Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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In the blink of an eye

I stare at a white empty background and I think what pearl of wisdom can I impart to help those that are beginning the journey, in which, we have vested seven years of our life?  We are ending our seventh season and it does not look good from a financial standpoint.  We might break even this year, we did not purchase any high dollar items but we did incur startup costs for the broilers.

The broilers are another issue that will be dealt with, and my suspicion is that we are not going to be raising organic broilers next year.  We are looking into contracting out our grow services because we can sell live chickens.  We just cannot sell chickens processed by a USDA inspected exempt facility.  For some odd reason we need to be part of the slaughter or it does not count.  I know each step of the way I have fought the raising and processing of animals, so this might be one of those signs.  Like when you smell propane gas when you should not be smelling propane. 

Before we purchased the flame weeder, as with most things, I did my homework to find out the positive and negatives associated with the decision.  Later on, I was at a graduation party and happened to be talking to an occupational safety researcher.  She is a MD, doing research for the University of Maryland Medical School. 

Knowing my background she asked what kind of mosquitoes lived in Maryland, "I do not know, but I can find out and get back to you," I replied.  Then I asked her why, "I want to buy lore and trap because they are so bad at my house".  I had already purchased my own mosquito catcher and it used a propane tank with lore.  Her reply was a wake up call.  "There is no way I am getting anything using propane.  It is just too dangerous and I'm not taking the risk".

Mind you, I had already bought the flame weeder and backpack in which to carry the tank, "Backpack," being the proximity of the propane tank to my body.  We went on to talk about other things and I told her I would find out about the mosquito and send her an email.  Her words bothered me given her occupation and extensive knowledge of work place injuries.  Once again, one of those signs that makes you pay attention and rethink your original opinion and facts.

I renewed my research of propane but focused mainly on explosions and deaths.  I know it sounds morbid but "fore warned, is fore armed,” if we had not tamed fire where would we be today?  I found websites (.edu, .org, .net and .com) that actually tracks instances of propane deaths caused by explosions.  What I found was that you need three things for an explosion to occur.  One is a leak from the propane apparatus, two is confined or un-ventilated space and three is a spark or flame.  When those things occur simultaneously, you get an explosion.  Okay, I felt a little less anxious because I knew the formula. 

Before each use of the flame weeder, I smell the connections to make sure there is no leak.  There is a regulator between the tank and the flame wand, if a leak would occur it would be around there or in the hose itself.  The tank is always in the on position, I know I should turn it off, in between uses, but I do not.  I am lazy, I use to turn it off each time when put away, and then by the time I lifted the fifty-pound pack onto my back to use it I would find out I had not turned it on.  After a couple of times doing this instead of making sure to turn it on before I lifted it, I just left it on.  Strike one for safely staying alive.

The tank is stored in the dairy barn so a leak would dissipate into the upper floors and the rest of the barn area.  If there were a leak, as soon as you opened a door, you would smell the propane.  Because of the cavernous area of barn space, the propane would not be so concentrated that a spark could set a leak off.  Saturday, I went into the barn to get the weeder, smelled it, put it on and started to weed around the gardens.  Every so often I would get a whiff of propane, I thought maybe what I was smelling was excess gas that did not ignite as it came out of the flame end.  Strike two for safely staying alive.

Only by the grace of God, am I here to write this brief tome.  I had the volume of gas output high because I was killing substantial weed stands.  As I was weeding, I noticed a chicken had gotten out of its pen; I turned the weeder flame off, and walked to the garage to get Coadee.  As I took the backpack off I got the nasty smell of propane, I did not need to get close to the regulator, it was hissing and the smell was overwhelming.  The first thing I did was to turn the tank off by the valve.  Second, I gently picked everything up so that I would not hit metal to metal or create any kind of spark or static charge.  I took the tank out and away from the house, placed on the ground and went to get Coadee to corral the arrant chicken. 

As we were going to get the chicken I started to feel nauseated, my knees were knocking, my muscles felt like rubber and I just became exhausted.  I realized how I had just cheated death and my mind was reeling.  Coadee got the chicken and I put her back in the pen.  Regulators go bad for lots of reasons and I do not know why this one did.  I had to replace the regulator before because I dropped it and it broke.  When I replaced the first regulator, I purchased three regulators.  My train of thought is if it broke once, chances are it is going to break again.  Therefore, I was able to replace the regulator and fix the leak.  I did not use it again that day but I will be used again.

So today’s pearl is peril, attention to detail, stick with what you have learned and do not rationalize for the sake of laziness or time.  There are only so many times you can get away with stupid mistakes before you pay the ultimate price in the blink of an eye.

The Cause continues, if you have not already; please go to http://www.savenicksorganicfarm.org/  to help save Nick's organic farm.  You do not have to give money if you can't, but just spend a little time to make your voice heard.  You don't have to live in Maryland to be concerned about losing another farm, let alone a thirty year old plot of organic land.  No Farms, No Food.   

 

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