Thursday, November 04, 2021

The Collapase LXXXVII: Of Shavings And Straw

 15 April 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

Our temperatures have taken a bit of a plunge, dropping us back into what would be “typical” weather for this time of year: daily highs in the mid ‘50’s, lows at or just below freezing. It is one of the joys of living here, this constantly almost struggling to Spring which is made seemingly worse by the fact that our daylight continues to increase almost in leaps and bounds at this point. Over 13 hours of daylight, and I can hardly use it for growing anything – so into the green house I continue to go, to work over the seed starts and rake about the wood shavings on the floor to work in the quail droppings and make more compost for the garden.

The wood shavings on the floor have me a bit worried, as of course they are non-replaceable at this point: wood around here is not in abundant supply, and anything that is available is carefully managed for firewood and wood working – you may recall that my stove is effectively feed off of the deadwood I can find on my daily walks (which both gets me exercise and keeps me out of trouble). I like having something besides just dirt on the ground in the greenhouse though, both to absorb the various droppings and to provide a little bit of insulation off the cold ground for quail feet. In years past I would have caged the quail, raked and shoveled the past year’s shavings into compost or onto the garden, and then put down a new layer.

Alas, this has died along with so much else over the past year.

I have an idea in my mind I could use some level of old hay or straw for this instead. It is likely I can get that far more easily than any wood products at this point: there are still a fair number of cattle ranches around here that have to hay their own operations (as a side note, this became a thing several years ago as supply chains began to slow down and non-local feed became “less available”). Ruined hay can be seen in a number of places; perhaps I will ask around and see what can be done.

In other news, it appears that someone is moving back into the old Post Office, somewhat more full time – if the smoke from the stovepipe indicates anything. The notices, which were going up earlier in the year, have slowed down due to the weather of course – who wants to post a piece of paper no-one will read in 30 F weather? I shall ask Xerxes about it when I am see him next, although I am hopeful it is a sign of something positive happening here locally.

This is the way of it now, Lucilius: small situational resolutions and events which, in past times, might not have been anything of note now becoming matters of the greatest import.

How quickly we become provincial.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

12 comments:

  1. Have you written about the location of Seneca in the past? For some reason, the weather and cattle ranches got me to thinking about where Seneca lives.

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    1. I have not Ed, although I can assure you that it is a real place. For reference, neither Old Home nor New Home.

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  2. My progenitors burned the chips the buffalo left for them. Not sure if anyone even remembers that they burn. I wonder if you'd have to twist the hay into 'sticks' to slow the burn rate?

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    1. Maybe STxAR? I have heard of hay ropes, but I still think the inherent flammability of Straw would not change the matter much.

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    2. Well, there it is! Use the fast straw to light the chips. How easy is that!???!

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    3. I remember that, STxAR. They've been used to build with too, haven't they?
      And as fertilizer, good for that, too.

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    4. STxAR, I suspect moderns have lost much of the old knowledge. Or maybe, technology has pushed all the useful things to know out of their heads.

      In The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder describes twisting straw into "sticks" for heat for the very reason you mention.

      I don't know if they're still used to burn, but I do know that cow (rather than buffalo) chips are used to make cob for pizza ovens and rocket stoves. It's an excellent source of chopped straw to hold the cob together.

      TB, keeping warm is a good point in a collapse scenario. The ways most people take for granted will be gone. Geoff Lawton describes stick fuels as being the heat source of the future, because they are perfectly suited for rocket stoves and can be obtained by the ancient technique of coppicing.

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    5. STxAR and Linda: Dried buffalo and cow dung has a variety of uses beyond the somewhat now common ones of primarily fertilizer and secondarily fuel.

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    6. Leigh - Keeping warm is a pretty big deal as you point out, as almost all of the US is non-equatorial and experiences some variety of Winter. Climate control is something we 100% take for granted, and even if one can "layer up" to stay warm, it is hardly pleasant to be inside layered up.

      We have lost so much technology. At one point in reading a book concerning Russian expansion into Siberia, it noted that tribes there made horsehair goggles to prevent snowblindness. Pretty handy skill if you live in such a place - effectively lost over time.

      Coppicing is something I was only introduced to via the writings of William Cobbett, somewhat later in life. I am truly surprised this is not a more practiced forestry practice, given the concern for preserving forests (although I do not believe all trees are good for this). Even at The Ranch, the madrone trees seem to do this on their own. Project number #152 for someday.

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  3. If Seneca is looking for suggestions, I'd think that leaves or pine straw would make a good replacement for the wood shavings.

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    1. Rich, those are really good suggestions. In Seneca's case they may not be totally applicable: there are no evergreens and deciduous trees are not that common.

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  4. need to plant trees for the next generations

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