Larisa Walk

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since Jun 29, 2010
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Recent posts by Larisa Walk

Never use fiberglass for drying. The screen degrades and small particles can eventually flake off. Plus some screens can contain toxic compounds such as lead. Galvanized hardware cloth can work if you put something between the food and the metal such as parchment paper to avoid metal contamination. Bamboo trays are an option for foods that aren't particularly messy to start with such as herbs or leafy greens. Cotton dish towels also work for small herbs. If you want to go for a permanent setup, stainless steel screen can't be beat. We sell screen material for our dryer design on our website: http://geopathfinder.com/Solar-Food-Drying.html
3 weeks ago
If your rain barrel has a valve at the bottom you can just wrap a rag around the valve area to keep it from freezing. One of our rain barrels has a hose on it and the valve is on the end of the hose. On that one I put the valve end of the hose up into the tank so it was down under the water which won't freeze solid unless the temps stay below freezing day and night for at least a week.  I don't bother if it's just an overnight frost, but we recently went through some 18*F nights where the daytime temps stayed in the upper 30's. Everything was fine after a few days of extra cold. We have a couple of barrels with open tops and no hose fitting at the bottom. Those we keep in the greenhouse and fill up in the fall. They are fine all winter, and we're in Minnesota.
4 weeks ago
Our rainwater cistern is a stainless steel milk truck tank. The roof and gutters are galvanized steel. The underground water pipe is poly, and there is a carbon filter block at the house. You can read about our system here: http://geopathfinder.com/Rainwater-Harvesting.html
Maybe the PVC gutters and plastic tanks are off-gassing? Plus plastic can get scum growing on it over time. We only use plastic tanks for garden irrigation. Is all of your plastic food-grade? It seems the more likely source of funky taste as the water is in contact with it for a longer time than the water that runs off the roof. Also, the time of year and pre-rinsing of the roof are important factors, as are tree buds in spring and leaf residue in fall. For tank sanitization I would recommend hydrogen peroxide, the commercial strength 35% if you can get it. Used in milk processing plants around here.
1 month ago
Sorry I don't have any photos and the brooder supplies are all packed away as we didn't do any new birds this spring. We actually set up the masonry mama in an extra large dog crate that has a blanket over it so the whole area stays nice and warm. We have a daytime light in there so they can see. After the first few days we leave the door open into an adjacent cardboard box "corral" that we put a rubber mat in the bottom for clean up ease. They can go into this area and run around then dash back to the dog crate where the heater is and their food and water. The hardware cloth around the flower pot is just a cylinder and not sure if it's absolutely needed or not. The cloth over the pan lid (which is a domed cover from a wok pan) is just a rag and gets removed after the first couple of weeks. The first year we did this we were monitoring the temps constantly and changing out the wattage on bulbs until we got it right, then realized the chicks were the best indicators of how comfortable they are. Hope this helps without a photo, but feel free to ask more questions. I do like the commercial chick heaters but they are A/C powered and that means running the inverter 24/7 which is less efficient.
1 month ago
We do chicks and ducklings with a ceramic tile on top of which is an inverted clay flower pot with a 12 volt DC 35 watt halogen light bulb wired into the drain hole (we're off grid). The flower pot is surrounded by some hardware cloth to keep chicks from getting into direct contact in case it's too hot. Above this contraption is an old lid from a pan hanging from a chain with a towel draped around/over it. The chicks cluster around the flower pot under the cover. The cover can be raised as the birds get bigger. They seem to like their artificial mama just fine. The tile is nicely warm but not hot to the touch. The light under the flower pot doesn't illuminate the area so additional lighting is needed for the daytime and we just put on a very dim night light so they get used to darkness and sleeping the night through. For ducks they will get up and eat and drink at all hours so some night time illumination is necessary. This method has worked well for all the small batches of poultry we've done, about 15 birds max. For more birds a second "mother" is probably a good idea.
1 month ago
To make garlic powder we slice the garlic, dehydrate it on stainless steel cookie sheets, then grind it in our old Osterizer glass blender jar. Yes, there are a few chunks. You can sift them out and reserve for use in soups, etc. Or you can grind them up with a mortar and pestle as needed. The garlic powder gets clumpy in storage, so making smaller amounts as you go avoids that problem.
1 month ago
Mike, We really like the adaptation to recycled materials that you used in your take on our design. And you are correct in maximizing heat in northern climates by having a 4' dimension in the north-south axis. I have run across a version of our design that is being built and distributed in Africa, Cheetah Food Dryer. I spoke with someone from the organization and found that the design is about 2'x8' with the long dimension north-south. You might think that this would overheat to the max but they designed it with air  flow under and over the food screens and with flaps on the ends to open or close this air flow, giving control. They are also using the dryer for very wet, heavy loads of tomatoes and sweet potatoes, etc., not leafy greens. We experimented with some of these ideas here and found that the 4' dimension worked best without needing tending, and the air flow below the screens only gave the most consistent results overall. I think in part it may be because it gets so cool and humid overnight and having less airflow in the morning helps the dryer get warmed up faster. We don't adjust the slope or track the sun during the day as we're busy with other things and want to park the food in the dryer and tend it as little as possible.  So after much experimentation we went back to the default, easy to build and use (for us) setup. I do like the Cheetah in that it has one big screen and you can shift food lower by sliding it downhill and put in wetter foods nearer the top. However, the loaded screen is not portable to bring inside and requires loading or cleaning in place. I liked that some of the units were made to be adjusted to a level "table" height for loading, and then angled down for drying (think teeter totter). I haven't seen anything being sold in the U.S. like their design, although the person that I spoke with said that they might do that in the future to help raise funds for their projects. Of course, if one isn't able to get a dryer built in time for their needs, or is cash strapped for any reason, the dryer on wheels that most Americans have is their car. If the car is parked so its biggest window faces south, roll down windows very slightly, and place trays of food inside, preferably in the sun, covered by black or dark colored cloth and you can dry most anything that you can do in the Walk dryer, although a bit inconveniently. We've known people who did this and even drove their car/dryer to work and parked it so as to harvest the sun's energy while they worked.
1 month ago

Trace Oswald wrote:

Larisa Walk wrote:The solar dryer we designed in 1985 has been used in Wisconsin/Minnesota by us since then, as well as hundreds of other folks around the world. Much easier to construct, absolutely works even in the humid upper Midwest, and glazings can be a number of options (except acrylic which doesn't last under these conditions). Time to think outside the box. You can read about it on our website http://geopathfinder.com/Solar-Food-Drying.html



Do you still do solar dryer building workshops?  I would be interested in attending one.



I was scheduled to present again at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin but they just announced that this event won't be happening this year. I don't have any other upcoming events. My workshop contents are covered by the materials in our website and book. We have never hosted a dryer building workshop on our own as we don't have the equipment or space, but have worked with others who have organized the group builds. Probably not going to be anything scheduled this year. We are always happy to answer questions to clarify details if needed.
1 month ago
The solar dryer we designed in 1985 has been used in Wisconsin/Minnesota by us since then, as well as hundreds of other folks around the world. Much easier to construct, absolutely works even in the humid upper Midwest, and glazings can be a number of options (except acrylic which doesn't last under these conditions). Time to think outside the box. You can read about it on our website http://geopathfinder.com/Solar-Food-Drying.html
1 month ago

Mk Neal wrote:For a fascinating description of traditional Hidatsa methods of growing, processing, storing, and cooking the "three sisters"and other native crops, read "Native American Gardening: Buffalobird-Woman's Guide to Traditional Methods." by Gilbert L. Wilson, Dover Publication 2005.  This is a republication of a 1917 University of Minnesota bulletin titled "Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians: An Indian Interpretation."

Buffalobird Woman describes many treatments and uses of corn in particular that surprised me. Some portion of the corn crop was picked green (e.g. like sweet corn), parboiled, shelled, and dried for winter use. I wonder if this method of preparing corn for storage at its "green"stage preserves some of the vitamins present in the green corn that may be different from those in the fully mature grain corn? Could be a way to get a fuller range of nutrients through the winter.



Exactly - dehydrated sweet corn is more of a vegetable and helps to keep a 3 sisters diet from becoming monotonous. Mature dry sweet corn can be parched for another variation to the diet. We make hominy weekly from our flint corn. You can do this with dent, flour, even pop corn and sorghum - they just have differing cooking times. Hominy is more nutritious and tastes great. It's what we're having for lunch today with beans and salsa (a decontructed tortilla). Of course you can make tortillas if you have the inclination. The hominy can also be tossed in soups and is great served with a marinara sauce as a gluten-free pasta substitute. As for squash, I think it was Carol Deppe who pointed out that most squash eaten by natives in the winter weren'y necessarily "winter" squash varieties. They didn't have root cellars or rodent-free places to store squash but rather dehydrated squash to be reconstituted later. Any squash was suitable for this method of storage.
2 months ago