Kimi Iszikala

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since Oct 01, 2017
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foraging greening the desert homestead
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Recent posts by Kimi Iszikala

Wow, Kim, thanks for sharing the Canelo resource -- beautiful videos! I've just watched two so far, but will be watching more.  I am also thrilled by their Japanese influence; I've been thinking of our explorations here as being "Japasazi" -- so politically incorrect, I know -- but we are living here on ancestral Puebloan land and wanting to honor and be good stewards of the land and its history, while also being true to who we are. For me that includes Japanese connections in our food sovereignty efforts, and working with nature, etc. I have been finding so many Japanese connections in unusual places, and the Canelo project turns out to be the most recent example...

Where are you?  We are just north of I-40, 90 minutes west of Albuquerque.  We've been sort of looking for clay-- our local concrete supplier has a pile of dirt that has slightly more clay than we do. We've asked all of the workers who have helped out on our build so far, but no one has known of anywhere yet. Maybe I should post on Facebook marketplace or Craigslist...
6 days ago
Thank you, Kim!  We coincidentally found this course and have been watching it.  You're right, it is perfect for our needs!  
Her solution to finding clay, though, is to go to a park where there is a pond or river and harvest there... might work in Turkey, but not here!  We may well be buying clay to add...

We'll check out the Canelo project too -- thanks for that!
1 week ago
We've been working on building and probably won't plaster until the new year (when we'll be under the roof), but we're revisiting our mix.
We found some more clay-like soil available from our local concrete supplier.  They have mounds of dirt and don't vouch for the clay content, but it seems fairly uniform, and they let us just take some to test and play with.

We did the water jar test which showed a higher clay content than ours.  We could make a nice sticky ball, and a snake that wrapped around our fingers.

I set up a couple of plaster tests.  On the right is plaster made from the concrete supplier's dirt alone.  It's still wet in the picture, but I'm excited that it started cracking within 1/2 hour!  We're hoping it's pretty strongly clay so we can use lots of our on-site dirt, since we have huge mounds of sandy dirt... plus we would love to have our house covered in our own dirt.  On the left is a mix with 3 parts our dirt (sandy) with 1 part dirt from the concrete supplier.  I'll udpate with the results, including any other mixes we make after seeing how these turn out.
2 weeks ago
Hi Sara,

I am just building my house now and I know you wanted someone who built 2 years ago, but I see no one else is responding... so I will let you know our plans.  What are yours?
I'll be following to see if experienced builders weigh in.  I have books and have researched for years, but there's nothing like first-hand experience, and I'd also love to hear how it went for folks (non-experts)!

We plan to use on-site earth with amendments needed based on our earth type.  For us that likely means we will be bringing in more clay-like dirt to mix with our sandy soil.  We will also be mixing in horse manure for the straw, since it is way plentiful here.  We are still testing to figure out our recipe.  But it's kind of irrelevant because it will be something like "2 parts of our on-site dirt to 1 part of the dirt we brought in with more clay, plus 1/2 part horse manure" -- not replicable by anyone else.  I think you can't get around testing your own materials and figuring out your recipes based on your materials & climate, etc.

Our earth plaster thickness will vary because our walls are extremely irregular (tire bales), but it will be a minimum of 1-1/2" thick.

For exterior we will amend with lime or portland cement...

The rest I can't answer based on planning since they are questions about results -- but I predict that it will take extremely long, and that it will be enjoyable (at least at times and in the overall sense of satisfaction) but also will be too much work!  Just predictions based on other building work we've been doing.  My wondering is whether we will really feel like we can complete that huge task ourselves, or will hire helpers.  I think that once we have prepared materials and are ready for the application, a 3-person team sounds ideal (material mixer, applyer, and finisher).  So that would hopefully mean me, my husband, and a third person / rotating helper friends &/or hired help.  We plan to use a toolcrete sprayer, and we bought a used mixer from a neighbor.

Good luck with your project!
2 weeks ago
We just finished the scariest part of our tire bale build... installing a concrete bond beam around the top of the walls.  The tire bales are big bouncy bricks, and we could wiggle and jiggle the walls before the concrete bond beam was installed.  It is a challenge building with the bales because nothing is square, nothing is uniform, and measurements come after installation rather than before -- you just have to make the house as big as the tire bales turn out to be.

The hard part about the concrete bond beam is that the top perimeter of the walls is very bumpy and irregular, with many crevasses and caverns into the bales where concrete could leak.  Building forms on the bales is a challenge because the concrete is so heavy it could bust out the forms if they aren't robust enough, and so liquid it could seep out below the forms where the tires dip.

I wrote a couple blog posts about it for anyone interested in the details.. Taming the Bounce House Part One and Taming the Bounce House Part Two
2 weeks ago
FYI, we did decide to go with lithium -- Kilovault.
(I am always curious after reading threads like this to hear how it turned out, so thought I'd close the loop on this one...)
2 weeks ago
Reading through the thread, this looks a lot like Greenhouse in the Snow
Greenhouse in the Snow has raised beds at ground level, and the center of the greenhouse is excavated 4' deep.  The south face is glazed with 2-layer Lexan, and the north face is insulated and bermed slightly.  It also has low-grade geothermal tubes so that's a little more complex.

Our nights have been in the teens and twenties lately, and in the greenhouse its 50 degrees and the tropical horned melons and tomatoes, citrus trees, etc. are thriving.
2 weeks ago
So I ran our choices by our local solar nonprofit that helps folks get up & running with solar.

He mentioned an electronic device that will lower the surge on motors so they are less likely to trip the inverter.  But he didn't know much about that -- they are mostly helping folks get started with small, simpler systems.

Does anyone know about that?  Is that what an "inrush current limiter" is?

So far the links I've found are all highly technical and sound like they are for big industrial applications...

I think we may just end up going with lithiium rather than cobble up a bunch of stuff to throttle our motors to make the batteries sufficient -- but I think we ought to at least check out the options before deciding.  I do love the idea of the saltwater batteries, but don't want to spend the same $$ for a system that does not work for us...
2 months ago
Blue Sky response:

Those are great questions.  First, there is no 'burning' of the saltwater electrolyte.  They are sealed and never require any maintenance.  

As I mentioned in a previous mail, our batteries are 500W each, continuous power, so that particular comment is fairly accurate.  3-4 of our stacks match the capacity of one Discover (~7.2 kWhs).  But that one Discover can handle load of 7kW (if your inverter is that large), which will cover a lot of surges!  3-4 of our Saltwater batteries want to see about 1.5-2.0kW continuous charging/discharging.  8 Saltwater will want to see roughly 4kW.  Your 2 Discovers will not flinch at loads up to 14kW.  Our saltwater (and Aquion) are 48V batteries with a continuous charge / discharge of roughly 10amps (~500W).  They can surge up to 20amps for a few seconds.  

Love their fast and thorough response.  Not sure my hub will love the less fast and less thorough response of the batteries, though...

Do you know -- if we have a backup generator, does this just mean that with power surges (well pump, power tools, etc), if we overtax the batteries, the whole house backup generator will kick in?  Or is it going to be a pain in the neck when we get big surges, with shutdowns & reset etc?
2 months ago
Thanks for your input!  Good info to have.

I will say that Blue Sky / GreenRock has been super so far -- very communicative.  I am one of those nerds who asks a million detailed questions and then when I get answers I ask a million follow-up questions.  Our email thread already has 13 detailed, informative messages in it, and it just started Sunday night!  (36 hours ago, and yes, their first reply to me came Sunday night)

They are between models... they are adding battery management to each battery stack; the new version should be out early next year, but in the meantime they are not selling any more of the old version.   Bummer for our timing, since we'd like to get up and running this year not only because we need power at our construction site, but also for the tax credit.

Well, they are willing to sell us two Discover lithium batteries, and then swap them for 8 of their saltwater batteries whenever they are available, for no additional fee!  (The price tag is just a tad bit more than lithium for a generously bigger battery bank to hopefully have similar performance).  It is true that the big footprint is not lost on us -- in our little house, it will be a space hog compared to lithium.  We were originally thinking lead acid when we designed the utility room, though, so we should be able to do it.

They are also writing us a quote for a complete turnkey system including panels and everything else you need (inverters, charge controllers, etc etc).

The other vendor we are looking at is Wholesale Solar -- with them also we are going for a turnkey system (including backup generator).  We could also do a Wholesale Solar all-but-batteries kit, and get the batteries from BlueSky (lithium for starters, swapped out for saltwater when available). We are normally DIYers, but have way enough DIY on our plate at the moment, in the middle of a house build, finishing up our earlier greenhouse build, farming, and just managing day-to-day life living outside.

And we thought we were retired.

So we are OK with delegating solar system design and detail planning to a vendor!  We'll still have to pull permits, install the system, arrange inspections, etc.  That's enough.

Any input on wholesale solar would be welcome.  Or input on Heliene panels, Schneider inverter...

I have still not been able to find any info on buying Aquion batteries currently.  I've heard they are available overseas, and I did find 2 vendor sites that mention them ( and i didn't record the other) but neither had them for sale on their site, and I have calls in to both to see if they actually are selling them (solar-electric just said no, haven't sold them since they went bankrupt).  The Aquion site itself does not seem to be working.  If anyone has a link to some place where you can buy Aquion, I'd be interested.  Also, if anyone has any comparison between Aquion and GreenRock batteries, I'd love to hear that too.  In the meantime, I am pretty impressed with Blue Sky / GreenRock.  They have been selling GreenRock batteries in the US for four years.

Thanks again -- I'll shoot off the 14th email with the questions raised by David!
2 months ago