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Chris Wells

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since Jun 15, 2016
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hugelkultur forest garden solar
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Zone 2b, Canadian Rockies
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Recent posts by Chris Wells

I've read a few recipes for tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce that call for one or two tomato leaves, chopped finely. I've tried this and I found the sauces tasted very fresh and alive... it was a worthy ingredient. I've also read that you can add a teaspoon of tomato leaf puree to a quart of canned tomatoes to make them taste garden fresh again. I have done this and was again pleased with the results.

For those who wish to experiment, I would try the leaves as an ingredient to see if you like the results. I've never tried eating one on its own, so I can't speak to that.
4 years ago
Variables of the individual situation can profoundly change the answer to this question. I converted my motorhome to LED lighting a few years back. I also installed a solar system and battery bank so I could operate off-grid. I replaced 18w incandescent lamps with 3.5w LED. The LED were brighter and much more efficient, even after adding constant current controllers. I went from being able to operate (stingily) off-grid for a few days in a row, to being able to live off-grid without ever running out of power, even in the dead of winter. The efficiency of LED made that possible.

I think those who intend to operate off-grid are wise to look to LED lighting options. Energy sipping makes off-grid living much easier. Off-grid lifestyles usually involve heating with wood, passive sunlight, and other non-electric sources; as such, the heat generated by incandescent lamps represents inefficiency traded for no measurable benefit. It is different for those living on grid of course, especially if they use electric heating. But I guess that's my point. You really have to consider your circumstances to come up with an accurate position.
4 years ago
It will take me a while to condense my notes. Please check your Purple Mooseages. You'll find a wealth of information there, logged in chronological order as I lived the two years. It'll be a great read for one who intends a similar adventure.

Cheers friend, and be well.
4 years ago
I have.

What you are doing is a direct parallel to my past. When the economy soured in 2008, I purchased a travel trailer and then upgraded to a motorhome when I had saved sufficient funds. I ended up living two years off-grid, surviving -36C winters without heat and living through summer no-see-ums at temperatures that reached the mid 40s indoors. For those who understand Fahrenheit, we're looking at extremes of -33F to 113F. I documented the entire experience. I'll start a thread on Permies to share what I learned in a succinct fashion. It was one of the most rewarding and trying times of my life. The resultant spiritual and emotional evolution I experienced still astound me.

I suspect your journey won't involve the extreme cold that mine did, but it will still temper you. I hope the information I share in my next thread will be of use. I'll post here when it's active. Plan to see the thread in about a week, as I am going to be tied up for the next few days.
4 years ago
You have all the time you need. Move at your pace; the world will wait.

There was a time I felt I had to act NOW. It was 2008 and my income had fallen dramatically due to the economic crisis. I responded in earnest and readied myself for whatever might lay ahead. In hindsight, it was both the right and wrong thing to do.

I made a wise decision because life did in fact get more difficult. I made an unwise decision because many of my investments were difficult to undo. I wish I'd taken more time then, to leverage what I know today.

This is the best advice I can offer. Be strategic. Be comfortable with your choices. Do what you do because it is in your soul... let it be something you embrace, instead of a place to run to. Do not act because the world forces your hand; act because you feel in your heart it is right.

What was your past remains your past. Do not think you can leave it behind and be happy. These concretewalker friends and family you mention... your terminology shows you are distancing them, but you are of them. They are of value to you, and vise versa. Perhaps instead of distancing yourself, you could embrace them and think of how that understanding fits into the life you see as reasonable today. It has a place; whether it is large or small will depend on you.

It sounds like you are ready to embrace the agricultural side of permaculture. Have you come to realize it is more? Permaculture is about growing food in harmony with the environment, about building structures that embrace their surroundings, about consistently acting in a fashion that is in the mutual best interest of both yourself and the good earth. It is a lifestyle, complete with spiritual understanding and a foundational connection with all that surrounds you. Is this what you intend to embrace? Is this what draws your soul? I ask because all beings who find happiness do so through personal growth and love. You can't adopt a lifestyle because of fear the old economy is unsteady. You have to do it because the lifestyle you have found is in tune with your nature. This ensures you will be happy no matter what happens, economic or otherwise.

There's one other thing you might consider. A permaculture life is not always an easy life. Should you build a self-sustaining forest garden, you'll work hard now to live easier later. It's one example of permaculture as a non-financial investment. It only works if the lifestyle fits you and you remain within it. Imagine spending five years building a food forest, only to decide you wanted to return to the world of concrete and steel. Don't think it so absurd; permaculture involves casting off many illusions and not all are ready. Impetus can involve relationships, loss of kinship with those who won't follow, a yearning for the faster life, an unwillingness to break from the constant stimulation of the digital world. I can't say this does or does not apply to you, but I can suggest you think about it. You might even try volunteering your time and brawn in trade for wisdom and experience. It'll be a worthwhile trade for all involved. Don't fret the fact you'll be green; we like green.

I hope this advice helps. I don't wish to direct you either way; only you should do that. I seek only to stimulate thoughts that will help you know what is right for you.
4 years ago
Steven's right on the money. Draft your house and refine it to the best of your ability first. You'll learn a lot about what you want and do not want. Your plans will change, radically I expect.

This was the approach I took; as my plan evolved, I was able to disqualify potential sites that lacked required features. The result was a clear understanding of what land and amenities were essential to my plan.

Had I purchased the land prior to planning, I'd have made a poor purchase decision.
4 years ago
Given the additional information you've provided, I suggest looking into clay pot irrigation. It'll dramatically reduce the amount of water you need to irrigate your new trees, while still ensuring hydration over extended periods. Reduced water consumption eases your workload and reduces the size of any pumping system you choose to implement. There are some profound effects as well; if your olla pots are of suitable size, weekend watering would result in week-long hydration... that means faster growth, less stress, and improved survival rates for your trees.

The most comprehensive single source of information on clay pot irrigation I know of is http://permaculturenews.org/2010/09/16/ollas-unglazed-clay-pots-for-garden-irrigation/. There's a lot of information on it here on Permies.com as well.

I think you would be best off investing in a portable electric pump, a suitable sized solar panel, and a constant current controller. The combination need only supply a trickle of water all day. You'll be surprised how little flow it takes to add up to a few dozen gallons of water over hours. It's not a lot of work for a solar system... it's just a lot of work for human hands. The reason is obvious when you think about it. Your pump need only move the water, while you need to move yourself and the weight of the water. If we assume you need to move 20 gallons (8.4lbs per gallon), that you can move two gallons per trip, and that you weigh 150lbs... well then you have to move 165lbs up the hill ten times, while the pump need only move 168lbs up the hill one time.

You might be thinking the same logic applies to a manual pump. It doesn't. A manual pump is going to strain select muscle groups. Think sore back, sore arms, or sore legs. Whatever does the pumping is going to bear the strain. With that level of rise, no manual pump will beat the ease of a small solar config. Save your muscle power for the tasks that aren't easily automated.
4 years ago
I would put a reservoir midway. Transport runoff water from the roof to the reservoir via an enclosed pipe; that'll maintain the head you get from gathering water at the roof. This will reduce your lift requirements by about 6 feet if you have a single story house, or by 14 feet if you have a two story home. You then need only a small solar system and electric pump to lift from the primary reservoir to the garden. I'd put a second reservoir at the garden area to which you can pump the water on sunny days; this will reduce or eliminate your need for batteries.

When water is enclosed in a U-shaped pipe, it settles due to gravity, and is at the same height at both ends of the pipe. If the reservoir end of the U-shaped pipe is slightly lower than the roof, water will flow through from the roof to the reservoir. The greater the differential between the inlet and outlet height, the faster the flow. The wider the pipe, the more volume you get. This requires no electricity and there are no moving parts. It won't pump uphill, but it'll get your water closer to the garden, and it'll reduce the elevation you need to compensate for with your pump.
4 years ago
The flow of your revised version is good. It's an easy read and it paints a picture in my mind. I think the style works.

"No matter where you live" implies that this is book for anyone, anywhere, who seeks to create a food forest. Is this the case? I ask because your introduction is filled with zone specific species. I live in USDA Zone 2-3b. The tree and plant life you mention is fitting for a very different climate. Reading your introduction, I don't get the feeling you'll deliver on your title. Perhaps you need to rename the book. Alternately, you could address this concern. I think you'll find it applies to much of your potential audience; at minimum, it applies to the audience your title will attract.

I still feel it is worth creating an outline or index.

4 years ago
It's a shame about your batteries, but it does appear you have a good solution. A 60kw battery bank is right in line with a 2 day reserve. Supplemented by occasional generator use, this seems a realistic configuration for your locale. You get two hairy thumbs up from this side of the fence.

May I suggest you configure the generator to automatically start and charge when battery voltage reaches a minimum threshold? This will reduce tending, and it will also extend the lifespan of your batteries. Not every user will want to understand the technical aspects of the electrical system; many will just want it to work. This will be more able to meet such expectations. It'll also help reduce the "oops" factor that could otherwise apply if users don't pay attention to battery charge levels.
4 years ago