I'm just thinking of how much energy is used when we use tractors and other pieces of equipment. Humans (as most mammals) are very efficient machines. I know it seems like an awful lot of work to do things by hand but, pure energy wise, it's a huge waste to use fossil fuels when you can do it by hand.
Not sure why this is interesting to me at the moment, but it probably has to do with the fact I'm waiting for spring to start manually digging more ponds and moving granite boulders. This might just act as inspiration that I'm not crazy to ignore the lure of machines. Other than energy though, I do understand that some tasks are outside the reach of humans. Another thing would be the TIME machines save. But I'm young and still looking to wreck my body more before I need a walker to pick my future plums.
I guess to turn this into a conversation instead of a statement, where does the line exist for you guys:
-When do you put down the shovel and get into the machine, and vice versa.
-I'm sure there are times when you know it could be done by hand and find yourself using the machine instead. Why do you think you made that choice? Lazy, time, skills?
-What ideas do you have to promote/encourage more manual labour? (I think a futurist in the early 1900's would call me crazy, "robots will do everything for us!")
Anyway, perhaps thinking in pure energy is too far fetched sometimes, but maybe not.
This is my first thread. So, if I've put it in the wrong place or copied an existing thread or just going on about nothing please cut me slack this time
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
posted 4 years ago
Let's check the math... We'll use peanut oil as a near substitute for diesel. My jar of peanut oil claims 120 Calories per tablespoon. With 67 Tablespoons per liter that equals. 8,000 Calories. That's close to the 8.7 million calories, claimed by the Yahoo answers page. But why do the two numbers look so different? The standard for human food is Calories. But the diesel was reported as calories. There are 1000 calories in a Calorie... So that liter of diesel contains enough energy to keep a person alive for about 4 days.
It takes me about 6 liters of diesel to till an acre. That's equivalent to 24 days worth of food. That is a heck of a bargain if you ask me... I couldn't accomplish that much work by hand in a month, or even in an entire growing season.
I have a wheel hoe and a rototiller. First thing in the spring the wheel hoe is the way to go for convenience and simplicity. Later in the season as the weeds mature and the soil starts to resemble terra-cotta a tiller is the only way to cultivate. Sorry for bringing up tilling in this forum.... But the same sorts of trade offs apply to things like building swales. We use machines because they are really really effective at doing what they do.
Wait, there is a difference between calories and Calories? I will re-read my thoughts.
Location: Sackville/Graywood, Nova Scotia
posted 4 years ago
Joseph Lofthouse wrote: There are 1000 calories in a Calorie
Well there you have it, that's a factor of 1000. No wonder I was so scared of fuel today.
Alright, now that my fear is down a little ( about 1000 times down ), I would like to continue to think the conversation is interesting when considering the bare energy costs affiliated with our work. I don't know very many mechanical farmers (or manual farmers really) to have an idea how much is done wastefully, but it sounds like you are quite concious when it comes to your use of energy.
Gravel. This is where I would prefer to use a machine. I've been to a site where a pipe was backfilled with two feet of gravel, and the 30m pipe failed pressure tests so we had to dig the gravel out by hand to protect the pipe. First time around I thought it sucked but when the pipe failed a second time I vowed to hate shovelling gravel forever. Still end up doing it from time to time but never like that awful project. Your shoulders and elbows don't like it when you put that shovel into gravel.
I think my outlook on fossil fuels is more the idea of the surrounding infrastructure required. It's too hard to nail down the energy cost totally required, cause you'd end up including the energy used to build the machines that spit out the screws on the boats that shipped the fuel in the first place. It's easier for me to understand that there is an infrastructure, and in my eyes this existing infrastructure is like an extra step (opposite of the lazy gardeners want). So reducing the number of major infrastructures depended on for a project is like reducing the energy consuming steps. I know this is unrelated to my initial post, but I'm bored at work and killing time.
I'm still trying to forget the idea of eating a litre of peanut oil over 4 days. Even worse is the idea of surviving on a cup of fuel per day. blech.
Using fuel to build a swale or bury water lines or other infrastructure ONCE so you can do less in the future is a smart investment. Using a tractor or pickup when a wheelbarrow would do the job faster isn't. Mollison and Lawton talk about this in their energy audit definition of sustainability.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
My day job is bicycle courier, part time. I work for a rather big delivery company and just for the sake of an argument with my boss I decided to calculate how much (outsourced!!) energy I actually spent every day. Taking into account my average day length of 6 or 7 hours, I came down to 1.5 teaspoons of kcal in diesel per day. A total of 18 liters per year if I were to work every single working day of the year. That sure dropped some jaws, seeing as most of the companies deliveries are done by diesel guzzling vans that also require much more maintenance.
The argument was concerning whether I should be re-compensated for my sandwiches I didn't win the argument (yet).
edit: I bike between 40 and 60 km a day.
edit2: I prefer to think in kcal rather than Calories (big C), it makes for less confusion.