Notes from Windward: #67


The Freezer Trailer Arrives

taking our meat processing on to the next level

  August 12:

     In days of old, before refrigeration became common, people did their butchering in the fall after a few hard frosts had killed off the flies. It was common to kill, skin and gut one day, and then allow the carcase to hang over night to chill down before processing it into various cuts the next day since meat that's been chilled to around 40°F is much easier to work than meat that's still warm.

     In areas without a notable winter, large cuts of meat are often smoked, a process which covers the meat with an acidic tar that kills any eggs that have been laid on the meat--that acidic tar is why smoke makes your eyes burn. There are other traditional food processing steps such as pickling (as in weinerschnitzel) or corning (as in corned beef) that will also kill fly eggs, but it's way better to just have a fly-proof place in which to process meat in the summer--something which we've not had up to now.

     We don't keep animals for the sake of meat production, rather our goal is the production of things like milk, eggs and wool. As such, meat is a by-product of what we do, but it stills represents a significant amount of nutrition that needs to be properly utilized--and to do that, we've long needed a better place in which to work.


     A while back, I came across an unusual trailer, one of the short trailers you see being hauled down the interstate as a string of two or three trailers. What's different about this trailer is that it was rigged to haul frozen sizes of beef. The idea was that cattle could be slaughtered, skinned and frozen in the deep country where they're raised, and the much lighter carcases (usually about half the live weight) could then be trucked to in-city meat markets where they'd then be processed into the various cuts at point of sale.

     After a bit of negotiation, we worked out a deal to not only acquire the trailer, but get it delivered to Windward. It took more than a year for that to work out, but finally everything came together and our "new" trailer arrived today!


     The unit is twenty-four feet long, just under eight feet wide and is very well insulated. One of the trailer's unusual features is that it has a series of rails attached to the ceiling from which to hang meat, sausages and cheeses to age. The trailer has it's own cooling system that uses a small diesel motor to run a compressor, but since we'll be converting this unit over to a solar/ammonia system, we will be removing the diesel and the compressor it's attached to--not sure just what use we'll make of it, but no doubt a small, commercial diesel will find a good use somewhere in our energy mix.

     The arrival of this unit is especially exciting because it will eventually form the heart of another of our multi-system structures. The first task will be to lift it up another foot and install a partially-sunken six-foot high insulated retaining wall along the north, east and west sides--the result being that the freezer box will ultimately rest about three feet above ground level on its north side.

     The space under the freezer will be excavated and the dirt used to backfill the earth-sheltered, insulated north wall. That excavated room will allow us to install two rows of five 300 gallon IBCs to create a network of tanks (the front tanks to grow algae and the back tanks to hold tilapia) of some 3,000 gallons all told.

     The southern side of the freezer will support a 45° wall that will be covered with polycarbonate glazing to create a Solviva style greenhouse. It may seem odd to have a freezer inside a greenhouse, but it's actually a two-fer since a refrigeration system is a sort of heat pump. For most freezers, heat is gathered up from within the chilled space, and dumped via the coils behind the freezer into the room that the freezer is located in. That's okay in winter, but a bummer in summer. In this case, the heat taken from within the freezer will be used to warm water the greenhouse via hydronic tubing laid under the growbeds.

     That's just one of the examples of the many ways that this structure will allow us to demonstrate yet another network of interconnected systems. Gonna be lots of fun :-)

  August 15:

     When you're working with concrete, it pays to have a solid idea of where you want to end up before you start digging and pouring. So, here's a sketch of what we've got in mind for the structure that will surround the freezer trailer. The diagram is of a slice through the middle of the building so it doesn't show, for example, the retaining walls that support each end of the freezer or the two metal poles that will support the southern side of the freezer.


     What it will give you an idea of is the general layout of the fish/algae tanks and the grow beds that will lay south of the tanks. The southern wall will lay at a 45° angle and be cover with polycarbonate sheeting. The square structure at the top of the clear wall will gather warm air and convey it down to tunnels under the fish tanks.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67