Len Ovens

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since Aug 26, 2010
Vancouver Island
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Recent posts by Len Ovens

Jay Angler wrote:I've been reading a Bill Mollison article and found this quote:
"Effects on Snow and Meltwater


More evidence, if only we could convince people, that a properly managed forest is part of the solution!

research is expensive, so only people with money do research, people with money still want their money's worth and so tell the research what they should find before hand. This something I realized in doing my own research into medicine. However, it appears there is more to it than that. Once research is done, it costs much more to get that research in front of the right eyes and to have action taken on it. I would hesitate to include any governing body in that group of right eyes. It may be true that was the force behind replanting initially, but I think forestry companies realized they could end up with a patch of only the trees they wanted that way. The real job is convincing the people doing the damage that it will put money in their hands to not do that damage. Very few people think in terms as long as even five years (mostly two) yet many of these things are hundred(s) year problems.

In the end it seems we can only manage the land we are on the best we can. We can be involved in the community in public land clean up and reclamation. We can choose to buy land that will have more effect on the local environment. I have a city plot where it seems the best I can do is to keep the weed man away and provide flowers for the bees.
3 weeks ago
Having thought about it a bit more. The question I think, is what the concern is. Just the smell or that things might be going bad, rotten or whatever.

If the smell is the only concern, I would suggest more airflow before anything else. Code requires 1 full air exchange per hour but I think that is minimum... lab rats need 8 air exchanges per hour so 1 is just enough to keep law suits from happening not to keep healthy.

If mold or other growth is a concern and the moisture content of the straw itself is high, I would want both large airflow and to remove some of the plaster skin and dry out the straw... I think. A natural render does allow moisture to pass. In any case, it is the moisture of the bales themselves and not the moisture measured outside the render. This site suggests the moisture of the bale itself should be less than 20%:

As that article points out, moisture inside the home comes from our activities and not the walls. However, the walls can absorb this moisture which again, points to ventilation.

added later as an edit:
the other question I should ask is if you have a concrete foundation. Concrete foundations tend to trap moisture, porous foundations such as gravel tend to be drier. (assuming in both cases that outside drainage is correct) Certainly all is not lost if your foundation is concrete it just means more ventilation would be required by the foundation to keep it dry.
3 weeks ago

Jason Klassen wrote:I built a straw bale house two years ago. I hired a consultant, plastered the walls interior and exterior, and have a large roof overhang. All that said - when it is warm, I can smell straw. I have used a moisture meter in a dozen places and the walls are hovering between 8%-12%. I found one spot that was particularly vulnerable to moisture penetration that was 14%-15% but I have patched it and it is dropping as well. And yet I smell straw. Anybody had this problem or fixed this problem?

I don't have a solution to your problem... but your query opened up a question of my own in this regard. How bad does a more conventional stick built house smell? I am sure that because it is what I grew up in and live in now, I just don't notice the smell.

So I am wondering:
   A) Is it bad for a straw house to smell like straw (assuming no allergy involvement)

   B) what does a healthy house smell like?

I think with a straw house, very dry is important... except that from my experience of drying fruit and even kiln dried wood, there is such a thing as too dry. over dried apples are weak and crumbly and kiln dried wood is not as tough as air dried (ask a boat builder). So straw probably needs at least some moisture to retain it's strength. Straw (and wood) derives it's strength from fiber cells. If those cells are over dried the walls can loose their integrity.

So perhaps someone with a straw allergy should not live in a straw house. Side note: the suits that allow people to work on the outside of the international space station, leak. Bears can smell the food inside a can. Is there any such thing as sealed.
3 weeks ago
Hmm, the wind has turned, the alien sun has gone... blue sky! Hope the fires go out soon too. Rain this weekend may help.
1 month ago

Roberto pokachinni wrote:

  At this point I almost feel: "let it burn" at least that way there won't be anything left to burn next year...

   The forest is WAY bigger than I think that you are imagining, Len.  This season will put a small dent in it.

I think I should have put a smile or some indication I was not fully serious about that. Having said that, looking at the map of the area of the burn up by Prince George, it is already pretty big. Nor would I wish anyone to have to put up with the air quality we have here now and certainly don't want to extend this time for anyone. My thought is also that even in nature fires tend to not cover whole provinces, but I think that with the way we have managed them since that may no longer be the case.

At this point, to be honest, I just want my eyes to stop itching and my throat to stop tickling. I want the light outside to be normal and not alien.
1 month ago

Nicole Alderman wrote:The smoke from the fires in BC has come down to us. Air quality is at 155. My neighbors are in an RV as their house is being built, and their daughter is really struggling to breath. I can't find anything about clean air shelters.

Wow! We just came home (Comox Valley) through Naniamo and I thought Naniamo was bad. That looks worse. It kinda takes the special-ness out of the moon eclipse not too long ago as the moon is just as red now as then. All of us have stingy eyes and rough throats. The wind is supposed to change through the night and into tomorrow and send the smoke back to where it came from.  At this point I almost feel: "let it burn" at least that way there won't be anything left to burn next year...
1 month ago

Bryan Paul wrote:When using barrels for the stratification chamber, do they require barrel prep like removing paint, or are the temps low enough that they won't off-gas?

In the end it is your house and you will have to breath whatever fumes it puts off. Buy a canary  and if it dies while using the barrel with paint still on.... maybe get rid of the paint.
Personally, I would remove everything down to bare metal. Coated non-stick pans are designed to be heated and cooked in, but there are enough stories floating around of dead
pet birds from people cooking with them that we have limited our cookware to stainless or cast iron (or even turned steel in the case of one of our woks). It is probably less work
to remove paint first than removing the barrel later and removing the paint and reinstalling the barrel. I am sure that the paint on barrels is not of the high temperature variety
used for exhaust pipes or even engine paint.
2 months ago

Gail Gardner wrote:

Len Ovens wrote:Information online vanishes with time, I tend to "print" to pdf things I want to keep, but in the end, all hard drives die and even cd/dvd backups need to be rewritten every 10 years... books can last 100s, but even poor quality paper books will last the rest of my life.

Be aware that online books and those stored in an internet-attached device can actually be changed IN YOUR DEVICE without your permission. Ironically, Amazon chose to delete two George Orwell ebooks "1984" and "Animal Farm" from Kindle readers and got sued over it. https://www.pcworld.com/article/169408/kindle.html

So just be aware that if some other entity controls your e-reading device, they can rewrite history or outright delete things they consider inconvenient to have out there.

Good to know. Though I tend to download files with a web browser not an ebook reader. I quite often have to reformat them anyway or directly use the files from inside rather than read them directly. This makes it hard for someone else to remove things from my device without my say so. But my situation is not normal
4 months ago
If it is an appliance that is over about 15 years old, fix it. I have a 30 year old dryer. I know it can last another 30 years. I know a new dryer will last about 7 years at which time I will not be able to repair it and so the cost will be 100%.Some parts are hard to get or very expensive because they are rare. but often there are other parts that will work just as well or better. For example, a $9 changeover switch (4 position is what I used) makes a good dryer temperature switch. However, an Ardueno with a display shield and an 8 pack of 10amp relays can replace the temperature switch and the timer for under $50. The same combination would work for the washing machine too.
4 months ago
I like real books... but, as I have grown older, I have found I can read a well back-lit tablet or even phone without having to find, clean and use reading glasses (and I don't have to take them off to walk around either). I don't even need to expand the font.

Information online vanishes with time, I tend to "print" to pdf things I want to keep, but in the end, all hard drives die and even cd/dvd backups need to be rewritten every 10 years... books can last 100s, but even poor quality paper books will last the rest of my life.
4 months ago