Monthly Archives: September 2013

Positively Indy Quest for Sustainable Expo

Here is a post I wrote about for the quest for having a Sustainable Expo here in Indy.

Thanks Jason at Positively Indy


Help needed to design self sufficent expo here in Indy

A colleague and I were throwing around some ideas the other day and we think we hit on a good one. There are lots of classes and expo’s in other parts of the country and not a real good one on self sufficiency here in the Midwest. At least that we knew of. We started talking about what we would like to have and presenting. I think we came up with a plan to be offered as early as November but more than likely February of 2014. We have several well known, national speakers within a relatively short commute to Indianapolis. We have started reaching out to them. So far many have shown interest in presenting. I would love to host a few events here and LOVE to host a 2015 expo at the convention center. It would be great to have a Self-Reliance type expo here in the Circle city. You can help. Complete the survey, pass along, and send to friends. The more data I can gather the more we can tailor the event or events. It is anonymous and I would really appreciate it.

Thanks in Advance
Wolf-Beach Farms
Permaculture Consultant

Survey Link

Money matters moment – bathroom

                 In this money matters money I will tell you how we save by  making our own, and using simple techniques and tips to save your hard earned money in the bathroom.


While I am sure there other ways we haven’t tried yet, different versions, or even better techniques. I would be interested to hear them. There is always something new to learn. Leave a comment.

Deodorant – There are so many recopies out there for making your own deodorant. After years of spending $2-3 per bar of toxic gick (Paul Wheaton term) that I spread under my arms I opted for a simpler option. Gone are the days of buying bars of toxic substances and applying to my lymph nodes to be passed into my body. For $0.50/6 mo compared to $3/mo. I use simple rubbing alcohol purchased at the Dollar store or other places. I recycled an old red wine vinegar bottle from the recycle container and fill it up. A few shakes rub under the arm and I am good to go. Now, it doesn’t last the whole day and depending on the level of work I may need to re-apply. Have no worry, when I am away from home, I have a few alcohol pads in the car. Purchased on clearance for $1.00 for 200 pads I can apply as needed in a pinch. The test, the wife says she can’t notice and she is closer than anyone else should be. The smell isn’t from the sweat, it is from the bacteria that grow in the wet damp, areas. Sweat is a way for the body to cool itself and removes wastes. Side effect, and it may be from the non-chemical. I can smell everything now. When my daughter gets into the car from a weekend at her mother’s I can smell the lotion, hair conditioner and fabric softener as soon as the door is opened. When we go out, I can smell everything, and usually try to avoid isles in stores with lots of chemical fragrances. Benefit, flowers smell that much better, food smells better, and I notice things more. You can add a bit of essential oils, tea tree (be careful it can burn the skin) lavender, sandal wood or other fragrance. Beyond the fragrance most of essential oils have anti bacteria properties and makes the alcohol last that much longer. My wife seems to like a few dashes of lavender and vanilla in her mixture.

Toothpaste – Fluoride is extremely toxic. As a chemist background I can tell you this stuff is not something to mess with. A level 4 (out of 4) toxicity level it can kill. Yet we are forced to have it in our water. Fluoride that is added to our drinking water is a byproduct of toxic waste from industrial processes. Being forced to drink fluoride as a treatment for the surface of your teeth is the equivalent of being forced to drink Coppertone 60 for the prevention of sunburn. Have you ever noticed that the label on the toothpaste says if you swallow more than a pea sized portion contact poison control? So why force feed it into your water supply?  Ever noticed how there is water specifically without fluoride for babies? Why is that? We now make our own toothpaste and have had great results. Baking soda, water, and a few drops of essential oils. That is it. If I wanted to I could eat it and no harm. It is safe for kids of all ages, however not the tastiest. A few spoons of baking soda, and I like to use peppermint, Thieves, and vanilla essential oil and enough water to make a slurry. Done. I used to get canker sores all the time. Since switching, none. My teeth are smooth like when I visit the dentist. My wife recently went and she indicated far less scraping than she has ever had. Why? The essential oils kill the bacteria in your mouth preventing tooth decay, gingivitis, and canker sores. We did buy some xylitol (a natural sweetener that will not add to tooth decay) but haven’t tried using it yet. Each batch, maybe ¼ cup lasts a month or two and costs roughly $0.10 to make.

Cleaning products – Vinegar, and baking soda. These two will clean just about anything. Use apple cider vinegar every once in a while just to add something different. This is used to clean tub, tile, sink, toilet. Rather than spending $30-50 on cleaning products that are again toxic gick, and something you already have on hand. We buy both in bulk. We maybe spend $0.10-0.30 a month on cleaning products. Do you know what you get when you combine bleach and Windex? A version of mustard gas. Yes the same gas they used to kill people in WWII. Read the label. Again, my chemistry education. If you only knew the things you could make with household cleaning products. A bomb…yes…Nerve agents…yes…poisonous gas…yes…eat the paint off your car…yes…dissolve concrete…yes. Yet people use this every day and expose their family to them.

Water reducer – we use low flow shower heads and faucets to reduce the amount of water we use. When waiting for the water to get warm for a bath there is a 5 gal bucket. This bucket is used to water plants, put into the Berkey add to fish tanks. Don’t let the water simply go down the drain.

Hot Water – we turned down the thermostat to the highest setting we could stand straight out of tap on full hot. Rather than super heat water to cool it back down with cold water just use the hot water straight from the tap.

Other tips- When in the shower take an old dish sponge and wipe down the curtain and walls with a little soap on it. This will prevent mold and mildew from building up and additionally clean and soap scum, and mineral buildup as it starts. We also have shutoff valves on the showerhead. The water will stay hot and the same temperature you left it while you stop to lather up, shave, or shampoo the hair.

Make your own soap. Because several of us have sensitive skin, we use the plain basic soaps with no fragrance, and no unneeded chemicals. My wife has started making our own soaps. It was super easy. Many of the components we already had and I can make it without harsh components. Since we just started, I am so far on board with it. Still evaluating. But at 1/10 the cost of purchased soaps it is well worth it. Out at The Farm we hope to reuse gray water so having a more natural soap is really beneficial.

Conditioners and hair care. With a house of 4 women and girls conditioner and other products seemed necessary. Mayo, eggs, vinegar, chamomile tea all aid in their hair care rituals. I cannot speak to them. I use the bar soap for everything having short hair this works for me and the boy. Shaving, bathing, and shampoo. It all has worked for us.

Toilet paper – find one you like and buy in bulk. Not like it goes bad. No expiration date. Before you buy in bulk, make sure you like it. Nothing worse than using 20 grit sand paper because it was the cheapest alternative.

Review – Berkey water filter


Berkey – We love our Berkey. Since I mentioned it earlier. No chemicals, no electricity required and we get great pure water. We went ahead and got the filters to remove fluoride and other chemicals added to our water. We were not big water drinkers because frankly Indianapolis water is horrible. Again as a chemist, when I read what “they” find acceptable for water limit contamination I was appalled. We now all drink more water, less carbonated drinks, less sugar filled drinks and feel much better as result. We even make ice using ice cube trays to make sure our water is free and clear of contaminates. We used to use the ice from our automatic ice maker. When the ice would melt there would be all kinds of floating material and junk. Not with the Berkey. Again using my chemistry background and more specifically working in a water lab that does analysis on water for a pharmaceutical company I knew how to read an interpret what the filter analysis showed for removing contaminates using the Berkey. While a high upfront cost it has well been worth it. I know that if I ever had to I could get water out of the ponds and filter through the Berkey and it would be safe to drink. If there is ever a boil order for Indianapolis city water I have no worries the Berkey can handle it. Interested in one, talk to Jeff at Directive 21. Get extra filters. Nice to have once yours run out (long long time if taken care of) to plug the next in and then order a replacement. Another tip, only use 2 ports of 8 if you get the bigger size Berkey. It may filter slower, but not as expensive to replace filters, and if you get in the habit of filling it is always full when you need it.

I am writing for Aquaponics Survival Community


New social media added

I was playing around with the WordPress settings and finally figured out how to add the Facebook and Twitter links. If you like the blog, please like and follow us. We already published here, but there wasn’t a connection to the two sites other than reposting what we have here.

Class at Trade School Indy Oct 26th

I am teaching a class at the City Market through Trade School Indy. Here are the details.

Here is a link

October 26th Satuday

2:00pm to 3:30pm

Indy City Market (Upstairs North Mezzanine) The City Market at 222 East Market Street Indianapolis

Would you like to turn your backyard into a food production area for you and your family? Want to grow organic fruits and vegetables that are free from pesticides and herbicides?Believe it or not, it’s possible to harvest 550 lbs of fruit and veggies on 640 square feet of land. The secret is Permaculture. On my 0.2 acre property, I have 6 productive trees, 24 productive bushes, 60 medicinal plants, edible landcaping, 24 laying hens and 2 ponds that allow me to harvest fruits, veggies, berries, fish and eggs all from our backyard. Participants are welcome to come to our farm afterwards.

About the teacher, Rick Beach

Rick is a suburban homesteader that has over thirty years of experience in Gardening. He recieved his Engineering, Chemistry & Pharmaceuticals training from Geoff Lawton & the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. Rick has been teaching for over two years on various subjects. He is passionate about people growing their own food and becoming less dependent on foods that are served through a window or out of a box.


Where to find duckweed, azolla, and other pond plants

                Some people who have come by for a tour asking about the duckweed or azolla, which is what I feed to fish, chickens, and use as a fertilizer. Both the duckweed and azolla are higher in protein than soy and corn which is what many feeds for chickens and livestock are based on. Duckeweed has 5-6 times as much starch as corn and is being looked at as a new biomass fuel.  Both plants will double in 24 hours of sun, and only need about 2-3 inches of water to grow. So you can grow in small kiddie pools. If you are growing it in the same area as where you have fish they may decimate your plants and you will have to reorder. It you experience an overgrowth simply skim some off and add to your compost pile. Azolla is also a nitrogen fixer. If you have a nice blanket of wither plant it will block out the light and also greatly reduce any algae buildup.





 Below is the link where I originally got my starts. You can also look for it naturally here in Indiana. Many farms and places with a pond will spray to remove the duckweed.  But if you can find it locally saves some money and time.  The nice this is, if you are feeding to your fish they have an automated order process and you can have it shipped as your fish eat. For instance get a pound ever week delivered. I have only ordered from this company twice both time shad a good interaction.

I have also grown water chestnuts. Yes the same thing you find in oriental dishes. It is an annual and you will need to start it after it warms up in spring. It will grow fast and by fall you will have a nice crop. It likes to grow in the mud/bog area. While I grew it as an experiment to see if I could, I was told we couldn’t grow it here in Indiana. WRONG. I grew enough in a 55 gal drum cut on the side (along the long side) to have water chestnuts for about 6 stir-fry meals. That was only from 3 plants starting as the size of a coffee cup (combined). Never let anyone tell you, that you can’t do something.

I did get snails into my system by ordering from them. I originally thought this as a problem but they have been eating the dead plant matter and eat scum/algae off the pond walls. If you get too many snails, red ear, or sunfish a type of bluegill will eat snails. We added these to one system and snails below 3″ of water do not exist.  They are very common here in Indiana in ponds. You can even have them stocked or go fishing. I do not believe there are any limits on size or amounts from DNR.

Here it is growing on one of my aquaponic ponds

4500 gallon in ground aquaponics pond.

We plan on putting a much larger grow area at The Farm specifically for azolla and duckweed as this is what we will try feeding the meat birds next year. While they will be tractored and allowed to eat whatever bugs they come across or scratch up, we are going to try and not do any grains at all. If we have to it will be Non-GMO grains. We plan to experiment with two batches on azolla and duckweed and two batched non-GMO grains. With all things being equal if the duckweed and azola birds do as well or better we will switch to 100% water plants. It may take a bit longer to reach weight or it may be done in the same or less time. We will just have to see. It will all be documented and posted. But the benefits of growing your own feed is well worth the experimenting.

Our current birds will eat the azolla out of the ponds if we haven’t given them grains in a while. So if we are up at The Farm all weekend I will find them in the pond eating Sunday evening. But, they were raised on grains. If we never give them grains would they just eat the azolla?

I should also add, if you are local to Indiana and would like some azolla, contact me and we can make arrangements. Bring your own container for transport.

The Herb Spiral and Farm updates

                We have been very busy lately. As the colder weather approaches, there just doesn’t seem enough time to get it all done before winter.


                I completed the 1st of the herb spirals this weekend. I know it won’t get planted this year, but getting it installed now will allow the ground to settle over the winter, and I can add more soil before actually planting. This spiral cost me noting to make. The walls are made from old concrete field tile that has accumulated out at the farm. The soil is from an excavated area and soil had been piled up. It only took about two full days to complete, and most of that was hauling dirt. I had the layout done in about an hour. Not only can I plant in the bed area, but because I used hollow building materials I can plant in them too. I haven’t yet decided what to plant into the tiles. But while building this I discovered about 6 other larger tiles. About 1 ½ feet across. We are now going to use these as large planter pots. Nothing goes to waste.

Started with a stake, and one tile.

Started with a stake, and one tile.


I placed the tiles where I thought it would go adjusting as I needed. Dry fitting.

I placed the tiles where I thought it would go adjusting as I needed. Dry fitting.


After I was happy with the design, I started adding soil from the outside first.

After I was happy with the design, I started adding soil from the outside first.

This is what I ended up with. Both my wife and myself can reach the center from any side. The 2 year old calls it her castle and likes to run up the ramp to the top. It helped compact some of the soil and set the tiles, so she helped with this project too.

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      Speaking of nothing to waste, my wife’s grandfather is tickled and laughs almost daily at the stories we tell him of repurposing materials. The tiles were just one example. We found an old door that was repurposed in the chicken house for ease of getting into the laying boxes. Several months ago we found some old aluminum wiring of some sort in a junk pile. We repurposed it to use as a trellis for the blackberry garden. Now it is much easier to harvest the berries when in season. Old fencing, has become used for growing peas and tomatoes. Old bricks will be used for a forge. Old 55 gal drums will be used for water barrels and about 100 uses for old pallets. We have uses or repurpose for just about everything we come across on the farm.

Here is the hay and straw repurposed into fall garden, and the reused fencing in the center as a trellis.

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We have come to the realization, that nothing is junk unless it absolutely cannot be used. Old bailing wire has a million purposes. Junk mail, I shred it and feed it to my worms to make compost, compost tea, new soil, and bait for fishing. Old barn wood has a new life as a dining room table. Old tires, potato vertical growing bins. If I don’t have an immediate use for it, it will go into one of the piles/barns and find a new purpose when one is discovered. Not all the repurposing ideas are my own, but most of the “functional” uses have been developed on demand. The creative are about 1/3 mine 1/3 wife and 1/3 I find online. In my pinterest account you can see some things I stumbled upon.

                We have been cleaning out old garden beds, adding chicken area to keep them safe from predators, and reorganizing materials. 6 new chicken tractors are on the list to build before February. Again these will be repurposed from old materials as much as possible. The build of the tractors will be a post on its own.  Every time we are up there we come up with new projects. We have roughly 45 min to an hour one way drive time from our Indianapolis home. On the way up to the property we discuss what we are going to do, would like to accomplish, and plan for attaching. We have 4 pages of projects, tasks, and wish lists. On the way back we mark off what we accomplished and lists for what we saw that needed to be added or new projects. This week I decided to add a pond to the rose garden that will be build either this fall or next spring. We are repurposing a preformed pond we had here in Indy, which was repurposed from another project. I decided to take all the field stone we have come across during the cleaning phase and make a large waterfall water feature in the pond. This will not only aerate the water for when we stock, but keep some of the unwanted slime and moss growth down. It will be a nice feature to see, and hear. We would eventually like to make the pond into a natural swimming pool so this fits nicely with that plan. Adding a sauna, hand pump for the well, tree nursery, hoop house and the list goes on.

Permaculture multiple diciplines all in one

                Many people are just starting to learn about permaculture. I wrote an intro a while back. While some say it isn’t rocket science, it is a combination of many traditional disciplines from school. I recently received an e-mail 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.

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.


“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.

“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.

“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.