O. Donnelly

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since Dec 18, 2015
Hudson Valley Zone 5b
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Recent posts by O. Donnelly

I absolutely believe most communities, and even households, could become self sufficient in locally appropriate fruit production and some amount of vegetable production.  (And pork production and poultry production, and...). Think about all the "decorative" landscape trees that could've been replaced by a fruit or mast tree. It's not a matter of organizing community cooperatives or even teaching techniques.   It's about influencing choices. The vast majority of people would rather drive to the supermarket to buy an insipid but blemish free red delicious than put in the work to plant and grow an apple tree.  the best you can do is try through example and friendship to demystify and instill a love of nature and gardening to one friend, one neighbor, one co-worker, one niece, nephew, son daughter grandchild at a time... 
3 months ago
This document provides a very good starting point to understand how wall assemblies should be constructed in different climates:

https://buildingscience.com/sites/default/files/migrate/pdf/RR-0412_Insulation_Sheathing_Retarders_BFG.pdf

This is a good starting point on how roof assemblies should be constructed:

https://buildingscience.com/file/3187/download?token=NbH3Z0RN

You basically have a blank canvas. Your house is akin to a stick built house under construction that has dimensional lumber and osb sheeting but no additional wall assembly components yet installed. You can build inward and outward from that point by adding siding, air and vapor barriers, insulation, etc according to the needs of your climate and you budget. And consider that even though that might seem daunting and expensive, it may have a very rapid payback given how extremely energy inefficient your house is.

The most important thing to remember is to prevent moisture from being trapped inside wall assemblies and in contact with organic material (wood, paper, rice hulls, cellulose, etc) by improper placement of vapor barriers or the dreaded double vapor barrier (vapor barriers on both sides of the wall assembly).


My guess is that in your climate you're going to want walls to dry to the inside, so you'll want a moisture barrier towards the outside of the assembly and no barriers on the inside (oil based paint, wallpaper, etc).  Probably something like siding - a couple inches of eps or othe rigid foam insulation (insulation air and vapor barrier) - existing barge board - new optional 2x4 internal framing filled with high density blown fiber glass insulation (inert, non-toxic, won't absorb water or foster mold growth, good value for additional r-value) - drywall - latex paint - artwork.
3 months ago
Start by spending a day or two reading this website: 

https://buildingscience.com/

They have many great articles that explain proper wall construction in different climates. How to get vapor barriers and insulation right...

To me, the two most important concepts to figuring out "the best bang for the buck" are (1) how r-value works; and (2) how heat travels.

R-value:  when you double r-value, you cut heat transfer in half. So for example let's assume a wall has an r-value of 1, and you're loosing 100 "units" of heat, and every incremental r-value of one costs one dollar.  if you insulate to an r-value of 2, you spend one dollar to cut your heat loss by 50 units. Doubling the insulative value again to r4 will cost an additional $2 and will reduce heat loss to 25 units. R8 will cost another $4 and reduces your heat loss by 12.5 units. R16 costs an additional $8 but only reduces heat loss By 6.25, etc. etc. As you continue to add insulation, you quickly will spend huge sums of money to achieve insignificant incremental energy savings.  By far the biggest incremental energy saving per $ spent occur at the beginning of the curve.

The popular misconception is that heat rises.  Hot air rises but heat actually radiates in all directions. It flows through your floor as quickly as your walls and ceiling assuming the same insulative properties and heat differential between interior and exterior.  There is a separate reason in the north to increase insulation to a ceiling - ice dam prevention - but not because of excess heat loss.

In my house, adding one inch of eps under my basement slab was by far the best "beyond code"  decision I made. That's because I was taking the r-value up from approximately r-1 (the r-value of an inch of concrete) to r-5.5 (r4.5 per inch of eps plus the concrete). Resulting in a greater than 75% decrease in heat loss.  In comparison to increasing the wall or ceiling insulation from code minimum of r-21 (where the vast majority of efficiency gains had already been realized) to some greater amount, there was no comparison in terms of roi.

I would guess that the r-value for all the walls and ceiling in your house is very low, perhaps as low as r-1 or r-2.  I would therefore guess that the best bang for your buck would be to uniformly throughout the house get the levels up 4-8 r-value points by for instance putting in an inch or two of eps. That would be better than concentrating on one area such as the roof. If you're good with excel you could model it out but if I'm understanding your situation that seems intuitively correct.

4 months ago
Have never heard that phosphorous should not go directly onto the soil. Why is that the case?  At least two of my most respected garden gurus - Michael Philips and Steve Solomon - recommend direct applications to the soil.
4 months ago
Chicken wire on the walls is also surprisingly and incredibly good at blocking EM. Apparently a lot of the turn of the century, plastered row houses have had to be remodeled bc of the chicken wire that supported the plaster. Creates a faraday cage.

Might at least give you a reprieve. Perhaps use chicken wire wallpaper in your bedroom or something.
4 months ago
I'm a believer in the internal chimney. 

The house I grew up in had a fireplace on the outside wall.  It was a beast to get a draft, always blowing smoke into the room when we lit the wood stove. 

My current house has chimney in the very center of the house, going up three stories and out the peak. Draws perfectly every time I light the stove. Perhaps helps that the attic is finished and usually the warmest room in house. Attic roof has skylights on the south side and is much better insulated than the walls (r40 vs r21 in walls).
6 months ago

Todd Parr wrote:

O. Donnelly wrote:I don't think you're going to be able to make much compost between now and spring given cold temps and lack of nitrogen. Shredding 100 bags of leaves is a big task. Given that youre going to spend a lot of time with little chance of achieving your goal, why not rethink the whole endeavor?  If it were me, I would not shred the leaves. I would make a large pile and come back In a year or two for the resultant leaf mould. You could compost it at that time or simply use it as is.



If you don't shred the leaves, in a year or two you are going to have leaves.  Last fall I shredded, loaded, hauled, and piled 120 bags of leaves in less than 2 hours.  I still don't have leaf mold, although the leaves made really good mulch where I put them.

You aren't going to get compost during these winter months, but the first couple months of spring, composting works here.  That should be enough time to get compost for planting given enough turning.



I believe everyone's post here are honest and written from direct first hand experience.  I'm sure that what you describe above has been true for you. I just checked my leaf pile, so that I could speak out of direct experience rather than out my arse.  Here's what I found...

I built my leaf pile in oct 2015, so it is 2 years old. It was 8' diameter, 3' high woven wire fencing packed as full as I could get it with newly fallen leaves after a rain.

Now the pile is about 12" thick. The top .5 cm or so is recognizable leaves, but below that thin veneer - I wouldn't even call it leaf mould. It is soil, forest duff, not sure what you would call it. There are no recognizable leaf parts whatsoever.  Completely decomposed.

My climate is slightly warmer than yours (5b) and the pile is in the forest, with an intact sfw capable of rapidly decomposing leaves. Perhaps that's the difference in our experiences...
7 months ago
Ive read, and re-read and re-read both Apple grower and holistic orchard. I wish he had just come out with an expanded version of Apple grower as you really need both books to get a full picture of his methods. Each book by itself feels incomplete, and it's work to try to piece it all together given his writing style. He needs a better editor...

That said, they are the best (perhaps only?) guide out there for organic orcharding; and I've bought multiple copies of each to give to friends (or replace loaned copies not returned), so I've found them to be worth the effort...
7 months ago
I don't think you're going to be able to make much compost between now and spring given cold temps and lack of nitrogen. Shredding 100 bags of leaves is a big task. Given that youre going to spend a lot of time with little chance of achieving your goal, why not rethink the whole endeavor?  If it were me, I would not shred the leaves. I would make a large pile and come back In a year or two for the resultant leaf mould. You could compost it at that time or simply use it as is.
7 months ago
I hadn't heard about red clover being toxic to some animals.

On my pasture up here in ny, we have abundant deer and red clover. 
9 months ago