Phil Stevens

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since Aug 07, 2015
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Ashhurst New Zealand
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Recent posts by Phil Stevens

Smell, maybe? Some birds might be able to sniff out the affected ears. Have you gone out on a still morning and checked out the aromas among the corn?
1 day ago
Apple leaves are a medium greyish green on top with a textured surface and whitish (tomentose) underside. Pear leaves are a bright green, with a smoother surface and less difference between top and bottom. On my trees the apple leaves tend to be bigger.
4 days ago
I have managed to get ginger to grow in the glasshouse. The things I have noticed are that it needs soil temperatures to be consistently warm before it wants to do anything. It likes lots of organic matter and good drainage. Don't let it dry out, but just keep it moist until you see shoots above the surface. I bury the root partway and then cover it with wood chips.

The same conditions are good for ginger's relatives: turmeric and galangal. All three of these plants did well for me this year. The galangal even flowered, and I harvested my first decent turmeric crop. Most was divided and replanted. Same with the ginger...I just saved the most photogenic root (it's in the lower part of the photo, and the rest is turmeric).

4 days ago
I hope to start one this summer, and may have a second one in the works for a client. Much will depend on when we can schedule the workshops!
Hi Julie. I don't know if this is the best thread for a reply, but I would not be terribly concerned about ingress of flue gases into the oven chamber itself. For this to happen at any appreciable level, you would need a pressure imbalance between the flue and inside of the oven. This would mean you've set up a draft, and it would really only be an issue if the stack is plugged and you leave the oven door open while cooking. As long as those conditions are not met, there's not going to be much "pollution" taking place. Mind you, since it's a J-tube combustion chamber, the flue gases will be about as clean as possible to begin with, so even a bit of leakage would not (hopefully) taint your food.
There are three main species native to the southwestern US and Mexico: honey (Prosopis glandulosa), velvet (P. velutina) and screwbean (P. pubescens). Honey mesquite is the most common and found from Texas all the way to California, velvet only in Arizona and Sonora, and screwbean mostly in the hot desert of the lower Colorado River valley. I don't know whether they hybridise on their own much. I have eaten lots of velvet mesquite pods and found some variation from tree to tree and season to season, but when I had a good tree it was normally consistent year after year. I've only tried a few honey mesquite pods and don't think they even compare in terms of sweetness (the name almost certainly refers to the fondness bees have for the nectar). Never tried a screwbean pod that I can recall.

So, for the Tejanos and Baja Californienses, you may need to search a little bit to find a honey mesquite that has tasty beans, or get some velvet mesquites. They're not quite as cold hardy and prefer some summer rainfall to do their best. We had it good in southern Arizona.
2 weeks ago
Here's Stefan in his orchard showing how to t-bud like a boss:

9:20 is the actual knife technique section, but the whole video is well worth 22 minutes out of your day.
2 weeks ago
I am curious about many things. Like, why do we see cones of depletion in groundwater? For instance, down the road from me is a group of homes who share a well for domestic water. A landowner adjacent to them applied for consent to sink a much larger bore and pump roughly fifty times as much water as the existing well so that he could start an intensive dairy operation. Our district council apparently thought this was a great idea and granted the consent over the objections of the existing well owners.

We had an exceptionally warm and dry spring and early summer last year, and the people on the older well said that their groundwater level dropped by over a meter a week in the beginning of December as the big pivot irrigators on the new farm were running day and night. Now they worry about what it will cost them to drill deeper in case of an actual drought year.

Our town supply is an artesian bore not too far from this group of homes. It, however, goes much deeper and taps an aquifer fed by the copious amounts of rain and snow (5m a year) along the dividing range. We know this because isotope tracers were measured in the various aquifers and we are able to "fingerprint" water from different depths to match it to its source. If you're interested, hit me up for a link to the 1996 paper that describes them in detail.

What I want to know is how much deeper would my friends need to drill to go past the shallow groundwater (10-30m), the upper aquifer that they currently draw from (60-90m), and the deep artesian one that the city council uses for its public supply (130-150m) to get this inexhaustible source? Would it be worth it? Or are we better off having a democratically managed process to assure families in the area that an industrial user can't come along and suck their wells dry?
2 weeks ago
I've got a retrofitting idea that I might start doing in one room this summer. Our daughter is housebound with CF/ME and spends most of her days in her "happy place" doing artwork in her bedroom. We want to make the space as friendly as possible, while at the same time increasing its warmth and dryness in the winter (it's at the cold south end of the house and NZ building standards with regard to insulation and thermal bridging are Absolute Shite). Rather than tearing into wall and ceiling cavities to add insulation, I want to increase the thermal mass on the interior surfaces and my plan is to use some light earth panels fixed to the existing structure.

So, the big idea is to get coir matting, such as that used on roading cuts to prevent erosion, cut it into manageable pieces of a square meter or so, and coat it with clay slip. When it's dry, I'll screw the panels to the existing studs (find them first), then skim coat with earthen or lime plaster. This will create a bit more insulation, but more importantly will add a fair bit of mass on the occupied side, and possibly help with moisture management to a degree. It's that last bit that I'm not completely comfy with: since the normal modern stick-framed house depends on the interior paint as part of the moisture barrier, will an earthen interior be effectively stranded from its function of humidity control? Should I strip off all latex paint first? This puts a huge work increase into the project and I'm already time poor.
2 weeks ago
Interesting what kola Redhawk mentions about copper pipe. Here in NZ there is lots of copper plumbing that is not soldered, but brazed (practically welded) together. No one uses sweat soldering techniques or fittings's all brazed and all the plumbers are familiar with the technique.

So you could certainly do water lines without plastic, and avoid lead at the same time. Silver solder is also an option but is trick to use.
2 weeks ago