I strongly feel that if we could transform land in such a visible place, in such an obvious way, it can make a world changing impression.
I'm imagining signage along the freeway, first nothing huge, just announcing the project. Maybe even little signs telling a story a la Burma Shave.
After a while, wouldn't it be cool if there was a billboard showing what the land looked like originally, right in front of the improved land? Over the years, you could watch all those black rocks "sink" into built up topsoil.
Grasslands are our best bet for trapping carbon and rainwater in places like Northern California.
Forests are better where wildfire is less of a hazard.
We need to have started ten, twenty years ago, but the second best time is now. When things get really dire and people are looking for solutions, I want this project to be there showing a way.
Who's with me? Anybody know a multimillionaire who wants to make a real difference in the world? What about grants? What takes this from an idea to an active experiment?
What would it take to make this happen in a high profile place, in amongst people who are running cattle the old fashioned way?
I'm not sure. That's why I'm starting this discussion. I don't know, for example, what a reasonable acreage is required for such a project to succeed. But let's forge ahead, and think about what we need. . . .
1) Land. I don't think we have to buy the land. I think it would be preferable to obtain a lease. I'm not sure of the duration - long enough to be confident that an obvious significant change has been made --> 10 years? 5 years? To me, the ideal situation would be to lease a long strip of land directly adjacent to the freeway from one of the cattle ranches already present. Some of the necessary infrastructure is already present.
I think with ranchers it is far better to show them what can be done versus try to explain and instruct. If the rancher starts out thinking "Sure, you can lease some of my worst land for your hippy-dippy experiment - give me the money, goofballs" I feel like after a year or two he'll be glancing over and eventually he may want to learn how to do this thing himself.
I think when established cattle ranchers hear about moving cattle frequently, they think "Shit, that sounds like a lot of work. No way!" They think about how hard it is to move a herd of cattle, in their experience. They don't realize that when you are giving a herd access to wonderful fresh forage, all you gotta do is open the gate. The cattle move themselves. And, they are so happy about it! It's a thing you kinda have to experience, but the happiness of the cattle at fresh pasture is contagious. It makes you happy, to make them happy.
I remember reading a study of dairy farmers in Wisconsin who switched to managed grazing from confinement feeding. They reported that they worked about the same number of hours, but the tasks were much more enjoyable and involved a lot more walking around outside, which led to happier and healthier farmers.
2) People. This will be the hardest thing. We need somebody who already knows all about regenerative grazing, be it from holistic management training/experience, or interning with Greg Judy (he's where I got the idea about leasing land instead of buying it). We need more than somebody, we need enough people to form a small successful community to make this thing work. Being just off interstate 5 between San Francisco and Portland would be a plus in terms of recruiting people for on-site courses, or WWOOFing. The thing with people is that nothing succeeds like success. If we can put together an awesome situation, we can find good people, but it's easier to get funding after you have a reputable team in place.
3) Infrastructure. This encompasses a lot of things. Moveable fencing, watering equipment, manager and intern habitat.
4) Cattle. Duh. I'm not going to be picky about the breed, although I'll note that successful grass feeding genetics are not the same as successful feedlot genetics. Good beef cattle. I envision branded beef, something direct like "Regenerative Beef," sold to the best restaurants in San Francisco (Portland, Sacramento) because it's super high quality and it has the best story. Customers love food with a story. (I know I do!)
I had an idea, and I want to present it here. We need a demonstration of the effects of regenerative grazing, where everybody can see. Here's a view looking east from I-5, just north of Weed, California (that's Mount Shasta in the background - yesterday things were even more dry, and the mountain had precious little snow up top):
It's a mess, at least in early August. Thin soil, sad grass, rocks sticking out of the ground all over. It's being used for cattle, but completely unmanaged.
What if we could lease land directly adjacent to the freeway and transform it, before an audience of thousands?
Tj Jefferson wrote:for what it's worth, I dried probably 100# of summer squash last summer and stored it in gallon bags with silica packets (I dry lots of stuff). The squash was the only thing that molded! Every bag! And the humidity strip said it was appropriately dry. So not doing that anymore. I will admit they were dry but not crisped, because that tends to make them leathery on reconstitution, but its the same level of dry I do for tomatoes and peppers and fruit.
I think the difference is due to tomatoes and peppers and fruit having more inherent acidity. Sort of like how you can waterbath can tomatoes and fruits, but you have to pressure can green beans - or summer squash.
You might want to experiment (with maybe 5 pounds of summer squash) with sprinkling the sliced pieces with salt, discarding the liquid shed, and then drying it. Even better, but making things taste funny, would be to sprinkle with citric acid instead.
You're right Kenneth, there's more to show! I'm building this thread as I find the time.
Mosaic can be made from lots of things. I started out using found materials and breaking them into bits. I also found a place, https://mosaicartsupply.com/ and made a small purchase (you can see it in the plastic bags).
When I started to work, I had to spread out what I had:
There will be mosaic on the side panels as well, but at the rate I'm going I don't know when those will be finished.
(Maybe if I buy more little precut mosaic tiles. See, what you see used above is bits of a bowl that I cut up using tile nippers, and pieces of bathroom tile (the white and yellow) or mirror (the outermost row) that I cut with either those same nippers or by scoring and breaking with a glass cutter. When you make your own tiles, mosaic is a very slow and involved process.)
I'll add a picture of the oven taken from the side, so you can see how it's got a big shed roof, to keep the pizza cook mostly dry if it's raining.
Here's the plan: we're going to encase the oven body in a box, and cover that box with mosaic. Ironically, I came up with mosaic because I thought of it as a heat resistant art form, but as it turns out the box is made of plywood (well insulated from the fire - have no fear) covered in duraboard and then tile.
So, we prepared the front panel. I covered the duraboard with black thinset mortar, to help me visualize the design, since I'm planning a dark grout.
When I visited Wheaton Labs in early June I found out that there was a half finished rocket oven near Seattle, languishing on a shop floor. I felt that there is a whole audience/market for rocket ovens that is likely to be turned off by their sort of steampunk aesthetic.
Say, a family of four living in Portland, with a cob oven next to their deck. Turns out they've had 4 pizza parties in 5 years (and 2 of them were in the first summer) because it's kind of a pain to heat that thing up, and the neighbors don't like the smoke. And yet, when I tell them about how cool a rocket oven is, they look at the sideways barrel on a metal framed heat riser and say "Yeah, no. I don't want that in my back yard."
So, I arranged to buy the half finished oven, for a different installation. A permanent installation next to the deck of the ranch house at Ten O'Clock Acres.
Kyrt Ryder wrote:
In my mind a rocket oven isn't ideal for a 45 minute bake.
If it's something that can't be finished in 10 minutes you might do well transferring to some form of haybox?
At the peasant PDC, the rocket oven produced loads of baked goods, including coffee cake and cornbread. Erica found that burning three sticks and having the intake a little more than half covered with a brick held the temperature nicely at 350 F.
You need to check on it every few minutes, to feed it some more, but it's totally do-able.
So, making a mosaic takes a long time! A really, REALLY long time. The oven is finished (pictures a couple pages back) and works great.
I went out to the farm Friday afternoon to work on the mosaic and brought along some pizza fixin's. When it was time for dinner, I put on my harvesting apron (it's got a big pocket, like a kangaroo) and wandered around the yard picking up dry sticks. When I had an armful, I went back to the oven, and that's all I needed to heat it up to 550F (up to 600F for a while) and cook my pizza.
I was tickled to be tidying up the yard and getting ready for dinner at the same time.
Here's my mosaic thus far - I've created a nice little spiral from commercial "tesserae" tiles and also an old broken Spode plate and pieces from a broken bowl.
And, all I've made thus far has been pizza. Pizza is so good!
I was out at the farm working on the mosaic by myself and I fired the oven up just to make one pizza. First, I wandered around the yard and gathered an armful of sticks. That's all I needed to get the oven up to 500-600F to cook my pizza. (OK, I used some paper to get it started.)
I was tickled to think I was tidying up the yard and getting ready to cook my dinner at the same time.
If you look at the screenshot, you can see exactly what's in the code and what shows up in preview. OK, I just checked preview and it's not working same as above. It could be a bug with preview?? Will try posting and see what happens. . .
When I'm using the "post reply" function, there are a series of buttons, for bold text, for italic text, for underline, etc on to Quote : List : Img : URL : Google : and so on. I've used the URL button to insert a link before, but it's not working today.
I don't actually know what a bb code button is, I see there's a tick box to "Disable BB Code in this message" but I don't have that ticked.
This is what I've got thus far for the front of the oven. The first row of tiles was harvested from a big patterned bowl, the next two rows cut from bathroom tiles (yellow with glass cutting tools, white with tile nippers).
We got this oven to 800 degrees Saturday evening. The in-door thermometer had great correlation with a regular oven thermometer inside, on the top shelf, which was great to see. We wondered if it might read too low, since it's near the bottom of the inner barrel, or it might read too high, since it's almost over where the heat riser hits the bottom of the inner barrel. Maybe those things cancelled each other out? We had to remove the regular oven thermometer at 550 degrees (the face is burnt from our first pizza party, where we definitely got past 600 degrees, the upper limit of the $5 oven thermometer).
If I had a pile of dry sticks, I could probably get it hotter. I was walking 100 feet to a brush pile and trying to pick dry wood - sometimes I guessed wrong and there was lots of popping and hissing.
We're working on our "beautiful" rocket oven. The oven is done, the "beautiful" is still in progress. This is NOT a portable version - we've added a fair amount of bracing so that it stays super stable, even if the door sticks a little and you tug on it. (We're working on solving that problem directly as well.)
Ventilation is one of the most important things for chicken health. If you build a chicken coop from cob, it will need multiple screened windows and I'm thinking it should be considerably oversized, so that it is airy inside. In a rainy climate, a large roof with a substantial overhang is essential.