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Author Topic: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path  (Read 9299 times)

Reallybigbunny

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #50 on: September 30, 2017, 08:27:06 AM »
Hi Clare, please see my pot in Consequences, places becoming less liveable thread :)

Avalonian

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #51 on: September 30, 2017, 12:24:09 PM »
Just wanted to let you know that I've now started a local project in Mid Wales (Llandrindod) to look at using the acorns as part of local self-sustainability. We're surrounded by oakwoods, and some of them have quite low-tannin acorns. Others take a lot of leaching, but it's still doable.

We've only just begun this, but have a few at-least-theoretically-enthusiastic volunteers. Unfortunately we're away for the autumn, so are directing activities from afar! I'm looking at this being a relatively long-term project, but I think it's got a lot of potential. Certainly, the first experiments over the past couple of years have been rather delectable... and I do recommend simple acorn griddle-cakes flavoured with hogweed seeds!*

Anyhow, thanks Bruce for the inspiration.  :)

*Make sure you can definitely identify hogweed, and won't mix it up with, say, Hemlock...

Bruce Steele

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #52 on: September 30, 2017, 06:45:54 PM »
Dear Sidd, I put one cup of acorns ,ground into cornmeal consistency , into a quart jar and fill with water. I pour off about three cups of water a day and repeat about six or seven times over the period of a week.  When you pour off the water you will see a white layer of starch that rests at the top of the acorn meal that you should try to retain... This starch can be used as a thickener for various recipes like chocolate pudding or Dotorimuk.  The problem with flow through is you will lose the starch but I believe flow through would do a good job of removing tannins. All acorns have different amounts of tannin so the amount of water I use might be different than what your local acorns require.
 Maybe the most valuable part of the Acorn Challenge for both OrganicSU and I was learning that foraging and preparing acorns has the potential to get you through a tight spot . It is a confidence builder . The first year gave me some impetus to be better prepared  and inspired this years zero ff garden . I have been drying corn, squash seed and beans as dry goods for winter. I mean acorns are
O.K. and relatively tasty but variety is a good thing in the kitchen.
 So I am coming up with some preliminary calorie numbers. My dent corn crop produced the most calories which is probably why it is so important to so many Native American Indians. It is also fairly easy to dry and store...no threshing...no winnowing . The squash seed is labor intense but they dry quickly in a hot sunny window. The beans need picking , threshing and winnowing and for me they produced far less calories than corn on a similar sized planting area. I haven't started on harvesting the amaranth yet so I don't have a calorie count but as with the beans they require threshing and winnowing. I have been looking at bicycle threshing machines but that is a project for another year and for now I am using manual methods.
 Preliminary calorie count. 300,000 from corn, 50,000 from squash seed and about 10,000 from beans.
That and this years acorns, forage, and winter green vegetables should get the wife and I through two or three months . The chickens will provide another 5,000 calories and an acorn fed pig another 100,000 but we won't use anywhere near a whole pig in two or three months. Salted and air cured pork can last over two years without refrigeration.
 I believe Organic SU proved that an avid forager can get by on very few fossil fuel calories. Knowing which plants are locally available, knowing when and where to find them and learning how to make tasty meals with what's available is a challenge . If we had grown up in a hunter gatherer society we would have mentors to educate us but expert advice is hard to come by on this subject so the Internet is a handy backup. If the internet went down relearning how to do all this would be extreamly difficult .
Seek out good council, read, be careful and like Avalonian says know your hogweed from your hemlock.
 I am already making plans for next years garden efforts and harvesting tools. It will be awhile before I get spring fever but grain crops are next .
 There are some imbedded fossil fuel calories in my old 1960 Massey Ferguson ,my electric tiller and solar array but they can be amortized over several years. Direct fossil fuel use zero. Garden food calories from dried crops ~ 375,000 . Forage season for walnuts and acorns is just begining and I have started using piggy biodiesel in my Ford truck so collection costs will be from renewable energy.

~ 375,000 and counting

« Last Edit: September 30, 2017, 06:55:33 PM by Bruce Steele »

sidd

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #53 on: October 02, 2017, 07:42:48 AM »
Thanks for the water volume numbers. I think i definitely got enuf waterflow in a stream, but i may do well water for control reasons.

sidd

Bruce Steele

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #54 on: November 13, 2017, 03:53:17 AM »
It is acorn season. The black oaks dropped acorns in the Sierra back in Sept. , I only collected enough black acorns to start a few new trees. The valley oaks masted in October and the pigs have eaten most of the two hundred pounds I collected. The coast live oaks are having a very big mast so I am working on some live oaks this year. The cork oaks are also dropping acorns right now . The cork oaks yield a nice white flour . All the others yield brown flour. My staple flour producer remains Holm oak acorns from last years mast. The Holm oaks aren't dropping yet but I still have enough acorns from last year to maintain acorn flour production year round.
 I produced a batch of flour for a local cultural event. I used 2 pounds of Holm oaks and saved the starch that I got for the recipe that follows
.8 pounds flour
3/4 cup acorn starch
Gallon + 3 pints water
 Here is a letter from a friend who made the mush she describes.


The acorn mush was a BIG hit!!



Ignoring your instructions, I waited until very early Saturday morning to cook it in a stainless steel stockpot. I mixed the starchy fraction into 3 quarts of water first, then thoroughly whisked in the dry flour a little at a time before turning on the heat. As it began to thicken I added 2 more quarts of water, stirring constantly throughout the process. When it seemed thick enough, I turned off the heat and put the lid on. When I got it to the Museum a couple of hours later it had thickened even more, so I stirred in another 2 cups of water before transferring the mush to a big basket for serving at room temperature. It stayed pretty thick even after that; I could have added more water but decided to leave it that way.



We put it out in the private area for the Chumash presenters and their families, along with other refreshment snacks  -- toasted chia seeds, lemonade-berry drink, and various traditional (!) Indian foods like coffee, granola bars and Fritos.



The mush came out with a mild but nutty flavor and just the right gluey consistency. Everyone -- even the few public visitors who we allowed to have a taste -- agreed it was delicious! The whole big basketful was all gone by mid-afternoon, and I got SO many compliments! Of course I told everyone that the credit was due to you for having done all the hard part.



sidd

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #55 on: November 13, 2017, 11:21:04 PM »
Mr. Steele, do you use the hides from your pigs ?

sidd

Bruce Steele

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #56 on: November 15, 2017, 07:28:37 AM »
Sidd, Hams , bacon and Lardo are all cured skin on. The butcher skins some cuts but there is really no hide.

sidd

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #57 on: November 15, 2017, 07:45:31 AM »
Just wondered. I like pigskin gloves.

sidd

Bruce Steele

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #58 on: December 02, 2017, 05:40:09 PM »
Something called carbon farming is being explored here in Calif.  Problem is the analysis isn't full lifecycle so although composting pasture results in a carbon gain there isn't an accounting of whether farmers just add extra cattle to their newly improved pasture forage. Since cattle are literally
" the sacred cow " here in the west nobody seems willing to confront the obvious error in paying farmers to improve soil carbon while ignoring the carbon-methane consequences of the cattle any given pasture supports.
 Soil carbon gain on conventional tilled crop land is only about 1% even with cover crops and reincorporating crop residues. That is a best case and carbon loss is more common.
 Silvoculture or some mimicry of dehesa here in the new world is untested . Hence my interests in testing nut crops and pigs as grazers. Pigs don't have the same methane issues as cattle and can utilize acorns. Also they are very happy with a truck full of acorns and know now the sound of the diesel truck driving down the driveway and come running at my arrival.
 Although I have been feeding pigs acorns from valley oaks for a couple months the Holm oaks I prefer for my own consumption are only now beginning to fall. I have about 200 lbs. in the drying racks. Every year I find more and more interest in acorns as a component of the human diet but of course I am only retracing a well trod path. Here is an interesting ethnographic study on Holm oak utilization in Spain prior to 1965 from people who lived it.

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rajindra_Puri/publication/319638545_The_Consumption_of_Acorns_from_Quercus_spp_in_the_Central_West_of_the_Iberian_Peninsula_in_the_20th_Century/links/59b93bd9aca27241618d217f/The-Consumption-of-Acorns-from-Quercus-spp-in-the-Central-West-of-the-Iberian-Peninsula-in-the-20th-Century.pdf?origin=publication_detail

 
 

Bruce Steele

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #59 on: January 07, 2018, 10:34:15 AM »
It's the first week into this years zero carbon farm and forage efforts. Last year was very different from this year because I didn't make preparations last year. This year I devoted about a half acre of garden into crops like beans, dent corn, and squash seed . These crops were dried a couple months ago and I have had a good drying season for acorns. I ran my tractor exclusively upon homemade pig lard biodiesel for my whole garden season so the crops I produced were largely carbon free, fossil fuel free.
I also tilled and planted about one acre into a cover crop of favas and peas. I have been irrigating but we are finally going to get some rains ! Without early rains I don't have any wild greens like I had last year so I will be eating pea tendrils from the cover crop.
 I currently have over eight hundred pounds of acorns but most of that will go to the pigs. I have been collecting and supplementing the pigs with acorns for over three months. I have both Cork oak, and Holm oak dried and milled into flour. I raked about three hundred pounds of Holm oak acorns in three hours a couple days ago. That was from three trees planted at a church. The mowed lawns make collecting pretty easy.
 I still have the same six chickens I had last year. They run free during the day and feed themselves where they want. At night I go lock them into their coop. I have a theory that the predators don't like the pigs because before I got pigs coyotes and bobcats would take chickens in broad daylight , no problems lately.
 This years diet isn't nearly as austere as last year . Beans and cornbread are a lot more familiar in multiple recipes . The acorn flour and acorn starch are more like ingredients of the cornbread and bean staples. I also stewed and froze several quarts of tomatoes to make for some variety. There are butternut squash buried under some hay in the hay barn to keep them from freezing and I have a big box of potatoes sprouting for planting also covered in hay.
 I have plans on adding grains into this years garden so next year will include bread. I should also start a couple bee hives because sugar is still the first thing you notice missing in a foraged/farm crop diet.
Fruit preserves , dried apricots and Yacon syrup are better than zero sugar but until you quit eatting prepared foods you don't notice how much sugar there is in the American diet. Last year I lost weight but this year my wife and I are planning a couple months and I hope to gain a little weight in the process.
 

Avalonian

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #60 on: January 07, 2018, 11:12:22 AM »
Because it isn't said enough, Bruce, I just want to reiterate how inspirational this is. For myself and, I'm sure, lots of other people taking baby steps down this route, your advice is absolutely invaluable. I'm trying to get other people here into acorns, and it's starting to work... slowly! But there is so much valuable information in that last post alone... just knowing what is possible makes a huge difference. Please, do keep it coming!  :)

Bruce Steele

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #61 on: January 07, 2018, 05:25:45 PM »
Avalonian, Thanks and I hope you find something useful in my efforts. Most of my project is with
garden crops / forage developed by Native Americans. Using homemade bio , solar power and electric tillers is a way to make the work easier utilizing mechanical slave labor without fossil fuels.
 I am a big fan of using acorn starch in lots of recipes. The preparations for making acorn flour done by native tribes lost the starch , Dotorimuk, in processing. Both OrganicSU and I explained how to recover the starch while preparing acorn flour. Different types of acorns have different starch yields. Cork Oak seem to yield more starch than Holm Oaks. I was wondering how the various Oak species in Wales taste, look and what starch yield you can get ? I use the starch as a thickener so puddings, pies, stews, all can use some acorn starch. I think also that the sticky texture that the local Chumash prefer in acorn mush can be enhanced with starch.
 None of this work is difficult and it can easily be scaled up to feed a group of people year round. It may take me a couple more years to get there but year round food supply using these methods is my goal. One month last year, two or three this year and with grains and honey maybe I can get close fairly soon.
 

TerryM

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #62 on: January 07, 2018, 06:20:38 PM »
Thanks again Bruce.


Yacon syrup was what sent me off to Wiki this time. What a wonderful plant!


The Chumash used agave as a sweetener and staple, and I can't help but wonder if it might serve your sweet tooth.


https://www2.palomar.edu/users/ddozier/California/regions/Southern/agave_pit_roasting.htm

offers a quick overview of the cultivation and preparation of what some consider the first agricultural crop in North America. I've found agave pits in regions that have been far too dry for agave to grow in since the pluvial period that accompanied the ice age.


Have a wonderful 2018
Terry
 

Bruce Steele

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #63 on: January 27, 2018, 06:44:56 AM »
The first month of the year is passing quickly. I went into my electricity and gas bills for 2017. I thought these two bills pay most my utilities but as it turns out my trash service was slightly higher than my electricity bill. Well water costs are incorporated the electric bill but I pay the water district for irrigation use but again even though I use less now than when I commercially farmed vegetables, at about three acre feet a year,  those water district charges were very small . Anyhow I am trying to get fixed costs like water and utilities into a manageable number . Everything total was < $1,200 for the year.
 Retirement means controlling costs and $100 a month for natural gas, water, garbage, and electric might be as good as I ( we ) can do. Those costs also cover the garden expenses that are supplying our food. As my wife and I start into month two the dry stores of beans, corn , squash seed , and acorns seem hardly dented. There seems to be plenty of variety in our diets this year compared to last years rather strict acorn challenge. Month two isn't going to be difficult and food stores look plenty adequate to reach well into summer. That is we haven't gone to the store for groceries and we can keep going for several more months. This year is a bad flu season so NOT going to the store means we can mostly avoid bumping elbows with too many humans.
 I have been cooking off the largest compost effort I have ever attempted . Just estimating but I would guess about 5-6 tons. Horse, goat, chicken, wood chips, and straw . All from the farm. I will spread it over the one acre of garden currently in a cover crop of peas and fava beans.
 My thoughts on building soil carbon in the garden: Using as little fossil fuels in the tractor  or ranch and home electric uses makes the carbon added back via cover and compost potentially negative emissions. I would like to believe it is possible anyhow. I know I am getting closer at least for farm energy but every time I get in the car, or truck I know I am converting back into a carbon hog.
Any off farm transportation is hugely fuel intensive and quickly negates my on farm carbon efforts.
 Getting there looks more and more like feudalism. I would offer a disclaimer, feudal isn't simple.

Terry, I gotta cook some yucca hearts. I will try to keep from getting stabbed but they aren't called Spanish bayonet for nothing. Yucca syrup?
 

Neven

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #64 on: January 27, 2018, 11:11:37 AM »
My thoughts on building soil carbon in the garden: Using as little fossil fuels in the tractor  or ranch and home electric uses makes the carbon added back via cover and compost potentially negative emissions. I would like to believe it is possible anyhow.

This is my goal also. I'm just reading a book (Building Soil* by Elizabeth Murphy) in which it is maintained that 'by weight, organic matter in soils is roughly half carbon'. As our acre was agricultural land and thus as good as dead, half of all the organic matter we're slowly building up can be considered something of a carbon offset. I wish I could calculate how much though.

We're still a couple of steps away from storing enough food for winter, but hopefully in 2-3 years we can start thinking about that as well. Besides the fact that our garden isn't productive enough yet, we also lack storage space. Do you have something like a root cellar, Bruce?
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Bruce Steele

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #65 on: January 27, 2018, 07:00:46 PM »
I have focused food storage on dry goods, beans ,corn etc. Because solar ,grid tied , pays the electrics I also have freezers but I don't freeze as many vegetables as I could. We have a fairly mild climate so growing brassicas is possible year round. I have lived in areas that root cellars or ice barns work but the ground around here never gets cold enough. I think you'd need to get almost 20 feet underground to reach a year round constant temperature here in S. Cal. It does freeze at night on occasion but even a 28 degree F night can turn into 80 degrees F the next day. Those are the temperatures for today.
 I do store some winter squash and potatoes under hay in the barn to protect them from getting frozen.
 Does anyone know if there is a technique to dry a soil sample then weigh it and cook it to drive off the carbon? Is there a test I could use at home that would give me a before and after soil carbon content?
I know soil labs can do this but it would be nice to have protocols for home testing.
 Geoff is asking about carbon calculators and what a morally defendable personal carbon emission rate might look like. I think this is a good line of inquiry, we on this FORUM should be able to ballpark that answer. The tricky part is quantifying the efficacy of negative emission techniques like planting trees, building soil carbon, or bio char . These seem quantifiable but we really need an honest auditor . The environmental NGO's spend billions on lobby work so where are the carbon auditors? Frustrating.
 We need something like perfection , who are the examples we should follow and who are the bullshitters ? Time is getting very , very late.

sidd

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #66 on: January 27, 2018, 08:41:01 PM »
Re: soil carbon

soil test labs will give you carbon content of soil. But bear in mind you need deeper cores than 6 inches.  Most papers deal with soil C in the top 6 inches. This is not enuf, you need a hydraulic corer and go down to a meter. This is because some studies showed improved C sequestration in the top 6 inches but net C degradation when including C down to 1 m.

You may be able to  rent  hydraulic corer from university outrach programs, USDA, DNR or local grange. Need a tractor or something for the hydraulic.

sidd

Tor Bejnar

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #67 on: January 27, 2018, 09:40:18 PM »
The Bean Patch in western Massachusetts might be a place for cross (idea) fertilization.  Many years ago I met the Nelsons (and "watched" them from a distance for many years).  Other 'extreme simplicity' folks I've known were more private. 
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Martin Gisser

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #68 on: February 08, 2018, 09:27:14 PM »
we also lack storage space. Do you have something like a root cellar, Bruce?
I would be too lazy for building a cellar :) There are more easy and primitive methods of winter storage:

Some roots (e.g. pastinak) you can just leave in the ground and harvest when needed. Cut off the green in fall and cover with a little soil. In case the ground is frozen at harvest time, put some hay on top and wait a day or two. Some roots get even more tasty with frost.

Another method is digging a shallow pit, line with chicken wire and char coal against mice and moisture (forget plastic!), pack the veggies in straw, cover the heap with soil.

Or put a wooden box in a deeper hole, or just line the hole with old bricks (no mortar) or planks and add an aeration tube (the only plastic thing I would tolerate). Line bottom with char coal or gravel against standing water. Some moisture is good actually - thus a wooden box or bricks.  Put veggies in sacks with sand or straw (depends) and with a string attached to comfortably lift them out.

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sidd

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #69 on: February 08, 2018, 11:04:15 PM »
Re: Storage

I have posted before of Buffalo Bird Woman. The whole book is available at

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/buffalo/garden/garden.html

Chapter VII deals with winter storage of corn and squash. Fascinating. Read the whole book.

sidd

Bruce Steele

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #70 on: February 10, 2018, 04:59:24 AM »
Carol Deppe in her gardening book Resilient Gardener 2010 gained much inspiration from Buffalo Bird Woman. I have adapted drying summer squash because of what Buffalo Bird Woman was willing to pass along.  I use a type of Italian zucchini called Costata Romanesco for drying. I ate some tonight in an eggplant parmigiana.
 OK , The eggplant came from the store so I am cheating but we have been able to maintain a diet sourced from the farm for most everything for over five weeks.
 I treated four pounds of corn to hydrated lime, nixmalization. After soaking and rinsing I redryed the corn. It is easier to run trough the flour mill and the resulting Masa Harina is easy to work with.
Fresh tamales from farm raised dent corn is really a treat. Again corn has revealed how it is easy to work with, to cook with and to grow ( at least around here ). We have been eating Lima beans , black beans and black eyed peas. Some cornbread and acorn cake. Having fresh tamales and tortillas is a culinary experiance new to me . Like I discovered last year , making food that tastes good is very important in maintaining an off grid diet.

GeoffBeacon

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #71 on: February 15, 2018, 11:23:02 PM »
... thoughts on building soil carbon in the garden:
Ive just seen No-Till Farmers Elizabeth & Paul Kaiser (video)
Keynote, 2017 NOFA Mass. Winter Conference, January 2017



Singing Frogs Farm seems to have local food, local employment & carbon sequestration. A possible core for future green settlements.
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Bruce Steele

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Re: Zero-Carbon Farming and Living via the Acorn Path
« Reply #72 on: February 17, 2018, 11:48:47 PM »
Geoff, Very impressive! I would like to try to ballpark some numbers based upon the 10% SOM ( soil organic matter ) numbers claimed by Singing Frog Farms. I don't have SOM profiles for various soil depths so this is speculative, OK?
 If you increase SOM to 12 inches from the starting 2% to 10% with a 8% gain
    and increase SOM from 12 inches to 24 inches from 2% to 6% with a 4% gain
    and increase SOM from 24 inches to 36 inches from 1% to 3% with a 2% gain you get an average gain of about 4.7 % SOM gain in the first three feet of soil.
 If your soil weighs 2,000 lbs. a cubic yard you have about 94 lbs. SOM in gains. SOM is about 50% carbon so you have 47 lbs. of Carbon per square yard of surface area over a ten year period, or
A very ballpark 100 ton carbon gain an acre over a ten year period.
 Gasoline or diesel emissions are about 20 lbs or 22 lbs. CO2 per gallon or about 10 lbs. carbon per gallon... So Singing Frog Farms can burn 1000 gallons fuel per year per acre in their operation and come out even, carbon in carbon out.
 I don't know how many truck miles it takes to deliver all their vegetables . How many miles their 14 employees use getting back and forth to work, how much energy their water pumps use to keep everything wet year round or how many air miles the owners use in promoting their farm. I also don't know how much energy they use to transport the compost they use, I am certain their compost isn't all produced from their three acre property. The soil carbon reaches saturation after ten years so after that the carbon sink numbers are much less impressive and their fuel use and CO2 emissions will dominate the soil carbon numbers from the first ten years.
 I suspect I am making some sort of math errors.

I have been approaching the problem by trying to reduce fossil fuel CO2 emissions from farm equipment as my first task. I think some combination of how Singing Frog Farms sinks carbon and my experiments with reducing farm equipment emissions would result in something closer to a farm that sinks more carbon than it emits but both my farm and theirs have the biggest problems with distribution.
If electric /battery trucks that are affordable become available this last hurdle can be surpassed.
I farm my farm without any outside labor. I wish I could have more help but I think I still have enough years left to get to the zero carbon or negative carbon farming I strive to achieve.
I could get there now if I all I needed to do was feed my wife and me. I still have property payments, taxes, insurance etc. so I still need to create income. We are eating well on only farm produced foods. We use almost zero fossil fuels to feed ourselves. Trying to produce income results in fossil fuel use, largely from transportation and animal feed costs.
 
« Last Edit: February 18, 2018, 12:04:38 AM by Bruce Steele »