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Archive for February, 2013

aquaponics greenhouse in progress

aquaponics greenhouse in progress

Our Edible Suburb has ALWAYS been about optimizing small spaces for gardening and farming.  We’ve also been focused on being good stewards of the earth and treating God’s creation with respect.  With each passing day, I become more convinced that Aquaponics and Aquaponics related methods are the key to the future of small space, back yard,  limited acreage and urban farming.  Aquaponic methods are water wise, energy efficient (though not yet fully sustainable, but we’re working on it) and kind to the earth.

The systems we’re designing and building now, utilize a combination of floating raft systems and self watering containers and their larger cousins, wicking beds.  Wicking beds of different sizes use only a fraction of the water of traditional earth gardens or raised beds.  Because the water stays in the system there is no leaching or runoff.  By utilizing captured rainwater we can minimize city, county or well water use as well.  And by composting our donkey and rabbit manure as well as using coconut coir rather than peat, we have extremely sustainable sources for our growing media.

Plants can be much closer together because they don’t have to compete for nutrients.  There are plenty to go around.  The earth is not destroyed.  There is no tilling to erode topsoil.  There are no chemical fertilizers to damage ground water and chemical pesticides are not necessary to control pests.  Imagine for a moment, a bed full of summer squash with no squash bugs to fight.  That is entirely possible with an aquaponics system.

B and I have realized that on our 6.5 acres with our dairy goats, rabbits, pigs and aquaponics systems we can produce around a ton of pork, half a ton of goat meat, a ton of tilapia and redclaw crawfish and many thousands of pounds of vegetables and fruit.  We will even be able to keep a dairy cow and an annual feeder calf.  I can”t calculate the milk products and by-products like soap yet, because we’re just too new in that field, but the potential is very high.  I haven’t even touched on rabbit meat, chickens, eggs, turkeys, worms or compost.  The potential is mind boggling.

It will be a slow process, because we don’t do debt and we don’t have any investors, but the future is very bright.  Our goal continues to be to ‘feed the world while we heal the earth’, but we also want to teach others how to do the same.  I am convinced that the average American family can cut their food bills in half by growing some of their own food.  I believe this is possible with a space as small as the average back deck.  And again, aquaponics systems are the key to that belief.  Stay tuned for details on an upcoming e-book on that subject.

Have you tried your had at aquaponic gardening yet?  Have you considered it?  Would you consider it?  Would you buy Tilapia, crawfish and ‘fresh water lobster’ from a local provider if it was available?  I’d love to hear your experiences and your thoughts.  Please do share.

 

 

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Given the title of Jake Meader’s article on the Christianity Today website, “Did we love ‘God Made a Farmer’ Too Much?” my expectations were pretty much below ground level when I read it.  Even with the bar set so low I still feel he fouled off the pitch at best.

I realize his target was the modern ‘factory farm’ movement, consumerism and a potential misunderstanding of scripture rather than those of us who are small, diversified farmers, and that’s why I give him credit for making contact even if he didn’t quite put the ball in play.  I would encourage him, though, to watch the ‘game film’ and reconsider his conclusions.

Most Americans have no idea where their food comes from.  For them, it’s all neatly packaged at Kroger, IGA or one of a thousand other chains.  So for one fleeting moment, America’s attention was drawn to the men and women who make Kroger possible.

Yes, too much of our farming is industrial and destructive of God’s creation.  Yes, monocultures of flora and fauna are a detriment rather than a blessing to the earth we’ve been commanded to steward.  The American Industrial Farming industry needs to be outed and corrected.

The commercial, though, highlights those of us who are trying to bring balance back to an industry and a world that desperately needs balance.  America, and many other parts of the world, has multiple thousands of farmers exactly like the ones in Paul Harvey’s poem.

My wife and I are among that army of farmers, who rise early and rest late.  I remember staying on the phone with my bride as she helped pull a lamb when the mother couldn’t do it alone.  The late winter wind howled and the actual temperature hovered around freezing. By the time I raced across town from my day job, she had pulled the lamb and stripped off her own jacket and sweatshirt to dry and warm it, giving no thought to her own comfort.

I have searched pastures in the darkest nights during driving rain to find goats born in the storm.  I have buried them deep inside my shirt and wrapped my coat around us all to warm them and give them a chance at the life they were born to live.

We have labored day and night to save a hen with a gangrene leg and I have wept man sized tears over creatures I’ve had to put down to end their misery.

While our friends and neighbors slept late on their Sunday mornings, we have been up at zero dark thirty, so the goats could be milked, the animals fed and watered as well as the garden tended to so we could be ready for me to teach an 8:30 a.m. Bible class.

We have fought droughts and battled floods.  We’ve seen bumper harvests and withered fields.  We have savored the birth of countless animals and have awakened to find flocks slaughtered by predators the previous night.

My wife can decorate a table as fine as the fanciest establishment in New York City and she can build a stall in a barn as well as any carpenter.  Her dairy goats follow her like she fell from Heaven and they may just be right.

We know no greater joy than when our friends and customers (those are synonyms by the way) tell us that our eggs, milk, yogurt, chickens, beef, pork, vegetables or fruit are the best they’ve ever had.

We go to bed at night knowing that our farming methods are helping feed the world while we heal the land.  We are stewards of God’s creation and we take our responsibility seriously.  We are not alone.  We know many more like us, most of whom are far more skilled than we.

Last week I had serious neck surgery.  The nurses stuck me in 5 different places before they found a vein into which they could place my IV port.  The head nurse said, “I’m so sorry to do this to you.  I don’t mean to hurt you.  Your skin is very thick. You use your hands.”  I beamed.

During the Super Bowl, in an attempt to sell trucks, Dodge drew the world’s attention to a subculture often overlooked and under-appreciated.  My email inbox was full the next day from people saying, “I thought of you.”

Our lives are not romantic, they are real. Did we like “God Made a Farmer” too much? Maybe Mr. Meader surmises we did, but I’m thinking, that thousands of others thought a Super Bowl ad finally hit the right note. Y’all decide.  I’ve got chores to do.  I’m a farmer. And I thank God every day for the privilege.

 

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sausagesOne of the words in every farmer’s vocabulary is, ‘flexible’.  We don’t always like the word, we sometimes wish we didn’t have to embrace it, but if we are anything, it is, flexible.

Even this blog post was originally going to be about my surgery and how Brittan has become even more of a superwoman than ever, but that post now has to wait.  I need to be flexible.

We made all these plans about butchering beef and pork in November.  Keep them on grass and hay all summer, then butcher in the autumn. Everything about the plan was solid.  We had a processor.  We had customers, including deposits. We had the animals. What could possibly go wrong?  Let’s go with….everything.

First, my neck went out.  Five bulging discs and pinched nerves put a real hamper in my ability to wrangle animals.  Heck, it messed with my ability to do pretty much anything except hurt.

As the weeks passed and my insurance company delayed approval for surgery, the processing time slipped to December, then January then February.  Besides frustrated customers and empty freezers, the delay meant extra feed bills.  Oh, well, we’re flexible.

I eventually gave up on surgery ever happening and booked a date in February to get the cows and pigs to the processor.  Then, out of the blue, my insurance company relented and my much needed surgery was scheduled.  You guessed it, 5 days before the animals were to go in.

Fortunately for us, the processor was able to move the date one more month into March.  It’s inconvenient because we had to feed animals all winter which is expensive. Life happens.

Wait, we’re not through yet. Speaking of life happening; three days ago, as I’m resting under the influence of my post op medications, with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head,  my text message alert goes off, waking me reluctantly from my slumber.  The text is from Brittan saying, “We have baby pigs.”

As fate would have it, our runaway potbelly boar, managed to impregnate at least one of our Large Black Hogs before his demise.  For all we know, we may have more in a few days.  At any rate, we have 4 little half breed girl piggies and one little boy.  The bad news is, mamma won’t be going to become ham anytime soon.  It also means a pig pen needs to be built at our new farm.  And since I’m laid up for several more weeks, guess who all the work falls on?

The good news is, we know where our 2013 feeder pigs are coming from.  That will save us a few bucks.  If the other sow is drops young uns in the next month, we will have other issues to consider.  But….we’re flexible.

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