Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cow Power is Now Power - No Sh*t

Last night I attended a full-house World Premiere screening of Cow Power - a new documentary film about the  unique sustainable energy program in Vermont that turns cow manure into renewable energy resulting in saving farms and the environment.  Methane from the manure gets captured in a "digester" to run generators on the farm. Those generators support the farm's power needs plus make plenty of extra electric power that gets sold to Green Mountain Power for distribution to customers.

Less air pollution, less odor from farming, happy cows ... what more could you want? Well, there are even more benefits from using this system.

The liquid nutrients from the cow manure processed through the digester get used on crops to sustain the farm, and because they're liquids they go directly into the soil in a controlled application. Less problems with manure spreading over fields, so far less runoff and odor, more goodness for the land and our waterways, better crop production. Happy ending #2, right? Yes, but wait, there's even more goodness ...

The rest of the waste from this cow manure processing action gets dried out and turned into nice, fluffy bedding for the cows. They have a soft place to lie down, at far lower cost than buying tons of shavings or straw for the barn floors. And there's so much of that final byproduct stuff that the extra goes into making soil enrichment products for gardeners, sold from the farms or through various distributors (I buy Moo Doo, Moo Grow and Foster Brothers manure made with this stuff for my flower and veggie beds). Now that's an efficient use of cow poop.Vermont currently has 12 digesters online with more coming into production this year. They're huge investments for farmers, and for now require large farms to be cost effective. One way Vermonters-citizens and businesses-help to offset that capital outlay and make it more affordable is through a voluntary self-tax on electric power bills.

It's a closed loop system - cows eat hay and grains, and they make milk (good food) and poop (methane, fertilizer and bulky waste - unless it's turned into Cow Power). This hour-long movie is a first for Allison Gillette, director/producer and recent Emerson graduate.

Here's a trailer from the film:

Cow Power Trailer from Cow Power on Vimeo.

If you can't get to a local screening, Cow Power will be available for computer or streaming devices on August 13. Search “Cow Power: The Film” to view on Amazon Instant, Google Play, YouTube, VUDU, ILoveDocs, or iTunes.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Painting Gives You Time for Contemplation

When faced with a task I know will take many hours and as much patience, I have a tendency to procrastinate. Two years ago we added a big porch to the Vermont house. The 6x6 support posts and structural framework are built from  pressure treated lumber.

The rest of the porch is native wood: cedar railings, flooring and porch spindles with a pine beadboard (railroad siding) ceiling. The floor and ceiling and railing tops were all treated with lovely Australian oil before they were attached. That left the wet and weepy woods to the elements until they were aged enough/dry enough to take a coat of paint.

Well, folks, that time arrived this time last year and I started the process of filling all the knots and cracks in the now-dry pressure treated lumber. I got that nearly done by fall and then ignored the job for another winter.

This week our weather and my schedule meshed well enough for me to begin the sanding and priming. Here's how the project's progressed so far.

I'm glad I let the lumber dry avoided this task so long because even after 2 years of weathering the cedar wood is bleeding a bit through the BIN 1-2-3 primer (Zinsser 2004 "Bulls-eye" Primer Sealer and Stain Killer 1-2-3) . The spindles will need a second coat before I apply the finish coat of white latex house paint.

I'll be tackling two more sections this week if the weather cooperates, working a couple hours per session. That's more than enough time to spend on painting all those spindles with a brush. Any longer than that and my contemplation turns to aggravation; I start to get tired and a bit messy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rain Is Berry Berry Good for the Blues

Exactly one year ago I was down in Dorset picking a second bucket of lovely high bush Vermont blueberries. Today, Bop, A and I ventured down to Wildwood Berry Farm once again, and this year I picked two buckets of the biggest blueberries I have ever seen in less than 2 hours. There was a report of a bear sighting in the berry fields but we didn't spot any critters that big on this trip.

I'm finally done getting them ready for their winter stay the freezer, but here's a peek at half the haul I picked today:

Just picked blueberries from Wildwood Berry Farm

The red colander was filled to the brim before I dumped the washed berries onto the towel to dry and freeze. The blueberries are nearly the size of grapes - no exaggeration - because of all the rainy weather in Vermont in June, followed by a week of hotter-n-heck days and warm nights. 

Time to make some blueberry buckle, my favorite cake made with fresh blues.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Another wet summer brings more garden challenges

Last year our vegetable garden was so wet we battled slugs from July through November. This year we moved most of the garden except beans, kale and garlic to 3 raised beds in the front yard where last year we removed all the lawn and made new rock-supported terraces and bark mulch base.  We built 3 big new 4ft x 8 ft garden boxes from rough-sawn local hemlock 2 x 10s , then filled them with MooDoo and local organic soil mix. After planting with tomatoes and peppers and 3 squash plants, we surrounded the boxes with deer netting to keep out the deer, woodchucks, rabbits and chipmunks. For the most part the gardens were doing well despite more than 10 inches of rain from mid May to the first week of July.

July 8, Bekah's Tomato Garden

We outwitted early hatching squash/cucumber bugs by keeping those plants covered with netting until last week when the flowers appeared on our squash, cuke and pumpkin plants. This week the cucumber beetles arrived. From where I have no idea, but they sure found our garden - just after the weird tortoise beetles camped out on the tomato plants. We're handpicking both and so far, so good. The mystery squashes (we think they're butternut but it's too early to tell yet) Anya planted at her library story hour are starting to climb out of the box and clamber onto the trellis I built last year.

Squash plants growing like crazy
I think by the end of the summer if the bugs or the 4-footed critters don't get them the squash plants will be cascading over the trellis and rambling down to the lower garden below/behind, near that red bee balm that's now 5 feet tall.