Our current infrastructure is a somewhat rudimentary collection of interwoven food, water, and energy systems, and has been built by us from scratch. Future improvements are obvious and planned, but we’re still doing triage on functionality before we invest in properly completing some of this stuff.
Our primary water system centers around a gravity fed above ground water battery, fed by well and (soon) rainwater and a series of smaller, discrete gravity fed systems. We’re designing our primary living, washing and food processing infrastructure to flow into a dosing branched drain graywater system to meet watering requirements for 60 fruit and nut trees, dispersing daily measured surges water into a thousand odd feet of on-contour swales. Combined, these swales hold somewhere between sixty and ninety thousand gallons (2-3 average swimming pools).
Smaller auxiliary systems use repurposed 300 gallon totes, and serve our outdoor kitchen and solar water heated shower. Gray water from these systems waters two small collections of fig trees.
We currently operate our well on our primary electrical system, but have plans in the future to replace it’s pump with a “direct drive” solar powered model.
Power is primarily generated by 4200 watts of solar panels mounted on a shipping container, and stored in reused batteries from a remote, mostly unmanned, telecommunication station in Antarctica. DC Electricity is primarily used to pump water, energize fences, operate refrigeration, and keep the coffee maker going. We do occasionally use a generator to make up the difference in electricity consumed vs. produced during prolonged winter gray periods.
The first day we got lights, two little girls from a family that had been staying with us put on a variety show, with improvised comedy, song and dance performance, and challenging rhetorical questions.
We also operate a couple satellite solar stations to provide small amounts of electricity for powering fences and operating lights.
ANIMAL & PASTURE MANAGEMENT
We manage our animals and pastures in relation to each other. This involves intensively grazing an area, then resting it for at least three weeks, or for the duration of the season during the dry part of the year. Both our animals and pastures are healthier as a result of grazing in this manner. We're able to combat the inherent undergrazing/overgrazing that takes place when animals have unrestricted access to a space, eating everything they like in the order they most like it, ultimately leaving a seed bank of only the least nutritious or palatable plants. Animal health is improved because our goats and sheep spend a minimal amount of time eating where they’ve recently defecated, reducing vectors for parasite loading. This translates to a LOT of time spent moving fence. The price of ecological animal and pasture care is labor. At the same time, we’re able to maximize the feed value that our pastures can produce, and minimize our dependence on outside feed sources. Understanding our pasture and how it relates to animals is a multiyear process, and requires both patience and attention to detail, as feedback from management decisions can be subtle at best.
METHANE DIGESTER AND FODDER SYSTEM
This year, we’ll be building an integrated methane biodigester and fodder system. The biodigester is a series of bacterial cultures that converts liquid and water soluble farm waste products into fuel gas and a nutritious liquid fertilizer. Since the methane gas is lighter than air, we’ll gravity feed it up to our main cooking area, and when we notice that the gas that is being pressurized up the line is ceasing to be flammable, we’ll purge it all (primarily CO2) into the adjacent room inside which we’re establishing a hydroponic fodder system. We’re also planning on experimenting with using the effluent from the biodigester to further contribute to growth.
-Convert a small flatbed truck to run on straight vegetable oil and creating a logistics route that integrates collection of veg oil with the collection and distribution of other farm goods
-Build a wood gasifier to run a generator