Another Illinois 'stead

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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby michaelegan » Wed Feb 11, 2015 3:47 pm

Hey Manny
I just read over some of your 'stead' stuff and saw you grow shiitake mushrooms. I'm planning on starting some for the first time next month at our place in central Illinois. Any advice? Where do you buy your spawn? thanks in advance.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:08 pm

I've gotten all my spawn at field and forest: http://www.fieldforest.net/

Shitake hasn't done too well for me but a friend of mine had better luck. You'll need fresh oak, seed it at exactly 2 weeks after cutting. I've used the thimble spawn, which didn't work very well, and the sawdust spawn which gets covered in wax. The sawdust works so much better but is also a bit more work. If you're going to do it, do it right and plan to spend a lot of time on it.

I've also done oysters grown on boxelder with great results. I prefer this actually, and just forage for the higher quality mushrooms. It's kind of up to you though with how far you want to go into it.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Sun Apr 26, 2015 3:44 pm

It's been ages since I've posted any updates on my place here, and mostly because I don't have much to update (or too much to update, depends on how you look at it). After coming back from the Gambia I feel like all I've done is work, classes, and managing my animals. We kidded in March this year which doubled the size of our herd, and recently we added another show quality registered boer doe. All are up for sale at any time so we may have more or sell them all, it's at the whim of the market. Our runty little buck produced some beautiful meaty kids. At 4 weeks they were already averaging 50 pounds. The sheep are finally gone, but we still have way too many animals.

I've been hatching eggs. I built a simple incubator from a thermostat, a lightbulb, and a foam box. The chickens, ducks, and geese have been laying like crazy, so I've been putting all the excess eggs in the incubator and selling the hatchlings for $2.50 each. Once gnat season is over I'll probably raise 25 of each to put in the freezer myself.

I've got enough wood gathered to replace what we used last year. I haven't started splitting yet because I'm trying to get the grass to grow in the yard again. Hauling all that wood to fill my shed last year just destroyed the yard. But now I'm 2 years out with split wood and easily replacing what I've burned. I seeded the yard back down with a "no-mow" mix of low-growing fescues. So, it really was a good thing that the yard got destroyed because it opened the window for converting the lawn to a better system.

I also made a rain garden this year. We have adequate rain water storage between the barn and my house, so I converted my front yard gutter into an underground tile which outlets into a retention basin planted in wet-mesic wild-flowers, selected to be more pollinator habitat.

I have lots of starts for the garden, but it's still too cold to put them out. New beds for potatoes and sweet potatoes, the old beds are prepped for tomatoes, beans, peppers, and the like. The cold frames are producing insanely. We're already getting asparagus and morels are just starting to pop. At some point, I've got so many projects I want to do, but then I look at my wife and it's like, "we're already there." Just need to do a little tweaking to get things perfected.

The little food forest I planted last year came back near 100%. All that watering last year really paid off. I lost one almond, and my two older apple trees to a rabbit wild rabbit. Once I realized it was eating the bark I took care of the rabbit, but the damage to the trees was already done. All my rasperries, hazelnuts, and other fruit and nuts came back, though. We had so much manure bed pack from the barn this winter that all my beds, trees, garlic patch, artichokes.... they all have a healthy dose of compost, and it's really paying off.

Well, that's what I've been up to. Hope life is well for everyone else too.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Thu May 07, 2015 10:38 pm

I finally feel like I'm getting caught up around here. We made it through kidding this year with some fence panels and old braided wire forming some makeshift pens. While the goats were away I did a major renovation to their quarters.
A few beers later...

Image

It's all salvaged or boards I have had laying around in my way for waaaaaay too long. Mostly hackberry sawed off my property and drying for several years now. We're liking it a lot.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby DrewInToledo » Mon May 11, 2015 1:48 am

I'm really enjoying this photo. This may sound like an elementary question, but I am wondering how you cut your lumber? I'm asking because I've never owned property which afforded me the opportunity to enjoy such a task and I'm clueless. Chainsaw jig?
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Tue May 12, 2015 12:56 am

I think there's a picture of the milling rig back on Page 3 of this thread. I know several people with band saw mills. Another friend of mine did just get a chainsaw jig and some rip chains and that is working pretty well for him. I think that would be sweet for milling some thicker stuff or larger dimensional lumber. Thinner cuts I think you would almost have to use a band saw mill or you would just lose so much with every pass of the chainsaw just in the cut. I'd like to learn a little more about the chainsaw milling- I could see a real use for that to make a remote cabin or something.

Either way, as far as the process goes... cut your tree and mill as soon as possible. Then stack the boards level with spacers in between... and wait.... and wait..... and wait..... My hackberry dried pretty quickly, as in still more than a year. I've heard that walnut can take more than 10 years. I started using it about a year out and much of it warped and/or cracked. For my walnut I had it indoors in a heated area with a dehumidifier going. My friend that milled it has a solar kiln, which is basically a shed with a south wall with greenhouse glazing and fanned ventilation.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Sat Oct 03, 2015 12:24 pm

Here's what I've been up to lately:
Image

It's a little rough but should do the trick to make my seasons last a little longer and get my tropical trees fruiting better. I've got nothing invested in it except time, a box of screws, and a gallon of wood sealer. The windows came from a hotel being renovated and the wood is pine from a nearby forest thinning. Doors were salvaged too. The foundation is rock from the yard, cobbed over on the inside. I built the soil up inside 2 ft. deep with straw/compost/manure enriched with bio-char and pulverized clay and ceramic tile scraps (also salvaged). There may be a rocket heater in the future, but can't see firing a stove out there all winter. Greenhouse measures 10 x 14.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Sat Oct 03, 2015 1:15 pm

That looks Great Manny. Tell me about the Bio-Char, how much did you use, how deep did you put it in the mix, I am gearing up for next spring and am looking for pointers about how to use it, and how deep in the garden soil should I place it. The green house should work out great for you and extend your growing season a good bit. You may be able to grow some greens all year. I would guess that you should be able to keep the green house well above the outside air temps by 10* to 15* at least with out any supplemental heat. That gets you down to 22* or maybe 18* and still not freeze inside the green house. Below that you need to add heat or let things freeze, both are reasonable, it depends on your priorities. How badly do you want fresh garden produce in Jan or Feb ? ;)
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Sat Oct 03, 2015 5:35 pm

Hi, Guy. I made one big bed in front of the front windows that measures about 14 x 6'. I made two loads of biochar in 50 gallon barrel. One load was soft pine board offcuts from construction and the other was large hardwood pieces that are too ratty to burn in the rocket stove. Even packing the barrel tightly, the finished product was less than 1/4 barrel of char. I put the big hardwood batch down on the ground, sprinkled the pulverized tile on top, then added about 2' of straw/manure on top, along with some ash to balance the acidity of the manure. After that I put another layer of char (the pine offcut batch), wet it down, and added another 2' of half composted straw/manure. I wet that down and the 4'+ heap reduced to about 2' deep in a few days.

From what I have read, biochar is only really applicable in tropical soils. My greenhouse won't be tropical but closer to it than my garden. We'll see what happens.

My plan is to have better/longer tomatoes, peppers, and beans, but I don't think it will grow me anything all year. Last year my cold frames kept us with fresh greens all winter so that's my go to spot already. They're already stocked with kale, spinach, mizuna, and chard, ready for winter. I don't want to use any space in the greenhouse for more greens but we'll see how it works this year. I've added another sensor to my indoor/outdoor thermometer so I can monitor the real-time temps along with daily highs and lows in the greenhouse.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Sat Oct 03, 2015 6:08 pm

Thanks for the reply. I was not sure if putting the Bio-char down deep was better, or keeping it closer to the surface would work better. For my new bed this year I was thinking about the same as you, put some down deep, and some more up close to the top. I have been getting about a wheel barrow full of char from each burn, maybe a 1/3 of a barrel. Some of mine at the bottom of the barrel is not fully turned into charcoal. I have been reburning some of them in the next load. Some I have just put in the mulch pile. Since I put logs on the bottom of each section, and them horse poop, I figured I would put some of the larger un-burned wood down there. The rest I planned on putting up closer to the surface. I had not heard that Bio-Char only worked in the tropics. I know that is where they have found a lot of it in South America, but I don't know why it won't work up here in the North. I have burned about 8 loads so far, I hope to make more before winter sets in. A friend of mine has a band saw mill and he is happy to give me all the scrap I can carry. I find that the smaller pieces work better in the Barrel, the larger slabs will burn, but it takes longer, maybe 1 1/2 hours vs 1 hour for the smaller stuff. Good Luck with the green house, I will be looking forward to hearing what kind of temperature you are able to maintain in there , and how the Bio-Char mix works out for you. The Bio-Char is a new experiment for me and I really have no clue what if any effect it will have in the garden.
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