Tom OHern

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since Feb 03, 2011
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Seattle, WA
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Recent posts by Tom OHern

I saw that you also posted in the Humanure toilet vs biogas digester? thread. Did you read all of that before posting this question? There are a lot of good thoughts there. One of the reasons I don't think it isn't done more often is that in order to produce enough cooking fuel for 1 or 2 people, it takes almost 1000lbs of human waste and an adult produces about 1lbs per day so that is a lot of input for very little output. It just isn't a cost effective system for biogas production. Now, if you already have a biodigester set up, it can handle any human waste that you add up to its capacity, but if you just have human waste, you are probably better off composting it via the Humanure method.

With that said, if you do want to go ahead with a human waste system, here is a site with some considerations:

There are large scale system that have been done, but they are not cheap nor simple. They involve heat treatments systems for the inputs and UV sterilizations for the effluent output. When you say a "large number" how many are you saying?

8 years ago
I agree with Thomas on the gravel part. I would add that I'd put landscape fabric under the gravel to prevent the gravel from sinking down into the sub surface once it becoems muddy. Also, anywhere where you are going to be filling flats, potting, and transplanting, should have a solid surface under it. A plywood platform on top of the gravel works fine for this. But you just want something that will allow you to sweep up debris.

2. Is it possible for "skilled volunteers" to erect?
We do have some money for construction but not a ton. One company gave us a bid that said it would take their crew 3 weeks and cost over $20,000. That is in addition to engineering. We are considering hiring a construction manager and then recruiting the most skilled volunteers that we have. Is this possible or are would we be in over our heads?

I'd get a few more bids. And ask to see their project plan. It might be that you can do the "barn raising" yourself, but higher them to do the plumbing/electrical/etc.
8 years ago

Nick Dee wrote:
If you have any exceptional resources, tips or tricks, it would be appreciated!

Can you be more specific? What questions do you have that you need answers to? I am sure we all have hundreds of exceptional resources, tips, and tricks, but 99% of them might be off topic for what you need.
8 years ago
It all depends... A quick google search tells me that Quispamsis has adopted the National Building Code of Canada. The pretty much means that any non-standard building is not going to get approved by your building permit without some additional work on your part. Basically, you will need to find an architect or structural engineer that will "stamp" your building plans. This essentially tells the building department that they guarantee that the building, according to the plans, will not fall down and create some sort of hazard. I would recommend searching for a local green architects or builders association and try calling around to some of the members and see if any of them have experience in designing earthbag buildings. You can also call your local building department and ask if they have any architects or engineers that they recommend for people wanting to build alternative homes.

From my quick search, it looks like there are a number of builders in Canada that do Rammed earth buildings, which lead me to believe that there is a good way to get those types of buildings approved. Also, you can always do a Post and Beam home and then use earthbag as an infill. The structure is approved due to the tried and true post and beam method and then they don't care what type of material you build your walls out of.

Good Luck!
8 years ago
On the topic of that biogas digester, I started looking into that design, and I found a half dozen very similar digesters for sale on for significantly less. At that price, I'm almost inclined to buy one just to see if it works...
8 years ago
While I imagine that it could digest human waste, I would be concerned with the pathogen content of the resulting fertilizer. Assuming that the total time the material is in the digester is less than a month, I do not think that it would be enough time for harmful pathogens to run their course. And at 66ºF, that isn't sufficient enough heat to kill them either. As per the Humanure handbook, you either need sufficient time or temperature to make the end product safe and this would give you neither. And as per my above post, the biogas you would get from adding your own waste to the digester really wouldn't be worth the effort. Especially considering that you are talking about emptying the bucket everyday rather than waiting for them to get full, the increased risk of exposure to fresh human feces just doesn't seem worth it.

That HomeBiogas digester seems like a really great product and I'd be interested in it for all the things they designed it to digest, but I would not want to put Humanure into that system.
8 years ago
I just had my solar system installed and we got microinverters on ours. The main reason being is that I have modules on both the south and west slopes of my house, and due to the fact that the two sides have vastly different power outputs at different times of day, a central inverter would not properly maximize the power from each. And now that I've been watching my power output for a few weeks, I see that occasionally one or two panels drop around 20% but all the other panels are still maintaining a steady power output. My understanding is that if they were all strung together to a centralized inverter, those low output panels would drag down the output of the whole string. The other benifit is that if we ever have a failure on one of the microinverters, we only have to replace that one which is far cheaper than buying a whole new central inverter. Granted, since I have seven inverters rather than just once, that is 6 more chances for a device failure, but I still think I like those odds.
9 years ago

Charles Kleff wrote:Does anyone have any ideas for projects that would allow people to learn about permaculture concepts where all the materials had to be purchased but could be purchased for under $20.00?

So I think the disconnect here is that there is not going to be a project like that which will teach you permaculture concepts. There are tons of ways that someone who knows permaculture concepts can apply that knowledge to projects to make them cost very little. Permaculture isn't about the projects, it is about doing projects differently. Permaculture isn't about hugelculture, herb spirals, cob building, or growing food, but it can incluse all of those things and more. I can raise chickens, or I can raise chickens according to permaculture concepts. I can plant a garden or I can plant a garden using permaculture concepts. And I can write down the steps for how I raise chickens or plant my garden, and you can copy them exactly, but that doesn't teach you permaculture. And even if you do it my way, it doesn't mean you are necessarily following permaculture concepts becasue part of permaculture is about using the resources you already have which maybe different than what I have.

People need to first learn about permaculture, and then they need to apply it to the projects that they want to do. And there are hundreds of free resources for learning permaculture concepts. And once someone has learned those concepts, they should have no problem coming up with projects that they can do themselves.
9 years ago
For my work laptop, I got rid of my standard second monitor (power draw of about 32W) and switched to a AOC e1659Fwu 16" monitor. It draws power from my USB port and only adds about 6W of draw above the 12W that my laptop already drew.

For my home server, I switched away from my old mini desktop (~60W draw) to a Chromebox M004u which I've installed Linux on to. The draw from that is usually around 15W. I'm not sure on the power consumption from the DSL modem or the router, but I would guess that they are under 10W each. We have a Roku and the TV on a power strip so we can turn them off when not in use, but the combined standby draw of those is around 3W so I don't often bother unless I am going away for an extended time.

We have another laptop that gets used occasionally, but most of our internetting is done from phones or tablets now. More than a few times now I've had to replace cracked screens on these and that saves a lot versus having to buy new devices. My phone is now a 5 year old smart phone that is still ticking. It has been a long time since I really used it as a "smart" device, but for mobile data I can teather my wifi only tablet to it and use that for my on the go computing needs. Not having to upgrade my phone every year is a small part of keeping electronics out of the waste system

To power all this, we have a 3.6kW PV solar system.

9 years ago

Marty Mitchell wrote:After careful thought and much deliberation... I am now considering doing something special with a STUN hive if I ever manage to get the bees stabilized without intervention for at least 3 years(probably more). Who knows how long it will take to get there.

You should also consider that about every 3 to 7 years, the queen will either die or the hive will superseded her, which can result in a dramatically different hive. Depending on the queen and the drones she mates with, that once stable and productive hive could now be very unstable and unproductive. They could be also be dramatically more aggressive. Or it could become so weak that it dies out that following winter. Thinking that a hive is stable becasue it has lasted X amount of time is not the correct way to think about this. Every organism, even super organism such as hives, have their lifespan.

I can just unclip the small box section and remove the pre-cut section of the liner. Then slip in the super and fasten it down with the same spring clips as before. The super it'self will have a quilt section built into it's top as well. Just remember I can do this if the hive ends up inside my shed. There would be no roof.

They will glue that down just like everything else in the hive. Unless you have a material to make the hive out of that propolis and wax cannot adhere to, then there will be no slipping anything in or out. It will require cutting and prying to remove it.
9 years ago