Just got back into this forum and noticed all the great posts... rock on Redding permaculture group. Hope to visit ya'll some day. Didn't see any upcoming events tho. I teach living energy - aka energy permaculture locally around Placerville area.
After a few years of attending many intentional community + permaculture meetings, I've started this meet-up network for people interested in forming/developing and actually DOING IT: an ecoVillage based on the Ringing Cedars - Anastasia concept. If you're interested in helping out or just joining the conversation and learning, please comment here and join the meet-up group: Northern California EcoVillage Network ( http://www.meetup.com/Northern-California-EcoVillage-Network/ )
ross johnson wrote:Biochar is similar to charcoal but its different. What it is is carbonized organic matter. If you have a heat source and put something on it in the presence of oxygen then the materiel will catch fire. If you put materiel in a heat source but have it cut off from oxygen, the materiel will smolder and char. Many of the compounds contained in the materiel, will not burn off so the biochar will be a little richer then charcoal.
Wholeheartedly agree with this. Some people call it 'poor man's biochar': at your next campfire/firepit session, have some dirt ready and cover the white hot coals with around 2 inches of dirt which is in effect cutting off the oxygen quickly - the methane (producer gas) gets sequestered into the coals and you have RICH biochar. You'll have to wait a couple days for it to cool down and then I usually bury the chunks between 6-12" into the vegie areas.
Last year I attended the International BioChar conference and was amazed to see many attendees from the Midwest USA, Asia + S.America: turns out it is big business this biochar and results in 'carbon credits' BioChar will have a very important role in restoring our depleted soils - like the Mayans did.
I've been in N.Cal (wonder what geo area that includes) between the Bay Area, Redding + Tahoe... I now own acreage in the Sierra and have been very active trying to find my tribe to get an ecoVillage started. There's quite a lot of things on co-housing around which is not my thing. Next weekend, there's a get together east of Redding for an aspiring 'Shire' ecovillage which I will be attending. Just throwing this out there - I would be very interested in meeting people who want to start an ecoVillage and have the persistence, some basic skills and focus on permaculture ++.
I have a few acres in Northern California and practice biodynamics + permaculture. There's a couple structures on site, and constructing a new building. Lotsa renewable energy, and generally close the loop on everything.
Always looking for people to help out in exchange for room + board. Work tasks would range from gardening to light construction.
excellent discussion... I would advise as thin a layer as possible on top of a wood subfloor using fiberglass hairs to prevent cracks, and putting in some good old fashioned expansion joints like the cement boys do... and also I would NOT mix in any type of manure binder or anything that smells weird. A friend's place has a very subtle putrid smell after using a manure binder... you don't want that indoors! Best wishes - and I do hope you do your earthen floor. It will give you years of great service.
My earthen floor is 1-1/2" thick on top of 1/2" of sand on top of three layers of roofing felt paper on top of thin cinderblocks for underfloor heating+cooling... ALL this on top of 2x8's spaced 16" with 1-1/2" plywood subfloor and it's held up well for over 10 years now.
I agree... compost toilets are great for the live-in people... but guests (especially from urban areas) generally turn their nose up at them - only after the reluctantly try it do they realize it ain't no big deal.
i had to install a flushing toilet (hard retrofit) just for guests and luckily it's only used rarely.
I trust that solar hot water will be part of your house? Since freezing is THE big issue, i'd recommend a drainback system using a variable DC pump and avoid all the other hi-tech, hi-cost, closed glycol systems. I live in the Sierras at 4500 ft and use a simple batch solar HW heater for years... gravity fed rainwater... only problem is when there's snow on the window panes of the breadbox heater.
Here's my 2cents worth:
WATER will be the big issue in the future so collecting rain water and building the biggest roof (with substantial overhangs) and an underground cistern would be my priority. Next is ENERGY and that's mostly on the demand side (solar HW + PV is relatively easy)... so earth tubes and geothermal fields along with proper orientation and planting deciduous trees is very important. Look at the PAHS houses to see if you can bury part of it and use the soil for thermal mass. I'd put massive thermal mass inside the middle of the house - need big foundation pour to support it. I'd also use steel roof and 2x6 steel joists - fire and bug proof. Earthen plaster rocks for indoor finishing.
I've used bucket toilets for years: divert the pi always - it smells bad and attracts flies - there's some contraptions to divert the pi in the front area.
Extra newspaper liner on the bottom REALLY helps. i've used peatmoss from the forest instead of sawdust - works fine. I put a newspaper or old towel over the top of the toilet seat on very warm days or when it starts stinking - or i'm too lazy to empty it. i have absolutely no flies or rodents... I mix the kitchen compost with the toilet compost on each emptying into the big outdoor compost pile.
The dual chamber toilet (see humanure book) works best: i used a bucket toilet while it was under construction. The key to the dual chamber toilet is to have easy access for compost removal.
I agree Paul... most greenhouses are romantic fantasies... I would encourage people to look for ATRIUMS or south/southwest sunroom extensions to their existing homes.
My own 2 cents worth on greenhouses is to build them with used patio doors (cheap - got mine for $5 at ReStore), and to be careful of snow loads, and sliding snow. I've got about 8 (3'x8') patio doors at some precarious horizontal angles on the south west side of my greenhouse addition to my passive solar home... and guess what? The snow slides off nicelyuntil it doesn't... and then it piles on the ground and curls back up... next summer I'm going to have dig in and 'lower' the ground around those areas.
You also need LOTSA thermal storage inside a greenhouse to dampen the overnite temperatures... in the 70's we used 55 gallon barrels filled with water... still works today.
Congratulations on your 14 acres... you need to be a bit more specific about what you want to do with the property. This time of year, I wouldn't recommending camping on site... but you need to get a feel for the weather and patterns on the land... take the permaculture dive - books, classes, people... and start OBSERVING as much as you possibly can. I personally look for 'blue sky' - as much SW open sky as you can possibly get at ... and then start playing around with siting possibilities for your house - I presume you're going to build one?
Thanks for the kind words about my posts... yeah I try... but most of the times I get a bit frustrated with all the clicks and menus and stuff... like this new permies forum look... just when you get used to something it changes.... guess it keeps us on our toes.
I am putting a lot of my stuff to blogs.. but still find this permies forum filled with great people and great input. The wikipage thing was a nice 'flash' when i first saw it, and for some reason I haven't been able to get back to it.... just too much stuff out there.
These are great replies and ideas, thanks! One thing I also learned was to put in some sort of 'air densifier' to let the condensation from inside the pipe drip into some sort of gravity trap at the lower end of the pipe. I think earth pipes are very effective in relatively dry soil areas, but in perpetually wet/moist warm soil, it's a whole other ballgame.
I'll put in my 2 cents worth here: I have a large stone wall (12+ tons of local granite rock - dry stacked) inside my house that most people call a fireplace... probably because it has a little thing on the bottom that burns wood. But the reason i put it in has nothing to do with a fireplace. I also have a copper coild for water heating, and a 8" vertical chimney that runs through the middle.
The thermal mass of the stone has 'dampened' the temperature swings inside the house by over 12F (cooler in summer, warmer in winter) without ever lighting up the fireplace! I also positioned (part of the initial design) the fireplace in the center of the house and also allows winter (lo angle) sun to hit it for 6+ hours each winter toward the SW setting sun.... so it really is a Trombe wall.
I 'stoned-in' a small fire stove next to the fireplace which i keep fired up most of the time as a kinda slow burn... to heat water and cook... and also keeps the temp of the rock wall going at night or cloudy days.
If i had known about RMH's 10 years ago, when I designed this, I would've done the whole thing totally differently. I'm still looking for ways to retrofit it, but it may just be beyond that... way too much stone I would have to move.
I am hopeful that some cool ideas will come from this forum, or my own playing around with various configurations of RMH's to retrofit my 'fireplace'. What really give me pause tho, is the carbon monoxide potential of enclosed RMHs.
I live in snow country in California... it doesn't rain from April - October... and I have lived for 8 years with 100% rainwater... it was new construction... i designed a 4000 sqft steel roof with 500 gallon cistern and then pump it up with PV pumps to 25,000 gallon tanks up the hill and then it's gravity feed all year long.
i love it... would never go back from rainwater... it's soft and free.
Retrofit would be to assess roof and tank size. There's standard calculations for cisterns based on household needs and annual rainfall... google them.
Preventing mildew is the only way to go in my book, that's sustainable + beyond organic... Like most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The Tropics and Marine industry are the leaders in this area. Both use an incandescent light bulb in a small confined space to provide dry heat and light - which mildew doesn't like. But that's an energy waster... and there's something about a light bulb being on 24/7 that doesn't sit well with me (personal bias).
So I'm thinking of taking a page from the 'archival storage' industry that has the best peer reviewed science in this area. The problem is most cases is the outdoor (and indoor) humidity. Archives take outdoor air, heat it up and then recool it and they can control the moisture to the nth degree.
solar hot water collectors use the infrared spectrum of the sun to heat water. i wonder if there's a way to tap into this phenom to heat the air, extract the moisture, and then let it cool through an insulated pipe (tilted... to let any moisture sink to the bottom).
ronie wrote: 100% locally generated is a pretty narrow requirement. Can they make glazing for solar gain?
That's my field - 100% RE, 100% off-grid - i'm transitioning from single residential to community microgrids. Challenging to say the least! www.winsol33.wordpress.com
Glazing and solar collectors is not the problem here in indonesia. It's heavily subsidized electric and LNG. So i am looking for practical things that people have already done here... to avoid re-inventing the wheel.
there's huge RE benefits here... equator solar angles, plenty of water (also a big downside), and lotsa biomass/biogas potential.
They have almost too many raw metrics, but it's rocknroll empirical data used by all solar developers... has more info on cloud cover and surface temp than you need... just be sure to read their parameters... we haven't figured out yet how to measure low-cloud cover.
But here on the Indonesia project where I've had to use if for the first time becuase of constant overcast (hey in California there's hardly any clouds for 9 months! ) and it seems to intuitively match. i've been amazed at the amount of energy solar PV systems get through these thick clouds.
Another think I just learned: I think is true but deeply hidden in western countries: indonesia subsidizes it's electricity from 40c production cost to 10c delivery cost. So ANYTHING renewable is a slam dunk on the production side. if the government ever lifted that subsidy and seel electricity at the true cost: there'd be instant riots in the streets.
Hi Len: That is really GREAT advice - thanks! I knew you'd be keen on this!
A lot of the issues you point out lead me to think we may need an external cooling source-- which may even be as simple as an ice chest inside the cold box.
I do wonder why you say that the 20' down temp will be same as the average surface ground temp? I would say that 20' down temp is fairly consistent at 50-60F anywhere in the world? I believe there's some science to back that up.
I wish we could do night time radiance... but alas, there's heavy cloud cover almost 24/7... or so it seems. I'm still trying to find some weather station data on cloud cover somewhere. We did install a weather station and have some on-site data logging going on.
Are there any limitations on the surface area (size) of the zeer, clay-in-clay pots?
Thanks again Len!
Len wrote: Some questions :
a) What temperature do you envision this cool room being? b) What is the yearly average temperature at ground level? This is what ground temp will be 20 feet down. c) what is the temperature of the water from the river?
If a is lower than both b and c.... you need to be looking for other alternatives.
If b is lower than a, then just building the cool room low enough in the earth may be good enough... no insulation under and lots on top.
If c is lower than a but b is higher than a, then the room needs to be insulated all around but may still need more on top.
In any case, shade will help in the form of either a roof or trees. An air space under the roof (the roof being white or at least light colour) so the air can move and not collect heat is recommended (by me )
If your elevation is high enough and your nights get as low as 10C you may be able to use night time radiation to cool a heat transfer fluid. Sort of like a solar water heater but opened only at night with exposure to as much sky as possible. Mirrors can be used to expand sky view if there are trees or building to the side. It is possible to freeze water so use some kind of antifreeze (even salt). I do not know if thermo syphoning will work fast enough or if pumping would help. I would prefer no pump so that if I got up late to close the lid I would not be pumping hot water to my under ground water tank
If this is a pretty dry place, then evaporative cooling may work if all else fails. I am not sure how easy it would be to do with out power but the zeer pot seems to work in some pretty hot places. There are "outback fridges" based on the same principle to look at too. My sense is that scale may improve this technology. That is, bigger is better. A room cooled by this technique may take some time to get cool, but once cool the centre of the room would not need to be cooled just the outside. Adding mass in rocks or water tanks would help too... although they would also make it take even longer to get cool in the first place. The one thing I see is that it will be used to lower the temperature of relatively high mass things like milk and cheese which will start at around 27C (coming out of a cow). The mass in the cool room needs to be higher (10x would be nice). However one works with what they have.
Hi Len: I hope you're still active in this forum. I'm working on a project in the tropics right now (indonesia) where we need to design and build a 'cool room' to store cheese and milk only for just a few days. I'd like to do total passive cooling in a super insulated room (about 4'x8') with earth tubes and then use available river water going through some car radiators to further cool (if needed) the space. I was thinking of your root cellar and sidewalk snow melter in reverse... bringing cold up from below.
Any thoughts? suggestions?
Len wrote: thankyou for starting the new thread The heat transfer fluid has to be liquid down to below -10C(14F?). In my area I may be able to get away with salt water as I don't think it gets down to -18C air temp and the ground even 4 inches down will be warmer. I don't know if the salt would settle out at all or stratify with fresh(er) water on top. I could make it saltier than seawater of course.
But I don't want to avoid freezing temperatures, I want to use them... The coldest temperatures will do me the most good. Avoiding freezing temperatures in this set up would be like avoiding heat in a solar heater
The first purpose of this set up, is to keep my root cellar cooler, the heating of side walks would be just a bonus... permaculture principle.... try to make any change do more than just one thing (the Len paraphrase). Anyway, the height difference should be around 36 inches, so thermo-siphon should work... and be the least complex. The tube(s) from the lower tank to the top would be straight. I may put a valve in to stop heat penetration in the summer.... but a steel valve would conduct heat just as well as the fluid... hopefully cooling the earth around the lower tank will make up for that.... and the coolest fluid should fall too. I need to find the smallest pipe that will still work to join the two tanks.
Depends on altitude, sky view, cloudiness... maybe latitude too. Even surface colour affects this.
thought I'd share my planting practice... I'm a big fan of Rudolph Steiner and biodynamics. Years ago discovered the Maria Thun calendar in Austria... which i now get at the Steiner College bookstore... it goes by the name: "The northr american Bio Dynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar" ... i has way more features than a person could understand without hundreds of hours of studying.
I basically use it to time seed plantings, thinning, pruning and harvesting. Easy to use color chart summarizes it all. There's also some peer-reviewed scientific support for these cycles, which go back millenia... way more than lunar cycles.... original wisdom.
I find the whole concept of electric heat churning my stomach... is it a symptom of how out of touch we are with appropriate uses of energy? next thing you know we'll be using non-renewable solar PV (see Paul Hawken's latest interviews) to make electric heaters for our Vente Starbucks Lattes
If one looks at the whole system of electric generation and the net BTUs yielded in useful BTUs of heat emitted to a body, compared to the amount of BTUs needed to generate that electricity at the source, I think one would find <5% efficiency! How uncool is that?
Given that we all live within reach of the sun and the soil... are we that spoiled/clueless that we can't get some heat from current solar income, or at least from soil/earth stored (geothermal) heat? Heck, even on cloudy, snowy days one can get a solar water heater warmed up.
When i see the wonderful discussions on RMHs and permaculture here, and then I see the oxymoron of 'electric heat'; I wonder if perhaps the net result is a bunch of steps taken backwards?
i have 'evolved' to follow two sound bites by Bucky Fuller:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” and “You may assume that you are fulfilling your significance if you apply yourself to converting all your experience to the highest advantage of others.”
RitaSparrow wrote: winsol13 - you make some good points. It would take very committed folks to live the low-emf life style. I am doing that in town to practice and see if I can do it, and the computer is a sticking point for me, especially knowing how they are made - also transportation if I move out of town. Wouldn't it be great to create your own village using horses for transportation, with a central building for computing, phone calling, food processing (hot-tubbing?) That way everyone could have their own little cob house with low-polluting rocket mass heater, completely unwired and peaceful, or it could be a yurt or teepee, lean-to, whatever.
Each eco-village needs to attract people who have similar goals. For me, it would be 1800s lifestyle plus computer. And blender.
The other thing I dream about is a village of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses on wheels. If I went that route, I would not wire or plumb it. I will soon have a solar charger for the laptop. I already use a solar-charged lantern, solar oven and wood cookstove (Four Dog), which is embarrassingly high-polluting. I'm avoiding all gas. I guess I will need a hand-cranked blender. Refrigeration is another thing I play around with. The tiny house on the trailer looks like it would get hot and produce might spoil quickly, especially if you have a stove in it. Food cellars aren't very portable.
Yes. I am an old hippie. Time is my only luxury. And my computer. And car. And blender.
Great points... I'd go a little farther than the 1800's... seems a pretty harsh survival existence back then... I like music, LEDs, and skimming ice in 40F mornings and having an ice maker in the summer.... and like u my computer. The EcoVillage of Sieben Linden in Germany was the BEST example I've found of a community that closest to that... i'd like to get a similar one going in Northern California.
William wrote: Hi winsol3, You might be interested in this:http://www.npr.org/2011/07/17/137680605/making-cutting-edge-animation-on-a-diy-homestead?sc=fb&cc=fp "We're building a 21st-century Hobbit village in which things are integrated into nature," Saxon says, "but we're harnessing cutting-edge technology and embracing the best of technology."
I think that when you can do without gadgets, it's better to do without. And when you can make something out of either bamboo or pvc, choose bamboo.I think there's a larger question of what it means to "embrace the best of technology" when much of it has environmental atrocities hardwired into them, but that's a whole other can of worms.
Something else you might be interested in reading is Better Off, by Eric Brende. He lives with very strict Amish for a year without much technology.
Thanks for the tips... Loved 'Trout Gulch' in Santa Cruz! I'm trying to figure out a halfway point - how to keep some of the 'useful' technology like internet/web access and communication... without impinging too much on the environment and avoiding an'Amish' or hippie lifestyle. For me, LED lights are WAY better than anything else... have yet to get much beyond that tho... it's a HUGE step function up after that to laptops and cell phones...
I guess it would be nice to have a net positive food and living system, but can we really live by current solar rays only? Another way to look at this is to operate within a totally closed loop. I doubt if that is possible. Even Biosphere 2 couldn't pull it off. Read 'Gaiome' by Kevin Polk for a real assessment on this. He's got the best overview of permaculture's role in the future.
The best we can do RIGHT NOW, is to reduce our 7 calories needed (in fossil fuel) for every 1 calorie we eat.
Heck, even a 2:1 ratio here would be an earth shattering accomplishment.
Pignut wrote: I would hate to live with this woman, but could she perhaps have been concerned that the well would lower the watertable affecting everyone on the community?
a bit judgemental? Diana's entire post ends with 'compassion exhaustion' ... i think 12+ years of trying to empathize and work with someone is plenty. What i learned at a short stay at Sieben Linden was three magic words: communication, communication, communication... endless dialogue and loving kindness/compassion are keys to successful community.
Great suggestions and super advice ronie. i would add that after you pull a permit for tiny barn (no inspections needed), you put up PV solar panels, batch solar hot water system, and use composting toilet (sawdust bucket?).
I would also add that besides your local inspectors, you need to take the same approach with your neighbors - who can be bigger pains in the butt sometimes than county/city folk.
People love to teach 'newbies' all their hard-won knowledge, so become a permanent student.
good points Dale... one of the keys to using salvaged materials is TIME... or a big storage shed and TIME. All the windows in my house are from a ReStore at HfH and I had to wait 6 months to get some good Millard windows and then had to change the design of the wall to be able to use them.
I think 90% + of regular contractors shun this type of build/design - to wait until you get materials and then design around them. They all spec the materials and buy 'em off-shelf at premium cost.
Good Windows and doors are expensive items and a good place to start with de-construction - it's easier to change some non-load bearing walls to accommodate them.
That would be much appreciated. The best prices that I'm seeing, here in Ontario, Canada, are $6 to $7 per Watt (plus the sales taxes/etc).
How about $1.80/watt? for PV... check out http://www.solar-electric.com/ I've had good luck with them over the last 10+years, very helpful and reputable. They're located in Arizona, so I don't know about shipping costs to canada.
Greennovator wrote: I love the concept and efficiency of sterlings, and I hope to some day build a GEK gasifier, but I keep coming back to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). You have to consider reliability, maintenance, complexity and the number of failure points, and cost effectiveness. I've built all kinds of things in my lab (solar, wind, biogas, biodiesel, etc.), but what powers my house -- and a whole bunch of client's homes -- are regular PV panels. Lew
I agree + disagree: Borrowing from Europe's example, and given that we burn gazillion tons of biomass slash piles into open air, we need to get a small-medium scale biomass industry going and start tying our houses together - as in district/community energy sharing/distribution.
I guess your point, Lew, is that renewable energy in the USA is for 'dummies' and must be plug and play. I would put in a solar hot water system FIRST - way before PV... unless ya'll don't need a hot shower .
From where I sit the issue is education + consumer smarts. Everyone need to educate themselves on some of the technical aspects of this - like a basic physics/electrical/mechanical trade school class.
When it comes to the holy grail (LCA-life cycle assessment) of solar PV vs. biomass gasification (ala Euro Style) = it is lopsided in the favor of biomass for multi-unit housing. Solar PV can't get close to 10-20KW for less than $10k. Solar PV is good for single residential - but solar hot water would still be my first recommendation.