Luke Groce

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since Jan 04, 2015
Louisville, KY
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Recent posts by Luke Groce

I'm having family visit this weekend, and am short on time/energy. Would anyone care to share an instruction sheet that they have created for guests who visit their composting toilet? Ideally in PDF or .doc form.

sorry if this has been covered. I didn't see any past threads addressing this.

4 years ago
Also, categorizing this post was really hard. Seems appropriate for many areas of permies. Please feel free to adjust appropriately if you have that power.
4 years ago
My wife and I recently bought an off grid Amish farm and house. We decided to wire it (still waiting for the electric company), add a little additional plumbing, and move in; seeing what non-Amish amenities we could live without before buying things like fridges and septic tanks.

The ice house has 20" of insulation with some hard spray on surface inside of that. The door gets sealed up with great stuff after it is filed with ice each winter. It still has ice that was gathered from the pond from this past January and February. interior space is something like 6' x 6' x 8' with an old fridge set into one side (door of fridge is flush with the inside kitchen wall)
After looking through the archives with a search under "icehouse" i saw some helpful ideas and math stuff.

But i was wondering if i could get some practical help with thinking about some of these things:

1: seems obvious, but the colder the ice is that you put in your ice house,the more potential heat absorption from my food, and the longer it will work. Is this basically right? Is it important that the ice fill the space? Or is airspace between blocks not an issue?

2. I don't have horses like the previous owners. And gathering ice from the pond sounds like a bad job. 2154 gallons would fill the ice house. I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions on how one might produce and move that much ice efficiently (in this thus-far super mild winter). I have some thoughts below. But feel free to leave any better ideas that I'm not getting at.

3. Is the ground in southern Indiana too warm to optimally freeze water right against it? My instinct is no. Raising 8 tons of water (even in batches) with plenty of surface area above the level of the ground does have its complications. If i could do it that way, i wonder if i could lay a tarp down on the north side of my house with 4" boards under the edges, and then fill it with water some afternoon when the temps are forecasted to be right. Would this plan work better over gravel or clay soil? Is a chainsaw or a spud bar the right tool? Should i plan to punch holes in this tarp?

4. I have some 10 gallon tubrugs brand durable totes. I wonder if i could freeze some of those most or all of the way through, then put them in on the base layer and add in chunks from my ice rink on and around those. Does anyone have some practical advice on how much distance from an edge is too much if the temps are, say 10 degrees overnight for a couple nights?

Bonus: The ice house is built on top of a concrete slab. But the boards under it are getting wet from presumably condensation or a poorly sealed drain hole. Any thoughts about how to improve that situation without tearing it apart?
4 years ago
Hi Matt,

I'm recently aware of the work you do, and I'm intrigued. My wife and i are looking to educate our children in a way that lines up with our goals and values. This will probably look like homeschooling at some point.

We've got three kids: 3, 2, and 2. I'm trying to think of ways to start helping them see and think about our farm, and ecological function and patterns. But it's obviously hard with attention spans and cognitive development bring where it is. Do you have any suggestions about how to begin with a three and a half year old?
4 years ago

Grant Schultz wrote:

Just remember, if you're going to start a cider brand - make it from fresh juice of heirloom varieties, not "organic" concentrate from China!

noted. (nobody will be standing in line to return to us the integrity we cashed in.)
4 years ago
Thanks for those answers.

I suppose the cow pastures around here are RELATIVELY chemical free, as compared with the annual grains. That is a big plus. Though I do wonder how long all that dewormer takes to leave the soil.

I like the humility and flexibility of keeping your options open for dramatic design shifts in down the road. I don't have it all figured out now, but in year 15, I'll have a better idea of what I want things to look like in year 30.

I am enjoying keeping up with what the various folks out there are doing with these broad acre perennial polycultures. I think the next thing I'll be excited to watch is how the harvest/marketing goes for all these various crops. Can't wait to see a thousand unique Sheppard's Cider type brands: dried perma-berries, acorn baking mixes, or a well organized chestnut finished pork cooperative.
4 years ago
What kind of perimeter fence are you liking at versa land?
4 years ago

did you have any thoughts on these follow up questions from earlier in the week? I'm sure you're plenty busy. Just wanted to give you a shot at addressing these, in case they fell too far down the list.

Luke Groce wrote:Thanks for that. I know common sense goes a long way when bringing animals near plants for human consumption. But not enough people I talk to are doing it -so I am always interested in seeing what makes sense to others.

One question you didn't address above: Any thoughts on whether you would prefer to start a system like yours in a corn/soy mono-crop field, or a typical midwest set stock grazing cow pasture? (similar climate). I'm looking into both right now.

I was re-listening to some podcasts with you the other day, and had a couple sets of questions:

1. Did I correctly hear that you're using 30 foot spacing all over your farm between the tree crop strips? Not sure what climax tree species you're working with, but are you looking to have a closed canopy forest there in 50 years, as opposed to maintaining the system as a silvopasture? When Darren Doherty was on here, I asked him about Mark Sheppard's spacing for those who want to graze and crop in between long term, and he said he liked the idea of 100 ft between rows. Just curious if you can shed some light on your choice of spacing here, and what your end goals are (which, I understand, may not be achieved in your lifetime).

2. You talked about grazing animals from low in the system to higher on the hills in a given season (I believe you said this was to prevent runoff from their waste from following them down the hill). Maybe this is one of those things that will have to be worked out over time with your grazing plan revisions, but I have a few questions: when exactly are you thinking of putting animals in those lowlands? Is the keyline system so effective that they won't be soggier than the ridges in April/May? Do you worry about your hilltops being dried out first, and therefore not recovering as easily from that later graze? Obviously you can't take every possible thing into consideration in a design, and you've walked around on a key lined property in each of those months. I haven't. I'm just trying to figure out how it looks on the ground, and how to order the importance of various different factors in designing my systems.

4 years ago
thanks to both of you for taking on those questions. I have looked at that University of Kentucky paper before. Its very interesting. Especially since we've got access to some great breeds around here, and I've been trying some of everything out myself.

Walter: I like the idea of hitting up all the niches. We already work with some great restaurants. I'm sure they would love to have an even more unique whole hog to include in their charcuterie programs than what we've offered (but I may not be able to sell more than half a dozen of them at a higher premium than I have thus far with my current animals).

Grant: Those calculations are exactly what I'll be doing as I game plan next year. The cash flow budgets could look a lot different if the feed bill was out of the picture. I'm also partial to my mutts. I've liked their carcass, yield, temperament, vigor and all around health way more than my pure breed hogs.

Follow up question for both of you: Does feeding your purely pastured hogs through the summer get tough, as senesced, fibrous forages become the norm in pastures?
or do they not become the norm in your pastures because of key lining and good management? Do you suggest planting summer forages, or some grazing scheme, or something else that might help (besides the ragweed and mulberry)?

I'm intrigued by the idea of having them follow behind another species to keep them on some of the most tender forages, but what animals I have, and what property I'm on will obviously be determining a lot of this.

Thanks again!
4 years ago
We are in our second year with pastured hogs. While we do feed non GMO ration, we are blessed to rent on ground with good forages and ample persimmon, hickory, and acorn; with some mullberry, walnut, and blackberry. Some questions for you, since I'm eager to learn how to do this better with rented ground constraints, but also on my future sivopasture/keylined/multispecies/... homestead:

1. It looks like you're working with some kind of small framed pig (maybe kune kune?). Do you think this is necessary to achieve grain (and whey) free hog raising in the Midwest?

2. Do you have a good idea of yields for a small pig like this, and what marketability looks like locally? Is the market and margin there for anything besides really high end charcuterie?

3. Are you chopping their feed down and bringing it regularly? Are there strategies you're working on to keep forages at hog level?

4. How long will it take a hog in your system to be marketable size?

5. Thisv one is more general: With regard to parasite life cycles, do you have an idea of how long one should wait to regraze a paddock with hogs (similar climate to yours).

I've probably got more on this subject, but I'll try to let you catch up on all the questions.
4 years ago