Tag Archives: Homesteading

Indy Rezone hurriedly moves forward

Recently I got this e-mail from Sherri Atwell asking for help in the Marion Co Rezoning effort. While I am no longer in Marion Co. I still think it is important to curb some of the changes that affect many homesteaders and will do all that I can. As I am no longer a resident, my opinion and voice doesn’t’ carry as much weight as it once did. That doesn’t mean I WON’T voice my opinion. I am passing along her letter to you all as I couldn’t have said it any better.  Please share it around and get more momentum.

Did you know that Indy Rezone is being presented to City Council July 13th?

I am writing to you because last summer an e-mail went out to you after the public meetings regarding Urban Agriculture. I just replied all to that e-mail, so my apologies if you do not want this info, I am hoping you do! I came away from these meetings feeling like the overall response to the Indy Rezone draft was not positive.  Most people were very concerned about the new restrictions.

This past year the public info about Indy Rezone has been largely non-existent until the end of May when the news reported that they hoped it would go to City Council in June. Finally the document was posted to the Indy.gov website June 1. This document passed the Metropolitan Development Commission June 17 and will be presented to city council July 13 at 7 PM.

It can be seen here:

http://www.indy.gov/egov/city/dmd/planning/services/current/Pages/ordinance.aspx

There are over 700 pages so here is what may interest you most:

  1. Agricultural uses, Farmers Market, Garden as Primary use (Pg. 483-486)
  2. Personal Garden, Personal Livestock (pgs. 526-528)
  3. Personal Livestock License Draft:  http://www.indy.gov/eGov/City/DMD/Planning/Zoning/ordinances/Indy%20Rezone%20Docs/Personal%20Livestock%20License%20061715.pdf
  4. The only thing that would be considered “Grandfathering in” what you currently have/are doing- Applications and Nonconformities begins pg. 118.

After Reviewing this info, do you believe these restrictions are truly making Indy more sustainable or putting us in a box of additional restrictions? I also urge you to look up any other issues that may be of concern to you.  This link takes you to a searchable Word document you can download, so you can look up key words if you are having trouble finding what you are looking for: https://copy.com/pAwC1I46qpOItu1F

Something that caught my eye is that all the livestock info says “For Personal Use Only” – the implication there is not being able to sell eggs, chicks, baby animals. Also, some livestock is not listed as permitted, do you or your friends have Turkeys, Guineas, peafowl?  Do you have un-neutered male goats?

The City Council represents us- the constituents.  They need to know how each of you, your friends, neighbors and customers feel about Agriculture and other issues in Indy Rezone.

I hope you can take the time to make your voice heard.  Please do not assume you can fly under the radar because there is no way this can be enforced. Not everyone has that luxury. Many of us have a persistent complainer in our neighborhoods that makes it impossible to fly under the radar.  If anyone complains, code enforcement will be at your door! 

You may have good neighbors now, but will you next year or the year after that?

You can make yourself heard in more than one way:

  1. Contact Indy Rezone – These two people are on staff with Indy Rezone:

Tammara Tracy 327-7834  ttracy@indy.gov

John Neal 327-5265 jneal@indy.gov

  1. Contact your Councilor -put in your address and check “elected officials here http://maps.indy.gov/GovProfile/ If that does not work call the Council Office at 327-4242
  1. Also Contact the At-Large Councilors.
  1. Go to the City Council Meeting July 17 and the committee meeting thereafter. The leadership of the City-County Council will decide what Committee is assigned the ordinance. The schedule of meetings can be seen here: http://www.indy.gov/eGov/Council/Meetings/Documents/Calendar15.pdf
  1. Contact as many people as you can and pass this information on to them.
  1. Post info on social media. Help get people informed and to the City Council meetings.

It would be great if someone would step forward and begin a petition drive to recommend this does not pass, or at the very least, gets delayed so that people can review it an fix the glaring issues. If anyone is interested in organizing or participating in a petition drive, please contact me or my husband Barry. His email address is barryatwell@gmail.com.

Thanks,

Sherri Atwell

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 →

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

Food shortages and prices may make you rethink homesteading

Many factors in both the US and overseas are beginning to affect food process. Food prices have steadily increased over the years yet there is more “food” being produced. When I say “food” not all of the food being produced is either consumable by humans or eaten here in the US.

Here in the Midwest and other locations the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) has taken its toll on pork farms. It is estimated that 10% of the pork production has been removed due to the illness. Removed defined as being either killed from the virus or killed to prevent further spread of the illness. Once a Confined Animal Feed Operation (CAFO) has been infected it spreads extremely fast. As a result pork and my beloved bacon prices will be increasing. Pork prices were already on the rise due to increased feed costs.

PEDV News

Across the globe droughts in some areas and flooding in others has played havoc with grain prices. The poor crop production is not only here but UK, Russia, Australia, and China.

Wheat Drought

Crops US

I know several larger scale farmers or people working the farms here in the US. Weather plays a big part on when you can plant, when you can harvest. Some days they are in the fields 20 hours a day or on a rotation to keep the equipment running 24 hrs due to the weather window. The fields are too wet to get machinery out, or too much wind, or the ground is ground still frozen. This winter did not help many I know.

The hard winter for many here in the US has also hit the tropical crops such as avocados, oranges, lemons and limes. Florida was hit hard by colder than normal temperatures and as a result the orange crops will be affected. For example the number of dropped fruit has increased due to the colder than normal winter, but another problem is facing Florida. A virus spread by an insect is hitting the citrus production hard.
Citrus Production by State

Citrus Virus

California is in a world all its own. While it once was the breadbasket of America this year it may be the cause of food price increases. The drought, and lack of snowfall in the mountains (supplies much of the water to the growing valley) has caused some municipalities to turn off the water to orchards and farmland. The drought is not only impacting the fruits and vegetables but also beef, and dairy. California once a major exporter of dairy products to the rest of the world, many ranchers are now sending in the herds for slaughter because it is simply too costly to feed them during the drought.

California

The food issues are also affecting alcohol production. Hard cider breweries are having a harder time keeping up with demand. Due to lack of heirloom verities and increased demand Cider production may feel the hit as well.

Cider

When you add in the political tensions between the US and other countries where agriculture is a significant export you are looking at all around food increases not only here in the US but across the world. Then add to that the continual erosion of the US dollar, the mismanagement by our government of our debt, and our problematic monetary system and we are looking at massive price increases over the next couple of years.

What does all this gloom and doom about food prices, poor yields, and droughts have to do with permaculture? EVERYTHING! These problems go to show that our current food production system is unsustainable and this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can reduce your food bills and dependency on what is placed in front of you claiming to be edible. Grow your own. You can do this even if you have only an apartment and now windows. Stop growing lawns and treating with mass amounts of chemicals and fertilizers so that you have a “green carpet”. You are doing more harm than good. What does green carpet do for you? Absolutely nothing. Even if you were growing it to feed to animals, you have contaminated it to the point it is toxic to keep out weeds and make sure it stays green. Permaculture is a method to not only produce for your family but can also be a supplemental income source.

This year our family has made the biggest leap into food production expansion than we ever have before, due mainly to what we see happening here in the US and the world. We are getting dairy goats because we cannot afford to pay $6-8 per gallon of milk that we estimate will be coming in the near future. We have been tracking prices of the food we purchase, and a 5lb bag of cheese went from $8.99 2 years ago to $15.99 recently. If prices like this continue we cannot afford to still eat like we have and cook from scratch. Having dairy goats, eliminates the need to purchase, cheeses (we like many different kinds cheddar, cottage cheese, hard cheese, cheese sticks, ricotta etc), butter, yogurts, milk, sour cream, and ice-cream. Add to that the ability to use the goat milk to make soaps and lotions and that is a huge reduction. We can now control what goes into each of these products and we are independent of the price increases. We are adding amaranth to our crops to reduce grain needs. We have expanded from our own yard, to using two other growing spaces so that we will be able to have an abundance.

Price Basket

USDA food prices over the years

When you look at the prices week to week it may only go up a few pennies. Not enough for many to recognize. But when you start looking over the years there are some massive differences. I am in my mid 30’s and I can remember gas under $1.00/gal, bread under $1.00/loaf and being in amazement when a grocery cart full of food was less than $100.00, and to go over $100 meant that we were having a big party, or cookout. Today the same cart will run $3-400. While we only shop every 2-3 months we still only spend around $250 for a family of 6. Why, because we cook from scratch, grow and make much of our own food. We want to see our grocery bill be less than $100 every 3 months if possible. This is NOT unreasonable if you eat seasonally, cook from scratch, and produce much of your own food? I have heard every excuse you are coming up with, because I have said them myself. “I don’t have time, I don’t know how, it takes too long, etc, etc.”. This is utter BS. Turn the TV off, get off the couch, stop going out to eat so much, and eat real food vs. junk that is pre-made out of a box. I was exactly there a few years ago and can tell you it can be done. It isn’t overnight, it is one step at a time, and it can only lead to good things.

I wanted to say thank you to my friend “Cedar” from Down to the Roots magazine and “Cedar News Service” (inside Joke for the TSP audience) who highlights all the issues relating to food prices and shortages. Without her, I would be unaware of all that is going on outside my small world.