Bush cord meter

Stacked 16" firewood

Our first wood order of the season arrived a week ago, just as we ran out of the leftover from last year. It’s a bush cord. At least, that was what was ordered, bought and paid for. One bush cord of well-seasoned hardwood, in 16″ pieces. The wood is great on the seasoning end, but when I finished stacking it today, in our custom-built, holds-one-bush-cord rack (below), even taking into account the wood we burned over the last week, we are CLEARLY WAY SHORT!!

I’m kinda shocked at how short we are. When I looked into what exactly a bush cord comprises, the definition seemed pretty clear: 4’x4’x8′ of tightly stacked wood. A volume measure. With 16″ pieces, that equals one long 24′ row, 4′ high. “Tightly stacked” is a little vague, but after asking around, and looking at photos, it seems like common sense: you don’t fit the wood together like a jigsaw puzzle, just stack it nice and solid. OK.

I built a simple rack out of 2x4s that should fit…exactly one bush cord. Of standard 16″ pieces. It’s kind of a bush cord meter. To fit in the narrow side yard, the rack has two 12′ rails, with 4′ high ends. I stacked it reasonably solidly. And we seem to be at least 1/3 (that’s 33%!!!)…short.

The firewood guy came recommended, he’s apparently been doing this for decades, how could this BUSH CORD be so off? It’s a mystery. I’m new to firewood, maybe the counts are loose, but this is extreme. I’m on the phone…

Bush cord stacking rack

Global Village Construction Set: Watch This!

Watching this video made me smile! It wasn’t the kind of smile you do when you’ve seen something cute or funny. This was the deep, involuntary smile of wonder and appreciation and, um, joy, that happens when you see something really cool and admirable. When you see something that…rocks! :)

I’ve been following the adventure at Factor e Farm, through their blog, for maybe three years now, not always diligently, but what they’re up to is always somewhere on my mind. The mission they’re on is incredibly ambitious and fundamental and world-class. You have to read through their blog and wiki, and watch some of their other videos, to get a full feel for what Factor e is up to, but to try and summarize:

Using modern technological knowledge and methods, and very little cash, they are designing and building a set of machines and methods that are open source (plans are free for all), low cost, easy to replicate, highly efficient, simple to maintain, and sustainable to operate, called the Global Village Construction Set, just about everything you would need to build a community, from the house you live in to the food you eat, from scratch.

Or as their blog puts it: “We are farmer scientists – working to develop a world class research center for decentralization technologies using open source permaculture and technology to work together for providing basic needs and self replicating the entire operation at the cost of scrap metal.”

This video is their two-minute introduction:

You HAVE to check it out. The blog: Factor e Farm Blog. The project wiki: Open Source Ecology.

Wood heat

Wood stove

Nights are getting chilly, and a few days ago, in the evenings, we started lighting the wood stove at Kendall’s house in town. It takes some skills. Paying attention to the mechanics of heating was never part of the mix in my few years of winter farm living. It was either central heating by oil furnace, or with electric space heaters, and both ways, really no different from city life convenience: adjust a thermostat or click a switch, pay the bill, and that was that. Pretty mindless.

Here in town with Kendall, natural gas central heating is the main heat source, but she offsets that as much as possible with good ol’ wood heat. So, oddly enough in my ongoing tiny farming career, it’s in an urban setting that I’m first learning how to build and feed a fire, adjust the air intake, get a feel for the draft in different weather conditions, safely dispose of the ashes and embers. And, of course, there’s the wood: bush cords and face cords, hardwood and softwood, well-seasoned vs. green, splitting and stacking, the never-ending quest for good kindling…

Just as your awareness of weather explodes with attention to detail and a certain urgency when you go from city supermarket life to growing food, the same thing happens when you become intimately involved with fending off the winter cold (especially here in Canada, where you can literally freeze to death!). Only a few days of casual evening fires in relatively mild temperatures, hovering around freezing, and already I’m hooked! So much to learn, so little time… :)

Carrot germination refinement continues

Dense carrot germination from Earthway seeder

Another successful carrot germination event, with trusty, open-pollinated, heirloom Touchon, and our latest refinement in cover. Although this landscape fabric looks like the stuff we started with last year, it’s a heavier grade that doesn’t tear and become useless after one or two outings—it should last FOREVER, or, hopefully, for at least 10 uses, at which point, the cost will be near zero. This germination, in mainly hot, sunny weather, is exactly one week after seeding, with no watering in. Pretty good! Deprived of light, the seedlings are already stretching—I might’ve taken off the cover a day or two earlier if I’d checked—but they’ll be fine. And if you’ve used an Earthway seeder, and ever doubted the incredible amount of seed it can dump down, don’t (see above): I’d rather see all those carrots pushing up than too few, but the waste from overseeding is quite severe, and major thinning is in order, adding to the labor. Still, it’s all part of the joy of farming largely by hand… :)

Carrot germination under landscape fabric

Field to go

Prepping the field

Here’s the new field, in various states of readiness. Up front, it’s only been plowed and disked, with big hunks of sod waiting to be busted up. Further off, the trusty Kubota compact tractor has done its thing with a 48″ rototiller, and the ground is nearly ready to go. This time around, more or less everything that’s early and direct seeded will go in at once, including a first planting of PEAS. New year, new garden—it will be interesting.

Toughening up

Hardening off onions, cauliflower, broccoli

Today, it’s a warmish (57°F/14°C), overcast, gray day, with a light breeze. In the next week or so, the unheated greenhouse is to be relocated, set up, and outfitted to house hardier seedlings. All things considered, right now is a fine time to start this season’s hardening off… In early afternoon, we set outside trays of onion, cauliflower and broccoli, preparing them to head out from the cosy shelter of the seedling room to the real world. They’ll stay out till early evening, then it’s back in for a few more hours under the lights, and more of the same for the next few days. These first acts and sights of spring on a tiny farm never fail to excite (I think it’s the gambler in all of us)…