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eric koperek

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since Jan 21, 2016
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Recent posts by eric koperek

TO:  Ken W. Wilson
FROM:  Eric Koperek =
SUBJECT:  Pine Forest for Japanese Oak Mushroom Cultivation
DATE:  PM 6:37 Wednesday 9 November 2016

(1)     Please excuse my delay in responding to your question.  My work keeps me traveling 10 months each year.

(2)     Pine forests are ESSENTIAL for natural cultivation of Japanese Oak Mushrooms.

(3)     Pine forests host beneficial micro-organisms that prevent growth of detrimental bacteria and fungi that compete against Japanese Oak Mushroom fungi.

(4)     A pine forest is an ecosystem.  The myriad lifeforms within the ecosystem form a stable, biological control that suppresses disease causing organisms.

(5)     The pine forest replaces sterilization, pasteurization, and quarantine measures used for high-tech commercial mushroom production.  

(6)     RULE:  Always place hardwood logs used for oak mushroom production in conifer = pine forests.   Nota Bene:  A "conifer" is a tree with needle or scale-like leaves that bears seeds in cones.  Make sure there is a thick layer of pine needles where each log touches the soil.  Lean each hardwood log against the trunk of a LIVE pine tree.  Never use dead trees to nurse mushroom logs.

(7)     NEVER place hardwood logs used for oak mushroom production in deciduous forests = forests with broad leaf trees that drop their leaves in the fall.  Broad leaf forests contain disease causing organisms that kill Japanese Oak Mushroom fungi.

(     Please send me an e-mail if you have any questions or require additional information.  


end comment

2 years ago
TO:  John Polk
FROM:  Eric Koperek =
SUBJECT:  French Drains versus Henry French Drains
DATE:  PM 2:14 Friday 22 September 2016

(1)     French Drains date back into the historical mists of the Middle Ages = long before Henry French was born.

(2)     When knights went clanking around in armor, a French Drain was a relatively narrow, deep pit filled with cobblestones (similar to a well).  French drains were used where surface gutters were inconvenient and underground conduits too expensive.

(3)     Illustrations and descriptions of French drains (Exhauriebat Francorum) can be found in the following historical works: De Aedificatione (1516), Artem Constructionis (1620), Aedificium Constructione Liber (1663), and Liber de Aqua Ipsum (1690).

(4)     I read architecture at the Bauhaus before the war.


end comment

2 years ago
TO:  Cj Thouret
FROM:  Eric Koperek =
SUBJECT:  Overflow from Cisterns
DATE:  PM 5:32 Wednesday 21 September 2016

(1)  All cisterns should have an overflow pipe to drain excess water.  The outflow pipe should be the same diameter as the inlet pipe.

(2)  The overflow pipe should be closely screened to prevent entry of insects, birds, rats, and other small animals (including small children).

(3)  Cistern overflow should drain to a lower elevation so that standing water does not remain around cistern.  This is a critically important detail.  

(4)  To keep underground tanks watertight, walls must be kept DRY.  This seems counter-intuitive but this is how cistern technology works.  Pools and cisterns usually fail because of water seepage through the EXTERIOR wall surface.  Thus, it is essential to keep water well away from underground walls.

(5)  I use a surface gutter (made from river pebble concrete) to drain water away from my office cistern.  The gutter leads to a French Drain in my garden.  Other drainage possibilities include underground pipe or tile.  Nota Bene:  You might consider using surface gutters (rather than roof gutters) to dispose runoff from your eaves.  Surface gutters are much easier to clean and maintain.  Most colonial and earlier buildings used surface gutters made from brick or stone because these were cheaper and more convenient.

(6)  Always think BEFORE draining.  Where will the water go?  Don't just dump excess water onto your lawn or you may create a swamp.  If necessary, dig out an area of lawn 1 foot deep and fill with a 1 : 1 mixture = 50% coarse sand + 50% topsoil by volume.  This will make a high-infiltration rate zone that you can seed with grass or other plants.  If you don't have topsoil or sand, substitute composted hardwood bark to make water infiltration beds.  If you need a super cheap quick solution, use raw wood chips obtained from tree trimming companies.  (Set potted flowers into the wood chips to improve appearance).

(7)  French Drains are holes filled with rocks.  Period.  French drains do NOT contain drainage tile or pipe.  French drains do NOT conduct water to other places.  French drains are entirely self contained.  Many people use the term French drain as a synonym to describe other drainage technologies.  This is NOT correct.  For best results fill French drains with cobblestones for maximum water storage capacity and rapid drainage.  Do NOT fill French drains with crushed rock.  Crushed rock packs tightly so there are few spaces for water to hold or drain.

(  There is serious engineering behind French drains.  Properly constructed drains must be able to receive large volumes of water quickly, and to hold this water until it can infiltrate into the soil.  Infiltration occurs primarily through the SIDES of the drain so it is important that the hole be sufficiently large to handle anticipated water volume.  When in doubt, dig your French drain DEEPER.  More depth = greater capacity and faster infiltration.

(9)  If you cannot obtain cobblestones to fill a French drain, use scrap concrete blocks LAID SIDEWAYS so holes will not fill in.  Back fill around and over concrete blocks with river pebbles or rip-rap = orange to grapefruit size rocks.

(10)  Send me an e-mail if you need further information about water collection, storage, and spreading systems.


end comment
2 years ago
TO:  Heidi Hoff & Gilbert Fritz
FROM:  Eric Koperek =
SUBJECT:  Toxins in Hot Composted Wood Chips
DATE:  PM 7:33 Tuesday 20 September 2016

(1)  Get a load of wood chips from a tree trimming company.  Let the pile sit for several days or weeks until it gets hot.  Dig into the pile and you will most often see a white or gray-white (gris-blanc), powdery, stringy mess.  Surprise!  What looks like fungus is ACTINOBACTERIA = facultative anaerobes that appear when compost piles turn ANAEROBIC = oxygen deficient.  Anaerobic compost is BAD compost = it contains all sorts of "critters" that you don't want around plant roots.  Actinobacteria are especially harmful because they produce natural toxins = antibiotics that kill fungi, especially symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi.

(2)  When you see actinobacteria it is a sure sign that a COMPOST PILE IS OUT OF CONTROL = severely oxygen deficient.  Turn compost pile IMMEDIATELY and keep turning every 2 days (or more frequently) every time the temperature spikes.  Translation:  Turn compost when thermometer reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  When in doubt, turn sooner rather than later.  High temperatures rapidly deplete oxygen so your compost pile becomes anaerobic overnight.

(3)  Anaerobic compost filled with actinobacteria can kill entire greenhouses full of plants.  It can also destroy crops covering raised beds hundreds of meters in length.  I grow vegetables for a living.  I know what financial havoc toxic wood chips create.

(4)  To safely decompose wood chips mix equal parts chips and manure by volume then compost 31 days or until temperature drops to ambient levels.  Monitor compost temperature constantly and turn frequently = any time temperature exceeds 131 degrees Fahrenheit but not higher than 170 degrees Fahrenheit.  

(5)  Alternatively, mix equal volumes of wood chips and manure then spread in a shallow layer 1 foot = 12 inches deep.  This is a form of cold decomposition called "sheet composting".

(6)  If manure is not available or too costly use any convenient nitrogen source in the following proportion:  1% AVAILABLE nitrogen by wood chip WEIGHT.  Thus, 1 ton = 2,000 pounds of wood chips require NOT LESS THAN 20 pounds of available nitrogen for composting.  When in doubt add more nitrogen.

(7)  Wood chips require large amounts of water for composting.  Irrigate compost every time pile is turned.  In dry weather you might have to water compost daily.  For most effective composting keep wood chips constantly moist.

(  To dispose "Bad" compost mix with equal or greater parts by volume of fresh material and re-compost  -- or --  spread "bad" compost in paths between raised beds or greenhouse benches and let "ripen" 6 months or longer.  Alternatively, throw actinobacteria-infested wood chips into cattle pen or chicken yard and let rot at least 6 months.


end comment
2 years ago
TO:  Cliff Persick
FROM:  Eric Koperek =
SUBJECT:  Building Drainage
DATE:  PM 2:41 Tuesday 20 September 2016

(1)  Following are general rules for building drainage.  These rules have been developed over many centuries of practical experience by European craftsmen.

(2)  Dig a rain trench all the way around your building.  The trench should be at least 1 foot = 12 inches wide.  Dig the trench down to the frost line = 3 to 5 feet deep in most temperate climates.  Center the trench under the eaves of your building roof.

(3)  Fill the trench with cobblestones = round river rocks.  If you can't find cobblestones use river pebbles = small round river rocks.  Round rocks have lots of big holes so water can drain rapidly.  Do NOT use crushed stone to fill trench.  Crushed stone packs tightly so there are few gaps for water to drain.

(4)  Dig a length of trench down slope so your rain trench can drain to lower elevation.  Follow a 2% grade.  Fill drainage trench with cobblestones or river pebbles.

(5)  If you build a good rain trench you will not need roof gutters and down spouts.  No more roof cleaning!  No more gutter maintenance!  No work ever!

(6)  If desired, you can connect your rain trench to a cistern for potable water storage.  Lay 4 to 6 inch diameter ceramic or plastic drain pipe on a 6 inch deep bed of river pebbles.  If possible, wrap drain tile or plastic pipe with geotextile or "drain sleeve" to keep sand, silt, and clay out of drain lines.  Cover drain pipe with 6 inches of river pebbles.  Cover river pebbles with 3 feet of coarse sand.  Cover coarse sand with a 6 inch layer of river pebbles and another 6 inch layer of river cobblestones.  The pebbles and cobblestones protect the sand filter.  Install tile line so it drains with a 2% slope down hill to cistern.  Note:  Size cistern based on roof area and average rainfall.  RULE-OF-THUMB:  1 inch of rain falling on 1 square foot of roof yields 2/3 gallon of water.  Rain rolls off roof, falls into trench, filters through sand, then flows through drains to cistern.  My office water supply comes from a 117 year old rain water filtration trench which has never received any maintenance.  Result:  Pure water and almost zero work.  (Once a year I clean the cistern with a swimming pool vacuum, whether it needs it or not).

(7)  If properly constructed, your rain water filtration trench will operate without attention for hundreds of years.  Water filtered through 3 feet of sand will be clean = potable.  Don't plant trees or shrubs near drain tiles or roots will clog conduits.

(  Carefully examine slopes above building.  Slopes collect lots of rain.  This water has to go somewhere = usually into your foundation or basement!  INTERCEPT WATER BEFORE IT GETS NEAR BUILDING!

(9)  Rent a trenching machine and dig a trench as deep as machinery allows.  Install trench not more than 50 feet up slope from building.  Fill trench with plastic drain pipe (cover with drain sleeve) and cobblestones or river pebbles.  Site trench so that it drains out and away from building.  Lay drainage pipe on a 2% grade down slope.  Note:  If drainage problems are severe you may need to rent a back hoe or excavator and dig trenches 8 or more feet deep to block underground water movement.

(10)  If you have a massive slope above your building you may have to dig additional interception trenches spaced not more than 50 yards apart.  

(11)  If surface water flow is substantial build a drainage swale up slope from building.  Swale should be 8 feet wide x 2 feet deep.  Line swale with 1 foot = 12 inches of rip-rap = orange to grapefruit size stones.  You can use crushed rock to line swales if desired.  Drain swale out and away from building.  Use 2% drainage grade.

(12)  RULE:  Every building should have a drainage trench not less than 1 foot wider than the foundation, and not less than 2 feet deeper than the foundation.  Lay 6 or 8 inch diameter tile to rapidly drain water away from building foundation and walls.  Fill foundation trench with cobblestones or river pebbles for superior drainage.  A properly constructed foundation drainage trench is the last ditch defense against water seepage into basement.

(13)  RULE:  If you dig a hole it will eventually fill with water.  This is basic common sense = widely ignored by architects and contractors.  The old fashioned way to waterproof a basement is 3 coats of tar on the exterior wall + a high capacity drainage system.  Some modern contractors use pond liner.  I prefer to build basement walls out of waterproof concrete because it lasts nearly forever.  My basement is built out of Roman pool concrete = my walls and floors are always dry.

(14)  I grew up in a 400 year old house with an absolutely arid basement 16 feet below grade.  The secret:  Wide foundation trenches and lots of cobblestones.  This is the same technology used to build Middle Age castles and other historic buildings.  Do it right the first time.

(15)  I just finished a drainage contract a few weeks ago.  My esteemed clients built a $350,000 house at the bottom of a nearly 100 acre slope (hay field) and wondered why their basement flooded 4 feet deep.  I charged them an extra $5,000 just for being stupid.


end comment
2 years ago
TO:  Aviyah Treves
FROM:  Eric Koperek =
SUBJECT:  Growing Watermelon in the Wet Tropics
DATE:  PM 7:38 Monday 19 September 2016

(1)  If Iquitos (Peru) is hot and wet enough for you, the answer is it is best to grow watermelons in the "dry" season.  Melon crops do not fare well if they are rained on every day = foliar diseases can wipe out entire crops.  Vine crops generally grow best in relatively dry climates.

(2)  Melons favor well drained soils with high organic matter contents.  Plant on mounds or in raised beds if soils are tight, heavy, or soggy.  Excellent soil aeration is essential to keep vine crops healthy.  Oxygen deficient soils promote rapid growth and spread of pathogenic organisms that attack plant roots.

(3)  For best results, dump 1 bushel = 8 gallons = 32 liters of compost or dried, crumbled cow manure on the soil surface to make a small hill or mound.  Set 1 transplant only in the middle of each hill.  If you have abundant compost or manure you can make each hill larger.  No other fertilizers or soil amendments are necessary.  If soil is poor, pile more compost or dried manure.  Mulch each vine with any available organic materials.  Apply mulch 8 inches deep.  Keep adding mulch as it decomposes.  

(4)  RULE:  Never leave the soil bare, not even for a day.  Keep the soil covered with mulch or growing plants at all times = 365 days yearly.  This is an essential management technique for tropical soils.  Vast amounts of Fungi are necessary to maintain the health and fertility of wet, tropical soils.  Fungi need moisture and large amounts of organic matter to thrive.  Translation:  Bare soil = crop failure.  Heed this warning.

(5)  Insect control will be your biggest problem.  Tropical pests can devour your crop in a few days.  Protect young plants with floating row covers = cheesecloth or similar fabric supported by hoops.  Remove horticultural fabric when plants start to bloom as melons require insect pollination.

(6)  The easiest way to grow melons in the jungle is to find a clearing with full sunlight and LOTS OF WEEDS.  Search for the weediest field you can find.  More weeds = better crops.  Clear a small space, about 1 meter diameter, for each melon plant.  Leave surrounding weeds standing.  The weeds will protect your melons from insect pests.  Plant melons as directed above.  Space each melon about 12 feet = 4 or more meters apart.  You can cut weeds and use these for mulch.  Prune or thin weeds as necessary only until melon plants are well established.  Once melon vines begin to run, no other care is usually required.  The vines climb over the weeds.  Vine crops tolerate light shade and grow well in weedy fields.  We harvest our best melons from the weediest fields.

(7)  If you grow vine crops in a proper garden, scatter the plants around so they are not grouped together.  Clusters of the same plant species attract insect pests like a beacon.  In tropical jungles you want to plant a polyculture of as many plant species as possible.  For best results your garden should contain 40 different species per quarter acre = roughly 100 feet x 100 feet.


end comment

2 years ago
TO:  Dan Kilminster
FROM:  Eric Koperek =
SUBJECT:  Coal verus "Biochar"
DATE:  PM 6:00 Monday 19 September 2016

(1)  Coal and charcoal are NOT the same.

(2)  Please do NOT use coal or any coal derivative as a soil amendment.  You can ruin your fields permanently.

(3)  We Germans did most of the original research on use of charcoal as a soil amendment, and coal ash and wood ash as fertilizers.  This research dates back to the early years of the 19th century = 1800's.  So we know more about this subject than anyone else.

(4)  Coal and coal ash contain various quantities of sulfur and heavy metals.  Excess sulfur lowers soil pH significantly reducing crop yields.  Heavy metals in sufficient concentration poison agricultural soils.

(5)  Acidic soils make aluminum much more soluble.  Aluminum toxicity is a problem for crops in both temperate and tropical regions.  Modern medical research has linked aluminum toxicity to diseases of the heart and nervous system.

(6)  Correcting overly acidic soils requires large = expensive amounts of lime, charcoal, or vast amounts of organic matter (to buffer soil pH).

(7)  Correcting soils contaminated by heavy metals is even more costly.  Often, the contaminated earth must be removed = vastly expensive.

(  Consequently, it is better to avoid soil contamination because environmental cleanup is so very costly.

(9)  Beware of municipal sewage (contains heavy metals) and chicken manure (may contain arsenic) as these fertilizers might also contaminate your fields just like coal or coal ash.

(10)  Agricultural charcoal is NOT a fertilizer.  Charcoal is a soil amendment.  There is a difference.  Charcoal has a vast amount of surface area where chemical reactions can take place.  (1 gram of powdered charcoal has the equivalent surface area of a football field).  Nutrients, water, and soil bacteria "stick" to charcoal surfaces.  Charcoal acts like a chemical sponge balancing soil pH and preventing nutrients from leaching out of the soil.

(11)  For adjusting soil pH:  1 part of powdered agricultural limestone = 2 parts agricultural charcoal = 2 parts of wood ashes by WEIGHT.  You can substitute these materials freely depending on cost and availability.

(12)  Do NOT apply "raw" agricultural charcoal to gardens, fields, or potting soils.  Raw charcoal is like a magnet that draws nitrogen out of the soil and holds it tightly so it is unavailable for plant roots.  Translation:  Your crops will get all yellow and sickly and yields will be very poor.  Application of raw charcoal can cause complete crop failure.  (Charcoal is like a vacuum cleaner; it is so powerful that it sucks nearly all of the nitrogen out of the soil and can hold it for a year or longer).

(13)  Charcoal must be composted before use.  Mix charcoal with equal parts of animal manure by VOLUME then compost not less than 30 days before application.  Turn compost every 2 or 3 days.  Composted charcoal is safe for plants and will not cause nitrogen deficiency.

(14)  Up to 40% composted agricultural charcoal can be mixed with greenhouse potting soils.  Adding more charcoal decreases plant growth.

(15)  To amend problem soils add up to 10% agricultural charcoal by VOLUME to make Terra Preta = Dark Earth (similar to the charcoal amended dark earths of the Amazon, Africa, and Southeast Asia).

(16)  Agricultural charcoal is expensive = much more costly than limestone or wood ashes in most areas.  Consequently, it is NOT economic to add charcoal to most agricultural soils in temperate or tropical climates.  

(17)  Charcoal amendment is most effective on sands (such as land reclaimed from the sea), and highly leached plastic clays typically found in tropical rain forests.

(18)  Soils weathered from exposed coal seams are very rare and usually quite limited in extent.  Contact your Provincial agricultural university for more information about the properties and management of soil series on your farm.

(19)  Nota Bene = Note Well:  "Biochar" means BIOLOGICAL CHARCOAL = charcoal made from something alive = wood or agricultural wastes.  COKE = carbon made by baking coal in an air-tight furnace should NEVER be used for agricultural or medicinal purposes.


end comment

2 years ago
TO:  Cw Floyd
FROM:  Eric Koperek =
SUBJECT:  Watershed Associations
DATE:  PM 6:41 Thursday 15 September 2016

(1)  Your fight will be easier if you incorporate a landowners association = homeowners association.  Go (literally) door-to-door and sign up every property owner in the district = watershed.  Call it the "XYZ County Watershed Protection Association" so it is clear who and what you are representing.  Aim for a participation rate of 80% or more so you will have credibility when sitting across the table from "Snidely Whiplash" = Tyson.  Hundreds of landholders banded together is serious opposition even for big corporations like Tyson.  Acres are what counts.  Enroll as many acres as possible.  You want to show Tyson a map of "wagon train surrounded by hordes of hostile Indians" = the speck of blue (their acres) surrounded by a sea of red (your acres).  Sometimes the threat of UNITED OPPOSITION is enough to make corporations think twice.  Organizing a landholders association will certainly give you much needed negotiating strength.

(2)  Do a little historical research about recent local election results.  Most elections in the United States are decided by relatively small margins = 2 or 3%.  Organize a thousand landholders and you can "swing" an election.  The threat of a block of angry voters is useful ammunition when dealing with uncooperative county politicians.  

(3)  Don't be afraid to use any available weapon in a struggle of this nature.  Economic boycotts against uncooperative politicians (picket their businesses) are entirely within the rules.  Petition local religious leaders for assistance.  Call the Opposition out at Sunday Mass.  This is a centuries old practice in Europe, and highly effective.  Nobody wants to be scolded in front of the entire congregation.  Or denied Communion for antisocial behavior.  Or have their house picketed by angry neighbors.

(4)   Are you prepared to be very politely NASTY?  Tyson needs to know that they are going to get "no love" anywhere.  Somebody has to manage the chicken factory.  That person can be shunned (literally).  Peer pressure can win community wars faster than law suits.


end comment

2 years ago
TO:  Jim Harley
FROM:  Eric Koperek =
SUBJECT:  Commercial Mushroom Cultivation
DATE:  PM 5:06 Thursday 15 September 2016

(1)  Commercial mushroom cultivation is a highly technical branch of horticulture that requires lots of knowledge (reading) and hands-on experience.  Translation:  It is easy for the amateur to lose large sums of money trying to grow mushrooms.  GET THEE TO A LIBRARY!  Spend 6 weeks reading professional literature about mushroom cultivation then have a long think about investing in a business of which you have no personal experience.  Note:  The attrition rate of would-be mushroom growers exceeds 50% in the first 2 years of operation.  Are you prepared to lose your "shirt"?

(2)  I strongly advise you to limit yourself to mushroom species that are easy to grow and can be CHEAPLY cultivated = no sterilization or expensive equipment needed.

(3)  We grow many hectares of Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) for sale to restaurants and specialty food stores.  The process is nearly idiot proof.  You need a bit of pine forest and some oak or other hardwood logs 4 feet long.  You can rent forest land and cut or buy your own logs.  Note:  "Pine" means CONIFER = trees with needle or scale like leaves that bear their seeds in cones.  Drill holes in oak logs.  Holes should be 1 inch diameter and 2 inches deep.  Space holes every foot = 12 inches down each log.  Fill holes with Shiitake mushroom spawn (purchased from a reputable lab so your cultures are pure).  Plug each hole with a bit of wood or blob of scrap beeswax.  Lean "seeded" hardwood logs against trunks of LIVE conifer trees = make a ring around each trunk like an Indian tepee or a steep house roof.  Logs MUST be kept in the SHADE of LIVE conifer trees to prevent growth of unwanted organisms.  Do NOT try to grow Shiitake mushrooms in hardwood = deciduous forests = forests with broad leaved trees that drop their leaves in the fall.  Wait patiently.  It takes a year or two for fungi to colonize logs and start to fruit.  You can speed the process if you water your logs during the growing season with a mist irrigation system (but this is NOT essential).  Natural rainfall will work in any temperate climate that gets 40 or more inches of rainfall yearly.  Naturally cultivated Shiitake mushrooms grow in "flushes", usually in spring and fall when weather is relatively cool and rainy.  Oak logs will continue to produce mushrooms until fungi eat all available nutrients in the wood.  For continuous commercial production cut and stack fresh logs each year.  Old logs can be chipped and used for mulch.  You can make your own mushroom spawn from healthy logs that are full of young fungus that has produced its first crop of mushrooms.  

(4)  Note how EASY and CHEAP it is to grow Shiitake mushrooms:  All you need is a drill, drill bit, wood saw, a bucket of mushroom spawn, a few hardwood logs, and some live pine trees.

(5)  Because your Shiitake mushrooms are Naturally Grown = Wild Crafted = better than "organic" you can get a premium for your "wild harvested" mushrooms.

(6)  Note that natural Shiitake mushroom cultivation requires little cash, little labor, little homework, and little financial risk.

(7)  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or require additional information about commercial mushroom cultivation.


end comment

2 years ago