I'm a new farmer, tenant farmer, and caretaker for a large (900 acre) nature preserve in northern Virginia. I lease about 30 acres of farmland (7 acre deerfence market garden enclosure, 20-some acres of pasture). Since May 2021 when I began, I have been a one-man operation, raising pastured broilers and pastured eggs within the 7-acre market garden enclosure. I desperately need labor, mainly because the market garden is waaaay too much work for me alone, and I still have an awful office job, which I must jettison asap. The previous tenant farmer had access to cabins on the 900-acres in the forest and he used those cabins for 15-years to house about four fulltime farm workers each year. He left the land in large part because the relationship with the landlord has changed and it is no longer permissible to use the cabins in the woods (the non-profit nature preserve is morphing into a state park with all of those bureaucratic trappings). The change wasn't what he wanted, and I also don't consider it ideal, but as a new farmer I'm trying to frame the change as an opportunity to have the community come to me for produce rather than me hauling the produce to (God awful) D.C., as he did. But I need labor and loyal labor (or partners) at that. So I am certainly not trying to cut corners when it comes to taking care of people.
My goal: convert the cottage into a four-season dwelling for a farm worker or business partner. I'm running electricity to the 200sf cottage and there is a good wood burning stove. I've also begun building a tree bog. A tree bog is an elevated outhouse where feces are eaten by willows; I harvest willows, convert to biochar, inoculate with urine from the outhouse. Biochar feeds the market garden compost. So human waste and heating is squared away. But I am trying to figure out the shower situation.
My challenge and plan: How do I handle the shower gray water and how do I keep the shower portable? The farm has a 200amp panel and my plan is to install a 60 amp subpanel at the 200sf cottage and dedicate 30amps to an on-demand water heater for the shower. I am thinking there is some sort of an electric disconnect that I can plug the cottage into and plug the shower into, kind of like a motorhome camping scenario...that way I can tow the small cottage away on a trailer when the time comes. Then I build the shower frame on a couple of 4"x4"s for tow-ability and put a prefab shower in it, smash a hole in the cottage wall, tack the shower to the cottage, and--boom--farm worker ecstasy. I'm confident that I can enforce a biodegradable-soap-only dictate for the cottage and shower and I can run the gray water into some sort of garden.
What do you guys think, what did I miss, how can I do this the best, are there any dangers to people or the environment...Any resources I am not recycling?
I would double check the power required for electric, on demand hot water, both from a cost and amperage/wattage required.
I am where our power comes from relatively inexpensive hydro - but even then, the cost would have been prohibitive for usage; the draw is huge, even if only for short periods of time. Cost per use was/is only viable from carbon based (LNG, Propane etc.) fuel sources. This was seven years ago, in BC Canada.
As to grey water, assuming the dispersal of this IS permitted (double and triple check, it's NOT where I am), why not a pit, filled with rock/gravel then topped with decking of some sort (that allows the water to flow thru).
Could grey water be used in a reed bed or hydroponic/self watering system in a green house if water scarcity is an issue?
I am assuming the old fashioned rainwater to black tank type solar heated shower water is not an option. This would be the cheapest and simplest solution.
Another option for hot water, although very pricey up front, is a "heat pump" hot water heater, ideally located in a green house where the solar warmed air "boosts" the HW tank so that the electric element heater would rarely be needed. It would need to vent the cooler air (AC for the cabin?) outside the greenhouse, or could be used to cool the greenhouse in summer.
Lorinne Anderson: Specializing in sick, injured, orphaned and problem wildlife for over 20 years.
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