Life goes on - Summer 2017

We were out in the shop working on building a dirt sifter when we heard someone pull in the front drive unexpectedly…I looked over my truck and saw a smoking wood hopper. I figured there could only be one or two folks that it could be… .

Wayne and Lisa stopped in for a visit and a bag of wood. They brought Jakob a hose for his gasifier too. :slightly_smiling_face:


Well good to see you US south/central boys are getting now some sunshine and ground drying out . . . ?
Rain here. Blowing rain. Drizzling rain. Warm rain. Now cold rain. Up to 10" now this month. Have at least 4" more in the next two days. T-h-e-n maybe three days of cool sunshine. Before the next spate of storms.
Ha! Hard to view this topic any more as "Summer’.
Shame of the Pacific weather fire hose effect is that NorCal is still needing fire suppression rain badly.
Amazingly these wet, wet storm fronts originate clear across the pacific as south China sea cyclones.
Well, this year I did manages to get the wood shed filled up enough for the season.
Reading time. Snoozing time now.
I’ll get winter fat and weak.
tree-farmer Steve unruh


The wife and I went on a little ride today ( just under 300 miles ) site seeing . Videos and picks will come as I get them loaded up.

Thanks for the bag of wood Billy :grinning:

I ended up not needing it so I may have had the trip plan about right .


If anyone is interested, this is the news letter for our little organization (ADAPTech). There are two other links within for pics of our projects this week including some of Jakob’s charcoal build.

EDIT: technical difficulties…working on it.

Sorry for the long post. Was trying to just put up a drop box link instead. I will try to do that next time. For now I need to go to bed so I will just post the whole thing.

This week we made some progress on several projects.

Dirtcrete Walkways:
We started pouring test pads of “dirtcrete” . Basically the concept is to replace sand and aggregate in concrete with sifted local Alabama red clay to make a mixture of “concrete” strong enough for walking paths and other applications not requiring the strength of normal concrete.
We have seen dirtcrete walkways that continue to work after 25 years.

We have been unable to find any real good reliable information on a recipe. We did find a reference in a Seabees manual from 1944 which referenced a 14:1 ration of dirt to cement, but it also said that the recipe would change given local conditions, which makes perfect sense. Anywhere you go the consistency of the soil is going to vary. So before continuing with the larger project of the appropriate technology garden, we decided to pour a test sidewalk.

We made one sidewalk with 4 different mixtures indifferent sections. We shall see how it holds up. It looks very good. We used 10:1, 15:1, & 20:1 clay:portland cement. And one section 20:1:4 clay:portland:gravel.

All in all we poured the equivalent of 5/8 of a yard of concrete with less than one bag of portland cement. If it works, that makes an $85.00 sidewalk cost about $8.00 in materials.
At this point it looks like even the 20:1 mix is going to serve its purpose, but we’ll have to wait to see what the rain does to it to know for sure.

Dirt Sifter:
It didn’t take long sifting red clay by hand that the mother-of-invention came knocking. Friday morning the boys and I put together a dirt sifting device. Our initial intent was to make a big complicated contraption, but as usually happens, we looked around to see what we had on hand. Jakob had an old weed eater that someone had thrown out (thanks ethanol gas) and he had rebuilt the carburetor and put new fuel lines etc., and got it running.

We used it to make a vibrator to shake a screen on a slanted table. It was made to vibrate by drilling a hole in the blade and installing a bolt to make the blade imbalanced.

Very seldom does an idea work right the first time with little or no tweaking. This one was one of those.
There are pics in the dropbox.

Bios-sand filter demonstration teaching model
We often find it difficult to capture people’s attention while teaching AT with only words. To address this problem we have started building teaching aids for models that are hard to see. We poured a “1/2 tank” to provide a cross-sectional view of the inside of a filled bio-sand filter, which will be covered with a transparent glass and then filled with the filter media so it can be seen from the outside. It turned out very nice. More to come on this one.

Charcoal Gasifier Tractor
Much progress was made this week on the charcoal powered tractor. Jakob mounted the gasifier hopper, cyclone, hay filter, and built and installed the water-drip tank. For those who have not heard before, the idea here is to make a contraption to allow a combustion engine (in this case a small engine on a small tractor) to run on charcoal made from waste wood and a little bit of hydrogen gas and oxygen gas generated by cracking tap water.
This project is actually Jakob’s enrichment project for school this year. He is well on his way to finishing. We look forward to updates often as he is well motivated.
There are pics in the drop box.

We taught a training session Tuesday afternoon for SIFAT. We had 44+ nursing students from Troy University. We taught Appropriate Technology theory, water purification, brick making and fuel efficient cook stoves. It was a great program.

Hydraulic Ram Pump:
Not much happened this week on this project. Erika and Jesse spent most of the week in Florida at Erika’s uncle’s funeral. He did get the pump operating, but need to fix some leaks and install a delivery pipe. We’ll let you know how it goes…

Project Shop Addition:
Some final touches were put on organizing the project shop after the addition last week. Jakob added on a tool room while I was working out on site last week. It has proved to be extremely helpful in getting projects finished. Everything has a place and most things stay in it… … Jakob gets a great big Thank you from everyone here.

Woodgas visit:
Wayne and Lisa Kieth showed up Friday also. Wayne is pretty well considered the foremost pioneer of wood gasification for automobiles. They pulled in the driveway looking to visit and get a bag of wood as part of a 300 mile trip around Alabama using no gasoline. It was good to visit for a while. And they brought a piece of hose that Jakob needed for his gasifier. Their visit reminded me of my need to fix the leaks in our woodgas truck. So much to do…so few days in the week… …Does anyone know how we can add 2 or 3…LOL

And then there is work and school and all the rest…SO… things are busy here. Hope all is well with all of you out there. See you next time around…Billy

On a personal note. I would ask prayer for the family of Mahalo Gregg. Mahalo was a childhood friend of ours for more than 30 years. He lived with our family for a time when I was a teenager. I got a Rescue Squad call yesterday morning about 1 AM. Mahalo had dove off a boat dock at the lake and hit his head and was not recovered for 15 minuted. They pronounced him DOA at the hospital.

Actually, I just got called out for another rescue mission, so much for taking Erika out to eat tonight. Apparently there is a missing woman on the other end of the county…More later…If you don’t want to get news letters just send me a note back and I’ll take you off the list.

Here are a couple of links to pics for the week:


Turns out the missing woman was a 14 year old run-away. We looked for her until midnight and called off the search. She was found with her boyfriend somewhere this morning. Sounds like someone needs a good spanking.

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Today was put up a structure to keep all my metals and junk from being covered in the snow. Last year we had snow on the ground for three months, all of it was under the snow drift, this is not going to happen this year. I am hoping for a mild winter, but they are not forecasting that for this area. I will show some pictures when it finished. It’s not big just 8’x8’. I’m building it over my pile of stuff that is already there. Not the easiest way to build it, but I don’t have to move it twice.



I found a vid that should be of interest to everyone. It starts to get VERY interesting at the 4 minute mark. The vid is about the loss of minerals in the soil and the resulting epidemic of disease.


There’s a time when this thread changes to Winter, I just don’t know when that is.


Yup, we had bit wet flakes falling the other night also. I try to look at it from the bright side: In only 6-7 months there’s springtime :wink:


4 months until we can make Maple syrup again. That’s my gauge for Spring.


That’s just what it looks like here this morning Bill. Time I got out to the garden and get my carrots covered. Been a nice fall , we been on barrowed time for a while now. Time to hibernate in the shop for the winter and finish up the wood gas truck. Have been making baby steps over the last month.


Man that looks cold. Glad that hasn’t hit here yet. But Mount Washington is white this morning. I just harvested the last of my cauliflower this morning. Still have some of the potatoes to dig once the ground dries out from 3 days of rain. I got 3/4 of the potatoes harvested before the rain came. There is a little broccoli left to that will continue to come until it get look like that picture above here probably have another month the end of November is when we get snow that stays. All in all it was a good summer here. In the process of getting everything put away now for the winter and finishing off my garden then it is time to do some barn repairs and get the saw mill setup. Still have to process a winter worth of wood too… always too many projects going on with a farm.


Over yonder here, the weather man is calling for a nice weekend.


82 degrees F today for the high. Perfect 66 right now. Gardens are still growing. some volunteer Tomato plants doing alright. Persimmons, figs and crab apples still coming off the trees. Have to pick the peppers tomorrow.
I really do feel sorry for ya’ll.


No not yet! I still have unfinished summer project to complete.


Now big rain for Saturday. Funny how that changed.


Billy, I was reading through and noticed your work on biosand filters. I’ve been thinking about helping some friends in Rwanda build some. Then I bumped into a research paper that suggests a charcoal filter of <1.4mm granules that is only 200mm deep will also develop a biological layer in 14 days and perform the same filtration function plus provide better protection where nitrogen and ammonia are present. Your thoughts?

Hey Bruce, one of these days I’m going to go to Rwanda with you,

I was thinking of you yesterday while building a urine diversion improved latrine. LOL. I remember that sanitation was one of your development hot topics the first time I met you.

My understanding of Bio-sand filtration:
charcoal can also help to remove some chemicals that the sand will not remove, however, my understanding is that in the field (as opposed to the laboratory), charcoal takes more maintenance.The bio layer grows faster which is good for startup, but it keeps growing and eventually grows too dense and dirty, which then requires more training to maintain. The char is a more inviting home for algae than the surface of the sand.
In my experience, if you are trying to get people to change some part of their way of life it needs to be the simplest, smallest change you can make—at least to start with, until THEY see results.

I haven’t tried charcoal alone so I can’t really tell you one way or another, but I did have a friend that tried it in Bangladesh. He was using iron also to bind arsenic. He eventually went back to sand alone because it took him a lot more time to clean. I can’t say if that was because of the combination of iron and char or misuse or whatever.

I did try char at the bottom as one of the filter media layers trying to test its effectiveness at absorbing chemicals (herbicides/pesticides). I never got any reliable numbers. The most I could say was that the water didn’t smell as bad for chemicals. But I gave up the first time it it clogged up and I had to dig it all out to fix the flow rate.

With biosand filtration as in slow sand filtration. the key factor is flow rate. If the water goes through too fast (too big of holes between filter media) there is a chance that microbes don’t get trapped and pass through with the effluent. If it goes through too slowly the water develops a “stink” like pond water and it’s hard to get people to drink it.


Yeah, late October isn’t really summer anymore, is it… Time for a new thread.