Permaculture Design Course: Notes from Weekend Four, by Dick Devens

This past weekend was the second to last weekend of the G.A.L.A. hosted Permaculture Design Certification Course. The students had a great time presenting their Analysis and Assessment Summaries, learning about rocket stoves and appropriate technology. Dick Devens has shared his notes from the weekend:

Saturday 1 Dec 2012              
          At check-in, we were introduced to Brian Felice, who talked about Natural Building. He has known Eric Toensmeier, co-author of Edible Forest Gardens, since 1999. Brian taught at Antioch/New England, and spent some time at a Hopi Reservation in Colorado.
          He talked about ‘reskilling’, timber framing, and the Institute of Social Ecology in Rumney, NH, where he lives. He talked about building for abused children with locally available, renewable, biodegradable materials, without using a dumpster.
          My notes say: Minimal processing. Affordable. Human energy – expensive. Clay Sand Straw Lime Timber Rough-sawn lumber. Stone Thatch Wattle and daub Animal hair Urine Manure Cordwood. Brian mentioned that New England had a short building season, but that it was growing with global warming. He stressed attention to detail. Straw bale has to stay dry, rodent-free. Clay holds water; flax is oily – threat of fire. Work with natural systems. Plaster is good, ‘perfect system’, best air barrier, but temperature needs to be 40 or higher. Bark- free pine woodchips insulate well. Thermal mass – stone is good (my note: stone not good for insulation). Materials that perform well together for walls are 12” of clay and straw sandwiched between two 1” layers of plaster.
          Brian also mentioned Solar access, Passive heating, Food growing/storage potential, Whole Systems Website, Multi-use space, Flexible spaces, the book A Pattern Language, Lath and plaster better than sheetrock, John Abrams at South Mountain Company, Martha’s Vineyard, Homeowners’ Manual, Stud finder no good on plaster, Field Guide to House, and Mark Rosenbaum.
          At some point, we moved upstairs and saw slides. A straw bale is 18” wide, 14” high, and 36” long. Wood is a poor insulator. Heat moves by Conduction, Convection, and Radiation. Northeast Natural Builders. Most heat loss comes from basement and attic areas, less from areas between. 70% sand, 25% clay, 5% straw recipe for – ?, Brian’s rate for consultation is $45/hour.
         We broke for lunch       

Tim and the Rocket Stove

 At 1:20 pm we met with Tim (Smith, I believe – Tim Smith the Tinsmith?), who showed us how to make a Rocket Stove, using a 5-gallon metal bucket, sand, and some T-shaped black metal piping, 6” diameter (smaller diameter pipe also works). He used a hammer and chisel to make a + shaped opening, working from about 2” outside of center to the center, then hammering from the center to the outside, making a hole big enough to accommodate the stem of the T-shaped pipe (available at hardware stores). Then some of us made a Rocket Stove, using sand between the two metal elements, added twigs, and lit them. It worked!

Rocket Stove

Rocket Stove!!

         Tim is at the Bush Mountain Bushcraft School – Low-tech solutions – a 41-acre school in northern Maine, and was on the GALA Board. He told us about solar ovens, with no moving parts, just need sun. Heat food and put in plastic cooler, in which the food keeps cooking. Tim mentioned the magazine, The Permaculture Activist.
         At 2:30 we went upstairs again to see more power-point pictures of: outdoor cooking (cob oven), irrigation, grey water management, and pedal power. Things we want to learn more about are: wood-fed sauna, root cellar, composting toilet, food/water storage. The Orchard Hill Bakery in Alstead NH was mentioned.
        We talked about the production of electricity: PV, Wind, Micro/hydro, Solar panels. Reduce, and then produce – AC or DC? Tie into grid. With battery storage, there is a 40% loss. Inverters (D Acres) and microproducers (in case one solar collector is shaded). Need to have access to converters. Justin mentioned Magnetic Generators.

Induction stoves were mentioned. Wind turbines – there is one on Pork Hill Road. Site-specific data, micro/hydro. Can have too much wind!
        A south/southeast slope is best for planting. A ‘money-maker’ pump is used for pumping water uphill. Lauren said that it is best not to need irrigation, except in an emergency – a cistern is better. Do not become a slave to solutions to problems. Some good ‘f’ words: Food, Fuel, Fodder, (a few others), Fun!
        4:15 pm: Greenhouses, stacking functions: Aquaculture. Smell of living things. Dry clothes. Grey water in bathrooms. Worm bins. Hoop houses, high tunnels. Warm air storage. Add moisture to house. Plastic roofing gets scratched – Venturi windows. Wood fire saunas – Emily’s dad has a huge one, drilled well for sauna, uses sauna porch as a place to eat in warm weather. Use residual heat from house for greenhouse. Use sauna for clothes drying. Solar dehydrator – “good for drying bras!”. Good for drying other things, too. Screen should be stainless steel. Keep glass top away from trees.
         Permaculture, by David Holmgren. Root storage, canning and freezing, is energy-intensive, good for winter eating, best to eat directly from garden, if weather allows. Good for storage: beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, and squashes. Put thermometers high and low on walls. Greens – put in fridge in plastic bags. Animals can be a problem. Corn dries on windowsills. 

A&A Summary!

Sunday 2 Dec 2012
            After check-in, Jessica Cole, of Sumner Brook Herbals, talked about Chaga, a mushroom used in treatment of Stage IV cancer. She lit a small piece to use as incense, and we passed it around before setting it on the floor. For tea, add 3 chunks, (half the size of a charcoal briquette?) to 1.5 gallon of water and boil for 2 hours, then steep for 48 hours. To make syrup, combine with honey. Jess harvests chaga from the field, in this region. Used in hospitals in Russia. Yellow birch is wintergreen, said Lauren. Dry in dark corner on a shelf. Keeps forever. $20-30 for tincture of chaga, which is not as effective when it grows on ash trees. Saint Johnswort, Hypericum, is “gorgeous”; treats sunburn, sciatic nerve pain, as an anti-depression, but risky for severe depression and other things.
            Jessica then talked about Yarrow (Achillea Millefolia), which apparently helped Achilles when he was wounded – stops bleeding (as do cobwebs and yellow tracing paper). It tends to move around in the ground (and I’ve found that it transplants well, so far). It has 32 compounds, builds diversity. Insectary.
            Jess said that Plantain, “White Man’s Footprint”, grows in compacted soil, and is another ‘heal all’. Also, Sweet Fern (Comtonia Peregrine), which is a nitrogen fixer, and jewelweed, which I finally found in the dictionary: IMPATIENS, which I find in Bailey’s Manual of Cultivated Plants, but not in Wyman’s Shrubs and Vines for American Gardens.
            We passed around Creeping Charlie, which detoxifies, Canker Root for canker and good digestion, and Elderberry, and Comfrey was mentioned, if not passed around. Lauren noted the ‘theory’ that plants come to us, and Cimbria mentioned ‘Agreements’.

Building the Rocket Stove!

            Jessica’s talk was very moving – brava!
            We broke for lunch, a masterpiece prepared by Nadine.
            After lunch, we looked at everyone’s design process, which will reach fruition on January 5, 2012.
            At 2:35, we went upstairs for more ‘slides’. We talked about community Master Plans and their maintenance (implementation); who shows up for revisions, and how frequently revisions occur. Master Plan’s are somewhat regulatory, somewhat not. Mentioned were Zoning Site Plan, Habitat Repair, Subdividing, and Strategic Conservations. It was suggested that we think about communities as ecosystems, which are not synonymous with economic growth.
            Peter Bain’s bold plan for Bloomington, Indiana was displayed – centralized composting. Removing barriers; Transition Towns, John Abrams, Nubanusit in Peterboro, NH, Cobb Hill in Hartland, VT, a 270 acre co-housing site with a workshare option, and, like Nubanusit, uses ‘stacked functions’. Also, Andy Lupkis’ Rainwater Collection Plan for Los Angeles.

By Dick Devens -THANK YOU!