Cody DeBaun

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since Dec 27, 2016
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Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
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Recent posts by Cody DeBaun

Hello all,

Total biochar novice here, hoping for guidance! I recently saw this little clip from an interview with Mark Shepard in which he said that, if there was a ready resource and it was appropriate to his situation, he could see creating a system that produced biochar, and generated electricity from the heat. This made so much sense to me, but I couldn't find any examples of this having been done.

A search of the wonderful biochar forum here at Permies yielded this post, but nothing else.

Is this a potential possibility? Or is the reason I can't find any examples that it's not feasible/would only work at a very large scale?
2 weeks ago
Wow, those walls are beautiful!

My understanding is that the problem with acrylic/similar finishes when it comes to natural walls is that they're waterproof-  no water in, no water out. Makes sense in keeping the rain in and the damp out, but it also seals whatever moisture is still inside the walls, so they don't cure properly. Just like rushed/improperly cured concrete, the wall will rot over time, due to the moisture trapped inside it.

That's my limited understand on the topic, hopefully one of the (WAY) more knowledgeable natural builders around here can contribute more!
8 months ago
Whoa. That's a great idea.

I think you won't find this sort of system at the residential level because finished compost offers its own benefits. It's a great idea for lower quality compost, like the stuff that results from sewage sludge, but for me, seems like more effort than its worth for the individual farmer/gardener.

I like having both compost and worm compost/castings for plants. I think they provide complementary benefits to the garden.
8 months ago
Hey there Markus,

I see no one's jumped in on your thread so allow me!

I hate to be the 'it depends' guy, but... =)

Any of those systems provide enough thermal mass to effectively cool a house in summer and keep it warm in winter. Integrating that wall style with passive solar design, appropriate tech heating/cooling systems and other elements of house design can create a home that is comfortable year round.

Which is most appropriate for your specific area depends on some other factors. How humid is the region? How wet are the soils? How much rainfall? Water plays a big part in the long term health and efficiency of walls. Also what's the elevation? How much wind reaches the site? Is it from a consistent direction, or is it more seasonal?

Rammed earth is traditionally seen in more arid circumstances, though there are notable exceptions to that rule. They're great for absorbing the heat throughout the day, and releasing it throughout cold desert nights.

Cob and strawbale are more universal in their use, though it's my understanding that straw bale is a little more common in temperate situations (where straw is more abundant/readily available).

There are a number of other strategies that are very helpful to keeping a home cool in the hotter parts of the world:

- Move heat sources outside. An outdoor/detached kitchen, shower, and laundry facilities help to prevent you from heating up the house you're trying to cool.
- Build to where the wind blows. Catching a cool breeze can make a huge difference in a home's comfort, and building with the direction of the prevailing wind in mind can mean a one-time action with benefits for years.
- Get low. This one is very dependent on your soils, but as we see in Paul's WOFATI building style, sinking a home a few feet into the earth can greatly contribute to the coolness and temperature regulation of a structure.
- Grow your house. Integrating plant systems, especially when paired with your ventilation system, can cool a structure significantly, while providing clean refreshing air at the same time.
- Cool in, hot out. Speaking of ventilation, being intentional about how air moves through the structure can help keep temps low. Venting hot air from the top of a structure, and using that movement to pull in cool air from near or even under the ground (using the Bernoulli effect) can continually cool your house, using the energy of the heat that you're expelling.
- Shade. Shading your roof and walls, either with plants or nonliving shade materials, can reduce the amount of heat energy entering a structure.

I know this didn't directly answer your question, but I hope it was helpful!
8 months ago
I see what you're saying, but I don't know that I would want to block any winter sunlight, even in Central Texas.

If it's permanent and relatively high up, what about angling the cloth? If the shade cloth sloped about 30 degrees, with the Northern side at the lowest point and the Southern side at the highest, you may get the best of both worlds. Taking more cloth to the side of the garden the wind blows from (should generally be the North or West where you are, though local topography counts), you could get the direct sunlight in winter, plus the warmth generated by a dark colored shade cloth. In the summer with the sun directly overhead, you could get the shade from the cloth while still allowing a breeze over your garden.

Might be kind of a pain, but for a more permanent structure like you're describing, it might be worth considering.

As for materials, I like wooden or galvanized metal fenceposts, and aluminet shadecloth. If you use wood be careful about finishes, if you use metal, same thing. Don't want to start adding toxic gick to your garden soil. Where you plant under the shadecloth, taking advantage of microclimates of light exposure, would make a difference. Your tomatoes would probably thrive at the edges of the shade, while your lettuce and asparagus would probably be perfectly happy at the center.
8 months ago
Howdy Phil!

I'll admit, I'm completely out of my depth when it comes to the specifics of your question. But I'll offer what thoughts it brought to mind, and maybe bumping it back up on recent topics will get a nibble from someone more knowledgeable.

Are the Vicuna you're referring to domesticated?

Here in Texas, there are a lot of farms that have had success raising exotic animals like elephants, giraffes, and goats from around the world. They're successful because the climate is close enough, and the animals have access to food similar to what they're acclimated to eating.

For an Alpine species native to areas with large temperature variations, I would hazard a guess that the main difficulty will be in finding a place at lower elevation with similar flora.

What draws you to Vicuna, specifically?
9 months ago
Good article, thanks for sharing!

I'm also in 8a, and have a trumpet creeper vine with a downright alarming rate of growth. It ate 10 feet of fence in a year, top to bottom just covered the whole thing. The red/reddish trumpet flowers draw in hummingbirds, and the plant keeps pumping them out from May through September.

It also produces thousands of air-dispersed seeds, so that's something to watch out for. I just gather up all the pods throughout the season before they open, end up with a small bucket or so of the seed each season.
9 months ago
If you're in North Texas there's a service called Chip Drop that's pretty good. other metropolitan centers may have an equivalent.

For local species, I would avoid Walnut, Texas Walnut, Magnolia, Osage Orange, Cedars and Cypress (cypresses?)

All are allelopathic to one degree or another, and will take forever to break down besides.
9 months ago
Hi there Merili!

It sounds like your community is flourishing! From that aerial view I can tell what a beautiful place it is, and also that a Permaculture consultant could offer many opportunities for positive change. In addition to your post here I would recommend you reach out to the Permaculture Research Institute; I imagine they would be able to recommend a PDC instructor/consultant in your area. Here is their contact page.

Best of luck to you and the Small Footprint community!
11 months ago
Randy I've considered the same issues. Many threads here on Permies talk about starting small and expanding a house from a financial standpoint, but I haven't seen any books specifically on how that process works. Roofing and windows, the only solutions I see are to plan on modular roofing, with each part of the roof complementing the rest but standing on its own, and planning on where you would/could extend when placing windows. Foundation, however, seems to be the sticky wicket.


For my area it seems like a rubble trench foundation would be the best option, so in designing a structure (we don't have land of our own yet, but plan on purchasing and building our own home), one idea I've had is extending the rubble trenches out two feet beyond each wall. Using either roof overhang, something to shield it from rain or counting on trench drainage, I plan to dig out 10 feet, partially fill that trench so that the rubble slopes towards the structure, and backfill until it's needed. That way, if in the future I want to build out additional walls, I can simply unearth that part of the trench and extend it without disturbing the structure. Or so I hope. Will probably have a concrete footing as well, which would help.

Here's a few poorly done sketches of what I'm thinking:

11 months ago