Author Archives: Kerry Brown

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…

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It was a huge compliment when Tim Cook asked to feature me on his Community Spotlight segment. Video below:  

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.

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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…

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  Water finds a way. Especially in an urban environment with excessive runoff from paved areas and poor grading, water finds a way into the least preferred places, like in a crawlspace.   Not long after we purchased our urban lot, we experienced heavy, enduring rain. Something to the tune of 4 inches in 24 hours and somewhere on an old phone of mine, there’s a photo of water in my backyard deep enough to launch a canoe in.    That wasn’t a good day.    It turned out that our yard sat in a bowl, with the water from several households coming our way. Looking back, I wish I’d noticed that sooner.    Over time, by mulching and building up the soil, we had improvement but it still wasn’t a solution. Eventually I just decided to dig a pond. So for about ½ of the winter here and well…

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Over the last four years, I have observed that many of my friends, family and associates have become increasingly distressed and disheartened with the path that our world is following. It’s been going on much longer but I began paying more attention circa 2016. I should add that this problem is beyond the American scope, though all of my experience is as an American.  The problem is progress and the fact that’s becoming increasingly clear to many people that it just isn’t happening anymore. Or if it is, it’s only happening for certain people in certain classes.  Let’s break down the concept for a moment.  Belief in progress, from a western perspective, might as well be considered a religion. Through the lens of our leaders and mass media, we should believe, above all else, that things should always be getting better. Any other path is unfathomable. For a few years,…

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  Keeping quail is an ideal method for urban meat raising but it’s not without its learning curve.    Here’s how my experience went: I sourced fertilized eggs from a small supplier via a Cotournix quail Facebook group. They were shipped quickly and safely and I’ll order from them again when I’m ready to do the next hatch.  Expect to pay around $30 for 3 dozen eggs. Prices will vary though, especially for breeders who specialize in rare or unusual breeds.  Most importantly: have all of your infrastructure ready to go. Before I even bought eggs, I had an incubator, brooder box and cage with all accessories and food on hand.  As well, buy a decent incubator. I built a DIY system and even though I was home quite a bit to check on temps and rotate eggs, I found it very difficult to keep an even temperature (around 99…

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