Lee Du

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since Sep 21, 2015
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Recent posts by Lee Du

This topic is on my mind a lot.  My 2 brothers and I left south Louisiana and moved to northeast TX for the horse industry.  I took a left turn and got interested in deep green sustainability.  A couple of years later I moved to Austin.  It's definitely been fun here and there are lots of like-minded  people, but the land is mostly out of my price range and the traffic is really bad.  

I've also learned that even amongst my hippie friends we have our differences.  It's more comfortable being around other permies, but it isn't a Panacea.  

So, I'm considering buying land within an hour from my brothers (parents too, they followed), but I fear the culture clash and lonliness.  

I want to be there as my parents age further and my brothers raise their children, and there's 12 more inches of rainfall on nice soils, but.....oh my, I'm different from them.

When I lived up there in 2006 I had one friend that appreciated organic food.  He was very new age and vegetarian.  Now 10 yrs +, more of them appreciate local or organic food, from what I can tell on the surface, but my social life will change big time if I move up there.

I've spotted 14 acres that is 20 miles from three different towns of 15k people, but I'm still scared.

In the meantime I'm renting on an old farm on the edge of the city and I haven't been meeting new people often.  I'm feeding pigs and horses in the evening instead of going to city things to meet people.  As it turns out though, few of these people around the city want a true homesteading life.  They just like to party on a farm and wear half western/half hipster outfits as they drink under a string of lights and overlook a garden that someone else digs in.
1 year ago
I've tried growing bell peppers in central TX east of Austin.  I got a few racket ball sized bells, at most.  My chocolate bell plants get attacked by pests really bad too, while hot or mild pepper plants don't.

A neighbor of mines that's very well known in Texas organic vegetable growing tells me that our night time temperature is too hot, during the growing season, to grow large peppers.  They rely on the corno di toro, an Italian frying type pepper, as their sweet pepper.  It is kinda long, but not wide.  Maybe it's tough to develop wide peppers in our temperature range?

Last year I grew about a dozen different peppers.  All the small and mid size hot peppers did very well.  I tried the cajun belle for the first time, and it did ok.  It is a very mildly spicy small bell pepper.  The pimento type did decent too, but that another with a little bit of spice.

The largest pepper that did well here this year is an Anaheim type, the Numex Joe E. Parker, I think.   It was 6 to 7 inches long and about 1.5 inches wide.  Again, another not totally in the sweet category.

This year I'm going to try a sweet pepper from Seed Savers Exchange called Apple.  They're 3" long cone shaped sweet peppers.  They have a broader shoulder than a jalopeno.

I also wonder if I don't have enough phosphorous or potassium to match nitrogen levels.  I've read that one of those can affect pepper size.  
1 year ago
Thanks for the link Burra.  I have a couple of landrace ponies, sort of.  They are BLM mustangs caught in Wyoming and Utah.  Most of us mustang owners hope our ponies have a bit of iberian blood in them.

I can see the "dairy" look in those Arouquesas too, especially the long head.  They are gorgeous animals.  Dun is one of my favorite colors.
1 year ago
That landrace breed is gorgeous.  To me, they look too similar to the fighting breeds for me to approach them.

They also have the aurocs look, that extinct breed of wild cattle.
1 year ago
How about light straw-clay?  I think it's faster than cob and the house could be rectangular.
1 year ago

Rebecca Norman wrote:To hasten the drying of earthen walls, in one of our recent buildings we used straw-clay bricks that were about 12 x 24 x 8 inches (30 x 60 x 20 cm). I'm not sure these are what you'd call "light" straw clay, but they seem to be insulating very very ewell. The straw-clay is walls of 2-foot (60 cm) thick, around 3 sides of the building, with a trombe wall containing thinner conventional rammed earth on the south face. It's a small building, just two main rooms and two narrow storeroom / corridors in the north side with the entrance. It has been staying by far the warmest of any of our buildings so far, and we've been living in solar-heated rammed earth buildings for some 20 to 25 years.

The advantage of bricks is that you dry them before building the wall, and then when you start building, first of all it's much faster than using wet mud in place, and you only have to dry out the wet mortar between the bricks, not the entire mass of the wall.

That said, I'm very fond of our rammed earth buildings.
Whichever way, go for it!

Would these bricks work as the perimeter wall around a timber frame?  Not needing to make a double stud wall, or leland trusts, would be a time and material saver.
1 year ago
It's very interesting to see that traditional method of making those tiles by hand.

One other thing that I found interesting is that those oxen are females, cows.    Most often the oxen is a castrated male, but cows and even bulls are sometimes trained to work.  Those two cows were stout and gorgeous.
1 year ago
Thanks so much for posting this Noah!  I just discovered Korean Natural Farming for pig raising a couple of weeks ago.  I was looking for stocking density on pasture.  I really like this idea for situations where land is limited.

I'd like to try a partial pasturing method combined with a deep litter barn.  This idea comes from managing horses, which is what I have the most experience with.  Horses can be turned out for portions of the day and they can be kept in the barn or paddock if the ground is too wet and the risk of damage the grass is high.

If 2 to 4 small pastures surrounded a deep litter barn, I wonder if limiting the pigs turnout time could sufficiently reduce damage to the pasture?  Just like the horses, they could be kept in when the soil moisture is too high.

I have 2 red wattle feeder pigs that I've kept in a 40 foot x 40 foot pen.  It has a little 8' x 5' shelter off of one corner.  The laid the pen bare of the old Bermuda grass blanket within a month or less.  The pen has been bare since then.  They do have a terrific wallow in the middle of it.  

They spend most of their time in the little shelter, but on warmer days they soak in the mud a lot.  Regardless of the temperature, I see them bucking and playing once in a while.  They are just under a year old and weigh at least 300 lbs. , I think.

I may try a smaller breed this year and also might be able to build a deep litter barn on the edge of the horse pasture, if the landlord allows it.  I'm renting on what used to be a goat dairy.

I'm really happy other people are writing about KNF.  I was worried that website I found was the only source and that it could accidentally disappear.
1 year ago
I've heard the leader of a community in rural Missouri speak on a podcast.  They were non-electric except for a solar panel abd tiny fridge for one member's diabetes medicine.   They didn't have a car either.
1 year ago
I live in a similar climate, though slightly more dry being in central Texas (may move to northeast TX).
I've really liked cob.  For a little while I looked at rammed earth and earth bag building, and they have their pluses.  After that, light straw clay looked best.  I still think light straw clay is best if airconditioning will be used in the southern US.  I'm still drawn to cob though, even for a small rectangular home.

Do you plan to make the wall load bearing, or make a wooden structure to hold up the roof?  I've read that only experienced cobbers should build a cob home where the thick walls hold the roof.  My experience with cob was just a couple of hours in a permaculture design course.

My experience with construction in general is a little beyond that, but not tremendous.   I've been a carpenter's helper and a pipe fitter, then I built a 180 sq. ft. tiny barn apartment that I'm still working on, part time, 1.5 yrs after starting.  I'm just on paint and trim now, but I hate conventional wall coverings, flooring, and trim.  I  enjoyed the framing though.

The next home I build will be stick frame, but the studs will be 24" on center, and there will be a single top plate since the rafters will connect to the top plate right above each stud.  This meets building code (if that matters for anyone else) and is called optimum value framing.

I'd consider cobbing around that type of framing.  The ceiling joist would then be 24" on center too and that's great for attaching the ceiling material of choice.

A thick earthen, cement, tile, or stone floor should help cool your home.  Place a window high up on the wall to exhaust heat.  Find out where the summer breeze flows from.  Place water tanks or ponds on that side of your structure.   Plant lots of plants.  Shade the home with vines on trellises if the trees grow slow, or there's no room for trees.  Use porches or big overhangs and consider a dog trot floor plan, so the wind will speed slightly between the two little portions of the house connected by the roof.  

Yes, I do believe people can build without taking these courses.  Don't be afraid to make mistakes and build a smaller less important cob item first, maybe a fence portion.  

There is a ton of info / images of 2x4 framing online, and many people you know will know at least a little bit.  
Of course, hunt for used wood, but 2x4's are worth it.

An alternative to stick framing would be pole barn type framing, but ceiling joists would be separate from the fewer rafters, then perlins would connect each rafter beneath the sheating.   I don't know if pole barn construction would save $ or materials, unless you have/ can find sizable round posts.

Timber frame is more costly, especially when paying retail for the timbers.

Still, strongly consider framing this earthen structure.

Edit:  I realized after writing that you are probably very attracted to the round organic shaped home.  Building without a wood frame would definitely save you money and fits that wall shape.   Do you have time to practice cobbing?  Maybe you can learn on your own to build well enough to make it load baring.  I don't think you're in an earthquake zone.  Also, putting a light roof (not soil )  should lessen the load that the walls will carry.
1 year ago