Anthony Dougherty

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since Sep 03, 2018
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forest garden building homestead
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Recent posts by Anthony Dougherty

For wooden beams, what about charring them before installing with gravel?
2 months ago
hi guys! i been thinking about making little pendants with this technique, I appreciate all the info on the ash, but what is the best ratio of calcinated ash to terracotta powder to make a final product?
3 months ago

Julie Reed wrote:

Anthony Dougherty wrote:
Here is my struggle, i am looking for a 100% self-sustainable build. which for me makes metals and plastics a no go. the biggest struggle has been trying to find an alternative water barrier.



I’m not sure there is anything in nature that is waterproof to make the envelope layer, except clay. And that might be a chore, to make a clay umbrella. But consider this- you really don’t need to keep the mass dry! Water holds heat better than anything, so a wet mass obviously holds much more heat (or ‘cool’). What you need to prevent is Migration. That means the wet needs to be the same ‘wet’ every day, not water that is moving through the mass (migration) robbing the heat. That may make your dilemma greater or less, I don’t know. It definitely gives you a major potential mold issue, depending on how the mass relates and connects to the dwelling. I say that because I sense you are talking about a home, not a greenhouse. But what you wouldn’t want is drainage, because that means water will enter your mass, have a quick fling with the heat there, and elope with it. The only way I can think that ‘might’ be acceptable is if you could somehow trap that water and return it to the mass. But in the process, some heat will be lost. Part of the answer also depends on your location, and just how much heat you need to store, and for how long. The other issue is insulation. Water conducts heat far better (and faster) than dry earth. So a wet mass needs better insulation on the exposed areas.
One last thought- you could, with enough slope to the mass, build a shake roof over it. That’s waterproof and natural.



right originally that's what sparked the idea of mucking out above the shelter before completely backfilling, that mucked area would be anaerobic. I just don't know if it would work and for how long. My latest thought is to char a wooden roof to preserve it, as you suggested, but I don't know that this will protect the walls... youre right its for a home, maybe i should start a new thread i guess lol
3 months ago
hi guys!, I have been interested in Wofatis for a while, i backed the greenhouse and am super excited! I originally found you guys looking for earthen bermed houses.

Here is my struggle, i am looking for a 100% self-sustainable build. which for me makes metals and plastics a no go. the biggest struggle has been trying to find an alternative water barrier. I would love to see if this could be a project the labs seeks to solve, I've toyed with the concepts of mucking the umbrella area, or various waterproofing methods before backfilling, and using gravel around the house walls to guide moisture, but they all seem to be insufficient. i hope this can be a future project!
3 months ago
any updates here? were in augusta,havent found our final home yet but i was told we will need to find a licenced engineer to design and oversee construction, i plan to do strawbale
3 months ago

r ranson wrote:


Um... soaking is one way to do it.  It's not the only way.   Here's a bit about retting and flax.

Inside the flax straw are golden fibres.  These are the phylum, or circulatory system of the plant (some plants you use a structural element for fibre, like in the case of sisal or jute).  The individual fibres are affixed to the woody pith and the hard outer shell of the flax straw with several types of glue, the most notable is pectin.  Yep, that's the stuff in Jam.

We can remove the fibres through purely mechanical means.  This is most often in modern-day manufacturing (especially hemp).  Some methods also use chemicals to dissolve the glues and make separating the fibres easier.

But the simplest and most natural way of removing the glues is retting.  Retting is basically a kind of controlled rot.  We create an environment where bacteria, fungi, and other invisible beasties eat the glues that hold the fibre in place.  

Water retting - involves submerging the straw in water and inviting anaerobic (dislikes air) bacteria to do the job.  This is quite damaging to waterways and is banned in many places.  If you water ret, please water down the wastewater (1 part wastewater to 10 parts fresh water) to avoid killing plants, fish, or harming humans.  

Dew retting - is a much easier way to ret.  This involves laying the straw on the grass so that the morning dew moistens the straw and invites aerobic (air loving) invisible beasties to come and eat the glues.
(there's a really great book about flax coming out soon that might interest you.)


Soaking is one way, but there are yet others.

For nettles, some people strip the bark (with the fibres) while the plant is green, then process just the bark. It's easier, space saving, and faster.

I think sunflowers would be the same way.  The ones I grew this year have a stem that is 1-6 inches across, so it's difficult to ret the stems evenly.  They are also over 12 feet tall, so I don't know where I could ret more than a handful of stems.  Smaller plants would be easier to water ret.

I've tried soaking and dew retting sunflowers, but so far no luck.  The fibres are there, but they break easily, not like how others describe it.  It could be the time of year, the conditions I'm retting, or more likely, the kind of sunflower I'm working with is too large.


Of course, what works in one location, works differently in another.  The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment.



Ok well please keep me updated! This is something I'm very interested in!

2 years ago

r ranson wrote:

Anthony Dougherty wrote:Has anyone tried sunflower stem? Supposedly there was a native tribe that used sunflower for almost everything, I'm interested in trying it but figured I'd ask if others have tried it first



I've read that they make an amazing texture.  My sunflowers are 12 feet tall and have thick stems.  I've tried retting the stem, but because the stem is so thick, it took longer than I thought and degraded the fibre.  Maybe pealing the 'bark' and then retting or boiling with some soda ash might do the trick.  It's supposedly very strong.  



Did you soak it? I know flax has to be soaked to begin biological breakdown
2 years ago
Has anyone tried sunflower stem? Supposedly there was a native tribe that used sunflower for almost everything, I'm interested in trying it but figured I'd ask if others have tried it first
2 years ago