Wooden food

The forests have always had a crucial role in the Swedish economy. They have given us fuel, building materials, paper and chemicals, but also a habitat for a rich wildlife, and highly valued recreational areas.

In old times,  cattle was often kept in the forest. Feeding on leaves, herbs and barch, the forest gave an addition to a scarce feedstock, but modern breeds are no longer able to both survive and give milk or meat on such frugal diet.

Goats on the other hand,  has a much more efficient digestion, and is actually the only domesticated ruminator capable of digesting wood fibres and lignine into sugars.  So when your goat heard browses the forests for brush, barch, sticks and spruce needles, and then returns to the barn in the evening to get milked, you actually conduct a refinement process where the input is cheap and abundant cellulose, and the output is exclusive and nutritious milk proteins. The production of proteins for the human diet through livestock handling is often referred to as unfriendly to the environment, with high water consumption  and much larger areas needed than for the equivalent calories from vegetables and grain. The conversion of cellulose to go at milk proteins and buckling meat does not have the same problems, since the forest mostly grows on improductive soil,  suitable for nothing else than forest. The forest does not need to be watered nor fertilized, neither does it suffer from pests and draught as easily as field crops. 

I said a hip HOPS, The hippie, the hippie, To the hip, hip HOPS, and you don’t stop, a rock it…

Hops are growing

One of the first things we did after buying the farm in 2015, was to get some root sprouts from three different kinds of hops and plant them in front of the house. They like to climb high so we used two thin birch trees to make giant props.

IMG_20160821_095002 (1)

The first year they did not yield that much, and unfortunately one of the plants did not survive the winter. But the two that did made lots of little cones this year! We used a nifty little dryer to dry them (the dryer was of course DIY automated – maybe there will be more about that in a seperate blog-post…)

IMG_20160913_205857

Finally we them packaged them into conspicuos-looking zip-loc baggies and they are now being stored in the freezer until it is time to brew some awesome beer with our very own hops!

IMG_20160913_205825

Defcon #24 and small scale farming

What did this years version of the annual hacker convention in Las Vegas have to tell about small scale farming? Nothing directly, being that kind of  happening where the participants and speakers seem to thrive in cellars and abandoned mines, rather than the open air. Indirectly, a lot.


The theme this year was Human vs Machines, and of course, the internet of things was among the most frequent topics. It’s always amusing to watch hackers exploit old gadgets that their manufacturers given a prolonged product cycle by connecting them to the internet, and pranking the neighbours by exposing their porn surfing habits through a vulnerable online toaster mostly raise the question: why did that guy buy a connected toaster?

So why should the small scale farmer be concerned about IoT security (except for the earlier mentioned reason)? The first link in the food supply chain is about to get more complex, as the demand for both locally produced and refined food grows. The specialized farmers that sells crop, meat or milk to industrialized facilities will have a hard time competing with producers that controls the complete value chain, from hay to cheese and steak, and understand to add ethical, esthetical and cultural value to their products.

There are two ways for the small scale farmer to accomplish a substancial increase in value, either by focusing on cultural and estethical factors, and become artisans, or by focusing on efficiency and interamplifying (is that a word?) processes. It’s with the interamplifying processes the internet of things makes its entrance. Automation, surveillance and statistics might not add the cultural value of a handmade cheese from Grannies recipe, but it ensures high food quality, and uniform products even in small batches, and that will allow you to make a larger variety of products, without being an master artisan in every field.

So the sensors and relays that will help you make the best food on the market, will they work for you, or for anyone that comes by digitally? Their information can be a great asset, as they provide the customer with unique data about their meal, but if you expose the controls, you also expose the possibility to replicate or sabotage your products. That’s the downside of shifting knowledge from human to machine.

In the great battle between man and machine, the machines are definitely winning. Knowledge is power, and we keep rely on the knowledge we stuff into machines, while we stress our brains back to the stoneage in our efforts to keep up with them. It’s when we taste the delicious cheese that where made with their help and without our efforts, that we realize who the real winner is. Just keep your networks segmented.