Roberto pokachinni

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since Jan 21, 2014
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Just a little guy with big ideas, trying to get it done in the Canadian Rockies.
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Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Recent posts by Roberto pokachinni

Mary Cook wrote:Redhawk, I might try that with one bed--I do have access to a chip pile about 3 years old. i hesitate to do any more, because about 25 years ago someone offered me sawdust from an abandoned sawmill, supposedly 30 years old. I put it three inches deep on top of my bed, then tried working it in...and my garden was weak and yellow for a couple of years after that. I wondered if maybe the sawdust included black walnut...or wasn't really so well composted--but it made me very leery of using sawdust or woodchips in the vegetable garden. I do mulch my berry patches with wood chips.  And  put a little heap of them under each fruit tree...mostly I fertilize the trees with humanure and then mulch that with leaves, and then cover that with rocks and logs to keep the chickens from kicking everything all over.

Hi Mary,  Given what you said, my guess is that working the sawdust into the soil was a bigger issue than the use of the sawdust itself.   If you had used the sawdust as mulch as you have done with your woodchips it would possibly have created a similar effect to what you experience with the woodchips, but working it in is often a mistake with sawdust, woodchips, straw, or other heavy carbon materials.  The coarser the sawdust is, the more likely that the covering would behave like the woodchips, and the finer that they are, the more likely Redhawk's description (of it shedding water) would be increasingly accurate.  From my understanding, (and I'm pretty sure that Dr Redhawk will confirm this), when you work woody material into the soil (as you did), you absolutely must incorporate nutrient-rich and especially nitrogen-rich material with it, or compost it first with enough nitrogen-rich material so that the carbon is consumed and transmuted by the microbes.  If you do not do so, then you will force the soil microbiology to utilize its existing nitrogen sources to deal with the carbon as best it can in that woody material to break it down to compost bit by bit in the soil itself (a tough job).  The yellowing and weakness that you observed in your garden would be a direct result of the nitrogen deficiency that resulted from the excess carbon (sawdust) that you worked into the soil.  The way I see it, your observation was correct (the yellow weak garden resulted from the sawdust that was put in the garden), but it was mostly the result of the incorporation of the sawdust into the living soil matrix itself when it should likely have been used as mulch on the surface if it was to be used at all.   My two cents.  
3 weeks ago
The following system would require a bunch of pipes and a bunch of thermometers to manage, but it would not require any electrical power.  It's sort of a super-wofati-freezer idea meshed with a wofati idea, and a more regular passive solar house idea, and, and...

I have this idea to have a large berm behind my home with an insulated lower ceiling to the insulated upper floor to insulate the lower floor from external temps.  This future home would be semi-underground (mostly southern and western exposed), but totally above grade for drainage.  

In the berm, through a door in the North kitchen wall would be a walk-in Pantry, and, through double doors in the east back of the pantry, a walk-in root cellar.

Through a second set of double doors in the east side of the root cellar would be a walk-in freezer, which is a room full of iceblocks contained in some insulation of sorts (probably alternating milk crates - wood chips in one, and frozen milk jugs in others, and still others with frozen goods --- possibly all in old reclaimed chest freezers.  When a cold snap was coming a person could bring some milk crates full of water jugs outside, let them freeze, and then carry the crate into the cellar and ice room, and surround it with ones full of wood chips.  And as a person gets older, and carrying a whole crate of ice around might be too much, just carry one jug at a time.    

There would be pipes coming into both the root cellar and the ice room from outside and some other ones that would leave the ice room and root cellar into the house.  There would be some coming from the ice room to the root cellar as well.  The ones from the ice room to the cellar would go directly into a cedar box on the wall with a door on it that would have some thermal mass in it and would also contain the water line from the creek, bringing gravity-feed water under pressure to the house system and keeping the box cold every time one turns on the tap while also keeping the pipes from freezing (as this is just a cold cellar space).  This box is the fridge, which is a little out of the way, but not a huge chore.  All the pipes would have valves on them to close or open them.

Some of the pipes coming into the house from the root cellar or the ice room would go directly to an air intake inside the beginning of the burn chamber of the rocket mass heater to provide a fresh oxygen source.

Some of them would go against the outside of the burn barrel and the stove pipe using the heat from them to create an upward convection draw on the air inside the pipes, drawing air from the back rooms or outside to the ceiling of the room with the heater and increasing oxygen in the house.
So, part of the idea would also be that nearing the end of the growing season, I would be bringing cold air at night into the root cellar for better root and other veg storage over the winter, which can be a problem because often the root cellar is not cool enough when you start to store vegetables.

The air would be brought into the root cellar every night, when the rocket stove fired up as the season cools (even in the summer the air is often cold against the big mountains here at night).  Additonal pipes would bring air from outside, warmed by the cellar, but attached to the heating situation (burn barrel, and chimney, maybe), and vented at ceiling level.  Both the intake and the heat situation on the rocket stove would drive the system to draw outside air into and clean the air in the back rooms, while also serving to cool them and the fridge box.  An additional fridge box could be located in the freezer room or in the space between the double doors that go between the freezer room and the root cellar, and these would be fridge items that do not need to be accessed as regularly as those from the other fridge.    

There would also be a bypass that had a pipe that brought air specifically from outside into the in-house systems so that the air didn't have to come from the cellar berm.

So in this case, the only power that will be needed will be the power of the heating system, which is the heat created by the rapid burning of rocket fuel which is needed anyway.  The only work besides the pipes would be choosing which valves to open and close and doing it.

It would not require as much thinking as one might think either because the thermal mass in one back room or the other would be moderating and keeping whatever the temperature is in a pretty stable situation.  The house would be super-insulated from the berm, and each room back there would be insulated from each other and from the outside, and everything will be well drained in drain rock trenches.

The only problem that I could see with the system would be if the air in the cellar or the ice room was not nice smelling.  Then, I guess, that air would only be piped into the burning system as an oxygen source for the fire, and the valve would be shut off when not burning.  If some of the pipes end up being useless due to moving smelly air, then so be it, the cost waste would be minimal to try it out.  

Either way, I think the draw from the heat would create enough convection at any location to power the system, cooling whatever I want while heating what I want.
1 month ago

Bob Spencer wrote:

I tried a makeshift pallet fence in the creek. They just found a way around it. It’s not practical for me to fence my orchard. It’s been quiet from them for a little while, so I’m probably just going to try and coexist with them for now and hopefully they will stay home.

you might want to cover the bases of the orchard trees with tight mesh, like that which is used in rabbit pens.  The beavers not be able to keep killing your trees with this.  They really like apple and cherry sapwood in my experience.  I imagine they will like other fruit sapwood too.  They can coexist with people, but they don't understand not eating tasty sapwood.  That is sort of outside of the sphere of thinking.  
1 month ago
I've been fascinated by beavers for most of my life, and have read quite a bit about them besides my own observations which have been extensive at times.  

There were, in the past, three distinctive dwelling types for beavers.  One was the traditional small colony lodge that most people associate with beavers and that Anne showed in her images, and this usually exists in a dammed pond, that contains the mating pair, their offspring, and sometimes a second younger litter; often at this time on an annual basis the youth are sent off to expand the colony.  Many large rivers cannot be dammed at all, and often there are no visible lodges (probably because a regular type of lodge would be washed away; in this case, the beavers dig tunnels into the bank and dwell in the bank of the river.  Sometimes the bank is mounded up with sticks and mud and basically looks like the classic beaver lodge, but jammed against the river's bank.  These river bank lodges are much the same size internally and contain the same number of a single family of beavers.  The third dwelling type is extremely rare nowadays though I have seen a couple of them; this is much like the traditional dammed pond lodge but it is much bigger.  These are like the condominium of lodges and house a large colony.  Early trapping memoirs tell of trapping 20 to 40 beavers at a single lodge.  As far as dams go, beavers don't live in the dams at all, but they do, sometimes, have tunnels into some of the larger dams where they can hide from predators while getting air in above the surface pockets.  They often also have a few of these tunnels around the pond's edges for their own escape purposes; this isn't generally the case with newer colony ponds but in well-established colony pond systems.  

I can't remember how long they can hold their breath but it is considerably longer than the average human is generally capable of, but they do need to surface to breath air, and if they disappear they are either in a lodge, in a tunnel, or they have surfaced in some vegetation out of sight to breath.  They can slip in and out of the surface tension with barely a ripple, and are adept at knowing whether a given known predator can see them from a given vantage point;.  They do have double cheeks so that they can use their teeth to pull trees, limbs, and whatnot under the water without taking water internally.

Large trees are fallen for the sapwood (cambium or inner bark) and bark, which serve as their main food sources (as well as probably medicine).  They also might cut a tree's bark and lick up the sap which is another food source.  Beavers must chew things regularly or their front sets of teeth will grow out of control and wreck their skulls.    
1 month ago
For me, the cold showers are definitely worth it any time I do it.  mostly I do it.  It's primarily a psychological game, and I must trick my mind into the reality of it.  

I find that the first couple minutes of a cold shower are the hardest, after you pass three minutes you are aware of numbness and tingling, and it is much the same sensation of being exposed to too much heat, and sometimes I try to think about it in reversal and tell my brain that what I am experiencing is hot, not cold.  Sometimes I get into the coldness and tell my brain that it is cold, but that cold is not so bad, and in fact it is very good.  I try to remind my brain about how great I will feel when I am done and the cold will be a thing of the past the my body is going to conquer.  

After about 2.5 minutes, if I am feeling restless, this is when I really focus on breathing, or I do some yoga in the shower.  I find the alternating cat and cow postures, as well as variations where I am shifting my weight on my palms or knees, and try to do hip rotations, or shoulder rotations.  I find this to be effective, and it allows me to have penetrating intense cold into these overworked zones.  

When I come out of the shower, 4 to 6 minutes later, my skin is red from the blood rushing back in.  The way I see it, the body's cellular structures in the skin, veins, arteries, the blood cells, the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and lymphatics, are all trying to gain their equilibrium by raising to the proper temperature, and are kick-started into high functioning.
2 months ago
I have varying experiences with the cold plunge.  I first really got into it when I lived in my tiny cabin on the North End of Haida Gwaii (Northern British Columbian coastal island chain).  I would plunge into the ocean in the morning to start my day, sometimes before lighting the wood heater stove.  The coldest I hit the ocean was minus 12 celcius.  The waves would come onto the sand and the retreating water would leave the sand crackling with frost.  That was cold!  Even in the summer on that beach the ocean there rarely warmed up unless the tide was rising on warm sand flats, but that was never in the morning with the cold plunge.    

Just yesterday was my birthday.  After a day of snowshoeing I went to a friend's place and we had a sauna with his dad. It was only about minus 10 C, so it was pretty good for sauna time, and a roll in the snow.  Three rounds of that, with 25 to 30 minutes in the sauna and a couple minutes of rolling in the snow with sitting on a dry bench outside as a transition was pretty fantastic.  

As far as I'm concerned, so long as I'm warm enough to begin with, I will do cold exposure.  When I'm already cold... not so much.  

I regularly shower cold in the morning.  I just got a new stand up freezer for my parents as the chest freezer died at the house in town.  I am planning to take the mid sized chest freezer to my property for the same use as demonstrated by Christine C.  

There as some great youtube videos talking about many of the benefits.  
2 months ago
Beavers are great.  I'm a huge fan of them.  But, would I want them on my land...  probably not. There is only so much flatish cleared, land with good soil on my property, and it is all in the plain of my little creek.  There is no doubt in my mind that my current garden space was a beaver pond many years ago, it is a relatively flat area, and is deep silty mix.  If I gave beavers free reign at my place, I would not have a safe garden or house site unless I cleared a large area of my forested land which is steeper and less likely to be flooded.  Beavers will definitely favor fruit trees.  You would have to encircle them with wire mesh or fence the whole area really well.  I do encourage the reintroduction of beavers into our waterways, but I would caveat that with the need for a live trapping and relocaton program so that people can choose to have them on their land or not.  We need Federal and State/Province run programs that fund both of those things in order to facilitate the re-beavering of the landscape.  It is one of the primary keys to reversing the damage that we have done to our hydrological systems.  There is no greater or cheaper way to facilitate the revegetation of the desert, to refill the watertables and aquifers,  to rebuild season streams into perennial flows, to ensure water security, than to have beavers back in our creek systems, lakes, and rivers.  
2 months ago
After going to a friend's place for a social event and an inevitable delish graze off, I went to the local hall where a group of people affiliated with one of the local churches puts on a dance.  I hadn't been to it before, but a group of friends and I decided to join in this year.  It's a non-alcohol celebration of New Year, and pretty much ends right after the New Year gets rung in.  There was a bunch of food and it was mostly a combination of a cowboy event and a local social.  The cowboy element comes in the form of the music, dancing style, and general clothing theme.  Not really my style, but I can enjoy a theme party as well as anyone.  The thing was, this wasn't a theme party.  It was the reality or day-to-day style of many of the attendees.   Many of the people are farmers, ranchers, etc.  There were a lot of people there that I never or seldom see, mostly because they are almost always working on their farms and not coming out much, so it was cool to connect with them.  

The joy of the night was the number of young people who were out for the evening and were really into the various dance styles and really having a good time.  I had never done many of the dance moves and learned a few things.  I've always been a freestyle dancer, so partner dancing in form, or dancing in form with a big group is not something I have done much of.  

Lucky for me, two of my friends have had a lot of dance training, and so I was able to have partners help me with the learning curve.  I'd never done the Virginia Reel which was a treat.  There were some that were not appealing to me, and the music was not really my cup of tea, but in general the night was really worth being a part of, and was a nice change from the alcohol-infused debauchery that I've been known to ring the new year in.  

After the last couple weeks, my New Year's Resolution to eat less and healthier should be pretty easy to succeed at, but it will have to wait until next weekend, because there is a combined birthday party (mine included) that we are having on Friday, and I have no doubt that it will continue with a ridiculous amount of sweets, meats, and other treats.      
2 months ago
Here's a civil engineering site's page about small dam projects:
2 months ago
I don't know what your experience is with building dams so I'm going to throw out some questions for you to ponder/consider.  

How High is your dam wall in comparison to your raised outlet?  There should be about a meter or yard or so of 'freeboard' (height above high water level) for the safety of avoiding a breach.  If that is the only spillway, will it be adequate to take a large surge in the event of a hundred-year storm?  What if a really epic storm happens next year before you have your bank plants established?  What does that look like on your newly built earthen dam bank?  

Also, here are some further thoughts: all dams settle over time as the air will be driven out of them by water infiltration, and compaction from above.  Adjust your predictions with 5-15% settling depending on the dam's materials.  Armoring the upstream side of the dam with stones is probably in your interest.  Also, putting larger rocks down stream of your outlet spillway might be a good idea to bounce the energy of the waterfall when high water pours water over the outlet.  Experiment with rock placement so that the splashes bounce against one another, dissipating the force.  This will reduce the potential for erosion downstream of and at this site of concentrated force.      
2 months ago