John Kitsteiner

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since May 25, 2011
Husband, Father, ER Physician... Permaculturist!
East Tennessee
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Recent posts by John Kitsteiner

Love the community here.

Thought y'all may find this interesting:

Risk Free Ranching - Starting from Scratch (2 Day Course)

Grazing expert Greg Judy will be teaching a 2-day course on how to make a living from the land by grazing cattle, even if you don't own any land! This course will be designed for the absolute beginner, although experienced graziers with their own land will undoubtedly learn a lot from Greg's experience. Greg will show how we can revitalize hayed out, scruffy, weedy pastures, and turn them into highly productive grazing landscapes that grows both green grass and greenbacks!

5 years ago
I don't disagree with you entirely, but the issue is that I am not in Tennessee yet. I am not even in the U.S. yet! I still have another year before I move back to the U.S. (I am serving in the military overseas... very ready to come home and be done with the military life!)

This community could work in almost any agricultural-zoned county space. I have chosen central to eastern TN. I personally love the idea of cob, but I am not stuck on that by any means. I do know that TN has a lot of clay soils throughout the state. I may get the one plot of land that has none. I will then use another appropriate building material. I get that.

What I am trying to do is make sure that I choose a county that is at least open to the idea of alternative housing. Straw-bale is more popular and can be approved a bit easier, I believe, as long as you build it as "straw infill" with timber framing and not a solely structurally supported straw-bale home - although that still may be possible in some areas. I see earth-based home building, especially structural, as the more difficult to get approved, hence my search.

In addition, I am a physician. I would really like to do research on the health benefits of natural housing. This is a big subject, and I would love to have a large pool of data from which to collect where I live (i.e. the community where I live) instead of having to get all my data through off site locations.

I have many, many other areas of study which I need to research to make this community a reality. This is just one slice of the pie.

Doc K
6 years ago
Are weep screeds used in cob building? I don't recall reading about them in the couple of cob building books I have read, but it has been some time since I read them.

However, I don't want anyone to think I am anything remotely clost to an expert. I have never built with cob. My father is a general contractor, and I spent many summers working with him, so I have a fair understanding of construction. I have full confidence I can build a home, not too fast, but it will be done right. I will be taking some workshops though, for sure, before building my own home.

I emailed the barefoot builder (Christina Ott) a few weeks ago. She responded right away to my initial questions, but never responded to any of my coding questions. She very well could just be busy right now... I'll let you know if she returns any of my follow-up emails. Also, just to be clear, I did tell her that I would be taking her workshop and likely looking to host a cob workshop (hopefully, quite a few) - I was not trying to bum her for free consulting.

I also emailed Alex Sumerall at ThisCobHouse. He has written an ebook called Cob to Code and is also located in Tennessee. I am waiting a response. If he tells me it is possible and he has done it, I will buy the book and let you know.

Doc K
6 years ago
Greetings, all you great Permaculturists!

I've got a problem...

I'm in the process of building an intentional community. I am in the very, very early stages. It's going to be at least a year before we buy land, but I need to get all the groundwork planned and laid out in the meantime. You can read my vision/plan here:

Here is my issue. The community will be in Tennessee. TN has a lot of good clay soil, just perfect for building cob and cob-hybrid homes. I know people have built cob homes in TN. However, many of these are "under the radar", so to speak, for a number of reasons. If I go in and build a large community, which is my goal, then I will not be very "under the radar". I want to do everything above board so that we cannot be shut down after we have a lot of infrastructure built up.

So here is my question... does anyone know of any cob homes built in TN with permits approving their construction? I have heard of them, but I have yet to talk to anyone who has actually done it or knows someone who has done it. It seems to be a I heard of someone, who heard of someone, who knew of a guy, who has a friend who built one... Not helpful!

Any help or direction would be fantastic!
Thanks so much!

Doc K
6 years ago
I wanted to share my vision, largely based on Jack Spirko's interviews and podcasts, of creating an intentional community. I totally understand that this idea is not for everyone. But it is a viable option for many. I already have quite a few individuals interested in my project.

Please feel free to read through my article. Let me know if you have any questions, and please let me know if you are interested in joining me in this endeavor!

All the best!
6 years ago

This is a very interesting video on how metal reacts to heat, specifically with rocket stoves and heaters. The author states (in the comments section on YouTube) that he posted it here in Permies, but I cannot find it.

Does anyone know where this thread is?

I would love to get some other "experts" comments on this.

7 years ago
Very interesting thread, but I have a question...

Does anyone have any "proof" to back up the argument (prune or not)? I am looking for some good evidence. It may not exist. I don't know.

I appreciate the opinions, but I would love something more solid. I can see the theory behind both arguments, but theory and practical application are two different things.

Doc K
7 years ago

Great question. Just to throw my two cents in... also to agree with much of what was said already... when one person says something, it may sound good, but when others say the same thing, it sinks in

Acer negundo (Boxelder)
- Common tree east of the Rockies
- Likes wet soil, so if you have a lot of them... maybe you are in a flood plain? maybe you have a low water table? maybe you are where a river or stream used to run? maybe your wood lot is where a pond used to be? I would seriously consider running some contour lines on your property... I wouldn't be surprised if your wood lot is in a low spot.
- In the Maple family, so yes, it has sap that cam be made into syrup. I agree with Ian, the sap has less sugar content, so it takes more sap to produce the same sweetness of syrup than a Sugar Maple; however, with more concentration comes more flavor. Also, you can just use the sap as a drink in its own right... a lightly sweet beverage.
- Wood is soft, light, and weak. Not good for construction, but not too bad for cheap, short-lived applications... like boxes (hence the name!)
- Since the wood is weak, it will not hold up well in strong wind storms or ice storms (you're in MN!)
- Bonfires are an okay use, but boxelder is really not a great firewood.
- The tree produces seeds that birds and squirrels like; deer will eat the browse (new growth of young sprouted plants/trees)
- In the Great Plains and other farming communities, Boxelders are great cover plants (trees) in shelterbelts for deer and cattle

It sounds like you don't have a lot of land... if you did, I would say keep them and let them be part of your Zone 4/5. But you don't have acres upon acres... so...

1) I would chop them down and use them to make small hugelkultur beds (real hugelkultur beds are massive... 6-10 feet high) on contour... under a swale on contour in your yard if this is possible.
2) I would consider keeping a couple of the larger trees for wildlife attraction. The birds will eat the insects that love the deep furrowed bark, and the birds will eat the seeds, and some of the birds will fly into your garden and eat insects, and more birds will attract other wildlife and increase your biodiversity in general. Also, the trees will attract squirrels. This again increases biodiversity, and this might not be too popular, but squirrels are good food and easily taken with a pellet gun or a .22
3) The few large trees that you keep will produce a large amount of biomass each year in leaves. Great for compost. Great for deep mulch in a chicken run.
4) The few large trees can produce quite a bit of sap to make a little syrup each year (check out
5) Consider trimming back the tree and growing something like Hardy Kiwi up some of the trees
6) The branches that fall each year from snow and ice can be chopped up and used in compost or as kindling - since it burns fast
7) Getting rid of these trees will open up the canopy and let more light it. This will allow you to maybe create a bit more of a patchy meadow effect instead of a wood lot. Then you can plant some more useful trees like dwarf fruits or nuts in their place. This will also allow you to plant some more herbaceous plants that desire a bit more sun - brambles and gooseberries and currents considering your location.
8. Getting rid of these trees will reduce the chance that the next ice storm will not knock the tree over and onto your house or fence or newly planted trees.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head.

Hope that helps! Have fun!
Doc K

7 years ago
We had our plans to move to western Washington state for quite a while.  Then my wife had a difficult pregnancy (it all worked out very well), and she spent 3 months in Germany during a wet and cloudy spring/summer - we are in the military living overseas...

Well, my wife has now vetoed the PNW - she wants four seasons and some sun in the spring and summer.  I am very glad this happened before we moved out there!

So, that returns us to our original plan... either eastern TN or western NC. 

Here is our criteria.

- We'd like to be close to the mountains, but we don't need to be in the mountains.
- I'd like to buy 10-40 acres without going crazy in debt.
- We don't want to be in too "redneck" of a place (I was born in western NC and we've lived in the south off and on for many, many years... so I understand the difference between "southern" and "redneck" - please don't take offense).
- We'd like to be within about 30 minutes of a decent sized city (50K+)

I'd love your opinions on locations... the plusses the minuses... anything you can give me that will help our decision.

Thanks so much!
Doc K
8 years ago
I am a huge fan of the whole idea.  I think something has to be done to provide a better guide to consumers (about how their food is being raised and who raises it) and a better way for quality producers to raise food (without overbearing gov't, expensive registration and certifications, and rules that just don't make sense).

I am looking forward to see where this goes.

Doc K
9 years ago