At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
TwoInTents Blog
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An alternative animal bedding

Keep the mud down in your animal pens.  Mud is dangerous to animals because the standing water can result in an unhygienic environment that can lead to disease in your animals.  If you cannot afford gravel, or sawdust or other celebrated beddings throughout your pen, there are numerous affordable alternatives that you can rely upon.

One easy remedy is newspaper.  Whether you shred it or use it whole, the paper soaks up the water very well and can become integrated with the pen ground so that the next time there is a lot of snow or rain, it is less likely to become muddy.  Newspaper is harmless if your animals eat it, and is good for compost when you are cleaning out your pens, making it a great affordable alternative bedding.


Tire bales make great shelters!

We have built three new shelters in two days out of tire bales!
Each tire bale weighs 2,000 pounds, meaning that it not only provides excellent heat absorption during the daytime (keeping animals warm at night), but also that it recycles that much waste.  We are building multispecies shelters so that our animals may be better housed together, and besides 30 tire bales per shelter, scrapwood, recycled tarps and other recycled materials are put to use reducing our costs of production (making food, fiber and other anima products cheaper for people).  More than 70,000 pounds of waste are recycled in every pen.
The tire bales are engineered to withstand more than 60,000 pounds of force in any direction, making them the new, hottest material in civil engineering!  The tire bales require a bobcat to move, which is very hard on the soil of the animal pens.  Luckily, we rotate pens, reclaiming them between uses, so that our animals always have good turf to walk on.
Though recycling is big money, agriculture is always on the forefront of the industry, developing low-tech methods of recycling.  However, low-tech often inspires high-tech, and we understand that tire bales are going out of style as higher uses for the old tires are found: a new machine just invented will allow recyclers to earn nearly $10 per tire by converting the tire into diesel fuel (about 1.5 gallons per tire), scrap steel (more than a pound per tire) and also carbon black.  That's about 23 times more value per tire than baling them!
And baling the tires is about 4.5 times more value than loose tires (which we also use on our farm).  Technology improves, and suddenly, the recycled material which farmers could get for free is rendered into products envied by civil engineers and becomes beyond their ability to buy.  Luckily, there's more kinds of rubbish than tires, and the farmer will find new materials to use: there's always new forms of junk.

Happy America Recycles Day!

Today is America Recycles Day!  How are you celebrating? 
Here's the official presidential proclamation!
Presidential Proclamation--America Recycles Day
Each small act of conservation, when combined with other innumerable deeds across the country, can have an enormous impact on the health of our environment.  On America Recycles Day, we celebrate the individuals, communities, local governments, and businesses that work together to recycle waste and develop innovative ways to manage our resources more sustainably.
Americans already take many steps to protect our planet, participating in curbside recycling and community composting programs, and expanding their use of recyclable and recycled materials.  Recycling not only preserves our environment by conserving precious resources and reducing our carbon footprint, but it also contributes to job creation and economic development.  This billion-dollar industry employs thousands of workers nationwide, and evolving our recycling practices can help create green jobs, support a vibrant American recycling and refurbishing industry, and advance our clean energy economy.
While we can celebrate the breadth of our successes on America Recycles Day, we must also recommit to building upon this progress and to drawing attention to further developments, including the recycling of electronic products.  The increased use of electronics and technology in our homes and society brings the challenge of protecting human health and the environment from potentially harmful effects of the improper handling and disposal of these products.  Currently, most discarded consumer electronics end up in our landfills or are exported abroad, creating potential health and environmental hazards and representing a lost opportunity to recover valuable resources such as rare earth minerals.
To address the problems caused by electronic waste, American businesses, government, and individuals must work together to manage these electronics throughout the product lifecycle -- from design and manufacturing through their use and eventual recycling, recovery, and disposal.  To ensure the Federal Government leads as a responsible consumer, my Administration has established an interagency task force to prepare a national strategy for responsible electronics stewardship, including improvements to Federal procedures for managing electronic products.  This strategy must also include steps to ensure electronics containing hazardous materials collected for recycling and disposal are not exported to developing nations that lack the capacity to manage the recovery and disposal of these products in ways that safeguard human health and the environment.
On America Recycles Day, let us respond to our collective responsibility as a people and a Nation to be better stewards of our global environment, and to pass down a planet to future generations that is better than we found it.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 15, 2010, as America Recycles Day.  I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate programs and activities, and I encourage all Americans to continue their recycling efforts throughout the year.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

100,000 pounds of rubbish and counting

We are using recycled materials to construct windbreaks, animal pens, animal shelters and more!  Check it out on youtube...


Scenic trash of Elbert County

In Elbert County we find many things put to use that find new life and are no longer rubbish.  We find many things, brand new, cast away on the roadside like soda cans and lunch wrappers that become rubbish.  But the State law is clear: farmers know best what to do for the raising of crops and animals, and should be allowed to employ whatever materials are necessary without the censure of their work being called rubbish.

        Prosperous Matheson is home to some of the most picturesque farms in Elbert County where the rolling hills of Agate begin to fall to the plains.  The communities are linked by road and spirit, and though you can find the old Agate School bus parked along Highway 83, soon, as Agate fades forever, the two peoples will finally sunder.  Yet there too you see rubbish, but of a different sort.  Instead of peacefully at rest, rubbish is laid aside for use, and is actively used as soon as it may.  This sort of zealous energy for farming is to be admired, and thankfully is encouraged by the protection of State laws.

        Down the Matheson Road, a beautiful windbreak for the cattle can be seen out of scrap metal and tires.  The tires are falling down in some places, but is still functional! Though our tire walls and pens are larger, we are not proud; we all do what we can and admire and learn from each other’s efforts.  Larger is not necessarily better: in the arts of recycling, efficiency and utility matter most.  The scenic trash of Elbert County is so because it reminds us of the beauty of utilitarianism, as each work of art speaks of the ingenuity and love for the animals and crops and land bestowed by the craftsmen responsible for it. 

        Even in prosperous western County where the horses are worth more than most of the inoperable vehicles in eastern County, tires are used as culverts and walls and gardens, and so many other uses besides.  Farms and ranches, no matter their wealth, need rubbish to work the land, it is often the only affordable material to choose.  State law protects farmers and ranchers in numerous ways, providing special protection and rights to farmers and ranchers who make their own food, who undertake the use of horses, who raise cattle or other animals, or in other ways secure our State’s economy with a dependable economic engine that has outlasted silver booms and busts, technology booms and busts and will even outlast those commuting revenues that Elbert County has in recent times attempted to cultivate.

        There is enough room in Elbert County for all of us, and whether on your farm you wear muck boots or sandals, whether you enjoy at the end of the day a hot plate of rice and tofu or beef and potatoes, the diversity of Elbert County’s farming and ranching community stands unified in the practice of recycling materials and keeping hold of things that may one day be again useful.


Transforming metal into animals

We love chemistry, its one of our favorite sciences. From the delicate workings of soil bacteria to the magnificence of the biosphere, there are always new questions and insights to gain. However, sometimes we learn something so astounding that the boasts of alchemests of old seem likley: today we learned how to transform metal into animals.

Cattle are excellent investments, and at an entry price of between $50 and $150 for holstein calves (plus milk and medicine), it is a market everyone who has some land can enter. Even if your metal earns but a nickel per pound, a half-ton of metal (which can often be collected easily) can be transformed into a cow. Or two to three pigs. Or some 25 chickens. Or even 50lbs of grain or legumes, which when planted will produce hundreds of pounds of food. The possibilities are endless, and presents a unique way by which we can feed the poor by helping the ecology in the collection and recycling of "rubbish."

Sheds can be made from tires too

When building a shed, it sometimes helps to have wood on hand.  But not all sheds are made out of wood!  Some sheds may be made out of old tires laid on their sides and filled with compressed dirt, stacked up like large round bricks! 

A soil compacter is necessary for this kind of construction: simply filling the tires won’t do.  You must pound it in until the soil is hard as rock!  Then, the tires actually are pressed together and the soil acts like a kind of mortar.

Tires are largely non-toxic, but not good for growing in.  The plant roots will touch the tires and eat them, giving you poison.  But unless you are eating the tires, you will not likely be poisoned by a shed made of them.  They make good animal pens for the same reason!  They leach almost nothing into the ground if stacked above it and the leaching when buried does not go very far. 

Consider the other materials you can use to build a shed and you’ll find wood is only the beginning!


Starting seeds with recycled materials

Starting your seeds in egg cartons is easy, but some people find that their cartons dry out quickly.  Rather than baby the cartons of starts, put them in a tray full of water, and let the carton wick the water up.  Don’t overfill the tray – the carton should not be submerged as this will reduce oxygen flow to the young roots and encourage mold.  However, keeping the bottoms of the cartons moist will ensure that the entire soil within is moist.

Temperature is important to starting seeds.  Every seed has an ideal germination temperature.  Checking with your seed supplier will inform you of the ideal temperatures for your crops. 

                   While some folks will use heat mats or other electric devices, it is also possible to heat your plants using the sun.  Within your cold frame or greenhouse, construct a Styrofoam box (or other insulated box) and cover the top with clear plastic to let in the light.  This greenhouse within a greenhouse will keep your starts warmer than if they were simply on a shelf!  Make the insulated box deep enough to put several water bottles on the bottom for the tray to rest on: the water will absorb the heat in the daytime and

A cardboard box works great.  Use bubble wrap for insulation, stapled onto the sides.  Aluminum foil on the inside of the bubble wrap and some black ink or paint on the outside of the box will keep it toasty.  If you don’t have fancy polycarbonate sheeting for the top of the box, plastic food wrap works great.

Angle the top of the box so that the side facing closest to the sun is lower.  This will prevent the box from shading the plants on that side of the box.  Having a taller back wall will reflect the heat and light back down onto the plants.

If your water bottles are not warming enough, try adding quantities of salt to the water: as much as is possible!  This increases the thermal mass of the water.  Even if it sludgy, this is a good heat sink, better than bricks.  You might also try using a bigger box so that sunlight will penetrate down beneath the starts and hit the water bottles.

In the coldest winter, stack or layer water bottles around the outside of the box.  Be careful not to block sunlight coming in.  You may also try other insulation, such as leaves or straw.  If it is convenient, cover up the top of the start box with an old blanket at night.

Fertilizing: your plants are not in the soil and will quickly consume the nutrients in the little egg carton.  Like all house plants, they will require fertilizer.  Once your seedlings develop their second set of true leaves, it is time to start feeding them. Young seedlings are very tender and can't tolerate a full dose of fertilizer. Baby them with a half-strength dose until they are three or four weeks old. After that, you should start full-strength fertilizing every week or two.  Composted manure, or a mixture of urine and ashes are good natural fertilizers.  If you notice discoloration of the leaves – yellow or purple are typical – you likely have greater need for fertilizer.

If you notice mold, fungus or other microflora, you are watering too much.  Reduce soil moisture quickly, and apply ashes, cayenne powder, black pepper, juniper juices, or other antifungals, or even transplant the starts into new soil. 


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