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  • in reply to: Timely Articles to Consider #13635

    The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History

    This is a must read article about the recent TPP trade agreement. IF YOU DON’T READ THIS ARTICLE, then don’t wonder what happened when you last remaining rights are taken away by the corporate run governments.

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #13633

    Hi U.P.,

    You mean the hydroponic beds (photo attached). Yes, I built them based on that video you shared with me. I have not filled them yet as our well water has way too much dissolved calcium carbonate to be used with regular micro-nutrients.  I don’t want to buy 60 gallons of distilled water so I’m waiting to collect enough rain/snow melt water.

    Right now I’m hoping the greenhouse will even make it through the Winter. As mentioned above, it turns out the guy who sold me the greenhouse kit was dead wrong when he told me “just use any 100% silicone caulk” where the polycarbonate sheets overlap.  The top name brand I used is chemically reactive and has completely destroyed the seams.  I now have to fabricate 720 pieces of aluminum strips to reinforce all the valleys.

    I might not get to the hydroponic beds until Spring.

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    in reply to: Introductions #13611

    Hi Robin, you’re funny – the new thread should be fun.

    Don’t worry, I tried my first reply to you on my tablet around midnight – when I hit submit, the request timed out – so I had to do it again this morning on the computer. That has happened a lot on my tablet so you would think I would remember – did I mention it was midnight?.

    I forwarded your reply to my wife – she will get a kick from it because she says my response to 90% of her questions is a quick “I don’t know”, when she knows darn well I do know but just don’t want to take the time to explain the “math and physics” to her… She calls it a character flaw, I call it an immense time saver :-)  Venus and Mars I guess.

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #13608

    Hi Cog,

    Thank you for the kind words. Yes, to be sure, there are many moments (if you consider days/weeks to be extended moments) of doubt and self questioning. Not about any particular project we may tackle – but the larger question of “should we have just taken the blue pill.”

    There will be more follow-ups on the greenhouse project as we have made additional modifications and upgrades since the various sections above were posted – and had a couple of setbacks – such as a critical failure of the polycarbonate skin that I discovered yesterday and will now have to contact the manufacturer to see if further degradation can be mitigated.

    in reply to: Introductions #13607

    Greetings Robin,

    I absolutely second Cog’s suggestion to start a thread to detail your adventures. There is a tremendous difference between reading books, articles or instruction manuals on how to do something – and learning from someone who has been through the good, the bad and the ugly.

    You can read books written by the “experts” on any given subject – but it’s not the same as learning from someone who has put forth the effort to endure the bad and the ugly to finally get to the good.  So please, by all means, share your experiences!

    Oh, did you know it was swamp land before you actually completed the purchase ;-)

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #13564

    Its October 21st, its cold and raining, and while most of the warm weather plants have been pulled from the greenhouse the work continues. We finally have all the thermal mass in place. Most of which comes from 55-gallon drums (or barrels) filled with water.

    We have learned two very important things about steel 55-gallon drums. First, there is no such thing as a standard size. We ordered 60 “used once” drums with plans to stack them three rows high, 18 barrels across. We assumed that while manufactured by different companies, such drums would be the same diameter and height – like gallon milk jugs or similar.  In fact, we ended up with 10 different heights – ranging from 32″ to 35″ tall with a few slightly different diameters. So much for nice even rows.

    Secondly, since the greenhouse project was put off for two years due to other unexpected (and very expensive) events – we learned that even almost new “used once” drums will surface rust badly if left outside for any length of time. Since the intended use was long-term storage of water as a thermal mass, we couldn’t start out with barrels that were already rusting.

    So the first step was to use grinders and rust-removal brushes to get the critical load bearing bottoms back down to bare metal and then paint with Rustoleum. Then, the entire barrel was painted with an exterior latex flat black for light/heat absorption – times the 40 barrels we ended up using. The salesman who sold us the greenhouse kit assured us the arched walls would give us the nine feet height we needed to stack three rows.  When the kit finally arrived, the side walls were only eight feet tall – so we had to settle for two rows of 19 drums each.  We added two more barrels next to (and directly connected to) the wood burning stove.

    You can not stack barrels directly on top of each other – they are not designed for that. You have to use a layer of plywood between the rows. The next step was to measure all the barrels trying to find groups of four (for 8′ lengths of 2′ wide plywood) that would provide an even, stable base for the upper row. As it worked out, for the bottom row, we had groups of 4, 4, 3, 4, 4 – with the group of 3 being directly centered behind the wood burning stove, so we used the tallest for that group. The top row was a mish-mash of different heights.

    Once the bottom row was in place we began filling them with water. Although the drums are coated on the inside with some type of waterproofing, we didn’t want to take the chance of rust returning AND we wanted to be able to use the water for drinking/cooking in emergencies (like the well going dry again). So, we used food grade drum liners – basically huge garbage bags made with a food grade plastic. Although much thicker than normal trash bags, a friend had several bags fail when he used them for the same purpose, so we double-bagged. Even with that precaution, we had to redo several barrels when the double bags leaked (probably due to unseen debris in the drums).

    We left the lids off the freshly filled barrels for a day or so to double check for leaks before sealing them up. Once the first row was in place it was simply a matter of putting the layer of 1/2″ plywood on top (with a bit of trimming) and repeating the filling process again.

    NOTE: After doing a test burn in the wood stove, we discovered the plastic liners melted where ever there was an air pocket between the barrel surface and the water. So, we removed the liners from the six barrels (three on each row) that were adjacent to the wood stove and obviously the two that are in direct contact with the stove.  This placed the nearest barrel with a liner a safe 3′ away from the intense heat. Also, we hope the two barrels that are directly connected to the stove (about 100 gallons of water) will absorb a lot of the radiant heat instead of letting the stove create an intense “hot zone” of air.

    Also of note is that in the shop, as a test, I connected a drum of water to the wood stove using a method with much less direct surface area/contact and after a good burn, the water temperature in the drum (at least at the surface) was over 120 degrees. Just this 55 gallon thermal mass would stay warm for hours after the fire was history.

    So, we have approximately 2000 gallons of water in the 40 barrels. As additional thermal mass and to be used for watering in the winter, we painted two 275-gallon food grade water totes flat black and added a 12-volt high capacity water pump to one.  That added another 550 gallons.

    By chance, we found some black 18-gallon plastic storage containers on sale and added 16 of those in the space above the second row of barrels. With 15 gallons of water in each, that added an additional 240 gallons.  So we now have a total of approximately 2800 gallons of liquid thermal mass along the insulated north wall of the greenhouse. When the sun is lower in the winter, it shines directly on the flat black containers heating the water. At night, that heat is slowly released back into the greenhouse.  And, if necessary, we can use the wood stove to not only heat the air, but also the eight barrels of water either connected to or in close proximity of the stove.


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    in reply to: Take A Walk on the Wild(life) Side #13231

    Hey Cog,

    Speaking of snakes (sorry no photo as I had to act quickly) we had a 10 year old rattler in our front yard yesterday. It’s been decades since I’ve intentionally taken the life of an animal of any kind – but this guy was a very Clear and Present Danger.  He was aggressive and only feet away from numerous hiding places he could have slithered to in short order. He was only 8′ from our front steps and inside the small fenced area where our dogs hang out when not running free.

    Now to your question – the decks were here – very large ones on the North and South of the house (you can freeze on the North one and bake on the South one during Spring and Fall). The decks were a major feature of the house – the views (see attached) almost make up for the rattlers, scorpions, mountain lions and tumbleweeds.


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    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #13080

    Hey U.P.,

    I have tons of photos (of all the gardens), I just have not had the time to do a full blown update on our site.  When I do, I’ll let you know – but in the meantime, here are a few of the greenhouse plants.  Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloup, basil and some – you guessed it – peppers.


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    in reply to: Take A Walk on the Wild(life) Side #13077

    Another Surprise Visitor

    Was sitting on the deck enjoying the cool afternoon. There were a couple of ceramic planters stacked nearby and out of the corner of my eye I caught a subtle movement.  Look closely between the planters.

    He/She/It was almost 4′ long.  Bull snake. Harmless. I took him away from the house to the big stack of logs we have as reserve firewood.


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    in reply to: Take A Walk on the Wild(life) Side #13056

    Three simple steps:

    1. Send out your least favorite dog to act as a distraction.

    2. Catnip grenades.

    3. If steps 1&2 fail, start screaming and crying like a little girl.

    Or, you can try this:

    Make yourself appear as large as possible.

    Make yourself appear larger by picking up your children, leashing pets in, and standing close to other adults. Open your jacket. Raise your arms. Wave your raised arms slowly.
    Make noise.

    Yell, shout, bang your walking stick against a tree. Make any loud sound that cannot be confused by the lion as the sound of prey. Speak slowly, firmly and loudly to disrupt and discourage predatory behavior.
    Act like a predator yourself.

    Maintain eye contact. Never run past or from a mountain lion. Never bend over or crouch down. Aggressively wave your raised arms, throw stones or branches, all without turning away.
    Slowly create distance.

    Assess the situation. Consider whether you may be between the lion and its kittens, or between the lion and its prey or cache. Back slowly to a spot that gives the mountain lion a path to get away, never turning away from the animal. Give a mountain lions the time and ability to move away.
    Protect yourself.

    If attacked, fight back. Protect your neck and throat. People have utilized rocks, jackets, garden tools, tree branches, walking sticks, fanny packs and even bare hands to turn away cougars.

    in reply to: Take A Walk on the Wild(life) Side #13014

    Mountain Lion on our Deck.

    We have both mountain lions and bears here. We’ve seen bears occasionally but personally have not spotted a mountain lion.  We still haven’t seen one – but one left ample evidence of an early morning visit, per wit:

    Sunday, 1:30am our dogs go absolutely Postal – going to tear the door off the hinges.  We get up, go out with flashlights and the dogs run around sniffing every inch of the front yard.  An hour later they go Postal again.

    Something big was up on our deck.  We never saw it but it put scratches in the composite decking railing where it jumped/climbed up – left muddy paw prints down the railing until it jumped off onto a metal fire pit and crushed the screen lid all the way down.  It’s point of exit was over the 5′ tall fence around our front yard – it bent it way over.   Could have been a small bear – but the scratches were pretty fine and I don’t think a bear would tight rope walk down the railing.


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    in reply to: Take A Walk on the Wild(life) Side #12839

    Funny, I find the same holds true about most people :_) that’s why we consider the entire homestead to be an animal sanctuary.

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #12835

    Yes, I made sure my toes were well out of the drop zone when I put the full weight of the vice on the “D” clip. I was amazed when I checked on it the next morning and it had not deformed at all.

    The shade cloth is 60% – meaning 60% of it overall surface area is blocked. So 40% is open for breathing. And, it not a “flat” weave so plenty of air gets through – attached is a close up of the shade cloth so you can see what I mean.

    So far it is working well although it still gets over 100 degrees in the greenhouse if its hot and sunny – but our work in there is mostly done by that time of day.

    Only major task left to do is rehabilitating all those 55 gallon drums.  Rust removal, painting flat black and filling with water.  The plants are doing really well in the greenhouse so I’ll probably do a “growing” update before the “having fun with barrels” update.


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    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #12823

    Hey Cog,

    I think we’ll be fine. It turns out the actual shade cloth is VERY light weight – maybe 6lbs for the entire cover.  Over the last few days the winds have barely ruffled it – whereas the heavy pool cover would act like a sail.

    And, just in case you thought I was kidding about the bench test – see attached :-)


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    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #12817

    Full Size Adjustable Aluminet Shade Cloth

    In early Spring we finished installing the polycarbonate skin on the greenhouse. It only took a day to realize it would get way to hot inside to work without some type of shade cloth. Fortunately I had found a great deal on a repurposed used swimming pool cover that was just the right size to use as a temporary shade cloth until I had time to set up what we really wanted.

    There were two “must haves” – we had to be able to easily adjust the shade cloth to cover or reveal the South side and always cover most of the roof. And, we had to be able to do this without bending down into the mud or snow depending on the weather. The design and size of the greenhouse made a standard roll-up set up out of the question (the South side is 40′ long). It also could not be a single piece because the chimney for the wood stove would prevent enough adjustment room.

    There were several issues to deal with to make this work. We have high winds up here and the standard edge tape and grommets would not last long. We’ve used those heavy duty plastic alligator type tarp clips before and knew they would hold up a lot better than grommets.

    The idea was to pull the shade cloth straight down with the tarp clips and paracord, but then angle back up to a post about 32″ tall – so we needed eyelets or similar to mount at the very base of the greenhouse to route the paracord down and through and back to the post. Because we had put 4″ gutters along the base to channel run off away, there is limited working space which required something that mounted with screws instead of being larger like eye-hooks. We came across heavy-duty two hole picture/mirror hangers and bench tested one by hanging a 60lb vice from it. It survived the bench test so we purchased a bag of 100 for around $15.

    Finally, it had to be easy to adjust the paracord without having to untie knots or unwrap from cleats. We didn’t want it to become a 30 minute ordeal just to adjust the shade cloth.  We found some self-clamping, instant release cleats made for pickup truck beds. You feed the rope through the hole that has a spring loaded notched clamp inside. This clamp allows the rope to easily pull one way, but tightens down pretty hard when the rope tries to move the other way. To release the rope, you just pull down on a lever that moves the clamp out of the way and the rope moves freely.  Perfect!

    So, the plan was to order three piece of shade cloth – a center one 4′ wide by 20′ long that would stay fixed running from the base, up over the roof and stop at the chimney. On both sides would be a piece 18′ x 20′. The side pieces would overlap the center one by 6″ or so and if pulled down to the base of the South side would still cover most of the roof.  To reveal the South side, you simple release the ropes on that side and pull the shade cloth down the North side. Re-adjust all the ropes to take out the slack and you are ready to rock.

    We already had some non-pressure treated 4×4’s on hand along with some stain/sealer so after a trip to the local hardware store for a few bags of concrete and large lags bolts, we cut, assembled, stained and erected four 32″ high posts. Two one each side, centered on the adjustable sections of the shade cloth.

    Everything works like a charm and it takes less than 5 minutes to adjust the shade cloth to any degree of South side exposure needed.

    For the actual shade cloth, after much research, we decided on Aluminet 60% cloth (a metal embedded woven plastic actually). It’s kind of pricey compared to regular non-metallized cloth – but has many benefits that justified the cost.


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    in reply to: Take A Walk on the Wild(life) Side #12765

    <h3>Little Critters Edition:</h3>
    “All animals are created equal – some are just more equal than others”

    I finally had a camera handy for when these guys showed up.  We have thousands of them around here (unfortunately, because do create some problems). Most of the folks in this area just shoot all these guys on sight. We won’t do that so we just have to go to a little extra effort to curtail to damage they cause.

    First up is the Rock Squirrel. While they look a lot like the common gray tree squirrel found almost everywhere, the Rock squirrel burrows.  In fact, they dig quite extensive burrows. We have them under the concrete foundation of the shop, under the hen house, garden shed, etc.

    Their little cousin is the Chipmunk. They also burrow or live in rock piles, stacked wood, pretty much anywhere. They love to eat veggie plants.  We have to build wire cages around their favorites. They used to hibernate – but last winter was so mild, they never went away.

    Finally, our personal favorite ( and the same holds true for the ferocious guard dog) – the wild rabbits. So docile and cute. They only eat the grass and such, so they are welcome – although we do keep them fenced out of the main garden areas.  BTW, the slightly overweight spoiled guard dog has yet to catch one – not even close.  We also have huge Jack Rabbits here – but they rarely stay still long enough to catch a photo.

    If I get lucky enough, I’ll grab some photos of the Golden and Bald Eagles we have around here.


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    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #12730

    We interrupt this normally scheduled construction update for this important announcement:


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    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #12709

    Hi Cog,

    Actually I was going to make the post below before you even asked your questions – but was playing Mexican standoff with your membership plugin.

    We are completely off-grid. When we bought the homestead the house already had a decent solar PV system. However, there was no power in the garage/shop nor the chicken coop/garden shed areas. We added independent systems to both, each consisting of 390 watts of PV panels, 30amp charge controllers, four 6 volt L16 solar batteries wired to 12v and inverters as needed. Adding independent systems was almost cheaper than running heavy gage wire the distances to the outbuildings. Besides, it means shy of a massive EMP, we would always have some form of power here even if the main house system went down (which it has more than once).

    For power to the greenhouse I debated back and forth whether to move the entire chicken coop/garden shed system out to the greenhouse and run a single 12ga wire back to the coop for lights – or run some very heavy gauge wire from the garden shed out to the greenhouse and go from there.

    When a neighbor offered just enough used heavy gauge wire to make the run from the shed to the greenhouse, the decision was made for me. If the wire had been enough to string overhead and make the return drops I would have gone that route. However, it was just barely (and I mean barely) enough to make a straight underground run. So the first step was to dig a shallow trench and pull the heavy wire (imagine 55 feet of stiff automotive size battery cables) through conduit.

    Once done, I had a good dose of 12v right inside the East door of the greenhouse. I could have installed a large inverter from there and used 110 volt fans, pumps, lights from there – but any time you convert electricity from AC to DC or voltage to a different voltage – there is a loss.

    Since everything I needed to add to the greenhouse was available in 12v (think RV or camper) – I used low voltage / low amperage 12v for everything – although I did add an 800 watt inverter just to have 110v available for small power tools and the like.

    Due to the fact that I have burned more than my fair share of wiring set-ups in vehicles by not having in-line fuses, I decided to go overboard here and added a main 100amp fuse between the batteries and the inverter / auxiliary wiring. This protects the entire “circuit” in case the inverter shorts or draws too much. From there I added a six circuit automotive fuse block which feeds six standard light switches that control each circuit. The six functions controlled by the fuses/switches include:

    Lights: Four dual-bulb 12v incandescent light fixtures. Rarely used – perhaps 5 minutes a week. Double Ceiling Light   2.1 amps per bulb x 8 = 16.8 amps. HOWEVER, I could replace the standard 1156 automotive bulb with LEDs. This would bring the draw down to 1.2 amps.
    Vent Fans: Covered in the post on ventilation. The fans are also controlled by a thermostat (see note below).  Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze 12 volt Fans  We use two – usually on Medium.  low: 15 Watts or 1.25 amps |medium: 27 Watts or 2.25 amps | high: 35 Watts or close to 3 amps – so 4.5 amps for two fams on Medium which run most of the day.
    Bed Heat Fans: The system that draws heat from the peak of the greenhouse through the raised beds and heats the soil. (also on a thermostat).  The large Cooler Master 200mm Case Fan only draws 0.16 amp and the two 120mm fans less than that. These are on most of the day but power consumption is around .25 amps.
    Fountain: I found a small 12v submersible water pump – so decided to add a water feature because – well because I wanted to.  It only draws 5 watts.
    Hose Pump: In the winter we’ll move a 275gal tote into the greenhouse for both a thermal mass and to use to water the plants as necessary.  The pump is a 7.5 amp RV pressure pump that only comes on when water is called for.
    Spare: Have one spare circuit for something or other – but at least it’s wired and ready to go.

    Note on thermostats: The thermostat for the bed fans/heat works perfectly because the fans are all extremely low amperage. However, for the first few days I thought the thermostat for the vent fans was defective. There was no rhyme or reason to how it was acting. I was having to “calibrate” it a couple of times a day. After installing a replacement with the same behaviour, it dawned on me to test them with an infra-red thermometer. I had my concerns about the 26ga wire used inside the thermostats when first installed. It tested out to be heating up with the draw the vent fans were drawing – enough to effect the bi-metal coil spring that controls the contacts.

    I fixed (more or less) this problem by soldering some 16ga wire jumpers on top of the factory 26ga wire. This lowered the electrical resistance enough to let the thermostat to only heat up 2 degrees above ambient temperature.  One day when I have nothing else to do I replace the 16ga jumpers with 14 or 12ga.

    As always, there are more photos on the site.


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    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #12698

    The openers can be adjusted to start opening anywhere between 55 – 73 degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature increases, they open more and more to a maximum of 15″ from the closed position. As the temperature cools, the wax slowly contracts and the springs slowing pull it closed again.  So far they have worked like a charm.


    In the next day or so I will add another update on all the low-voltage wiring systems I just completed – lights/pumps/fans and even a small water feature.

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #12672

    Update – Ventilation

    Ventilation is crucial in any greenhouse for temperature and moisture control and the plants seem to do better with plenty of air circulation.  We decided to employ both passive and active ventilation via large automatic peak vents and two 12volt high volume / low amperage fans.

    A lot of greenhouses use the temperature responsive wax automatic openers on roof vents.  Due to the construction of our greenhouse and the fact I’ve never seen roof vents that did not eventually leak, I decided to build some for each end (East and West).  I knew they had to be very light weight as I intended to use the automatic openers in the entirely opposite way they are designed.

    The automatic openers are basically a large spring loaded hinge with a wax filled cylinder/piston in the middle.  As the wax heats, it expands and drives the piston out thereby opening the hinge.  When it cools, the wax contracts and the springs pull the hinge closed. By design, the openers are supposed to be used to lift a vent up and to the outside and use the weight of the vent to help close it down again.

    I wanted to do just the opposite – lower the top of the vents down and to the inside of the greenhouse.  Otherwise they would have become great big funnels in the event of sudden rain.  I researched but could not find any info anywhere about this “off label” use. I had to experiment with numerous mounting positions and angles to find the solution that would allow the mechanical mechanism to open without binding but still allow the springs to pull the vent back up to the closed position.

    For the active ventilation, we purchased two 12volt fans that move a high volume of air but draw very little power. They are made for RV’s and such. I built cedar frames for them and fabricated some sheet metal shrouds to protect them from rain/snow.  One was mounted down low on the East side pulling air in and the other up high on the West blowing air out.  The greenhouse has its own independent solar PV system with batteries wired to 12 volts.  I put the vent fans on a low voltage thermostat (also made for RV’s) that turn them on around 80 degrees and off again when the temp drops below that.  The wiring of the greenhouse will be the subject of the next post.

    The previous post covered the ventilation system to heat the raised beds but I left a note indicating the super large computer case fan was not creating enough vacuum to get a good circulation going. I solved this with the “push/pull” method by adding a 120mm case fan to the top end of each of the 4″ drain pipes pushing hot air into the pipe. With those pushing and the central exhaust fan pulling, it creates a nice flow.

    As always, there are a lot more photos on the site


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    in reply to: Take A Walk on the Wild(life) Side #12670

    Attached is a telephoto shot of a few of our resident ravens.  Ravens mate for life and we had a pair nesting in some of our cliffs.  A year or so ago they appeared with a couple of youngsters.  We had the company of the four for a while – but lately there are only three.  Interesting folklore about ravens – especially for a homestead:

    “<span lang=”EN-US”>In North American folklore ravens are the creators of the world. Details of the creation tale differ, but essentially “the Raven”—a creature with human body and raven’s beak—is believed to have made the world. He gave light to people, taught them to take care of themselves, make clothes, canoes and houses. He also brought vegetation, animals, and other benefits for the human kind. Raven assumes the role of Noah from the biblical story of Great Flood—he is said to have taken animals two by two on a big raft in order to save them.”</span>

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    in reply to: Solar Hydroponics 2015 #12652

    Wow. Super nice job on everything! I can’t answer the question – what is reality – but I am positive your food is more real than the junk they sell in the stores. And since this is what you choose to do with your time, money and energy, that would make your life more “real” than those who willingly buy into the lives/lies they are being sold by the main stream.

    Keep it up my friend, you are an inspiration. And probably a very healthy one at that.

    in reply to: Take A Walk on the Wild(life) Side #12644

    Thanks U.P.,

    Yea, Skipper was a shelter rescue. Full of personality – and yes, perhaps a tad bit spoiled.

    Here are a couple new photos.  Yea, I know, so what, some cows.  The problem is they aren’t our cows. Like so many Western states, it “open range” here.  Ranchers lease HUGE areas of land from the government – and the cattle are free to roam anywhere even if the leased areas include small towns or private land.  It’s the land owner’s responsibility to fence them out.

    They come up here for a few weeks this time of year and will destroy everything that isn’t fenced. It’s breeding season so there are some bulls mixed in – and they make a heck of a disturbance when they are trying to prove their “maleness”.  Unfortunately, they did that the other morning, 6am – not 3 feet from the bedroom window.


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    in reply to: Looking for advice on detaching #12624

    Here is another possibility:

    Hello from New Zealand, 20 some yrs ago I moved to NZ worried about the state of the planet and the politics of war and waste. I set out buying a large piece of property and making part of it into a bread basket, planting thousands of trees of all sort. Things are now flourishing. I’m on my own micro hydro, and have an extensive library. I also have a container full of food making and preserving implements. I’m 72, I need serious mature people who have rural skills and experience to take over so I can pass the property on for as long as things last. Contact me via email: aline.newzealand@gmail.com

    in reply to: Looking for advice on detaching #12623

    I just found something you might find of interest. I don’t know where they are in NZ, but worth checking out

    Atamai Village: A Resilient Community?

    As Guy McPherson has so forcefully summarized in “The twin sides of the fossil fuel coin,” the science has progressed almost as fast as the climate chaos itself. The conclusion from that presentation is that our dear little planet is well on the way to extinguishing all life due to the rapid, unpredictable and non-linear changes we are now witnessing in real time. Projections based on the best current data indicate that life, all life, on planet earth will be extinguished by the middle of this century due to climate chaos – unless some very radical actions are taken on a massive scale.

    Planning for Atamai Village began in 2006 with the intention of creating a human settlement that could deal with the challenges presented by climate chaos and energy descent, and all the social and economic implications that were to follow. That was one year prior to the IPCC coming out with its 4th Report identifying human created climate change as a serious issue.

    While Atamai Village was well placed to deal with what we understood at the time was going to happen with climate change, Guy’s summary of the current situation means we, along with everyone else, need a major rethink. Our original plan was that we would establish a carbon neutral settlement for some 50 or so families that would see us relatively self-reliant in the same ways that traditional villages were and still are self-reliant. We intended to enhance our resilience by designing the village, based on a traditional model, using best practice permaculture principles.

    While we have accomplished much in terms of enhancing our resilience to date, we and everyone else, are in a very different situation than we were a mere 6 years ago. The extinction of all life on the planet is not just another news item (although, interestingly it hasn’t even made the news!) It is as cataclysmic as it gets! It’s not only a big deal it would seem to be THE BIG DEAL and we need to take it seriously. A resilient community in NZ might be a good thing in itself, but it is not going to avert human extinction on its own, or the extinction of all life on the planet.

    But we’ve made a start – earlier than most people and groups – and perhaps we have some contribution to make.

    What have we accomplished so far?

    We have:

    • Acquired about 120 ha of land.

    • Established a farm operation which is producing fruit and vegetables, has laying poultry, sheep and the beginning of a dairy herd.

    • Established a community orchard and garden, and planted thousands of utility trees.

    • Created ponds and dams and have done a water inventory of the land so we understand what additional resources we can tap into and what our limits are.

    • Completed a permaculture design for the overall village, and created individual land sections each of which is able to support at least permaculture zones 0, 1 &2.

    • Obtained permission from our local council to create approximately 40 titles for future villagers. Our plan is for at least 50 titles to eventually be available.

    • Welcomed 9 families on site now, some housed in previously existing homes, and one in the first new house built to Atamai Building Guideline standards.

    • Demonstrated that the Building Guidelines result in a comfortable dwelling that has almost no operating costs, which generates its own power and water and looks after its own wastes.

    • Created a cycle path around the village residential area, so that it can function without cars (all paths are no more than a 10 degree incline).

    • Created livelihood opportunities for some villagers and have more available for future villagers.

    • Initiated a reforestation project that will increase carbon sequestration and provide future villagers with a variety of lumber for a variety of purposes.

    • Created a Commons resource, which largely consists of the majority of land available, as well as equipment, tools and infrastructure.

    • Created an Incorporated Society to own and manage the Commons collectively.

    • Operated the Society on a consensus decision process since 2010.

    • Developed a “layered technology” approach to basic services to ensure we have as much control over our essential technologies as possible for basics such as food, water, energy and shelter, while enjoying more sophisticated (and fragile) technologies while they last.

    • Established several Working Groups to carry out Society tasks, including a Strategy Group to look at the big picture issues that will determine our future and the future of the planet.

    • Created a small community to work together on our uncertain future. We recognize this is not a task to take on alone.
    More details about our vision and what we have done so far are available at http://www.atamaivillage .com

    We are under no illusions that what we have done will avert climate chaos, or protect us from the course of mass extinction we are all on. But we do believe we must keep trying to avert this disaster, and that we are better placed than most to work on the Mother of All Projects. As societies continue to falter under the impact of both Climate Chaos and Resource Depletion, everyone’s options to creatively contribute to adaption and appropriate responses will rapidly diminish. Ever increasing necessities and crisis will make it increasingly difficult to adapt. Atamai Village provides a setting of very high resilience that will keep functioning well beyond most other settlements.

    In addition to the steps toward resilience described above, we believe we are well placed to work on this project for at least the following reasons:

    • We are to a large degree aware of the problems and are attempting to face them honestly and squarely.

    • We have actually made a start – and we have been at it for 6 years and given considerable thought to many aspects of the adaptations that are likely to be necessary, and researched how to approach many of the challenges we will be facing, and implemented them in our plans and built infrastructure

    • We are in the Southern Hemisphere, where the impact of climate chaos will take longer than in the Northern Hemisphere – so we may have a few more years to work on these challenges than elsewhere.

    • We have gathered people with a variety of skills and interests that are likely to be relevant to work on the challenges ahead.

    • We are prepared to adapt our approaches to deal with the realities that are actually confronting us as they unfold.

    • We are purposely disseminating and sharing what we have learned and what we might learn with our further attempts to deal with these challenges.

    We fully recognize that humanity’s chances of collectively avoiding massive dieoff are low. But we believe there is both a moral and practical imperative in trying.

    We intend to give it our best shot and invite anyone who feels they can make a tangible contribution to our efforts – with finances, with creativity and intelligence, with sweat and effort – to step forward and get on with it.

    Send us your ideas and tell us about yourself, and ask any questions about how we are proceeding. http://www.atamaivillage.com/contact

    in reply to: Take A Walk on the Wild(life) Side #12592


    The hummingbirds have returned – soon we will have dozens going through 5lbs of sugar a week.


    Last but not least – our ferocious guard dog.


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    in reply to: Take A Walk on the Wild(life) Side #12587

    OK, no fair you guys get to have all the fun with this thread. I have a lot of catch up to do so here you go in order of attachments:

    A not so welcome visitor – one of three rattlesnakes we caught and relocated within a 24 hour period.


    A couple of our resident deer. We currently have a group of seven that show up every other day or so.


    A majestic buck in our backyard.


    A flock of colorful birds during the last snowfall.


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    in reply to: Looking for advice on detaching #12539

    Greetings Tenma,

    I don’t envy your current situation but have been through it. The Cogs have given you some great advice and plenty to research. I’ll throw in my two cents (our lowest coin denomination) worth just to let you know that what you are seeking can be done (you are in a better position than most who suddenly “wake up.”

    It will be a tremendous amount of hard work (the moving, adjusting, learning, etc.) – but also provides a lot of comfort knowing that every step of the way you are becoming less dependent on the Matrix.

    When we woke up it was very sudden and complete. We lived a very large city with all such offers. Seeing so much so fast, we kind of went into panic mode.  I was concerned about being able to protect my wife and son – my wife was concerned about where the food would come from as things deteriorated.  My preference would have been to leave the country. However, I had an elderly father who needed care and my wife has a disabled brother who depends on her – so we decided we could not move more than 3-4 hours away from the city.

    That however left little choice in terrain and climate.  We ended up in the High Desert.  Not an idea place to grow your own food.  A tremendous amount of work went into the systems, gardens, and such and my wife had to completely relearn her gardening skills as the situation is so much different up here.  So, my point is – anything you need to learn about growing – you can learn.

    Community:  This is only our opinion for what’s its worth – If you are looking to find or build a community of very “like-minded” people – you won’t if the folks involved are still in the Matrix. Even for those that are not, people are people (or for the purpose of this discussion – Egos).  You will have to understand that the best you may do is find some folks with similar goals who are willing to work together as best they can.  Someone always wants to be in charge, someone always knows best, someone will always disagree. (like I said, Egos).  The only “intentional communities” I have ever seen work for any length of time are ones with a strong leader and defined structure – such is found in Ashrams, convents, and the like.  However, in the traditional sense – when “community” actual meant something – it was a group of individual families who shared the common goals – but each understood that people are people – there is no Utopia just waiting for you to show up as far as live-in communities are concerned.

    Income: That is a very tough one when you work/income depends on specific location and/or resources.  I don’t know if you can get Satellite internet where you are – but that is what we had to go with because we are 5 miles from the nearest utility pole (electricity, phone, cable, internet).

    We are so very fortunate in that I have spent the last 20 years building an internet based business. It doesn’t make a ton of money but enough to meet our needs while allowing me to live anywhere. I would check out the links Mrs. Cog provided.  I’ll share a quick true story with you – not that I’m recommending this – it just gives you an idea of the possibilities out there.

    A while back a group of students had to come up with a business idea including product, marketing, website and the like.  This was for a class assignment – so it was just theoretical – not meant to actually work.  They came up with the idea to sell Tumbleweeds.  You probably don’t have those in your country – but they are nasty weeds that form a ball of branches and when mature, they break off and roll with the wind – sometimes for hundreds of miles.  They became closely associated with the Wild West, Cowboys, the desert.

    Anyway, the students were in Colorado and had ample access to an endless supply of tumbleweeds – they grow everywhere in the desert states and are considered a nuisance.  Who would have thought that others would actually be willing to pay to own one???  Well, after they did the website, people started buying them (those on the East/West Coasts who thought it was cool to have some laying around).  Then they started to sell more and more and the class assignment turned into a real, full-fledged business.  If you think I’m making this up – see this site (I don’t know if this is the same group of students – but it makes my point) http://www.tumbleweedsforsale.com/

    You just have to get creative – think outside the box.  I could cover a lot of different ground here but mainly just wanted to let you know you are not alone. What may appear impossible can actually be done – and you have found a great community here on TIF (oh, did I just contradict myself :-)

    in reply to: Tiny Houses #12501

    While the rail car tiny houses are very cool, here’s a thought to spark the imagination, and it would help pay down the national debt :-)

    Get the government to sell off some of the thousands of large military aircraft just sitting in the aircraft bone yard. Pull the wings and tail off and they easy to ship, weatherproof and you could aim the cockpit at the best view on your property. What a place for morning coffee. Seriously though, this article on Zero Hedge was just too good not to share.




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    in reply to: Solar Hydroponics 2015 #12359

    Thanks for the fan suggestion – the plants will be basking in the high desert breezes by Friday. You are so impressed with those Emily’s Garden units I ordered one of those this morning. If it works well, we’ll just leave that rack inside all year and load it with those units for all our salad stuff. Thanks for sharing all that you learn with others.

    in reply to: Solar Hydroponics 2015 #12318

    Thanks for the additional info.  Below is a photo of the baker’s rack seed starting thing I put together. Our house was built for Passive Solar – so there are floor to ceiling windows facing almost directly South. When the Mrs. is ready to start seeds we are still using the indoor wood boiler – so she germinates them in the furnace room – which stays about 90 degrees.  Then moves them upstairs to the rack.  Since the CFB grow lights only draw 100-150 watts total – she leaves them on 12-14 hours a day.


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    in reply to: Solar Hydroponics 2015 #12309

    OK, since you didn’t put a link for the LED lamps and you said it was another “really good” deal – I assume It wasn’t retail. Last time I checked, decent LED grow lights were pretty pricey. If the light that appears in the two photos you posted is coming from those lights, I’m impressed.

    When the Mrs wanted a place and way to start seeds indoors, I used one of those heavy duty rolling metal baker’s racks. Wired up 3 utility bulb fixtures (the kind you see in garages or closets that only hold the bulb without a globe) above each of the 4 shelves. Being off-grid, I researched for a low wattage solution that didn’t cost a fortune. Discovered that CFB Daylight bulbs rated at 6500K work really well. They only draw 13 watts each so even if the racks are full – we are only talking about 150 watts. I’ll put a link to the bulbs below for reference although Amazon has the brand I used as currently unavailable.

    However, I would love to get an update on how the LEDs work for you. Might consider going that route in the greenhouse for early spring and late fall. Although the greenhouse *should* be four-season, the Mrs has already made it very clear that she is not :-)

    6500K CFB used for grow lights http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BC6EBZ6/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1 Sorry, can’t add the hyperlink when working from the tablet.

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #12304

    Thanks. There are actually 6 manual open windows. Two outo opening 30″ x 48″ vents near the peaks and 2 vent fans. One down low on east side sucking in and the other up high on west side blowing out which will be thermostatically controlled. I will also build a screen door for the 4′ wide door on the west end.

    The truss cross members are 8 feet off the ground and run the 18 foot depth of the greenhouse. We’ll use those to hang all kinds of verticle gardening. I’ve seen cool designs made from large PVC pipe to sections of metal gutters hanging one under the next with chains – 5 or 6 sectiond tall. Besides the small patio area by the wood stove, there won’t be any unused space. Still a lot to do before I get to this fun stuff.

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #12266

    Passive Solar Heated Raised Beds: We have pretty much finished the raised beds (except for mixing/adding all the soil).  This is the first major passive solar aspect we are retrofitting into the greenhouse besides insulating the North wall.

    The previous update showed how the raised beds were insulated to the exterior wall and the basic construction. Once the beds were all put together, the next step was to add approximately 10″ of compact straw to the bottom of the beds. This was done for two reasons: We won’t grow anything in the greenhouse that needs 26″ of soil and the straw also acts as an insulator from the cold that will migrate in from the ground/gravel.

    Next, we added the 4″ corrugated drainage pipe that will carry the heated air from the top of the greenhouse throughout the beds to heat the soil. Only the beds up against the exterior walls will be heated, the island beds will not.  The 4″ pipe was zig-zagged through the beds from both the East and West walls to the middle. The wall ends go up the wall and are routed to the peak.

    The idea is to have a fan drawing air DOWN from the peak, through the beds will the heat will be absorbed, and out the fan housing for circulation.  You want to pull air down the pipe instead of putting fans at the top because air will compress when pushed – but nature abhors a vacuum and will do anything to fill one. So if we create a vacuum (by sucking air from the lower part of the pipes, it will literally suck the warmer air from the peak.

    I needed to fabricate something where I could hook in the two pipe ends, that was airtight (except for the top where the fan sits) and that protected the fan from debris and splashed water. This would be much easier if we were on the grid because I could use basically any fan.  However, since we are all solar – I need a low-draw 12 volt fan. The solution I came up with was relatively simple:  A drain sump, a roof vent and a very large computer case fan. The drain sump is airtight other than the top grate and is designed for easy connection of two drain pipes. The roof vent allows good air flow but is virtually rain-proof. The case fan draws extremely little juice.  The large case fan fit almost perfectly in the round opening of the roof vent.  I had to cut off the mounting tabs of the fan on one side. I used a hot glue gun around the perimeter to hold it in place and fill in the small gaps.  I’ll wire it with a low-voltage cool only thermostat (made for RV’s).  If I set the thermostat for 80 degrees, once the greenhouse reaches that temperature it will kick on the case fan.  In the evening, as the greenhouse cools down and the inside air cools below the set temperature, the fan will automatically turn off.

    NOTE: While the fan contraption worked well during bench testing, that was with only one pipe attached. After a test run once installed, I believe the fan will have to be upgrade to something larger with a much higher CFM rating.  My first option to evaluate will be an electric automotive radiator/cooling fan. While they are designed to move a lot of air – they also draw a lot of power – so I may have to just go with another of the larger fans I’ll be using for the powered vents.  They are a bit pricey but the CFM/amps is outstanding.  Of course either way, I will probably have to ditch the roof vent section and fabricate a different fan housing.  Will update once testing and research has been complete.

    Since the “soil” up here is only good for pinon pine, tumbleweeds and cacti – we have to make our own for growing food.  For the greenhouse we used a mix of aged horse manure, coconut coir and composted forest soil and a final layer of Eco-Compost.  We managed to get half the beds filled and added the trellises (made from galvanized cattle panels).  A few photos below but a lot more on the website:  http://highdeserthomesteading.com/projects/passive-solar-4-season-greenhouse/


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    in reply to: Solar Hydroponics 2015 #12238

    Hurricane panels – Dude, that looks like 8mm double-wall polycarbonate.  That’s expensive stuff retail. I would have used that for our greenhouse – but it was twice as expensive as single wall (well, duh) – and it can not be bent to the radius of the arches we used.

    Please don’t ever tell me what kind of really, really, really good deal you received on this – there might be tears……

    in reply to: Fermented Foods #12168

    The kraut source site is taking order for next week shipping. Can’t wait to try some of those onions

    in reply to: Solar Hydroponics 2015 #12167

    Wow, now that is some first class work. Have you researched 12 volt pumps that might work for the hydroponics so you weren’t having to use the inverter? I’ll need to do that soon.

    Do you know if you can grow greens (lettuce) in those 6 pot self-contained units? I found a link to buy those once but can’t seem to now. Would like to try a couple in the house.

    in reply to: Tiny Houses #12086

    OK weird, I’m not getting notified of follow-up replies.

    Yes, those rail car version are cool.  Unfortunately, not easy to get one of those up a 5 mile dirt, winding, mountain road :-)  We had an old cabin we lost in a wild fire. In the kitchen was an old wood stove. We researched it and turns out that model was specifically made for the railroads. They put them in cabooses and sleeping cars back in the days.

    We could however get a 20′ shipping container up here – and there are tons of “tiny homes” made from those. But between the price of the container and getting it up here – I could build a pretty nice tiny house from scratch.

    Either way the idea fascinates me in that it is possible to build livable accommodations for 1/20th the cost of a traditional starter home.  I love your use of the word “overflow housing” – a lot can be read into that.

    If this thread gains any interest I can share the research I’ve done on making tiny homes really livable – i.e., small septic systems using 55 gallon drums, 12v appliances/systems that run off of solar, water storage/pumps, small propane water heaters, etc. etc.

    BTW, while I found TIF via Cog’s posts on zerohedge – I find your work equally inspiring – I always look forward to both off your posts.


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    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #11935

    Ooops, forgot one of your questions:

    “I assume you used cedar either for the aesthetics and/or the rot resistance? Did you screw or nail them together? Looks like screws.”

    Yes, screws.  For this type of work I prefer using those gold color large thread deck screws.  Since the cedar is an actual 1 3/4″ thick – I found a case (500 screws) of 3.5″ deck screws on ebay for $40.  Same storefront had 5″ deck screws which is what I used to fasten the 4.5″ of polyiso to the 2×4 runners behind it. The 5″ screws and special plastic washers used just for this type of installation.

    I also found a great deal for 5 rolls of aviation grade foil tape on ebay (MUCH higher quality than the foil tape sold at home improvement stores) – I used this to cover all the seams and exposed edges of the sheets of polyiso to prevent sun rot and air migration.

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #11934

    Sorry for the delay, I must have forgot to check the “notify me” box on my last post – I did not realize you guys had posted.

    “I assume you used cedar either for the aesthetics and/or the rot resistance? Did you screw or nail them together? Looks like screws.”

    Yes to both. I love cedar (especially the smell when cutting, milling, sanding) – it looks great and is rot/insect resistant.  However, at approx $8 per 2×4 – not for massive framing projects.

    “Where do you find 60 sheets of 1 1/2 foil backed insulation to re-purpose? It looks like you detached the diagonal brace in order to install the insulation, then reinstalled. Correct?”

    Found polyiso on craigslist.  I ran a constant search for a while. This was used on a construction project for some type of temp use.  It was 1/2 price of buying new and kept it out of landfill.  Yes, I detached the braces a few at time and reattached before moving to the next set.  I could have cut long slots in the polyiso to slide up over the braces – but the much smaller holes made more sense – I have since filled those with expanding foam.

    “Is the doorway wide enough to bring in a cart pulled by something motorized or will you need to wheelbarrow in all that dirt?”

    The doorway opening is exactly 48″. It was my hope to use a small ATV to pull a small trailer through that opening.  However, our smallest ATV is 47.5″ at the fenders. There was a time when that would have been good enough – but my hand/eye/nerve coordination isn’t what it used to be :-)  Had to buy a two-wheeled wheelbarrow and will use ramps – unless I’m feeling brave.  I do however have a winch on one of the ATV’s – could pull the wheelbarrow from one side to the other.  Will have to figure that out soon as we will be mixing up “soil” here soon.

    “Why use bubble wrap? Maybe because it is translucent?”

    Yep, and it is inexpensive – a 48″ wide by 100′ roll was about $50. Not a great insulator but does create a buffer/dead air space. And it’s removable – easy to put up in the colder months and take down in the summer.

    “Once again I assume that wood stove is for illustration purposes only and an EPA compliant stove will be installed in the future? :-)”

    Oh, you must be talking about the completely non-functional antique display piece we added for aesthetic value.

    “In the middle of the summer will you have enough airflow through the greenhouse to keep temps down below the melting point of aluminum? :-) Seriously though what do you expect for temps inside during the summer?”

    Yea, it’s going to get fricken hot in there.  At our location and altitude the sun is extremely intense. Even a month ago the greenhouse would shoot up to over 100 degrees.  There are 6 manually opening windows, two 4′ wide doors – and two 16 sq ft upper vents that will have temperature driven automatic openers.  Also, I found some high-volume, low amperage 12 volt fans.  I will mount one down low to suck in cooler air and one on the opposite side up high to exhaust the warmer (OK, HOT) air.

    Will also be ordering some 70% aluminet shade cloth that will cover most of the top/south side. Aluminet is about 2x the cost of normal shade cloth – but it is silver/reflective and reflects the sunlight/heat instead of absorbing such.  If all the above isn’t enough, will have to regroup and go with water misters or some such.

    “Are you worried about high moisture levels inside during the winter….or any other time for that matter? My concern is mold growing between the insulation and the north wall as well as in other places.”

    Yes, most definitely a concern.  That is why we went with all metal framing, foil-backed insulation and cedar.  I’ve never seen mold/mildew grow on metal.  Hopefully the circulation will be enough to keep the humidity down – if not I’ll have to figure something out – maybe 55 gal drums full of moisture absorbing cat litter :-)

    “Where do you find 38 used 55 gallon drums? Did you need to clean them first? What were they previously used for? Do you have an oil well on the property? :-)”

    Those can be found on craigslist. In my case there are a couple of companies in the large Metro area 3 hours from us that recycle all that stuff including 275-gal water totes.  The drums we purchased were used once to ship concentrated orange juice. They use food-grade liners (giant plastic bags) for the OJ. The drums were perfectly clean when we received.  They sat outside for a while once here so we have to pressure wash/wire brush the bottoms and paint with Rustoleom and repaint the south facing sides flat black.  No oil well, no soil, no banana trees – lots of cacti, rattlesnakes and sand.

    “What is the significance of the multi colored flags hanging from the ceiling?”

    Tibetan Prayer Flags.  I figure given the worlds current and ever degrading geo-political, economic, climate change (with the distinct possibility of Near Term Human Extinction) situation – we could use all the help we can get.

    “You are meticulous in your work. Nice to see someone else doing quality work simply because they can and thus really should.”

    Thank you Sir. I’ve all but given up on ever becoming “enlightened”, an inspiration to others,  etc. etc. – so I just try to do what I do in the best way I can do it. I’ve learned it only takes 20% more effort to produce 100% better results.

    Have to take more photos of what’s been completed in the last couple of weeks – but will make another update soon.

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #11864

    Since closing in the greenhouse in January, we have been able to continue work regardless of weather. In fact, if the sun is shining, we have to open doors and windows regardless of outside temperature.

    The next step was to install the insulation on the North, East, West walls and up 26″ on the South wall where the insulated, solar heated raised beds will be installed.

    For the insulation, we repurposed 60 4’x8′ sheets of used 1.5″ thick, foiled backed, radiant barrier poly iso insulation. None of it was in “like new” condition – but definitely good enough for this purpose. For the North wall, we ran 3 horizontal runs of 2×4 nailers that were screwed into the metal framework.  We installed 3 layers of the poly iso giving us 4.5″. Along with the dead air space between the poly iso and greenhouse skin – we have approximately a R-30 insulation factor.

    We did the same for the part of the East and West walls that will be next to the drums full of water. A single layer of poly iso is being mounted above the drums. We may add a couple of layers of 1/2″ thick bubble wrap on top of that if need be.

    The heated raised beds are constructed from cedar 2×4’s and standard corrugated 26.5″ x 8′ galvanized steel roofing panels. Since the main South wall beds will never be moved, we built the exterior walls into the framework of the greenhouse.  The exterior walls are insulated with 4.5″ of poly iso.

    The long inside walls of the raised beds are staked in place using 30″ rebar rods.  The long beds will be divided every 4′ with a piece of the galvanized metal to allow different soil mixes and to prevent the spread of disease, fungus and such throughout the entire bed.

    Six island beds will be added to the long beds and have trellis from bed to ceiling running North to South.

    The beds will be solar heated. 4″ irrigation hose will be zig-zagged throughout the bottom of the beds. The top end will go to the very peak of the greenhouse where the warmest air will settle.  The bottom end will have a suction fan attached.  This will draw the warm/hot air from the top of the greenhouse through the beds where the heat will be absorbed by the soil.  The heated soil itself will be a fair thermal mass and combined with the 2100 gallons of water in the drums, the plants should never freeze (but that’s why we installed a wood stove for backup just in case).

    We also installed the platform for the thirty-eight 55-gallons drums. I used true 3″x8″ Douglas Fir beams I had milled for this.  I needed to make sure the 14630 lbs of water (plus the weight of the drums) would not shift or settle. The drums will be 19 abreast with two rows stacked.  The drums are also used-once repurposed. We used heavy duty food grade liners inside the drums to prevent future rust and keep the water as potable as possible.

    I’ll attached a couple of photos here – but uploaded a lot more to the bottom of this page:



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    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #11680

    Wanted to add some more details to help those in the decision making process.  Please note the decisions we made were the ones best for us at the time – that doesn’t mean they are gospel.  I’ll add another post on the passive solar thermal mass aspects when I can.

    Wood vs. Metal Framing

    I’ve been messing with carpentry and woodworking most of my life. If I can build/fabricate something from wood opposed to metal – I take that route.

    HOWEVER, after touring numerous greenhouses framed primarily with wood, I became a bit more open-minded about using an alternative.  Obviously you don’t want to use pressure treated wood in a greenhouse. That leaves cedar, redwood or cypress (naturally insect and rot resistant). However, for anything but a very small hobby greenhouse, the cost gets prohibitive, not to mention cedar/redwood/cypress simply do not have the structural strength of pine or fir.

    The reason for my willingness to consider metal was the overall condition of the wood framed greenhouses. They are sort of like new cars – they look great when brand new – but put 200K miles on them in rough terrain and they start to fall apart.  Greenhouses are very high humidity environments. I saw wood framework warping, twisting, splitting, releasing fasteners – and worst of all – covered with mold, mildew and who knows what else.  Not where I want to grow my food.

    There is one company that produces very expensive geodesic dome “grow domes”.  They use pine framework treated with a “non-toxic wood preservative”. Probably last longer than non-treated wood – but the older domes I toured were starting to resemble that 200K mile used car.

    While galvanized steel or aluminium will last basically forever, it’s difficult to fabricate on site. Kits are almost a must unless you are doing simple hoops.  You can order complete kits or just the framework.

    The exception to the above are certain passive solar designs where the North, East and West walls are framed in wood – but are also insulated and moisture proofed on the inside/outside.  The South wall framing that holds the glazing (glass, polycarbonate, etc) uses metal.

    Insulated Foundation vs. Solar Heated Raised Beds

    One school of thought for a 4 season passive solar greenhouse in colder climates is a below frost line, insulated foundation.  You are talking 3′ – 6′ depending on your climate.  This involves trenching down below frost line (5′ where we are), pouring a footer and 6″ thick concrete foundation walls to above ground level, then use poly iso or similar sheet insulation around the entire perimeter.   The idea is to keep the cold/frost from migrating from the outside ground into the inside planting area.  Personally I believe this would only be beneficial if you were going to plant directly in the ground near the perimeter of the greenhouse.  Needless to say, between the trenching, the concrete, the insulation, the labor, etc – this can add a huge cost.

    The other primary method is to anchor the greenhouse frame directly on a bed of gravel on the level and slightly mounded ground. This method is even used for the afore mentioned expensive growing domes.

    Yes, the cold will migrate at ground level – but you don’t plant in the ground. You build insulated raised beds that use the heat of the day to warm the soil in the beds.  This is done by zig-zagging flexible drainage pipe in the bottom of the beds.  On one end the pipe is connected to black ABS pipe that extends to the ceiling/peak of the greenhouse where to warm air gathers when the sun is shining.

    The other end of the drainage pipe come out just above planting level in the beds and is connected to a fan (a low draw 12v fan in our off-grid situation) which sucks the warm air from the top of the greenhouse all the way through the beds.  Since the beds are insulated to the outside wall – the soil maintains some of this heat throughout the night.

    The latter is the method we will use and I’ll upload some photos and details as the beds are built.

    in reply to: Indoor Gardens and Hydroponics #11483

    Urban pepper, you joined the thread I just started on passive solar greenhouses. We are definitely going to add a lot of hydroponic systems, Dws, float beds, some vertical stuff and flood and drain beds. Anything that can work with small air our water pumps as we are totally off grid. Should be this spring. It will all be new to us.I think we might be communicating on this stuff.  look forward to it.

    in reply to: Indoor Gardens and Hydroponics #11481

    Hi Urban Prepper,

    I just came across this video and site I thought would peak your interest:


    and related:  http://foodrising.org/

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #11477

    Thanks Cog – I would have done that but was being summoned to dinner – for the third and final time..

    I have to make a 4 day trip back into the Big City – but will add a lot more as I’m sitting around the hotel with nothing to do.  During our research into passive solar greenhouses, we ran into a lot of conflicting “you have to do it this way” theories.  Wood vs. metal frames, insulated foundations vs. heated raised beds, thermal mass requirements and the like.

    I would like to share all that in the hope it will prove useful to someone.

    As an update, we now have the entire north wall of the greenhouse insulated with 4.5″ of repurposed foiled backed polyiso sheets.  Between that and the 4.5″ of dead air space – probably an R-30.

    Working on the first of the insulated, solar heated, raised beds now because the Mrs. is getting ready to roll in the baker’s rack to start seeds next week.  I’ll add some photos when I get back – and clear a path through the couple feet of snow we might get out of the current storm.

    After all the raised beds are in the next step is lay down all the 3×8 timbers as a solid bed for the two stacked rows of 55-gal drums – paint them flat black and start filling them with water a few at a time.

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #11475

    And yea, I can imagine your terrain.  We had a place prior to buying this one where the only flat ground was the driveway next to the cabin – the entire 25+ acres was no less than 30-80 degree grades. We worked on improving it for 10 years and then lost everything to a huge wildfire right before we were going to move there.

    You will need either many tons of fill dirt, to do foundation walls – or have a very uneven greenhouse – kind of like those old tourist attractions of crazy houses where everything is built off-kilter, uneven, not square, etc.

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #11473

    Dang – attempted to make your actual questions a different color – guess the forum software doesn’t like that.  Chimney planning uploads were too large.  You can download from this page – you want the SuperVent USA chimney planning guide (scroll down a bit on the page).

    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #11471

    Hello Cog,

    1) Who manufactured the actual greenhouse ‘kit’?

    Interesting story there – here’s the short version.  A lot of companies manufacturer complete greenhouse kits. When I came across the site I purchased from I had several phone conversations with the owner and he put me under the distinct impression it was his design, his company, his fabrication facility.  As it turns out, he drop-ships the frame from one company and the plastic from another and tags on a nice profit for doing something I could have done myself (see below).

    Here is the URL for his site – I will not hyperlink it because I don’t want someone to accidentally click on it without reading this first:  DO NOT BUY FROM THIS GUY:  http://www.progreenhouses.com/

    I provide the URL because he does have a ton of photos and information about the structure. However, it took 7 weeks to get the framework and he could never get the plastic shipped so I ended up demanding a partial refund so I could buy it myself.

    The framework is actually a heavy-duty carport frame manufactured by http://www.versatube.com/ with custom end-walls. You can order directly from the manufacturer. I’ve attached the framework diagram for reference.  I’m VERY impressed with the quality and engineering of the framework.  Easy to assemble, easy to adjust for uneven terrain, etc.

    The polycarbonate sheets came from Home Depot. It turns out the guy I purchased from was going to ship extruded PVC and not true polycarbonate.  Complete details, specs, etc for the true polycarbonate can be found on the manufacturer’s site.

    2) What will you add to the water in the 55 gal drums to prevent a buildup of whatever happens to water over a long time when enclosed and repeatedly heated/cooled?

    Might add 1/4 cup of bleach to the each drum. The drums are used once, like new repurposed. I found a site that has a good deal on heavy-duty food grade drum liners. The liners will contain the water from touching the food-grade epoxy coating the drums have anyway.  Since sunlight will never touch the water and the temperature variations should not be that large once everything is up and running – if we every have to use the water for drinking it could be purified after the fact.

    3) Did you seal the Douglas Fir beams with anything before putting them down?

    Don’t have to with the local Douglas Fir – but the old saying “you are what you eat” applies to plants and trees also.  While a Fir is a Fir is a Fir – what they eat makes a difference.  It might be the super high concentration of calcium carbonate in our soil – but this is the timber of choice for 200 years for miners.  They use it for mine supports, sleuths, platforms – everything.  Around here they call it 100 years timber.

    Not to mention that the beams are covered on three sides by the flashing and sitting on a 3″ bed a rough gravel for drainage.

    4) Were the gutters and flashing you installed on the beams made elsewhere or did you use a aluminum brake to bend the stock yourself?

    The gutters and 4″x4″ roof flashing are store stock items at Home Depot. I had the beams milled to a true 4″ thick, so the flashing was a perfect fit with a 2″ silicon caulk seam on the top.  I did find a local metal roof fabricator that is now making all the custom trim and flashing I need for cheaper than retail prices.

    5) Was the roof penetration for the (soon to be replaced with an EPA compliant) wood stove built on site or purchased elsewhere? If so, where?

    In the photo, the silver framework was made from standard metal studs. However, to support the weight of the double-wall pipe and have the required clearances and such, I used standard chimney components.  I’ll also attached a couple of diagrams that show every possible scenario of a chimney installation and the components necessary.

    The first chimney I did here was for the shop – I purchased it locally and paid 2-3 times too much. I now buy all my chimney parts (shop, wood boiler, greenhouse) from a huge hardware store online – Here is a link to Menards 6″ chimney parts – but they carry most everything.

    6) The doors appear to have been part of the greenhouse ‘kit’…..correct? Were the windows purchased new or salvaged? They actually look like storm windows. Details please.

    Yes, the framework came with the custom end walls and doors.  Previously, the guy I purchased from just shipped the standard open-end carport frame and used 2×4’s to frame in the ends.

    The windows are repurposed storm windows – craigslist, $5 each.  I purchased 6 of them – but two broke (pre-installation) in a sudden windstorm – that’s why you see the nice double pane white ones on the south wall.

    The greenhouse framework does not account for any additional windows, vents or doors other than the two end wall doors – however, using the extra hat channel that ships with the frame, or standard metal studs – its easy enough to frame out for whatever extras you want.   The polycarbonate sheets are extremely easy to cut with a side grinder and metal cut-off blade.

    You must be logged in to view attached files.
    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #11467

    Urban Prepper, I neglected to greet you. My apologies. I will definitely be picking your brain on some of your forums regarding hydroponics and such. I’m still in the research phase on that stuff.

    Cog, I’ll answer your questions in detail and then some when I’m on something with a real keyboard, hopefully tomorrow.

    BTW, while we all know how hot the inside of a car can get in the summer Sun, without shade cloth or the auto_opening vents installed, it is amazing to see a 6280 cubic foot greenhouse go from below freezing to 108 degrees before noon if the sun is out, regardless of the outside temperature. I repurposed an old swimming pool cover as a temporary shade cloth until I can order real ones. Even it makes a huge difference. As this thread continues I’ll discuss the various types/models of greenhouse we evaluated and why we choose the one we did.

    Ok, it’s almost 1a.m.and this android keyboard is getting on my bad side…more later


    in reply to: passive solar greenhouse #11448

    Thank you Cog – it is an honor.

    OK, here is the deal – I won’t tell Mrs. Cog about your plans for a greenhouse if you won’t tell my wife that I actually don’t “absolutely have to have” every tool I acquire to work on a project she wants done.

    She has a good understanding of the Law of Cause and Effect, the Law of Karma and the like – but gets a skeptical look in her eyes when I try to explain my theory of the Law of Necessity Based on the Potentiality of Future Need.

    Back to the greenhouse – there is a very brief summary and photos of the project on our site at http://highdeserthomesteading.com/projects/passive-solar-4-season-greenhouse/

    However, the above doesn’t go into the details of the passive solar aspects, the trial and errors of the construction process – of my ideas and theories of which the practical applications proved a little harder to implement.  We are preparing for a pretty major snowstorm overnight so I will make additional posts in the next few days going into much more detail regarding the route and methods we chose, what worked, what did not – and where we are headed with this.

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