Where Have We Been? Updates from Around the Institute

Our posts have been few and far between this summer and for good reason: spring, summer, and fall are our busy periods with crops going in, harvests coming out, and infrastructure and research projects to push forward. Today, we’ll be giving you a short update of the various things going on around here — with plenty of pictures.

Compost in various states of decomposition.

Compost Study — Hot Box Composting

We’re running a compost study funded by USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education grant. We’ve created boxes that hold a yard of organic materials and blow oxygen through them to help them compost. The heat, moisture, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen given off by the decomposing materials are pushed through a grow bed, sustaining the plants there. These are small-scale versions of what has been used on the large scale to grow greens during the colder months in greenhouses without external heat. We’ll be doing a full post to update our progress to date.

Timber Framing

We’re also building a timber-frame compost hutch. The challenge is to use materials from within a ten-mile radius. This is the pilot project before we undertake a more ambitious building in another year or two. We’ll be announcing the “ten-mile building challenge,” at some point in the near future, so stay tuned.

We’ve had volunteer days most Sundays this summer, where those who are interested can come and learn some basic timber framing techniques in exchange for a bit of work. Next year we hope to offer this as a formal class. We’re planning to raise the frame this Sunday and will be creating a video of the entire process, which we will of course share here.

Flax to Linen Class

Over three Saturdays we hosted a series of classes where students could go through the steps of turning flax into linen. In the first class, we harvested this year’s flax — stunted by drought, but still viable. That flax was dried, rippled (seeds removed), retted (soaked in water until the pith began to rot), dried again, and then broken, scutched, and hackled into a strick. This strick is then dressed and attached to a stand, called a distaff, from which the fibers are pulled and spun on a wheel to make linen thread, suitable for weaving.

We worked with Holin Kennen from the Victorian Technology Institute to offer this class — LTI staff handled the growing and processing while Holin took on the spinning.

Wheat and Rye Harvest

We’ve got an on-going project to experiment with no-till wheat production. We’ll write a more formal report of this year’s efforts when we have everything threshed and winnowed. Last month we harvested the wheat and rye over about a fifth of an acre. It was harvested earlier than modern wheat would be, because we don’t have to immediately thresh it. Instead, it is bound in sheaves and then stooked (leaned up against one another) into a shock and let to dry for a few weeks in the field. This should result in better bread flour, but we’ll see and report back.

And Finally: Parental Leave

The institute has also been half shut down for parental leave. It’s been about two weeks since the new baby has arrived — both mother and baby are doing well.

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