Friday, September 1, 2017

Indoor Worm Composting: Update!

I've had my Indoor Worm Composting system since February (see first post here) and over the summer I switched from the 5 gallon bucket system to the more common rubbermaid tote system. I found that the materials became dense in the bucket system and I found it difficult to regulate feeding. The tote system seems to have a better surface area ratio which makes the upkeep simpler. 

Once I made the switch to totes, my worm population really took off so I started a second bin (which is currently stacked in my kitchen!) I find it difficult to remove finished vermicompost from an active bin as the uneaten food, bedding, and finished compost is mixed together so I plan on only feeding the new bin. This should allow the worms in the first bin to eat through all available food making harvesting vermicompost easier.   

I have also started a more detailed record keeping system. Each bin has a sheet that details the Bin #, date started, and the initial worm count/type. This sheet also has a place to record the date and amount of vermicompost removed as well as the date and amount of worms removed. A second sheet tracks the inputs for each bin by recording the date, bin #, type and amount of food, as well as type and amount of bedding. I hope this record keeping system will improve my worm wrangling abilities! 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Raising the Home Duck Flock

(Photo from Thriftbooks

Next in the 'Modern Guide' saga, is 'Raising the Home Duck Flock' (1978). This book offers a good overview of raising ducks and presents ducks as an viable and easy alternative for the homestead. Ducks seem to have an easy place within a permaculture design as ducks can forage for insects while simultaneously controlling insects in the garden. Ducks require less infrastructure than chickens and can even be raised without a permanent shelter (given the correct conditions). 

This resource presents ducks as an easy and low-maintenance homestead animal and because of this, it feels like this resource is lacking details - especially in the area of problem solving. This could be a deficit in the resource or perhaps - ducks really are a unproblematic homestead resource!

Raising Rabbits the Modern Way

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: Raising Rabbits the Modern Way

Next on our series of 'Modern Way' resources, is the Raising Rabbits the Modern Way which was published in 1975.
(Photo from Thriftbooks)

Overall, this book is a decent resource that I am glad to have on my shelf but it is far from a comprehensive guide to raising rabbits. Some information is down right outdated and the author leads (although less so than in Raising Poultry the Modern Way) towards the adoption of industrial agriculture's mindsets and motivations. Additionally, information regarding pedigree/registered and specific breeds is entirely the author's personal opinion with very little neutral information presented. 

The information regarding choosing your first rabbits is helpful as well as the basic information presented regarding genetics. I also enjoyed the author's ideas regarding a side business making and selling rabbit cages and growing food in your garden for your rabbits. I also like the addition of rabbit recipes. 


Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: Raising Poultry the Modern Way

The modern series released by Storey has a good reputation. I grew up with several of the series in our house as well as our neighbour's house and many seem to be classic tomes of agricultural knowledge. With that in mind I ordered a few on thriftbooks.

(Photo from Thriftbooks.)

Sadly this publication from 1983 does not hold up to the reputation of the series. It is a product of its time with the focus on 'bigger is better' through the imitation and replication of industrial agricultural's methods, motivations, and practices. 

The following are some bits of advice that I would never follow: 

Broody behaviour in poultry is uniformly viewed as negative and should be 'broken'.  
To avoid feather picking and cannibalism, chicken combs are cut off with manicure scissors. 
Washing eggs before incubation is advised as a blanket procedure.   
All poultry houses are to have indoor lighting. 

Some of the scientific information on capons, egg hatching, and butchering was acceptable and basic enough to withstand the change in agricultural management. 

The chapter on water fowl was a tiny bit interesting to me as this was the first time I have done any research on water fowl - but I suspect that after a few more resources I will feel the same way about the water fowl chapter as I did the rest of the book. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Resources: Homesteading Facebook Groups

Grow Your Own Cut Flowers: While this group is set up by a business, it is full of beautiful pictures of cut flowers and is overall a pleasant and helpful group. While advice posts occur, this group is primarily a place to share photos and to get arrangement ideas from others through photos posted.

Red Worm Composting and Vermicomposting - Worm Farming: Both of these groups are open, inviting, and willing to answer both basic and advanced worm composting questions in a friendly and accepting manner. Excellent resources for worm composting.

Market Gardening Success Group: While this group frequently discusses their mandate of being a place for 'professional' market gardening there is some good advice and conversation within this group. If you are new to market gardening or just growing a large garden for personal use I would suggest that you utilise the search function rather than posting for advice.

CSA Farmer Discussion: This group is a decently friendly group for folks running CSAs unfortunately you have to fill out a google form before admins let you join. There are some good discussions and advice regarding running a CSA in this group.

Winter Sowing (Vegetable Gardening with Sheryl Mann) : While my first experiments with winter sowing were not successful, I find this group to be a welcoming introduction to winter sowing.

Tanning, Leather & Fur Crafting: I've been lurking in this group for a while but do not participate very often. It seems to be a fairly welcoming group and there is a plethora of information contained here. I'm a bit overwhelmed at the thought of tanning but it is something I want to get into.

I'm still searching for a good Angora rabbit group that focuses on wool production and a friendly chicken group.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Seed Swapping Basics

After last week's seed saving post, you might come to the realisation that saving seeds often results in a plethora of seeds of the same varietal. This is where the joys of seed swapping enter the equation!

I attended a local seed swap and while packaging seeds for the exchange, discovered that I was having trouble actually selecting seeds to swap. First off, I need back-ups! And then I need back-ups for my back-ups! But more than that I enjoy knowing where my little plant babies are going! I did manage to send a few seeds out into the world (and got a few back!)

One of the biggest things to know when attending a local seed swap is... Don't be afraid to take seeds! The folks that offered them up for swap want them to go to good gardens - where they will be used!

While I have been attending local seed swaps for many years, this is the first year that I have experimented with online seed swapping. It is fun to negotiate for the specific types of seeds you want but the postage is an added expense. Free Seed Swap is the facebook group I most frequently use.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Seed Saving Basics

Seed saving is the process of reserving and/or collecting plant seeds from the current year's crop to plant as next season's crops. Before the advent of corporate control and the widespread practice of purchasing seeds, seed saving was a vital and necessary part of the agricultural process.

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There are many reasons why seed saving remains an important practice. Seed saving reduces dependency on large corporations and creates agricultural systems which are low input. This is important for cultural independence and to create sustainable agricultural practices. The concept of saving seeds is firmly entrenched in the ideas surrounding food sovereignty, which is the right of people to define their own food systems. Seed saving promotes agricultural biodiversity because seed saving eventually creates strains of plants that are well-suited to your land's individual climate. Seed saving practices can help farmers find varieties of crops that grow better in different regions which becomes especially important when combating the effects of climate change. Seed saving is also an easy, fun, educational and experimental way of being personally connected to the larger seasonal growing cycles.

I managed to save seeds from Nasturtium flowers as well as plenty of bean seeds. These plants are easy as all you have to do is wait! When plants are dried and dead pick off the viable seeds and save in a cool dry place for the next season.

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