Matthew Nistico

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since Nov 20, 2010
Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
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Recent posts by Matthew Nistico

@ Shane - I commend you on your meticulous, introspective, and practical approach to posting a personal ad.  Best of luck!

Rob Kaiser wrote:Our parents and many of our friends don't understand it, nor do they have the desire to.  A lack of desire to engage in dialogue about it often leads to quick judgement being passed and a lot of unnecessary drama being created about a situation made up in their own minds.

I agree.  This has typically been my experience.  Not that I attempted to discuss the details of my own non-monogamous relationship with too many people, but when I did I most often found that they weren't really interested in understanding.  Some would initially make sounds as if they were trying to understand or discuss, but it usually became quickly apparent that they were not.

Of course, nobody says that they have to agree with me.  They can have their own opinions and prefer their own types of relationships; that's fine.  I don't want anyone to think that I am dismissing these people as unreasonable or closeminded simply because I couldn't convince them of my viewpoint.

There was more to it than that.  It seemed like the entire topic of discussion - and the reality of me, a person they knew, who was actually doing such an unconventional thing - provoked an emotional reaction on their part.  In the most extreme cases, I would say it was almost a fear reaction.  They wished to slap a quick and easy label on the entire concept, and thus on me, and shoo it away.

Others, like my parents, didn't show such an extreme reaction.  Yet I still don't feel like I have ever discussed it with them in which they actually for one minute openly and dispassionately considered the options, or examined their own assumptions and choices, or were truly open to the idea that other people might choose an alternative lifestyle without fitting into some easy label like "commitment-phobe," or "hippie-wannabe," or "just plain crazy."

Seth Gardener wrote:Monogamous or poly relationships both require the same things wich is communication,  agreements and commitment to the agreements.

I think there are people out there who are not necessarily polyamorous, but maybe think they are, but in reality they are just noncommittal type who can no more commit to their poly agreements than they could to a monogamous one.

Maybe it's a fine line or maybe the fine line does not exist and I am just projecting the need for commitment to polyamorous relationships. Polygamy which not polyamorous certainly does require commitments and those relationships do have agreements/rules.

@Seth - I think you are precisely correct.  I don't think you are projecting at all.  And I think that is why most poly relationships ultimately fail - or at least ultimately end - just like most monogamous ones.

I don't mean to suggest that a majority of people identifying as polyamorous are really just commitment-phobes.  Maybe they are, maybe not; I have no idea.  What I do mean is that the same human failings are challenges to poly and monogamous relationships alike.  And while some commitment-phobes who fail at monogamous relationships may flock towards poly relationships, they are most likely kidding themselves that it will make any difference.  Their poly relationships will fail for precisely the same reasons.

I have only limited experience in non-monogamy, and I hesitate to generalize from my own experiences and values.  Nonetheless, it is simply a fact that ALL relationships involve SOME expectation of the other person/people that they will honor certain agreements.  We call that "commitment."  What precisely those agreements are can range all over the map.  But regardless of what has been agreed, the relationship will start heading off the rails if one party feels those agreements aren't being honored.  I feel pretty safe in saying that this is universal.

Even in the most casual relationships - such as just roommates - there is an expectation of shared commitment to certain agreements.  They agree to pay the rent on time; to respect the others' boundaries, however those boundaries are defined; to be considerate, in whatever way consideration is expected, etc.

With more serious relationships - such as lovers living together - most of these agreements will reman in place, though the details might be renegotiated.  And there will be new agreements added on top.  In addition to being good roommates, lovers agree to being affectionate, to dedicating a certain amount of time to shared activities, often to some commingling of their finances, etc.

The details of the agreements in every relationship are unique, but the process of reaching an agreement is the same.  If it is done well, it involves lots of communication, the ability to express oneself, and honesty with oneself and one's partner(s).  And just the same, it implies the expectation of disappointment if one party fails to live up to the agreement.  If it is done poorly, then the communication is imprecise or clouded with emotions, assumptions are left unspoken, or else what is spoken only misleads because the speaker isn't being honest about what they really want or are prepared to do.

I really don't see how these basic facts are any different within a polyamorous dynamic or a monogamous one.  The only difference is that polyamory expands the possibilities of unique agreements lovers might decide to adopt.

It is usually only monogamous types discussing poly lifestyles who would say things like "oh, polyamory, that means relationships without rules or commitments."  If they only thought about it for a few seconds, they would realize what an absurd simplification that is.  To start with, since those same people are usually obsessed over the agreements involving sex in particular, just consider all of the possible permutations there.  Who is allowed to have other lovers?  How many?  Alone?  Together?  Spontaneous, or announced in advance?  Lovers for physical gratification only, or for romantic attachment as well?  Lovers who cohabit, or not?  Lovers who will also be co-parents, or not?  Etc., etc.

Each possible permutation equals an understanding of what can be expected from the other person/people involved.  Once expressed by all, that understanding equals an agreement to which you expect the other(s) to commit.  No matter how "open" an open relationship may appear, it doesn't take much delving to uncover the layers upon layers of commitments on which that relationship is actually based.
2 weeks ago

Stacy Witscher wrote:...While I like poly relationships, the community I experienced was troubling...

Can you elaborate on "troubling"?
3 weeks ago

Jamie Chevalier wrote:...One item that does work on laundry in hard water is borax, which is natural, cheap--and potentially toxic to your plants....... so it is not necessarily simple.

Excellent point!  I think someone else above had mentioned using borax in their DIY laundry mix.  One must be extremely cautious using borax in a garden-integrated greywater system, and in fact I would not recommend it.  While it may be septic safe, it is not necessarily garden safe!

My understanding is this...

Borax contains the element boron, which is an essential micronutrient for plants.  It naturally exists in the soil.  However, the threshold of toxicity for boron is very low, around 1 part per million.  Which is to say that it naturally exists in very small quantities, and at only slightly greater concentrations in the soil it becomes toxic to your plants.  I believe there are commercial herbicides that list boron as an active ingredient.

Therefore, I would refrain from using borax in my laundry so long as the wash water is being directed to my veggies.  If one suspected a boron deficiency in one's soil, best to rely on commercial fertilizer products for which the concentration of boron, dilution rates, and uniformity of application have all been carefully considered.
3 weeks ago

Beth Wilder wrote:...What do folks think? Which washing product -- a) Ecos laundry detergent, b) weak and diluted hardwood ash lye, or c) urine and hardwood ash lye -- would 1) get the clothes clean, 2) leave them smelling least/best, and 3) be best to irrigate (and fertilize?) the food garden? Thank you!

@Beth - I can't give a full answer to your question, except by advising you to run more experiments.  Use each method several times, refrain from deviating from the recipe - no more "Oh, well, the spirit moved me to piss into the rinse water even though that wasn't part of the plan" - and observe the results.

I've never attempted a DIY wood ash washing powder myself, with or without urine.  But it would surely be safe for your veggies.  And I imagine that you could get it to work with the urine if you gave it plenty of clean rinse water.  After all, urine is eminently water soluble.

However, I have used Ecos brand and have been very pleased with it.  Even in a cold water wash, it will get your clothes clean.  While I've not yet actually used my wash water in the garden - future plans for this are in the works! - I have little trouble believing the manufacturer's claims regarding "grey water safe."  And most anything that is grey water safe should be garden safe given adequate dilution.

But you don't have to wonder about how safe Ecos might be.  Figure it out for yourself.  What I love best about companies like Ecos is that they are fairly transparent, allowing their consumers to make their own informed choices.  Their website is a treasure of info!  We live in a consumer economy, after all, and being a responsible and informed consumer is the first part in moving that economy in the direction you want it to change.

In fact, all of their ingredients are disclosed right on the bottle, which I'm pretty sure they aren't legally required to do, since its not a food product.  Google each of their ingredients and determine your own comfort level putting them on your garden:

3 weeks ago

Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame wrote:These little things get good reviews from the users:


I had a friend who had something similar and he liked it plenty. 

I have owned two of these.  I must agree with the opinion posted above that the WonderWash had earned a solid "okay" rating in their experience.  If you are off grid and looking for an effective way to wash clothes, this will work for you.  But there may be simpler ways to go about it.  Unlike what some reviewers have posted, mine did hold pressure.  And the pressurized hot water tumbling wash does indeed clean most soil from your clothes, though don't expect it to remove stains without some serious bleach.

The problem is that the whole device, at least as I first bought it, is rather flimsy.  All plastic, and not even particularly hearty plastic.  I built a wooden frame to reinforce and stabilize it.

I got a second one after complaining to the manufacturer, and it turned out to be an upgraded model.  The structure was thicker, to the point that the machine was fairly rigid while tumbling without me having to jerry-rig some wooden superstructure.  They had also added a drainage tap at the base of the tub, which was a huge improvement.  In its second incarnation, it was fairly usable.  I'm still not sure it was worth the trouble, as it was laborious to use and washed a small volume of clothes at a time.  Filling a bath tub full of hot water and soap would be easier and quicker.  But it would also use a lot more water, so if water is in short supply there is that to consider.

All of this was years many ago for me.  I have no idea what the WonderWash purchasing options are like today.
4 weeks ago
Very exciting!  I know very little about watercress to contribute - except that it's yummy! - but hope to learn a a lot.  Small scale hydroponics with watercress sounds very promising.  I did see a small scale, DIY aquaponics set up once using flats of watercress over tanks growing bait minnows.  I did not get e chance to spy whether or what kind of medium was used in their flats to anchor the roots, but I suspect they were using something.
1 month ago
Returning to the original topic of this thread...

Based on the ratio of people's pro/con responses to my original post, I must conclude that a significant portion of North Americans live in areas without convenient proximity to sources of cheap straw bales.  I wouldn't have guessed it, and I'm still guessing that they are in the minority, but clearly they are out there.

Okay, so I stand corrected.  Which is hard to do in a wheelchair ; )

I could only advise people in such locations to look for a locally available, inexpensive natural material - round wood, stone, earth, rice hulls, etc., and not straw - to form the basis of their natural building design.

I still maintain, though, that this is due to the increased cost factor of ordering straw from afar.  I don't think the increased embodied energy is significant enough to be the deciding factor.  Especially not when compared to a conventional building project, where it is a given that most materials have been shipped back and forth across many state lines - and perhaps even across oceans - on their way to your work site.
3 months ago

John Goode wrote:...The material penetrated any gaps in the bales and is on there at an inch and a half to two inches thick, nearly like slump block, on the outside. That would probably be a great deal of extra structural support, but no data.

Oh, for sure it will add huge amounts of structural support.  That is why load-bearing designs often use it, despite it creating a vapor barrier over your bales.  BTW, that is half of what I meant about you being in a "forgiving" dry climate.  Yes, the threat of rain on your bales and exposed walls during construction is scary.  But also, water inevitably accumulates inside any finished wall, no matter how well built and detailed, if given enough time.  Both leakage and condensation are threats.  It must then be able to quickly dry out again, which makes cement materials (or any other non-water-vapor-permeable membrane) particularly dangerous in the long run.

But again, builders have been known to get away with using cement stucco on bale walls for long years without problems, provided the climate is dry enough.  And you indicated that only one side of your walls have cement; the other side is open to water vapor egress through lime and clay plaster.  In your case, that will likely be enough, but I'd never be able to get away with it here.

John Goode wrote:...On the load bearing house, the top box and the rafters were assembled in the street, then a crane lifted the whole thing up over the telephone wires and then placed it two inches above the bale wall. I lined it up. They dropped it. All of the settling was done immediately. I never had to crank that roof down.

Wow.  Okay, so there's that approach, LOL!  I've never heard of that, but it sounds a whole hell of a lot easier than the usual technique.  You said that was 25 years ago?  Have you been able to monitor the house recently?  If there hasn't been settling and plaster cracking yet, then I think it's safe to say there isn't going to be.

John Goode wrote:...I hired some guys from a rehab that needed the support at a difficult time to sew on the chicken wire. Any mistakes in bale walls can be fixed with a sledge hammer and a level.

I'm glad that you had a good experiences, but frankly that sounds like precisely the type of scenario that I would do anything to avoid.  Been there, done that, and never going back.  After making slow progress employing a handful of friends-of-friends laying the foundation and raising the frame through Spring and Summer, I grew despondent that I'd be able to finish the bale raising and put on the first coat of exterior plaster before Winter arrived.  So, I put out flyers to recruit more laborers from the general population of underemployed, poverty-stricken locals.  Big mistake.  And I was paying good money, too, in the vain hope that this might inspire my workers to take the job seriously.

This was 100% my own fault, as I was breaking the #1 rule that every single book on DIY natural building book had spelled out: to be an effective owner-builder, you CANNOT work with deadlines.  Yet I'd set an arbitrary deadline for myself inside my own head.  The result was a menagerie of low-quality workers coming and going, far more than I could effectively supervise or direct.  I ended up hiring another supervisor just to manage all of their fucking smoke breaks.  In retrospect, there is no reason that I couldn't have found something else useful to do that Fall - though at the time I honestly couldn't come up with anything - and then taken up the bale raising at a leisurely pace the following Spring.

The good news is that, as you say, bale walls are forgiving.  It is amazing, but I actually came out of that experience with a quality product: a well-built straw bale structure that adhered at least 95% to what I had designed.  The bad news is that I blew through way too much money in the process and damned near had a nervous breakdown doing it.  And would have lost my long-held part-time job, too, had my boss not been accommodating.

So no, I would have to recommend being much more choosy about one's source of labor.  But every project is different, and ever builder has a different style and different needs.

Oh, and I didn't use any chicken wire.  I did volunteer some help on someone else's straw bale home who did cover their bales with chicken wire as underlayment for the plaster.  Applying plaster, I found the wire to be an extraordinary annoyance.

I applied my plaster directly to the straw with great results.  I am wondering if the chicken wire is necessary for your blown-on concrete?

Glenn Herbert wrote:Officially, the blown concrete material is called "shotcrete".

Ah, so that is why Google couldn't find it for me ; )
3 months ago