D.W. Stratton

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since Jun 07, 2020
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Recent posts by D.W. Stratton

So among other pursuits, my family members want to start basket-weaving. So I'm planning to grow some redosier dogwood and some willow along with a few other plants that might be used for that purpose to produce really pretty pieces. I've got the seeds ready. I've sheet mulched an area that was previously meadow. It's got good pH, P, and K, but it's low in N, so I added a bunch of wood chips hoping that helps. If I'm planting into wood chips, how long is it ideal to wait before planting? We just got the sheet mulching in this weekend (acquiring the land took longer than hoped due to pandemic and then it's been aligning schedules and availability of wood chips causing more delays). Will those chips break down a lot by spring? Or since there is going to be snow on the ground are they mostly going to sit there until spring thaw?

One comrade suggested that I scrape back wood chips in small spots where I want to plant my dogwood, cut through the cardboard, and plant into the soil below, then keep just an area big enough for the saplings to come up through. I reckon I'd have a lot of weeds and grass coming up through that spot, but maybe once the saplings are off to the races I can weed and then mulch around them with chop-and-drop or more wood chips. Is this a good suggestion?

Or would I be better served to cold-stratify my seeds in the fridge and then plant them in the spring? I'm trying to avoid growing them in pots because my understanding is transplanting destroys the taproot which permanently weakens the tree. I'm hoping to be able to coppice these guys for the rest of my life if I do it right.

15 hours ago
Stained glass would have some really fun potential here. I don't know much about it, but I know I saw something about a solar glass melter somewhere in the forums. So could one melt down glass, add a strain, and then create a cool stained glass frame?
2 days ago

Marc Dube wrote:I once told my wife that I should grow my hair out so I can use it as rope in a survival situation.. it did not fly with her lol.

I think if I cut my hair short my partner would be devastated. Funny how different people's preferences for hair can be.
2 days ago

Pearl Sutton wrote:Solar dehydrator type heat input would work, but the actual space needed to hang clothes far enough apart to dry is a lot bigger than the space needed for dehydrator trays. Two thoughts, that go together here (or three, actually)

1. Look up solar air convection heaters. It's basically the same tech as the dehydrator, only in brings hot air into the house. Using that to provide the heat for any space you care to hang things in would be effective, make sure there is an air flow output if you don't want the humidity in your home or the space you use. A drying shed might be a useful thing to have if you do a lot of laundry.

2. More effective than clothes drying racks that things drape over is a bar that you hang items on hangers, space them so there is airflow, they dry easily and neatly, in a smaller footprint.

3. The crunchy, as mentioned, is lack of movement. When the garment is dry, take it off the hanger and shake it hard, make it snap, and it won't be as crunchy.


Pearl, you're a gem. Never change.
3 days ago

Judith Browning wrote:Interesting thought....
I think it's the bouncing around in the dryer that makes them soft though not just the heated forced air?
I don't use one, we hang everything out to dry and in bad weather indoors on a rack.

Might be because I'm used to it, or maybe associate it with line dried clean smelling things, but I kind of like that fresh laundry 'crunchiness'
It does go away pretty quickly with use.
...hanging them out in the wind will do the trick also.

Seems like just folding the bath towels takes away some crunchy?

I do find that using soap nuts make the load of laundry softer in general?  

I remember my brother coming home from college after discovering dryers...from then on he couldn't stand to wear jeans or use a towel that had not been softened in that way.....

Yea, I would describe the texture as a mix of Styrofoam squeak and a sort of drying suck on the skin. I hate it. I put up with it because I don't want to burn fossil fuels, but I strongly dislike it. I do have a clothesline, but birds poop on the clothes any time I hang them out, so it's not a viable option.
3 days ago
Hi all. Just writing to ask if anyone has tried drying clothes or towels in a solar dehydrator. Might this work? Are clothes bulky enough that to get any worthwhile drying done you'd need numerous dehydrators? Would that work fast enough to avoid that crunchy feeling line-dried clothes have? I've tried all the recommendations for crunchy clothing prevention and our clothes are still super crispy if not dried in a conventional dryer.
3 days ago

Morfydd St. Clair wrote:Not to discourage you from building your own RMH, but have you looked at masonry stoves to meet your aesthetic (and have a pro install it, if that's an upside for you)?

In Germany they're called kachelofen - Wikipedia page here: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kachelofen (in German but Google Chrome will translate on the fly)

I know nothing of this company except that they have a nice mix of modern and old-fashioned styles:  https://www.kachelofenwelt.de/design/bildergalerie/kachelofen-heizkamin/
Or in the US:  https://www.mha-net.org/html/gallery2.html

A cursory look at the Internet seems to suggest they range in cost from $6,000 to $30,000 per stove. That seems prohibitively expensive for me.
5 days ago
Alright folks, today I had the unhappy experience of looking at my credit card statement and seeing a $528.00 charge from our fuel oil provider. We are supposed to be on a monthly flat rate fee that averages our use out over the year. Turns out their system hand an "error" and they "can't" issue a refund or credit for this erroneous charge, but even if the charge had been the correct amount of $195.00/month, that still comes out to $2,340/year that we are burning just in fuel oil. We also have a Buderus gas furnace for the upstairs part of the house. Bottom line: thousands of dollars down the drain and tons of CO2 up the smokestack. Bad time for our wallets and bad time for the Earth.

SO! I am now more motivated than ever before to build a Rocket Mass Heater. I've known for a while this is a project I want to undertake before I get too old and crotchety (I think I'm just crotchety enough right now). But whereas a few months ago I was like "Oh, you take some cinderblocks and bricks and slap cob over them plus also a 50 gallon steel drum because why not, and then you burn stuff and MAGIC HEAT HAPPENS", now I realize that the amount of weight we are talking about concentrating in one small corner of the home is substantial and may need structural reinforcing etc. etc.

So...first and foremost, I recognize that this is not Legal Home Advice Experts, LLC, so I'm not trying to ask for anyone's legally-binding architectural or structural engineering advice on how to put one of these babies in. What I am asking for is personal anecdotes from when you built one, success and failure stories, tales of floors that have caved in under the weight, tales of floors that have NOT caved in under the weight, and the criteria you used for positioning and designing your build.

Specifically, I live in a home built in 1860. It is a fine piece of architecture and made with extremely sturdy felled timber that I think will be here many generations after I'm dead and composted. My house is done in an old-school Colonial style, so the main part of the house is a large rectangle that is subdivided into 4 more or less equal dimension rectangles sort of like tihs:

                           Rear of home (South), larger yard with deciduous trees for windbreak in winter and shade in summer (prevailing wind in our spot is sort of south-westish especially in winter)
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|______               _______|________           _______|
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                         Front of home (North), faces road, small front yard

Ok....so what I'm trying to figure out is first of all, where is the best place to put an RMH generally speaking? In the most recent dailyish email they were suggesting that seating arrangements ono the INTERIOR walls of a home are generally the warmest because that's where your heat ducts generally are located...is it generally a good rule to put an RMH in the CENTER of the home and allow the heat to radiate more evenly throughout? But then what is to be done about venting the exhaust? I assume you don't want oodles of CO2 just piped into your home, though it would be a fun way to have a cult go out with a bang! So I assume if I put it on an interior wall, I have 3 options that all kind of suck:

1. run a big, ugly vent pipe across the room and out an exterior wall
2. run a big, ugly vent pipe up through the ceiling and out the top of the house which means putting a hole in the roof which means dealing with leakage and such
3. run a big, ugly vent pipe down under the ground through the unfinished basement and out a vent by one of the basement windows

Might all 3 of those options require a fan to ensure ventillation? I know the rockety-ness of the RMH offers some degree of force on the exhaust to push it, but that force is, I assume, not capable of infinitely resisting the pull of gravity, so for a ground floor vent system trying to pump out 2 storeys...I don't know...I guess chimneys do that and they are a hell of a lot colder than RMH exhaust, so maybe I'm making much ado of nothing here.

Point is, venting would be harder on an interior wall, no?

So...what if I put it on an EXTERIOR wall then? Am I going to lose tons of the efficiency of the RMH system because the mass is now in close proximity to the outdoor temperature extremes? I assume I'd be better served putting it on a south-facing wall so that I can leverage some passive solar gain even in winter from the scant amount of oblique sunbeams? I note that all of our gas furnace radiators on the upstairs are located on exterior walls rather than interior, and I remember the guy who services them saying that you want that because it ensures drafts from windows are not particularly awful as there is a lot of warm air radiating from the vicinity.

Ok...so let's say you've humored me this far in the post and don't think I'm a total nutter. Cool! Thanks for being here. So by now we've picked out interior vs. exterior wall and north vs. south (or east or west, I suppose). Now I need to know what I need to do to keep this RMH from murdering my house from sheer mass strain on the floorboards and what-have-you.

As I said, I'm in an OLD house: she's 160 as of this August. And the foundation is possibly older still because there was apparently a tavern/inn/coachhouse here that burned down and the foundation for it *may* have been reused to build this house. Point is, it's been around a bit and the basement is a bit of a hot mess: dirt floors, newer dimensional lumber boards that have been sistered to older timber that had some historical wood boring insect damage (no active infestation at this time and everything is structurally sound per the opinion of several contractors and building inspectors). But the foundation walls have settled over time and definitely need re-pointing in the next 5-10 years. BUT, previous owners have put in place something like 15 different metal poles footed in cement that goes down 4 or 5 feet into the ground, and the front of the home has several HEAVY duty cement buttresses keeping the front wall of the foundation from caving at all. So to my eyes as a non-architect, non-structural engineer, the place seems pretty shored up and reinforced.

But you know what I *DON'T* want to do? What I don't want to do is pile up 2,000-pounds of bricks and cinder blocks in a corner of what is otherwise a very nice parlor and then find that within a few weeks I have a Wile E. Coyote-style Rocket Mass Heater-shaped hole in the floor and a new Rocket Mass Heater feature in my basement. That would suuuuuuuuuuuck because the cost of fixing the wood floors alone would be astronomical and I'm like 99% certain homeowner's insurance doesn't pay out for "dumbass homeowner broke his floor with a DIY project".

SO! Is there anything to look for as I'm designing this build? Are there warning signs that I'm putting too much weight for the floor to handle that could tell me "STOP NOW, YOU FOOL!" before I do irreparable damage to the floor? Like I'm looking for a tell-tale sign that something is amiss before boards have loosened, nails have bent, foundations have shifted, etc.

I have a ton more questions, but this is probably more than enough for one post. Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing your experiences, and thank you helping me do the practical magic of learning from someone else's mistakes and successes. I will absolutely pay it forward by teaching my local group of permies how to do this, thereby making the world a more carbon neutral place, I hope!

5 days ago

William Bronson wrote:Yeah, logs could be a blessing,  but if your not ready,  they could be areal problem.
The site says they are very large,  presumably they are  the ones too large for a industrial chipper.
If, (hopefully when) I'm set up to process them , getting chips and logs will be fantastic.

My whole food lot is powered by wood chips.
Adding log rounds would be great.
Rough milled boards even better.
There's room for raised beds made with whole logs, but pallets are a whole lot easier to move into place.
Fresh logs would be ideal for mushroom inoculation.
I plan on a  TLUD  Mass Heater for the yarden greenhouse , run on woodchips.

But right now I have an inherited  homeowners chainsaw, no safety gear and a fear of bleeding out,  so no logs for me.

Get some chainmail pants, should save your femoral artery.
1 week ago