Posts Tagged ‘compost’

Farm hour: making dirt

November 29th, 2012 No comments

orchard compost pile

It’s 152 degrees in the new orchard compost pile. This is the pile with pine needles and oak leaves added for more acidity. It’s layered with wood chips, horse manure and several gallons of rain water lightly sprinkled on each layer. This pile will become mulch for the blueberries in the Spring.

Farm hour: heating water with a compost pile

November 1st, 2012 No comments

There are a few videos on YouTube that will show you how to make your own outdoor hot water shower using the heat from a compost pile. The one above is the first one I saw using the Jean Pain method. I was surprised to learn not only how hot the pile can get and for how long, but that you can actually exchange the heat to water for other uses.

compost heatHeat is a natural byproduct of all the biomass interactions breaking down the pile. A hot pile can be around 160 degrees for a few days.

Our compost thermometer arrived today, so I checked the piles and found despite the recent freezing temperatures, the garden compost pile is at a toasty 97 degrees. The orchard pile is not doing so hot, but we’re about to add more fuel (leaves, manure, grass clippings and water) later this evening.

We do have plans for an outdoor shower, but we may use more readily available solar heat until we really need something like this.

Farm hour: quantifying what’s possible

October 30th, 2012 No comments

leaf harvest
One of three tarp loads of oak, maple, hickory and walnut leaves we gathered up for the orchard compost.

composting leavesThe orchard “mulchery” is set up. It’s 20 feet long, five feet wide and about 4 feet tall. If half the space is used, that should be 200 cubic feet of mulch. We added about 80 cubic feet of compacted, harvested leaves to use throughout the winter and started a pile with some of them today in the middle bin.

To start, I used a lot of the leaves, 15 gallons of cow manure from the neighbor’s field, grass clippings from today’s upper field mowing and about 8 gallons of water.

Water is going to be an issue until I can figure out an easier way to get it to the orchard. By the time my two five gallon buckets got there, I had lost about 4 gallons to sloshing.

upper fieldWhat’s Possible? I measured the space and determined if we use the entire space for blueberry bushes and apple trees, we’re looking at around 175 blueberry bushes and 32 apple trees. Using non-organic yields, the potential looks like this:

  • Apple:10-20 bushels per tree is 320-640 bushels of apples, 960-3200 gallons of cider or 13,440-26,880 lbs. of apples
  • Blueberries: 15 lbs. per bush is 2,625 lbs. of berries
  • Market: at current market value: $26,000 – $47,000

What’s Practical? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. We have about an hour of daylight each night and two weekend days of winter farm hours. We can’t eat all that, and we probably can’t process all that for others. Can we do this?

We’re thinking of starting with 8 apple trees and 10 blueberry bushes, but I’m mulching as though we’re doing it all.

Integrating a distillery into sustainable permaculture

December 17th, 2010 1 comment

Fermentation expert and Cannon County resident Sandor Katz has been working on the farm for some time introducing the use of organic composts and compost teas to our agricultural processes. It’s one of the many sustainable agricultural values future visitors will experience at Short Mountain Distillery.

Sandor was recently featured in the November 22 edition of The New Yorker magazine for his work advancing a live-culture food revolution. As the article notes, Sandor’s two books – “Wild Fermentation” and “The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved” are must reads for a new generation of underground food activists.

We are very fortunate to have Sandor working with us as we begin integrating centuries old distilling practices with the 300 acre farm.

IT’S ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY: Last week, Sandor whipped up a big brew of compost tea that Billy and John sprayed on the newly plowed organic corn field. The practice will be repeated regularly and replace an unsustainable and costly practice of applying chemical fertilizer to the farm environment.

The processes Sandor is putting in place now will eventually transform some of Short Mountain Distillery’s grain product into an environmentally safe fertilizer. The process is amazing to watch and demonstrates a genuine bottom-up level of care for the life of the farm and quality of spirits we will produce.

Besides whiskey and moonshine, the process of distillation creates a usable grain product that is perfect for farm life. The grain mash from the distillery can be consumed by farm animals as well as crops. The distillery will produce tons of grain product annually.

HOW IT’S DONE: To get the grain into a consumable product for crops, the grain will first be fed to livestock whose manure will be composted with other organic material.

Next, the manure and other organic materials and allowed to compost. This process requires turning the pile so the composting kills pathogens but not overheat and kill the microbes.

Once the compost process is complete, a portion then goes into a large “tea bag” and is left to aerate in a large cistern of water while the rest is used as a soil amendment. The resulting frothy tea, teaming with cultivated microbes, are sprayed onto the field where they continue digesting organic matter into usable nutrition for crops.