Tuesday, January 29, 2008

White Lightning

January 29, 2008

Why did the father operate his illegal distillery while his boys baled alfalfa? He wanted to make shine while the son’s hay!!!

Although making moonshine in a backyard distillery has lost a lot of its popularity due the proliferation of reasonably priced, safer and legal commercially prepared equivalents such as Everclear, at one time many farmers and ranchers would supplement their meager farm income by cooking up a batch of ‘shine’.

Moonshining was a natural for those in farming sector because of the simplicity of the distilling process, the ready availability of key ingredient and the inaccessibility of many of the homesteads made detection by the local constabulary almost impossible.

Because the initial fermentation process required little more than water, yeast and a carbohydrate source such as grain, potatoes or fruit, it was possible for just about anybody to get started. The fermenting mixture, called the mash, could only reach a maximum alcohol content of 15% before the becoming toxic to the yeast, and shutting down further alcohol production.

The secret to the distillation process was maintaining the temperature of the mash at around 85°. Since the ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, boils at around 80°C, compared to water, which boils at 100°C, the ethanol vapor could be collected and returned to a liquid by passing through a condensation chamber, while the water remained with the mash.

Surprising as it may seem, this is almost the exact same process that is being used to manufacture ethanol used in motor vehicles as a method of reducing carbon emissions. Maybe one day the backyard still will come into prominence once again, this time to fight global warming.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Food For Thought

January 22, 2008

Why did the tree buy suspenders? It was too big for his shelterbelt!!!

Although most farmers, ranchers and acreage owners plant shelterbelts to reduce home heating costs, increase crop yields and augment livestock efficiency, an additional benefit is food and habitat for wildlife.

The majority of shelterbelts are planted in straight lines along field margins and road allowances to facilitate the movement of agricultural machinery. While such a configuration allows minimal impediments for tractors pulling massive implements, straight rows of trees can literally be murder to birds and animals that nest or den in these trees.

Surprising as it may seem, some studies indicate that straight line shelterbelt that are isolated from natural groves can develop into a predator trap. Linear rows of trees can be worked very effectively by carnivorous animals traveling in packs such as coyotes and domestic dogs. Occasionally the entire local populations can fall prey to these foraging predators. Therefore it is suggested that at the corners of the field where access of large equipment is prohibitive anyway, that right angled pieces of farmland be sacrificed for trees, shrubs and other types of natural cover. Generally speaking the more space put into trees at these intersections the better it is for the flora and fauna.

Creating a sheltered nook in the corners of the field does more than discourage predation, the expanded sheltered area may become suitable to species that require a minimum territory to colonize. Regardless of what size is planted as animal habitat, food and water must be in close proximity before any wildlife will consider making your gift to nature as a permanent home.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

January 8, 2008, Eating In

Who was the first ecclesiastical participant in the show “Fear Factor”? Martin Luther – he had a diet of worms!!!

As most people in north central Alberta already know, cold winter temperatures can drastically slow down the composting process to a standstill. Adding fresh kitchen scraps to the compost bin on frosty January days will become an effort in futility as the bits of vegetative waste freeze before biological decomposition can become initiated. Rather than storing the stagnating trash in lined containers for composting in the spring, many green gurus are giving vermicomposting a try.

Vermicomposting is simply the two-bit technical term that scientists give to the special procedure of using worms to help brake down organic materials. In this practice, special worms called red wigglers are added to the compost where they dine on the decaying vegetation. The worm poop, called castings are excellent for enriching the soil of indoor houseplants, as well as the more traditional outdoor gardens and flowerbeds

The red wigglers are especially suited to thrive in the warm moist conditions the compost pile provides. Substituting common garden earthworms will simply kill the earthworms, and leave the compost to decompose in a more traditional manner.

One of the biggest advantages to vermicomposting is that the entire operation is completely functional indoors. In fact the red wigglers would perish if they are exposed to sub zero conditions. Surprising as it may seem, the vermicompost itself does not produce noxious odors nor do the worms try to escape when the opportunity is presented, making this type of composting ideal for apartment dwellers and those who want to continue composting all year long.

January 15, 2008, Worm’s Eye View

Why do Red Wigglers sleep in? They hate getting out of a worm bed!!!

Vermicomposting is a composting method that uses Red Wiggler worms to facilitate the breakdown and decomposition of kitchen scraps and other organic household detritus. Since the worms perish in sub zero condition, the whole composting operation must be carried out indoors. The key to producing ordour free compost is to provide the worms with a happy home and nothing says “Home, Sweet Home” better to a worm than a plastic storage box.

Plastic storage containers are ideal for a number of reasons. They come with lids, are waterproof, are inexpensive to buy and come in a number of sizes to match each individual’s composting needs. The composter’s rule of thumb is you need one cubic foot of storage space for each 1 pound of food waste produced in a week.

Worm bedding is another important consideration in creating contented caterpillars. The bedding can consist of shredded newspaper, cardboard, peat moss, straw, leaves or a combination of the aforementioned material. The Red wigglers like it moist without being waterlogged, so it is usually necessary to add water to the mixture until it has the consistency of a damp dishrag. The worms do their best work at room temperatures providing the room is somewhere between 15 and 25 degrees celcious.

The food source is also important. Worms will crawl over a metre of broken glass to chow down on vegetable peels, fruit rinds, tea bags, coffee grounds, bread, cooked pasta and rice. Avoid composting spicy foods such as hot peppers and animal products such as meat fish and dairy products.