Brian Vraken

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since Feb 01, 2017
Eastern Ontario, Canada Zone 5b
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Recent posts by Brian Vraken

Sam Del Vecchio wrote:Hi Everybody,  I'm installing a 4" Dragon Heater Barrel Build in my little wooden house. The standard clearances for the single-wall stovepipe seem excessive for a rocket heater; and I need to save space. I'm imagining the usual clearances are based on pipes running 500 degrees or more, and that mine will be closer to 200 or less. Can anyone point me toward some information to help me work this out?

I'd also really love to vent it out the back wall at a 45 degree angle; but I've been told that would be asking for trouble.

Thanks for your time,

In most cases, your home insurance would have the final word on this. If you don't have insurance, then I would personally consider sticking to the WETT standards.

The WETT standards call for 18" clearance to combustibles for single wall pipe, but this can be reduced significantly by installing a heat shields to protect combustibles that breach this clearance. An acceptable heat shield is a piece of 26ga sheet metal with a 1" space between it and combustibles. They are easiest installed by using 1" pieces of copper pipe as spacers and putting a screw through the sheet metal and copper pipe spacer install the wall behind. The heat shields have to be somewhat vertical so that air flow can happen behind (ie, warm air exits the top pulling cold air in from the bottom).

The whole reason for all this is to manage catastrophic events - for instance, if your stove isn't operating correctly, or there's a spot you can't clean out that catches fire in the pipe some day... perhaps all very unlikely with a rocket heater, but it would help me sleep at night.
3 months ago

Pamela Smith wrote:
Here in Canada if we get farm status, for us this is simply selling product from our land every year of 2500.00 gross.

Just to add - these limits are set provincially. I envy your $2500 limit - here in Ontario, we need $7000 in gross revenue to get a farm number. Of course, that would instantly save us ~$2k in property tax per year.
6 months ago
I entered, but didn't realise it was US only. Good luck to those who are valid to win.
6 months ago
You are probably thinking of Stefan Sobkowiak from Miracle Farms:

He was also the subject of the 'Permaculture Orchard' documentary:

The documentary is well worth the money. I thought it was very interesting, although albeit slow moving at times - they could have compressed it down a fair bit.
6 months ago
Thanks Jess,

The problem I see with many of the designs I've looked at is that's is hard to find something that is truly 'portable'. For instance, this time of year, I would hope to still be able to have my cattle out on a daily rotation through stockpiled forage. However, we still have days and nights where we need wind protection, which means whatever I build will need to follow the cattle through the daily rotation.

Unforutnately, the land here is flat as a pancake and treeless, which means there is very little natural protection for the cattle.

The other option may be to stop backfencing after a certain point to allow the cattle to retreat to the leeward side of a building or to a run-in. However, I don't know if it would create a problem with their shelter being hundreds of feet from their daily grazing portion.
1 year ago
I am looking at getting beef cattle next summer, and winter grazing them as late in the season as I can.

However, in the winter we get a tremendous cold west wind that will rip your face off as most treelines have been ripped out for miles to the west of our property. I plan to plant a windbreak next year, but it will be a few years before it's even minimally effective.

What do other people do for temporary winter shelter?

Once it gets later in the year (and winter grazing is no longer feasible due to snow cover), I will make a sacrifice paddock near my barn with a run in area. However, I'd like to Winter graze as long as feasible, if I can shelter them from the wind.
1 year ago
I'll bump this topic!

I'm in the early stages of looking at the idea of opening a moderately-sized fibre mill in one of my farm buildings.

I'm not sure I like the business model most of the mills around here operate on - they provide processing services to small flocks whose owners want to use the yarn, usually ranging between $30 and $40 CAD per lb to process.

I have in mind something a little larger in scale where I provide a central sorting service where all the local small flock farmers can drop off or ship their fleeces, get them skirted / sorted / checked for quality, then get paid for the usable amounts. I would process the wool, and market it onward. The simple version is to provide a central facility to merge a bunch of small streams from small producers / hobbiests into one larger regional one that can feed downstream commercial wool consumers.

The problem is, I am having trouble defining any sort of 'real' market for wool in Eastern Canada. Yes, there are hobbyist knitters and weavers who would happily purchase local materials, but the number of volume consumers is low from what I can tell. It's a chicken-and-egg scenario where there's little local clothing industry without local processors... but the processors can't survive without the consumers.

Option B would be to create a retail end as well, but that would require the purchase of additional tooling and expense, with a whole different level of market research and different business structure.

Probably my best bet would be to get in touch with my local Fibershed society and the CCWG (
So, I have a (currently unused) pasture I am trying to improve for next year, though the only tool at my disposal is mowing.

I mowed it in twice in June for the first time in 5+ years - the first time to knock down the waist-high grass, and a second time to knock down the milkweed that sprung up instead.

It's now been three weeks since I last mowed and thanks to the amount of rain, it's back up to boot high. I have lots of poison parsnip and milkweed just starting to go into bloom, so I want to knock them down before they set seed. However, I'm probably about 2 weeks early for the thistles to bolt and go to flower.

Should I mow it now and knock back the poison parsnip and milkweed, and just accept that I'll miss the thistles this year? Or should I wait?

Any thoughts?
1 year ago
Just following up 4 months later:

We bought the property in February, and by the beginning of June the pasture areas was waist-high grass and weeds, which lots of shrubs and small trees. I dragged a bushhog over it twice about 10 days apart, and it's now growing 'mostly' grass with an assortment of other species mixed in (including wild parsnip according to the blisters it's given me).

There's lots of thistle in the pasture after mowing, so I'll probably do another high pass once it bolts. There's also a fair amount of milkweed in some areas.

1 year ago

Hester Winterbourne wrote:You can fix nest boxes to trees using garden hose, which will stretch as the tree grows, and you can adjust it as necessary.  So, hold a square of ply against the tree, take the hose round and nail it to the board, then fix the electric fence attachments to the board.  But I'm not sure it would hold the tension of en electric fence evenly enough on a long run.

Ah, that's a good thought.

I don't think the fence would put a lot of tension on the trees. Mostly just aiming for something to keep it tight enough to avoid excess sag!
1 year ago