Diane Emerson

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since Jan 27, 2012
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Born in Superior, Wisconsin, lived for many years in St Paul, Minnesota. Moved to New Zealand in 1997. Became a nomadic global volunteer in 2006. In 2012 I helped Paul Wheaton with the Rocket Stove DVDs. Currently I am working on a huge project to reduce toxic pesticide use in Puget Sound and Western Washington.
Vashon Island, Washington, USA
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Recent posts by Diane Emerson

Great ideas on this thread! Here is a poem by my friend Phil Knight. I have this posted in our laundry room.

Ode to a Sock
Phil Knight

I did a wash yesterday. Today I’m grieving.

Oh sock, you were my favorite
You and your mate
Fitting the foot so comfortably
Your worth I cannot estimate
A friend you were to me
Why then, my friend
Did you decide to flee?
You were in the basket
I saw you in the basket
I know you were in the basket
When I put you in the wash
But after the drying was done
You chose to run
But where?
But why?
Why have you left your mate
All alone?
Are you somewhere
In the Twilight Zone?
I sit here grieving
Everyone misses you
Especially the shoe
11 months ago

Ryan M Miller wrote:I wonder if anyone has tried to compost humanure in a suburban environment..

. We are in what could be called a suburban environment, and our system works fine.  When we empty the compost toilet, we put it into a holding bin where it ages for another year or two. Because of the wood shavings  or sawdust we use, it doesn't smell, even when taking it out of the house, so there is nothing to attract attention. When we empty the holding bin and spread the compost on our trees and shrubs, it is beautiful stuff.  I do wear bright yellow rubber gloves when doing this, so that might raise an eyebrow. But doing it early in the morning, or wearing clear latex gloves, would take care of that potential problem.  They never need know.
1 year ago
I have been riding as my main form of transportation since 2007, and have owned a heavy electric bike, and now am very happy with a light e-bike kit conversion.  Being seen is being safe, and I have not had a road accident yet. Here is what I think keeps me safe:

1. My LED reflective vest from Maxsa Innovations: https://www.maxsainnovations.com/reflective-safety-vest-with-16-led-lights/.  Currently available on eBay for $21 including shipping. ( I never buy from Amazon). The lights are on the sides, as well as the front and back. I ride with them flashing, and several times over the years cars have pulled over or stopped on the road and the driver has thanked me for wearing it, and wished all cyclists would wear one.  Runs on 2 AA batteries, and lasts a long time if you don't stuff it into a bag and break the wires. I wear this vest on every ride.  Wearing it during the day comes in handy if I need to stop and get some obstruction off the road (most often a dead animal, but sometimes a big branch, or something that fell off a truck. It looks so official, you see, and motorists see me.

2. My flash flag, 18 inch long that sticks out into traffic, and really keeps the cars a safe distance away. Even an inch or two helps a lot!  The wonderful former Canadian Mountie, Terry Smith,  who created and sold these has retired, and no one has picked up the business. I bought a bunch of them when he was closing down, so should have a lifetime supply now. $30 on eBay right now, including shipping.  This flag has a clip and a spring so you can easily bend it out of the way and clip it to your bike frame when riding on a trail, or walking it on a sidewalk, or bringing the bike in and out of a building.  I know it works to keep me safe because some days I forget to unclip the flag, and wonder why the cars are coming so close to me all of a sudden. Then I realize my flag is not out there helping them to keep their distance!  Here is Terry's valuable guidance to being safe after sunset: http://www.safetyaftersunset.com

3. My mirror: I have tried many mirrors over the years. The handlebar mirrors get smashed when the bike falls over. The helmet mirrors vibrate too much, they are too small, and they need constant adjusting as my helmet shifts on my head. I am delighted to report that I have found my best mirror yet: The Bell SMARTVIEW 300 UNIVERSAL WIDE ANGLE BIKE / BICYCLE MIRROR • FULLY ADJUSTABLE.  Available right now on eBay for $20, including shipping. I love being able to glance down any time and see what is going on behind me.

4. My helmet, with attachment options for front and rear lights.  I first saw a helmet like this in Portland, Oregon, and loved how the cyclists were more visible with that back light so high up, so I bought one. When riding at night,  I love having both a  light on the front of my helmet, and a second one on the handlebars. My helmet light lets me see what obstacles might be in the way on the side of the shoulder, and further ahead. I can even use it to help drivers realize they should dim their headlights to keep from blinding me. The Blackburn Flea lights that came with the helmet are no longer being made, but there are other lights out there now that can be attached to a helmet.

5. Riding without sunglasses.  I make firm eye contact with drivers who are about to pull out into the road, so they know I am there, or at intersections, etc.  Even then, sometimes they pull out anyway. That seems to happen in the mornings, when people are heading to work and are totally on auto pilot.

6. I never, ever ride with earphones. I want to hear what is going on around me at all times.

7. My small wind chimes. A friend gave me a small set of wind chimes (metal, 3-4 inches long), in 2008, when I was living a nomadic life, and only had my tent and bike. I couldn't hang them on my round tent, so I put them on my bike. They are still there, and have saved me at least once from being 'doored'. I was riding along a row of parked cars on a busy street in the summer, and just after I passed a car a man called out to me: "Hey, I almost opened my door into you, but I heard your wind chimes!"  Wow. They also help me avoid accidents with pedestrians up ahead of me, when riding on a path or on a shared road shoulder, because they can hear me coming. When riding with other cyclists, they can hear if I am still with them. The sound is gentle, pleasant, and always there.

8. Turn signals. I just bought these, and have only used them once, so can't really say how well they are at keeping me safe. But I need to make a left hand turn onto my street, from the 50mph curvy highway near my home, and drivers can't see my arm sticking out there at night if I am sitting stopped on the highway waiting for a chance to turn left.  I always breathe a sigh of relief when I make that turn safely - day or night.

1 year ago

Tyler Ludens wrote:I don't want to purchase wood shavings for composting toilet, so I'd like to know if leaves and forest duff, of which I have plenty, is a good substitute.  Is there a particular reason people use shavings, or is it just convenience and aesthetics?  Are leaves not sufficiently absorbent?

Thanks for any insight.

I tried using forest duff and old crumbly tree stumps in our composting toilet for a few months. Not good. We had so many flies and spiders and other creepy crawlies in our bathroom, and it didn't smell good.  Once we switched to wood shavings or sawdust, the smell, the flies, all went away.  We can still get ours free. You might want to put the word out in your community that you are looking for wood shavings or sawdust. We get ours from a friend who does a lot of woodworking. Hope you can find some too. They work great!
1 year ago
Welcome, Joe, to Permies! So glad you are here on this forum.  I read a previous edition of your book, have a SunMar composting toilet which is working beautifully 15 years on, with no smell, no flies.
I am very much looking forward to reading the latest edition.  
We need to do more Humanure, and less sewage sludge composting. Smaller, decentralized systems are the way to go for sustainability.
1 year ago
From The Spruce:https://www.thespruceeats.com/making-nocino-walnut-liqueur-2020552

"Nocino is a complex, nutty, and slightly bitter dark-brown liqueur that is usually served as an after-dinner digestivo. Nocino can also be used to “correct” a shot of espresso (espresso with a shot of liquor is called a "caffè corretto," or "corrected coffee"), poured over gelato, mixed into cocktails, or used in place of vanilla extract in baking, especially when making biscotti."

Being a locavore, I love the idea that it can be used in place of vanilla extract. Vanilla orchids are rare here in Cascadia....

A friend gave me some  seeds from a thin-shelled black walnut developed in New York state 5 years ago. They are growing well. Once they start making nuts, I will use some for Nocino, for sure, as my husband is half Italian, and enjoys making all kinds of extracts like this. Yay!
1 year ago

Julie Reed wrote:Holy cow Diane! That’s some expensive gravel! From your numbers, that’s just over 40 yards. Maybe in your area it costs that much, but 3/4 minus is usually around $10/yd, which would be $400 for the gravel itself. I realize you have delivery, raking and compacting, but that’s still not much trucking (4 trips) and labor (1/2 day maybe?) for the additional $2600. Might be worth getting a second price?

Oh yes, it is very expensive here.  It is an island only accessible by ferry, and I want the gravel to come from on-island to support our local community.  And I am working on getting 3 bids, but so far, this is the only one that has come in.
1 year ago

Henry Jabel wrote:I vote for more gravel. Of all my customers the drives with 6" of gravel hardly needs any weeding, compared to others which need reweeding every month or so during the growing season. By the time you factor in your time and money buying and applying spray etc several times a year in the long run more gravel is really the sensible option.

Personally I find the flame weeding rather slow and while the vinegar does work it is less effective when it rains, which can happen almost any time in England!

Thank you for sharing your experience with the deep gravel. I suspected that was the case. When I researched creating gravel driveways from scratch, what I found was exactly that: really deep gravel!   I think people cut costs, and put down the minimum, and then sprayed Roundup to keep them clean.  I just got a bid in on 3 inches of 5/8 inch minus (with the fines included) for $3000, for around 4480 square feet, including compacting.  If this can keep the driveway pretty free of weeds for even 2 years, it would be cost effective, compared to hiring a team of folks to spray, hoe, or flame every couple of weeks in our very long growing season. Teams here charge $30 an hour per person.

In saying that, if the canvas works, that would be the cheapest solution of all, even if you have to buy a new heavy duty canvas tarp every year, at $60 for one 10 by 12 foot tarp.

1 year ago
This topic is of great interest to me, as I am a landscape gardener and many of my clients struggle with weeds growing in their gravel driveways and parking areas.  Now that people are (thankfully) moving away from glyphosate-based herbicides, it is becoming a much bigger issue. Flame weeding is one option, but it uses fossil fuel, and can start a fire, and you have to do it again every couple of weeks. I have also used boiling water, by bringing a hot water jug out into the garden - plugged it into the garage, but one could use an extension cord, and keep filling it up and pouring the boiling water immediately onto the weeds, as I go about other gardening work, listening for the jug to click off.  That is satisfying, like the flame weeder, but the weeds do come back. I have not tried adding soap or salt to the water, which might help.

A hula hoe (aka stirrup hoe), is a great tool for cleaning out the new grass and weeds that come in. This is what the landscape crews use in my area. I like to use this option with high schoolers. The weeds need to be raked off with this option, and you end up losing some gravel.  

Which brings me to the next option: Having a crew come in and put more gravel down. Putting down several inches (at least 3) of 5/8 inch 'minus' gravel, and then compacted, is what I am in the process of doing right now for a client. We had a team get rid of the existing weeds with the hula hoe, and now before they can seed again, we will lay down more gravel and compact it. The 'minus' is important, because this fine material compacts into the spaces that would otherwise be great germinating spots for all kinds of seeds.

And then there is the 20 or 30% vinegar. This really works, but I dislike using chemicals at all, and I would need to have a pesticide applicator's license to use horticultural vinegar on my client's properties, since it is a registered pesticide in Washington State.  

One option I have not tried, but am going to, is the use of heavy cotton canvas laid out over a portion of the gravel driveway for several weeks in the driest part of the year. Lightly covered with pea gravel for camouflage, this will kill the weeds, and once that patch is weed-free, the canvas can be moved to another part of the driveway. Plastic tarps are too colorful, and too shiny, to blend in with the driveway. The light gray color canvas is the right color for the gravel in our area, and there is no plastic used.  One of my clients is keeping her gravel driveway weed free using this method, but she is using a plastic tarp, and it looks awful.  
1 year ago

Bryant RedHawk wrote:If you just want the gravel area to always be gravel, there is an option that even though it sounds really drastic, does work and the side effects do go away with applications of water (rain).
The material is easy to find at almost any hardware store, it is called muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid in the lab), the most common layman use of this acid is brick cleaning of excess mortar, it is a very low pH acid and the bottle concentration needs to be 1:1 diluted (acid into water not water into acid) if you use it on gravel drives for "weed" control.
By the way that goose grass will die and remain dead.

I have resorted to this particular acid two times on our gravel drive to kill the roots of sumac trees.
If you decide to try this, be sure to leave around a 1 foot margin on the drive, this helps keep the grass (or other plants) healthy since there is a buffer zone border.


I have not heard of this before, Redhawk.  Muriatic (Hydrochloric) acid vs Acetic acid:  Is it the concentration that works better than the 30% acetic acid (horticultural vinegar), or is there something about hydrochloric vs acetic acid in general that makes it work better?
1 year ago