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Martin Pergler

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since Dec 13, 2020
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Ottawa, Canada
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Recent posts by Martin Pergler

Came here since this was mentioned in the permies daily email.

I really like ideas like this, and as a mapping/GIS enthusiast, this is right up my alley.

But I'm also a cheapskate with limited storage, so prefering multipurpose tools over single purpose ones. So before plunking down $ I'd be comparing to the following:

1. Modern cellphones (e.g. iPhone since model 6, not sure about which Android ones) have barometers for the past few years. The built in iOS app displays elevation to within +-1 ft or +-1m, and there are apps that display to within +-1cm and allow calibration. There are of course issues regarding absolute elevation, but I understand discrimination of relative elevation differences is about +-30cm (this is from a random quora post, not a reliable reference).

2. Laser level (as mentioned by others) - $400-500+ (US), greater precision than yours

3. Reading off altitude from a reference topo map (or digital DEM/DTM - elevation or terrain model) based on location. Phone GPS accuracy is about +-5m horizontally, but can be ad-hoc improved by locating self using high resolution orthorectified digital imagery. This is downloadable for free or modest $ in many parts of the world: by scraping Google or ArcGis and using NASA's 30m resolution free DEM if there's nothing better, and in many areas much better government sources are available. For instance, in southern Ontario where I live, I can get a 1.2m resolution orthophoto and a 2m resolution DEM. The DEM is over-smoothed and so not quite right around cliffs in particular, but it means I can get elevation +-1 or 2m in areas I care about.

4. Building a 3D model of my land with a drone. This used to take expensive imaging UAVs and expensive by-subscription software (like Pix4D or AgiSoft), but can now be done with a DJI Mavic Mini 250g <$400 drone and pay-by-the-map at mapsmadeeasy.com.  This gives me a 3D model of my land with about 5cm resolution horizontally and vertically, with some hassle and artifacts I have to say.

The upshot is that for a lot of applications, +-1m or so is good enough and with #1 and or #3 I can get it for zero incremental cost with gear I already have. For that your device, though neat, will be a hard sell.
For $400-500 (using #2 or #4), I can get +-a few cm, with some hassle but with gear which has broader applicability for me.

So the niche for a dedicated barometric altimeter like yours, with or without logging, and no matter how well done, is rather limited, at least for me.

I don't mean this to be discouraging. Just deliberately challenging you (as you requested) as you think of whether/how to develop and commercialize this further, and what positioning you'd need to succeed in implementing for it to be a success.
1 year ago
I'm rather late to the party, so these ideas I guess are more in case someone sees this in future years:

1. Chopped fine, turned into mushroom duxelles

2. Sliced into thinnish slices, dried/dehydrated to make flakes like potato chips

3. Make mushroom stock, boil it down, then freeze it and use in soups/sauces. I guess you could can it too, though didn't try. The goal is to extract the mushroomy umami but get rid of the tasteless, hard-to-keep stuff.

Last time we found giant puffballs, after gorging on fried/sauteed slices we tried all 3.
1. and 3. worked out great, though felt a bit of a waste given the size of the puffballs
2. came highly recommended by several people, but we found our chips had no taste. Not sure why. And lots disintegrated into powder and a couple yellowed before drying, so we threw them out.

1 year ago
1. Yes, I like them.
2. Haven't had trouble, but (like others) tend not to use soap on them. It's really not necessary.
3. My wife brought them into the marriage, 13 years ago. They're all still in fine shape, some used more than others. (I was a parchment guy, didn't actually know about silicone mats. I've come to like them; less hassle, one fewer consumable to have to keep stocked up on).

In our experience the one thing they don't handle that well is dry flour at very high temperatures. We've baked (floured on top) bread on one of them, 480F before dropping down lower, and dry flour that fell on the silicone never really come off. Weird. Don't know if it was the temperature or the flour. No trouble with cookies, muffins, croissants, savoury stuff otherwise.

As context, I don't worry overmuch about toxicity of things judged food-safe by the powers-that-be. I'm not saying this to start a fight, and I am fully supportive of people making their own choices what to avoid based on their personal risk tolerance; I'm just writing it here to explain that I haven't investigated this direction any further, and so my "vote" should not count if this is something concerning to you.
1 year ago
I echo the recommendation for QGIS. It's extremely capable (as capable as ArcGIS for single-user work). It is a bit glitchy, as is ArcGIS. And it's FOSS, which means $ savings plus (probably) more in line with the permies ethos.

You could consider combining it with GRASS, another FOSS GIS platform. It's less good at map creation and display, but better at information processing. Its algorithms can be invoked from QGIS.

Finally, you write about marking up maps by hand and then importing the data. You can scan and import using QGIS' georeferencer plugin. Alternatively, you can use any app you like on a smartphone to record tracks or waypoints with GPS and import those data records. (Note handheld GPS is rarely more precise than a couple of metres/10-15', and can be much worse if sightlines to satellites are limited.)  In the QGIS ecosystem, there are also complementary programs called QField and Input for field collection of data which might be an alternative.

Creighton Samuels wrote:How many unrelated members does it take to hit this crossover point? And how do you allocate the burden of the shared vehicle?

And again, this is the easy problem to solve; not the hard one.  The hard one is still that of general health coverage or personal injury liability.

As for the individual residents, I imagine something along the lines of a health sharing charity like Medi-share would be effective if all members are willing to participate, but as of now, such groups in the US are required by law to have a religious association.  So I'm pretty sure that a permies IC wouldn't qualify for the exception.

The personal injury liability remains, however.


I asked a friend retired from insurance overnight on the car insurance. He expects that in Ontario, the crossover is about 3-4 people, but depends on the risk profile of the individuals (taken into account for individual policies for them but much less so for a commercial policy where they are employee-drivers) and kms driven. Since (regular) employers reimburse kms driven by personal cars by km, that's good enough for me, so I would allocate shared vehicle burden by km driven. Possibly with a "buy-in" for fixed costs per person if there's a feeling the vehicle is more a "just in case" for lots of *possible* drivers than for the regular use of a handful of regular drivers, and so a large part of its function is to stand-by just in case.

For on-site liability, I would explore a CGL (commercial general liability) policy for the IC as an entity, making sure it extends to IC members and their guests as "employees" as well as "visitors" (club-style), taking the guidance of insurance agent and/or lawyer to make sure that coverage is rock-solid. I would complement with D&O (directors and officers) E&O (errors and omissions) insurance for the people formally directors of the IC legal entity. The cost of both is a legitimate expense of the entity as should be allocated just as other overhead.

No clue on the health coverage, since your (US) system is so different from mine (Canada).

Creighton Samuels wrote:First, the group is paying far more for auto insurance than is necessary; which is just an inefficient use of a valuable community resource, income from outside the community. It's a practical impossibility to expect that those who are willing to commute outside of the community to support all of the income needs of the community as a whole.



Specifically, in my area if the community is above a certain size, it would be a lot more efficient for the community (as whatever legal entity) to own the vehicle and insure under a "commercial" policy, and then allocate the costs of this insurance as well as all other vehicle-related costs to those community members who use it (likely proportional to its use). The individuals using the vehicle would not then need their own personal coverage for use of that vehicle. The premiums for such a commercial policy will be higher than for one primary individual owning and insuring plus a small number of occasional drivers. This reasonably reflects that the more "diffuse" ownership is, the less care people tend to take (they'll bang around their employer's truck more than their own, for instance). But those commercial premiums will be much less than each individual insuring themselves, since it reflects the physical reality that there is only one (or a handful) of shared vehicles.
Interesting question, and the answer doubtless depends on where you are located. My answer, as a resident of Ontario, Canada (and neither lawyer nor insurance agent, though my profession is risk management):

The framework depends on who is the ultimate entity owning assets, worried about liability, and seeking insurance. If an individual owns a car, up here their insurance does apply if someone else with their permission uses it as a one-off. If that someone, however, borrows it regularly, they need to be listed on the policy as an occasional driver. The premium then reflects this. And in both cases, if the borrower has an accident, the "insurance rating" of the owner is negatively impacted. This does not apply to "commercial use", where a fee is charged for the "borrowing". Or even for driving-for-hire, where the (insured) owner/driver transports others for money.

So an IC where an individual has no objection to their personal vehicle being borrowed, once in a while, and no money changes hands, should face no issue (though their insurance rating may get trashed). But if people borrow the car frequently, especially regularly, or money changes hands on a regular basis to "compensate" the owner (whether it's per year/month, per use, per km), then you may be offside. And while I know situations where people have put a single neighbour on as occasional driver on the car insurance policy, there's probably a maximum number above which the insurance company will balk.

The more the IC is moving into this level of complexity, the more I suspect it will be helpful for the IC itself to become a legal entity that owns the assets and insures its risks. I am not actually familiar with this in the IC context, but I do know instances where

a) groups of cottagers have (actually have been forced to have) a road association, legally constructed (in Ontario) as a "common elements condominium corporation" that owns land (the road) and vehicles/equipment (e.g. a grader/tractor and snowplow to maintain it). The cottagers own shares in the condominium corporation, which itself obtains insurance under a commercial policy. The cost of that insurance, and other costs, are split amongst the owners.

b) extended families own a farm corporation, and again insurance owned by that corporation protects it.

I'd expect this type of framework would also work for your "greenhouse accident" example, though (apart from US issues about health costs/insurance we don't worry about up here) the legal ramifications are likely different based on whether the context is more like a visitor to the property vs an employee injured in the course of their duties.

[All this is my somewhat-informed speculation. Liability is one of those areas where legal advice *in one's own jurisdiction* makes a ton of sense. In particular, if this is relevant to someone reading this on a direct level rather than idle musing about ICs, then seek qualified advice and don't rely on my or other random wisdom on the internet.]

Alden Banniettis wrote:Steve, I know the following idea for a soft-sided dwelling is likely not what you are looking for, but for what it's worth- my idea for such places with building codes that are so against yurts, etc., is to build them on a trailer.  With some imagination and the usual common sense, I do not see why a rectangular tent-like structure cannot be built upon a long bed trailer.  Just a thought...


Alden, a good idea, and doubtless works very well in some jurisdictions. But everyone needs to check their local regulations.

For instance, the township in Ontario my in-laws live in explicitly prohibits parking RVs or other "living trailers" on most property (though it is rarely enforced), but stays silent on temporary structures like a soft-sided tent on a temporary platform that is just placed on the earth (no footings). In a number of other jurisdictions in Ontario, tiny house residents explicitly remove the wheels on their tiny house trailers once they are in place to be (more) zoning- and code-compliant.
1 year ago
Building a yurt-like hardwall structure as a permitted dwelling (residence) is going to be a challenge anywhere outside unincorporated townships in Ontario. Most townships have minimum building footprint rules that you will violate, expensive septic system requirements that will seem out of place for a structure this size, and there will likely be a whole range of Ontario building code requirements that such a yurt will do differently, and so need exceptions, engineer reports, etc. And that's before you even think of installing a wood stove.

Townships vary widely in their openness and flexibility towards "hunt camps", which are not dwellings but places for temporary sleepover while making recreational use of the land. Some townships disallow them altogether. Some allow them, but heavily regulated. Some allow them, and regulate them less or enforce the regulations less. You might have more success that way. That's where you need to have local conversations.

Some people have taken the position that a (soft-sided) yurt on a removable deck is a temporary structure, and so no need to seek permission to build it. Some townships disagree with that, and others might if they knew about it. Some townships don't allow regular use of temporary structures anyway, or want to permit them too. And at least one township (North Frontenac) hasn't been sure what to do, and has at least mooted the idea that they would insist on a permit for the deck substructure but ignore the yurt (look up Rush-Inglis, yurt, North Frontenac, 2017-2018). I don't know of anyone who has done so, but it feels this whole approach is less defensible for a hardwall, yurt-shaped structure.

Generally speaking, life is easier if there is an established use of the property, and some normal, grandfathered or legally permited/built/inspected structures supporting that use already in place. And then you erect the yurt as an accessory structure.  
1 year ago
We've been using a Nature's Head for 3 years at our weekend/vacation off-grid property. We're very happy with it.

Bought it new, full price, since we wanted a ready-to-go turnkey solution when we bought the land that was also visiting-mother-(in-law) friendly, and were willing to throw $$$ at the problem.
We have a 5x5 foot shed it's in, and we have a fully off-grid set up. We put a vent pipe through the ceiling and have a marine solar fan doing the air extraction/drying. We use peat moss as suggested.
With our usage pattern, we empty the solids every 2 months+-, usually not that it's completely full, but due to the toilet paper accumulation making it increasingly difficult to turn the crank.
The solar fan works great, so there is very little disgust factor in the process, as long as you time the emptying so it's not too soon after someone made a contribution.

We ought to and try to empty the pee container every week before leaving. When we remember, there is no smell problem at all. When we forget, we are reminded.

Both the regular usage and maintenance are no problem at all. You do need to periodically more thoroughly wipe down both the liquids and solids parts of the bowl with vinegar water, and give the liquids container a more thorough rinse, but then again on a normal toilet you'd need to scrub the bowl.

Importantly, even though our solar vent is shaded, we get enough light that the fan is turning most of the time, and enough that drying does happen. In particular, we've had no trouble with bugs.
1 year ago