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Sunday, January 12, 2014

If Someone Had Told Me...

If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be spending this morning making lye for soap and bio char (aka terra preta) I would have told them that yes I had seen Fight Club, but no I was not there yet.  Still, this morning found a return of the sun and the warmth that one finds here in SC at about 50 degrees.  Last week, it was 10 (go figure).

I had been trapped in the house and the rain (did I forget to mention the torrential downpours and tornado warnings we had received once the temperature came back up?) for several days and though I had been working, I tend to get a little cabin fever when kept inside too long.

Since I had time to burn and a desire to experiment, I thought I would kill two birds with one stone, (three if you count keeping warm) and fuddle around with making both bio char and lye for soap in the future.

11briar is surrounded by huge, old pecan and oak trees and there are plenty of scraps around.  I took a stroll in the rain and gathered some to add to a small fire.  I used a fire container (I am stopping short of calling a it a kiln) made from a discarded 5 gallon paint barrel with holes in the bottom for ventilation. and of course, an open top.

The burn was rather haphazard and it was difficult, at first, to get going.  It burned faster at the top where there was more air and slower at the bottom where there was less air and spent ash collapsing at the bottom closing the holes.

When the burn was done, I simply sifted the whole thing out for separate purposes.  The large pieces of charred wood were used for bio char and the

white ash is used to for making lye lye.

Bio char is an effect caused by what is called pyrolysis.  It is the burning of carbon based material in low oxygen so that you are left with pure carbon.  The burning of it causes it to fracture in unique ways.  That pure black, blocky structure is the most porous substance on earth and the perfect way to sequester carbon.  Beyond that, it is great in gardens.  Once burned, it is basically innocuous but those little nooks and crannies created in the burn are perfect homes for micro nutrients that worms and more love.  So it draws positive things to the clay like soil around here.

The lighter white ash is drawn to the top and separated to make lye.  With all the rain around here we have plenty of soft rainwater that is perfect for making lye and making soap.  We simply added the ash to a four gallon container of rain water and we wait.  In the next couple of days, we should see a separation of the lye from the water and we just skim the lye off the top.

The goal is to find complete sustainability and I am working on a more efficient kiln.  Still, done correctly and consciously, this is an incredibly efficient and carbon negative way of dealing with copious amounts of bio-mass.  It is definitely the way we are going to deal with the refuse at City in the Woods

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What Exactly is a CSA and other frequently asked questions...

What is a CSA?
CSA stands for community supported agriculture.  It is a system that helps both the farmer and consumer by making sure that farmer has buyers for his produce and that the produce has a home before the first seed is put in the ground.  This helps the consumer because the produce comes to them at a much lower price and a greater variety.  The grower knows what to plant, when to plant, and exactly when to plant and that cuts back on a lot of the cost.  The grower is then able to pass those savings on to the customer.

What makes us different?
The Briar St. Gardens is different in a number of ways.  For us, it is a lot about the food, but it is about other things as well.  For us, it was about instituting a true urban farm archetype, that has deep roots in the community and does things above and beyond the farm itself.
Briar St. Gardens is partnered with a non profit organization, EQGreenville, and other organizations as well and with their help, we work for the overall lifestyle of our members.  We partner with others to bring healthy lifestyles, arts, entertainment, education, and more.  Yes, the food that we produce is about 99% of what we do, but that other one percent is what makes us different.  Our members are also members of Winnie Mae's and as such are entitled to all the privileges thereof.

How are you ecologically sound?
We are dedicated to being not just carbon neutral, but carbon negative.  We currently collect compostable matter from 8 select restaurants and coffee shops in Greenville.  We also collect fertilizer, equipment, and other necessities from various sources that keeps them from the trash cycle.  We do this all via bike or by hand and act locally enough that cars or motorized anything is not really necessary.

I don't eat a lot of vegetables and I don't want them to go to waste, but I am interested in this.  Why should I get involved?
We find a lot of times that this is a circular argument!  People are always looking for reasons NOT to do things.  We work very hard to get rid of those reasons NOT to do it and give you plenty of reasons to dive in!
Cost?  We are cheaper than Whole Foods, Trader Joes, more healthy, and more local!  We will also accept EBT

I am a busy person, I don't have time for this... We deliver within a 5 mile radius of garden and special exceptions can be made in certain cases.  The more we care about you, our customers, the more we can do for you and the more you come back!

I don't know how to cook these things... We are going to be providing classes from local chefs on how to cook these things AND many other things!

I want to grow my own...We can show you how to do that too!  We believe in the cause not the cost.  We are not out to make money, we are out to make a difference! We believe in education!

Let us know if you have any other questions, comments, concerns.  We solve the problems.

The Briar St. Farm: growing more than food.

Last year, we were able to support about 20 people with our CSA.  We were able to keep it small and tend to the needs of our members.  This year, we are doubling everything.  We are going to focus very much on the needs of our members and work to save them time and money, as well as provide healthy options for them on a regular basis.
We are dedicated to being ecologically sound, even carbon negative.
We are committed to keeping our prices affordable and using the income to feed the business!
We are committed to educating our members.

The seeds are ordered and we have a number of different partners who are helping us create healthy and unique ways of bringing fresh food to the city of Greenville and beyond!