Had the Insight in the shop this weekend while we visited family and my alma mater in South Dakota. It had developed a periodic hesitation at light throttle (the sweet spot for mileage) that was getting worse. My hunch was the EGR valve, and I pleased to find I was right. I was wrong, though in thinking it was under my certified warranty-and the part is $220. Ouch. While it was in I had the tranny fluid changed as well as the engine fluid (it is cold and I am getting lazy). I had them swap the tranny fluid for full synthetic and plumbed the engine full of Mobil 1 (as usual-it is good for 5% in mpg). I have been looking forward to getting the more slippery tranny juice in for 20k miles. And yes, I should get out more.
- Solar Water heating with thermosyphon pumping
- Small Wind Turbine charging batteries (DC water pumps; small inverter for lights) and sized to dump excess into a heating element in a tank before the boiler.
- Running water lines through Hot Compost Piles which are also located within the greenhouse for theoretical 100% thermal efficiency. Currently looking for BTU figures for compost piles.
- Modified Hoop House with insulated North Wall
- Modified Hoop House with multiple layers of “inflated” plastic for better R values
- Dream system based on the BioShelter of the New Alchemists with passive solar elements, built into a hill. This system works best built onto an living structure. This might be the only Peak Proof Aquaponics system using Tilapia.
- Ditching the Tilapia and switching to Lake Perch. The backup system for the NG heating could then, in theory, supply 100% of the heat, reducing winter water temps to the 50-65 range. Perch can survive being frozen solid in Wisconsin ponds…
I took a tour this week that blew my mind and I have been dying for a few spare moments to tell you about it. A few friends of mine from the fledgling Sustainability NPO we recently founded, Sustain Jefferson , spent a few incredible hours touring Growing Power this past Monday. Growing Power is an Urban Ag facility that claims to grow enough food for 2000 people on 2 acres. With a claim like that I was drawn like a moth to flame. Their website offered some clues to their system-vermiculture, aquaculture, and several greenhouses. The site filled in the details and inspired me in a way that no other has since I was originally introduced to Permaculture and Bill Mollison.
castings he adds to the cress flats are the difference. The castings are chock full of rich living bacteria and fungus cultures, and it is these that Will believes supercharges the cress flats with filtering capability. After seeing the vibrance and life of his greenhouses, the obvious health of his fish, and the numerous innovation that seemingly turn up at every corner-I believe him. Heck, that is how wetlands are supposed to work, right?
I embarked upon a major shift of world view this week. Actually, it would be better said that I materially manifested a change that’s been in the works for quite some time. I bought a MacBook you see. I’ve been a PC guy for, well, as long as I have known about PC’s. PC geeks were the kind of geeks that I wanted to be. I have never been what I have considered a “creative” person: skills in graphics, videos, oils, clay, virtually any artistic medium were apparently absent or severely underdeveloped. I enjoyed doing and modifying, but creating is something much different.
Then I discovered gardening, and in ways that I have never dreamed possible I am learning to create. I spent enough of my youth gardening with my mother, so I had at least the basic skills in gardening, and just as I had done in auto mechanics, home construction, and many other things I applied my belief that an intelligent person with books and perseverance can do virtually anything. But I was continuing to apply a macho top down approach to gardening
-“dominating” the land, “beating” the pests, “earning” the harvest. After several years in the field, hours talking to masters of the Art, and thousands of pages and sites read that perspective has changed. Thanks to a partnership with Mom Nature, I am finding my Muse.
Back to the Mac. Mia grew up on Mac’s and I fought her when it came time to buy our first joint computer, and largely because of the Macho ethic I fought to win. Now these years later I am more ready for a partnership than a computer I can bend to my will. Just as I need some aphids in my gardens to allow the lady beetles something to eat so they won’t leave I am ready to use an intuitive interface and let my Start Menu go so that when I am ready to design a web page I will have that intuition to help me rather than my needing to learn HTML.
While my American Male mentality is still present far to often, I have begun to take the Road Less Traveled by. Hopefully it will too: “make all the difference”
This past Saturday I went out to my market garden for the weekly watering/weeding and, frankly, to do something to get my mind off putting Cody down. As I was unloading, I noticed the older brother of the landowner was out working the horses around the trail they have cut around the perimeter, so I quick dropped my scuffle hoe and ran down the lane to intersect them.
Dick was having the team drag their training sled for a few laps to keep them in shape now that the chores of the summer were done and encouraged me to climb on. His excuse was that the extra weight would work the horses more, which was more than enough to convince me to take a horse drawn sled ride!
The team consists of two beautiful Percheron mares, Winter and Minnie. Minnie is easily the largest horse I have ever seen, weighing in well past 2000lbs and that was before she became pregnant this year. In fact both mare’s are due to foal this coming April which will be reason enough to be around, especially with two children! Looking at these two incredibly powerful animals, it is easy to wax nostalgic to knights in armor or even to simpler times before 350hp 4wd tractors and 2000 acre corn fields. Yet, despite their mountains of muscle, they are docile enough to lightly pluck an apple from Bird’s little 4yr old palm -which I am coming to learn is one of the many charms of the Percheron.
It was fantastic to watch Dick work the horses, even in something as simple as pulling a sleigh in laps around the acreage. Dick has them trained to react to the slightest pull of the reins, and the horses are ever listening for his simple “Gee!” or “Haw!”-as he is in his seventies and weighs all of 130lbs, his horses must be trained to respect something other than force. Being horses, they are also a quirky bunch-Minnie likes to rush the slight hills on the property as if to show off her incredible strength, and Winter is ever ready to stop and munch some grass. By the second lap I found myself calling instructions as Dick and I talked about horses and I received an impromptu lesson in tree lore as we rounded the property.
As we finished, Dick was pointing to the neighboring land to where they sometimes pasture the team, and he mentioned that he planned to use the team to pull some oak limbs up to the owner’s home for him to use for firewood. In the roundabout way that he has about asking, I got the impression that he might like a hand with the project, so I mentioned that I was free every Monday if he ever wanted an extra hand on a chore. We talked more, and I expressed again my respect for the fact that they choose to work much of the land with horse power. It was then that Dick mentioned, again in his off hand way, that perhaps he could “show me a thing or two” about working a team.
Later that day as I conversed with the land owner about his idea of converting his ancient Oliver tractor to wood chip gasification (more on that in a future post-and yes we are birds of a feather!), he mentioned how good it would be if I would learn to work the team with Dick. I get the feeling he is a little concerned about his older brother working the team by himself. By the time I left he was talking like I would be plowing on my own by June…
As I walked back to the Insight, I tried to get all this through my stunned brain: Not only was I getting the free use of as much organic land as I wanted to run a market garden, I was now being offered an apprenticeship in becoming a teamster?!
Someone pinch me!
After that last post something had to lighten my mood. The first positive salvo that Life shot across my bow was the germination of the Hoop House. In one week I had at least some stalwart sprouts from all the varieties poking up through the crust. Unsurprisingly, the radishes (black and french breakfast) were leading the charge to lift my spirits, but the bok choy was a close second with dozens of plants up and running. Spinach was seen to be lifting through the compost, and even little mache was rearing their heads in an attempt to shake their seed hulls while subtle claytonia’s tiny spurts of life were in evidence to the determined viewer. The uber moist environment has also germinated a significant amount of grass seed, evidently the compost is old enough to have alot of windblown seed mixed in. As soon as the rows are germinated enough to identify I will sally forth, scuffle hoe in hand, to lay them low.
The second was a Step It Up! rally hosted by the Green Sanctuary program at my Unitarian Church. The event was held at the historic Lapham Peak State Park about 20 miles east of our home. Over 200 people attended the outside event held in a natural amphitheater on the edge of restored prairie and mixed hardwood/pine forest. On hand were booths from several local sustainability groups including WEAL (a county wide environmental group), the Sierra Club, and ReNew a statewide non profit focused on promoting Green Energy. ReNew is a huge force in the state staffed with wind and solar site specialists and offers fabulous support in navigating the morass of grants, regulations, and permits necessary to have successful point source energy production.
The day was clear and crisp, with temps in the very low 50’s and a steady Fall wind the crowd kept to the sunny spots to remain warm. I got a huge kick out of watching 200 individuals act as a living sun dial as we all shuffled to stay in the sun during the 2 hour event.
The speakers were fantastic. The event was invoked and made sacred with a blessing from an Elder from the Pueblo tribe who has lived in WI for 35 years. He had us each face the points of the compass as he washed us pure with smoke from sage leaves, and as he’d finished, the strongest gust of the afternoon whipped our hair as he completed it. I have no doubts the Great Mother sent that wind in her approval. Other speakers included a representative from Al Gore, an Ecology Professor from a local college, prominent Geologists, and even the founder of Fighting Bob Fest, Ed Garvey. By the time the scientist had laid out the evidence-in a level of detail that even the most jaded of us learned something new, and Ed was finished whipping us into a frenzy, I think we were all ready to march on Madison to demand action. Great stuff!
Sprout was with me the entire time [he uses global warming as a verb: “we try not to global warm much do we Dad?”] , and as we left and drove to a local coop to stock up on flour (30 lbs including 10lbs of bulk Spelt flour: yes!), soup lentils and beans, steel cut oats, and local bulk eggs I was pleased to note that there was virtually nothing in the cart that was ready to eat. That switch in the paradigm of our culinary habits has reverberated through our lives. Running low on bread no longer means a trip to the store. Now it has become either along night letting it rise, or a weekend day spent at home doing chores and forming loaves instead of driving around and shopping for more Cheap Crap. The Spelt Flour is divine-a true whole grain that is significant lighter than wheat with a definite nutty edge that lends itself well to both bread and pancakes. And we can now get it bulk and organic for $1.29/lb. Nice.
I am through the Dark Canyon of last week. The impetus for change still rests strong in my soul, but action is the best medicine for despair and my greens need weeding and bread needs kneading. And Congress had better wake the hell up.