Will Sustane

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since Sep 29, 2010
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Recent posts by Will Sustane

Not too far from here is a little group of houses infesting what used to be a pretty prairie area. The houses are all identical, and were somewhat nice when new, if only lacking in aesthetic charm and character. These houses are "low income" government housing. The rent is income based. What that really means is that the tenants have a heck of a time saving money because, if their income rises, so does the rent. Even their savings must be disclosed, and it too can be factored in, leading to a higher rent. It can be difficult to save up for their own home under those circumstances.

The lack of pride and desire for these homes is obvious to even the casual observer. Not that the houses are in disrepair. Government workers are employed to provide maintenance. However, these houses are not very old, and yet seem dull and lifeless. I have seen far older homes, not as strictly maintained, that still shined with a beauty these little government houses have never possessed.

The housing system Dan Phillips has developed for the working poor is nothing short of miraculous. Every home in that video simply glowed with care, love, and a zest for life. Also, these people don't rent the homes, they own the homes, they built the homes. If God himself designed a system to help folks gain housing, then I honestly believe Dan Phillips found those plans.

Give a man a house with income based rent, and yes he has a house. But, teach a man to build an affordable house out of recycled materials, and he has a beautiful home in a caring community to call his own. Why are these sort of wonderful ideas not spreading like a wildfire across the world before it is too late?

10 years ago
Hi hobbssamuelj, yes, western u.p., nice job pin pointing the spot! You are right on about the sauna. It has been years since I have had the pleasure, but that changes once we get our own place.

Well, seems I fell into a case of counting my chickens before they hatched. Someone else put in a higher offer on that property, and drove the price above our doable limit. We are a bit bummed out about it. However, its time to regroup, keep looking, and find an alternative location. I really do appreciate everyone's input very much! I am certain I will be able to put the info to good use someday soon, I just am not sure exactly where yet. Thanks everyone!

10 years ago
I too have been looking at what would be the best method for me to use to carry water up to the top of an aquaponic system. In the near future, when we finally own some land, I will be doing some experimenting.

The desired characteristics  for my water lifting device are:

1 ) Easy to Use
If something happens to me, could my wife and kids continue to benefit from the set up?

2 ) Free, or Nearly so, to Build
Can I find a way to build this out of found and reused materials for next to no cost?

3 ) Free, or Nearly so, to Run
Can I build a water lifting conveyance that will require no fuel burning engine or electrical usage?

4 ) Sustainable
Can I build something that will stand the test of time? Will I get a good return on the time and efforts invested on the project? Or, will it self destruct in short order?

5 ) Easy to Build
I am not very knowledgeable about electrical motors, wiring, or designing such systems. Keeping this device to a more simple mechanical type will be much easier for me to design and build

6 ) Easy to Maintain
Being purely mechanical, and not containing electrical or chemical components, this device should be much easier to keep running, and spare parts may also be easier to find or fabricate should that become necessary.

7 ) Efficiency
Will the machine actually lift the amount of water I will require of it over a given period of time?

8 ) Environmentally Friendly
Will the construction and use of this device adversely effect the environment in which it will be used? Will it harm local wildlife, birds, insects, or people? Will it contribute an unacceptable amount of noise to an otherwise peaceful setting? I've heard vibrations of some windmills drive away moles. Would this device harm worms nearby working my compost pile for me? At any rate, it should certainly be clean and non polluting, using only the energy provided by the wind.

9 ) Using Recycled Materials to Build
Can this device be constructed out of entirely discarded or scavenged materials, recycling those materials and putting them to good use?

10 ) Safety
I don't want anyone losing life or limb to a machine I have created. Safety measures such as cages and guardrails will be designed into the system from the beginning.

At first I was thinking of using a windmill or a solar system to power a pump that would pump the water up to the top of an aquaponic system. Since I am not great with electrical systems, I kept looking for another idea. I found windmills that directly drive a mechanical pump that would certainly fill the water lifting requirements. However, buying such a windmill and pump is quite costly, and building such a complex system from scratch is beyond my capabilities.

In my research, I discovered a home made Vertical Axis Windmill this guy had made out of steel drum halves. He used it to generate electricity. I decided that I will someday construct my own, somewhat smaller vertical windmill. It will drive a vertical shaft which I will use to drive a horizontal pulley via universal joints. That horizontal pulley will be used to drive a long inclined rubber conveyor belt which will have small buckets (coffee cans) attached at regular intervals. The bottom of the conveyor will dip down into my sump pit and the top of the belt will dump water over the top of the highest level of my aquaponics system. I hope to replenish water into the system using the large sump pit area to hold collected rain water with a shut off that will divert the water away once the sump has been topped off.

Now, with all that said, I am still very interested in a wicking system as that sure would be a lot simpler to build and use. However, I am a bit skeptical about the effectiveness of using wicking action to move water up to the top of an aquaponic system. All the ones I have seen use a pump to do the job.
10 years ago
If I had a bunch of slats like you describe, I would get some good glue and try to make this:

Even if the finished product wasn't nearly as high as the one pictured, if you surrounded them with a 2X4 frame, they could be stacked as many panels high as you like. That would give you a lot of fencing options. Fencing is on my mind now since I've recently learned it is going to be an expense I must deal with in the near future. Hmmm, I might have to think about this some more. Home made lattice fence made from slats ripped out of 2X lumber? It might work.
10 years ago
Thank you so much folks for the input. So much good information, I will try to put it to good use, and do my best to be responsible with management of the land. I am learning a lot about that here, and my views have changed about a great many things. If we get this property, (the sale isn't final yet,) it will be a great place to grow vegetables, animals, but most importantly, our children. Permaculture practices will be the foundation from which all our future choices will be made. Things I learn will be passed on to anyone who will listen. That may or may not include my children. As you mentioned it, brice, I will provide a description, in more detail, of the property. Thanks for the great links, Ludi!

I am thinking you might be right, Frankenstoen, with regard to the room for the goats. As it stands now, there is not much in the way of forage for them to browse or graze upon. Perhaps a couple years of tending the land could change that. I'm not sure. Most of the place, with exception of the rear (eastern area) of the lot has been mowed into a rather well kept lawn. It might become ok for chickens and rabbits though, with less mowing. The parcel of land is whats left of an old homestead farm that has had all the surrounding farmland whittled off, and sold off, until all that now remains is the 100 year old farmhouse and 2 acres. The ruins of the barn is nearby, but not on the lot.

The property is atop a large hill, though the parcel itself is relatively flat. There is a gentle slope across the whole lot with the south a bit lower than the north. However, the north edge of the property has a bit steeper rise all along the edge of the lot.  Along this northern "ridge." (its not really steep or high enough to qualify, but you get the idea) is where I plan to plant vegetables, etc., since it has great exposure to the southern sun. It is almost steep enough to terrace, but, not quite. I will need to see how it seems after a season is tried without terracing. Also somewhere along this steeper slope would be a great location to build an underground greenhouse like I have learned about here. I must get that Mike Oehler book. More on that later.

Beyond, and right up against the southern property line is a mature, wild grove of tall oaks. Even though they make the southern side of the lot very shady, it shouldn't interfere with that north slope, and growing things over there. Right on the old oak treeline is one huge old gnarled apple tree, what I believe might be the lone survivor of an old homestead apple grove or orchard. There are several ancient stumps scattered around the back yard, nearby. The have long since rotted unidentifiable, to me at least. However, they are not far enough gone for my liking. I'm sure I will find one or more of those stumps inconveniently in the way someday. If I had to guess, at least some of them may have been fruit trees. There are a couple random trees on the lot, near the house, or near the edges. Most of the lot is wide open, except for the stumps. However, along the back (the eastern area) it is much more natural. Back there is a stand of poplar trees (maybe 20 yrs old) with tall grasses and weeds. This natural area is about half an acre.

The west boundary of the property is a dirt road all along the front edge. The house is quite near to the road, leaving more promising possibilities for the rest of the lot. Without digging a hole yet, I would venture to guess that the ground may be a thin layer of topsoil covering fine powder sand. I judge this by my experiences nearby in other parts of the area. It wouldn't surprise me if virgin bedrock was close to the surface under that sand, no telling how thick the sand is. However, the house does have a full basement, which I doubt would exist if the bedrock were very near the surface. There could also be deposits of glacial scree, because in some places around here the last ice age just dropped loads of small boulders and large gravel when the glaciers disappeared.

I will be out of luck when it comes to clay for any future cob structures as this area seems devoid of this handy material. This is much to my dismay really, because I did have some uses for it. Which brings me back to that earlier mention of the underground greenhouse. Tel, you mentioned ponds, I would very much like to try to create a raised fish pond with an earthen base inside the walipini. It would be the basis for an aquaponics system. I would like to run the vent from a rocket mass heater along the bottom of this earthen base. The base and the pond above could act as the mass for the heat retention. The pond could contain such critters as tilapia and crawfish and the rest of the whole thing could be a standard aquaponics set-up.

Since the place is atop a hill, and fairly wide open, I was thinking a windmill could be used to pump the water from the bottom to the top, and let gravity take the water back down through the system. Between the underground design, and use of a rocket mass heater, I should think we could grow year round even in this cold climate using some of these designs. I am some miles due north of what they call the "Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field" for you NFL football fans out there. For everyone else, I think it is growing zone 5.

Lots of stuff to just pour out here, and if I rambled on too much, I apologise. I guess I am really excited about the prospects of this place for our family's future. I have been dreaming of this for quite a while. We currently rent, and are not allowed to do very much here. If we are blessed enough to complete the purchase of this property, I intend to slowly introduce my family into a new way of living. What I believe is honestly a smarter, more harmonious, and in tune way to live via permaculture with a goal towards self sufficiency. Thank you everyone!

10 years ago
I would love to hear anyone or everyone's thoughts and experiences about using a two acre rural property to raise food to feed a family of five with little or no cost. My family is just about to buy such a place, and it has long been my dream to feed ourselves as self sufficiently as possible. This homestead will be in a northern great lakes type of climate, so bananas won't be on the menu. No offense to vegans or vegetarians, but this family is a meat loving family. So, an all garden-plot yard wouldn't be ideal for use here. However, a vegetable garden would be a huge part of a self sufficient diet. Perhaps a greenhouse is in order?

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, eggs, poultry, honey, and dairy products could all be wonderful components to a healthy, home raised food supply, especially when combined with various methods of food storage such as, canning, root cellaring, smoking, drying, freezing, cooking, and refrigerating. Time and effort is not a difficult investment for us to make. Can time and effort, properly invested, be used to substitute for the money that is often spent to provide food for a family?

Letting chickens forage for food around the property in a tractor, or better yet in movable paddocks, seems very promising to lower costs. But, buying expensive feeds, medicines, or vet bills for animals like goats would seem to really cut into any savings that home produced goat dairy might provide. This bothers me, because homemade goat cheese, milk, and meat would be awesome. Chickens, goats, and rabbits all seem to have good potential for a return on the time, effort, and money invested. But, can their food products really cost less to raise than to buy at the market?

Perhaps a few items could be sold, and the proceeds used to buy animal feed and such. But, this rural spot is off the beaten path and putting a sign out by the road declaring "fresh eggs for sale" or "fresh corn" might not generate much business. I expect there must be some costs involved as there isn't enough room on the property to grow all the animal's feed, along with the family's vegetables, or all the hay for the animals, along with room for them to run. So, some out-of-pocket costs may be necessary. However, if these costs are too high, maybe its just as well to buy groceries at the supermarket?

The goal is to use time, effort, and two acres to feed the family in lieu of using money at the grocery store. Is this realistic, or even possible?

Thank you for any insight anyone may be able to share toward achieving this goal!

10 years ago

Silver wrote:
I believe you are right. I'll keep hunting, but until then...laborious it must be
My first project will be a cob oven. Next goal is a Rocket Mass heater.

Like you, Silver, I am out of luck when it comes to local deposits of clay. I would like to try building a cob oven, also a rocket mass heater for a greenhouse someday. What I am wondering is would both these devices function if they were constructed from concrete instead of cob? Or, would they behave in a drastically different or unpredictable way? For example, would a cement oven cool too quickly, or might a concrete rocket mass heater get too hot externally and become a danger? Anyone have any suggestions for us clay deprived individuals?

10 years ago

Walk wrote:
We've used metal roofs on all kinds of buildings, including 3 homes that we built, for nearly 30 years (the ribbed/ridged kind installed with screws - not standing seam).  We've always used the roofing screws with rubber washers under the heads.  The screws are placed on the "ridges" of the steel only and into 2x4 purlins.  The 2x4's are laid flat, not on edge, about every 2 feet.  There is no other roof decking under the steel, so when walking on this type of roof it's best to step where the purlins are, although not crucial (depends on how much you weigh).  On insulated buildings, we do install Tyvek under the purlins in case there is any condensation from outside air on the underside of the roof steel.  If there is ever any moisture, this would keep it from the insulation and would let it run down and out the vented soffits.  The overlaps of the steel sheets are caulked as you go.

I worked with a contractor for a while and we installed metal roofs on a couple buildings during that time. We did just like you do except the part about using the Tyveck. Our cases were a just a little different in that the metal roofing was installed over an existing shingled roofs. We also installed 2X purlins flat every 2 foot, but we used 2x3s since the existing roof provides good support.

We found and marked the rafters and used long screws (4" IIRC) to fasten the purlins right down tight. I wouldn't feel comfortable trying to fasten to the roof sheathing without hitting a rafter below it. We cut and placed 1.5" foam insulation between the purlins and held it in place by using the next purlin to hold it tight against the one below it as we went up the roof putting them all on.

This would be the way I would do a roof for my own home, if I couldn't build an underground house. Now, I just need to get some land...

10 years ago
Since I am hoping to get chickens soon, I have been doing some homework seeking a sustainable and cheap way to feed them. This thread is a wealth of great info! Hoping I can give back by sharing something I stumbled across in my search, I found one website that advocates using Duckweed (Lemnoideae) as a high protein feed supplement.

It seems to be worth considering as a possible feed. Its nutritional profile seems promising. Also, I understand it is a voraciously prolific species, considered an invasive and problem plant. (Ain't it funny how many "invasive and problem" plants are of great potential use). Since it reproduces so quickly, it would seem it might be harvested quite regularly with a large net or skimmer. A good quantity may be produced off even a smallish backyard pond.

Anyone have any experience with duckweed as chickenfeed? It's said it is best to dry it before use as feed. This could be as simple as leaving it sit in the sun until ready. Perhaps it could be dried faster by using a solar dehydrator? However, it may all be for naught if the chickens turn up their little noses... err, beaks at the plant and don't show a taste for the little "water lentils." I guess the birds will have to be the final judge of how good a feed this is.


From the website:

"What I wasn't aware of at the time is that duckweed is extraordinarily high in protein.  You'll remember from my chart of protein content in chicken feed ingredients that corn is 9% protein and dry-roasted soybeans are 37% protein.  Well, depending on who you talk to (and presumably depending on the species of duckweed, since there are several), duckweed is 30 to 50% protein.  Wow!  I've read that duckweed can make up to 40% of a chicken's diet, with 25% being more optimal."

10 years ago
Hi folks!

I have a question regarding LGD. We will soon be setting up a homestead, and want to raise chickens, goats, and possibly rabbits with a goal of being natural and sustainable in our methods. We hope to get two Great Pyrenees dogs to protect our flock. I hope to cut feed costs for our livestock via free ranging or using the paddock method suggested in the great article by Mr. Wheaton.

I would also like to lower our dog feeding costs by providing them with what I believe could be a natural addition to their feed: fresh meat. I think much of the scraps from butchering goats, chickens, and rabbits, along with a selection of organ meats from the same, might provide a nutritious supplement to any other feed the dogs may require, hopefully cutting the feed costs.

My concern and question is: Will feeding the dogs a diet that includes meat from the very animals they are asked to protect, cause them to become killers of those same animals? Although it could be a wonderful sustainable means of utilizing every last bit of the livestock we slaughter, might it be a counter productive paradox that may be disastrous?

Thank you in advance for any insight you might be able to share with me on this.

10 years ago