Andrew Parker

pollinator
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since Feb 13, 2012
Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Recent posts by Andrew Parker

Before making a "permanent" move, spend at least one full year in a place that never cools off and you don't have air-conditioning.  Even if you don't find any problems with it, your body might.  Try the Peace Corps or another volunteer organization, or look for opportunities as a laborer (anticipate being exploited).

I agree that transitioning to a different culture and society would be easier if you could find a partner from the area, but you may be hard pressed to find one who would agree to live an austere lifestyle in the sticks.  Finding acceptance in a rural community can be a never ending struggle anywhere in the world, including the US.  Moving to a developing country as a person with a different culture, race, religion, language, etc. seriously exacerbates the process and possible dangers.

It may be easier to look for places where the people are accustomed to seeing foreigners.  Most of Latin America would qualify, though the farther you get from cities and tourist spots, the less comfortable people will be with strangers.  Also, in poorer areas, people assume that all Americans and Euros are rich, so you might become a target for thieves, scammers and kidnappers.

If you do move, don't be the ugly american (or euro).  Be respectful.  Learn the language.  Never disparage.  Don't comment on sensitive subjects, and make yourself aware of what those subjects are.

All that being said, many people do it, to varying degrees of success and/or failure.

Now, my specific experience is Ecuador.  Great place, but I would wait until this pandemic is over and the economy and any socio-political turmoil has stabilized.  They are used to Americans and Euros.  They don't like arrogant fools but they will tolerate them if they have money.  Good agricultural land there is pricey, often on par with US land prices, but if you look around, you could probably find something affordable.  A lot of plantations are infected with this or that and are no longer productive for what they were developed for, but the land can be repurposed.  Plantation owners usually find it cheaper to develop virgin land and sell off their infected properties, if they can.  Check the laws on foreign ownership of land.  Also, learn what the current agricultural reform and land tenure laws and policies are.  They change frequently.
6 months ago
Last year, I bought some fancy Rootmaker RootTrapper II bags, the ones with the white outer coating and a short band of uncovered material at the base for improved drainage and aeration.  I wanted to experiment with a wicking system using nylon rope.  It kind of worked, but there was a problem with inconsistency in the water uptake.  This year, I will be putting in a larger feed pipe, more closely resembling a raingutter wicking system (using large diameter pvc pipe), but retaining the nylon rope, rather than using net pots.  My son and I put together a potting mix using expanded shale, rather than perlite or vermiculite, because I don't like it when those float.  I can source the expanded shale locally without any problem, other markets might be more difficult and expensive.  I also mulched the surface of the bags with a half-inch(ish) layer of shale to keep evaporation to a minimum.

One serious glitch was that someone in the neighborhood sprayed an herbicide that almost killed all our transplants, about a month into the season.  Most of the plants recovered, but they were not happy and it put them behind a few weeks.  I am not a fan of suburban spraying services.  They apply chemicals indiscriminately and without regard to conditions -- and they are largely unregulated, so they don't really care.

I have had flower pots near the front entry for many years and had always intended to use pebble mulch and pot trays to conserve water.  Their placement puts them in the shade in the morning then the full afternoon sun.  This necessitated frequent and deep watering.  I had considered a wicking system, but it would have been complex.  I had noticed that the few pots that had trays retained moisture much longer.  Sure enough, combining the trays and decorative pebble mulch made a big difference last Summer.  No more afternoon wilt and watering was down to a couple of times a week.  I put pebbles in the exposed part of the trays to keep mosquitos from breeding in them, and keep the evaporation down there as well.  The pebbles were for show, I used shale in the back garden.

The reason I have gone with container gardening is that my soil is terrible, a sand and silt mix that hardens like concrete when it dries, and it is expensive to fix it.  It is excellent soil, if you keep it wet and soft.  Water is very expensive here, so that is not a viable option.  There is not enough biomass in the yard to mulch, and I don't like getting wood chips from the county because it can inoculate the yard with whatever died and found its way to the landfill (a neighbor started bringing in wood chip mulch and inoculated his pine trees with a parasite that slowly kills them.  It quickly spread and I have lost four large Austrian pine so far.  After informing us that our trees were infected, he graciously offered to treat them at $200 each, per year), that, and rats love wood chip and leaf mulch.  Pebble mulch can get pricey when applied to large areas, and the labor of moving it around is beyond my capabilities now.

I did see someone on YouTube who sewed his own root trapping bags from floor underlayment (sealed on one side).  I don't know as it would be cost effective for everyone, but if you are handy with that sort of thing, have at it.

If I were physically capable, I could have dug holes or trenches and filled them with potting mix, covered them with stone mulch and put in a drip/soaking system.  Plenty of permiesish options for the physically fit.
7 months ago
Before you start putting in dams and catchments, find out what your water rights are.  A fence might not bother the big ranch, but using their water can cause a swift negative reaction.  

If you are not allowed to intercept and store water, you can still slow it down enough that it soaks deep into your soil.  Keyline plowing, microcatchments (best for shrubs and trees) and subsurface dams are good tools for that.

A quick internet search shows that Nevada, since 2017, now allows property owners to collect rainwater from the roof of a single family dwelling for non-culinary use.  That isn't a particularly large catchment area, but you might be able to fudge it a bit with an adjoining carport and patio cover.  You could also incorporate your dwelling into a pole barn (that is my plan, if I ever get some land in the sticks).

Snowmelt will likely be your primary source for water, so maximize your property to conserve the snow against sublimation by strategically placing drift fences to encourage drifting in naturally shaded areas and planting trees to shade areas (Winter and Spring shade) where the snow naturally accumulates but it is not shaded.

Also, does Elko County require you to drill a well and put in sewage treatment?  Many Utah counties use vacation property owners as cash cows.  I hope the trend has not crossed the border.

I agree that you will need to fence off areas that are greener than the surrounding area.  You will need to worry about more than cattle.  You could probably squeeze maybe 2 to 5 acres of sub-irrigated land out of a 40 acre catchment.  You might also be able to do some dry farming of grain (I'm sure there is a sustainable method somewhere on the internet).

Good luck with your adventure.
1 year ago
Let me see now, there's more than one:
- Water below ground and mulch over the soil.  Gravel mulch may be necessary if there is a shortage of biomass, but you need a strong healthy back.
- Keep the wind off your plants.  A desiccating wind can kill a garden in an afternoon.
- If you container garden, plan on flushing out the soil once or twice during the summer to get rid of salt buildup.  Salt buildup can also occur in the ground, especially if you don't mulch, so keep a watchful eye and be ready to flush salt buildup away from the plants and their roots. (I have looked into grow bags.  It is an interesting concept, but not ideal for hot, dry and windy.  You will need some sort of barrier to slow the airflow, but still allow a reasonable rate of air movement.)
- Salt grass and other halophytes can take salt out of salt poisoned soil, just don't plan on mulching with the cuttings.
- A diffusing glazing, film or fabric (like light row cover) seems to help plants in the strong, high-contrast light of the high desert.  The high desert requires at least a tunnel in order to increase the growing season predictably, and it solves the light and wind issues.
- Xeriscaping can be problematic.  Even if you put down weed barrier and cover with gravel and rocks (they make great micro-catchments and mini-windbreaks), windblown detritus will build up in the crevices, creating little pockets of soil waiting to host a weed.  I say, if you can't beat them, join them.  Design for the inevitable and plant what you want to see before the weeds move in.

You know you were raised in the desert when 30% humidity is muggy.
2 years ago
Since my last post, I have found a liquid extract that includes a large portion of agaricus brasiliensis.  The product is MyCommunity by Host Defense.  (In double checking information for this post, I notice they now sell Blazei Extract, which contains only agaricus brasiliensis.  I might order some.)  Again, I do not use it orally.  I use it topically, as needed.  It stretches a bottle out pretty far.

There is another product in the US market, Lipopo by Umeken USA.  The primary active ingredient is fermented wheat extract.  It is kind of (ok, very) pricey, but it is the result of nearly 30 years of study, so if you think you need it, it is worth it.  If you take it as a sublingual, rather than just swallowing the pills, it might be more effective.

If you are a home brewer, you might be able to approximate it with some experimentation.  You would start by making wheat gluten, but instead of tossing the rinse, you process it in a centrifuge, then take the supernatant and culture it in a fermentation tank.  The trick is finding the right food to feed the P. agglomerans, without feeding stuff you don't want.  A good brewer could figure it out.  You will also need some bio lab experience to do assays to know if you are getting the right things to grow -- or maybe just drink a lot of wheat beer or wheaty kvass.
2 years ago
I was only in Manabi once, about 30 years ago.  My then future brother-in-law's future (now ex, a lot happens in 30 years) in-laws had a large hacienda a few miles outside Balzar (there was no bridge across the Daule back then, only a balsawood ferry.)  They were hosting a prenuptial get-together at their country house.  It was of typical rural construction, cement block ground floor, for work and storage, and a wood and bamboo upper story with a veranda, for living space.  It was quite comfortable with a light breeze blowing through the bamboo slats.  I have a picture of it somewhere, buried among 30 years of stuff.

Did you see the article on the house near the epicenter that was split in two and separated by, iirc, 50 meters?  That would have been an apocalyptic experience.  Most of their cattle were swallowed up, but miraculously, no human lives lost in that household.

Much of the injury and death was due to the collapse of concrete and masonry.  They infill those concrete post and beam walls with bricks or tiles that are not tied into anything.  When the earth shakes, the masonry falls out and there is nothing to hold the posts in place, so the whole thing comes down.  I hope the code is improved and enforced for any new construction.  They could retrofit older construction without too much investment (though when you don't have money, any investment is too much).

We have a little cuadra in our kitchen (the folksy textured paintings that you can purchase at the Mercado Artesanal in Guayaquil)  that shows a bahareque hueca wall with the bamboo partially revealed.  I will post a foto of it;... probably... sometime.
4 years ago
I saw this article, "Casas con caña guadúa se proponen en Manabí", which proposes building homes made of bamboo to replace those destroyed in the massive earthquake in Manabi, Ecuador earlier this year.  Guadua is a variety of bamboo found in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru that is used traditionally for construction.  A quick google search for "caña guadúa" and the architect named in the article, Jorge Moran, yielded some interesting documents, among them: "PROPUESTAS CONSTRUCTIVAS SOSTENIBLES. LA CAÑA GUADUA Y LOS BTC DE TERRO-CEMENTO COMO MATERIALES DE CONSTRUCCIÓN. TRADICIÓN E INVESTIGACIÓN EN NUEVOS PRODUCTOS", "La caña guadua es la fuente de inspiracion de los ecomateriales" and "Construir con bambú “caña de guayaquil”".  The last one is long and very detailed.  Colombia also has a long tradition of using guadua.  Here are some documents: Manual de construccion sismo resistente de viviendas en baharaque encementado, "LA CULTURA DE LA GUADUA EN COLOMBIA", Cultura Arquitectónica del Bahareque en Colombia.
4 years ago
It will lose some insulative value while it is wet, but after it dries out, it will return to normal.  Perlite, pumice and foamed glass are ostensibly closed cell, however, on the exterior surface of the aggregate, there are exposed cells that will latch onto water, while the interior of the aggregate will remain dry.  You will want to sandwich any insulation with a waterproof membrane and engineer effective drainage into your project.  Long-term studies have shown that even flotation foam can get waterlogged after prolonged exposure to water.

If you are dealing with a high water table, don't go underground.  Try super-insulation and/or earth berms, above grade.  You can insulate earth berms to get a similar effect to underground, especially if they are well compacted.
4 years ago
The earth will want to equalize the temperature inside the hot house to the average soil temperature around it.  If you isolate (thermal and water) a large block of soil, as with the PAHS and wofati designs, you can raise the soil temperature in that block to match your target temperature for the hot house (it is an inexact science, so your mileage may vary).  If you have a high water table, you will need to isolate underneath as well as on the sides and top.

There has been a lot of discussion about underground insulation on other threads.  I have advocated the use of perlite as a cost effective (hopefully) alternative to foams that will not crack with the inevitable settling.  It is used in conventional construction as under-slab insulation.  Pumice and foamed glass aggregate can also be used.  Mineralized wood chips may be another alternative.
4 years ago
Raccoons are an invasive species in Utah (and probably anywhere west of the Rockies), so relocation is discouraged, and sometimes unlawful, depending on the jurisdiction.  One year, I had several rows of sweet corn stripped bare.  I put out a box trap and caught a mother and then four pups.  At that time, the Fish and Wildlife folks took care of urban wildlife and they provided a kill box at their office.  Now, you have to do everything yourself and hope for the best.  I used a boiled egg and peanut butter as bait.  If you don't want to catch skunks, and you really don't want to catch a skunk in a wire mesh trap, put the trap up at least 18 inches off the ground.  I used cinder blocks.  The raccoons will climb right in, no problem.

Raccoons are cute, intelligent, vile little devils that will strip your garden bare, kill your poultry and even small dogs -- and yes, their poop reeks.  If you stumble onto a family group, don't confront them.  I heard some interesting battle stories from the Fish and Wildlife control officer.
4 years ago