"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Small-Scale Agriculture in Russia

“According to official statistics, in 1999 more than 35 million families (105 million people, or 71% of country’s population) owned a dacha or a subsidiary plot and were cultivating it… The 35 million plots of these families occupy more than 8 million hectares and provide 92% of Russia’s harvest of potatoes, 77% of its vegetables, 87% of berries and fruits, 59.4% of meat, and 49.2% of milk.” See - Small-scale agriculture in Russia and The Socioeconomic and Cultural Significance of Food Gardening in the Vladimir Region of Russia.

Friday, March 30, 2012

An Established Forest Garden

Rain rain go away, come again some other day! Record rainfall this month has put a damper on most outdoor gardening activities and with the ground still frozen solid under all that muck all I can say is yuck.:)

So meet the Guytons, looks like they have lots of sunny weather.

Here is another forest garden video for all you weed loving "hippies" whom, like me, never did care to color within the lines as a child.

Synopsis from YouTube:

The Guytons started planting their food forest in 1998 on two acres of bare land in Riverton, New Zealand. This style of gardening was new to Southland so their neighbours did not approve. Now it is an established food forest with hundreds of different plant species. Fruit and nut trees, berries and herbs and wild plants all blended together in a productive and sustainable way.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What's Up...

While the outside world is still covered in snow and ice, inside our little greenhouse celery and onions are beginning to germinate...and oh so slowly do they grow.

On the porch, temporarily under lights, peppers and eggplants have emerged as well. It will be many months before they can be planted outside, but it's a start. Our eventual goal is to expand the length of the greenhouse and install a small wood stove that I have in order to free myself of electric lighting and heat altogether...eventually.

I am using a mix of my own composted soil and sand with a small amount of wood and bone ash mixed in for potting soil again this year. Thyme leaves that were collected and dried last fall are steeped in water, mixed 2 cups per gallon with rain water this concoction helps to stave off the dreaded dampening off disease. As they begin to emerge the plants are sprayed with this for the first couple days to help combat any unfriendly pathogens in the soil...keeping the soil warm also helps prevent these issues. I use rain water because it seems to help the soil stay soft compared to our tap water that, due to it's high mineral content, sometimes causes the soil to form a hard crust.

These plants are growing in cut off milk jugs that have been placed in larger plastic containers to act as a sort of mini solarium under the lights to help hold in the warmth while growing on our much cooler porch.

We are also experimenting with many hard and semi-hardwood cuttings from holly, service berry, hawthorn, cottonwood, climbing hydrangea, various grapes, cherry, plum, mulberry, juniper, black elderberry, and blue elderberry. I have had a lot of success with many of these cuttings in the past, but some new experiments, like hawthorn, are supposed to be somewhat difficult to start from hardwood cuttings...we shall see. More on the results of this later.

...and, I watched and greatly enjoyed the below video this morning. From http://www.nfb.ca/film/my_urban_garden.

NFB's Synopsis:

In this short film, Halifax gardener Carol Bowlby harvests a mouth-watering crop from her small backyard plot. In considering soil quality, lack of space and a short growing season challenges rather than obstacles, she offers a wealth of practical growing tips for urban gardeners. By heeding Bowlby's advice, bountiful organic gardens work equally well on apartment balconies, in small or large city lots or in a rural setting

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pellet Stove Dehydration Unit #2

Each year a small amount of our food stuff is dehydrated in order to be preserved for the ensuing cold months. Trays of raspberries, strawberries, and other berries can often be found setting atop the barn roof during the hot summer days slowly turning into fruit leather. As the suns rays beam down upon the roof it creates waves of heat that help to wick away the moisture within the mushed fruits, quickly drying them to a storable consistency. Unfortunately, other than berries, most of what we would like to dry is not ready to be harvested until early fall (September and October) at which time the sun no longer shines with the intensity needed to get away with simply plopping a tray down on the barn roof and walking away until it is fully dehydrated.

In previous years we have relied upon an electric dehydrator to dry late season tomatoes, apples, pears, plums, tomatillos, elderberries and other fall crops. When our electric dehydrator broke in 2010 we re-purposed the trays and using a cardboard box as a makeshift air tunnel proceeded to use the hot air blowing out of our pellet stove to finish the task. It worked so good that I built a more permanent device to be used this past fall.

Our pellet stove dehydration unit #2 works on the same principle as the cardboard model. Hot air flows into the wooden box and is routed up through re-purposed dehydrator trays slowly but very effectively drying the foods within. During the months of October, November, and again in the early spring we often prefer to use our pellet stove to heat the house leaving the wood stove for the colder winter months, so it was only logical for us to make better use of the stoves heat by rigging up a way to dry our foods as well.

It's hard to take a decent photo inside our house so bear with me as these pictures are a bit hard to look at. This picture shows the dehydrator butted up against our pellet stove while inside tomatoes are drying. The whole unit sits atop an old barbecue stand that helps bring it to the correct height an makes it easier to roll around.

Here you can see the hole was cut just smaller than the round trays and a line was drawn so I could easily center them properly.

Inside I attached a piece of sheet metal to help direct the airflow up into the trays rather than the corners of the box.

I put bumpers on the outside so the unit would not come into direct contact with the hot pellet stove and also added a drip tray to catch any liquids that might leak out as is prone to happen when drying tomatoes.

Most of our dried goods are stored in glass jars. While tomatoes tend to lose their flavor after six months or so most fruits, corn, hot peppers, and beans will keep for years this way. Have you ever dried a tomatillo? It brings out a surprisingly sweet/tart flavor that we find most appealing, especially as an addition to our salads.

OK then, back to dreaming about spring...
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