ShopTalk Sunday: Kill the ‘Maters? Rethink Design

After we hold a 7-second religious observance, we’re likely to take the tomatoes off Life Support this week.  “Hang on till Tuesday, little ‘maters!”

I finally had time this week to follow-up on my own advice in the recent Tomato report.  One of my open items on the list was to pick up a good – for greenhouse use – hi/lo thermometer.  Maybe I shouldn’t have…

Oh boy!  Found out the reason for the small tomatoes is?  HEAT.

This is all my screw-up. The tomatoes are on their second year; went in last spring.  We had the swamp cooler running non-stop last year while the plan was for the new portable air conditioner to cool down the room better than water and air changes.

In a word?  Nope. Not yet.

We are not particularly unhappy about it. We’ve gotten all 2-inch tomatoes this year – and these are supposed to be beefsteaks!  

The “new plan” is to clear out the beds of everything (Hank, a tear for the Hawaiian pepper plant as it goes too, would be fitting…)

There are (as always) huge lessons to be learned from just being alive.

If you live in Texas, put in the R5 and better, everywhere useful sun isn’t coming in. I’ve lined up some R5 f0il faced stryo to get on. Dual layer it. (But, do I like working on the greenhouse when I could be sitting in an air-conditioned office? Um…you need to ask?)

The three “hot zones” which are going on the worklist include R13 on the half roof area.  I can’t speak for you, but in polling 36 people over 60-years, I haven’t found one yet that likes that itchy-scratchy miserable job of putting in glas insulation.  Made even better while sweating profusely wearing clothing to keep the crap off…horrible, I tell yah.

Zone one is the plain tin part of the roof of the studio.  Hangs over about 3-feet because this is one of those ideas we had 15-years ago, which got done 9 or 10-years back except for the greenhouse part. But you have to think this stuff through…have a long-term plan and all that…

Electricity Calcs

If a DOE 5.000 BTU cooler could put out rated cooling, that would be nice.  So, before I get on ladders (with the surveillance cams off so my son can’t yell at me “Get off the ladder, old man!”), the YouTube consensus seems to be that we can get a really good bump in cooling by putting an insulation blanket on the whole length of the 6-inch heat exhaust which warms up almost as much as the chiller cools down…

Now about costs.

I hadn’t messed much with the solar for several years, so there was a big bump this year when it came back to full strength. The impact is clear when we look through our energy data for the year and compare May 23 with May 24.

Look at the May 23 and May 24 columns – we reduced by about 40 percent. Then compare the second column in (from left) with the current (unbilled, right – but we’re almost through it) the work on the solar in late February was a winning investment of time. But it would be a lot bigger without that additional a/c loading.

And now we come back to the fate of the tomatoes.

It’s all going to come down to whether – once that insulation goes on the a/c’s heat exhaust, whether the a/c can keep down to ambient.

Obviously, are very few tomatoes set and ripening now. It’s been hot in there for a month or longer.

The Economic decision would be to save a buck or two a day on power and if we want a tomato until this fall, just go buy the damn things.

But where’s the challenge in that?

You need to understand, some people drink, some do drugs. But me?  I buy too much electricity – always have since I was 11 years old and electronics wandered into life.

Rethink Design

Guys at the firehouse used to tell Pappy “Hey Cap – you over-engineer everything.”  There’s a story there…

As a kid, we had about a 25-foot-long elevated walk from the steep hill our house sat on down into the kitchen entrance.  Pappy got ribbed about that. It was framed on 6-by-6’s on 8-foot centers with the the walking surface was on edge 2-by-4’s, separated by 1/4-inch lath. My job was to paint and cut several hundred of ’em.

When built, though, that “ramp” from the hillside would support at least a car’s worth of weight.  And that was his objective.  Build once and done.

I didn’t take this “over build” idea seriously enough on the greenhouse, turns out.  Sure, it will (with an 8-kw diesel heater) yield a 30 degrees temperature differential on the cold side of the year. But only 7-degrees on the heating side, and that only until the sun comes up.

I’ve been out measuring lately with very accurate temperature tools.

  • The tomatoes have “micro fruits” because the high Saturday on the  hi/lo thermometer (in the shade, in a bed) hit 115.9 degrees F. Ouch.
  • The low overnight (at 4 AM was 74.3.  Outside air temp was the same.

While it will “only” be 89-degrees today, neither of the two a/c units will put out anything close to rated cooling on a continuous basis – and that has been one of the Big Learnings.  Buy about twice as much cooling as you think you will need.  Because cycling – which will vary by temp – gets plain stupid when the ambient in-room temp is over 100. Marketing lies.  Should be measured on an 8-hour average – they don’t.

Rethinking Design is where I am today.  I have a lean-to greenhouse 20-feet long and about 10-feet wide. It is (effectively) uninsulated on the north and west walls.  About three-quarters of the clear roof is single-layer polycarb sheet.

The “list of answers” and “questions remaining” is fairly contained.

The one measurement (today) will be testing to see if the exhaust fans are helping or hindering the cooling when the temp is >95 inside the structure.

The design changes coming?

  • The west facing wall will be rebuilt as time permits,  It will be a regular R-18 half wall and I’ll put .33-inch double wall polycarb on that.
  • The north war, presently clear, single thick polycarb will be turned into another R-20 wall with two small windows for visibility.
  • The 2-by-4 framing (presently all black – which looks good) will all be repainted with white exterior + primer.

If this doesn’t contain my heat gain, then at least the room will be well on its way to becoming “something else.” It’s close enough to the ham radio tower that a “third radio room” could be devised.  (Not that I have time for one, so that’s clearly going on the stupid pile…)

For now, the challenges are trying to do the project in pieces.

The “systems” parts are fine.  The rain and condensate collection works dandy and when the temps are under control – a high of 90 would be ideal on a 100F day – then we can finish our experimental grows and build the hydroponic bucket rack – like reader D’Lynn has.

There just hasn’t been time (or working weather) to roll the other greenhouse into production.  Underestimated time on writing columns and the like.  Or, as the old family saying about eating goes “Seems my eyes got a little bigger than my stomach” on this one.

Going Down the Project List

Picked up a “needs repair” Creality CR-10 V2 printer.  I know…we have one, so why?  Well, at $159 (free shipping) it’s a useful size (12 x 12 footprint and almost 16″ high.  Plus, I don’t like using the little Ender-3 in the lineup. Small, comparatively slow, and not a glass bed on it. I hate the micro SD card, too.  Big cards for old men, please?

I will take some pictures on that.

Last week when we had our plumbing work done, did I give you the whole lecture on “NO eggshells, no coffee grounds…” as tools to not to not call the plumber so often? Tiny rinse-off table scraps only.  Scrape off elsewhere, then rinse…disposal for rinsings only.

I can feel it in my bones, the fiber installers are getting closer, just not here, yet.

Didn’t want to work in the rain, so the east deck project hasn’t kicked off.

For now, I will be onto riding mower for a turn around the course.

I’ll take a picture when done…

(If you can read this, picture ain’t here yet…)

If you can read this, I’m replacing the mower battery.  2 1/2 years is shitty battery service…

With the battery not wanting to hold a charge, I had a spare on hand (yeah, really, we do plan some of this stuff!) and the battery change took about 10-minutes.  I am not a fan or the MTD battery retainer clip…but the yard is done for another week and just in time for another watering.

Too lazy to take a picture of the lawn.  Think green for a minute and that’ll have to do.

Write when things stop growing,

author avatar
George Ure
Amazon Author Page: UrbanSurvival Bio:

36 thoughts on “ShopTalk Sunday: Kill the ‘Maters? Rethink Design”

  1. Sounds like you got some of them thousand dolla maters

    lots of money in and no money out

    If your portable acs only have an exhaust fan vent line and no fresh air in take you are pulling outside air in to replace what is being exhausted

    Portable ac’s need to vent lines an exhaust and a fresh air intake
    The style with only 1 exhaust vent can be modified and a whole new world of cooling will arise

      • Ive not seen kits for the various brands but a fresh air intake can be fabricated out of a regular cardboard box and a 6″ flex duct line with ofc some use of a solid prepper item (duct tape). If you can get a few feet of space in between the exhaust and fresh air intake it’ll be perfect.
        Honestly dont know why they make exhaust only units

      • Because he patented it.
        Then he sold it for industrial buildings as consultant/design/build.
        Then he moved from Texas to Killin, AL, and had on office in Huntsville (where I spoke to him). He moved to care for aging Mother-in-Law.She and he have both passed now, as I understand.
        Tips from the source.
        Mount the sprays above the roof, pointing up.
        Use a spherical spray pattern. You are not wetting the roof. You are cooling the air above the roof.
        Temp sensor opens the valve at about 130F and closes when you get to ambient.
        Will operate about 5 times an hour for about 2-3 minutes a time.
        Kills off roof heat transfer which is 75% of house heat gain from sun.
        Works on green houses. Don’t let spray obscure the glass, allowing light in without the heat.
        You’re welcome.

  2. What’s So Special About San Marzano Tomatoes? – Southern Living

    Meaty and oval in shape, these plum tomatoes (aka Roma tomatoes) have low water and seed contents, and are longer and thinner than other types of plum tomatoes. That’s why they’ve become the gold standard for chefs and home cooks alike for making pasta and pizza sauces, and for using as the base for soups and stews.

    And because “true” San Marzanos (more on that later) are grown in Sarnese-Nocerino, near Mount Vesuvius, the soil is credited with giving the fruit cultivated there a distinctive sweetness, low acidity, and concentrated tomato flavor. Just as a wine’s unique characteristics are a direct result of the terroir in which its grapes were grown, the distinctive tastes and textures of this tomato are products of its famed volcanic landscape.

  3. Yo Chief,

    Me thinks you need to reconsider “The Splatta”. Yes yes all U alls want to know what the “splatta” is – Patience is virtue dont cha know? Lovely, already irritated are we ?

    4 todays purposes, “The Splatta” refers the Effect end users of DIY Spray Foam Insulation Kits experience when applying the DIY spray foam there own dam selves..aka Sweat Equity.

    Did youse catch it ? Sweat Equity !
    3 Times..
    Sweat Equity
    Sweat Equity
    Sweat Equity

    There know youse have it ingrained in the Brain. 1st step towards Building Personal Wealth AND Happiness.

    Sweat Equity , it does a Body and bank account GOOD.

    of course being Long Oil/Copper/PM’s will also do a “Body” good, as well as Ure bottom line and prospects for getting thru the big changes that are approaching at a rather alarming speed- so heres my big Wish for Us all – godSPEED!

    Feast or Feasted On ?

  4. Sorry for your loss of the maters. Summer without plenty of maters just don’t get it. Maybe you could find some smaller patio varieties to get you through until the greenhouse is back up.
    Stay safe. 73

  5. Lithium ion batteries are not
    a good investment. Lithium iron phosphate batteries are what you should look for. The LiFePo are becoming more common, but I haven’t found a power tool that advertises them as of yet. In terms of medium term prepping, the lithium ion powered devices can’t be depended on. 8 – 10 year (or longer) life for LiFePo is not a stretch.

    • LiFePo 12v Snowmobile and motorcycle batteries seem to last forever compared to lead batteries, and are down in price lately.

  6. Instead of that nasty pink fiberglass insulation you might want to look at 2inch thick – closed cell foam sheets. Better R value, easier to work with., custom cut to fit the space.

  7. “If you can read this, I’m replacing the mower battery. 2 1/2 years is shitty battery service…”

    the service from the battery isn’t shitty.. electron flow.. they cut costs on the batteries to increase proffits. the business model..more money for fat wallets..
    They make the plates thinner that has a more prominent issue of premature sulfation and battery failure.

    • Try replanting those Hot Hawaiian Peppers outside. I know it gets brutally hot in Texas, but given enough water, they just MIGHT survive! While our air temps here are moderate, the tropical sun is brutal with a UV index that blows away anything on the mainland. This is the land of the 15-minute tourist sunburn. Hawaiian peppers live in this scorching sun every day. Try it. They are tough little buggers.

  8. We had a 122 degree swing in temperatures last year. High of 111 and a low of 11 below. The high temps makes my green house virtually useless in the Summer. Very few vegetables will set any fruit in that kind of temperature. I even tried a special heat tolerant tomato from Greece.., flowered nicely, hand pollinated – not one fruit. [ Disappointing.] .., and an air conditioner to fight off that kind of trapped heat would be a waste of money. Just not worth the unit cost and run-time cost.
    So.., I am in the process of designing and building an indoor garden grow system. Looks pretty good [ on screen ] High gloss black framing., tinted plexi to hide / shield the led grow lights and hidden storage space to store any garden supplies. Circulating fan., the works.
    Looks a lot like this – which is where I got my design idea from.

    Not hydroponic as I don’t want to deal with the high humidity – very special soil. I made a few changes to squeeze-in three tomato plants at the bottom. In the Winter here I have to supplement the sun light anyway., as we can go weeks with never seeing the sun., [ up the vitamin D dosage ] so – having a good looking system inside the house should work pretty well.
    I have just enough room for two units.., “if” I take all my science fiction / fantasy books and relocate them to the art studio. [ It’s a big collection – been working on it for decades. ]
    Should be done and installed by Winter.
    …, we’ll see.
    [ George – I am considering building another eight bucket “bucket rack”. Brussel sprouts do really well.]

    • OUCH – 111 degrees in a place that also goes to 11 below. (when I lived in AZ it would get that hot, but never that cold)

      George may be able to get a heat tolerant variety to grow since his temps peak out about 100 (outside), but it would have to be OUT of the sun during the heat of the day imo.

      Versus experimenting on one’s own nickle I would recommend that he talk to the local County Ag Extension guy down at the Courthouse, those guys are an encyclopedia of knowledge as to local growing conditions and what works and doesn’t work wrt things that grow in the VERY immediate area. That is their job, and most of the guys who do that are ag nerds and LOVE helping the locals grow stuff.

      Beefstake tomatoes are great … but probably not the best choice (imo only) for a very hot climate during the hot times of the year.

  9. Some ody said that during WW11 prisoners of war who were fed just rice and sweet potatoes no longer had problems with Rhumatoid Arthritis. I thought it was posted here but I’m not sure. Does anyone have any info about this? I’ve been on the Carnivore diet for 6 months mow and want to start adding a small amount of carbs.

  10. The thermal chimney is one way I propose for the solar towers each cell array is the thermal chimney to cool and heat the array

    • Don’t know about Idaho but farmers have been draining western aquafers at a tremendous rate, at a rate that is going to leave many areas unable to even obtain drinking water.

      People in the US are very prone to USE NOW and NOT worry about the future when it comes to resources, and sadly farmers are often among the worst culprits in this regards though cities and industries are guilty too.

      Without knowing the background of the story it is difficult to know if the water restrictions are reasonable, but in conservative Idaho with the strong lobbying power of the farmers /ranchers the water shortage must be severe for the state to be willing to piss off many farmers by restricting the water supply.

      • Water doesn’t just vanish.. it is transformed….
        AIR WELLS…. as the plants grow the moisture they consume is released into the air.. transpiration I believe is the term..

        All that an airwell does is take it from the surrounding air and puts it back into the aquifer.. completing the cycle mechanically rather than wait for the natural cycle to do the same job..
        One of my decades old rants..
        In some desert regions they have found evidence of huge aquifers where ancient civilizations would use air wells to gather and drain the water into cisterns..
        they thought the problem through we bitch and moan and fail to act..
        solar towers starting at the furthest point from the power plant .. hand out grid tie solar systems to any home or business owner that is willing to have it installed.. greenscape the cities.. and put airwells in arid and dry regions.. it doesn’t fit the business model of stuff big buck billies pockets but it does make out grid almost indestructible.. and our national security better.. and its also the cheaper option..

  11. re: “Elysium”, 8/9/2013
    feat: Rotten Tomatoes


    “Rethink the design”; pause the war; going to the Moon? Got time for an election poll: Le pen is mightier than the macron?

    Friday saw President Zelensky address the French National Assembly chamber which appeared poorly attended by elected deputies in Palais Bourbon on the Left Bank. The Palais of course had commenced construction in 1722 by a daughter of King Louis XIV and his favorite mistress. Yesterday President Macron hosted a State Dinner in the Grand Ballroom at Élysée Palace in the for the American First Couple with Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi also attending. By coinkydoink, 1722 had seen the completion of Élysée construction on the Right Bank. Apparently the name “Élysée” derives from the ancient Greek Elysium Fields that was purposed for the “blessed and happy afterlife” of the “righteous and the heroic”. The Paris edifice entered into Royal and later Republic possession commencing in 1753 upon purchase by Madame de Pompadour, Chief Mistress of King Louis XV.

    One imagines the American First Couple would have taken rest at the usual 40,000 square foot host residence for distinguished visitors to the French State, Hôtel de Marigney. The building was owned by the Rothschild family from 1869 until being sold to the French State in 1972.

    Seven months after scientist Dr. Borman set off for Jupiter in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001”, Apollo 8 staffed by a replacement crew led by Commander Borman launched to orbit the Moon. Wikipedia relates that on the mission’s 4th day and ninth orbit around the Moon, crew member Anders began reading at Chapter 1 of Genesis as one quarter of Earth’s population listened. He aged 300 microseconds over Earth dwellers during the mission, and also took the famous “Earthrise” photograph.

    The image appears in the first “Elysium” movie segment clip from Rotten Tomatoes between 1m55s and 2m30s in the following link.

  12. “Oh boy! Found out the reason for the small tomatoes is? HEAT.”

    ISTM instead of trying to adjust a controlled atmosphere to make yer ‘maters happy, you should be figuring out how to grow Beefsteaks in your outdoors.

    The best and finest (common, non-organic) tomatoes in the nation grow 30 miles either side of a line drawn from Lafayette, Indiana to Greenville, Ohio. If you consume ketchup, or whole, stewed, sliced, diced, pureed, or juiced tomatoes, and their container sports the name Heinz, Hunt’s, Red Gold, Brooks, Del Monte, or Contadina, they come from this area.

    If you look hard at the left side of this line, you’ll see “Purdue University” on your map. Now, I don’t know, but I would suspect the Purdue Ag Extensions (since they seem to have Extensions scattered in Ag-centric towns all over Indiana) might be the single best authority on growing tomatoes this side of Naples, Italy.

    BTW, I have seen 80%RH at 104°F in northern Central Indiana (admittedly, not very often. Hottest was 107°) and the tomato supply didn’t hiccup. It’s hard to put a heat shield over an 80 acre field of tomatoes, so them there stinky kids from PU probably have some Boilermade solution to the heat problem…

  13. “If a DOE 5.000 BTU cooler could put out rated cooling, that would be nice.”

    If’fn you buy one that’s 40 years old, at a yard sale, it will…

    I suspect EPA and DOE “adjust” their yardsticks at least once, yearly, and have also changed the origin point from “output” to “input” at some time or other…

  14. “Last week when we had our plumbing work done, did I give you the whole lecture on “NO eggshells, no coffee grounds…” as tools to not to not call the plumber so often? Tiny rinse-off table scraps only. Scrape off elsewhere, then rinse…disposal for rinsings only.”

    …Sounds to me like all the above should go in the compost pile, anyway.

  15. “If you can read this, I’m replacing the mower battery. 2 1/2 years is shitty battery service…”

    Yeah. I’ve pretty much switched to DEKA and Continental. Cheap is cheap, and even Interstate has become cheap.


    couldn’t sleep kept thinking about the new toyota h2 car.. and one factor that N… brought up the other day.. high pressure h2.. I think of how much I have to dilute what little bit I can make with a three two double A batteries.. as HHO.. is in condensed form is extremely explosive heck when I made one I had flashback arrestors and everything just in case…. then consider compressed H2.. I am sure they would use carbon tanks lined.. and put either metal hydrides in it or some other product that will absorb H2 and have heaters to release it…. but you are talking about H2 its so small that it can get through so much and one leak in the system at any point takes it from stable to unstable instantly.. and considering.. what were they called little boy.. it was the size of a two hundred fifty gallon propane tank.. of course they used solid minerals to release the Hydrogen but thinking about the effects of high pressure.. that is a lot scary.. four minute mark on the video

    essentially every gas station would have one of those but much bigger. I love the idea of being able to create cheap fuel and still have a sellable product.. but it should be done safely. Where stan Meyers and many others went off was they wanted to give energy away and there isn’t any free energy anywhere the other thing is and the whole system could collapse using free energy or almost free. the business model is essential to survival.. free energy would shut the whole system down and is one of the reasons why we don’t see our power companies handing out grid tie systems to each home owner.. we all depend on the velocity of money and continue movement of it… even with the photo I sent you G on the wood gasifier made out of plumbing pipes.. a friend had the resources to build it so we put it together when his estate sold out.. they did offer it to me to buy it since we built it.. but I didn’t have the money and the wife wants to park in the garage.. I sometimes wonder where it eventually went to.. it had a nice little generator hooked up to it…. Anyway that has to be diluted to.. on the gas production line or the burn chamber you will notice I believe I had six jets on there with a blower to push air through in a vortex fashion.. not sure why but the vortex makes a huge difference.. Even with the original GEET they used the heat of the catalytic converter and the pressure pushed through it of the exhaust in a vortex..
    the new H2 car could be something interesting but dam high pressure H2.. that is an accident waiting to happen IMHO..what could possibly go wrong.. where did the neighborhood go.. oh there was an accident on the corner.. Its like when my grill rusted out.. and the aluminum foil got the right mix with the rust.. dam.. fire from hell.. sure glad that the grill wasn’t copper LOL that would have made grilling out tonight a whole new experience.. lol anyway it was bugging is a great car company.. inovative and it did tickle my funny bone to see them come up with a really practical and inovative way to build their car.. the high pressure H2 is what worries me..

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