Category Archives: Permaculture

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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Presenting at the Harrison Center Food Con

We will be presenting at the Harrison Center Food Con on Friday July the 3rd in Indianapolis. We will have a table and be talking about Permaculture aka Sustainable Agriculture aka Food Forests.

Have Permaculture questions, want to lean more, stop on by, it is free to the public.

Food Con

Free Q&A

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…

Check out this Meetup →

New project/Opportunity available

Southside Project (NEW)

I have a client who is looking for assistance with physical build of raised bed boxes. Approximately 10, and all materials already onsite. There is also additional projects for large in ground aquaponics, removing trees for in ground vegetable garden, and removal of chain link fence. Property is on the Southside of Indy around the Stop 11 and Bluff Road area. Work to be started ASAP. Property owners on site to help, just lack of time preventing project completion. This is a multi phase project and the raised beds will be 1st, and later projects developed and may need further assistance

For a list of other projects see the Projects Page.

If any projects interest you use the Contact Us Page.

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

Projects and Opportunities

Throughout my travels and networking I learn of opportunities and various projects that some may find interesting or a right fit for their skills or situation. This will be an ever-changing page as new opportunities are found and existing ones are filled.

The page is here that list current and future opportunities

If you are interested use the Contact Us page.

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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New ordinances for Marion Co

So today I wanted to take some time and talk about the Indy Rezone ordinances that are coming down the line. If you haven’t read them yet the link is below. It is 600+ pages and not the easiest read. You need to also know what your property is zoned as when reading.

 http://www.indyrezone.org/

So my main issue with the new ordinances is restrictions on livestock and gardening in residential areas.

The proposed limit is 10 chickens in a 1/3 acre or less. It does not take into account how the chickens are cared for the size of their enclosure. It is only based on property size. So in theory 10 chickens could be crammed into CAFO style operation as long as under 1/3 acre. I have 0.2 acres and 20 birds. They are allows to run 90% or the property free range. They are happy, well taken care of, and have no issues with smell, disease, etc. They are behind a privacy fence, and are more pets that produce eggs. To arbitrarily say I cannot have more than 10 I feel is a strike against my rights to raise my own food. We are a family of 6 and we do not cull our chickens when they stop laying. They “retire” and live out their lives with the other ladies. We treat them no different than when they were laying. They are still productive in insect control, turning compost, eating our food waste that would go to the landfill, and making rich fertilizer. So as the older birds stop laying and finally pass on we add new birds. But under the current ordinances I have to kill or somehow dispose of my older birds or stop getting eggs because I have hit my max of 10. So why is the number 10 without mention of care, feed, water, actual space to roam etc.  Another issue is the requirement to live on the space where the animals are living. This puts up issues for community gardens, schools that have chickens, some retirement centers etc. You also cannot have your chickens in your front yard. Well some corner lots or properties have no back yard and all the space is in the front. Why such a restriction? Is it because people don’t want to see them? I don’t want to watch my 70 year old neighbor mow in her bikini top or her husband mow without a shirt. But that is their prerogative and if they want to let them. It is their life, and their property.

Rabbits no more than 12 on any size lots. Rabbits take up less room than chickens. 2 foot by 3 foot is average pen size for rabbits. They do not need more space than that. They don’t have to forage (although we harvest weeds and grass to feed them fresh greens). If like us you are breeding them for a food source you need 1 buck and 1-2 doe’s. We happen to have 3 because we wanted to be able to have one with kits all the time and give our does a break between. There is 4. Each rabbit can have up to 12 kits. Boom, you are out of compliance. Now you have 10 weeks for the kits to grow out. In that time another doe will drop a litter and maybe the 3rd.  But this is all in the space of 12 feet by 6 feet. So tell me how is this impacting my property? They eat the weeds most of my other neighbors spray with toxic chemicals for people, pets, and the environment not to mention the well fields and the runoff. I get great fertilizer for my garden and a food source for my family. Again an arbitrary number.

Goats is another arbitrary number. Maximum of 2 for 1 acre or more. Again arbitrary number. Well if you are having 2 dairy goats for your family, they need to be pregnant in order to give milk. Well if you have 2 does because they do not like to be alone, and she drops 2-4 kids, BOOM, out of compliance.  Just because you have 1 acre does not mean that the goats will be able to use 1 acre. I have seen MANY goat operations that use a pen system and are in no way covering 1 acre for as many as 12-20 goats. They goats are pets, are milked, and are considered family. In no way are the goats mismanaged or mistreated. So where does 2 goats per 1 acre come from?  I could have six 200+ lb dogs in 0.2 acres and I am in compliance. Is that best for the dogs? Maybe not, but it is within compliance with the ordinances.

Pigs have not been allowed in Marion Co. I can understand for CAFO operations, but a teacup big, that is potty trained as a pet? What is the harm. I believe they should lift the ban on pigs as pets, or for family food. If it is commercial operation, I would stand with the ban. 2-4 pigs rotated on 1 acre have little to no smell, and take care of additional wastes that would otherwise go to the landfill.

Lastly a garden can only occupy 75% of your property. Well I practice edible landscaping, and have no use for lawn. Why should I be forced to have a lawn if it does nothing for me or my family?

So that those are my main issues. I have others, but that is the biggest at the moment. I have voiced my concerns and to their benefit, as much as I can tell, they are listening to what people have to say. They are soliciting comments. These are not effective yet, and you can help shape how they are written. I do applaud the bio-swales for rainwater runoff and other positive changes. I just had issues when they impact my lifestyle and that of my family. Maybe a tour of areas and show the committee what a successful system looks like. I do also have to applaud the marketing team for Rezone. I have heard the ads on the radio and it sounds like everyone is super excited because change is good, and great, and wonderful. That is until the enforcement of the new ordinances rain on your parade. If you haven’t read them, or checked out the site, I would suggest you do so and get your own opinion, and get informed.

July 26th General “Farm” tour

People have asked to have another general farm tour. We are having another on July 26th 9am. It will again be $20/person.

If weekend tours do not work for you schedule, please contact us and we can try to arrange one that better fits into your schedule.

Signup and register here.

Come out see, ask questions, see what is going on. It is estimated 3 hrs but I like to talk, and if there are more questions we are not on a time constraint. Some areas may have more questions or information if people are interested.

Suburban “farm” tour. Come out and see what is possible on 0.2 acres of suburbia. We have ducks, chickens, 5000 gal outdoor aquaponics, 4000 gal frog pond, a new 50 gallon indoor aquaponic system, fruit trees, berry patches, edible landscaping, rabbits, grapes composting, vermicomposting, vertical gardening, rain harvesting, and medicinal herbs. The goats may be on property, if not we will discuss different aspect of back yard goats as well.

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

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 9am. If you need to make payments or otherwise, please show up a few minutes early.