Rick LaJambe

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since Dec 30, 2012
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Recent posts by Rick LaJambe

Hi guys. We just started raising ducks this year. We began with some adults and raised some ducklings as well.

Our ducklings hatched late enough in the spring that we didn't expect to see any eggs from them until next spring. But in the middle of September we started to see eggs from the young ducks and we are still getting eggs now.

We're near Vancouver, BC and everyone we talk to who raises ducks has stopped seeing any eggs as early as September and none are getting eggs now. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. We're now getting more business as a result of others dropping off. I'd like to know how much longer we can expect these young ducks to keep dropping eggs every day.

We do not provide any supplemental lighting to them, but they are outside all day every day foraging in the field. Are we seeing this late laying simply because these ducks are young?

7 years ago
We are in Surrey, BC, a suburb of Vancouver, and we raise ducks on the 7 acre property we live on. We are partnered with another small producer who raises heritage breed pigs on the same property. Both species are raised using feed which is 100% free from soy or GMO. The ducks also do not eat any corn.

We sell eggs for $8/dozen. Our partner sells whole or half hogs for $4/lb.

7 years ago
With oil and natural gas, we consume it and it is gone. Wood is classified as a "renewable resource", and as such, we can replace what we used by planting more trees to grow and produce more wood. It is something that requires more foresight and planning to not end up in a situation where there is worsened deforestation,but it is something that can be managed. Oil cannot be replenished in our lifetime, but forests can.

Are permaculturalists not focused on planning for permanent abundance? We plant trees and bushes to produce our food, ground cover, building materials, animal feed and habitat. Branches fall, trees die. Mark Shepard wrote in his book that he has reached a point on his farm where they have more wood waste than they can use for home heating or woody mulch so he was looking to wood gasification to deal with what was becoming a problem; huge piles of tree and hazelnut bush trimmings. He states that trimmings from an acre of hazelnuts can produce $90 worth of electricity. "The problem is the solution"

Instead of focusing on how wood gasification would fit our current situation, wouldn't it make more sense to think about how we could make our situation fit wood gasification? One could probably calculate the number of trees they would have to personally plant every year to cover their (reduced) energy needs and plant far more. And as Ben said, it's a lot of work gathering and prepping all of that wood. Once you have done the work necessary to produce the energy for yourself, you are going to appreciate it more and be much more conservative. It's no different than growing your own food. Once you understand the effort that went into growing the meal on your plate, you appreciate it more and waste less.
9 years ago
Yes, the real world, where we can't all precisely weigh and measure our materials.

I wonder if anyone else reading this can speak to my concern with the bones being leftover in the compost? Do bones simply take a longer time to break down? I've seen video of Geoff Lawton where he describes putting fish, roadkill, old jeans, leather boots, or slow moving interns into hot piles and it all breaks down. What about the bones? Are the bones showing that I definitely haven't constructed a proper hot pile?
9 years ago
I build my pile, turn after 4 days then every 2nd day after. I have my piles covered loosely with tarp to prevent drying out from the sun or steaming off but leave gaps between the tarp and ground for air to circulate.

I'm in no big hurry. I had the understanding that the Berkley method of hot composting yielded finished compost in 18 days and could include materials that a slow pile could not. In my case I need a hot pile to kill off weed seeds and any potential pathogens from meat waste. We do not raise swine or chickens so composting is the best method for us to handle our organic waste. I thought that since 18 days did not yield finished compost for me, I was getting my proportions wrong.

So, once the thermophilic phase is complete do I spread it in place for fungal activity to continue, or is it better to spread it on my beds and allow that to happen there?

Another thought I just had was that I remember seeing some chicken bones in the pile after it cooled off. Since they didn't decompose fully, might they be a source of some nasty bacteria?
9 years ago

Andy Jackson wrote: After a few of these cycles, the pile will fail to heat like this, but that does not mean composting has completed, just the thermophilic phase. The remaining straw that you saw (and other material as well) require cooler temperatures and fungal activity to break down. This simply takes time.

I assumed that my piles would finish up if I left them to sit for a few months. The part that confuses me is that most sources tell you that the end product of an 18-day compost pile should not resemble any of what went in to begin with. This leads me to believe I am still not getting the correct proportion.

If adding more green material to my cooled pile causes it to heat again, does that not mean that there was enough carbon to support a greater nitrogen load in the first place?
9 years ago
The white I saw in my piles looked like everything inside the piles had been burnt and was coated in white ash. It did not look like mycelium. From everything I have learned, they were bacterially dominated due to the high temperatures.

I am having a hard time understanding why I would need more carbon. The materials in the pile which are left intact seem to be high in carbon like straw, chopped cattail stalks and the like, which leads me to believe that there was not enough nitrogen there to fully break everything down. With two of the piles last summer, I had even added more nitrogenous material after they had finished their 18 days and they picked up in temperature again. If I was left with pieces of slimy greenery or identifiable food scraps and had a smelly pile, would that not have indicated too much nitrogen?

My hope is that since I am left with carbonaceous material in my cooled piles, letting them sit for a few months will allow fungus to move in and finish the job.
9 years ago

Andy Jackson wrote:A few notes:

1) Steam - The presence of steam does NOT indicate loss of nitrogen, as suggested. It's merely water vapor driven off the pile due to heat. As long as your pile doesn't overheat or dry out, it is a desirable indicator.
2) "White Fungus" - This isn't a fungus at all, nor is it an anaerobic bacteria. It's a type of thermophilic bacteria known as Actinomycetes, and while it is a bacteria species, it grows white/grey filaments that are often mistaken as a fungus. Also a desirable indicator.

I remember hearing (perhaps incorrectly) that the presence of this bacteria in the compost was an indicator that the temperature is too high in the pile. Is that incorrect? Since I don't have a compost thermometer, I have no idea what the exact temperatures were that my piles reached. I did the arm test after a week or so on some of them and immediately had to pull my arm out before reaching the center of the pile. The piles got roaring hot but they didn't break down all of the straw. I'm not satisfied with it as a compost product, but it is probably superior to a pure straw-mulch. I'll find a source of manure to boost my nitrogen for my future piles.
9 years ago
To clarify, the steam I refer to is when I'm turning it. If I leave it for three days between turns, I get the white fungus or mold from too much heat, I presume. I am not getting the final product I should, as there is still much uncomposted straw. I need more greens, I'm sure, yet the piles are heating up sufficiently to begin with. I'd like to get together with someone locally to show me what the needed quantities actually look like. I don't mean to hijack this thread though and make it about me. I am still curious about what you referred to in your earlier post.

Have you any photos or plans for your vermiculture set-up to share?
9 years ago
William, I'd be very interested in seeing your vermicomposting set-up. I too am getting disillusioned with composting. At first I was excited to see the composting action with the steam and incredible heat produced. I was even happy about the amount of exercise I was getting by turning my hot piles every 2nd day. Now it has become a chore that I try to put off for as long as possible. Rats and mice have moved into my piles too.

How much food can your system handle? Would it handle the waste of a household of 5 people?
9 years ago