Up bright and early this morning and having forgotten all about the corrections I was mulling over last night I got on with the inspections and testing with Tim and Thorsten before breakfast at 7. The morning was largely consumed by the normal testing with the addition of getting some fresh muck to analyse as well as the normal digestate. Given the choice I’d take anything that’s further along the process as most of the initial materials (of which a large amount is excrement) are broken down, so that by the time it gets sprayed on the fields it doesn’t have the manure odour any more (it does still smell of something, though nowhere near as offensive/ pungent). With a little bit of time before lunch I start turning Tim’s idea of a typical daily schedule for trainees into reality in the hope that we, and anyone who follows us, doesn’t forget one of the 9+ sets of tests that are carried out each day.
Lunch today was soup (which is becoming pleasantly frequent) with kartoffeln pouffes (potato pancakes) for seconds. The locals tend to have them sweet, doused in apple sauce, but I also tried them with a bit of salt and pepper and thoroughly enjoyed them like that too. The last pieces of nut cake for dessert (Noooo) but Christa assured us there was a new apple cake for dinner. Spoilt. Rotten.
After lunch Thorsten asked us to go through the accounts for the last 7 years looking for all of the maintenance payments outgoings for the different motors. He is trying to calculate whether the engine that is more efficient at generating electricity from gas is actually more economical than the less efficient one since it seems to cost more in spares and servicing. After a couple of hours of going through German bills and rebates we came up with a spreadsheet that compared the costs and headed to get started on the tests which consumed the rest of the afternoon along with trying to finish the VB macro for the gas analyser data.
Thorsten seemed impressed with the cost comparison and showed us how he wanted to use the data to compare it to the hours of operation for the engines (and the kWh each produced) to get a maintenance cost per unit of energy sold. With the day drawing to a close we agreed to look at it tomorrow and I also got another spreadsheet job to help keep stock of the pigs.
Dinner was the remainder of the potato puffs with the usual bread, cheese, eggs and tofu spread options. The bread today was dense and even more laden with seeds so even though I was stuffed by all of the potato Christa had served up for us I had to try a piece and it was super – crunchy bread, NOM! The cake we’d promised at lunch was also on offer and in trying to get moisture into the dough without using milk Christa had decided to add wine to the apple cake which is an idea I’m definitely taking note of as it tasted superb! With Thorsten and Georg away at a meeting this evening Tim and I chatted to Christa over dinner each of us practising speaking in our foreign language and generally managed to get our messages across. My German is still pigeon and probably painful to behold to a native but I can at least now tell stories and make jokes (I say jokes…well if you’d had the friends I’ve had for the last few years you’d know how low the bar is for ‘joke’) which is win in my books.
Now, a little diary writing, a kiwi fruit and perhaps another stab at the corrections and I’ll be out for the count I reckon – it’s been a computer-heavy day!
March 11, 2014
Another varied day today. As we got on with the normal testing Thorsten came to see if we wanted to have a look at the engines while they were being serviced. A 12-cyinder 300kW engine…do we?! We jumped at the chance and while watching how the valves are adjusted we even then got roped in to maintaining the spark plugs.
Lunch for the veggies was the remainder of the baked rice from the previous day with fresh salad and fries and was again very tastily topped off with a nut cake (the arrival of which I found a useful time for the German for ‘excellent’, which I can say but not spell, surprising most of the people around the table). After lunch, as maintenance on the engine continued and an environmental engineer continued taking NOx and formaldehyde readings while the engine engineer (that sounds odd but I hope you get my meaning) tuned the engine to improve its performance we were looking for something to do before testing again. Thorsten asked if we’d mind cleaning the compactor which was still full of clay-soil from last year – they had been waiting for the winter to freeze the mud and make it easier to knock off. We didn’t mind at all, in fact having eaten a spoonful too many for lunch I was glad of the exercise and we set about using hoes and mattocks to clean the rollers of the six inches of compacted mud they’d accrued before testing began.
With little to get on with once testing was done I set about writing a bit of visual basic code to strip the readings from the abysmal data output by the gas analyser (it writes to an excel file but lumps the data and units into one cell with no consistent format) – to get anything in a plottable fashion you’d have to rewrite out all of the data which kinda defeats the point of having it recorded anywhere!
We finished a bit earlier than expected and spent a bit of time taking photos of the site for our final reports that go back to the REA before Thorsten asked whether one of us wanted to load some silage into one of the hoppers. Tim jumped in the loader cab and I hung in through the window as we got a crash course in driving and manoeuvring the loader before we were set loose on the silage. Tim successfully dumped over a tonne of silage into the hopper before we headed off for dinner.
That evening I eventually got round to taking my laptop to the internet and sent off some emails and posted the first blog. Feeling a bit better that I’d actually achieved something I then set about getting on with a bit of work too and only when I couldn’t think how to rephrase one of my corrections did I finally give up and go to bed, only to have it go round in my mind for the next hour or so. Oh well, hopefully by the morning it will become clear…
A nice early night last night meant a full eight hours before the alarm this morning which was bliss. Today was a fairly varied day all in all. There was a ground frost this morning which meant that Thorsten and Georg were devoted to trying to muck-spread while the ground was hard enough to hold the tractor and 19 tonne trailer. There hasn’t been a single snowfall this year and few frosts so there have been few opportunities to get the gulle (nutrient-rich digestate end product, effectively liquid manure) out on the fields over the winter which is important for a few reasons. First, spreading the digestate end product provides nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium reducing the need for (and cost of) conventional fertiliser. Second, this process closes the nutrient cycle (which is important for the sustainability of biogas). And finally, the enormous tank where the end product is stored was at least 80% full and once it’s full there’s no way of storing the digestate, and no where to put it!
Up to mid-morning we steadily got on with our testing and routine tasks while service engineers maintained one of the gas engines to ensure optimal efficiency and in preparation for upcoming emissions testing. Following the frosty early start, the day turned into beautiful sunshine in a cloudless sky and the PV installations in this part of the world started gearing up to donate to the grid. Thorsten dropped by around mid-morning to see whether Tim and I wanted to join him for some muck spreading as there’s a spare seat in the big tractor so we split the time and while I finished off that series of tests Tim helped fill the spreader and went about videoing the spreading in action. I got a similar slice of action later on and can understand why Christian enjoys muck-spreading so much. It’s thoroughly relaxing to switch on the radio, key in the range to which extend the spreader arms, set the cruise control on the tractor and give a decent amount of field (about 0.7 Ha) a nice wet brown covering before using the ipad/ ipod linked to the GPS tracker to check the field off of the schedule for the day. Yes, there really is that much technology in these tractors!
During a couple of spreading visits Thorsten told me of the importance of diversifying what is grown to spread the risk for crops (last year was terrible for corn but nearly a record for wheat – I think I’ve got that the right way round – on account of the amount of rain and when it fell). It also turns out that the farm is entirely plough-less which surprised me. Not that it was something I’d ever thought about in depth, I admit. It turns out that ploughing is highly energy intensive, kills large numbers of soil fauna and also oxidises the soil requiring a deeper humus layer. On the farm they tend to grow mustard instead during the off-season to control weeds and then when the frost comes it splits the bulbs and the plants die back returning all of the nutrients to the soil which is then rotavated instead before planting. See, not just biogas that’s being taught out here – to be honest I could write a tome on all of the odds and ends I’ve learned in a week out here (and several more on the now known-unknowns that have come to my attention – like why when you dilute digestate of pH 7-8 with distilled water of pH about 7 does the pH of the solution increase to about 8.2 when the digestate is already about 92% water?).
Back for lunch of baked rice with courgette and fennel and green salad which was delicious and topped off by a nut cake of which I had two pieces. I’ve been starving all day and am now going to blame it on the doughnut I had with breakfast (yes, that’s three pieces of cake by lunch time) that was made with a little bit of milk that didn’t really agree with me. (Nothing wrong with the doughnut, which was very tasty, just a bit wrong with me).
As another week’s worth of silage has now been fed to the fermenter there was some shovelling to do to get the remainder off of the ‘sausage’ of corn in the side of the silo. So, we set to that to work off some of the lunchtime calories before getting stuck into the afternoon’s routine.
Around 4pm Thorsten asked whether one of us was free to help him lift some boards for one of his friends. I jumped in the car with the friend and spent the next few hours unloading plasterboard from a forklift truck through an upstairs window into the newly built flat his friend has built on top of his girlfriend’s house. Now, when I say on top, I really mean it – they took the roof off, added a spiral staircase next to the front door and installed an entire other floor on the top of the house with the structural work taking about two weeks. Yes, two weeks! The additional storey is constructed entirely from wood and was largely made offsite and then clicked together in place and, although still work in progress, it looked great with high, vaunted ceilings in the eaves of the roof and loads of light flooding in through windows galore. Even though my fingers were now tingling from hefting pallet full of plaster boards – having not entirely recovered from climbing at the weekend – it was nice to have been able to help out a little bit and also great to see how the community here is close enough to help each other out (Thorsten picked up the pallet of boards from a storage yard with the forklift and drove it through the town to the house because he was asked if he could help while at dinner last night). I asked him about this and he said that the guy we helped was really good at exterior painting and woodwork so he’d just call in the favour if he needed some help in the future; isn’t that the way communities should be?
Back for dinner where I’ve got humous and tofutier (fake meat and vegetable) spread to cover the rye bread with before retiring early for a bit of diary writing and perhaps a little work too. Or maybe just preparation for work; we’ll see how tired I feel after this…
I got a lie in today! I was up AFTER dawn. Imagine that, 8:10 my alarm went off. To tell the truth the body clock was well awake by then anyway but it felt like a slow start. After gulping down a small bowl of porridge and a coffee we got ready for some exercise and Tim and I rode, while Thorsten ran, to the lake in Obernzenn. We met Christian here and ran a few laps of the lake with him before getting back on the bikes for a further 15km on the bikes around the local area. The tracks and trails were really pleasant, heading up into the forest (and joyfully on a mountain bike back down again) before sweeping around the Zenn valley passed the US training base and back to Obernzenn and eventually back to Esbach. 23km before 11 on a Sunday was a very pleasant start to a day off.
After a thoroughly restorative hot shower we sat down for lunch of veggie burgers and sauerkraut leftover from yesterday’s lunch which was just as tasty as it had been previously. Today is apparently fish day (which occurs in each month containing an ‘R’) so the family had battered carp caught from a local lake.
After lunch we got to be tourists for a bit and drove out to Rothenberg, an old walled city that survived the bombing of WWII almost entirely intact. En route we detoured to take in a range of biogas plants that are dotted around the Franconian countryside, the vast majority of which also supply district heating, which is awesome. On the drive a few wind turbines also came into view and with the PV and solar-heating panels provided a panoply (sorry, I just love that word) of renewable technologies that were well integrated with the local population. Talking Tim and me through the different sites, Thorsten mentioned something I hadn’t really thought of about biogas, which is that it doesn’t just breed a closed cycle in environmental terms, but as silage, corn and manure are supplied by local farmers, heat distributed to local residents and digestate then spread on local fields, it promotes a circular economy too. Far less dependence on oil and gas from far away, these sites source from, give back to and benefit the local economy, which for rural populations is incredibly important.
Rothenberg was very impressive and really like stepping back in time with brightly painted plaster and wood-fronted houses, cobbled streets and imposing church spires and towers interposing the jaunty vertices of the rooftops. We sat for a coffee, pretzel and schneeball (snowball, sadly probably made with butter) for a quick pick me up after walking around the town and the ramparts discussing everything from energy prices to planning permission – in English before you think my German has improved that much.
Back on the farm we headed for dinner with Suzie’s sister (Steffi) and her boyfriend (Patrick) by Obernzenn lake at a restaurant that apparently does very good salads. As we walked in it was as if the restaurant had been planned as between them the group of four locals knew almost everyone already present. We sat down with one of Suzie’s colleagues, her boyfriend and their dog and tucked in to a good dinner. For me it was salad and chips (before you think that’s a dire choice of food to classify as a good dinner it was awesome, with seeds and nuts galore in the salad), while the food around the table ranged from pizza to prawn pasta and schnitzel with potatoes. And there was good local beer too. In addition to the good food, the conversation at dinner was great with lots of joking around. I also realised that here at least, we and the Germans hold our forks differently. Sounds benign, is benign I suppose, but one of those things that you can’t help but be captivated by once you’ve noticed it. Similarly, the locals thought the way we Brits use our gabels is odd so everyone quickly agreed to disagree and we got on with dinner.
Back in the room at 8:45 and I’m shattered. So, while I was going to get on with some work I think it’s going to be an episode of something on the laptop and then early to bed. Oooh and I also got the go ahead to put this online as a blog, so perhaps tomorrow I’ll start posting these notes.
Today very nearly started a bit awry as neither Tim’s nor my alarms seemed to work properly with the former going off around 2 am and me forgetting that my alarms are set to repeat on weekdays only…fortunately the body-alarm clock managed to kick in around 6:20 and we just made it in time to start the morning round of checks. Although ostensibly a full work day, Saturday passed relatively easily as we’ve taken enough measurements to show that there’s no need for 2 repeats of the time-consuming titrations we’ve been carrying out, dramatically reducing the amount of time and acid spent on the testing. (We now have a feel for the range of numbers expected so if a test comes up outside of that range we’ll double check the experiment.)
With a little spare time around the testing we were able to finish off and fine-touch the procedures and reports for the bits and bobs we’ve been writing over the last few days and send them off to Thorsten for approval. It’s pretty cathartic to be able to produce something that is hopefully useful in repayment for the kindness, time, board and lodging that’s been bestowed on us.
Come the afternoon we finished the last round of electricity meter testing and finished a bit earlier than expected so took an early shower and relaxed in the room until the final round of checks just before dinner. That evening Thorsten had suggested we go to a bouldering wall with friends and family of his and Susie’s so we jumped in the car and headed to Nurnberg for the evening with the journey providing a range of comical topics of discussion, especially our attempts at the various dialect ways of saying Nurnburg (it turns out we Brits are just useless at saying it).
The climbing wall was pretty awesome. Recently extended, it’s about twice to three times the size of the Depot in Leeds (for those who know the reference), covers two floors and has a huge range of interesting problems across a wide range of abilities. Even newcomers to the climbing craze enjoyed the euphoria of getting to the top of a route, the burning pain in the forearm and the knowledge that dry, gnarled fingers and numb toes brings.
Completely unlike any wall in the UK, the cafe here not only served gourmet pizza but also beer. Yes, beer at a climbing wall. There’s nothing quite like a Russian (white-beer shandy) to pluck up the courage to have a go at that damned green route that’s been annoying you and tearing your fingers apart all night.
After another hour or so clambering around the wall closed at 11pm and we got changed and headed to McDonald’s to replenish some of the calories we’d managed to burn through and protein needed for muscle repair. That was the excuse anyway. In McD’s we were told how the food standards in the German outlets were so high that it was probably one of the best fast food outlets if you’re stuck in Germany. Personally, I think I’ll stick to a falafel pitta if I can get one (since the cous cous salad had stealth cheese) but the salad was really fresh and Thorsten and Andy were telling us how the farms that McD’s source from have to adhere to higher standards than is usual for the rest of Germany. Similar to pretty much everyone I’ve met in Franconia (this German region) so far, everyone was incredibly pleasant, welcoming and funny. Here, if mentioning that I’m from Essex people tend to think that is where the running shoes (Asics) come from. That’s one hell of an improvement on TOWIE.
We got back to the farm pretty late, well 12:45 certainly seems pretty late at the moment, and agreeing to go running/ biking with Thorsten and his brother Christian at 8:30 the next day we thought it was probably best to hit the sack.
March 6, 2014
A week into the placement and now we’re starting to get used to the early rising schedule – I’m doing that thing of waking up about five minutes before my alarm goes off. I can’t decide whether this is good or not though. On the one hand it’s nice to be ready for the alarm, rather than have it rip you untimely from a pleasant dream, but on the other it’s five minutes of sleep I’m deprived of and, at the moment particularly, I do like my sleep.
Perhaps in response to mine and Tim’s discussion the day before (no, I’m joking before you get any ideas of sabotage) there was a disruption to the normal routine this morning. Surprised not to see the tractor headlights blaring through the dawn with Thorsten loading the feeders, we walked to the erratic flashlight beams that were emanating from by the side of the fermenter. It seems that the feeder had malfunctioned in the night and the alarm to Thorsten’s phone had brought him out at midnight to try to fix it then. Waiting instead for daylight and a bit of warmth (it’s really pretty chilly here out of the sunshine) it seemed that the screw-feeder had just clogged up with material from the macerator. After raking some of it out and restarting everything seemed to be working again and we went about our morning checks, really noticing the impact the feeder outage had on the fermenter on the amount and composition of gas in the plant and the chemistry of the liquid samples we took.
After breakfast we were given another task. Thorsten’s interest for the batteries it seems is to see whether a solar installation with battery storage would be able to power the pumps on the biogas plant that are running 24/7. To work this out, he has installed electricity counters at several points around the AD site, but has no way of recording them. So, we were given a tour of the monitors (on feeders, gas engines and grid connections) and a schedule to monitor them for. With a bit of spreadsheeting in a couple of days it should be possible to see how the demand for energy varies across the site throughout the day.
Before lunch I got the chance to change the oil and filters on one of the gas engines with Thorsten. Once you know what you’re doing I think it’s pretty straightforward but trying to understand the directions while stood between 300kW and 400kW engines it’s a bit difficult to hear!
Lunch today was homemade vegan pizza. A bit of a shock to the system for vegetarian Tim but he said he enjoyed it and it really hit the spot for me. This was also accompanied by another really good soup. Honestly, I could well come back the size of a house! For lunch we were also joined by the electrician who is reprogramming the gas engine control system who was telling us about his friend who had a vegetarian wedding last year. I asked if he knew if the wife had a sister and everyone laughed. I don’t understand why – I was deathly serious!
This afternoon we repeated the analysis but also took samples to be sent to an external lab so that we could compare our results with theirs…this could be interesting when the results come back next week. We spent the afternoon finishing off jobs that had accrued through the week and with me holding a ladder for Christian as he painted the support posts for the engine chimney stacks. My German is picking up a bit now with things from school starting to reawaken and I understood the majority of our conversation, which largely involved him joking with me that if I didn’t hold the ladder properly then everything would be bad and he’d be in the local hospital saying “well ****”. No pressure then as he’s at the top of a six-metre ladder resting against a flue pipe in the wind!
Just before dinner I borrowed some glue in an attempt to try to fix the hangers that broke when we returned in the evening to find my clothes rail had fallen over. In the workshop we found Thorsten rigging up a switching system to overcome the melting of the switch in all his 3-phase switching gear. As we walked back to the annex we’re staying in Tim remarked he really liked the view on the farm that everyone just has a go at fixing the problems they face.
Over dinner while speaking to Christa and learning more and more German we found out Saturday is just another day on the farm, which to tell the truth is pretty much what we’d expected. Sunday is apparently a day off (during which Thorsten and Georg only do their morning duties…that’s a day off?) and we’ll maybe be heading to an old walled city that everyone agreed was very nice.
With dinner finished I’ve just caught up on three days of this dear diary and realised I have a fair amount of corrections to start getting on with soon. Still, there’s always a couple of long train journeys too look forward to getting teeth into them in.
With Thorsten away for the day Tim and I were determined to get on with the work we’d been set as well as carrying out the normal testing duties. We finished the snoop testing finding a fairly large leak near one of the portholes to the first underground tank confirming the suspicions of our host.
Aside from that the day passed fairly uneventfully save for a pleasant conversation with Georg, Christa and Suzie at lunch which consisted of cauliflower in egg and breadcrumbs with potatoes which I found pretty great.
After dinner that evening we went shopping and had a good chuckle at some of the translations/ transliterations of things. Following a conversation on the first night about humous I bought some so that the Sturm’s could try it and we also visited the beer aisle picking up two recommendations from Thorsten of local beers – a full lager and a double bock.
Back at the farm Tim and I watched a couple of episodes of It’s only Sunny in Philadelphia and come half nine my eyes were closing. Slow news day today…
Well that didn’t last long. Writing the diary on the right day I mean, not the placement – I’m very much still here in Franconia.
Little new during the day today, just continued getting better at the testing procedure, getting up and down ladders and helping out occasionally with other bits and bobs on the farm where spare hands are needed, including an interesting method of hanging gateposts on walls. Lunch of roasted eggy potatoes and soup which was very welcome. Oh and I managed to cover myself in oil while topping up the levels in one of the gas engines. Oh well, it’s very much an outdoors coat now and may even buy a bit more kudos in a proper Yorkshire pub!
We also started the snoop testing around the biogas plant looking for leaks with a ppm methane sensor. This tended to involve trying to get into all the nooks and crannies around pipework into and out of the fermenters and digestors eagerly anticipating the increasingly frantic beeping as the methane gets detected. Oddly, leak detection becomes a bit of a game and you feel oddly happy when the detector goes off. Deep down I know this means remedial work is needed in those areas (so it shouldn’t quite be so entertaining) but I somehow can’t get it out of my system.
Come the evening Thorsten invited us to go with him to a talk about battery energy storage as a complementary technology to PV which he’s organised as a representative for the local council. The talk is at a local gasthouse (bar/ restaurant/ hotel) and pretty well attended – the thirty or so men and sole woman in attendance pretty much fill the area set aside for the presentations. Both of the presentations are in German (naturally) but are spoken far too quickly for me to understand, save for the odd bit of technical detail that is sufficiently similar to English or numbers, numbers I can do (which it turns out in a sales pitch is quite helpful). Integrating battery technology with PV allows a shift in the demand/ supply balance of electricity from/ to the grid (allowing the solar supply peak to be balanced with the twin peaks in demand throughout the day).
Thorsten explains several of the slides and retells some of the anecdotes told by the presenters (there’s an island off the English coast that runs entirely off batteries apparently, and we don’t know what is round the corner – just look at the floods in England. Wales, I’m sure you were thought of too, but not mentioned I’m afraid, and I don’t know the German for Wales so I was hardly going to stick up for you there and then).
Another bonus of the presentation is that it is held in a gasthous and since this is southern Germany, everyone has a beer. And the beer was good, a nice smooth pilsner, but after the hard work and little sleep it hit me pretty hard so I was glad to stop at one.
We got back to the farm at around 10:30 and I was already feeling groggy just thinking about the morning when Thorsten mentioned he was probably up at 4:30 in the morning to make sure the feeder was full before he went to Mannheim. Well that put things in perspective I suppose!
A bit of a restless night but hopefully still managed to grab seven hours sleep which doesn’t seem too bad compared to the slightly frantic nights back in the UK before heading to Germany. First job of the day was to check all of the tanks again and once we’d done that it was time for breakfast, which seemed very early compared to the day before – bonus!
Not sure whether I’ve mentioned my breakfast plans yet…No? Well I’ll fill you in: on the way out I was a little alarmed by reading through a report from a previous trainee that mentioned that anyone with special dietary requirements should contact the hosts prior to travelling since the food on offer (the placement is catered for by the host family) is very meat-heavy. Now, being a lactose-intolerant vegetarian this could pose a problem. So, with a little help from mum I managed to pack my breakfast of champions – porridge with almond milk, peanut butter, ginger, dates, seeds, mixed dried fruit and spices. As it turns out, the worry was overblown, the Sturms are incredibly accommodating and even on a farm in Bavaria there is plenty to eat. That said, I am very glad to have my porridge – it’s like a little slice of home every morning!
After breakfast, we started on the testing again. Aside from a few wobbles on scaffold planks, testing went by largely without incident and consumed the vast majority of the day. We’ve drawn up a few spreadsheets to calculate the dry matter, total anorganic content (looking at the literature I think this actually translates as the amount of calcium carbonate in the digestate) and the FOS…no idea what that stands for at the moment but I did know…
Lunch was roasted potatoes with cumin seeds (a great idea) and salad. As Tim and I started getting into the groove with the testing, things started to move a bit more slickly and we finished sometime around 5pm. Thorsten mentioned he was training for a marathon in April and tended to go running on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and invited me along for the shorter, 10 km, midweek runs. Despite being a little apprehensive of being able to keep up with him (I hope I didn’t slow him down too much), we managed 13km around the Obenzenn area as dusk fell. Getting cramp at dinner meant I may have to think twice about whether to go with him on Thursday but we’ll see when the time comes.
We had hard boiled eggs painted an array of bright colours as well as the normal cheese/ bread/ ham options. And would you believe these special Easter eggs didn’t taste any different. I mean the cheek of painting the shells of eggs and then just being left with normal eggs inside. Disgraceful. On the other hand, especially after the run, I was desperately craving protein and they were oh so welcome!
Was hoping to get a bit of work done this evening but I fear that a combination of the early starts, physical work, running and glass of local wine with dinner (which was really quite tasty) may mean I fall into bed relatively soon (it’s 21:15 at the moment).
Still, dear diary, for once I’ve managed to write you on the right day. So that’s a big bonus. Maybe I should go to bed as a reward.
February 27, 2014
Meet Thorsten 6:30 and he shows us around the AD plant and takes us through the process. The first thing to do every day is visually check all of the digesters for the level, whether they’ve a foam capping and that the pumps aren’t flooded before checking there is a temperature difference across the activated charcoal H2S filter, which indicates it’s operating. Once these checks are complete, then it is breakfast. Today with all of the explanations, I think we were a little late (around 8).
After breakfast the first job was with Christian, who is the only non-family member that works on the farm full-time. We have to peel the covering for the silage back which involves lugging some pretty heavy sand bags across a pretty slippery tarpaulin on or near the edge of a 15-20ft pile of shifting silage. It’s not as bad as I first thought though, even if carrying the sandbags up to the middle of the pile is a bugger as they just drag you back down towards the side. While I’m on top of the pile Tim gets stuck in with the shovel moving a hefty amount of silage that’s fallen down the crack next to the corn which is bagged in a sausage (Thorsten’s description, not mine). Christian and I first re-secure the covering and then move on to rolling up the netting. Christian seems a good character and despite both only being able to understand a little of what is said we manage to coordinate the nets and he shows me the three different kinds of poop on site, including the freshly delivered chicken. Surprisingly they don’t smell too badly. Honest!
After this I grab a shovel to help Tim finish moving the silage and then after a good amount of shovelling, making us feel like we’ve earned it, it’s lunch. Mittagsessen for the veggies is spaghetti with spinach, onion and olive oil, which I thought was pretty damn tasty especially with a walnut cake for dessert.
After lunch we start on the measurements in the laboratory that Thorsten has built, but a representative from the gas analyser company arrives and we join while he shows how it works, and we get to play too.
Then we’re let loose to do the analysis (temperature, gas analysis, solid analysis, FOS and TAC) for the fermenter and the first two digesters/ storage tanks (nachgaerer). This takes the remainder of afternoon but we finish it with some time to spare before dinner so a necessary shower is taken before we sit down with the family again.
For dinner we have the choice of more spaghetti or rye bread with cheese/ jam/ meat which isn’t much of a contest for me really. I mean, the rye bread here is pretty special but who wouldn’t want spinach. Oh, spinach spinach spinach. Oh, and the pasta was with salad too – wouldn’t want you thinking I was deprived of my greens while over here.
After dinner I managed to catch up on a few emails to maintain touch with the homeland but it didn’t take long for the effects of the long day to set in and soon I was curled up on my air bed which is surprisingly comfortable. What is about Germany, why is everything better here?