YOUR HOMETOWN GARDENER

Paul and Nila Dowlearn-Owners of Wichita Valley Nursery. Paul’s recent books, “The Lazy Man’s Garden” and “Touch the Earth” are available at the Nursery, 5314 S.W. Pkwy, Wichita Fall, Texas.

This past week I got 7/10ths at the house and 8/10ths at the nursery. Two days of showers and drizzle. All of it soaked in. This is what my farming friends refer to as, “In the bank.” Subsoil moisture that will remain there long enough to grow a crop. The wheat fields are greening up as are the winter grasses in our home landscape.

With all the food being consumed this Thanksgiving there was a segment on waste during Saturday morning’s PBS broadcast. Estimates ran as high as 30%. That’s a lot of waste! Naturally a good part of this waste starts at the local supermarkets. Around here nearly all of the waste is used by folks raising pigs and chickens. However, in the more densely populated areas this has not been enough, so the bigger stores have begun chopping all of the extra waste (meat, veggies, paper… all of it) to reduce bulk and form a slurry that is then shipped out on trucks. This likely smells worse than death itself but no doubt would make some fine compost and perhaps still feed some livestock.

They interviewed a dairy farmer who would take the slurry, mix it with his cow manure and put it in something he called a “digester.” This was described as something like a silo with a big bubble on top. Methane gas would rise into the bubble to be piped to a big generator. The generator was said to produce one megawatt of electricity. Enough to power the farm, his household, plus plenty left to sell his local power company for a nice extra income. The farmer claimed they really “hit a home run” by doing this. The story ended by telling us one megawatt would power 1,500 households on average. Do the math…

Now I figure start-up cost on something like this would be huge. But maybe, just maybe, with global warming getting to be a hot button topic and next year being an election year, we could get some government subsidies to help out? I do understand that the government subsidized all these wind generators we are seeing nowadays. Maybe some subsidies already exist? The story also stated that this was not a new idea. These smaller electric generators have been adding to the electrical grids in Europe for a long time.

Indeed, I remember seeing a post WWII photo and reading about methane powered tractors in the Philippines. The “gas tank” was a 50- gallon drum filled with manure. So, the technology has been around for a while.

Nothing was said about what this farmer did when his “digester” needed cleaning out. I suppose the humus left over would be great as a soil builder. Nor was anything said about what kind of pollution a methane powered generator would add to the atmosphere. I would like to think it would burn a bit cleaner than diesel or gasoline. Maybe not… Certainly cheaper at any rate.

I thought this was an interesting thing to share since there are plenty of dairy farms in Texoma. I also think that capturing methane could be of use to all sorts operations that generate organic waste materials, including my industry. I do know that Wichita Falls has been capturing methane from our old landfill out on River Road and sending it to the factories north of town. Just another way of making good use of waste materials.

As for Nila and I, we have four dogs, a cat, and a garden. No organics get wasted out here. At the nursery, making compost still makes money and saves us plenty. I have been obliged to train many a new employee to not throw food scraps or unfinished cold drinks in the trash. Smells bad, draws flies, and the cats will often knock the trash cans over to get at the food.

These two-day rain events have really slowed the progress on landscaping. A two-day soaker in this cooler weather makes mud that lasts for two more dry days. Still, I would rather deal with mud than drought. Lucky, I have not gotten stuck on someone’s lawn… Yet. On the other hand, it is a mighty good feeling to get a good rain after finishing a landscape or planting trees. Perfect!!

We have already sold half our living Christmas trees mainly to folks who have bought them before and been pleased with the results. So again, I want to remind you all that we will tag the tree and hold it until you are ready to decorate. Just pick one and pay for it. I do get the Christmas spirit sooner or later and luckily have a few “elves” who can deliver or install if need be.

Seeds make good gifts to send with your Christmas cards or stuff into stockings. Last year’s seed rack is getting cheaper by the minute as we need room for next year. Old fashioned gift certificates made from paper with no expiration date. Or perhaps our elves can make a tree suddenly appear in your yard decorated with a bow or something special. Plant now to enjoy next year. Ya’ll come see us!!

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