Factor e Farm Update: June to July

Hello everyone, sorry for the delay between blog posts lately. I’m Parker Bonnell, one of OSE’s newer staff members, working primarily with Marcin and Aaron on organizational development.

The last month has been a busy one at the Factor E Farm. Our population is now in the double digits, fluctuating at around 14 people on-site. This boom has been a doubled edged blade though. While it has led to greater progress on multiple fronts, (GVCS tools, agriculture, organizational development, and construction) it has also caused some issues with infrastructure breakdowns due to the rapid increase in population, and subsequent demand.

GVCS Tools

As some have seen from YouTube updates, Brianna (with CAD help from Emmanuel Carvajal and thanks to Roger Olson for fabricating a shear blade) has completed the Ironworker. It can shear up to 1”x10” steel flats with 100+ tons of force at the linkage, and roughly triple that for the angle shear. A more detailed blog post about it should be forthcoming.

Great strides have been made with the cold saw, which is nearly complete, and should be running by the end of the week. The torch table is also moving along nicely, and is slated to be finished within 3 weeks. Lastly, the sawmill while completed awhile back, has yet to be tested. This will hopefully change sometime in the next few weeks. We’ll keep you posted as things develop.

Agriculture

Gabi, our Agricultural Director, has been busy since she arrived last month. Working with other interested individuals on the farm, she has begun charting a long-term livestock/agricultural management and development plan that will navigate the farm as we move forward. In order to inform this process, land surveying has also begun.

Contour map of FeF

On the more material side of things, we have bee receiving a steady stream of raw milk (about two gallons a day) from our newly acquired bovine friend, aptly named “Good Cow.” We have also been using the excess milk, with progressively greater success, to make butter, with plans for cheese and yogurt. Our goal of meeting all dairy needs in-house is well on it’s way. Poultry-wise, less so. While we have ten or so laying hens, and more roosters than we need, they are laying few eggs in the heat of the summer. This should pick up by next Spring with our new generation of chickens—currently chicks that are still in their adorable stage of life.

Some garden beds have also started development, both behind the HabLab and alongside the old workshop. While it’s a bit late to plant much for harvest this year, we hope to enrich them for next Spring with compost and manure. We also have a newly constructed horto domi, built by Will Bratton and Samuel Bagot, which serves as a mini self-regulating greenhouse. We also just got some rabbits, which can  produce more than 100 lbs of meat per year.

Organizational Development

In this department, a number of balls are rolling in different directions, with the current focus on recruiting, flash mobs, team development, and documentation. In the last few months, Marcin stepped up recruiting to bring in the current group of folks now at the farm. A second round of recruiting is on its way, and we’ve been working to streamline the process, as well as reach a somewhat wider audience. In tandem with this, a database is being pieced together in order to organize applicants, and serve as a storehouse of contacts when we start utilizing the flash mob system on a regular basis.

Along with recruiting and flash mobs, everyone at FeF has also been working out how best to live together; what responsibilities everyone has and how to communicate most effectively when making group decisions and in general. This is an ongoing process, and if there’s interest from our readers, can be expanded upon as things progress.

In terms of documentation, we recently hired our first documenter, Tristan Smith. A talented videographer (formerly at WikiLeaks), Tristan has started by focusing on production of a short film that summarizes the essence of Open Source Ecology–slated for completion around late August. After that, he’ll be putting together high-caliber weekly updates about the goings-on of FeF, and other videos as needed.

Short video mood board proposal for OSE

Construction

On this front, the most notable developments consist of resumption of work on the HabLab, infrastructure/agricultural development plans, and completion of Vann’s hexayurt (which will be detailed in an upcoming post). While the HabLab is mostly complete, we’ve begun the final stage, consisting of finishing the four side-rooms on the east side of the house, wiring the unfinished outlets throughout the house, and stuccoing the unfinished walls. Once those are complete, all that will be left is setting up a heating system in time for winter. Moving forward from there, plans are being developed for a number of infrastructure and agricultural projects. Some notable potential projects include a cistern for rainwater catchment and well-water storage; burying water, power, and internet lines; a pond for additional water storage and irrigation; a possible secondary greenhouse, and keyline design with strategically placed berms and swales for efficient irrigation of crops.

Issues

As mentioned, our rapid population increase has caused some problems, which has slowed development in other areas as various folks work to troubleshoot the issues.  Water has been the primary trouble, as our well, dug 4 years ago with a submersible DC pump, hasn’t been able to produce enough water to meet demand. Our water storage tanks, exposed to sunlight, also began developing some algae, which led to two people getting sick. We have installed a reverse osmosis filter, but because of our water demand, not everyone was using it. It’s use has mostly remedied the potable water issue, and we plan on installing an ozonator or UV filter to further treat the water. As for supply, plans are in motion to dig another well – we  got Mark Finch to drill test holes and identified a 1 gallon per minute location. We will start rain catchment from the HabLab, and store water in an underground gravel cistern. Furthermore, we plan on linking up with the town water system, which will serve as an emergency backup.

Aside from water, there have also been some power and internet hiccups, but these are relatively minor problems, and will be detailed further another time. We are still electrically off-grid, and we are considering a biogas digester cooking gas/electrical system.
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That about sums up the recent progress at FeF. Stay tuned for more frequent updates. Part of my role is to produce a weekly blog post, since Marcin has less time for this due to his schedule. Things are settling down as we regroup and reorganize.

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1 Comment »

  1. LennStar said,

    August 1, 2012 @ 2:13 am

    I have interest in you group decision process.

    Your mention of water reminds me of Africa (and other southern lands). There they use plastic bottles for
    a) filled with water and something white (bleach?) they put it in roofs to have a 60W light bulb at day time, saving energy.
    b) put the water bottles on the roofs and the UV light I think cleans them.

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