. Chooks love to eat styrofoam. They must think it's popcorn or something.
1 month ago

Lori Whit wrote:I think this article is of interest.  I read it last year shortly after it was posted, and I still think about it and wonder how the people are doing today.  If they've been able to grow more of their own food.  If they've found ways to create and keep alive community.  If they've survived.

What happened when Walmart left

That was a good read. In it I saw very clearly "The Seen and the Unseen". The town was dying because the major job source, coal mining, was drying up. It looked to me like Walmart extended the life of the town by ten years, but could not prevent it from further erosion. Walmart did a lot for the town, but when they left people got mad at Walmart because they expected it to last forever. I'm sure others will read the article differently than me.
1 month ago
I have seen no evidence that Walmart is selling at a loss in some stores then raising prices when local competition leaves. They may, and probably are, selling "loss leaders" at a loss, but then most grocery stores have been doing that for ages. When I see these sorts of complaints without evidence I usually think its an indicator of the person's bias.

Yes, there is no truly free market, but it would be the fairest and most practical way to go if we can just get people to stop using government to foist their views on everyone else.

And underlying all of the issues with the market is the money. The Federal Reserve system with its debt based inflationary currency is at the heart of the problem. It is unsustainable and is one of the primary causes of the wealth & income disparity we have been seeing lately. That is, the banks and politicians have conspired to ensure that they get rich at everyone else's expense. But I am hopeful that crypto-currencies will allow us to defeat debt based currencies and restore a more sensible, fair, and sustainable monetary system.
1 month ago

David Livingston wrote:The more I think about the logical progression of trying to go local is that the so called free trade idea should be binned . I give you four examples .
Generic drugs are available for between an quarter of the price and in some cases less than a tenth of the price in europe than in the USA . They quality is no different . So why ?

The difference is almost all because of government, not the market.

David Livingston wrote:Mobile phones are seen as an essential thing these days yet none are manufactured in the USA and very few in Europe , are people in the USA or Europe incapable of such work ? nope instead we have Apple with a platoon of accountants moving money round the world to avoid tax ( never mind the destablisation of the congo where some of the raw materials come from)

Again, the main reason is government, with the market trying to route around the damage government causes.

David Livingston wrote:The usa supports the price of rice grown in Texas ( govt speak for subsidises ) and sells the excess in West Africa undermining the lively hood of local small farmers.

Another case of government being the problem.

David Livingston wrote:I note with some amusement the recent USA govt announcement to level charges on solar panels and washing machines.

More government being the problem.

David Livingston wrote:I think govt should be encouraging local production where ever practical  .  What do othe folks think ?


The reason most of these problems exist is that well intentioned people who don't understand or trust other people (i.e. the free market, which is just everyone making their own choices) try to impose their will land values on everyone else by using government. Add in Regulatory Capture (i.e. producers trying to use government to protect their business) and you get a messed up situation.

As has been pointed out, shipping expenses are real but often small. In comparison to the excess cost of government shipping costs are trivial and can effectively be ignored. But if we remove government's costs from the equations, the shipping costs will become more important to minimize for businesses, which will result in more local production. That will be far more effective than trying to get random bureaucrats whose jobs don't depend on getting things right to encourage local production.
1 month ago
Ever since I learned about it, I've avoided any dog food that has corn. When I first switched to cornless kibble, my dog's droppings improved a lot. There are plenty of choices available now that don't have corn.
1 month ago
This all sounds to me like it needs some AI. The sort of stuff they're using for self-driving cars should be good enough. You'd record all the variables you think might be useful, and probably some you don't think might be but possibly could be, and it figures out how to use them to calculate what you need.

Recent AI advances are even getting to the point that the AIs will be able to tell us why.

So a combined permaculture Ai program could tell you when to plant your corn, tell you not to plant certain beans by the corn because of specific conditions where the corn was planted, when and which squash to plant by the corn, and when to harvest each of them. With proper sensors it could tell you to add water or certain types of compost.

With this sort of software you wouldn't have to remember all kinds of little details, and it could maximize production. Even idiots (or those who just don't care enough to learn) could follow the instructions. Imagine if your typical suburban family could grow a bunch of their own food using this, without having to learn all about it. Because lets be real, most people are never going to care enough about permaculture to learn all they'd need to in order to do it, but if they had a handy system that made it simple it would go a long way to getting folks on board.

Google just opened up their image AI API. My first thought was that a simple app using it to take pictures of maple leaves and/or bark could be used to figure out what kind of maple tree it is you're looking at. If it isn't a good sap producer it would make great firewood, so chop it. If it is, then record its position for tapping. You might even add a route planner to the app for collecting sap.
1 month ago
This is my fourth winter using this 6" RMH.

I use a firestarter to start the fire. We make them using small paper cups (a little larger than cupcake size, but those should work), melting old bulk candles, mixing the melted wax with sawdust we scrape from the workshop floor.

When the system is cold I might need to blow hard or use a small fan. When it is warm the draft is already there so I don't need to. Lately, it has been so cold outside that I couldn't light the firestarter inside the feed tube because the draft is so strong.

One thing to watch out for is that cleaning it out with a vacuum can cause the draft to reverse. Whenever I clean out the ash I have to blow harder to restore the proper draft direction.

But I ALWAYS have a small fan, with metal blades and metal body, that fits over the feed tube. Even when it is pulling well I will find times where for some unknown reason it starts burning too high up the feed tube or smoking back. Or if I need to step out of the room for a few minutes I'll use the fan just to be sure.

It took me a while to get used to the system, so the walls all have these small round grey spots where the soot hit the colder spots on the wall where the drywall screws are; from the thermal bridging. I could paint over it but it does mean I don't need a stud finder.
2 months ago