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Kārlis Taurenis

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since Mar 26, 2020
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A forest garden designer from the UK, now living in Latvia - a new climate with new possibilities!
Cesis, Latvia
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Recent posts by Kārlis Taurenis

Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for your feedback, your own experiences, it's always helpful.

I've done quite a bit more research into this and am amazed how much debate there seems to be on forums and things when there's actually been really good studies into borax on wood - you just have to find them!

The results that I can see is that borax is a pretty effective wood preservative and fire-retardant as long as it is not constantly exposed to the leaching of water.

Based on my findings it seems that borates either have no effect, or actually improve the structural strength of wood. Good protection from insects and fungi, although perhaps not moulds. Low toxicity to humans. A slight drawback that it can blunt blades a little faster than untreated wood!

Firstly wood strength! :

This study experimented on the effect of borax on bamboo, and I assume the results could also be applied to wood:


This excellent study from 2020 concluded that:

"This  study indicated  that  30% to  50%  borax in  the preservative  solution is  sufficient  to provide  significant
increase in strength for  compressive strength,  tensile strength, and  bending strength  of bamboo  specimen."

(Great study - I'm just slightly puzzled about how one could achieve a 50% borax solution in cold conditions, am I misunderstanding something?!)

More research on borates (including boric acid) for timber preservation from Australia in 2004, contains lots of findings from many other studies, encompassing a lot of helpful information:


"Boron has a number of advantages as a wood preservative... Borates are relatively inexpensive, colourless, non-flammable, and can be applied by a variety of methods, ranging from cheap dip tanks to sophisticated VPI plants...

Boron also has sound health, safety and environmental credentials (not withstanding the directive from
Sweden mentioned above), as it has low toxicity to mammals, and low environmental impact
(Currie, 1997). "

"Borates are generally effective against sapstain fungi. However, at the levels normally used
commercially, borates do not protect timber from surface moulds. " (Amburgey, 1990)

"Boron treatment has no significant effect on the strength of timber" (Anon., 1994).

"Boron treated timber will blunt saw blades more quickly than untreated timber" (Davis and Norton, 1995).

"Provided the treated timber is dried to a moisture content below 18%, borate treatment should have no adverse effect on painting" (Anon.., 1994).  

"Borate treated wood can affect phenol formaldehyde glues, but most other glues seem to be
compatible." (K. Lyngcoln, pers. comm., 1996)

Cold water soaking:

"It usually involves soaking in 3 to 4.5% borax for 12-14 days (Johnstone and Humphreys, 1972). The length of time needed to treat timber by soaking depends on timber species and thickness. As a general rule for 4.5% borax solutions at 18C, timber of 2.54 cm thickness requires seven days soaking, while timber of
3.81 cm thickness requires 14 days soaking" (Davis and Norton, 1995).

There's loads more information in both of those studies quoted about the preservation powers of borax. As long as the wood is not being exposed to water constantly, I'm very encouraged that borax is a sound, environmentally friendly method of treating wood.

6 months ago
Hi everyone,

I'm making a new yurt and was thinking of using borax to protect the wood from mould, rot, insects etc.

There seems to be mixed opinion about the efficacy of borax in wood treatment, with people trying to sell borax or deterring customers biasing the perspective!

In general, my brief research has led me to believe that borax is a pretty effective, long lasting wood treatment if given an immersion treatment before construction, providing the wood is protected from prolonged immersion in water (which washes out the borax).

There was also a claim on a permies post: 'Best oil to treat lumber with' from Bryant Redhawk that Boric acid breaks down the lignin in the wood, thus reducing its strength. I don't have an opinion on that yet since I can't find much evidence pointing in either direction, so would love to understand more.

Would anyone be able to share their knowledge / experience with using Borax on wood?

My plan would be to soak wood in 2 cups of borax : 12L water, as recommended by Bryant.

Thanks all!

Charlie :)

6 months ago
Hey L, (sorry, I couldn't find your fuller name!)

It's super helpful and interesting hearing people's growing stories from different parts of the world, thanks!

I'm really curious about permaculture and growing in Japan, and especially the colder climates, like Hokkaido. A lot of cooler weather Japanese plants seem to do well for us in Latvia.

Do you have contacts in Hokkaido, or perhaps know of Japanese growing forums where I could share information and ask some questions?

Thanks so much, I intend to publish information on growing in different climates based on my research within the next year!


6 months ago
Thanks everyone for increasing the input! All very useful...

So much so that I'm thinking of collecting data to map what is possible to grow, where, with climate data for each location.

Steve, can you tell exactly where in Maine you are? I'm interested you can grow both Elaeagnus species in such a cold location!

I planted some Elaeagnus umbellata here last year. Aronia and Amelanchier are 'invaders' from Canada, but seem to like it here, even naturalising in the understorey.

I've found that here things actually ripen much better in the understorey here than in the UK due to the increased hours of sunshine - here we get an average of around 11 hours per day in June, compared to just 7 or so in much of the UK.

If others would like to chime in with what they can grow in their notherly-ish locality, it would all contribute to wealth of data for us all to learn from.

Thanks again ! :)

7 months ago
Thank you for the suggestion on the book - I might get that!

Mulberries and Honeyberries are said to grow well here - I've planted some so let's see!

Cranberries and Lingonberries, as well as European Blueberries (Bilberries) are all over the forests and swamps here - not much need to plant them really!

An issue for nut production can be pollination in cold spring weather, I've not yet seen abundant crops of hazels but I have lots of cobnut seedlings growing to get a diverse genetic selection - maybe some of them will do well!

Like I say, peaches can grow here, and where peaches grow, plenty of other exotic things can follow! Maybe even Northern Pawpaws?

That would be something....
7 months ago
Hey everyone,

I'm currently researching what should be possible to grow in our Northerly climate of Latvia. Locals here can be rather conservative over what they try growing, but actually we have a very good growing climate! Lots of sunny hours during the spring and summer, although the autumns do often come early and suddenly! Winters can get down to around -25C (-13F) and July average temperature is around 19C (66F)

In good years we can grow peaches here. So I'm wondering about some other options:

Apricots - I know of some apricot varieties that grow high up in the Himalayas where it is very cold - hunza being one of them.
Persimmons - Even D.Kaki can be grown in Northern Japan where winters are colder than here.
Figs - My friend Paul grows figs in the cold mountains of Bulgaria, so might be worth a go!
Cornus kousa chinensis - I love these custardy little fruits, quite hardy.

Almonds - growing in Sweden apparently.
Chestnuts - Japanese Chestnuts grow well in Northern Japan, which has a similar climate to here.
Walnuts - I've seen some growing, now wondering if they're viable for major production.

Other - Bamboo - I've never seen bamboo in Latvia, but I'd love to try the most hardy varieties!
Szechuan Pepper - quite cold hardy I believe!

I'd be very grateful for any feedback on these ideas - growers from Canada and other Northerly climes probably have great knowledge on this - thank you!!

7 months ago
Hey, sorry I missed your reply!

Well it smells very sour, but when I tasted a tiny bit of the stuff near the mother it tasted weird - not very acidic at all. So it spooked me and I haven't tried it since!

If there's any further ideas, I'd love to hear them!

:) Charlie
7 months ago
Hey dear fermenters!

I tried an experiment in the autumn:

I made a spiced apple chutney, and when it was cooling down I poured a little bit of Live Cider Vinegar on the top of the jar before sealing.

No sign of life while sealed, but I opened it in the beginning of January and ate half the jar, then noticed a thin white layer forming on its surface. I left this alone for the past two weeks, now that layer has gotten fatter and starting to look a little bit like a Vinegar Mother! The chutney just underneath this looks a little darker / redder - as if something is happening there also.

Is it possible the Mother survived all that sealing and storing and is resurrecting herself amidst my spicy apple brew? Can Cider Mothers live in a more solid medium, such as a chutney? Will she eventually turn my chutney too sour to eat?!

I'm just playing and experimenting here but would love to have someone help me understand!!

See photos!


8 months ago
Of the common kinds available in the UK, Empress Wu and Sum and Substance are supposed to be two of the biggest. Vigorous varieties make sense for most forest gardens!

I've noted others saying they're waiting for their hostas to get established, does this suggest that after this are slow to get going? I've had this issue, and reckon they need good deep soil, a little shade and LOTS of water to beat the pests and rocket away.
8 months ago

Hey all!

I'm fairly new to this light clay straw (LCS) concept, and really like what I've learnt so far.

Some questions I have don't seem to find many answers though...

One virtue LCS offers over straw bale is apparent resistance to vermin. This is a huge draw for me, as I have been in too many eco-homes with rodent infestations.

But does LCS completely rodent free though? Or is that more to do with how you plaster and seal it?

I am planning to clad one side of my LCS with batten board rather than plaster - which might be make it more open to the critters if they happen to like it.

If it is an issue at all - what about including powdered lime in to the LCS mix to discourage vermin? This would surely also inhibit moulds which can also be a problem when slow drying.

Anyone tried adding lime to LCS? And has anyone had experience with vermin ?

Thanks so much for any help, super appreciated :)

2 years ago