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Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Equipment and Website Updates

Two arrivals from yesterday: the soil blocker I mentioned in the previous post came via U.S. Postal Service, and the spade we bought at Meijer. The spade was $15, and the soil blocker about $35 with shipping. It may seem expensive, but the soil blocker will more than make up for not having to purchase peat pots or peat pellets and/or liquid fertilizer.

Since the tools are shiny and new at the moment, they are allowed on the couch. Here is a close-up of the soil blocker. The spring at the top is pushed down by hand, lightly compressing the soil.


From the bottom, you can see the white dibbles that make small depressions in the tops of the soil blocks for planting seeds. You can also see that one of our cats, Spirit, has taken an interest in the soil blocker.


It's his now.


Along with new equipment, we've made some updates to this site. I added a poll to the bottom right of this website, as I'd like to get your feedback about what kind of giveaways you'd like to enter, if any. Feel free to choose multiple answers if necessary. We will be offering the first giveaway in early February, and you'll be able to enter to win a Kindle Fire! We're so excited to give everyone who visits the opportunity to win some prizes, and we hope it will bring attention to mini farming and, more specifically, what we are trying to accomplish with this project.

The other feature we have added is the Call Me widget located above the About Me section in the right column. You can call and leave a message with any questions or comments. I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Timeline & Starting Seeds with Soil Blocks

If you've read our timeline on our Indie GoGo campaign, you may be wondering why we're waiting until July to apply for a loan preapproval to purchase the land. Because we are self-employed as driving instructors, and I am self-employed as a janitor, we need to have 2 years of work history to apply for a loan. If we were employees, we'd only need 6 months of work history. Since July of this year will mark the 2-year requirement, that is when we can apply for the loan. Believe me, if we could apply for it earlier, we would! We are excited to get this project on the fast track, but the financial constraints have slowed the progress. We can't apply for any credit whatsoever until the 2-year milestone is reached.

I want to assure everyone interested in this project that we are not just going to take the money and forget about it. We have a vested interest in this project, and we'll continue to work at it tirelessly, no matter what the outcome of the campaign. The only difference the money will make is how soon we can accomplish these goals! We've worked hard to keep our c.redit s.core in excellent health so that when the time is right, the bank will have no problem lending to us.

Early this week, I purchased a soil blocker in anticipation of starting the first intensive crop in our small garden. Compressing the soil into soil blocks provides seedlings with more moisture and nutrients, making it unnecessary to fertilize them. When it is time to plant the seedlings in the ground, the compressed soil block virtually eliminates transplant shock, because the seedlings haven't become root bound, meaning the roots haven't wound around the soil with no place to go. Instead, the roots have plenty of soil in which to spread out and grow to the edge of the block - no twisting!


In surveying our garden, I discovered it is a little longer than I thought - 6 feet instead of 5. I'm going to make the garden 6' x 4', as a four foot width is the widest you can go without having to strain to reach inside of it, and disturbing the soil will result in lower crop yields. This means I'll have four additional square feet to work with, and I'm going to make the most of it, though I'm still deciding what the first crop should consist of. Any suggestions for what should be planted in a 24 square foot garden? I'd love to hear from everyone!

Here is our new grab button, if you'd like to link us on your website or blog. Thanks for visiting!

Mini Farm Sustainability Project

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SPIN-Farming

There are some awesome guides available at http://www.spinfarming.com/ that you should check out if you're interested in turning even a small portion of land into a mini farm. SPIN stands for Small Plot INtensive, and people in various urban and country settings are putting these precise methods to the test, making tens of thousands of dollars off their sub-acreage. Need to know where to get supplies? They'll tell you. When to plant your seeds? They'll tell you. There's a wealth of information available, and it's just what we need to get our mini farm operation "off the ground". Hehe!

There are guides that lay out how much land you need based on a certain crop to make a minimum income. For example, the Flowers Specialty Farm tells you how to make $33,750 in gross annual sales using only 6,500 square feet. That's less than 1/6 of an acre! Garlic is another good money-maker at $23,250 on 6,000 square feet. This information has the potential to transform the way we live, improving our quality of life and connecting us to the land we've grown apart from for so long. Learning to work with nature instead of against it is surely the way forward - we just need to know how. SPIN Farming seems to be a great companion in this endeavor!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More Inspiration!

See what this woman did with a back yard of only 1,000 square feet - goats and all!


If she can do so much with such a small space, imagine what you could do!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Looking for Suitable Land

In scouring the areas around us for suitable land to set up the mini farming operation, we found a few plots that may have what we're looking for. One is on five acres, which would provide plenty of space to help multiple families grow their own food! We have to balance location for accessibility of those using the land, amount of land, and cost when considering possible mini farm sites. Many of the properties have access to rural water, which would make irrigation possible during dry spells. 
The land is out there! It's just a matter of raising the money for a down payment. By the end of the day, we will have recorded the raw video footage for our Indie GoGo campaign video. This is the last piece of the puzzle that must be put into place before our campaign can go live, so we will be diligently working at it all day. Thanks for sticking with us as we work around our day jobs!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Best Seeds: Horizon Herbs

I have to give a shout-out to Horizon Herbs. The seeds from this company are all grown organically and with great care, and the prices can't be beat for the quality. When I start my seeds in flats this year, all of the varieties I plant will be from this amazing company.


I highly encourage you to check out the seed collections under the Gifts tab. It is here that I found the Four Sisters Seed Collection, and I think it is only fitting that I begin our mini farm project by paying homage to the native peoples of these lands who grew these plants symbiotically. For $7.95, you can have 1 full size packet each of Anasazi Bean (pole bean), Anasazi Sweet Corn, Yellow Crookneck Squash, and Sunflower. Did I mention they're all organic?? 


 The pole beans use the corn stalks to climb, while the corn receives the gift of nitrogen from the beans. The squash is planted nearby and stays low to the ground, creating a ground cover that chokes out weeds. The sunflowers, also nearby, help attract bees and other beneficial insects, keeping harmful pests at bay. What a great combination!


There are many other seed collections available at Horizon Herbs. If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed by the selection of organic seeds, these collections will simply things and supply you with the essential seeds at cost to the company.Check out the Hoedown Seed Collection and it's relative, the Snowdown Seed Collection. Trust me, whatever seed you're looking for, whether it's vegetable or herb, Horizon Herbs has it.


Oh, and I'm not being compensated in any way by anyone to tell you about Horizon Herbs. They are simply the best!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Inspiration and Motivation

Do you think mini farming is something you may want to do? Are you unsure that you can accomplish your goals? I have just the video for you. This family is finishing up year one of their challenge to stay out of grocery stores and restaurants, eating food only from their mini farm and farmers markets. This has saved them thousands of dollars over the course of a year and boosted their nutrition while bringing the family and community closer together.


Please note that this family is not growing their crops in raised beds. Also, their produce is planted in traditional rows, and I see bare earth with no cover crops planted to hold their soil in place and replenish lost nutrients. If this family utilized intensive farming techniques, they could produce even more! So, are you excited yet? I know I am!
You can watch other Grow Series videos on YouTube. These episodes are produced by Whole Foods Market. Here's their channel if you want to check them out: Whole Foods Market - Grow Series

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Feeding Starving People and Conserving Land

I was talking about our mini farm project with a family member who's earning her Bachelor's degree in Biology, and she had an interesting perspective on the global impact mini farming could have in poorer countries where land availability is a problem. She said if people knew they could use intensive farming techniques which require much less land than conventional farming, we may be able to save the rain forests and other valuable lands that are being plowed for farmland by hungry people who need to grow crops. It's hard to tell people to stop destroying the wildlife when they are starving! What if they knew they could grow their food more sustainably an incur fewer expenses? Mini farming could have global implications! I hope we can help take this idea to the people who need it the most!

I want to encourage everyone who wants to be involved to look into mini farming and see for yourselves how effective it can be. In a few days, I plan to have our IndieGoGo campaign go live and start accepting contributions. This means I have to make a video to complement our pitch. Though this will probably turn into long hours as I edit and refine video footage, I'm so excited to shift this project into overdrive that I welcome the workload. It is better than sitting on my hands, wishing the world would change itself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Journey Starts with One Step

Inspired to make a healthy change, my family and I are embarking on a Herculean journey to living sustainably. Most of us have lost our connection to the land that sustains us, and we no longer have the knowledge of our grandparents and great grandparents on how to grow, harvest, and preserve our own food. We aim to reclaim this knowledge by acquiring a piece of land and using intensive farming techniques to grow almost all of our own food. We will refer to this as mini farming as described in the book "Mini Farming" by Brett L. Markham. Using this intensive gardening method, we will be able to provide for our family of 3 plus have a surplus to sell at the markets in our area.

What does this mean for our community? We will establish our mini farm as a community resource for anyone wanting a tour to gain an understanding of intensive gardening techniques and see if this knowledge can help reduce the inquirer's dependence on fossil fuels, rising food prices, etc. Our goal is to start our mini farm in as cost-effective of a manner as possible, doing all the work by hand. This means no expensive, complicated, and sometimes dangerous farm equipment. If someone in or outside our community needs help, we will be that help. We will answer questions based on our own mini farming experience and refer people to another resource if we can't answer their question. With the unemployment rate high and the job prospects in our community low, we wish to help people stay in their homes by saving them money, helping them eat more nutritiously, and eliminating the need to seek multiple jobs to stay afloat.

Our goals are ambitious, but attainable through dedication, and we will succeed! More posts will follow explaining our plans in detail. Thanks for joining us on our first step!