Ashley Reyson

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since Sep 05, 2014
North Texas
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Recent posts by Ashley Reyson

I just tripped over this ad:
TLDR is he has lots of new fire brick available for $1/brick or a pallet of 684 for $200.

That's perhaps 90 minutes from me, but I think it's a very good price. Is it?

How much do you pay for fire brick?

If there's others in the area that want to go in together on a pallet I'd be open to it.

(Should I have posted this in the Missoula forum instead? Moderators please feel free to move it if appropriate.)
4 months ago
I’m sheet mulching to replace a bit of lawn with something productive. Given it’s neighborhood visibility, my sheet mulch isn’t layers of straw, manure, etc... but rather ten inches of well decomposed compost over a couple layers of cardboard. The compost is largely wood based.

I’m seeding this with white clover and initially planting various things - pumpkins, squash, melons, comfrey, possibly daikon, and various berries.

Question: Is is appropriate to innoculate the sheet mulch compost with king stopharia? Or, does it need raw wood chips that aren’t already composted?

This is less about producing the mushrooms to eat (though that would be nice) than about putting lots of good living things into the newly established area to help it blossom with productivity and maybe even look good enough to infect a few neighbors with the idea of productive lawn alternatives.
5 months ago
What to plant over sheet mulch? That odd question deserves a few details...

I'm in a temporary location, for another 1-4 years. The landlord says I can do anything with the yard. It's currently grass and weeds yielding no value and costing time & energy it doesn't deserve. I'd like to contribute to a little less lawn and a little more productive ground in the world. However, I won't take this on all at once.

I'm about to plant a whole bunch of wicking beds for growing food, and some of these are quite large. Buying compost by the bag is prohibitive in this quantity. Instead I'll buy bulk at $20/yd delivered with a $100 minimum. I don't need 5 yards but I'm paying for it so I'll take delivery. Extra compost? Ha! I'll use the extra, with a bit of furniture store cardboard, to sheet mulch a chunk of the lawn right out of the sunniest part. This moves toward my eventual lawn free desires, and adds productive space. Win!

As sheet mulch will eliminate the grass (and the dandelions and mullein that hint at a compaction problem)... I need to plant something immediately. It's tempting to go wild and plant the whole space in squash, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, pumpkins, etc... but since this is side yard on a corner lot in a somewhat suburban neighborhood... and since I'd like to retain the landlord's open minded attitude... I feel the need to plant at least A. something that covers the ground more than just annually, and B. some perennial bushes that make it look like intentional landscaping even if they are food.

Whatever I do could easily expand and I'd happily consume all the lawn, but not until I prove to myself I can make it look decent and keep the landlord and neighbors happy. (No major neighbor or HOA issues now, just want to keep it that way, and perhaps give them free food from the side yard to promote the relationship.) I can grow things, but I'm not so sure of my skills in beautiful landscape design... and with 5 yards of compost ordered to arrive Friday night it's time for a simple planting plan and seed order now.

This is zone 5b (-15 to -10F) though we got below -20 briefly this year. I'm near and slightly east of Missoula MT. I'm sure I'll try some raspberries and currants. I'll save blueberries for the wicking beds where I can control ph. I may also buy a few of whatever fruit trees go on closeout at the home stores soon. But I definitely need to figure out what perennial or self-reseeding annuals should be there for a ground cover or cover crop so I'm not leaving bare soil after sheet mulching.

What would you plant? All suggestions welcome! Success = less lawn, more food, and happy neighbors. Smashing success = neighbors copying the pattern.

6 months ago
Just found this... too late.

Where can one purchase/rent/stream this video today?

I found
Are there better/worse channels based on what goes to the filmmaker?
How did I not find this thread sooner??? Yona, thank you for a magnificent question!

What sort of grand-scale research needs to be done in the permaculture community?

Here's a few things high on my list if I ever find myself with more time than stuff to do... Some are research in the science sense, and some or more about engineering guidelines, but both are directly useful for projects in my future.

Test the effects of waterproof umbrella with and without insulation on soil temperature vs. depth. My intention here is directly related to wofati design, but it's useful information for other earth sheltered buildings, and even for conventional buildings with horizontal insulation around their foundation.
  • The experimental setup would be a series of shafts drilled 12 - 20 feet deep. Each shaft has a set of temperature sensors lowered in, positioned perhaps a foot apart, then the shaft is backfilled. All sensors for all shafts would be connected to a data logger, as would one more sensor which detects ambient air temperature.
  • One shaft would be the control, having the sensors as described above and no other treatment. The hypothesis is that temperature in this shaft will follow change in ambient air temperature, but as we go deeper the temperature swings less and the time lag from surface change is longer.
  • A second shaft would have an umbrella over it, wofati style, spread perhaps 10 to 20 feet to each side of the shaft. The hypothesis is that the temperature swings observed in this shaft will occur slower than the control, especially when there is precipitation which wets the soil and speeds the temperature change in the control. Perhaps adding soil moisture sensors to both shafts would also be useful.
  • A third shaft would have an umbrella over it, then an insulation layer, and then another umbrella to keep the insulation dry... exactly like a wofati. The hypothesis is that temperature swings observed in this shaft will occur much slower than either prior shaft.
  • Additional shafts could be used with different insulation amounts, thereby determining the amount of insulation necessary to stabilize the temperature within a desired range, given a specified depth.

  • Test a freezer wofati
    As long as we're looking at wofati related things, I believe Paul is still keen to build and test a freezer wofati.
    Threads elsewhere on this site explain that.

    Rocket Mass Heater related research
  • Measure temperatures in various parts of a RMH J-tube, exploring various design/size options and how they impact temperature distribution.
  • Measure combustion efficiency from a RMH, as measured by exit gasses (as Peter V has done in recent innovator's events), and tweak both J-tube and batch box designs to explore the factors that affect the efficiency.

  • Various building materials experiments...
  • Experiment with various aircrete mixes, standardizing ingredients and process to produce them, and publish data on compressive strength, tensile strength (very low), density, etc.
  • Experiment with aircrete mixes with specifically avoid portland cement, determining which alternative materials (pozzalans, MgO solutions, etc) are viable, and publishing needed data for mix design and strength.
  • Determine whether straw bale insulation is viable below grade, if adequately waterproofed. Explanation... Mike Oeler's & Paul Wheaton argue that a wood pole foundation will not rot quickly, as long as it's kept dry. If correct, this seems to eliminate the principal concern with using strawbales for sub-grade insulation... so bury straw bales that are waterproofed with a reasonable DIY natural building technique, perhaps plastering them, then putting a wofati style umbrella over them... then dig them up years later and measure if and how much degradation or decay has occurred.

  • Waste management...
    There are soooo many different arguments about composting toilet designs. In the humanure handbook, Jenkins publishes many years of very useful data, but many people have fecophobia and don't want to use the bucket system. So, we need a side by side comparison of the many other systems vying for this space... Paul Wheaton's willow feeders, clivus multrum, worm based systems, etc. I believe that Paul and Fred might have strongly different opinions in this area and it could be fun to engage them and learn from both.

    Solar thermal...
    I'd love to measure the efficiency of various collectors (either solar water or solar air heating), but not the thermal efficiency (output energy / input sunlight) because that's not critical when the input energy is free. Rather, I'd like to measure their economic efficiency (output energy / input $ to construct). Test results of the economic efficiency of various standard collector designs could be very useful for DIYers and permies everywhere.

    And if we really want to get wild, research the potential for homestead scale power generation with ringbom stirling engines powered by the temperature differential between stable earth temperature and atmospheric temperature.
    That one probably demands a little explanation...
  • Stirling engines are external combustion engines. They don't burn fuel internally, they operate from the temperature differential between a hot side and a cool side. For example, you could focus a concentrating solar collector on the hot side of a stirling engine and it will go.
  • There is a class of stirling engines, known as ringbom stirling engines, which is specifically designed to run on very low temperature differentials, sometimes less than ten degrees.
  • Such a temperature differential could easily be provided by the difference between deep earth temperature (12 to 20 feet is enough to be reasonably stable), and atmospheric temperature during the high and low temperature parts of the day.
  • Research area #1 - for a given climate area, examine the theoretical power available from the ground to air temperature differential, based on historic temperature swings vs time of year. Consider the size of heat exchanger needed in the ground to ensure the power generated doesn't cease due to local ground heating or cooling faster than the temperature change can be dissipated within the surrounding earth. Consider the size of atmospheric heat exchanger needed and viable technologies for it. Based on these heat exchanger sizes and costs, is the theoretically available power economically feasible?
  • Note - the efficiency of stirling engines is very close to the carnot cycle, meaning that their efficiency is proportional to the magnitude of the difference between the hot side temperature and the cold side. This means that ringbom stirling engines, being designed to operate on low temperature differentials, are fundamentally designed to be highly inefficient. At one level this is irrelevant if the input energy is free, but that doesn't mean it's economically a good idea.
  • Research area #2 - if the theoretical numbers work, then design and test solutions to actually do this.

  • There's tons of research opportunities around various geothermal heating/cooling solutions for DIY/natural building...
    The WOFATI is one example.
    People operating greenhouses which circulate their air through systems of pipes beneath the greenhouse are another example.

    And this list is just getting warmed up... there's so much more...

    8 months ago
    Malcom, in my earlier reply I suggested Sergiy Yurko's youtube channel as a source of super cheap solar designs. However, I just discovered that he has a video that's much more relevant to your specific project than the link I originally posted.

    Here's the better link... To make Solar hot water supply: simple and cheap. This is his take on a solar shower. It's a bit more involved than many of his other collectors, but more applicable to your project.

    8 months ago
    Sauerkraut, my first time ever!

    Two ways - cabbage only, and carrots + beets + cabbage

  • Save a few big outer cabbage leaves to top the mix... see details below.
  • Slice cabbage thinly. (Mandolin or V-slicer rocks for this, just quarter the head first, leaving part of the core in each quarter to hold it together.)
  • Julienne the carrots and beets, ie 1/8" square by up to 3" long.

  • For a 1/2 gallon canning jar (as in photos below), done with cabbage only, put 3.5 lbs of cabbage in a large bowl with 2 Tbs salt. (Metric is better for this, because you want salt to be 2-3% of the weight of the vegetables... so 3.5 lbs = 1589 g, so you want 32 - 48 g of salt. I went with about 36g.)
  • Mix the cabbage / salt together well.
  • Allow it to sit for 30 - 60 minutes and the cabbage will start to sweat and brine will appear in the bottom of the bowl. You can skip the wait if you're willing to massage it together vigorously to accelerate the process. Why fight nature... just wait.
  • Pack the cabbage into the canning jar. A canning funnel is very helpful for this. When the jar is full, use whatever you have on hand to squish it tightly down to the bottom. I used the back end of a large soup ladle. A big wooden kraut pounder like the one in Robbie's 3rd photo above would be very nice for this. After squishing vigorously, add more cabbage and repeat. The quantities above should fit in a 1/2 gallon canning jar with a couple inches headspace.
  • Be sure to pour all the brine from the bowl into the jar. Ideally it will completely cover the vegetables. If it doesn't, see brine directions below.
  • Take one of the cabbage leaves you saved at the beginning, tear it to size, then use it to cover the top of the solution in the jar so nothing floats up. (I went a little big and pushed the edges down so it's like an umbrella. This wasn't a brilliant idea as you'll hear later.)
  • I you have something to help hold the vegetables under the surface, put it in now. Options include canning weights, clean washed rocks, or a 4oz canning jar sitting right on top.
  • If you don't have enough brine to completely cover the vegetables then make some and add it (1C water + 1/2 Tbs salt). Leave some headspace though.
  • If you have an airlock top, put that on. Otherwise just make sure the vegetables stay under the surface.

  • For the second canning jar I mixed julienned carrots and beets with about 2lbs of sliced cabbage, to bring the weight up to 3.5 lbs. All the rest of the directions are the same. However, the cabbage only jar released enough brine that additional wasn't essential. The jar that had some carrots and beets didn't release enough brine to cover things well, so I mixed some up as directed above, and brought both jars up to roughly even levels.

    Two late notes...
    1. I got a surprise after about 36 hours... the gas bubbles coming from the ferment in one jar got trapped under the cabbage leaf I put on top and started to push it up. After the gas bubble got reallly big I opened the jar up, pushed the cabbage leaf down to "burp" it, and tore the edge a little so hopefully the gas will escape on it's own next time.
    2. I think that being picky to keep everything under the top of the brine (with the cabbage leaf, weights, etc) is not essential if you're using airlocks like I did here. I think that things reaching the surface is only a problem if there's oxygen there... and it should be pushed out through the airlocks by the gasses coming from the ferment. But that's what I think from reading recipes, and I'm no expert.

    8 months ago
    I think you're right that Qnergy isn't in the game at that level. As fun as stirling engines are conceptually, if the goal is electric power generation from wood, one can purchase a turnkey wood gassifier with generator that has much more output for much less money.

    The Melvin engine may be a start, but now that you're getting me interested in this topic again... I think a serious focus on wood powered electricity requires some adjustments to that approach.

    If I recall correctly, an ideal stirling engine's efficiency is carnot efficiency, meaning that it's efficiency is a function of the hot/cold temperature differential.
    That implies that we'd be nuts to not put the hot side of the stirling engine in the highest temperature place possible. A first cut at that would be right on top of the J tube, certainly not heat transfer via a hose.

    The limiting factor in this is of course the materials in the engine. My recollection from Paul's 8 DVD set is that the innovator's event RMH's of the last few years are routinely running around 2500F and some are getting above 3000F.

    8 months ago
    Brian, thank you for this topic. Please keep us in the loop as you learn more. I  stopped watching Stirling engines a few years ago, but I agree that coupling one with a RMH is interesting.

    If they want  1000C, I'm curious about their materials on the hot end, and especially how much higher they could handle without damage.

    If the form factor works, I'd love to mount the hot end directly above the  J tube, right in the center of the barrel. It poses some interesting fabrication challenges sealing the joint, but placing it there has two big advantages...
  • Peak temperature input for the Stirling engine
  • Positioning the cooling effect there should help the barrel's down draft.

  • If this starts to look viable, I'll enjoy calculating the amount of firewood necessary to produce  10kw for an hour.

    8 months ago
    This should give Paul a huge wofati I-told-you-so moment...

    Inside the referenced site, there's quite a few pdfs. One of them, here, is a guide for DIYers wanting to start a Deep Winter Greenhouse. In the section on construction costs, they discuss foundation options (see page 7), and mention that while a block foundation may last 100 years, a "post frame construction with subsurface plywood" may be a more cost effective option.

    So, we have a University study acknowledging, in passing, foundation construction with wood posts in the ground. (I see Paul laughing.) Now, if they could only catch up with the decades old PAHS work that suggests earth berming the N/E/W sides of the structure and enclosing those berms with an insulated umbrella.

    Oh wait... didn't John Hait's work originally happen at the University of Minnesota also? And it does seem they're still at it - see here, here, and here.

    8 months ago