Sunday, 2 October 2016

New Tech,

Old tech... There really is nothing new under the sun..  But with an open mind,  some collaboration,  and a 'can do' approach. Workable solutions, to age old problems, will emerge.

Farm hack,  Tombreck, on the banks of Loch Tay, Scotland.

What is a farm hack?

Well really hard to sum up.  But could be described as a gathering of interested, practically minded, parties. 

Who are looking at taking forward, sustainable food production. Growing, and farming, as if people and ecology mattered.

How can we combine the best of the old...? Sometimes it is quicker (and quieter) to reach for a well honed scythe rather than a noisy petrol strimmer.

With the best, of more, up to date tech, recognising that a diesel powered tractor,  well maintained, can do a huge amount of work in a very short space of time.

Such a diversity of people,  cross fertilising ideas...

No small number of high tech, science workers. Plus a couple of escapees from the oil and gas industries,  who have concluded,  that there must be a better way of powering ourselves into the future.

Crafts people,  forgers,  farmers, film makers,  activists,  all sorts,  many in emerging fields.

This post really would go on for ever; if I attempted to detail all the fascinating angles and approaches I've encountered via this friendly,  open minded bunch of people.

But a couple of sessions particularly stood out for me.

Initially from some folks from Edinburgh.  Using high tech solutions such as 3d printing, and unfathomabley accurate laser cutting,  to craft bespoke one offs.
Could be to repair a broken widget.

Perhaps to make something new,  to fit a customer's very personal spec.  But they are about more than just cutting edge technology..

They also recognise that the old ways can be just as, if not more, relevant for certain applications...

Sometimes tying things up with a length of hairy string, really is, the most utile resolution.

More investigation needed into what could be achieved. But it feels as if imagination; might be the most limiting factor...

And then, returning to more familiar ground. Making, and using, the soil amendment of 'bio char'.

This method of building soil humus,  providing 'niches'  for the all important soil microfauna, and hopefully sequestering carbon, is not a novel one.

Not new at least to anyone who has hung out on the fringes of organic growing for a number of years.

And it is posited that the Amazonians were using something like this method centuries ago.... Not 'slash and burn' - far more sophisticated than that.

But again,  the science,  the methodology, and practical application, do seem to have been refined..

The (left in more than capable hands) 'steading,  now has fine stands of Italian Alder wind breaks.

The intention always was to coppice them in rotation.
Bio char is, simply put, a method of making charcoal from this biomass.

Done in pits, using a 'top lit' fire, carefully tended,  then quenched with water at just the right moment.

A little like the traditional charcoal making method,  but not looking to exclude oxygen in the same way.

The fire quenching,  also makes a lot of steam (and drama! ).

This blasts apart the charred wood,  maximising surface area. Then inoculate or feed your char with nutrient...

There is just the thing, in the form of lots of  'home made cider'  sitting in many barrels behind the urine separating compost toilet at home..

The char is then added to the soil, to work its wonders. It doesn't get depleted in the same way that conventional 'organic matter'  composts do.

Still,  again, much more investigation needed before this becomes a done reality at the farm.

Though I'm fairly certain "Once you've got a fire going, it isn't really work any more" Man Friday, wouldn't need a lot of encouragement to get involved..

And of course these events are social too.

Beer, kindly bought in at my behest by the lovely Mags... Didn't fancy cycling over here with that much incriminating clinking going on.

And the 'Willow' ,  was well and truly 'stripped'.

As oft seems to be the case at these, hairy (and not so hairy) farmer moots.

It has been a pleasure, to meet, and be welcomed by the Fair Scottish contingent.

Not to have to explain,  what, or why you do what you do.

To have it valued,  and understood. After all,  most of us do realise we look like idiots to much of the outside world. 
With our crazy utopian ideas about decent tasty food, being produced in as benign a way as possible,  whilst still making something approaching a living.

Weather right now, almost suspiciously friendly ... Really cannot expect it to hold forever,  so aiming for an early start to head out west by bike.

To see,  up to a point, which way the wind blows me..


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