Monday 7 April 2014

Dog's Best Friend, Wood Chip & Shiitake, Bio-diesel, Route 66

Of our pack of dogs these two are the youngest & the oldest. Dottie the 18 month old terrier is a great character loved by all who meet her despite her really annoying habit of jumping up at people's knees. She endears herself through her enthusiasm at the prospect of a new best friend and probably because she is very small. Her real best friend is Poppy our venerable old lady, who at 11 yrs of age is still game for a day's shooting and she never fails to come on walks though very much at her own pace...a lot of time is spent holding gates open as she ambles along in the wake of the other dogs. She can no longer jump or climb gates with the others. Dottie feels the cold and so spends as much time as she can being a couch potato on a labrador. When the sun is shining she & Poppy can be found out on the yard in a sunny corner sound asleep with Dot slumped across Poppie's broad back. Even in the house in front of the Rayburn she will avail herself of this extemely comfortable doggy divan.

We had a few dry days last week...wasn't it lovely?... and the Farmer took advantage of the fine weather to tidy up the brash left from relaying a hedge. Out friend G. the shiitake mushroom grower (, hired a wood chipper and he & the Farmer spent a long day pushing branches of ash, oak & elm through a violent & powerful machine which reduced the wood to vast quantiities of small chip. This is a perfect medium for growing shiitake mushrooms once it has been formed into blocks and impregnated with the shiitake spores.

We have been running our 4x4 on bio-diesel for some years now & last week the Farmer made one of his regular trips to our local chip shop & a neighbouring pub to collect their old chip oil. It is quite disgusting & really puts one off eating chips but it does convert into a fuel that will run our vehicle very efficiently. The process required to convert vile chip oil into a usable & clean product takes several hours but the equipment that we have installed is relatively simple and so long as a careful eye is kept on it thoughout the process it works very well. We & a few friends (including G. the mushroom grower) joined together to buy the equipment and whenever anyone in the group needs to make another batch of fuel they come to the farm for the day.
The process involves drying the oil by heating & bubbling air through it, then titrate to establish how much potassium hydroxide is needed. This with methanol is mixed with the oil for about 1/2 an hour then allowed to settle. The resulting by-product glycerol, is removed. The mixture is then re-heated & the methanol recovered and what is left is bio-diesel.

Man power on the farm is depleted at present as Younger Son went of to America last week. He & his girl-friend are driving across the States on Route 66 ( for the next three weeks. They flew out to Chicago, picked up a hire-car and set off to drive the 2,000+ miles to California. It should be an amazing trip. The route passes through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico & Arizona, ending in Santa Monica, California. It was the major way west for the migrants during the Dust Bowl of the 1930's & of course gained fame through Chuck Berry's great song.