DIY Bike Trailers

Courtesy of Didacus R. , Haywood, CA

I found this link to a bike trailer/dolly. My only modification would be larger wheels placed so they are equal to the bottom of the trailer when it is upright as a dolly and far down enough so that they don’t interfere with the trailer bed when laying flat as a trailer. Of course that part is not critical if you don’t intend to load your trailer wider than the width of the trailer.

Drought, Raised Beds and Irrigation

Courtesy of John S. , Blue Ribbon Eggs, Franklin NC

There is no one solution that always works for every problem, and there are often several different solutions to any single problem.

Wally is dead on. The two big advantages to formal raised beds are elevating the soil temperature sooner and quicker, and better drainage for overly wet soils. If drought is your problem, raised beds certainly aren’t the solution.  Additionally they make tilling with machines difficult if not impossible. If your soil is ‘ideal’ you could till with a broad fork, but still that can be a pain.

Over head sprinklers have huge water loss due to evaporation and are usually ‘non-specific’, IE: water everywhere. Your best bet, in my view, is a well designed drip system.

I knew nothing about them, called up DripDepot ( and a lovely young lady helped me design a perfect system for my quarter acre of blueberry bushes in about 20 minutes on the phone. She sent me the stuff, and it took an afternoon to install – no tools but scissors and a hand punch, all hand tightened joints. Now I water 200+ berry bushes effortlessly, whreeas before it had taken all day (8 hours) once every week or two for the season. The system I have is convertible to gravity feed if I wish (I have low water pressure), by simply removing the pressure regulator from the line. I bought it 3 years ago and spent $239 including freight from Oregon to the east coast.

As we all know, the SPIN principle is to reduce labor, reduce costs, increase efficiency and increase profitability. It works from the Great White North to equatorial Africa and Central America because those principles make sense to everyone everywhere on the planet.

You need a tiller because it is cost effective and efficient (money and labor), you need a cooler of some type for the same reason, you need a watering system (see your SPIN intro book) for exactly the same reason. You can install a drip system for about the same price as the good quality hose you would need to drag around.

If I want a raised bed (some years are very dry and I don’t, some years it’s very wet and I do) I use a simple iron rake and rake the soil up in to 10″ high beds (low mounds) that keep their shape for the season. No boards, or walls so I can till and reconfigure whenever I need to. It seems somewhere along the line raised beds  became the default setting for anyone wanting to grow food. But there is no production advantage to them, and in fact, they mostly work against you, not with you.

Irrigating Sub-acre Plots

Courtesy of Michael K. , Good Fortune Farm, Brandywine MD
Here is some general advice regarding irrigating plots under an acre.

1. Check the volume your well pumps in GMP, time how long it takes to fill a 5 gallon bucket. Also the pressure using a pressure gauge. Do this at the faucet and at the furthest distance from the outlet to get an idea of pressure drop.
2. If you have a shallow or deep well consider the capacity of the well and the cost of operating the pump for prolonged periods of time. Also replacing the pump if you burn it out by pumping the well dry using overhead sprinklers. Home pumps may not be designed for prolonged ag. use.
3. For individual plants like peppers, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, consider individual drip emitters fairly affordable at hardware stores, and low volume use. Can be run off a 5 gallon bucket or 50 gallon drum
4. By the time you purchase enough large volume hoses to effectively irrigate an acre overhead you may want to consider drip.
5. T-Tape type drip can be pretty cost effective except for the initial investment of the t-tape some places sell 1000 foot rolls in addition to the 7000 foot rolls. Supply line (1/2” poly) is fairly affordable commonly called orchard tubing you can use this for most head lines for drip use. Orchard tubing is not so good for sprinkler use as it tends to kink when you move it around.
6. Drip tape, buy 8 mil or thicker as it will hold up. 10-15 is preferred (more hoe resistant) but you get less per bulk roll.
7. For drip system design check out DRIP WORKS.
8. For effective drip use think long rows over many short rows to keep cost lower. 1 – 100 foot run over 4-25 foot runs.
9. Over head system may also promote more inter row weeds adding to labor over drip lines.

By the way, get started on that hoop house. You won’t have time in the spring to do a good job.

Johnny’s Quick Cut Greens Harvester

Courtesy of Didacus R., Haywood, CA

I remember your critique of the original Johnny’s quick greens harvester.  This one looks better if only for the oscillating cutters and the macrame rope beaters. Still I note while they claim the operator is upright, he actually is hyper extended. Perhaps a telescoping handle like on a rolling suitcase would correct that. Also the skids below it. They look very small. Perhaps bent wood at least 2 inches wide the length of the sides like a sled? Now you would have a super tool!


Johnny’s Quick Cut Greens Harvester

Courtesy of Victoria W., Deluge Farms, Plains, MT
I watched the quick cut greens harvester up close while it was being photographed for the Johnny’s catalog at this past Young Farmers Conference at Stone Barns Center. It works incredibly well. They cut an entire bulb crate full of miner’s lettuce in less than a minute. What was left behind was a perfectly flat bed of mowed stems, conducive to even and marketable regrowth. The macrame brush that lifts the greens into the basket was very gentle and did not cause any damage. I can see two minor downsides to the greens harvester: it requires regular sharpening of the serrated blade, and where before I could do
some quality control as I cut greens, by tossing aside damaged leaves, the quick cut harvester will pick up everything you put in its path. Jack Algiere at Stone Barns suggested that when using the quick cut harvester, spend a few extra minutes washing the greens and do your quality control there.

I am seriously considering buying one of these, it’s just the steep price tag that’s keeping it out of reach.

Tiller Recommendation

Courtesy of John S., Blue Ribbon Eggs, Franklin NC                                                                                                     Go to this web site – they are BCS experts – implements, attachments – the site is an education and a great place to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.

If you’re really serious about SPIN -Farming and want to make a living at it you probably need a 8+ HP machine…plus it’ll take all the attachments. I’m using an outstanding Husqsvarna 8.5 HP that tills great, but that’s all it does. You can do everything but wrap birthday presents with a BCS. And you could probably do that with the bale maker.
Check out the model number you’re being offered on the site-bet the owner wants to upgrade to the 8+ HP model too.

Best advice I ever got on motorized machines was from a motorcycle salesmen when I was in college, “Get more horse power than you think you need, you’ll want it soon enough”. “Don’t get the least you think you need, get the most you can afford.”

DIY Electric Bike for Pedal-Powered SPIN Farms

Courtesy of Curtis S., Green City Acres, Kelowna, BC

My current rig is the Bionx HT 350. It cost a pretty penny, around $2400 after install and mods, but so far, I’m pretty happy with it. I was going to have to hire another employee this year to do deliveries, but after getting this, that potential employee has been made obsolete.

It’s pretty sweet to be cruising with 500 lbs of stuff at 34km / hour, and not totally exhausting myself either. We’ll see how it survives the season though. LIke I said, so far so good, but I’m probably giving this thing 10 times more use than anyone else ever has. It’s got a 2 year warranty. If it lasts this season without any problems, I think that’ll be a good sign.

The trick with these things is that they don’t have any torque when you’re hauling a heavy load, but once you get a bit of momentum, after start up, then you can really go. But you have to be careful with them, and your bike. You really use your gears like crazy, cause you go from so slow to so fast right away. So, there’s a bit of a learning curve to get used to it. What I do when I starting to move after stopping, is turn the engine all the way down, so there’s no assist, once I’m starting up, then after getting a bit of momentum, then I turn the assist on full. If you torque it too hard, you kill you battery. But once you learn how to use it, you can make the battery last way longer.

Here’s a picture.

See also Paul Hoepfner-Homme’s post.

DIY Electric Bike for Pedal-Powered SPIN Farms

Courtesy of Paul, H., Victory Garden Vegetables, Cobourg, ON

When I was SPIN-Farming in mountainous Nelson, BC, I started out with the highest end BionX electric kit that was available at the time (2009). It was an in-hub electric motor with 36V Li-Ion battery, and it fits into any regular bike (mine was a mountain bike). Very slick design – downhill recharging, alarm system, etc. – but unfortunately, it broke down on me repeatedly, specifically with the downhill recharging. I even had it totally replaced under warranty, and the second one broke down in the same way as the first one. Rather than get the “next model” that they tried to sell me on, I tried another brand. (To be fair, everyone else I’ve spoken to who’s gotten the BionX kit has raved about it and hasn’t had any trouble – but then, most of them weren’t carrying cargo up and down steep mountainsides. 🙂

I ended up purchasing the eZee electric hub kit, which had similar specs to the model of BionX (also in-hub, similar battery) except that it wasn’t as slick (no recharging while you’re biking, and some parts look like they were put together in someone’s basement), but it was totally reliable and just as powerful. I still use it today and it works just as well as when I bought it. I think it ended up costing me around $1700, and I installed it myself.

That worked great for the farm’s first year, during which I had the help of a couple friends who had access to a pick-up truck for market days and for hauling the rototiller. But the next year I knew I was going to need more power if I wanted to operate the farm totally by bike, so I ended up getting a second motor, called the Stokemonkey. (Looks like they aren’t taking orders at the moment, but there are other options out there.) The Stokemonkey powers your pedals, not your wheel directly. This motor offers a significantly higher torque than an in-hub motor assuming you put your pedals into the right gear for the job (you just get a feel for it, the same as you get a feel for gearing up and down normally). With the Stokemonkey I was able to do everything by bike, including hauling my rototiller or a volunteer up steep grades.

I’ve never worn out either of my motors; it’s more my brakes that have taken a toll from all this. 🙂

The Stokemonkey is designed for Xtracycle-modified bikes (Curtis has that, too), and getting an Xtracycle free radical kit for your existing bike is totally worth it, even if you have a separate bike trailer that you’re planning to use. There’s nothing handier.

Here are some pictures of my setup a couple springs back:

Good luck – it’s a fun ride.

See also: Curtis Stone’s post:


DIY Pumping System

Courtesy of John S., Blue Ribbon Eggs, Franklin, NC

I have poor water pressure and a variable well, but 400′ of year round creek on one side of my property. I also have a friendly neighbor who is also a subsistence farmer that spent 30 years on oil rigs in the Gulf fooling around with pumping systems. He showed me how to set-up an impulse head system using an inexpensive trash pump (>$200), tubing and hose and clamps from Lowe’s and a little work. Now customer service at the pump manufacturer will tell you there’s no way to use a trash pump because of ‘back pressure’. Not true! Just have to know how to do it, or know a guy who does.

Check out this link – GlobalBuckets. ( Simply put, it’s a low tech syphon-fed watering system applicable to developing areas that have very limited resources.(water, power and money). Two extremely bright teenagers motivated to help the world feed itself. Cool kids, and cool experiments.

I hate it when kids young enough to be my grandchildren teach me things, but I do take notes! And it gives an old man hope for the world. Watch their videos, and check out the links( to see how their thinking has evolved). And all that from high school kids. Wow!

Drip Irrigation Setup

Courtesy of John S., Blue Ribbon Eggs, Franklin, NC

With your ‘Mediterranean’ type weather system long, dry summers are your problem. Evaporation and plant scorching from any type of over-head system is going to be challenging. I would think some conformation of drip would be a natural for you.

Drip is fabulous. I highly recommend Drip Depot. They’re located in Oregon so they’ll have a solid grasp on your climate challenges.( )

I installed a system in my Blueberry patch 4 years ago and have hardly touched it. We can have very wet periods as well as protracted droughts. A lovely lady on the phone patiently helped me design my system, (Ten one hundred foot rows, ten feet on center with bushes five feet apart in the rows). Installation took me about four hours, no tools, all hand tightened connectors. She helped me select materials that can be used for our pressured house system or changed to gravity feed later (simply unscrew the in line pressure regulator and reconnect).

The whole thing cost me $235 including freight, and it covers almost a quarter acre. It had taken 8-10 hours of hand watering each time (about once a week when the plants were small; 2-3 years old and very tender). After I put it in I was resting on the porch having a cold beer(or two) and the wife came home and asked, “What’cha doin”? “Watering”. Now that’s farming!
They now also have pre-set lines for row cropping that have ’emitters’ (pre-formed holes in the line every 12″, 18″ or 24″, your choice) that I am thinking about. You’d have to move and modify over the season as your rotations changed so you could cultivate, but I would rather move a hose 3x a season, if need be, than every week or two. My tiller cuts an 18″ bed, so I reckon that two lines with 12″ drip emitters would do the job for my beds