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

I've involved myself with many threads on Permies, and this is one of my favorites.  There are so many thoughtful and insightful posts here about a topic that I love that it just makes me smile so much to revisit it.  Some really good points made recently by Mathew Nistico and others highlight the potential of this thread's topic for further exploration.  Kudos all.  Great work.      
1 month ago
I had no idea that you were struggling with this, Paul.  It is great that you are reaching out for support.


Bethany Brown wrote:Wow, you are in the middle of a great success story. It sounds to me that your game has been upped.


You have already beat this.  Just don't give it a second chance.  All the strength on staying the course, Captain.
hi mike,
I think that if you get through the bark, past the damp cambium, then you will be good.  I can't be certain, but here's my thinking.   Once you get to the more solid wood, you see the growth rings.  Those dark rings represent the winter or slower growing growth every year.  The lighter rings represent the summer or faster growth.  Together they make up one year's growth.  Those growth ring areas should be mostly solid wood and not have much if any real sap flow for the present year.  I could be wrong, because we have different species where I am that behave differently, I'm not familiar with a lot of other species, and it may well be that you have sap flowing through past few years of growth with the type of trees that you have.  I can't be sure.  But I'd guess that just getting through the bark and inner bark would be sufficient.  The best way to know is to try, assuming that you think that it is worth doing, permaculturally, for your purposes.  
3 months ago

Mike Haasl wrote:Do you need to cut through the bark and cambium or all the way through the sap wood?  On my trees, the sapwood is several inches thick.

+4 for "girdling"

That is some serious sapwood, Mike.  What species are you talking about?  it would likely depend on the species on whether it would be effective or not to fail to go all the way through to the wood.   A tree will bleed sap like crazy if it is girdled/ringed/belted.  That sap would be necessary caloric the energy that would otherwise be used to grow leaves dumping down the lower tree to the ground. You'd have to experiment with the specific tree to see if you are cutting deep enough.  If it fails to leaf out, you've gone deep enough.  it may well be that all you need to do is cut into the sapwood all the way around to bleed it out.    
3 months ago
The main resource that I used for my last post was the book Smokescreen, Debunking Wildfire Myths to Save Our Forests and Our Climate by Chad T Hanson.  He was originally a lawyer but then became an ecologist, specializing in wildfire and related ecosystems.  He is from California.  This book is a treasure trove of useful information.   I highly recommend this book to those concerned.  

I got the book through inter-library loan for free.  The book is available on Amazon at This Link
3 months ago
In my area, we've been in Level 4 drought since last summer.  There is a level 5 classification in the North-East of my province which is as bad as it gets.  A few days ago, on March 28th, we got issued an open-fire ban which is the earliest that I remember one.  Last year we had a forest fire started by a farmer burning some slash and debris in a field on May 5th, it was under control and left that night but got back out of control the next day.  It nearly took out the town of Mcbride where I own a house and where my elderly parents live.  Deciduous trees, locals working hard, and the local fire suppression teams kept the fire contained to some rural backyards.  Some infrastructure and vehicles were lost, but no homes.

As was discussed in some detail in other parts of this thread and others, wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem dynamics of this region, and most forests globally.  

What is not readily understood is that wildfires of extreme size and intensity are not nearly as rare as we have been led to believe.  While we have been suppressing forest fires for many decades on this continent, and biomass in the form of increased forest density, including standing, lying, or leaning dead wood has increased substantially, this is not necessarily an unnatural level (on the millennial scale) of fuel and should not be considered as such.  The animals and forests are adapted to deal with these events.  Remember the Australian wildfires in which it was reported that the animals could not outrun the fires and the fires were the largest in history.  Not history, actually.  Hysterical is more like it.  1974 had a much larger more intense fire season than that, and most of the more recent year's fires were moving at a pace that most animals could avoid.  But the analysis after the fact does not take away from the sensationalization in the moment, or on the capitalization of the situation by industrial interests.    

I've recently been informed by learned colleagues in the ecological community that over the span of the approximately 8000 years since the last glaciation in this region, many intense fires, covering vast areas have burned.  Cycles of intense moisture, which for many decades or centuries produced dense forests and kept large fires from burning are subsequently burned when the cycles are altered toward drier conditions.  The forests, and weather are in a dynamic interplay, and fire is an intrinsic part of the system.  But the most interesting thing about what I have learned is that these dense fuel-rich forests are not actually as flammable as one might think.  In fact, because the wind does not flow through them that fast, fires tend to not be as volatile.  It is weather and climate that created those large historic fires, the fuel which dried as a result, was not really the deciding factor, and it still isn't for many reasons.  

I've had the great pleasure of walking in the recent burn near my house.  The majority of the carbon (or all that big fuel that we were told was going to be a major fire-hazard) is intact, in the standing dead snag trees, or even trees lying on the ground.  Most of what was consumed in the fire was small material, shrubs, smaller branches, and resin-rich needles.  The snag forest, particularly the aspens, are riddled with cavities, which provide an amazing variety of niche habitats.  Even if another fire were to come in this same place in ten years time, most of this large wood would remain unburned.  It is simply a matter of fact that fires do not burn large wood easily.

i've considered changing the name of this thread to get the catastrophic-sounding title out of it.  Sure it is catchy, but sensationalization is a big part of the problem with much of how we understand things, or in this case misunderstand them.  I am as guilty as anybody else in this regard.  I was raised by my parents who were both wildland firefighters (they were part of the local volunteer fire department who, apart from the structural fires that they fought were called upon to fight local forest fires).  I fought fires myself including a very large forest fire near Barrier B.C. in 2003.  I bought into the mythology of the catastrophic mega-fire, and thought that they needed fighting.  I've changed my mind.    

When we say that a forest fire destroyed something, we only see the bad in it.  Wildfires are a natural part of forest rejuvenation.  Post-fire areas are the habitat for multitudinous species, including many migratory songbirds which are literally in an extinction-level crisis of pandemic proportions.  A large wildfire burns at a lot of different intensities, and this effectively creates myriad habitat niches that are not created by any other natural or unnatural cause.  This naturally brings me to the unnatural causes, which are dominated by the paradigm of forest management.  Post-fire logging, or clearcut logging, or even commercial thinning of primary living forest types are examples of management.  

Various levels of government in almost all nations and the logging industry have created a boogeyman out of fires, but also out of insects which are a natural part of a forest's life cycle, and with the boogeyman 'problem', they have the solution, salvage logging.  Doesn't that sound nice? Everybody wants to have salvation, right?  The problem with these unnatural disturbances, besides the fact that they destroy the potential of the forest to have these multitudinous varied, and specific niches, (a state of which is scientifically named heterogeneity) is that they open up the forest to wind, create unnatural heat islands, mechanically impact the ground's stored carbon reserves and the fine living structures that sequester carbon, and they bulk remove carbon from the forests that are necessary for ecosystem dynamics.  They also generally pile up the larger wood that they deem unuseful for lumber purposes and burn it (or more recently truck it to be burned in biomass power plants), and leave a scattering of broken smaller branches as 'slash' on the ground which acts as kindling.  

These cut-down areas are often replaced with unnatural speciations of single-aged conifers which become ladder-fuel-rich, crown-fire-prone,  hazards.  In short, the science has repeatedly shown, that it is the logging practices and clearing practices of the last hundred years that have created the firestorm situation and the large scale of these fires is attributed solely to that, and not the density of the primary forest's fuels.  Humans need to be managed, not forests.   Ecological and biogeographical fire science indicates all this to be true, but the forest industry lobbyists and the governments who stand to gain from logging do not want to hear it, ignore it, or defame it and the people who bring this information forward at all costs.  It is these logging practices that accelerated the fire risk that took so many lives and homes in California in the past years are the result of human decisions, not because of the forests needing more management.  it is a fact, that the townspeople of Paradise and Concow were ensured by government and industry that they should allow large-scale logging in the surrounding forests because it would reduce the threat of wildfires.

There are three factors that could have saved those lives and homes:  

One is fire-smarting the houses.  This is done by the government paying for non-flammable roofs and siding, multi-paned glass, and attic vents that can resist embers.   This also includes ensuring that gutters are clean of flammable debris, that dog doors are secured, and that if water is available, rooftop sprinklers are put in place.  The area around them is cleared and pruned, creating at least a 100-foot area that is easy to defend with no dry material.  

Two is that instead of fighting wildfires deep in the forests, focus most of that money on fighting fires that are right against towns.  

And the third is to train local able-bodied people in the safe control and fighting of wildfires.  

This seems like a lot of government money being put out there, right? ...but the wildfire budget is very high, and this would take a fraction of it to do properly.    

We seriously need to reconsider what we are allowing to be done in our forests and watch for the scary words that are used to normalize them in our minds and the minds of the media-frenzied masses.  Permaculture was founded with a guiding principle that the wilderness, or the Earth should be largely left alone to care for itself and that we should be managing our human habitat areas in a zone model.  Zone 0 is the house.  Start there.                  
3 months ago

Things I've done to help with problem 1:
A) try to create a solid ridgepole. A rope doesn't cut it!

 I totally agree, but had to laugh.  Figuratively this is true, yes, but a rope actually literally cuts it, because all its imperfections, seen or unseen, add friction, acting as knives as the tarp shifts and flexes.  

But the other crucial point about a rope center ridge is that it offers a surface area that is too small to support the fragile fabric of the tarp.  The gentle curve of the bamboo, or PVC, or other larger diameter material supports a much larger bit of the tarp's surface area, spreading that tension out.  Similar to my first point, a smooth object, even a smoother type of rope-if that's all you have, will be a lot less prone to tearing the tarp than a rope with an uneven surface.  Multiple support structure pieces can spread the load and tension out further but can be more prone to allowing snow or water to be trapped.

I've had some success running a rope through the grommets on one side of the tarp, and then pulling on that rope with my tie down ropes.  This spreads out the tension to all of the grommets on that side at once, rather than a point force on one grommet.

Another option is the stone method.  Rather than use grommets at all, take a stone or even a smooth spruce cone or another object (I've used short sticks), put it in the bottom side of the tarp, and scrunch the upper surface of the tarp over the object.  Tie your tie-down rope around the scrunched upper surface so that the object is trapped.  This method, in comparison to a grommet, creates many more points of tension in the tarp fabric.  This will lose you some of the available tarp coverage, and is best initiated on the ground before the tarp has been put up.

The sturdiest method I've found is to put a board along the edge of the tarp, and then roll the tarp, trapping the wood.   At this point you have a wooden edge that you can fasten hooks, rings, or screws into and use them to pull the tarp tight with your tie-down straps.  Of course this uses up some available tarp surface in the rolling.  Alternatively, two boards can be placed on opposite sids, sandwiching the tarp edge.  This allows you to use the entire tarp's surface for shedding water.

None of these methods will serve you perfectly in a windy location.  The windier that a place is, the more prone the tarp will be to flapping.  No matter how tight you think you've made a tarp structure, it will have wind movement in a windy spot.  Although UV will eventually mess with all of these non-resistant plastics, wind can destroy them in minutes.  A few years ago, I had a fresh medium-duty tarp guyed down solidly and evenly that was totally destroyed by a single storm because of it's location.  In other locations, protected by trees from most U.V. and wind, I've had tarps last a really long time.

The disintegrated plastic tarp is the bane of many a homestead.  Mine included.

Tarp comes from the word Tarpaulin, which seems to come from the idea of impregnating a fabric with tar.  It seems there is a bit of planned obsolescence, or just general ignorance on the part of industry and the consumer world on the creation and use of plastic tarps.  The almost ubiquitous nature really bothers me but I haven't really done anything about this gripe!  Plastic tarps are a part of the convenience culture that we probably should be trying to find alternatives to, like making real tarps.  That is a good video posted earlier.  There are lots of videos on making fabrics waterproof that a person can check out.  The natural way would be to apply some kind of oil base with beeswax melted into it.  Heat is beneficial to get such oil mixes to penetrate and soak into the fibers of the fabric.  
4 months ago
found this video today and thought of this thread from a while back.

I hope it is helpful.

4 months ago