Fermenting Feed for Your Friends
A couple of years ago, a farmer friend who was working on implementing permaculture practices on her land that houses ducks, chickens, geese and goats introduced me to a concept that I’d not heard of before: fermenting feed. She showed me a system of food grade buckets that she kept in rotation. It was simple: she doled enough commercial feed into a bucket for each set of animals. She then added just enough water to cover the feed then lightly capped the bucket. After 24 hours, that feed was ready to be consumed and the process was repeated for the next day. At the time, I was just keeping chickens, but I put the system into place to see how it worked. In my case, I added a handful of scratch grains in addition to the regular feed. First, it cut my feed costs down considerably. The birds didn’t eat…
Adjusting Course: Biodynamics
A sure fire way to turn a mild interest of mine into a burning desire for further knowledge is to send an unsolicited and dismissive comment relating to that interest while essenially informing me that study of that topic it isn’t worth my time. A few weeks ago, I marked “Interested” in an Intro to Biodynamics event that was posted in a Permaculture group that I’m involved with. A friend saw this and within an hour, had messaged me and said, “Hey, I saw you were interested in a workshop, so I wanted to warn you, Biodynamic agriculture is snake oil.” He then linked a brief article on Skeptoid that attempted to debunk the idea of the practice of Biodynamics. I even read the full article (which failed to give a decent argument) before replying to him. My reply was “Thank you. I find Rudolf Steiner’s work interesting but I…
Looking back on Summer Projects
A common theme this summer were customers who wanted me to create workable soil so that they could tinker in their gardens as they wished. I was able to use a variety of methods depending on the challenges for each site and I’m pretty pleased with how everything turned out. In most cases, I was rehabilitating compacted soil. One place in particular required tilling then addition of copious amendments. At another location, removal of rocks was the primary goal, along with addition depth and some natural edging. Another homeowner just wanted some framed raised beds to border their patio. Most plants that went in were native or well adapted and chosen for their ability to thrive with a reasonable amount of attention. I generally let the homeowner choose their plants, although I’m always glad to offer suggestions.
Raised Bed Construction for the Fall
Hey folks, It’s early September here in East Tennessee and this is a great time to begin planning and building your garden beds for next year. I’ve got a few different methods under my belt, so I’ll pass along my main method for your consideration: Whether you’re dealing with rocky/compacted/clay or entirely absent soil (some folks build on top of concrete and asphalt) this method will eventually produce rich garden soil with depth and texture that supports your plants while making it easier to weed. You can build a border if you’d like. Lumber, brick, block: any of these will work. It’s your call on aesthetics and budget. I especially like the look of slim, long logs that are stacked and supported by stakes or rebar. They decompose eventually, which gives you further nutrient and carbon density. The most important rule here is to keep your bed size manageable. Three…
Community Member Spotlight
It was a huge compliment when Tim Cook asked to feature me on his Community Spotlight segment. Video below:
2021 Solar Array Build
Last year I was blessed to find and join a group of self proclaimed “do-ers” who find the time to take turns going to other’s homes and properties in order to tag team various installations and home improvement efforts. Usually it’s related to homesteading efforts but the approach applies across all kinds of projects.
I’ve always had a bit of the “go it alone” type of demeanor and this has been to my detriment more than once. I hate to ask for help and I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to admit when I just don’t know about something and need instruction.
But since I’ve been welcomed into this community, my attitude has shifted. I’ve always enjoyed working in teams, but to request help was foreign. This has had to change since we’ve taken on the off grid, small home living lifestyle. There’s been a lot to figure out and while YouTube has it’s uses, getting the solar planned and installed was going to require expert help.
One of the members of the community, Shawn Mills, has an off grid property and has made solar consulting and installations one of his side businesses. (www.hackmysolar.com) I asked him if he’d be interested in performing an assessment and leading me through the process of procuring the components.
With enthusiasm, he agreed and we got the ball rolling. Finally, after months of awaiting the cabin to be delivered and then for reasonable weather, we got the crew up here in late May.
We were blessed with a beautiful day and about 10 people ready to get rolling.
Lessons in Relinquishing Control
I spend a lot of time debating the pros and cons of various forms of design. I started the chickens out inside an electric fence. They had around a 1200 square foot area to roam, but before long, they were getting out to explore the greater area. Of course I had the urge to protect them at all costs. I kept putting them back in the fence. When we were in the city, it was appropriate and safe to confine them due to roaming dogs, cars and to just generally prevent them to wrecking someone else’s property. Here they have several acres to roam and lots of overhead cover from the hawks. So I took the fence down, deciding instead to fence in my garden and let the birds do their thing freely. This time around we have a rooster and he does a remarkable job of staying alert, protecting and communicating with the hens. So in exchange for being willing to relinquish a bit of control, I get the joy of seeing the birds explore field and forest. They have a routine and a route and today they discovered that hanging around the human while he sifts topsoil results in snacks galore. They’re consistent about returning to the coop at dusk and so far no one is hiding their eggs in random locations. By my nature, I can be a control freak and worrier. These six birds are teaching me the concepts of patience, trust and faith.
Greening the Wintertime
It’s the dead of winter and I can’t stand not growing something that’s edible. Since this winter has us in a holding pattern (building a house, staying in a temporary shelter, waiting on placement of utilities before I can plan gardens) I’m a little limited in my abilities to develop food producing infrastructure. Enter microgreens. Amazon had these trays for around $16 each and while you could probably make them from stuff you already had around, I decided just to get two of them for the sake of ease. For the best results, use sprouting or microgreen specific seeds. This could be mung bean, alfalfa, clover, peas or similar types of seeds. I used a mix of the above. Some of the seeds are rather small so I spread them out on a window screen on top of the slotted tray. After soaking for a day, I rinsed them, spread…
End of Year Review
For many of us, 2020 has been a year of disruption, interruption, change and concern. I’ve weathered it fairly well, though I’m ending the year quite differently than usual. We decided to sell our beloved urban homestead in order to re-establish ourselves on family land. We were able to eliminate our debt and purchase for cash a modest outbuilding and a handbuilt cabin that will be powered via a solar system. On this family land, I have the opportunity to help restore several acres that have gradually become covered by thick undergrowth since there have been no grazing animals on it since the late 90s. I’ll be putting permacultural and silvopasture techniques to the test over the next couple of years. I’m just beginning to deal with the grief involved in leaving a place that I had lovingly cultivated and encouraged for 13 years. Especially since we’re in a bit…
Straw Bale Gardening Report
Straw bale gardening seems to be enjoying its moment in the sun. I had a chance to acquire 11 bales for a fair price so in Spring 2020, I put them to work in the auxiliary garden area. For the gardener who is limited on space, especially if they don’t have time to build raised beds or amend their existing soil, bales could act as a gap filling measure. Position the bales where there’s adequate sun and good drainage. Place them on the narrow side where the straw is curved around. You should be able to see the cut ends facing upwards. The general idea is that the gardener introduces a fertilizer into the bales (I used blood meal supplemented with old chicken bedding) which begins the decomposition process. As the bales begin to break down, introduce your started plants or if the timing is appropriate, start from…