Posts filed under Lime

The Homestead Year, 2016 in Retrospect, Part One

Here is my homestead year in retrospect, or half of it.  Part two should follow any day.  A lot happened in 2016 I guess.  It was a pretty good year, much better than other recent years in many ways.

Pet Lime Kiln Update, 10 Burns, 30 Gallons and Where to Go From Here

Here is my 100th video on youtube, an update on the last lime kiln I built.  It looks as though the main thing to address in this design is erosion of the edge.  I am thinking that a rim of cob-like material (probably just clay and sand) might do the trick.  That begs the question of why not just build the entire thing out of cob or similar material in the first place?  Well, that is certainly a possibility.  I don't think it would have the same insulative value, but that may not matter in the end.  It is impossible to know without testing the idea.  There are some advantages to the pet kiln under various circumstances though.  It is fast to build and can be built up all at once.  A similar cob structure would need either support or drying time between layers.  Less clay is required, which could be important sometimes.  My intuition is that the insulation value of thousands of tiny holes and grass stems is significant, but again, I can't know without testing that proposition.  Of course a similar list could probably be generated for the benefits of cob.  not need to make it one or the other.  The more tools we have in our box, the more we can adapt to varying needs and circumstances.

I may pursue some ideas I have with the pet kiln concept, but I have quite a few other lime burning projects I'd like to try as well, including scaling up to a bigger more sophisiticated set up.  I may even test the feasibility of burning lime for sale, but honestly, my interest is more in testing the proposition to assess the feasibility of lime burning as a cottage industry for other people to pursue, or the feasibility of producing moderately large quantities on site for projects, rather than for the actual money I'd make.  Curiosity is a curse and a blessing.

Also posted below, a recent video of my just walking around the homestead talking about stuff.  I could do that for days.

Posted on June 11, 2016 and filed under fire, Lime, materials.

What Type of Lime Should You Use for Tanning and Rawhide?

I remember many years ago trying to understand what type of lime I should use for tanning and being really confused.  This video and blog post are an attempt to foster a basic understanding of lime as well as which type to use and where to find it.

Lime is used in tanning to loosen the hair for removal, and sort of clean the skin fiber of unwanted substances.  It is used in the same way for processing rawhide as well as skin for making glue.  While there are other alternatives, lime was most commonly used in 18th and 19th century tanning processes and by home tanners since.  It is easy to use, accessible, safe, predictable and does he job well.

What we call lime exists in a cycle.  There are three stages in the cycle and once the cycle is completed, it could theoretically be started over again.  Only one of the stages is useful for tanning and in the majority of other arts.

The first phase is the one in which lime naturally occurs.  That is as calcium carbonate.  Calcium Carbonate is what shells and limestone are made from, the natural materials from which we make the lime that we use.  This form would include chalk, limestone, dolomite, marl, marble, shells and coral.  Calcium carbonate is fairly inert and stable.  Ground limestone or ground shells can be used as a soil amendment to raise ph and provide calcium, but not for tanning.

Shell, limestone and marble, three common forms of calcium carbonate.  Any of the stones may have any number of impurities, Magnesium being very common.  Shells are probably ideal for tanning use since they are very pure being almost all calcium carbonate.  They are also very easy to turn into lime.

If we heat calcium carbonate up red hot we end up with Calcium Oxide aka quicklime.  Qucklime is mostly an interim stage, though it has some uses in the arts and industries.  As relates to tanning, it is an interim stage.  If you read old tanning books that say to use quicklime, but that is because they acquired quicklime and slaked it immediately into the the next form for use.  Quicklime is easy to transport because it is very light, and it just made sense in the old days to order freshly burned quicklime and transport it that way. It would then be slaked immediately as it does not keep well.

Quicklime, also known as lime shells whether made of shells or rocks.  As far as tanning goes, quicklime is just an interim stage.  Voraciously thirsty, unstable and highly reactive, lime shells should be processed immediately.  When quicklime is mentioned in old tanning literature it is often stated something like "take fresh burned lime".  Easy to transport because of their light weight, lime shells were often delivered fresh and slaked immediately in the liming pits.

When we add water to quicklime, it produces Calcium hydroxide in one of two forms.  If we add a lot of water to the quicklime we end up with lime putty.  If we add only a little water, the quicklime disintegrates into a fine powder that can be stored dry.  

The dry powder, Dry lime hydrate is what you can easily buy for processing hides for tanning.  It is available at hardware stores as "type S lime" or "builders lime" and according to some of my viewer/readers as "barn lime" in some parts of the country sold for spreading on barn floors.  Just make sure that you are not getting dolomite or agricultural lime which is just ground up rocks.

Dry lime hydrate, the stuff you can get at the local building supply, is made using small amounts of water, which causes the burned quicklime to disintegrate into a fine powder.  This process doesn't always work on shells.  At least use hot water with shells, then it might work.  Really though, you should make lime putty at home.  It is more stable and more potent than the dry hydrated lime.

Lime putty can be made at home. It is more potent than dry hydrate and less apt to go bad since all you have to do to preserve it is keep it under a layer of water where it will keep indefinitely.  Either dry hydrate or lime putty can be used in tanning to equally good effect though, you just don't have to use quite as much lime putty.  For more on lime in general and burning lime at home, see the lime page.

To make lime putty, just use more water.  The solids will settle to the bottom of the storage container.

For more on what lime is actually used for, tanning and pre-processing hides, you can see this video on de-hairing.

Related Videos  

Burning Shell Lime in a Primitive Straw/Clay Kiln

Tomorrow/Today is my birthday.  As I sit here at 11:58 pm, sipping tequila out of a bottle, trying to trap a loud and pesky mouse that is rolling bay nuts around the trailer and finishing up posting this project so I can move on to the next one, I want nothing more than to top the 1000 mark on my YouTube subscriptions today.  I have 959 subscribers, so only 41 to go!  If you can share this video somewhere that you think people will truly enjoy it and help me top 1000 subs by the end of the day, I will be just really happy about that.  Small victories you know.

I have two bottles of champagne.  One for reaching 1000 subs and another one for my first really mean and stupid YouTube comment!  YouTube comments are notoriously retarded.  Other YouTubers do entire episodes devoted to the stupid comments that they get, yet I have none!  I feel left out!  Clearly I need more exposure :)

This project was so fun :  I love burning lime, and now I'm thinking about how cool it would be to build something larger using a method similar to the straw kilns I show in these videos.  Something like this ancient style of coiled straw/clay Mexican granary that was the indirect inspiration for my kiln design, via friend and natural builder Michael Smith who saw these in Mexico and then innovated a straw/clay wattle wall system.

 Super neat Mexican granary design utilizing straw and clay in a coiled pot type of form.  This would almost surely use much more clay than I'm using.  I'm intrigued though by the idea of using a mix more similar to the pet to build something larger, like a pigeon cote, a smoker, or maybe a bedroom...

Super neat Mexican granary design utilizing straw and clay in a coiled pot type of form.  This would almost surely use much more clay than I'm using.  I'm intrigued though by the idea of using a mix more similar to the pet to build something larger, like a pigeon cote, a smoker, or maybe a bedroom...

 

I made two videos.  One is the short accessible version and the other is longer and more detailed.  It also introduces two of the new series or categories I've been dreaming up which are intended to make content more navigable and allow people to find the content they want to see more easily. 

The Buildzerker! series houses the short version.  It is a series for shorter general interest versions of projects I do.  For every person out there who is ready to know how to burn and slake lime in some detail, there must be hundreds that just think it's interesting to watch, or who might be influenced in some positive way simply by seeing it happen.  Buildzerker! is a way to entertain people, while planting seeds that may someday grow.  When anyone is ready, the long version is there.  I'm very happy with this effort.  It is fast paced, visually interesting and even beautiful, while covering a subject that is truly interesting.  I tried as hard as I could to make it worth 7 minutes of almost any persons life.

BuildCult is for more detailed how to versions of projects intended to transmit more knowledge.  This one is also fast paced, but packs a ton of information into 20 minutes, while still having all of the visual interest of the simple version.

I like both of them, and am really looking forward to making more.  I feel like I'm doing what I should be doing, and that's always good.  I hope you have a great day.

Turkeysong, the Year in Pictures 2013, Summer, Fall and Early Winter.

solstice moon
solstice moon
 scallions for market, Scallions and carrots are my market mainstays.  They hold in the ground for a while, so I don’t miss the crop window if I can’t make it to the market.

scallions for market, Scallions and carrots are my market mainstays.  They hold in the ground for a while, so I don’t miss the crop window if I can’t make it to the market.

 They just kept hatching more all summer.  Probably just because they’re happy free range chickens driven to fulfill their biological purpose.  These two chicks made it.  Mom moved them into the coop after most of their siblings were killed in a raccoon attack one night.  The price of freedom

They just kept hatching more all summer.  Probably just because they’re happy free range chickens driven to fulfill their biological purpose.  These two chicks made it.  Mom moved them into the coop after most of their siblings were killed in a raccoon attack one night.  The price of freedom

 Alligator lizard foreplay.  They’d probably be less than thrilled to know they were modeling for exhibition on the web.  They’ll run around like this for a while before they can get it up (cold blooded low metabolism at work I guess :).  I’m sure it’s totally hot to be bitten on the head if you’re an alligator lizard chick.  She looks stoked.

Alligator lizard foreplay.  They’d probably be less than thrilled to know they were modeling for exhibition on the web.  They’ll run around like this for a while before they can get it up (cold blooded low metabolism at work I guess :).  I’m sure it’s totally hot to be bitten on the head if you’re an alligator lizard chick.  She looks stoked.

 William’s Pride, half polished.  This apple ripens in August and seems promising for an early apple, but it has stiff competition in chestnut crab ripening in the same season.

William’s Pride, half polished.  This apple ripens in August and seems promising for an early apple, but it has stiff competition in chestnut crab ripening in the same season.

 Tomatillos roasting for salsa.  Roasting really adds some great flavor!

Tomatillos roasting for salsa.  Roasting really adds some great flavor!

 Zapotec tomato is a good eating and salsa tomato.  It didn’t turn out to be the great canner I hoped it would though, so it’s back to blue beech to fill that niche for now.  Paul Robeson was a great slicer and is probably here to stay (thanks mom for introducing me to both of those varieties!).  I usually have free seeds of my favorite tomatoes and vegetables at the farmer’s market in Ukiah, and at the winter scion exchange in Boonville.  I have a huge basket full of folded seed pockets ready to go.  They are almost like business cards.

Zapotec tomato is a good eating and salsa tomato.  It didn’t turn out to be the great canner I hoped it would though, so it’s back to blue beech to fill that niche for now.  Paul Robeson was a great slicer and is probably here to stay (thanks mom for introducing me to both of those varieties!).  I usually have free seeds of my favorite tomatoes and vegetables at the farmer’s market in Ukiah, and at the winter scion exchange in Boonville.  I have a huge basket full of folded seed pockets ready to go.  They are almost like business cards.

 Where the magic happens?  Grapefruits gleaned from town with lots of sugar.  According to the owners of this grapefruit tree, it produces fruit for about 11 months of the year.  Yet there is really not that much citrus planted in Ukiah.  Citrus trees are ornamental, easy to care for (usually needing very little if any care), the flowers smell good and they produce food that most people like, but which is relatively expensive to buy and is currently shipped in, often from long distances.  WTF homeowners?

Where the magic happens?  Grapefruits gleaned from town with lots of sugar.  According to the owners of this grapefruit tree, it produces fruit for about 11 months of the year.  Yet there is really not that much citrus planted in Ukiah.  Citrus trees are ornamental, easy to care for (usually needing very little if any care), the flowers smell good and they produce food that most people like, but which is relatively expensive to buy and is currently shipped in, often from long distances.  WTF homeowners?

 Curing potato onions.  Selling  potato onion starts on ebay  has been a helpful income boost since fall.

Curing potato onions.  Selling potato onion starts on ebay has been a helpful income boost since fall.

 potato onion slice showing the "eyes" or growing points that become new bulbs

potato onion slice showing the "eyes" or growing points that become new bulbs

 Grinding charcoal sifted out of the wood stove and fire pit ashes.  Every time I start a fire, I shovel out the cold ashes and charcoal from the last fire.  As you can see, it adds up!  I’ve pretty much abandoned this grinder for now, until I can restore it and set it to finer grind setting than the one it’s stuck on now, which is pea sized and down.  Now I’m using a garbage disposal unit that was set up a few years ago for grinding apples for the juice press.  It is much faster and makes a finer grind, though I sort of miss the meditative spinning of the wheel and knowing I was doing it with my own motive power.

Grinding charcoal sifted out of the wood stove and fire pit ashes.  Every time I start a fire, I shovel out the cold ashes and charcoal from the last fire.  As you can see, it adds up!  I’ve pretty much abandoned this grinder for now, until I can restore it and set it to finer grind setting than the one it’s stuck on now, which is pea sized and down.  Now I’m using a garbage disposal unit that was set up a few years ago for grinding apples for the juice press.  It is much faster and makes a finer grind, though I sort of miss the meditative spinning of the wheel and knowing I was doing it with my own motive power.

 The  interstem trees  that I did not graft over have come into pretty decent bearing.  Being young, I had to thin them quite a bit this year to prevent limb breakage.  They are tending to be suckery, but otherwise, I’d say this system is a success.  They seem fairly self sufficient, grow fast and fruit early.  The fruit quality is high so far.

The interstem trees that I did not graft over have come into pretty decent bearing.  Being young, I had to thin them quite a bit this year to prevent limb breakage.  They are tending to be suckery, but otherwise, I’d say this system is a success.  They seem fairly self sufficient, grow fast and fruit early.  The fruit quality is high so far.

 Onion braids and chili ristras at turkeysong, the romantic version.  Yellow of Parma Onion seems to be holding up pretty well in storage, but I’m not sure it’s my favorite flavor wise.

Onion braids and chili ristras at turkeysong, the romantic version.  Yellow of Parma Onion seems to be holding up pretty well in storage, but I’m not sure it’s my favorite flavor wise.

 The  Hall apple  has an interesting story.  It was very highly respected at one time, but was nearly lost to cultivation because it was too small to compete in the markets as food shifted increasingly toward larger scale production and people purchased more and grew less.  It was rediscovered by apple hunter  Tom Brown  (no, not the survival guy) who deserves major props for sleuthing out many old apples that would otherwise be lost forever.  Go Tom!  Hall was also grown in California at one time, and was of commercial interest, though it probably fell out of favor here for the same reasons.  Being a southern apple, it was resistant to our hot summers.  My few specimens this year were badly watercored, but that is likely to clear up as the tree matures.  The flavor was intense, even early in the season, so I’m hopeful it will stand up to the benchmarks already set by other great apples grown here.  This specimen is larger than average since it was grown on a cordon.

The Hall apple has an interesting story.  It was very highly respected at one time, but was nearly lost to cultivation because it was too small to compete in the markets as food shifted increasingly toward larger scale production and people purchased more and grew less.  It was rediscovered by apple hunter Tom Brown (no, not the survival guy) who deserves major props for sleuthing out many old apples that would otherwise be lost forever.  Go Tom!  Hall was also grown in California at one time, and was of commercial interest, though it probably fell out of favor here for the same reasons.  Being a southern apple, it was resistant to our hot summers.  My few specimens this year were badly watercored, but that is likely to clear up as the tree matures.  The flavor was intense, even early in the season, so I’m hopeful it will stand up to the benchmarks already set by other great apples grown here.  This specimen is larger than average since it was grown on a cordon.

 It was a good year for apples!  Some gigantic and some tiny.  Some delicious and some spitters.  The cordon trees have really started to produce.  They grow enormous apples.  My only complaint is that the apples seem somewhat watered down compared to those off of my other apple trees, no doubt because of watering.  I have to water them since they have small root systems and are crowded together, but I may cut back a little to see if I can get closer to the dry farmed taste intensity and sweetness of my other apples.  I got to taste a lot of new apples this year and have lost count of how many are fruiting.  I sold apples at the market and did a lot of impromptu tastings with people.  I’ve gotten some good input and insights now and feel confident to move forward with planting a few more trees for market.  I won’t be going large scale or anything.  I like keeping a diversified farm economy, it’s safe and resilient, and way more fun!  But I would like to be able to take more than a couple of boxes to market.  I’m consistently impressed by my apples and disappointed in everyone else’s.  I simply don’t take lame apples to market.  Those are for the chickens or the juice press.  All these years of research and trial testing varieties is paying off.  I’m not sure if I’ll do an apple variety blog report this year, but you’ll certainly be hearing more about worthy and unworthy apple varieties sometime in the future.  I’ve occasionally had my doubts about sinking so much time, thought and energy into the whole apple project, but tasting some great apples this year, and seeing people’s faces when trying them was very gratifying and has confirmed what my enthusiasm already knew.  That should be no surprise since it was all done out of passion and usually the thing you are most compelled to do will bear fruit in some way eventually.  That at least is how I’ve always lived.

It was a good year for apples!  Some gigantic and some tiny.  Some delicious and some spitters.  The cordon trees have really started to produce.  They grow enormous apples.  My only complaint is that the apples seem somewhat watered down compared to those off of my other apple trees, no doubt because of watering.  I have to water them since they have small root systems and are crowded together, but I may cut back a little to see if I can get closer to the dry farmed taste intensity and sweetness of my other apples.  I got to taste a lot of new apples this year and have lost count of how many are fruiting.  I sold apples at the market and did a lot of impromptu tastings with people.  I’ve gotten some good input and insights now and feel confident to move forward with planting a few more trees for market.  I won’t be going large scale or anything.  I like keeping a diversified farm economy, it’s safe and resilient, and way more fun!  But I would like to be able to take more than a couple of boxes to market.  I’m consistently impressed by my apples and disappointed in everyone else’s.  I simply don’t take lame apples to market.  Those are for the chickens or the juice press.  All these years of research and trial testing varieties is paying off.  I’m not sure if I’ll do an apple variety blog report this year, but you’ll certainly be hearing more about worthy and unworthy apple varieties sometime in the future.  I’ve occasionally had my doubts about sinking so much time, thought and energy into the whole apple project, but tasting some great apples this year, and seeing people’s faces when trying them was very gratifying and has confirmed what my enthusiasm already knew.  That should be no surprise since it was all done out of passion and usually the thing you are most compelled to do will bear fruit in some way eventually.  That at least is how I’ve always lived.

 Drying strawberries.  This was in the spring.  I just forgot to put it in the last post.  Dried strawberries are intensely flavored, but I can’t say they are super fun to just eat.  I haven’t really figured out what to do with them yet.  I’ll be sure to let you know if I break the dried strawberry code, and let us know if you already have.

Drying strawberries.  This was in the spring.  I just forgot to put it in the last post.  Dried strawberries are intensely flavored, but I can’t say they are super fun to just eat.  I haven’t really figured out what to do with them yet.  I’ll be sure to let you know if I break the dried strawberry code, and let us know if you already have.

 Red fleshed apples for making jelly

Red fleshed apples for making jelly

 jelly making and madrone berries for stringing

jelly making and madrone berries for stringing

 Red fleshed apple jelly with saffron.  I grow the saffron too.  Why yes, that is bad ass of me :)

Red fleshed apple jelly with saffron.  I grow the saffron too.  Why yes, that is bad ass of me :)

 Leek seed heads.  These represent the third or fourth generation of seed selected from Bulgarian Giant for height, girth, uprightness, cold hardiness and long smooth stalks.  The gene pool is somewhat limited as I usually only save 8 plants or so, but I’m hoping to trade for some seed from Bulgaria this year to freshen up the gene pool!  Lot’s of seed to give away this year.  You might be surprised how much seed is produced by 8 leek seed heads!  If you have been thinking about saving seed, but haven’t done it yet, my advice is to just start.  Tomatoes are easy and don’t inter-cross.  Lettuce is easy and also doesn’t cross out, so you can just let your best one or two plants go to seed.  It gets more complicated from there, but you can worry about that later!  Find the easy stuff and just start.  Our seed supply and genetic diversity are seriously threatened by current trends.  This is a real problem that we can all solve by taking control of our own seed supplies.  We don’t have to save everything either.  We can divide always trade too.

Leek seed heads.  These represent the third or fourth generation of seed selected from Bulgarian Giant for height, girth, uprightness, cold hardiness and long smooth stalks.  The gene pool is somewhat limited as I usually only save 8 plants or so, but I’m hoping to trade for some seed from Bulgaria this year to freshen up the gene pool!  Lot’s of seed to give away this year.  You might be surprised how much seed is produced by 8 leek seed heads!  If you have been thinking about saving seed, but haven’t done it yet, my advice is to just start.  Tomatoes are easy and don’t inter-cross.  Lettuce is easy and also doesn’t cross out, so you can just let your best one or two plants go to seed.  It gets more complicated from there, but you can worry about that later!  Find the easy stuff and just start.  Our seed supply and genetic diversity are seriously threatened by current trends.  This is a real problem that we can all solve by taking control of our own seed supplies.  We don’t have to save everything either.  We can divide always trade too.

 A few potato onion seedlings showing some diversity of color and size.  Maybe one of these will be the next best potato onion ever.

A few potato onion seedlings showing some diversity of color and size.  Maybe one of these will be the next best potato onion ever.

 Fall colors in red fleshed apple seedlings.  Some clearly show much more red than others.

Fall colors in red fleshed apple seedlings.  Some clearly show much more red than others.

 Red fleshed apple seedling in fall.

Red fleshed apple seedling in fall.

 This apple, labeled Vin de St Maurice, is huge.  More huger than it actually looks in this picture.  It wasn’t super exciting to eat, but maybe it will improve.

This apple, labeled Vin de St Maurice, is huge.  More huger than it actually looks in this picture.  It wasn’t super exciting to eat, but maybe it will improve.

 Winterstein.  Allegedly the only apple bred by famous plant breeder Luther Burbank

Winterstein.  Allegedly the only apple bred by famous plant breeder Luther Burbank

 Saffron bulbs begining to sprout in fall.  Each of those little shoots coming out the side will become a new bulb.  I had them multiplied up to probably 800 to 1000 bulbs after starting with just 35 or so.  Then a gopher discovered my nursery bed and kicked by butt.  I lost about 2/3 of them, which at around 50 cents piece to replace them is a pretty big loss.  The remaining were replanted in a new bed which was also discovered and the plants started disappearing underground one by one.  I dug up all the plants, lined the bed with wire, and replanted.  Take that suckas!  I’m on a mission to grow saffron here.  Obviously gophers and voles are going to be a major issue, but my gears have been spinning for several years to come up with possible solutions.  Like so many things, there should be a local saffron industry in California, at least to cover local use.  It is very easy to grow aside from the rodent issue.

Saffron bulbs begining to sprout in fall.  Each of those little shoots coming out the side will become a new bulb.  I had them multiplied up to probably 800 to 1000 bulbs after starting with just 35 or so.  Then a gopher discovered my nursery bed and kicked by butt.  I lost about 2/3 of them, which at around 50 cents piece to replace them is a pretty big loss.  The remaining were replanted in a new bed which was also discovered and the plants started disappearing underground one by one.  I dug up all the plants, lined the bed with wire, and replanted.  Take that suckas!  I’m on a mission to grow saffron here.  Obviously gophers and voles are going to be a major issue, but my gears have been spinning for several years to come up with possible solutions.  Like so many things, there should be a local saffron industry in California, at least to cover local use.  It is very easy to grow aside from the rodent issue.

 Saffron root growing through a piece of  “the pet” , a clay charcoal kiln that was pulverized and used to amend the saffron crocus bed.  Burnt clay is supposed to be a good soil amendment.  did this root find that hole in the fired clay and dive in?  Or did it just bump into it and end up in there?

Saffron root growing through a piece of “the pet”, a clay charcoal kiln that was pulverized and used to amend the saffron crocus bed.  Burnt clay is supposed to be a good soil amendment.  did this root find that hole in the fired clay and dive in?  Or did it just bump into it and end up in there?

 Dressing a piece of lat year’s bull hide.  This piece of leather went to shoe maker  Holly Embree  and was used to make a pair of shoes for the  fiber shed fashion gala .  She was able  to work with the chicken tracks that I couldn’t manage to dress out :/

Dressing a piece of lat year’s bull hide.  This piece of leather went to shoe maker Holly Embree and was used to make a pair of shoes for the fiber shed fashion gala.  She was able  to work with the chicken tracks that I couldn’t manage to dress out :/

 Bay nuts galore this year!  This picture shows the genetic diversity of the bay nut.  I suspect that indicates a high potential for breeding for improvements in size, form, oil content, etc… After all, it’s relative the avocado was bred from a small, barely edible fruit.  Look for a book from paleotechnics on bay trees and bay nuts this fall (you might not find it, but look anyway:)

Bay nuts galore this year!  This picture shows the genetic diversity of the bay nut.  I suspect that indicates a high potential for breeding for improvements in size, form, oil content, etc… After all, it’s relative the avocado was bred from a small, barely edible fruit.  Look for a book from paleotechnics on bay trees and bay nuts this fall (you might not find it, but look anyway:)

 The best drier.  The car dashboards are in constant use every fall and much of the summer for drying stuff.   There are more trays and boxes in the background.  They haven’t all been weighed yet, but probably around 150 pounds total this year.  I’ll be  selling them  on ebay and elsewhere.

The best drier.  The car dashboards are in constant use every fall and much of the summer for drying stuff.   There are more trays and boxes in the background.  They haven’t all been weighed yet, but probably around 150 pounds total this year.  I’ll be selling them on ebay and elsewhere.

 Bay nuts in a mesh bag.  Just a cool picture.

Bay nuts in a mesh bag.  Just a cool picture.

  Roating bay nuts in a popcorn popper , my new preferred method until I invent and build a better roaster.

Roating bay nuts in a popcorn popper, my new preferred method until I invent and build a better roaster.

 Cracking bay nuts in the  Davebilt  nutcracker.  This machine is manufactured and sold by a very nice old couple in Lake County.  It can be set for any size of nut.  It sure beats tapping each one with a rock!  An investment, but a solid one if you crack nuts every year.  It’s built like a tank.

Cracking bay nuts in the Davebilt nutcracker.  This machine is manufactured and sold by a very nice old couple in Lake County.  It can be set for any size of nut.  It sure beats tapping each one with a rock!  An investment, but a solid one if you crack nuts every year.  It’s built like a tank.

 Roasted bay nuts, mmmmm….

Roasted bay nuts, mmmmm….

 bagged and ready for market

bagged and ready for market

 Bay nut candy ingredients- chili powders, hand gathered sea salt and maple sugar

Bay nut candy ingredients- chili powders, hand gathered sea salt and maple sugar

 Bay nut paste ground find for making candy.  Bay nuts contain 60% of almost entirely saturated oils, much like coconut and chocolate do.  When ground, the oils melt and the paste can be shaped to cool into chocolate like confections.  Isn’t that cool?!

Bay nut paste ground find for making candy.  Bay nuts contain 60% of almost entirely saturated oils, much like coconut and chocolate do.  When ground, the oils melt and the paste can be shaped to cool into chocolate like confections.  Isn’t that cool?!

 Paleotechnics cofounder and Turkeysong partner and veteran bay nut pusher Tamara Wilder rolling out bay nut paste.

Paleotechnics cofounder and Turkeysong partner and veteran bay nut pusher Tamara Wilder rolling out bay nut paste.

 Cuttting

Cuttting

 Cooling bay nut candies to harden.  They are hard at room temperature and melt in your mouth or hand just like chocolate.  You know you want one, but so far they are only for sale sporadically at random paleotechnics events.

Cooling bay nut candies to harden.  They are hard at room temperature and melt in your mouth or hand just like chocolate.  You know you want one, but so far they are only for sale sporadically at random paleotechnics events.

 Happiness is a full woodshed, but this shed is less than full.  At least it’s half full and not half empty this year!  It does have a nice stack of fat slabs of fir bark for lime burning projects!  This bark is from 60 year old stumps, still solid and dense with a high fuel value.  I like the florist sighn with half the F eaten off by a horse.  That’s going to market this year.  Very country chic.

Happiness is a full woodshed, but this shed is less than full.  At least it’s half full and not half empty this year!  It does have a nice stack of fat slabs of fir bark for lime burning projects!  This bark is from 60 year old stumps, still solid and dense with a high fuel value.  I like the florist sighn with half the F eaten off by a horse.  That’s going to market this year.  Very country chic.

 Persimmons peeled for drying.

Persimmons peeled for drying.

 Drying persimmons hung from the building eaves.  This is how they do it in Japan.

Drying persimmons hung from the building eaves.  This is how they do it in Japan.

 Drying hachiya persimmons.  These are so good!  Persimmons are dried and eaten all over temperate asia, but are just being discovered by other-than-Asian Americans.  I’m planning to plant more, but still deciding what varieties.  The plants are productive, disease resistant, almost pest free and require little pruning.  My neighbors let me pick about 150 fruits off of their 30 year old tree after they had already picked 550 large fruits!  I never knew what to do with that many persimmons until I found out about drying them whole a few years ago.  Early experiments went okay, but when tonia brought some back from chinatown, I realized the true potential and I’m all over it now.  They’re like a giant natural gummy bear that’s been deboned, had it’s limbs and head removed and was given a hat and squished flat.. sort of.  Persimmons are a great example of the latent resource potential concept I’m so into since moving here.  After establishment, the long lived trees will produce persimmons whether they get used or not.  They could be eaten, sold fresh, dried and sold, traded, gifted (part of any truly stable economy), fed to animals or just left to look pretty on the tree.  Awesome.  I’ll be learning more about persimmons and figuring out how to graft them.  There is a great persimmon collection at Winters here in California with varieties from all over the world.

Drying hachiya persimmons.  These are so good!  Persimmons are dried and eaten all over temperate asia, but are just being discovered by other-than-Asian Americans.  I’m planning to plant more, but still deciding what varieties.  The plants are productive, disease resistant, almost pest free and require little pruning.  My neighbors let me pick about 150 fruits off of their 30 year old tree after they had already picked 550 large fruits!  I never knew what to do with that many persimmons until I found out about drying them whole a few years ago.  Early experiments went okay, but when tonia brought some back from chinatown, I realized the true potential and I’m all over it now.  They’re like a giant natural gummy bear that’s been deboned, had it’s limbs and head removed and was given a hat and squished flat.. sort of.  Persimmons are a great example of the latent resource potential concept I’m so into since moving here.  After establishment, the long lived trees will produce persimmons whether they get used or not.  They could be eaten, sold fresh, dried and sold, traded, gifted (part of any truly stable economy), fed to animals or just left to look pretty on the tree.  Awesome.  I’ll be learning more about persimmons and figuring out how to graft them.  There is a great persimmon collection at Winters here in California with varieties from all over the world.

 Happy birthday to you!  The daughters of  young love  on their second birthday.  Yay!  Coming out party in a few years!  And many mooore…

Happy birthday to you!  The daughters of young love on their second birthday.  Yay!  Coming out party in a few years!  And many mooore…

 Hopefully the last smokey lime burn ever here at turkeysong.  I only did it for pictures to finish off the lime  burning in drums  era with a blog post.  All kinda plans for lime burning experimentation rattling around in here.

Hopefully the last smokey lime burn ever here at turkeysong.  I only did it for pictures to finish off the lime burning in drums era with a blog post.  All kinda plans for lime burning experimentation rattling around in here.

 Slaking shell lime boiling like crazy.  Still exciting every time!

Slaking shell lime boiling like crazy.  Still exciting every time!

 Lots of charcoal making experiments brewing in my head.  The  cone kiln concept using a pit  is especially exciting.   This guy  is doing something similar in hawaii, though his burn strategy is a little different.  I think there is huge potential here and will be experimenting if it ever rains around here.  Thanks to reader Lars for pointing me in this direction.

Lots of charcoal making experiments brewing in my head.  The cone kiln concept using a pit is especially exciting.  This guy is doing something similar in hawaii, though his burn strategy is a little different.  I think there is huge potential here and will be experimenting if it ever rains around here.  Thanks to reader Lars for pointing me in this direction.

 A 60 year old lump of ossified douglas fir pitch.  What could that possibly be used for?  All kinds of stuff!  In this case, making soot for use in manufacturing ink.  I hope to illustrate all publications from here out with home made artist materials, the mainstay of which will be Asian style lampblack ink and turkey quill pens.

A 60 year old lump of ossified douglas fir pitch.  What could that possibly be used for?  All kinds of stuff!  In this case, making soot for use in manufacturing ink.  I hope to illustrate all publications from here out with home made artist materials, the mainstay of which will be Asian style lampblack ink and turkey quill pens.

 Collecting fir pitch soot (aka  lampblack ) off of a flat rock for use in ink making.

Collecting fir pitch soot (aka lampblack) off of a flat rock for use in ink making.

 Hybrid amaryllis   coming up under the interstem trees.  I’ve got quite a few trees planted to these bulb as an understory, now and will start seeing some results (or lack of) soon.  Unfortunately, these ones go beat pretty hard in an extended freeze just after this was taken.  Most of them seem like they’re recovering.  I’m probably right about at the limit of what they’ll tolerate weather wise.

Hybrid amaryllis coming up under the interstem trees.  I’ve got quite a few trees planted to these bulb as an understory, now and will start seeing some results (or lack of) soon.  Unfortunately, these ones go beat pretty hard in an extended freeze just after this was taken.  Most of them seem like they’re recovering.  I’m probably right about at the limit of what they’ll tolerate weather wise.

 Black Sage bundles tied with agave fiber.

Black Sage bundles tied with agave fiber.

 This is the apple that Greenmantle nursery trademarked under the name Pink Parfait™.  My apple guru says it’s the best of the Etter blood apples, and I’m becoming inclined to agree.  It is not as red or as intensely flavored, but it does have some of the same fruit punch/berry aromatics and it is a very pleasant eating experience with an outstanding juicy open texture.  The flesh seems to disappear as you chew it.  It also ripened very late for me (later than anything but lady williams!), hung very tight to the tree and survived an extended hard freeze in stellar condition.  But wait, there’s more!  It’s quite beautiful and sweeter than many of them as well.  All in all an excellent apple (at least this year here in California.  Our mileage will probably vary).  Now if we can only get this kind of quality with more pigmentation and more red flavor.  Thanks Albert! I wish you could have lived long enough to see your work really appreciated.

This is the apple that Greenmantle nursery trademarked under the name Pink Parfait™.  My apple guru says it’s the best of the Etter blood apples, and I’m becoming inclined to agree.  It is not as red or as intensely flavored, but it does have some of the same fruit punch/berry aromatics and it is a very pleasant eating experience with an outstanding juicy open texture.  The flesh seems to disappear as you chew it.  It also ripened very late for me (later than anything but lady williams!), hung very tight to the tree and survived an extended hard freeze in stellar condition.  But wait, there’s more!  It’s quite beautiful and sweeter than many of them as well.  All in all an excellent apple (at least this year here in California.  Our mileage will probably vary).  Now if we can only get this kind of quality with more pigmentation and more red flavor.  Thanks Albert! I wish you could have lived long enough to see your work really appreciated.

Thanks for tuning in this year!  The Turkeysong blog had 24,000 views in 2013, many of them from people searching the web for relevant information of some kind, which I hope they found (although searches for "How to grow a big ass" and "leek in ass" continue to trickle in as well and I hope those people weren't too disappointed).  Subscriptions continue to grow and I've got plenty more to say!

I'm hoping, if I can, to start an income stream from writing and blogging, so that I can keep doing this.  That will mean more books published and probably affiliate links to amazon on the blogs (Don't worry, I'm not going to try to sell you anything you don't need.  I'm all about people buying less physical stuff and doing things for themselves.  That's practically a mission for me.  Most of them will be to books I write and maybe other books or products that I review, like the gophinator trap.)  I'll probably stay away from advertising altogether, because it's just so annoying, and again, I don't want to sell people anything they don't need, because that's half of the worlds problems in a nutshell.  Or if so, they will be extremely select.  I should be moving to a domain too so I can get rid of the ads that come up on these free wordpress domains.

I really like blogging.  Exploring new and old ideas and techniques, and sharing relevant information, are at the core of my being and always have been.  I'm at something of a cross roads with the blogs and plans for other projects.  I have some other blog ideas, but don't want to get spread too far out, or over-complicate things.  When I started this blog, I thought it would cover all of my interests and ideas, representing the diverse enigma that I am.  Since I was so immersed in homestead stuff at the time, and realized that I had built a small audience around that interest, I decided to branch off and put primitive tech stuff on the Paleotechnics site.  I feel a little disjointed though, because I'm all about the integration of ideas, old and new.  Being intensely immersed in paleotechnology stuff for a long time in my 20's gave me a valuable insight into environments and of the potential for all kinds of materials to be turned to use.  That has been invaluable in helping me see the land, and basically everything, as a resource-scape full of potential, as well as being a sort of organism that I play a part in.  Part of my philosophy is that we should aim not to reject ideas and practices categorically, but rather that it behooves us to view things for what they are and what they do and don't have to offer in the view of a larger context, and integrate or reject them accordingly.  Sounds reasonable I know, but we have a strong tendency to think in black and white categories and build identities around what we are and aren't, what we do and don't do and what is and isn't too new, too old, too whatever.  I'm sorely tempted to throw all my ideas and projects, new and old, together in one place and let everyone sort it out.  While I don't want to alienate a specific audience either, it occurs to me sometimes that I should just write for an audience of diverse interests.  On the other hand, I respect that everyone doesn't want to hear what I think about The politics and social ills of the marijuana black market economy in Northern California, or Rife machines, or how to make a stone bowl using just rocks, or a pimped out chicken powered composting system.

I also can't always find my voice when writing for different audiences.  In some ways, I can best reach my generation and younger people, because we've lived in the same times and speak, to some extent, the same language.  My generation is coming into positions of power and greater influence now and could use a little shaking up. (If you were to ask me, which apparently you don't have to :D.

One thought is to have a central blog that covers everything I do and will serve as a sort of news feed.  That site could have just links to my other blogs and projects, or entire posts replicated.  Also, anything that didn't really fit in on a another blog would go there.   That is appealing in some ways, and may be the best solution, but also sounds complicated and will increase computing time and thereby decrease working time.

I'd appreciate anyone's input on these ideas and thoughts and perspectives on this blog and/or the paleotechnics blog.  What you do and don't want to hear about, what you appreciate or could do without and ideas about structuring content in one place or across multiple sites, or just whatever.

Oh yeah, and once I scrounge up enough money to get a decent video camera, I'm hoping to start a TOTALLY BAD ASS YOU TUBE CHANNEL.  Or is it two channels?  or three?  See, more spreading out :/

Turkeysong, the Year in Pictures 2013 Late Winter and Spring

collecting red fleshed apple pollen header
collecting red fleshed apple pollen header

It's been a challenging year.  My love and best friend moved away in the spring, leaving a hole in my life that still feels like it will never close all the way.  In classic bad timing, I was also embarking on diet and lifestyle changes in yet another attempt to improve my crappy health which I had made worse the previous season by going on a very restricted low carbohydrate diet called GAPS (shudder).  My new approach included, as importantly as anything, stress reduction, but with a broken heart, very little money, no energy and pretty much on my own for the first time in forever without anything resembling a reliable income, that didn't happen so much.  I got pretty low functioning for a while but managed to squeak through the worst of it.

I was only able to make the farmer's market, my main source of income, about once a month where I average less than 100.00.  I was as chubby as I've ever been in my life and pretty damn weak.  I remember killing a chicken to eat and having to rest 3 times in order to finish processing it.  I started plucking it, but it was too much work so I just tore the skin off.  Another time I prepped for the market the night before, and finished washing carrots in the morning.  By the time I was ready, I was too exhausted to make the trip, so I had to blow it off.  A bunch of produce, including a cooler full of amazing carrots, the best crop of the year, went to the chickens.  That sort of thing was not unusual for me unfortunately, but doing it alone was.  I almost never slept more than 5 hours consecutively,usually less, and often only managed to get 4 or 6 hours of sleep total over 24 hours.

Fortunately this nutcase/genius,

Matt-Stone-author-pic
Matt-Stone-author-pic

Matt Stone's advice on improving my metabolic rate has paid off in the long run, in spite of some circumstantial bumps in the road.  Regardless of all of the difficulties, my mood was greatly moderated throughout by listening to my body and eating whatever I felt like, whenever I wanted, and then some.  I also stopped working unless I felt really up to it and drastically cut my consumption of liquids, especially the holy elixir of eternal youth, plain water.  Over the last couple months I've lost fat and gained muscle while continuing to follow that basic approach and adding a very small amount of body weight exercise..  I still have some way to go to be really high functioning, but I have a pretty normal body temperature for the first time in ages, and I feel good with increasing frequency, not just not bad, but actually good, always a great rarity for me and valuable beyond words.  On new years eve I wore a t-shirt outside until about 11:00 pm because my metabolism was so jacked up that it felt like I was pushing the cold air away by radiating heat.  My personality has definitely changed for the better, and I'm more convinced than ever that the severity of peoples emotional and phychological issues is often, if not usually, rooted in physiological dysfunction.  A resilient physiology makes for a resilient person.

Other things have helped me along the way, but this is the ONLY approach that has ever felt like it's given me a real foundation on which to potentially build back true health after 15 years of lyme related issues, as well as being kind of messed up for most of the rest of my adult life.  Throwing supplements, exercises, superfoods or whatever at health problems is largely a waste of time if the baseline of the organism, the production of cellular energy, is compromised and replaced (as it always is when compromised) by a stress response chemistry.  Metabolism is where it's at folks.  Low body temperature = an unhappy body.

At this point, I'm pretty much letting my body do the driving, doing my best to make it feel safe, well nourished and well rested, and trusting it to sort out what to do with the resources I give it.  I'm pretty sure now that it's smarter than me.  I'm hoping that I will continue to improve so I can more fully realize my potential to kick some serious experimental/educational butt in 2014, but everything will take a back seat to gaining and retaining a healthy state, whether I get there or not.

Even with all the challenges and a major lag during the summer, I still managed to do some cool stuff and take a bunch of pictures.  I've broken the year in pictures up into two parts of which this is number one.  Hopefully next year it will be in 4 parts!

Erlicheer at the Ukiah Farmer's Market.  This smelly small double narcissus, was a big hit. It looks like little roses. It doesn't seem like a good candidate for my tree understory system, but it's very popular as a cut flower.
Erlicheer at the Ukiah Farmer's Market. This smelly small double narcissus, was a big hit. It looks like little roses. It doesn't seem like a good candidate for my tree understory system, but it's very popular as a cut flower.
girl smelling narcissus
girl smelling narcissus
Mowgli's Favorite, one of Bill Welch's creations
Mowgli's Favorite, one of Bill Welch's creations
A Collet Vert rutabagas.  This is the best rutabaga I've grown.
A Collet Vert rutabagas. This is the best rutabaga I've grown.
coagulated goat's blood being wrapped for freezing.  Incredibly nutritious and surprisingly tasty fried.
coagulated goat's blood being wrapped for freezing. Incredibly nutritious and surprisingly tasty fried.
 Many of the  inter-stem apples  that I planted a couple of years ago were re-grafted to new varieties.  Most are dessert or dual purpose dessert/cider apples.  All the grafts took and they grew very nicely, aside from a couple of grafts breaking in the wind when I unwrapped them too early. One broke at about 12 inches long. It still looked plump and healthy, so I trimmed off the leaves and re-grafted a section of it back into a fresh split immediately. It took. That supports the idea that you can get away with grafting at many different times of the year. In a low risk situation like that one, why not try?  Note also crops being grown under the trees.  It benefits the trees with extra water and nutrients they otherwise probably would not get, and the roots help condition the soil and inject organic matter.  I’m hoping this whole strip will eventually have an understory of winter growing flowers ala my  winter bulbs under fruit trees project .

Many of the inter-stem apples that I planted a couple of years ago were re-grafted to new varieties.  Most are dessert or dual purpose dessert/cider apples.  All the grafts took and they grew very nicely, aside from a couple of grafts breaking in the wind when I unwrapped them too early. One broke at about 12 inches long. It still looked plump and healthy, so I trimmed off the leaves and re-grafted a section of it back into a fresh split immediately. It took. That supports the idea that you can get away with grafting at many different times of the year. In a low risk situation like that one, why not try?  Note also crops being grown under the trees.  It benefits the trees with extra water and nutrients they otherwise probably would not get, and the roots help condition the soil and inject organic matter.  I’m hoping this whole strip will eventually have an understory of winter growing flowers ala my winter bulbs under fruit trees project.

 The cuttings from my first batch of red fleshed apple seedlings pollinated in spring 2011, ready for grafting.  Each has a tag with a unique code, so I can keep track and take notes from here out.  The roots were planted in a block somewhere as a sort of backup.

The cuttings from my first batch of red fleshed apple seedlings pollinated in spring 2011, ready for grafting.  Each has a tag with a unique code, so I can keep track and take notes from here out.  The roots were planted in a block somewhere as a sort of backup.

 Red fleshed apple seedling nursery.  They are grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks. In a somewhat bold move, I grafted the entire length of most of the scions instead of the usual 2 or 3 buds on a short stick.  Some of them were a couple feet long. I had 100% take on these grafts.  Apparently, the more buds they have, the sooner they’ll fruit, so I’ll do virtually no pruning from here out.  All are staked, and completely painted with grafting wax to prevent drying until the graft can heal. Note also the shade cloth. Overall, it was a good year for grafting. Various experiments I’ve done indicate that the conservative way most of us usually approach grafting is not always necessary, and probably very limiting. I’ll be experimenting more, so hold your breath for EXTREME GRAFTING!!! (THE MOVIE!?)

Red fleshed apple seedling nursery.  They are grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks. In a somewhat bold move, I grafted the entire length of most of the scions instead of the usual 2 or 3 buds on a short stick.  Some of them were a couple feet long. I had 100% take on these grafts.  Apparently, the more buds they have, the sooner they’ll fruit, so I’ll do virtually no pruning from here out.  All are staked, and completely painted with grafting wax to prevent drying until the graft can heal. Note also the shade cloth. Overall, it was a good year for grafting. Various experiments I’ve done indicate that the conservative way most of us usually approach grafting is not always necessary, and probably very limiting. I’ll be experimenting more, so hold your breath for EXTREME GRAFTING!!! (THE MOVIE!?)

 I’m increasingly impressed by notching.  Notching above a bud encourages it to grow out, or to grow longer and stronger.  This tree was trained by a combination of dis-budding and notching.  By so doing, I got scaffold branches exactly where I wanted them and therefore the basic shape of the tree in one year from a single stem!  I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this cool technique I picked up from a very old tree training study, but for now, it’s really this simple- leave 3 buds grouped together along the whip wherever you want a scaffold, removing all other buds except a couple at the top, notch one bud in each group to grow out the direction you want that scaffold to point in (one in each direction for open center or delayed open center). Let all growth except basal suckers grow through the season. Trim off anything you don’t want next winter. Why doesn’t everyone do this instead of the usual slower training methods? That’s a good question and I think the answer is key to making progress in gardening and farming. The approach to gardening and farming seems to be conservative by our nature, but it is often based on baseless common knowledge that is not infrequently short sighted, overly conservative, or just plain wrong. This method of notching combined with disbudding was proven out starting in 1926, but seems to have had little influence as far as I’ve encountered.

I’m increasingly impressed by notching.  Notching above a bud encourages it to grow out, or to grow longer and stronger.  This tree was trained by a combination of dis-budding and notching.  By so doing, I got scaffold branches exactly where I wanted them and therefore the basic shape of the tree in one year from a single stem!  I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this cool technique I picked up from a very old tree training study, but for now, it’s really this simple- leave 3 buds grouped together along the whip wherever you want a scaffold, removing all other buds except a couple at the top, notch one bud in each group to grow out the direction you want that scaffold to point in (one in each direction for open center or delayed open center). Let all growth except basal suckers grow through the season. Trim off anything you don’t want next winter. Why doesn’t everyone do this instead of the usual slower training methods? That’s a good question and I think the answer is key to making progress in gardening and farming. The approach to gardening and farming seems to be conservative by our nature, but it is often based on baseless common knowledge that is not infrequently short sighted, overly conservative, or just plain wrong. This method of notching combined with disbudding was proven out starting in 1926, but seems to have had little influence as far as I’ve encountered.

 bee on red fleshed apple flower.  The red pigment can infuse the flowers, leaves, bark and wood as well as the fruit. It was an excellent spring for setting fruit.

bee on red fleshed apple flower.  The red pigment can infuse the flowers, leaves, bark and wood as well as the fruit. It was an excellent spring for setting fruit.

 Collecting pollen of Red Fleshed apple for breeding effort

Collecting pollen of Red Fleshed apple for breeding effort

 Mr. Beethead.  Just a surplus beet from the garden that ended up amusing a lot of people at the local hot springs where it resided in a bowl of water for a few weeks.

Mr. Beethead.  Just a surplus beet from the garden that ended up amusing a lot of people at the local hot springs where it resided in a bowl of water for a few weeks.

Gratuitous cute chick pic
Gratuitous cute chick pic
Chicks eating an unwanted turnip.
Chicks eating an unwanted turnip.
chicken poo.  A common sight at turkeysong.  Good stuff when it's not on your shoe.
chicken poo. A common sight at turkeysong. Good stuff when it's not on your shoe.
The new chicken coop.  The floor is 1"x2" screen allowing most of the poop to fall through and dry on the floor below for easy collection.  Very convenient and more pleasant for the chickens than most designs.
The new chicken coop. The floor is 1"x2" screen allowing most of the poop to fall through and dry on the floor below for easy collection. Very convenient and more pleasant for the chickens than most designs.
Chicks and mom drinking at the watering hole.  With mom at the watering hole.  It was an epic chick year with probably over 11 hens going broody.  Finding the balance between being over the carrying capacity of the land, and maintaining a surplus large enough to offset depredation is proving to be tricky.  Over 20 is too many.  They're tearing the place up pretty good.  I'm working my way through them one Tom Kha Gai and Yakitori skewer at a time.  The meat quality is really outstanding.  So are the eggs.  These chicks are laying now.
Chicks and mom drinking at the watering hole. With mom at the watering hole. It was an epic chick year with probably over 11 hens going broody. Finding the balance between being over the carrying capacity of the land, and maintaining a surplus large enough to offset depredation is proving to be tricky. Over 20 is too many. They're tearing the place up pretty good. I'm working my way through them one Tom Kha Gai and Yakitori skewer at a time. The meat quality is really outstanding. So are the eggs. These chicks are laying now.
What happens when you don't perform here at turkeysong.  The batch of Buckeye chickens didn't work out for eggs and in general.  Buckeye fail.  however, they are really excellent meat birds I have to say.
What happens when you don't perform here at turkeysong. The batch of Buckeye chickens didn't work out for eggs and in general. Buckeye fail. however, they are really excellent meat birds I have to say.
Bull hide on tanning beam.  This bull hide from the neighbors turned out to be cut up pretty bad which is typical when anyone but a tanner skins an animal.  I made a little leather and some glue and some compost.
Bull hide on tanning beam. This bull hide from the neighbors turned out to be cut up pretty bad which is typical when anyone but a tanner skins an animal. I made a little leather and some glue and some compost.
an experimental piece of skin from the bull hide above that was soaked in hen dung tea.  The enzymes from bacteria and the poop itself probably, condition the skin, relax it and take out the remaining lime.  This test shows that the "bate" as it's called, has acted on the skin enough to be very pliable and impressionable.  Now it's ready for the bark liquor.
an experimental piece of skin from the bull hide above that was soaked in hen dung tea. The enzymes from bacteria and the poop itself probably, condition the skin, relax it and take out the remaining lime. This test shows that the "bate" as it's called, has acted on the skin enough to be very pliable and impressionable. Now it's ready for the bark liquor.
 Bull hide scraps cleaned and dried for making  hide glue .  These were limed, and then rinsed and scraped like crazy to remove unwanted impurities and leave (as much as possible) just collagen, the stuff that glue is made of.

Bull hide scraps cleaned and dried for making hide glue.  These were limed, and then rinsed and scraped like crazy to remove unwanted impurities and leave (as much as possible) just collagen, the stuff that glue is made of.

Cooled hide glue gelatin slab made by boiling skin scraps, ready to be cut into cubes
Cooled hide glue gelatin slab made by boiling skin scraps, ready to be cut into cubes
Dried hide glue squares ready for storage and glue making.  Glue is made up by soaking in water till swelled and then heating to dissolve.
Dried hide glue squares ready for storage and glue making. Glue is made up by soaking in water till swelled and then heating to dissolve.
Just because it's a cool picture.
Just because it's a cool picture.
goat hide stretched in frame to dry.  This is mostly for making miniature drums, but also any other crafty things that come up.
goat hide stretched in frame to dry. This is mostly for making miniature drums, but also any other crafty things that come up.
wittle wawhide drums.  Popular at farmers market and paleotechnics events.
wittle wawhide drums. Popular at farmers market and paleotechnics events.
Bracelets of bark tanned goat skin.  I made a big 'ol pile of them in the spring. I think my design is pretty cool.
Bracelets of bark tanned goat skin. I made a big 'ol pile of them in the spring. I think my design is pretty cool.
 Fallen giant. This spring marked the sad beginning of felling trees infected with Phytopthera ramorum, the organism that causes sudden oak death syndrome. :( If I get them early enough, before they go into the sudden death phase, I can still  peel the bark  and use it for  bark tanning skins . Sadly tanoak is sort of a hinge pin species in this environment. It is the most reliable mast producer for squirrels, deer, birds and more, and of course ultimately for the things that eat them. It is also a symbiotic partner to most of the edible mushrooms that grow here. It’s loss will be devastating to the ecology and me, since I interact with the land I live on here. I may do some experiments planting chestnuts as a potentiall replacement, but they’ll be a long time in growing to fruiting size.  I expect to lose 90% of our tanoaks in the next 5 to 6 years, which is a lot since it’s a major species here. I totally just pulled those numbers out of my butt, I have no idea what it will really be like except for seeing other areas that have been hit. Fortunately other oaks and tree species are not nearly as susceptible.

Fallen giant. This spring marked the sad beginning of felling trees infected with Phytopthera ramorum, the organism that causes sudden oak death syndrome. :( If I get them early enough, before they go into the sudden death phase, I can still peel the bark and use it for bark tanning skins. Sadly tanoak is sort of a hinge pin species in this environment. It is the most reliable mast producer for squirrels, deer, birds and more, and of course ultimately for the things that eat them. It is also a symbiotic partner to most of the edible mushrooms that grow here. It’s loss will be devastating to the ecology and me, since I interact with the land I live on here. I may do some experiments planting chestnuts as a potentiall replacement, but they’ll be a long time in growing to fruiting size.  I expect to lose 90% of our tanoaks in the next 5 to 6 years, which is a lot since it’s a major species here. I totally just pulled those numbers out of my butt, I have no idea what it will really be like except for seeing other areas that have been hit. Fortunately other oaks and tree species are not nearly as susceptible.

 tonia peeling tan bark with a spud. In this case the spud is just a wooden pole sharpened to a wedge shape.

tonia peeling tan bark with a spud. In this case the spud is just a wooden pole sharpened to a wedge shape.

The bark from the tanoak tree above peeled and drying.  Some has already been used, but this is most of it.
The bark from the tanoak tree above peeled and drying. Some has already been used, but this is most of it.
Chopping bark for boiling.  After drying in the sun, the bark was further crushed and boiled to extract the tannic acid.
Chopping bark for boiling. After drying in the sun, the bark was further crushed and boiled to extract the tannic acid.
 Planting out a batch of  potato onion  seedlings. These were allowed to cross with other onions in the garden to introduce potentially useful, and refreshing, genes.  Or maybe that will just screw them up.  Stay tuned for a few years for the results of that project.

Planting out a batch of potato onion seedlings. These were allowed to cross with other onions in the garden to introduce potentially useful, and refreshing, genes.  Or maybe that will just screw them up.  Stay tuned for a few years for the results of that project.

 A spring harvest.  fortunately, the garden was largely put in and running before I declined too far to deal with it.

A spring harvest.  fortunately, the garden was largely put in and running before I declined too far to deal with it.

 prepping artichokes for  canned artichoke hearts .  It was a big artichoke year, mostly because I was on top of controlling the voles who like to munch on the plant bases.  They aren’t hard to control with apple slices in mouse traps, it just has to get done.

prepping artichokes for canned artichoke hearts.  It was a big artichoke year, mostly because I was on top of controlling the voles who like to munch on the plant bases.  They aren’t hard to control with apple slices in mouse traps, it just has to get done.

Lime Squad III: Burning lime in metal drums. Advantages, limitations and where to go from here.

lime header This update is loooong overdue.  In fact, it was started maybe as much as a couple of years ago, but never finished.  So overdue in fact, that I've divided it into two parts.  This part will deal with burning in a metal drum, while part two next week will assess some clay and straw kilns that were built later on.

Warning, extreme geekage ahead!  This will be TMI for most people, but hopefully useful for those who want to understand and pursue lime burning.  Although I think using a drum is not the greatest, I'm using it as a reference point to try to understand and relate the process as a stepping off point, because this has been our evolution.  Future posts may be more along the lines of “how to do this right”.  This article is somewhat of a chronicle of an evolution, but contains a lot of relevant ideas and information to help the would be lime burner better understand the issues involved.

Lime burning at Turkeysong is pursuing broad goals.  One goal is to make home-scale lime burning practical enough to use in development of infrastructure here on the land.  I'm also interested in assessing the practicality of burning lime for agricultural use.  A small amount of lime is already in use here for processing leather and rawhide, as well as for preparing corn for tortillas and hominy.  Other uses will no doubt arise, such as the tree trunk paint formula I’ve been working on and all sorts of building and paint projects.   Another goal or motivation, as always, is to be able to share this information out to the end of providing achievable alternatives for small scale builders and self reliant tinkerers.  I am encouraged by the results so far and am looking forward to experimenting more.  I wanted to offer some insights gained up to this point, both for the benefit of people who want to try burning lime on their own and also just to have it written down for future reference.

The first burn (see lime squad #1) was done in an open ended (both ends open) section of old rusted water tank.  After that burn, tonia and I decided to move to a 55 gallon drum with both ends cut out, essentially the same thing, but different proportions.  We stuck with this plain unmodified 55 gallon drum for quite a while in order to observe just how far we could go with this simple and widely available object.  We also used a smaller drum about 10 or 15 gallons, which worked, but harder to keep the shells in the middle of such a small drum.  Having done 8 or 9 burns now, the capabilities and limitations of the drum on it's own seem pretty clear.  insights into what might be important in future kiln designs have also been gained.  So this review will be a summary of lessons learned by sticking with the plain metal drum for a while with an eye toward better kilns.

The simple drum, burning mixed layers of wood and shells, works but it does have many limitations which are unacceptable in the long run.  Still, as it stands it can be a useful method and its accessibility is great.  If a person wanted to do just one burn to make lime for nixtamalizing corn, to lime wash a building, or to build a small masonry project, etc… I don't see any reason why they should not go ahead and use this method if there is a clean (already burned out) drum and plenty of wood lying about.  For anyone who wishes to continue to burn lime or needs a larger quantity than that provided by just a few burns, it may be considered fairly irresponsible to use these huge quantities of wood and produce so much smoke without trying to improve the system.

The basic drum system as used here is a 55 gallon steel drum with the top and bottom cut out.  The drums are easy enough to cut with a cold chisel and hammer by simply chasing around the edge of the rim while holding the chisel at an angle.  Two intersecting trenches are dug in the ground forming a cross which allows draft from four sides directly to the center of the fire.  The trenches are probably 3 or 4 inches deep and about that wide.  The trenches and ground were sometimes smeared with clay soil paste to keep the burn cleaner and stabilize the trench walls.  This expedient, though not necessary, is quite nice and is recommended if there is some clay, or even just clay bearing soil, handy.

chiseling out the top of a drum is easy with a sharp cold chisel and a hammer.

some clay slip smeared over the trench can keep things clean.  It is not necessary, but worth thinking about if the soil is very loose, as here, or you are going to do many consecutive burns.

The vent mouth.  4 of these evenly spaced around the drum provide plenty of high velocity draft.

When adding sticks to build up a base for the fire, work in enough small stuff to spread the fire quickly.  The starter fire is built up on 1 to 2 inch sticks laid parallel across the trench intersection with one inch spaces between to allow a good draft.  On this platform/grid, lay alternating layers of crisscrossed sticks.  Be sure to leave spaces between the all sticks for air flow, and put fine twiggy material in between the layers of larger sticks.  Build up a pyre of sorts about 8 to 10 inches high.  Place some wood in to fill in any gaps around the edges which will keep shells from falling below the level of this platform.  A good quantity of small wood is used in these first layers to help spread the fire quickly, while most of the mass of the wood in the rest of the burn should be a little larger and up to 4 inches in diameter.  Larger wood burns more slowly which increases dwell time (how long a shell or stone stays hot in the kiln), though too much will cause slower combustion and therefore more smoking time before the fire gets burning well enough to start flaming off the smoke at the top of the drum.  Using a portion of green or damp wood will probably still burn the shells, but will produce more smoke and increase start up time.  If available, working in some pitch saturated wood from an old pine of fir stump will help get things off to a quicker start.

This actually looks like fairly large wood, but there is a lot of small twiggy stuff and splintered pitch saturated wood (fat pine in colloquial) on the inside.  Be sure to set something like this up to get the fire off to a good start.  It will still smoke plenty, but it helps.

Once a good layer of wood, including some big stuff, is in place and forms a flattish table, shells are poured in.  In order to keep the the shells away from the sides of the drum, wood is sometimes stacked upright against the sides before pouring in the shells.  At the least, try to pour the shells toward the middle of the drum, so as few as possible start out touching the sides.  One square milk crate full of oyster shells has been our standard measurement for a shell layer.  On top of the shells another layer of wood is added of mixed sizes, but use mostly larger wood in terms of the total mass.  up to 3 layers of shells and a cap of wood can be fit into the first run, though if the lay is sloppy, only 2 layers of shells with a cap of wood will result, which seems okay since more shells and wood are added once combustion is well under way.  The fire is lit from underneath by shoving in a wad of burning twigs and grass.

building up the wood and shells.  Note that the column of twigs in the middle as been eliminated.  It was intended to encourage the fire to spread more quickly, but it just never worked that well.  Note also, the wood against the sides of the drum to keep the shells away from the metal.  You don't have to be this neat about it, but it does help to have wood between the shells and the drum since any shell touching the side will be under-burned.

The drum, ready to light.  I only set this up and loaded it for the pictures, but I'll go ahead and burn it.  If the wood and shells are carefully placed, up to three small milk crates of shells can fit in the drum with wood on top.

Even if the wood is dry, this arrangement will put out huge amounts of smoke for quite some time, that being one of its main drawbacks.  Once the smoke and other gasses begin to flame off at the top and the kiln is burning more cleanly, some extra wood is added followed by another layer of shells, and then more wood.  We have, with this method, burned up to 6 crates of shells in one run, starting with 3 and adding three more over the course of the burn.  But at 6 crates, the top shells seemed a little under calcined and I’m more inclined to use 5 crates total in one burn. It’s good to put a fairly generous layer of wood on top of the last shell layer to help insure that they are burned adequately.  It's okay to mound the wood above the top of the drum, because it will sink down as it burns.  The vents are left open, and by morning the shells are cool enough to sort.  If rain is imminent, put a lid on the drum when it burns low, so that the burned lime does not begin slaking.  Slake as soon as possible.

(edit:  In writing this post I completely forgot to mention that we did do a burn with charcoal only and that it totally works to eliminate the smoke issue.  Charcoal is pricey, but if you need to do a smoke free burn for some reason, it does work.)

Smoke!  No really, huge quantities of smoke.  That's why we're burning at night here.

After burning, the lime shells are sorted according to color, weight and/or texture.  Heavy shells with considerable greying (a sooty blackish grey color on the surface) are sorted from the "good" shells which are light weight, whiter and often soft or flakey.  Many shells will appear to fit in between these criteria and a judgement call has to be made.  Knowing what to select and not select is difficult.  Around here, we slake the less ideal stuff for tanning hides, or it is used for agricultural purposes.  The lime is slaked with hot water in a half barrel or wheel barrow using a hoe to stir after which it is diluted with water to a cream consistency, poured through a 1/32 inch screen and allowed to settle.  The feed sack method can be used to achieve a firm putty more quickly, by pouring the lime cream into a woven plastic feed sack and allowing it to drip out water until firm.  Store lime putty under a layer of water in a sealed container.  The feed sack method gives a firm putty more quickly.  (for more on slaking, see limesquad II)

One advantage of the drum is that it can be lifted off the burned shells for easy sorting.

SUMMARY OF THE DRUM METHOD

SMOKIN’:  Because the fuel and shells are in layers, the draft is greatly inhibited by the shells and wood stacked inside, so the system produces copious amounts of smoke.  Typically the arrangement will produce billowing smoke for 20 to 40 minutes before the top starts to flame off.  For a while, a sort of chimney of bound small twigs was placed in the center of the burn to help with draft and spread the fire more quickly, but it really didn’t seem to help enough to bother.  We also tried starting a fire in the bottom and then feeding the fire layers of shells and wood.  By adding wood, letting it begin to burn, and then adding more shells and wood before repeating that process, somewhat less smoke may be produced, but not all that much less.  The smoke is a fundamental problem with this approach which is probably unavoidable, so that is major issue #1 motivating toward a better system.

USES A TON OF WOOD: The system is also inefficient.  I have not really weighed or otherwise quantified the amount of wood used per amount of lime gained, but it is certainly quite a lot of wood.  Cutting wood is the most labor and time intensive part of the method and if a chainsaw is used that incurs use of non-renewable resources, so a more efficient system is definitely in order.  Who wouldn't want that!

TOO MANY UNBURNED SHELLS:  Another problem encountered is that only a certain percentage of the shells calcine completely.  Many shells will show under burned grey areas and feel heavy.  These are sorted out and can be slaked for hide tanning and agricultural purposes, if they will slake at all, but then the point of the process is to burn lime and make putty; so, although there is no "waste" here at Turkeysong in some senses of the word, the closer we can get to 100% calcined, the better.  Numbers above 80% can be achieved in the drum with more careful fire lays where the shells don’t touch the side (I almost said sides, but I guess a cylinder only has one side, or does it?) which is not so horrible I suppose, but it would be nice to see that number rise.

left over partly burned shell is buried in a garden bed for soil improvement.  I now have a grinder set up to reduce it to a meal.

LIME QUALITY: The lime burning literature from days of yore not infrequently mentions differences in the quality of lime from different burning methods and kiln designs which basically equates to how thoroughly the raw material is calcined.  It is difficult for us to tell just how Turkeysong lime measures up in that regard because it is a qualitative judgement.  The lime does slake very actively, but the question is how much remains un-slaked and under burned in very small particles that pass through our 1/32 inch screen?  Aging should help by insuring that anything that will slake eventually does so, but the qualitative judgement of lime in the past is one that was hard won by generations of knowledge and experience which I don't have and am unlikely to encounter on the west coast of California, so I'm a bit in the dark.  It just remains to use the lime and make what observations I can.  I’m inclined not to worry overly much about it at this point, and think our lime is probably actually of very high quality.

DWELL TIME:  Part of this quality equation may have to do with dwell time, which is how long the shell or stone is held at the calcining temperature.  The drum burns are relatively fast.  If started at dusk,  the burn is cold by dawn.  The actual calcining happens only in the short section of time that each area of the kiln is very hot.  At this point, I feel unsure about what adequate dwell time is, but feel that it is probably not very long.  In one burn we decided we should try to slow the process for longer dwell time and to make sure the burn was not too hot.  We packed the wood in extra tight which took a very long time and required shorter wood.  Once it was burning well,  the vents on the bottom of the drum were shut all the way down.  It was a total failure and the shells didn't even slake.  Next time around we began measuring the temperature through a nail hole in the side of the drum and with the vents running wide open we always seem to be right around 900 celsius/1500 fahrenheit in the burn zone which is just where we want to be, and the temperature at which wood wants to burn without an artificial draft.  This parameter has been so consistent in fact that we just quit measuring.  (For the geekier readers, we used a two wire probe on a digital meter.  Some electrical meters, notably Flukes, have a temperature setting.  The probes use two parallel wires and often burn off in the fire, but are simply trimmed back each time.  They last long enough to get a measurement.)

SHELLS TOUCHING THE DRUM DON’T BURN ENOUGH: Of shells which appear under burned (noted mostly by a grayish color to the surfaces, but also by weight and texture) most are those which are close to the outside of the drum.  Our solution so far has been to try to keep the shells to the inside.  In some burns we stack wood against the outside edges standing upright and pour the shells into this pen so that there is always a layer of wood between the shells and the drum sides.  I recommend this approach actually, but the whole thing still falls to pieces and many shells end up against the outside.  Shells touching the drum sides usually comprise the majority of those that are under burned.  I think this problem touches on at least two factors in kiln construction that can lead us to a better design, which are mass and insulation.

ABOUT MASS AND INSULATION: I’ve done a little reading on kiln design, but mostly what follows is extrapolated from a working knowledge of, and intuition regarding, heat and fire.  I feel sure that adding insulation would help minimize under burned shells by evening out the temperature.  As it stands now, because the metal is a great conductor, the drum is a big radiator and is literally sucking heat away from any shells that touch it.  Using enough insulation should help with that problem by insulating the metal of the drum enough to keep it hot while allowing heat to build inside the drum.  It’s hard to say to what degree the temperature would be raised, but my guess is that it won't ever be too hot when burning wood with a natural draft, and may help keep the kiln at a more all around even temperature.  Since we have consistently measured the temperature we want, the goal is not so much to raise the temperature, as it is to make the heat in the kiln more consistent and, if possible, have a larger area of heat in the kiln at any given time; that is to say that the heat zone of the kiln would have more depth.  Still, a slight rise in temperature shouldn't hurt anything.  It is probably difficult to get the wood to burn at a temperature that is high enough to over-burn lime, which is one of the advantages of using wood in the first place.

I feel that mass could help too, by creating a more even heat due to a moderating action. The three types of heating are essentially radiation of heat (think standing near hot coals), contact with a hot object and contact with heated air (Ok, so the last one is contact with gasses and therefore is similar to contact with an object, but for practical discussion purposes it is a common and useful division…).  What we have when the shell touches the side of the drum is the opposite of contact heating.  In the drum, we are relying on all three types of heating.  When a shell touches the side of the low mass drum which is exposed to the open air on the outside, we suck heat away from the shell because steel is an excellent conductor of heat.  Insulation would help keep the gaseous environment more evenly warm, but the thin drum still has a low mass.  If mass was added it would suck up some heat from the fire initially but, even with no insulation, a thick, but not too thick, mass might have a moderating influence once it came up to similar temperature relative to the rest of the kiln.  Also, and this is an important distinction, any material we are likely to use as a source of mass, or as a kiln building material or modifier, will have at least some insulating value when compared to metal.  Any mud or clay based material would be a far cry from metal in terms of heat conduction and should function partially as an insulator as well as being potentially useful as a temperature moderating mass.  Most traditional kiln designs do not seem to be insulated at all beyond whatever it is they are built of, so this concept of massulation must work more or less.  What the mass portion has to offer would be an evening out of the internal temperature.  Once heat is absorbed it is given back off as radiation toward the interior of the kiln.  The re-radiation of the heat from the mass toward the inside of the drum should add a third useful element of heating, that being to even out the heat environment.

The short version of the above is that with a plain drum, we have hot gasses and a little bit of contact with the hot coals to cause calcination, while we simultaneously radiate heat away from the process with the highly heat conductive drum exposed to the air.  A metal drum is probably one of the worst things we could use in that regard.  Adding some mass (preferably slightly insulative) would add the element of heat radiation to keep the internal temperatures more even throughout the kiln.  I'm leaning toward a thin layer of mass followed by a layer of insulation as an ideal.  A combination of the two, a massulation, might provide enough insulation to prevent the radiator effect while possessing enough mass and its special benefits to improve the system.  Practically speaking this may be the more useful option depending on what is available locally for kiln building.  And this exactly what we’ve done in building a straw and clay kiln, which will be discussed in the next installment of the lime burning saga...

Straw with quite a bit of clay slip formed the Pet's walls.

Posted on October 26, 2013 and filed under Building etc---, Infrastructure, Lime.