Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Depaving Our Streets For Gardens

Follow this link to view a short little clip on how a one organization based out of Portland, OR is organizing volunteers to rip up pavement in exchange for community gardens and green space.


Get inspired, the day will come when you may be doing this in your neighborhood!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Online Chicken Breed Chart

Chickens perform many functions in an ecological garden or farm and there are many kinds of chickens to choose from. Some lay more eggs than others, some eat different things, some prefer certain temperatures, some are loud and some are just plain cuter than the others. Check out this link to learn about 60 common kinds of chickens to learn what might be the best for you.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Iowa Food Cooperative Launched in Des Moines Shopping Center

The following excerpt was copied from:


"This small shop in Merle Hay Mall is open only one day a month but business is booming. Loads of food – such as home-grown potatoes, apples, honey and frozen meat – come into the store all morning long, to be assembled and re-packaged by volunteers, then stacked neatly on wire shelves and in coolers and freezers for customers to pick up during the rest of the day.

The thriving new business is the Iowa Food Cooperative, which opened November 20. Two years of groundwork for the venture was funded by a $47,600 competitive grant from the Leopold Center’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative. The project also has received assistance from Blooming Prairie Foundation, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and a natural resource-based business opportunity grant. Merle Hay Mall has donated retail space for the cooperative’s first year of operation.

Here’s how the coop works: Farmer-members indicate what products are available and their prices, which are posted on a web site where members also place orders. Farmers bring their products to the Des Moines mall for pick-up by members one day each month. The first month’s pick-up had 44 orders totaling nearly $3,500, which included a 10 percent handling fee for the coop."

Read more at http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/nwl/2008/2008-4-leoletter/coop.html

The Homestead--Des Moines Center for Agriculture and Autism

The healing powers of plants are being applied to help those with special needs find meaning and comfort in the world of pain and confusion. Visit http://www.thehomestead.org/aboutus.htm to learn more about treatment for Iowans with autism and how natural settings and micro-agricultural enterprise can be combined to create a beautiful and sustainable environment for healing and living.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Beginning Farmer Must Read

One knows when a book is worth reading when time after time the book is recommend and referenced as a must read for a particular topic or genre. When it comes to laying out the foundation for what a beginning farmer needs to know in small market gardening on small amounts of land, Elitot Colemon's Book, The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener, earns the spotlight as a must read for fellow Iowans looking to get started in making a good living in growing food for a local community.

I found this excellent review on amazon by a Co-worker of the author:

"Practical idealists, the Shakers demonstrated that it is possible for man to create the environment and way of life he wants, not by complaining about the system but by building their own domain arranged to their liking. Eliot Coleman, farm manager of the Mountain School Program of Milton Academy in Vershire, Vermont, has demonstrated that it is possible to undertake small-scale, commercial farming and gardening without the use of harmful pesticides by using cost-effective, environmentally sustainable methods to produce spectacular results with economy of effort and means. By offering a wealth of ideas; by identifying the most efficient and practical machinery and tools; by offering simple and efficient production techniques; and advising on the most remunerative marketing methods, this book is for the gardener and small farmer who has an unfulfilled dream to established an organic enterprise with minimal expense. When low cost production methods are allied with the right machinery and marketing practices, the viability of the 1-5 acre farm producing high quality food is not only possible but also enjoyable and profitable.

The advantage enjoyed by the small farmer is quality. If the product is first class and in demand and you are a dependable supplier at reasonable cost there is never a problem finding customers. But it needs hard work and intelligence. When starting in the era of 'get big or get out' there were almost no models of commercially successful organic small farmers to provide inspiration and ideas and where they existed it was exhausting and neither cost effective nor efficient. But by seeking out the best from different parts of the world Coleman found the optimum to be about 2.5 acres per grower - enough to produce quality vegetables for 100 people. Produce from the school farm now set the quality standards for the area. He learned much from Helen and Scott Nearing - they were the most practically organized country people he has met - especially their skills in observation and planning. Coleman sets out the year's work on paper during the winter and has a notebook with sections for each crop. He rotates crops until he finds the optimum - the single most important practice in a multi-cropping program. "The 8-year rotation presented below is a good one to conclude with because it is the one I have followed since 1982. It has been well tested. I have thought about modifying it countless times but never have. Its virtues always seem to outweigh its defects, although that isn't to say it can't be improved. I'm sure it can. But it has been a dependable producer and I offer it here as a tried-and-true example of a successful rotational sequence that incorporates many crop benefits. The goal of this particular rotation is to grow 32 vegetable crops in adequate quantities to feed for a year the community of 60-some people who eat daily in the Mountain School dining hall. Since we have found that we can feed 40 people per acre, the rotation below represents 1.5 acres of land. The salad crops not included here are grown in a separate small salad garden close to the kitchen." However, the author points out that tomatoes do better being grown in the same place each year fertilized by their own waste.

Factors that affect plant growth - light, moisture, temperature, soil fertility, mineral balance, biotic life, weeds, pests, seeds, labor, planning and skill - need to be arranged to the plant's liking with the grower coordinating and combining them into a harmonious whole much like the conductor of an orchestra. Successful farmers understand that their role is to help the seed do what it is already determined to do. Good farming practices such as crop rotation, animal manures, green manures, cover crops, mixed cropping, mixed stocking, legumes, crop residues, and season extension have been used for generations, but removing the limiting factors to plant growth and generating a balanced soil fertility are ultimately the secret of success.

There are 22 chapters, each one dealing with an important element of success such as green manures, tillage, direct seeding, transplanting, weeds, pests, harvest, marketing, season extension. In addition there are three appendices on tools, the major vegetable crops and a one-page schematic outline of biological agriculture. If you plan to buy just one book on organic growing, you will find it difficult to beat this book."


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sources for Unusual Varities of Fruit to Grow in Iowa

Iowa can grow many kinds of interesting fruit. Check out these online nurseries for all your prorogation needs.

(List Compiled by Lonnie Gamble. Read Lonnie's article on rare and unusual fruits here http://www.iowasource.com/home_garden/garden_fruit_0405.html)

Tom Wahl/Red Fern Farm:
Oikos tree crops:
Lawyer Nursery:
Tripple Brook Farm:
Bagdersett Research Farm:
Burnt Ridge Nursery:
Raintree Nursery:
One Green World:
Tollgate Nursery: 20803 Junction Rd, Bellevue, Mi 49021, 616-781-5887, Larry Sibley or Corwin Davis

Hidden Springs Nursery: 170 Hidden Springs Lane, Cookeville, Tn, 38501 931-268-2592 – Annie or Hector Black

Monday, January 5, 2009

Free Online Resource on Grafting and Budding


Wilder Institute on Nursery Projects

The following text was pasted word for word from http://www.permaculturenow.com/nursery.html and is a must read for all sustainability and permaculture enthusiasts.

Nursery Projects

A successful nursery brings to a community an enormous diversity of plants as well as jobskills. Each of our projects has a nursery component, and our team has extensive nursery design and development expertise.

The nursery becomes a job and educational center from which we concentrate, propagate, and then disseminate the best and most appropriate plant material from around the bioregion into the local community.

Our goal is to establish a network of locally-owned permaculture nurseries throughout Central America by generating an easy-to-replicate business model.

Whenever a community can grow and make available more and different kinds of foods to eat, and more and different kinds of building materials, people are nourished in many ways; besides new foods and materials, new jobs and skills are created in the local economy.

We are adamantly opposed to genetically engineered seeds. A healthy, agrobiodiverse, organic, and thriving local agrarian economy can be facilitated through the development of small locally-owned nurseries.

Nurseries and Small Market Economy

Benefits include small markets for the various crops and yields, protection of soils and watersheds, reduction and possible elimination of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and the creation of animal habitat in both wild and cultivated areas.

Diversity of Plants:

  • Food: enormous varieties of fruits, nuts, oils, edible tropical leaves, tubers, spices
  • Medicines: roots, bark, sap, leaves, seeds, flowers, lipids
  • Firewood: fast-growing easily harvestable woods for cooking
  • Construction materials: hardwoods, bamboos, thatch palms, fencing, rope
  • Soil cultivators: nitrogen fixers, plants for soil tilth, shade
  • Animal fodder: grasses, trees, leaves, nuts, fruits, tubers
  • Animal habitat: the more niches in any environment the greater the diversity of flora and fauna
  • Pollinator attractors: flowers for bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds
  • Materials for artisan and other crafts: wood for furniture and fine carpentry, gourds for water, seeds for jewelry, bamboos for everything

Diversity of Jobs:

  • Nursery: management, maintenance, grafting, pruning, propagating, composting, irrigation systems, labeling, various levels of horticultural expertise
  • Agro-forestry: establishing and maintaining healthy forest ecosystems
  • Harvesting and processing: drying fruits, shelling nuts, pressing oil, making juices, syrups, wine, flour, natural dyes, fibers, medicinals, finding markets, selling products
  • Working with clients: marketing, client interface, site assessment, consulting, mapping, design, installation
  • Skilled crafts and artisan products: fine woodworking, weaving, natural building
  • Education and outreach: schools, workshops, consulting

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Top Permaculturalist Shares Career Advice

Doug Bullock is one of the top permaculture designers and teachers in North America. Everything Doug knows has been learned through traveling, apprenticing or reading books. In "Cosmic Bob's Plan for Your Life," Doug shares some advice for those looking to do good in the world, work with plants and living self sufficiently.

Go here:


This 7 minute read is extremely valuable because one is shown a path to follow and is given ideas for cost-free, self-educaton. Don't be a fool a spend money on things you can get for free, use the internet and people in your community to learn everything you need!

The Bullock's Permaculture Homestead is one of the most mature and successful examples of permaculture in North America. Abundant fruit trees, berries, flowers, herbs placed strategically amidst mixed island topography and nearby wetlands. Internships are free and your work covers the cost living. Money earning oppurtunities are available through Sam Bullock's ecological landscaping company (website for more information).

Biodiesel: Turn Waste into Affordable Fuel

Most of us by now have seen "veggie mobiles" or "veggie buses"--diesel automobiles that either run off straight vegetable oil (SVO), waste vegetable oil (WVO) or bio-diesel. Championed by innovative green warriors, they have proven that with the right set up one can cruise the streets without ever paying money for petroleum based fuel.

So, if it works, why doesn't everyone do it?


Here are some steps one can follow to getting going on SVO, WVO and Biodiesel

1. Meet your local bio-fuel makers (for Iowa City http://www.ybdc.org/info.htm)
2. Read on-line information (Steve from Yoderville Biodiesel Collective has a great list here http://www.ybdc.org/links.htm as well as www.greasecar.com).
3. Get on craigslist and search for a diesel deal in your area (www.craigslist.com)
4. Buy a diesel vehicle.
5. Make your own biodiesel -or- buy some biodiesel -or- filter and burn straight vegetable oil (only with some cars is SVO possible)
6. Share the word and enjoy the freedom