Phil Stevens

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since Aug 07, 2015
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duck trees chicken cooking wood heat woodworking homestead
Ashhurst New Zealand
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Recent posts by Phil Stevens

Is this near Invers, Nathan? How cold is it going to get overnight on average...near 0C on the coldest nights? I would guess that the thermal mass around the stove is going to retain a fair bit of heat. But if you really do need the fire to be up and roaring before you are, I like the laser idea best of all.
47 minutes ago
William, I can attest that the steam table pans work. I've been using them in the wood fire for a few years now. I get two seasons out of a pan, and so far haven't had to replace a lid. I'm using 1/4 size 65mm depth and can fit up to three of these in the wood fire. Smaller vessels have the advantage of higher surface area to volume ratio, which could play a part in how well the interior heats up...but in the inferno of a fully fueled batch box this may never be an issue. I have had pans that didn't char in the middle because I put them in when the fire had died down a little too far.
1 week ago
If that's mild steel, it won't last in a batch box. Depending on the gauge, it will be consumed in time, and that might be as rapidly as ten or twenty burns.

Now, this, on the other hand:

Not as big, and made of heavy stainless steel. You could put it in when you load the batch, or wait until partway through a burn.
1 week ago
My greenhouse has integrated gutters in the extruded aluminium channels, so it was easy to hook up a barrel system using 200 l plastic drums. There's a primary collector on blocks next to the structure, and the outlet from that goes into the greenhouse, which has an excavated floor. Inside there are three more barrels daisy-chained together to act as a single tank, The gravity feed from the outside barrel is attached to a float valve on one of the inside barrels. All the inside ones are black to maximise heat gain (but since they're back in a corner and covered with plants it's not like they're bathing in solar rays). I also manually fill a bathtub with water from this system, so all together it's about 1000 l of storage and it's quick to do a round of watering when we're dipping the can or bucket out of the bathtub.

So far, in three years of operation, we have not needed to use town water in there once. Everything we've needed has come from the sky. The other thing I've done was to put most of the plants on tables covered with corrugated roofing iron on a slight angle which drains into buckets. This lets us reuse as much water as possible. Can you tell I spent most of my life in a desert?

I'm also a fan of not allowing the humidity to get too high in greenhouses, as that's how lots of pathogens get the advantage. Capturing the runoff helps us control moisture levels.
2 weeks ago
One of the most common trees planted all across NZ in the early settler era was the Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa). Now lots of these old giants are being felled, some because they're dying of canker, but most because dairy farmers don't want them around their cows and heifers, as the green foliage induces miscarriage. So I get lots of macrocarpa shavings, bark, and offcuts, and it's one of the main components of the poultry bedding and mulch around the property. It decomposes in a similar manner to most other softwood, although not as fast as pine.

The thing about most cypresses is that the oils that make them resistant to rot and insects don't stand a chance against the fungi that enter from the soil. Macrocarpa is regarded as a durable timber here as long as it's not in contact with the ground.
3 weeks ago
I can confirm that the mushrooms in the previous post were harvested and sauteed in garlic butter and THEY WERE AWESOME.

There are clusters forming on several other logs.
3 weeks ago
Update on the hugel. Warm spring rains have been here and I discovered a flush of Pleurotus on one of the logs this morning. Garlic butter will be involved in the sorting out of this issue.

4 weeks ago
My main biochar production area is in the same paddock that the chickens spend most of their time in. They are always going through and devouring small pieces, some more than others. The main things I have observed is that there is very little runny poop these days, and it's more black than white. The chickens themselves are fine and aside from the output side of things I can't really discern any major difference in their overall health of the flock...they range across about an acre and have always had a variety of foods.

It's a great way to process and spread the material, though. Our next cattle beast is going to be plied with a biochar/chaff/molasses mix. The last steer would not touch it, but we will keep trying.
1 month ago
Good idea trying a mix. Lotus (trefoil) is great but goes dormant in winter here and I suspect will do the same in your climate, so having some cool-season alternatives like lupines will keep the growth going year round.
1 month ago
The chiltepin (aka tepin, pequin) Capsicum annuum v. glabriusculum grows wild in the Sierra Madre and some of the mountains of SE Arizona as a perennial. I came across healthy plants in a canyon in the Tumacacoris around 4500' elevation, where frosts are common and snow can fall once or twice in winter. I don't think that -15C would happen very often in that location, though, and the plants I saw were in sheltered locations, under nurse trees like hackberries and close to rock walls.

We used to get them seeded by birds in Tucson, where record lows were down to about -7C. But again, perennial examples of these would normally be found next to buildings and under trees or larger bushes. I grew them in containers and they stayed near the house over winter.