Monday, May 28, 2012

Contemplating Permaculture

Contemplating Permaculture

This week we talk about permaculture, tomato watering and Memorial Day.

"Permaculture is a branch of ecological design and ecological engineering which develops sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems." Well, so says Wikipedia. Basically, I understand permaculture as being a landscape, big or small, that is a "wind-up-and-go" ego system. You wind it up and let it go for a time before it need a little more winding. There may be some directional changes, but for the most part, once it's established, it will go and go for generations (if not forever).

Lately, I have been listening and reading about  preparing for a "time of need." What if we can not get down to the store and get seeds and seedlings? What if there is no place to get seeds or seedlings anywhere? What will we do? If there ever comes a time where we can't get seeds or seedlings, then the grocery stores will be void of produce as well. Sure, you could get a seed bank from some manufacturer but who's going to be around to complain if you ever have to actually use the seed bank if none of the seeds spout?? Practice makes perfect (that's a whole other show topic).

We have two options: 1. Save seeds and 2. Establish an ego system that is self sustaining and required much less human intervention.

Saving Seeds

I have always wanted to do more seed saving but never have. Maybe it's because I have no knowledge base for the skill. That's the root cause. I know why I have never saved seeds: FEAR. I have the fear that I will go through all the trouble of saving seeds, storing the seeds and planting the seeds only to find that NOTHING HAS GERMINATED and I have a garden void of produce.

However, I must have forgotten my motto: "If someone else can do it, so can I!" So, recently I have noticed a few things happening around the homestead that has impressed me and got me to thinking (dangerous I know). Seedlings are popping up all over the place from last year's garden. If after two tillings and pilling up of the soil in mounded rows seeds from Swiss Chard and Tomatoes are coming up, then maybe I can do this seed saving thing and save some money. Likewise, seeds that come from plants on the homestead here will make better plants next year here on the homestead and get stronger each year subsequently.


My homestead is not so far from a permaculture system as I think. The rows are absent of permaculture as are the beds that the tomatoes and squash are planted in. Here's what I think I will dream of and learn about: What if there could be created a system where plants are gown in areas (bed-like areas) with other plants that do well growing together (like tomatoes and carrots)? Each year, the plants are allowed to grow, offer their harvest (though not completely harvested), and die naturally. Seeds are saved. Around the time where seeds will be started on the inside, the saved seeds are planted in the protection of indoors or a greenhouse. Then, after the season begins and the volunteers are starting to break ground, an inventory is taken and the seedlings are reinforced with seedlings we grew indoors or in the greenhouse.

We could create a food forest where veggies are gown under the bows of the trees like spinach, greens and kale. Heck, we may even let the dandelions grow a bit. If we notice too many grasshoppers or slugs, we'll change our paradigm and see too many of these critters as an ego system lacking ducks or turkeys. Hummmm???

Anyway, I have just been doing some thinking and reading and studying and dreaming. We'll keep you up to date with the goings on around here on the Walker Homestead. In the mean time, here are a few links that will help:

Black Solider Fly Harvesting:

This link is where I got the idea for the Black Solder Fly harvester bucket. This is a GREAT site and FULL of information.

Tomato Watering With PVC:

This is by a fellow named Donald. You should check out his channel (but don't forget about us here).

This link is one that will get the gears in your head turning all over the place!!!

Finally, here are some other links that you'll find helpful:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Brewing Kombucha

Brewing Kombucha

This is not a "normal" Back to the Homestead video, but if you have been following Back to the Homestead (The Walker Homestead Updates) for a year or so, you'll likely have seen some recipe videos that I have posted. Kombucha is an effervescent tea-based beverage that is often consumed for its anecdotal health benefits or medicinal purposes. Growing and making things on the homestead that have medicinal purposes is a trend I'd like to develop in the Back to the Homestead video series and though that starting with a Kombucha recipe would be a great place to start.

If you want to get a starter SCOBY (that stands for "Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast"), there are many, many places to go. I got my starter from an eBay seller and have maintained the culture for over two years and will likely for years to come.

Here are some links to try:

Some great books on Kombucha:

The last book called "Wild Fermentation" is not a Kombucha book but is considered by many to be the fermenting "bible."


Duckweed Experiment Update

Duckweed Experiment Update

We are two days into the duckweed experiment and we ran into a slight problem. The air stone that we are using to aerate the water was producing bubbles at a rate that resulted in a slight current being formed by the bubbles outward motion on the surface of the water.

Duckweed likes a still surface to grow on and with the bubbles pushing the duckweed toward the outer edges of the duckweed bed, I knew that its growth may be hampered.

By taking an old, plastic bucket and cutting off the bottom, I was able to "catch" the bubbles and isolate the frothing into a confined area. With the now still surface being maintained, the duckweed has spread out and appears to be doing very well.

I wanted to take a quick second and post an update if there are any homesteaders out there that are thinking about following in my footsteps and making a duckweed bed.

This weekend I hope to post a video on a Black Solider Fly harvester and using PVC to water tomatoes and other plants. Have a great rest of the week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Growing Duckweed and Harvesting the Lawn

Growing Duckweed and Harvesting the Lawn

Harvesting the Grass

Many homesteaders, preppers and folks like me keep a lawn. Yes, we get out with our gas-guzzling, noise-making, lawn mower and cut our grass as we attempt to "emulated aristocratic society with our own small, rural and semi-rural homesteads." Well, I think that's a bunch of hooey! I don't mow my lawn; I harvest my grass. There are many, many uses for the grass we harvest from our non-agricultural areas of our homesteads. Here's what I use my harvested grass for:

1. Thatch for weed control
2. Chicken Food
3. Composting
4. Worm bedding
5. Seedling padding
6. Moisture Control
7. Chicken bedding

Our lawns also keep much of our homesteads in reserve. What I mean is: if we did not have grass growing on the areas we did not grow our vegetables on, weeds would gladly take over. Additionally, the growing grass keeps the soil's ego system in check. It maintains moisture and is home for worms, good bacteria and fungi. Don't let these die-hard preppers and homesteaders tell you that a lawn is a worthless bunch of grass that we waste time and money in growing. Just tell them that you are growing grass just like you'd grow duckweed, bamboo, roses or any other plant. Tell them, "I don't mow my lawn; I harvest my grass."

Growing Duckweed

This week I started growing duckweed. I don't have any idea if it will work. You see, I am not using fish in my duckweed tank; I am using cow poop! Yes, you read that right...COW Poo Poo! (excuse the boldness). Here's what I am trying to do: I want to see if I can create a sustainable method of growing duckweed as to be able to have greens to feed my chickens well into the winter and to supplement their summer diet. Here's a little bit of information about duckweed:

1. Contains 15-25% protein in a natural environment and 15-45% when cultured under ideal conditions.
2. Duckweed is a feed for fish, poultry, livestock.
3. Duckweed grows on 10% the area needed for soyabeans, and 20% that of corn. Because it has such low fibre, the whole plant can be used, unlike other crops where only a small part of the plant can be eaten.
4. By absorbing nutrients, Duckweed also has potential as a natural water purifier, converting waste water and sewage into pure water and edible Duckweed with little resulting sludge.
5. Spread on our gardens as a natural fertilizer.
6. Duckweed contains more protein than soybeans.

Now, let's consider two things when we are growing duckweed on our homestead:

1. Stink from the water it is being grown in.
2. Mosquitoes

Here's my solution for the smell that may be generated:

Use a small fish aquarium pump with an air stone to oxygenate the water your duckweed is growing in. This will kill off the anaerobic bacteria (the smelly stuff) and build up the aerobic bacteria (the earthy-smelling stuff). The drawback is the bubbles may create a current and duckweed likes a water surface that is still.

Here's my solution to the mosquitoes:

BT or Bacillus thuringiensis. This is cool gift that the Good Lord has given us homesteaders. Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacteria...a natural bacteria...that will kill bugs that we don't want but will not harm us, animals, fish, or the good bugs that eat the bad bugs. I am even thinking about growing BT in my compost tea (a show for next week...maybe).

About the Garden

This is the time of year where I anxiously wait for the seeds to break ground. I am having trouble with these 2 and 3 year old soaker hoses and am wanting to CHANGE EVERYTHING!

Here's some links to more information:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dutch Oven Cooking

Back to the Homestead

Happy Mother's Day and Cooking in a Dutch Oven

It's finally getting warm enough to get the plants and seeds in the ground. I know many of you already are seeing tomatoes on your plants and here we are just now putting them in the ground. Here in southwestern Idaho, we're right on time (well, maybe a little early with our fingers crossed).

We did more Mother's Day celebrating than gardening this weekend on the homestead. We decided we'd take a trip up to Idaho City, Idaho and drive a short ways up the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway ( and find a spot to cook a picnic in a Dutch Oven. It's good to take a moment for the mammas in our lives (we should do it way more than just the one day a year in May).

If you are wondering about the recipe for the Dutch Oven Pizza we cooked:

Campfire Dutch Oven Pizza

1 1/2lbs. lean ground beef1/2medium red onion; diced
2tsp. italian seasoning3Tbs. diced greeen bell pepper
1tsp. garlic powder3Tbs. diced red bell pepper
salt and black pepper to taste1(8 oz.) can mushroom stems & pieces; drained
2Tbs. olive oil12black olives; sliced
1can crescent rolls8oz. shredded Cheddar cheese
1jar pizza sauce8oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese

Heat a 12" Dutch oven using 18-20 briquettes bottom until hot. In a medium bowl add ground beef, italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper; mix together with your hands. Drop ground beef by small pieces into the hot Dutch oven and fry until brown. Remove browned beef from Dutch oven and wipe oven down with a paper towel.

Pour olive oil into Dutch oven and spread evenly over bottom of oven. Unroll the can of crescent rolls and line the bottom of the oven with a layer of flattened rolls. Spoon pizza sauce evenly over crescent rolls. Sprinkle evenly with seasoned ground beef, red onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, olives, and top with Cheddar and Mozarella cheeses.

Cover and bake using 8-10 briquettes bottom and 16-18 briquettes top for 20-30 minutes until crust is browned on edges and cheese is bubbly.

Serves: 6-8

This recipe was taken from one of my favorite web sites:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Homestead Declaration

The Homestead Declaration different from the Homestead Exemption

Note: I am not a lawyer and the information I am presenting is to offer what I know as I understand it. I make no guarantees as to the legal validity of the information. Take what I am about to offer and do your own research or seek counsel for a better understanding of the legalities of the Homestead Declaration.

What is a Homestead Declaration?

A Homestead Declaration is a legal document which can help to protect your homestead in times of economic hardship. Did I get your attention? I want to make sure you understand that the homestead declaration and the homestead exemption are different in every way.

The Homestead Exemption

Homestead Exemption is a property tax exemption to put it simply. The homestead exemption allows a homesteader to exclude part of the property tax that is calculated on the value of the homestead.

Different jurisdictions provide different degrees of protection under homestead exemption laws. Some only protect property up to a certain value, while others are assessed by acreage limitations. If your homestead exceeds these limits, creditors may still force a sell.

A homestead exemption is most often only on a fixed monetary amount, such as the first 50,000 dollars of the assessed value. The remainder is taxed at the normal rate. In this case, a homestead valued at 150,000 would then only be taxed on 100,000; a home valued at 75,000 would only be taxed on 25,000.

The Homestead Declaration

Don’t confuse homestead exemption with the Declaration of Homestead process. There are separate and distinct laws involved in each of these processes. A Homestead Declaration, when properly filed, is an asset protection exemption which can protect your homestead and property in times of economic hardship from liens, judgments and creditors. The homestead declaration is a notarized, recorded claim that declares your homestead and cannot be subject to attachments, judgments or creditors.

A legal judgment resulting from business losses, auto accidents, or an array of other possibilities could result in a plaintiff legally taking a homesteader’s assets. However, the safeguards provided by homestead declaration may just save your homestead. May it be valued from a five thousand dollar spot with a camp trailer to a million dollar, multi acre homestead. The catch is: you must file your Homestead Declaration to protect your home before anything happens.

Some debts must be honored, with or without a Homestead Declaration. If you have put your property up as collateral on a loan or mortgage and default, the homestead declaration does not apply and the homestead can be foreclosed upon. Unpaid property taxes and debts on improvements you made on your homestead are not exempt from the homestead declaration.

To file a homestead declaration: 

You can download the form you need (couples or single) from one of many websites. Next, you’ll fill the form out and sign it in front of a Notary Public. Then, the notarized Homestead Declaration must be filed with the Court Recorder in the county / parish / borough in which the property is located. You don’t need a lawyer to do this either.

P.S. I am not a lawyer and can not guarantee all my info is correct. There is nothing to loose however, so do some research and learn more.


I post these links above to show you all a bit of what I think would make for some good reading. If you want some free stuff, here are some links below. NOTE: They are the Kindle version but can be read on a phone using the Kindle app. I think they can be read on the computer too.

If you live in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, you may be able to file for the homestead declaration. I am not sure about the other states. However, we can always but the living day lights out of some of these law makers to draw up a bill that may become a law to protect our homesteads.