What a Week!!
First off — the Big One. Tuesday morning I received a call from the owner of the farm where I Market Garden… I am GO for the Uber Hoopty!!! That simple, and much desired, call broke the dam on all kinds of items that I had sat on until now. Final quotes are coming in from Rimol and Farm-Tek on 30×96 Hoop Houses, my Slow Money lenders all got calls and I finalized my loan agreements. Emails went out to experts that I hope to collaborate with and I built the basics of my Kickstarter micro funding page (will release the project next week). OMG is this awesome. Should break ground in 3-5 weeks on the Hoopty. Odin’s Beard!
Also, big progress was made on the Gardening Workshop Finished the first draft of the outline for the Composting class. This is a 2 hour class covering the basics of composting, and I will have 3-4 bins on site to demonstrate the various ways to build passive and hot piles. At first, I was all -“how the hell am I going to talk about composting for 2 hours!” At that, my wife laughed and laughed and laughed. Of course she was right: the outline is 3 pages long…
Finally, progress at the farm. Dropped 70 transplants into the GFC (Ghetto Fabulous Coldframe). They are mostly oak leaf lettuce. Its at least a week early, but the frost is out of the soil in there, I am antsy as all heckfire to start eating/selling fresh again, and I needed room in the germination table: these 3 flats had been decimated by voles or poor germination – leaving only 70 plants with true leaves out of 600 cells. Also, the spinach in the small hoopty is up and several plants have true leaves. With the sun forecast for the next week it is looking like March harvest may happen after all. Of note, the experiments in the small hoopty played out very well: putting a cold frame over the soil gave the plants almost a 10 day head start. Putting large chunks of black bio char on the next bed got about a 2 day jump and stronger growth due to the 1-2 degree warmer soil temps. The control beds are still germinating. All good! Shallots and Onions are up with some over 2″ tall and I have another 700 germinated lettuce seedlings and am continuing to start 200-300 a week. Next week will see another round of onions, and the week after will be the tomatoes. With the Uber Hoopty delayed I will not be in the ground on my April Wk 2 date, so I am starting later by about 2 weeks rather than have leggy vines. On the coppice plantings end I started 36 fodder willow cuttings 3 weeks ago, and despite doing more than half the steps wrong, I have 75% of them sprouting. In 2-3 years that will be an awesome amount of brush for compost shredding and worm mulch. These things grow fast – most have 3″ of new branches already. Dang!
Compost Update – Harvested 1.5 yards, about a third of the pile, from the winter bins last week to spread in the mini-hoopty’s. The pile was about 1-2 turns from being done, but had cooked down enough that I am comfortable tilling it under once the frost is out of the ground. Into that hole in the pile I began moving the half cooked pile from the small hoopty. As I did this I layered in 6″ of snow between wheel barrow loads to increase moisture levels. That pile is 153 degrees less than a week later and despite being on only one side of the water barrels, has brought the water temps up 20 degrees in one week back to 95 degrees. I am certain we can make methane in this system. Jean Pain’s work WILL live on!
On the Energy Farm front I ran the math on how large my windrows need to be to achieve about 20 tons (80 yards) of finished compost . The results are exiting and staggering: 10′ wide, 5′ tall, and 75 feet long … and I will need three! Time to get the farmer’s old Oliver tractor tuned up, lube up the manure spreader and fill the dump truck with 10 loads of horse, sheep, lama, and cow manure. 20 tons of compost means about 100,000 lbs. of raw material. Awesome! Only thing I am struggling with right now is how to keep it moist during turnings- a commercial tripod sprinkler will likely be in my future. Also, might lay drip tape on them after I turn them.
Prep for the Uber Hoopty means moving or chipping up a 30’x40’x8′ brush pile of 8 years worth of orchard and hedgerow prunings. I have a used BCS Bio 80 shredder (pic) incoming to shred the compost crops later this year, but this job is likely too big for this chipper – it would take days and days. Will likley be renting a trailer mounted chipper and filling the dump truck with chips. And, yes, I am looking forward to that. The Bio 80 is also made in a PTO driven model for the Grillo, but this one is 40% of the cost of a new one’s $1100. With the left over money I can buy a Worm Wigwam. More to come on that!
On the renewable energy side my CSE partners have finished a distillation tower for a Charles 803 Ethanol Still and have sourced a massive stainless steel tripod mounted tank to act as the boiler to cook the wort and heat the ethanol for distillation. Unit is nearing 75% complete. Also we have a water bath methane digester just “laying around” (the farm is a magical place!) that will get final assembly in the coming months, and we are designing a Cyclonic Separator (does that sound cool or WHAT!) to hopefully purge the last vestiges of tar from our gasifier. Add this all up and we make the Market Garden into a true energy farm.
Things are stating to move at break neck speed – money is flowing in from my investors, and its flowing out even faster – I will have spent $15000 in less than a month. OMG. But I continue to hear from people all across the country how we are doing things that no one else is doing, and how inspirational that is. Its scary as hell, but I am thrilled to be pushing the envelope and to have all of you along with me for support. We will make mistakes, there will be failures, but we are doing something. Conviction + Action = Change.
Be the Change.