Crunchy Mama's Urban Homestead

Come learn about awesome plants on my homestead

Free virtual survival summit with 29 speakers next week

Greetings!  I wanted to share with you about The Survival Summit that starts January 20, 2014 and runs 6 days!   It’s free.  It starts next week.  It’s online!  Here is the speaker line-up: http://thesurvivalsummit.com/schedule/

There is a wide range of topics, especially about homesteading and self-reliance — foraging, making biodiesel, first aid, trapping, food preservation WITHOUT electricity, growing food without irrigation (by Paul Wheaton, a favorite speaker), plus all of the zombie apocalypse survival stuff too. 🙂

I’m very excited to hear some of these speakers.  And I’m very excited about being able to stay at home and hear them.  How very energy-efficient! 🙂

I traveled 5 hours by car 2 1/2 years ago to go to a Mother Earth News Fair.  While it was neat to be there in person to see presenters, I wouldn’t drive that far again for it.  There was no hands-on learning; it was just watching presenters.  I was glad that I went once but, to me, I can watch a video presentation at home and save a lot of money and energy.

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Pruning wild grape vines in December

Greetings, friends!  We were greeted with a pleasant late December day here in NW Ohio today.  I decided to do some outside work and enjoy the 40 degree weather.  Maybe December is not the typical month to prune back trees and shrubs but I pruned anyway.  As I stated in the video, these plants are very hardy and I don’t think that I could kill them by pruning even if I was trying to.  My biggest reason for pruning today was to begin to manage some wild grape vines (very mature grape vines) that have gotten out of hand and are “attacking” the utility lines.  I also am hoping that by pruning back the grape vines on our front fence that they will begin to produce grapes again.

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Another great free video series on Permaculture

I just came across another series on Permaculture.  This one is produced by Midwest Permaculture.  It has 18 videos and they are great!  I love hearing about Permaculture design from different perspectives.

The first video of the series is here:

If you missed my post on Jack Spirko’s video series on Permaculture you can find it here.

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Homesteading Word of the Day — plant guilds

Greetings!  I hope that this post finds you happy and healthy!

Today’s Homesteading Word of the Day (or rather PHRASE of the day) is “plant guilds.”  Plant guilds are groups of plants that grow together and support each other in various ways.  In nature, many plants grow together in the same area.  In gardening and homesteading, we can choose plants that will actually help each other grow instead of compete with each other for the nutrients in the soil and for the sunlight needed for photosynthesis.  Many plants will actually share the nutrients that they acquire from the soil with other plants

I came across this webpage that has a great explanation of plant guilds or permaculture guilds: http://www.neverendingfood.org/b-what-is-permaculture/permaculture-guilds/

Here are some of great excerpts from that webpage: “Permaculture is based on natural systems like those that we see in forests.  In a forest system, there are multiple layers of vegetation growing together in a very diverse setting.  We see many types of trees, shrubs, plants, insects, animals, and various other things all living together in a system that continually strengthens itself.  All of these components of a natural ecosystem serve a function (or several functions) that support each other like the strands of a web.  One strand on its own may be weak, but the combination of all the strands together add to the overall strength and usefulness of the web.”

“A good Permaculture guild generally has seven components: food for us…food for the soil…diggers/miners…groundcover…climbers…supporters…protectors.”

PLUS at the bottom of the page there is a free one-page illustrated download called Permaculture Guild.  From that download: “A “guild” in Permaculture is a system of efficiently grouping different plants together in order to use everything to its fullest potential.”

And here is a free ebook on plant guilds by Midwest Permaculture http://midwestpermaculture.com/eBook/Plant%20Guilds%20eBooklet%20-%20Midwest%20Permaculture.pdf

Want to see all of the Homesteading Word of the Day posts?  Scroll down and look for “Categories” on the right then click on “vocabulary” or just click on this link: https://crunchymamasurbanhomestead.wordpress.com/category/vocabulary/

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Homesteading Word of the Day – coppice

I was reading a post in a permaculture forum and the post wrote that he coppices his trees at 10 feet.  I imagined that that meant that he cut them at 10 feet but I wanted to be sure.

From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/coppice, as a verb, coppice means “to trim back (trees or bushes) to form a coppice.”  It can also be used as a noun.

See also how http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coppice defines it.

Pronunciation: the stress is on the first syllable — KOP – is.

Be sure to check out my post on a similar pruning technique — pollard.

Want to see all of the Homesteading Word of the Day posts?  Scroll down and look for “Categories” on the right then click on “vocabulary.”

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Homesteading Word of the Day – riparian

Yesterday I was watching a Paul Wheaton video in which he used the phrase “riparian species.”  I had no idea what riparian meant so I looked it up.  I thought that I’d share with y’all — just in case you didn’t know what that word meant as well.

From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/riparian?s=t, riparian as an adjective means “of, inhabiting, or situated on the bank of a river.”  See the link for more definitions.

In http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/riparian, the definition is “relating to or living or located on the bank of a natural watercourse (as a river) or sometimes of a lake or a tidewater.”

Pronunciation is ri-pair-ee-uhn.

Want to see all of the Homesteading Word of the Day posts?  Scroll down and look for “Categories” on the right then click on “vocabulary.”

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Keyhole Gardens (videos)

I came across this site and thought I’d share.  I’ve never heard of keyhole gardens.  They are pretty cool!

Videos on Keyhole Gardens

From the site: ”

A Keyhole Garden is a type of kitchen garden that recycles as it grows. The design – which looks like a keyhole from above – incorporates a central ‘basket’ where compostable waste is placed and water is poured. They are especially useful in areas where good soil is scarce, often adding nutritious vegetables to diets. Send a Cow uses them as part of our training, and they get fantastic results; families start to grow enough to eat and sell.”

“Keyhole Gardens are also a great way of introducing children (and adults), to sustainable principles such as composting and using ‘grey water’. They are an excellent project for schools and groups to get involved in – perhaps as part of a bigger African gardening area?”

One more video:

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Growing Malabar spinach — heat-loving and vining

Vertical Vegetables & Fruit

This year I put an emphasis on growing more vertical (vining) plants with inspiration from a great book called Vertical Vegetables & Fruit by Rhonda Hart.  One of the plants that she recommends in the book is Malabar spinach.  So this past winter when I made a seed order from Johnny’s Selected Seeds I included Malabar spinach in it.

I started 6 seeds in my basement seed growing area in the spring.  I was surprised that only one seed germinated and that one grew very slowly.  It finally did grow very well once I put it outside when the heat came.

I also direct-seeded some in early summer.  Unfortunately, I didn’t place those well — they don’t get enough sun (because of my 8 foot tall tomato plants to the south of them).

From the one vigorously growing plant that gets a lot of sun, I enjoy plucking leaves every day for my green smoothies and veggie sautees.

Here is the direct link to order Malabar spinach seeds from Johnny’s if you’d like to grow it next year: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-6044-red-malabar-spinach.aspx

Here is a video showing all of my Malabar spinach plants:

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Cool down…back to work! Tending to the plants and making notes for next year

It’s back to work this week as surprisingly cooler weather has blessed us here in the Great Lakes region.

Since Sunday, I’ve mostly been tending to the two dozen or so tomato plants that I have growing all over the place (many of which are over 6 feet tall).

  • I’ve been tying up fallen tomato plant branches to keep the fruits off the ground.  This year I am using zip-ties.  They are cheap and easy.  I don’t like that I cannot re-use them (at least not without a lot of fine motor movement to undo them).  Got any hints?
  • I’ve been cutting off the little branches that have only leaves (no fruit).  This will make it easier for me to see the ripening fruit.

I’ve also been making notes in my gardening notebook to help me plan my garden next year.

  • I’ve noted how well certain plants are growing (or if they are not growing well in the place that I planted them).  I’m disappointed and surprised at how many things did not even come up.
  • I’ve also started getting into the habit of making my Sunday to-do list in my gardening notebook while walking around the homestead.  Sunday is our big chores day.  (We have our family, fun, relaxation and church day on Saturday.)  I’ve started doing this because by the time I walk around and make mental notes about what needs to be done I will have forgotten most of them when I walk back into the house. Oy!

I need to start compiling lists of recipes that use some of the plants that are doing well such as my Malabar spinach (mostly I just use it in salads but I need to figure out other recipes too!).

Sliced and cut cukes ready for lacto-fermentation!

Lastly, I was given about 20 lbs of cucumbers last weekend.  I am experimenting with lacto-fermenting them.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d like to have some non-canning preservation techniques to use for two reasons: 1. I think that canning is the least healthiest way to preserve most foods and 2. I really don’t like how much energy (and HEAT) canning requires, especially the heat — the very moist heat!  (I have mentioned that I don’t like hot and humid, haven’t I.)

So, what’s going on in your garden?

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Lambs Quarter: A great edible plant

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