Right. So the past 2 weeks I was out of country – 6 nights in Victoria, Australia in the Great Otway National Park and then 7 nights in New Zealand 3 nights in Kiakoura on the South Ocean and another 4 getting to know Wellington. It blew my mind and I am in no condition to post about it yet – still fermenting. But time waits for no man, and with the leaves falling it is almost past time for me to get my arse in gear and build the second midden. So here goes.
First off, this midden will have several differences. The first, of course, is in intended use. This Midden will be designed to produce hot water (l’eau chaude) v. the Methane Midden’s failed attempt to make methane (botched the PH and ran out of time). Second, this the Midden L‘eau Chaude will be constructed with freshly harvested brush. That means a few things. Like I needed to find 8000#’s of brush and that is a bit more than my backyard can supply. Oh, and I need some new tools like chainsaws. And finally I need a Big Az chipper. How does a trailer mounted 27hp Vermeer sound? It sounds kick ass to me as long as no one goes Fargo… Renting the chipper for now, but if this works, I can see a huge shredder in my future. Someone has to figure out how to run these on ethanol and methane, right? Perhaps… that shredder runs $8k.
We’ll get into the technical pieces of the l’eau chaude in future posts, but for now, lets talk through sourcing the brush. I called some of my friends that own land and was able to secure enough material in no time. It isn’t hard to wonder why. Say you own 20 acres, 10 is in woods. You get a call from a friend who is offering to cull invasives from your woodlot. For Free. Oh, and he’s going to use the material to do some Epic Shit. Done deal. I have 3 lots that I am working on this week. The plan had been to drop a bunch of Box Elder since it grows 6-10′ a year here and can be invasive, but that has run into some hitches. First, they are dropping their leaves, and I need the leaf nitrogen in the Midden. Second, the main wood lot was cleared of Box Elder a decade ago. Huh. So the land owner and I walked his lot and it became very obvious that there was plenty of species still in leaf, and the sources were, if anything, even better: buckthorn and honeysuckle which are wicked invasive in this area.
As we were felling these, I became worried that there wasn’t enough green material in the mix – the honeysuckle especially was only leaved on the ends of the trunks due to the dense canopy, and most of the buckthorn we were dropping was crazy mature – we had some with 7″ trunk diameters! Looking around some more we noticed that mulberry was still in full leaf and they are a very aggresive tree in their own right. Out came my new Husqvarna and we dropped several 7″ trees that were leaning over his paths and would become issues in the next decade. These were limbed up, with the trunk being lopped up for firewood. tomorrow, at the property where I market garden we will be dropping a HUGE mulberry that is shading a vegetable patch with the same technique: limbs into the Midden, and the trunk wood will be used for space heating.
The honeysuckle, small buckthorn and mulberry look exactly like the shrubby brush that was coming out in the Jean Pain videos. Still TONS of trial and error to be done here, but it looks like 1″ or less trunk diameter is the money width for composting. The 3 bins I have going at home were built using 1.5-2″ willow and are far too carbon rich; I needed to add nitrogen at the first turning. 1″ trunks would be a 2 year rotation in a willow coppice. I have no idea what pushing a coppice that hard will do, but it is likely it will burn it out in 5-10 cuttings. That said, I was cutting mulberry out of the landowners asparagus “patch” (its .5 acres) that was 6-7′ tall and has been mowed every fall for 15 years. Those stalk were ideal. Hmmm, with stalks that small harvesting gets easier. How about a mulberry/willow/poplar coppice on 12″ spacing and a 25hp straight veg sipping Kubota (sunflower stalks compost FANTASTIC) pulling a two row Gehl sillage chopper… Those things are dirt cheap on Craigslist as no one uses such small equipment any more. Huh.
But for now I am focusing on harvesting from the woods. With about 6 hours of labor in, we have 8-9 piles of brush larger than the dump truck, and Friday I am putting in a full day now that my sawing muscles are hardening and felling a significant amount more. Tuesday will be the final day of prep, and the rental chipper gets picked up on Wednesday at 7am. Goal is still for 2 loads, 8000#’s, of green material. These will go into the plastic tubs for soaking, and then construction begins on Tuesday 10/19! Pics will be up tomorrow night on the brush hogging.
Can we turn the invasive species of today into the carbon sequestering, energy and food producing fuel stocks of the next century? Stay tuned.
Be the Change!