Tag Archives: water harvesting

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.

http://www.meetup.com/AlternativeGardening/

http://www.meetup.com/Indiana-Disaster-Preparedness/

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

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.

Suburban Farm Tour 9-21-13 10am

If you are local to the Indianapolis area we are hosting a group tour to see in person and ask questions some of the things we have used on our micro farm in the city. See the three aquaponic systems in action, back yard chickens, medicinal herbs, water harvesting, edible landscapes just to name a few. Ask questions, tips, techniques and see some of the items we have for sale. This will be scheduled through Meetup Alternative Gardening group. If you are not already a member of Meetup there is a link below. We are having it on Saturday September 21st 10am.

Group Tour info

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.

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                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.

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

I am presenting at Foodcon IV in Indianapolis

The Harrison Center for the Arts presents FoodCon IV, our unconventional convention celebrating the art and culture of food in Indiana. Now in its fourth year, FoodCon IV will gather a wide and exciting variety of local food enthusiasts. In the courtyard, attendees can learn more about raising goats and chickens, beekeeping, salmon cooperatives, hydroponics, lead abatement, the Garden Tower Project, Handsel Farms, the Butler Campus Farm, cow share programs, cooperative groceries and much more.

Late on Monday I got a call to have tables set up for various aspects on which I teach and practice at our homestead. I will be speaking about rain barrels, food preservation, aquaponics, and my wife will be presenting on medicinal herbs you can grow in your back yard along with their uses.
If you will be in the Indianapolis area on Friday evening come check it out. The cost is FREE.

www.harrisoncenter.org

Don’t forget, Saturday we are hosting a tour at our micro farm in suburbia at 9am. We may be inclined to offer an 11 am tour for those that like to sleep in a bit later. If 9 is just too early let us know you would like a later time.

http://www.meetup.com/AlternativeGardening/events/124494172/

Outdoor aquaponic and garden pond

I was jealous of my neighbors “water feature” and wanted one. I couldn’t justify the cost of putting one in and it not be productive. Then while cleaning out my MIL junk barn, we found a small plastic pond. I dug a hole, and with a spare pump from my greenhouse aquaponics I had a water feature. No extra cost. But how to make it productive? Fast forward a year. I decided I wanted a bigger pond and stock with fish. So again I dug the hole by hand. It kept getting bigger and bigger as I thought of all the things I could add.

Here is a picture of the hole. it is 4 1/2 feed at the deepest 15 feet long and 8 feet wide.

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Next we added a roofing liner. I chose EDPM, 60 mil thick. I got a change through my professional work history to meet an engineer who works at firestone. Who make both roofing liners and pond liners. The material is identical. The only difference is the anti caking agent they use when rolling it or folding it. But here’s the catch, the pond liner is quite a bit more expensive. I just bought the roofing liner, and washed it several times, then with soap, and rinsed a few more. I cycled my system for several weeks before adding fish or plants.

Here are some photos of the system when we just got started.

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Here is the same angle today.

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The overflow from my rain catchment system goes into the pond. After a few spots in the yard heal from chicken devastation, I will swale and fence in the area to remove the pipe. It is only there to keep the water from eroding the surface soil.

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The overflow of the pond goes into my garden.

When stocking with fish I use pet store feeder fish. Here locally I can get 100 different colored and patterned goldfish for $12.79. They are pretty hardy to get the system started, and add some color. The fish I started 18 months ago were around 1” and now are 9”+ and 1-2 lbs each. I feed duckweed and a handful or organic fish pellets. Duckweed will duplicate every 24 hrs in summer, and has more protein than soy and the feed I give them. I bought my first duckweed from a pond store, and it just keeps going. I have given duckweed to people on tours when asked and now sell if anyone wanted to start their own for their systems.

For the production piece. I added drip irrigation to recycled plastic containers which I hung from my deck railing. I took 2L bottles and cut off the bottom. Then drilled holes in the lids. The top bottle drills to the second, and then to the third, which drains back into the pond. In each bottle I used coconut coir as media. We planted cucumber, 3 kinds of melons, 5 varieties of lettuce, strawberries, peppers, and cilantro. The liner is pulled up so high to catch the drip irrigation and to keep chickens and the dog from the back side of the pond.

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For the biofilter I again built my own. Recycled plastic feed containers, and PVC pipe. Inside there are river rock, lava rock, pea gravel and more coconut coir. The top container flows to the second which has a diverter and the drip irrigation. Again all recycled parts. Most of the plants I started from seed. The only things that cost me anything were the pump, bought off season for 75% off, and the liner. Since I bought roofing liner, rather than pond liner it saved me a few hundred dollars. The fish, but now we restock it ourselves when we go fishing. Any minnows that don’t get used, or fish that are too small to eat go to the pond to grow, and keep down mosquito population. The rocks were picked up from fields that get plowed. the 55 gallon drum serves no purpose than giving additional height. I am working on another system of hanging baskets from the pergola to give more growing area.

 

Here are some additional photos and description of our outdoor aquaponic system.  I have experimented with different growing systems. From drip irrigation to floating rafts.

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Do you want to turn your “water feature” into a production space? Contact us and we can help. Want your own aquaponic system, again we can help.

Q: What do you do in winter? All the plants and the drip irrigation go away, mainly to compost. I disconnect the biofilter, and run a fountain to keep the water from freezing and oxygenate the water. The water plants move to the greenhouse, and a stash of duckweed goes into the greenhouse, and in the indoor system, to be returned next spring.

Q: What kind of fish can you use? Any kind of fish that will be winter hardy. You can use koi, goldfish, catfish, bluegill, carp, sunfish etc. You may be able to use tilapia but the water needs to maintain 50 or above and for optimal conditions 70-80 degree water is needed. This year we didn’t get the system cycled in time to optimize the growing season for tilapia. Next year we may put them in once the water maintains above 50 overnight, and then harvest before the water drops below 50. MAYBE 9 moths or less. for now bluegill, sunfish, and catfish are stocked along with goldfish for color.

 

Group tour July 6th

If you are local to the Indianapolis area we are hosting a group tour to see in person and ask questions some of the things we have used on our micro farm in the city. See the three aquaponic systems in action, back yard chickens, medicinal herbs, water harvesting, edible landscapes just to name a few. Ask questions, tips, techniques and see some of the items we have for sale. Because we have a small yard, and to make sure question and answer time is available, we are limiting to 20 people. This will be scheduled through Meetup Alternative Gardening group. If you are not already a member of Meetup there is a link below. We are having it on Saturday July 6th 9am.

 

Group Tour info

Rainbarrel V 2.0

Last year here in the Midwest we had a pretty serious drought. “Officials” were stating you were not able to water gardens etc. due to water shortage. That took its toll on our gardens and aquaponics. Before the ban I had to refill the pond regularly due to evaporation. That became expensive.

This is version 2.0 of our rain collection system. Version 1.0 had the barrels upright and would cascade to the next one down the slope. They had many problems. Standing water for mosquitoes, water transportation out of the barrels, water transportation between the barrels, then storage and space capacity.

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I made this from barrels I got locally, they are food grade plastic, with closed lids and 2” bung caps. The caps are pre threaded for ½” pipe. The PVC plastic pipe I was able to scavenge from another project, but buying all the parts probably cost less than $50. Each system can be different, and scaled to your own water needs. I would have liked to have more barrels, but I only had 4×4 lengths that would support the current setup. With the 5 barrels, I can collect 275 gallons of water. This is enough to water 5-8 times or more of my vegetable garden depending on how much rain we get. Because I use deep mulch in our gardens, I am able to retain moisture and water better than if it was on bare ground.

I have two downspouts emptying into the collection system and the overflow goes into my aquaponics pond, or into the greenhouse pond. These refill each time it rains for even a moderate amount of time.

We have planted butterfly bushes in front of the barrels to somewhat hide them. They are in my back yard so it isn’t visible from the front of the house.

I am hoping to make version 3.0 using 275 gal poly totes on some of my other downspouts. I hope to have two high, and two across for a total of 1,100 gallons. Stay tuned for more updates.

These can be built on your site/home as well. Use the contact us or consulting page.