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Mike Jay

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since Mar 24, 2016
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[img][\img] Mike is a homesteader, gardener, engineer, wood worker, blacksmith and most recently a greenhouse designer. He heard about permaculture in 2015 and has been learning ever since.
Northern WI (zone 4)
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Recent posts by Mike Jay

Maybe I'm imagining this thing all wrong.  Here's an end view as you look at the freezer from inside the hill.  The brown stuff is dirt.  The grey layer is the insulation.  The brick red line is the umbrella (waterproofing).  The green stuff is lavender hyssop and aronia.  The weird shapes are food.  The black circles are the air pipes.  They exit upwards as they go away from you in this view and they cross and connect in the foreground.

So the winter frost doesn't really help significantly due to the insulation.  The goal is to have the frigid air circulate through the pipes and freeze all the dirt between the freezer compartment and the insulation.  Then you have to hope the insulation keeps it from thawing before November.  

I agree Travis that the thermodynamics of thin cold air freezing all that soil could be a challenge.  But the insulation won't be in the way.  The more frigid air flowing through the pipes, the better (I think).

Since the whole thing is sitting on 40-45 degree deep earth temps, that's why I'm thinking a layer of insulation a foot below the freezer may be worthwhile.
6 hours ago
Thanks Bryant!  The missus just collected a huge pile of weeds from the flower bed so I'll use them for a batch.  I'll chop them up a bit to get more "stem breakage".  When I turned the piles before, I think it was to keep the brew aerobic.  I don't think I broke very many stems.  When I left for a few days and the missus neglected it, it started to stink to high heaven.
8 hours ago
I got a recipe from somewhere on making weed tea.  You needed a barrel or bucket of weeds, a measured amount of epsom salts and wood ash, and then fill it with rainwater.  Then mix/turn it daily for a few days, dilute 50% and apply.

The missus accidentally used all our wood ash on the garden.  Would weed tea made without the ash still work?

Are there any weeds that shouldn't be added?  I'm thinking about bracken ferns.

If I use an aquarium bubbler I should be able to avoid turning/mixing the weeds in the barrel, correct?

Thanks for any help that can be provided!!!
12 hours ago
I may have gotten my terms mixed up.  I'm envisioning a freezer compartment full of air and frozen food.  That is within a set of wofati walls.  Outside those walls and ceiling is 2' of dirt, then forest duff/insulation.  Outside that is the umbrella (poly layer to keep the mass and insulation dry).  Outside of that is a bit of dirt and some plants before you hit the air.

I'm suggesting a layer of insulation/duff a foot or two below the whole thing so that the duff/insulation is continuous around the wofati.  Inside of that insulation layer is several feet of dirt or mass before you get to the freezer compartment.

So the goal of the whole freezer wofati is to freeze the dirt around the freezer compartment.  That dirt is protected by the layer of insulation that's under the umbrella.  I'm just thinking that we should consider extending that insulation layer under the dirt that's under the floor.

To play with the cooler analogy, the original design as I understand it has a picnic cooler with its bottom missing and it's sitting on the ground.  The interior of the cooler has a layer of frozen dirt (or shall we say ice blocks) and in the middle is the bag of frozen peas.  I'm proposing to put a bottom on the cooler so that the lower ice blocks don't thaw as quickly.
16 hours ago

Kenneth Elwell wrote:Your idea of insulating the floor maybe cuts off a resource?
Let's say floor, roof, and walls all have equal surface area... each 1/3 of total, and the floor is insulated. Now the roof is warming up because of the Summer heat, now it is effectively 50% of the area determining the temperature of the room.

There's a man I know in New Hampshire, who just the day before I saw him this one year, had been cutting ice and stocking the local museum's ice house. He was proud of all they had cut and put up, since they had more to do to replace the ice on the floor (ground?), which had been lost over the past year, owing to the previous Winter being too mild to cut much ice, if at all. Ordinarily the ice on the floor stayed year after year, he said.

I guess I'm seeing the floor (and all the dirt below the wofati) as a drain, not a resource.  As long as it's warmer than your freezer, it's working tirelessly to melt your freezer.  It's not able to work as hard as the summer heat above, but it's still there, sapping away at your frozen ground.  At least that's how I am seeing it.

Let's take that same example you give but change from percentages to real made up numbers...  Let's say summer heat from above generates 100 units of melting heat, summer heat from the sides generate 40 and the deep earth does 10.  At first blush you'd say the floor is only contributing 1/15th of the heat to the freezer.  But you insulate the ceiling and walls (umbrella outside the mass) which cuts those numbers by 2/3rds.  Now the ceiling of the freezer experiences 33 units from above, 13 from the side and 10 from the floor.  Now the ceiling and walls are only heating it during maybe 8 months of the year, in Montana.  But the floor is heating it year round.  So the annual heat load is 368 (ceiling/walls) plus 120 floor.  If the floor was also insulated, it would cut that year round total of 120 down to 40.  So the annual total drops from 488 to 408 (20% better).  Of course these are made up numbers, and I'm typing this when I can't sleep so I probably did the math wrong, but I think it shows that even a colder floor with constant heat load from below would still contribute a possibly deceptively large amount to heating the freezer.

I wish there was a museum with an ice house around here (need to look in case there actually is).  That technology seems pretty cool to me.  
22 hours ago
One more thought came to mind.  When I did skirt insulation on my greenhouse (aka Swedish skirt) I saw schematics that suggested that heat is coming out of the core of the earth.  By trapping it under a building and not letting the cold air freeze the soil around the greenhouse, the resulting heat bubble helps the greenhouse, pole barn, house stay warm.

Now that we built a freezer wofati and have an insulated umbrella, I wonder if that thermal energy coming up from the earth will be a problem.  One way of saying it is "The earth is 40F down there and I'm only trying to drop it by 30 degrees, piece of cake".  Alternately, someone could say "I'm trying to freeze a huge chunk of dirt during two months of the winter and then a 30 degree warmer furnace is sitting under it for 10 months".

Long story short, should we put some insulation under the wofati mass as well?
I plumbed rainwater into my greenhouse the other day.  Instead of buying a new faucet I found an old one in the plumbing parts bin that I had been holding onto.  It was too old for use on a house but perfect for this application.  Unfortunately after I put it in and opened the valve at the rainwater tank, I could hear air leaking out of the valve.  So I took it off and moved into the garage.  I expected to find a worn out rubber washer but the washer was in great shape.  Not that I've seen many of these but it was pristine.  There was some plastic-like junk sitting on the seat where the washer sits though.  I cleaned that out, put it back together and now it doesn't leak!

Pro tip:  The brass nut that I took off was a bit undersized for a standard "English" wrench so I found that a metric wrench actually fit better.  
1 day ago
Both for me too, as long as there's room to write something in the dates...
1 day ago
Luckily my mulch is chipped up leaves and very few chunks of wood.  We're sweating away putting it down right now.  In beds with a decent amount of mulch, we're pulling it away, putting down the compost and spreading the mulch back over the top.  In beds that don't have any mulch or are peppered with little plants (carrots), we sprinkle the compost on top of the bed and cover with some leaves collected from the edge of the garden.

Hopefully that's the best of both worlds and it keeps the fresh compost from drying out or getting sun baked...

Thanks for all the ideas everyone, hopefully this helps others in the future!
1 day ago
I'm guessing 1/2" to 3/4" of compost.  Maybe I'll do some of each.  Where it's easy to rake back, I'll put the compost under the mulch.  Where it's a pain, I'll put it on top and cover with grass.

A wise man once said "If you're struggling hard with a decision, then either way must be ok so don't worry about it".  
1 day ago