Michael Cox

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since Jun 09, 2013
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Recent posts by Michael Cox

There are many many things you can do to reduce the damage caused by wildfires, but in a climate and environment like you describe it will be next to impossible to prevent them entirely. You are too vulnerable to circumstances outside your control - eg how your neighbours manage their land.

I would seek advice from your local fire service - they will probably have specific recommendations and policies for your area. Ultimately you probably need to accept that fire WILL come through again, and probably semi-regularly. You need to design and manage with that in mind.

My experience of Portugal in summer was that it was incredibly hot and dry, but also that the agricultural systems in place seemed to promote enhanced aridity - I saw ploughed fields around olive orchards, presumably to mitigate against grass fire risks. That soil was orange with essentially zero carbon content to hold the moisture. Fields had gullies where rainwater would flash off, with no visible evidence of swales or similar to slow and sink water into the soil.

If I were in your shoes I would be looking for a multi-layered approach:

Hard barriers like firebreaks
Protection for key infrastructure - eg water storage and sprinklers on buildings and their surrounds
Brush removal - your goats will be part of this
water management in the landscape - are you hydrating the soil effectively with your seasonal flows? Are you building soil carbon, so your plants have access to more moisture later into the year and so will be less flammable?

Is key infrastructure - home, vehicles, people etc... build to be inherently firesafe?
1 day ago
The "glass" is apparently a special stove glass. I'd expect it to be pretty good at radiating heat in that case, much like the glass on a conventional woodstove door. There is another video of him cleaning the soot build up on the inside of the glass using a soft kitchen washing up brush on a long pole, with some washing up water.

Personally I like that this would be
a) a space heater that doesn't use gas - pellets are cheap, easy to store, and easy to handle.
b) wood heat - but because it is rockety it doesn't leave everything and everyone smelling of smoke by the end of the evening. We have a fire pit which we do use, but the fire needs to be pretty large, and use pretty dry wood to ensure it burns cleanly without excessive smoke. It feels wasteful.
1 day ago
Patio rocket stove

This popped up on my facebook feed. I can't tell how effective it would be at space heating, but for a light weight, streamlined outdoor patio heater I like it.

Where we are evening temperatures tend to drop and something to take the chill off the air while enjoying evening would be welcome.
2 days ago
The contour lines on maps are rarely a perfect reflection of what is on the ground - they don't do a good job of identifying the small scale complexity of the shape of the ground.

Given that most applications that require knowing lines of equal altitude on the ground care an awful lot about that fine detail, I think attempting what you describe is likely to be counter-productive. For example, swale need to be dug on the level, so that water doesn't flow. Attempting to follow a path that is level on the map, but not on the ground, is likely to lead to flow and possible blow-out of swale berms at low points.

You don't say what you intend to use these lines for, but in any case I think it likely that you would be best off using tools to mark out what is actually on the ground.

There are threads here somewhere that explain various approaches to this.
2 days ago
Are they aligned with each other?

Could they be used to secure a temporary barrier for large livestock, like a horse? Just slot the bar in.
5 days ago
Occasional scythe user here - I'm by no means "good" at it, but I can scythe our small wildflower meadow pretty quickly. Yes, it's a learning curve, but it is not a very steep one and it is a low cost and time investment. Ensuring you have a scythe that fits your body is a big help. Ours has a handle that can be adjusted for taller people.

It seems like it would be important to understand your overall process though.

How will you cut it? (options already discussed here)
How will you turn it in the field for drying? - Hand tools are definitely an option, but the difference between doing it with the best tool, and something that gets the job done is likely to be significant in terms of strain on the body.
How will you haul it from the field to your rick for drying? - A large flat trailer is adequate, if you can toss the hay from where it lies directly on to it.
How will you store it for the winter? - Traditional hayricks used a very basic wooden platform to lift the hay off the ground, then stacked it aligned to shed water, with thatching on top. You can achieve the same waterproofing with a simple tarp. No need for storage in a shipping container. I'd go so far as to advise against the container - trapped air within, from the decomposing hay, could be harmful for people.
1 week ago
Do you have chickens?

Sorrel is edible - and if not to your taste then the chickens will eat it. When I have time to work on my garden I typically aim to weed a good basket worth of chicken snacks at a time. It adds up pretty quickly if you can do it consistently.

Our big pests are bindweed and creeping buttercup.  If I chuck a basket into the chickens they will generally strip every leaf within 24 hours, which saves me on food bills. I'm sure they would do the same for your sorrel.

I like to tackle one area thoroughly, rather than spread myself out too far. It's particularly effective in areas where you can mulch heavily with eg woodchips, as each time you come back to do more weeding they will be both more sparse and less strongly rooted in the chips.

Now, if only I didn't work a 70+ hour per week job...
Definitely the mushrooms. You can grow an awful lot of mushrooms in an acre - definitely enough to make a good income from. And you get a waste produce of used substrate blocks to grow your veggies with.
1 week ago
Most households have a non-zero number of these conveniently close to the back door when you come in from the garden.

Quick wipe and it goes back in the drawer.
2 weeks ago
Yep, definite improvement in quality.

Cook to temperature. Take it out immediately, and let it rest for ten minutes covered.

Chicken dries out a lot if even slightly over cooked, and with every bird being a different size, and every oven a slightly different temperature, the instructions based on "cook for X amount of time" tend to be not very reliable.

Since I have started cooking with the thermometer the breast meat is succulent and moist every time, and it is always cooked through perfectly.
2 weeks ago