We recently added American Guinea Hogs to our list of animals. Until we can build them an enclosure in one of the pastures, they are happy hanging out in one of the barn stalls. They love grass. Because of their diet there is almost no smell to them. Not what you typically experience with confined pigs. They drop, almost nuggets like horses, cows, and the goats. Not the soupy mess I have experienced from other operations. They talk to us each time we are around, and for the most part very easy going. Back to my point, about lawns. We have a push mower, and bagger. 1-2 strips on the lawn is enough for morning feeding, about 1/2 bag-3/4 loosely packed. Do it again in the evening, and they are good to go. But, but, but my lawn will be uneven….Um, who cares? By the time you NEED to mow again you will be back to your original spot. It is FREE food for pigs, who love it. Granted, not all areas allow pigs. But a 14’x30′ space in the barn is perfect if you don’t have room outside. They get treats, in the form of our universal feed mix, but really prefer the grass to anything else.
To give our buns more open air time, exposure to fresh greens, we decided to make a rabbit tractor. So far, they have all spent time in it and loved being out in the open. This will eventually be used to house the grow outs until freezer camp day. I took several designs I saw and combined what I liked, and used materials I had available. If you click on the images you can enlarge them for more details.
I had a small section of chain-link fence left over from another project. This looked like a good base, and size for the tractor.
We had some extra tubs laying around. This looked good to make a hiding hole, shade for them.
Using a jigsaw I cut a small opening into one side.
Left over 1×3 lumber from the demo of the office (the inside of our tiny house). I chose an A frame to minimize materials needed, and weight. And I only had 2 rolls of wire and didn’t want to go to store. The frame is screwed together with deck screw we had from another project. The base is made of treated 2x4x8. Left over from building the greenhouse attached to the building. I happen to have 10 feet of chain link fence, and the 2×4 was 8 feet long. Bonus, no cutting.
2 rolls of left over 1/2″x1″ welded wire. This was going to be a grow out pen in the coop, but we liked the tractor idea better. The wire is stapled to the frame.
Because I was working alone, and needed to stretch the chain-link tipping the tractor on edge was the easiest thing to do.
This is metal fastening tape, found in the plumbing section. I use this stuff all over the place. Works great. It is woven between the chain-links and secured to the bottom of the tractor frame. This way I can move rabbits and everythign without ever having to get them out. It also prevents them from digging holes, and protection from predators.
I hinged the whole side of the tractor. This allows easier access to the rabbits inside. If I opened from one end, someone (not me) would have to crawl in there to get rabbits.
The door is kept closed with bungee cords connected to the bottom chain links and the wire mesh on the sides. It is tight enough that the rabbits or predators cannot open it. The pet litter box is actually a waterer. I drilled the bottom and made a shelf for it to sit on.
The hole in the bottom is connected to rabbit nipples (tubing, connectors, and nipples available though Amazon)
I had all the materials on hand, and made do with what was available. If I had to make it again and buying materials it would probably cost around $60-80 and that is a high estimate. You can scrounge materials from various places or buy used materials.
Lumber can be from used pallets = free
Cubbie can be made from Rubbermaid containers from goodwill <$3 Goodwill. You can also find hinges at goodwill, Habitat for Humanity Restore. or asset Recycling.
Instead of watering nipples you can use watering dishes/bowls/tupperware/etc. = free
Wire may need to be purchased, but if not overnighting rabbits can use chicken wire. Check craigslist.
Many places like Habitat, and Asset Recycling will have sections of chain-link. you really don’t need it, but we will be overnighting the rabbits in it, and ease of moving them.
Our friends at Aquitic Designs are having a end of season garage sale. If you missed the open house party here is another chance to get some deals. Summer fish food, plants, and fish are on sale now and then the clean our the garage of parts, lights, pumps, fittings etc is another opportunity to save for the DIY systems.
Here are some remedies we have tried at home. Each recipe has been proven for different applications. Disclaimer we are not doctors or medical practitioners and you should consult your own doctor before using. We can only say we have used these recipes and have worked for us as a family.
Skin care – This recipe has been used for a variety of applications such as diaper rash, heat rash, minor burns, cuts, scrapes, abrasions, applied to kids lips who have a habit of licking or sucking top lips. We used this for raw noses during cold season.
Lavender essential oils
Warm jelly to liquid state about ½ cup jelly
Add lavender essential oil about 20 drops mix well, place in small containers with tight lid (small Tupperware) and allow to cool. Apply mixture as needed. Do not use on deep wounds or severe burns.
Poison Ivy treatment – Both my wife and I are susceptible to poison ivy. Once afflicted with the rash 1-2 treatments or 2-3 days should clear it right up.
In a pint jar add apple cider vinegar, Lavender oil, tea tree (20 drops each), Shake well, store tight jar away from light, apply with cotton ball or Q-tip 1-2 times a day.
Equal parts by wt feverfew, lemon balm, peppermint herbs in pint jar (we filled the jar loosely)
Cover with 100 proof vodka, shake every day for 2 weeks, strain and place in jar away from light
¼ teaspoon in liquid every ½ hr until gone, not exceed 2 teaspoons in one setting, may be habit forming in that if used regularly for long enough, once you stop using it, you may develop a migraine.
I manage several different sites and pages and am in the process of creating a local database of farmers markets, pick your own sites, restaurants who use local produce and meats, and related locations that either produce locally or retail locally produced items. I need your help. I could spend weeks searching online and still would never get as many listed if I were to enlist your help. Many of you have local spots you personally know of, support, run, or owned by you. Some have websites, some have facebook pages, and some have no online presence.
My goal is to have a calendar of all the markets in the area. Believe it or not there is a market running every day of the week, usually multiple. This hopefully will allow more people access to more local food if they know where they are and when they run.
Support local businesses to buy from local producers. I would ideally like to have several categories, restaurants, food retail, nursery and plant stock, and other retail (soaps, wool works, crafts, etc.)
What I need from you. If you could e-mail me wolfbeachfarms @ gmail.com (please remove the spaces). or use the contact us page and send me links, or names, or dates/times/locations of the above places. The links and calendars will be updated as I get the information. Here is the start for market pages and an interactive calendar.
Thanks in advance!
A friend had an idea about how every year he always starts way more seeds than he needs. Just as a precaution to make sure all his vegetable beds are filled. Well, what to do with all the seeds that germinate that you won’t need? Not enough to sell at a farmers market, IF you can get in to sell. no time to sit at home waiting on people to show up to pick up or buy. Hate to throw a way, or compost. What to do?
A plant and seed exchange and sale. This is the 1st of hopefully an annual event. Idally we would like to have spots set up on the North, South, East, West and Downtown sides of Indy and outlying areas too. If you want to host an event like this contact us. I thought it would be nice to have one every weekend from mid April to end of May each weekend at a different part of the area. If you don’t sell out in week one, move to spot two on the opposite side of town.
I will have a “booth” there and talk permaculture, maybe a few plants we have for sale. Stop by and say hi.
More information at the link here.
Here are the details.
Do you start more seeds than you need? Do you hate to just get rid of them? Don’t. Sell them, trade the, exchange them. Are you wanting to market unique plants and seeds but no place to sell them? Do you need to thin your plants, and hate to compost or trash them? Sell them. Do you have a side business selling plants, plant starts, or even seeds? Come out and sell your stock. It is not too late to start seeds for this event. Some people cannot start seeds, some don’t have the space, and some don’t have the materials. Whatever the reason, we are looking for vendors. Only plants, roots, seeds, etc. at this time. No animals or animal products (except maybe manure/compost). Worms, worm casting, and Black Soldier Fly approved for sale.
This is the 1st, but hopefully not the last, Seed, seedling, and plant sale-exchange. We are meeting in the church parking lot, and there is additional parking at Perry Park (adjacent to the church), and across the street at Douglas MacArthur elementary school.
Vendors or sellers will pay $20 for a parking lot size space, and if not muddy a lawn space behind the space. All money generated from space sales will go to Cub Scout Pack 120. There will be no power, Wi-Fi, or utilities available. There is a limit of 20 vendors. Contact Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org 317-997-5554 to get a spot (Paypal, CC, Cash, accepted for spot payment, all payments minus mandatory electronic transaction fees will go to the Pack).
Buyers are Free
Vendors or sellers may charge, collect, trade, exchange, as they see fit for their plants, seeds, trees etc. Some may be able to take Credit and debit cards with their smart devices, some may only take cash. So plan accordingly.
Sale 10-2pm; setup 9-10am; take-down 2-3pm, so you can setup then go park the car and have more available space. Or, sell out of your trunk.
The Boy Scouts will also be selling food and drinks. Cash only please.
If you RSVP your are RSVPing as a buyer. Use the email listed to secure your spot as a vendor.
Come on out, support the Scouts, and get your garden going. Buy local.
The Church and the Pack are not affiliated with any vendor, and are not responsible for any transactions, accidents, or disputes that arise from the plant/seed sale.
This is our first year with rabbits over winter and we were not sure how to handle the freezing temps and water. We did a little research and most people either used heater bottles, or changed the crocks our 2 times a day. We were not going to spend the money for heated bottles (around $40 each) and the reviews of them were questionable. We were doing the crocks 2 times a day but that meant we HAD to be home and could not travel to our small house project on weekends. I needed something to fit my needs. I stumbled upon a video of a guy who had a similar issue on YouTube. I would love to give the guy credit but after 2 days of searching I cannot find the original video that gave me the idea. If someone else comes across it please let me know in the comments so I can give him credit for the inspiration. He did slightly different setup, but this design came from his concept.
I took the original idea of what he had, and modified it to what I had available as to spend little to no money out of pocket. I had submersible pumps from aquaponics builds. If you do not have one you can get them for under 20 bucks, especially at local stores in fall when they go on clearance. (Aquatic Design and Supplies here locally has this exact one) The tank is an old kitty litter box. The tubing and nipples I got from Amazon. They were pretty cheap as well. The nice thing about the nipples and tubing is they came in a pack of 50 and I have enough tubing to make another complete setup at the new location (V2.0). The heat lamp we had for the chickens in winter so no extra cost there. If you do not have one, you can pick them up lamp and fixture for under $20.
Version 2.0 this was the first design to fix a need at the moment. I am designing some improvements into version 2.0 and some improvements are listed below.
- I will be using a 55 gal drum for the tank for the reservoir
- The tank will be filled by rainwater from the roof of the rabbit/chicken barn area (filtered before entering tank with homemade sand/charcoal filter)
- There will be a heater in the tank. Probably a submersible fish heater unless I find a better alternative before then. I want the water to stay above freezing. The water moving helps keep it from freezing.
- I will add nipples for the chickens as well. Different type of nipples than the rabbits. Rabbits needed all metal nipples at they can damage the plastic housing of chicken nipples.
- Version 3.0 may switch over to off grid power and use a solar panel. It may be in V2.0 but time, money, and other projects may prevent that.
Some things I learned. The tubing did not fit tightly enough on some nipples. I added zip ties to make a more snug fit. You may want to go with a slightly smaller ID tube, or just use ties like I did. Not all the nipples leaked where the tubing fit.
If your hose comes out from the circulator, you lose circulation (power out, low water), the tubes, and nipples will freeze solid (if temps are below freezing) and the only way to thaw is wait until the entire thing is above freezing temps. adding warm/hot water MAY work if you have a shorter run of tubing. we had about 30 ft, and not enough pressure to melt the ice in the lines.
Before leaving for any period of time, figure how long it takes your rabbits to drain the tank, and take an average. Some days they drink more than others. Plan accordingly.
You may need to leave both watering systems in place for a few days until they figure it out. Alternatively, letting the old source dry up, and showing water is available through the nipple by pushing the tip, can help train them.
If one rabbit gets it, soon others see and catch on.
Can a suburban lot be profitable as a farm? Pt 2
In the last post I wrote about if it is profitable to run a suburban homestead farm. The answer was it depends. There are so many variables to consider. We touched on rabbits, and fruit trees. Today we are going to cover a few more items that in combination with reduction in spending and layering could make a suburban homestead profitable.
We touched on fruit trees and on using the fruit trees for home-made products such as jams and jellies. If you are to expand the fruit tree aspect to also include home based jams, jellies and baked goods you are adding additional function to your income stream without having to add to your space needs. Most if not all of the preserves will be prepared indoors without the need of additional growing area. Each area is different on the regulations required. Some states, cities, and counties will allow an individual to prepare and sell preserves on the farm without any additional requirements. Some areas require that a commercial kitchen be used, while others will allow it to be prepared on farm, sold off farm, if the kitchen is inspected. Do your research, and there are not only the preparation requirements, but also labeling requirements, on a federal, state, and sometimes local level. Do not be discouraged by the regulations, as many are not too over burdensome. If you are going to make preserves, there will always be waste in the forms of peels, seeds, core of the fruit (as with apples or pears), pulp etc. This is not a waste product. This could also be turned into income, in the form of compost, worms, compost tea, or bartered for other useful products. One local farm will barter fresh meat, in exchange for these types of waste, providing that it is chemical free (no pesticides, herbicide, fungicides etc.). The farm will take your waste and feed it to their pigs, and chickens. This can offset meat and egg purchases. If you are raising your own animals, this could offset any feed costs you may have. While you could also include baked goods, pies, cakes etc. in the same operation relatively easy, and would probably need the same level of inspection or regulations, you would be dependent on outside grains for flour, milk, and possible eggs for such an operation. This is not to say it isn’t profitable, especially if you buy flour in bulk, or have a niche market only using organic flour, or gluten-free products.
Composting can take a waste and turn it into a profit center. Composting isn’t hard, and it can be done indoors or outdoors, small-scale or large. It all depends on your climate and location. Some areas will have regulations on compost, but this is usually on a commercial-scale. We have a varied size of compost activities from an indoor box in a recycled cat litter container, to the 3 bin pallet composting, and each one has different purposes, and contents. The indoor system will use some household composting materials and shredded junk mail, cardboard, and fiber board (cereal boxes). There is no smell, and the worms do all the work. We use only non-glossy paper in these systems. These worms do not process large volumes of materials, and is mainly a use for compost tea, keep worms through the winter, and indoor soil amendments. The outdoor system has yard wastes, leaf litter, grass clippings, left over’s from the vegetable gardens, rabbit manure, and bedding from the chicken coup. People who are just getting started are on the lookout for worms to start their own composting system, or maybe something happened and killed off their worms. This is why it is good to have redundant system and only add questionable materials to one system, or rotate what gets the new materials. You always have a back up worm supply. Some people sell them by the pound, some count out the worms. You can also sell the worm casting, or compost tea. The casting can be added to plants indoor and out, gardens, lawns, around fruit and berry bushes. It is a fertilizer that will not burn, there are no chemical additives, and can be applied at any time. The tea is taken from the castings and made into a liquid fertilizer. Some people sell the tea in 1 gal jugs, others sell the dried castings and instructions on how to make your own tea. Like the castings, the compost tea can be put around any plants, indoors or out. The added benefits of the liquid are that it is readily absorbed by the plant during the application, and when sprayed onto the plant leaves acts a bio-barrier against pests and disease. The compost tea promotes a beneficial biological layer that will detour pests, but also aids in preventing many harmful molds, viruses, and bacteria from colonizing on the leaf surface. Will you be profitable from compost tea alone? Not on a suburban lot. But this is a way to take a waste product and turn it into something beneficial, both for your own farm or homestead and possibly turn a profit. If you want more info on composting with worms check out Castaway Compost.
In part 3 we will talk chickens. We have hit on them a little here and there, but more details to come. So a recap of what we covered thus far in the series, is Fruits, Rabbits, Compost and worms, and preserves and baking. All of these can be managed at the same time on a suburban lot in conjunction with each other.
Can a suburban lot be profitable as a farm? To quote one of my mentors, Jack Spirko from TSP, “It depends”. We have been doing the homesteading, and farm for over three years now and can share some insight. What is your definition of profitable? Making income from your labor, to turn a profit? What money you take in is larger than what you put into your farm, just the farm? If your definition of profitable just applying to the farming activities or to the property, cars, debts etc? Is this your full time job? There is significant different between homesteading, and farming. Someone may just think you sell what you produce; sell the overage, or just double what you did for yourself. This is not the case.
We have to make some assumptions, and parameters. First, let’s assume a 0.2 typical suburban lot, with no home owners association (HOA), no restrictions on land use, you are in a suburban area close to a major city (less than 1 hr), are in USDA zone 4 or higher, and have no solar blockages to your growing area. I know that is a lot of assumptions. But we have to start somewhere.
Next, is this your only source of income? Is this supplemental? If this is your only source of income, you need to look at your monthly and yearly expenditures. Are your vehicles paid off? Do you have a mortgage? Do you have other debts such as student loans, credit cards? How much are your taxes?
Let’s assume you have a $100,000 home, and pay $1,000/mo mortgage, insurance, utilities etc. This means you have to bring in at minimum $1,000 per month in sales just to have a place to grow. Have expenses, not eating off your property, then you have to make that much more. So, in this scenario, it is highly unlikely that you can be profitable, and live off what you make on your property. It is not impossible but, you would have to be VERY creative, like rabbits and quail in your garage, aquaponics in your house, teach classes, consult, butcher your own meats, and that is just the beginning. You would have to work harder to be profitable on your suburban lot than you have ever worked before. But is IS possible. Expect to put in 100+ hour work weeks, and work all 7 days. Do not expect a vacation, because who would manage your farm and all that it entails while you are gone.
Second scenario, you have no mortgage, because either you were smart and paid it off, retired and finally got the monkey off your back, or for whatever reason. Can it be profitable? Most definitely, assuming the home assumptions are what we are basing things on. Again, look at your monthly expenditures. Sometimes you may look at ways to reduce in order to not work as hard or in lean months. What are your taxes? You can grow produce, have fruit trees, rabbits, ducks, chickens for meat and eggs, ducks and then sell things like canned goods, jams, jellies, medicinal herbs. This may not work for every scenario. Some legal requirements state you have to make any prepared items in a commercial kitchen. Some will allow your own kitchen to be used provided it is inspected. Some don’t even go that far. Some areas will allow you to sell directly on “farm”, some require a farmers market. If butchering on “farm” you may not need inspection, but a farmers market requires the meat to be processed at a commercial facility. This is a definite possibility, and can be profitable.
Third scenario, you have a suburban lot, but no home on it. You are living in an apartment, but lease or rent the lot. Can you make enough on 0.2 acres to pay for everything? It depends; can you effectively cover all your expenses? Rent community garden space, sell overage, local CSA, or farm market stand. All possibilities.
Getting into the details on how – The key, stacking functions, and making use of every single waste, resource, or product. The Native Americans had the right idea, of use every single part of something, let nothing goes to waste. I am going to cover what we have learned, and the pitfalls.
Rabbits take up very little room, and are heavy producers per square foot. You can have one buck, four does, and in a double stack configuration, have between 8-12 rabbits every week to butcher and sell in a 6’ x 14’ space. Whole rabbits can sell from $5/lb live weight to $40/lb cleaned and all organic/grass fed. Average weight of rabbit is 5lbs. Stack the function, and you can feed them weeds from gardens, grass from your neighbors lawn (providing they do not chemically treat it), and pruning from your vegetable patch. You can sell the manure as fertilizer, use it yourself, add it to compost (sell the compost), put it in worm bins (sell the worms, compost, or worm tea). If you tractor the rabbits you reduce any feed costs. You can also sell some of the better kits as potential breed stock to other farmers. Then you can also sell the pelts. You can tan them yourself and increase the price you get per pelt. If you have dogs, and you are butchering the rabbits you can feed them the innards. You can sell rabbits feet. The ears are sold as dog treats. Chickens will also pick the bones clean. You may have the initial investment of cages, feeding trays, shelter etc, but it can be easily recouped, provided you have a viable market for meat rabbits. While it is becoming more popular with the homesteading crowd, it hasn’t found its way into mainstream food sources. Some higher end restaurants, or restaurants specializing in locally grown or chemical free options may be a good place to sell your product.
In 0.2 acres you can have 5-10 fruit trees. This is in addition to a house, depending on the home size, providing you get the dwarf varieties. You will also want to prune them to optimize harvests, and maximize space. If you were to espalier the trees you can get even more to grow. This will give you a fruit crop to sell, or raw materials for baked goods, jams, jellies, fruit leathers. You could even sell trimmings or grafting from your trees. Trees could be generic apples, pears, cherries or you could try more exotic fruits pomegranate, fig, or the jujube (it does not produce candy). More people tend to buy what they know, and more chance to make what you need, but the rare varieties fetch a much heavier price. No chemicals or sprays get a higher premium, but more susceptible to disease and pests. Small orchards like a suburban postage size do not get plagued like the larger mono crop farms because of a greater biodiversity. If you have chickens, and ducks on your micro farm they are pest mangers in themselves. We will go into chicken in part 2.
I wanted people to get a feel for what to expect in the Medicinal Herb Class Preview, with handouts from the class. This is just one page, and is only the text. There are 56 other plants and bonus materials. We will be discussing in more details during the tour. What we have experienced, and touring through all what is growing while on site. We will also have live plants for sale, fresh you pick cuttings, dried plants, and more. Touch, and smell some different preparations, ask questions, get answers. Disclaimer, we are not medical practitioners, and we are only conveying information we have learned, and have been using as a family. Seek your own information before using any medicinal herbs.
Calendula– We will also have a chart in the handout of actual pictures of plants from out place.
RSVP – please use this link to RSVP so we know how many packets to put together. You can also prepay online.