Melissa Bee wrote:
I would try dumpster-diving behind the nearest nurseries, home centers, or anywhere else that sells plants. Granted, this isn't going to help you right now, but as the year progresses lots of 4" starter edibles and ornamentals that don't survive will get tossed out. I've acquired so many 4" pots that way, I had to Freecycle a big stack of them last year.
If you live in an area that has any large commercial properties, like a hospital, office complex or senior home, as examples, they usually have professional landscaping done. If you can determine the day flowers are planted in the spring, the nursery people doing the work often toss all the containers. Very few big nurseries actually grow anything, they just maintain the plants they buy wholesale. So, they will never re-use those pots. I once got hundreds in one weekend, and still have quite a few of those after many years of use.
(I, too, googled the word ‘elderly’ and came across this, which I found amusing. Feel free to remove if it’s inappropriate!)
A man was working in his yard when he was startled by a late model car that came crashing through his hedge right into his front yard. He rushed to help an elderly lady driver out of the car and sat her down on a lawn chair.
He said with excitement, "You appear quite elderly to be driving."
"Well, yes, I am," she replied proudly. "I'll be 97 next month, and I am now old enough that I don't even need a driver's license anymore."
"You don't... need a driver's license anymore?!?"
"That's right... The last time I went to my doctor, he examined me and asked if I had a driver's license. I told him 'yes,' and handed it to him. He took scissors out of the drawer, cut the license into pieces, and threw them in the waste basket, saying, 'You won't need this anymore.'
So I thanked him and left!”
I don’t quite remember the age my parents were when they began to seem like ‘old people’; probably their late 60s. But I do remember a period of a couple years, when they approached their late 70’s, that I began to see them as being elderly, because they were suddenly unable to do many of the common daily things they had previously done- lawn mowing, laundry, meal preparation, house cleaning. They hired 2 people, a young man to do the lawn and random maintenance chores around the property, and a woman to come in twice a week to do laundry and clean. They still made meals, but it was a lot more prepared foods and more eating out. Very little cooking from scratch. They both had health problems at that point- things like cancer and a heart bypass as well as the typical things like arthritis and vision loss. Happily neither ever developed senility or suffered long before dying, but at that period in time they definitely fit the description of ‘elderly’.
I can’t bring myself to buy anything plastic if at all possible, but will re-use plastic already in the system. For round containers I like the 24 oz yoghurt tubs that are about 4” diameter and 4” tall. For square, I use cardboard milk cartons- quart size is about 3” square and half gallon about 4”. What’s great about them is they are still nearly 8” tall with the top cut off, which allows for a deeper root system to develop. I don’t buy yoghurt or milk in containers, but know people who do, and can be persuaded to save them for me in exchange for plants or veggies later on. All of these get holes drilled into the side about 1/2” off the bottom, which assures water is always available in the base, which gets a layer of gravel. The yoghurt cups last several years, the milk cartons tend to get soggy and rot after 1 use. I have a short season so everything gets transplanted to a larger container at least once. I still have some root crowding, but it’s not as bad as what you’d get from a nursery. Tomatoes like to be transplanted deeper to develop more roots along the stem, so this is never a problem with them anyway.
I have experimented with soil blocking, which nicely eliminates root bound seedlings, but can be labor intensive because you have to be very aware of how quickly the soil at the perimeter dries out. I’ve also never seen a tool to make 4” blocks, though I’m sure one could be found or custom made.
My thought on this would be to make the garden a ‘land moat’, so you have the chickens in the very center, fenced in to keep them out of the garden. The ring of plants around the chickens acts as a buffer to keep the nitrogen from the chicken poop from leaching into the moat. Veggie scraps go into the middle to feed the birds, and waste comes out to fertilize the garden. If you had wood chip bedding and rotate the yard, the manure would cool off enough that it wouldn’t need to be composted. I’d still be inclined to fence the moat or the island, because water won’t keep predators out. You also have hawks to consider. Maybe a couple guard geese? As others have mentioned, solar floating pumps could water the garden if needed, though that may not be a problem if the moat raises the soil moisture. But if you have fish in the moat that water will contain nutrients.
Definitely sounds like a fun project to consider!
Ben Law have his general rule of thumb for his wood. He says that round timber is 50% stronger then the square milled wood you could get from it.
I have heard this before from other sources, but never any data to confirm it. Does he mention a source for that claim, or is it merely his opinion based on experience? 50% is a lot. It may be true, but I think it depends a lot on the species of wood, as well as how it is prepared and in what position it is used in the construction. As a quick example, I could mill a 4x4 from a straight 5.5” log. Was the 5.5” log 50% stronger? How does one determine that? Is the use vertical, sloped or horizontal? The end use matters the most.
It’s also not typical to use much square milled wood, other than vertical posts. Most construction is done with lumber that has a rectangular profile (2x4, 2x6, 3x12, etc). Horizontal members such as a header or joist bear the most loads at right angles to the fibers of the wood. So in a position where you may want, say, a 4x8 support beam, the 10” log it would take to mill that beam will easily be twice as strong, but that’s also because you could get 2 of those beams from that log (nominal lumber sizes. To get full 8” would need a 12” log for 2 beams). So it’s overkill for sure, but also a lot of extra resources and weight. On the other hand, it’s simpler to peel logs than to mill them.
I think you’ll be fine with round wood, especially with a 12/12 roof pitch.
Glad you didn’t lose the house! Smoke damage sucks though, hard to remediate. You could probably find that manual online as a pdf? I know the gehl manual said bypass was only allowed 3 times before it would run the cycle regardless. I didn’t mind the idea of higher rpm, but it was the thought of it kicking in during a delicate operation that concerned me. When you’re extended 50’ in the air with a pallet weighing over a ton, and trying to move that load an inch at a time, a steady rpm, regardless of what that rpm is, makes things easier! I’m guessing sooner or later they will all go to def like vehicles have.
Eric, does your re-gen have a bypass button? I ran a gehl all terrain forklift about 5 years ago to help out someone who had rented it but wasn’t comfortable operating, and it had the re-gen but you could bypass with a switch. That was nice, because when you’re trying to feather hydraulics or crawl a few inches in gear, you don’t want an rpm surge! I’m not sure how long the bypass would delay purging, but it was at least handy in the moment, so you could complete an immediate task and then park it and let it cook off later.
Zachary- definitely find dealers who have a ‘back lot’ where you can actually try the tractor out, digging, lifting, whatever things you need to do with the tractor at home. It’s easy to get so excited about having a new tractor that you overlook things like the ergonomics of controls or other aspects. If a dealer won’t let you try out the machine, take your $30k+ elsewhere.
A backhoe attachment on a tractor is not quite as good as a backhoe itself. But, I’ve rented that size tractor with the hoe attachment and it worked great. An option might be watching Craigslist and other online ads, as well as estate sales and auctions. You can sometimes find a Woods or other brand that will fit for a few thousand dollars. Once you dig with a backhoe you get spoiled quick!
Congratulations Tyler! A new tractor is always exciting stuff. Sounds like you’ve got a well thought out list of specs. For a small tractor, that’s still a very capable machine. You can do a lot with smaller equipment, just ‘one bite at a time’ style. One thing you mentioned was cutting into hillsides. Not sure exactly what you have in mind, but rippers might be able to help you do that, although having the tooth bar on the bucket would probably be adequate. Depending on the soil type and angle of the land, there may be no good substitute for either a backhoe or excavator to do that. Maybe add the backhoe attachment to your wish list? 🤫
I’m going to add a vote for the practicality of a yurt, even though I don’t particularly like them. Quick to erect, most effective use of space for square footage needed, easier to heat- with a woodstove in the middle radiating in all directions, feels roomier than it really is (helping you all to not kill each other in darkest winter), generally very easy to re-sell (as well as relocate on the property for a future guest house/air b&b/older kids new home). The cons would be- harder to insulate well, harder to create privacy for everyone, and they tend to have less airflow which can lead to mold/mildew problems.
Second choice would be to build a barn, or shop, since you’re going to need one anyway. The biggest hurdle there is deciding on location. But it’s still fairly quick to frame up and dry in, and then you can work on the rest regardless of weather.
I think mobile homes are possibly the worst choice. Yeah, it’s quick and maybe cheap, but even the best ones are poorly constructed with lesser quality plumbing and electrical. As someone else mentioned, the shape is inefficient to heat, and they lose value quickly; something you don’t need to worry about with a yurt or shop.
I hope you’ll keep posting here with updates! This is an exciting challenge in several ways, and what looks like a nice property for homesteading/permaculture.
In many places it’s illegal to sell potatoes for planting that are not certified. When buying seed potatoes, most farmers feel it's important to get certified disease-free ones. These have been tested for defects and given the government's (ag dept) stamp of approval. The main reason why these potatoes are encouraged is that they reduce the risk of crop and soil damage. You can (and I have) grow potatoes you buy in the store. But many of those are treated with sprout inhibitors and won’t grow. My feeling is, if I buy local organic potatoes, they were already grown from certified stock, and so likely they are disease free and can be planted.
r ranson wrote: I also looked into selling my own seeds and I discovered that there are some freaky-weird legislation and licencing requirements where I live.
This is something I’ve just learned recently; that many varieties of plants are patented. So you can’t just willy-nilly sell seeds or cuttings or sometimes even actual plants/trees if they are protected by someone else’s license. I find it simpler and equally profitable to buy seeds (or rooted cuttings), grow plants (trees), and sell them at swap meets at the local feed store. Perfectly legal!
As several have mentioned, reducing risks is key to me. Once you get hurt at our ages (let’s just be kind and say ‘over 50’) it takes longer to heal, arthritis sets in, muscle strength is lost... Thus it makes sense to slow down, be more alert to how I’m likely to get injured. Scott made the comment “Since my very sanity is directly tied to being outside...” and that is critical to me as well. It’s good motivation to try to be safer, because recuperating from an injury and going crazy from wanting to be out and about working is sheer misery for me!
Not strange at all Monika! I was actually just thinking about how my summer burgers are almost 80% veggie burgers. I will mix in things like grated (raw) summer squash, beets, carrots, chopped up string beans, snap peas, bell or hot peppers, tomatoes, chives, cherries, apples.... and of course bread crumbs, oatmeal*, maybe cooked rice or quinoa or leftover baked/mashed potatoes, and (always) an egg and some shredded cheese. Like the best things in life- there’s no rules! I’m not a huge fan of the taste of avocado but I’m sure I could even mix that in and love the overall taste. As I mentioned in another comment, I don’t do this to stretch the ground meat so much as simply a way to make a healthy flavorful ‘less boring’ burger.
*oatmeal is a food I don’t like cooked as itself, but I know how healthy it is, so making oatmeal cookies or adding it to burgers or meatloaf is a way to happily consume it.
With kids, you learn to ‘hide’ healthy foods they won’t eat inside food they love. One day long ago it occurred to me I could do it to Myself too!
This only shows 4 species- spruce, hemlock, birch, cottonwood- but it will give you some helpful guidelines. Go to cespubs.uaf.edu and type HCM-00752 into the search box.
The two concerns are deflection and shear. The front of the greenhouse appears to bear hardly any weight at all, but the center and rear would need sturdy rafters/purlins. One other consideration is that in the spring, you could encounter a time when not only would you have 100% saturation of the soil, but a significant additional wet snow load.
While I agree the best solution is to avoid the clog to begin with, we don’t live in a perfect world, and despite our Own best efforts there are kids, visitors, and of course people not even taking proper care of their drains. Clogs happen. I doubt the septic tank (typically an average of 1000 gallons) would be adversely affected by (or even notice!) such a comparatively tiny amount of vinegar/baking soda, especially since the 2 neutralize each other and a healthy septic tank runs between 6-7.5, or, neutral. Your own water from the well may be outside that range, and contribute far more to an imbalance of the septic tank! The weasel thing looks like it would work great, but it’s a disposable plastic product, which many of us choose to avoid. It removes the hair, but not all the other gunk. Obviously there’s no fictional land of ‘away’, but it would either be a Muni waste treatment plant, a septic tank, or a greywater treatment system such as a reed bed, all of which have been proven to handle worse stuff than the occasional ph neutral mix of a 1/2 cup of vinegar volcano.
I would guess that you didn’t cause leaks, but rather, found them. In other words, they were already there, but the gunk was sealing them (temporarily). When you foamed away the gunk, the leak opened. So, you would have had to make those repairs regardless. The vinegar volcano can not cause a leak in proper plumbing drain lines. The pressure created is not great enough to blow pipes or fittings apart, unless they are weak to begin with, which means they already were in need of repair. Similarly, boiling water will not damage any proper drain system, including any seals. There may be plastic pieces that, if you boiled them in a pot, would deform, but running boiling water through them briefly, as in the case of a gallon or two, will cause no damage at all. Plumbing drain line, whether copper or plastic, is made to handle this stuff.
What happens at 48.75 feet that causes the clogging? Can that be re-plumbed? Typically the drain pipes get larger as they move toward the septic or city sewer connection, thus preventing bottleneck points that would lead to clogs. The trap is often the worst offender, as water sits there and holds soap scum and hair plus whatever other bits of stuff.
I’ve found the zip tool will pull out some (maybe most) of the hair, but still leaves all the scummy stuff, whereas the volcano and boiling water will get rid of the stuff the zip barbs can’t grab. Plus it isn’t moving the ‘blob of clog’ as one mass, but it breaks up and disperses with the gallon of water, so it shouldn’t be adding to another clog anywhere else. A gallon or two of boiling water down each drain once a month or so is actually really good prevention of clogs in the entire system, and it won’t harm your septic system if that’s what you have.
A quick note on the idea (or question) of cleaning drains with baking soda and vinegar. I find the volcanic reaction can break loose clogs, in the following fashion- first, get a gallon of water boiling. Next, dissolve a quarter cup or so of baking soda in a cup of really hot water. Make sure it’s completely dissolved, then pour it down the drain. This will fill the trap with baking soda slurry, and the trap is where the clog happens. Then dump a half cup of vinegar down the drain. After the volcano subsides, dump the gallon of boiling water in. The volcano loosened the clog, the boiling water washes it away.
I’ve rarely had to do this, but when I do, it works to clear the drain for a long time!
Necessity vs luxury, I think, really comes down to time and physical ability. Sure, I could dig a septic system by hand, and manipulate the tank into place with ropes and pulleys and ramps. And yes, I could move 300 bales of hay from field to barn one or two at a time with a wheelbarrow. No, I could not skid large logs by hand, even with a wheeled arch. So these things are considerations of time and physical ability, and sometimes personal choice. Yes, a hydraulic log splitter might be faster but I really like to split wood by hand. Now, if I were selling firewood as a business, that would change! I think too, that it’s a progressive ‘need’. Once you have a tractor with a front loader, you realize how much you always needed one! That there’s hundreds of things it can be used for besides just carrying something in the bucket. While hard physical work is good, too much of it is not so good!
Cindy Haskin wrote: I imagine that codes across the country are similar when it comes to building a small cabin-style structure to live in, and I want to dispense with the need for permits, etc.
Codes may be similar, but are often finely nuanced to a certain area, such as a city, county, township, borough... and some places have no code at all. Typically the more densely populated an area, the more stringent the codes. It would be well worth it, before investing time, money and effort into multiple skiddable structures, to find out what the codes are for the specific area you wish to build. In your case the issue may not be so much size or portability but occupancy. Living in a building year round changes the nature of the use. Seasonal cabins are often exempt from codes, but once it’s your full time residence, it could be different. The wrong code enforcement person could look at your group of skiddables with the common courtyard roof and say “obviously you are not using these as portable buildings”. This is often a taxation grab too. In our area, seasonal cabins are assessed at a lower rate than homes. So people build ‘cabins’, then live in them and upgrade them to a home to avoid taxes. When they finally get caught, they now have the issue of whatever upgrades they did needing to meet code.
So... be sure you’re on firm ground with whatever permits may be required. Often times a structure being mobile exempts it from permitting, but I think mobile is considered to be on wheels, not skids. Something else to verify. Good luck! Always best to live simple
Josiah Kobernik wrote: instead of testing each innovation independently with controls, paul likes to heap ten or more innovations into one experiment and then if the experiment is successful, you can successively divide the innovations in half to sort for relative influence.
What if the experiment isn’t a success? How do you then decide which innovations to delete? Same system or? And if it is a success, how do you know which of the ten innovations is doing what? Or how much? How do you even know that any of them except maybe one or two is doing anything? That seems really un-scientific to me. And you also now potentially have unneeded things interacting (for better or worse) with needed things. I’m not criticizing the logic, just not fully comprehending it.
Dry earth thermal mass on the roof, as well as the North, East, and West walls that is disconnected from surrounding soil by a polyethylene membrane “umbrella”
A poly membrane creates a moisture barrier, but not a full disconnect. How thick is the layer of surrounding soil? For the dry earth to act as a thermal mass, it needs to be below frost line and separated from any source of conduction. So the barrier will prevent moisture migration, but not thermal transfer. If the barrier does not also include insulation, the surrounding soil would need to be much thicker than whatever frost depth is, no?
There’s several (maybe dozens) of YouTube videos along those lines. What most designers have found is they need several air exchanges Per hour for it to work effectively, which of course requires fans and power for the fans, ie- not passive. But still a great design!
That’s somewhat a question of time, Cory. How fast do you want to get things done? Gearing and hydraulics allow us to ‘cheat’ to get more out of small equipment, but overall, the more HP, the faster you can work (to a point). If you do a lot of mowing, the size of the mower you can run, as well as ground speed at which you can mow, are directly tied to net HP of the tractor. I mean, you could mow 10 acres with a 5hp push mower, right? So, you can do a lot of work with one of the little Iskei or Yanmar 15hp size tractors, but in bite size pieces. The bucket moves a few cubic feet of dirt per load, instead of half a cubic yard.
Having run everything from 12hp to over 100, I really think 35-40 is the sweet spot for a small homestead. You have adequate power to run attachments, good fuel economy, and enough weight to give stability. It’s not fun to constantly feel like the tractor is unbalanced. I also would lean strongly toward 4wd, if you will be operating much in mud or snow.
And if you ever scale up your operation, there’s still not going to be much you can’t do with 40hp of diesel tractor. The flip side is that it’s still small enough to be fuel efficient, maneuver easily, and not ridiculously heavy if you do get it stuck.
I think the best question to ask yourself is what is the most need for power you plan to have, then add 30%. It’s never good to be operating equipment at its limit all the time. Maybe even consider renting a couple different size tractors for a day and see how they feel?
Heidi- do it now, or in the spring, not fall. If you’re that far north they will not establish roots in time to make it through the winter. Here’s pics I posted on a different thread, about how quickly the cuttings root (2 weeks-ish). You could do it this way too, right now. Good luck! It’s really fool proof.
Every time it rains hard you have standing water on flat roofs, nothing to be scared of. As I mentioned, they aren’t really flat, they have to be designed to drain! So they have multiple angles leading to drains, or sometimes simply one pitch to an edge which may have gutters or scuppers. Flat roofs are even more waterproof than pitched roofs, simply because they are designed to hold water for short periods of time. The only concern is snow load, in the north. (Interesting side point- our wasteful country, in the 60s, designed large buildings with deliberately poor insulation in the roof so that heat loss would melt the snow, which was considered far cheaper than constructing a stronger roof).
While the wet roof idea is obviously far less costly than A/C, it would be interesting to do a side by side comparison in 2 identical structures (storage sheds would make cheap test labs). I realize it would never lower inside temps as much as A/C does, but might be adequate. It could certainly reduce the cost of running A/C, and it would also be a great companion strategy with something like earth tube cooling.
As Jeremy mentioned, cottonwood (or any member of the aspen family) grows ridiculously easy. You can stick cuttings in wet ground and they grow. You can bend saplings down and pin them to the ground and have all those branches become trees, as the original takes root along the entire length. You can coppice them. But once they become actual trees they are a nuisance. Everything above also applies to willow, which does not become as large, and grows almost as fast. I’ve used both to establish great windbreaks while waiting for the slower spruce trees to catch up.
Matthew Nistico wrote: It also won't work on a flat roof, like the tar or gravel roofs of some commercial buildings, or on the flat roof of an RV.
I’m thinking it would work just fine on those roofs (better, really, since they get hotter than sloped roofs) but you’d need a different way to disperse the water, like a sprinkler or soaker hoses. Flat roofs are not truly flat, they all have very slight pitches toward drains. But even if they didn’t, you just need to control the water flow so it keeps the roof wet but doesn’t create standing water, which would be wasted. On an RV, the water drains off the sides or ends. Again, just a slight misting to keep the roof wet is adequate. Where this will not work particularly well is on a steep metal roof, since the water will simply run off too quickly.
I like the idea of a solar panel to run the pump. Similar to the roof vent fan units that incorporate a solar panel to run automatically when the sun shines. If you have rain barrels, the downspouts are refilling them with any excess runoff. Once you had a sense of water usage, you could have spigot water on a timer to top them off, to compensate for evaporation loss.
The 12v RV pumps typically run a gallon per minute at 30 psi, which would be adequate. They draw less than 5 amps, which would be a 60 watt solar panel- less than $50 and not very large. So, yes, this would be very efficient compared to running A/C!
Paul Wheaton wrote:I think I am reading into this that you are in flat country.
The water table is a function of topography, geology and climate. Often the water table follows the contour of the land. So it may well be same depth whether flat or hilly terrain. A local geologist may be the person to talk to along with local well drillers. Guessing you know all this and have already explored those avenues, but if not...
Rob Lineberger wrote: I'm under the vague impression that if you dig a basement below the frost line it will reach the geothermal layer, and your house will stay around sixty degrees year round as long as it is totally insulated. I thought I read that a year or two ago when I was researching earthbag domes. Am I off?
You don’t even need to be below frost line; you can create an insulation ‘umbrella’ around the perimeter of the house. You simply need to be below grade, ie- lower than the top of the ground. As to 60 degrees, that will vary depending on location, but typically is 45-65 in most places. In the far north or far south one would need to go deeper or insulate more. Whether that will heat/cool the above grade part of a house depends on a lot of other factors. But earthbag homes have a lot of thermal mass in the walls which tends to stabilize temperatures for longer time periods.
Annie Collins wrote: Have you tried using a dowser...?
I, too, have been amazed at seeing dowsing work many times. I had an older relative (long dead now) who found water for people, but these were shallow, hand dug wells, maybe 10-30’ deep. He claimed the stick had to be Willow, because they are drawn to water. I also once watched a guy with a shovel find a buried water line. This was an area about 150’ long. He slid the shovel along the ground, and walked the length of the area in each direction. He made a mark both times, and between the marks that were about 2’ apart, they dug and found the pipe. He was from a different state, had never been there before that day, so no pre-existing knowledge as far as we were aware. He was a plumber, and I talked with him for awhile. He told me since childhood he could ‘feel’ water, and it had led him to a career in plumbing. He had discovered the shovel method by accident, but said it worked better than dowsing rods for him.
As a skeptic who puts her trust in fact and science, I have a hard time deciding how legitimate dowsing is, but have seen too much to totally dismiss it. I do know a well drilling company who keeps a dowser on retainer, much like an attorney would be, and they swear by his skills.
Maybe Wheaton labs has super deep water? Or Paul hasn’t found a ‘legitimate’ dowser? Finding water is an expensive game. Our well is 330’ deep, at a cost of $40 a ft. And whoever buys the property someday may not be able to get a mortgage, as it only flows at 2 gpm, and most banks want minimum 3-5.
I think the driller asking “keep going or new spot?” creates more apprehension than the dealer asking if you want another card! It’s certainly higher stakes than any poker game I’ve ever played.
Anthony Dougherty wrote: Here is my struggle, i am looking for a 100% self-sustainable build. which for me makes metals and plastics a no go. the biggest struggle has been trying to find an alternative water barrier.
I’m not sure there is anything in nature that is waterproof to make the envelope layer, except clay. And that might be a chore, to make a clay umbrella. But consider this- you really don’t need to keep the mass dry! Water holds heat better than anything, so a wet mass obviously holds much more heat (or ‘cool’). What you need to prevent is Migration. That means the wet needs to be the same ‘wet’ every day, not water that is moving through the mass (migration) robbing the heat. That may make your dilemma greater or less, I don’t know. It definitely gives you a major potential mold issue, depending on how the mass relates and connects to the dwelling. I say that because I sense you are talking about a home, not a greenhouse. But what you wouldn’t want is drainage, because that means water will enter your mass, have a quick fling with the heat there, and elope with it. The only way I can think that ‘might’ be acceptable is if you could somehow trap that water and return it to the mass. But in the process, some heat will be lost. Part of the answer also depends on your location, and just how much heat you need to store, and for how long. The other issue is insulation. Water conducts heat far better (and faster) than dry earth. So a wet mass needs better insulation on the exposed areas.
One last thought- you could, with enough slope to the mass, build a shake roof over it. That’s waterproof and natural.