Permaculture Resource List

Compiled by Elizabeth Lynch, Troy Hottle, and Juliette Jones

Pc Communities, on-line or other

Pittsburgh-local Resources

Pittsburgh Permaculture’s Resources
  • What is Permaculture? – A brief description of permaculture
  • Pittsburgh Hardiness Zones – this article takes a detailed look at the USDA hardiness zones and the updated Arbor Day Foundation map
  • Patterns and Design – a discussion about the pervasive patterns of nature and how they might be integrated in our designs
  • Fruit Tree Guild - this page describes a permaculture design we installed at the Edgerton Avenue site in Point Breeze
  • Permaculture Pond – a description of a pond install that is designed to function without pumps or filters while providing a beautiful, productive habitat
  • Grape Vine Awning – a page explaining the placement of a grapevine on the south side of the home to help reduce energy costs
  • Vegetable Seed Starting – color coded charts to help you time your vegetable starts
  • Actively Aerated Compost Tea – a guide to making your own compost tea and constructing a cheap yet effective brewer
  • Grafting at Home – an article explaining the theory of grafting fruit trees and how to do it with what you already have at home
  • Stackable Worm Bin How-to – a picture guide to making your own stackable worm composting bin using 5 gallon buckets
  • Addressing Concerns about Worms – a discussion about the recent concerns surrounding invasive worms and the relative risk they pose

National/ International Resources

Pc List-serve

Economics

Podcasts

Other Resources

Books

Pesticides/Pollution

Films

Worktrade Opportunities

Sun Path

As we all know light exposure is a very important part of garden design. Evaluating the light exposure in the context of the sun’s movement through the sky both daily and season-to-season will help us understand the influences of the sun. With this greater understanding our designs can harness the warming light when we need it and block it out when we don’t.


The changing angle of the sun in the summer and winter.

The changing angle of the sun in the summer and winter.

In the two pictures included, we can see how the sun’s angle changes based on the season we are in. The winter brings low angles which can easily shine into a southern window, while the summer sun is nearly straight overhead.

If we think about skylights in this context we realize that they get direct solar exposure in the summer and just glancing light in the winter. In this way we are increasing heat in the house, and with the window at the ceiling (where the heat goes) we are likely losing heat in the winter, both are the opposite of what we would want from a sustainable design.

Furthermore we know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. People commonly state in a clever, know-it-all way that “you can save on your cooling bills by planting a shade tree on the south side of a house,” but with the sun taking its long flight overhead in the summer, it has little opportunity to shine on the south face of a building. In fact, the south side of a building should be as clear as possible to take advantage of the warming sun which will shine deeply into the house in the winter when we need it the most. If you are worried about the house heating up in the summer you are much better off planting those shade trees to the west and then the east or creating seasonal awnings with vining plants.

Knowing where to place different plants in our designs or how to orient our buildings are good ways of using this info, but it can also be useful in evaluating or designing microclimates in the garden. South facing brick walls or large rocks in the garden can capture the low-riding sun in the winter and help make the garden a more hospitable place for plants that prefer milder climates.

Investigate, experiment and share your comments below!

3D view of the sun's path in summer and winter

The change of the sun's angle and path through the sky

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Our New Wood Stove

Andrea and I recently decided to put in a wood stove but as easy as that sounds, a lot of work went into installing the stove and ensuring the fireplace surround would be appropriate. The following pictures show you some of the process we went through.

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The fireplace before refacing and installing the wood stove.

Fireplace before

The fireplace before refacing and installing the wood stove.

A close-up of the fireplace before refacing and installing the wood stove.

Fireplace before close-up

A close-up of the fireplace before refacing and installing the wood stove.

Partially completed re-tiling of the fireplace.

Partially re-tiled fireplace

The floor tiles are almost completed while the thinset mortar dries on the vertical surface.

Tiling the vertical surface of the fireplace.

Vertical tiling

Tiling the vertical surface of the fireplace.

Laying out the tiles prior to installation

Laying out tiles

It helps to lay out the tiles prior to the installation, especially for the vertical surface.

The fireplace after being refaced with slate.

Refaced fireplace

The fireplace after being refaced with slate.

Fireplace bricks and damper were removed to fit the 6" flexible liner.

Fireplace bricks removed

Some fireplace bricks and the damper were removed to fit the 6" flexible liner.

Chimney liner being installed.

Chimney liner installation

The stainless steel chimney liner being installed.

The fireplace with a new slate face and a soapstone wood stove from Woodstock Stove Company

Finished Fireplace

The fireplace with a new slate face and a soapstone wood stove from the Woodstock Soapstone Company.

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We had a fireplace that had once been wood-burning, I knew this because there was an old damper and a clean-out shoot below, but had been first converted to gas-burning logs and finally to a nonfunctional fireplace. Once I broke the seal on the old damper and took a look up the chimney, I knew it was going to be possible to add a stainless steel liner and hookup a wood stove. I could tell because it was a straight flue (I could see sky when looking up the chimney) and the existing terracotta tile was in good shape.

The most time consuming part of installing the wood stove was refacing the fireplace surround. We wanted to make it all look better but also needed to extend the fireproof base so that we would be following building codes for wood stoves. In the pictures above you can see how we simply coated the old bricks with thinset mortar to smooth out the surface so it would be appropriate for tiling. What you can’t see in these pictures is how we built up the base by laying down a bed of thinset and putting a cut-t0-fit piece of cement board down, screwing it against the floor.

We were excited about the slate because it looks great, it’s natural, it was pretty cheap and it adds to the functionality of the overall system. The slate helps by adding thermal mass, which you may have read about in my previous blog about rocks in the garden. In this case, the slate adds bulk which can buffer the heat of the stove, absorbing the heat when stove is really cooking and giving off heat even after the fire is out. In fact, this is also why our stove is made out of two inches of soapstone all around.

Once we finished the tile and grout, we had the chimney guys come drop a liner down the chimney. We had our friend, Dave, fabricate an angle iron base-surround which was slightly taller than the base so that it provides a metal lip, keeping ashes and embers from spilling out on to our wood floors. The next step was getting the stove into place and hooking up the stovepipe. When picking a stove, make sure it is an EPA certified wood stove. Our stove has a catalyst which helps get more heat out of the wood and reduce emissions.

There is a lot to this and I left out a lot of details, but I hope you can get an idea of whats involved with installing a wood stove. It is a great way to start moving to a more local fuel for heating your house, which is, arguably, better for the environment.

If you have any questions about this project, please feel free to comment below.