Archive for Factor e Farm

First Installment – OSEmail

We have begun writing a biweekly newsletter. While the blog posts tend to cover specific topics in depth, our newsletter aims to paint a broader update about our projects, partnerships, and other news about happenings at Factor e Farm in collaboration with the greater global community. We just published our first issue. You can sign up to the OSEmail list,, you can view the issues at this link or by clicking the sample image below. A log of OSEmail back issues will also be kept.

Please pass this on to your friends.

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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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Production Run Update

Greetings from Factor e Farm.

Life has been busy around here.

We’re in the middle of a production run, so we’re working pretty much round the clock. What’s cool is that as we’re building things, we’re finding all these things to improve about the process. There’s a lot of room to grow, and we’re pumping out a lot.

Here’s a few photos of the past week. Read the rest of this entry »

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Greetings!

Hello everyone. I’m Chris Fornof, the newest member of Factor e Farm.

We’ve been busy with the May production run. I’m writing to you from inside the Cordwood Hut. The day is young, but there’s so much amazing stuff going down here, that I needed to blog some of it. A lot of you may be wondering “What is life like at Factor E Farm?”

Well, here was my first 4 days.

Day 1:

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4 Years of Factor e Farm

Factor e Farm, our land-based facility for Global Village Construction Set development, has now been alive for 4 years. We encountered the place as an empty soybean field abused by commercial agriculture. This video shows in 4 minutes what has happened in the last 4 years – and points to the plans for the next 2 years. These are exciting times indeed.

4 Years oif Factor e Farm in 4 Minutes from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

The current plan is 50/2/2 – the entire set of 50 Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) technologies to be completed in 2 years within a $2.4M budget in a scenario of rapid, parallel development. By year-end 2012, we want to be done with the basic GVCS shown above, so we can move on to applications – such as the infrastructure for a real community. This is a big, hairy, audacious goal. It requires that a large parallel development team is recruited, that a scalable development process is realized, and that the organizational infrastructure to support this task is established.

We have about 200 True Fans now – including two at the Angel level. Subscribe.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Over the holidays, I got a chance to meet Juliet Schor (author of Plenitude) in New York City. Juliet teaches at Boston College, and she co-founded the Center for the New American Dream. She wrote about Factor e Farm in her recent book, Plenitude: The Economics of True Wealth. She recently got a McArthur Foundation grant to do a case study on Factor e Farm. What I love about Juliet is that her core message is a mouthpiece for the practical work of Factor e Farm. I feel like I am listening to myself speak when I listen to Juliet. Her core message is that we can improve the economic system far beyond its present morasse of inefficiency and artificial scarcity.

Juliet Schor and Plenitude from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

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Plant Propagation Workshop 2010

We will be holding our annual Plant Propagation Workshop on March 20. See the documentation from last year’s workshop – blog post and announcement.

This year, our workshop will feature more raspberry propagation, plus grafting of apple, pear, peach, apricot, plum, and cherry. We will be using root stocks and scionwood from our nursery plantings. The workshop will take place at Factor e Farm from 1 to 4 PM on Saturday, March 20. We will start with a brief overview of the open source agroecology program that we’re pursuing, to set a context for our plant propagation efforts. The admission is free for True Fans, and $40 for others, and you may be able to take some plants home with you. We will also give a brief tour of our facilities. Email us or call to sign up or for more information, and if you are signing up, payment must be received by March 13. See other details from the announcement above.

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Winter Orchard Damage

This winter, we had 1-2 feet of snow, and the cover  lasted for about a month. This was harsh on the orchard – because an army of rabbits thus had a 1-2 foot pedestal and could reach above the existing tree guards. There was significant damage, but the trees will grow back – from below the damage at the very worst. Here is an example, which I covered with chicken wire after the damage was done already:

The rabbits, which for some reason exploded in population this year and kept the crockpots busy – were not the only issue. Subterranean creatures exploded, too. Look at these tracks, which to my guess, are voles or moles:

How could this happen if the ground is supposedly frozen during this colder-than-normal winter? Read the rest of this entry »

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Dedicated Project Visits Continued

William Cleaver will be joining us at Factor e Farm on May 1 for a Dedicated Project Visit. He’s coming from across the big pond – from the United Kingdom – and we are planning for a 3 month stay.

William is not a novice to creative dexterity – he’s involved in repair and demolition of industrial chimney stacks and natural draught cooling towers – at heights. See for yourself:

He has experience with various tools, welding brickwork, ropework, woodwork, and general shop.  He’s traveled the world, studied Romance languages, taught English in Chile, and is certified to teach high ropes courses. He is now showing great interest in the deeper message of post-scarcity, resilient community creation.

We discussed the following tentative plan, with both of us working in the shop and as needed:

May – Work on finishing or building Sawmill/LifeTrac II/MicroTrac II/ anciliary implements for construction – all in preparation for building.

June – begin building autonomous, zero energy housing with solar space. Experiment with CEB floors, CEB masonry stove and chimney, stabilized bricks, stabilized reject lime bricks, stabilized brick walkway and driveway, stabilized retaining walls, and others. We plan on winter food garden and sprouting in the solar space. If progress on the steam engine goes well, we’ll aim to install combined heat and power on the masonry stove.

July – continue building until comfortable accommodations for the winter are ready for several people.

We’re looking at building zero energy homes that look tentatively like this:

(Credits: Aigars Bruvelis in Blender)

Here is a CEB floor example from Abe at Vela Creations:

See more of his photos here.

Other than this, William is learning Kdenlive on Linux for movie editing, as well as and QCad for CAD work. These are staple tools now at Factor e Farm. William will begin preparing some of the technical drawings for the sawmill, so we can collaborate on making that happen over distance until his arrival.

We do want to consider bringing in additional help from the CEB general contractor, Floyd (see last blog post). We will consider hosting a CEB workshop if progress is good. If the CEB fabrication is going well – there could be resources generated to really get things moving forward, and continue to build more structures. I think now is the beginning of really settling into the land – and getting the place to look half-way presentable. We’re open to all kinds of ideas, such as the proposed CEB vault construction and others – but we’d need other people to get involved to push those projects forward. Otherwise, we’re sticking to basics and all types of experiments in the process.

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Happy New Year!

From post-scarcity communities, open business models, open source tractors, land stewardship, to starting some serious building this year – here’s the latest:

If you are liking what you heard in the video, don’t forget to subscribe to the True Fans to help make the work happen sooner rather than later.

Remember that we’re not there yet – the village still needs to be built. One year after initiating the True Fans campaign, we are at 60 subscribers, and you can read some of their comments here.

We used Kdenlive for the video edit above, Read the rest of this entry »

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