Carl Nystrom

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since Sep 03, 2020
Homesteading on 80 acres of forest in the northern Willamette valley. We have year-round streams, steep slopes, and acidic clay and silt-loam soils. We have dry mediterranean summers and winter lows in the 20s most years. We get about 50 inches of rain.
Clackamas County, OR (zone 7)
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Recent posts by Carl Nystrom

Thomas Tipton wrote:This technology is not being commercialized and I expect it to one day supplant natural gas/coal and nuclear powered electrical generating facilities.

Oh, but they claim it is being commercialized, and we can invest our money! Just contact them, and they will likely tell you where you can send your money to get in on the ground floor of this amazing breakthrough! They are going to tap into TRILLION-dollar markets!

"Over the next 5 years, the experienced Aureon team will create a commercial product based on the findings of the SAFIRE project."

How much do you want to bet that the "commercial product" they invented is just a run-of-the-mill Ponzi scheme?
12 hours ago

I didn't think they would work because I'm using big cables with alligator clips to connect the battery to the inverters.

Maybe it is time to dial in your setup a little more. Get some ring terminals, splices, and spade connectors and a decent crimping tool and you could easily redo the wiring. If you have an extension cord laying around, you could harvest wire from that, but you can also buy wire so that it is the right size for what you need. Every wire that connects to a battery's positive terminal should have a fuse on it sized to interrupt the largest current that the wire can safely handle.

For a 400 watt inverter on 12v that would be about 33 amps (400W/12v = 33.33A) 10 ga wire would be ideal, although for short sections of wire in free air 12 ga or even smaller could probably still work.

If you are running only small loads, then 400 watts is probably more than you actually need. Larger inverters tend to have larger idle current draw. If you are trying to keep your system very lean, then I would suggest you get one of these:

and put a 100Watt inverter on it. (note that it is only rated for 20amps, so MAX 240watts) Really, you dont want to discharge a lead acid much beyond 50% - so once you get under something like 12v you are shortening the lifespan of your battery quite significantly. At 11.5v, it maybe has 10% of its capacity left. You could even get a 2 pack of protecting circuits for a dollar more, and set them to different setpoints. Have a big inverter shut down at 12v, and then limp along on a smaller inverter until you get to 11.5v. If you cycle below 50%, you can probably only count on about 500 cycles before the battery is toast. If you routinely take it down to 10%, you will be lucky if it lasts a year.

Edit: if you really want to run a bigger inverter, here is a cheap work-around: Get the smaller protecting circuit, and wire the "load" to the coil of one of these:

Then wire a positive cable through a large fuse and then through the big posts on the solenoid to the inverter. That should let you run anything up to 3600W.

12 hours ago
Here is one solution:

You can program this $40 unit to activate a relay at a certain threshold. You would then need to wire the inverter(s) through a relay so that when the voltage dropped too low it would open the relay.

A couple issues: If you are running large currents, the DC relay you would need is going to be pretty pricey. 30amp automotive relays are cheap and readily available, so up to 300ish watts on 12v or 600watts on 24v would be really cheap and easy to implement. If you are trying to switch off a load that can pull hundreds of amps, you might end up spending a couple hundred bucks on a beefy contactor. It might be possible to scrounge a starter solenoid, but you might have to do some digging to figure out its amp rating. Contactors also pull a few watts just to keep the coil energized, so they will be a bit of a parasitic load on a small system.

Also, voltages will sag when there is a large load applied - which may cause it to trip prematurely. That unit lets you program the voltage where the unit powers back on though, so it should be possible to prevent the relay from chattering.
17 hours ago

is this like a go fund me project?  

I was thinking it would be more like one of those fundraiser things, where you keep filling in the little thermometer until you hit your goal. The idea is just to try and get more people engaged and excited about planting trees. I had been reading the articles about the wildfires threatening the ancient grove of sequoias down in California, and the thought of even one 2000 year-old tree burning down is kinda depressing. It seems like a changing climate is really going to take a toll on our forests, so the more people that can help stem those losses the better. I realize 1000 trees is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but "the man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones."

I really do like the thought of chestnuts, as they produce lots of food, are also great carbon sinks, are drought tolerant, and should help fireproof the landscape. I need to figure out where I could put a few on my property - open space has to be carved out of the blackberries and brush (and it is a lot of work).

Do you have a picture of your recently planted trees, Bruce or James? And my hat is off to you Kim, for managing to get trees going in harsh desert conditions. Post a picture on here, I would love to see it.
1 day ago
Hey, I am starting this thread as a way to motivate myself, and hopefully encourage some other people to plant more trees. My goal is to plant at least a dozen trees a year on my property. Are there 100 more people who could do the same? Could we do 1000 trees every year? I am already living on a forested property, so I am now "upgrading" my woods. I cut down the areas with small scrubby trees for firewood, and plant in big conifers that will keep growing for centuries. But really, any tree should count. I have plans to put in some fruit trees, I will add those to the tally when I get to them.

Post a picture when you plant a tree, and update the count; like this

Zero trees.

1 day ago
Can a person stack 3 cords (384 cu ft) of wood in a day if it is seasoned, cut, split and dumped in a heap right next to the woodshed? Sure. A reasonably fit person should be able to stack a cord in about half an hour or so.

Could a single person fell, buck, split, haul, and THEN spend an hour and half stacking up heavy wet wood in a woodshed? Maybe if they were a character in a Jack London novel. Or the proud owner of a firewood processor; where you just load the logs onto a deck with a skidsteer, and the diesel engine does all the rest of the work. I know I couldnt do that much wood in one day.

With a mini excavator and a tractor I can get a cord of wood out of the woods in about 5 hours of work. Granted, my terrain is steep; a lot of the wood needs to be dragged around with chokers just to get it to somewhere that the tractor wont get stuck or roll over.

I can haul about a quarter cord on the cart, and it takes maybe 30 minutes to cut it up, so 2 hours per cord just to cut it to length. Splitting with an axe takes another 2 hours per cord, give or take. So adding some time for hauling and stacking it up, I figure I can do a cord from standing on the stump to the shed in 10 hours.
2 days ago
I am in a different climate out West, but I am a firm believer in beans. When I first started out I was shelling them by hand, which is a real chore if you are growing 50 lbs or so. Now I cut the plants and leave them in the sun on a tarp for a couple days, stomping them and turning them a few times. Then you just toss all the stems, and winnow what is left in front of a fan. They are not the most space efficient crop, and I do need to water them in my climate. But, I have also never had any pest problems. If you can keep large animals from browsing on the leaves, they are basically bulletproof; as once the beans start to ripen, nothing around here will eat them. It is very frustrating to have a whole field of nearly ripe grain be decimated by birds and squirrels.

I used to grow a lot of potatoes, but with how hot and dry our summers are getting, I am having a harder time with them. Sweet potatoes, though, thrive with more heat. I also like that with sweet potatoes you can propagate plants from clonal cuttings, which reduces the amount of tubers you need to set aside for seed by a considerable margin. 6 small sweet potatoes can easily yield enough plants to plant the same area that you would need a 20lb crate of seed potatoes for. Curing the sweet potatoes before storage is a bit of a hassle, but they have always kept really well for me.

I tried cowpeas several years, and they do not seem to thrive here. They taste more or less like beans to me, anyway.

Corn will do well here if I grow a short-season type, and get a jump on the season by starting them in newspaper pots to be transplanted out. I have been really enjoying a popcorn variety called Dakota Black that I want to say is 90 days to maturity. So far nothing has bothered the corn - my garden is in the woods - so I am at the mercy of any marauding wildlife that can get over or through a 7 foot fence.

Winter squash is also good, but it is a little harder to save seed from if you have multiple varieties growing close by.

Also, if you want a bounty of easy calories for not much work, do not forget about fruit trees. And especially dont forget about your neighbors fruit trees! I could get as many free apples as I could ever hope to make cider from, and I picked almost 80lbs of cherries this summer that would have otherwise just have gone to the birds.
5 days ago

- earth walls have high levels of lateral pressure  

I would say that earth walls CAN have high levels of lateral pressure. If your engineering firms reputation was on the line, this building method would never fly. I suspect that this design COULD work. I imagine that underground storage was probably done for eons in your area, right? Are there extant buildings that use this building method that would give you some ideas about what methods were used in the past and have stood the test of time?

I have stayed in some old buildings in Italy that were built using the same technique that you are suggesting to use. As we were hanging up salamis in the basement, I asked the farmer, "What happens if there is an earthquake?" Matter-of-factly he replied: "Siamo tutti morti."

Knowing that something might kill you is not necessarily enough reason not to do it. Those old houses were beautiful. There are safer alternatives, though.
2 weeks ago
Heavy clay should be advantageous to what you are planning. I dug a tunnel into clay in the woods behind my parents place when I was a kid, and it is still standing 20 years later. Also, your stone wall will not really hold pressure like a masonry wall would, so hydrostatic pressure would likely just push out the clay instead of moving the stones. If you extend the waterproof membrane out over the walls like an umbrella, that will help a bit with keeping the moisture at bay. Sounds like a fun project, post some pictures when you get underway!
2 weeks ago
What is the soil type you are working in? I think your plan sounds good - you are suggesting doing a cut-and-cover method with drainage "to daylight" which is great. When building things underground, water intrusion is an issue. If you are at the toe of a slope, there will be more water than if you were higher up. How much area there is upslope, how much rainfall you get, how fast your soil drains, and how deep the water table is will all be important to know.

I am not a structural engineer of any sort, but I would be wary of building my walls out of field stone and clay. A buried structure will have to carry the load over it on the roof, but there can also be "squeezing" forces that will try and buckle the walls at the invert (floor).

You will not be deep enough to develop a zone of arching, but imagine all the dirt on either side trying to slide down a wedge and into your excavation. How much pressure will there be? Without an engineer, youd only be able to guess. Some soils are very cohesive, like heavy clay, so they would resist lateral movement. Some soils are loose, and would be hazardous to even dig in. So while clay will hold its shape, it also does not drain quickly. If water can build up on the back side of your walls, because the backfilled soil is less dense for example, then you will get hydrostatic pressure that will try and push the walls in at the bottom. If you have ever seen concrete bow out the bottom of a form, you will know that it does not take a whole lot of depth to create some very large loads.

I would suggest you make the walls stiff. Concrete block with rebar-reinforced pillars within some or all of the cells would likely be plenty. Also, put some drainage at the base of the walls on the outside, and backfill with something permeable.
2 weeks ago