Bicycle Powered Thresher

Farmhack has complete instructions for making a bicycle powered thresher. It works on various crops including dry beans, wheat, rice, rye, einkorn, and lupine, and threshes about one pound per minute.

This is the first of three tools for small scale grain processing. The other two tools are the bicycle powered fanning mill and the bicycle powered de-huller/flour mill.

Unlike some “hacks” for small farmers, the Grain Bikes don’t solve an acknowledged problem so much as create new opportunities for small farmers. Dry beans and grains are non-perishable, can be sold, eaten, or planted to avoid seed costs (such as rye for cover crops), and, the labor for processing them can be shunted to the winter when more time is available.

Find the manual at Farmhack.

 

Pigeon Towers: A Low-tech Alternative to Synthetic Fertilizers

pigeon-towers-iranPhoto credit: Bekleyen, A. (2009). The dovecotes of Diyarbakır: the surviving examples of a fading tradition. The Journal of Architecture, 14(4), 451-464..

Many societies, ancient and contemporary, have innovated ways of supplying their fields with fixed nitrogen and phosphorus—two crucial ingredients for crop productivity. One is crop rotation, which alternates nitrogen-fixing and nitrogen-exhausting crops. Farmers around the world make use of chickens, ducks, and geese to add “fresh” guano to their fields. Cattle manure is another useful alternative—although it often lacks in phosphorus. Much more labor intensive than simply adding fossil-fuel derived synthetic fertilizer, these practices tend to build up soil, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and lead to less run-off into rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Persian pigeon towers are one of the more elegant solutions to the nitrogen-phosphorus problem. These are essentially castles built for thousands of wild pigeons, strategically placed in the middle of the fields. Their droppings were shoveled up once a year and sold to nearby farmers. While most pigeon towers existing today are in disrepair, the oldest still standing are dated to the 16th century (but they are assumed to have existed over 1,000 years ago) and helped fuel the cultivation of Persia’s legendary orchards, melons, and wheat production.[1] [Read more…]

Adapted Tools for Organic Farming

horse plough

L’Atelier Paysan is a French-speaking collective of small-scale farmers, employees and agricultural development organisations who design open source farm tools.

Based on the principle that farmers are themselves innovators, they have been collaboratively developing methods and practices to reclaim farming skills and achieve self-sufficiency in relation to the tools and machinery used in organic farming.

They have an English language website, which includes about a dozen tool descriptions with technical drawings. All tools can be appropriated and modified by farmers. [Read more…]

Slow Farming Tools

slow tools 1

As a result of the industrial revolution and the subsequent development of “big agriculture,” small-scale farming tools have become almost obsolete. In order to fulfill the demand created by a burgeoning community of small-scale farmers, Stone Barns Center has partnered with Barry Griffin, a design engineer, to develop farming equipment and tools. Called the Slow Tools Project, this partnership brings together leading engineers and farmers to design and build appropriately scaled tools that are lightweight, affordable and open-source. [Read more…]

Water Johads: A Low-Tech Alternative to Mega-Dams in India

water johad india

When the British colonized India, they imposed their own system of water management, which included the building of large-scale dams, sewers, and irrigation channels. This high-tech approach continues today, as the World Bank is urging India to build enormous dam projects to fight drought and depleted aquifers. The Indian government has followed its advice. Its first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, called dams the “Temples of modern India”. Since then, India has built over 5,000 dams and large reservoirs. [1]

However, before the British arrived, people on the subcontinent used traditional low-cost, low-tech engineering to collect rainwater for thousands of years. This involved the placement of thousands of small structures throughout rural areas which, in one way or another, catch excess rainwater from the monsoon months and allow it to slowly percolate into the groundwater during the dry season. To maintain and manage these structures, community-based management schemes were necessary. However, these were actively discouraged during British rule and following independence. As a result, in the 20th century many of these small reservoirs fell into disrepair.

[Read more…]

A Dining Table for the Neighbourhood

the landscape table

The Landscape Table is a platform for cultivating, processing, cooking and sharing the food at the centre of the FARMPARCK in Brussels, Belgium. Thanks to the edible and medicinal plants inserted into the table itself, the installation invites the public to meet and eat in direct contact with a landscape that is a bounty for the senses – sight, smell, touch and, above all, taste. The essence of this project is to involve the visitor in the landscape, farming, nature and cooking through shared moments.

FARMPARCK puts to the test a new model for a public space combining the characteristics of a park and farmland, where food is grown, cooked and eaten by the neighbours. There is a vegetable garden, an animal farm, a kitchen, and a compost toilet which is to transform the park’s organic waste into “terra-preta”  (black earth, a rich and fertile soil) for the park and the surrounding area. FARMPARCK, which happens in a multicultural neighbourhood, meets both social and ecological needs. It was set up as a prototype from May to September 2014, but continues to be active today. Picture: Eric Dil.

Turning the Soil with a Bicycle Handlebar

The agricultural tool shown in this video is pure genius. However, as some readers on our Facebook-page have noted, turning the soil disrupts soil organisms and brings more weeds. Another human-powered tool, the broadfork, loosens the soil without turning it. Thanks to Jean Armstrong Nick and Austin Liu.

The Hay Pusher

Who needs expensive baling machinery?

Pedal Powered Farming

culticycle pedal powered tractor

The Culticycle is a pedal powered tractor that can cultivate, seed, spray, or pull gear for most low horsepower tasks. We talked about the first prototype almost two years ago. A new version has now been released, built around a modular tractor frame. Tim Cooke explains us how it’s built and how it works:  [Read more…]

The Beauty of Organic Farming

the beauty of organic farming picture by Lloyd Kahn

It’s not an advantage that’s often emphasized, but organic fields are much more beautiful than monocultures. The picture above was shot north of Santa Cruz, USA. Photographer is Lloyd Kahn, author of the fascinating Shelter blog.