Monthly Archives: August 2013

Edible landscaping for fall

        Fall is a great way to put out some additional color and harvest more vegetables. While many plants are starting to go dormant or die off there are several varieties you can plant now that can give color and life to your landscape.

ornamental-cabbage-plant-2961292421436aN2 Raw-Kale

Kale – Kale comes in a few varieties and is cold tolerant. We planted a blue green variety and a purple variety in our front yard. This is mixed in with all the “pretty” flowers. While some varieties are listed as an ornamental you can still eat it. Some studies have shown the more color a plant has the better it is for you. I have heard that you can turn kale into a chip for snacking. It is also good for juicing, cooked, raw, in salads and is really good for you. This is my first year growing kale. Someone told me about making them into chips as a healthy snack so I thought I would give it a try. If nothing else it can go into the juice mix.


Broccoli – While some of our lawn conscious neighbors shudder at planting broccoli in their front yards where all can see, I have no problem.  We planted some in the midst of our roses. The bold blue-green leaves I think will be a nice addition to the browns and yellows as other plants pack up for winter. They get about 2-3 feet tall and cover around 2-3 feet in diameter. Bonus we get to eat not only the crowns, but also the leaves AND you can re-harvest over and over. Broccoli is a crop that once you cut will return with another fruit. In this case it is the flowers trying to germinate and spread seeds. Once you harvest additional shoots will come up from the cutting. Cut several inches below the crown, at the leaf junction. The next set of crowns will be smaller but still edible. You can do this three or four times during the season. I recently discovered you can eat the broccoli leaves. I added them to my recent batch of V12. It’s like V8 juice but I added whatever I had handy. The 12 ingredients didn’t even cover any herbs I added.


Cabbage –I am not a big fan of cabbage. The wife wanted it. I think ever since I tried the fad diet of cabbage soup, I may have burnt myself out on it. She loves coleslaw, and having it raw on occasion isn’t too bad. I may even try my hand ad making my own sauerkraut. Fall cabbage can come in several different colors. We chose the purple variety and again a dark blue-green.  We planted this in our front yard as well intermingled between lily’s and roses.


Strawberries – Strawberries are a fall crop? Yep, the everbearing variety will give you additional fruit into fall. We planted ours as groundcover in our front yard. They stay green almost the year, and produce fruit. They do well in almost any light condition. When fruiting our youngest ,2, races out each morning to see if any have turned red overnight. Sadly, as a result I only got a handful of strawberries this year. Between 4 kids I am surprised I got that many. Looks like I will be planting more in addition to the 300 plants this year. One of the nice thing about establishing strawberries as ground cover is you can get about 100 plants for $20. Wait until spring to plant. Your first year will not have much fruit. The years after that they will do well. Many varieties will spread on their own. Within a few years you can have a blanket of plants and they will choke out any weed species.


Sugar snap peas – We had to put a line around our front garden to keep kids from running through while our strawberries got established. While planting a fall garden we thought, why not use that for sugar snap peas? It will give them something to climb up. So we will have a wall of peas surrounding one garden this year. Edible straight off the vine, super sweet, or we put them in stir-fry, and even cooked alone.


Beans – With the ravenous hoard (our chicken flock) in the back yard we have become creative where to plant things. There is a chicken fence to keep them out of the vegetable garden but we decided to try planting some beans along the front of the house. This was a new experiment and see what would come of it. In between the hostas and the cherry bushes we threw in some bush beans. I chose a variety that yields a purple pod. These should go nice with the purple cabbage and purple kale. It will bring additional nitrogen to the soil at least and hopefully some additional color.

While we have many other edible species of plants in our front yard, which is what the neighbors see, this is about all we have this year for our fall crop up there. People often ask “What do your neighbors think of you doing all this?” The answer is, I don’t know. I have never stopped to ask them if it is OK to plant in my OWN yard. I think it looks nice, it helps reduce the grocery bill, and they usually they get some overage if we have any. But the bottom line is they don’t pay my mortgage, they don’t put food on our table, and we don’t live in a restrictive HOA. You don’t see me complaining to them about spraying their lawn for weeds, or fertilizing their lawn with toxic chemicals. That is their choice, and this is mine.


Some advice that changed my life

There are some bits of advice that has stayed with me and has really changed my life.

                First was from my dad. “You will never win the lottery if you don’t play”. For the longest time I took that as literally. So when I was able to buy lottery tickets I did so.  Obviously this wasn’t the intended message. What he was trying to tell me you will never know if you don’t try. You will never get that job unless you apply. You will never get that date with the girl you saw unless you ask. You will never grow a garden if you never plant anything. After I came to the realization that if I wanted something, I had to at least put forth the effort, make an attempt, take some initiative. Because if I didn’t it wouldn’t just fall into my lap.

                Too often we have what someone once called the teacup kids. They expect everything to be given to them, to be placed at their feet, to get what they want without trying. Without initiative, without ambition. I was lulled into giving to my kids using the “I want them to have a better life than I had”. But am I really? If I make their lives easy, give them everything without them having to work for it, what kind of young adult am I raising. When they have to go out into the world will they know the value of WORKING for something and EARNING something? Will they respect anything that is given to them? I had a friend in high school, who was given a brand new car on her 16th birthday. It was a nice and expensive sports cars. Her parents were will off and could afford it. She totaled the car within a month. Guess what, she got another. Never having a job, never earning it, never appreciating it. $24,000 car gone, and another $24,000 instantly. Some people could buy a house with that kind of money. I have even heard of parents taking the knives away from tweens (9-13) at restaurants because they may “cut themselves” and cut up their food for them. What kind of person will this be in society?

                This brings me to the next quote or advice. It came from my wife when she was dealing with one of our kids who didn’t understand why she has to do chores as part of the family. We are a blended family and when she is at her other parents’ house everything is given to her, no work, no effort. It is just expected to give her whatever she asks or demands for. “My job as a parent, is to teach you how to be an adult so that you can survive in the world on your own, without someone being there to take care of you.” This was true. We had since change the belief that we needed to make it easier on them, and instead, make them independent, responsible, accountable and train them for what life holds for them. When I tell other parents that our 11 year old, can do her own laundry, cook her own meals, knows how to take care of the animals they think I am being too harsh. I completely disagree and so do the kids. They have taken pride they can cook their meals, beyond putting cereal in a bowl.  When they learn a new skill if it is making fire without matches, or how to build a structure, they feel empowered to take on the next challenge. When then buy something they want with the money they earned, they respect it, value it, understand how hard they had to work to earn it.

Fees and fines chart

                The next was from a coworker when I worked at a major fortune 500 company. She would come in and talk to employees when they either got burnt out on their current role or were reallocated and helped them find a spot where they “fit” within the organization.  L. Dane MuCCullough from Dane and Company. She came into a group I had set up for single parents dealing with raising kids alone or through a divorce etc.. She gave some great advice and this is how I remember it from 10+ years ago. “If you could do one job for the rest of your life, regardless of pay, benefits, or responsibilities, what would get you excited ever day to get out of bed, and go do that job?” When she asked this I really didn’t know. I thought I knew but I didn’t really like what I was doing. She followed up that profound question with “Now what is standing in your way? What would it take to remove that barrier and allow you to do what you are passionate about? How can you eliminate that roadblock”. For me, I found my passion with permaculture and educating others to be more independent and self sufficient. Maybe that is because of the parent in me, and the permaculture is just another means to help others grow.

For many people the thing that stands in their way is debt. House, car, credit card, student loans etc. How can you eliminate that burden? Stop spending? Drive an older car? Do you have a 5000 sq foot house with 4 beds and 5 baths, and you live alone? If that makes you happy great. I am glad you found what makes you happy. But if you hate Mondays, having to go into work each day, and writing all the checks for bills of stuff you don’t use. What would you look forward to doing?  Is an education standing in your way from doing your dream job? What is stopping you from going to school, or educating yourself? There are lots of resources available for low cost or free. Most barriers can be overcome. Sometimes the barrier is just in your mind.

Last is a great quote from a movie, although I have not read it, the movie is based on a book by Frank Herbert, Dune. “Fear is the mind killer”. I take this as fear cannot kill you. It is not stopping you from overcoming anything. Are you afraid your boss will say no if you ask for a raise, or promotion? “You will never win the lottery if you don’t play”. What is it going to hurt to ask. All they can say is no. Are you afraid to ask the girl out from the coffee shop? All she can do is say no. Anything worse than that and is she really someone you wanted to go out with in the first place? Do you want a discount on a scratched merchandise at a store? What are you afraid of, all they can do is say no. Are you afraid they will think you are cheap? Who cares, they are not working for the money you make, nor putting food on your table.  The point is we build up these barriers, walls in our minds that make doing something seem impossible, or we are afraid of what others will think. It is all in your mind. Stop thinking or caring what other people think. You will never be happy living  to other people’s expectations. Your future can have endless possibilities if you “play”, without fear, and shoot for your own passion and happiness. 

Call out to local landscapers!

I am looking to work with local landscaping companies in and around central Indiana to fill a unique niche integrating permaculture into current landscapes and future landscape projects to be both productive and retaining visual appeal. Contact me for details.

Backyard Gardening for a Sustainable Lifestyle – Class Scheduled

Summer is dwindling down and fall will soon be upon us. Come find out why this is the perfect time to start planning and even starting your productive gardens. Landscaping and gardening doesn’t just have to be about pretty flower garden or doesn’t just have to be about vegetable gardens. You can combine them. Come learn about aquaponics, back yard chickens, medicinal herb gardens, edible landscapes, water harvesting, permaculture and much, much more. Recent graduate from Geoff Lawtons Permaculture design course and willing to help you turn your space into a productive one. Reduce your grocery bill, turn your hobby into an income generator, reduce your dependency on pharmaceuticals. Live in an apartment, or rent, you can garden too! Come learn how. This talk will be a broad coverage of many topics, and more in-depth class on topics will be scheduled for interested people.

Meeting at the Franklin Township Civic League
8822 Southeastern Ave. Indianapolis IN 46239

Meeting to start 7 pm

Alternative Gardening

Indiana Disaster and Survival Preparedness

Homesteading – How did we get here?

        Today I hosted some good folks from the communist state of Illinois. I gave them the outdoor tour and talked about what we have done and where we are going. How we got where we are today and lessons learned along the way. They made the comment we are just getting started and wanting to learn more. I remember being there several years ago. It made me think to when we got started to where we are today.

         Many people look at what we are doing on our 0.2 acre suburbia homestead and think we are so far ahead of the game. I see it as the opposite. I see how much more I have to do. I look back when we bought this place and think how it has evolved, how we have evolved. The one common denominator was it didn’t happen overnight.

                I wasn’t always homestead minded. I once was one of the sheeple following the next person in line. Buying, consuming, and spending. I got hooked from listening to The Survival Podcast. It isn’t the doom and gloom, doomsday prepper, and militia. It is a lot of common sense, and I have learned quite a bit just from having it on in the background.

                The bushels of pears and apples ripening on the trees didn’t just come with the property. We planted them. One tree at a time. We used to buy in spring when everyone had them in the box stores or the 1 year old seedling from the catalogs. Now we trade, start our own, grafts, and buy on clearance or end of season at 50% off or better. We learned there was a better more cost effective way. We learned the hard way and bought full price trees before we learned there is a better way.

                We make our own laundry soap. We just recently started this. $0.02/load vs. $1.00 load does add up. It was a learning process. Rather than use the dryer we are line drying our clothes. This alone cut our eclectic bill in ½ . From March-November I know we will not use it, and if all goes well will not use it again. “So what do you do when it is raining or snowing, or freezing outside?” Either don’t do laundry or hang in our garage. We don’t park in our garage. It is for storage, workout area, and a play area for the kids when it is raining outside. For the cost of a few feet of paracord I have two lines in my garage.

Here is a picture in our garage.

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 Here is one where I turned the pergola into a clothesline.


                The strawberry groundcover didn’t happen overnight. It took time and planting. Now we get to enjoy fresh strawberries, chemical free, organically grown, and well free year after year.

                You can start at any time, and start small. You do not have to do everything at once. When it came to canning I started with one package of jars, one pot, and tome tomatoes out of my garden. I now have 500+ jars accumulated from family, craigslist, and goodwill. My next step is to get the reusable lids.

                We have boxes of dehydrated foods from our garden and grocery deals. It didn’t happen overnight. We found our dehydrator in a family members storage unit. Started with a few herbs, after gaining success and learning the skill, we now will dehydrate shrimp, eggs, and make jerky.

                I remember when I first started learning about homesteading and preparedness I was overwhelmed by all that I thought I needed to do overnight. I had lists, schedule, priority of items. What I once thought was the top most important item has since fallen to low or no importance. There is no golden book or plan to follow. Waking up and becoming more aware is the best tip I can give. Your bran, the knowledge you learn, the experiences is what is key. I have made many failures for any success. I never consider them failures, but more a lesson on what not to do the next time, or how could I have made it better.

                Start small, but start today. Challenge yourself to learn something new each week, or a goal each month for prepare and grow your homestead. It could be planting a fruit tree, or reading a book on canning, or try a new more sustainable food on your next trip to the grocery. We tried goat and were pleasantly surprised.  When I look back we have come a long way, and I have learned so much more than I did 5 years ago. I learn something new almost each day. For instance I have 24 more hours of new permaculture videos Geoff Lawton just posted as part of my class. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. Get your own homestead in order by one thing at a time. What helped and scared me was when I made lists of all I wanted to do and get accomplish. Some are low hanging fruit, and easily completed. But seeing it all there on a list made it more manageable and easier to grasp. Putting in out poly tote rainbarrel seemed overwhelming, and I kept putting it off. It took less than 30 min.


One more thing to check off my list.  What can you cross off your list today? This week? This month?

Heritage Breeds

I am spending today researching and catching up on other blogs I follow. This caught my eye.

Heritage Breeds.

Fracking idiots

I just watched this yesterday before ever reading this post. This is a must see if you are unclear about fracking, or what the big business and government tells you about fracking. Your life could be altered even if not on your property or close to your property.

Permaculture course finally complete.

I have just finished Geoff Lawton’s PDC course. Working on my design submission then waiting for the certification. If you haven’t heard the term permaculture here is an earlier post that may help.

All in all the course was about 100 hours long. 72 actual lecture and videos, then there were a bunch of bonus DVD’s that were well worth watching. Add in all the question and answers sessions and it was quite a bit of information. There were so many concepts and principals that were explained, but with Geoff giving examples and drawings it made it much more easily understood. When you add in the manual for additional reference it was all around great course. In all my time in college, on the job training, and training seminars this has got to be the one I gain the most information.

With any luck in the next week I will have completed my design submission and will be awaiting my certificate. I am already applying what I have learned to both my own property and on consulting properties.  Many people are amazed at who much you can do with a small amount of land. And when I say land I am talking about suburban 0.2-0.5 acre lots. This is the case with a client who has at his disposal 300 acres. But setting up this much space is both financially and time wise not feasible. So, we are starting with the property around his house. About 0.3 acres.  This is Zone 1 and where he can manage the improvements for little to no money and start producing more food for his family.

The Farm has been slowly changing as a result. I no longer look at varies trees and plants as junk or things that need to go. I look at and try to understand WHY they are there. What species are there that I need to help nurture. What wastes are we not utilizing to their full potential and what wastes can we reduce. For example, cleaning out one of the barns there were around 200 bales of straw and hay. Normally not such a big deal. But these have been sitting for 30+ years. The old practice would be to throw them into the burn pile. But after realizing that could be a great mulch for our fall garden. As demonstrated here. We took any broken bales and spread around 6-12 inches thick. We then made a border with the bales that were intact.

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Over the last 30 years The Farm has been planted with pines. And all the beneficial trees cut down. Something we are stopping and now letting these, what were once “junk” trees to come back. Cherry – great for firewood, furniture, sell as a product. Mulberry – firewood, food, feed for animals. Maple – firewood, and maple syrup. While only 6 acres, allowing some of these trees to grow for longer will yield products in later years. As for the pines? Well not good as firewood, but there are lots of other uses. We are slowly thinning out the pines on the property and harvesting different aspects from them. Pine needles and smaller twigs are going as mulch in our berry patches. We are harvesting the sap, and the logs will be dried in the barn for lumber. The larger branches will be used as part of the hugle beds. Gone are the days of the burn pile for everything that was thought of as a waste.


Geoff’s videos put explanation to many things we know or were told as kids. Some of the old folk wisdom. For example, putting the water used in steaming vegetables or boiling them i.e. corn on plants will make them grow. It is true, but now I know why. There is a relationship between the microbes and organisms in the soil and the plants. The plants produce starch as a result of photosynthesis. The plant gives the starch through the roots to the organisms in the soil who in turn mine minerals and nutrients from the soil and rock. By adding the starch water to the soil around the plants it sends the organisms into overdrive bringing in a surplus of nutrients. So essentially you are fertilizing the soil.


As part of my final design I plan on making a video to demonstrate that have retained and can use the material I was taught. When complete I plan on posting so stay tuned. If you are interesting in applying permaculture principals to you property check out the consulting or contact us pages.