Category Archives: gardening

Tree Grafting Workshop March 21, 2015 1-5pm

So I can finally publish the workshop details. We are bringing up Darren from Brambleberry Farm to teach a tree grafting workshop. If you haven’t heard about Brambleberry I have some links to past publications with them.

Podcast of tour

Post on tour

Here is the flyer for the workshop

Tree Grafting

Here is the details and how to register

Tree Grafting Workshop

Saturday, Mar 21, 2015, 1:00 PM

Burke Farm
6020 E. Raymond st indianapolis IN 46203 Indianapolis, IN

6 Gardener/Homesteader Attending

Are you intrigued by the ancient art of fusing two trees into one but haven’t been brave enough to give it a try? Do you want to learn a skill that will let you create your own superior fruit trees for $2 or less a tree? Do you have a beloved old family apple tree that you want to start anew in your own backyard? Learn to graft and YOU CAN! This Ma…

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Can a suburban lot be profitable as a farm? Pt 1

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.

Rabbit hutch 1 Rabbit hutch

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.

Espalier 2 Espalier 3 Espalier espalier1

Indy Rezone comment meeting Jul 16

The re-zoning committee is having two open comment times July 16th. Noon and 5:30. Not too often is the powers enacting changes open to comments from the general public. I will be there probably for both sessions to just hear what others have to say, and voice my own opinions. If it impacts you make an effort to show. Even if you are not directly impacted show up to support those that want to homestead and be self sufficient here in Marion Co. I would love to have it be standing room only! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share with anyone and everyone you think could be impacted.

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Medicinal Herb class this Saturday July 12th

Don’t forget the medicinal herb class this Saturday July 12th. We will be having our medicinal herb class and talk about the various plants and herbs you can grow here in Indiana as well as some preparations, storage techniques, and uses. Come join us. PLEASE RSVP at the link below so we know how many packets to print. As part of the tour you will receive a 60 page packet of the information covered.

 

Medicinal herbs you can grow here in the Midwest

Saturday, Jul 12, 2014, 10:00 AM

Wolf-Beach Farms
8418 Chickasaw Ct

3 Gardener/Homesteader Attending

During the last tour people asked for a medicinal herb class and now we are ready. 57 herbs will be discussed that we have growing currently or are in the process of growing, and can be cultivated here in Indiana. The majority of herbs will be discussed are also available to see on the property, some we have grown in the past and we will discuss (O…

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Medicinal Herb Class Preview

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.

Herb Blurb – Comfrey

With all of the talk about comfrey in the podcast (2 Midwest Guys.com), in the tour, in classes, on the blogs, on Facebook, I think it is about time we added comfrey to the Herb Blurb.

Comfrey 1

Comfrey as a permaculture plant

Comfrey is a great and almost necessary plant in permaculture. It has deep tap roots that can go down 12 feet or more into the soil to m in minerals out. You will almost always find comfrey in any permaculture designers tool box of go to plants. Typically they are planted around fruit or nut trees. When the trees are just planted and establishing themselves, a ring of comfrey around the tree can boost tree growth. It is extremely fast growing. You can harvest the leaves several times over the season. Here in the Midwest comfrey will die back to the ground during winter. The leaves can be added to compost as a nutrient booster. You can make comfrey tea as a fertilizer for plants. You can feed it to livestock. I can say that our chickens completely devoured a comfrey plant when we first got them. The additional minerals found in the leaves benefit, chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, cows, pigs. We haven’t seen any of our pets eating it yet, that being the dog and cats. I mentioned harvesting several times a season. Harvesting consists of cutting the leaves back, and you use the leave portions for teas, compost, or feed.

We haven’t had much luck with starting comfrey from seeds. The best way to spread it is through root cuttings. After 2-3 years the plants are well established and you can split them. Much like you would split a hosta. Taking a spade you can divide the root mass into several clumps. Only 1 inch of root is necessary to propagate. The Russian variety do not spread by themselves. Be warned, once you introduce comfrey into an area it can be difficult to remove, since it can regrow from only 1” of root. It is best to cut back all leaves when propagating and allow the plant to send out new shoots from the crown and/or roots.

Comfrey can survive in just about any soil and condition. It does prefer partial to full sun. When on a tour at Brambleberry farm we were told that if you do not expand and move the ring of comfrey around your tree to keep it roughly with the drip line, the tree will shade them out and the comfrey will die out. I believe it is a combination of root competition with the tree and the shade that does it in. The one nice thing about it is as it grows it chokes out all the other plants around the tree, and if you plant in a ring, you have a nice little circle to mow around…if you mow. Throw in some garlic, and you have a good pest deterrent. Add an annual climbing pole bean once the tree is established (2-3 years and 4-6’ tall) and you have the makings of a nice little plant guild. The beans fix nitrogen, the tree is the pole to climb for the beans. The garlic deters moles and other rodents from eating at the tree. Comfrey mines minerals, and all of its other functions.

Bees love the purple flowers that come out in the spring for a mature plant. In the 3 years we have grown comfrey the bees, honey bees, bumblebees, mason bees, and even butterflies have been seen on the purple flowers. We have never observed any insect damage to the comfrey plants. No caterpillars, no Japanese beetles, no aphids and no real leaf damage whatsoever.

Comfrey ad a medicinal herb

As if all the above reasons are not enough to make you want some comfrey. It also has many medicinal properties. While the FDA says it is a plant that has toxic effects, a person would have to consume insane amounts of the plant to reach the levels they say are harmful. Let us not forget, these are the same people that say fluoride, GMO, and thousands of other chemicals are safe. I used to deal with these people on a regular basis for 16 years. My confidence in their ability to determine what is and is not save is absolutely zero.

Comfrey a great first aid for external treatment for wounds and to reduce inflammation associated with sprains and broken bones. Keep this herb growing in the garden so it is readily available for external salves and poultices to help broken bones heal faster.

From WebMD: Comfrey is used as a tea for upset stomach, ulcers, heavy menstrual periods, diarrhea, bloody urine, persistent cough, painful breathing (pleuritis), bronchitis, cancer, and chest pain (angina). It is also used as a gargle for gum disease and sore throat.

Comfrey is applied to the skin for ulcers, wounds, joint inflammation, bruises, rheumatoid arthritis, swollen veins (phlebitis), gout, and fractures.

WebMD also states that it is Unsafe to take by mouth, however many people have done it for years

I can speak from personal experience that I have used comfrey on swollen and sore joints due to arthritis, my wife has used if for deep and severe bruises and sprains (she is a kick boxer). We have used in when I am so accident prone and had cuts, scrapes, deep bruises due to my own clumsiness. We have a athlete who has injured ankles and applied it. In all cases the healing process seems to go much faster than not using it.

Purdue researched comfrey as a feed crop to animals and in the 70-80’s it was used as a feed crop. Here is an article on comfrey as an alternative feed for livestock. https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/comfrey.html

Brambleberry farm has comfrey for sale, and if you are interested in a tour we are heading out June 7th for a plant sale and tour of their property. Details on the tour are below. The cost is $10/person paid to Darren and his wife Espri.

Brambleberry tour

Comfrey in our garden
Comfrey in our garden
Comfrey crown 2 weeks old from bare root.
Comfrey crown 2 weeks old from bare root.
Comfrey crown sprouting
Comfrey crown sprouting

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Part 2 of Trees in the Midwest is live

Part two of the trees special with Nathan Hill is now live. We will definitely be having Nathan back on in the future to talk about more topics like grafting trees, root-stock, genetics, when is it time to cut the tree down,  and more.

Part 2 Trees in the Midwest

New Podcast about trees in the Midwest

The latest show for 2 Midwest guys is up. This episode we talk with Nathan Hill from Natural Pattern Systems. We discuss trees of the Midwest and various aspects including trees of permaculture, pruning fruit trees, and places to get more information. Check out the latest podcast.

Nathan Hill and Trees

Brambleberry Farm tour

Recently my co-host of 2 Midwest Guys and I took a trip down to Brambleberry Farms in Paoli IN. Brambleberry is a permaculture nursery and plant farm as well as teaching permaculture, designer, and speaker. Darren was nice enough to show us around and talk to us. What was supposed to be a 1-2 hrs tour and talk turned into over 6 hours and a new found friendship.

Darren and his wife Espri were great hosts, despite us taking so much time away from Darren’s farm duties. We walked and talked about the 6 acres of property they have and how they are using it, now, in the past, and future plans. We will have a whole future podcast dedicated to them over at 2 Midwest Guys.

It was very refreshing to meet someone who also is a certified permaculture designer and is the same mindset. We discussed that there really is no “right” way for permaculture. It is a science, a tool, a design playbook. You take the foundation from your training and build upon it for you selected area, and intention. The people that say you “must” do it this way or that miss the bigger permaculture principle of experimentation. Darren told us about how he has tried different techniques and experiments in the 11 years while at this site. Some things I was looking at trying in the future. He wasn’t afraid to tell us what failed, or didn’t work. He was more interested in the education and learning from these experiments. We all viewed these unexpected results as lessons to learn, improve, and make it better next time.

It was good to learn that Darren thought the same I do as that you do not have to be 100% dedicated to permaculture, green living, and hug a tree daily as some who giver permaculture courses do. Or that you do not have to beat the drum to summon the mother earth wood spirit fairies to bless you before the class begins. Permaculture is about improving what you have, using what you have, and designing using science and logic. Teach others what you have learned through experience and trials.

We didn’t get to see the inside of the house but that was amazing that he and his wife built and are living in a straw bale house they built themselves, collect rainwater for the domestic use, and has a working example of reusing grey water. I was fascinated by the incorporation of class bottles into the structure. Hopefully this will be on the next trip down.

Darren was excited that we drove all the way from Indy to meet him and see his farm. It is a 2+ hr trip one way for me on the Southside of Indy. It was well worth it. Besides finding another like minded person, the education was worth it alone. Add to that a local nursery that sells permaculture plants at a reasonable rate. Darren charges the same for plants as some of the catalogs but he is local, and the plants have been adapted to the climate here in the Midwest. You are not getting them from Florida, Texas, North Carolina or other places. I like to see the plants I am buying vs. a catalog. They are picturesque of what the tree/plant WILL look like eventually. Darren has examples of mature plants and trees on his property. You see the live potted plants, trees and bushes before buying and hoping they live. The icing on the cake, COMFREY. He has comfrey everywhere! I have been searching for permaculture plants and to date only knew of a few places selling it, and there were all online and from faraway places. Darren has comfrey to spare, and good sized portions for the money.

Because of my rules, I was only allowed to buy a few items on this round. I picked up some comfrey (the main reason for my trip) but also elderberry, cold hardy fig, and a Goumi bush. There was so much more I wanted, but I needed to process it all. As an added bonus I got some corkscrew weeping willow. I have never come across this type of willow before and was fascinated. I have a few cutting rooting as we speak. I will be buying more when we go back for the group tour in a month or so.

Daren also sells 100% grass fed beef. I may have to place an order and pit it up as well for our next trip down.

            The farm has a farm incubator project, that if this interests you I would highly recommend. It could be a great opportunity for the right person or persons. I copied from their site, but you can contact them for more details. The site says deadline is Feb, but they are still looking for the right fit future farmer.

 

Farm Incubator Project

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Independent farming situation:  

We have about ¾ acre of garden space, 1 acre pasture, and housing available for a couple or individual to rent in exchange for 16 hours of labor/week (8 hr/each for a couple or 16 hrs for an individual).  Minimum stay is one year, with the possibility to extend up to three years.

The living situation is a mobile home that we originally brought onto the property to live in while building a house.  In the six years we lived in the trailer we spent some time making it more sustainable.   We landscaped with vines and edible perennials to help seasonally shade the home, and built a passive solar greenhouse onto the south side to heat the trailer and grow seedlings for our farm.  For water, we set up a rainwater harvesting system collecting off an adjacent workshop.  We started our market garden by building no-till mulch beds around the trailer.

We completed our house, a beautiful and functional straw bale home with attached greenhouse and earthen plasters, rainwater system, and young edible landscaping, in January 2010.  We have also evolved away from growing market produce and are focusing on a fruit/nut/berry nursery, grass-fed beef, handcrafted wooden utensils, and raising three delightful children.

Following the predicted permaculture pattern of use zones, we have not been able to upkeep our old garden beds, even though they are only 200′ away from the new house.  Living in your garden seems the best way to keep it tended and we found that we needed to abandon the old systems to focus on the new ones around our house.

In fall2011, we decided to open up the old home, its gardens and systems to ambitious people, eager to apply their experience from working on other farms but without financial resources to buy or lease land.  The agreement would be that you can use the garden space and house as you like, even re-doing the beds and pathways.  You would be responsible for the electric bill (our was usually around $40/mo) and procuring either propane or wood for winter supplemental heat (there is a woodstove–we used about 2 cords of wood a winter), but your rent would be in the form of work exchange (16 hours a week total) helping us with various projects, mostly farm or homestead related.  The rest of your time it is up to your own ambition to work the land and landscape around you to grow things.  We are happy to lend our experience and advice, but you will be doing your own work and finding your own markets.  This project has been a success so far, with the previous couple staying two full years and creating a solvent and growing produce operation, selling at a co-op and two farmers markets in Bloomington, IN.

Total garden bed space is around 3/4 acre. There is also a one acre pasture area with a 10 x 12 chicken coop which is pretty brushy and un-fenced, but has a number of half-grown fruit trees and good potential.

Brambleberry Farm is exactly one hour south of Bloomington IN and one hour northwest of Louisville KY, both with thriving local food movements and full of outlets for local food (Bloomington Farmers Market ,   Louisville Farmers Markets ). There is also a great farmer’s market 10 min north of us in Orleans,IN and a natural foods coop 5 min away in Paoli (LostRiverMarket & Deli ).

Sorry, but we can’t allow dogs.

Since you will be farming on your own, prior experience is highly recommended. Applicants must submit a resume (can be informal list of work experience), and3 references: 1 former employer, 1 living situation (i.e. roommate/housemate),and one personal reference (such as a mentor or friend).  Send application to mail@brambleberryfarm.org by February 28, 2014.   Applications may be accepted after this time, check brambleberryfarm.org for availability

I want to thank Darren his wife Espri for hosting us, and I want to especially than “V” for being such a great host and new friend to my 3 YO “P”

Suburban “farm” tour May 18th

Suburban “farm” tour. Come out and see what is possible on 0.2 acres of suburbia. We have ducks, chickens, 5000 gal outdoor aquaponics, 30 gallon indoor system, fruit trees, berry patches, edible landscaping, rabbits, grapes composting, vermicomposting, vertical gardening, rain harvesting, and medicinal herbs. The goats won’t be on property yet, but we will discuss different aspect of back yard goats as well.

In addition to covering all of the above and lessons learned through

We will cover how to use an A-Frame level for finding contours on your property as well as how to make an A-frame level.

Anti-chicken tractors

Where to find materials for cheap or free

We will talk and show different aspects of permaculture we are practicing.

Talk about the many ways to use a aquarium air pump to benefit your property.

Making and using compost tea

Possibly have a plant exchange as well (please if attending put what you will bring in the comments so others may benefit/trade)

Seem like a lot? We are only using about 40% of our 0.2 acres.

This is our home, and please respect we do not let the public in our home, so no public restrooms are available. You may also park in the drive as we will have moved our vehicles to accommodate you.

We can/do accept PayPal/credit debit cards. However cannot do both cash and electronic payments on the Meet-up space. Our PayPal ID is wolfbeachfarms@gmail.com and we use both Square and Paypal Credit/debit payments. Space is limited.

Start time is 1pm. If you need to make payments or otherwise, please show up a few minutes early. Estimated end time is 4pm

RSVP required. Please use this site.