Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

January 27, 2013

A Shameless Plug

I mentioned a little while back that I was fortunate enough to get to be teaching a class in Vegetable Gardening Basics coming up just next week with the University of Utah's Lifelong Learning program. Just one more week.. can you believe it. I hardly can... seems it crept up on me!

If you've heard of the class and are sitting on the fence as to whether you'd like to attend, I thought a nice little teaser of some of the things I'll be covering would be a good idea. And a few bits of garden eye candy to go along with it couldn't hurt either. If you're looking to get a great start on your garden this year, now is a great time to learn some of the basics and I'd love to be the one to do it. Hope to see you in a little over a week! You can go HERE to register for Vegetable Gardening Basics or check out all the Lifelong learning classes at:    http://continue.utah.edu/lifelong/classes

(Click image for better quality version.)

January 14, 2013

Upside-down fire and Efficient energy use

A friend of mine linked to a really interesting article about fire the other day and it "sparked" my curiosity. I know, fire - the oldest of mans arts, how interesting could it be right? Well, it was an article from Milkwood Permaculture about a thing called an upside down fire. I've seen fires that are fed from the top and burn sideways, a la Rocket stoves, but never heard of an upside down fire. I had to give this thing a try.

The idea in a nutshell is to stack the fire inversely to how you would typically start a fire, by putting the big, heavy logs on the bottom first and then slowly getting smaller towards the top ending with kindling and some starter paper or whatever on top. I went ahead and stacked mine three levels deep in our wood burning fireplace and got it started. I have to admit, I was vocally pessimistic about it.

The idea is to capitalize on the fact that while the flames, smoke and gasses in a fire may move upward away from the fire, that the radiant heat from the actual combustion moves equally out away from the fire in all directions.

As the combustion heat from the fire radiates downward as well as up, it preheats the wood below it prior to it catching fire. This aids in it's more efficient burn and reduced smoke. The picture above was was about the time that I started thinking "You know.. this may just work."

And then by this point I was sold... More so even than the fact that it continued to burn downward, which honestly did kind of amaze me, but the fact that I didn't have to do anything to it. I just sat back, watched some TV with the wife and our boys and enjoyed the heat!

And you have to understand, I have a bit of a fire obsession. I am always moving the logs and re-stacking when they're not burning evenly... but there was really none of that. I only had to adjust them once. Then when the initial wood load had burned down, I moved some of the coals off to the side, added new wood and stacked coals on it. Poof. right back on fire and much much more efficient burning over all. If I had to try to put a number on it, I would guess somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% added efficiency.

Then, when we were getting ready to turn in and the fire had burned down to a pile of very nice, orange coals. I decided to live up to Milkwood Permaculture's suggestion and put those coals to some use. I don't know how it will work out, but before we went off to bed, I added a couple of foil wrapped potatoes to the coals to see how they cook up over night. I don't think it will have enough heat to finish them, but I am going to cube them and fry then with some eggs in the morning anyway. We'll see if this saves me a little time? I'll finish this post in the morning with the verdict...

And the clear answer to the question of if that will work is YES! This worked fantastically. I got up in the morning, unwrapped these and they were cooked to perfection! We had baked potatoes a few nights earlier and these potatoes were really hard to cook. Very firm. This way though, they were perfectly done. I chopped them up the next morning and gave them a quick fry for some breakfast burritos and they were delicious, so I heartily give this a thumbs up!

Wishing you the best till next time! Thanks for dropping by.

January 8, 2013

Lifelong Learning Vegetable Gardening Basics

You may remember me mentioning in my last post that I would have some great new news to share with you very soon. Well I do!

The University of Utah lifelong learning program has asked me to be one of their instructors during the Spring Session and I have agreed to whole-heartedly! I will be teaching a "Vegetable Gardening Basics" class for five weeks beginning on February 5th and running through March 5th. In addition, I will be teaching another class at the end of March on "Maximizing your Garden Production" focusing on space-saving techniques, trellising and other ways to maximize your garden in small spaces. That class will run from March 26th through April 2nd.

I was flattered greatly that they thought of me for these classes and, although a little nervous, I am super excited to get to do them. I've taught vegetable gardening basics a number of times with the Master Gardener extension service program, but they have always been in relatively short one session classes. They always seem to feel rushed and I always felt like it would be great to really get to "dig" into some of the topics more deeply. This will be my chance.

If you are reading this and are in the greater Salt Lake City area and are interested in the class. Please go to the Lifelong Learning website at the University of Utah website and register. For that matter, if your in the area at all, go to the site and check out all they have to offer. From gardening, to pasta making, to photography and Chinese for travelers they have to much to offer! It's a great program and I'm so proud to be a part of it.

For those interested, I will post more details of the topics to be covered in the days to come. I look forward to seeing you there!

Permaculture Course - Video 6

Well the holidays were great for us and I did manage to watch a number of the videos from this series although I haven't yet documented them. I've not gotten a lot of feedback on these reviews so, although I will still be reviewing them because more than anything this blog is still for me..., I will not be doing any real in depth analysis of them other than to just kind of order some of my ideas here in a pseudo formal setting. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, regardless of if or how you celebrated it.

This video was primarily focused on the design process... or at least that was the gist of it. I have enjoyed each of these videos quite a bit, but I do have the singular criticism that Dr Hooker is quite wordy and prone to tangents and I think some really valuable subject matters tend to sometimes get glossed over from time to time. This class was one of those to a certain degree but still had a bunch of great information.

To start things off, we went through he scientific process. In essence, and in case you are rusty in your Middle School science topics, the scientific process is basically - Observe, Hypothesize, Test, Analyze results and come to a Conclusion. There were also a number of other methods that he went over, such as the Koberg/Bagnall Process (From the Universal Traveler) and the "New Age Process". Over all they all come down to the root of pay attention and observe what is going on on the land already before beginning any design process, Come up with how you best think you should proceed based on those observations, put it in to action and analyze what happens. Afterword, conclude whether it is working and modify it accordingly. I agree with this process completely and have found it to be the correct way to go through much experience.

The first part of this process is to observe. Collect data regarding your property by observing it casually, as well as by using the physical tools available to us that have been proven throughout the years. (I will get more into some of these tools in a later dedicated post at some point.) Tools such as Topographic maps, pegging the slope, weather data and such.

One particular tool that he puts into use during his design process phase is called a Sector Analysis. The sector analysis is a way of documenting what Dr. Hooker calls the "wild energies" coming into a property from all sides. Those wild energies may be wind, sun, or people energies. Also documented in the Sector Analysis are views, access points and such, as well as the differing sun inputs based on the solar seasons. This will be one of the first things that I do when I begin designing in detail my garden here on my new land.

Another great tool that he goes into with some detail is a sort of North arrow compass rose that he integrates into all of his design projects. What it does is to document, in relation to the property and it's orientation, the path of the sun and the light coming into the landscape.

Probably the best thing I got from this, honestly, was a wonderfully simple explanation of how to determine and calculate the amount of sun coming in at a particular angle based on the season and the angle of the sun. I understood the concept as a basic part of passive solar heating and cooling, but didn't quite have my head wrapped around the math behind it. This math can be put into use when determining placement and design of any landscape features that may affect the plantings in the garden.

The final portion of this class was to show how a landscape analysis drawing gets put together and how it illustrates all these factors in one place. This will be an invaluable process in our design phase. I will definitely go into this with much greater detail in the future.

It really was a pretty darned informative class. I realized exactly how much so as I reviewed my notes and re-watched portions of it as I went through creating this post. It was well worth the watch.

Now that the holidays are over I will be trying to get these video reviews up a little more regularly. Although, I do have some really cool new news that I will be sharing with you here very shortly that will take a portion of my scarce free time. It will be well worth it though!

Talk again soon.