tony elder

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Recent posts by tony elder

Enjoyed following the links...  new ideas are never bad ideas.  Thanks.
1 year ago

Craig Butler wrote:
Thanks for the reminder, Tony. You got me thinking again about the ratio one is looking for between the charcoal and the microbacterial inoculant (and no doubt there's a technical term for that I should learn). Still very early in my research on this, but I was thinking of green manure as that source. However, questions remain as to how much charcoal should one use for one ton of manure, along with how much time does the mix need before it is stable to put in the growing soil? Would aged manure in fact be better, as green would require its own time frame to decompose? I have been thinking of having two operations going on: biochar production, and compost production. Do others combine these processes--using charcoal as a compost pile ingredient--and is that efficient?

Thanks all,


I know the reason for crushing the char into pieces as small as posible (or practical), is to expose the largest surface area of char as possible to be inoculated so that it can be loaded with the most "stuff" in the least amount of time.

I would assume that to mean - the amount of time it should take for the process to complete would be proportional to surface area that is exposed. And the inverse would also mean that the size (exposed surface area) of the char would determine the amount of elements available for the soil and plant life to use at any one time. I don't think any of that would affect the volume of inoculate the char could hold or need to be completely loaded. Only to say that the larger pieces would probably take longer to load and would be harder or slower to release what had been loaded.

In my mind - I'm thinking the best plan for multiple applications over time would be to start with the finest size possible, and to be less concerned about the size with each new application. Seems that the combination of sizes would make the most resources available over the longest period of time.

Sorry, I can't tell you about ratios of inoculate to char needed to load the char. There may be variables to that ratio based on the quality of the char, and it would certainly depend on the quality or type of inoculate you would be using, as well as the process for loading. I'm sure there are general rules of thumb for that sort of thing, but I don't recall hearing or reading what that might be.

I do recall that saturation with compost or manure teas were usually the quickest medium for inoculation. Nevertheless, I plan to add it with fresh horse manure, leaf mulch, and other green material in a compost pile. I don't intend to do much more than turn it, keep it damp, and allow it decompose. I haven't seen or read anything that would cause me to believe it will not be loaded and ready for application when the compost is ready for use.

In my way of thinking - it will not be "robbing" the manure or compost pile of anything beneficial. The char will not be consuming anything. If anything, it will more likely be a transfer or movement of elements from one place to another. Without char present, most of the elements and water would be subject to leaching and more likely to be lost or consumed. With the char present all the beneficials would more likely move to the available habitat / enviroment which would be more conducive to healthy growth and less likely to be lost or consumed.

Hopefully, someone here will fill in the gaps I'm leaving.

1 year ago
Thanks for the suggestion Todd.

I was about to start another topic to ask what the best alternative would be.  Those rascals are hard to find. Not sure if I will have any better luck finding a 7 gallon barrel. It seems 55 gallon is about the only metal barrel that is readily available.

I'm thinking - since they are harder to find - and since the smaller chamber is going to be exposed to the greater heat (burn out faster) - that I should be thinking about getting more than one when I do locate a source.

55 gallon drums are common and relatively cheap.

Anyone else with suggestions?
1 year ago
Some one may have said this already and I just missed it - but it is worth knowing...

Bio-char, as has been said, needs to be "inoculated" before you add it to your soil. By itself, it is inert (not a fertilizer). It is used to provide a healthy enviroment / habitat for desirable things to begin happening. "Loading" the bio-char before it goes into the soil prevents it from having to get "loaded" after it is put into the soil.

But, what I didn't read was an important warning: If you add it to the soil without it having been inoculated, don't be surprised if it has a negative affect on your plants for the first year (or 2). What you will have done is "called upon" your soil to provide the inoculation. That means some of the stuff your plants need for good health is going to be getting captured by the bio-char first (the inoculation / loading). And until that process is complete, that "stuff" will not be as available to your plants. You might wonder what happened and why bio-char is making things worse, instead of better.

I like everything I have learned about bio-char. Right now, I'm having trouble finding 35 gallon barrels for the retort chamber. But I'm not giving up.

One of the things I plan on loading into it is the ABUNDANCE of gum balls we have.  I figure that is about as good a use for them as any. That and using them in the bottom of wicking barrels.  Now I am excited about having them!  ;-)

1 year ago

I'm using 2/3 leaf mold (passed through a sieve) and 1/3 sand.

Takes a little planning ahead of time (so it will be available), but there are things you can do to help speed the process along.

...renewable resource, hardly any expense
1 year ago
With my respect...  pilámaya

1 year ago

Bryant RedHawk wrote:We started a path with Irish moss, it is wear resistant and is extremely soft under bare feet, plus it looks grand as a garden path.
We might even start using it in other places too, currently we are letting it grow for harvesting to use elsewhere around the house site.
It is a bit expensive but I like mosses and have always started a moss bed where ever I have lived since I was a child. Usually they aren't big, just large enough to lay down on.
This is my first time to use a specific moss for what it is traditionally used for.

I have a great deal of respect for your knowledge and experience. So, please I am not challenging to any of that. It is a request for information - so I can understand.

Each spring, parts of our "yard" will have a fairly healthy growth of moss. I assume it is native to our area, because it was not planted - at least not in the past 30 years that family has lived here. I don't know what kind it is specifically, but it is definitely moss. But that growth has usually gone dormant by summer - and we are left with brown patches of moss until the next spring.

I like moss, and thought seriously about encouraging its growth and spread - as much as I could - especially since it was native. I looked into what moss needs to try and keep it healthy year round. The condensed version of what I found says "Moss requires an acidic environment, compact soil, protected sun to semi-shade and consistent moisture."  This information helped me understand why I might be having problems with maintaining a healthy growth year round.  

Acidic soil. No problem.
Compact soil. The soil is farily compacted where it is growing. But this raises a concern for trying to get it to grow in other areas (like a pathway).
Protected sun to semi-shade. Protected sun would be the best description for where it is growing now, but this need would be an issue where I would like to have it growing.
Consistent moisture. This is a problem and probably the biggest reason it goes dormant by summer. The heat and sun will dry out the soil in this part of the yard.

And my personal observations: The moss we have is fairly resilient in the spring, but still has trouble dealing with constant traffic or heavy traffic (wheelbarrel). Our moss doesn't have a deep root system, so when the soil is soft or damp, it isn't able to hold or "contain" the shallow moss root system when it is disturbed enough. The moss becomes detached from the soil and sits on top of mud. And I feel that these areas become even more vulnerable to being compromised when the moss goes dormant.

Now, to the specifics of using it along our garden paths. I think that the soil conditions in a garden path would be even less supportive - for all the obvious reasons. It seems that levels of sunlight, consistent mositure, and heavier traffic would all make if very difficult for moss to become established, grow healthy and be stable.

This was the biggest reason I decided to sow micro-clover instead of moss. The micro-clover is doing OK, and I'm hoping that a second sowing this spring will help it get established as a lawn grass and replace what we have now. That would eventually include our garden paths.

What (if anything) have you done to "fix" these problems?  ...or do you even have these problems with the variety of moss you are using?   ...or better yet, is there something I can do to prevent these problems with growing our moss?
1 year ago

Sebastian Köln wrote:I would consider "low voltage" DC installations for lighting the future. Possibly with two additional data wires to allow switching and dimming over a bus, without having to route the power cables over the switch.
DC is much easier to work with in electronics, there is always power available, unlike in AC where power needs to be stored for 10ms (a long time in electronics, modern regulators go up to the MHz range).

All that remains is to figure out the voltage, connector and data protocol…

You have some good ideas. I think the biggest problem for the "public" would be the cost of setting up the infrastructure to generate a second source of energy, and the distribution equipment and transmission lines necessary to get the DC power to the "public". A huge expense - just to provide for a certain type of lighting.

Public utility wind and solar power generation (DC) is becoming more common, but currently - it is set up to provide AC for the existing grid. But I agree, there are some very good reasons for considering DC.  

I am a big fan of a "private individual" option - where the end user is allowed to provide their own DC power source. The NEC has already made provisions for solar and wind power generation and wiring systems connected to it. If everyone were generating their own power, we could collective elect to be connected to a DC grid (no need to syncronize output with DC) - and create a de-centralized power source for the public. Or, generate DC for home use, and convert any surplus to AC for a sell back to the utility on the existing grid (already being done by some folks).  But unless you are installing a really substantial system - it could take a life time to realize a pay back (if that was the goal).

I'm not sure how practical it would be to eliminate AC power. Certainly,there would be a lot of resistance (pun intended) from folks who would lose their jobs as a result, and from folks who would end up with obsolete appliances and equipment.

It's also worth noting that, unless the voltage level is high enough, any equivalent connected loads (wattage) would require larger conductor sizes (current). example: 120v x 2500w = 12a load would use #14AWG; and 24v x 2500w = 60a load would use #6AWG. Big difference.

Just shining light in dark places where things are sometimes hidden.

I'll stop now. This isn't my thread and it could be said that we have drifted away from the original question.

Might make an interesting separate thread though.

1 year ago

I hope our family here finds this information useful:

It is important for us to understand that any fixture that could be initially installed, could - at any time - be replaced with any other type of fixture available on the market. So to me, that means the type of socket used for any lamp is irrelevant when it comes to how an electrical circuit is installed.

For those kinds of reasons - the National Electrical Code was written and published in an effort to establish minimum industry standards as an appropriate step to provide for public safety. It has established minimum standards for all different types of electrical installations, so manufacturers, designers/engineers, installers, and maintainers of those systems could all be aware of what can reasonably be expected in locations that have adopted those standards. And when the public understands that a standard that has been enforced during construction - it offers the public some level of confidence in the safety of the wiring systems installed in your home, your work place, at the hospital, airport, restaurants, etc.

As an example: Arc fault breakers (GFIC), Ground fault interrupter type circuit breakers can be a nuisance and they certainly are more expensive than a regular breaker (and LED lamps are a lot more expensive than incandescent lamps). But I know from personal experience, they save lives. And I know from personal knowledge that there have been lives lost and others seriously injured when they weren't used. Are they necessary?  Well, you don't need it, until you need it - and when you need it, then you are so very thankful that you were protected.

And while it is true that any electrical circuit can be connected to any size wire smaller than #14 AWG, in order for that wiring system to be safe it would need to be protected with the appropriate sized fuse for that wire size. Anything smaller than #14 AWG would need to be protected with an overcurrent protection device rated for less ampacity accordingly. That way - if you decide to run your 2000 watt appliance on #16 AWG wiring, the OCPD will open the circuit before you burn up your wiring and maybe save your home and family.

My life has been spent working in the electrical field - in a lot of different positions. I have known people who sat on that board. The people who are responsible for writing and approving those regulations are folks that include labor (electricians) and business (contractors). They make decisions as a collaborative effort. The basis for all of the decisions for what gets written into the code are made with public safety at the center. How many members make up that board? There are no less than 13 pages (8-1/2" X 11") full of names that sit on 14 different "Code-Making Panels" that can be found in the front pages of any code book. Anyone who recognizes a need for an existing regulation to be revised - or the need for a new regulation can submit their recommendation for review. The NEC board is not part of any federal, state, or local government. It is organized under the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). The NEC is not a federal regulation. The NEC is only enforced in locations where it has been adopted into law by state legislative branches of government.  States are not required to adopt the current edition or standard. I don't know why they would, but... I imagine that a state could repeal the law that adopted the regulations - if they chose to do so.

All of that being said - it should be obvious that there is no profit motive for these folks. They have volunteered their services for the good of the public.

1 year ago

Mike Jay wrote:Hi Ruth, if I can read into your question a bit more, I "think" you might be wondering about using smaller wire gauge in your wiring circuit since LEDs don't draw much current.  I've wondered if some day they will change the electrical code in the US to allow for smaller wires on lighting circuits.  But for now, as far as I know, lighting circuits still need to use wire sized to handle incandescent sized loads.  Typically 15 amp circuits with 14 gauge wire.

No argument - but in order to avoid any confusion - the code does not differentiate between the types of lamps used on a circuit. It is written to address the combined amperage of the connected load - regardless of what that load might be.  For that reason, it is not very likely that the code will be changed to accomodate "LED only" circuits. The savings would not be that dramatic anyway - be safe.

You are correct 14 AWG is the minimum size conductor allowed under the NEC for residential lighting circuits. And - although the wire (copper) itself is able to carry a 20 amp load safely (when installed correctly) - the NEC requires that 14 AWG be protected from loads over 15 amps.

It should be noted - technically speaking - a continuous load connected to a "regular" 15 amp circuit breaker should be limited to a total connected load of only 12 amps, and not 15.  A normal 15 amp breaker is not designed to carry a full 15 amp load continuously. What is continuous?  Anything that would normally be used more than 3 hours at a time (NEC). Reality check: how often do you figure to have all of your lights on at the same time for more than 3 hours?   Some?  ....yes.   All?  ...not likely.   Some will interpret what the NEC says on this issue to be limited to a single cord connected appliance being limited to 12 amps on a 15 amp circuit breaker. Others would argue that it is the combined load on the circuit - and is intended to accomodate and account for motor loads when starting (like ceiling fans, attic fans, etc.). Motors will start at 125% of their full load current.   BUT - you can purchase "fully rated circuit breakers" (at a premium) and "load it up to the max".

Regardless, it is a good / safe practice, when designing your circuit layouts, to keep those things in mind.
1 year ago