Tag Archives: 2 midwest guys

Money saving tips podcast

We recently put out a podcast over at 2 Midwest Guys of ways Dustin and I are able to save a few bucks here and there with our families. When I say a few I am talking thousands if you implement correctly. There isn’t some $29.99 secret to it all. It is 100% free. From groceries, to entertainment, to home decorating there is a little for anyone. Take a listen.

 

011 Money saving tips

What’s new this year update with pictures

2014 has proven to be our biggest push into self-sufficiency and experimentation yet. I believe with all the prior years combined, this year still has us doing more new experiments and new additions. This is just a portion of what we have going on. This doesn’t include urban food plot project, building a “tiny” house and furnishings, recycled pallet projects, normal vegetable gardening, classes, medicinal herbs, food storage, podcasts etc.  Want to learn more on the podcast…check out 2 Midwest Guys.

Rabbits

This year we started breeding meat rabbits to supplement our meat and protein supply. Two does have had kits and out of 15 rabbits 6 have survived. We are giving the does one more chance before culling them.  We are hoping for 6+ kits per litter,  ideally 9+ kits per litter with little to no losses. We are waiting on our 3rd doe to kit. We have been supplementing the pellets with yard waste mainly in the form of weeds and grass clippings from when we do mow. 2 years ago we seeded our lawn with alfalfa and clover and now are able to benefit from that. By supplementing with yard “wastes” we have greatly reduced our dependency on pellets.  The rabbits seem to prefer the fresh greens over pellets, and we feed less, and the pellets are more of a back up to feeding them.

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Ducks

Ducks were another new addition this year, and so far have been somewhat a love hate relationship. They refuse to eat duck food, and instead prefer fish food. Looking at the protein content of the chick starter/grower it is 18% protein, and the fish food was 38% protein. This fact, is probably why they are almost full grown in 3 months time. They have eaten all of my water plants, my lilies, my cat tails, my reeds, my duckweed, my Azolla. They have eaten everything, which resulted in an algae bloom, and we now have green water. We added snails to the system to help clean the waste and water. They ate those too. They ate all the leaves and bark off my willow trees I was hoping to help clean the water. They ate ½ of the goldfish in the pond. So far no duck eggs, if they keep this up, we will be eating them and marking it up as a lesson learned. On a positive note, in the last two weeks they have moved into the vegetable garden away from my pond (it could use a break). They have eaten and trampled the majority of the weeds and seem to have left my vegetables alone. If they keep this up, there may be hope for them. If not, Duck, it’s what’s for dinner.

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New aquaponics design

The new design took the 400 gal in ground pond, and added a 35 foot creek, a radial filter, and 8 grow beds bringing the system to roughly 5000 gallons. The new design has had some setbacks, mainly the ducks and my own issue of adjusting the pH. We are working through some of the issues, and hopefully it will start to recover. I have some ultra concentrated bacteria on its way and we will see how that works. The frog pond and plant nursery is doing much better. The frog pond, which was once my main aquaponics, is doing well with more frogs showing up, and I am now using it as a trellis, and plant nursery. The benefit, no ducks. I finally caught “Gigantor” and now have a new nemesis now that the Gigantor challenge has been met. Chipmunks.

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Sun chokes aka Jerusalem Artichokes

Sun chokes are a new addition for us this year. They have tubers similar to potatoes, and a sunflower like top. The tops can be fed to livestock, and the tubers can be cooked and eaten. The preferred method seems to be fried like fried potatoes. The sun chokes seem to be doing well. We won’t know how well until harvest later this fall. We plan on harvesting ½ and leaving ½ for next year.  On our tour to Brambleberry Farm we are planning on getting a different variety, Purple chokes.

Figs

Fig is a new fruit for us this year. After our purple peach didn’t make it over the winter (we did get a bunch of seedlings started), we wanted another tree in the area. The fig we got from Brambleberry Farm is doing very well. Once the tree is more established we plan on taking cuttings and propagating more trees from the mother plant. I remember having a fig tree as a child in Louisiana.

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Ground Nuts

Ground nuts are something we got on a whim, and another new addition this year. At first we didn’t think they would grow but after a few weeks we have now begun seeing vines growing and climbing. No progress as to what is going on under the ground. Once they are ready to harvest it supposedly is another protein source. We may hold a few back to propagate next year if they do well.

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Tilapia

Tilapia were a new addition to the aquaponics portion of our operation. We have had goldfish, catfish, bluegill, redear, tadpoles, and crawfish. We got ours locally as 40 fingerlings from Blue Note Hatchery. All 40 survived, however, 2 met tragic ends on my part while moving a pump. They are growing strong and getting big. I am not sure if they will make it to the big pond or not. I am not sure about the ducks and the tilapia. Either the fish need to be much bigger or I may put them in a 275 gal tank for grow out. I did notice that our temperatures inside the house were not warm enough for them and I had to add supplemental heat to keep the water 70-80 degrees. Once I did this they started eating like the ravenous hoard.

Amaranth

Amaranth is a grain alternative. The varieties we got are native to South and Central America but will grow well here in the warmer summer months.  We actually have a native variety here in Indiana and the local farmers call it pigweed. Pigweed has become almost immune to most commercial sprays. Family members who are involved with large scale agriculture have stated it is becoming a real problem. The two varieties we got were both for appearance, yield, and hardiness.  This is another plant we will harvest ½ for use, and the other ½ will go for seed stock for the following year.

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Elderberry

We picked up 2 elderberry plants from Brambleberry farm when Dustin and I went down for our 2 Midwest Guys tour. We have an open tour June 7th which is THIS Saturday. They are still in the pots as we were babying them and wanted to make sure good and hardy before putting into the ground. That is a project for this week. You need two different plant varieties to pollinate unless you have a wild one in your area. This is sometimes the case with people in rural areas. This will be used as a food and a medicinal once we start getting fruit.

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Gumi Berry

The Gumi berry is still a little sad and we are not putting it out in the “General Population” until it is a bit bigger. The “wee one” will likely trample it. This is a nitrogen fixer, as well as a food producer. I will take pictures on Saturday of what it is supposed to look like when grown.

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Goji Berry

While the goji isn’t new (we had it last year) apparently the ducks seem to like the leaves and ate it down to the ground. We may be starting back a year on this one. We protected them, and see if that helps. If not it will have to find a new location. This is more a warning, ducks will eat your goji, and well anything else that is green.

Hops

While the hops aren’t new I wanted to share how well they are doing this year. We now have a living privacy wall and shaded area just from the hops vines

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Canning pineapple

Canning isn’t something new to us, but we tried canning fresh pineapple this year.  Aldi had a great deal of $0.89 per pineapple. We bought a bunch and made dehydrated fruit snacks, canned a bunch and even from some of the waste material made fresh pineapple juice. Each pineapple yielded about 1 ½ quart of pineapple, and ½ cup of juice.  Cheaper than buying canned pineapple in the store, I controlled what goes into them, I got bonus of 5 quarts of juice, and feed for animals. I took the woody centers that are not fit to eat, and ran through my food mill. Collected the juice and fed the pulp to the chickens. I cut as close as I could to the outer peel, and any “eyes” I cut out and ran through the juicer. Anything the chickens wouldn’t eat, went to the worms and compost. You can actually regrow pineapple from the tops.  While I am a big fan of this, I don’t have the indoor space to keep it over winter, and was a bit more work than I wanted to do moving it in and out. When we get a better greenhouse this may be an option.  This is something to look out for of eating and buying within season. If you can find a good deal on something if at a farmer’s market, store, or even your own back yard, find ways to preserve it and stock up.

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Scything

Most people today don’t know what a scythe is. Think what the grim reaper carries. With the addition of the rabbits, and soon to add goats, we needed a way to get hay and feed to them cheap and easy. We didn’t have access to a mechanical way to cut, and bale pasture hay/weeds unless we paid someone to do it, and that just wasn’t in the cards. We did however have access to old fashion scythes. This is how people used to gut fields before machinery, on the cheap, just using your time and labor. I can tell you it was a workout, and while a bit sore, we both like the manual labor, and proving we can do it. I think we as a society have become too dependent on things that make life easy and another reason we have a weight problem as a nation. Before we invested in a new hand tool, and an expensive one at that ($200-500) we wanted to give it a try. We found some older (60 or so years) tools in my wife’s grandfathers barn. I researched how to clean, sharpen, and bring back these older pieces of technology to life. Calling around, I couldn’t find any stores locally that carried a scythe, let alone any parts or maintenance pieces. As with everything, I made do with what I had.  After cutting about 1/4 an acre in an hour or so I think we are hooked. We may get a few tips from Brambleberry Farm as Darren and Espri use the scythe a their place. We think with a little practice, and tips on our technique this may be a good solution. I already came up with a way to make a mini baler out of repurposed cat litter boxes.

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This blog has already become too long; I will have to write-up all the medicinal and culinary herbs later. Below is a list of all the new herbs we have added this year.  I will continue to put posts on the Herb Blurb page with more details on each herb as time goes on.

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Wormwood

Jewelweed

Ma-huang (Ephedra)

Witch Hazel

Prickly Pear

St Johns Wart

Motherwart

Tansey

Boneset

Horehound

Chickweed

Rose of Sharron

Apple mint

Garlic Chives

Comfrey

 

Chicken Podcast on 2 Midwest Guys

The 2 Midwest Guys latest podcast is up. In this episode we talk about back yard chickens. From suburban chickens to rural chickens. SOme lessons we learned along the way and some things to consider. Come on over and give it a listen at 2 Midwwest Guys.

 

Just a reminder the tour of Brambleberry Farm is June 7th. Darren and Espri are offering discounts on plants for the tour. Check it out here.

Brambleberry tour podcast

Our latest podcast is up at 2 Midwest Guys where we recap our tour to Brambleberry Farm a permaculture nursery and farm. If you are looking for permaculture plants, want a local source, and what to see what you are getting before ordering online or from a catalog they have quite a bit, including Comfrey.

Brambleberry Farm

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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”