ajmot Hatfield

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since May 01, 2009
Pittsburgh PA
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Recent posts by ajmot Hatfield

This is probably equal parts generation gap, regional culture, and just aesthetics between the two of us, but here in western PA, and where I've lived in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, and the Bay Area, the word "underground" never drew any negative connotation, in the last 10 years as a carpenter talking with people about alternative buildings. So I must just have missed that boat. No resistance to the word has ever come up. I've seen the problems of underground houses decried in many books, but not the way you presented it!

I enjoyed your very nice article, and I'll take some lessons from it, but I'll just keep calling it an "underground" house! The "Wheaton" earth-sheltering method. I don't plan to ever say "wofati" but if I run into someone who does, I'll let you know that it's catching on!

Also, "Wo Fat" was apparently a villain from Hawaii Five-O. (Never watched it.)

9 years ago
Yeah, ours is Asimina triloba, very different. We have papaya but they are usually shipped from great distance and suffer a bit with the travel (I lived in Hawaii for a while!) but not as much as the "Michigan banana".
9 years ago
Wow that's awesome. They are not cheap here in northern Appalachia (at least $3/lb in season) and have a short season. There are prolific suckering colonies here but they are not usually very delicious varieties. Your subtropical climate must be ideal. I'd like to see some photos of these fruits in market!

Update: I seemed to post this just as PJ made a comment. Well, papaya that grow like weeds isn't such a bad problem either!

Post a photo Bird, let's see for ourselves which it is. You can see a North American paw paw at Oikos:
9 years ago
I lived in Kzoo for a while but wasn't wise to the plant world at that time. Would love to get a paw-paw stand going, planted two 12" trees from Oikos a few weeks ago. Looks like PJ should go into the sucker-selling business.

Paw paw fruits become rapidly over-ripe, and apparently do not refrigerate well, so they do not appear anywhere out of season, and only near paw paw growing territory for the very short fall season. I know of no wholesaler that ships them, and I've been looking! I am going to try to establish paw-paw stands using seed balls thrown in the fall (next autumn) along wooded waterways (I'm in a mountainous area with lots of soggy but rocky creeks flowing through forests). We'll see how that works out in the decade to come!

Seeds can be preserved for months if kept cool, moist, but free of mold. (I have failed this advice all three ways.) The place I'm going to try for bulk seed next year will be F. W. Schumacher. Roughly $35/lb (450+) of seed. Gentlemen, start your seed drums!

9 years ago
Yes, as said above, use it as insulation. Wool is the highest cost insulation I know off! Way more expensive than any plastic. You've got a new business on your hands buddy.

And takes longer to degrade in your garden than plastic too! You said it yourself: if it doesn't compost, it will just accumulate in the open garden.

Wool is one of the most durably valuable products of any kind -- add some value dude!

Make us some socks already!

"The leaves can mat and choke out air and water."

Haha well, from first-hand experience: not a problem. Can't "choke out air" any more than your average compost pile or garden soil at 12" of depth ("Humanure Handbook" anyone?). Basically forms a layer of "fluffy" soil. Will slow down flow of water in all directions if dry, but... that's good! Most leaves (that I've ever used) do not "mat" except under waterlogged anaerobic conditions (wetland muck, plastic bag) -- in my garden they curl up and crack when dry, or they disintegrate when wet. (I'm talking here about 12" of leaves max.) I'm always digging around in them anyway.

"Maybe mixing in lots of twigs and sticks would mitigate this."


9 years ago
Maybe someone has mentioned this and I didn't see it, but the name "wofati" is ridiculous! I read the article and could not understand what word Mike Oehler used that was such a turn-off -- I had to read through it a few times before realizing that "underground" was the word that Paul (and others?) found offensive.

"Underground" has no negative connotation for me. Actually I think back to "Wind In The Willows" and Badger touring his burrow with Mole -- nothing but fondness for living down below! It's like "above-ground" house as far as I'm concerned -- I have no overall prejudice against above-ground houses even though I would not want to emulate 90% of those (in modern America at least: trailer, McMansion, soviet condo block).

"His choice of title was so bad, that I avoided the book for more than a decade." Are you kidding me? "$50 Underground House" is exactly the kind of phrase I want to hear.

As I read in your article that "when Mike tries to talk about his work, people automatically tune him out whenever he uses the word. Feel the mighty power of a single word!" -- I thought at first that you were talking about the word "wofati"... ha!

I don't want to pile on too badly here but "wofati" sends me into a fit! "Whoa Fatty Fatty!" Ever listen to the Heptones or Clancy? Please get your marketing team back together and pick a better name from the hat!

9 years ago
I moved from Oakland to Pittsburgh PA in Jan 2008 after vising Portland and Seattle, for a related set of reasons -- Oakland and the East Bay are covered in concrete -- Pittsburgh is intermingled with an astonishing amount of forest, all of which can be highly productive, most of which has been completely ignored for nearly 50 years (since the last clear-cuts and fires). I bought a house here for four thousand dollars and there are thousands of acres available for a few hundred dollars per parcel -- and the county has a pretty good GIS system for investigating real estate. Pittsburgh could feed, fuel, clothe, and shelter itself within 5 miles of city limits. (I'm a big booster for Pittsburgh over the East Bay, though I loved my time there!)

9 years ago
I'm doing this right now -- so far I've collected 50+ bags of leaves just on my regular drives around town -- and actually a lot of the bags are full of veggies and flowers and soil! People just can't stop getting rid of their gold around here. So I'm covering my soon-to-no-longer-be-lawn as thick as possible.

If I were on my game this autumn, I would sit at the entrance to one of the several "yard waste" drop off sites around town, or the local commercial composter, and divert those who approach to my truck, or directly to my 1/4 acre city lot. (Drop-offs charge these citizens money to take their debris, and then the composters resell the finished product at a profit!) Likewise, if you are in the land of lawns like me, hook up with a lawn-cutting crew to divert their endless trimmings.

Ruth Stout mulching in the city.
9 years ago
Some people call it agroecology. I often say "applied ecology" -- but it's more broad than the common understanding of "ecology", including geology, industrial metabolisms, architecture, etc etc. Mollison called it the first "design science" -- and that's probably what it is -- a growing catch-all syllabus of the best strategies for ecological and industrial design.

I would characterize it as "guerrilla economics and amateur science" along the lines of Paul Hawken and Paul Stamets -- because people seem to be fixated on the gardening and homesteading aspects too much, which Mollison spent relatively little time speaking about during his early PDC lectures. He was trying to spread the word about much hardier human systems than a simple western home and garden -- like Commonwork in the UK or Mondragon in the Basque, setting up resilient landholding and business ventures, avoiding taxation for war and building up infrastructure among the impoverished beneath the noses of ineffectual charities and bureaucracies and tyrannies.

Allan Savory came to a similar set of systems, which he calls "holistic management" -- a bit more focused on large land systems, so doesn't cover the same ground as permaculture in detail, but really they are the same thing in outline. Christopher Alexander came to probably the more cosmic rules underlying the holistic design sciences -- and he usually just calls that vitality, aliveness, or "life"!
9 years ago