Robert Russell

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since May 01, 2017
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Recent posts by Robert Russell

Mark Roberts wrote:My biggest concern is reliability and longevity. I need my battery bank to last 25 years+. If I've done my reading correctly Nickel Iron is my best option. Do I have that right? If so can anyone recommend somewhere in Canada I can purchase? Thanks!

In many cases, for longevity, the amount of battery capacity you can install is just as important as what battery chemistry you choose.

For an example on
Table 2: Cycle life as a function of depth of discharge.*  
of this page
How to Prolong Lithium-based Batteries

Assuming 1 charge/discharge cycle per day from solar panels, LiPO4 batteries will last less than 2 years if they get fully discharged, but if you got enough batteries so that they only ever dropped to 80% full, the batteries would be rated for 25 years.
The second scenario means buying 5 times as many batteries as the first scenario. 5x more money up front, but you get more than 5x the rated cycles.
2 years ago

Travis Johnson wrote:

I did see though that a guy on youtube made his own homemade 2 wheel tractor using batteries as you suggest...

Just this year I've seen the first documentation of someone converting a 2 wheel walk behind BCS from gas to electric. Apparently it's fairly recent that battery price and quality has made it feasible to do the swap and maintain the weight balance necessary for maneuverability of the machine. It does have removable battery packs you could swap on the fly, but unless you already have batteries for other equipment, it does seem to be one of the more expensive components.

I'm sure it doesn't compare to a big gas tractor for many applications, but for a small homestead where you're only using it rarely for short tasks that are too labor intensive to do manually it could be really great.  If you're on a tractor for hours a day then I don't think this level of conversion is appropriate.

The builder of this conversion uses it inside a greenhouse, where I'm sure the lack of exhaust is appreciated.

2 years ago
Thanks for the info! We're feeding chick starter right now in the 'always available' dry food bin because we have a bunch of chicks hatched this spring/summer, and the ferment is that + extra grains too. But I have no idea what % of each feed the ducks are actually eating, or if they're filling up on greens as they forage. So far I've been following the technique of providing excess of everything and letting the birds choose - but maybe they're filling up on junk?

I'll start doing some experiments to boost the protein levels for a few weeks and see if that helps. We've been feeding some cats that showed up under our house and have seen chickens devour cat food if the cats don't eat it fast enough, but the ducks haven't seen it yet.

I'm also curious if you do anything intentional regarding calcium? It seems with chickens extra protein is for growing chicks, and the laying specific feed has additional calcium rather than protein. Do your ducks have any specific source of calcium available, or just what they get in the starter feed?
2 years ago
I've followed this post and your other one and I'm in almost the same situation you were before the ducks started laying.

Also in pacific northwest, 5 ancona hens and 1 drake. We also have a couple dozen chickens, so I don't have as precise numbers for amount of feed.
There is "unlimited" feed available at all times, which is the dry poultry crumbles in a big bin with the 3" PVC elbows to let the birds stick their heads in and eat without being able to waste all the food. I've seen the ducks use this as well as the chickens.

Additionally, once a day all birds are fed fermented feed which is a mix of layer pellets, scratch & peck grains, and sometimes additional oats because we have a big bag of them. The ducks always get plenty of this since the chickens seem kind of scared of them.

They also get human food scraps, some weeds from the garden, and have a couple acres to free range on that's a mix of light forest, and grass (though more of a lawn than a pasture now).

Except at night, they have access to bathing water.

One day we got our first egg, and got one egg/day for the next 2 days, and then nothing since. Similar to your situation, we tried keeping them in the coop/run area longer to make sure they weren't hiding eggs, but no luck.

I enjoy the birds and this is just a homestead operation, but so far the reality isn't matching up to the reports of ducks being serious egg layers.

So I'm curious if there were any changes that you attributed to getting them to start laying? I read both your threads but sort of seems like just stay the course, keep feeding them and wait? Unless I missed something?
2 years ago
Does anyone know of pictures, instructions, or videos for usage of these?
2 years ago

Glenn Herbert wrote:I have a friend who a couple of years ago was planning to build a cob house in Tioga County, NY. She found an architect who specialized in this, but she would require several thousand dollars for drawings and the stamp. This was out of range for my friend, who is still working on trying to build a permanent dwelling on her land.

Certainly too bad for your friend, considering all the examples of cob homes that have been built and provide shelter for less than the cost of stamps and drawings. For me, getting as far as your friend did would be considered a success. Right now I'm paying around $500 per month to rent an apartment in the city. But that cost will continue forever.

A one time cost of a couple thousand dollars, plus some rural land that costs about as much as what most people pay for a new car, and I'd be coming out way ahead - and that's ignoring how much more pleasant cob would be than a decrepit apartment.

I don't mind a one-time hoop jump through bureacracy, fees, and other BS as long as you're left alone afterwards.  What terrifies me are the stories on this site and elsewhere of getting harassed, fined, and having to tear down an already built structure, after the fact, because someone notices or reports you. It's unfortunate, but the area's I'm looking at aren't remote enough to ignore that possibility.
3 years ago
I just got and read the e-book from the more recent link in this thread. Really a topic I'm interested in! It's a decent overview of the general state of affairs with natural building and the code, but I didn't find it to be too in depth. I've read through a couple cob books cover to cover, skimmed through anything I could find at the library or bookstore, attended a workshop, and helped build a small backyard shed. For me, I didn't find much new info that's not in the books already. I felt there was more information in the book on why you would want to by bypass the code, and how to bypass it, rather than how to face it head-on if you so desire.

The PDF I received after purchase was only 10 pages, vs the 20 mentioned in the first post here, and it had way less region specific info, and no personal experience/anecdotes. Can't say it was the best investment I've made, but I'm happy to throw a few dollars at any involved in this stuff right now, and other material on that webpage is great.
I absolutely understand the trail blazers in this area had every reason to stay out of view as they figure out how everything works. But now that cob's been decently (re-)discovered in the modern age, I think it has potential to spread beyond the situations where people have an ability to do everything under the radar. There's plenty of examples of people building cob homes for thousands of dollars, and in some cases hundreds. Considering a modern home will most likely be in the hundreds of thousands ballpark, I think there's room to drop tens of thousands of dollars on permitting and engineering, and still come out way ahead financially going the cob route (ignoring all the other benefits of cob). Yes, it's absolutely ridiculous to spend more on permits and bureacracy than the actual activity, but I can only imagine that only has to happen a few times before things become easier for everyone.

I've come across a few references to people who have gone fully legit, but unfortunately nothing very detailed, but mostly its been 1-2 sentences at most, eg: "they got an experimental building permit", or "they paid to have an engineer stamp the plans". I'm curious about so much more, stuff like:
- How was the conversation initiated with the local building department
- Any shortcuts, anything to definitely mention, or definitely not mention
- Do you need to find and  use "natural building" engineers, or will *any* engineer just need to be asked to use the properties of natural materials for standard calculations.

So far the closest thing I've found is these guys
I think they have absolutely the right idea, just hoping they keep getting more material up. I'm trying to learn as much as I can, and hopefully in the future will be able to contribute a tiny little drop of info to make it slightly easier for the next person.
3 years ago
Nuts! I was interested in this but a little hesitant due to the price. I wanted to make sure this wasn't just shiny wrapping paper around freely available info.

Finally got around to watching some of the preliminary free videos and was quite impressed. Went to sign up and realized the deadline was passed for sign up. Bummer! Fingers crossed the lectures become available later.
3 years ago