I admit to being a little skeptical when I started reading Mini Farming, Self-sufficiency on 1/4 Acre. I’ve seen a few books that were written by people who didn’t have a clue what they were writing about with titles similar to this. Some of these books have unworkable ideas and make claims that are just not true. This book on the other hand has much useful information and ideas that can help you gain a greater level of independence on fairly small areas of land. I think a better and more accurate title would have been “Mini Farming, How to Gain a Greater Level of Self-sufficiency on 1/4 Acre”. Obviously, no one can have total self-sufficiency on a 1/4 acre but the author of this book grows 80% of his family of three’s food on just that much land. The author has developed a system of gardening that takes the best of the Biodynamic, Grow Bio-intensive and Square Foot Gardening methods. He utilizes double dug raised beds, vertical gardening, compost and organic growing techniques. His “mini-farming” system also includes raising chickens for eggs and meat. I appreciated one area that Markham covered in the area of economics and “mini-farming”. He shows how the two income family is much better off by having one spouse stay home and raise food and children. He runs through the numbers and proves that in all actuality families are further ahead financially by doing this. I think that his argument will wake up many working mothers to fact that they are running themselves into the ground for very little return. If nothing else, this book shows how to grow a substantial amount of a family’s food on a very small amount of land. Granted, the average Christian homesteading family is much larger than the author’s, but it still drives home the point that you don’t need a huge amount of land and if fact you probably haven’t even begun to utilize the land you already have. I think that the book is ideal for beginners because it covers everything from seed selection to harvest and preservation. Not an exhaustive treatment of any subject, but very informative. I thought that the section on soil health was very well done. Considering how inexpensive this book is, I think that anyone who is trying to utilize a small holding of land to raise food should own a copy.
Spring is here and the north country is still covered with snow and temperatures are still chilly. I’m looking forward to green grass, gardens and sunshine. It won’t be too much longer now!
Christian Farm and Homestead Radio turned a year old this month. Hard to believe I’ve been doing it that long. We’ve had some great guests and topics this last year and the show’s audience continues to grow every month. If you’ve never listened, you should join us Friday evenings at 8pm eastern. You can log into the chat room and participate in the conversations. If you can’t listen live, you can always download the mp3 files or listen to the archives right on the show page linked above.
We have a new sponsor of the radio show, Seeds for Generations. Listeners can use the coupon code “christianfarm” for a 10% discount on your seed order. Be sure to check out the website!
As most folks know, we use the “heavy mulch-no till” style of gardening here. In fact I’ve tinkered with that type of gardening close to 10 years in several locations. I did a radio show episode on it last year (Listen Here) and have had lots of conversations with other folks who use the method. The idea has been around since the 70′s but recently the film Back to Eden has become very popular advocating a kind of no til gardening that uses wood-chips instead of hay. If you have become a wood-chip devote I suggest you read the latest post at Reformation Acres, “Rethinking Mulch Gardening”
Its no secret that I’m a big fan of Michael Bunker’s WICK series. I’ve had the privilege of reading an early copy of WICK 3 Exodus and can’t recommend it enough. WICK 3 is just an absolutely awesome read, period…end of sentence. As the series develops, it just keeps getting better and better. The newest installment picks up where the last one ended and is action packed, thought provoking and full of truth. I love how WICK 3 has real world, practical survival ideas woven into the story and the introduction of some great new characters. I guarantee that anyone who reads North Country Farmer will LOVE this book.
The WICK series is important to us. The books are doing great, breaking records and ranking high in Amazon ratings. If these were just your run of the mill, post collapse dribble I wouldn’t waste my time promoting them so much. The WICK books are different, in that they are leading to a much different conclusion than most books of this genre. To be blunt, the WICK books are leading us to an agrarian conclusion and pointing out along the way how the industrial ideology helped create the mess. They cut through the illusion of differences between the present political ideologies and point to the 3rd power manipulating them both. They offer a realistic view of what an American collapse could be like, one that will shake the conscious of most readers. WICK is becoming a mainstream series and this is a HUGE opportunity to have our ideas and values presented to the masses. I urge my agrarian friends to support this project. Here is what you can do.
I want to apologize for missing some of your questions on show night. My flash player crashed and it looked like the chat room was working but I wasn’t seeing anything new come up. I thought there were no questions and ended the show not knowing that there actually were questions being asked. You can ask questions here in the comments or email me and I will get you the information you need. Again, I am very sorry for the mistake.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy of Desert or Paradise in the mail recently. Having really enjoyed Sepp Holzer’s book on permaculture, I knew that I would learn something from this book as well. Sepp Holzer is a fascinating man who farms more than 100 acres of steep mountainside in Austria 1,500 meters above sea level. His farm is an intricate network of terraces, raised beds, ponds, waterways and tracks, well covered with productive fruit trees and other vegetation. Holzer began farming this land in 1962, when he was just 19 years old. He pioneered what would later be called permaculture. Holzer is, in my opinion, the number one source for information on practical permaculture. I highly recommend reading his permaculture book as an introduction to the concept.
Desert or Paradise is a book primary about desertification, what causes it and how to reverse it. Holzer explains how industrial agriculture and forestry contribute to the rise of deserts and how deserts are slowly growing and expanding in areas that were once fertile and lush. The emphasis in this book is on recreating hydrological balance using ponds as water retainment vessels. Holzer’s ponds are only sealed at the “dam end” allowing the water to hydrate the surrounding land. When possible the ponds are not dug, but rather he uses the natural contour of land and builds the dams at the lower ends to back up the water. The author has had some tremendous success in arid, rainfall-dependent regions such as Greece, Turkey, Spain, and Portugal. One project in Spain was in an area that had no springs, wells or streams and only had 400mm of average rain fall. He helped the people build 16 lakes covering 27 hectares, the largest one they call “Holzer’s Ocean” is 700m long, 400m wide and 10m deep! These were filled with just rain water and the landscape is now lush and fruitful again. Holzer also outlines his ten points of sustainable self-reliance and how these methods can help feed the world. While I don’t agree with every jot and tittle of his solutions he rightly identifies the problems and his ideas are all thought provoking. The book is full of real world, practical information. This is the thing that I love about Sepp, he is the real deal. The world is full of books written by people with no real experience in what they are writing about. Holzer has mud on his boots and dirt on his hands and to me, THAT means something. My only real criticism of the book would be that Holzer gets a little more “earth worshippy” in this book when compared to his permaculture book. This is nothing new to most of us, with Christians failing to have done anything of value in the area of natural agriculture for many years. So long as one is epistemologically self conscious when reading, I highly recommend this book. There is treasure trove of good information that can only come from someone with many years experience and a love for the subject. Those living in areas with limited rainfall and people who suffer from drought on regular basis will find this book especially helpful.
On the March 1st edition of Christian Farm and Homestead Radio I talked about small scale maple sugar production. I covered the cultural and economic importance of maple sugar in the rural northeast. I explain how to make your own maple syrup. I also covered equipment needed and how to get started. If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
This is one of the great ironies of my life. Shortly after my wife and I were married, we acquired a small flock of sheep. We kept them for lamb production and didn’t do anything with the wool. Now many years later, we don’t own any sheep but one of our greatest interests is fiber production and arts. We became convicted some time back that a very important part of being less dependent on the industrial system was being able to produce our own yarn and produce some of our own clothing. Leah started out by teaching herself to knit. After she started turning out some fine quality hats, mittens, shawls, felted slippers, sweaters, vests and dish clothes we started looking into spinning. I bought her a drop spindle (a couple of them eventually) and she learned to spin yarn. The next step was getting a spinning wheel, which was a little bigger investment but well worth every penny. The next logical step was to start dyeing our own yarns using plants that could be found around the farm. We found the book, Wild Color, The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes to be very helpful.
This book is a great place to learn the basics of natural dyeing. It covers the basic equipment needed, fiber preparation, mordanting techniques, how to make your own mordants and how to modify dyes. The book covers a large number of plants that can be used to make dyes with and shows all the color ranges that can be made from them, depending on mordants used and other variables. It is simply amazing how many colors can be made from any one kind of plant!
Our very first dye project was a complete failure. It was late winter/early spring when we tried to make pink dye from birch bark. My father and I peeled a bucket full of bark and took it home. Leah and I peeled apart the bark and cleaned it. We followed all the directions and no matter what we did we could not get ANY color out of the birch. We’re not sure if some sub species of birch are better than others or what the problem was. It was very discouraging. Leah looked around the web and found out that a lot of other folks had had the same results.
Our first success was with Goldenrod. The first thing we did was mordant the yarn in an alum solution. We then harvested some Goldenrod blossoms and put them in a stainless steel stock pot, added water and heated it on the stove.
After the the dye blossoms were done simmering we strained the liquid off and returned it to the dye pot. We then soaked the white yarn in the dye solution until it was dyed enough to suit us. Here is the finished product after it dried.
We have also done some dying with Sumac leaves, with some success. This spring we are planning to try using Dandelions and Queen Ann’s lace later this summer. Last fall we collected a large sum of Yellow Dock seed but have yet to try it. I imagine we’ll try the yellow dock soon. I will try to get pictures of the whole process from start to finish and share them here.
Friday, February 22 2013 This Week’s Show Starts at a New Time 8pm Eastern
Hey, Folks. Christian Farm and Homestead Radio will be starting at 8pm eastern from now on. Don’t forget the new time! This week Michael Bunker will join me to talk about the latest exciting news on the WICK series and some other books he has recently released. We will also cover some practical agrarian stuff and anything else that comes up. In short, we’ll talk about pretty much everything. We will take questions and comments in the chat room and if you can’t make the live show fell free to email them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Christian Farm and Homestead Radio Friday February 15, 2013 at 9pm Eastern
Homebirth on the Homestead
This week our discussion on the effects of the industrial revolution continues. Scott Terry and Cheri Struble discuss the industrialization of child birth and the common sense agrarian alternative. Be sure to listen live on Feb 15th at 9pm eastern and join us in the chat room. If you can’t listen live you can use the same link to catch the archived version any time after the show airs.
I’ve read it. Its an awesome story with fascinating well developed characters, excitement and intrigue. I couldn’t put it down. If you liked W1CK, your going to LOVE “The Charm School”. The sequel is even better than the the first one. It will be released in e-format very soon. Stay tuned for updates. “Like” and watch the WICK Facebook page.