Steve Hitchen

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since Apr 06, 2015
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Recent posts by Steve Hitchen


LOADS of humans *DIDN'T* survive... because without fridges they died. Not a few handfuls of them.... millions of them. Literally millions. Fridges are pretty important things.

Jo: If your challenge is the initial current draw, then by replacing the kicker capacitor with something much heftier, you can slowly trickle in current and you won't get the initial massive draw down. Also - wrap the door, sides and top of the fridge, but not the back in Kingspan, or some other insultation, and keep the back of the fridge eithr cool or in a draft ( a draft is better ) and you will see a very large drop in your energy consumption.

As a general concept, putting a super-capacitor bank into your system sounds like it would be very beneficial for you to handle large "lumpy" current items better - you can very easy get the plans for such a system for free on the internet and the parts themselves for perhaps $30 - $40 if you are in the US.

I would guess that the most efficient, and most ecologically sound way of cooling would be an ice house - you can even go as far as making a communal ice house. They were very common in victorian england - you pack it with ice during the winter and you still have ice left the next winter... and they are very practical to make out of earth, so would be cheap. You would only need 1 ice delivery a year - or none if you live in an area with snow in the winter.
4 years ago
I don't understand this - this doesn't feel like good permaculture to me.

Apart from Mr Borlaug and his amazing wheat, it's unlikely that there has ever been any innovation by man which has saved more lives than the fridge. Certainly the UN believes that the fridge has saved at least three times as many people as anti-biotics have ( for one thing because without fridges, you can't have anti-biotics....), and more than 5x as many people as DDT has ( you may not like it, but DDT has saved the lives of 100million+ people)

Given it's criticality - why would you actively work against it? For the same effort as working against it, you could find a way of making a method of cold storage that works for you in your situation.

Isn't that what we strive for?
4 years ago

I have a lump of space in my garden which this year I have no significant need for. However - my compost heap can take as much green matter as I can throw at it.

What would be some good plants to grow where my focus is on generating the maximum amount of green matter for the compost heap?

The "soil" is pretty rich - it's two year old wood chip.
4 years ago
Just put an advert in Farmers Weekly. Everyone reads it, and the small ads section gets scanned by everyone - no point going to people if they can come to you.

I would add you will cover legal costs.

You will be FAR more likely to be able to secure land if you rent as a tennant rather than want to buy - there isn't a huge amount of land for sale at the moment, but it's easy enough to find small plots on a 5 year tennancy. And, if you find you don't like the lifestyle, you aren't locked up with a big mortgage
4 years ago

<<Not sure this is the correct forum - I figure that this is the best place for a "wooly" question.

I am looking for any information I can get on Trompes - gravity assisted water "pumps" and/or gravity assisted aerators.

I understand the concept in general - looking for specific designs and mechanisms - for once google seems a bit lacking - I wonder if there are alternative names?
4 years ago
So - some thoughts.

You don't say how large your land is, so I will guess it's the size of a medium field.

First off- don't even bother with the lawn spike or the yeomans plow for something like this on hard compacted ground - it's bad enough doing this in regular soil - especially with the lawn spike.

Your first steps depend on how much muscle effort you want to put in, and how much money you want to get out.

Putting in some greenery would be the first thing - mullien, radishes, maybe some clover and some would be a good start - it will start getting some structure into the soil but, much more critically, will slow the erosion by slowing down the water. depending on the situation wth fences and predators, I would also be tempted to run some chickens onto the land after a few weeks - leave them wild but clip their wings. They wil loosen up the soil, add dirt and keep down any pests from your new shoots.

Depending on how much rain you get them swales and berms might be useful. Take a "splitting approach" - either split the ground in half or into thirds, and put swales through those lines. Next year, add a couple more, and then a couple more etc etc.

Next time it rains, get out onto the land and follow the trickles of water and see where they go. At the lower points, find some way of articially slowing that water down to get it to drop it's sediment. You could use hay bales, or dig pits and fill them with woodchip - either way it will slow the water ( good) and get it to drop it's load ( very good). In a similar vein, if you have a seasonal stream - are you in a position to put a low dam into it? This is very easy to do by hand - well - if it's a small stream - and very low cost. Again this will slow the water and get it to drop it's contents, while also giving you more water on your land ---- a LOT depends on local restrictions and geogaphy.

I think the key thing for you to be looking at - even more so than swales and berms - is some sort of "restoritive grazing" - combine the work that plants and animals will do for you in one go.

4 years ago
I am going to be putting in terraces and keylines into my (kinda) farm in the next few days/weeks.

I have just got about 200 arces in Yorkshire - and so it is: wet, cold and very very windy.

My plan is as follows:

- split the fields into a series of terraces and get them roughly level. I will mainly be using Gambions for this as they are cheap, practical and give me great big area's of stone to act as heat sinks. The majority of these will be either south or west facing, so I will be packing them with manure, and it gives me a path to climbers and scramblers like melons and pumpkins.

Near the gambions on each level I will be planting "rooty" trees - like Willows, holly and fruit trees etc. These will help tie all the soil together and tie the soil to the gambions. I will be planting these pretty densely. This will give me two important assets - a shelter belt for the terrace and, especially with the holly and fruit trees, a refuge for bees and other pollinators. The plan is to initially plant a lot of mixed annual and perenial species, and then bring in sheep for Year 1 grazing using a holistic grazing approach. I will be getting as much woodchip as I can from the local tree surgeons for chickens to graze over initially - I have got agreement for about 65 tonnes so far - with the chicken grazing on this, it will break down far faster, and then this can start being spread. Currently trying to get a donkey to guard the chickens, but turns out it's very hard to get a donkey when you tell people it's to guard chickens from foxes - they think you are daft.

And then.... perhaps in 20 years time.... it will be very productive land.
4 years ago

So - I now have a big-lump-o-land. Hurrah!. Next step is to go nuts with terraces and re-structuring of the land. I am going to terrace where practical, using a mixture of battered gambions and straight tree lined earth banks.

The time is coming for the man with the bulldozer to come and start moving lots of soil.

Issue: How on earth do I actually measure the contours and mark them out?

If this was a garden, or just a few acres, I could set to with an A-Frame and do it myself. However, I'm looking at around 200 acres so that isn't practical.

Are there any cunning methods in use for large scale measurements? Or do I need to bite the bullet get a theodolite and Jamb Bar and just get on with it?

Also - what suggestions are around for marking out the lines for the dozer and diggers so that they can be seem from the vehicles? I was thinking something like mowing them into the existing vegetation?

4 years ago
Whippets. This is a question with a definitively correct answer - They were bred for rabbit catching. Lots of dogs can catch rabbits, but nothing comes close to whippets.

----- Don't get me wrong - getting ANY dog is almost always a good investment, but getting a dog specifically for rabbit? Then Whippets are the most sensible choice.

The benefit of a whippet is that, essentially, it's a cat. It sleeps for 16-18 hours a day, doesn't smell, doesn't eat much, is very very clean and very very lazy. a 15 to 20 minute walk is about all they need because if they go much further they get tired and sit down and refuse to walk. They are also by far the gentlest of all the dog species - they make Labradors look aggressive, and are brilliantly safe with children. So - when you DON'T want to catch rabbits, you have a very easy dog to live with.

But... when they see a rabbit, they are the second fastest land animal on earth (after the cheetah) and will happily catch the rabbits as long as you like. Their only desires in life are: 1) sleep on the sofa and 2) catch rabbits. Then, when your done, they'll sleep for another 15 hours.

Beware though - they are astonishingly dumb - when they HAVE the rabbit, they often look a bit confused as to what to do next.

But - if you want to catch rabbits, using a dog isn't especially sensible or efficient - even a whippet will only consistently catch perhaps 1 in 6 or even 1 in 8. If you have a rabbit problem, then you need to be using ferrets - by far and away the most efficient way of catching rabbits - even more efficient than gas - and you get a lot of meat and furs as well.

If you have hares instead of rabbits, the hare has more stamina than a Whippet and will usually out-run it. In this case, either a greyhound or a saluki is the better option - both are a little slower, but have got more stamina. A greyhound is just like a large whippet in terms of temperament and exercise requirements - possibly they are even more lazy. A saluki is as gentle as a whippet, but their stamina is astonishing - right up their with Vizsla's in terms of endurance - if you are going to use them as a working dog that is fine, but as a pet at home, you simply can't give them enough exercise.

Steve ( owner of whippets and regular rabbit catcher)
4 years ago
Wow - I like that very much indeed.

So - how did you do this? You put in a very mild slope - say 1 degree? - so that normal rain sinks in, but deluges wash away?

How much of an impact did you find in terms of the large engineering leading to sub-soil being at the surface? Were you able to cope with it?

4 years ago