Diego Footer on Permaculture Based Homesteads - from the Eat Your Dirt Summit
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Brett Hammond

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since Dec 07, 2015
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Maryland, USA
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Recent posts by Brett Hammond

Have you considered a biogas digester? They are becoming popular in a lot of third world countries.
2 years ago

I would recommend sticking with a somewhat traditional septic. If properly sized, they last a lifetime with no maintenance. I used a septic for 20 years, opened the tank for inspection, and there was only a few inches of semi-solid waste on the bottom. The rest was fluid. Some places around here, because the soil is mostly sand and drains so well, you can place the drain field where the top of it is 6 inches below the surface to minimize digging. I would recommend, as mentioned above, that you install  your drain field pipe horizontally to the slope. Within a week or two the bacteria in the tank with establish itself and any smell from a vent will be gone.

Your biggest problem is going to be toilet paper, if you use it. You will need to use something that is easily biodegradable. Otherwise it will take a very long time to break down and will float on the surface in the tank depriving some of the bacteria of oxygen. Here in the USA some toilet paper is labeled "Septic Safe" and deteriorates much more quickly. If you studied traditional septics, you know the input and output are near the top of the tank, with a partial wall between them that extends down from the top to below the output level. This is so that paper and other floating items don't get into your drain field and plug it up. Alternatively, you can have your output pipe bend down a foot or so below the input level. Around here, they go one step further and put a T on the tank side of the output pipe, where one side of the T points down for waste fluid to enter, and the other side sticks above the output so that you can clean it. Then the vertical part of the T is filled with a plastic mesh that is removed once a year and washed out. This will prevent it from getting clogged if the level should ever drop below the output and solid waste reaches the output pipe.

For drainfield you can use any pipe with lots of holes in the bottom and sides, surrounded with at least 6 inches of stone or other material that doesn't pack hard, and wrap the whole thing (stones and pipe) in landscape fabric to keep dirt from washing into and filling up your drainfield. I would think the forest floor would be very porous and be able to absorb a lot of liquid. Even bath water contains feces, so you need to be sure everything is underground to keep people, animals, fruits and vegetables and erosion from your output. Never allow wastewater to come in contact with the edible parts of plants, and wait a month after applying waste water to the roots of plants before eating any part of them.

It seems to me, the solution you are considering can't be used with toilet paper, which may or may not be a consideration in your case. And is much more fragile than a traditional system. What happens if someone flushes some bleach down your toilet that kills all the worms? How fast does the mulch in your tank need to be replenished? Traditional septics will reestablish themselves after a catastrophe in a few weeks with no intervention. Best of luck!
2 years ago
Wes, great info. What type chickens do you raise? How long to maturity? How much space per chicken in your range? Do you plant special foods for them? How much do you need to supplement their diet?
6 years ago
Since you are not opposed to multiple tanks, why not put some in the greenhouse and some in the ground? I would build an in-ground cistern for drinking water, of either parraged block or solid concrete so the lime creates an unfriendly environment for bacteria. It is how most people in Bermuda get their drinking water. If you use block, do some research as they frequently develop cracks and leak, causing owners to install a liner which defeats the purpose of the block. I read once of a technique where little or no mortar is used between block, and then porraged with a skim coat (like stucco) to waterproof, which is supposed to be more stable and less suseptable to cracking than using mortar​. Steel reinforced concrete would be best, but most expensive.

Never get into a hole deeper than 4 feet without something in place to hold back the dirt. Hole collapses kill a lot of people.

I read an article about building a solar hot water storage tank the guy built out of 2x4 lumber, 3/4 ply, and a pond liner for about $200. It was about 4x4x4 (450 gallons), if I remember. If I find the link I'll post it later.

Around here (east coast of USA)  you can buy plastic tanks about that size cheap, that were used for food grade soilbean oil or some such.

Btw, are you familiar with first flush rainwater collection? You could build a small tank of 50 gal (foodsafe 55 gallon drum for $20) to catch the rainwater, and when the tank fills it backs up the downspout and through a T into your drinking water tank. That way, all the bird poop, pollen, and dirt on your roof stays out of your drinking water. After the rain, you empty your first flush tank into your greenhouse water so it is empty and ready for the next rain. Smaller roofs would use smaller firstflush tanks.

Best of luck!
6 years ago
Agreeing with comments above. How do I get the 200 hours of video? Download? Forever access online? My preference is DVD or Blu-ray so I can just pop it in an watch whenever I want in any tv without an internet connection, but would add considerably to cost.

Do people that watch all the video get the certificate?
If you live in an area like I do where black locust grow like weeds, go for it. I have put lag bolts into black locust for a few years and never had a problem. If it dies, use it for firewood. Another will sprout up to replace it. Around here they seem to grow 5 or 10 feet a year.

I would recommend a high quality stainless steel long skinny (3/8 or 7/16 inch) lag bolt or eye bolt  that you can back out of the tree a little bit each year as the tree grows. Anything skinnier might break before backing out. If you predrill a hole the size of the bolt shank (excluding threads) you will reduce the likelihood of splitting the tree when you screw in the bolt. The tree will heal very quickly when you install it, but there is always the remote possibility of bugs getting in before it does. Do not put it in a crotch or other area that collects water. I'm not a tree expert, but I don't see the logic of installing a board that will quickly be engulfed by a black locust, and result in disrupting the flow of nutrients on one whole side of a tree. I would stick with a skinny lag bolts and doubt the tree would even notice it. Unless the idea is that it is easier to pry off a board and move it each year, rather than an insulator. But better to use a nut to hold the insulator on the end of the bolt, an inch or so away from the tree so the only thing touching the tree is the bolt, which can be backed out each year as the tree grow around it.

Locust grows fast, so don't forget to back the bolt out each year, or it will quickly disappear, and cause serious damage to someone using a chainsaw later.

If you run the wire on the inside of your paddock it will slacken each year as the tree grows but you might be able to rig some type of spring or weighted tensioning system to save you from having to re-rig it for a few years.

Best of luck!
7 years ago
Hi lonel,

They make very expensive synthetic basement waterproofing systems now. In the old days we used to dig around the foundation to the footer, smear roof cement on the exterior, then fabric, and install French drains inside and out with a sump pump. It always worked, and was fairly cheap if you did all the labor yourself, but took us all summer to do each house. If you dig below 4 feet you need a mechanical device to prevent cave ins so you don't get buried alive. With a good backhoe operator, you could probably do it in a week.

Generally speaking, if you can grade the soil one inch to the foot, away from your house for 6 or 8 feet, and run all your downspouts 6 feet away from the house, that usually solves most problems, but not always.

After going what I went through, I would never own a house with a basement. It is so much easier and cheaper to add another story up. The only thing I would want a basement for would be for a root cellar and would never finish it as a living space.

Best of luck!
7 years ago
Hi Lisa,

It is possible for 2 very experienced people to build a finished 800 sqft house in 3 months, but is tough. You will be able to get it under roof, but it takes longer to finish interiors than to build the shell. It may take you all winter to do the interior.

The biggest problem people in these forums have is with getting natural building plans approved by the county so you can get a building permit, and ultimately an occupancy permit to live in it. First step is to have a nice long chat with the folks in the permit office about what you have in mind before you start.

Don't forget the septic system.

Try to build close to the road to minimize electric line costs, unless you are going to live off grid. Driveway costs too.

Best of luck!
7 years ago
In the USA building codes require cold water knobs be on the right, and hot on the left to prevent scalding. Everyone is used to cold on the right so they expect it subconsciously. Cold is on the right because when they first plumbed water into the homes they put the knob on the right since most people were right handed. Later, when they added a hot water heater, they put that knob on the left.

Outlets should be every 2 ft along the countertop backsplash in alternating circuits, tied to GFCI breakers so you don't get electrocuted if the mixer falls into your sink.

Also add a pull out faucet above the stove top to fill large pots right on the stove so you don't have to carry from the sink. They make faucets specifically for over stoves. Great for filling stock pots, soup pots, pasta and for canning.

If/when you install under cabinet lighting, you will be amazed at what a difference it makes. No comparison to overhead lighting.

All the lights in a room should be the same color. Light bulbs come in several different colors of white, from soft white, warm white, cool white, bright white and daylight (if memory serves). I prefer daylight for manual task lighting, but some find it too harsh and prefer bright white or cool white. Colors are expressed in degrees kelvin, so make sure all your bulbs are the same color (K) or it will drive you nuts. Soft white are the cheapest and most popular because they are actually yellow and make your complexion look best and yellow teeth appear white. I hate them because they distort true colors. 😀. Use them in the living room, bedroom, or dining room if you must. Personally I would use 60 watt equivalent daylight LED bulbs on dimmers everywhere.
7 years ago

I haven't had a microwave in 10 years. Not enough counter space.

Like others, I reheat pasta and chinese noodles in a small pan with a quarter cup of water in the bottom. Cover with lid and turn up high and stir frequently. It basically steams it and the water you added to prevent sticking boils off so it ends up the same consistency as the original.

Reheat leftover meats and pizza under the oven broiler which takes about a minute. I frequently take all my leftovers ( green beans, mash potatoes, meat, etc.) Smush down real flat and broil it for a minute. Some of it gets crunchy, but I like that. Sprinkle with water first if you want it to stay soft. If it is a thick piece of meat, you will have to flip it once. I am too impatient to use the oven on weeknights.

When I make spaghetti sauce or chili, I make a bunch and freeze in individual servings. When I get home from work, I drop the rock hard frozen block of spaghetti sauce (because I never think far enough ahead to defrost) in a small covered pot with a tiny bit of water, and boil another small pot for cooking the angel hair pasta, and I am eating in 10 min or so. Now THAT is fast food!

The good thing about using an oven or broiler is that reheating for two or more people, does not take twice as much time as reheating for one, like it does in a microwave. And I can cook mashed potatoes from raw on a stove top much faster than someone using a microwave, because I cut the raw potatoes into small pieces and boil.

Try reheating your rice bags in a solar oven made from a few pieces of aluminum foil in a south facing window.
7 years ago