Michael Cox

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since Jun 09, 2013
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books composting toilet bee rocket stoves wood heat homestead
Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Recent posts by Michael Cox

Understanding what not to put in is about knowing WHY those people choose not to put those things in.

For example, meat and meat scraps. These go in our heap and they break down fast, provided the heap is hot and there is plenty of browns. People who don't put meat in probably have had bad experiences with cold heaps, and meat that then attracts flies, rats and other scavengers.

Sticks don't go in our compost heap. They go on the burn pile. Sticks WILL compost, but they take a lot longer than everything else. Then when you dig the heap out they get in the way and make the compost hard to use.

Walnuts - the squirrels bury those in the heap whether we want it or not. Once in a while one germinates somewhere. When it does we pull it out.

The problem with those kind of lists like you describe is that someone, somewhere, probably has a really good reason that justifies THEIR opinion... but those become rules that everyone, everywhere now needs to follow.
1 day ago
How cold are your winters? Do you get deep freezes?

It seems to me like the first step needs to be building soil. The current erosion issue means you are perpetually fighting an uphill battle. No soil, so no soil moisture = dead plants.

I seem to be for ever recommending this here, but can you look into establishing a vetiver hedge at the down-slope edge of that terrace? Once established the roots go deep through rock cracks to find moisture, and wick it up to the root zone of other plants. When the rains come it acts like dense screen stopping sediment being washed down slop. Over time you will get a natural soil terrace forming on the upslope side. One to two rain events will likely build considerable soil behind such a hedge in your conditions.
2 days ago
Why do you think this will deter deer? I'm not sure what you are envisioning.
Food forests are also managed environments. You don't just plant it and walk away. They take careful human tending to stay productive and give worthwhile yields.

And they have a much more diverse mix of perennial plants than a typical forest. There will be a few large trees - maybe - for fruit/nuts, but I would anticipate a careful selection of plants that are more human scale. Fruit trees with crops nearer ground levels. Vines, with fruit. A productive shrub layer.

And edge effects are critical - you don't want a closed canopy, generally. Think about a stroll along a wide woodland path. Sunlight streaming on the path, transitioning to dappled shade and then deep shade. Productive plants in appropriate positions through that transitioning environment.

1 week ago
You may have viruses in the soil? Planting good plants in bad soil may be the issue.

I have made myself some of these

They work nicely, and I was able to use a good soil mix of my choice. The style in this video are particularly good; a slit/pouch that is formed by first cutting with circular saw or angle grinder, then heating with a hot air gun and and jamming a wine bottle in while it cools and sets. I have seen some other styles that use a hole saw cutter to make a big circular opening. I don't like those as the soil falls out.

I grow strawberries and a mix of leafy salad veggies in mine, right by the backdoor.
1 week ago
Fire triangle

You need to exclude one of these to prevent combustion.

Your system has fuel (straw) - you are aiming to keep both air and heat away from it. The straw can char if it gets sufficiently hot, even with the absence of air.

Without knowing a lot of details about your design, I suspect that your cob wall between the fire and the insulation is too thin (hence your straw is overheating), and there is an air leak somewhere. Cob cracks when drying so you might need to hunt around for it.

Personally I wouldn't use clay-slip and straw for this application for precisely this reason. Too many opportunities for failure. On the plus side, your oven will likely still work fine even with the insulation partially charred away. It may just be a bit less efficient.
1 week ago
Our regular chip drop team have a truck contaminated with dog vomit slime mould. Harmless, but every single pile they bring us grows a slime mould after a few months. Hasn't seemed to impact the usefulness of the chips in anyway way, and my wine caps seem able to outcompete it in the log term.

For all the people talking about stuff growing  in their chips - our chips usually rest for 6 months in a heap before being used. They get pretty hot in the first few weeks and cook off a lot of seeds.
1 week ago
How abandoned is "abandoned"?

Is the fenceline secure?

Goats would love to eat those. Either on your side, to defend your fence line, or "accidentally" on the other side of boundary?
1 week ago
Experiment and see!

You probably want to avoid heat though, as it might affect the ingredients. In a chem lab you would achieve this by lowering the pressure to encourage evaporation.

1 week ago