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Composting Meat?

August 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Currently, my meat rabbit harvesting produces very little waste. Once the meat and bones are harvested, what remains is the head, the innards, the feet, and the pelt. The head, innards and feet go to the dogs, so the only waste at this point is the pelt. I’ve heard of people composting waste parts from fish processing so I decided to research composting meat products. While this video was not helpful for what I was looking for, it was absolutely hilarious.

Here’s a couple more useful videos on the subject:

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Categories: Compost

Composting Bins

August 19, 2012 Leave a comment

 

I bought a Lifetime 80 Gallon Compost Tumbler from Costco a year ago. Costco was selling it for around $100 dollars so it was definitely much more affordable than other bins of its size. After having used it for some time now, I can say with certainty that I will most likely not buy another premade composter. The tumbler turns easily when it’s empty, but don’t expect it to turn like it does in the video even when it’s only half full. Also, nasty compost tea leaks about of its seams so expect this to get on your hands and arms while you rotating the tumbler. The same tea will also drip and collect underneath the tank, and for whatever reason, the dogs love it so I am constantly having to shoo them away from it. Yuck! In addition, premade bins are found significantly lacking from a practicality standpoint. They take up valuable space and do not make it possible to have usable overhead space unless a supporting structure is built to surround it. Despite this tumbler being on the larger end of what’s commercially available. I found that 80 gallons didn’t even hold my lawn clippings from one mowing of my front and back yards. Most importantly, the premade bins just don’t lend themselves to being shoveled into or out of with a large shovel or pitchfork.

In contrast, I am really liking my cinderblock composting bins which also serve as a platform for my rain harvesting tanks. They are cheap to build. A four sided, 80 gallon cinderblock bin requires 30 8 in x 8 in x 16 in cinderblocks. At $1.25 each block, this 80 gallon bin costs just under $40 but will last forever, is easy to shovel into and out of, and will easily support overhead a 330 gallon rain tank weighing over 2,500 pounds. Also, if you run out of space, it’s very easy to build an adjacent bin. Since each additional bin shares a wall with the previous bin, it costs less than $30 for each additional bin. This got me thinking about building some larger cinderblock bins in my backyard to compost all the shrub and vine wood waste that the backyard is constantly generating as well as the yard waste that my neighbor is donating from his large yard. I searched around to see if anyone else has come to the conclusion that cinderblocks are the way to go and found these pics on the gardenweb.com forum of someone’s setup:

 

 

 

 

I also found this very useful literature on constructing different types of compost bins.

Composting System Designs

 

Categories: Compost Tags:

100 Cubic Yards of Mulch… Yes, 100.

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Unfortunately, all my sources of free mulch has dried up. Only half of the orchard has been mulched. The other half of the orchard is cleared so I have been anxious to get it covered with mulch to prevent soil quality degradation, soil erosion, and weed/kudzu growth. It’s been great getting free mulch, however, seeing how I wanted to finish the orchard this year, I finally broke down and decided to pay for mulch.

The remaining orchard space is approximately 10,000 square feet and to cover that with 4 inches of mulch, I needed approximately 100 cubic yards of mulch. So just how much mulch is that? To put it into perspective, the standard bag of mulch you get at the store is 2 cubic FEET which translates of 0.07 cubic yard. So, 100 cubic feet is equivalent to 1,428 bags of the mulch you would get in the store. Since this mulch is not for decoration, I was interested in “single ground” mulch which is produced when tree limbs are passed through the chipper once.

When I inquired about my purchase, I was a bit surprised when the vendor told me the mulch would be delivered in one load. This is because the standard dump trucks have a capacity somewhere between 15 to 20 cubic yards so I fully expected that multiple loads would have to be made. I interrogated the vendor on the dimensions of the truck’s cargo space just to make sure that I would be getting what I was paying for. He provided me with dimensions of 53 feet long, 8.5 feet wide, and 13.5 feet high and clarified that the entire cargo space would be filled. By my calculations, this actually translated to 225 cubic yards.

Despite, all the back-and-forth verification and reverification, I fully expected there to be a misunderstanding when the truck arrived. Well, that was not the case. I got a call from the driver and drove out to meet him. When I saw the truck, I was pretty certain that it was in fact 53 feet long, 8.5 feet wide, and 13.5 feet high.

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While I was glad there was no misunderstanding, we were quickly subdued by the dilemma of getting this massive truck onto the orchard lot. The truck required a huge turning radius and therefore could not turn onto either one of the alleys unless all cars were moved off the street. Even if that were possible, then there was the issue of the tree limbs overhead due to the truck’s height. Lastly, the driver had no confidence that he could get his truck back out even if he was able to get onto the lot.

I was reluctant to throw in the towel so we finally agreed on having the load dumped in front of the front yard of the street lot I own which is adjacent to the orchard lot. This would mean longer trips for the bobcat I am going to have to rent to spread the mulch but at least I would not have to send the delivery back.

Given that the front yard is on a slope, the only space left was a 50 feet by 15 feet space consisting of the sidewalk and the city right of way. After chopping down a Crape Myrtle in the city’s right of way, we finally managed to get the truck in position and ready for unloading.

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Rear view of the unloading:

Side view of the unloading:

Once the truck had unloaded half of the mulch, I asked the driver to move the truck forward so the pile would not spill in front of the neighbor’s house. To my surprise, he began moving the truck forward without getting back in the driver’s seat. Apparently, the truck comes equipped with external controls to scoot the truck forward. Very cool!

Here’s the mechanism which allows the load to be pushed out of the cargo compartment without raising the bed.

View of “Mulch Mountain” after unloading was completed.

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Categories: Mulch, Orchard Tags: ,

Rain Harvesting First Flush System – How It Works

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

several people have asked about the mechanism by which the first flush system works. Here’s an animated GIF which demos this well.

The video above demonstrates the use of the first flush system in a horizontal configuration. I am using all of my first flush systems in a vertical configuration. The diagram below shows the different configurations which are possible.

Categories: Rain Harvest Tags:

First Eggplant Harvest

August 16, 2012 Leave a comment

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Today I made my first eggplant harvest and collected 2 Japanese “Ichiban” eggplants (these are the skinny ones) and 1 Black Beauty eggplant. I also harvested some sweet basil. These homegrown ingredients were then combined with store bought Vidalia onion, yellow bell pepper, red bell pepper, orange bell pepper, and garlic. The ingredients were then stir fried.

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There’s nothing better than growing one’s own food… except eating it!

Categories: Edible Garden Tags: ,

Summer Garden – Four Week Update

August 13, 2012 Leave a comment

With the expanded garden space, I felt compelled a week ago to plant more vegetables. Unfortunately, I was not able to find much at the local Home Depots or Lowe’s and some stores had completely stopped stocking vegetables.

I did manage to find some more bell peppers, basil, tomatoes, and fresh batches of Georgia collards. These were planted last weekend and all seem to be doing well. The new plantings have doubled my backyard garden.

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Here are some photos of the new plantings.

Cherry Tomatoes:

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Bell Peppers:

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Collards:

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Here are the old plantings from a month ago.

The Black Beauty eggplant which had just fruited two weeks ago has grown significantly.

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The other Black Beauty eggplant plant has started two fruits.

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The basils are doing well and have been regularly harvested. I also planted another Sweet Basil plant last weekend.

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A brand new Japanese eggplant fruit which has fruited since my post two weeks ago.

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The Japanese eggplant fruit which had just fruited two weeks ago has grown significantly and is still growing.

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The watermelon plant has flourished since two weeks ago.

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And I started seeing flowers a few days ago. So, hopefully fruits are coming soon.

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Cantaloupe plants have also flourished. Plenty of flowers but no fruits yet.

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Squash plants were doing well but has declined in the past week. Looks like the squash vine borers have been eating away at the base.

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I did manage to harvest one good size squash before their demise.

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Super 100 tomatoes have grown significantly. They are now housed in cages made from 3 feet tall, 2 inch x 4 inch welded wire fencing.

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Cherry tomatoes are also now house in cages.

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Rain Harvesting Setup Completed: 2,300 Gallon Capacity

August 13, 2012 3 comments

My house has approximately 2,500 square feet of roof area. The gutters empty through six downspouts. I have been interested in rain harvesting for some time now and this year’s projects have significantly escalated its priority. My current watering needs consists of 30 fruit trees planted at the orchard, 5 fruit trees planted in my front yard, 40 square foot vegetable garden in my side yard, and another 200 square foot vegetable garden in my backyard.

While I am employing the use of heavy mulching at the orchard and in at my home garden, I was still interested in harvesting as much water as possible since I am interested in maximum yield from my garden and my orchard. Most importantly, since there is no water source at the orchard, I very much desire to get the trees established as soon as possible so they can begin to sustain themselves on ground water. Therefore, several months ago, I acquired seven 330 gallon IBC totes. Most large volume containers, run about $1 per gallon. So, at a price of $90 each, these were definitely much more affordable. After I setup the first one, I actually found that the IBC totes lent themselves very well to rain harvesting. The built in inflow and outflow openings really made it easy to repurpose these as rain totes with the addition of a few PVC connectors readily available from any major hardware stores.

After some research, I also found that it was really simple to get these totes connected to the gutter for rain harvesting. To accomplish this, I’ve decide to leverage some well conceived gutter filters and first flush systems which were specifically designed for rain harvesting. My previous post demonstrated the installation of the Leaf Beater and First Flush system. This post shows the completed installation of the 7 IBC totes which are the final components of my rain harvesting system.

This was the first tote that I setup. It’s hooked up to a different rain harvesting product called Clean Rain Ultra. This product combines a leaf filter, fine debris filter, and a first flush system all into a single unit. While it’s well-designed, I didn’t like the multiple moving parts which will eventually require maintenance or replacement so I only installed two of these units. My first IBC tote was also wrapped in black PVC film. This is meant to keep the sunlight from penetrating into the tote and causing algae growth in the water. This tote wrap is a prototype. I am still testing with other methods to see if there are better options. Despite only receiving about half an inch of rain thus far this month, there’s about 100 gallons of rain harvested from this downspout.

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This second tote is hooked up to the downspout with the least rain output. That plus the leaf clogging I recently found, resulted in this tote only capturing about 10 gallons thus far this month.

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I was originally hesitant about harvesting rain off the downspout at the front of my house. However, after calculating that it was fed by the most roof area. I decided to install a third IBC tote on my front porch. The totes are 48 inches by 40 inches so they do manage to fit into most spaces. So far this month alone, this tote has harvested about 250 gallons of rain.

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The fourth tote was also installed in the front of my house, next to the garage. This tote has harvested about 100 gallons of rain this month.

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This remaining three IBC totes were installed in my west sideyard. This sideyard is only about 6 feet wide. I have a small, 4 feet by 20 feet garden in this sideyard since it gets full afternoon sun. My two A/C units are also installed in this sideyard, leaving about a 6 feet by 12 feet of remaining space in this sideyard. Since this space is not very usable, I decided the install the remaining three IBC totes in this dead space. These three totes are hooked up in serial so that the water only feeds into one tank but then will equilibriate through all three totes via hydrostatic pressure. I am experimenting with having two downspouts feed simultaneously to these three totes. This month alone, these totes have harvested a little over 100 gallons so far this month.

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So far this month, with a little less than half inch of rain, approximately 550 gallons of rain have been harvested. This about matches my expectations since 1 inch of rain translates to 0.60 gallons of rain per square feet, I would expect a maximum of 1,500 gallons of rain per inch of rainfall received.

Each of the totes has been setup on three rows of cinderblocks in a U shape arrangement. Four pieces of 2 x 10 pressure treated lumber cut to four feet are laid across the cinderblocks to form a platform for the totes. Water weighs approximately 8 pounds per gallon. So when full, these totes will weigh close to 2,700 pounds. So far, this platform base setup appears to be more than adequate to support this weight. The cinderblock are 8 inches in height so the three stacked rows of cinderblocks raises the tanks by another 24 inches to provide additional lift for water pressure. In addition, this is also intended to create a 24 inch high x 32 inch deep and 32 inch wide space underneath the totes which I am currently using as compost bins. With my meat rabbit operation, I have a constant supply of rabbit manure. This is dumped underneath the totes and aged prior to use in the garden.

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