Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gone For A Couple of Days

My hubby and I, and all the dogs, are going to be gone for a couple of days. We are going down to our property. This is the property to which we will be moving. It is the property where we are slowly building a house, starting gardening beds and trying to create a different kind of life. This is basically a pleasure trip. We will stay in our small "cabin", basically a wonky 12 x 12 wooden shack, with enough gaps between the walls and the floor to allow small trees to start growing. However, it keeps us dry and pretty warm.

This trip will also be the beginning of a resources analysis of the property. To create a good permaculture design you need to make a needs and resource list of the place you are going to design. This will encompass everything you can think of, from the types of trees and grasses, the water sources, drain offs, neighbors, type of soil, direction of the sun. Everything that is there. It takes a lot of close observation to do a good resource analysis. Technically, you would never have a complete list because you could include all the animals and invertebrates, all the types of trees, etc. Our list, of course, will not be near this complete. We will do this list over several visits.

We will also map the property. Some people will have this done professionally be a surveyor but we will hand draw it ourselves, doing the best we can.

I hope you all will have a nice couple of days and take the time to do something nice for yourselves and a love one over the next couple of days. There is no better time than the present to do so.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Some Permaculture Thoughts

Last fall, I went to a basic permaculture training. It was two weeks in New York state. I loved it. It is time for me to revisit some of the ideas I learned and I thought I would do that through this blog so I could share the thoughts and information. This is the first installment.

First of all, there is a lot of misconception about what permaculture is. Most people conjure up images of fanciful gardens and maybe a composting toilet when they hear the word permaculture. And although these may be part of a permaculture design, they in no way encompass it. Permaculture is a design system. A way of looking at something, thinking about something and planning something. It is applicable to anything that you design. And we are arranging and planning things all the time. You could apply permaculture principles to arranging your desk, planning how your kitchen is set up or use it to design an intentional living community. Only your imagination limits the ways to use design principles of permaculture.

There are a couple of questions that should be asked when planning a system. The first of which is, is what we're doing something that cares for the earth? Permaculture is designed to help you create systems that are not only sustainable but that aim to be regenerative. If you are planning a garden, your goal will be to actually help to restore the soil and ecosystem. This will become more clear as we discuss the principles in more depth. A second question that needs to be asked is, will this design care for people? Again, in permaculture, ethics is an important consideration when designing a system. It is imperative if we are to create sustainable caring communities that we consider how we are impacting both the earth and other people. Currently the way most systems are designed, they are created without these two concepts in mind. Think of your local grocery store, it is not set up in a way to care for the earth or people. It is designed to illicit a shopping response and to manipulate the way you shop. It's goal is to get you to buy more groceries. Think about how local communities are planned. Again, it becomes pretty clear, pretty fast that these systems are not designed with people or the planet in mind. I think this will be a necessary shift in focus for us to create the kind of place where most of us would want to live if we were to have a choice. It will also be a necessary shift as we move towards sustainability and not the plunder of people and the earth.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tree Grafting and Factor E Farm

Wow, what a cool way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I mean, yes, it was cold, but oh so cool. Lisa and I drove up to Maysville, Missouri from Kansas City for a plant propagation workshop at The Factor E Farm. Here is the group of us, Marcin Jakubowski, the founder, took the picture. They are working on creating a self sustainable reproducible village, with all designs for equipment, techniques and knowledge gained being shared with the world in an open source way. That means no barriers or restrictions to access the information. First Marcin gave us a tour of the farm and showed us a cordwood building, an earthbag building, and a couple of other types of shelters they are experimenting with. Check out the videos . They have chickens and goats on their farm. The focus of the workshop was plant propagation using grafting. Splicing one kind of tree onto another type of tree rootstock. Marcin was a gracious host and a wonderful and knowledgeable instructor. Using a grafting tool, we learned how to join together two varieties of apple, peach, and plum trees. The purpose is to basically "clone" the tree that provides the fruit specimens that you desire. By taking cuttings of small one year old branches, you can duplicate the variety by grafting them onto inexpensive root stocks you can buy, or cut your own from the varieties already growing on your land. The workshop was documented and can be accessed here.

Participants came from Prairie Village (Kansas), Kansas City (Missouri), and Tom, who was on a business trip in St. Louis, made the detour to attend. He lives in West Virginia. People from all over the world are interested in the eco village model, and people from all over the world have expressed interest in coming to live and work on the farm. We were very excited about the Farm and plan on volunteering in the coming months.

Marcin designed and built a diesel tractor that runs on veggie oil. It's plans and design are readily availible. It's low cost and easy to build. They also have a truck they power with veggie oil as well. If you are interested in becoming sustainable, you have got to check out their website. Look for upcoming information on what's going on. We are going up the end of this month to help out for a couple of days. We'll tell you all about it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Food That I Can Grow

In my quest to become self sufficient and sustainable, I've been making a list of the foods that I can grow to eat. My goal, within the next two years is to be producing around 70-80% of my own food. Right now, I don't have much growing space, just a small backyard. However, we have bought some acreage, our share is a little over 30 acres. In the next couple of years, my husband and I will be moving there. It is there that we are building a cob house, it is there where we will be living off of the grid, and it is there that I will be trying to grow as much of the food that we eat that I can. To begin this process, I have made a list of all the different foods that I can think of that will grow in our climate that I think I can grow. I haven't estimated how much of each I will need yet, but that is the next step. The fruit and nut trees will be accumulated over the next couple of years, some will be bought others will be swapped for and grafted from starts. A lot of the vegetables, I am currently growing. Right now, I do not have the room to grow the grains, so they are a future project. Another goal is to learn how to forage for food that all ready grows on our land, there are a lot of greens and other food, I think we can get directly from the land. This is something I have not learned very much about yet. If you see a food that I have missed, will you please, let me know in the comment section, so I can add it to my list. Thanks


Plum, Apricots, Peaches, Pears, Apples, grapes, raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, persimmon, paw paw, cherries - sweet and sour, kiwi, fig (in greenhouse), dates (in gh), citrus (in gh), melons, watermelon, ground cherries


rice, barley, oats, wheat, quinea, amaranth, buckwheat, flax, sesame (?), corn\


peanuts, filberts, pecans, walnuts, hickory, chestnuts (i think i'm missing some obvious ones)


garlic, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, greens, spinach, lettuce, carrot, asparagus, artichoke, radish pods, kohlrabi, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas - snap, shelling, snow, beans - green and dried (we eat lots of dried beans), lentils, tomatoes, peppers - hot and sweet, eggplant, squash - winter and summer, pumpkins, celery, soybeans, tomatillos, corn mache, cress, cabbage,


mushrooms - learn to grow and hunt for morels, eggs (chickens), milk and cheese

I haven't made a list of herbs yet. I still need to do this.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sad Plants and More

I had been bringing my plants in and out of the house so they could get some sunlight. Due to the fact that I don't have enough windows letting in enough light. However, about 4 days ago it cooled off drastically here. The last day I tried to put my plants out to get some sun, several of them died due to the cold. So, they are back in again, rotating through spots close to the window. This is starting to me a logistical nightmare since I have 10 flats going and have only just begun to get my seeds planted. It had better warm up here so i can put them out for a while during the day or I'm going to have to start cutting holes in the walls to let in some daylight.

Meanwhile, I am devouring the pages of the Seed Savers Membership book. If you become a member of seed savers (a great thing to do and now you get a discount on seed), you get access to the membership catalog. In this catalog, almost any variety of any fruit or vegetable that you could ever imagine is listed with a member that has been saving it's seed. The mission is to preserve as many varieties of seed as possible and to slow down the loss of varieties. If you thought that the only apples there are to eat are red delicious and jonathans, you are in for a huge surprise. The catalog lists about 400 varieties. If you thought the only varieties of tomatoes there are are the ones you can buy from Burpee, again, you have a huge surprise instore. In the membership catalog, there are several hundreds of varieties available. So, this year I'm going to request a couple of different varieties of plant seeds and save the seeds. Hopefully, next year I can be one of the members that is trying to preserve the seed pool and along the way, I'm going to be eating some delicious fruits and veggies.

My native perennials are still in cold storage. I hope to take them out and get them started early next week. They look good, a couple were starting to dry out. So, I added some water. I'll keep you posted on how they are doing. Meanwhile, about half of the ones that didn't need any pretreatment that I started are beginning to sprout. Hopefully, the others are just being slow and I haven't drowned them or something.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Some Eye Candy

Here's a few pages that I made for a chunky book swap on Illustrated ATCs. A chunky book pages measures 4x4 and for this swap everyone had a theme in which we made cards for. So, without further ado, here's a couple of my favorite pages that I made for the swap.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Grey Water

One of the principles of permaculture is to look at things that would commonly be thought of as a waste product and instead, view it as a resource. You are always looking for the next best use out of everything. In our present day system, we pipe clean, potable water into our house. We use it to drink, to wash clothes, to take showers, to flush toilets and to water plants. After this initial use, we pipe the water, now called gray water (with the exception of the water from the toilet which is called black water) out of our house and into the sewage system. Within a permaculture system, you would look for other ways to use this grey water instead of letting it be taken away.

There are a couple of different options that involve using what is called a gray water system. These systems are what I'm currently researching. In most metropolitan areas, grey water systems are illegal or at least restricted and you should contact your local municipality to see what restrictions there are in your area. Eventually, when we move to our acreage, our house will be off the grid and we will reuse all of our grey water. I would like to begin some of the process in the house I live in now. I would like to capture the water from our washing machine and contain it in a barrel reservoir, to later use to irrigate my gardens.

If you have any desire to install a gray water system, or are even just interested in learning more, you absolutely need to get the book Create An Oasis with Greywater by Art Ludwig. What I am researching now is how to capture the water from our washing machine and save it in a barrel. I can later use this water to help water my garden. It is necessary to be careful what kinds of cleaners I use to wash our clothes because I don't want to be putting chemicals onto my plants. This goes right along with what I'd like to do any way because I'd like to be making my own soaps.

I'll keep you posted on how our project goes and give you some pictures of our progress. The big challenge will be to cut a hole in our laundry room and reroute the water outside the house to be stored. Our laundry room is on the second story from the back of the house, so, there will be some challenges. I highly recommend you get this book, check out your local library. You can also get lots more information from the Oasis website.