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!! Homestead Essentials

 
pioneer
Posts: 157
Location: St. Andrews West, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5b)
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First episode of a new series called "Homestead Essentials". This one is all about "Partnering with NATURE". This series will feature homesteading and permaculture principles but in a demonstrative and observational fashion, rather than instructional or explanatory.

Thank you for watching. Feedback and constructive criticism most welcomed!


 
Posts: 270
Location: On the plateau in TN
22
urban books food preservation
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Nice video, like you point out many stills, so no thoughts, of points.  Blue smoke, I do this too, But seems like you have a screened burner to minimize embers.

I have about about 0.6 acre to mow, have a push mower, but what really helped was the addition of a riding lawn mower that is used as well that collects the a lot of grass, so usually minimizing raking clumps of grass now.  I have a man made detention pond about 3 meters wide in back with feeds drainage ditches that slowly go into backyard area that is lower area.  i do use a small rake to spread out the bags of grass we collect and dump.  So I use a push mower around drainage ditches and wetter areas, or heavy weeds.

The grass we collect is great to build up low areas, and weed suppression.   I am not sure how naked soil for a garden was created.   I double dug, once and never step in my bed areas.
 
Matt Leger
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Posts: 157
Location: St. Andrews West, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5b)
37
hugelkultur forest garden trees foraging medical herbs homestead
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Hey Michael. Thanks for the reply! This first video was basically just a mishmash of odds and ends. In hindsight it may not have been the best choice for a first episode, but it had to go somewhere. I was trying to capture the basic vibe and ambiance of our property (when the neighbour's 20 something dogs are not yapping). Hopefully some of that made it through.

Our property is about 5 acres, mostly zone 4 and 5. The 3 year old food forest/Hugelkultur now extends into zone 3 and zones 2 and 1 are the kitchen garden and raised beds out front. You'll see a lot more of that stuff in the coming episodes. They will also be much more topic-specific.

The outdoor fireplace was a birthday gift from my family a few years back. I love it! It does minimize on embers quite a lot. Makes a big difference, especially if you're in a dry wooded area like we are.

The blue smoke is probably the result of me showing my daughter how to make a sandwich of punky logs and chopped, dry wood to help keep the bugs away.

As for the lawnmower, I could never mow it all manually. I'd be dead. Even with all the grass we've phased out with other ground cover and wood chips, there is still a good hour and a half of mowing to do each time. But I do own a ride mower. The tire was just broken at the time but it's fixed now. We do exactly as you do. We use our lawn clippings to feed and mulch certain plants once it has a chance to dry in the sun and has yellowed a bit. The peas love it!

Naked soil seems so unnatural to me. Soil compaction is a big problem here so I also try to do the same and avoid stepping anywhere I use for growing. Eventually, the idea is that the entire front yard will be mulched with wood chips and/or straw and I'll only have to mow the backyard. All the while, I'll be build carbon layers in the soil. The only BIG missing ingredient really is animals to take our composting to the next level. We are very close to getting some laying hens. Just gotta work on a good infrastructure and then implementation strategies before bringing in animals. There are a lot of predators around so I want to play it safe and protect my investments.

 
Michael Moreken
Posts: 270
Location: On the plateau in TN
22
urban books food preservation
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Yes, Matt

I had to garden on north side of house, (back) to get away from the black walnut trees I cut down on 3 sides!
 
Matt Leger
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Posts: 157
Location: St. Andrews West, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5b)
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hugelkultur forest garden trees foraging medical herbs homestead
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Homestead Essentials: Compost Tea

Exactly what it sounds like in the title: Compost Tea. You take some nutrient-rich plants (like stinging nettle and dandelion leaves) and bust them up in a plastic bucket. Add some water until the whole thing is completely saturated but you still have some room to avoid spillage at the top of the bucket. After that, just find a way to pump air into the bottom of the bucket. This can be accomplished with a compressor like I did, or a pump from a fish tank, or some type of aerator. The possibilities in design are endless and they are really based on your particular needs and set-up.

You can use compost tea to add valuable nutrients to any plant. Just pour that devilishly-nasty smelling brew over the top soil of your plants. This works especially great for plants that are heavily mulched. The tea will slowly make it's way down to the roots and give them a fast-acting nutritional boost.

While compost tea may not be as effective at delivering vitamins, nutrients and biodiversity to your soil as traditional compost, it does have other advantages. It can be sprayed directly on the leaves as an effective insecticide and deterrent, for example, among many other uses.

Compost tea is great and has many applications.  Experiment with it and see what you can come up with. Let us know in the comments what worked for you and how you use compost tea in your garden or food forest.

Thanks for watching! :)

 
Matt Leger
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Location: St. Andrews West, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5b)
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hugelkultur forest garden trees foraging medical herbs homestead
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Sometimes as homesteaders and permaculturists, it may seem like all we do is add layers. Layers of income streams. Layers to our security. Layers to our soil. Layers, layers, layers.... ALWAYS MORE LAYERS!



But that's all part of building good soil. We need that carbon to accumulate otherwise our soil would have no real substance. Things have to die and release their nutrients and components back into the soil so future life can exist and ultimately repeat the cycle. We as humans are part of this cycle, only we merely replicate its processes and attempt to speed it up.

Nature, however, will not be rushed. It can be coaxed and encouraged but not rushed. It needs some time to do its thing. Luckily, there are a multitude of different ways that we can promote good soil health as we wait. Not only do carbon sources like mulch help, but so does compost, from both animal and vegetation sources. We can ensure that our soil is properly hydrated and holds on to its moisture as long as possible. We can also ensure that our soil is rich with biodiversity and nutrients by encouraging these things to accumulate. And one of the most important things we can do for our soil is to ensure it has the right elements in its composition.

Now, I understand that the Goldilocks zone of silt vs. sand. vs clay can vary from plant to plant, but generally speaking, we want a balance of them all. It should be soil that offers good drainage while also clumping up nicely. With good soil, you should be able to make a ball with your hand about the size of a tennis ball and it should keep its shape. When you squeeze the ball, it should easily fall apart.

It's a tricky thing to pin down, but in reality, it's not nearly that complicated. Take a walk to your nearest forest, move the sticks and leaves aside and dig. There you will almost surely find "the perfect soil". Why? Because nature has had the TIME to work on it all by itself. The soil should be exactly as described above: firms up nicely but fall apart easily. Not too wet or muddy, but also not too dry or hard. It will also be brimming over with bacterial and fungal life. You will know you have found/made the perfect soil when plants favor it more than other soils. You can then use that, as a template of sorts, to build more soil just like it and the natural cycle repeats.

Hugelkultur is a great example of harnessing this process and one of the best ways to build soil. Replicating nature can typically yield great result. Soil building and soil amendments are no different. We're just doing what nature does, to a lesser degree. That's an important lesson in homesteading with permaculture principles. When in doubt, just do what nature does and you can usually be assured a successful run at it.
 
Matt Leger
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Location: St. Andrews West, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5b)
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If you live or work on a farm or homestead, you probably know about turning compost. Nobody wants to do it but it has to be done. Let's just be honest here: it's a B*TCH to do! That said, with a few simple tweaks, you can take some of the back-breaking stress out of it.



For example, having a multi-tiered compost bin helps tremendously! The idea here is that you start with the first tier, let's call it Compost Bin #1, and you put your fresh scraps in there, then cover it with plenty of dry carbon materials like straw, yellowed grass, dry leaves or wood chips. All the while, you're making sure not to let it go anaerobic. We always want to produce aerobic compost - that is, compost that breathes. We never want to produce anaerobic soil that gets stagnant and smells gross. If you made something slimy that smells disgusting, you probably made anaerobic compost and you will need to start over. Regular aerobic compost rarely smells like anything other than soil and any smell that may come off it gets trapped in the carbon layer.

The second tier, Compost Bin #2, would be for compost that's approximately 40-75% complete. Once your first tier has had a chance to heat up and break down for a few weeks, it will almost be ready for the third bin. You'll know it's time to turn your second tier when the compost begins to break down and heat up to the point of almost looking like soil, but still has big chunks in it. It may also still have certain foods and other matter that have not fully broken down yet. This is normal. You can wait until you feel like it has broken down enough and then turn it into the third bin. It's really a subjective decision so trust your gut.

The third bin, Compost Bin #3, is for stuff that's almost done but needs a little bit more time. On our homestead, we rarely wait until compost is 100% done. We need our compost before it's had a chance to finish and, so far, that's worked out for us. But please do your own testing before you try our methods. For us, 90% is good enough and we'll throw that directly on the top soil of our trees and plants and then cover it back up with mulch. At 90% completion, it has the consistency of good, rich, black soil but still has a few twigs and chunks in it that are not quite done. That's fine for us. We figure the rest will happen naturally on top of the soil and below the mulch, until they all amalgamate and become one anyway. That's up to you to decide. Think of what works best for your own environment and individual applications.

If you need to leave your compost in the third bin, that's totally fine. You can leave it there indefinitely. I would recommend putting a tarp below it if you plan to leave it there long term though or else it will just work its way back into the soil below your compost bin. But that's OK too! The soil beneath our compost bins is so healthy that we have used it for compost on a few occasions. In a pinch, when you don't have anything else, it works great as a temporary alternative!

However you decide to compost it is up to you. Just know that it doesn't have to be complicated. You're just making the inside of each pile the outside of the next one. That's all turning compost is. Inside to outside and repeat, while cover it all up with dry carbon material. Over time, you end up with rich soil with not that much effort.

Lastly, keeping your compost pile moist is important. If you live in a dry area, you may want to consider spraying your compost pile before it dries out and also covering it with a tarp. Compost piles need to be moist (not wet, moist) in order to achieve the right temperatures. If you really want to get technical with it, buy a thermometer and stick it in there from time to time to make sure that your compost is still heating up to the appropriate temperatures. Look up what those are. Even during the winter, your compost should be spewing steam. You can even use some of its residual energy to heat your greenhouse! There are a lot of surprising uses for a compost pile other than building material for soil amendments. A few Google searches should generate some interesting ideas for you.

Have fun with it! It doesn't have to be a chore. It can be an important time to reflect and think about new, creative ways to work with nature's cycles.

Thanks for watching! :)
 
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