The past two weeks have been insane. First we ran out to SW MN to nab our newest vehicle and less than a week later I delivered my beloved Honda Insight to its new owner (not so bad as he is the farmer that loans me all the land for my projects). Then Labor Day weekend we took a whirlwind trip back to SW MN to visit my in-laws and take the first camping trip with our little’uns at Blue Mounds State Park. The State Park was much cooler than I expected. The “mound” is a large bluff with exposed Quartzite and houses the only public Bison herd in MN -though they are fenced in which was a buzzkill. It was great to make smores with the kids and begin teaching my kids how to tend fires. So many cool things-a pair of Katydids took up residence under our rainfly and serenaded us each night; the kids were able to watch bats on the hunt, and I was able to hike 5 contiguous miles through restored prairie in full late summer bloom. The Golf TDI got 52 mpg on the way out and 51 on the way back with the cruise at 70 mph. Nice.
With stress levels high from overextending all year, we have put all fall market garden plans on hold. As crops come down we are putting them in covercrop, and taking time off until I plant the hoop house to spinach and mache in 3 weeks. I am trying a annual only cover crop on one plot to see how it preforms. Thrown in are Wasaba Oats, Japanese Buckwheat, Oilseed Radish, and Yellow Field Peas. The oats are for straw biomass, the buckwheat is for quick cover, the radish is pure experiment as I have never grown it and want to see it in action -hope is for decent below ground biomass, and the peas are for nitrogen. All will kill at zero degrees to leave a nice mat of mulch for the spring crops.
This is where my heart and mind are at right now. Tons of time online researching this and a couple of books from Chelsea Green on the way as well. After looking into most of the “turn key” systems out there -most of which run over $3000, I have decided on a processor that is based on the Appleseed Biodiesel Processor. The Appleseed is essentially an open source project of backyard handy men/women working together to find a workable and safe solution. The design they have come up with is uber simple and can be made out of reused junk if need be (sounds like our gasifier!), but even sourcing everything new will cost under $5-700 for system that can easily do 2000+ gallons of biodiesel a year. As my goal is to have one up and running by Halloween/Samhain, expect alot more posts on this in the coming months as my focus switches off of farming for the season.
A year or so ago I was introduced to terra preta and it blew my mind. As I got more interested in our gasifier project we realized we would have a ready source of biochar and could actually start to make terra preta nuevo here in Wisconsin. When my brain is melted from reading about and designing biodiesel processors I am pouring over Cornell research papers on this subject. Again, look for more in depth posts on this. Adding DEEP fertility while sequestering carbon from a system that can heat and power a building -count me in!
The End Goal is to build an “Energy Shed” that will house a gasifier whose waste heat and electricity are powering bio-diesel and ethanol processors, and the waste products from these operations will the heat and power a multi use greenhouse growing greens and veggies and housing tanks of Tilapia for protein that will be fed off the mash from the ethanol still. Waste from the fish will then be turned back into the fields as fertilizer to complete the cycle. Permaculture in action!
This one may take years, but to quote Ghostbusters: “We have the tools… we have the talent”
Be the Change!