Log splitting 2.0

I received an email from a blog reader, Andrew, that I wanted to share with everyone.

Andrew writes:

I came across a smart idea for splitting wood better that had been posted to youtube. It involves making a girdle for the logs you are splitting with a tire. This keeps the wood on the block during chopping so you don’t have to pick up and reset the pieces after each chop. It also serves as a bumper to protect the chopping block from wearing down. This seems like it will be helpful to your readers, I know it will be helpful to me. I fast forwarded to the relevant part.

A continuous flow vermicomposting system

The finished product. Mine would probably go outside

I was reading the blog over at Red Worm Composting and I saw a product called The Worm Inn – A continuous flow vermicomposting system.

The reported benefits are the breathable fabric makes sure that you won’t produce any anaerobic much at the bottom of your bin. As the worms travel up the system you can easily harvest the compost through a drawstring tightening system.

So I thought this was pretty slick setup, however I thought that this would also be a pretty easy DIY project.

Sure enough I went over to one of my favorite websites instructables.com and did a quick search for “worm bin” and the first result was this: Worm bin bag.

I would improve this excellent design by not purchasing new wood, but instead using pallet wood for your frame OR build the frame from the cheap PVC electrical conduit which is less than $1 for an 8 foot length.

I’m still evaluating all of my “worm” options for the upcoming season, but this design is topping my list right now.

Fresh lentil sprouts from store bought lentils

You can buy a 1 pound pack of lentils for a little over 1 dollar. I love lentils so they make up a big part of my dry long term storage. One thing I like to do is whenever I go to the grocery store to buy anything I pick up one package of lentils, split peas, or dry beans. If you use this method of slow accumulation you will be filling 5 gallon buckets before you know it.

Sprouting is something I have been looking into to get more variety into my diet and also it gives me another way to use up long term storage items.

Check out this excellent tutorial on making sprouts from store bought lentils… seems nice and easy.


2011 homesteading to-do list

The start of any great plan starts with a brain dump. What we have here is a list of every possible task I can think of that I want to accomplish in 2011 in terms of building up my homestead along with a few other skills I wanted to note such as hunting and foraging. There are many other tasks I need to accomplish on my home itself, but they are out of the scope of this list.

Now I am a realist, I realize that I can’t possibly get every single task done that I want to accomplish, so what happens now is I will go through all of my goals and identify the “next actions”. This means I need to determine the next actionable step which is required to complete a project.

So for example mounting mason bee houses, the “next action” would be “Search Shop for appropriate scrap wood (2×6 or whatever)

For acute items like “building top bar hives” these next items will have a hard deadline (Bee packages are already ordered) and those deadlines will go on a calendar.

As I said, this is just my first brain dump and will be tweaked moving forward.

Hopefully this list will give ya’ll some ideas for your homestead, or you can add your own projects to my list if I forgot some useful or important ones.
Homesteading Tasks 2011

  1. Planning
    1. Create full inventory of plants/trees/resources
    2. Create shadow maps of property for each month
    3. Create wind survey of land
    4. record when apple trees blossom, fruit etc and get varieties identified
    5. Start diary
  2. Nuts – plan for and don’t miss nut harvests this year (walnut/chestnut)
  3. Orchard
    1. dormant oil (this needs to happen this month!!)
    2. winter pruning (ditto)
  4. Prune Grape Vines (this month!)
  5. Mulberries
    1. Make wine from mulberries this year
    2. Try new harvesting technique (shaking tree onto tarps)
  6. garden
    1. garden plan
    2. determine crops which need to be started indoors
    3. determine if seed starting area needs to be increased and additional grow lights need to be purchased or not
    4. make additional seed purchases as necessary
    5. start seeds
    6. prepare new beds
      1. purchase: spading fork
      2. purchase: determine how much, if any, compost is required in addition to compost made last year, call garden centers and get a delivery (vs buying bags from lowes)
    7. Build low tunnels for new beds
    8. Determine planting for the planter boxes on the sun porch (part shade)… can we grow biomass for compost or feed here? Or just fill with bee forage?
    9. Plant at least 3 new types of vines on fence line
    10. plant additional berry bushes
    11. Order mushroom fungus to inoculate garden beds
  7. Bees
    1. assemble langstroth hive
    2. purchase: bulk sugar and powdered sugar
    3. Put new blade on table saw
    4. build/assemble 2 top bar hives
    5. set up mason bee houses (minimum 2)
  8. chickens
    1. make the call… to do this or not? I’m inclined to cut this from the list OR to purchase established chickens and start later in the season
    2. obtain pallets and build chicken tractor
  9. Shiitake/Mushroom logs
    1. Finish chain saw work on existing maple logs
    2. Determine number of logs to inoculate
    3. Order spore
    4. Determine time to inoculate
    5. inoculate
  10. Worms
    1. obtain materials for worm tower (local dump??)
    2. obtain materials for outdoor worm bin
    3. obtain worms
  11. Rain catch
    1. obtain rain barrels
    2. install system
    3. plan/install drip irrigation system
  12. Compost
    1. obtain pallets for composting and determine compost location (easiest task of the bunch!)
    2. Fix/Replace lawn tractor spindles and attach new blades
    3. Harvest shredded leaves after spring thaw after shredding with lawn tractor
  13. Hugelkulture
    1. Determine location of dry beds (most likely in the north east corner of property
    2. Prepare Hugelkulture beds using apple pruning
    3. Plant legumes or other cover crops over Hugelkulture beds
  14. Aquaponics/Vermiponics
    1. Complete design of winter 2011 system
    2. Determine feasibility of starting the system in winter 2011/2012
  15. Rocket Stove/Biomass stove (winter 2011/2012)
    1. Obtain materials
    2. Test effectiveness in shop
    3. Determine/Plan fireplace retrofit (is it possible? How to design this?)
  16. Earth Sheltered Green House
    1. Determine location and needs
    2. Develop plan
  17. Generator Transfer Switch Install
  18. Root cellar
    1. Obtain metal barrels from the source I found
    2. Obtain source for hay bails
  19. Purchase Excalibur dehydrator
  20. Second well
    1. determine needs of the well. Can this run on PV? Manual pump install?
    2. clean up well house
  21. Naturalist Training
    1. Begin naturalist training program in spring
    2. Identify local edibles on normal dog walking route
    3. Gorilla garden existing blackberry patch
    4. harvest wild edibles on land (dandelion, etc)
    5. Make tea from dandelion roots and stop buying dandelion tea
  22. Learn how to fish and learn existing fishing spots (contact Sean B.)
  23. Go hunting at least once and learn how to shoot safely and properly (utilize mentor)

Episode 15: Bio-intensive Gardening – Book Review

Today I review a book, some consider THE book, on bio-intensive gardening. The book is called How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons.

The bio-intensive method is a way to plant your garden beds to create a “living mulch” of densely planted crops, the goal is to maximize yields while minimizing inputs and labor. Square foot gardening is one example of one particular type of bio-intensive planting method.

This video sums up the method very well:

How To Grow More Vegetables differs from Square Foot Gardening in that you start and maintain your garden beds using your own soil which you prepare using the “double dig” method which is outlined in the book.