Robin Katz

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since May 10, 2015
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Recent posts by Robin Katz

Brenda, can you post a few pictures of the framing and plywood? Is the mold just on the framing or in the plywood too? Solid wood can be sanded to remove the worst stains, dried then painted to seal in any residual spores. Plywood is a little more difficult depending on the extent of the water damage. OSB is bad when it gets wet since it's candy to mold and loses some structural integrity.

Good call on not putting in insulation until you're sure the mold is taken care of.
2 months ago

paul wheaton wrote:  The trick is that when somebody asks "why?" and you can't tell which type of question it is.  

I tend to have the same reactions to the "why?" question and it is much harder when I'm not face to face with the questioner. I have found that after the third time answering and/or clarifying the same question, I'm done. Either I suck at explaining myself or the person really doesn't want the answer and it's all about forcing me to justify my thoughts or behavior. In either case, there is no good reason to continue any discussion.

The real kicker is when the questioner finishes the "discussion" with a deliberate misinterpretation of my response to them. That's someone I'll never talk to again because I know they're just jacking with me and trying to keep me on the hook.

The unfortunate outcome of dealing with those kinds of people is that it makes me less likely to answer the "why?" question from someone who sincerely wants to know.
Those are some nice plants and especially welcome this time of the year. I haven't tried with herbs yet so that's a good idea.

I regrow celery and it's worked well for me too since I like the green leafy part in soups. I'm regrowing onions right now and harvesting the green part.

One of my favorites this time of year is taking garlic cloves that are sprouting and planting them about 1 inch apart in a pot and letting it grow to 6+ inches before pulling the whole plant. I love green garlic flavor. I start a new pot every week so there is a constant supply, at least until I run out of cloves.

I've regrown butter head lettuce from the "living lettuce" heads that you can find in most stores. It does well in the house, then replanted in the garden.
3 months ago
We use stevia in our tea but that's about it. I don't cook with it.

We tend to use fruit in various forms for sweetening foods. We've been off refined sugar, honey, fructose, etc. for almost 30 years due to the effect on my health. I don't have the same problems with whole fruits.

Bananas are great as a sweetener in desserts. One of our faves is fresh/frozen raspberries cooked with chopped bananas and just a trace of salt.

I've used canned pineapple in it's own juice as a sweetener with rhubarb and strawberry. The combination is nice.

I just recently made seed/nut/cocoa balls using chopped dry cherries for a bit of sweetness. The combination is really good. Other finely chopped dried fruits would have worked just as well and they provide more flavor and nutrition than just sugar.

Someone already mentioned dates and date syrup. Those are great but I use them in moderation because they are very sweet to me.

In general I try to use the sweeter fruits to balance the more tart fruits or to just sweeten a dish. The combinations are endless.

Malt syrup is good for baked goods. Same with rice syrup.
3 months ago
If you're interested in Chinese Herbology, I suggest Rocky Mountain Herbal Institute ( I studied with Roger way back in the early 90s and he teaches excellent fundamentals and yet keeps up with new issues in treatment such as heavy metal toxicity. He doesn't support certification and you can learn more on this directly from him. His training is online now, the price is reasonable, and there are various levels of training depending upon your goals. This isn't a "light" training by any means. There is a lot of information that requires time to learn and practice.

I've also studied Western herbology for 45+ years but the approach of TCM has been far more useful for me since it's a whole body assessment and treatment.  Not just treatment of symptoms.

Good luck in whichever path you choose.
3 months ago
Our area was Zone 6a and is now 6b. But, and it's a big but, we just had cold snap and hit -26F (Zone 4a). And a few years ago we were in the infamous heat dome and were at 105+F where we are typically not above the 90s. With these extreme events, planting for the average is not as useful as it used to be.

I've started planting a wider variety of seeds for cold, heat, drought, wet, etc. so that in any one year, I should get a decent harvest. I just purchased greenhouse shade cloth to drape over three of my main garden beds when temperatures get above 95F (and they will). We'll see how that works this summer and if it's worth the cost.

Mulch is my best friend in the garden. It helps to buffer deep cold in winter, heat in summer, and holds water during the dry periods. But it can also rob soil of water if not used correctly.

Even more important, I'm working on building healthy soil so that the life in the soil can help keep my plants resilient during extreme weather.

I'm always interested in techniques that others have used successfully.
4 months ago
Gabriel, we did the exact thing you are planning. The area around our house had been stripped of topsoil for construction and the topsoil mounded nearby. We started building beds with logs, local mullein for green biomass, wood chips, branches, and topped it all off with a few inches of soil from the mounds. The beds are very productive even though all of the trees are conifers.

As others have pointed out, taking from the forest should be done responsibly, but we haven't seen any issues with using forest soil.
4 months ago
[quote=Marie Gen] My area gets maybe 10 days a year of temperatures over 30C 86F and since i'm not that far from the St-Lawrence river i get quite nice winds. I plan to have a roll down panel with bugscreen the whole lenght of the greenhouse, an 8'X8' door on the west side (predominant summer wind) and another opening on the east side to get as much ventilation as possible. Do you think that would be enough for ventilation?[/quote]

It seems like there is a lot of variation on what's suggested for passive heat management in greenhouses. One source says that the ridge ventilation area should be equal to the lower (incoming air) ventilation area, which makes sense to me. Also, each area should equal 20% of the footprint of the greenhouse. This seems like a decent rule of thumb, but it still comes down to the amount of polycarbonate exposed to sun vs. air exchanges per minute to remove the heat. And of course having steady winds to drive the air movement is a big bonus in summer.

The course I took on greenhouse design made it very clear that ventilation is the one parameter that is usually under-sized. What shocked me was that during summer, ventilation should be in the range of 1-2 air exchanges per minute (not hour!). That's a lot of air that needs to move all the time. Although the outside temperature definitely has an impact on cooling/heating, it's the sun shining on the poly that drives the heat up so fast.

One thing you might consider is using metallic shade cloth in the summer. You can get it in various levels of light blocking, and this will help a lot with heat management. In the summer your plants will still get plenty of light due to the long days.
4 months ago
Hi Marie.

By far the biggest source of heat loss in winter is the polycarbonate so having all the walls and ceiling poly will bleed out heat really fast. Using poly only on the south side reduces your heat loss dramatically in the winter.

Also, most people think that keeping a greenhouse warm is the biggest problem and that's certainly a challenge where you are. But cooling in summer is a much larger problem since the greenhouse can turn into an oven in less than an hour without a LOT of ventilation. So replacing the poly on the west and north walls with insulated walls will reduce the incoming heat that you won't need or want in summer, and reduce heat loss in winter.

I suggest looking into the basics of greenhouse design and operation before spending a lot of money on a structure. There are a lot of factors to consider, especially if you plan to live inside the greenhouse for any amount of time.

Regarding privacy or anyone knowing what is on the property, there is no such thing as privacy with the satellites taking detailed pictures of the earth. If someone want to know what's on your land, they only need to look up the latest pictures available from many sources online. That doesn't have to stop you from doing what you want to, but it's something to consider.

Good luck and welcome to Permies.
4 months ago
I have lavender under one of my apple trees and both are doing well.
4 months ago