Retrofitting Community

Favorite quotations, etc.
white belt
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 4:20 pm
In Detroit you could buy a whole block of decrepit houses each on its own .2 acre lot for $160,000. Of course, you might also have to spend 10x that to get them back up to code. Speaking of lead, Flint real estate is also quite affordable :(

Yeah the property I linked is overpriced but the layout is typical of rowhomes in the city (it is a corner lot which goes for a heftier price tag, but i think you could score a comparable property for $100-125k even in today's ridiculous bull market). In Philadelphia there is definitely a sweet spot between the ultra low end decrepit house that requires a complete tear down/rebuild to meet code and a house that may look aesthetically unpleasing but is structurally sound and easy to get up code. What also appeals to me about this style of house is all of the plumbing is along the back wall, which makes retrofitting alternative plumbing options a bit easier (not sure if city code addresses gray water, but I know rain water harvesting and cisterns are legal). The 2 story rowhomes were all designed for working class families in the early 20th century and are not very popular among contemporary home buyers because they are small with only 1 bathroom (the ones that sell have been re-done with modern decor/amenities and additional bathroom on the ground floor). They are also not large enough to split into multiple units, so real estate investors stay away from them unless they are going to do a complete demolition and build a shiny new multifamily house on the lot. That leaves a sweet spot of opportunity for me on properties that are outdated but not in bad enough shape to justify a full tear down (maybe you can find similar niches in your area?). The city has tax abatements for improvements so I don't have to worry about increasing taxes from appreciation for a few years.

Thanks for the book recommendation, I'll check it out. In terms of energy flow, the obvious easy solution is to tap into the urban waste stream, but of course that's more of a bridge solution as we've talked about in other threads (I'd probably just use it to feed my biogas digester and maybe BSF larvae if I have quite a large setup). In other posts (compost toilet thread), I've brainstormed some ideas of feeding humanure and quail manure to grow BSF larvae and then feeding the harvested larvae to the quail as a closed loop solution. In some ways the ERE homesteader has flexibility because he does not need to generate a large profit by selling his products like a typical farmer, so you can really focus on crops that provide the highest yields (small fish, quail eggs, etc) even if they have no market potential.

@Jacob

I suspect there are personality and political differences at play on bottom-up vs top-down approaches. As an INTJ, the puzzle of optimizing systems within my own boundaries is what appeals to me.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I think liking to solve puzzle of optimizing systems within own boundaries is generally true for NTs , because I am an eNTP and that’s what I like best too. However, it has been my experience that once you start tracking the flows of storm drain overflow, alley cats, and litter into and out of your system, it can very quickly become political. So, as the author of the article suggests, it’s likely best to go in with the recognition that you will need a pretty large stock of Patient Fortitude in order to deal with some nearby humans and/or City Hall.

white belt
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Fri Jan 15, 2021 6:04 am
However, it has been my experience that once you start tracking the flows of storm drain overflow, alley cats, and litter into and out of your system, it can very quickly become political. So, as the author of the article suggests, it’s likely best to go in with the recognition that you will need a pretty large stock of Patient Fortitude in order to deal with some nearby humans and/or City Hall.
Agreed. I’m no stranger to how terrible neighbors and people in general can be. Fortunately the city has a very progressive water management code because of storm water runoff issues (dumping raw sewage into the local watersheds during storms isn’t the best idea?). The fact that my main garden is on the roof should also minimize interference from alley cats, nosy neighbors, thieves, and vandals. Nevertheless, I’m constantly evaluating risk of code violating/neighbor interference in any solution I build. I’ve deliberately emphasized solutions that have worked well for others in urban densely populated areas, such as indoor livestock, microgreens, bees on the roof, etc.

Nearly all things I’ve talked about for my project are completely legal and can be done according to code (just need to pay extra for permits and a licensed person to do the work). Composting humanure and draining gray water to a garden are both illegal at this time. Perhaps I can use some of my surplus financial capital to lobby/bribe officials for certain eco modifications to existing codes. I’m unsure if this would qualify as a beneficial use of capital from a energy/environmental perspective.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@white belt:

Gotcha. My problems have usually resulted from being too frugal(cheap) to pay for professionals to do the work. I keep looking and looking for ways to get around what seems to be the minimum head tax necessary to live sheltered without hassle in the U.S. I may need to improve my optionality with bigger cash cache towards initial investment, although I find that kind of annoying too. Why can 5 people live in a dwelling that is X square ft, but 1 person can't live in a dwelling that is X/3 square ft?

mooretrees
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by mooretrees »

That original articles was really fun and inspiring. I live on a block with two rental properties on either side. I've thought about trying to buy one of the properties because it has a lovely south facing yard and a small house. I'm not really ready to consider it yet, but I can see how this could stay on the plate. However, I feel like we're kinda trying to do something similar as we're looking to park it on a friends property. I really like the idea of sharing a property, but not a home. It's not a bad thing to share a home with others, it's just that I've done it a lot.

@Whitebelt are you doing all of the stuff you're writing about currently or do you need to find a home still? I can't remember if you have a journal? A lot of what you're doing/thinking of doing is awesome. I watched most of the youtube video you shared and it was really neat to see how they dealt with water.

white belt
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

@mooretrees

Only in my dreams for now. I’m still locked into full time employment for another 3 years in a different area. In the meantime I’m experimenting with what’s possible in a small apartment and so far have done microgreens, worm composting, and urine harvesting. I’ve posted some stuff in the Apartment Homesteading thread.

I do have a journal that I occasionally update. I’m in the midst of a transition from salary man to Renaissance man, so many of my older journal posts are more in the realm of traditional FIRE.

Papers of Indenture
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by Papers of Indenture »

Partial shade tolerant berry bushes like black currant, honeyberry, goumi might offer more utility than a dwarf fruit tree on a micro urban lot in Philly. Especially if your postage stamp yard backs up to a shady alley. There are no common fruit trees that will give you a substantial harvest with only 4 hours of sun in that climate. Berries though? You've got options. A rooftop deck would certainly open up your options. We have a fair number of those in Baltimore....not sure how common they are in Philly. I know the housing stock is extremely similar.

I'm in zone 7A down the road in Baltimore currently experimenting with all sorts of berry production on a shady suburban lot. If you ever make your Philly dream come true let me know I would be down to collaborate.

white belt
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

@Papers of Indenture

Thanks for the tip! I hadn’t looked into berries that can be grown in the shade.

I’m still a couple of years away from implementing my urban homestead, so I have time to refine my ideas. My plan as of now would be to convert the entire row home roof into a garden which gets full sun (risk being that the area gentrifies around me and someone blocks my sun with a new 5 story apartment building). I’d put some dwarf fruit trees up there if the roof can support the weight of containers. I anticipate the shaded backyard to be more of a rain garden (potentially removing the concrete) with non-edible trees, habitat for pollinators, and space for an outdoor kitchen/processing area in warm weather. I’m trying to model based off of the house features that David Holmgren recommends in RetroSuburbia.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

white belt wrote:Check out David Holmgren's Retrosuburbia. It's a 600+ page book on exactly the topic of retrofitting as a permaculture solution. His focus is on Australia, but I find that most of his ideas are applicable anywhere. It's available as an ebook for free (donation only).
Thanks for this recommendation. Great book! Also highly related to topic of this thread. Also super book to integrate with ERE concepts. Here's just one of the many excellent concepts explored:

Image


The other set of basic quadrants Holmgren introduces is Work vs Play and Market Norms vs Social Norms. So, for instance, if you are over towards Social rather than Market Norms, and your time is pretty evenly divided between Work and Play, your lifestyle might be described as Frugal Hedonism. OTOH, if your lifestyle is Working for the Man then your majority of time will be spent way up and over in Work/Market Norms quadrant.

The book also offers a great deal of advice on shopping for a property that would be well-suited for low energy future retrofit and specifics on achieving such a retrofit. Luckily, the property I am hopefully closing on next week did pretty well on his checklist of factors to consider :D

tsch
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by tsch »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Sat Jan 30, 2021 12:36 pm
The book also offers a great deal of advice on shopping for a property that would be well-suited for low energy future retrofit and specifics on achieving such a retrofit. Luckily, the property I am hopefully closing on next week did pretty well on his checklist of factors to consider :D
Thanks for mentioning the property shopping/energy retrofit advice specifically...exactly what is on my mind at the moment.

And good luck with the property, 7W5! I am rooting for you!

white belt
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

I was reading through RetroSuburbia again and came up with some more thoughts about cottage industries. One thing Holmgren covers is how it is only a recent phenomenon that humans spend so much time each day working away from the home/residence. We've also talked about the numerous challenges of establishing a community with alternative values when it's members are still reliant on 9-5 salaried work and consumerism for their existence.

To continue on with my aspirational Urban Rowhome Homestead idea, I think it would be cool to lease out basement or other underutilized space to be used by growers of microgreens, mushrooms, etc. I chose those 2 because they are most effective growing indoors and are extremely expensive by volume, which means you can grow a lot of product in a small space. It would also be feasible to rent out bedrooms for these individuals to live in since the housing stock I'm looking at is generally 3BD+.

I got the idea from a Youtube video in which a mushroom grower talks about a deal he set up with two local growers; one with microgreens and the other with lettuce. They sold their product to gourmet (expensive) restaurants, so once they had an established list of customers, they could alternate making the deliveries to allow for more free time for each person. I imagine the chefs also enjoy this combination because it means 2 less deliveries that they have to coordinate for. Things like microgreens and mushrooms benefit from more frequent deliveries because they are so perishable, so this also gave the individuals an edge over other small producers who didn't have time to make twice weekly deliveries. Here's the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ79_RPY33Q

Anyway, I don't really have an interest in being a mushroom or microgreen farmer for anything beyond my homestead consumption, however I think it would be an opportunity to bring in some extra cashflow as the homeowner and also lead to lots of more synergies with inputs/outputs. For example, if I'm keeping a couple of dwarf milk goats in the backyard, I'm probably going to end up with way more straw/woodchips mixed with goat manure than I know what to do with. But guess what also happens to be a great substrate for growing certain mushrooms?

You can expand these to lots of other small business ideas for cottage industries, but I think a homestead that is already doing a lot of it's own food production onsite is a nice partnership for other food-focused businesses. The urban area does provide challenges, but if you are growing and selling local it means you can have an advantage over competitors who must truck in their products from the countryside. I was pleasantly surprised when looking at food laws and regulations in Pennsylvania that the above scenario is perfectly legal with no extra permits necessary. I think this is because of the boom of farmer's markets in recent years, so there are a lot of small sellers who want to sell things that they grow at their residence.

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Alphaville
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by Alphaville »

white belt wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 8:19 pm
I I think it would be cool to lease out basement or other underutilized space to be used by growers of microgreens, mushrooms, etc. I chose those 2 because they are most effective growing indoors and are extremely expensive by volume, which means you can grow a lot of product in a small space. It would also be feasible to rent out bedrooms for these individuals to live in since the housing stock I'm looking at is generally 3BD+.
tenants could straight-up pay for your house, yeah... 3br house could easily fit 6 people (eg 3 couples), but it's no longer the custom to live like that. nevertheless... yeah.

re: leasing basement to growers, it reminds me of something that was mentioned in @7w5's money dimple thread where someone suggested lending her land to urban grower operations. she doesn't want to lend her land, but could definitely be a thing of you found the right partners.

white belt
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

Alphaville wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 8:35 pm
tenants could straight-up pay for your house, yeah... 3br house could easily fit 6 people (eg 3 couples), but it's no longer the custom to live like that. nevertheless... yeah.

re: leasing basement to growers, it reminds me of something that was mentioned in @7w5's money dimple thread where someone suggested lending her land to urban grower operations. she doesn't want to lend her land, but could definitely be a thing of you found the right partners.
Right but I suppose this would be "house-hacking" with individuals that have skills that fit into my systems. The primary reason I'd want to own a house is so I can do whatever weird projects I want without requiring landlord approval. Due to high salary and savings in salaryman job, I'll probably have enough money to just buy a house in cash anyway.

I believe 7W5 was concerned about her space being taken over by an enterprising urban grower, which is why I would be careful to define and maintain boundaries. e.g. "You can use this space in my basement to grow mushrooms and put whatever furniture you want in your room, but don't mess with my roof garden or do any mushroom activities in other areas of the house."

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Alphaville
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by Alphaville »

white belt wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 9:28 pm
Right but I suppose this would be "house-hacking" with individuals that have skills that fit into my systems. The primary reason I'd want to own a house is so I can do whatever weird projects I want without requiring landlord approval. Due to high salary and savings in salaryman job, I'll probably have enough money to just buy a house in cash anyway.

I believe 7W5 was concerned about her space being taken over by an enterprising urban grower, which is why I would be careful to define and maintain boundaries. e.g. "You can use this space in my basement to grow mushrooms and put whatever furniture you want in your room, but don't mess with my roof garden or do any mushroom activities in other areas of the house."
yup, that was her concern, i don't think that would be a problem for you hahahha. i jusr referred to it in case it helps generste ideas, find associates, etc.

as for the house hacking, a couple of thoughts

a) it would be up to you to design your community if you wanted one. findnpeople willing to chip in with quail farm, lentil pond, dwarf goats, etc.

b) im not a personal finance guy but depending on interest rates, military incentives, etc, it might be advantageous for you to get a mortgage anyway? not trying to give advice on this front, just a thought.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Yes, I wouldn’t want anybody to generalize from my hesitancy. I very much like the idea of community interaction, and I am quite open to creative concepts for sharing The Money Dimple space in the future. I am just too much in Summer of George mode right now. All the men I’ve been partnered with in recent years have been so assertive, I just want the freedom to be pokey while eating pudding. You know that feeling when you are hoping to relax, but your SO is banging around doing all sorts of chores that might not even be necessary? That’s the feeling I want to avoid.

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Alphaville
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by Alphaville »

im no longer doing this in an intensive way due to migration (i suppose i'll continue the work gradually in the coming decades if i live) but i just wanted to post info about a few resources i gathered during my time homesteading in the sticks. which is not the same as retrosuburbia, but it might apply to you anyway.

1. in the usa, the nrcs is an immense resource to assist in habitat restoration, conservation, erosion control, permaculture-similar techniques, etc. they have an extensive soil survey map you can access online and many other resources. check them out and contact your local office. my experience with their soil technicians, engineers, etc, has been excellent. they're up to date with all the hippy stuff too--i've seen them teach hippy stuff in their spare time actually... or maybe it was on the gubmint's dime? either way, great people: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nr ... onal/home/

2. this book is good: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1602399840/ (edit: i originally linked the wrong book)
unlucky for me i didnt have a steady supply of water (lol, desert) but lots of good ideas in there, it's an easy to visualize format for 1/4 acre intensive gardens (with some small livestock).

3. brad lancaster already mentioned. great books, great guy, he lives what he preaches.

4. sepp holzer's permaculture, while based on his austrian farm, i found more useful than bill mollison's, which is australian in origin and global in scope. holzer lets you follow his reasoning rather than feature as a cursory anthropological subject. a very smart farmer! i'd like to buy him a beer.

5. for those in the sw usa interested in native food crops, these guys are a nice bunch of people: https://www.nativeseeds.org/
visit them in person if you're in the area, they have demonstration fields, workshops, etc.

6. storey's guide to raising chickens is the best backyard chicken book out there. and there are other storey's manuals, i'd highly recommend them regardless of what species you might want to keep. their cattle book is great too but never had the occasion to put to use, unlike with the yardbirds. they might alternate science with hippy techniques, so it's a great comprehensive reference regardless of your approach. they keep with the times, so check out their recent editions: https://www.storey.com/

7. oh! almost forgot the great ianto evans and his books "rocket mass heaters" + "the hand-sculpted house." priceless. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3 ... anto_Evans

8. all of these things mesh well with each other. keep trying guys!

eta: corrected link for the first book listed, and other errors, etc.
Last edited by Alphaville on Fri Apr 30, 2021 11:56 am, edited 2 times in total.

white belt
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

Papers of Indenture wrote:
Wed Jan 20, 2021 5:07 pm
I'm in zone 7A down the road in Baltimore currently experimenting with all sorts of berry production on a shady suburban lot. If you ever make your Philly dream come true let me know I would be down to collaborate.
What berries have worked well for you in zone 7?

Papers of Indenture
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by Papers of Indenture »

white belt wrote:
Wed Apr 28, 2021 11:47 am


What berries have worked well for you in zone 7?
I grow goumi, honeyberry, black currant, elderberry, aronia and muscadine grape.

These all require 0 inputs after planting, are well adapted to our humid sub tropics, extremely resistant to pests and disease, and produce well.

I don't spray because it's a bummer to do and requires investment so I stay away from stuff that absolutely requires it in our climate (peach, apricot, plum, apple, cherry).

I also don't mess with things that require annual amendments like blueberries. Honeyberry is the perfect substitute for me. Late blooming varieties like Beast, Beauty, Maxie, and Keiko do well in our zone.

Black currant is a breeze to grow. Just look for varieties with powdery mildey resistance. I like Minaj Smyriou. Black currant and honeyberry can struggle in late summer in zone 7 but not before you get a nice crop. Aftrernoon shade is good for both.

Goumi is probably my favorite plant period. Love the berries, nitrogen fixing, no input, will grow practically anywhere, fragrant flowers. Just an amazing plant. Sweet Scarlett and Red Gem are the varieties I have.

Elderberry grows like a weed and is tremendously easy to propagte. Just lop off a twig and stick it in the dirt. Doesn't have as much food value as the others without processing.

Aronia has really tremendous nutritional value and is very easy to grow. It is very astringent though. People tend to juice it with apple for sweetness, add it to blended smoothies, or make preserves with it.

Muscadine is really great. Low input and native to the Southeast and lower Mid Atlantic. I prefer it over table grapes. If you have room for an L shaped trellis with both arms at about 15 feet i'd recommend planting the varieties Black Beauty and Paulk. You'd be zone pushing just a tad in Philly but those are hardy varieties bred for fresh eating. They can be water hogs for the first couple seasons.

Hardy kiwi is another vining plant that really checks all the low input, low time investment boxes but I haven't planted any yet.

I've seen you mentioning dwarf fruit trees. What kind of fruit do you have in mind? I've never grown them in containers....maybe it'll be easier to avoid disease, rot, and pests that way. If you don't want to worry about spraying at all then I would steer away from pretty much everything except fire blight resistant pears, persimmon, jujube, figs, and perhaps a dwarf mulberry like "Gerardi".
Last edited by Papers of Indenture on Fri Apr 30, 2021 11:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

white belt
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

@POI

Thanks for the rundown! Do you have to use netting or anything to keep the birds and squirrels from eating all of your berry/grape harvest?

I’m still in the research phase for dwarf fruit trees but I know they will be in containers. I’m looking for a staggered harvest, so right now things like peaches, nectarines, persimmons, apples, pears, stuff like that. Pretty much aiming for one crop every month from May to October/November.

Edit: I’ve seen sources that say almonds can be grown down to Zone 7, but I’m skeptical on the actual feasibility of that. Maybe if you have a masonry wall or something behind them to capture and reflect heat.

Papers of Indenture
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Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by Papers of Indenture »

white belt wrote:
Fri Apr 30, 2021 11:52 am
@POI

Thanks for the rundown! Do you have to use netting or anything to keep the birds and squirrels from eating all of your berry harvest?

I’m still in the research phase for dwarf fruit trees but I know they will be in containers. I’m looking for a staggered harvest, so right now things like peaches, nectarines, persimmons, apples, pears, stuff like that. Pretty much aiming for one crop every month from May to October/November.
I use netting on the goumi and the honeyberry for finishing. So once the berries have turned color and need to sit for ripening the net goes on. The birds are attracted to the lustrous reds and blues. The muscadines have a thick skin that birds and insects dont bother much with. The elderberry and currant tend to be so bountiful that i'm happy to share with the birds.

Peach, nectarine, and apple are pretty difficult to get consistent crops on in our climate without a disciplined spray schedule. Persimmons and blight resistant pears (Warren, Potomac, Sunrise, Magness are blight resistant varieties I have experience with) are definitely a good bet. Have fun.
Last edited by Papers of Indenture on Fri Apr 30, 2021 12:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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