Tag Archives: manure

The Big Thaw

It’s finally happened.  The weather has warmed to the point it’s no longer miserable to be outside.  In fact, it’s down right pleasant and judging by the chorus of crickets and peepers, the wildlife would agree.

The change in temperature has been swift, but I remember being struck by how quickly the chirps and hum of nature disappeared last fall.  One day it was there, and the next it wasn’t.  Two days ago the woods were completely silent at night except for the occasional owl hoot, and yesterday it was as if everyone got the memo.

As the days have gotten nicer they’ve also begun to pass much more swiftly.  That tends to happen when you’re constantly busy, web work in the morning and projects in the afternoon.  I have to slow myself down at times because it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer scope of everything.  I’ve taken to making to-do lists every other night just to keep that next step in perspective.

I’m aiming to start setting up Tarpopolis again at the beginning of April.  Once I empty the house out then I can start working on the interior roofing again, and after the last frost is past the plastering can start.

Until then I’m focusing my energy on the garden.  I built a trellis in the garden and cheated a little by buying some bagged garden soil to plant the sugar snap peas in.  I’ve also got a lot more seeds in the mini-greenhouse and coldframe although I’m a little worried I may have to restart some of them since I think I might have cooked them by not paying attention and opening them on a sunny day.

Due to some ridiculous beaurocratic wrangling with the DMV I wont’ be able to get a plate for the truck until early April.  Which severely hampers my rotted manure collecting operations among a host of other things I need the truck for.  I do have a plan on how I can still use it, however, it’s not exactly legal so I won’t post the specifics here.  Big brother may be watching.

I’ve got several new sources for manure which I plan on taking advantage of.  I’ll be adding a 4th vegetable garden bed as well as a 2nd perennial bed and then I’d like to add at least a small layer of manure around the perimeter of the main beds where I intend to plant berries and fruit trees in a couple weeks.  All in all I’m probably looking at 8 full loads of manure and another 2 or 3 of free mulch from Columbia for the paths.  It’ll be a good workout and warm up for the coming construction season.

A couple weekends ago Justin and Melainia came out and we burned a bunch of the brush piles that had been built up over the last year or so.  I wanted to make bio-char out of them by putting them out before they’d turned to ash.  The charcoal holds a lot of the nutrients in the ground so that they don’t wash away.  Unfortunately I didn’t have any water so we just let it burn where I’ll be adding the new vegetable bed.  The ash will still be good source of potassium for the plants.

One point of excitement was when we all 3 came back with bunches of brush to find flames leaping from the humanure pile which was maybe 20 feet away from the fire.  It was amazing how quickly the pallets caught on fire as well, and putting the whole thing out wasn’t easy with the aforementioned lack of water.  It was tempting to stomp on it, but it would be the equivalent of stomping out a giant flaming bag of poop on your doorstep.  Justin made this excellent graphic which is certainly t-shirt worthy should the opportunity arise.

I was considering planting standard size fruit trees, but there really isn’t enough space in the garden for that.  Instead I’m going to plant a lot of semi-dwarf and dwarf trees and have a big variety of different kinds of fruit.  I’m hoping that these trees will serve as sort of the genetic stock for the eventual food forest in the ecovillage center.

Typically you don’t want to start a fruit tree from seed because you don’t know what kind of fruit it will have, for instance an apple pollinated by a crab apple probably won’t have very tasty fruit.  However, if you start some of the trees from seed and then graft a branch from one of the tried and true varieties that I’ll have growing in the garden here then you’ve got something you know will be tasty.   Of course, any trees grown like that will be full-size since size is determined by the roots and they won’t have the dwarf root stock, but that’s what would be more appropriate for the ecovillage anyway.  Standards produce a lot more fruit and do so for many more years than dwarfs and semi-dwarfs.

I’m also waiting on the truck plate to pick up the pipe I need to raise the wind generator.  I’m hoping I can get that next week and get it up and running soon.  I did manage to fix my gas generator which hadn’t wanted to start since I got back so I at least have some power until then without having to go recharge my batteries at my friend’s place every several days.

I also picked up some trash along the road with some help from a friend last weekend.  I noticed that people had still been parking at the driveway to the old cabin and littering it with more beer cans and bottles since I cleaned it up last year and posted the “No Trespassing” signs.  Clearly they didn’t get the message so I lugged some of the 30 or so old tires that someone graciously dumped in the old root cellar and placed them as a barricade across the driveway entrance.

There are still another 30 or more tires in a ditch just down the road.  I plan on using some of those in the garden to grow potatoes in, and saving the ones that are in decent shape for other uses down the line.   A lot of them are really too far gone to do anything with and I may end up hauling them to a special tire recycling place not too far from here.  I also posted a homemade “No Dumping” sign in the hope that it might make some sort of difference as far as future tires are concerned.

My current struggle of the moment is getting water in the camper.  It appears that simply opening the main drain valve didn’t empty all the water out of the pipes and at some point the water froze and burst the water supply line in two different places.  Neither spot is very easy to get at, but I’ve only had to cut minor holes so far.  I’m on my 3rd attempt at patching them and each time I’ve gotten closer.  In fact the last time they held for a couple hours, enough for me to take my first hot shower in the camper, but then one burst and the second started leaking.  I think I’m finally on the right track now though and I should have it taken care of in the next day or two.

I’m also looking to get 3 or 4 laying hens and keeping them around this time.  I considered guineas again as well, but I wouldn’t be able to actually have them out and tick hunting until late July again.  They also don’t have the benefit of easily collected eggs and aren’t going to handle the winters as well.  The chickens have stinkier poop, but I think if I only let them free range around the campground and construction site every other day or so then it won’t be too big of an issue I’m hoping.  In the future I’d like to get guineas again since they have a wider tick-hunting range and they’re just kind of cool, but I’ll save that for another time.

So that’s where I’m at.  I’ll probably start having visitors out on the weekend of March 27 weather permitting if anyone’s interested.

Making Connections

It’s amazing how many connections I’ve found by just doing what I’m doing.  Jesse’s mom, Anne, raises alpaca only about 15 minutes away from here.  She’s offered to let me take her “alpaca beans” off her hands, some of which are already well rotted.  I’ve only gotten one small load so far since it was muddy and now everything is frozen solid.

While I was talking to her she mentioned she had a local guy who DELIVERED straw bales for $2/piece.  They’re not anything I’d use for construction, but for stacking around the camper and eventually becoming mulch, they’re perfect.

A nice guy named Charles delivered the bales and while we were unloading the bales I was just talking with him and the fact that I didn’t have a larger propane tank came up.  I tried to get one in town but they were sold out, and in any case they were pretty expensive.  Well Charles said they had a couple 100lb tanks(holds what 5 grill-size tanks do, which I was using).  So, I ended up getting one from them for about half of what they were going to charge me at the store in town.

Connections can be powerful, but you have to be open to them.  If I hadn’t talked to Anne about straw bales, I wouldn’t have met Charles, and if I hadn’t talked to him about stuff I wouldn’t have gotten the tank.  Even a few years ago I may not have been extroverted enough to just start talking to people.

I’ve actually talked to Charles a couple times now and shown him around the straw bale place.  He had a lot of questions and seemed kind of excited at the idea of being able to build like that.  He even asked me for the website address to find out more about it, so hey, what’s up Charles? if you’re reading this.

I had just enough bales to cover the trailer as much as I wanted to and also make a compost bin out of bales.  I’m going to put fresher manure in it to break it down.  The bales should keep it warm and I’m also thinking about putting some clear plastic over it to heat it up and speed it along, that’s why I left a few bales off of the south side for better solar gain. Oh, and the bales will give off heat as they decompose, adding to the heat generated by the compost which will be even hotter thanks to the bales insulative value.

I’ve also taken the chicken tractor and removed the door on one side.  I found a really cheap roll of clear plastic drop cloth and stapled a couple sheets over the run and the now opened nesting box.  I oriented it to run east-west, ie, face south.  I also put a couple inch layer of straw underneath it.  I plan on putting some bricks and bottles of water in there to regulate the temperature and hold the heat into the night.

Today was sunny with an actual high of 40F according to weather.com.  I got two outdoor thermometers and set one outside the “solar coop” and one inside on the straw.  I checked it this afternoon and the thermometer sitting outside the coop in the sun read 60F, and the one in the house read 100F!

I’m actually hoping the bricks and water will moderate that high somewhat.  I’m going to use the solar coop to start my garden plants.  A lot of seeds are supposed to get started 8 weeks before the average last frost, which is April 15 here.  So, I’ll be starting several flats of seeds in the next 2 weeks.  I’m sure I’ll be checking on them far more than need be, it’s my nature.

I bought a couple of T-105 deep-cycle batteries a couple weeks ago.  I’ve got them all hooked up and now have juice in the camper without having to go out and turn the truck on and off.  I have a wall-charger and can take them to friends’ houses to charge them every week or so when they get a little low.

I’m excited about getting a wind generator set up and be truly off-grid.  I’d really like to build one, but I’m trying to prioritize as best I can.  The situation as it is right now isn’t too bad, and I think having a real roof over my head should be my top priority.

I can’t imagine that I won’t have the house ready to live in for next winter, but just the same I want to be sure.  I went and picked up some more of my favorite free used billboard tarps.  I’m going to use them to line the inside of the roof rafters and stuff the space between with wool and cellulose.  I’m taking it piece by piece since it’s hard to work with by myself and it’ll be easier to take down to fix leaks or run pipes and wiring up there later if I need to if it’s in smaller pieces.  I’m going to put pieces of wood on the outside of the rafters to hold the tarp in place better since it’ll be fairly heavy with all of the insulation.

Anne, who I’m getting the alapaca beans from has a bunch of rough wool she can’t use for anything else.  She said she’s been using it for mulch in her garden, but wool is an awesome insulator and even holds it’s insulative value when it’s wet, though I don’t intend it to get wet.  I’m thinking about asking other people with sheep and alpacas(I’ve heard of others) to see if they have wool they can’t use.   Connections.

I also continue to be contacted by all kinds of interesting people who find that what I’m doing resonates with them.  Keep on writing, I enjoy talking with all of you.  I’ve also gone out of my way and contacted several of the local universities.  William Woods University in Fulton has offered me as much horse manure as I want and a few professors at the University of Missouri have given me some good references about Native Americans that lived in this area, specifically ethnobotany(what they ate and used for medicine), but also traditions, rituals, etc.

I’m going to try to plant a lot of native plants in the garden here.  Hey, if they grow here already without anyone having to do anything, think how easy they’ll be to grow in the garden.  My kind of gardening.