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Matt Todd

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since Apr 25, 2019
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Always a backyard gardener, now expanding into permaculture!
Northwest Missouri
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Recent posts by Matt Todd

Catie George wrote:I would take the screen off that culvert.

Why? Liability. I have very little tolerance for the risk of liability.

I have no idea who built it, what they accounted for in the design, who owned it, etc. But, if i were the cash strapped owner of the road, and, say, 5 years from now, the road blew out over the culvert? Its very easy to blame "oh, the guy downstream put a screen up which blocked the debris and caused the culvert to fail, so he should have to pay". True? Who knows, and who cares, but road fixes are expensive, and usually the last person to touch something is the one blamed.

Honestly, if i were redesigning a culvert, i would always make it bigger than existing - no one complains after the first financial pinch about the bigger culvert, but bigger culverts are less likely to trap debris, and less likely to fail. And are easier to clean.   And culvert maintenance is something many places skimp on. Not to mention if the road debris head downstream onto your property and damage something... Nice to be able to blame the road owners and maybe have insurance pay something.

Anyway- i would personally do whatever you want do downstream of it (within reason and safety), but leave the liability for that culvert with the road owners. I like baffling erosive flow to slow it rather than trapping it, in most cases, which slows water down to make it less powerful rather than allowing it to build up (safer in an unengineered solution).

Valid concerns for sure. But this culvert goes under an old railroad grade and is entirely on my property. I did get very scared and learned my lesson when it came to partially damming it. It could never overtop the railroad grade because it's at least 20 feet tall above the culvert. But from what I'm seeing, the water still has the ability to work it's way around the culvert and undermine things in other ways. So my current course of action, which I believe to be safe, is to just use this screen to keep garbage and natural debris out. I will have to keep it clean so it does not become a dam.
4 days ago

John C Daley wrote:Can you give us a photo of the downstream side please?
On reflection messing with something thats has done well for so long may be unwise.
But maybe some improvements can be achieved where the erosion is and all will be wqll

Here is the downstream side. As you can see, the culvert is a good 12 feet above water level. If you look at the exposed tree roots on the far side, that's about where the original railroad fence shot across the hole and continued at ground level on the side I was standing on. Which tells me that this culvert used to be at ground level and has, since 1872, scoured a massive hole in the earth down to ground-water level. On the one hand, that's nice because it's scoured out a nice 5 foot deep swimming hole that stays full of spring water. On the other hand, when the rain really gets rolling it continues to cause more erosion further downstream.

I made a concrete block weir where the "pond" empties and becomes a stream, but even that got blasted out by the last big rain. So having observed this and tinkered with it, I think my course of action will be very long term. Experimenting next with small brush dams as far upstream as I can where the water will not have gained much momentum yet. And just keeping my strainer clean from trash and natural debris. No more hubris and big damn building from me :)  
4 days ago

Trace Oswald wrote:
I have a situation a little like yours but less extreme and I have been able to slow the water to a degree with exactly what has been discussed, brush dams.

How do you keep your brush dams in place? I guess I'm gun shy after this rain event we had, thinking that the next one would just blast away anything I could build out of brush. Five inches of rain in a matter of 2 to 3 hours was intense.    
1 week ago

Trace Oswald wrote:
In your picture it looks like the side you partially closed off is the downhill side but I can't tell for sure.  If it is, I would move it to the uphill side.  The thought of causing silt and debris to build up inside your culvert and having to clean it out is unappealing at best.

Must be the angles. This is the uphill/entrance side of things. The far side is a good 12 feed above ground because of all the erosion over the years.
1 week ago
Update: I experimented a bit with partially blocking the culvert with a wooden dam. My hope was that water would pool and then seep through the imperfect blockage at a slower rate. It worked that way through the first rain. Then we got a HISTORIC rain event that overwhelmed the dam. I donned my rain gear to check it out and was horrified to see (or not see) the culvert completely underwater. And worse, there is a limestone "shelf" under the culvert that some enterprising critter had dug under allll the way through, then up out of the ground on the receiving side. So water was spilling into this hole and pouring out the far side under the limestone!

So clearly those late 1800's engineers knew what they were doing installing an over sized culvert and perhaps I am foolish to have tried to alter it. Now I am somewhat afraid to try damming it farther upstream for fear of another giant rain blasting my dam materials down to the culvert and potentially plugging it. I am thankful for nature giving me this worst case scenario before I invest much more time/energy. If anything, I'll start small and far upstream.  

For now, I've pulled the dam and replaced with a trash strainer. I have an air bubbler in the spring pond that's keeping the water clear and have enjoyed a few floats and cold swims this summer at least.
1 week ago
I am plotting on the legal side of building a batch box rocket in my home, specifically a DSR2.

I have inquired with my insurance company (Allstate) as to what their wood heat requirements are. And frankly I was surprised. They don't care what kind of heater it is, and burning stuff does not add liability in and of itself. The policy increase is the "cost to rebuild" which would now include the burning appliance. So essentially insuring the appliance, not the risk that it brings. Weird. And yes, I am very clear in my written communications with people like this.

Fortunately there are no building codes where I live. The one insurer stipulation is that it be "installed by a licensed contractor" which I prove by sending the agent a copy of my contract with the contractor. Which is an issue because anyone I asked to build me a Double Shoebox Rocket Mass Heater would probably hang up the phone and block my number :)

How would you approach this with a contractor? My only thought is that if I build the thing and pay a contractor to install my chimney liner and connect the stovepipe, that would count as "installing a masonry heater." Any thoughts/experiences most welcome.  

1 week ago

thomas rubino wrote:Hi A;  
Those two half barrel or just one as your limited on space become a bench "bell".
Use preferably bricks, to surround the  "bell" cover with mud. You have mud right?

Curious how you're connecting your riser cover drum to the split drums under the bench. Are you taking a short length of pipe from the hot drum into the first half drum?
Trying to figure out how you're interfacing those two pieces. I'm intrigued by your mention of using half drums instead of metal ducting through a bench. I guess these parts that interface don't leak when they're covered with mud.    
1 week ago
My current compost scheme is to not compost. Sorta.

Food waste:
Anything that can go to chickens turns into eggs.
Anything that cannot go to chickens goes in what I call the "refuse bin." Essentially a cage that sits near the woods where I put all the biological nasties, including moldy foods and cat waste (I use pine pellets rather than litter.) That keeps the chickens and wildlife out while letting bugs and soil contact do the breakdown work.

Yard waste:
Currently all yard stuff is going into piles near the garden for soil building. AKA "composting in place." When I have the right materials, I'll put them in play. For example, yesterday I had grass clippings, woodchips, and chicken poo that I spread between plants. That way I'm blocking weeds, feeding plants, and building soil all at once. The chicken poo was pretty fresh, which is a no-no, but I used sparingly and mixed with the other materials.

The stuff above is my current strategy. A similar strategy was earlier this year when I accumulated material and made two huglekulturs with the additional input of wood.

A past strategy was an active compost cage where I layered grass, leaves, and chicken poo. But that was too much work for me, turning it and keeping it moist for little reward. Plus a tree ate it, which is a lesson in itself. . The cage from this misadventure became my refuse cage.

So needless to say, there's a LOT of different ways to compost. The best way for you is whatever you feel is the least effort and easiest rewards.

1 week ago
Update: I tried to do the right thing. Ordered parts, was told it would be 7 to 10 days before received from manufacturer. Over 3 weeks later and nothing. The parts guys stopped answering my emails asking if these were actually available from their manufacturer. So I guess it's about time to cancel the order and just buy a dang new weed wacker because I can't go forever without!

Lesson learned: repairing machinery only works if the parts are available.
2 weeks ago
This thread has me wondering about a rocket mass equivalent of an outdoor wood heater. Build a nicely insulated little shack near your house with a RMH inside. Could be small, just big enough for air to circulate around your heated mass.  Run two insulated ducts, one from somewhere low like your basement and another going from the heater shack to your living space. Possibly with a fan to really get air moving if natural convection isn't working. Wouldn't be nearly as efficient as an in-home heater, but if insurance said no or jacked up rates, that loss of efficiency would  likely be worth it.  
2 weeks ago