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Kyle Neath

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since May 07, 2016
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Somewhere in between a software developer and agroforester. Once upon a time I built a lot of software in a very fancy city, but now I can usually be found running around in the mountains.
Leaping Daisy is my main gig. It's an old high country ranch in the Sierra Nevadas. In the summers, I spend my time fixing 100 year old log cabins, improving the forest, and building out infrastructure to host small events. In the winters, I strap on my snowshoes and play in the snow.
In between that, I'm still trying to figure this whole life thing out. I spend a bit of time writing software to pay the bills, a chunk of it caring for my parents, and the rest playing around the mountains near Tahoe.
Sierra Nevadas, CA 6400'
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Recent posts by Kyle Neath

It seems to me that covering it with some kind of black plastic cover when not in use would serve you quite well. It would reduce the mosquito loads, reduce sunlight and the things that grow in it, and warm up the water all at once.
1 month ago
If it's graded, that means heavy machinery has made it out there before, which means they can absolutely get containers out there. Containers are extremely light — heck it's the empty shell they fill with heavy stuff to put on trucks! In fact, they're barely heavier than most commuter vehicles, and absolutely lighter than the any semi that's going to be pulling it. Most people I know use dually trucks to haul containers since they're so light. I think the bigger challenge is going to be getting a crane out there to move the containers. I'd recommend talking to a transportation company — the guys who do this stuff know what they're doing and they'll be able to answer any of your questions definitively.
1 month ago
Microbes are incredibly hardy. Make sure they don't get completely desiccated (dried out) and they'll stay alive for a very long time (decades). They can absolutely survive being frozen, but but but… remember this is all a very contextual scale. Different vermicompost starts out with different numbers and types of active organisms. The time and conditions in between becoming worm castings and you putting them in the soil and your plants benefiting from these organisms are all factors in this equation.

My advice: don't worry about it too much. Fresher is better, but remember that you don't know when "fresh" was — was it when you harvested it? When the worms created the castings? Who knows? I try to use mine within 6 months.
1 month ago
This weekend we spent skiing corn snow, and snowshoeing out to a lake in 50˚ weather over 5-10 feet of snow, which reminded me… spring is coming! It has been one hell of a winter up here in the Sierras. As we speak we're sitting on 200% of historical average worth of SWE (snow water equivalent). We had some of the coldest storms I've ever experienced, and months worth of feet of Colorado-style champagne powder. My little tracking app on my phone says I've ridden over vertical 300,000ft and covered over 250 miles on my snowboard this season. I also got the opportunity to check out a bunch of places I've been dying to see — the highlight being Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. All's that to say that I'm still alive. Just leaning into winter.

My greenhouse out front will need some rethinking. There was about 15ft of snow piled on to (of the top) of the frame, and the bit that's melted thus far concludes what I assumed: it's crushed. I thought the snow might fill in around the frame and keep it in tact. Turns out the snow-eater (snow auger?) beat it. We'll see  how the Ranch fares in... June? July? I'm guessing the roads will be open sometime mid/late June at the snowpack we've got out here.

I'm excited for this summer. Life has thrown me a few curve balls since the fall, but this time good ones! The next few years will be a huge transition for me, but for now the increasing sun angles remind me that times marches on regardless of our personal hang-ups. My big goal for the ranch this year is to improve the road so I can get a semi down it (and thus, bulk supplies). After that... well, I've still got some meditating to do on that front. I want to fix up the old cabin — stain it, improve the chinking, replace the wood stove, and building a loft. I want to fence in the garden. I want to completely refurbish the water system and add some rainwater harvesting tanks. I want to start planning out a new cabin to build for myself. I want to start milling my own lumber. I want a larger shelter for tools & equipment. I want to finish my solar shed. But the summer is short, and my list long.

I know many of you are already putting plants in the ground, but for me I've still got another month or two to play in the snow and plan out my summer.
1 month ago
100% over estimate for a house build is damn near ahead of schedule! In all seriousness, I think you've done an incredible job with the time you've spent thus far.
1 month ago

How many castings were you able to harvest on a weekly basis.  You stated minimal harvest.

Sorry, I was referring to self-harvest, as in the amount that falls through without me scraping it out. So minimal is good! I'm not sure of the volume of harvest I get as I don't pay much attention. Enough for me to serve my indoor garden, indoor plants, and have enough leftover for compost tea for the larger outdoor gardens. I'm going to wildly guess 10gallons/year? I'm not too specific about throughput on my bin, I built it primarily to recycle all my food scraps since my city doesn't have a composting program.

If I was to use conduit or heavy duty fence pipe with 1” spacing could I use push pull sliders on the top of the pipes to scrape the bottom of the pile for harvesting?

I haven't personally tried this, so I can only speculate — but I suspect a setup like this should work. The key really is to just keep a 1" spacing for the castings to fall through.
1 month ago
This sounds very similar to a CFT bin I built two years ago for my unheated garage. Mine is 24" x 24" x 24" with 1" conduit at 2" OC (leaving a 1" gap for castings to be scraped out). This seems to be pretty ideal — I get an extremely minimal amount of castings self-harvesting. I think going 36" deep is a good idea, I still find a decent amount of worms down at the bottom of mine when it's full. I might think a lot about the weight of it though. A bin that size will be extremely heavy. Make sure it's in it's forever home when you start filling it up and make sure it's on a floor that can handle the weight. To be honest, I'd probably think about splitting it into two 48" long bins at that size.

The seedling mats might work, but I ended up opting for soil heating cable instead. I was able to spread out the heat to all four sides of the bin and have better confidence that the product was designed to be immersed in wet conditions continuously. I'm also not sure that two mats will be able to effectively warm the soil in a bin that size. I can't remember how many watts mine draws, but it takes several days to bring the soil temp up a few degrees. With a larger bin and feed volume like yours, I might just opt to rely on thermophilic energy and mass to keep the bin from freezing. A more robust heating solution would be to look into a water pump/heating situation and circulate warm water through PVC pipes in the bin.

All in all, it sounds like a great plan. Let us know how it turns out!
1 month ago
Looks like a Fiddle Leaf Fig to me.
1 month ago
There's four great paths for this:

1. Purchase land in the forest and clean it up. Contrary to popular opinion, you can cut down almost anything you want down to clear cutting if your heart desires. There are special rules around oaks, but you will not find many (realistically: any) oaks in wildfire prone areas. There are numerous grants available for private landowners to build a more resilient landscape and replant with diverse, fire-hardy species.

2. Join the USFS or CalFire where you will do this work on public lands. All fall/winter/spring most of the effort is spent around cleaning out undergrowth, burning piles, doing controlled burns, and clearing out standing dead.

3. Join the California Conservation Corps where they will put a chainsaw on your back and send you out to the forest to clean up the forest.

4. Get firewood / Christmas tree permits and harvest your firewood from public lands. There's no rules that say you can't clear out standing dead and smaller trees.

From my own personal experience, I might suggest that one man with a woodchipper is not the right mindset to strive for. A woodchipper may be able to clean up maybe 10 acres a year (I'd guess closer to 5), assuming full time work in a low elevation (no snow) landscape, plentiful funds for gasoline, and mechanical expertise. Wood chippers don't travel well in the forest. But one man with a chainsaw and a can of diesel can clean up hundreds of acres per year with burn piles with similar effort.

There is plentiful motivation from the USFS and California government to clean up their forests. But the scale and terrain of our forests escape human imagination. Thirty three million acres of granite cliffs, flooded valleys, and high elevation bowls with hundreds of feet of standing snow in the winter. If you're passionate about this, I'd suggest to start small and local. Volunteering for CalFire is a great way to get more expertise in the nature and behavior of our wildfire ecosystem.
1 month ago
I have owned a Field Skillet for a little over 2 years now (backed them when they were a Kickstarter). It's the best cast iron pan I own, and the one I use the most. Lighter than vintage, just as smooth. Can't recommend it enough.
3 months ago