Jeff Watt

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since Mar 07, 2016
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Recent posts by Jeff Watt

I'd like to hear from those of you who have gone from heating with a conventional woodstove to a RMH some real world feedback. I live in a 1.5 story cape built in the civil war era (somewhere between 1858-1871 unsure of exact date) The attic floor is insulated to probably R40+ and I have newer windows but the home is far from tight by any means. Its sitting on a dry stacked rubble foundation so downstairs floors are cold and drafty and the doors could use work...2x4 walls minimally insualted. House is about 1100 sq ft. It is basically split down the middle with an open kitchen/dining room on one side and a living room that takes up the other side of the downstairs. Central staircase with 3 bedrooms upstairs. Its your standard 1800s cape design. Currently I heat with a 1970s L. Lange Co. stove. 1302 is the model I believe. Its a Norwegian style "cigar burn" stove. The stove actually heats the house pretty well I burn roughly 6 cord to heat through a Vermont winter. The stove holds coals well overnight and is warm but not really hot in the mornings. A typical winters day might mean going to bed with the livingroom in the mid 80s and waking up with the living room around 52 degrees. If its really cold out (read minus 5F or below) I will also burn coal in my cookstove in the kitchen. This really throws awesome uniform slow heat. I love burning coal in that thing for that reason but its a pain and dirty and easily out heats the kitchen with both stoves going downstairs if its not too cold out. I might also burn a quick wood fire in the cook stove to take the chill off on a weekend morning. A full load of wood might burn 4 hours max before there is not a red coal to be found in the small firebox. A coal fire will however burn 14+ hours of steady heat out of that same tiny fire box.

Anyway I have been debating swapping the living room Lange to a rocket for years but just don't know if its the right move. I don't really have the room for a bench system Id be most likely looking at a batch style vertical system. My main concern I guess, is in this drafty minimally insulated house I am not sure if the slow low heat of the mass will be enough to keep my space warm or at least as warm as I currently do. I also thought a rocket stove would be hard to manage with the hours and schedule I previously worked. But I recently switched to a new job so there are no more 15 hour gaps between being home to tend the stove. I am now home in the morning/early afternoon and my wife is home in the evenings so two burns a day would be fairly easy to achieve.

1 year ago
I have access to loads (read nearly unlimited amounts) of waste apple cider vinegar I was doing some research on methane digesters and read conflicting things. I saw it explained that the basic methane process is thats sugars convert to alcohol which converts to acetic acid (vinegar) which converts through methane digestion. I also read that methane digestion only happens, or happens best, near a neutral PH. So which is it?

Could I fill a 275gallon IBC tote with ACV and add chicken manure/plant waste and make methane? Or would I be better off with a slurry of just water and the compost material. I am confused please enlighten me.

1 year ago
TJ you hit the nail on the head everything is a conundrum of timing and order, need the oxen to pull the trees to clear the land, need the cleared land to feed the oxen, to pull the trees to clear the land....Before someone brings it up I do understand draft power is probably far from my fastest and likely not even be my cheapest option here but I have always wanted the oxen and I think there are a great many tasks I could make them come in handy at. Equipment could clear the land fast but its also expensive and can make a mess in a hurry. I can still see the scars from when the previous owner had the land logged for softwood probably 20 years ago.  

As far as soil type I could show you one place on my property where within a 150' radius I have a vein on pure blue potterys quality clay, nearly pure sand, and areas with so many stones you cant stick a single spade in the ground without hitting one. I also have many wet seeping spring areas. I have ledge in some places but its mostly farther up then I plan to clear and I have steep and I have steeper areas. In short I have just about every soil type and condition. I don't know the exact pitch but its steep enough that I hike it once or twice a winter for a back country ski session. On the projects list is a rope tow ski lift but thats another story.

I am in Central Vermont by the way. Anyway money and budget are low, I would not say time is high there are generally twice as many tasks as can be accomplished on any given day, but I can always make the time for what needs to be done.

"You will never 'find' time for anything. If you want time, you must make it" -Charles Bruxton
1 year ago
As far as the excavator goes I just run a small rubber track mini about 8500lbs I am no expert with it either but I am learning. To be fair there has been no where I could not get it yet although I have had to use the bucket to climb a few times but working somewhere comfortably (for my skill set) and just getting somewhere are two different things. Digging out stumps on flat ground gets it tipping fairly easily so doing so on steeps does not sound like my cup of tea I will leave that to you pros for now. A couple weeks ago I cleared a large area on level ground of brush and small trees/ old stumps in order to bring in and unload a semi truck with a metal building kit and have room to work. We made pretty short work out of this area but still this was maybe a 150' foot square patch on level ground there are a lot of patches this size on much steeper terrain to deal with also a few springs to contend with one of which tried its best to swallow the excavator about a month ago...
1 year ago
This topic straddles many categories but since it had to go somewhere I guess my main query is on Dogs

I have several acres on my property of woods which I would like to convert to silvopasture/pasture. The plan as it sits in my head is I will save all the healthy larger maples. Most of the large softwood will become lumber on a small bandsaw mill which is soon to be one of my next major build projects. The rest of the smaller wood and non maple hardwoods will become firewood. I do not have a real time frame to complete this, as much as I can push the woods line back per summer will work. The land is steep and soft and getting any larger machinery in there makes a mess and is beyond the limits of what I own myself. I do have a mini excavator which works well for building roads but certain areas are soft and steep enough to push past the safe working limits of that machine. The wood will largely have to be hauled in small batches by atv and logging arch. I believe a yoke of oxen is in my future which I think may be the ideal tool for working these woods but until I get the pasture in place feeding them is problematic. It is a real catch 22. Anyway I would like to do the majority of the work with animal power.

Next week I pick up my first goats. For now just a pair of Nigerian Dwarfs to break me in with goat care. I don't yet have a concept of how much brush a goat can clear per day I plan to take notes learn care and scale up accordingly. I am also interested in some small scale meat farming with Chevon as an offering but that's a topic for another day...

I wasn't really planning on doing pigs this year and taking a summer off but as I look at my freezer, pork supply is getting dangerously low. So I was thinking about doing as follows.

With portable electric fencing:
1. Move goats to brushy woods. Try to limit paddock size to what can be adequately cleared in 2-3 days time.
2. Follow goats with pigs to turn over ground
3. Wait a couple days and follow pigs with chickens to break fly life cycle.
4. Cut down and harvest trees
5. Seed with whatever blend I decide I want to include in new pasture
6.Repeat and push on.

It is possible the pigs and goats could simultaneously occupy the same pen and combine steps 1 and 2 but I would have to experiment with this. I picture moving everything within Premier1 electric netting paddocks. While this netting is great I still wonder if a LGD is in my future especially if I scale this idea up to more and more animals. But herein lies the question, Even if I did a perimeter fence around the whole pasture area the animals would still need to be penned into much much smaller paddocks in order to rotationally graze them and get them to do any real clearing work. This electric netting would also keep the dog out of direct contact with the animals.

How do those of you that mob graze or rotationally graze and have LGD manage this. Are the dogs happy to patrol outside the pen inside the larger fence?

1 year ago
In the "rocket heater book" as well as here on the forums and elsewhere on the internet it is stressed heavily that the cross sectional area of the burn tunnel be the tightest place anywhere in the system otherwise you cause a bottleneck and inefficient burn/lack of draft etc.

I am wondering if anyone is familiar with the Aprovecho "Justa Stove" design. They utilize a 5" diameter rocket (which also has a height well below what is recommended in the previously mentioned places) 5" round burn tunnel is roughly a 20" cross section. They then force the flue gasses/flame path through a 1" gap under a 12" wide cook surface or in other words... a 12" cross sectional area. So why do they not create a huge bottleneck when doing this? what am I missing?? This seems to be a proven design with much research done.

Justa Stove Plan

By the way I ask because I am working on tweaking the performance of the 3rd generation of my rocket powered maple syrup evaporator which is quite similar in design...

1 year ago
I have noticed several pictures, all drawings no actual builds I have found that show a J tube with an air intake near the base, and what looks like a lid placed over the top of the feed tube after filling. I have "the book" which I haven't read for a while but I believe references keeping the feed tube packed tightly for proper air intake amounts. It seems the separate intake may give you greater control with some sort of slide damper, although I haven't seen this shown in any of the drawings. Perhaps its also done to prevent smoke back and give a place to easily light the fire from the bottom? IF there are other advantages/disadvantages Id like to hear them.

Anyway I am about to embark on version 3.0 of my combination maple syrup evaporator shop heater set up this time with a much more permanent and hopefully better set up as I have proved my concept enough last year for me to be willing to spend the time and money on improvements this year. So is this something worth adding has anyone actually tried it? I searched but didn't find any real builds. I will incorporate it if it makes sense. I think it may help me really tune my boil when sugaring so that in itself may make it worth it.

If anyone has tried it have you tried filling the feed tube with any smaller fuel? It seems with this type of setup after a really good bed of coals was going you might be able to fill the feed tube right up with wood shavings or pellets or something similar as the air intake would be coming from the bottom. Some mods would be needed such as some sort of grate that let ash fall through and kept the fuel from smothering the air intake but it seems feasible...
1 year ago
As my woodstove will be lit probably starting this week and will remain lit and loaded likely until late April, every year I contemplate a hot water loop to take some of the demand off my propane hot water heater. My stove sits about 9 Feet from the hot water tank which is in a closet opposite the stove off the living room. The hieght of the coil in the stove would end up ~32" high and the inlet on the top of the water heater is ~58" high. Seems ideal for a thermosiphon set up, but I have a question as to the logistics of that. For a Thermosiphon to operate properly does the rise need to be continuous and singular. By this I mean do I need to go in a straight line from the stove outlet to waterheater inlet. This poses a serious problem as it would put a diagonal pipe across the center of my living room space from roughly thigh to shoulder height. Obviously this is not an option. However a hewn beams runs this direction across the cieling. Can I go from the stove, up to cieling height along and across the beam, then drop down to the top inlet of the tank (again ~58")??

The return would go from the bottom drain of the tank to basement and across then back up to the stove coil which could be anywhere from maybe 20"-32" high on the stove depending how I set up the coil.

So will a thermosiphon operate set up like this? I could sketch a picture if my ramblings are too hard to follow let me know.

I would rather not go with a pump system as the woodstove runs continuously regardless of if we have power it also complicates things to go this route.

2 years ago

Chris Kott wrote:I think it would be worth trying the spent grounds in a pelletizer. If you could turn the spent grounds into pellets, they could at least function in equipment designed to burn pelletized material. You might have to tinker with either the formulation of a binding agent that perhaps oxidizes the pellet in combustion, or is an accelerant, or perhaps with the airflow on the stove, but the spent grounds would at least be in a convenient format to handle and combust with conventional equipment.


The home scale pelletizers I have seen seem to be incredibly slow and inefficient. from the Videos I have seen on youtube I cant imagine someone producing the 3 to 5 tons most people in my neck of the woods use per winter with such a unit. Maybe if you wanted to make some for a pellet grill or some other very limited use...And the commercial scale ones are well, commercial scale in size and price.

I do think a pellet stove or more likely a multifuel stove designed to burn corn and pellets and sometimes pits would readily burn whole bean, but I don't have one and they are not cheap even used. And no one I know wants me gumming theirs up with experimenting. But the main drawback is they require electric input so if the power is out there is no heat. (this is one of the many reasons I heat primarily with wood currently)
2 years ago
It is my understanding woodgas (syngas) does not compress well and is unfeasible on the home scale. here is a quick rundown of why but much more complicated explanations can be found with a little research. Woodgas is seen as an energy source to use as it is produced which is why it likens itself well the use of running engines.

Another word of caution, if you do want to play with compressing woodgas despite the mathmatics you need to make very sure your process is able to compress it in the full absence of oxygen. Otherwise you have just created a high pressure explosive gas bomb. The reason for instance a gas BBQ grill doesn't burn back up the hose and explode the tank is there is no oxygen in the line to make combustion possible. Change that equation to a quantity of oxygen sufficient for combustion and you will have a dangerous problem at hand.
2 years ago