Michael Cox

+ Follow
since Jun 09, 2013
Michael likes ...
bee books composting toilet homestead rocket stoves wood heat
Kent, UK - Zone 8
Apples and Likes
Total received
In last 30 days
Total given
Total received
Received in last 30 days
Total given
Given in last 30 days
Forums and Threads
Scavenger Hunt
expand Pollinator Scavenger Hunt
expand Pioneer Scavenger Hunt Green check
expand First Scavenger Hunt Green check

Recent posts by Michael Cox

(This page is still under development, and subject to change until finalized.)

This is a badge bit (BB) that is part of the PEP curriculum.  Completing this BB is part of getting the straw badge in tool care.

A splitting maul is a wonderful tool for splitting fire wood, posts, rails, etc. Most log splitters will only split very short logs, are very slow, burn a lot of petroleum, make a lot of racket, pollute your lungs, and break the bank. A splitting maul is versatile, as fast as you want it to be, great exercise, allows you the excuse to get some fresh air, and can be had used for a dollar or three without a handle.

This article explains what a maul is and is not. Note the photo showing a good edge angle for a maul.

This short article explains the why and how of sharpening

Requirements to complete:
- sharpen a splitting maul with a file or similar method.
- use an appropriate edge angle for the tool.

To get certified for this BB, post the following:
- pic of the dull edge
- action pic which includes all sharpening equipment used
- pic of the sharpened edge
17 hours ago
I should probably add - that tradition has dwindled to basically nothing with cheap cars and the decline of our traditional woodland crafts.
2 days ago
Here in the UK there is a tradition of the old forestry coppice workers building temporary shelters on the land they worked and moving on with the seasons. I don't know how our climate compares to yours, but they were used year round as a base to work from. They tended to be very crude things - frequently little more than tarps securely wrapped over a pole structure to provide a windproof "house". A step up from simple camping, as you get substantially more floor area to work with, and they usually included a wood burning stove of some sort.

Such a structure can be easily upgraded to be more comfortable by including a "proper" bed, insulating the floor (a thick layer of pine branches, topped with salvaged carpet). The people living in these were tough - they worked hard outdoor jobs year round. It wouldn't be comfortable but it would be quick cheap, versatile and temporary. Plus you wouldn't get too comfortable, so they actual house build is more likely to get done!

In the UK such shelters were called "bothies" - I looked for pictures but that term is also used much more commonly to refer to stone build mountain shelters that shepherds, hill walkers and the occasional lost drunk sleep in. (I can personally attest to the latter two)
2 days ago

Travis Johnson wrote:I do not have any moral issues with growing corn to produce a crop to heat a home. It does not matter if it is firewood, corn, wood pellets, or compost heat; it is all acreage diverted to providing heat, and in Maine, heat is VERY important. What is the point of having a fully belly and shivering to death from hypothermia? It all goes along with my philosophy of:

Do as much for yourself as you can!

That goes along with Permiculture as well because it is about self-sufficiency.

I guess your situation is quite different from the majority of applications where food is diverted to fuel. My understanding is that the biofuel industry has been massively driven by subsidies, creating all sorts of perverse incentives for producers. This was the situation a decade ago when I looked into it properly, but may have changed now. At one point in the US corn-to-ethanol was being massively boosted by laws requiring a certain percentage of petrol sold at the pumps to be ethanol. The massive global increase in demand for the ethanol made food prices spike globally. Another example of top-down interventions having unintended consequences.
3 days ago
We have a few varieties of mint established in a herb patch. In retrospect I wouldn't plant it with other herbs again. However, the patch is in the middle of a lawn which gets regularly mowed. The mint meanders through the bed - I pull up runners from time to time, pot them up and gift them or sell them - but doesn't escape because of the wide grass barrier.

In future I will be planting mint along some fencelines on the outer edge of the property in a spot that gets browsed once or twice per year by sheep. I love the mint for the flowers and bee forage, but don't want to have to do lots of digging. The same fence line has comfrey planted as well.
Also, have you looked at vetiver hedges plante don contour for erosion control? They are highly effective living sediment trap.

Vetiver itself won't be viable in your climate as it is not frost tolerant, but you might be able to use some of the principles in your planting and design. Key is that the stems of vetiver grasses are very close together near ground level, and when planted in a hedge the water is forced to flow slowly through the plants. There are lots of excellent videos of them in action. Including some that show the amount of soil that can build up over a few years of use. The resulting terrace can be used for your other desirable plants.
4 days ago
"check dams work too well"

So it sounds like you have a lot of loose material being washed downstream. As suggested you can keep building up the check dams taller after each rain event. This will build a deep fill in the gullies of sediment - great for trapping and slowly releasing water back into the surrounding land.

You can also approach the problem from the other end. Start high and build on contour barriers to slow the flow of water and let the sediment drop out. Depending on your conditions you may be able to do a lot just with simple rows of stacked rocks just a few inches high.

You might find this video interesting/useful. They walk down from high altitude to low, going through a series of swales and check dams.

In particular, look at how much material is help up on the simple terrace walls at the top of the mountain. If you stop the sediment washing further down you will have less sediment in your lower stream, as well as lower flow rates so easier control of flow down stream.
4 days ago

Travis Johnson wrote:

Mike Jay wrote:It says "grow your own fuel" at the top of the "Energy Crop" forum page so I'm pretty sure it's for fuel (combustion).  Not a dumb question at all!

No, not a dumb question at all. In fact I think it is a sub-forum that hardly gets the attention it deserves. Properky done, it could really give the homesteader the means to save a lot of money, and be self-suffcient.

I know I have kicked around some ideas. I have a pellet stove for this house, but while I cannot make my own pellets, I can burn products inside it that are fairly consistant. For instance I mix my wood pellets with corn at a 2 to 1 ratio, and get incredible heat with a lot less expense, but if I produced my own corn, it would be even cheaper. (Burning more than 1/3 corn causes exessive temps in the stove, but 1/3 savings is not bad).

But I can also burn sunflower seeds in it; again, any consistently shaped product a pellet stove can burn.

Burning food discomforts me. I appreciate that in some circumstances it is cheap to grow, but when land is diverted to fuel crops on any meaningful scale it ultimately inflates food prices which disproportionately affects the poor. Travis - you grow corn. Corn stalks and husks could be burned while still producing food. I'm not sure about  agricultural practices in your area, but around here corn is notorious for contributing to soil loss and erosion as well.

We are fortunate to have massive amounts of wood on our land to process for firewood each year - we have had substantial windblown trees each of the past 4 years - so haven't needed to bring anything in from offsite for firewood. That said, our water heating comes from gas and we don't have a viable alternative at present. If I were going to look for an energy crop in our circumstances I would probably be planting a few acres of willow to run on a short coppice rotation. Perennial, minimal (no?) inputs of fertilisers, potential to process with hand tools if needed (a bill hook only). We don't have a system to burn the material, but I'd probably look at making up bundles of faggots and establishing a batch rocket unit that can take entire faggots to minimise handling.
4 days ago
I need to post on this. I love sharpening my knives properly. It is so satisfying.

But I have never taken pictures of the process!
5 days ago

Mike Jay wrote:Paul... I just don't know what came over me.  Please

Without saying a word he grabbed hold of me by...
5 days ago