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Ok. I’m going to put 2 cents in my rain barrel that I use to water my tomatoes with. I will also try the milk powder this coming summer when rainy season arrives back.
Comment by Michael Mon Dec 11 19:29:18 2017

Hi Anna and Mark,

That people would actually buy something to help with composting was a VERY LARGE amusement to a farmer friend of mine.

 Read King 'farmers of 40 centuries' for a really useful perspective on what really works and how to do it.

[In my opinion]

Comment by John Mon Dec 11 16:14:13 2017

Just a quick comment regarding adding urine to your compost. One of the comments mentioned a concern over pathogens. That is not a problem with urine -- no pathogens. If you were talking about feces, that would be a different situation.

Urine is clean, has minerals and lots of nitrogen. It works like a champ to breakdown compost. However, don't go crazy. There are also salts in the urine and too much can cause problems when you use the compost to grow yummy produce.

The only other caution is if a person is taking medications. If you are taking pills for some reason, traces of it will be expelled via urine. Might not want that being absorbed by your veggies.

Comment by Anonymous Mon Dec 11 13:41:59 2017

It's possible that Roz lives in a place/her tumbler is in a place where the tumbler has been so hot that it dried out the contents and/or killed the good microbes. I found that the case when I had a tumbler in AZ. Had to keep it in the shade in the summer for sure, and had to water it often. Also, for Nayan's comment about putting urine in the compost, let us not forget Anna's many posts about humanure and about applying human urine on the garden... Urine is sterile and therefore pathogen-free unless you have a urinary infection. So, in general, feel free to pee (but maybe water it down).

Comment by jennifer Mon Dec 11 11:40:50 2017

Last year I built two compost barrels that tumble from two black 55 gallon barrels I got at the local co-op. Built them in the spring and was astonished at how many times I filled it up (estimate: 8 possibly 10 times) and yet it has now in December rotted down to less than half that!

I agree that the lady may have not put enough green in the tumbler, or perhaps she didn't spray some water in there either which would help with composting. Because mine are not "airtight", rain gets in there but then I also pour water in periodically to keep it wet. I also found that because the barrels are black, during the summer the heat absorbed by the black plastic helps in keeping the contents "hot". Of course, during the winter, the temperature is reduced and so is the "cooking" of the ingredients.

Not sure that putting human "urine" in the compost bin is a good idea (concern about pathogens) but apparently there are lots of articles out there about it and why it's a good idea. Because mine cook down so frequently, I don't need to do that.

Comment by Nayan Mon Dec 11 10:21:13 2017
In the mid 1970's a lot of the old rural rail line beds were taken out in central Minnesota, the land sold back to the land owners. In some parts of the state they were turned in to recreational trails (the Lake Woebegon trail for example, I grew up near the fictional town of Lake Woebegon) but in the township I was in the farmers dozed them out because they feared "hippies would burn their fields" if they were open to public use!
Comment by Eric Mon Dec 11 06:54:42 2017

I don't know if Ian Osborne will ever see this, but in case someone else reads through and comes upon his daughters' insights, what happened is the creation of a density gradient. It's not uncommon and is surprisingly stable in liquids.

As the ice in your buckets melted, the part containing the bulk of the sugar melted first, yielding a relatively dense, sweet liquid. The later, nearly pure, ice slowly and gently melted over the top of it, creating a second layer of less dense water. Given several days to sit, the two layers would eventually diffuse into one another. If this were done in a clear container you'd even be able to see the different layers because of the difference in the way that they bend light.

It will never happen in the other direction though; you won't get the sugar at the bottom of the bucket by allowing it to be still and cold. That requires some significant outside intervention (freezing, R/O filtering, boiling, that sort of thing.)

You've likely seen something similar if you've ever put sugar in a glass of iced tea and not stirred. The sugar dissolves in the tea at the bottom of the glass and it makes a layer of syrup that flows around the bottom as you tip the glass back and forth, but it doesn't readily spread throughout the rest of the glass without stirring.

Comment by Jason Patterson Sat Dec 9 23:40:00 2017
While it is not inspiring, we did have snow today from about 8:00 until about 5:00, but it hardly covered the ground. I think it was warm enough that it melted quickly and the flakes were tiny. Hopefully that is all for this winter!!!
Comment by Sheila Sat Dec 9 22:03:47 2017

"Rural Action has created a treatment system that scrubs the issues from the water then funds itself by selling the pigments to Gamblin Colors to be turned into oil paints."

That is absolutely astonishing! Although I don't use Gamblin Colors (use Windsor & Newton's Watersoluble Oils) I can see where this is a win-win situation. Will you be visiting (if you can) the factory where Rural Action does its treating of the water? To me, that's the kind of story I'd like to see some of the big media outlets show. You could also write a story, or your husband do a video, of a visit to that plant and then contact Aeon magazine (wonderful stories) and work with them to get it out.

Comment by Nayan Sat Dec 9 09:55:53 2017
Sometimes DIY ends up costing more money than hiring someone who's a professional.
Comment by Nayan Fri Dec 8 11:47:31 2017

Good luck with the hoops. Thank you for answering my greenhouse question. I know we're a bit behind on the gardening game so we've decided to just wait on it. However I have started somethings indoors, like a sweet potato vine that I will plant come spring and I have a carrot top that I am rooting also. Still looking into the mushrooms, I think mushrooms are one of my favorite things to eat.


Comment by bleueaugust Fri Dec 8 10:01:52 2017
Looks like you got your money’s worth from your technician. That’s great! How’s it working now?
Comment by Jennifer Fri Dec 8 09:56:39 2017
I have the vacuum pump, gauges, and tools to do the install but the nitrogen issue is my problem also. If I can find someone with the nitrogen tank I would rather do my own install. I would like to install three small units and my neighbor wants to do one or two units so paying a company to do the final install could cost quite a bit. BTW, home owner installs can void factory warranty.
Comment by zimmy Thu Dec 7 09:28:40 2017
I'm not surprised you had to call around, very few places will work on customer installed equipment! Glad you found someone.
Comment by Eric Wed Dec 6 18:16:06 2017
I have a Place on Face Book called Permaculture for Georgia , a better term I have None....I am planting Trees but at this point am still mainly using Leafy plants such a Chicory and Daikon Radishes with just a few trees ....I have put in a Maze that looks from the air like a Grapefruit cut in half, Ten sections radiating out from the center with ten huts where the Pips would be ...Each section is divided into three parts so that allowing the goats into each division in turn takes 30 days to return to the starting point ....Around the Perimeter I have 15x15 foot pens with huts for separation of animals at Birthing and further food plots ... To protect the Trees from the goats , while they are small I am using Pallets to box in the young trees .
Comment by Paul Badon Wed Dec 6 02:54:41 2017


How are you cutting the acrylic? Thin sheets (say up to 4 mm) can be scored with a knife and then broken. Personally I don't like this method very much because you can get razor-sharp edges this way. But using a jigsaw or circular saw gives a better quality edge. When using any powered saw, use a sawblade with fine teeth. Do make sure the acrylic is well supported so it doesn't chatter. Personally I tend to cut plastic sheets on the table saw at work using a ⌀300 mm, 96-teeth carbide-tipped saw. That works very well. The only downside is that the chips coming off tend to clump together and clog up the extraction pipe.

Clouding of acrylic is surprising. Acrylic is known for its good resistance to UV. But exposure to certain substances can cause discoloration or crazing. Note that you should not clean acrylic with solvents! That includes methylated spirits and pure isopropyl alcohol. If the hazing is on the surface (which one would expect if its caused by a substance instead of UV) you might be able to polish it out.

BTW, I would not recommend using countersunk screws in acrylic. It's very easy to crack the material that way. Put a washer under screw-heads to spread out the load from the screw over a larger area, and don't over-tighten the screw.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Dec 4 16:30:07 2017

I've worked both acrylic and polycarbonate sheet, and they are BOTH a PITA. Use them only if NOTHING else will do.

I have two fabric structures that were initially covered with translucent rip-stop sheeting like your greenhouse. The one shaded by the house is still intact 14 years later. In direct sun, the roof of my larger structure ripped after about 5 years, and was replaced by opaque vinyl (it's a shop)

More on the rip-stop greenhouse film:

Comment by Anonymous Sun Dec 3 22:56:13 2017

Menards has a twin wall extruded polycarbonate in stock by me in Michigan 4'x8'x6mm thick for less than $40.

Tuftex® 4' x 8' Polycarbonate Clear Twinwall Panel (6 mm)

They are quite durable, and offer some insulation in the double-wall.

Comment by Jim Sun Dec 3 22:13:04 2017

I have become a fan of this guy's YouTube videos on growing in a greenhouse. He's in zone 5, and obviously got a lot of his info from Elliot Coleman (who's videos back in the 90s I would religously tape. Unfortunately, the VHS machine is now kaput.) Anyhow, he has some really good tutorials on growing veggies, when to, how to, and how to make a hoop greenhouse and cold frames within the greenhouse. His videos can be found here:

As the old commercial goes: Try it! You'll like it! :)

Comment by Nayan Sun Dec 3 16:53:35 2017

Roland and Nayan --- I appreciate your input on covers for the future! Always good to have that filed away attached to a blog post to speed up later research. :-)

Jen --- Congratulations on your new greenhouse! That's a tough question, though --- there's not much you can start so late in the year. You might try lettuce if you only expect a jump start on production in the spring --- maybe a February first harvest instead of March. Or possibly kale with the same plan? Please do tell me what you decide to do and how it works out!

Comment by anna Sun Dec 3 13:27:21 2017

We just got our greenhouse this past week. It's a bit smaller than yours. This is our first one so it's a new experience for us. I would greatly appreciate any tips on getting started so I will definitely be looking for your updates on your greenhouse growing. What's good to start out with in the middle of December?


Comment by bleueaugust Sun Dec 3 13:01:15 2017

Roland, I've been using acrylic plastic sheets from Lowes on my coldframe. I believe I build the coldframe in 2003 and it has held up very well. There are a couple of problems I find with it (and it may just be me and not a universal problem): 1) I have trouble cutting to size without cracking the sheet which is why I usually ask Lowes to cut the sheet to whatever size I need; and 2) over a period of years, the clearness of the plastic fades and it becomes cloudy, which doesn't really seem to hurt the amount of sunlight that the cold frame gets. The only other problem is stupidity on my part when I inadvertently forgot to put a weight on one of the lids (the frame's designed to be accessed from both sides) on one side and the wind (I live in a wind tunnel, or so it seems) blew the cover back, cracked the plastic and mangled the frame of the lid. The other side has one of those automatic heat venting mechanisms (which work great!) so the wind can't lift the lid and try to blow it into the next county.
Although I think using acrylic for a coldframe is a great idea, I think it would be cost-prohibitive for a greenhouse and going with either flexible greenhouse plastic or the double-walled kind would probably be a better choice. You can get it from I've purchased some items from them and have been satisfied with their products.

Comment by Nayan Sun Dec 3 09:55:38 2017

Clear polycarbonate sheet (the most well-known trade name is probable "Lexan") would be a superior choice for the walls of a greenhouse. It is very translucent and impact resistant. Something in the order of 1/8 to 1/10 inch thick solid sheet should do very well when assembled on an e.g. wooden frame. Instead of solid sheet, you can also get double-wall extrusions. In that case you trade some translucency for better insulation. It is quite expensive, but it should last for many years.

A cheaper alternative could be acrylic (trade names "Plexiglass", "Prespex") sheet. It is also very translucent but doesn't have the impact resistance of polycarbonate.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Dec 3 09:09:05 2017

Jayne --- I didn't think anyone but me would be able to see her, but that's why I chose that shot! :-)

Brian --- You just resolved a conundrum! I was informed that these bore prolifically the first year, but I couldn't recall any primocane-bearing blackberries on the market. Sounds like you might have just identified which variety this is.....

Comment by anna Fri Dec 1 15:26:10 2017
Depending on the premium you pay for the HP water heater plus the additional installation cost (and perhaps maintenance costs) and the cost per Kwh of electricity in your area, you might find that the Discounted Cash Flow analysis shows that the payoff may be never or an extremely long time (10 - 15 years) Given that is true, I tend to go for the simpler system (resistance heat) over the more complex vapor compression machine. <bb
Comment by bb in GA Fri Dec 1 11:17:30 2017

The Prime-Ark Freedom will bear in their first year on primocanes and the second year on the floricanes. They are thornless and hardy to zone 5. They maybe worth considering as well. We are trying them this year to extend the harvest since they will fruit twice a year after the first year.

I hope you guys are well. I enjoy reading your story!

Comment by Brian Fri Dec 1 09:46:37 2017
See Otha in the left background stalking the "burn pile"!
Comment by Jayne Fri Dec 1 08:12:36 2017
I have collected fallen leaves of mulberry, maple and basswood. There is a 20% increase in milk production within 12hrs of their feast. I do not have the ability to breakdown the leaf and see scientifically what nutrition remains in the leaf, but my experience tells me that it is worth the raking. I put it in large garbage cans and feed them a giant armful once or twice a day for as long as the supply lasts. I have 3 Nigerians.
Comment by Beth Thu Nov 30 13:52:15 2017

I bought the hubby one last year for Christmas. He uses it in our garage which is small and boy does that thing put off some heat. I would definitely buy another one if we ever need it in case our furnace goes out.


Comment by bleueaugust Wed Nov 29 19:06:50 2017

So the question is, can deer learn how to unzip the door? ;-) Or will they just shove their snouts under the walls?

I'm also curious to see how long this will last in full sunlight.

Your new home looks a lot bigger than the one you had. Or is that just the perspective of this picture?

Comment by Roland_Smith Wed Nov 29 14:53:10 2017

Hey guys,

I've used the same heater over the past few years. It really helps out during the "shoulder season" when heating with wood. My first year, it was my only source of heat.

However, I just wanted to make sure you guys are using the right hose. According to the Mr. Buddy website, there was a problem with using regular hoses. The pressure from a larger tank (rather than the small one-pound tanks that screw directly on the sides) would cause some leaching of the rubber into the gas stream.

This leaching would dirty up the unit and ruin it. In other words, the pressure was too much, so you were basically burning propane and small amounts of rubber; which over time would gunk up the whole thing.

The company came up with a filter on the hose which really helped. Eventually, they realized that what was really needed was a separate pressure regulator on the hose.

So, double-check your hose to make sure it has its own pressure regulator or at the very least has the filter attached. It will make your unit last much longer and be much, much safer to operate.

Oh, when you get a chance, please do provide updates on your hot water heater. I'm really curious to find out how well it works. I'm going to need to replace mine in the not too distant future.

Been following you guys for years and lovin' every minute.

Thanks, Steve

Comment by Anonymous Wed Nov 29 11:35:32 2017
Thanks for the review. This looks like a good option for me since I don't have a woodstove and probably can't put one in my doublewide.
Comment by Nayan Wed Nov 29 10:41:36 2017

We went greenhouse hunting this past weekend at several local stores but had no luck finding one. But then again we probably shouldn't have waited so late in the season. Next step is to look online. Lucky you guys were able to get one.


Comment by bleueaugust Tue Nov 28 14:08:53 2017
I have one of those green houses. I can keep several different kinds of greens growing all winter long. You will love it.
Comment by mona Tue Nov 28 12:19:13 2017
I'd love to know the brand name & what you think of the quality. From the pic, I'm impressed by what looks like reinforced corners. Or are they just a different color?
Comment by Terry Tue Nov 28 11:39:04 2017
Wow, I had one very similar to that 10 years ago! They are not bad, but having any greenhouse space will make you wish you had more, so good luck! Pretty soon your whole south exposure will be one big attached greenhouse, especially with the deer problems you are expecting.
Comment by Eric in Japan Tue Nov 28 09:55:57 2017
Got any idea as to how long that plastic will last before it breaks down in the sun?
Comment by Nayan Tue Nov 28 09:11:33 2017

Obviously - another trip is a welcomed idea! We also were energized and inspired with your company & not too shabby that the weather co-operatered beautifully as well!

Comment by Jayne Mon Nov 27 11:20:09 2017
it seems everybody here is doing a much better job with these barrel-type composters than I ever did. Mine would dry out the contents so quickly it was like a barrel full of dry leaves, which of course never composted. I have read that to rot properly, compost needs to be around the moisture content of a wrung-out sponge. I can never keep my compost anywhere near that high of a moisture level, except in winter when the rotting slows to a crawl. What am I doing wrong? I do live in Tennessee which has seen pretty hot summers for quite some time now...
Comment by Roz Sun Nov 26 18:58:35 2017
This year I looked at compost tumblers and decided that the cost was beyond my budget. Instead I found a number of really good instructional videos on YouTube and, picking one as what would meet my needs, I proceeded to acquire two black 55 gallon drums from the local farmers' co-op for $10 each, and, having a bunch of lumber lying around that wasn't doing anything, I proceeded to build a two 55-gallon tumbler side-by-side unit in April or so. Since then I have filled up both tumblers at least five times. My last trip to them was yesterday in which I noticed that the contents have again rotted down to about three-quarters of their original volume. That's TWO 55-gallon drums rotting down to 3/4 of their size. Since it's now late fall and winter approaching the composting will slow down. Nevertheless, I'm astonished at how much refuse I put in there (including fish skins, egg shells, coffee grounds, garden refuse etc.) the bins can hold. Going to be great in the spring when I can spread that on my raised beds.
Comment by Nayan Sat Nov 25 09:07:29 2017

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime