Best of Show: Annie Leonard Kicks Ass

The past two days I attended the Bringing Bioneers to Wisconsin Conference.  During it we watched a dozen or so recorded speeches from the Bioneers Conference last month.

Several of the speeches were truly exceptional, but my favorite was Annie Leonard’s – creator of the Story of Stuff.

Disarming humor in the face of calamity with a steady undercurrent of righteous rage.

You go Annie!



Autumn Brings Change

So this week saw the culmination of some significant changes in the World of Rob.  Effective yesterday I have seen a shift change at work.  One of the primary reasons that I can do all the things that I chronicle on this blog is that I have had a 3 day weekend -every weekend for the past 4 years.  I have worked 5am until 5pm Tues-Fri for that entire time.  As I work in a 24hour, 7 day operation for my pay, there has always been the possibilty of a shift change – and each passing year has increased the likelihood. of that happening.

Effective yesterday my new schedule will consist of 3 monster 13 hour days, Saturday thru Monday, with the next 4 days off. While this means that as long as the kids are in school we do not get a full day off with them, I also get 4 days to be a better partner at home and find more ways to grow food, make fuel, and build soils on small acreages.  FOUR DAYS!  And then the summers – 4 days off together as a family.  It is still sinking in and the pros and cons have yet to settle in.  Will the 9 months with no full weekends eat away at us, or will the Summers and free time during the week out weigh it.  Either way it works out to 7-8 less hours in the office a week and that is a Good Thing.  The kiddos are still young enough (6 and 7) that Dad taking them to school is still cool, and I just might finally buy a Mundo Bike to ride them there in style.

Left Brain says that with an extra day I just might be able to stay on top of all my current commitments.  Right Brain says I should call that farmer who offered me 6 acres to “do basically anything I wanted with”…

To everything turn, turn, turn.


@#$%!’n Late Blight

tomato, late blight 181-018Short post -I’m itchy and sweaty from working until dusk next to a tree line.  See, I just came back from destroying 30% of my Tomato crop due to an almost certain infection of Late Blight.  I spent this evening tearing out the plants and throwing them onto a 120sq ft rubber mat which I then covered with greenhouse plastic – I love what you can find in farm sheds in a pinch.  This I will let cook for several days to solarize the infected plants, and then I will likely burn the residue.   The burning is prolly overkill – so lets call it revenge…

For reasons I am still pondering it seems to have contained itself to one portion of my tomato crop.  Hypothesis is that this planting of ‘maters was the most suseptible – it was in a sheltered area that did not see much wind at all being between my hoop house and a 20′ tall tree line.  Furthermore, on each side of the tomatoes I had some VERY vigorous three sisters going – 7′ tall corn (no fertilizer!!) and 30′ pumpkin vines about 2’ tall – again further reducing the winds ability to get in.  Why is the wind important?  The dew would linger much longer on this planting allowing any Blight Spores to get a toehold.  That is my theory.

Learnings / Thank Gods (as long as I contained the infection):

  • Seperated plantings – I had 42 tomato plants of 7 varieties total.  Those 42 plantings are in 4 spots – all seperated by at least 1 plant family and 15 yards (I realize I have alot of space)
  • Plant resistant cultivars.  This year I purchased 3 blight resistant potato varieties (Elba, Nicola, Island Sunshine) on a hunch, and out of sheer luck 2 of those are surrounding my infected plants.
  • Walk your fields.  With under .25 acres this isn’t too hard, but get out every week and walk every row with an observant eye.  I watched this infection spread in growing horror for 4 days until I was convinced it was Late Blight – and maybe – just maybe – contained it in my tomatoes before it got into my spuds.

This infection cost me about 200#’s of tomatoes, but fingers crossed that my  scorched earth actions tonight are enough to hold it to my 12 martyrs.


Yuba Mundo Cargo Utility Bicycle HQ

I have my eye on a 5 acre parcel about 1 mile out of town. (In 2 years) Something like this would then become my “farm truck”. Other than the kayak sequence, my favorites are the “minivan” sequence at 1:08 and the “drift” at 1:30.

Lost Generation

Be the Change

Biochar – agrichar – Terra Preta

This is exactly what we are doing with our CSE project. Very well done video. Only 11 minutes, please watch it!

2nd Generation Downdraft Stratified Biomass Gasifier

Here is a descriptive video of our latest gasifier (v 2.0). This one adds fancy cooling towers, augers, and produces significantly higher grade syngas. Please check out the Gasifier pages for more info on wood gasification!

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