Daniel Schmidt

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since Jun 16, 2015
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solar tiny house woodworking
Jacksonville, FL
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Recent posts by Daniel Schmidt

Native and naturalized trees in your region should grow very easily. For me there are tons of trees like live oak, red maple, long leaf pine, and southern red cedar are the most common trees around where it is extremely easy to find seeds and plant them. You can also find seedlings growing in places people don't want them and transplant them. I've also done things like avocado and loquat, although I've had terrible luck with Hass avocado seeds not doing well and my Florida variety one grew very well until an early frost killed it. Loquats grow great for me.

I usually just try to emulate the forest when planting trees or seeds. Most trees aren't going to drop a single seed, so planting more than you need will give better success. Mulch or debris from under larger trees can help with moisture retention, fungal growth, and nutrients.

I've had a few mystery trees that grew from seed and I noticed them when they were too small to properly identify. One was a black gum which is now taller than me, another was a sweet bay that unfortunately died from a lack of water while I was away rebuilding a car engine. A third ended up being a key lime from kitchen scraps which I still have, but has been infected with citrus greening like all of the other citrus around here. It doesn't grow well but refuses to die, and key lime leaves have lime flavor so it is still useful.

While not from seed, I got a fig tree on clearance for $6 and made a bunch of trees off of that from cuttings. They can struggle with nematodes and grubs here so it is nice that I can just clip off a few small pieces and grow them in to new trees. I need to try that with mulberry, another local native, as well as from seed. I saved up a bunch of star fruit seeds that I'm also going to try planting.
I'm guessing the answer is a great big 'it depends'. If you have panels listed at ~20V max power and panels listed as being high 30's to ~40V then they would probably be for 12V nominal and 24V nominal, respectively. Do you have any pictures or links to manufacturers websites for these panels, and a count of how many of each? Do you have other infrastructure for solar in place (wiring, batteries, inverters)? What MPPT charge controller do you have, or were you talking in future tense and haven't bought one yet? What is your planned usage for the power?

The answers to those and other questions would help put you on a good path towards getting the most from your panels. I would try and separate out which panels work with which nominal voltage (12V, 24V, or whatever) and if you have a few larger panels of similar power output then you might be able to use them easily with a good MPPT charge controller. Without specs it is hard to say. With the panels that are lower wattage, different voltage, or otherwise oddball from the majority, I would look at the much cheaper PWM charge controllers. You might not get the best efficiency possible out of the panels used this way, but if you already have panels just waiting to charge batteries then it can certainly work. I got a cheap $30 one off of Amazon around 5 years ago or more and it still seems to work fine and using the same pair of batteries that I started with. It probably wouldn't make sense to get a bunch of really expensive MPPT charge controllers for each individual panel, but it also wouldn't make sense to leave a bunch of perfectly good panels in the dark indefinitely.

I personally love the idea that a set of panels, along with the charge controller, batteries, and other related hardware, can be set up similarly to a single branch circuit in a house. Flip the breaker and only those loads applied to that branch are affected. Taking a boatload of panels, stringing them all to one point, buying a massive charge controller, connecting them to a single massive bank of batteries means you have numerous points of failure that can shut down all of your energy should a failure occur. I guess it really depends on whether you are grid-tied, or using it in a house where you need to pass inspection vs off-grid in a shed or something.
1 week ago
I'm not entirely sure if there is a pressure issue or not, but I have been down this road before with the fuel lines being different diameters in the past. What I did was put some boiling water in a mug to warm it up and found a nail of appropriate diameter to push it on to in order to stretch out the hose. It took several tries of pushing it on and putting it back in the water to soften up, but eventually I got the end swaged out enough. I also did the same thing on a car much more recently by heating up an old deep socket held in vice grips. If you use a nail be careful because they can be a bit jagged, so smoothing it out with a file, sandpaper, rock or whatever you have available will keep from cutting the hose open.
2 weeks ago
There are lots of u-pick blueberry farms in that area. You might be able to find knowledgeable people willing to divulge some information specific to Putnam County.

A new u-pick farm that started near my property got hit pretty hard last winter. We had an unusual early frost and cool weather, followed by a typical early warming in January, and more frost in February. It is quite common for things to go dormant and then break dormancy in January, to get badly damaged by a late February frost. Some early blooming varieties will not bear fruit if this occurs. Their plants look like they just started to recover in the past month. Having a mix of early and late blooming varieties will probably give you a better chance at getting some sort of yield. If maximum yield for sale is your goal then I'd imagine you would need to be extra vigilant about protecting the plants from frost after they have broken dormancy.

In my case I'm probably not going to plant any blueberries. There are enough local farms doing it that I can get plenty of blueberries and other common fruits and vegetables affordably, so I'm going to focus on less common things first. They clearly grow there very well for some people, so it can certainly be made to work. Good luck!
3 weeks ago
The cross members of the bottom cords are ending almost in the middle of the top chord in the diagram. This would strengthen the top section and put excess load in the middle, which is already the weakest point. Extending them to the bottom like a scissor truss would fix that problem:

Scissor Truss on Wikipedia

By tying the bottom chords together where they cross it will help transfer some load on one side to members on the other side. Given the 30' span, it might need additional cross members or uprights between the top and bottom chords. Some pics to give you an idea:

Scissor Truss Images on Qwant

Alternatively, you could check other search engines for images. My experience has been with some conventional framed scissor trusses as well as countless prefabricated ones. It might be a really good idea to build one on the ground and stress it to find weak points. Once it is sufficiently reinforced to your satisfaction then you can copy it. It would be a shame to invest the time, effort, and money building them all and have it fold in on itself. I have seen some tricks where people fill pipes with something to keep them from kinking while trying to bend them by hand, perhaps finding something lightweight that can strengthen the pipes would add additional resistance to catastrophic failure under extreme conditions.
1 month ago
I might have to look in to this sometime soon. My property is maybe 10 miles outside of Crescent City. I'd imagine a car or truck antenna from the junkyard would work halfway decent if you got it off the ground far enough. I know with the shape of the land at my property that my cellphone doesn't get any signal if I'm down between the hills. I'm hoping to spend a lot more time there when the weather cools off and one goal is to build some sort of antenna tower out of salvaged stuff.

You could always test how strong the signal is with a vehicle radio. That would give you a baseline, and from there try getting an antenna off the ground a fair distance. Having too long of a cable going to the antenna can also be detrimental to the signal. Perhaps finding a spot that naturally has less radio wave obstruction would be easy enough to do with a portable radio. As mentioned above, some antenna designs are directional. They tend to perform better once aimed, but will perform more poorly on signals it isn't aimed at vs an omnidirectional antenna. I don't know about new cars, but older ones tended to have an AM antenna built in to the windshield. If you want a really good signal for both then it might require separate ones for each band.
1 month ago
As you mentioned, I believe one of the things that Lawton does is that he doesn't just plant 100% fruit trees in the beginning. If I remember correctly, he has something like 90% fast growing nitrogen fixers at the start. As he is rehabbing the land, he expects a higher rate of tree loss when starting out, and it isn't a complete wash to have to chop and drop a nitrogen fixer. As time progresses, between natural losses and selective chop and drop, the biodiversity of the trees changes from 90% pioneer nitrogen fixers and 10% fruit trees to 10% nitrogen fixers and 90% fruit trees, nut trees, and natives. The improvement to the soil creates conditions so there is a lower casualty rate to the fruit trees and they grow quicker and stronger.

Another thing to note is he isn't growing from seed at day one. I'm pretty certain all of his trees are started in a greenhouse a few years ahead of time, so it is more like a 13 year old food forest. Having irrigation set up in advance so the trees are never thirsty probably helps towards consistent fast growth. He also has many years of experience, and isn't just picking random fruit trees that he likes, or that he 'thinks' will grow well for him. I am fairly certain he is very deliberate with his choices to stack the deck in his favor to get the outcome he wants. This is one thing I notice a lot with gardeners around here. Many of them are from the north and want to grow exactly what they did in the past. The climate here is different and you can't expect everything to acclimate. Even simple microclimate changes can cause big wins or losses.

It's probably much easier to succeed with trees that are very well known to work, and then slowly change out a few trees at a time to things you would like to have or experiment with, than it is to start out with a bunch of experiments at day one and expecting a high rate of success. It can be hard to tell what went right or wrong when there are lots of experiments and not enough control specimens. Lawton is a wizard in his climate and extremely knowledgeable of other climates. I think for anyone to get to his ten year food forest in 15 years time would be doing exceptionally well!

Since you aren't too terribly far along yet, it might be worthwhile to look in to some native nitrogen fixing pioneer tree species. I remembered something about alder being used, and came across this article:

Red Alder Has Nitrogen-Fixing Superpowers

Since you already have some trees started, it would take some time for pioneer species like the red alder to create any significant shade on your existing trees. By the time they get that far, they could easily be chopped back to improve the soil. Until that time, they can create a tiny bit of shade and habitat both above and below ground. Since they will be culled anyway, you could probably just plug them in between the existing tree spacing without any worry of crowding. As a native plant, it should be easy to source and only cost a little bit of time. It might be something worth investigating. Good luck!
6 months ago
It can be done, but there are a few considerations that may not be apparent. As mentioned by Peter above, they use a dry, dense gas between panes to reduce convection between inside and outside panes which reduces heat transfer. Also, I believe many new windows over the past several years or more have special coatings on them; UV blockers to reduce sun damage to your house interior, and nearly transparent reflective coatings to bounce some radiant heat back where it came from (keep outside heat outside, keep inside heat inside). It might be worthwhile to see what manufacturers are providing and what purpose they serve so you can determine for yourself what your needs are and how to mitigate any potential problems.

If you live in a tornado or hurricane zone, you are usually required to have impact resistant windows or shutters. This may not be mandatory on a wheeled tiny house, but if it moves down the road that seems to me to be all the more reason to protect your windows from being breached by debris. Shutters that can be worked from inside can help with heat transfer, as well as absorb physical damage, and still be safe for exiting in case of an emergency.

Used windows or ones that are discounted because they are the wrong size are one option, but it can take longer to find exactly what you want than the time it would take to build the rest of the house. You would literally be building the house around the openings. If you do go the DIY route, it would probably be very advantageous to try to make as many of the windows as possible a standard size. If you ever have an accident or vandalism, you don't want to be up all night trying to build a new window or living with a tarp strapped over a broken window for any length of time. Being able to buy one when you need it, or have several the same size and building one extra would give some insurance that you can fix a broken window in a timely fashion.
6 months ago
Does mint actually provide cooling properties, or is it just a sensation? Similar to how a ghost pepper can't physically light you on fire even though you feel like you are on fire. I guess you could get some temperature sensors and try applying a few things to see what actually affects temperature. Water works to cool by evaporation; the water absorbs heat and then that heated water evaporates in to the air carrying away the heat. It could be that volatile compounds in mint oil evaporates off in a similar manner. I would just be very concerned with having the sensation of feeling cool while not actually lowering your body temperature. I keeled over with heat stroke last summer and trust me, you do not want to ignore the signals your body sends when it absolutely needs to cool down. I was always really good at hydrating and keeping my body cool, except for about 6-8 minutes last summer when I ignored symptoms thinking I would get out before anything bad happened. I got out and promptly smashed my head into a door as I went down. I survived, but I can't say the same for my glasses.

I have thought about this a lot, particularly using thermal mass for cooling instead of heating. My case may be different than others as I have a very long wet season throughout the summer and fall, and it still tends to be occasionally rainy during our so-called 'dry' winter season. Lots of rain plus lots of sun equals high evaporation to the point that the air gets saturated with humidity. Having lots of cold surfaces means condensation in an already wet environment, and all of the problems associated with mold and other life forms growing where you may not want them. Perhaps having a permeable surface, or using the ground to pre-chill (and dehumidify) fresh air intakes would be useful.

Protecting your shelter from the sun is vital if you are going to cool a person. You can try to cool someone all you want, but if the house bakes in the sun all day and radiates that heat back in to the living space all night, you are fighting an uphill battle. Nearly all houses I see built in the US have roofs designed like solar ovens. Clear out all of the shade trees and now you have a very efficient solar oven. That might be a good design for a cold climate, but a lot of energy gets burned needlessly trying to fight the sun with an air conditioner instead of with shade and good design.

I envision a design where part or all of the structure is either underground or surrounded by berms like a wofati. The entire structure well shaded from the sun as to not absorb any direct radiant heat from the sun if possible. I also really like the idea of doing something similar to a large irrigation cistern, and using that mass pumped through a radiator/heat exchanger to cool and dehumidify air before being ducted indoors. With the large amount of rainfall in my location, I could make use of that resource to condition air to reduce issues with condensation and mold. This idea could also be used to cool a bench or other thermal mass where a person sits. I'd imagine very arid regions would have much fewer problems with condensation, but may not be able to have a large amount of water stored all year long.

Another idea along those lines that could be used in some circumstances might be something similar to this:
12-feet-under-1000-square-feet-geothermal-pc-cooling_overclock.net
Except instead of cooling a computer, you could cool a chair or something. Or you could cool a computer to stop it from heating up your house. Or double the size of it and do both. If you are already planning earthworks then it could be easier to include plans for geothermal instead of digging exclusively for this kind of project.

I just really like the idea of using physical tons of mass to resist temperature changes. Massive benches, massive pillars, large water cisterns, lots of big masonry or recycled metal furniture. The current systems I see people using where they cool air, and the house soaks up heat all day is absurd. Especially at this time of year when it can get cooler outside at night than what people set their thermostat to, yet the AC runs all night because the mass of the house is saturated with heat, and people don't want to open windows and let all of the humidity inside. If they put efficiency ratings on houses the way they do on cars, it would make people think twice and save way more energy than squeezing out 1MPG extra from a car.
6 months ago
My experience with sand and digging in stuff to try to convert the sand to soil was a complete failure. I'm at the beach in Florida, and since it never really gets cold here, the stuff I mixed in got devoured by the ceaseless organisms in the earth. Top dressing has worked much better for me. You can probably do some good using wood for hugelkultur beds, or perhaps some biochar mixed in the soil, but I would try to use most of the organic matter on top.

There are a few reasons why I think top dressing has worked better for me. You mention the sand not holding water or nutrients. With the nutrients, if you bury stuff then it is just that much further down to be washed below the root zone. Also, the sand has a lot of thermal mass, which means all sorts of problems with watering. If you can use organic matter on top (which has much less thermal mass) then it shields the sand from the sun. Sun baked sand can evaporate moisture well after the sun has gone down. Because water moves through the sand easily, it can wick up moisture from below and cause further water loss which can slow down soil building. Having the organic matter there to shield and hold in the moisture means more root growth and increased soil biology. You can't transform sand in to soil, but you can increase root zones and soil biology so the sand makes up a much smaller percentage of the soil. Also, more soil moisture means less irrigation and less nutrients being washed away.

Top dressing and cover crops, along with chop and drop methods can also help protect evaporation via the wind. Of course if things are extremely windy there would be an issue of keeping your organic material in place. In that instance you might be better off just using cover crops as a living mulch, and perhaps knocking it down or cutting the tops vs chopping everything down. If the wind isn't that extreme regularly then it should stay in place and retain moisture that could otherwise be lost to the wind and sun.

Another thing I noticed with sand is that once it gets so hot and dry, it repels water! You would think something so loose wouldn't have this issue. I have seen people stand with a hose for several minutes on one sun baked spot and virtually all of the water runs off and pool in low spots, eventually sinking in the ground in those spots several minutes later. I could walk right up to where they were watering, stick my finger in the ground, and get dry sand just a small fraction of an inch down. My hypothesis is when the sand gets below 10% humidity it gets a static charge that repels the polarized water. This is another critical reason to protect the sand from the sun, especially if you do raised rows or beds. The water can easily run off and do little good for your plants. When I start building up a new area, I will lightly water over the entire area, generally in the evening when the sun isn't hitting the sand, and then wait 10 minutes before irrigating. The sand will much more readily take the water with far less run off. Water running off also causes erosion, so anything you can do to avoid that will save you labor down the road. An organic layer on top will more readily accept water, even after baking in the sun, and will have far less erosion issues than sand.

I don't remember exactly where it was said, but I remember Paul saying something to the effect of "If you have enough mulch to cover an area with 4" of mulch, or half as much space with 8" of mulch, you will get happier plants with 8" of mulch." OK, so I haven't actually tried putting down a full 8" of mulch, but I believe he was completely right. I tried various methods when I first started my garden, from digging things in, to a little digging and a little top dressing, to top dressing with mulch, compost teas, and more. When I did one area from bare sand to top dressing with compost + mulch over 3" thick was when I started to see a real difference. The other areas that I kept adding stuff to did eventually start to perform well as I increased life and moisture in the soil, and compost teas did help speed that up, but getting a thick layer on top did the best at converting bare, nearly dead beach sand in to soil plants could thrive in for the first season instead of several seasons of slowly building things up.

My method I use now is to figure out how large an area I want to work with in the end, figure out how much volume of material I can get to cover the sand, and make mulch islands. Covering at least a few square feet per island, I can grow stuff in the mulch to build up the soil. As the moisture levels increase, the hydrostatic pressure will force some of the moisture between the mulch islands, slowly making the sand more hospitable to life. Native plants and others that I have found to work well for my area can easily start to take hold. Eventually things will grow, I will accumulate more stuff to chop and drop, yard debris, and compost to start filling in between until I get the whole area much more plant friendly. This is not something I do in late spring or summer as it is just way too brutal in the sun at that time. I let my sweet potatoes and watermelons run wild then as they seem the best at being able to spread and cover ground for me when it is that hot. Fall, winter, and early spring are more like summer in the north and I have much better luck growing at those times. Observing your local conditions and utilizing native plants can help a lot. Instead of spreading all of your resources evenly, you can do more localized intensive soil rehabilitation, which in turn makes it easier for those areas to have a positive influence on the entire ecosystem. As the areas in between mulch islands improve, the native plants will jump at the chance to live better. You can encourage this by selecting seeds of native plants you would prefer to have around and spread them. Often this takes nothing more than a little time and water. They can act as a cover crop and start to protect the sand from the sun in those areas not yet covered by other means.
6 months ago