Mike Jay

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since Mar 24, 2016
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books food preservation hunting solar trees woodworking
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

Darren Tasker wrote:On interest in FIRE: We have been fortunate to have checked out early yet we have been astounded by the lack of interest in how and why we did it.


I couldn't believe how few people in corporate world were interested in how I was able to quit that life at 40 without picking up another cubicle job.  A few said "I'll have to talk to you later about your secret sauce".  That both implied that it was easy and there was a trick to it.  Curiously enough, none of those people talked to me later about it.  I had plenty of incredulous coworkers and one who seemed to truly not comprehend how to do such a thing.  Doesn't work=money=things?  How can you live without making money?  Um, maybe by saving it so you can live off it while you're still healthy.

I had some co-op students over the years that did listen and changed their ways at a young enough age to matter.  One came in to talk to me after a meeting with her financial adviser.  He had told her she was saving too much money to retire at 55.  She didn't really want to spend the extra.  She had such a cute look on her face when I suggested retiring at 50 instead.

Another coworker was struggling away with a decent paying but not upwardly mobile job.  Stay at home wife and expensive teenagers.  I turned him on to Dave Ramsey and he took after that immediately.  Things changed around their house and he got the mortgage payed off in three years.  He wished he heard about it before he turned 45 but it still gave him a major new look on life.
7 hours ago
I think it depends on what is in the drainage water.  If it's often got oil or fuel drops creating a sheen on the water, I'd want to route that through the bed independently to a rain garden.  On the other hand, if it's cleanish water, I'd connect a perforated drain pipe up to the drains so they can add some water to the beds as the water flows through.  If it's raining enough for the drains to be draining, the beds should be getting some irrigation from the sky.  The thing to avoid is having a cloud give them 1/2" of rain and then have the parking spot deluge them with tons more water. 

Lacking any particular experience myself, I'd use perforated drain tile and arrange it relatively level through the bed.  When it gets to the near side, transition to non perforated and route it to another bed or rain garden.  Be wary of funneling too much water to those places in a 4" rain event.  This way when it's raining the perforated pipe will irrigate the soil some to assist with the rain that is falling from above.

If you're into tinkering (as I am), you could have the drain tile be horizontal in the bed and when it gets to the near side have a tee or other overflow that you can make an adjustable dam in.  So if you leave the dam out, the water will flow out and you'll only get the water through the perforations that decide to go that way.  If you raise the dam, adjust the overflow, or otherwise adjust it, you could hold back an inch or two or three of water in the horizontal drain tile as the rest overflows.  Then when the rain stops, that 1-3" of water wicks down into the bed.  This probably doesn't make any sense, sorry...

This also assumes decently well draining soil.  If you have clay in the beds, I wouldn't add any more water from the drainage pipes.
2 days ago
Maybe your laser cutter needs an outside air intake.  Then the RMH can draw from the same inlet whenever it needs.  As others have said, a hole in the wall close to the cutter would minimize cold drafts elsewhere in the shop.
2 days ago

paul wheaton wrote:forging: pouring liquid metal into a form

I think "casting" be a better word for the latter.  I'm a hobbyist blacksmith and I'd consider "blacksmithing" to be making fire, heating metal and shaping it.  I'd consider "forging" to be the subset of hammering or otherwise influencing hot metal to change shape.
3 days ago
From what I understand, the Jean Pain method used only wood chips. There were probably leaves and bark involved from the chipping process.  Chips are important because they have some air spaces to allow air though the pile.  Manure would heat it up quickly but it could block air flow (as could leaves and grass).  Coiling a perforated pipe underneath allows air in. 

There's a wonderful book on the subject called The Compost Powered Water Heater.  It will tell you everything you need to know.
4 days ago
Can the sun shine on the waterer?  If so, using a black bucket with chicken nipples in the sun could work.  Water takes a fair bit of cold to freeze solid.  If it's in a slightly warmer coop I'm guessing it wouldn't freeze anyway.

I like the peanut oil idea.  Getting the volume of oil vs. the volume of water correct may take some tinkering.  You might have to warm it up each day so that it can coast through the night.  

Is freezing water a problem you've already encountered or are you just trying to be proactive?  I'm guessing my coop stays 5-10 degrees warmer than the outside overnight.  For me that doesn't help but in your case that could make all the difference in the world.
4 days ago
Thanks guys! It is coming together just in the nick of time.  Since the last update I finished the platform on the compost bin, added a relatively well sealed door hatch and plumbed in the fan to aerate it.  The pile started cooking two days ago and steam (or possibly more accurately water vapor) was rising off the pile.  Yay!!  Now that it's capped I can run the fan.  It blows air from the fan, through the South planting bed and exhausts into the room robustly.  The intake under the pile is drawing air but not nearly as much as the fan is pushing.  So I'm sure there are lots of leaks but at least some air is moving though the pile. 

Now I just need to figure out how long to run the fan each day/week to keep the pile active.  Along with that I think a huge thing is that the hot/steamy compost air is cooling down in that planting bed and condensing a fair amount of water out.  I believe that counts as a phase change so the energy transfer to that soil is much greater than just the temperature of the air.  That's great but it does mean I'll have to add water to the pile to make up for it.  How much, I have no idea...

Yesterday I got to experience the temperatures and what I will have to play with.  I got out there after a cold night and worked inside the greenhouse from 7:30-8:30.  It was 28F inside I headed into the house for breakfast and found that the outside temp was a balmy 13F.  So overnight it held the temp 15 degrees above the outside.  That's with the E/W walls insulated but not vapor barriered AND 2" gaps between the 6 vent doors along the south wall.

I headed back out at 9 and was working above the compost bin finishing some insulation around the moveable insulation drive mechanism.  The sun had come out about at 9 and by 11 it was really hot in there.  I checked them temp and it was 100F (near the peak).  Nothing like going from frozen fingers to working topless in three hours...  It was in the 70s at ground level.  Once the sun went behind some clouds at 3:30 it started cooling off.  By 4:30 it was down to 45 at ground level.  After an 8 degree night last night, it was 22 this morning inside.

I also measured the temp of the air leaving the aeration exhaust pipe after the fan was running for an hour.  It was around 55F.  So the hot air from the compost is transferring some heat to the bed and still comes out with some warmth for the room. 

Construction wise, I got visqueen up on the West wall yesterday.  Still need to do the East wall.  I also talked to an electrical engineer buddy about operating the moveable insulation with a garage door opener and he said it would be perfect.  All I need is an older opener with a worm gear limit switch set up and some kind of timer to trigger it at dawn and dusk.  He'll help me figure it out so that's wonderful.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a near tropical 36 for the high so I'm going to close the gaps in the South vents and do some other exterior work while I can.  The missus sewed up some felt weights for the moveable insulation so I can get moving on that part of the project soon. 

Thanks for the support and envy!
4 days ago
I can't remember Charli but is the perimeter of the foundation insulated?  And why is heat rising from the path a bad thing?  Seems like it would help keep things warm in the winter.

My floor is primarily going to be soil with mulch around the perennials.  The paths will start as dirt/soil but I hope to turn them into worm beds (like at CRIMPI).  So they'd be an area to put food scraps and they'd be covered with pallets to walk on.  Periodically I can lift up the pallets to feed the worms, harvest the castings or harvest the worms for the chickens.
6 days ago
I FIRE'd too.  I'd recommend it to anyone who can do it.  I'm still working but it's on my own projects or little side jobs for people I like.  Some of the keys for us were:

Have and update a budget monthly.  We track all money in and out and allocate income to a series of columns in excel for each spending category.  New car, food, utilities, allowance, travel, insurance, etc.  Daily expenses are deducted from those categories as they happen.  That way you can keep putting the right amount in routine categories (food, utilities, etc) while also putting away the right amount to buy a car every 4 years.  As you update the budget and adjust for raises or new spending categories, you can be sure that you won't be accidentally spending your car insurance bill that's due in 5 months.  There were times we had $4000 in the bank but my allowance was at $36 so I couldn't buy any toys.

Live well beneath your means.  Fuck the Joneses.  They're broke.  Don't keep up with them or you'll be broke too.  Bring a lunch to work.  Drive a reliable but cheaper car.  Live in a decent house but not the house that the mortgage lender says you can afford.  Pound the excess into savings/investments.

If you have a dual income, try to live off one of them.  I'd tell this to engineering interns all the time.  If you can't make ends meet on one engineering income you're possibly doing it wrong.  If you're an engineer and your spouse makes $25K/year, max out your 401K and invest her money as well.

Once you're on the track to retire early, talk to an investment person to make sure you're putting it away optimally.  Many "easy" investments like 401Ks can't be touched until you hit 59.5 years old.  If you invest everything in them, you may want to retire at 45 but have no money to live off until 60.  We invested in two "pools".  Young money and old money.  Old is 401Ks and IRA, young is standard investments that don't have tax advantages.  Your mix may be totally different but be sure to plan where the actual money is going and when you can take it out.

Don't put your money under the mattress.  Inflation is climbing a bit every year.  Your investments should exceed it or you're losing the battle.  Not wanting to lose any money may trick you into investing in really safe things.  When you're young and trying to retire early, you'll be investing a lot so it's the time to raise the risk tolerance to "medium" or higher. 

Pay cash for cars.  I know plenty of people who bought cars on a 0% interest loan.  "Why not?" they said.  Well, 6 years later they finally pay it off and decide to get another car.  They haven't saved for it so it's time for another loan.  Darn, now the rates are 1%.  Oh well, that's still pretty close to 0.  6 years later the rates are at 3%.  Well shit.  They still didn't save so they're starting to get trapped into car loans that are costing them money.  It wasn't long ago (80's) that car loans were 14%.  If you save up for them, you're making the interest instead of the bank.  Putting aside $300 a month for 4 years gives you $14,400 plus interest.  That is a decent car.
1 week ago