Joe Ruben

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since Nov 20, 2015
Gardener, solar builder, carpenter, completed Colorado Master Gardener classes, 40 years of off-the-beaten-path living in several western States, and other stuff.
Southern Colorado 6200 ft elevation, 20" annual precip, zone 6a/5b
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Recent posts by Joe Ruben

Check out this great outfit:

Pawnee Buttes Seed

IMO, all dry land residents should take a good look at this outfit!

They are great to deal with and have already done so much!

to R Ranson

Thanks for that post!  

It helps me plan.

I'd give you an apple if I could.
2 years ago
I suggest that anyone seriously interested in just how powerful day length, and thus latitude, have been on humans, might want to take on a great wintertime read of Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond (biologist).  It's readily available used!

And, for me, was a fascinating read.

Ah! To be around 35* to 45* N.



2 years ago
Sounds reasonable to me since I already did it.  DW and I built up above Clancy, MT in 1982.  Built passive solar with attached greenhouse with a Jotul stove at the lowest level.  The half cord per year we burned was often slab wood with lots of bark.

There are many ways.
2 years ago
I'd like to suggest that one of the reasons neighbors may be slow to warm up to you and yours when you move to a new spot is their past experience with new neighbors.  Doesn't make you bad, but you can't know what's gone on before.

It's not just a matter of whether or not they like your presence, most of the time they don't!  I think most permies who have rural places will acknowledge that when nearby land sells and new people show up all neighbors will be thinking something along the lines of "oh boy,  now what".  After all, when you move in YOU are increasing the demands on the little world into which you arrive, not to mention the neighborhood population, noise, and traffic.

I've now been a part of a small rural world for twenty-two years.  I'm still not a "local".  I didn't grow up here, didn't go to school here, don't ( or at least didn't ! ) know people's siblings, grandparents, etc.  That can't be completely changed and will always be noted by the "old timers".

Since I've been here I've seen quite a number of people arriving with plans and a desire to "improve the local community".   Many of those people have come and gone with the wind.  Some have come, stayed, and seem to be making a positive addition to the community.  None the less, the folks who were already here may have never had any notion that their community needed any improvements!

When you become established in a community that was originally new to you, you too may become more cautious about using your time and facilities to help others after you have lived through them coming and then disappearing.  If you help and then they suddenly are gone you may feel some loss, at very least emotional loss.

I'm not suggesting that you don't help your neighbors!  I am suggesting that you don't ask for much of anything when you are the newbie and that you are patient and understanding in the slow process of being assimilated into a small rural community.


2 years ago
Cut a hole in the top of the straw pyramid tarp.  Lay a pallet on top of the straw, add the tarp with hole, add another pallet on top of that.  Cover the top of that second pallet with a small tarp and allow air to escape all around the sides of that top pallet.  The chimney effect should carry out the moisture as the straw cures and any moisture that blows in the top will be minimal compared to what is drawn out.

This is essentially the reason that most homes have vents around the soffits and vents along the ridge.  Give air a way to get in lower and get out higher and it will do so.

If you can raise the pallets that hold your straw up higher (i.e. concrete blocks or rounds of wood) it will help keep the mice down a bit and allow moisture from the ground to blow away under the pile.

The rule I was taught was for air drying of green wood and that was that the lowest boards in a stickered pile should always be at least 16" off the ground.  I think the same would be good for your straw.
2 years ago
I'm not sure how or where to post this.  I love to read here, but haven't posted much so if this needs to be moved please move it or direct me.

This is an article by a guy who may be the most progressive rancher in our area.  We feel fortunate to have gotten to know him and to buy beef from him.  Due to pronghorn hunting he's allowed us to wander on his 14,000 acre "little" ranch.  He has won various awards for rangeland management.

How do you make a ranch a top producer?  Heal the local ecosystem!

Meet Grady Grissom:

http://quiviracoalition.org/images/pdfs/2055-Journal35.pdf
2 years ago
That's a very good post, Travis.

I'd add that your list is somewhat location specific.  I've cut down bur oak in Iowa where the branches of one tree produced four cords.  ( I was young and fortunately I lived through a seat-of-the-pants training! )  Where I live in Colorado it may take many more trees to produce one cord than what it takes for you.  Yes! You are quite right that smaller trees are easier, probably safer for those not-so-experienced firewooders, and are usually easier to split.

A couple of thoughts to add:  At least in the mountains it is A LOT easier to get trees from above the road than from below!  Often we cut logs where they fell and roll the rounds down.  Keeps that dirt off the chain!

Some types of wood are pretty easy to split by hand, but others are not at all easy.  River bottom cottonwood is often available in the west, but is nearly worthless when you consider how hard it is to split.  The easiest wood to split is green wood split when the temperature outside is well below freezing, preferably zero or colder.  

One last thought.  In 1976 I heated with wood for the first time.  It was September and I was just bringing in a load with my room-mate when his dad dropped by, an eighty-something Norwegian immigrant who was amused at our efforts.  He said something to the effect of:  Nice load of wood.  I assume you must be putting that stuff up for a year from now, right?  I learned.  Now I have about five years of wood on hand and plan to keep at least that far ahead as long as I'm able.

Thanks for your helpful post!
2 years ago
Interesting question!

It occurs to me that you wouldn't have to have a cistern that was entirely below mid-winter frost depth.  Using the ideas of PAHS (passive annual heat storage) you could dig down to around frost depth for the bottom of a large cistern (which might likely have to be concrete in order to keep from caving in when low on water).  Technically, the bottom would not even have to be as deep as frost depth.

You could then make a cone shaped pile of dirt all around the cistern.  DO NOT insulate the cistern itself, but instead insulate all around the cone pile of dirt down to the full depth of the hole and up to the top of the cistern and over it.  Some PAHS homes have insulation out as much as forty feet from the edge of the buried structure!  Obviously this would require waterproof insulation.  Backfill the entire hole (assuming that you've made provisions for pipes in/out for the water you'll want to move).

This technique allows the heat of the ground to keep the tank from freezing by effectively creating a "bubble" of earth that is not subject to frost below the insulation.  The cone shaped pile of dirt will give much extra mass to the slightly warmer area around the tank and thus be further frost protection.  Frost does not drive laterally under the insulation due to the fact that ground warmth is always, however slightly, conducting upward.

This technique is now pretty well researched and if you read up on PAHS I'm sure you'll understand why.

The new international building code (at least as adopted where I live in Colorado) even includes a form of this as a buried skirt of insulation around a foundation which precludes the need for footings to be below whatever frost depth is considered to be in any locale.

Keep in mind that below frost the ground is always "warm"....  at least in comparison to the frozen ground above.

I know this would require a lot of dirt moving, but the tank would not freeze and it would not need to be heated.

An easy experiment to see how effective this is:  place one sheet of insulation on the ground with enough dirt around it's edges to keep cold air from having a direct route underneath.  Wait until the ground is frozen hard everywhere else in the late fall and then pull up the sheet of insulation and see what the ground is like under the center of that one sheet.  

Wishing you the best with your project!

2 years ago