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Eric Hanson

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since May 03, 2017
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Recent posts by Eric Hanson

Nice pictures Anne!

Given that you are seeing yours, I hope that I start seeing mine soon.  I have about 5ish acres of old pasture that I let grow wild over summer.  I get lots of milkweed and Monarch butterflies love to stop by for the snack.  By covenants I have to mow once per year so I always do that after October after the monarch’s have passed.

Again, wonderful pictures!

4 days ago
This is an awesome topic!

I remember from several years ago seeing house designs that were designed with passive solar cooling in mind.  The houses all had good southern exposure which helped to heat the homes during the winter months (assumes northern hemisphere).  The sunlight from those southern facing windows would shine upon huge masonry cylinders that were filled with water.  The masonry was heat conductive and the water has an amazing specific heat capacity meaning that the cylinders could hold a lot of heat for release over night.

In the summer months, things reversed.  The sun was no longer low in the sky and passed right overhead.  This meant that the southern windows were properly shaded by an overhang specifically designed for the exact latitude.  The masonry cylinders were located adjacent to a set of skylights that were kept shaded in the summer daytime by louvers.  At night, the louvers were opened.  Any heat absorbed by the cylinders was then radiated out the top of the roof through the skylights, cooling the cylinders and cooling the house.  During the daytime, that giant, cool mass then absorbed heat from the inside of the house as the house warmed up during the day.  The result was a considerably cooler interior than would otherwise be the case without that great big cooling mass.

This effect can be amplified with some clever painting.  There is a special, highly reflective white paint made from barium sulfate (which is harmless and used medically as an X-ray contrast agent for diagnose GI problems.  It is simply consumed orally as a thick liquid).  Barium sulfate has the unusual property of being even more reflective that fresh snow!  When painted on a surface and exposed to direct sunlight on a bright sunny day, the painted surface actually cools instead of warming!  The barium sulfite reflects almost 100% of the radiant energy and it further radiates away heat to the open sky, thus cooling the surface!  This does not work quite as well during days where there is a thin, overcast layer of clouds that lets in sunlight but blocks heat radiation.  But still, this works wonderfully during hot, cloudless days and in amazing during clear nights!  Perhaps the combination of a barium sulfate painted roof and cooling masses inside could really work together to cool down a house on an otherwise very hot day?

I thought this was worth some thought.

6 days ago
Hi Clarence and welcome to Permies!

I will echo what Anne just said.  For context, your situation parallels my experience from last summer so I will relay that bit of experience to you.

I have several acres and a few garden plots that I have meticulously kept up—until last summer.  2023 has been an extremely busy year for me and while I love keeping a garden and eating fresh veggies, this last year I planted nothing and simply ignored the garden.  I barely had time to mow my lawn.  Unfortunately, my neglect allowed ragweed to take root in my garden plots.  I am terribly allergic to ragweed and right now I have 7’ tall ragweed releasing their plentiful pollen all too close to my house.  

If I were doing this summer over again I would try two techniques.  Firstly, I would cover the beds with cardboard and maybe pile chopped leaves on top.  One of my beds did have a layer of cardboard and it is by far the less weedy of the two.  The other idea would be to plant an annual cover crop.  I am specifically thinking about buckwheat as it can really smother weeds while digging it’s roots deep into the soil.  Just be certain to mow it before it goes to seed or you will have another crop of buckwheat.

Congratulations on the new plot of land and I hope to hear about more of your new adventures in the future.

P Mohan,

The issue with the pine is the sap which impedes the growth of the fungal strands.  Chipped wood *might* work, but pine wood that has dried out works better.  Maybe if you mix some straw or other chips you could get good results?

1 month ago

The 1/4 acre is just the garden area.  And to be clear, that was not a measurement, but rather more of an estimate my friend gave me.  Also, most of that area will be walkway space so it is not like the entire 1/4 acre will be covered in straw bales.  The rest of the acreage he is tackling more slowly but with a deliberate seed mix.


Actually I like links about making the various liquid organic fertilizer.  My friend has not begun fertilizing yet, nor even placing straw bales, so maybe he will be amenable to these ideas.

Yesterday was the first day back for teachers, today was the first day for students.  My friend is starting his last year and we got to talking.  I did mention all the gick that can be in straw and not only was he aware of it, he seemed confident that he had steered clear.  I didn’t get specifics there, but he seemed to have that base covered.  

I was fascinated by his plan to create his soil where essentially none exists at present.  I saw pictures of his land and he has his work cut out for him.  My first house was built on strip mine tailings with a covering of clay subsoil.  It was odd land—I had random pieces of shale that poked up in the yard.  I am sympathetic to his challenge as his clay “soil” covering is even thinner than mine.  He does plan to use legumes and deep rooting grasses etc. to help build soil across most of his land.  It is the garden area that stumps him—and me.


Yeah, I hear what you are saying.  I don’t think he plans to sell his produce.  He seems more interested in self-sufficiency.  But I guess if he changed his mind in 3 years he could go ahead and do so.  As it is he just needs that N boost quickly.


There are no major animals operations nearby as far as I am (or he is) aware.  I agree with you and him that he will be helping the land in the long run.  In fact, it would actually be hard to harm this land as it only minimally fits the definition of soil.  And I am certain that in the long term he will be adding carbon and microbes to the very soil that he is creating.  The only downside is that the first step includes using an ingredient that is not organic, though he will be making organic material.  And he is not using a ‘cide.  But he is sensitive to the non-organic step he might have to take and is looking for options.  He did say that he would even use urine if he thought he could get enough (but that much might really stink.).

I have a question that I can’t seem to answer for myself.

I have a friend who is about to retire and wants to do a sort of permaculture-ish homestead on some land he recently acquired.  The land is about 30 acres but has a significant drawback—it is almost entirely strip-mine tailings covered with a thin layer of clay for “topsoil.”  There is almost no organic matter in the “soil” and it shows.

Part of his plan is to build a huge, almost 1/4 acre garden, but he is planning on generating his own soil.  The idea is to buy a trailer full of straw bales and line them up in rows and do a huge straw bale garden for one season, maybe two.  At the end of 1-2 seasons his plan is to use the resulting compost as garden bedding for a raised bed right where the bales sat.  The thinking being that as the bales decompose they will make the ground beneath more fertile, attract worms, generate soil biology, etc. etc.  He is well aware of how much work is involved.

Generally I love his plan if  it were not for one complication.  He is generally very organic/permaculture minded, but he needs a nitrogen source for all those bales.  His plan is to reluctantly use balanced chem fertilizer a single time to get the decomposition started and then never  use it again.  He would like to use an organic fertilizer but he can’t find one that he can afford at the scale he needs.

Is it still organic/permaculture if he went the chem route for the single instance?

Secondly, is there another, cheap, bulk source of organic nitrogen?

I am curious on my friend’s behalf.

Ok, I thought I would summarize a list based on suggestions made here.  I would make it look like the following:

1). Have a good attitude! (Thanks Eloise).  Personally I love snow and it does make me a little bit sad that I don’t get all that much.

2).  Good clothing, hats-boots-gloves, snowsuit or carharts, blankets & sleeping bags.  I try to avoid cotton where possible in this category as cotton really soaks up water/sweat and then turns to a cold, clammy layer.  For natural fibers, wool and silk are excellent fabrics that insulate well without soaking.  Carla make an excellent point about dressing in layers.

3). Transportation.  A Subaru or similar might well be a good investment.  A snowmobile might also be a good idea.  Of course, these are more expensive purchases and you have to balance their value against your own savings.  What type of vehicle do you own at present?

4).  Tools.  Get a good snow shovel or two for certain.  For deep snow I like having an aluminum grain scoop style shovel as it will lift out a large volume of snow.  Maybe a snowblower is worth it?  It will certainly make moving larger quantities of snow easier, but it will also require fuel—maybe keep a minimum of 5 gallons for the snowblower alone?  Honestly I don’t know how long your driveway is or how often you need to get out.  The ladder and sledgehammer are good ideas but I would have these anyway.

5). Power and communication.  Since the power will go out, do you have a plan to get by without the electrical company?  A generator could be nice, but again it will require fuel—for how long I just don’t know.  I would keep the radio and lots of batteries.  One little trick I have for a power outage comes from my batteries for my power tools.  I have a little inverter that slides on top of the battery and can give 175 watts of power & power a couple of USB devices.  Since my batteries are always charged, in an emergency I always have at least enough power to charge my phone.

I am going to add fuel in this category as well.  Obviously if you have a snowmobile, generator, snowblower, etc. you will need gas.  Maybe keep 4-5 5 gallon cans of gas on hand?  Also, if you heat with wood, you will want some ready-to-burn wood available.  

Last point that has not been mentioned yet: food.  Make certain that you have canned or other non-perishable food available for an extended time period.

I could really go on and on but I will try to bring things to an end here.  Eloise made a good point that all these suggestions could spur a buying binge.  I would say that many of the items you will need are items you should have on hand anyway.

Good luck!

1 month ago