Category Archives: DIY

Fodder fail: Another lesson learned

I hate to refer to any of my experiments or projects that don’t go as I expected as failures. In my mind a failure you didn’t accomplish anything. Quite the contrary I believe. Because I have a science background and use the scientific method for everything there is a hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion.

I had a hypothesis. Could I make stacking fodder system that would save space and use vertical space rather than horizontal?

Experiment design, I used recycle ice cream buckets for my fodder beds. I cut recycled PVC pipes to use as risers for the fodder, give an air gap, increase airflow, and still allow one bed to drain into the other. Drilled holes in the bottom to allow the water to drain. I could water the top one and it in theory flow all the way through. Each day I would add a new stack container of soaked seeds to the bottom. By day seven, the top container would always be ready to feed to the animals, just soak and add new seeds to the bottom each day. Boom, done.


What a stack could look like



Here is what I learned. A, never leave your experiment unattended when there is a 2 YO who wants to help. 20lbs of seed all got soaked at once. Here I wrote about that day. B, there is not enough airflow moving around the seeds, and mold will develop. C, stacking will allow watering the top, and draining all the way to the bottom. D, the next experiment will involve suspending the buckets rather than stacking. I should still be able to water one spot, save horizontal floor space, and increase the airflow to the seeds.

What the top looked like

This is the second layer


Third layer


I have come to realize that there is much more learning involved with doing than talking about it, talking about it on forums, and YouTube. More people should get out there and start doing, learning, and stop fearing failure. THERE IS NO FAILURE, only a lesson on what didn’t work. To not learn from experiments, trials, mistakes, then that is a failure, because you failed to learn anything, and gave up.

My next experiments:

No. 1: Will hanging the grow beds give more air circulation and prevent mold growth using the current ice cream buckets?
No. 2: When soaking wheatgrass fodder, what is the optimal time soaking vs. fastest germination. I have read and heard, various times. I have heard 30 min, 12 hr 24 hr and varying results with each. I plan on soaking for 30 min, 1 hr, 3 hr, 6hr, 12hr and 24hr.


Fodder system

I started my fodder system last night allowing my seeds to soak. I am using wheatgrass. I have pictures and video of the system (nice stacking system for space saving), cost me only the price of the grain $18/50lbs of wheatgrass.


While I am outside, my youngest decided to “help” and poured 15 lbs of seeds into my 5 gal bucket of water. Well I could either throw all the extra away OR have a massive amount of fodder ready at the same time. I chose the 2nd part. I will feed some to the birds early, some when ready, and let it go longer.

In short, I will NOT have pictures and video of what it is SUPPOSED to look like for another 15 days.  What I wanted to show was each phase how it would be rotated and stacked to maximize yield in a small space. Once I run through this batch I will start over and demo the way I wanted, until I had helper monkey put her hands into it.

Until then, check out another way to make your own fodder system outside. This is From jack Spirko from The Survival Podcast.

Here are some pics of the seeds I am starting inside. I have a post and video of it too in time. Getting an early start this year. Again, had to moves these up 5 feet off the ground, because the 2 year old found the broccoli and ate all the sprouts.


Some fun with kids

Someone wanted me to post a few ideas we use at our house for fun with kids. So here are some different ideas. I like to think outside the box, and really like giving the kids something that they either have never seen or heard of before, or something that challenges me and I have fun with too. My chance to be a big kid again.

Snow time fun

Use clean food grade, or new never used spray bottles. You can get them at the dollar store for 3/$1.00. Pick up a pack of liquid food coloring. A few drops in the bottles and fill with water. Now go out and paint your white canvas of snow.  The more bottles you use the more colors you can come up with. Mix and match colors for new color combinations. Here is a home school tip. What colors can you make with what combinations of food coloring drops? Red and yellow make what? All depends on the age. Your white canvas will soon look like a bunch of hippies took over your yard with a tie-dyed commune and your snowman will look out of this world. FYI, special note, a friend whom I trust with advice and her word on issues like this, is Guardia has been showing up in snow. We had to tell our kids not to eat snow this year as a result.  It is a waterborne illness and can cause death. Additionally if you use yellow as a color in the bottle, well lets just say you HOPE the yellow snow was the food coloring if they ate it.  


Awesome indoor fun. Note, I do not recommend the food coloring. The more kids play with it, the more the coloring works into the skin. May have some smurfs running around.  We roll our wax paper and let the kids have different utensils to play with it on the table. Spoons, forks, rolling pins etc. Here is the recipe and a video on what it should look like. Also a science lesson for you homeschoolers.


Mega tinker toys

In warmer months, go to your local home improvement store. Buy 20 or so ½ inch 8 foot lengths of PCV pipe, a contractor bag ½ inch fittings, 4 way, 3 way, 90⁰ angles. Cut the pipes into 1, 2, and 4 foot lengths. If you have a PVC pipe cutter (looks like ratcheting pruners) it is easier. Now turn the kids loose. Let them build all kinds of designs and structures. Add a few tarps and you have a never ending design of forts, castles, hideouts, and caves.

Once they are tired of that, usually takes a month or two, buy a connection fitting to connect the PVC to your garden hose. Now you have water fun, or use a dremel with a super small drill bit and have a never ending unique water sprinkler activity set.

DIY Homemade applesauce

Today I start the 10th batch of apples for sauce and fruit leathers. I already have around 100 quarts canned for the rest of the year. Due to the bumper crop of apples this year we have had an abundance of apples. Apple sauce, apple chips (dehydrated apples), apple pie filling, apples in light syrup, apple leather, raw apples, apple dumpling, apple pie just a few of the ways we have already prepared. Everyone says apple butter, but no one in our house actually likes apple butter.

I cook about 40 lbs of apples at a time and get about 12 quarts of applesauce from that. That is the largest stock pot I have that will fit on our stove. Everyone has their own recipe, and I have tried a bunch. What I have found that works best for me is; it is simple, uses little supplies or ingredients, and has little to no waste. I have anywhere between 3 and 4 ingredients; Apples, water, lemon juice, and sometimes sugar. Sugar is added if I overdo it with lemon juice, or the apples just are not sweet enough. We tried making some with cinnamon, but all the kids liked the plain better. Typical applesauce from the store has; APPLES, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C). Sometimes there are more chemicals than that. I may add 1 cup of sugar to 12 quarts of applesauce. And ½ cup of lemon juice. The lemon juice is a preservative and keeps the color from turning brown when the apples oxidize.

Here is my process. I use the whole apple, core, peel and all. I quarter them for faster processing and cooking, it also allows me to see if any bugs are in the cores. Those go directly to the chickens. All the good quarters go into a big stock pot. Some recipes call for peeling, and coring them. That is more work than I want to put in. The bonus is there is so much more nutrition and benefits in the peal.



After ALMOST filling the pot, I take 2-4 quarts of water mixed with ½ cup lemon juice. Pour all over the apples before you start cooking. This will help the sauce from turning too brown. The lemon juice acidifies the sauce, and also keeps the apples from turning brown. You need a slightly acidic sauce for proper canning to prevent spoilage. Lesson learned from one of my batched. One recipe called for adding the lemon juice after cooking and processing. The sauce was a brown color and the kids weren’t real crazy about it, even though it tasted exactly the same as other batches.

If you fill you pot too full with apples this is what happens after you start to cook. Lesson learned; do not fill it ALL the way with apples. You do not need to cover the apples with liquid either.




I cook on high for a while, and then turn down the heat to medium.  I rarely measure unless for the first time with a recipe, and rarely time things. My wife hates this about me cooking. When I explain to her that not all stoves, pots, etc. are the same, and some heat differently, cook differently. She sighs and states “Whatever”. I leave the apples on until they are tender on the top (the bottoms will be mush at this point. I go off and do other things, dishes, getting jars ready etc. until the house starts smelling like apple pie. Very important, do not turn on the burner until the water/lemon mixture is poured over the top. Lesson learned. The bottom apples can scorch, and then once it all cooks together and you spend the time to make the sauce, it tastes like burnt sugar/apples.

IMG_0795If you have a stand mixer I cannot recommend highly enough getting one of these, food mils. Well worth the investment. If you do not have a stand mixer you can you a hand mill. But if you are going through 500+ lbs of apples, a mechanical one makes all the difference in the world.


I process the cooked apples hot, and put back into a smaller pot until everything is processed and blended. This way I can mix, blend and add sugar if it is necessary. The blend of apples we have this year usually does not require any sugar at all. It is better to use a blend of apples if you can, but totally not necessary. Like a wine, you want to blend different grapes with different flavor profiles, and a blend is better for all around taste. 

When the apples are processed the pulp comes out looking like this. This is after the first pass.


After straining out all the apples from the liquid that has collected in the bottom of the cooking pot, I will add the pump back and cook it a second time.


It will rehydrate, further break down, and I run it again through the mill. This additional process usually gives me an additional 2-3 quarts of sauce. Less water waste and less pulp waste. After the second cooking I am left with maybe 1 qt of pulp, seeds, stems, and peels.



There is not much waste from 40lbs at the start, and even that is not wasted. Some people will strain the liquid waste and use for apple juice, cider, hard cider or apple vinegar. The juice is just the filtered liquid from cooking, if you let it sit, you get cider when the juice combines with natural yeast in the air. If you let the cider sit you can get hard cider when they yeast ferment the cider to alcohol. If you let the alcohol sit, you can get apple cider vinegar. More work than I want to put into it, and not enough yield for the work. While you are just letting it sit, I forget about these sorts of things, and it ends up looking like a science project. Then I get in trouble with the home boss.



I combine the liquid again with the pump to make a slurry, and feed to the chickens. They love it, it is not wasted, I feed them less purchased feed as a result, and they give me eggs. Permaculture principals at play.





No chickens? Feed them to you worms in the worm bin to make compost, compost tea, and worm castings. No worm bin? Just add to your compost and allow it to break down to rich soil.


Back to the sauce, here is the final batch.


I will taste, usually have one of the kids taste as well. They are the final judge of sweetness. You would think they would want it almost candy tasting, but no. They actually prefer my sauce to that of store bought. After eating our homemade sauce for a while, then eating the store bought while staying with family, they said the store bought was too sweet? WHAT? Up until this last year that is what they ate all the time with no complaints. Go figure.

If no sugar is needed, we move forward, bring to a boil then, and added to cleaned mason jars. Once all the jars are full lids and rings go on. I pressure can everything now that I have one, but you do not need to for applesauce. Heating 10+ quarts of water plus the jars, for a water bath boiler is wasted energy and time in my opinion. Using the pressure canner I can get up to temp and pressure much faster, with less energy. As an added bonus, if I am canning other things such as chicken stock or other things that require the canner I can just throw them in at the same time. Because I use a pressure canner I have found that if the sauce is somewhat thin, it is better for storage. If I have a thick applesauce, then can it, it ends up getting thicker during the process and we need to add water when we open a jar to eat as it is almost like a jam. It is almost hard to describe, I like the sauce as a soup consistency vs. a ketchup consistency prior to canning.

You can experiment as we have with various different blends such as apple-peach, apple-pear, apple-mixed berry, apple-blueberry, apple-strawberry, and apple-carrot (it was an experiment). Everything came out of our gardens so we know that there was nothing sprayed on the skins, or waxes etc. Important note, DO NOT run blackberry or other seeded berry in your kitchen aid mill. The seeds can get clogged and I have read where it can damage it. You also do not have to use sugar as a sweetener, you can use stevia if you have it. I have done this a few times and no one noticed. We also grow our own stevia and I make my own liquid sweetener.  

Where to start?

                Many people use the saying “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. Yeah yeah, yeah, we all have heard that. Then a few things that happen recently made me stop and think about it, and where I am at today, where I was five years ago, and where I want to be in another five years. I thought; how to help people when it seems so overwhelming once you get the self sufficiency, permaculture, or general wake up bug.

One day at one of the tours at our suburban property someone asked, how do I do it all, and where did I start? A day or so ago I was praising someone for sharing so much of their knowledge with me, and one of the online forums we both belong to (TSP). Another member pointed out that her posts should be a wakeup call to all those that are not doing as much. This was in reference to just general homesteading tasks, but I took it as a whole and really could be doing much more on a daily basis. Same forum someone asked a really vague and general question. “Where did everyone get started and what are your best resources for permaculture”.

You start one day at a time, one project, and one idea at a time. So you have never grown anything in your life let alone for food, and worse, have to depend on that food you grow.  Start small, a houseplant over the winter in a window. It gives a sense of accomplishment, and bonus helps filter your air in your home. There are lots Aloe in my front windowof hardy plants that can be grown inside. Start out with an aloe plant. It is hardy enough if you forget to water for a few weeks, sometimes months it can still survive. The “leaves” will tell you what is going on. If they wilt, add some water, start turning brown, too much water, too cold, or maybe needs more sun. It has many beneficial food and medicinal properties as stated on an earlier post. After a few months and a large enough pot, you will see “baby” aloe plants. Separate and now you have more. Share with someone, sell them, or give them away.

So now you successfully raise an aloe plant, now what? Try a tomato, or lettuce in a pot or bucket. While tomatoes, at least here in the Midwest will need to wait until spring or


summer, you can grow lettuce the same way as you did your aloe plant over winter. Buy romaine, rather than iceberg lettuce next time you go to the store. When you use it down to the heart, plant it in the same window you had the aloe. It should regrow. It will need more frequent watering, but it is a start. Romaine is healthier than iceberg, and I never get the bagged stuff. It is not as fresh, and will not last as long. If you eat regular salads plant each heart, soon you will have several plants going. After a while you can collect a salad or two a week from your recycled romaine plants. You are now growing your own food.


Here are some other plants you can regrow after you harvest from the store.


Try some other plants, on a balcony, in a window, on a deck. You do not need to jump right into turning your yard into a garden. Often people feel overwhelmed by trying to do EVERYTHIGN they read about all at once. Remember one step at a time. Build on each new skill you learn.

Here is another quick win. Do you shred your junk mail and other documents you get in the mail before putting them in the garbage? If not you should. Buy a micro shredder. It is harder for crooks to put your information back together from the garbage. OK, ok, what does this have to do with permaculture. Great tip but what gives? Shred your paper waste, no glossy materials i.e. magazines, and some inserts and flyers. Use the shreds to start a worm composter. What? Don’t they smell? Not at all if done right. The paper acts as bedding to the worms, and they will eventually eat it too as it starts to break down. Get a bucket, tub, trashcan, anything that will hold soil and the worms. It could be as small as a 1 gal ice cream bucket (plastic) to 55 gal barrel or bigger. If you must have a lid on your bin add air holes in the top. Add compost material to your bin, (no dairy, meat, or fats this makes it smell) along with a little soil, some red wiggler worms, then cover with the shredded paper and walk away. It needs to have a little moisture, think damp not wet. In a few weeks the worms turn your food and junk mail waste into rich compost. You can add this black gold back to your lettuce garden. It will give back added nutrients and boost your soil for the plants. If you cook pasta or steam vegetables, water your lettuce with the water once it has cooled. No need to send it down the drain. That is some great fertilizer for plants. Looking for where to get worms locally? Keith at Castaway Compost where I got mine to start. Don’t look now; you have just become an organic gardener. Seems small right? But small steps can complete a marathon.

We use something like this. We paid a little bit extra to get one that would handle 8+ sheets at a time. $60. We also shred all cardboard, paperboard, newspaper, office paper etc.

photo 3

Here is one of our bins

photo 1

Pull back the paper, and black gold with tons of worms.

photo 2

Feeling accomplished? Try an aquaponics basic indoor system. It really is pretty simple, and can be accomplished for under $50. In just a few months you have gone from never growing anything to an organic gardener producing at least some of your own food. Let’s call this post Step One. Step Two, grow a salad with cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, carrots and spinach then top it off with homemade croutons and homemade dressing.  No yard, no problem. If you are on Step One, or going to start Step One, do it over the winter. Most people hibernate here in the Midwest anyway, might as well pick up a new skill. January is the time to start Step Two. Do what? It is the middle of winter in the Midwest. Stay tuned and I will fill you in.

Do you know someone who wants to get started but doesn’t know where to start? Share this post with them.

Build an aquaponics system for under $50

Recently I hosted a tour from the great folks from Aquatic Design. A local company that sells, installs, and services ponds and other waterscapes. They are beginning to enter the world of aquaponics, and wanted to see some real examples from the area. Granted my system are no commercial operation, nor are they often pretty to look at. I mean, I use kitty litter boxes as biofilters. It was cheap (free), I felt accomplished, I did it myself, it works, I can replace parts easily and inexpensively (free).  


The tour was a learning experience for both I felt. I shared my experiences and lessons learn, often the hard way, and what I, as a new consumer, or someone just getting into aquaponics might be asking, looking for, and solutions to some problems I encountered. I have been a past customer of Aquatic Design and probably continue to be. It was a great feeling when they asked me to come see their new building which will house their aquaponics examples and configurations and maybe give advice as they were setting things up. I felt like all my lessons learned the hard way, shortfalls, and set backs were for a reason. I didn’t need to go to a course, an educational institution, or pay a big chunk of money for the education I had experienced. So when I tell people you don’t need to spend a ton of money on videos, books or classes, to learn about aquaponics I come speaking from experience.  

 While they were here I talked about the largest system 4500 gal outdoor down to my smallest system 30 gallon. As of now we have 4 systems in operation. 4500 gal outdoor pond, 3000 gal currently in a greenhouse but being converted to hoop house, the newest a 275 gal poly tote in the garage – still under development, and the 30 gal inside our kitchen/dining room. This 30 gal is something many people can put into place for inexpensively, it is a great conversation piece, it is entertainment, it is educational for kids of almost all ages, and in my mind, it’s really cool.


4500 gal system

4500 gal outdoor system

3000 gal greenhouse system
3000 gal greenhouse system
275 gal still under development

275 gal still under development

Tubs on top of the 275 gal tank. Using Raft grow system

Tubs on top of the 275 gal tank. Using Raft grow system, romaine, celery, and azola growing

30 gal indoor system


Romaine from purchased head


Romaine 3 days later

I made this system a continuous recycling flow system. I got the aquarium from a friend who was throwing it out. Free. You can look on Craigslist, Goodwill, or friends and family for aquariums. Many times people would love to get rid of them. Bonus if you get pumps or other stuff with it you can use later.

The rocks on the bottom of the tank are landscaping lava rocks. Mine were free. The previous owner of my current house landscaped with it. I hate the stuff in the yard. Again free. (well, if you count the $10 I pay kids to collect if they want to earn money). Fish habitat or hiding spaces I used left over PVC pipe from another project. Find them at building sites, or look around. It could be old Tupperware, or food containers just something for the fish to swim in and out of.

I actually paid for the submersible pump. But it was 75% off so I think I paid $10. Some big box stores will clearance pond and fountain pumps in fall and early winter. Just watch for sales. Or it may come with your aquarium you got for free. You can watch Goodwill and I have seen fountains or other pumps on occasion. Worst case $30 or so retail price.

The grow beds are wash bins. This was a Goodwill special and I only paid $0.25 each. Dollar Store has them for a buck. The grow media, lava rock again. Do not pay for the extruded clay. Not worth the extra money in my opinion. I drilled holes in the bins and had the pump take water from the tank, pump into the bins, and out the drainage holes in the bottom. It is important to add more holes than you think is necessary, because over time roots and other gunk can fill the holes and it will overflow. Another important lesson, add overflow holes below the lip. VERY important, if you don’t, and your drainage holes become clogged, your tank will overflow, and all your water will go onto the floor. Want to know how I learned this?

Because of the location in my house the system doesn’t get enough direct light to support plant growth. So I added a florescent light. The light, the stand, and the bulbs maybe $30. I made the stand out of PVC pipe and fittings. I could have just as easily hung from the ceiling and saved the cost. I use this system sometimes when I to talks or presentations and the stand is needed for display purposes. You need to use a bulb that will hit 2700K to 6500K, read the labels on the bulbs. Choose a T5 over a T12 type of bulb. T5 is higher intensity over T12, and more efficient use of energy. The fixture should match the bulb type, T5 bulbs fit in T5 fixtures. You could use HID, or LED. But for the money and energy I found fluorescent was just fine. HID gives off too much heat, and LED was too expensive. With fluorescent lights you want them 2-6 inches from the plants. The light needed for photosynthesis loses its intensity after 6 inches using fluorescent bulbs. HID can be several feet away because it is a more intense light (and 2-6 inches will literally cook your plants).  

We have some kale, some medicinal plants, and a philodendron, which are poisonous, but we can split and propagate to other containers to sell, or help purify the air in the house. We always leave the main plant so that there is always a plant purifying the water in the system. We have had tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, parsley, basil, cilantro, marigold and more. You can get plants from what many people think of wastes. We have started planting the bottoms of romaine lettuce. It was originally just an experiment, but now we are just harvesting the leaves for food. Celery is another plant that can be planted from the hearts when you buy them at the store. Here is another list of plants you can plant from cuttings when buying food. You can also regrow scallions, 3+ years of cuttings from the same plant.



Celery, this is the 4th regrowth for this plant

I got feeder fish from the pet store $0.12 each. I got a plecostomus (sucker fish) to eat the algae off the sides so I didn’t have to do it. $2.00. I feed the fish azola or duckweed I grow myself. So feeding them is free.  From an educational standpoint there are so many things to learn. From the 2 year old feeding and watching the fish, to adults and learning about the nitrogen cycle. There are lots of lessons to be learned. Want to learn more. Contact us, or follow us here, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  Or come see us in person November 23rd for a full day class on homesteading, growing your own food, preserving your own food and more! Ensure your spot is reserved by registering and prepaying for the class. Schedule your own series of classes with the Be Prepared Series.

Full day homesteading skills class

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey for what people are looking for as far as education here in Indy. Here is the first response to that. Based on the survey results this is what most people wanted to see.

Full day homesteading basics class. 8 full hours plus free samples to take home. As of now here is the breakdown of the class. This is for people from apartments to rural areas. I will give examples of how you can implement in just about any situation. I will bring examples, what materials I use, photos, and a CD/DVD of resources I use when I need additional information.

Class will be $40 per person or $60/couple. If bringing the family or more than 2 please contact me for other arrangements. Pay in advance or at the door. Cash only at the door. You will save the cost of the class alone if you just adopt and use a few of the topics mentioned.  Due to the limitations of Meetup payments (can’t do discounts based on number of people) contact me if you want to pay in advance with cash or use electronic payment.

Register through one of the Meetup groups below although not required. There is a limited number of seats but should accommodate a larger class size but to guarantee a seat registration is recommended.

Here is what is being offered. I can add additional topics if time and my experience permits. Seats, and tables provided along with two large overhead screens for notes and examples. There will be breaks and a lunch period as well. Bring your lunch or visit one of the many local places.

  1. Backyard Grocery (fall is one of the best times to start this)
    1. Mini Orchard
    2. Vegetable garden
    3. Edible landscaping
    4. Aquaponics
    5. Backyard Chickens
    6. Goats
    7. Bees
    8. Rabbits
    9. Vertical Gardening
    10. Potatoes
    11. Container Gardening
    12. Medicinal Herbs
    13. Composting and mulch
    14. Water harvesting and rainbarrels
  2. Food Preservation (what to do with everything you harvest)
    1. Canning
      1. Water bath canning
      2. Pressure canning
    2. Dehydrating
    3. Freezing
    4. Smoking
    5. Fermenting
  3. DIY
    1. Laundry soap – how to make – free samples 5 ingredients or less
    2. Tooth paste – how to make – free samples 3 ingredients or less
    3. Bar soap – how to make –(free samples if cured in time)
    4. Fire starters – how to make
    5. Homemade bread – very simple steps <5 ingredients. Way more healthy for family
    6. Homemade pasta – very simple steps <5 ingredients. Way more healthy for family
    7. Make your own ethanol
    8. Battery backup for emergency home power use
    9. Make your own generator from your car with an inverter

It’s October, You Still Have Time To Build A Winter Cold Frame Or Hot Bed

With temps in the 50’s today this came at the right time. There are some great varieties of veggies that will do will in the colder temps.


It’s October, You Still Have Time To Build A Winter Cold Frame Or Hot Bed.

What is a dead tree worth?

                Many people will say not much, it is dead, it cannot filter the air, it cannot produce any more for us. I on the other hand see great potential in what others call a waste. The Native American Indians would use every part of a resource, letting nothing go to waste. This principal was repeated in my permaculture course. Recently I was able to take a trip to a friend’s farm and he had several trees that had been blown over. Here is my recap of what a dead tree is worth to me. Granted some uses may take time as in drying firewood, but it all started with the single blown over tree. This single dead tree is worth roughly at least $2,220. There are probably other ways to break it down, but just as an example.

 dead tree

Firewood – $400

                In my area of suburbia dried split firewood runs for about $60-$80 a rick. Now some people claim a rick is 3×6 where the true rick is 4×8.. Dried, split, delivered, and stacked about $100/rick in my area. 3×6 prices and it would be $500. The particular tree we cut was about 4 true ricks worth of wood when split and stacked.

Heating offset – $800

                In suburbia we only have heat pump/electric heat. The first year we lived in the house that is all we used to heat. Our electricity bill was through the roof that winter. We then invested in a fireplace insert which is about 80% efficient using the wood to the 20% of a normal fireplace. 20% is generous for most fireplaces. The 4 ricks of wood would last us about 2-3 months. With this single fireplace we are able to heat a 1900 sq foot home throughout the entire winter and never need the heat pump/electric heat.

Mushrooms – $800

                Several of the branch logs can be stacked to make a mushroom colony. The going rate for dried oyster mushrooms is about $60/lb dried. The logs could produce for at least 2 years. If you get a more exotic variety of mushrooms and the profit from said mushrooms increases much more.

Mulch – $100

The branches that are too small for firewood and leaves are sent through a shredder and used for gardening mulch. A few cubic yards could be gained from the tops of a tree.

Water reduction – $50

                Having a thinker layer of mulch around your plants reduces the need to water and external nutrients. This extra layer of mulch will help retain water, and reduce or eliminate the need to water your plants.

Mushroom Compost – $50

                After the mushrooms break down the log, the compost that is left is one of the best compost you can buy. All of the nutrients and minerals the tree has taken up and stored over its lifetime is broken down and now available for a new generation of plants.  

 Sawdust – $20

                Yes even the wood chips left over from cutting up the tree can be worth something. Sawdust, combine with old candle wax and you have a fire starter, use sawdust in worm bins to produce compost tea, compost, and worms, cat litter, use it as animal bedding just to name a few. You do not want to use around any animals if the tree is a black walnut. There are toxic oils in the tree which can make animals sick or even kill them.

This is just one example of how we as a society could better use our resources more effectively. I have learned so much with my experiences over the years and the additional benefit of permaculture educations. I would like to help you use this as well. The possibilities of what you can do with what are otherwise waste materials is huge. Old tires, pallets, plastic pop bottles are normally thrown out. You can reuse these materials. Your lawn that produces nothing but work for you. You have to mow, some people water it, and unfortunately many people put chemicals for weeds and fertilizer. Why not turn this wasted space, costing you money into something that can produce food, or even income for you. Let me work with you to help you become more self sufficient. Use the Contact us page to let us know how we can help you on your path to getting a better life. The first 30 min are free what do you have to loose. See what others have had to say on the testimonial page.

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.