Farmers and Preparedness

Many preppers are also farmers operating small farms.  Unfortunately, there are many government regulations to make it difficult or nearly impossible to produce and sell your products.  Many USDA and FDA regulations were lobbied for by big commercial agri-business companies with the plan of breaking the small farmers from entering competition.  Other regulations  which are not appropriate today were passed over 80 years ago and should be repealed.  Take a look at this video sent  in by a reader.  If you would like to share a video with our readers, send the link.

 

From Compost to Potting Soil; part three

In part one and part two of this mini series we talked about where to get compost material and how to go about it.  Now lets talk about what to do with all that wonderful compost made with time, love and care.

First, you will need to screen the compost to remove anything too large.  Make a screen using a wood frame with 1/2 inch grid screen attached on all sides.  As you put the compost on the screen and shuffle it back and fourth, the smaller bits will fall through.  Pieces that remain on top go back into the composting bin.

Combine one part screened compost, one part garden dirt and one part sand.  Be sure to mix well.  That’s it!

No, really, that’s it.  You don’t need vermiculite, perlite, peat moss, or any other fancy ingredients.  If you have them, use them up, but why Compost makes a great garden better.use something you may not have access to later?   Not only are they costly, but they are also not good for our environment because their production is unsustainable due to land degradation.  Processing, packaging and shipping also add to costs both economic and ecological.

Time has passed and you start to think your home made dirt needs some sprucing up with fertilizers.  You have choices!!

  • Simply mix in more compost.
  • If you have ducks with a special duck “pond” plastic swimming pool, you have it made!  Insert a drain tube at the bottom.  Use the duck water to water your plants.
  • Cow patty soup.   Remember those cow patties you collected?  Put about a quarter of a large patty in a five gallon container of water.  When mostly dissolved strain out the big pieces and use the rest to water the plants.  Put the big pieces in to compost.  No cow patty?  Use the shovel again. Lightly water garden with cow patty soup.
  • Chicken and horse poop too!
  • Pet food.  Add it to water, let it make a soupy broth, water your plants with it.  You can also put it in the pot dry and let it decompose naturally.  It might attract animals this way.
  • Coffee grounds sprinkled around is a good fertilizer for roses.

Lets talk about the use of manure in fertilizer.  Manure from chickens, horses and cows create heat as they decompose. That is exactly what you want in the compost heap.  Not so much in the garden.  If you put too much manure in the garden the plants can burn and die or be extremely stunted.  That’s why only 1/4 of a large cow patty does so much.

There is a wide variety of other things that can be used to fertilize your garden.  Most of them have other uses, such as dandelions.  They are edible.  Why use the dandelion for fertilizer when you need to eat it?  Comfrey plant is another plant that can be used to make fertilizer.  It has a better use as a medicinal herb.  So, in case of a life changing event, don’t be in the habit of relying on commercial fertilizers but also don’t use products that could serve a better purpose as a food or herbal medicine.

From Compost to Potting Soil; part two

Consider yesterday’s article about composting:

Go to the dump.  Depending on where you live, your local landfill will have leaf, grass and tree trimmings.  Call them to find out if they sell mulch, double ground mulch, compost and other things you might want for your garden.  The price is minimal or free and usually sold by the pick up truck load.  In some cities they deliver.  If your landfill doesn’t have what you need, check with other counties.  One of them might have the product.

Lets talk about the composting items, mulch, double ground mulch, leaves, grass clippings and other plant matter.

Mulch is trees and tree bark run through a chipper to grind them into compost size pieces.  Mulch is dense wood and is a couple of inches in size, so it Mulchtakes a long time to decompose.  As is, mulch is great for paths and walkways, to lay on garden fabric and black plastic in decorative areas.  These days you can buy mulch died black, brown, green and red to suit all your outdoor decorating needs.  Mulch can be any kind of wood, and usually is labeled pine, cedar or some other species of tree.  It’s cheaper than rocks and can be replenished as it wears away.

Double ground mulch is the same wood matter ground into smaller pieces.  The smaller pieces cause the wood material to decompose much faster.  This is the mulch for tilling into your garden plot and for your compost pile.  It stinks as it rots, pretty much like everything else.  The bits provide nutrients and hold moisture.  They also keep the soil loose so roots can find their way around.  This is a major ingredient in major brand name potting mix.

Leaves and grass decompose faster than mulch.  If you can get those at your landfill, grab them up.  Throw them in with your double ground mulch and compost away.  When you check the compost consider if you want to add more leaves based on the level of decomposition of the plant matter.

Other plant matter is vegetation you didn’t feed to the chickens or pigs after cleaning off the table or left over plant parts from the garden.  This category is potato plants and other garden greens as well as left over table scraps (not meat!).   Chickens won’t eat the potato plants since they are part of the nightshade family.  Likewise tomatoes, some sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, and cayenne peppers are classified in the nightshade family.  Chickens may not like them, but they are great in the compost heap.

Some of this plant matter left to decompose naturally can take as long as five years or more to completely decompose.  Adding water, heat and manure (heat) speeds up the process.  Nevertheless, it can take a long time.  Don’t expect to start the compost this week and find finished soil next week.

From Compost to Potting Soil; part one

Finished compostThere’s quite a bit being said about composting.  It’s almost the first thing out of the mouths of garden enthusiasts when you ask for a list “must do” tasks.  There’s more to composing than letting something rot in a compost heap for a year and tilling it into your garden.  For the purposes of the prepared gardener, coming up with enough material to might be difficult.  Composted material is expensive if purchased.  Potting mix is more expensive than compost.

So, what exactly is compost?  Compost is needed to help combat soil problems.  Compost is rotting or rotted vegetation material.  Animal material may be composted, but that process is for another post.  For most gardeners, getting enough vegetation to compost is difficult.  Grass clippings, falling leaves, trimmed tree limbs and so on, but lets face it.  You can only mow the lawn, rake the leaves you have, and trim so many limbs before you run out of sources.  For the person who is making a small garden in their backyard, this could be enough material.

However, for the prepared, most likely it won’t be enough for the family farm.  Depending on your location, soil condition and the amount of conditioning your soil requires, finding enough matter could be a challenge, especially if you don’t want to spend large amounts of time tending to your neighbors’ lawns too.

Go to the dump.  Depending on where you live, your local landfill will have leaf, grass and tree trimmings.  Call them to find out if they sell mulch, double ground mulch, compost and other things you might want for your garden.  The price is minimal or free and usually sold by the pick up truck load.  In some cities they deliver.  If your landfill doesn’t have what you need, check with other counties.  One of them might have the product.

Go to the barn.  If you have animals that use hay or straw, or just make a mess on the barn floor, you are in gardener’s heaven!  Rake the muck and put it into bins for composting.  Regularly rake the chicken coop and put down fresh hay.  Not only will the birds appreciate it, but fresh chicken poop and hay is an excellent ingredient to add to the compost heap.

Go to the feed lot.  Pick up cow patties.  They’re just grass and water.  Adding a cow patty or two to a compost heap speeds up composting Cow Pattieswhile adding needed nutrients.  Don’t add too many or your compost pile could start fire.  Ask a neighbor if you can have some of his cow patties.  He’ll enjoy watching you get them.  Have cow muck instead of cow patties?  Take a bucket and a shovel instead.  You’ll know where to dig.

Start composting.  How you compost is up to you and depends on how much work you want to put into the job.  Small gardeners often spend $200 for a black barrel on stand that easily rolls to stir the compost easily.  Some people line a box with black plastic and fill it with compost material and cover with black plastic.  Every now and then they go out and stir it to keep it active.  But, the oldest way is to choose a place in the back yard and put the vegetation matter there.  Every week go out and turn the pile with a pitch fork and hose it down to keep it moist.

compost tumblerThe barrel method works fastest and is the easiest, but produces small amounts of compost at a time. This causes bags of material to sit around at least a month waiting for its turn in the barrel.  It might be necessary to buy multiple barrels or not have enough compost for all your purposes.  Using the barrel usually kills off any plant seeds and unwanted insects.  Instead of spending $200 for each barrel, some people make their own barrels from 55 gallon drums and wood.

The box with black plastic is limited only by the amount of black plastic and boxes you have.  It can be difficult to manage since poking holes in the plastic while turning the pile slows down the process.  If done properly, black plastic can get rid of any plant seeds and unwanted insects.

The back yard pile is slowest.  There is nothing to keep the moisture in so watering is important.  The pile must be turned well and often.  It can be difficult work if the pile is deep.  Making an unlimited number of piles makes keeping them sorted by age easy.  Having many piles going at once then becomes faster than the barrel method unless you have access to many barrels.

Tomorrow’s post will continue discussing composting, mulch, and making your own potting mix.

Choosing Seed Companies

Peas are good to eat seeds.We’ve talked about whether or not to save seeds and the various possible outcomes of of those choices.  There has been discussion about what to do with your garden and how to manage the business end of it.  Now, lets talk about choosing the right seed company.  Sounds like it should be easy doesn’t it?  Seeds for sale in the local store should be good, right?  If only it were that simple.

The first decision is whether or not you want to keep a 100% organic garden.  If this is the case, your choices are restricted to only seeds labeled organic.  There is debate about if the seal of approval from the U.S.D.A. truly means it is organic since there are some “exceptions” to the rules the U.S.D.A. created.

To add fuel to the organic debate, deciding whether or not to buy non-organic seeds and raising them with organic methods.  According to the rules, if there are no organic seeds available of the plant you are looking for, if you raise non-organic seeds with organic methods, you now have organic products and the saved seeds are also organic.  It begs the argument why all non-organic seeds raised organic are not also now organic and so are the saved seeds.

Next up is do you care if you purchase your seeds from big agriculture companies or do you only want to support small farms?  If you only want to purchase from farms, your choices are restricted even more.  Small farms have any where from a few acres to a few thousand acres.  Big agriculture often has many hundreds of thousands of acres.  Plus you will have to do quite a bit of research on the business end to determine if the seeds you want to purchase are owned wholly or in part by big agriculture.  It could take hours to determine if you want to buy from a company or not.

If you choose to go with a small family business, or buy seeds from some local gardener, it is important to see how the operation works and talk with others who have purchased seeds from them.  Seeds purchased in this manner are more expensive.  More than that, there is more room for cross pollination which could end with plants who produce is misshapen, poorly producing, or not producing at all.  Those problems are more expensive than just money.  It’s also time, effort, resources, and lost opportunity to produce a product for your pantry.

For us, we chose to purchase seeds that are guaranteed to produce viable plants and raise them as organic.  Our concerns were for health reasons.  No G.M.O. seeds or others with health risks. From the plants we raise we may save seeds from some plant varieties and not save from other plant varieties.  By doing these things we are getting organic produce from reasonably priced seeds guaranteed to produce quality products.  We decided we didn’t much care who produced those seeds because we are concerned with preparing our family for what every might happen.  We can’t afford to spend time on matters that will resolve themselves when a world changing event happens.

The Value of Chickens and Ducks (A guest Post)

Ducks are a great source of protein.
Khaki Campbell Ducklings at 2pairfarms.com

(A guest post by 2pairfarms.com)

On our quest to be independent we decided to get busy with livestock.  We have had chickens in the past and know how much fun they can be and about their easy care.  Well, almost easy care.

This time around we chose Australorps for eggs and meat because they are a great dual purpose bird.  They are docile, meaning they usually are not going to give you any trouble by pecking you.  They lay well, up to 250 per year (or more).  With ten hens, production should be about 2,500 per year.  Feed costs . . . Read more

Tomato Gardens and Suckers

Most people remove suckers from their garden plants, especially tomatoes.  This improves production and strengthens the overall plant.  I can’t count the number of suckers I’ve gotten rid of by throwing them away.  Hold on!!  By following this method you not only won’t ever need seeds again, but you can increase your crop to the point of making a great profit.  Take a look at this awesome video.

Aeroponics or Hydroponics?

Hydroponics can take a variety of forms.While most preppers also garden to make the most of their food dollars and be prepared, there are very few “ideal” locations in the world to produce food.  Actually, there is no one place in which all varieties of foods we like to eat are produces.  Tropical foods don’t grow in cold climates or even sub-tropical climates.  Foods raised in the colder climates don’t produce in sub-tropical or tropical climates.  Arid and semi-arid climates are more restricted in the types of foods that will grow.

While some plants are dependent on the short to long day cycles to produce good eats, others are not so particular.  Maple trees produce sap that is cooked into syrup. In the fall when the sap flows to the bottom of the trees to store in the roots over the winter.  The best peach, apple and pear trees grow in cooler zones.  People like to say you can grow them in southern parts of Texas, but they are just little rocks.  Give me an Illinois pear, Missouri apple, and a Georgia peach any day.

Probably few people would agree that trees are best grown in an aeroponic or hydoponic system.  Since both systems use no soil and trees need large amounts of support for the massive root systems, so let’s just move on to smaller plants.

Aeroponics is a system in which the plants root system is exposed to the open air at all times.  The plants are misted on a set schedule with a nutrient rich water system.  This is one system that NASA has experimented with in preparation for long term space travel.  The advantages are that plants are less likely to get diseases, humidity levels are high, moisture is controlled, and nutrients are absorbed efficiently.  One disadvantage is the sprayers frequently clog as the nutrients accumulate on the mist heads and in the lines.  Another disadvantage is that the humidity level is high.  Attention needs to be paid to the humidity levels to be sure they remain at appropriate level.

Hydroponics is a system in which the seed is germinated in a planting medium and the roots dangle into a bucket or other container with nutrient rich water.  Attached to the system is an aerator to keep the water oxygen rich.  (An air pump for a fish tank can be used on small systems.)  Advantages are that the root system is submerged in the water and always have exactly what it needs, it can be done as individual plants or in a multi-plant system.  Individual plant systems are closed environments which provide less opportunity for disease.  Multi-plant systems cost less over time to operate but if one plant is diseased, there is a risk of other plants getting the disease.  It’s like going to the public swimming pool, except no chlorine.

Both systems offer the advantages of no soil, no soil related issues such as certain bugs and diseases, and no need for the same chemicals (organic or not) needed for soil gardens.  This isn’t to say that there will be no problems with plants from time to time, but it might be that there are fewer.

Both systems can be implemented in a greenhouse.  Most people wouldn’t really want to use a room of the house for the aeroponic system because things will constantly be wet from the misters.  Both systems need a controlled environment to prevent freezing during cold months.

Before choosing one system or the other, do your homework!   Choose plants that are best suited for your choice of soil-less gardening, your budget, and the amount of time you will have for maintenance.

 

Getting Poultry: Choosing a Hatchery and other Important Decisions

Choosing chicks from a hatchery or to incubate your own?Choosing to keep poultry is a big decision.  Adding another responsibility to anyone’s life is life changing.  If you already have other livestock to tend, the change is mostly minor in that it will add to the amount of time it takes to do the morning chores.  But, if livestock is a new addition to your quest for self-reliance, then consider it seriously.

Having livestock will change the way you live.  No longer will you be able to take an impromptu trip overnight.  Every trip will require planning in advance to find someone who is reliable to feed, water, and check on the well being of your animals.  Making sure you have enough feed on hand and so on.  Sometimes it will seem easier to just stay home or take day trips.

Be sure you are ready to invest in the equipment, feed, and the proper structures for keeping your birds safe and healthy.  Most of the equipment is not expensive and some you can make yourself.  Just like human babies, chicks need equipment based on their aged and development.  Purchasing the equipment as you need it is one way to go about it.  Also, planning ahead and shopping to get the equipment you need as it fits into your budget is best.

Once the decision to raise poultry, it is important to choose what is right for you.  Chickens are considered easiest to raise by many people.  While that may or may not be true, perhaps more people raise chickens than other poultry.  The most important thing is to do your research before choosing which poultry to raise.

Consider your purpose.  Are you raising poultry for eggs only, for meat only, or for both?  For eggs only, choose a breed that will provide a large number of eggs.  Layer breeds tend to be small breeds and while you “can” eat them, they won’t have much meat on them.  Meat birds are larger, but don’t lay as well, and some don’t naturally reproduce.  There are the dual purpose birds as well.  These breeds typically lay an acceptable number of eggs, get a good weight, and are ready to cull at about 12 weeks of age.

Are you going to set eggs to hatch?  Will you be letting the chickens raise their own brood?  If so, make certain the breed you choose has a reputation for being good mothers and go broody often.  Not sure but think you might?  Perhaps choosing a breed that meets your other requirements and is also broody is the thing to do.  Later if you decide you want to let them go set their nest, you already have the breed you need.

How many birds do you need?  That depends.  Think about how many dozen eggs you use in a week.  Twelve chickens will not provide twelve eggs every day, but will average enough for a family of four.  The laying cycle is 25 hours on a perfect day.  The process is slowed by cold weather or even something that scares the chickens enough that they hold their eggs until they think it is safe to lay.  If they don’t get enough food or water, that slows them too.

Your climate is as important when choosing breeds too.  Many breeds stop laying eggs when it gets cold.  Others will lay longer into the cold season, and some will lay all year around.  Colder climates may require a heater in the chicken coop.  During the Mini Ice Age it was recorded that people brought their livestock into the house to keep them from freezing to death.  Even so, make certain your birds will have adequate heat for the cold months and adequate air-flow the rest of the year to prevent over heating.

Now that all those things are decided, choose the hatchery carefully.  Hatcheries are like any other business.  They need to make money to keep the doors open.  If they have diseases in their flocks, they will quickly go out of business if they don’t get it under control.  All the same,  if in doubt, check the C.D.C. website to see if the hatchery you are considering has been listed as having been the source of an outbreak like salmonella.  Most likely they have not.

Consider the distance from the hatchery of your choice to your location.  Most hatcheries can can ship healthy birds to your location if you are inside the 48 contiguous states.  With a 72 hour maximum between hatching and first feed and water, it is smarter to buy your birds as close to you as possible.  If the particular breed you want is not offered close enough to arrive withing the 72 hour window, there is the likelihood that many or all of the chicks will die.

When the distance is too great for live chicks, consider ordering fertilized eggs and incubating them yourself.  Some hatcheries won’t ship Incubating eggs from a hatchery can be rewarding.eggs because the success rate can not be promised.  Other hatcheries take every precaution to ensure the shipment arrives in good condition.  Even so, they may not arrive in good enough condition to incubate.  If the eggs get too cold or too hot, they won’t be suitable for incubating.  Not to mention what happens if the package gets dropped and the eggs break.  Incubating eggs produces “straight run” chicks, which means likely the birds will be about half male and half female chicks.  Unless you are a chick sexer, you won’t know which are which until they are old enough to develop their respective characteristics.  People who order eggs for incubating do well with the process and have favorable results.

After having chickens for a while, consider adding ducks and other poultry to the family homestead.  Heck, you might as well.  In for a penny in for a pound, right?

H7N9 is Over; New Discoveries About the Bird Flu

The H7N9 (Bird Flu) virus is a concern, although none has been reported in the United States.  World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan stated the H7N9 outbreak is over.  No new cases are being reported in China.  Dr. Chan said,

“At the end of March this year, China reported the first-ever human infections with the H7N9 avian influenza virus. Within three weeks, more than 100 additional cases were confirmed. Although the source of human infection with the virus is not yet fully understood, the number of new cases dropped dramatically following the closing of live bird markets,”

Swift action on the part of the Chinese government, and the voluntary actions of the farmers before the government inspectors arrived on scene are to be credited for the short duration of the epidemic.  Farmers were so frightened at the possibility that their flocks might have  H7N9 that they destroyed their flocks without prodding by the government.  As government health officials announced the regions where infections had been found, farmers quickly responded.

Chinese officials are working closely with the World Health Organization and other international experts to attempt to find answers about how this particular outbreak started and ways to prevent future outbreaks.  They are also looking into it’s unique genetic sequence.

Migratory birds blamed for H7N9 Bird Flu

Studies of the virus bring to light additional concerns about H7N9.  Arising out of the H7N9 outbreak is that the virus is resistant to Tamiflu and that the human immune system does not strongly fight the virus.  Also concerning is that 21% – 24% of those infected were fatal cases.  Other findings include the disease is spread by direct contact with the virus and less effectively by breathing the same air as those infected.

Even though the outbreak in China is seemingly over, they believe it was caused by migratory birds.  There is no guarantee that wild birds are not carrying the virus.  Since wild birds migrate from China to the U. S. west coast, the article by Stephanie Gayle is worth a look.

References:

The Asian Scientist

World Health Organization

NBC News

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Weekly Reports)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)