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Tips & Tricks - What's working for you?  RSS feed

 
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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Hello all....

I've been wanted to start a group discussion on......

'Far-out', 'Interesting' or 'Strange' things you've heard about and tried.....
And what have your results been?

Any Subject is Welcome

------------------------------------------------------------------------
I'll start....


[center]Alternate Fuels for Burning  OR  No Wood, No Problem[/center]

I heard from a guy in England about using horse manure as winter fuel for the wood stove.  Before you freak, burning dung has been done successfully for hundreds of years, as you know.  So I did my own experiments.... and was very pleased.

My agenda: with no time or muscle to speak of how would I keep my family warm out on the land.....?  Picking up branches, and trimming trees is fine, but I do not want to have to become a woodsman - Oy!

So here's the scoop - You make a form out of scrap lumber.  Much like a bread pan, with sides that get wider at the top, sloping out from the bottom of the 'pan' as they go up.  Or you can find plastic forms that will do the trick too, just twist to pop out the logs.

Collect your horse-poo, and lube the sides of your form if using wood (I didn't find lubing necessary, but I did fill the cracks of the form with canning wax).  Lard was suggested as a lubricant.

Use a cheap cat litter scooper to load up your form, and have a pair of rubber boots on (just used for this purpose).  Now press the poo into the form using your foot/boot.  When the form is full turn over and and give it a light jolt on the ground to remove.  I will say this whole process for forming 'logs' takes some learning to get your grove going, but it is a simple thing to master quickly.

Stack your 'logs' with space/air all around, like up on a used pallet.  Cross stack the next layer, and so on to allow maximum air flow around your new creations so they will dry.

This is a good summer project.  Once dried, they can be stored in a more convenient fashion, taking up much less space.  Drying time depends on the heat and humidity. And they can be crumbly so take that into consideration when moving.

The first year I just dried the poo as is (left it in the large plastic tub I collected it in), and tried it in it's natural form to see what I thought before going to the trouble of the forming into a log, stacking, etc.  It worked great!  And the poo was free, no chain saw, unloading, stacking, hauling etc. - very cool.

The dried horse-apples smelled just like hemp!  "Sweet-earthy" my daughter said, "like pot" I said, and then added "never mind.... I meant hippy-incense"  

While burning it there wasn't any smell really, that is to say I went outside and it didn't smell like Woodstock - lol (like I would know, to young) - Whew, that's a good thing!  The smell from my bucket of horse-apples wasn't strong and didn't carry all over the house, another good thing.

However, the little buggers would roll off into the ashes when placing on top of a burning fire and not catch fire.  So the pressing them (horse apples) into some form with a flat side is nice for placement in one's fireplace or woodstove.  I envision NO WORK method for a rocket stove - yiiippeee!

As for handing: you can use utensils or rubber gloves as you like.

The low-down says that when packed this burns similar to seasoned oak - I don't burn wood enough to comment on this.  It does require kindling to start as an oak log would, or a fire already going...  unless you add a splash of lamp-oil on the dried poo as I did - What?  I was out of kindling!  And it did burn just as long as wood of the approximate size, so there you go.

Anyway... Got Horse....maybe you don't need a forest or woodsman after all 

This news would be an extra blessing to the elderly or disabled out on land as well.

But the biggest news about burning horse poo is this - drum roll please!  It is suppose to be the best garden amendment secret old English gardeners have!  You simply save and add your ashes to your garden and around your tress for greater returns each year.  Bonus!

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Okay - sooooo what say you?  Have any nifty tricks or tips up your sleeve?

Marty just posted a great tip - "Free live bug idea for the chickens" over in the critter care forum....

So what things have you found to work smarter and not harder, making your permaculture dreams possible?

~Jami
 
pollinator
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thanks i'll mention it to my man..if he wants to go pick up some free manure..we'll give it a try.

can't think of any unusual things here right now..maybe later
 
pollinator
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Dry-cropping tomatoes works.

Plant them in deep soil, and water them until they're established, but wean them off.

In my case, this was accomplished by absent-mindedness. 
 
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I tried to grow potatoes in old feed sacks. didn't work. can't think of anything else right now...
 
Jami McBride
gardener
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Okay - here's one more....

-------------------------------------------------------------

[center]The Upside Down Fire[/center]

Well our daytime temps went from 90's to low 60's in 24 hours - it's fire time!

Building fires and keeping them going in our fireplace has always been like babysitting a toddler!

The Upside Down Fire is made by stacking your biggest wood on the bottom, in a single direction, close together (no grate needed - yiippeee).  Next level up you put your medium size wood running crosswise to the first course, close together, no spacing other than what happens with natural wood pieces.  Then you stack smallest pieces same as the other layers crosswise to those below.  Now put your fire starting (tinder or paper in my case) materials in the middle of the top and light.

They say this type of fire burns longer, better utilizes the fuel, smokes less and DOES NOT HAVE TO BE MAINTAINED.  My old fires were going out after everything was burned but the big logs, which couldn't seem to maintain burning without some other heat source.  Also I had logs roll out after the kindling burnt and left a slant to my pile.  And building a typical fire with big wood on the top was a huge chore.

So my experiment went like this:
I took out my fire-grate, and stacked the following wood as close as possible.

  • [li]I put over sized split logs, two biggies on the bottom (this filled the bottom).[/li]
    [li]Next, I put round branch logs, about 3" diameter running the crosswise direction.[/li]
    [li]Then I put recycled (no paint) 2x4's, and[/li]
    [li]I started all this with one wax fire starter and one sheet of newspaper.[/li]


  • Using so little to maintain a fire is unheard of for my usual fires. 
    I watched the big guys at the bottom.... would they burn completely?

    The fire took off as usual; the logs at the very bottom were on fire faster than I thought they would be considering there were no spaces in my stacks (I was surprised). 

    The big huge wood at the bottom was burning all over, bottom, and sides, top and out the front, not just where the other fire/wood was.  I never added another piece of kindling or paper (a first for me!). 

    When all of the other wood on top was gone the logs on the bottom still had flame and were burning good on their own (surprise again).  I love that the fire doesn't 'need' me

    At the end the big pieces began to make coles and still a few flames were burning here and there, and these pieces burned up completely.

    Conclusion:
    SUCCESS! - Using this method was much easier than building a typical fire for me.  Heaviest wood goes in at the bottom - this was soooo much easier.  Building was quick and easy, and I did not have to wad up a bunch of newspaper or break up any wood to keep the fire going.  I was able to get much more wood in the stack using this method.  I cannot judge the smoke amount since I cannot really see the smoke in my fireplace.  The big wood pieces at the bottom burned completely - wonderful.  For ease alone, this method of building a fire makes it perfect for my needs, anything else it might achieve is just bonus .....

    The results will vary depending on materials used and their uniformity.  I don't usually have good middle size pieces just big pieces and kindling, and this method still worked well for me.

    For more examples visit youtube or google video's and search for upside down fire.

    ~Jami
     
    Brenda Groth
    pollinator
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    sounds really interesting..we have a wood boiler and may try something similar as we have HUGE pieces of wood..i mean huge !!
     
    Jami McBride
    gardener
    Posts: 1948
    Location: PNW Oregon
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    Toward the goal of less work with same result, I have another to offer....

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    [center]Weeding sidewalks, rocks and other non-soil areas[/center]

    I used to spend much time in the Spring weeding my rock path, cracks in driveway, etc.  Oh what this did to my hands - yikes!

    But now I use a large spray bottle full of white vinegar and blast the weeds in between the spring rains.  The vinegar treatment works just like RoundUp, so beeeee careful!  And you do have to repeat the treatment for weeds with strong developed root systems, because just killing the top will not kill the plant.  However, you keep vinegar on a plant long enough and it's going to die ....

    You can use this on soil too, but watch over-spray and the amount your adding to your soil.  You might use newspaper to surround a 'weed', spray and then remove the cone of paper thereby saving the other plants.

    I keep this spray bottle ever ready in the spring time, set on stream.... blast blast blast and weeds die, easy!  Safe for your kids and cats to walk on too.
     
    Joel Hollingsworth
    pollinator
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    I almost never watch TV, but recently there was an ad for a blown-glass bulb with a long neck and a narrow opening at the end.

    The idea is to fill it with tap water and jab it into a planter, so that it will automatically release water when the soil near its mouth is dry enough to let air in.

    I took a wine bottle with an aluminum screw cap, poked a hole in the cap with a nail, filled it with greywater, and jabbed it into a planter.

    It has emptied slowly in this rainy season. Not sure yet if it works.
     
    Jami McBride
    gardener
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    This is great Joel, I think I'll try it with my dieing house plants....
     
                                  
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    easy harvesting of worm castings from worm bins.

    I've tried several methods of harvesting worm castings and most of them were tedious or didn't work all that well. (Dumping the bin in piles on a tarp in the sun and scraping the tops off till the worms are collected at the bottom, takes hours of hunching over the tarp collecting hand fulls of castings.)  (Or placing a layer of screen or burlap over the mostly finished stuff and feeding on top, didn't work so well as many o the worms tend to stay down in the bottom as the juices dripping through the finished castings have lots of food value for them for a long time.)

    My new way......
    Scoop mostly finished stuff out of bin and set aside momentarily.  Put new bedding/food stuff in bottom of worm bin, place screen/burlap over the new feed/bedding.  Put mostly finished castings on top of screen.  Worms seem much quicker to migrate down into new bedding and food than going up to it.  Especially if the new bedding and feed stuff is the right moisture level and you allow the nearly finished castings to dry out a bit on top.  I will usually make this worm bin inversion and leave the castings on top for a few weeks or till I get around to needing them for something.  Generally all the worms have moved down and the castings are easy to remove by lifting the screen off and dumping into buckets.

    I've done it this new way a few times and it is sooooo much better than the other ways that I have tried.
     
    steward
    Posts: 5000
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    Wow, the upside down fire sounds amazing, Jami! As does that method for vermicompost, TCLynx! I am so ready to try both.

    Most of my tips and tricks I'm thinking this crowd already knows. Like using baking soda as a scouring powder, or using vinegar and baking soda to clear a clogged drain...

    Great thread idea!
     
                                  
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    Well I am glad to hear that some one else has used that method of drain clearing before.  And baking soda needs to be on hand everywhere.
     
    steward
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    Jami,
    That formed road apple project is slick.  I would prefer to compost the manure but horses are frequently dewormed.  Residual medication gets into the ground and can affect the earthworm population. 

    Rather than a wood form, a simple trench could do the job of shaping the briquettes, all you need is a shovel.  A simple solar dryer box could be placed over a wood form or a trench to speed up drying.  I've seen road apples in barns that were several years old and dry as a bone.  I  wonder if termites would take an interest in stored briquettes. 

    I'm think that processing the apples into bricks could be enhanced with a wheelbarrel and hoe.  Adding water to the apples, mixing it into a castable consistency would promote filling a mold.  A fat mold for slow burning, a shallow mold for fast burning. 

    How do the dried bricks hold up?  Can they offer enough strength to build with?  I think a framed wall could be filled with these bricks, in the manner of strawbale construction, offering a cheap building material.  Might be good for a chicken coop or pig pen.  I suspect it would do well as insulation for the same.

    If the horses were not treated for worms, these bricks would be an excellent lining for a worm bin.  It would protect the lumber, hold excess moisture, and be replaceable on occasion with older bricks simply fed to the worms.

    I bet dried rabbit droppings would serve a pellet stove.

     
    Leah Sattler
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    kpeavey wrote:
      I would prefer to compost the manure but horses are frequently dewormed.  Residual medication gets into the ground and can affect the earthworm population. 



    might be worth finding out what they are dewormed with. many wormers are virtually undetectable in manure and don't affect earthworms. I think ivermectin was one of the bad ones.
     
                                  
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    I expect that a round of hot composting could take care of most worm medications and the aging process probably takes care of more.  Adding fresh horse manure to a worm bin would probably mean lots of seeds sprouting in the worm bin so a round of composting is probably a good thing.
     
                        
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    I love the horse pile idea. People give manure away all the time on craigslist. Just curious how tough these 'logs' are. Do they stack like wood?
     
    Jami McBride
    gardener
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    They are not that tough, no tossing or such would work.  They are more like a cheap pressed log.  So you have to carry and stack by hand, however what breaks off is still burnable 

    Maybe stacking in containers to easily collect crumbs might be a good idea.

    You could experiment with breaking the poo down and adding a stabilizer before you form the logs, but that would run in the wrong direction to my way of thinking.

    Soapbox: us humans mostly seem to focus on pushing things for optimization, but this very act enslaves us to the things we are pushing and controlling. 

    Not that this is you, just something I'm trying to learn to resist in myself (true confessions).
     
                        
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    This could be a decent enterprise if you could get people over the fact that they are carrying poo logs into there house to burn. Manure is everywhere and it doesn't sound very labor intensive to get a nice batch ready for the stove. I wonder how the heat factor is relative to wood.
     
    Jami McBride
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    It was stated that the same size log would burn equal to oak, but put out more btu's. 

    I assumed they meant equal in burn time, but warmer in feel...

    The stuff smells really nice -giggle- earthy, just like a hippie health food store.

    But the thing the guy raved about was how the ashes made his garden produce like it was on steroids.  He said every year it just got better and better. 

    I picked up a good plastic mold and plan on making some of the logs this summer.  The idea of not buying, hauling and messing with a lot of wood sounds good to me.
     
    Ken Peavey
    steward
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    Backwoods Home Magazine article  about manure fuel, a form for manure logs, use of ash.

    I need a horse.
     
    Jami McBride
    gardener
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    Ken Peavey wrote:
    Backwoods Home Magazine article  about manure fuel, a form for manure logs, use of ash.

    I need a horse.



    Ha!  Me too!

    Your article must be the original, and the one I read some guys own experience with trying the same thing.  Thanks for the link, having the complete detailed information is very nice.

    So far I've been very happy with burning the apples, it's just the getting them that poses a problem.  Oh to have a neighbor with horses *grin*

     
                        
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    If you have a truck, I would check your local craigs list. I cannot count the times I have seen ads for free manure.
     
    Ken Peavey
    steward
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    A few years back when I worked at the restaurant I met a retired couple.  They'd come in for a good time now and then, and we got to be friends somewhat.  For their anniversary I was invited over,  I made raspberry shortcake, it went over well.  I digress...

    They have 4 horses, live about 4 miles away.  I've loaded up the truck with manure for the compost heap.  This was before the dewormer information came my way.  Cathy says "Come get more anytime you need, we never run out, they make more every day."

    There are horses all over the place.  Riding stables, out back in pastures, farms, even animal rescue.  For the time and effort of collection, right next door would be an ideal spot.
     
    Jami McBride
    gardener
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    Problem is I only have a small car, right now.... sold my old truck and bought a trailer for hauling, but haven't got a vehicle with a hitch as of yet - still looking.

    I wonder if all the modern wormers and such would matter when burning - what do you think?
     
    Ken Peavey
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    If its going up the flu I would think you'd be fine.

    Can't get a hitch put in the car?
    Don't know anyone with a truck or hitch?
    how big is the trailer?
     
    Jami McBride
    gardener
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    I just got back from the dump - had my ex pull it for me, but that's not a good solution.  I just got desperate, over 6 months of trash built up in it and we were running out of room - Oy!

    I can have a hitch put on my car, but my driveway is steep and angled at the bottom, I'd probably get stuck all the time (several others have).  So I'm holding out for something a little higher off the ground.  Even in my ex's huge truck, coming at an angle scraped.

    The trailer is 6x4, with high plywood sides.  I want to have a friend fix the back so the back wood piece becomes a gate or ramp.  It's to heavy for me and my daughter to lift out of the tracks now.

    I don't like to be rude or dependent on others in a burdensome way, but my ex has a hitch and ball on all the time, lives a couple of blocks away and knows how to back up trailers, so it's not a huge ordeal for him.  The dump is only a few miles down the road.  It's just not comfortable for me to ask favors of him.

    So I've got 6 more months to find my own hitch - whewww....


     
    Ken Peavey
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    I'm thinking a mule could give you good clearance.

    Just don't wait 6 months in between loads...

     
                                  
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    gardener
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    I have a tip on establishing a new vegetable bed with no planting and no digging. Maybe its common knowledge/common sense but here goes anyways...

    It's gotta be about the easiest way I can think of aside from wildcrafting. The key to this is that you can't be concerned with what comes up, as this is a self seeding system. Here's the method:

    *I performed this in early spring but I could see it working at other times of the growing season...

    -Mow or weed the area you wish to make into a bed and water thoroughly

    -If soil is heavy or compacted, loosen with a pitch fork

    -Dump unfinished  kitchen scrap compost onto the plot to a minimum thickness of 1-2 inches (the stuff I used was probably the worst sludgy, moldy, oily compost you could imagine. It was heavy with half rotting vegetables, thick stalks and weeds of all kinds but about 30% of the stuff from the bin was soil or old potting mix)

    -Keep the bed moist but leave it bare or lightly mulched until volunteer sprouts come up and then mulch accordingly

    -Thin out the sprouts to allow enough space between the plants you want to keep. Do this once the sprouts are mature enough to determine what they are

    I tried this and had only a few weeds come up, and none of the grass lawn that was underneath came through. All but one of the 'weeds that came through were edible anyways so I could have left them to grow and still got a useful crop.

    In my case I was blessed with a vigorous squash vine, several dozen  turnips, some beets, and as many tomato plants as I wanted The size of the plot was about 3' X 4'.  Of course this will vary depending on what was in your pile.

    I have also planted directly lettuce seeds into a bed of similar construction with great success.
     
                                    
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    For those of you that have burned manure, how does it compare to burning wood, when it comes to how much heat it puts off? Also, what is the ash like? Could the ash be used in compost or fertilizer?

    Wondering how many poop bricks it would take to heat a 7000 sf green house year round in AK!
     
    Jami McBride
    gardener
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    Great tip Travis, I'll have to try that.

    ------------------------------------------------------
    About the poo-burning, can you read the article about it from the link provided by Ken?  It covers your questions enough so that you should be able to estimate how many poo-brincks you'll want if you have an idea of how much oak it would take.
     
    Travis Philp
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    I hope it works as well for you as it did for me. If you put the compost down early enough in the spring you don't have to weed or mow because the existing vegetation will most likely still be so dormant, and are likely to stay that way by smothering them with the compost.
     
                        
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    Horsetail reeds are the only thing I use to scour pans these days.  Works better than any other plastic or natural scrubber, and it's a nice addition to the compost when it's scrubbed one too many pans.  It's tough enough to use as a kind of steel wool, too, for tool maintenance and the like. 

    And, a really great home made exfoliating skin scrub can be made with any kind of fine salt, aloe vera gel, and oil for your skin type, mixed into a paste.  Tee tree oil for "problem" skin, almond or something else for dry skin.  I adjust my formula seasonally, as I tend to be oily in the summer and dry in the winter.   
     
    Ken Peavey
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    When I crack open an egg, I save the shells.  After they dry them in the sun, I crunch them up, offer them to the chickens.  The chickens get a little bit of grit (Florida is nothing but sand) and calcium to help with their egg production.  No need to buy crushed oyster shells.

     
    Travis Philp
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    Jami McBride wrote:
    I heard from a guy in England about using horse manure as winter fuel for the wood stove.  Before you freak, burning dung has been done successfully for hundreds of years, as you know.  So I did my own experiments.... and was very pleased.



    This could be revolutionary for our farm. We've got three horses and not a lot of firewood saved up.

    So let me see if my feeble brain has this right... you take fresh horse manure, let it dry in a bucket, and then put it into forms and its ready? How do you know when its dry enough, and how long does it stay in the forms for?

     
                                  
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    I think another brand of something similar to a Diva cup might be "Instead"  Not really meant to be re-used but is probably fairly easy to clean/sterilize if one wanted to.

    Perhaps this isn't really a thread about products but it is a thread for tips and tricks which can include particular items or products.


    To the egg shells.  Here is my trick, I use a magnet to hold a shallow plastic dish up on the range hood over our stove.  This is a handy place to put egg shells to dry out before smashing them up a bit for the chickens.  The dish is shallow enough not to impede the cabinet above yet deep enough that it will hold a week or two of egg shells.  I actually use the magnet to hold the lid of the container inverted and simply set the container in the lid.  The magnet holds the lid in place so it doesn't slide off the slanted surface and the shallow container sets right in the lid without sliding out.  This way I don't even have to worry about loosing the little strong magnet in the eggs shells when I pull it off the range hood. 
     
    Jami McBride
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    Location: PNW Oregon
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    Travis Philp wrote:


    So let me see if my feeble brain has this right... you take fresh horse manure, let it dry in a bucket, and then put it into forms and its ready? How do you know when its dry enough, and how long does it stay in the forms for?



    Fresh manure and press it into logs, if logs are what you want.  Then allow it to dry, and burn.  The logs stop the rolling and add more volume for longer burn.  Yup, that's it.

    Marina has started a new thread for product recommendations - it can be found here http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=2999.new#new

     
    Posts: 196
    Location: McIntosh, NM
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    Gophers and voles

    The land here is still healing and of course this being a dry climate we have gophers and voles.  With the orchard several years old and more trees to plant and having to deal with erosion the pups poop from the goats feeding pen works well.

    Check the barn/pen daily for pup poo and pile in several piles away from the barn. I make sure to keep some bedding with the poo as this helps later on. About once a month or after a good rain or snow melt gather the now composted manure and spread in the tree rows 6 -8 inches deep. This is for the worst areas affected.

    On the "kinda a problem" areas, the bottom portion of the barn cleaning once a week works well. Also layer that 6-8 inches deep in the row.

    I've learned not to berm with just soil as the voles love that, so the berms are now made with the gravel that comes from mining larger rock for check dams. Present dirt berms are being planted with spring flowers-daffodils and others that deter  underground pests and attract native bees for the fruit and nut trees.

    The furry little fellas have also taught me not to plant trees that when the critters nibble their roots, sprout a new tree. Locusts and the Russian Olive family are good ones for sprouting new growth, so care must be taken in placing them in areas that are checked on a regular basis in vole/gopher territory.

    And because this is goat head territory a no flat tire on the wheelbarrow is a very practical must around here! )
     
    Ken Peavey
    steward
    Posts: 2524
    Location: FL
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    scakya is right on the money, The NO FLAT tire for wheelbarrels is a MUST HAVE!

    They run 35-45 bucks.  Its a solid tire.  Never needs inflating, you can run over a field of nails, never goes flat because of cold weather or sitting in the barn.  If you wear out the wheelbarrel, keep the tire for the next one.  Its the last tire you'll ever need.

    I got mine at work off a wheelbarrel that gave its all during a lime kiln job.
     
    Joel Hollingsworth
    pollinator
    Posts: 2103
    Location: Oakland, CA
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    I understand wheelbarrows had steel rims for centuries, even for a while after pneumatic tires were invented. I wonder if there's a lighter-weight way than to replace the pneumatic tire with something more solid.
     
    This is my favorite show. And this is my favorite tiny ad:
    It's like binging on 7 seasons of your favorite netflix permaculture show
    http://permaculture-design-course.com/
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