Posts Tagged ‘suburban homesteading’

mylarIt’s getting to the time of year when gardeners and homesteaders in many parts of the country are trying to figure out what to do with their leftover seeds or seeds they’ve saved from the summer.

If properly preserved, seeds can last many years. While there are urban myths about seeds from King Tut’s tomb that have germinated, those ‘ancient grains’ stories are all unconfirmed. There is, however, a documented date palm seed discovered at Herod the Great’s palace in Masada that sprouted. This date palm is roughly 2000 years old. How cool is that?

My point is, seeds can remain viable for a very long time. Chances are, you need to keep yours for somewhat less time than Herod’s Date Palm seed and the very best way I know of, is in an ordinary freezer.

I recently ordered a package from  The Seed Guy to be used for long term emergency. The seed packets are already in a Mylar bag, so I will simply write a date on the bag and stick it in the freezer. Simple.

Similarly, as soon as I have finished planting my fall and winter garden for this year, I will go through my leftover seeds and put them into labeled envelopes. I will place the envelopes into Mylar bags like the ones in the photo accompanying this update. I will label and date the bags and into the chest freezer they will go.

If you don’t have access to a freezer or Mylar bags, I recommend wrapping your seed envelopes or packets in aluminum foil and putting them in a tote, tackle box or even shoebox to keep them from being exposed to the sun.  It’s not rocket science and doesn’t have to cost a ton of money.

Sometimes, seed companies offer end of the season sales that can save you a ton on the ever rising cost of seeds.  By storing them properly you can have a great head start on you future gardens.

Finally, in 2016, we’re going to start saving our own seeds. In the past, seeds have been cheap enough that I haven’t wanted to put in the effort. In recent years, however, some seed prices have gone through the roof.  Careful planning and storage can help stave off impulse buying in January when all the catalogs start hitting our mailboxes.

One last tip before I go; check out deals at your local feed store. They often have fantastic prices on bulk seeds. I’ve saved a packet over big box stores by purchasing certain seeds from our feed store.

What are you doing to preserve seeds for future use? I’d love to hear from you. After all, we’re in this together.

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PollinationI’ve been following the story of an Australian certified organic canola farmer who recently lost his organic certification because his fields were contaminated by his neighbor’s GMO crop.  You can imagine how devastating it’s been for him.  He works hard to ‘do things right’ and still ends up with nearby fields pollinating his crops.

The story made me think about how difficult it really is to be truly ‘organic’, especially those of us in the suburbs and exurbs. In most neighborhoods, even those where the HOA still allows back yard gardens, the streets are filled with trucks from those companies that spray yards with fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides.  As closely packed as most subdivisions are, is there really any way to prevent contamination of our gardens?

Calling ‘organic’ a ‘myth’ is perhaps hyperbole, but I wanted to emphasize how very difficult it is to achieve and why so many have given up on the idea.

First of all, there’s the wind that blows wherever it wants. The wind understands nothing of property lines or boundaries. As the neighbor’s lawn care or pest removal service sprays for weeds, bugs and to chemically fertilize, is it unreasonable to believe that wind drift could affect the place next door?

What about neighborhoods on hills? The yard at the top of a hill gets treated regularly. The neighbor next door or two doors down, is trying to grow an organic garden. Is it assured that during heavy rains, nothing washes into the organic garden and yard?

Then there are the birds, the bees, the insects and the small mammals who roam freely, carrying pollen and everything else they’ve picked up along the way.  They spread it with their feet, their legs, their beaks, their poop.

Out here on the very edge of suburbia, where we live now (sometimes called, the exurbs), we are smack in the middle of  conventional cotton and bean fields. Some of the farmers alternate with rape seed.  The fields are regularly sprayed.  The area is rather wide open and the breezes blow pretty much all the time.  The same birds, bees and butterflies that buzz the bean fields down the road, play on our blossoms, as well.

All we can do, is practice the best natural farming and gardening methods we can, and leave the rest up to nature.  Chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are not going away anytime soon.  We are surrounded and out numbered. We fight on.

What about you? Do you practice organic growing methods? What challenges do you face? Are you conventional and think the whole organic thing is humbug? We love to hear from readers. Let us know you thoughts.

As a way of saying thanks to all our readers, everyone who comments on the blog during the month of March is being entered into a drawing to win a copy of Ed Smith’s awesome book, “Incredible Vegetables In Self Watering Containers”.

Send us your gardening questions, pics and ideas. We’ll share them with the world.


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American Chinchilla Rabbit

The days are getting shorter.  The nights are slowly cooling down.  I’m loving it.  In fact, I’m taking my morning coffee out to the front porch about 5:30 a.m. and enjoying the early morning cooler temperatures.  Autumn is my favorite time of year and here in Georgia we have long, very long autumns. It’s one of my favorite things about living here.

Fall is also the time of year we start looking ahead to next year.  We review what went well, what went poorly and what didn’t go at all. It’s the season in which we breed our goats, our cows and our rabbits.

Rabbits love this time of year, too.  From September through May they are in their element.  They thrive in cool and cold weather.  Their coats take on a warm, soft extra layer and their hormones kick into overdrive.  We begin our breeding program the first week of September. That’s sort of my unofficial start of autumn.

Rabbits hate summer. They don’t do well in the heat.  We try and keep them in shady locations where they can get any breezes that might blow and we put plastic jugs of ice in their crates to help keep their body temperatures down.  Despite those extra efforts, over the years we’ve lost some good rabbits and even entire litters of babies to heat stroke. So we rarely have any litters from late May till we breed again in September.

Sure, it impacts our profits, but Our Edible Suburb is about much more than profits. Animal welfare is one of our priorities, too. Each of our does will have a maximum of three litters a year. This way they remain healthier, are less stressed and we prolong both their breeding lives and their lives in general.

Besides, meat is only one of the reasons we raise rabbits. Their by-product is as important to our operation as is their meat. Rabbits produce copious quantities of the finest manure on earth.  It is high in nitrogen and trace minerals, but is not ‘hot’ like chicken manure so it doesn’t have to be composted.  When it IS composted it is the richest, most nutritious garden food you can imagine.  You can kick it up further by using it to feed red wiggler compost worms and let the worms convert it, or at least some of it, into worm castings.  Talk about a feast for your soil!

Even in the dead of winter, the middle of the pile is toasty warm and the wigglers will keep working. We keep our compost pile going year round, so that in the spring we can add a nice thick layer of the stuff to our raised beds.  Even the most inexperienced gardener can have success by using composted rabbit manure.

If you start in the fall, one or two rabbits will give you enough manure for a couple of raised beds by the time spring rolls around.  Unless you’re looking for pedigreed rabbits for showing, you can get a pair of rabbits very cheaply at your local small animal auction, from a local breeder, or even off of Craigslist.

If you’re planning to breed, mature bunnies will cost a bit more, but will pay for themselves in just a few months in either meat, manure or both. Since most does will produce 6 to 8 offspring in a litter that are ready to be processed by 12 weeks, it won’t take long to have your freezer full of nutritious protein, or have your compost heap filled to capacity.

We started with about 12 rabbits. We had a mixed bag of young and mature.  We grew out some of the young males for the table and kept all the young does along with a couple unrelated mature males.  That first winter we had rabbits everywhere. There were weeks we had multiple days with two or more litters arriving.  It was work, but it was also fun.  That next spring we had our best garden ever.

If you have a small space, or are not interested in meat, you could consider some of the dwarf rabbit varieties.  Some of them are really cute, make great pets and can be wonderful with

Dwarf Rabbits

children.  Despite their tiny size, they do a great job in the manure department.

Fall is upon us. If you’ve been thinking about adding rabbits to your farm or garden, now’s the time to get started. If you’ve got questions, please feel free to send them our way. We’d love to hear from you.

For those of you already raising rabbits, we’d like to hear from you, too. When did you get started and why? What has your experience been? Don’t be shy now.  You’re among friends.




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I’ve done some work on the East of Eden Website text this week in preparation for the switch to our new site.  After three years it was time for some renovations and that work is in progress.  As a part of our upgrade, we’re also making some changes in this blog page.

The biggest change, apart from everything… is in the nature of this space.  When we began publishing Our Edible Suburb, the primary purpose was to share our adventures and misadventures as we learned to be suburban homesteaders.

Never in a million years did we imagine how popular this blog would become.  I just never dreamed there would be so many people interested in our efforts.  Thank you for being such faithful readers and for being such an amazing source of encouragement.

As we have grown, we’ve discovered that our readership falls into three primary categories:  A. People who just want to follow the fun of hearing about our lives and our farming activities; B. Visitors who find us while searching for specific information on homesteading, Aquaponics, raised bed gardening, grass fed meat, pastured poultry, etc. and C. customers and potential customers who want to know about product availability.

In order to make the archives more understandable, we’re going to make the categories more tightly organized and attempt to make our article tags more specific.  We’re also going to change the way we communicate with the readers in category C.

Since your interests are local and specific, and not very interesting at all to our readers in, say, North Dakota, we are going to create a Farm Newsletter with the working title of ‘Eden’s Table’.

If you are interested being on the Newsletter Mailing List, simply send us an email (you can use the CONTACT US form on our website. Use the word ‘subscribe’ in the body of the message and include your mailing address.  No need to send a phone number; we have no intent in calling you. You already get enough phone calls; you don’t need one from me.

We think you’re really going to enjoy our new look, but I’m not offering any spoilers at this time.  And, if you’re looking for more information on creating your own edible suburb you’re going to really love some of the upcoming content in this blog.

If you’re a regular reader, please share with us some of your favorite posts.  Were they informational? Were they amusing?  Were they controversial?  Join the conversation, we enjoy hearing from you.

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