Sunday, November 29, 2015

Grain dryer

I purchased 6 bushels of compromised red fife spring wheat that I hope will be viable for a planting in 2016.  The wheat measured 19% humidity when I bought it last Sunday.  Ouch!  The smell was obvious without any need of testing, and I was pretty amazed that it was not actively sprouting or getting black inside.

Anyway, I needed to build a dryer ASAP.  Turns out 55 gallons is almost exactly 6 bushes, so I grabbed this barrel and cut off the top.  On the bottom I built a wooden box with a small blower.  On top of the wooden box I cut 3" holes and stapled window screen over the openings.

So here you can see the setup.  After a couple of days I added the ceramic heater, so the blower draws in some hot air.  You can really feel the air moving through the grain and coming out the top.  For the first couple of days, the moisture level hardly moved.  But 2 full days of heat really got it going, and today it is testing in the 13's.  The volume has gone down noticeably--the pile of grain is about 3" lower now!  I will give it another day or two before bagging and storing, and doing a good germination test on the lot.

I'm really glad I took the time to build a gate to draw grain off the bottom.  I have been draining a couple of buckets each day and pouring it back on top, to agitate and move the grain around.  It should make bagging very easy, too.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mill Project

Here is my "mini-mill" project, which I am building as precursor to a more ambitious unit.  I have been studying historical sources and examining modern horizontal mills to get guidance and inspiration.

The shoe and damsel meters out the flow of grain into the eye of the runner stone.  It was fun to build this part and it works great.

Here you can see the runner stone and the octagonal housing I built.  I glued a little flag onto the outside of the runner stone to help create some wind to push the flour out.  You can also see that I ground the top of the spindle to create an eccentric that the damsel rides against.  This jostles the shoe and helps the grain flow out evenly.

The pattern is a classic layout of lands and furrows.  Grain enters from the top and moves out as it is reduced into flour or feed.

Here is an early fit up, trying to figure out how the housing is going to work.  The bed stone is bolted down to the base, and the spindle is supported on a bearing mounted on the bridge tree below.  The crane, screw, and bale (at right) can then be rotated to raise and lower the spindle.

This is the bedstone after removing from the form, with the top bearing I used. This top bearing seems to bind on the spindle and prevent it from moving up and down smoothly.  I am going to try a hardwood top bearing next.  Hardwood top bearings have been used in stone mills for centuries.

I cut the form to make the furrows and lands as a three-dimensional mirror image using a dado head on a radial arm saw, then dropped it into the bottom of a 12" diameter bucket and put in counter top mix cement.

Monday, November 16, 2015

November Survey

Garden status as of November 16.  There has really only been 2-3 nights of frost to date, not enough to kill the swiss chard or bok choi.  There is a bunch of stuff that I just did not get to.  The below pick shows the historical grains research plot, all healthy and strong.  To the right I have mulched some of the leeks and carrots to stretch them out.  The light green are daikkon radishes, which I planted too late to be of much use.

The oats and peas which were drilled over the spring wheat and garlic took well.  Weirdly, the South end is peppered with volunteer bok choi, really nice stuff that I have gotten many good meals out of.  Much better than the bok choi that I intentionally grew this season.

Three rows of garlic, trying a mulch for the first time.  I have so much wheat straw that I am just coming up with things to do with it all.

Red clover from the barley and winter wheat strips, and to the right is wheat and a little vetch which is a cover crop in the former corn ground.