Senda Verde Permaculture Eco Center

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Enter the house of pain

Jean Pain worked during the late 60’s and through the 70’s in the Provence region of France caretaking a large track of dry land forest. This forest, as much of the Mediterranean rim was very prone to fire and Jean worked to remove brush to cut down the risk of catastrophic fire events. Leaving the brush piles in the forests here in temperate Wisconsin would allow it to decompose readily, but in the very dry conditions in his area, carbon is cycled more readily by fire than biological decomposers. Being a tinkerer and rogue spirit, he then sought ways to use that “waste” wood for something useful and began experimenting with methane gas production and composting.

Jean would make MASSIVE compost piles – up to 80 cu meters! – of water soaked shredded brush built around a 10′ tank filled with a slurry of compost and water that he would use to produce methane gas.

Temperature in the methane digester was regulated by wrapping coils of tubing around it and then another several hundred feet of tubing laid in coils throughout the pile. Water would be pumped through the tubing cooling the tank, with the “waste” heat being used for space heating of the Pain’s home, greenhouses, and for their household hot water – average temps in these massive piles was 140 degrees!

These piles would then produce methane gas and 140 degree water for up to 18 months – in enough quantity for him to heat his 1000 sq ft home for 2 winters and produce enough methane gas for all their cooking and transportation needs.

I am still digging for more information on the Pains, and it seems you can get 90% of the availible information digested in about 90 minutes. If anyone has a line on Jean Pain’s 88 page handbook “Another Kind of Garden” you have found a buyer…

Start with the You Tube videos which are low on quality due to their age, but super high on content:

Part 1

Part 2

Then go to my perrenial favorite storehouse of Information to Save the World:

Journey to Forever

And end up at:

The Permaculture Activist, Mother Earth News

and finally Wikipedia.

Put it all together and it is no wonder why I am so in love with this guy: using waste wood to save the world by a beautiful mix of applied forestry, some Grade A tinkering, gardening, commercial scale composting, methane digestion, wrap it all up in a permaculture design 10 years before the word was coined, and add a healthy mix of military surplus trucks and wheel barrows for good measure. Jean tracked his methods with a true scientific rigor – measuring inputs of petrol, liters of water and the rate, size and weight of the compost piles, and constantly worked to improve his designs.

Here are some questions that I hope to answer in my studies and through those that know more about Jean’s work:

* How the heck did he get a pile to heat to 140 that has a C:N ration of 80:1?
* How the heck did he keep it there for up to 18 months?
* Why doesn’t the pile go anaerobic due to its size?
* Where can I get a truck like the one in the opening shot of Part 1?

Is one of these in my future? I think we found yet another reason that a commercial grade chipper may be making it into the Hoop House Business Plan…

Be the Change!

Thanks to One Straw for the excellent post

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