Propane Installed and Filled!

Propane Hookup at Butcher Shop on Sugar Mountain Farm

The propane tank had been installed back in November 2011. that’s a bit over a year ago. We did it at the same time we installed the septic since we already had a big trackhoe here for doing the digging and heavy lifting. Since I don’t have my own bulldozer and trackhoe, yet, I tend to line up a lot of work for them when they come because it costs about $400 just to get them on-site. Thus we placed both the septic tank and propane tank at the same time we were doing other work.

Bulldozer and Trackhoe

I had thought we would get our propane hookup back in November of 2012 but it wasn’t until December 27th of 2012 that the technician from the propane company was able to come out. Then it wasn’t until January 30th, 2013, Wednesday of this past week, that they were able to actual hook up the propane tank which involved feeding the supply line from the tank through the conduit I had laid last year. The techs had been super busy with people who had lost heat to their homes in the cold snap – that does take priority. With everything ready, on Friday, February 1st, we got our initial propane delivery.

I’m not fond of things that go boom in the night – every year I read about a propane tank leaking exploding and burning down a house. Er, rather it blows the house to smithereens and then burns up the pieces. Drama to an extreme.

We used to have propane in our old farm house for lights but it always leaked and gave me headaches as well so I disconnected it. I didn’t want you all reading about my home blowing up in the newspaper…

So why am I getting propane again?!?

I did the math and propane is generally the best way of heating water to 180°F which is what is required by the regulations for USDA inspected meat processing. We will also be capturing heat for the hot water off of our refrigeration system and using solar hot water. We could do hot water heating with electric but that is more expensive and we don’t have enough electrical power at the farm for that on a large scale.

We already upped our electric service from 50 amp 120VAC to 200 amp 240VAC service in 2009. The next jump would be 400 amp. We’re way the heck out at the end of the power lines so the 200 amps was already a stretch. In the best of all possible worlds we would also get three phase power for some of our heavier equipment like welders, the scalder/dehairer, saws, hoists and vacuum packer. Upgrading our electric this next step would cost $80,000 or more so that is not a happening thing.

Generating our own power is an interesting idea and I could even make three phase power but that won’t be this year, we need a solution for heating the hot water now, not one that would wait five years.

That means we need an alternative to electricity to pump energy into our cold 45°F mountain spring water (a toasty warm 45°F in the winter) to bring it up to 180°F or more to meet regulations. This actually requires two water heaters, one that will raise the temperature 100°F to 145°F and then a second one that will boost the water temperature up to the final 180°F. This is where the propane comes in.

But, we’re going to actually use three or four water heaters to accomplish this… Our water will get pre-warmed by the heat of the refrigeration system and later we’ll install a solar hot water booster too – Perhaps in 2014. Right now we are installing two on-demand propane fired hot water heaters which will take the pre-warmed water, boost it to 145°F and then boost it further to the scaldingly hot 180°F temperature we need for HACCP/PR and SSOPs sanitation as required for meat processing. This will also give us a sanitizing washing machine. One of the requirements of inspection is we need to provide the inspector with laundry service plus we’ll need to wash our smocks and other work cloths after each day of processing.

But what about things that go boom in the night?!?

Call me paranoid but I don’t want to wake up to a butcher shop flambé. To reduce the likelihood of having our own private conflagration we’ve done a number of risk aversion techniques that include shut off valves, venting paths, putting the propane tank down slope of our building and situated so the heavier than air propane can’t pool here but rather flows out across our fields to disperse should there ever be a leak. The building is built out of heavy duty steel, fiber and basalt reinforced concrete with purposeful blow out points as well as being divided into many small rooms that will limit fire damage should things go boom-boom. I still wouldn’t want propane in my home but these things all reduce the risks.

So now we have propane – that’s progress! This means we can begin warming the interior of the butcher shop from the comfortable for working 46°F that it has been floating at over the winter to a balmy 70°F we need for applying and curing the epoxy and urethane cement coatings on the final floors, walls and ceilings. This has been holding us up – while we have waited for the propane we’ve been doing other construction that will put us ahead on upcoming parts of the construction like the freezer and cooler.

Admin & Initial Cutting Room

This winter our primary focus is finishing off what is referred to as the Admin section of the butcher shop. This includes the inspector’s office, bathroom & laundry, entry hall and the room which will eventually become the smokehouse and warm kitchen. That room will first be used as our initial meat cutting room which allow us to start cutting meat soon under Vermont State inspection and then progress to USDA inspection. Later we’ll move meat cutting into it’s final larger space and then we can install the smokehouse and warm kitchen in what is initially the cutting room during startup.

Outdoors: 18°F/-7°F Snow, Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/59°F

Daily Spark:
Bad News Good News Department: There is no key to happiness. Fortunately the door is not locked. -Anon

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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7 Responses to Propane Installed and Filled!

  1. Noreen says:

    Hi Walter and Holly,
    What a terrific lot of work you do – and Walter, how incredibly knowledgeable you are. I’m happy to hear that your propane is now hooked up. There’s always lots to do at your farm.


  2. Emily Costello says:

    Yeah Yea! to the Jeffries family. You all amaze me with your perseverence and dedication to all that you do. It is really amazing that you have built you own home while running your farm doing delieveries to all your customers all year and even built a butcher shop. That blows me away. I have read about how hard it is for small famers to find butchering for their animals but the idea that you would solve the problem by building your own place is just boggling! I thought that it was impossible to navigate all those government regulations. That is what the articles I have read said but you are proving them wrong. I think that is really special how you all work in your family towards a common goal. That is rare today. Most families are going off in a million directions and barely see each other. Bravo Jeffries!

    • Peter says:

      I will second the sentiment. :-)

      IMHO, I don’t think that navigation of the state/federal regs is impossible. Remember that the vast majority of the regs on food processing were/are geared towards the industrial end of the scale and do not easily “scale down” all the time towards the narrower end of business, i.e. artisinal and on-farm processing. Yeah I know I am oversimplifying but on the other hand more attention probably needs to be paid towards this end in order to better reflect the reality that more and more people want “NoWeirdStuff.”

      Honestly I think that regardless of your persuasion on fed/state regulation, there are basics we can generally come to agreement on, the larger question is how we establish that consistent standard but acknowledge that there has to be some amount of flexibility on how different size businesses get there. Walter is certainly showing us one path to get there!

  3. Don says:

    I like the cut off switch. I’ve never seen that on a gas installation before. Brilliant. All gass installs should have that. Yes you can turn it off at the tank but that is a many twist type valve. Being able to simply turn off the gass at the building is a really good idea. I also liked our other thoughts on how to make gas safer. We have gas and Ive worried about this too.

  4. Susan Lea says:

    My impression looking at your butcher shop construction is that even an atomic bomb going off wouldn’t hurt it! On a serious note, we have a propane fireplace that I refuse to use for the same reasons you don’t like propane. But we have a stove/oven replacement in our future, and I’m seriously considering looking into a dual one. Out here in the boonies that means propane, so I guess I might have to change my mind if we can get a tank safely installed.

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