Paul Fookes

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since Jun 27, 2015
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My wife Fran, and I live in a compressed earth brick house that is completely off the utilities except for NBN wireless internet. We have had solar power since 1986 and a backup wind turbine. In 2020 we upgraded our system to 2 dual axis trackers with 4 Kw power output. As far as possible we try to grow as much as we can and live with a low to neutral carbon foot print. We are in the process of putting in a gground air heat transfer (GAHT) system for cooling our home in summer. My next project is to refurbish the browns gas generator in our car or the out doors kitchen, honey room and larder - which ever I can organise time for.
Any one coming down under to NSW is most welcome. Send an email to hook up
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Gulgong, NSW, Australia (Cold Zone 9B, Hot Zone 6) UTC +10
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Recent posts by Paul Fookes

Welcome to Permies.  Press the green button at the top of this page
We have just attended a food and film evening.  And to say that I am totally blown away is an understatement!
I have found this clip on YouTube.  They have a very simple aquaponics system with zero outside inputs, which is what I think is the issue where you are is - in particular water input.
Costa is an Australian gardener who pushes the boundaries as well as a TV presenter amongst other things.  Hope this can help you to look at work arounds with the new volunteer.

In health care we have these "magnetic hospitals" where health professionals are just about willing to do anything to work there.  Just putting it out there: what if you created a magnetic soil to supping environment where as part of the experience, people could dine on what they grow?  From my reading of the posts above and your willingness to look at alternatives, you can achieve it.  visualise, research, plan, and step off.  Start small then grow with the volunteers.
Best wishes and don't forget, this is the best family to be a part of because for every issue, at least one of us has found a solution.  I for one would love to see your project as it grows.
1 week ago
Nancy is such a great mentor for these sorts of issues and has some great words as well as done some great work.
Like you, we have long periods of drought ( last one about 7 years) and had the problem with the neighbours cows causing a huge amount of damage, including destroying the pipes and standing in the water tanks.  Then the Kangaroos ate the plants that the cows did not destroy.  Believe me when I say that I feel for you.  From my experience, the hydroponics is doable reasonably cheaply with some planning.

We put up a vermin fence which is about 2 metres high with a barb on the bottom, centre and as the top strainer wire.  It is not cheap but certainly a deterrent. Over time, we collect what we will need in the way of stores and looked at cheap options.  For example we used 200 litre olive drums cut in half longways for some grow beds and an old 3,000 litre cattle watering trough as the main reservoir.

Our other big addition was to add fish to the reservoir instead of adding hydroponic solution.  The fish are an added bonus - and tasty.   If anyone comes up with an idea, I ask them to come back with a plan.  Other things which can be made is a centrifugal filter to take out the fish poo for your other garden(s).   In planning for the eventual drought, we have a rainwater tank.  A couple of solar panels and battery set up with a high efficiency water fall pump works a treat.  Once the water is pushed up to about 2 metres, gravity does the rest.

There is some great stuff out there.  And as Nancy says encourage her.  In time, she will identify where the barriers are and either come up with a work around or why it cannot be done.  Either way it is a win for everyone.
Best wishes
2 weeks ago
Jason, Just PM me.  We are in the middle of NSW, just out of Mudgee.  
2 weeks ago

John C Daley wrote:

 Don't seal the tops of the walls or you could get excessive moisture in it, creating collapse.

Paul, where does that idea come from?
Would lime instead of cement been a better brew w.r. to moisture in the earth wall?

A couple of things come into play here.  Cement powder is hydroscopic.  If you leave a bag of cement powder it will slowly cure outside to inside. When the bag is opened the cement will, in part, retain some moisture  The second thing is that because you need the wall to cure, it needs to breath.  Our blocks sit on a double row of fired house bricks,  with an air gap between the rows.  Bag walls probably need a water resistant base such as dimensional rot resistant hardwood on fire bricks.  Also, our architect and engineer said not to seal the whole wall because it would fall down.

The other thing with this type of wall is that they need to be well compacted.  From what I have read, use a bat or pick handle and bash it into shape and when is is well compacted, bash and compact it more.  These walls act like a heat pump so there is thermal reactivity +/- humidity.  Our external walls had a silica product in distillate sprayed onto it to shed excess water.  The blocks still get moist if it rains.
2 weeks ago

Hank Fletcher wrote:Your probably not far enough south, but why not plant them and grow your own avocado trees. I toss mine in my compost. Boy, I had a big surprise a couple of months ago when I was out turning the pile. I found I had three or four avocado trees starting to grow. I knew they were avocado trees since the one I pulled up was still directly attached to the seed.

You can grow out avocados in pots.  We have minus 5 to 45 deg C.  Once the tree is 3 or more years old, then you can plant them out.  Before the first frost, cover the tree with some insulation such as wool or roof bats.  Cover the top  but remember to remove the top cover when the sun is up.  Hot water bottles or heated rocks will raise the ground temperature.  Once the tree has sufficient girth, it should survive the cold.  There are even cold tolerant varieties.

Unfortunately, I forgot to water my pots so they went to the great garden in the sky.
2 weeks ago
I am with John about the happy wife etc - IMHO you are on a hiding to nothing with that thinking.  You both need to be happy.  

Our walls are compressed earth.  Some of our walls are plaster smooth and some are rough.  It is depends on how you want to finish the walls.  Our walls were finished with a mix of sifted earth and portland cement.  The rougher walls were bagged and the smoother ones finished with a steel float.  The consistency was about the same as thick yoghurt.   Mixed the dirt the day before and added the cement powder 12 dirt to 1 of cement just before use.

If you do not want to use natural paints, use wallboard paint with 1/2 cup of builders lime per gallon.  This will totally stabilise the wall and the difference between the method you want and wallboard will not be distinguishable except under close scrutiny or you tell them.  Don't seal the tops of the walls or you could get excessive moisture in it, creating collapse.

We use a standard drill bit and wallboard plugs to hang pictures.  In the hallway we have picture hanging track with nylon cords, like the ones used in art galleries.

2 weeks ago

Cat Knight wrote:I remember hearing that Fuck or a variation can be used as every part of speech in English. I'm not certain of the accuracy,  but here is an entire grammar lesson, just fill in each blank with our favorite word if you'd like to play along:

I have certainly heard the same and have not yet found where it cannot be used.  It is that Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious word for non-Mary Poppins aficionados, especially if you add a few together, like when you hit your thumb with a hammer and are heavily inhaling.
3 weeks ago

Jason Sparrow wrote:Hey mate,
I am a single guy in Brisbane currently and am very curious with what you want to achieve.  I have a certificate in horticulture and a diploma in permaculture.

Would be keen to chat.


Hi Jason,
Welcome to the Aussie thread. Not sure who your post is directed to, but here goes:
We live in central NSW and have been living off grid since 1986. Permies is a forum for learning, sharing, and understanding. I am looking forward to sharing your experiences.
3 weeks ago

L. Johnson wrote:Two types of thread being discussed make this a little wonky... haha

If the cap screws on it will have screw threads. These are made with screw taps in the appropriate diameter, nothing particularly special.

I think you could pretty easily do a friction fit cap too though.

The friction cap is a luer-lock type lock which is a 1/4 twist on and 1/4 twist off. The angle of the bevel is approx 1.8 degrees from centre (patent information).  This cannot be pulled  off without twisting.
I think that one and a half threads should be sufficient for a threaded cap.
1 month ago