Erin Shepard

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since Dec 12, 2016
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Recent posts by Erin Shepard

Hello Permie Folks,

Lemon essential oil works absolute WONDERS for removing labels and all of the gooey residue that they tend to leave behind. Just put a few drops on and leave it a minute to let it work its magic, and wipe it away. Hooray! Hope you're all having a beautiful day
1 year ago
Hello Dear Permie Folks,

I may be young, naive, and idealistic, but here is my plan. My partner and I really enjoy very simple living. We currently live in an 8'x8' tiny tiny house with a great big Newfoundland. There is no running water, electricity, or heat. We also live in Alaska where the conditions are not the most moderate. This is all totally fine with us and most of the time it is just lovely to know that there are no bills, there is no mortgage, no worries. But we do want to upgrade. So here is the plan. We are currently saving up money, as much as possible, to move to the peninsula next year. We want to buy some rural land around there, just a couple acres would be fine, which seems like it will be between 10k and 15k. We are very interested in natural building and want to build a small cobwood or balecob home, roughly a 20' diameter circle-ish structure with either a living or a metal roof. We will use free, local, and recycled materials as much as physically possible, to keep the cost as low as we can. I don't plan to spend more than 5k on building a simple house. We want to build a rocket mass heater as the home's heat and hot water source. I'm not sure what the price will look like on that. I'm fine with having a simple compost toilet. For water, we may just carry it in which is what we are currently doing, and also collect rainwater. At some point if finances allow, we may have a well dug. We want to provide the majority of our own food, and have a market garden, with as many permaculture/food forest aspects as possible. Enough that we can store food for winter, keep seeds, and have a little bit extra for market as a little bit of income. My dream is to be able to teach about these things at some point for a little bit more income. We are both artists as well, and sell pieces occasionally, and with the extra space of the larger home we should be able to produce more work to sell. I'm pretty crafty as well and can make small goods to sell like books, knit or crocheted items, and so on. We would love to keep bees as well. So that is the plan, we want to be as self sufficient as we possibly can. Only spending money on things that we can't produce our selves like rice and sugar and things like that, and occasional meals out and activities. If we have to work part time jobs for a while that is fine. But our end goal is to just simply as much as possible and to just enjoy life. Let me know what you all think. Or if this is helpful at all? This community is awesome, and has the potential to change the world.
2 years ago

Mike Cantrell wrote:I get the impression there might be a useful number of rigorous studies on:

Turf roofs/green roofs/living roofs ( there are some enormous commercial installations out there).

The effect of earth walls on indoor humidity. (Clay plaster, CEB, adobe, loam, cob, rammed earth, pisé de terre.)

Thank you! I couldn't find much on the humidity topic, even though I think that would be such an awesome paper and I'd love to do the studies myself! The living roof ideas was awesome also. There were more studies done on this one. I think the topic I will review will be bee conservation! It seems like there are lots of studies done on this because our little bee friends are so vital!
3 years ago
Hi, Permies! I'm writing a literature review, and I would love to write it on natural building or permaculture. I'll need the topic to be fairly specific and I need to be able to find studies done on it. You are all so full of brilliant ideas, if anyone has any thoughts on some topics or studies that I could read into, I'd be sooooo grateful! Thank you so much, I can't wait to hear your ideas!
3 years ago

Robert Bizzarro wrote:I live in the Interior of Alaska and Log really is the only7 way to go up here. Also watch out for Perma-frost. The reason why you see so many cabins built up on poles is so the ground under it stays frozen year round. It ain't no fun watching all your hard work  and dreams sink into the ground. That being said, if you can find the right piece of ground I think building an earth ship, or underground house makes a lot of sense up here. Why stick a house two stories up into -40° air?  If you can build snug down into the earth I'd do that.

We live off-grid with Solar Panels and a Genny. So I'm here to tell ya it can be done.      No much Solar this time of the year, but it balances out in the summer. We hardly run the genny from May through August.

It's perfect because when you need a fridge and freezer there is plenty of sun to power them, when winter comes around and there isn't much sun to power them it's all good because the place is frozen. We just put up a few cupboards outside to store our food in during the winter and Bob's you Uncle......

That's a great point about building down snug into the ground or maybe up against something! Permafrost shouldn't be too big off an issue where I plan to build but I'll be sure to look into it some more. Love the idea about the cabinets outside in the winter!B) thank you for your post!
3 years ago

Daniel Ray wrote:I agree with Dan on the locally sourced material. I've never built log structures so I am unaware what the "R" or "U" value is of such a structure. If you can find straw that is locally sourced and at a reasonable price, that is your best bet for cold climate natural building. Also, Cob Cottage Company in Oregon is really pushing interest in balecob hybrid building as those materials work extremely well together. You get both the huge insulation of bales with the heat retention of cob. Don't discount using a variety of techniques for all of their benefits. If you are not in an area of Alaska that has milder winters, cob is not really a great option. I just posted on my blog (see the hyperlink in my signature) on cold climate cob. While cob can work well, it definitely isn't as good of an option as log, balecob, or plain old bale building.

I'd love to know more about how earth bags would work in a cold climate as well! The cob/straw hybrid looks very interesting as well, do you think that that would solve the issue of the bales molding? And if that would be significantly warmer than just cob or straw alone? Thank you so much for your information!
3 years ago
[quote=Dan Boone]Erin, welcome to permies!

I see that you're currently in Alaska, so most of what follows is for other people where aren't already there to observe the conditions.  But you don't say where you are or how long you've been there, so maybe some of this will help.  I grew up in rural Alaska so I am parsing your question through that lense.

Except for a bit of barley in the vicinity of Delta, there is virtually no grain grown in Alaska, and thus (although my information could be out of date) I don't believe that straw is much available as a commercial commodity except at "barged from Seattle" prices.  So it's unlikely that straw bale construction would be economical, and you might have difficulty sourcing enough straw to make cob, unless you can identify a local fiber substitute for straw that's available in sufficient quantity.   Dog mushers where I grew up would buy a few bales of barley straw from Delta every winter to put in their doghouses, but it was a non-trivial expense.

On the other hand "natural building" as I understand it is supposed to be all about making use of whatever local materials are suitable for construction.  In Alaska, that means (first, always, and overwhelmingly) log cabin construction.  In the Interior (where I'm from) that overwhelmingly means small cabins made from black spruce (the scrubby trees that gave the northland the name of "Taiga", which means "land of the little sticks") or white spruce (long, tall, beautiful logs growing in the river bottoms when you can find them, suitable for building large modern homes out of log).  In coastal Alaska the logs get bigger and there's more diversity of species, but logs remain the natural building material of choice.  In Alaska, the economics of building materials is first and always about the cost of transporting them to the build site; and logs will always be cheaper than anything else because nothing else is produced in the state in commercial quantities, and logs are overwhelmingly likely to be the only building material you can find "local" to your build for any reasonable definition of local.  

It's pretty common for anybody doing much building in remote Alaska to have some sort of sawmill, even if it's one of those primitive "chainsaw mill" things that you bolt your chainsaw to.  If you've seen that "Last Frontier" show on TV about the Kilcher homesteading family, you've seen several different sawmills in use, and they live within a few miles of a paved road and could get lumber deliveries easily.  Distance and lack of transportation infrastructure in Alaska dictates everything; building materials are insanely expensive to ship any distance, and everything is a long way from everything else.   If natural building means local then in Alaska local means trees and (nine times out of ten) using trees means you're building a cabin.  That's the natural building equation for Alaska as I understand it.

Of course, if you're heading north of the Brooks Range into the true tundra, all bets are off.

Thank you so so much for your response! As for materials I'd be very interested to know about how earth bag building may work up here. I know that with log buildings, a lot of wood needs to be used to heat the house as it does not hold the heat. I live where there is plenty of straw available though so that would not be a problem, I just worry about mold when it comes to straw though. But rot may be an issue with the wood as well any thoughts? Thank you!
3 years ago

Mike Jay wrote:Approximately where in Alaska are you looking to build?  I'm sure those techniques are suitable for some places (or maybe all) in Alaska but if you can narrow the location down that may help.

Hi there! I'm looking into building in Homer right now or possibly in the Mat-Su valley. I'm currently in the valley but feel like building codes will be an issue here.
3 years ago
I am very interested in cob, strawbale, or wofati building techniques, but I'm not sure if it would be suitable for Alaska? Does anyone have any information on this, or about what types of conditions make natural building suitable? Thank you for any information:)
3 years ago