Cristo Balete

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since May 23, 2015
Long-time Permaculturist
In the woods, West Coast USA
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Recent posts by Cristo Balete

The more finished compost you use, the faster the herbicide will break down.  Compost has a great track record for cleaning up the soil.  It will bring up worms and soil critters that will also help.

Water the area a lot to try to dilute what they put on the soil.   Turn the soil over to expose it to the sun for at least a week. If it's heavy clay, and it dries out a lot by the end of the week, just re-wet, walk away for an hour or so,  then break it up with a pitch fork or end of a shovel.   Fill in over the top of clumps of soil with thick compost, after establishing paths.  

Mounds of compost in large circles, or snaking beds, 4"-5" deep, can be planted in directly.  Mulch over the top of that with leaves or mowed grass.  The plants will get a good start.  Maintain thick layers of compost and leaf/mowed grass mulch as it shrinks down.
1 day ago
An easy hot water storage container is an insulated ice chest.  Igloo, Coleman come to mind.  They just need an out-flow pipe with a valve near the bottom to attach a low-flow shower head to. They will keep the water at about the same temp it went in at for an hour with the lid down tight, under warm-day conditions.   Not too big a chest so the water stays above the outflow pipe.  They are light weight, easy to clean, can be placed on a high shelf so the shower head is at about shoulder level.  

There are examples of this on YouTube.
1 day ago
The notion of "saving money" is about the first thing retailers say, in whatever ways.  If cheap stuff is available to buy, then why would we pay more?  Lots of reasons, actually.

I have noticed that on major retail sites, when narrowing a search for an item, they now have a choice on the left-hand side, usually, below color, size, materials,  of "Country of Origin" or "Made in America".   So they are making it easier.  One item I was looking at didn't have a single recliner chair for sale made in any other country guessed it.

Sure, a lot of good quality items come from elsewhere, other than our own countries, but as long as we make informed decisions about how much of that we want to do, being aware of what we are doing, then that's the best we can hope for.

6 days ago
In case anyone is interested, YouTube has some good videos on chainsaw tips and tricks.  This one is someone testing a cheap chainsaw, and the tree he cut has some unexpected consequences, and he has some good advice about that.

He doesn't think it's too bad, but any chainsaw that won't start without some kind of tweak isn't a good chainsaw.  He also mentions things to look for.

Testing The Cheapest Chainsaw On AMAZON

6 days ago
The other thing I've started doing in the last 3 years or so is buying top of the line equipment that's refurbished.  This not only gives me quality equipment, but it's as local as I can make it, and I didn't create the need for it in the first place.   I give business to a place that maintains/repairs and refurbishes equipment, get to know the people there, and I can depend on them.  I can tell them that I am looking for something or will be in the market for something in the next year, and let me know if something comes in.  Email works great for this.

We are at about 90% thrift store-consignment store consumers at my house, so that doesn't create the market in the first place.  It's not as quick as pointing and buying online, but making it a routine to check out a few of the second-hand stores regularly has worked.  It takes a little planning ahead.  And since we end up having to maintain our own small (and big) engines, we are a lot better off being on good terms with local handymen.

If the country can't stop importing stuff, at least we can keep it functioning and out of landfills.  

No one said that helping the planet was the cheapest way to live.  Organic food costs more than traditionally-grown food.  If we really are going to try to make a difference -- and isn't that what Permaculture is about -- then it takes a bit more effort on our part, some planning ahead, and a bit more money (which I honestly believe is offset by buying quality items), an awareness of what we are able to do in the bigger picture, and a sense that we at least tried.

6 days ago
I moved that part of the discussion about the dirty Mega Ships and electric vehicles to here:
1 week ago
Here's the article:

Container Ships Use Super-Dirty Fuel. That Needs to Change

   Author: Maria Gallucci
   08:00 am
This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The platform overlooking the Panama Canal’s Pacific exit is buzzing with energy on a muggy October afternoon. Tourists cram together, jostling for the best views of the blue container ship gliding by in the gray-green water below. The ship’s crewmembers wave from aboard the 690-foot-long vessel, smiling as they end their eight-hour, 48-mile journey.

An employee brandishing a wireless microphone—the canal’s hype man—leads the crowd in a series of cheers, his voice as bombastic as a sports announcer’s. “Let’s give them a round of applause!” he booms in Spanish and then English. The visitors heartily oblige, clapping for the sailors aboard the Greek ship named Em Corfu.

Next in line is a colossal Japanese carrier that just unloaded cars on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Its blue metal sides block out the sky. Behind that comes a red tanker hauling liquefied natural gas produced in the United States to terminals in Mexico.

Watching ships pass through the century-old Panama Canal offers a glimpse into our modern economy. Every day, vessels converge here to move billions of dollars’ worth of food, fuel, cars, clothing, raw materials, and electronics to the far corners of the world.

It’s awe-inspiring. But it’s also fairly alarming.

About 90 percent of everything we buy will travel on ships like these at some point. And all of these behemoths burn fossil fuel, contributing significantly to the warming atmosphere and shifting climate patterns.
Onlookers await the arrival of the Greek ship Em Corfu as it enters the Panama Canal in early October.
Maria Gallucci

Many cargo ships still use “bunker fuel”—the sludgy dregs of the petroleum refining process. The noxious blend is dirt-cheap, making it possible to charge next to nothing to ship goods internationally. All of which means our unbridled consumerism hitches a ride on some of the dirtiest vehicles on earth. (At least they hold tons of stuff, right?)

The industry’s reliance on high-carbon fuel poses a major stumbling block for global efforts to rein in pollution. A few companies are ramping up investment in pilot projects that use renewable fuels and cleaner technologies. And a vocal minority within the industry is clamoring for a maritime climate policy to spur more innovation. But on the whole, there’s widespread reluctance to adopt meaningful change.

Clean shipping advocates plan to spotlight the sector’s emissions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which opened on November 6 in Bonn, Germany. Known as COP23, the gathering marks two years since the world agreed in Paris on a landmark climate accord—one that the Trump administration plans to abandon. The agreement, however, excluded pollution from international shipping and aviation in its targets to limit global warming. Officials had argued that those industries don’t easily fit into national or regional emissions schemes—and so they were left to regulate themselves.

Experts say regulatory action and big, bold investments will be essential to curbing the shipping industry’s contribution to global warming. Left unchecked, its carbon footprint is expected to soar in coming decades—just as emissions from cars and power plants flatline or decline. That means shipping could cancel out progress in other sectors.

The International Maritime Organization, the industry’s main regulator, suggests that carbon emissions from shipping could shoot up as much as 250 percent by 2050 as the world’s population grows and economies expand. At that point, the European Parliament estimates the industry could produce 17 percent of global emissions, up from less than 3 percent today.

But Tristan Smith, a leading shipping researcher at University College London’s Energy Institute, notes companies still have little reason to spend their time and money building a greener cargo fleet. “A very large proportion of the sector is really not interested in doing anything until the very last minute that the regulation hits,” he says.

From the Panama Canal, a string of heavily congested highways leads to Panama City’s glitzy downtown core. At a high-rise convention center in early October, hundreds of seafarers, naval officers, and industry officials have gathered for an IMO-sponsored event.

Jorge Quijano, administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, tells the crowd the canal is doing its part to “bring about a sense of responsibility with our planet.” In January, he explains, it launched a program to reward shippers that meet high energy-efficiency standards or use low-sulfur and lower-carbon fuels, including cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas. Companies that do so can boost their standing in the canal’s ranking system for determining who gets priority access to the waterway.
Tristan Smith of University College London’s Energy Institute says that, without a major regulatory push, shipping will never change its polluting ways.

International Transport Forum

The industry finds initiatives like these, which encourage upgrades but not drastic overhauls, generally palatable—they promote good behavior without overtly punishing status quo ships.

But shipping executives like John Lyras bristle at the notion of setting ambitious sector-wide targets for reducing shipping emissions and total fuel consumption. Such efforts, he argued earlier this fall, won’t make any sense until cleaner maritime technologies actually exist at commercial scale.

“If we really want to reduce CO2 emissions to zero today we can do it in two ways: We can stop trading, or we can go back to sail,” the Greek shipowner said while speaking on a panel at the International Chamber of Shipping’s conference in London.

The pushback from executives like Lyras comes as more progressive voices are increasingly clamoring for the introduction of so-called “zero-emissions” ships, which don’t directly produce any greenhouse gas emissions. A research consortium comprised of major shipping companies and academic institutes asserts such vessels must start entering the mainstream cargo market by 2030. By 2050, the group says, nearly all operating cargo ships must generate zero emissions in order to fall in line with the Paris agreement goal of keeping global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels.

Proponents say it can happen if the industry doesn’t drag its feet. “We’re not saying you have to decarbonize right now,” says Smith of University College London. “You just have to start the process of figuring it out.”

Over the next two weeks in Germany, UN negotiators and thousands of other participants will gather to discuss not only promising ship technologies but also strategies to convince an old-fashioned industry to embrace new ideas.

Diane Gilpin, who’s helping organize a pro-climate shipping event that will take place on the cruise ship Rhine Fantasy, tells Grist about the sector’s reluctance to go green. Gilpin once worked to introduce mobile devices to British corporations. Now, she’s leading an effort to build a 100 percent renewable cargo vessel. She says the shipping industry’s apprehension reminds her of the late ‘90s and early 2000s when many people saw the cell phones they’re now wholly consumed by as frivolous and costly.

“Because we never had cell phones before, we didn’t think we needed them,” she explains. Gilpin describes her current work trying to change the shipping industry as “a human challenge in having people accept change.”

The most prominent options for powering a ship without fossil fuels include hydrogen, batteries, sustainably produced biofuels, and wind-assisted technologies that can reduce fuel use. All of these are being used or tested in small-scale vessels—primarily passenger ferries or supply boats that keep close to shore. But if any are going to gain favor in the mainstream shipping industry, today’s reigning champion—ultra-cheap bunker fuel—will need a price tag that reflects its true environmental cost.

According to a recent report by the global shipping services company Lloyd’s Register and University College London, about 75 percent of companies agree that forcing shippers to pay for carbon emissions is required to make a zero-emissions fleet a reality. The IMO would likely oversee such a program, and it plans to adopt an interim strategy for reducing greenhouse gases caused by shipping in April 2018. But the regulatory body doesn’t expect an agreement on actual pollution targets until 2023.
International Maritime Organization Secretary-General Kitack Lim speaks at the International Transport Forum’s 2016 summit on “Green and Inclusive Transport” in Leipzig, Germany.
International Transport Forum

The IMO is made up of 172 member countries. Getting all of them, as well as the world’s top shipping groups, to sign on to a set of goals would undoubtedly be a hard-fought and controversial process. Take as proof the latest round of IMO talks in October, which included discussion of slashing carbon emissions by 2100. A group of Pacific island and European nations pushed for drastic cuts by mid-century, while Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, and the International Chamber of Shipping proposed a far less aggressive approach.

As country representatives went back and forth, InfluenceMap, a nonprofit that tracks corporations’ impact on climate policy, published a report accusing shipping lobbying groups of holding “unmatched power” over IMO decisions. Those groups resoundingly denounced the report, and IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim defended the organization’s neutrality. But one shipping executive—Andrew Craig-Bennett, who works for the UK subsidiary of Chinese shipping giant Cosco—stirred the pot even further in a widely shared opinion piece.

“We can feel nothing but contempt and disgust at the prostitutes employed by our racket to try to put one over on the general public,” he wrote with a sailor-worthy flourish.

Ultimately, the most effective driver for steering shipping away from its high-carbon path may come from outside the industry. The customers who place their goods on the ships are likely the best lever for forcing the sector to go green.

That’s the solution Maurice Meehan sees as a key way forward. Meehan is director of shipping operations at the Carbon War Room, a nonprofit founded by Virgin’s Richard Branson to promote business-oriented climate solutions. He previously worked with shipping giant Maersk.

As he explains, companies that produce all the T-shirts, smartphones, sneakers, and goods that are shipped around the world have substantial leverage with their logistics providers. If climate-conscious companies push their shippers to do more about reducing vessels’ carbon footprints, the industry would have to change. Dirtier ships would face a competitive disadvantage if manufacturers got serious about slashing supply-chain emissions.

“That’s a great approach,” Meehan says by phone from Copenhagen on a call in September. “Now you’ve got shipping going, ‘Whoa, wait, if we don’t have plans to meet the target our customer has set, we’re not going to be in the market in a few years?’”

Meehan says his team is talking with big users of cargo ships, such as apparel companies, to help them target shipping-related emissions. As part of that, Carbon War Room is developing tools to make it easier for companies to choose vessels with lower emissions and better efficiency—or at least ensure their products aren’t loaded onto the worst offenders.

But this approach is still in its early days, Meehan says. Most brands and shipping companies alike remain reluctant to do anything that would raise the cost of transporting goods or the final price tag. That’s largely because end users—you and me—still prefer buying a lot of cheap stuff.

If the Panama Canal illustrates the shipping sector’s climate challenge, it’s also a showcase for the industry’s progress to date. Alexis Rodriguez, the environmental protection specialist for the Panama Canal Authority, says many of the newer vessels passing through the canal today “have more efficient engines and more efficient designs.”
A container ship navigates through the Cocoli Locks in the expanded Panama Canal in late June.
REUTERS/Carlos Lemos

On a recent morning, he pulled his spotless black minivan into the parking lot of the Cocoli Locks, the Pacific entrance to the newly expanded canal system. The $5.25 billion, nine-year expansion can accommodate colossal “mega ships,” like the 1,200-foot-long Theodore Roosevelt, that couldn’t pass through the original locks.

We’re here to greet a forest green container ship named Ever Living. The vessel, which is bringing Asian-made goods to ports on the U.S. East Coast, has an “optimized” hull design made from lightweight steel that makes it easier to move through water and thus cuts down on fuel use. Once docked, the ship can plug into shore-side electrical power and turn off its oil-burning engines, a process known as “cold ironing” that reduces local air pollution. Thanks to its larger-than-average size, Ever Living can also, in theory, burn less fuel and release fewer emissions for every unit of goods it carries, compared to smaller vessels.

Such upgrades are positive signs, but green fleet advocates like University College London’s Tristan Smith say a bigger, sustained push is required. Recent shipping data shows that efficiency gains might not be enough to offset rising fuel consumption and emissions in a growing industry.

Better designs and data analytics barely move the needle when it comes to decarbonizing the global shipping industry, Smith explains. “I would call them marginal improvements in efficiency, which do a tiny amount to get us nowhere near where we need to go.”

For shipping to play its part in fighting climate change, vessels crossing this canal and traversing the world’s waters will need a more radical redesign—and in just a few decades’ time. Delivering on demand for lower-emissions vessels could be the industry’s most arduous journey of all.
1 week ago
This article is in response to another discussion in the Gear forum about cheap vs. expensive equipment.  

Since I assume this audience here wants to help the planet, wants to keep things organic, safe, and help stop climate change, one of the things I see happening on the West Coast is the massive shipments of goods brought on polluting ships, that don't hold up, items that need to be repaired and replaced much more often than quality goods, then go into landfills by the ton, only to off-gas and pollute as they break down under the soil, near our clean water sources.

This article is about how the Mega ships/container ships are polluting the oceans, while leading us to believe that buying cheap quality items is good for us.

The Mega Ships that come from China, that pass by every day of the week here on the West Coast, many, many of them, that are on their way up the West Coast, have millions and millions of cheap items that break down way before they should, go into landfills that become toxic, and pollute the drinking water and then the sea water.  

And the kind of fuel those ships use, there are no restrictions on it, no environmental laws protecting the ocean/fish/environment or us from it.

I haven't found any quality machinery-type items that stand up to wear and tear, and salt air, and freezing that have been made in that country.  I'm sorry to say it, because we're all pretty open minded on the coasts.  But I will avoid any tools, clothes, plastics, machinery and food from there.  Just go breathe the air in the plastics or car/bike department of a Walmart, it's really creepy smelling air.  And that's from all that stuff off-gassing and breaking down.  And that's why it doesn't last.

And when millions and millions of us order goods from the internet, they often get shipped by polluting mega container ships from a place that produces items that fall apart.  Is anyone noticing that plastic containers for storage are cracking and disintegrating within a couple of years, even if they aren't in the sun?  The lids go first, then the sides crack, and they are impossible to use.  Nowhere else to put them but landfills.

Then the goods get delivered by stinking diesel trucks to every single house in a neighborhood, day after day after day, one item at a time, every single house.   And that made me wonder, what's the point of using an electric vehicle when we employ diesel trucks to do that delivery for us?

About the electric vehicles, I'll just say a little something, since this isn't on the topic here, the West Coast is full of them.  They are excellent vehicles that can get upwards of 250,000 miles on them with very little maintenace, hybrids,  without having to buy much gas at all.   They save a ton of money, and a ton of gas.  A lot of people have solar setups so they can charge the all-electric vehicles, and are only paying for the cost of the solar equipment that can last 20+ years.  Some car companies are actually laying off workers in the gas-engine parts of their plants, and hiring more for the electric cars they plan to develop.  They are good vehicles, but if we employ more and more diesel delivery trucks to delivery our stuff, I'm not sure what good it's doing.

1 week ago
Since your biggest investment is your house, check your foundation, basement, garage, and any cement pads; are there any issues with cracking cement?  Is the water affecting any part of the soil under your house, where it's always damp?  That's the runoff or ponding that may not really show.   Are pipes under the house shifting (laundry, blackwater, gas pipes) causing slow exit from the house?  Is anything backing up inside?  If there's any sign of shifting, then uphill from that should have some water diversion.  If it's ground water that you can't really see, then you should consult an engineer who can create a plan with underground pipes that divert the water.

If it's just runoff during a heavy downpour there are runoff creeks that can be established that are "fake creeks," a snaking, garden design kind of gully lined with cobble stones and few big boulders for interest.  That can go off the property, but not onto your neighbors' property, or you might cause them water issues, and then there's real trouble.

Since you've lived there a while, there must be footpaths you use most of the time.  Those can be a foundational starting point, because they indicate how you prefer to get where you're going.  They probably avoid whatever muddy situation is created by the runoff and are in good locations.   Those footpaths are nice to have them wide enough so two people can walk side by side, so 4 feet.  That is also helpful if you put a wheelbarrow or tools on the footpath, you can still get around them without stepping on plants.  Yards around houses can have a bigger scale of design than just a cow path width.  

Then consider the style of garden you want, peaceful Japanese with lots of rock, or English with lots of flowers, or native plantings, or modern with stone walls, formal with cement, casual with brick pathways and walls, vegetables with flowers, etc.  That's easy to research on the internet, find something that makes you say, "Ahhhhhh," and that you keep wanting to find in pictures.   Try not to make everything fit in tightly, so you have room to move when working on plants, it saves your back, gives you room to take tools and glove/clipper containers with you.  

Do you really want all those trees, or is one enough?  There might be more issues with shade and mold, especially on the roof or around windows or the foundation on damp soil.  

Since you've got a southern exposure, there is the possibility for passive solar heat and more light into your house if the trees are not there, unless that's too hot in the summer.  But if mold and droppings from the trees seem like an issue, maybe just one tree for summer shade might work just as well out front, and open up some area for planting.

If you don't really want to garden, then perennial landscape is easy enough, shade plants in front under the big trees like rhododendrons, azaleas, hostas, then add something more structural for interest, like a terraced hillside, a sitting area with a bench made with rock or stone pavers, whatever is appealing.  

It's really helpful to draw out a bird's-eye view plan.  Draw it in as many ways as you can think of, have a plan.  Use colored pencils, and graph paper with real sizes.   I used to like to work off the cuff, spontaneously doing one section at a time, but I usually ended up having to redo it.  A lot of ideas, practical and creative, will come to mind when there are fewer distractions at the table, than out in the garden, in my experience.

1 week ago
One more thing about always ordering equipment/parts over the internet from foreign countries....they get shipped to the US in ships that use the worst possible diesel fuel on the planet.  It pollutes the most, it floats on top of the water as it is used.  And we get a belt, a chain, whatever part off Amazon or some site, one small thing adds to the terrible pollution.  Then it gets delivered by a truck run on diesel fuel.   Neighborhoods these days have diesel trucks coming through, to each house, day after day after day.   How can that be good for the air where the kids play and we have windows open?   We create the market for products that have a downside.

What's the point of driving an electric vehicle when we create a demand for vehicles using diesel to jump in use to the point that it starts affecting the planet we live on?
1 week ago