Creighton Samuels

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since Apr 14, 2013
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Recent posts by Creighton Samuels

With as many souls that you intend to attract to Wheaton Labs before it's all done, you're going to want a pretty large cistern.  Less so because no one wastes freshwater by flushing, and some people will be skywater collectors; but more for the showering & drinking needs of students on those events.  It's really be bad to have a pump fail on day two of an event, with 30 people wanting to take a shower before dinner.

So what is the maximum number of people that you could imagine showering at Wheaton Labs in one day, at about 10 gallons per shower?  Add at least two gallons per day, per person for drinking.  And then take a clue from just about every municipal water company in the US, and plan for a three day outage; and keep a spare well pump.

So the formula should be...

(Max # of people in a single day) * (12 gallons for each person in a day) * (3 days supply) = minimum cistern capacity.

Between residents & event attendees, I'm going to guess that the max is about 45 souls in a single day.  So 1620 bare minimum.  Rounded up to 2K gallons sounds like a great starting point to me.

I'm an electrician by trade & training. I have been shocked many times by many forms of electricity.

What your experience sounds like, to me, is an unbalanced neutral burn. An AC current shock doesn't feel like a cut; it feels similar to how your cell phone feels in your pocket when it rings on vibrate, but with pain. What an unbalanced neutral burn means is that the white/return wire in your apartment is broken somewhere, and the unbalanced voltage is finding it's "home" via a grounded surface (the oven cover) through your body.  However, if this happened when you touched a cool electric stove-top burner, that implies that the stove top burner is either 120 volts (which is possible, even with a 240 volt oven) or one of the two breakers for the oven was still on.  Either way, it's a major public safety issue and a code violation. 240 volt devices, such as an electric oven, are required to have a double breaker that trips both "hot" wires at the same time.  And a broken neutral is, at a minimum, a huge fire hazard; because current finds a way.

Call your city's code enforcement, or renters advocacy department. There's a high chance you will need to move soon.

EDIT: An electrical burn is mostly an internal thing, but there will be an entrance and exit wound. So your thumb will be sore until it recovers from being partially cooked on the inside. Somewhere else, probably somewhere on the same hand will be an entrance burn, but that could be spread across much more surface area.  When I was an electrical apprentice, we used to cook hot dogs this way.  It took about 6 seconds to fully cook a hot dog.
1 week ago

Lorinne Anderson wrote:My thoughts...what sort of insurance would a campground have?

Same problem.  The campground is a business with business liability insurance, while the renters have their own RV or auto insurance. It's the redundancy and potential for an adversarial interaction between insurance companies that I'm concerned about here.
2 weeks ago

Martin Pergler wrote:

Creighton Samuels wrote:First, the group is paying far more for auto insurance than is necessary; which is just an inefficient use of a valuable community resource, income from outside the community. It's a practical impossibility to expect that those who are willing to commute outside of the community to support all of the income needs of the community as a whole.

Specifically, in my area if the community is above a certain size, it would be a lot more efficient for the community (as whatever legal entity) to own the vehicle and insure under a "commercial" policy, and then allocate the costs of this insurance as well as all other vehicle-related costs to those community members who use it (likely proportional to its use). The individuals using the vehicle would not then need their own personal coverage for use of that vehicle. The premiums for such a commercial policy will be higher than for one primary individual owning and insuring plus a small number of occasional drivers. This reasonably reflects that the more "diffuse" ownership is, the less care people tend to take (they'll bang around their employer's truck more than their own, for instance). But those commercial premiums will be much less than each individual insuring themselves, since it reflects the physical reality that there is only one (or a handful) of shared vehicles.

Okay, but how many unrelated members does it take to hit this crossover point? And how do you allocate the burden of the shared vehicle?

And again, this is the easy problem to solve; not the hard one.  The hard one is still that of general health coverage or personal injury liability.

As for the individual residents, I imagine something along the lines of a health sharing charity like Medi-share would be effective if all members are willing to participate, but as of now, such groups in the US are required by law to have a religious association.  So I'm pretty sure that a permies IC wouldn't qualify for the exception.

The personal injury liability remains, however.
2 weeks ago

Anne Miller wrote:I assume that an intentional community is structured similar to a homeowner's association in that each individual owns their land then the association has a board of directors.

This is just basic information based on my understanding and the state I live in.

The individual owners would have the kind of insurance that they choose to protect themselves.

The association would have insurance that protects the buildings that the association owns and a liability policy to protect people that get hurt in those buildings, that might get hurt on the land the association owns, and on the decision that are made by the association.  If the association hires employees then these workers would be covered under workers comp insurance bought by the association.

Pretty complicated for the average individual so questions would need to be asks of their insurance agent because laws vary from state to state and even in what country they live in.

Yes, that would be the default situation.  But as I pointed out in my OP, this results in two issues.  First, the group is paying far more for auto insurance than is necessary; which is just an inefficient use of a valuable community resource, income from outside the community. It's a practical impossibility to expect that those who are willing to commute outside of the community to support all of the income needs of the community as a whole.  Part of the point of such an IC is to function as an extended household, wherein most of the basic needs of the group are provided from within; but the nature of modern societies requires that there be some amount of income (or cash savings from prior employment, but that's just a retirement community) in order to pay for the taxes, insurance, propane, etc.  So such inefficiencies should be reduced if possible.

But on the longer term, even if the members of the IC can afford separate insurance policies; such an arrangement poses a threat to the long term existence of the community itself, should any two members have some kind of incident or dispute that invokes their insurance policies. Insurance companies are prone to fight on a legal battlefield, and that has a high chance of sweeping the community itself into a legal bind.

And car insurance was just my easy example. Health coverage or liability is far worse, at least in the US at present.
2 weeks ago

Skandi Rogers wrote:Would insurance not be covered in the same manner as land taxes? I.e everyone chips in towards the bill? and the charitable entity that owns the land/runs everything is the thing named.

Well, no; probably not.  First off, an IC modeled after Wheaton Labs wouldn't have a charity owning the land; Paul owns it and it's a dangerous thing to own property collectively in most US states, although I don't know how risky that is in Montana. (If a charity owns the property, and you live on the property, you're not legally entitled to continue to live there. You're a charity case. If there's a dispute that ends up in court, the entire charity could blow up. Legal entities don't have the same ownership rights to property as breathing humans.) As I understand it, Paul is the legal owner of Wheaton Labs real estate property; and Boots and other residents are 'in-kind' residents. (They don't pay any contracted rent, they just live there; legally speaking)  

But more importantly, insurance can be very complicated in the US. Doing it as a 'pitch in' thing then becomes an issue with those who can't afford (or are unwilling) to contribute.  And what if they don't even have a valid driver's license at all? Do they still have to contribute? That can get very hostile fast.  That was why I brought up Maybury's Two Laws first, such things have to be explicit.
2 weeks ago
I know that this is an old thread, but I didn't see anything like my own answer here.

The key to saving while earning very little is, in a large part, about identifying your most 'expensive' needs (not most important) and developing the skills necessary to provide them for yourself.  As an easy example, learn to cook quality meals for yourself; rather than continuing on a habit of dependence upon fast food or even frozen pizza.  Once you've mastered 4 or 5 meals that you can make from scratch, identify the most expensive ingredients of those meals, and see how many that you can actually grow for yourself, rather that purchase at the store.  I have found that those ingredients are not usually the big items, such as pastas or cereal grains; but the spices. I love cilantro, and personally grow quite a bit in my garden every year.  The book Good and Cheap is a wise investment.

This technique can be applied to every aspect of life.  When I was a child, we called this "home economics".  Today it's usually called a "life-hack".  Search online for the terms "life hack" and whatever need that you'd consider learning how to do yourself, and there's a good chance that someone has come up with a way to do it that you've never even considered.
3 weeks ago
The most recent podcast, "The Click 1-3", has rekindled a concern I've had with intentional community models.  I've made an observation of IC's that I've paid attention to over my own travels that seems to mesh well with Paul's experiences; that in addition to needing a community with a shared sense of values/ethics, everyone must also more or less be able to adhere to Maybury's two laws of Civilizations...

1) Do all that you have agreed to do...
2) and don't encroach on another's person or their property.

People who can succeed within any community need to be able to abide by these two rules, intuitively; but also need to be able to understand, in detail and in total, what they have agreed to do and what "property" means within the community.  Also, in order for the community to survive, the community needs to have some means of suppressing or removing those who can't abide by the Two Laws.  In short, all communities need an authority; in the case of Wheaton Labs, that's Paul in his role as "benevolent dictator".

But, what I don't understand is how to deal with risk & liability within such a community. In a traditional household, that path is well understood; all liability is borne by the parents who (functionally) own all the property, and also bear all the risk or buy insurance to deal with it.  But in an IC, that model doesn't quite work.  If every 'owner' is buying the insurance then two inefficenies arise; first is that too much insurance coverage is inevitable, and that separate polices by different members of the IC can be adversarial in the event of a claim against each other, which cannot be resolved within the community itself.  

For a bit of simplicity, let's just look at automobile & driver's liability insurance, which is required by law in most states.  If long-term residents of Wheaton Labs rarely drive anywhere, but each owner of a private vehicle must pay for their own car insurance (legally unavoidable), then there's quite a bit of vehicle redundancy going on, and a lot of redundant insurance as well, within a community that's particularly short of one particular resource; income.  But if there's a shared vehicle that is used by anyone with a license who lives on Wheaton Labs, whoever legally owns that vehicle is subsidizing the rest of the community via their own insurance policy; for which there's a decent chance will be denied in the event of an accident, once the insurance company learns that the driver of the car during the wreck was neither their own client, nor a legal relation to their client.  Anyone here who has lived long enough to have had interactions with insurance companies will start to understand my concern here, as insurance companies are known for filing lawsuits, sometimes against their own clients when the details of the policy have been 'violated' as they may see it.

Worse than the car insurance example, however, are liability & risk issues with other parts of life. Traditional  health coverage, for example; or property insurance.  Wheaton Labs probably doesn't need property damage insurance, per se; but certainly some kind of general health coverage, as accidental injuries occur on traditional farms all the time.  Who pays the bill if a Boot falls down the greenhouse steps and breaks an ankle?  If the default answer is "Paul" then that's not at all fair, nor an acceptable form of risk management.
3 weeks ago
This series has seriously hit home for me, with one significant exception.

I probably 'clicked' about 2006, although I don't remember the exact event, but I do remember repeatedly thinking of some way to retrofit my city house (on 1/2 acre lot) with a Rocket Mass Heater.  I never figured that one out, although I revisited the concept every few days for the following years.  I did, however, build my own horizontal trough type beehive and set it up on the second floor deck.  I also ordered and built a single cylinder Lister CS-6 diesel engine, and began to collect used vegetable oil from a local bar. In short, a lot of urban permie-like projects that were destined to fail in the long run; simply because I lived within the jurisdiction of a Department-of-making-you-sad.

Ultimately, my family & I moved out of the city to a 14 acre wooded lot; but I've made little progress towards Gertitude because my wife is not on board, and stifles my ideas for "her" lawn. I have been married for 25 years, have 5 kids, and absolutely will not sacrifice that relationship; click or no click.

The best that I've been able to do is an EPA certified woodstove, using wood both collected from our own property and diverted from the waste stream of my employer.  After 7 winters at our new property, I'm a true master at wood heat in this particular model of woodstove; but I also understand that such experience means very little once I buy another woodstove, and nothing at all if I every get a RMH built. I have also been able to start a huglecultre, as well as interplanting of useful plants into the "lawn".  And as of this past spring, a family of beavers has moved onto the property near the rear, and as a result I've been able to prevent their destruction by simply forbidding their hunting or removal by neighbors (and forbidding my sons from interfering with them). Fortunately, they didn't build on the stream that forms the "border" of the property with the rear neighbor, but on a tributary that runs across my property, so the state regards the entire thing (dam and flooded zone) to be exclusively my own concern.

I've also learned some valuable lessons too; for example, I know that sweet potatoes grow wonderfully in unimproved Kentucky soil, but they will attract moles from an enormous distance; and that white-tailed deer love kale. We got some kale, through cut & come again; but by September both the sweet potatoes & the kale were eaten into destruction. We didn't eat any sweet potatoes at all.

William Bronson wrote:

Mostly because an Equilateral triangle is a better approximation of an arch than a square or rectangle.

Would a gambrel roof be closer still?

Probably, but the details do matter. Particularly the equilateral part, as the image with the earth bermed shed looking thing is not an equilateral, as the angle of the roof is too wide.  The side of the triangle that is the floor is still a neccessary part of the shape.

An equilateral pentagon should do even better as an approximation of an arch, but this would mean that your low sided wing walls still wouldn't be straight, but instead slanted out; and the junctions where the walls meet the roof sides would need to be every bit as strong as the beam junction on an A frame.  This is where the advantages start breaking down, because this is not true with a traditional roof on top of a traditional plumb wall.  Even in the case of load bearing plumb walls, the junction between the wall and the roof is quite weak, as the junction typically only needs to be strong enough to keep the roof from shifting in a hard wind, and the structure depends upon the weight of the roof sitting directly on the plumb walls to keep the structure in compression.  This is not, and should not be expected, to be true with a bermed home of any shape.  Every juction must be very strong, and strong juctions are expensive, so the more that you design into it, the greater your costs will rise.

And this is also why the A frame is such a popular form of traditional cabin; the strong junctions are minimumal, with only the roof beam and the ground anchors being necessarily strong.
2 months ago