Spring’s warmth and rain is accelerating our plant and mushroom growth such that every day is a balance between agricultural management and sanctuary development activities like trail building as pictured below. The stone bridge you see was built in the early 1800's.
The adventuresome project of last weekend was replacing the 20 year old heating oil tanks in the Sanctuary. The seams were weeping and oil was accumulating on the sides of the tanks. I recently heard a nightmarish story about an oil delivery of 500 gallons into a 250 gallon tank that had a newly ruptured seam. With new tanks, we’ve avoided that risk. The challenge is that the sanctuary has no basement - just a 4 foot crawl space. To extract the old oil tanks we had to remove the staircase in the crawl space and lift the tanks to the first floor without spilling old oil or scratching the wood floors. Not fun, but we were successful.
The other not fun project was replacing all the fiberglass insulation in the crawl space. In the past, the roof gutters directed water immediately down the side of the building and into the basement causing annual flooding and mold. We’ve redone the gutters to direct all water away from the foundation. The crawl space has stayed completely dry this spring. I pulled 200 linear feet of fiberglass insulation out from the crawlspace, bagging it to avoid dragging mold, mouse droppings and fiberglass through the building. Lying on my back in the dirt of the crawlspace, I reapplied rolls of R19 insulation and a vapor barrier. I wore goggles, a mask and full body loose fitting clothing, minimizing fiberglass misery.
While doing the fiberglass project I found a few more hundred feet of old wiring and rusted electrical boxes. At this point, the only wires in the entire crawlspace are active electrical lines, fire detection sensors, and internet fiber. Victory!
The next great archeological challenge will be replacing the entire water system and all the plumbing in the crawlspace. At the moment the plumbing is like the city of troy - built in layers. What needs to be done? I’ll take a sawzall at the input pipe from the well and at the main distribution for the building, removing everything in between - a maze of copper and valves installed 1959-1995. Much of our work on the sanctuary is not about adding infrastructure, it’s about removing 50+ years of infrastructure layers. The only water system that is needed is a simple pressure tank with a small debris filter directly connected to the house and paddocks. No water treatment, softeners, or iron removal are needed, massively reducing complexity. There’s no need for segregated filtered and unfiltered plumbing. The water test shows that the well is perfect - 10 gallons per minute of sterile, iron free water, so we’ll go from a deep underground stream to house and animals without anything in between.
As unexciting as it sounds, we’ll also be replacing the toilets which date from 1960 to 1990. In the early 1990s toilets went from high flow to low flow and the models from that era are incredibly unreliable. Given that the sanctuary is a public space, having a plunger in every room is not the right solution. Toto toilets will be in place by June.
In the mid 1990s a carriage house/workshop for storage and vehicles was built on the sanctuary property but it was never finished. There were live electrical wires hanging from the ceiling, walls were primed but never painted, and the fire/smoke alarms were disconnected. I’ve redone all the electrical/lighting, connected fully wired fire/smoke alarms to the main house by running cable through an underground conduit, and begun the process of wall/ceiling finish work. The carriage house will become our honey processing area and serve as one of our teaching areas for beekeeping, beer making, and mushroom cultivation. By July it should be finished to perfection.
This week, the stone dust necessary to finish the paddocks arrives. How much do we need? The paddocks are a trapezoid 300 feet on one side, 225 on the other side and 200 feet wide. If you remember your geometry, the area is (300+225)/2*200=52500 square feet. Just how much stone dust will cover 52,500 square feet at 3 inches thick (recommended for horses) - just go to this website and you’ll discover we need 700 tons i.e. 1.5 million pounds. The first 200 tons arrived yesterday.
Once the stone dust is placed, the fencing goes in and by mid June we’ll have four quarter acre paddocks for new rescues. As soon as its done, I’ll post pictures.
By the time the Summer gives way to Fall, the building of the sanctuary should be complete and my blog posts can return to the joys of running a farm and sanctuary, since maintaining is much easier than creating.
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