Episode-1450- TSP Homestead Lessons and Planning – Fall 2014 — 77 Comments

  1. Regarding AgriTrue and potential expanded access for producers that use some GMO feed for their animals, I think this would be beneficial as long as it was fully disclosed in the producer’s profile.

    The farm I did a mentorship PDC at this summer currently produces pork – out on range, eating apples, persimmons, fruit and vegetable pulp from juicing operations, and spent brewer mash – the brewer mash is an unknown in terms of GMO content, even the brewers have no idea. The pork is phenomenal and I’d have no problem eating it, but some people would like to know exactly what they’re fed. The farm is a permaculture farm 2 years into establishment.

    I passed the AgriTrue offer on to them but this was a hang up as it is currently structured. Currently the brewers have to pay to have the spent mash hauled away. The farmers are trying to create those “relationships of need” that actually underpin a local economy, thus pigs eating the mash fits as part of their larger permaculture mission.

    • Thanks for the feedback but brewers grain would NOT be GMO, because it is wheat and or barley or for some specialty stuff perhaps rye. Almost no beer is made with corn (only one I know of is Milwaukee’s Best yuck!) and none with soy. So brewers grain is NOT GMO, not YET anyway. For the time being anyway there is no GMO wheat, rye or barley.

  2. Man, I am happy for Buddy that she’s not going to be eaten. Just shows that if you prove yourself valuable and diversify your skills…you survive!

  3. Jack, you mentioned ‘iripans’ and I’m sure I’m spelling it wrong. You’ve mentioned them in the past as well. Do you have a link where to find them or at least the right spelling so I can search? Thanks! And Dawna and I are looking forward to your fall event in a couple weeks!

  4. Jack

    Thanks for totalling demoralizing me! Haha. Seriously I feel like I accomplished nothing this year after listening to this episode. I.made it through Geoff’s PDC but have hit design block. Regardless this was a real inspiration. I got a lot done this season but only scratched the surface. Let this be a lesson to all PLAN FIRST! I ran around like an idiot planting stuff allover the place, trying to implement techniques instead of focusing on a plan. My biggest obstacles are understanding companion species, and planting density. I am way too spread out. Cant wait for the propagation course. Trees and plants are expensive.

    Jack what are your thoughts on ordering trees from the arbor day foudation? I had like 50 trees in the cart for about $100. Just wondering your thoughts on them as a resource. Thanks

  5. In regards to “The Year That Was the Episode” section. When Jack was talking about the documentaries that he watched, and couldn’t remember the names. I’m fairly certain he’s referring to a recent series on PBS’ Nova about Animal Intelligence, if anyone’s interested.

  6. Jack

    One more thing. You talked a lot about doing an irrigation system. Maybe a good show topic, covering all the different types, applications, and hardware.

  7. Hey jack, great show. Got lots of ideas for crap I wanna do. Just need to get land access somehow.

    My .02 on the agritrue. I say you allow the fertilizers and gmo feed, as long as it’s disclosed. In my opinion, let the market decide. If you can create a big enough market place, the market may very well lead producers away from the gmo stuff because they can charge a premium. Plus, as much as I refuse to eat gmo myself, I am pretty ok with Salatin style chickens getting some gmo grain. Still top quality food.

    • @Andrew, we have learned too much about the harm fertilizers do to the land. That is simply not going to happen because in the long run it will harm the producers land.

      On feed, even if I feed my birds GMO I can still improve my land, I can still move my land to a point where I depend less and less and less on any outside feed. I can build a market, I can then begin to educate the market and pay more for the feed I do buy and get off GMO feed.

      In short for many producers GMO feed is something they are stuck using to get started, hell we are stuck with it for now at PermaEthos. We ran 180 birds to test stuff and get metrics. We now know what we can pay for feed and we can now continue to find a source of non GMO feed and we know exactly what we can pay and what premium we can pay for it. If the numbers work they work, if they do not they do not. In the words of Darby Simpson, “Excel never lies”.

      I see it this way if a guy named Tom wants pastured eggs. Tom may find 5 AgriTrue producers in his area. If they all use conventional feed, he will pick the most convenient to buy from. If one uses non GMO and the others don’t he will either buy from that one if it really is important or he may decide that the guy 5 miles away is good enough for now. In this manner no harm is done to the producers land and the incentive to move forward is there.

      But if you start dumping NPK on your land, the dependence grows every year, the damage gets worse and the ability to change becomes more and more difficult.

      You see it isn’t just about the final product. One can grow great lettuce with NPK and great chickens with GMO feed, you really can. But the guy growing chickens can change the SECOND it becomes profitable or logistically possible for him to do so. The guy using NPK can’t, his land is being burned out from under his very feet! He is literally killing trillions of microbes daily.

      • I guess I have been positively warped by listening to you for so many years. I hear you talk about fertilizers, and I automatically, with no filter applied, just think of bone meal, blood meal, and that fermented beet stuff you talk about on the show. That’s what I think of with fertilizers, not weird gross blue npk crystals. So for the record, that’s where my answer was coming from. I feel somewhat foolish at the moment, as I am reminded that most people don’t think that way.

        I agree with the gmo feed option you laid out. I think that will naturally solve itself with profit motive.

        Mainly, I just really want to see agritrue succeed. I live 30 miles west of Atlanta, and there is only one producer within 100 miles of me. I know there are local producers here, but they all make it really hard for me to give them money. They have these great websites showing off their stuff, but no freaking buy button. I just wanna slap em. I try to explain that if you take pre orders on pastured pork or whatever, they will probably get more money than slogging it out at the farmers market, but they don’t get it. One day I swear I will just start a “modern business for farmers” course just so I can buy some pork. So I want agritrue to teach these people the value of a good market.

        Thanks for everything you do man. Love the show.

  8. Am enjoying this episode. Sharing a comment and a question:
    1. Agritrue…I’ve raised pastured poultry for 6 years; have come to the point where I refuse to use GMO feed. I live in central IL, in the belly of the GMO beast, and even here it is possible to find organic feed. I charge about $25 per bird, and people pay it.
    2. Ducks…Jack, or anyone knowledgeable, ducks seem to take so much longer to die than chickens if you slaughter them in the same manner (cutting jugular). It is agonizing to watch. Tips from anyone on slaughter methods? I would also appreciate plucking tips. I have only had success when I used wax. Wish I could pluck without the wax. // That said, I LOVE my Muscovy ducks. I barely feed them; they are amazingly prolific and maternal, quiet and gentle. I have seen them get bored and strip the leaves off young trees; they also love ripe tomatoes on the vine, but they are generally not destructive. // The first Muscovies I raised from a hatchery would fly to my garage roof and get picked off by owls. After I clipped their wings, they stopped doing that, and no subsequent generations have flown to roost.

    • Over here (Sweden) you are required to anesthetize animals before slaughter, and because of this a standard procedure for home slaughter of birds has pretty much become to give the animal a hard whack to the head (back of the head) before you cut off any veins. Using a hammer, baseball bat etc. I don’t have ducks myself, but know people who do. Regardless of bird type this is definitely easier to do if you have the bird rest their head on a hard surface, a chopping block with two nails to fixate the neck is an idea.

      I do think this has a downside in it being another moment you can screw up, but if you do it right it’s very fast, not stressful, and the bird will be unconscious at the point of slaughter. Actually, many of them will probably die from the blow to the head rather than the blood running out, but it’s quick either way.

      • Sounds like people that don’t know shit about animals making regulations about animals to me. With birds duck sized and down cutting the neck is the most humane way of dispatch and if you do it right they don’t react at all. That alone tells you something about how effective it is. The key is a sharp knife and an accurate and decisive cut. The flutter kicks at the end are just nerves shutting down, one way to think about that is they kick less when bled out than if decapitated. Personally I don’t think anyone with out real farm experience at least at a homestead level has any business at all making any laws about such things. The ignorance of such people is beyond comprehension.

        • The assumed normal in regulations here is usually large-scale animal factories, so it would surprise me if anyone considered small-scale slaughter or homesteading as anything other than an afterthought.

          That said, it’s how I learned to slaughter chickens, and I’ve seen enough skilled people slaughter larger birds too to know that when you do it right it’s not bad. If you can handle the bird without it stressing out, and if you aim right and not hesitate when you hit, they blink out instantly and are gone for the rest of it. The benefit I can see to someone worried about getting vein cutting or decapitation right is that unconsciousness is easy to check, and unmoving birds are very easy to handle.

          The real downside IMO is that adding more steps adds more potential for problems. I don’t think this would have been my favoured method for chickens if I had not already learned it.

          Regardless, I think I’d place muscovy ducks as larger birds for slaughter. Esp. the drakes of some of the domesticated varieties can get huge, closer to small geese than regular ducks.

    • This doesn’t jive with my experience but I would say that decapitation may simply be better for you. If you live where it is feasible shoot them in the head with a 22. Instant and done. I haven’t ever done Muscovy Ducks though so that may be part of the issue, with why I see most ducks as being like chickens when it comes to slaughter. I know with geese it is as you say, takes too long and it just isn’t right. For such lager birds I use decapitation or a shot to the brain.

      On “even here you can find non GMO”, man that just isn’t the point is it? Even here? Well I am not talking about “here” I am talking about “there”. There seems to be a lot of confusion by people who can find a GMO free feed that makes them think since they can get it, others can too or that others can too economically.

      Kate, how far are you from a sizable town, say 5,000 or more people or say 25,000 or more people. This alone makes a big difference. Also you are in “farm country”, people in farm country seldom realize that it makes getting non GMO stuff easier, a lot easier. If you are in such areas there are always natural and organic growers exploiting a niche. There are always organic poultry/pork ranchers who create a market for feed stores to sell too.

      When you are either in the sticks or believe it or not urban ares sometimes the feeds stores just don’t see a market big enough to carry non GMO feed and if they carry organic at all availability is spotty and the cost is VERY high, 2-3 times that of conventional feed.

      The next thing is not strait availability but cost. I know people paying 50% more for non GMO and that usually works economically. I know some who have to pay 2-2.5 times more to get it, then they have to put 200 miles or more round trip on to pick it up, etc. For those people it isn’t economically viable, period, the end, over, out, not gonna happen. These people either feed GMO as part of the birds/pigs diet or they don’t farm.

      • Also this is REAAAAALLY big, you need to ASK YOUR FEED STORE. The way this works is feed stores order from a distributer, so as long as the distributer has access to something like Texas Natural your local feed store can get it. Don’t ask for it to be carried as regular stock, but just ask that they order it (they’ll order any number of bags you want).

        I’ve done this both times with goat feed which isn’t carried anywhere around here in stock, but I can order it and get it in 2-4 business days no problem.

        • And sometimes this works but as always it depends. They will almost always order it but at what cost?

          In some places about what you’d pay for the same feed anywhere it is stocked. In some distribution channels the distributor puts a 50% or more premium on the wholesale price. This is done by distributors who protect the market for those that stock certain items.

          Will your local supplier fall into this category? May be, may be not, it depends.

          Also people need to keep in mind that in some areas the only feed store in say 50-100 miles is a Tractor Supply.

          I’ll admit it, I am spoiled as shit here! I have two Russel Feed stores near me, one about 6 miles north and the other 6 miles south. They carry Non GMO and they will order anything I ask for, even call me when it gets there. I have two more mom and pop feed stores less than 10 miles from me. This is awesome! I just have learned that indeed, I am spoiled and not everyone has this option.

        • For me, I get it at its normal price. 24 dollars a bag. I’ve paid 30 at this other place much further away till I found out the feed store just 2 minutes from my house can get it.

          I have been meaning to put together a comprehensive list of awesome soil ammendments you basically would never have access to unless you live, I dunno in California and seeing what they can do with it. In Virginia where my wife’s parents live out in the hippie part they have this kick ass farm store that has anything and everything you could ever want in 50 pound bags. Too jealous.

        • Hi Mike. I would like to see that soil amendment list when you get around to it. Here in Texas need all the amendments I can get for our alkaline soil. Thanks for the note on Pinetree Garden Seeds. Always looking for more great sources for useful plants.

  9. I saw a cool documentary a couple of years ago on a Russian program to domesticate Silver Fox’s specifically for their sense of smell. What they found was that they were able to successfully domesticate them by selectively breeding passive animals with other passive animals and keeping them away from the aggressive ones. So now 50 years later they have completely domesticated Silver Fox’s that have begun changing colors, etc… just like dogs did. Here’s a link to a similar documentary.

    • I could dig having a pet fox, better be house trained like crazy though! If you think cat pee stinks, wait till you get a whiff of what a fox puts out. Man skunks are repelled by it!

  10. Jack, I always love your podcasts on gardening! I downloaded this one.

    We’ve raised white production Muscovies for about 8 years now. You are right about ducks and meat production. I love the Muscovy because it forages so very well, and we are deluged in eggs (in spite of the fact that this breed isn’t renowned for egg production) during all warm months of the year.

    A couple of years ago someone showed me a Google Earth photo of our place. I could almost count the white ducks!

    One hard lesson I’ve learned with my ducks, is that not so many people share my enthusiasm, here in Oklahoma. I’ve taken birds to auction and it is hardly worth the gas to drive them in, even when they yield 3-8 lb carcasses. And, it is so very easy to let them get out of hand, and be enslaved to butchering for weeks on end, in order to get them back under control.

  11. Jack,
    We are AgriTrue egg producers and are all for keeping it as “clean” as possible. We are consistently raising our price of eggs as we gain experience. Mostly due to finding the right price from fluctuating egg production vs cost of feed. Anyway, we are amazed at the response and willingness of the customer to pay the higher price upon finding out we are “GMO free and soy free” in our feed to the birds.
    On another note, thanks for the lessons from the year, we are installing 60 trees from Bob Wells starting this weekend. We will utilize the irripan as well.

    • So then here is a question on that regard. Would you rather eat eggs that are from confinement chickens or free range birds that get some GMO in their feed? In some locations it is pretty easy to find non GMO feed, in some it is difficult but doable, in some areas right now it is all but impossible. Or if you can the price puts you out of the market despite a premium. What should those producers do? How would allowing them to sell their birds/eggs/meat with disclosure harm the other AT producers who are GMO free, would it not actually create a premium for them?

      • Those are really good questions. I understand how hard it is to find the feed (we use the Texas Natural Feed) and the expense. When I say GMO free I mean all aspects for us. If there is a disclosure, does that or could that water down AgriTrue? I read your point above about the inability to get the GMO free feed and don’t want to say “no”. I could see us there in that situation and I would want to offer the best I could in that market under an AgriTrue label.

  12. Regarding AgriTrue, I am pleased you are holding to a hard line, but I also agree there are some times where an AgriTrue producer has better products than most other products. I would suggest you have 2 or 3 ‘levels’ of producer, maybe a gold, silver and bronze level producer. Set specific details about each level producer, then as we consume more products, hopefully we see more producers are changing levels from a bronze to a silver or even a gold.
    Either way great work, Thanks.

    • We explored that option. In the end such a tiered system doesn’t really make a lot of sense at least until you have thousands and thousands of producers.

  13. Jack,
    When you planted the blueberries did you amend the soil with peat moss? The master gardeners in my area told me to do this because of the alkaline soil; but I wonder how long it takes for the acidity of the peat moss to be neutralized?

    • Depends, if you have limestone soils than every time it rains you are going to effectively be “amending with lime”. You can put all the peat moss and sulfur on it you want but the PH is going to stay high long term.

  14. I bought my goji berry plant from Garden Harvest Supply in Spring 2013. It looked nothing more than a small stump. I ended up babying it in the house and greenhouse, but it now seems to be pretty happy in my hugel mound where I never water it. I got lots of fruit this year but they don’t taste great. I’m in the Dallas area. Always hungry for permaculture shows.

    • My wife’s dad hates them and pulled tons out of the ground. Which is funny because he’s so penny pinching I’m blown away he’d do that. I haven’t had em outside of smoothies or something like that, but I think nearly most people eat them dried.

      • I like them okay fresh but dried is much better and no more than a handful at a time. Large amounts are like large amounts of prunes, I will leave it at that.

        Most common use is tea, soak a handful of dried gojis in hot water with other herbs if desired, drink tea and at the end eat berries. Honey is great with this.

  15. Good show. I am trying to break out of the normal garden crops. I am highly interested in wolf berry for here in Arizona. Going to start looking around for some producers here.

  16. I vote with my $ so gmo means to me:)
    patented seed (no seed saving)
    heavy chemical use(pesticides & fertilizers)
    BIG corporations
    old outdated earth destroying ag methods
    oil dependent
    lower nutrition
    Given the choice I would rather support small farms using regenerating methods that support other farms using regenerative practices.

    • @Dave, so if I came into your home and raided your fridge and pantry would I find absolutely zero products containing GMO? Serious question.

  17. Dwarf mulberries……. Good lord. There is almost nothing dwarf about these guys. I have 1 that i left in a pot out in the sun with barely any soil sent its roots down and the trunk on this thing is about 2 inches wide and the top is at least 9 or 10 foot right now. Just crazy. I just keep chopping and dropping these two that I have. I had no idea they were going to be this…. “tree like”. I’m trying to grow them as bushes. I might cut the main truck down to something like knee high, and seeing if it’ll take a hint and turn into a bush.

    • Hope to have that problem soon!

      God what I would do to have acid vs. alkaline soils!

      • I know we always consider the grass is always greener, but I’ll say dealing with alkaline soil, that alone is a “yeah I’ll pass” situation. There are certainly some things around here that would be “nice” if we had less of (pure clay soil rather a nice perfect mix of clay and sand) but Alkaline soil, rocks, and shallow soil leading to bedrocks are all recipes of tough conditions. Thinking about it right now about the difficulty of putting up fencing… phew.

        I wonder if over time if you built up enough top soil and organic matter and had enough life in the soil if you’ll create a top layer of acidic conditions? Obviously not really speaking about blue berries (I wouldn’t even bother where you live outside of pots).

  18. Poor Jack. I knew that Bermuda grass was going to get your hugel garden. Great idea to turn it to a perennial garden, though. I am in Northeast Texas and we have acidic soils in the piney woods. So I have lovely blueberries, azaleas, and gardenias. After growing up in San Antonio, it was hard for me to have to adjust my thinking to putting lime out on my soil when I moved here! You are blessed your plums are doing so well. I have a thicket of wild sand plums on my little farm.

    • You people who worry about fricken grass just don’t make any sense to me. Get me? Let me say I’d be fine if that grass was everywhere.

    • Jack have you seen Permaculture Orchard? I purchased it the other day and watched it (awesome how-to perspective). What are your thoughts on it? There are a lot of against the grain to “mainstream” permaculture ideas in there. Obviously he realizes the use of black plastic as a mulch layer to kill grass is it. While I’m not going to jump up and down and call him evil, I wonder if that’s necessary because he’s going with dwarf trees? Basically the concequence of using a tree that doesn’t root well is that it has to compete (poorly) with things like grasses even when big.

  19. I’m for allowing “standard” feed in AgriTrue. I have a small laying flock and am having trouble sourcing non-GMO feed. I think I’ll be able to get there in the future by forming direct relationships with farmers, but today I cannot join AgriTrue. With disclosure I don’t see a problem with allowing it as I think most of us are working toward non-GMO anyway, even if we are not there today.

    I know my birds that live in the woods and eat some conventional layer feed provide way better eggs than what is available to most people in my area.

  20. on Wolf Berry…
    I bought ONE single plant from Raintree. Tiny little sprig of a plant. It stayed in it’s 4″ pot in the garage for at least a week before I could plant it in the spring. When I did plant it, it took off with vigorous new growth! (zone 5, full sun location, sandy soil) It did great for quite a while in fact, until it started to look sad mid summer. So I mulched the ever loving crap out of it with old grass clippings and deeply watered the heck out of it again and again; until it came back.
    (I wouldn’t call it lovin’ on it)
    It got huge, bore fruit, PROLIFIC berries well into winter. Hardy as all hell. I haven’t watered it since. Three years running.
    I love to eat the super berries raw. Our chickens love them. I find they are sweeter later in the season closer to winter. Haven’t tried the berries or leaves in tea yet.

  21. on AgriTrue…
    I thought about joining. Love the idea! But our little homestead doesn’t produce enough volume to be a business, YET!
    If you set the bar of expectations high, people will achieve it. If you compromise, you fall into breeding mediocrity.

    “Treat a person as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat him as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”
    -Jimmy Johnson

    “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”
    -Michael Jordan

    • @Robert, hey man as to setting the bar high, don’t take this wrong but,

      As you are not doing the volume to be a business and have no experience with practical farming for a profit is it perhaps possible that you don’t realize what a high bar is?

      What I mean is this, how much better quality all around from care and humanity to nutrition in the final product is…

      1. A confined organic chicken that technically meets the AT requirement as written

      2. A bird pastured Salatin style that has some GMO feed in its diet

      Dude I would take #2 any day of the week. I would prefer a number three, pastured and no GMO feed but if I have two to pick from….

      Just so everyone is clear we are only considering allowing GMO feed which really means conventional feed, not GMO crops. This would only be on the animal side of things and only feed and would have to be disclosed to the consumer.

      • @ Jack, fair enough. It’s possible. No worries.

        Given the choice of #1 or #2 ONLY, I might likely choose two. But honestly the contrarian in me says, “screw it, I’ll produce #3 for myself instead.” Because that’s what we want. So we do.

        Speaking as a consumer, those things we don’t produce yet, we choose to support (at no less a premium) the “rolls royce/gold medal” systems and businesses that do produce at the raised bar expectations we find value in.

        We get our grass fed, no grain, and/or no GMO, hormones etc; Beef, Pork, Poultry, Lamb… from a local farm that delivers far and wide from Columbus/Cincinnati to Chicago, and from Indianapolis to Grand Rapids, MI. It can be done.

        We get our grass fed, non GMO, raw milk delivered via our herdshare from a local dairy farm outfit. We aren’t doing it yet so we sure as hell will support it. It can be done.

        Just like one of your guests even mentioned on supporting Bison; I love Bison! So we buy Bison from a local ranch via our Co-op, to support Bison.

        I see it a little bit like, “if you build it, they will come.” Speaking on the consumer end of things, I want what I want. If I can’t produce my option #3, I’ll create it by finding it somehow.

        I dunno man, maybe AT is ahead of the curve right now, which can be a lonely place until people catch up. And catch up they will. And when they do, consumers will gladly support them, and be grateful AT connected them.

        • We also said screw #1 and #2 and found local growers who produce gmo free feed mixes and now we distribute it for cost if people help unload and such, we run it like a co-op. So I say set the bar high as well.

    • @Jack
      We have dealt with this ourselves when buying. (The situation with GMO). The guy we normally purchase our chicken from started trialing out and selling birds on Non-Gmo non-soy (texas natural) and he specifically stated that it was what it was.

      From a consumer perspective, I personally think as long as I knew WHAT the feed was and the conditions of the animal that’s good enough for me, to include GMO. We still purchase the cornish cross GMO fed birds, but they’re done in tractors on pasture etc. This is normally a trite statement but it REALLY is the case (maybe not in more urban areas) but that chicken is a million times better than what you can buy in the store.

  22. on Egyptian Spinach (jute mallow)…
    France?! Yikes. Dude, what variety did you get? Everybody, just do a wiki search for Corchorus. Great stuff! A potherb superfood. I tried some this season. Came up great. Got my seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds. No customs necessary, lol. Melokhiya (or the numerous other various spellings) is what they sell it as. Saluyot is apparently what they call it in the Philippines. Wiki search “Mulukhiyah” for some recipe ideas.

    • Yea you can get it now, I guess enough demand got suppliers on board. Keep in mind I got mine almost three years ago, because Geoff Lawton told me about it. At the time I could not find a single source except the one in France. Now we appear to have a few different varieties in country to work with.

    • By the way Pinetree looks cool, thanks for telling us about them but I could not find Jute Mallow on their site.

      • Yeah I know. They sell the seed as “Melokhiya,” one of the many spellings of its alternate names. Gee, I hope I spelled that right. Put that in the search bar and it should pop up.