Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler

The picture above is the very tap root of Bishop's Homegrown/Face Of The Earth Seed. My grandparents shortly after moving to Pekin Indiana from Greensburg KY in 1947 where they purchased the farm that is now Bishop's Homegrown. This picture was taken in Pekin in front of the old co-op next to the old railroad depot, neither of which exist today.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

The Wym: Alchemical Response To Soil Fertility!

For those of you who have been following my work on the new Vermicomposting facility we are erecting here at Bishop's Homegrown I thought I would do a quick progress/explanation update complete with some new pictures.

I didn't post to much here or at the Homegrown Goodness Message Board last week because I was pretty busy getting everything put together in "The Wrym" by retrofitting the greenhouse with a tarp, the boxes with their appropriate equipment, and moving the old equipment and worms from their previous building. Now I'm getting closer to caught up and thought it would be good to share what has been accomplished thus far.

The boxes were first and foremost on the list of things to be done as they are the container which will hold most of the life force and fertility of the farm and The Wyrm itself. The boxes have been lined with plastic and each box leans slightly to one corner where there is a well made of perimeter drain pipe from which we can extract the "juice" from the bins using a plastic container with holes drilled in the bottom and a wire handle along with a long "plunger", the liquid fertilizer is then stored in five gallon buckets with air tight lids for use later or for further fortification.

I came across this method via my friend and co-conspirator in the project Paul Shellenberger who uses a similar method in his worm bins. I picked up on it for several reasons, one of which of course is the recirculation or re-use of water resources but a second was due to our agenda of building "The Wyrm" in a way that could take advantage of as many "Eco-Logical" fertility solutions as we could and since it seemed a waste to let this fortified water go to waste instead of putting it to use as a liquid fertilizer the logical solution was to find a way to harvest it. As I was telling Paul, this method of vermiculture actually has a lot in common with Japanese Bokashi composting. Several uses for the liquid immediately come to mind, two of which that incorporate further soil fertility Alchemy. The fist and most obvious is to use it in conjunction with green composting as a microbial inoculate and since the green compost is later used to feed worms, everything feeds back into the system with little to no loss and tons of gain in the form of soil fertility. The second use of course is fairly obvious; as either a pure or diluted liquid fertilizer, the solution would probably benefit from being filtered through a bucket (with some small holes in it for drainage) of dolomite lime to bring the pH further into balance. Third is the method that I am most interested in however as it once again combines another method of creating soil fertility with the Thermophilic/Vermiculture/Bokashi composting mentioned above. This method centers around a topic I've recently been throwing around here on this blog with much excitement; the much lauded Terra Preta/Bio-Char. The basic premise being to soak the Char that we make in the stoves (which heat The Wyrm house with wood that has been downed by storms on our property, completely self sustainable) in this nutrient solution for a period of time before adding the char material to the ground. Here is the much lauded nutrient solution (one of them anyhow) that I have been discussing in my theoretical approach to creating Terra Pretta! See, I told you this was Majik and Alchemy (turning one thing of little value into something of great value! Bokachar???)

Of course, such a method can only be truly sustainable if one is practicing water catchment, fortunately we foresaw the need for such a system and are hard at work on that at the moment with both myself and Paul on the hunt for plastic rain barrels. We have a lot of ideas about how to link the barrels together and create the water pressure that will be needed to move the water from the main bank of ten barrels that will be located at the back of The Wyrm (underneath a rain shed built from cedar posts and used pallets and gutters)to the inside of the worm where it can be stored in and extracted from a number of barrels with the lids cut out of them. This is a work in progress and much more will be posted on it later....

Now we turn to yet another element of The Wyrm.......Aquaculture, Aqua phonics, Vaquaculture, and yet again Bio-Char/Terra Pretta.

Thus far we have located two fish tanks. One a fifty gallon and another a ten, both of which will be put to good use, but a few more will be necessary to create the amount of amonia rich water we need to make this experiment worthwhile and a good demonstration of how this type of system can be used to create food fertility as well as protein via fish. For the time being the fish used will be gold fish, the system will run on a single pump pulling water out of the tank, dropping it through a bucket of Bio-Char and then circulating back into the tank. The bucket of char will basically function as a medium for beneficial bacterial growth to clean the water for the fish as well as turn the ammonia into nitrogen which will become bound to the char, the char will later be used to create soil fertility in our attempt to re-create Terra Preta.

We are still several bins, fish tanks, and barrels short of our needed amount to finish the project, but between Paul and I scrounging around it will only be a matter of time before we are where we need to be. Of course there is more to the floor plan of The Wyrm than what I have mentioned above, one can't forget the Thermophilic composting bins that we built this past summer or underplay their importance in this project and in their ability to create consumable material for the composting worms, we will have a small mixing and green composting area located out front of The Wyrm and inside of The Wyrm as well, along with a sorting area, and a wash basin made from a barrel and an old fish tank stand.

As you can tell already there are many facets to this project and we still have a lot of work to do. I anticipate that the project will be 100% finished up come March or so in regards to creating soil fertility, there are however additional ideas I would like to implement in coming years which I will detail later.

Of course the Homegrown Worm Harvester, which we detailed in an earlier post, made the trip too and has been improved by removing the inside piece of 1/4" mesh and replacing the nearly worn out piece of 1/8" of mesh hardware cloth with a new piece.

As Paul often says:

With "Worm" Regards,
Alan Reed Bishop

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