Aria Stroph

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since Dec 03, 2011
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Recent posts by Aria Stroph

Hi Jaime, how's the project coming along? Would love to hear how the rocket mass heater is going!
3 years ago
My wife and I currently live near Monterey, CA, and are coming to the end of our time here. We're looking for someone with land with space for us to put down our 16ft yurt (belle tent) in exchange for our assistance planning, executing, and maintaining your vision.

We are experienced with and passionate about: permaculture/food forests/organic & sustainable farming; gourmet and medicinal mushroom cultivation; efficient & ethical chicken husbandry; sourdough bread & pizza; value-added products (jam/preserves, hot sauce, beer/wine/cider, pickles & other ferments); compost production (including vermicompost); and solar power. We are also very learned and enthusiastic about: alternative building methods (cob, straw bale, earthbag, rammed earth) & styles (tiny houses, yurts, converted vehicles); rocket stoves & mass heaters; charcoal/biochar production; and much more!

We have two cats and a mid-sized, well-behaved dog, and they are used to, and very happy with, living in and around the yurt. We also have two cars (a sedan & a 4x4 SUV), so we can provide our own transportation as well as help with errands if desired. In terms of location, we'd love if you're nearby (central coast CA), but we're willing to relocate for the right opportunity, and are generally interested in the west coast US.

We are versatile, fast learners, and hard workers, and we want to work with you on realizing your goals. Let us help you maintain your property, design your ideal garden, and bring out the full potential of your space.
3 years ago
I'm very interested in cob building and would like to build my own house eventually. I'm heavily considering purchasing land in Florida in the near future, but can't seem to find much precedence for cob houses in the southern US (BarefootBuilder has built a cob pottery studio in Pensacola, FL. I'm contacting Christina to find out more). I don't doubt that built right, cob can withstand Florida's climate. I assume the reason there are so few cob houses in the South is due to the difficulty of obtaining building permits.

I've been trying to research Florida building permit codes, but it's all very complicated. I've that many areas in the US allow buildings below a certain size to be exempt from needing a permit. Does anyone know if this is true of FL, or perhaps just specific areas of the state? Does anyone have any more information about cob buildings (permit-approved or not) in FL?
9 years ago
I have been considering purchasing land in the southeastern US, probably north FL. One of my main concerns is that soil in these areas is often extremely sandy. The area that I'm leaning towards the most looks like this: sand for the first 1-4 feet, with a sandy loam starting around 3-6 feet down, and sandy clay (or sandy clay loam) beginning around 5-10 feet below the surface. Basically, the top few feet are mostly sand. Large swaths of land were planted with slash pine trees a couple decades ago, so that's mostly what's growing in the area.

So obviously this is not the most ideal gardening soil, but the land is very affordable, and I'm willing to put in the extra work up front. I've been considering how to improve the soil, and here are my ideas so far:

-Cut down many of the pine trees and laying large logs on contour to form quick, rudimentary swales. The land is mostly flat out there, but whatever slopes I might have available, I'll take advantage of.
-Inoculate the pine stumps with edible mushrooms.
-Pile the smaller logs, sticks, and needles from the pine trees (and any other obtainable organic debris) on the uphill side of the swales, forming a sort of hugelkultur terrace/raised bed thing.
-Cover the whole thing with a mix of sand and loam from the property and sow a mix of ground covers to fix nitrogen and provide more compostable material.
-Build the site up over time with larger plants, constantly improving the soil and enlarging the garden.

Does all of this sound feasible?

Also, with such sandy soil, is it possible to install ponds/lakes without liners? I guess I'd have to dig down until the soil is mostly clay so the lake bottom can be compressed...

Thanks for your help!
9 years ago
This is a great story, I'm glad this post was bumped. Unfortunately, none of the three links in this thread have the video available any longer. This site has it available to watch, and it looks pseudo-official, suggesting it won't be removed soon. Definitely check it out!
9 years ago
Hi Ludi, I noticed no one had answered you yet, so as an amateur mycologist I thought I'd give it a shot.

Fungi do need lots of water, but most edible mushrooms will not be very happy in a constantly soggy or flooded environment. Other sorts of microbes like bacteria, yeasts, and molds will thrive better in those conditions and would quickly out-compete your intended species. However, I don't think all hope is lost, as long as you're willing to experiment and improvise.

There are a couple ways I can see mushrooms being used in some capacity within an aquaponics system. Without knowing size and location specifications, these are my immediate thoughts. I might come up with some more later:

-As a living filter of some sort. Paul Stamets has written a good bit about mushroom mycelium's "mycofiltration" properties, particularly in his book "Mycelium Running" (which is a good read for anyone interested in incorporating mushrooms into permaculture landscapes). Mycelium-infused substrates like straw or wood chips are so tightly-knit that silt and minerals, as well as pathogens, are filtered out while water is able to trickle through. This has been shown to lower the fecal coliform levels 100-fold in water downstream from farm animal waste runoff. I think the hardship you might find here is keeping the substrate from becoming too wet. In the above circumstances, the mushroom patch was large and intercepted the runoff of rainwater between the animal areas and the nearby bay. It did not have water constantly running through it, so air could easily permeate the substrate. This could possibly be simulated in a flood and drain system, but I honestly have no idea. If you do decide to try this, I recommend growing oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) on pasteurized straw. Oysters are easy to grow: very hardy, fast growers, and they'll eat just about any plant product. If it ends up working well, you may want to move on to the garden giant (Stropharia rugoso annulata), which grows best outside on hardwood chips, probably makes a better filter, and is tastier than oysters.

-As a source of fish food. Stamets has noted that garden giant specimens that grow past prime eating sizes eventually become infested with maggots (yuck, right?). He would often pick these and toss them into his trout pond, where the drowning maggots would struggle free from the mushroom, only to be promptly eaten by the fish. These fish quickly learned that ramming their heads into the mushroom would dislodge the maggots more quickly, so tossing a couple of these into the pond would inevitably create quite a splashfest!

That's actually all I can think of off the top of my head. I thought I might have more ideas while writing this, but the main issue is that mushrooms don't like being wet, just moist. I'm not sure an aquaponics system would be the right place for controlled mushroom growth, but I'll keep pondering it and let you know.
9 years ago
Lots of good advice here, thanks for the quick replies! To clear up the school loans: they are my partner's, and there is some sort of reasonable monthly payment plan in place. I don't think we will be paying large sums of money up front in order to pay off the loans early; my partner will be working to pay off the loans over time. So that debt will not be holding us back from purchasing land first, and we have no other debt.

I like the idea of putting a porch roof on a travel trailer. That would definitely make it more spacious and comfortable, especially somewhere like Florida. And I agree that getting the land soonest is best. Building good soil and growing trees takes time.

A home business is another great idea, and something that we've definitely considered. However, we're not really sure what we have to offer! I would be happy growing food as a source of income, but obviously that can't be done until after I've got land and good soil... Perhaps some business conducted via the internet, though I have no idea what.
9 years ago
I've been interested in permaculture and natural building for a few years now, and have been reading and watching videos voraciously. I'm currently in school (graduating in May!), and my partner and I have been considering what we want to do next. Our "dream" is to live on a plot of land (~5 acres, though the more the better) where we can build a modest home and produce most of our family's basic needs through permaculture practices (particularly woodland gardens/food forests, aquaculture, and heavy emphasis on "useful" fungi), with small sources of income to supplement. Of course, with both of us having been students so recently, we have very little money, and a small chunk of debt (student loans, so not worth it!). So that's the situation, now for the "plan":

At the end of May, once I have completed school and my partner's current job contract is up, we would very much like to move away, leaving behind the city and the life of renting apartments for $8,000 a year. We have somewhat narrowed our desired destination down to three options: Northern Florida, coastal North Carolina (or maybe SC), or Western Oregon (the warmer, the better). Each have their pros and cons, which I won't get into here, but suffice it to say that I'm pushing for FL due to the affordable land, low taxes, and warm weather (I want to grow subtropical plants!).

I would love to just jump right in, buy a plot of land, and magically build a house to live in so we can begin working on the gardening aspects, but alas, I'm no millionaire. We need time to save money, research available land, and so many other things first. However, I'm scared of getting trapped in the "rent to survive" system, living paycheck to paycheck and barely saving a dime while wasting time. I'm so eager to get started, I almost can't bear having to wait until next summer! I would go crazy knowing that it would be many years before I can put my first trees in the ground.

As it stands, I think we could find the money to purchase a few acres somewhere affordable like north FL by the time summer rolls around. But this would leave us without much money, and no place to live (unless we get extremely lucky and find cheap land with a livable home on it). Though I would be willing to live in a tent for a year while building a house, my partner wants (and deserves) slightly more modern accommodations. We've discussed many options, the most reasonable of which are probably either purchasing a used camper or RV, or building some sort of temporary, sturdy shelter.

So, as long-winded as this introduction has been, the advice I am seeking is: Is this possible? Assuming we can afford the land and have...let's say $3000 left over, what methods could we pursue to stay alive while working towards our dream? I'm willing to have a proper job if necessary, of course, but time spent working for money is time not spent working on the house/garden/whatever, and as I mentioned before, I don't want to become trapped wasting time.
I would greatly appreciate a discussion on cheap & quick-to-build shelters, obtaining affordable land, and surviving on little money while building a homestead. Other topics, such as building/zoning codes in north FL or whatever you think is relevant, are also welcome. Thanks for your help, this is a great community!
9 years ago