I don't see allot of equipment talk on the forum's I usually have to go dredging in constructions or landscaping forum's to sift any competent education and review on pretty much everything that has an engine. Permaculture has allot of mechanical folk, but often times they also skate on frugality lane. So much is do it yourself that we don't talk allot about mechanical implements outside of the designers manual. Allot of us don't have agrarian backgrounds, I never knew how they stored hay or how do they mow down tall brush, and whats a flail anyways.
So I've been pruned to the trunk from the early days with so much of the crap that get's shoveled onto gardener's an anyone prone to buying something on the basis of it being handy. All my handy things are in a box now called useless.
Now when you get past gardener scam's life get's allot more expensive, mistakes can be stroke causative, tools and implement's seem to become vaguer and vaguer in there criteria to actually sell you a product. I can read 49 reviews for a toilet scrubber, but when it comes larger more commercial implements it's as if, if you don't already know why you should give me your money I'm not going to waist time telling you so give me your money. You can't find a salesman you can only find a purchasing clerk.
I had to be told by a computer programer that when his dad bought something for the farm they use to let him try it out for a week. If you don't know it's going to work then why would you buy it was the motto. Now adays your blessed if someone on youtube has something, and if not you might get one still photo and a blurb that's suppose to be your reason to buy.
I went through the same dilemma when I bought a Geo Tea Brewer, I had to argue and argue with the sales people, prove to me why I should give you 4k to bubble poo, I need facts, I need tables, I testimonial's from people I can look up, I need to see your profit margin, I've gotta do better than "well geoff lawton has one". That's not an explanation I can give to my inner creditor, I always got emotional reason's to buy but where's my logical reason's to buy.
Todays case is hammer milling.
I've searched this forum, mostly it's made reference to as a hypothetical option to solve a problem, or some post of mine where I was dreaming of the things I could do. Does anyone have an experience, own's one, has done all the research and hopes to own one, can anyone make references to what are it's duties in processing. Yes I know it pulverizes but what are it's rules. Is anyone using it in a consistent capacity within a growing situation that it can actually pay for itself. I had always herd of it but mostly in the talks of Bill Mollison in reference to processing one thing or another, but never really dedicated to the uses of equipment. An Excavators and Earthshaping tools yes, I've only gotten to use an excavator for 3 or 4 days once when a neighbor was in a good mood, but wow I'll be in love forever. It was the best form of creative art I've experienced.
I know I want to make animal feed, fuel pellet's, soil amendments, and animal bedding with it, and I see how that could bring it's use from seasonal to bi weekly.
I realized today when I was looking at item's that are what organic farmers use as "clean fertilizers" I'm not great with fertilizing yet. There seems to be allot of nutrients that are just ground up dry plants. Then it clicks in that's alfalfa meal and I know what to do with lucerne, theres bone meal, and on an on. I wonder where's dandilion, thistle, nettle, plantain, mulein and so on meal, all those things feed the soil, but if I just go chucking plants around plants in the pne it will be two year's from now before there broken down. Everything that levels up my compost could hit soil to be composted in sheet mulch rather than the 300 cubic ft of winter flipping compost. I could really turn the blackberry into an key element after the rabbit's are done with the leaves, I can slash down those ferns to make bedding without spores.
It's not that anything being presented is not doable without machines, but it's a matter of appropriate technology for scale and bending time in the establishment of systems. Nobody should be able to turn bad soil into good soil faster than a permie, and permie doesn't mean dirty hippy holistic hand tools by definition just because we all love being holy and dirty and wielding hand tools. Earthworks is a category that get's it's due education, but my request of debate and experience is with processing technology. Nobody has a budget to blow, but just like deciding I can't keep stuffing hay in my sportscar trunk if I'm this serious I need a truck. I don't hear much about the other end of establishment "Processing", there's so many dimensions to permaculture that are indirectly linked to food.
Processing is that value added stage where everything value start's to shoot up logarithmically. Is it any different if I turned all my compost ingredients into sawdust particles then composted that? No having to design a bootleg tumble sifter to make potting soil anymore and so on.
I originally wanted to know if anyone had heard of the C.S Bell Co and their mills vs someone like pellet pros which seems to cover youtube as soon as you type pellet.
I don't think it a good time financially to max out the credit card, but as everything's turning yellow, even if all I did was maker layer mash'o'garden for the ducks or briquette fodder for the rabbit's I would be ahead in their health and my experience to the point where I can say. How i'll look at next season will never be the same.
I could finally mulch that dam 40 foot wisteria cuzz pulverized bit's dont root. All those weeds would be to die for if they can go in the soil predigested.
I'm hoping to hear about versatility, I've never touched a tractor but when I see what a pto can do I finally understand why people can't say no. I don't know enough about how things go in any agricultural sense. I'm one of those people who got caught by permaculture and shoved over their desk.
Not just the hammermill in general, just writting this has made me feel like I've made the right decision, and even though it doesn't = cash, I can see if a very short amount of cycles I'll be at the stage where I have a system that beg's the question what do you use, and then I can break out the 25 plant soil amendment pellet.
I could just grow veggies and call it a permaculture life, but for the ambitiously aggressive that will put it a dam, build a biodigester, design their own rocket stoves, make the infamous 4 foot high hugelkulture mounds "which should not be done by hand" We need to share up the intellectual investigation's we hide from our husbands and wives.
I must of typed rocket "stove, mass, heater, portable" 40 times this week and watch the same 4 videos of paul's 10 times. All I wanted to do was build something that required no mess, could be taken apart with a shop vac and a flathead screwdriver, and also functioned to dry a 10x14 outdoor room full of plants. 3 days ago it was framing glass. Tomorrow morning it's rocket mass heater drying room radiant floor cookstove outdoor kitchenette. I love this, one minute im playing around with a 1G Tlud the next a vertical feed rocket stove, and by tonight I'm raising the floor because radiant heat beat's the pants off convection heating. There's just so much to explore, and I loved all but there's harsh lines between tinkering yourself broke and making serious investment decisions. So I'd hope when I go to take a plunge it's on the best wisdom of my pears and their vision of poly potentiality, not fallacious marketing literature nor the linear vision of a monoculturalist.
I could go on but the soapbox i'm standing on is begining to compost.
Nonetheless, I have to say that either I missed it, or you failed to include the very information you complained of not being able to find that, I believe, could be helpful to many here, including myself.
So, what is your intended use(s) of the hammer mill and what led you to conclude that the particular make and model will suit your needs and that it is a good decision to purchase it with a credit card?
Please do not be offended as that is absolutely not my intention, I truly am interested.
Edit: I re-read your post and understand your intended uses but the second part of my question still stands.
So It's really a matter of trying to invite higher wisdom to let me know where I'm at and where I should be. If you've experienced buying one kind or another then you can speak from authority to say, you'll be fine but beware have to clean the machine once at hour, or whatever benefit's looking back in retrospect can offer.
So like most of us I'm navigating based on my best thinking but I don't really know by any disciplined means of didactic reasoning that my thinking is of any quality considerable as educated.
A little pro talk can really give one perspective on where one stands in comparison to others we can respect.
I know I want to make animal feed, fuel pellet's, soil amendments, and animal bedding with it
Animal feed: we currently get feed from a local mill. Honestly, I wish it were whole feed. I've been thinking about mixing our chicken feed just to get away from all the little tiny crumbles. Our goats get whole (well, rolled) grains. I guess I'm just not big on milling feed. What benefits are you looking for here?
Fuel pellets: Super cool. So you first use the hammer mill and then some sort of pelleting machine? Do you have the raw materials to make this worthwhile? If so, this sounds like an excellent reason for this equipment - if you use this type of heat often. Here, I could hardly justify equipment to heat my house as it is likely to be 90 all winter.
Soil Amendments: These are so expensive to purchase these days. I recall buying a bag of dolomitic limestone for our acidic soil. Stupid bag of dust cost way more than I wanted...plus the fact that Central Texas IS limestone. If you could really crush bone, rock, etc into amendments with this thing, it would be very useful - again if you have the raw materials available. I wish I could tell you if it really would work.
Animal bedding: Not quite sure what you mean here. We use straw/junky hay for the goats. The big pieces means it doesn't get everywhere like pine shavings do. We are trying a new thing for the chickens (read about it here!) and using wood mulch as the bedding. We used to use hay for them as well.
It sounds like a fun piece of equipment. I wish I had some experience to relay to you. The only hammer mill I've used was an expensive coffee grinder! Well, the big chipper is part hammer mill, but not what you are talking about (I don't think...)
General equipment buying suggestion: Find a used one, well taken care of and talk extensively with the owner. Most people in the farming world will be honest with you about its capabilities. This lets you shop different types if there are more than one make available. Also, buy non-chinese when possible for older stuff. Newer stuff from China is not as bad but old stuff can really be the pits.
As you well know, permaculture and sustainable ag is all about non-conventional applications, at least until a critical mass is reached, which makes it that much more difficult to glean from others personal experiences.
I suspect you have already done this, but I would first have a clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish (which you seem to have) then call the manufacturers and/or whoever sells the equipment to the end user, ask if they have ever sold to a customer(s) that are using the equipment similarly and if so, ask for references. They will likely need the end users permission first. If they are unwilling to do this minimal amount of work for a potential sale I'd move on (but maybe call back later as I may have just gotten the wrong person).
I didn't see a hammer mill that also pelletizes at the C.S. Bell website. Maybe a biomass pellet mill would suit a broader spectrum of your needs, although the price and scale may not fit your available resources ($ and raw material). I can also see a PTO driven mill making a lot of sense as co-op purchase.
As for my interest, these are two pieces of equipment that are on my radar as well, I am just not at a point to where their implementation is needed.
Marissa Little wrote:
Animal feed: we currently get feed from a local mill. Honestly, I wish it were whole feed. I've been thinking about mixing our chicken feed just to get away from all the little tiny crumbles.
We feed whole oats, whole sunflower seeds, and hay. That's it for the livestock. If they want to eat something else, they have to find it themselves!
I briefly looked into hammer mills because I was interested in the processing of mesquite pods. Wow, those suckers are expensive!
I'm not sure when permies got the reputation of being anti-machinery.
Since I do not use the machinery intensively, I concluded it made sense to buy older equipment well past mid-life. I try to intelligently assess the equipment at time of purchase, which for me is difficult since I never owned a tractor or bobcat before I purchased them. However, I did find a lot of tips on what to look for before buying a tractor, and I think these tips would be helpful for any hydraulic powered equipment. I also look at equipment auction results to get an idea of what I should be paying.
If you go down this route you must be reasonably mechanically able, otherwise it can become very expensive. To date I have been able to make all the required repairs on my tractor and bobcat - see www.nutrac.info for work performed. Good luck!
In terms of animal feed, the only reason I can see to use pellets vs feeding the raw material directly is for storage. Consider how much time you don't have fresh food available. Also that many raw products will store fairly well over winter with minimal processing (grasses as hay, all sorts of seeds, etc.) Pelletized feed takes away free choice of feed from your animals, unless you pelletize each thing separately.
Same story with soil amendments. Why make extra work of harvesting all the plants, putting them through a machine which uses up energy, then re-distributing them? I would have thought that chop and drop is much more efficient in human time and energy. Also, chopped and dropped stuff will break down slower (you mention fast breakdown as a problem). Using a pelletizer is using fuel/electric energy to break down biochemical energy which the plant has created - to me it seems like a major waste as it is reversing the natural process. There are plenty of good critters out there to do your decomposition for you. Only exception might be if you are planning to export your nutrients off site, you could sell pellets. If possible I would only do this when I was entirely happy with on-site fertility, and always using plants that would regenerate fertility from deep soil.
I don't have any problem using machinery, but if I was going to spend money on it then I'd be wanting to make sure I got a monetary return from its use, or a commensurate saving on existing costs.
The biomass pellet mills I looked at all needed to be fed very small particulate material, 1/4" or less. Moisture content and need of a binder for the raw material varies.
The hammer mill cuts the raw material down to size for the pellet mill. Hammer mills can be fed beans, seeds, grains, corn cobs, stalks, leaves and pods but only pre-chipped wood. Moisture content of the raw material varies. Questions I would ask are: can the hammer mill process whole corn cobs and stalks or do they need to be cut up first? etc. Experience will tell you how dry the raw material needs to be. These factors will likely vary from mill to mill depending on horsepower etc.
If you want to process wood waste into pellets you'll need at least a chipper, hammer mill, and pellet mill.
Assuming this is being done on a small scale for personal, non-commercial use only, if I had none of this machinery and my end goal was making pellets, the first piece of machinery I'd purchase would be a used 10HP or greater chipper shredder. With this you can at least process your raw material for animal bedding and composting. This would be a relatively small investment and get you quickly familiarized with processing your raw material.
From there, you can gauge if you need a different chipper/shredder (all are not alike) or if you need to scale up to a larger machine and then work your way up to the pellet mill if you feel it is still a worthwhile endeavor.
In my case, I have about 5 acres of scrub alder and blackberries on part of my property that I want to restore back to pasture. From my experience using it, I know my 10hp chipper shredder is not going to cut it for this project. So, as I have a tractor, I'll be shopping for a used, self feeding PTO driven chipper. Then, if I find I have mountains of wood chips that I cannot use I may look into processing them further.
Start small and work you way up the ladder as your knowledge and experience grow.
When it comes to mistake's based on lack of youtube information I've seen my share.
I got caught up in this rocket mass dehydrating room of mine in an attempt to have something to mill by now.
RMH Dehydrator v3 is about 80% there.
Anyways first lesson I want to convey since buying, there is so much people take for granted you know the higher up you go into technology. I finally went to plug it in and even though I expected it I was still suprized, the plug didn't look like anything I had ever seen before and it certainly wasn't going to plug into the dryer outlet. It took 3 hours and 4 store's to make an adapter plug, I can't imagine what it would be like if I lived out in the true stix. What was sad was nobody had a clue, and just when I was about to put my name under another loser who ignorance bit an electrician standing in line took me aside and told me what to do. Life seems to teeter by the feather weight's of karma.
So I asembled my box of wire's pluged it in and the house began to vibrate, the rabbit's ran into their boxes, and I proudly put an egg carton in and closed my eyes. Let's just say this, the hole I thought was the air intake blew fluff 10 feet across the room, and the catch bucket I had sat empty. There are no instructions with it other than lube, lube and check your bolts. Nobody breaks down the mechanic's of what your using, there's just either you know or get out of town. I'll never know why the more things cost the more blind faith you have to go by, but hey at least I powdered that carton till it was cotton.
But seriously after the portable rmh dehydrator, I've hit my limit of ballooning cost and version numbers going up by the day. Stove #5 doesn't burndown like version 2 radiant spontaneous fire, but now it burn's pellets which is great but needs a $150 blower. That's the kind of nonsense that's killing me after this major investment.
So I finally understand why the larger hammer mills have that giant ugly funnel looking bloated hotdog, there's no video's on it and no diagram's explaining it's purpose. It's because the dam thing blast particles out and shooting them 12 feet into the air and back down through an expanded space slow's them down enough to fall into a bucket without causing a dust storm.
So I bought the smallest unit, it doesn't have that, it blows forward and the people who sell it never personaly use the small scale equipment so they have no clue. The one youtube video I found which showed a mill similar to mine had the standard 5 men standing around looking at one man chuck stuff into a dangerous machine. When the camera finaly panned over to where the material was going all I saw was a big pile of dust on the floor and in the air. Which is very sad, as i'm hammer milling in a hallway between the backdoor and the rabbits, I have no room for mess.
In this installment I'm looking for info on bagging when it comes to blower's, i tried putting a mesh bag on but half flew through it, i tried a nylon sieving bag, but nothing came through and then carton bit's bubbled back out of the mills mouth. I've only mowed a lawn maybe 3 times in my life and I dont understand how they work. I never got a bag with my wood chipper so things simply fly everywhere. Is there a limit on the amount of cfm's a machine can output before using a bag is impossible? everything i've tried seem's to just blow air back up the exaust and make's it shoot out the mouth. Is there a type of fabric I can make a bag out of that doesn't leak but let's air through? it doesn't seem possible or at least behave anything like a lawn mower. Maybe I'm wrong maybe they do spew but since it's all wet vegetation there's little dust, It's probably falling out the bottom and I dont know.
Allot of fervent born again permie's seem to have backgrounds that don't even give them simple access to what make's a proper catch bag.
This story so far seem's to really ring true to my original topic, I've made the leap, set out on my own in a category that I "should" have access to vast knowledge but seem not to at all. I've got bag's of dried harvest ready to be reduce, and I'm roadblocked by another impasse of ignorance. After + 1000 dollar's spend nothing should be allowed to look like another DIY husband bastard job, I thought of hooking up a bunch of dryer venting to slow it down but I fear "contraption-ism" taking my new hammer mill away and creating another anti wife zone of the house.
So far this is my lead. "raschel knit polyester" that is the fabric the amazon.com website said their wood chipper bag's are made of.
I have searched most of the lower mainland of bc and nobody sell's chipper bag's, wood chipper's are rare enough.
So does anyone have any experience with using bag's from blower exhaust, "mower's, leaf vac's, wood chippers, anything?"
to buy the fabric and make a bag is going to cost me another 30 bux, and it will only take 30 seconds to know if it fails. I can't keep up this stumble before you walk learning curve, the credit card is about to break it's ankle.
I can draw examples if need be but basically the analogy of how do I bag from a 10hp chipper with minimal dust is the same as how do I bag from a hammer mill without killing myself and the rabbit's with dust.
I guess the question is can I put dust in it? I think I can, I think that was the bag everything was done in before plastic. I don't have proof beyond seeing grain's stored in them in the third world, but I cam surely give it a shot. I don't know if theres a difference between the fabric store stuff and the ready made bag's I see, but the store's I can get them at are across the street from each other so it can't hurt to try the bag first, but it's a crappy drive back after a 30 second test.
I think i'll definitely try it in the morning, oh burlap you always seem to surprise me again and again.