Scott Billups

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since Dec 23, 2016
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Recent posts by Scott Billups

Style comment: Your language spends quite a bit of time demonizing the impact of humans on the living soil. While this may accurately reflect your impression, I fear using this language will turn-off (be seen as hostile) to exactly the population you are trying to reach.

I suggest language like:
"The most labor and cost efficient way of planting crops is to plant hundreds of acres of monocrops. The downside of this method is that it quickly exhausts the soil, resulting in dirt that needs the application of synthetic fertilizers, weak plants that require spraying with repellent, and eventually produce less-nutritious crops. Multicrop planting is more labor intensive, but has the advantage of self-fertilizing the soil, raising stronger plants that need less or no insect repellents, and produce much more nutritious foods".

If you change your tone to not demonize the humans, I believe more growers will be more receptive to these new (for them) ideas.

I'm eager to read the rest of this book!
4 months ago
Hi Jack,

Thanks for your reply.

Additives = manure & charcoal. (Sorry. I should have said that in my original post.)

Where = Massachusetts. Plenty of rain.

I will compost-directly-on-the-ground everywhere that makes sense. In the few places where it doesn't, I'll experiment with composting-in-tarps, and transport the soil afterwards.

Thanks again!
4 months ago
Hello all. I love this thread.

I have 6-acres of land that I would like to add soil to. Wood chips are free to me, but how to turn the pile?

I was wondering if anyone has ever layed-down a tarp on the ground, with ropes & pulleys in surrounding trees, added wood chips and other additives, and then rolled the pile back-n-forth to turn it?

Am I crazy? Is a good pile of chips *way* too heavy to tumble in a tarp?

Thanks everyone.


4 months ago
My wife and I are going with a 400sqft home kit from Shelter Kit

Its a traditional stick-build home (wooden 2x4s, etc.). They provide all the pre-cut lumber & fasteners & instructions, and ship it to your site.

You build it like IKEA furniture. Once its dried-in, you insulate the walls and finish it yourself.

For the size, its cheap! For eco-friendlness, pre-cut kits offer minimal waste, and tiny homes are eco-friendly anyway. We've had nothing but 100% positive experience with them.

We have longer-term plans to build a straw bale house, with clay-plaster floors and walls, but that's 5years out.

1 year ago
I found another video showing an interesting process:

I asked questions to the channel owner, but haven't seen answers yet:
1) Does the tilling chop-up the straw into shorter lengths?

Maybe that's ok, but its good to know.

2) The instructions list mixing 'soil', but I know cob needs to be exclusively sand, clay, and straw (soil typically also includes organic compounds which will decay and shrink over time, leading to crumbling cob). I asked the channel owner if he used 'soil' to mean clay.

1 year ago
On the topic of 'violating the laws of physics', I have a few comments I'd like to make. The "75% efficiency" comes from three testing assumptions that don't apply to RMH.

1) In a conventional wood stove, they don't draw-in sufficient Oxygen to complete the combustion of the hydrocarbon gasses. There is more energy coming from the wood-fuel than the stove is buring, but the conventional stove doesn't / cab't take advantage of it.
2) The exit temperature of a conventional wood stove needs to be held at above 425oF to prevent the formation of creosote. The creosote is the condensation of these unburnt hydrocarbons (the unburnt fuel).

A RMH *does* draw-in sufficient Oxygen to completely combust all the freed hydrocarbons, so RMHs get more heating-value from the same lb. of wood than a conventional stove. ALSO, because RMHs don't need to avoid the creosote problem, they typically design the mass to capture more of the exhaust heat - they add mass and lower the exhaust temperature to about 200oF. The additional capturing of heat means they *again* get more heat from a lb. of wood than a conventional wood stove. The extra Oxygen allows RMHs a double-whammy of efficiency.

3) Conventional wood stoves primarily heat the air in the room.

A RMH stores the heat in a mass, which means its primary heating mode is radiated (light like a heat-lamp). Yes, a briefly opened door will loose a lot of hot air out the door, while the same briefly opened door won't loose any significant heat from a thermal mass (bench, etc.). There isn't a 'speed' of BTUs "whizzing past" the home owner and flying through the walls. While amusing, that description is a mischaracterization of how heat flows.

Given the above, conventional wood stoves are being uniformly and systematically tested, so they can be compared to each other. That's really handy. When trying to compare against a RMH, we have to understand that the rules of the test need to change. Under the adjusted-rules, a conventional wood stove will likely come-out as 15% to 25% efficient, and a RMH's results something like 90% efficient, which makes Paul's and other's claim (and personal experiences) of 80% to 90% reduction in wood-consumption quite believable.

1 year ago
Thanks J.D.

I had seen the 'mechanical mixing' thread and had posted my experience with a Mason mixed (similar to your mortar mixer).

The reason I asked my version of the question had to do with scale. A mortar or mason mixer is certainly an upgrade from the tarp-method. It still requires lifting buckets, wheel-barrows, etc. (human power). The methods in the videos I link are even larger-scale mixing, and don't require any human-power, suitable for "an entire 1,100sqft floor in a day".

I'll run some math and see if a mortar or mason mixer is big enough for my needs.


2 years ago

I have a big project coming-up and I need to make a lot of cob, easily. What methods have we seen to make cob in bulk?

I know the ‘primitive’ / ‘tarp-method’ / ‘manpower only’ method. That works, and I’m glad to know it. It’s especially handy for community-building.

I have to make an adobe floor: 1,100-sq-ft x 6-inches deep. I’ll need an army of people doing the cob-dance to get that done before Winter sets-in.

The best method I’ve seen for mixing cob in bulk (so far) is using a Bobcat:

The second-best method I found is with a backhoe and a small skip:

I’ve used a Mason Mixer in the past too, and that worked fine for medium-sized batches. It’ll still be a lot of hard lifting work to make my floor.

What other methods have fellow cob-makers tried / discovered?

Thanks all!

2 years ago
I've used a Masonry Mixer once, and it worked well. It's still a lot of "lifting heavy buckets", but it beats the tarp method for speed/bulk.

2 years ago