Chris Kott

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since Jan 25, 2012
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Toronto, Ontario
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Recent posts by Chris Kott

What sort of contribution and credentials are you looking for from instructors? What are you looking for us to bring to it?

2 days ago
That's a huge it depends question. I think it is a delicate balance, and what that is depends on what is being weighed. I am assuming that this is your opinion, too, and want to flesh the question out using the massive processing (*cough* bullshitting *cough, cough*) power here on permies. This is my take on it.

So you have your property taxes on one side, along with all the costs associated with actually making use of it, which often requires some material outlay, such as for a dwelling or renovation thereof, equipment specific to any operation being undertaken on the property, and the associated outbuildings, not to mention infrastructure for access and animal barriers. I like to keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list.

On the other side is the cashflow you can generate off that land. What you can do on that land, practically speaking, is limited by your resources on that land, unless you're willing and able to bring stuff in, say to amend soil, which becomes a more expensive and difficult option where it comes to broad-acre operations.

You'd know better than I, Travis, but I would say that along with soil and water conditions, climate is a large deciding factor in terms of what can be done where, and how great the yield. I think that more options are available if, as you have said in other posts, you properly evaluate your land to choose the most site-appropriate operations so you aren't fighting your land.

One other thing that you have brought up in other posts is using the socio-political landscape to your advantage, and the legislative one. Applying for grants for specific best-practices or tax-breaks for this and that protective environmental feature can tilt the balance in your favour, if it doesn't negatively impact your operations on the land, such as if grants for wetlands protection and riparian stewardship translated to not being able to use it for wildcrafting or carefully managed selective rotational grazing.

I am in an interesting position, where I am living in something like the second-most expensive city in which to live in Canada and working a job, like a lot of us, that pays not enough money, trying to pay down my debt, and looking for options out of the city where I could work a full-time job, ideally carry a mortgage on a house with a bit of land, and carry on with carrying on.

For me, my ideal homestead size for right now would be the largest, best property I could afford now, or soon. I might have to compromise, too, and rent a dwelling out of the city, and find a bit of land to rent, or rent-to-own, ideally, on which to run a market garden and animal fibre or meat operation, unless or until I can buy some outright.

In terms of practical numbers, I think J.M. Fortier, who, if you aren't familiar, applies permacultural techniques to intensively managed market gardens and (as far as I can tell) uses only unpowered walking-plow-scale garden machinery, said that the largest market garden he could operate by himself, in the style he operates, was something like 3/4 of an acre. I don't recall how much food he was producing, or if the focus could be shifted to provide a mix of in-season garden produce and produce that overwinters well.

For scale, I believe that it was generally acknowledged that potatoes grown in poor soil could feed two adults per acre per year.

And then there are orchard crops to think of.

Without going into absolutely everything, I think that it will depend on how much of your property-derived income is outer-zone operation, usually needing more space to be profitable, and how much will be inner-zone, intensive operation. I think the more intensive operation you have, the smaller the property can be, to a point, but that has to take into account what type of work and how large a workload you can or want to handle.

Honestly, I think that you have to go with your experience. That is the path of least stress. If you are comfortable with the sort of work you do with large equipment and property conversion, maybe you need to be looking at 15 acres, or maybe larger. If it's more taxing for you to operate a half-acre intensively-managed market or kitchen garden than it is to convert forest to pasture for sheep, say, the ideal is the larger quantity.

Sorry for the ramble. I have been going over this for myself a lot, and it sometimes helps to put it down in text.

I hope some of this is in some way useful.

2 days ago
That last is a big part of my point.

I eat meat much less frequently than I was raised to. We had meat as the basis for at least two of the three meals of the day, and sometimes we would have eggs and bacon, ham, or sausage for breakfast, too.

Nowadays, I only approach that kind of frequency if our weekly big meal, the leftovers of which provide us with nearly a week's worth of lunches, contains meat; I never approach my previous normal volume of consumption.

And I feel fine. I mean, I think I need to get more fish in my diet (my other half just doesn't like fish, won't eat it), but I don't crave steaks and burgers every night.

So from my perspective, I have come a long way. I make vegan meals accidentally, because we run out of butter and I make a dairy-free one-pot dish of food derived exclusively from plants.

And yet I need to see the sad, black-and-white billboard posters of the faces of livestock ostensibly entreating me to do better. Because what I have already accomplished isn't worth shit, apparently.

The issue I have is that there is no possibility of middle ground with some of these folks. I don't feel like being condescended to or shamed by people who obviously need more B vitamins in their diets. Maybe they wouldn't be so cranky, then. They would look less emaciated, some of them.

I suppose if I had one guilty pleasure in all of this, it's whenever I read about yet another vegan influencer (read:spreader of undeserved condescension and shame) subjected to their own brand of shame-y, judge-y posturing. The only thing I feel bad about is that, when they do so, they aren't doing it as a deliberate slam to veganism, or as a cheat (it arguably is, but only against the tenets of veganism), but often because they are experiencing health problems because of their dietary choices, and are seeking to fix them with a historically normal dietary practice.

To my mind, discussing different dietary philosophies with a vegan is like trying to discuss the positive attributes of Satanism with a frothingly rabid ultra-right christian fundamentalist (or, really, any system of belief other than theirs; I was raised as a small-c conservative Catholic in a small town, I would know, and without any radical or extreme examples); if it isn't under the umbrella of veganism, it's evil, and if it isn't exactly the way they want it to be, it needs to be improved. If you eat mostly vegan, it's considered a slight if you don't go the rest of the way and call yourself by their label.

I think that, instead of being angry with bad people, I will, instead, eat steak at every chance I get. Not just any steak, but the best local and ethically-raised steak I can find. And I will reverse-sear it to a nice rare, maybe blue in the centre, and I will instagram it. And it will be delicious.

And in between steaks, I might make a delicious lentil chili, which will just-so-happen to be vegan.

Or maybe, just maybe, I will have something that combines both worlds, a sort of frankensteined, experimental meal of both plant and animal products. What I would call such an unheard-of, unholy freak of a meal is entirely uncertain, but I am sure it will be one thing: delicious.

Jokes aside, I don't care how people choose to eat, as long as it doesn't affect how I live, much in the same way that I don't care how people worship, or the details of their individual sex lives. I don't care.

I care about the needless shaming that doesn't leave room for the opinions of others, the incomplete reasoning that leads to unfounded conclusions, and the harm that people are doing to themselves, to society, and to the planet in trying to do the "right" thing, when all that they are doing is alienating entire groups of people that, for the purposes of taste, variety, and their pocketbooks, would have likely come eighty to ninety percent of the way towards veganism on their own had nobody tried to manipulate them towards it.

Really feeling that steak right now, but I think I will have oatmeal instead. With cream.

4 days ago
I would be astonished if anything with so much conversion loss could beat out a properly designed solar cooker. Granted, you might, in higher latitudes, need to use solar power stored over a much longer period of time, when it would perhaps be difficult to get a solar cooker up to temperature.

If the 12v immersion heater didn't work out, I would look to the immersion heaters being touted for home sous-vide cooking. Granted, those usually include some kind of circulation impeller to make sure you don't get cold or hot spots in the water, but there you have a method of cooking that is designed for low temperatures. Perhaps that would tilt the scales.

Not to discourage, but is this practical? I mean, if the sun is strong enough where you are, you should be able to use a solar cooker, or generate enough electricity through solar that an induction hotplate would be easy to operate. If the sun isn't strong enough, doesn't that mean that you're cold, and that added heat is a boon?

What's wrong with a tiny, efficient, flame? The barrel of the smallest diameter rocketstove that you could design and construct would make an excellent hotplate, and if it's built to burn efficiently enough, there would be no waste, and little to no exhaust, a definite step-up from situations around the world where an open pit flame is the normal method of cooking.

4 days ago
Are they these guys?

Because if they are, they are part of the Armadillidium group of critters. I love them. They do break things down into smaller pieces. I understand that chickens love them. I know some people, to either get rid of them or to feed chickens, place flat stones or pieces of wood, sometimes with food scraps underneath, out in the yard in the evening, to return the following morning to harvest the yield from their pill bug traps (these guys are colloquially known as sow bugs, pill bugs, potato bugs, and my personal favourite, rolly-pollies, after the way some can roll themselves up for protection against most things that aren't chickens).

Try to get a picture if you can, probably using the trap method. Good luck.

5 days ago
I was envisioning something between a ditch digger and a walk-behind snowplow, about six feet wide and with sets of disks, in three sections for the contour, and two types. The first would cut and displace the strips of sod, where applicable. If the ground is too rocky or the groundcover not coherent enough to be formed into sod strips, then disks more akin to the digger disks of the ditch digger would be used, and the gross dirt movement accomplished, piling it downslope.

Somewhere in the mix, I envision a keyline plough, a seeder, perhaps with discrete hoppers for drier mixes on the peaks and slightly cooler, wetter mixes in the dips, and a former to follow, and maybe even a tow-behind hopper full of mulch of some kind, just to cover the bare earth before the cover sprouts.

I love the idea of incorporating a GPS and other onboard sensing equipment that would let the machine be programmed to dig swales with those references, without need for people to do more than to look to make sure it was doing what it was supposed to from time to time, maybe on your smartphone, via aerial drone or from cameras atop sensor masts or something, while you tend to some aspect of life that requires your real attention.

6 days ago
Honestly, I feel at times that I need to treat some types of vegan with the same "kid gloves" I use for evangelicals of any stripe. They might be sincere as all get-out, but their my-way-or-the-highway stance often gets my contrarian streak up in arms.

And the worst ones aren't the rabid, frothing, animal right-to-life sign-waving screamers that interrupt your steak dinner (I mean, okay, if I am paying to eat out according to my ethical standards, I will literally have a silent, intellectual freak-out on that group of brainless twits that will leave them questioning just how ethical their positions are; don't mess with my steak), but the condescending, oh-if-only-we-could-teach-you-better level of insulting preachiness.

If their methods are so off-putting that we can't even communicate that we're on the same page with regards to CAFOs, how is it reasonable to assume that we can get to discussing the more difficult parts, like the one-bad-day doctrine?


EDIT: And thanks for all the input. I feel that we really do need to move past the obstacles our labels put in front of us. I think that's an overriding issue with contemporary human nature in the group dynamic, whatever specific issue is being discussed. The fact that we need to have this discussion in the Cider Press underlines, for me, how difficult it is to discuss basic issues crucial to our continued survival.
6 days ago
Has anyone seen augur-type splitters before? I saw this Macguyvered deathtrap that bolted onto a tractor wheel that looked terrifying, but what it effectively did was bore lengthwise through a length of knotty and not-easily-split wood, splitting off mostly even quarter lengths.

Working with a bicycle, I would think that something like that might be more appropriate, unless you're going to build a guillotine-style splitter, with a bicycle acting to crank the splitter to the top of its run.

I mean, what could be easier? It's still the same wedge mechanics, only twisted around a rotating axis. The log gets clamped in place, the augur bit does its thing, and voila, split logs ready to stack or burn.

6 days ago
Just about every well-written story I've ever read. But I am a science fiction and fantasy wonk, so that's pretty much a given.

But as to genres that pretty much have research as a prerequisite, science fiction is right up there, possibly first on the list. If your story-telling world has been shaped by the science in your fiction, you'd better have the science at least feeling right, or all you're left with is some Star Wars knock-off space opera.

Another one, either something of a sub-genre of sci-fi, or else coming at it from a completely different angle, is alternate history. If your story takes place back in time, it's necessary to know about it, and for my money, the more tiny details that bring you into that world, to help reinforce that suspension of disbelief that is necessary for such reads, the more gripping the experience.

For an example that sort of ties those two together, I recommend the Island in the Sea of Time Trilogy by S.M. Stirling, a story about what happens when a random event causes an ellipsoid of matter surrounding the island of Nantucket to be transposed with its Bronze Age counterpart, taking along a US coast guard training ship.

That series has a corollary, The Emberverse series. It concerns what happens to the world left behind by the Event that switches Nantucket for its Bronze age equivalent, wherein something diffuses all high-energy physics on earth, rendering electronics, internal combustion engines, and gunpowder, along with all high-energy chemistry and processes, inutile. Again, lots and lots of research has to go into world-building on that scale, even if we're talking about using a setting in history, recent or ancient, even if it's just a jumping-off point for something fantastical.

This is realistically just an example. It would be easier to list the genres that don't require research.

Also, what does end-of-life look like? Are trees grown out to a specific purpose and harvested, for sequestration as durable goods? Are they buried, to maximise adsorption of offgassing decompositional byproducts directly into the soil and act as nursery logs? Are they to be dropped into subduction zones, to prevent the carbon from reentering the atmosphere on anything but a geological timescale?

I admire the sentiment, but without the details, it looks like one of many businesses springing up to take advantage of the new carbon economy. It might go further to flesh that out a bit.

But let us know how it goes, and good luck.

1 week ago