Matt Smith

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since Feb 04, 2012
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Recent posts by Matt Smith

Been exploring homebrewing a bit and as such have been looking to get some hops growing on the property.

Then I had a lightbulb moment and figured with the proper supports I could grow them strategically to offer shade in the summer to the south facing side of a passive solar building we have.

Hops seem perfect for this as they grow fast, don't produce messy/heavy fruit, and are cut back to the ground every year (full sun exposure in winter). Plus you can make beer.

Anybody have any experience using hops like this? I haven't cultivated them before and would love to hear some first hand accounts.
8 years ago
As much as I'd like to think I could bring these folks over to a more sustainable way of doing things, I can't see it happening. They own and farm huge tracts of land all over the area. They're building brand new silos, and have big new equipment... guessing big debt to go with it. They're playing the Big Ag game as hard as they can, which is I guess the only way you can play if you want to survive.

Maybe one day, when diesel is far too expensive and circumstances become such that a handful of humans cannot intensively cultivate hundreds of acres on their own... but likely not until then.
9 years ago
Spoke with the farmer and his son last night on my way home.

They were already aware of the issue (apparently I am not the only one that is having problems). They were spraying 2,4-D. Some of my neighbors are experiencing issues all the way to the tops of tall trees, and they think that a heavy fog we had the morning after they applied may have lifted and moved the chemicals. I still think that the wind during application was the issue, due to the patterns of damage we're seeing on the property.

He apologized profusely, and offered to compensate for anything that dies. They are calling out the Dept. of Agriculture to do testing and determine what happened. Most importantly, their attitude about this is right where it should be. In the meantime, in conversations with the Dept. of Agriculture, I have learned what my rights are (more than I thought, actually)... and I've got the numbers and names to call if we have problems again.

In the meantime, I am still very interested in planting some sort of protective windbreak to hedge my bets (no pun intended) in case something like this does happen again.

Investigating potential uses of conifers and bamboo to make a windbreak, as these appear to be the most resistant to 2,4-D and broadleaf herbicides in general.

9 years ago
We homestead on 8 acres in Central Ohio. Our property is directly across the road from a large parcel of acreage that is in constant corn/soybean rotation (standard big-ag monocrop ohio farmland fare).

Last weekend the guy who "farms" that land showed up across the way with a chemical truck and a boom sprayer and proceeded to mist his extensive field with what I assume to be potent herbicides (this is the usual pre-planting weed "knock-down.") It was a very windy day, and we were soon inundated with the chemicals on our property. It was uncomfortable to breathe, like someone had a Roundup-soaked rag pressed against your face. We stayed inside for the rest of the day, and you could still smell it strongly some six hours later.

Fast forward a week, and a number of our fruit trees and bushes are looking awful. Black spots and dead black curled up leaves on several of our young pear trees. One half of our flowering quince bush (the side that faces his field) looks like it was set on fire... not a leaf on it. The other side is fine. The pears/quinces seem to have taken it the worst, but I'm seeing spots on other species, and even the leaves on our three huge maples in the front yard are looking wilted and curled. Two neighbors are having the same issues (with various pears and oaks). There is no doubt in my mind as to what happened.

I'm going to head over to his place and talk to him about it tonight, and I've got a few calls in with the Dept. of Agriculture. I want to handle it in a friendly/neighborly way first, but I need to make it clear that this cannot happen again. We have invested huge amounts of time and resources in our property that will all be for naught if someone else is allowed to come along and blanket it with broadleaf herbicides one or more times a year.

I'm posting to see if anybody here has dealt with similar issues, and if/how they resolved them. Any insights? Are there species we should be considering to act as a sacrificial windbreak along the property line to better protect the rest of the property? I'm at a loss here.

9 years ago
Dig the ideas! There's all sorts of cool stuff I'd do with the property if it were mine, but it's not. These folks are very sharp and open minded, but they're not yet hip to permaculture, etc. The first step is trying to work in some edible species around the property where I can.

So right now I'm just looking for plant recommendations.
9 years ago
We mixed them in with cucumbers for a lacto-ferment. Worked great!
9 years ago
Are those also called Mexican Gherkins? We grew those last year and they did great. Tasty buggers when pickled, too.

9 years ago
I'm helping some extended family out with a design/plan for their new property. About half the property (including the main part of the property that the house is on) is on a "glacial sand ridge" meaning that it's 100% sand. As in, you have to dig down through 18 feet of pure sand before you hit anything else. Thanks a lot, glaciers! They're squarely in Zone 5.

I'm researching elsewheres, but I wanted to throw something up here and see if anybody had any experience with this type of situation. I'm looking to assemble a list of trees/shrubs/perennials that will survive and thrive in those conditions. They would be open to permaculture ideology and edibles, but non-invasive ornamentals and other beneficials would be fine too.

And yes, I've already suggested volleyball courts and a tiki-bar...

9 years ago
@R Scott - Thank you as well for taking the time. I was unfamiliar with the common terminology and now I'm searching and learning helpful information regarding earthtubes!

If I am reading your post correctly, you're discussing a system that both heats and cools. I am intending on utilizing this system for cooling only, and likely sealing off the tubes in the winter months and relying on the design of the greenhouse and our thermal mass to take care of the heating aspect.

I am reading on wikipedia that denser soils (check) and moist soils (check) are best for this sort of thing. So that's good for me.

It seems that the non-smooth (aka common drainage) pipe might be best given that my tube length runs are relatively short (under 25 ft) and I want maximum thermal exchange. Also that condensation can be a bigger issue with non-smooth tubes.

Now I'm wondering if I should be using perforated drainage tubes so that any excess condensation can help water my garden beds as opposed to building up in the tubes...
9 years ago
Josef, many sincere thank you's for taking the time to review and respond to my post.


2/3 Collector/Thermal mass - We are planning to install a double stack of 55-gallon drums (painted black, filled with water) all along (6" away from the wall surface, to be precise) the back wall to act as our main means of collection and significant thermal mass. We'll have around 50 in total. I will be adding additional means of collection and thermal mass as space and layout permit.

4- Distribution - We are planning on what you describe, and also the installation of radiant heat barrier along all interior walls to prevent the radiant heat from escaping for as long as possible.

5- Control - You are absolutely correct, and as best I can tell at this early stage, the weakest spot in our design is the ability to regulate the higher temps in the hotter months. Having not yet installed the thermal mass, it's difficult to tell how they will help moderate the greenhouse temps either way (cooling down or heating up). The good news is, we have the time to progress in steps, with measurement and consideration in between.

A few notes on your comments:

- Most importantly, we are intending to use this greenhouse primarily during fall, winter and spring, to help bridge the gap between temperate growing seasons. If we had to forego using the greenhouse in the hotter parts of the year, we would be willing to do so as we have plenty of outdoor growing space to utilize during that time.

- We are keeping open the idea of using electric exhaust fans to some degree if need be (although this would not be ideal). I am going to try and utilize every possible method to reduce the need for this. Even if we do need some fans, I'm hoping to make enough progress that we could utilize efficient solar fans. And like I said above, our goal for this greenhouse is not summer use.

- We designed the angle and relative pitches of the roof to collect the most light in winter and shed the most light in summer relative to the angle of the sun at those times. Even so, your comment about the lack of overhang on the south facing roof side is quite valid. We may yet opt to add some sort of overhang over a small portion of the top of the south facing roof to further help shed direct summer sun. Hopefully we can do so in a way that does not interfere with solar collection in the winter. I need to get the barrels in first and then do some measurements.

- We may find that it makes sense to install shade cloth or alumi-net to physically reduce the amount of sunlight the building absorbs in the hotter months.

- I have also considered adding some automatic solar powered roof vents to the north facing roof to vent excess heat. This would involve making holes in the existing roof, but we can do it if needed.

- We are painting the wood framing inside with high quality white paint, to help deflect/diffuse light and to increase longevity in a humid environment. All the insulation we're using is closed-cell and will not absorb moisture.

- I am worried about the smaller size of my top vents as well. We have some room to make them bigger if need be, or add other ones.

- I will be buying a digital temperature logger so that I can chart out the indoor/outdoor temperatures once we get everything installed.

I remain hopeful that the "cooling intake tubes" idea holds some merit.

9 years ago