How we are preparing for energy and growing crops in an uncertain future.
One of the best things we do is arrange our days in accordance to the weather. If it is raining then we work inside if it is sunny we work outside. If I am tired I take a nap. I also plan our crops around the best time to plant or harvest. Timing of the crops and cover crops is critical.
Planting Sunflowers into Crimped rye with a crimper on the front of the tractor and no till planter behind. Not totally successful this year 2022 as it was a poor field and just after I planted there was no rain for 6 weeks. The the system of crimping the rye on a front 3 point hitch and following with the no till planter on the rear three point hitch worked well. The Previous year was more successful. See the web page http://matsfineoils.com/Crimped%20rye.html. This should work well in 2023 as the field I planted the rye for crimping was a field of alfalfa for a number of years.
Solar cells, controllers and battery. Back about 2005 I decided to put up an array of solar cells and a large forklift battery as the electricity was becoming erratic. I moved in 2015 and moved the solar cells to our new farm. The system has worked fine without any problems so far. I use this system for the north barn but if needed I can switch to the grid. I have 120 volt and 240. The 240 is not able to power a lot other than the grain auger from the sunflower bin. I charge my fork lifts with the solar system. This system also powers a propane furnace in the winter. I do not think that solar cells are any real advantage of reducing the effects of climate change but when there is no grid this works fine. Solar cells only last about 20 years so I am most of the way through their usefulness.
Using sunflower oil instead of diesel for the summer months. This works surprisingly well in older diesels. I have been doing this for about 20 years. This does not work well in the winter as the sunflowers oil becomes very thick so I mix in diesel for the winter. At one time I did make bio-diesel to start the diesel on in the winter but when I moved to our present farm I did not get it up and running again. The raw sunflower oil works well for the time being and I mix it with diesel when the freezing weather starts but if there are no batteries available to start the diesels this will not work very well. I do have one hand cranked diesel on one oil press which works well.
Evacuated tubes producing hot water. This system has been working for about 20 years and has worked very well in the summer when our cooks stove is not producing hot water. It needs antifreeze in the winter months. The system is run by electronics and so far has worked well over the last 20 years but they too only last about 20 years so their life is limited.
Wood cook stove for heating the house and hot water. Early on we decided to heat our home with wood as we had a good wood lot on the property. Dorothee has learned to cook very effectively with it for our meals. I rigged up a discarded hot water tank to the system so we have hot water in the winter months. We found that having the cook stove in the kitchen worked well as it was a good place to sit and get warmed up but did not overheat our bedroom.
Using older diesel generators and sunflower oil to produce electricity. I have found a number of older diesels that run well on sunflower oil. We press vegetable oil and our diesels either drive the oil presses or provide electricity for the small oil press. I have built a small hut for our large diesel to provide electricity for the machine shop but not yet hooked it up. We did put in an electrical line so it is almost ready to go.
Variable frequency controllers to give variable electric motor speeds. When I set up the spelt dehuller I thought it would be a good idea to be able to vary the speed which has worked well. We provide the controllers with single phase 220 and the electronics convert it to three phase. I also use a frequency controller on the flour mill auger.
Horses for farm field work. I love working with the horses but it has taken me many years to get good at it. There is always the possibility that they will spook but the more you work with them the better it is. At the moment we have only one new horse that is inclined to spook so I use her very carefully. She is also the smartest horse and remembers everything when I mess up. There is nothing better than having a wonderful working day with the horses. It really keeps you awake and at the end of the Day you can thank the horses and they appreciate knowing that along with some oats and sunflower meal.
Pastures to increase soil health. Allowing fields to be covered in cover crops that is also edible serves a good purpose for feeding the horses and improving the soil health. After my last years sunflowers I broadcast red clover at the last cultivation and the following spring it burst forth in a great quantity of red clover and reducing the weed population which is feed to the horses each day by moving the electrical fence. They eat that readily and eventually I move the fence back each day and they get to revisit the field every couple of weeks as the red clover grows back.
Solar powered electric Golf cart never needs plugging in. After recovering from leukemia I purchase an electrical golf cart since I could not walk very well. Even though I could plug it in to our solar array each day I thought it better to put a solar cell on the roof and it would charge wherever I left it in the sun. This has worked well as we now use it for towing a trailer and running around the farm, even to get the horses!
Wood stove heating
We use a wood burning wood stove for heat and our winter food cooking. It took some research to get a good stove from Suppertime stoves in Aylmer run by the Amish. We now have two wood burning stoves that have been well built and work well.
Solar powered fork lifts. We tun a two forklifts and they are plugged into the solar array in the north barn.
Sunflower head with pans for combining sunflowers. In an effort to improve our combine efficiency I designed and built a system of trays on the combine head and put boards on reel so it would work better on the sunflowers.
Composting is done in long rows with our manure spreader running while I use the front end loader to fill the manure spreader and turn over the compost pile.
Solar powered electric fences for horses. The solar array on the pole barn provides electricity for the north barn and the electric fences to keep the horses in their pasture. We can also hook up a solar panel and battery in pastures not close to the pole barn.
A garden that provides all of our veggies. While this may sound very simple it has taken us about 7 years to finally get very good harvests. We use the the deep compost mulch system.
Preserving and canning the summer produce in our cold cellar. There is little use in growing many fruits and veggies without preserving them by canning or drying. Dorothee dries fruit in a commercially available food dryer using solar energy during the days of sunshine. A number of veggies are put in the cold cellar for the wintertime.
Chickens for eggs and meat; Dorothee has heritage breeds, dorkings, chantecleers and Americanas .She has over the years figured out a lot the solutions to keeping chickens.
A farm cow: Our cow is strictly a pet who guards the chickens and one day we hope we can find a bull to get her pregnant so we can have a calf and get some milk from her.
The alternative sources of energy I like best is the bio gas generation from manure, crop residue and human waste.. Back about 2008 I built a biogas digester and housed it but upon getting leukemia I was unable to complete the project and I sold the property but kept the tank should I again be able to fulfill the biogas digester idea in the future. My design was good and should work fine for many things. As is demonstrated in Ukraine having a biodigester producing bio gas will power a heater making large scale destruction of utilities less vulnerable. Also the composting can produce heat using manure and organic matter.
And last we should not forget to eat healthy as this might have been the one factor that helped me recover from leukemia.
Despite all of these things we are attempting we are not close to being fossil fuel free. This is very discouraging. It is obvious to me that we cannot resist the temptation of fossil fuels and its high energy availability. Looking on the internet I see that the use off fossil fuels is only increasing in the world and there is very little hope of changing that.
In order to be fossil fuel free our oil and flour output would be only a small fraction of what we do today. Our property taxes would go up four times since we are required to have at least $7000 gross income from the farm in a year. We could not deliver anything unless to close neighbours with the horses. Farming as I see it has no way of being fossil fuel free.