Category Archives: Permaculture

Interns and shared learning

When I attended the Indiana Horticulture Congress recently a conversation and discussion came up that wasn’t on the intended schedule but it should have been. Internship, interns and the ups and downs of them.

This topic came up while discussing organic pest management and the study with biochar. The biochar discussion quickly turned over to interns and the benefits. This carried over into the organic pest management and came back up in a later discussion. The majority of small farms speaking indicated that they had previously steered clear of interns and internship believing that they would spend more time having to “babysit” the interns and their involvement with the school would micromanage their normal operations and be more geared to academic study vs growing. This perception was smashed when all the farms involved in the study met monthly and discussed lessons learned, tools, and how to optimize resources. All the farms stated that interns were a valuable asset to their operations. Surveys of both farmers and interns showed for the most part a positive perception change and positive educational experience on both parts as a result of the interns working with the farmers. Some interns have never been on a farm and didn’t know how their food got to the plate. The internships get more people excited and hands on into farming. It also give the farmers a way to pass on their knowledge, and assistance for regular farm chores or the extra set of hands to complete projects that otherwise have been put off for lack of time or manpower.

While we have not looked into the option of an intern we are not at a  production level that we could support that type of involvement. This is why we do have tours. It exposes people to some of the farm operation without a huge time commitment.

Speaking from experience, I somewhat interned at a friends farm who needed some extra help, and in turn I got an education. Interns typically are paid but not always. Sometimes it is a share of crops/products, sometimes it is a wage but lower than a farm had as the education is part of the payment. I personally had never been around a animal based farm production model. I spent about 3 years helping and sometimes working while the owners were otherwise engaged at Simpson Family Farm in Martinsville, IN run by Darby Simpson, and his Family. This experience was extremely valuable in the little things that were learned. What works, what doesn’t, little tricks that aren’t taught in school, but farmers take for granted. I asked a bunch of “dumb” questions that Darby took as just farm life and the way things are done. There isn’t a one size fits all model of what to duplicate. Each situation, each farm, each individual is different and systems that work on one farm for one reason or another may not work on your farm. The key is to learn, and experience what other people are doing and adapt it for your own situation. As an example, Darby is a full time farmer, and income is based on production, so many things going on at once, and volume. 500 meat birds in each cycle, and five cycles is a lot of birds. That is a lot of feed, lot of chicken tractors, having to have a processor lined up, way to transport birds to processing, being able to store the birds after processing, timing of when to get chicks, when to start the next batch. It has taken him years to get a system that works for him. Would this system work for the newbie? Maybe, but his land has been developed over years, his land can support that number of chickens, he has the bugs in the pasture, he has the forage growing.  He has a large flat level area of pasture and cows rotated with the birds, water is already set up, tractors are already build, tractor designs have gone through several rounds. LOTS of stuff I learned by working beside him. Darby, also has a consulting site where if you feel you are ready to go the commercial route he can help advise at DarbySimpson.com. Spending time with him made me realize we needed to work our land for three to five years before we were even to start looking at commercial meat production as an option. I learned a lot from Darby, some things I really liked, some things I liked but modify for our own situation, some things I would stay away from as they were just not right for our operation. The things that we determined were not right, we would have tried on our own farm if we had not experienced them first on theirs. Not that they were bad, but just didn’t fit into our operations. An example would be all his farm operations are geared around single adult operator, say moving chicken tractors. While Brandie can and did move them successfully, Wee One could not, but his system wasn’t designed to have a 5 year old move them nor perform the operations, it was designed with an average adult with enough strength to do the jobs at hand (lifting 5 gallon buckets of grain and water). This is also where I learned a HUGE and valuable lesson, scaling up is NOT just adding more of X, being animals or plants. There usually is a tipping point where the current size system will no longer support more X. You have to have a new system to get bigger. And the same goes true for scaling down, what works on his level of operation, may NOT work for a homesteading model.

Brambleberry Farm down in Paoli had an opportunity for interns and their situation was 16 hrs/week work in exchange for free housing, and access to sections of land to do with as you wanted. Read all about it at the link. It was a separate living space, and the land use had to be approved with their overall farm policy. In past years the interns grew market vegetables and sold at the farm stand and farmers market booth, some grew their own food and had an outside job for income. I have toured Brambleberry several times and incorporated portions of things I learned there into our own operations. It was a tremendous learning experience. Completely different from my experience with Darby who is a meat based operation, Brambleberry was more a plant based operation with animals adding inputs to the farm. Animals were there as meat/protein but not the focus. A more let the land show you what to farm/grow vs change the land to what you are growing. Changing the land isn’t necessarily a bad operation, as an example Darby took a historically GMO traditional crop field and turned it into a lush organic pasture feeding cows, ducks, chickens and turkeys. It’s working with nature, BUT needed man to change it in the right direction for the intended purpose.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms one of my mentors and a farming icon has a completely different model of “Fiefdoms” on his farms. He also has internships and apprenticeships, as well as books, tours, videos, documentaries, presentations, speeches, and interviews While not directly intern related, it does allow someone with a specialized knowledge get further into farming without some of the issues on starting from scratch. And I am not even going to summarize, but you can watch a presentation he gave about it.

 

From speaking with other farmers I have heard positive and negative on both sides of internships. There are bad farm managers who don’t know how to manage interns appropriately, and interns who don’t want to work or won’t follow directions and are disastrous for the farmer. My best advise whichever side of the equation you are on is to talk with people who have had real experience with interning, and if possible people who have directly interned in the situation you are looking to get into. If you are a farm, go to markets and talk to other farmers who have had interns before. Go to conferences where other farmers can share their experiences. Learn how to weed out bad interns. One lesson I heard about at the Horticulture Congress, was application, letter about why farming important to them, references, and a 1 day trial period before committing by either side. A try before you buy. Could they do one day labor, could they follow direction, could they put their phones down long enough to work, are you ready to manage an intern, how bad does it mess with daily operations.  Same holds true for interning on a farm. I know of a intern program where the interns have to pay for their internship, and are encouraged to “beg” from friends and family, even GoFundMe pages to get more money pumped into the educational opportunity. They are worked hard for having to pay for education. Just not something I can support. I know of another “internship” where interns are treated like slave labor because they are required a set number of credit hours of working to offset  a regular school education.  Hours are stretched and approval signature is dangled like a carrot. No signature and either tuition is due or kicked out of program.  How do you find interns and intern opportunities. There are programs like Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, USA (WWOOF-USA) and Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. I do not have any experience with either one so cannot speak to them. I think we need a better local database/website of connecting local farms, interns, and opportunities. Purdue said they were working on something. But, best way to find opportunities is get out there and start talking to people, farmers, and get connected into your local farming communities.

I highly encourage you to tour as many farms as you can. Do not try to duplicate 100% of what you see and expect identical results Sometimes variables (soil, light, temperature, wind, lifestyle etc.) are not the same on your farm and you may not get the same result. But do experiment, and never stop experimenting, even after you are successful. Do not risk your whole operation on an experiment, but the only way to improve is to continue to evolve. If you are running 200 meat birds at a time, and want to try a 100% pasture/forage type bird try 20 or 40 alongside your regular 200. If it doesn’t work, try to figure out why, and improve. Rather than risk your whole operation failing, you learn one way that did’t exactly work for your operation.

Tours on our farm should begin this spring. If you want an individual/family tour please use the Contact Us page and we will try and work something out.

Back after a break!

Well, hello all, we are back after a break. LOTS of new updates and info to share.

1st we recently purchased a 32 acre farm in Greencastle, IN and have been working on it EVERY day since December. Very busy. Between the two properties it has been very time consuming. We also moved during this time.

The Greencastle property will be our main farm and we remodeled almost every room before moving in. Additionally we have been working on farm infrastructure, some things were here already, some needed improvement, some we needed to build.

We will have a tour in April/May sometime. We would like to get additional structures built and in place. We will also be having more workshops here. There will be hands on activities as well.

Our Wingate property will be our example of suburban/urban farming and Tiny house living. It is a 2 bd, 1 ba in 550 sq ft.  Once we finish the inside we will have house tours and tours and talks about how to maximize small space living. We will have no animal onsite due to issues with the previous Town Council and not being onsite to manage them. We will talk on how to incorporate and are leaving much of the infrastructure to show how to set it up. It may be available for rent on short term basis (2 week or less) to evaluate Tiny House living.

We went from 15 chickens and 3 ducks to now 32 chickens, and 15 ducks (more to come). This is our layers. We will also be raising meat chickens (50-200) and turkeys this year and will be selling them. They will be fed NON-GMO grains and on pasture.

We added two lambs currently, and plan to add 10-20 more before June. Lambs will be available in late fall/winter and will be sold live, and can be transported for butcher to your specification. We will also have wool available for sale/trade. All grass fed. No hormones or antibiotics unless life threatening. We are attempting to keep parasites managed as natural as possible (herbs/oils).

2 goats have been added, and 10-15 more planned. These are mowers for pasture maintenance. We MAY (I was TOLD I would be milking) have milk, and fiber from them as well. LEGAL DISCLAIMER Milk will be sold for crafts (soaps/lotions etc.), bottle feeding animals, pet milk. What you actually do with the milk is your business, not ours.

Pigs may be making an appearance this year, or next. Pigs will be available for sale whole or 1/2 sold live and taken to butcher for your custom processing. Non-GMO fed, and pasture raised. Same as other animals no hormones or antibiotics unless life threatening and we would always tell you that before purchasing.

Beef will make an appearance, but we are not sure when at this point. The pastures need some work and fencing added. Same as above, no hormones, antibiotics unless life threatening, and transparency.  Sold in 1/4. 1/2 and whole cow. We take to butcher, and you pay them for how you want processed.

We have increased our rabbit operation from 4 to 14 and will be offering rabbit as well. We will process for you or you can do it yourself.

Geese will also be here, but we are specific to the breed we want and they will be available too for sale.

We have begun tapping trees this year, and will be offering a variety of syrups next year. Maple, Black Walnut, Sassafras, and maybe more.

We have almost 500 fruit, nut, and other beneficial trees coming in April, so massive planting underway.

Our herbs and herb gardens will also increase this year. Other than comfrey no herbs are available currently since we are splitting and growing our gardens.

We will have almost an acre of vegetable production and will be selling the overage.  More information once we begin to harvest.

We may be offering a you pick blackberry option this year, we would like to see how the berries turn out first. These are all wild berries, but almost 6 acres of bushes.  It will be picked and eaten or turned into wine.

We have also begun making a variety of fruit and herb wines, experimenting with recipes and different blends. Currently not for sale, but is something that is on the horizon to look forward to. While we cannot sell we can speak to making your own, or how to get started.

The farm is an open operation and people can see how we raise our animals through tours or by stopping by (by appointment or tour only). Not that we have to hide anything, but we have schedules, and projects as well, so to drop everythign each time someone comes by, we would get nothing done.

We look forward to our new adventure, and much more to offer in the future. I am still available for permaculture consulting, training, and speaking. with all the new additions we have much more to speak about. We (I) will try and be more diligent about posting information.

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New Lambs
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
feeding the lambs (these are pets)
feeding the lambs (these are pets)
1st members of our mowing crew (John Deere, and Blue Holland aka Bluebell).
1st members of our mowing crew (John Deere, and Blue Holland aka Bluebell).

General meet and greet for permaculture and the like 12-12-15

There will be a meet and greet this Saturday Dec 12th at the Downtown Indy winter farmers market 10am. General meet and greet for permeculture and regenerative agriculture type people. Don’t know what it is? Come on out and find out, make connections, meet new people, learn new skills. Rumors of a seed exchange, and cover crop seeds available. Big thanks to Torrie for putting this together. Torrie joins the Midwest from the Southwest and looking to make more permaculture and local connections. Don’t worry about exact time, and kid friendly. We will be meeting on the 2nd level in the open area. I will try and have some signs.

Meet-up listing

Facebook listing 

Permaculture – the multiple discipline education

Many people are just starting to learn about permaculture. While some say it isn’t rocket science, it is a combination of many traditional disciplines from school. I spent years in school for Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Business in addition to years in the working world of Pharmaceuticals, Engineering, Electronics and never found a discipline that put so many pieces together as I did with permaculture. I received an e-mail one day about a job that is opening up, Urban Agriculture Extension Specialist. I thought wow; this may be just up my alley. I just completed my permaculture certificate and I wanted to specialize in suburban and urban settings. No luck, they wanted a Masters degree and several semesters of agriculture classes, but why? Permaculture is so much more. In my opinion, it is way beyond anything I learned in school. Here are some examples of how the sciences are blended, and some common terms that are thrown around in permaculture circles and my own interpretation of what they mean.

Agronomy – science of soil management and crop production. This is one of the fundamentals of permaculture. Without rich soil it is hard to grow anything.

Anatomy – The study of organisms and their parts. To fully understand the relationships of plants, organisms, animals you have to understand how they work, and then how they work together.

Anthropology – The study of the origin, behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans. While it is not in much detail, learning about how previous civilizations and cultures worked the land, gives insight and we are now often repeating some of their practices.

Bacteriology – The study of bacteria, especially in relation to medicine and agriculture. Definitely here used in permaculture. Bacteria are in the soil, in aquaponics, in circles of organisms used in permaculture designs.

Biochemistry – The study of the chemical substances and processes in living organisms. How to the plants and animals interact, nitrogen fixing, and bioaccumulation.

Biology – The science of life and living organisms. Basically all of permaculture relates to biology in some way.

Botany – The study of plants. You will get to know plants on a whole new level, how they act, who they work well with, who are their enemies.

Business – While many wouldn’t associate business with permaculture, at one of its cores is minimal inputs for maximum outputs. This is a fundamental for how businesses work. But rather than money you use energy and resources. Not only energy in the form of electrical or gas, but people energy, work and labor. Resources can be from things you buy, to seeds, to materials.

Cartography – The art or technique of making maps or charts. Designing maps, layouts for properties, how to read various types of maps and layouts. Designing your own maps and layouts is a key aspect in permaculture design.

Chemistry – The science of the composition, structure, properties, and reactions of matter, especially of atomic and molecular systems. From chemistry of the soil, to chemistry of plants, chemistry of nutrients in feed, to aquaponics. Chemistry is all over.

Ecology – The study of organisms and their environment. This again is basic permaculture. Before I heard about the term permaculture, I had considered going back to school for ecology. Glad I didn’t. It is just a small portion of what I have learned.

Engineering – The application of scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge in order to design, build, and maintain structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes. From building, dams, waterways, bridges, houses, water catchment. There are all sorts of engineering concepts at work.

Entomology – The scientific study of insects, both beneficial and harmful insects. What bugs like to eat your plants, and what bugs like to eat the bugs eating your plants? Who is a good pollinator, and who will make you cry when it is harvest time.

Forestry – The science and art of cultivating, maintaining, and developing forests. From edible food forests, to orchards, to harvesting trees for fuel or other properties, trees are a big part of permaculture.

Genetics – The study of heredity and inherited traits. Breeding your own plants, what plants will cross pollinate. How to get a species to grow in your area with your soil makeup, your temperature, be disease and drought resistant, and produce a good edible product?

Geography – The study of the earth and its features. Using the features of the land to work with your design, rather than making the land features what you want. Learning about terrain, and natural makings of the earth’s features are a key component in permaculture.

Herbology – The study and use of medicinal properties of plants. The vast majority of today’s pharmaceuticals aka drugs came from plants. There are some many beneficial medicinal plants out there, you will learn quite a bit.

Horticulture – The science, technology, and business involved in intensive plant cultivation for human use. While this is permaculture the big schools have made this into monocroping and how to grow corn, soy, and wheat and not much else, and adding lots of chemicals in the process. At its base, horticulture is permaculture.

Hydrology The study of the properties and effects of water on earth. Here again, a base fundamental of permaculture. Hydrating the soil and making the most of the water.

Ichthyology The study of fish. In ponds, streams, and aquaponics, knowing what the appropriate fish for your application are, and what ones to avoid are important.

Medicine The science of diagnosing and treating disease and damage to the body. Similar to herboilogy we can grow so much of our own medicines; we could potentially put the pharmaceutical companies out of business.

Meteorology The study of weather and atmospheric conditions. Studying the weather patterns, winter sun, summer sun, and rainy seasons, are an iatrical part of permaculture.

Microbiology The study of microorganisms and their effects on other living organisms. From under the soil, to in the compost bin the various microbes in the soil are an important part of permaculture.

Mineralogy The study of minerals, including their distribution, identification, and properties. Knowing what minerals are in your soil is important, but what is also important is how to obtain lacking minerals, where are those minerals found, what plants can harvest certain minerals, and how to use them.

Mycology The branch of botany that deals with fungi. From breaking down toxins, to making new soil fungus is among us in permaculture.

Nutrition The study of food and nourishment. What plants produce what nutrition? What does your body need, what plants and nutrients to the animals need? What nutrients do the plants need? It is all related.

Thermodynamics The study of relationships and conversions between heat and other forms of energy. From making greenhouse, to heat sinks out of rocks, to how to design you house or structure so that you are using less energy to heat or cool. Understanding thermodynamics and how it works is important.

Toxicology The study of poisons and the treatment of poisoning. Some plants are toxic, some are beneficial in small amounts but overdue it and it is death. Some species thrive in toxic environments. But like herbology, understanding how much of a good thing to use before it becomes something bad.

Zoology The study of the structure, physiology, development, and classification of animals. Lifecycles of plants, animals and insects, or when to introduce chickens into an area to break the invasive insect species life cycle is part of permaculture.

These are but a few examples. There is so much more to permaculture. Once you get hooked, it is a paradigm shift for many. You look at every problem through permaculture principals, not just a landscape.

If you are just getting into permaculture there are some terms you may hear that sound odd, but are simple to explain.

“Chop and Drop” – Chop and drop is a means to get green compost. It simply means to cut living plans and drop whey they lay or apply to another area. The plants break down, and give back their nutrients to the soil. They also hold moisture in by covering bare ground.

“Contour” – The parts of the property all at the same elevation. Think of a hill. If you were to take a giant samurai sword and cut through the entire hill all at exactly a level horizontal line, that would be a contour line. Now, keep slicing up and down every few feet. You would get a topographical map. The lines on a topographical map are all on the same elevation.

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“Food forest” – This is an intentional planting of trees, bushes, plants so that once established will need very little maintenance and will continually produce food for people and animals.

“Middle story” – The middle layer of tree or shrub growth part of the forest.

“Monocrop” – Growing only one species of crops in an area. What you see conventional farming. This required large amounts of chemicals to be sustainable, which it is not, and is killing the soil.

“Nitrogen Fixer” – a plant that absorbs nitrogen from the air and through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria deposit the nitrogen into the soil at the roots.

“Over Story” – The upper part of the canopy or forest.

“Swales” – Ditch with a hill on the down side of a slope. A swale can be any number of sizes it all depends on where it will be used. From a few inches across and deep to large enough to drive a large tractor in. It is a ditch, with the dirt piled on the downhill side of the ditch. The goal is to trap water, allow it to seep into the ground as opposed to running off the property. Trees are typically planted in the piled up earth.

“Understory” – The lower part of the food forest. Ground level.

“Water flows at 90 degrees to contour” – What this basically means is water will run downhill. If you were on a contour line, and emptied a pail of water it would run 90 degrees to the line. Or another way of saying it, it would try to dun downhill. But when you are trying to map out a property, and keep the water on the property as long as you can, it is important to know which direction the water will go wherever you are standing. A common way to say this is it will run 90 degrees to the current contour line you are examining.

“Water Harvesting” – This cam mean several things. But basically you want to collect all the water you can. From rain water, to runoff, to creeks, etc. water is the backbone of your permaculture project. You must have water to feed the microbes, which feed the soil, which in turn feeds the plants. Harvesting can be in the form of rain barrels, swales, or dams and ponds.

DIY Rabbit tracor

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.

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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.

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The hole in the bottom is connected to rabbit nipples (tubing, connectors, and nipples available though Amazon)

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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.

 

Home remedies

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.

Ingredients

Petroleum jelly

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.

Migraines

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.

Clover as living mulch, rabbit poop, and some lessons learned

Just a couple of topics covered today; Using clover as a living mulch, rabbit poop collection system, automatic watering system, massive rainfall in the Midwest, and some related news.

We have been busy with another site www.townofwingate.org as it is related to our activities we do on our little homestead. Upon moving to this small little rural town of 267 we thought all our practices and livestock would be just fine. After all, our neighbors had chickens, we are miles and miles from urban areas, it is a farming community, there are horses in town, we thought sheep were in town as well. Low and behold the town has an ordinance prohibiting chickens. After offering to help the town write a more updated ordinance, more inclusive (it was written at least 30 years ago), even offering to put together a website, our offers were ignored and the town council seemed to make us public enemy number one. We made it our mission to educate the town’s people who seemed to live in constant fear, who were kept in the dark about ordinances, laws, what was going on in the town, and even what their rights were. We are now publishing town council meetings online, put the ordinances online, put relative information online and made it FREE to the people. Since that wasn’t good enough, we are now also running for town council seats so that the HOA style mentality can be replaced with a more libertarian stance. Not really an excuse for lack of publication here, but does tell you what we have been up to. Try to change the things you can, and if that doesn’t work, be the change you want to happen. We needed to stop complaining and take action. Knowledge is power.

On a more farm note, this year we had some experimental garden beds where we used clover as a cover crop, and living mulch. We used dutch white clover. So far the results have been very positive and I think we are going to expand into larger areas. The clover only grows about 4 inches high, so any plants taller than that have done very well. They are bringing much needed nitrogen into the soil. It appears that the clover has also choked out many of the seeds as it is a thick blanket across the soil. We did till this particular bed as noting had ever been planted in the area and we wanted to break thinks up. This also has been an unusually wet season and normally I would think the think clover would have kept moisture in the soil. I really cannot make that claim as everything has had rain, and cannot really tell a different in the clover bed vs. non clover.

In our current animal enclose we are housing chickens, ducks, and rabbits. The guardian goose seems to think it is a dog or human and refuses to interact with the other birds. She lives inside for the moment. In our rabbit area, our breeders are in cages and are suspended about eye level and are in a U shape. Each rabbit has their own cage, roughly 2 ½’ x 3’. There is 4 foot space between the rabbits and the ground. We have been using deep litter (straw) in their area as well as the duck/chicken area. We are needing grow out pens for a future meat rabbits. The initial idea was to put them under the breeders, but then how to keep the waste off the meat rabbits? I had some old EDPM liner from a pond laying around and fashioned a trough/roof for the meat rabbits. In theory it should have allowed the pellets (poop) to roll off to the back, and same with urine. It didn’t work. Because of the weigh, and I didn’t secure it well enough the poop, urine, un eaten pellets, greens, and hay all dropped into the “diverter” and collected in one pool. That was a stinky nasty mess. Lesson learned, make sure the liner is taught. Once we install the meat rabbit gage, and clean it up a bit I will post a video of how we set everything up.

While still on rabbits, I have a 275 gal auto watering system. It means I do not have to fill bottles every day, they always have a water supply, and I do not have frozen waterers in winter. So I thought. Usually when I go and feed the rabbits I also make sure the water is still flowing by a quick push on one of the rabbit nipples. It has been hot, they have not been eating as much, and my wife fed them for a few days. I never told her about checking the nipples to see if water is still flowing. One day we bring our doe into breed with the buck, and he is just not doing his job. While waiting, and waiting, and waiting I check the nipples, no water! Went to check things out, and started trouble shooting. After about 10 minutes, we figured out the pump that recirculates the water had pulled something into the line and it had become clogged about half way through the 100 ft of tubing. Using the hose we were able to backflow and flush the clog out. Lesson learned, while it may seem intuitive, and repetitive task, always have someone follow you though farm chores. What you say and what you do may be two different things. This lesson was repeated when helping on a friend’s farm. He knows the electric fence is ALWAYS on and well, assumed I did too. NOT the case! Lesson learned there, assume all fences are electrified unless told or tested otherwise.

Animal care-husbandry & Permaculture

Recently it came to my attention that some people believe our animal care and farm practices are dirty and unkept. 1st before making assumptions you might want to get facts straight, learn what you are talking about before opening your mouth, and lastly ask us, we would be glad to tell you all about it.

We will educate the uneducated and ignorant. Grass should not be cut 1/4 inch above the dirt. It is very unhealthy, longer grass survives drought better, and longer grass will hold more water in both roots and green tissue. The ability to hold water has been important lately.

What one person views as weeds is actually medicinal plants we grow for FREE , do not require a prescription, doesn’t have nasty side effects. It is also food for our animals. This is why we do not spray any chemicals on our property.

We let grasses grow longer because it has more nutrients for animals, reducing our dependence on buying processed feed. Ask any rancher using grass fed techniques.

We clean our combined rabbitry and coop every 3 months. We use deep litter bedding inside to absorb and hold wastes. After 3 months it moves out to the compost pile where it is turned into soil for future gardens. Properly managed neither have an odor. I have the training and experience on both. Due to the excess rain and poor stormwater drainage in our area, some of this bedding became wet. we immediately changed and dried it out once we were able.

We house our rabbits and poultry together to harness heat in the winter, and the chickens reduce any worms or parasites, as well as till the litter naturally and help it all break down faster.

We even installed fans this summer to keep both rabbits and poultry cool, and help keep air moving in the coop.

All of our animals have names. When the chicken went past their prime for laying, they remained and are still productive, just not as many eggs a week. We did not butcher them. They still eat bugs, they still turn the compost, they still have a name, and they still process food waste from our kitchen. When old age finally takes them, we will look at replacing them.

For more on chickens read my post on In defense of the back yard flock

We used to give tours, and will do it again soon. We are still working on many things, since moving in March, and because of Avian flu we do not want additional traffic if we can help it. We had to start a great many plants and systems all over, so we would like to showcase more than just concepts, but actual practice.

To make sure our rabbits had access to water all winter long we made a rabbit watering system that does not freeze. Our rabbits (4) have  access to 275 gallons of water 24/7. This is our system from Indy but we rebuilt here in Wingate

We have had Animal control on our property (for a neighbors issue, not ours) and were commended on how well we took care of our animals. We have had a vegans, and staff of animal control and also tell us how well we take care of our animals.

What one person sees as “unsightly” another sees it as a 40% reduction in a grocery bill of all natural all organic food. Some people see it as beautiful and natural. Being ignorant and failing to educate yourself is ignorant in itself. Singling one person or a group of people out because you dislike something is called discrimination. Using position of power to go after that group is called harassment. Both of which can land someone in court. Since some people are ignorant of what I mentioned above I just thought they may also need some education on the latter as well.

Aquatic Design Open House

Here is a great chance to meet new like minded people, ask questions, get some deals, get great ideas, and generally have a fun time. I will be presenting a class, have Q&A, so ask about aquaponics, ask about permaculture. ask just about anything. it is FREE

Aquatic Design and Supply

August 8th 10:30 AM -7PM

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