Sue De Nimh

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since May 05, 2016
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Recent posts by Sue De Nimh

Looking through all this, the key point To emphasize for newbies is that the Kickstarter funds an experiment and the documentation of the experimental setup, ie your Kickstarter campaign is a grant proposal (sorry, science research is my day job). I can see you have the temperature sensors listed, 2 questions: Where are those being placed, and are there being done in a fashion that they can be replaced when they or their connecting wires fail? What are the data collection plans, and will there be data summaries? Or opportunity to somehow acquire the data?

I just mention this because, really, what all your work here is, is citizen science. It is important. The area you do research in is obviously interesting to a number of people. It certainly isn’t boring, and it is achievable science foe anyone to replicate.

Having the long-term data available in some fashion aids the people who build on your work. Simple images of graph paper with data points plotted by hand go a long way toward achieving this goal. Electronic measurement reduces the workload tremendously.  I personally would be interested enough in your experiment to contribute a couple of microcontroller boards set up to do data collection and could discuss some of the cloud platforms for data display.    
4 months ago
Count me in (around the $25 dollar level)!

I am also North Country high water table, so any thoughts/possible approaches based on your experiments would be good.  Some mention of design values for round timber structures would be greatly appreciated. Earth-bermed deer stand, anyone?
4 months ago
We have 40 acres in the north woods (zone 4), currently with a hunting cabin just big enough to sleep and keep warm with a wood stove in the colder seasons.  You could call it seasonal occupancy, but we go up any time the weather will allow us to use the wilderness pit toilet without freezing off portions of our anatomy. For purposes of this discussion, a wilderness toilet is a box on top of a pit, and I made it fancy with a plastic tarp on a tripod to keep the snow off your back.  Needless to say, our cooking facilities are...spartan.. though, since cooking takes longer, our shelter is actually more resistant to precipitation.

The first year, we had a 16'x20' tarp over an  A-frame made of 3-4" diameter peeled balsam fir poles-2 on each end and one ridgepole, with 2 sawhorses and a sheet of 3/4" plywood for a counter. Serviceable, with open ends, the rain would blow in, and in the end, the ridgepole couldn't handle the weight of the snow that slid down, pulled down on the tarp and broke it. Considering the snow that year was 2 feet deep, I was surprised it survived that long. Kitchen v2 was moved to a shadier spot (the tarps stop visible light, but not infrared, so we still got hot). The pictures attached show the framework, where we used 3 pairs of fir poles and a much more robust ridgepole, covered with a 24x32' plastic tarp, and the finished "Mess Hall".  We also used some poles for cross-bracing. The whole thing is tied together with paracord, and the ends of the center pair of poles were cut near to the ridgepole and then wrapped in scraps of tarp to keep them from poking through the cover. This is its third winter-I have had to recover it twice-the center pole points and couple spots on the side frame rubbed holes in the cover, and I noticed last summer that tree fungus was growing on the ridge pole there.  To make it more comfortable in cold wet or windy weather, the back end had another large tarp tied at the ridgepole, and then to the sides of the end frame.  I attach another tarp over the front end that keeps out most of the winter snow, though not all.

We can fit chairs in there, though I never took out the scaffold from the center, since we put the stove under it; friend gave us a "camping kitchen"-essentially a folding table with side shelves-that the stove goes on. We used a propane camping stove, and upgraded to a duck blind stove when the mice made a nest and had babies in the camping stove.  We never store food in the "Mess Hall" (there are bears in the area), when we still had only a tent, it went back into vehicles.

We now have a 12x20' Amish-built cabin - really, just a shed, but it has 2 doors and 2 windows, and now it has insulation and a wood stove, as well as a bed and a cot. We think it is safe to keep food in there, and we use a big cooler for cold stuff, as well as storing food and cooking gear in a large plastic storage bin with a locking lid, just in case the mice find their way in and aren't repelled by the mothballs we have in the cabin corners.   We have a really nice 8 foot long picnic table under a shady tree for prep and eating.  We can cook almost everything we could at home-I use a dutch oven with charcoal for cake and biscuits, wrap other things in foil and roast over the coals of a wood fire, or just cook meat directly over the coals. With the duck blind stove, anything stove top is just like home.  I did buy a BaseCamp wood-fired grill/cooker that also charges a battery pack, but that is more of curlicue than a central piece of kitchen equipment-great for grilling with wood trimmings from our woods, though, and reduces our charcoal consumption.

We either heat up wash water over a wood fire in a galvanized 20 gal garbage can or galvanized pail, or in a kettle on the propane or wood-fired stove.  Put the wash water with dish detergent in a plastic dish pan (hot and cold to get comfortable temp) and there's your dishes. Use the old girl scout dunk bag to rinse, or just pour over.  We make sure the food scraps are scraped off the dishes before washing, then when little food scraps wash off, we pour the used dish water onto the gravel driveway at least 100 ft away from camp, so as not to attract the bears.  Eventually, I think a keyhole garden might be a great way to reuse the dish water, but I still would put it well away from the cabin until I saw if the bears or coyotes were attracted.

My key considerations for camp cooking fall along the lines of food safety first, and keeping a bear-free camp.  I'm pretty flexible about what I need to have to cook, having camped since I was a child.  Any stable flat surface is a counter; adjust cooking methods to fit the heat source-and you really can't go wrong with a cast iron dutch oven if you have either charcoal or a wood fire gone to coals.  Cooking like this takes some practice, maybe a little more time, and if you are someone who is uncomfortable improvising in a recipe, you won't be happy until you make a more kitchen-like setting for yourself.  The biggest thing I miss up there is my microwave, but we are off-grid, and a microwave just won't run on a pair of deep-cycle 12V batteries and a 100 watt solar panel.  For the future, I am slowly building an earth oven, but I keep getting attacked by sloth and sit in my chair reading while the birds chirp, and then it is winter again for too many months.  We also thought we could just get the Amish fellows to build us another shed, but again, that is money that maybe we need to spend on a permanent home for our retirement...
2 years ago
4 years ago, we bought at $1300/acre in Northern Wisconsin (zone 4a) when the market was close to bottomed out. Assessed value for taxes was in line with what we paid. On a paved and plowed county road, classified as rural land, no structures, the soil is silty sand with frequent rocks (standard Wisconsin glacial till), wooded, aspen/balsam fir in the drier part and muck (the actual soil classification) with black spruce and alder shrub (classified as wetland) in the back. We will definitely need to use Sepp Holzer type methods to get food out of it. Right now it is decent hunting land, though the wildlife is quite wiley, so vegetarianism would be an enforced option if we were to depend on the land alone to feed us.

As we were looking, there were other properties available-the adjacent 40 acres were sold at $10K more just because they had a trailer with a deck and electric brought in about 30 ft to pole with RV connection. The purchasers ended up replacing the trailer (it was full of mold). I couldn't understand the logic of paying that much extra for a moldering trailer-and we ended up having a local Amish guy build us a barebones 12x20 cabin that met the building code for seasonal dwelling for $5K. No mold, doors front and back and I added screen doors the next summer-I love the place. The township reassessed all the properties last year-since we put a structure on it, it falls under a new classification and the assessed value went up $10K. We also looked in southwestern Wisconsin-the price per acre was $3-5K-which meant smaller property and no better soil. And more people.

Other factors worked into our purchase decision-the adjacent county had a property we almost bought-then I discovered we could not dig a privy unless we replaced it with a permanent septic system or holding tank within 3 years. Our county has no problem with us digging permanent privy, and if we drive a well-point ourselves, we can have a hand pump. This allows us to take our time transitioning to permanent habitation without large expenditures of cash early in our ownership to make it happen.

Most counties in our state have their land records accessible on-line and one can access assessed valuations that way. Our adopted county has very nice people in the land and permitting offices, and the township board of assessment agreed with out petition to have the wet half of the property assessed as wetland, which offset the increase in value from the change in classification. One can also find on-line maps of soils for a prospective property at NRCS Web Soil Survey with some estimates of suitability for septic or building-though I can tell you for our property at least, all the unsuitable rating means is it will cost a little more for septic, or a little extra care or constraint on building methods. One other constraint on what we can build is determined by the state building codes (and the county and township modifications to them). Our county is pretty mellow about what you build, our current county is pretty snooty about it, so if the locality you pick has "keep the riffraff out" rules, doesn't matter how the land is priced, if you can't do what you want at your pace.
4 years ago