This is a great question for me as I am trying to plant guilds on almost pure sand. It seems to take 4-5 years before trees and shrubs respond to their wood chip mulch and start to flourish. And of course one has to consider the carbon costs of transporting wood chips.
I've been doing a Back to Eden style wood chip garden for the last six years, and I had a rough start for the first five years. I laid a layer of cardboard covered with 6-8" of wood chips on top. The cardboard and chips slowed the quack grass, but I ended up spending many hours on my knees rooting out quack runners while listening to podcasts. The quack roots had enough energy to push through the soggy card board and and the chips. It WAS easier to root it out.
A year ago I finally found an approach that has stopped the quack grass for me. I started by staking large sheets of lumber wrap that I pick up from our local lumber yard to a grassy area as soon as the snow melted. After giving the quack grass a good solar toasting for three months, I then covered the roasted grass with cardboard, leaves, and 3-4" of wood chips. I haven't seen a blade of grass in that area since then. I did learn that the lumber wrap MUST have the black face up facing the sun. Not all lumber wrap has a black surface, so I only selected black ones at my lumber yard.
Good to see another premie in the Northern Lower Peninsula! I'm afraid I can't be any help with your chickens other than tell you that my parents keep chickens all winter without changing the litter. We just kept adding straw until the snow melted and we could spring clean the chicken house. A very smelly job!
As far as plant nurseries, here are two Michigan nurseries that have served me well: Okios Tree Crops and Cold Stream Farm. Oikos has a wide range of perennials & trees and Cold Stream Farms has many varieties at quite reasonable prices.
I ordered a variety of tree and shrub seedlings in the spring of 2013 and so far most are still living and some have thrived despite a harsh previous winter. Plus they had excellent customer service. I'd recommend them.
I have a small root cellar under our front deck. The inside temps are moderated by the earth temperature and range from 35 to 45 staying generally at 40 degrees. I've kept many different varieties of apples in the cellar. By FAR the best keepers have been Ida Reds. I have a bushel now that I won't start eating until mid June; and if past experience holds, I'll be finishing them about mid August just in time for the early summer apples to ripen. They do dry a bit and shrivel slightly but still taste good. They haven't failed me for ten plus years.
I would HIGHLY recommend video "Holistic Orcharding" by Michael Phillips. He has an established orchard with 80 different varieties of apples plus some pears and cherries. While his trees are in rows, he's become a strong believer in polycultures. A significant section of the video is devoted to companion plants he plants around his apple trees and to his chop and drop timing to best help his trees. I'll be watching this video several times as I try to improve the health of my small fledging orchard.
I never considered adding in the cost to run the fans. I was mostly trying to keep temperatures in the HH comfortable for the cool season greens. The house seemed like a good place to put the extra heat. Because I know very little about Kwh and other electrical issues I emailed this question to my engineer son: "I've been in a forum discussion about the cost of using fans to move heat from hoop houses and greenhouses into homes. Basically, the question is: Is the cost of the electricity worth the value of the heat moved? I have no idea how to calculate the value of the heat, but I tried to calculate the cost to run those two 40 watt fans for 8 hours. Here's how I did it:
2 fans at 40 watts each for 8 hours would use 640 watts. 640 watts would be .64 of a Kwh. Our rate is 0.08640 per Kwh so .64 x .08640 = .055 or 5-1/2 cents for the 8 hours. Seems pretty cheap to me and well worth any 80 degree air that I can move into the house. Are my calculations correct or have I made some huge error?
Thanks for once again being my backup! Dad"
Here is his response: "I think your math is mostly right, though for more significant consumption calculations, you should use the TOTAL you pay for electricity instead of the listed rate, as all the taxes and tariffs are an appreciable addition, despite how tiny the numbers look on your bill.
In this case, you can also keep in mind that the a bunch of the energy used by the intake fan turns into heat that you get to keep, as well. Additionally, the 40W figure is probably on the high side for a relatively unconstrained situation like you have (as the power used by a fan is a function of actual work done.)
I did a little napkin math, and assuming 200CFM and a 10degree F temperature delta for the air, and it worked out around .5kwh of "heating" per hour vs .08kwh of fan use per hour.
Moving 80 degree air into your house with a fan should be a damn good deal."
The other reason I never gave photovoltaics serious consideration is because this part of Northern Michigan gets very little sun through much of the winter. In Jan. 2014 we have had less than 8 total hours of direct sun all month.
I'll to post some pictures of my attached HH in a separate post.
Two years ago I added a south facing hoop house to our house. Last winter we harvested greens all winter and often had temperatures in the HH over 80, so I spent this summer designing and building a system to automatically bring the warm air in when the sun was shining. I used two fans (VenTech DF8 8" Duct Fan 400 CFM): one to bring the warm air in and one to take cool air from the floor of our basement back to the HH. At the end of the 8" inlet pipe and the end of the outlet pipe I used backdraft dampers (Fantech RSK 8 Backdraft Damper 8" Duct). The fans were controlled by a thermostat that my electrical engineer son purchased on ebay for $10 and installed for me. It all worked great in the fall. However, this winter in Northern MI is very different! All the greens in the HH are limp and close to death. Temperatures in the HH while 10 degrees or so warmer than outdoor temps are rarely above freezing. No greens this winter. The backdraft dampers are not absolutely positive and do allow some air through when the HH is pressurized by strong winds. I ended up sealing the entry until things start warming up. In my research I did find thermostatically controlled backdraft dampers, but they were beyond my budget.
I too am interested in a companion plant for blueberries. Googling medicinal red clover seed just keeps bring up red clover. Is red clover the same as medicinal red clover? My blueberries definitely need nitrogen help.
According to this study our most nutritious apple is the Ida Red. It isn't generally available in stores but can be found at several local orchards in our area. I especially like Ida Reds because they are great keepers in our root cellar. They generally last until the first of August of the following year.
G. M. Huber and H. P. V. Rupasinghe. Phenolic proles and antioxidant properties of apple skin extracts. J. Food Sci., 74(9):693, 2009.
I have planted a variety of trees and would be very interested in adding Monty's Surprise to my collection. Perhaps it too would be an excellent keeper.
I second Michael's advice on the thickness of the wood chip layer. I have seen amazing results with berry bushes and with annual plants AFTER the chips start to break down. A word of caution: make every effort to first kill any perennial grasses like quackgrass (Agropyron repens) that can spread through the chips. Quackgrass can grow 300 feet of rhizomes each year according to the University of Minnesota. A tree service company delivered several large loads of chips last spring, and I covered lots orchard area without using cardboard. I didn't use cardboard around the trees because I didn't want to smother the tree roots. The quackgrass loved it, and now I have a daily session rooting out the rhizomes. I have learned that if you are patient and if you are careful to keep the garden perimeters clear of incoming rhizomes you can eventually stifle quackgrass.