Tag Archives: Experiment

Experiment and make mistakes, it is a good thing

I was doing some research the other day. Well that is what I tell my wife when watching videos on YouTube.  I was researching some of how Joel Salatin integrated different operations of his farm, and some of the new opportunities for your farmers he is a part of. If you have not heard of Joel I highly recommend learning all you can from him, his books, online, interviews, podcasts, and videos. He is a great source of knowledge and experience. Joel integrates many aspects of his farm operation from the timbering area, to the sawmill, to the pigs, to the rabbits, to the chickens to people. I was amazed how one waste is another input for a different system. How by putting two things together that you think as separate, can give a dramatic improvement overall when you look at the system as a whole. Something he said struck me as so true, that I often say myself but in a different way.


“Anything worth doing, is worth doing wrong the first time”

He shared how the success they have found on their farm wasn’t from this great insight that just came from a book, class, or Devine intervention. They learned along the way on what works, what doesn’t, learned by accident even. Another one of my mentors Geoff Lawton has a somewhat similar philosophy, as does Sepp Holzer. One of the keys to permaculture is experiment, and see what works best in your climate, your soil, with your lifestyle. Try things out and see what happens.

 I find this very true in my own experiments and progress.  Stop researching and trying to find the perfect solution, the perfect plant, the perfect design and it work 100% of the time on the first time. You will learn much more for experimenting, making your own, and trying things out. Sure, you may not be successful all the time, but you learn an aspect, you are doing, you are getting your hands dirty. Maybe you get a totally unintended result because of what you thought was a failure, but totally was a better outcome.


When my experimental stacking fodder system didn’t work as I expected, it was by chance I was starting my spring seeds in the same area inside. The new seed trays I had planned on using have small notches on the rim. These notches were a great fit for left over pipes in the area from another project. Boom, I now can stack these new trays using the pipes in the notches as spacers. As it happens, the air gap is sufficient for air circulation. Bonus, the trays were on sale and got them for 0.99 each. So, now we have fodder system 2.0.

Another example, v1.0 of worm composting completely failed. Smelled bad, all the worms died, and wife was NOT happy with the smell. By chance, I met a local guy who teaches worm composting. I had done everything wrong that I could possibly do wrong. Worm v2.0 success. When we collected all the surplus apples that fell on the ground, I fed them to the worms. I needed paper/cardboard for bedding for my worms. This is where my junk mail/cardboard shredding system comes in. Worms are taking a waste and turning it into a resource. This year, I started making compost tea with castings, and spraying on my seedlings. I now have an additional resource from a waste. Had I not failed so miserably, I would have never wondered why I had failed so miserably prompting me to use the failure in a class I was giving about what not to do. Had I not stated how I failed in a class I was giving, this gentleman wouldn’t have offered his help, and I wouldn’t have some of the best looking plant starts ever.

The point is, you NEVER fail. You learn something that didn’t work. Learn from this, but don’t repeat it. Try a different variable; maybe a different plant, a different location, or a different interaction on your part.


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.