Monday, January 31, 2011

I bet you have never heard of this type of food production!!

     As many of you may know, I spend a lot of time behind the wheel for my job.  Since I think I have heard every song that has been played on the radio EVER, I resorted to listening to podcasts.  I have many interests so and there is a podcast for everything so it seems.  This brought me to a few podcasts that have to deal with homesteading and survivalism.  One of these is called The Self Sufficient Homestead , and the other is called The Survival Podcast .  These two podcasts have filled my head with ideas on ways to grow food and basic homesteading in general.
     One of the most interesting ways I have learned to produce BUSHELS of my own food cheaply is called Aquaponics.  Maybe you have heard of this type of farming but I sure never had until Johnny Max and his wife The Queen (The Self Sufficient Homestead podcast) brought it up on one of their earlier episodes.
     If you have never heard of aquaponics, maybe you have heard of hydroponics.  This is basically growing plants in a media where the roots have a constant supply of water.  With aquaponics you do the same thing except you also grow fish.  Let me explain.
     The idea is to have a fish tank filled with a type of fish that you enjoy eating.  It really depends on how fast you would like to have these fish ready to eat and the temperature of your water.  It is impossible for me here in MN to grow Tilapia through the winter without the use of a water heater, because these are a tropical fish and they basically die in any temperature under 70 degrees.  Just as it is impossible for me to grow trout in the summer without a way to chill the water as they die once the temperature gets too hot.  I think I have decided to go with sunfish as they are hardy in the cold MN winter water temps and the hot summer also, plus they are EASY to please food-wise.
     So....we have a fish tank full of sunfish, now what do we do?  Next you need to get a tub of some sort to grow the vegetables in.  I wouldn't go too deep, probably about 6 inches.  Now you need a media to grow these veggies in.  The most commonly used media would be small river rock. Another option for this is a product called Hydroton I think this is the media I will use.  Ok, so now we have a fish tank, fish, a tub, and media to grow veggies.  Lets get going!
     The whole idea behind aquaponics is you grow fish and cycle their water through your tub filled with plants and media.  The fish waste is taken up by the plants as a nutrient, cleaning out the water. Next the water is replaced back in the fish tank with a lot of splashing to replenish oxygen for the fish.  Depending on the amount of area the vegetables are taking, this can usually be done with only the use of one pump.
     One of the hard parts of this method, is finding a cheap way to feed your fish.  Lots of people in the aquaponics game feed their fish duckweed.  This is that slimy green stuff that collects on the top of stagnant ponds.  Actually, it's not slimy it just looks that way.  These tiny plants are actually the smallest flowering plants on our planet, and they are FULL of protein.  I'm not sure if this alone will meet all the nutritional needs of my fish, but there is research all over the internet for me to search out.  Apparently some third world countries are devising ways of cultivating this to feed swine I also plan on using this as the main diet of my chickens-after their bugs anyway.  Duckweed can also be used as a kind of secondary filtration in an aquaponics setup. Just another stop for the water on the way back to the fish tank.  If you have been to my house in summer or read one of my first blogposts, you know I have a pond.  Last summer around August, this pond looked like a putting green with all the duckweed.  I tried netting it off but that took forever and two days later the pond was covered again.  Duckweed actually double its size every day, which could probably feed the world if more countries knew of its benefits.  I don't think you could BUY a better solar panel than a gallon full of duckweed on a pond.  I devised a better way to harvest this plague, or crop, whatever you would call it.  A SHOPVAC.  I am going to tie this to a tree so it doesn't make it's way into the pond while im in there by the way.  I do not recommend trying this at home kids!!-but I'm going to.  Duckweed also makes a good mulch and green manure in compost heap.  Personally I think it's a wonder plant. Here is a little video that shows a massive Aquaponics system in use.  See I you don't get as fired up about aquaponics as I am after watching this!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The ULTIMATE recycling

    As those who follow my blog already know.....I intend to be a LAZY homesteader.  This brings me to the topic of my posting for the day.  Many of the tools I need around my homestead have been around for hundreds of years.  In this time they have rarely changed in their basic shape or design.  Take the modern shovel or fencepost.  I call them modern only because they are still in use today.  These tools have been around for hundreds of years yet they still retain their basic function and shape.
     I work for a company that sells batteries and buys scrap metal.  In the 3 months that I have worked there I have come across countless tools I have found a use for around my homestead.  It is amazing what some people will "throw" away.  I'm not talking about junk either.  Among the things that people have scrapped to get their "scrap price" are-two jack stands, an antique cast iron apple corer-peeler, like new 5 gallon plastic gas can with nozzle(this one is a quandary as to who would bring a plastic gas can to a METAL scrapyard), 60 year old Toledo scale(something you would have seen at a candy or hardware store in the 50s), countless steel T posts(all completely straight), rakes, shovels, hand tools, etc.  To me this seems a shame to throw away all these tools of years gone by.  It seem that we have become a throw away society.  With all these products now coming to us for pennies from China, it seems as though we have lost the value of these things that our ancestors produced on our very own soil!  I tend to buy American made goods whenever I can but there just isn't that much stuff made here anymore.  I think we should start recycling those things that WE made here in generations past.  Even if we didn't make it here, lets re-use things that are still able to be used!
        My wife would like to list me under the definition "hoarder" but I see things a bit differently.  I really hate to get political on this blog so I will limit it to this paragraph.
      With all the fraud in our current electoral system, why do any of us vote? There...I said it.....  It seems that no matter who is the "leader" of our country, we keep going in this downward spiral to tyranny.  All great nations have met this same fate after around 200 years of freedom it all comes crashing down.  We seem to be headed in the same direction, yet I don't let it get me down.  I take the position that "THOSE PEOPLE DON'T HAVE ANY EFFECT ON ME" and my blood pressure is always quite low.  We need to take more   control of the way our lives are being led.  Don't pay attention to the talking heads on the idiot box, the advertisers pay their wages, do you not think they have any say on what is being said?
     OK rant over: back to antique tools!  Basically all I want to say in this blog post is this- go to a junkyard!! You will be surprised how many useful tools from days gone by you will find.  I have purchased a rake, snowblower(ran like a sewing machine), jack stands, gas can, bench grinder, bench vise, roof rake, 12 T posts, etc-and this is only so far!
    Another good place to look for things is a garage sale.  I have not gone to many of these but I have a feeling that spring will bring many adventures!! In closing I just want to say REPURPOSE.  This would be the little known 4th "R" in the recycling square.  Try to find new uses for old things and you will be amazed at what you can do!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winter Homestead Preparations

     At my zone 4 homestead, this winter seems to drag on. It's only January and I'm getting cabin fever.  This seems to only be magnified by the 15-yep 15- seed catalogs I have received in the mail in the first week of this month.  The pages are so colorful and give me so many ideas of things to plant.  It seems every year there are new varieties of almost every fruit and vegetable you can imagine, whether they be ancient varieties of corn that have been around forever, or a new tomato that is early blight resistant.
     Now would be a good time of year for me to actually draw up plans on where to put different things, but I am far too impulsive for that.  I think I ordered almost everything that would grow in my zone 4 garden, including a new variety of banana tree that is supposed to be cold hardy down to -20! This tree alone has me very intrigued. Here is the actual link for the banana tree . I just hope I have enough room for all my trees and bushes.  My wife and I went to the local hardware store and picked up a bunch of seed starting trays, and I already have the potting soil and peat pots so I should be all set to start my seed.  This year I have decided to grow more unusual things than the normal farmer's market fare.  Some of these things include blue and red corn for corn meal, 3 varieties of mushroom spores, two of those banana trees, currants, 3 varieties of cherries, three persimmon trees, and an ancient grain called Amaranth.  I hope to save seed from this grain to propagate more for years to come.  I plan on using it not only as a flour but a nice natural grain to add to my chicken's feed.  I also have heirloom wheat and flax for the same purpose. Eventually I would like to have a parcel of my tillable land just for these grains for my chickens.  I may add a few more grains to this mix but this is what I have so far.  I'm thinking maybe rye and some triticale.  These plants will provide nutrition and bedding material for the chickens and they will break it down more so when I add it to my compost pile it wont have far to break down.  After a few years this should produce  enough food for my birds that I shouldn't have to buy feed.  I have a few more ideas on easy FREE food for my birds that I will go into in later posts
     The winter has also been a good time for me to hone my shooting skills.  Last spring I planted 5 Honeycrisp apple trees.  Last week I noticed that the bark had been stripped on ALL of them, but only up to about 18 inches off the ground.  There were also rabbit tracks leading up to each one.  Last Thursday when I drove home I noticed 'Bugs' was sitting right next to my future chicken coop.  I let my Brittany out of the truck and she ran right to it!  It dove under the shed and there it stayed, till dark anyway.  Then Sunday morning came, so I looked out my bedroom window and there she was again in the same spot!  I leave a magazine with 5 rounds in it right next to my Ruger 10/22 for just this occasion.  Needless to say, I have a fresh cottontail in my freezer.  It was rather small being a female so I will go shoot a few of the dozens of gray squirrels on my property and put it all in a stew.  I think I can smell it already!

Monday, January 24, 2011

countryside - homesteading - self-reliance - simple life

countryside - homesteading - self-reliance - simple life

About Me

Hello there, I'm glad to see you have decided to follow my blog!  I decided to start a blog to let off some steam on all the homesteading ideas that roam around my mind every day.  This will be a fun ride through all the wins and losses that I go through transforming my house and property into a fully functioning, food producing homestead.  First I should let you know, my wife and I bought this property in April of 2010.  Its a nice split level with almost three acres of land.  We kinda lucked out with this place in that it is almost half wooded and there is a nice big pond on it.  We will be having our first child in March and I thought what better legacy to leave to our daughter than a 3 acre piece of land that produces massive amounts of food.
    I started in my efforts last summer, adding 8 apple trees, 12 grapevines, 2 pear trees, asparagus, and a few blueberry bushes.  I wanted to start with these plants and trees because they take the most time to produce food for me.  Also, we waited all of last summer to plant a garden because we were having a new septic system put in (per new state code).  Our septic system was exactly finished on August 31!!!!!  Needless to say, there is not a garden!  I have a 20 gallon tote full of seed envelopes and peat pots that I have been staring at for a year!  I sure hope they are still viable!!
     I am looking for my homestead to produce the most amount of food with the least amount of labor, hence the name of this blog;).  There will be a garden tilled in this year!  I also plan on uploading video pf my exploits to youtube. Anyway, I'm glad you stopped by to read my blog.  I'm sitting here looking outside at 2 feet of snow getting antsy to get to work, maybe you will get as excited as I??