On the up…

Big day last Friday as the main growing section of the polytunnel got fitted out!

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Thanks to the kind loaning of a 7.5 tonne truck the racking was picked up from storage and delivered on site.

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After carefully measuring and levelling the foot pads the upright frame went up with literally an inch to spare!!

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The idea is to build a platform on the beams at the base, on that we will put grow bags to start us off whilst the last section will be the hydroponic test area. This gives us the opportunity to learn about running such a system and then roll it out over the whole polytunnel as we gain confidence.

racking-6

The tomato’s, cucumber and other vining plants will be trained up guide wires so eventually all you will see is a wall of green.

Fuelling the fires…

 

The main greenhouse had a gas fired water heating system that had been condemned. So after much toing and froing and the application of a reciprocating saw it has been pulled out.

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Gas is something we just can’t afford to use at this time and we can’t generate enough of our own on site (more details to come) so we hit open the idea of using a rocket stove based water heater.

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For those that have never heard of them, rocket stoves are essentially hyper efficient and well insulated burn chambers that convert the fuel into useable heat leaving nothing but ash. The whole process is called pyrolysis and occurs in a j shaped tube that allows air to mix freely with the site of combustion. We will be building a kitchen version into the outdoor cooking space.

rocket_stove_details

Originally we were going to use the output to heat water but after reviewing the pluming arrangements we have decided to go with a rocket mass heater system. In this type of design the output heat is run through a large thermal mass which absorbs the heat and releases it back slowly.

rocket-stove-mass-heater

Should be an interesting little project.

 

The indestructible greenhouse

I’m still amazed at how well built the greenhouse is. Whoever designed it was obviously inspired by the fourth bridge or the Graff Zeppelins of old. I swear I’m half tempted to fill some old bulk hard core bags with helium, undo the mounting brackets and float of on some perilous adventure like a modern day Phelias Fogg…

greenhouse

But a closer inspection of the airworthiness of my vessels revels some slight structural weakness in the rib construction. In the years this site was abandoned some of the aluminium bolts have corroded and the expansion and contraction of the frame has acted to shear some of them of.

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76 in total. Which has also allowed some of the ribs to fall away from the spars. Remedial work needs to be undertaken before I set my self-adrift on a flight of whimsy.

It can get expensive buying that many bolts and nuts. The simplest solution is to buy some sections of threaded rod, 160 nuts of the right size and cut the bolts down to size as we fix the old girl up.

And whilst I’m doing that might as well look at resealing the glass when I’m up there.

I’ll get this lady to Mauritius

Shrooming in weird places

An interesting little experiment is afoot. Well little might be an understatement but you’ve got to try these things now and again.

tubes

We’ve had a lot of cardboard tubes delivered from a local carpet recycling business, more than we actually have ideas to use them up. So plan B comes into effect.

One of the first things I’ve thought of is to chop them up, a travesty I’m sure, and soak them back down into pulp. Once we have that we can make them into fuel logs and briquettes to help provide heat for the buildings over the winter.

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But in the interest of generating a revenue from what others through away there’s nothing to stop us inoculating that pulp with mushroom spawn and stuffing it into some of the tubes turning them into little mycelium powerhouses.

Cardboard is essentially finely chopped up trees in the form of cellulose and if there’s one thing mycelium (the actual root network that fruits the mushrooms we all know so well) does well is break down and consume the molecule lignin that makes up cellulose.

It does this by breaking the long chain carbohydrate into shorter chain carbohydrate. Or sugar as we call it.

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I’ll go into more detail about soil ecology in a later post but to suffice to say, we will have a source of heat, a soil building activity and mushrooms with both health and culinary use.

Not bad from someone else’s unwanted stuff….

I am a thistle shifter….

And that’s about as far as I got with that particular tongue twister !!

But it did remind me of last Saturday in the sauna. Well less of a posh spa day and more like an episode of attack the weeds in the polytunnel. After being abandoned for four years the place was thick with thistles almost head high and im 6ft 4 !!

Any way the kids from the National Citizens Service did a wonderful job in the late summer heat, beating them down and generally taking out their teenage angst on the overgrowth of triffids. A job I certainly don’t begrudge them.

But like all fairy tale monsters they can never be truly killed. Dead doesn’t always mean DEAD..

And so Johnny’s back !!

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This time though they are manageable so I’m getting in early and knocking them back before they get too big. Hopefully a combination of carbohydrate death (denying the plant the chance to store more energy than it expends in growing) and the fact that most of the polytunnel will be Deep Water Culture hydroponic tanks the day of the triffids will be postponed !

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You may also notice the old post and wire system has been taken down…. making way for who knows what wonders !!

Under pressure!

After the gathering comes the pressure!

On Saturday the 1st of October we will be converting all those scrumdiddly umcious apples into a variety of pleasing drinks. Maybe an adult beverage or three.

This Saturday we will build a fruit press or two, sort through the good the bad and the beautiful and get pressing that apple juice.

We will also cover the cider making process, give some hints and tips on really basic, simple but effective brewing vessels to get you started without forking out a load of cash, how to preserve unfermented fruit juices and generally get soaked whilst laughing at each other.

A lot!

click or tap the link for more details

The cost is £10 to cover running costs, hardware, our usual run to the chippy and the ever present need to put cash in the coffer to pay the bills.

under-pressure

 

Let there be light!!

Four week in and we have now done a detailed survey of the site and its buildings and identified what we need.

As in the best of traditions the problem is the solution and we need above all heat and electricity for the structures (I’m already tired of typing greenhouse and polytunnel!!) and electricity in general.

We always intended to make this site as off grid as possible, just to show it can be done and, well, we’re frugal Yorkshire folk and don’t like paying other people to do stuff we should be doing our selves.

So to that end we will be offering (at incredible cheap prices to mainly cover costs) a plethora of courses and lectures on just that. Living independently.

Where you get the chance to get hands on dirty practical experience of saving money.

Here’s a taster of what we have planned…

Cider, apple juice and free orchard growing.

Off grid electricity, design, building and maintaining battery banks for those pesky power cuts.

Hyper efficient wood burning stoves called Rocket stove and adapting them for different uses.

Food preservation and storage, buy cheap to eat later. No freezer required.

Solar energy for home heating. From the stuff others throw away.

Beer and wine making.

Basic carpentry skills and general DIY Hacks.

So keep an eye on the events calendar for what’s coming up.

And remember, everything we do, adds value to you

The Gathering

With very Short notice we At Bentley Urban farm invite you to our first annual Gathering!!

This is the weekend Saturday the 24th of September we will be driving, walking, riding and generally meandering around Bentley and the Doncaster area as a whole identifying, adopting, learning about the apple trees we find and gathering all the apples we can. We will also be giving a variety of talks along the way about various methods of caring for those trees we adopt and what we can all do to preserve them.

We will be charging £10 to cover our educators time, a light lunch, though we will probably just go to the chippy! and to put some cash in the coffers so we can offer even more excellent adventures !!

Click or tap the link below for the poster.

 

the-gathering

 

#DoncasterIsGreat for Growing… come along and find out why…

small get growing

Come and join us next Thursday (May 23rd) anytime from 6pm onwards as we begin to plant an Apothecary (food, herbs and medicinal plant garden) at Church View (just behind the Minster opposite Tesco car park) and find out how growing your own can make you healthier while saving you a shed load of money.

Click here to download and share a copy f our Get Growing poster 🙂