Greetings from Northern California! As I write, the rain is pouring down, a real boon for our drought-stricken area. Looking outside, I can see the plants in our raised beds looking a little limp, and our chickens huddled miserably in the dry corner of their run. I can’t see any honeybees at all, though, and that’s because they are snugly huddled together in the middle of their hive, between bars full of honey!
I enjoy reading Cecilia’s blog so much, for many reasons, but I think the thing I find most fascinating is the larger scale of her operation. Cecilia has many barns, pastures, and animals, spread across acreage. Heavens, she even has to zipline across a creek to reach some of them! (Ok, maybe not yet.) Reading about the size of the Farmy delights me.
Here at Poppy Corners Urban Farm, space is at a premium. Four of us…
On our little 5th acre suburban homestead in the Mid-Atlantic Region, there is always one area of concern from mid-June through late August…..Water.
We don’t tend to get a lot of rain during these months and when it does rain, it is a quick storm or sudden downpour. The problem with the rains we do get is it runs off very quickly instead of soaking through for a deep root watering of all our plants.
So, this year I decided to try and build a water retention ditch through part of our back yard. Most of our ground is very level, so I don’t know if you could call this a true swale, but it is built of the swale concept.
I started by digging a trough basically about 18″ deep and made sure that the bottom grade of the ditch was perfectly level from one end to the other. Getting the base level means that although the trough is anywhere from 12″ to 18″ deep, the water will still remain evenly throughout ditch.
After the ditch was dug and I insured it would hold water evenly, I put a layer of landscape fabric before adding fill. The fill is done with old logs and tree trunks, which will help retain the moisture of every rain.
Then to top it off is a “path” of large rock. The rock will allow easy water flow, yet adds the appearance of only being a path through the mulch of garden beds.
Sorry I did not get pictures of the area when I first started, but here are the pics of the project and finished work.
The swale runs between some fruit trees and in the middle of a larger “food forest” which I am hoping that it will keep enough water dispersed throughout during the dryer season.
The berm built on the side from the dirt dug from the trench will serve as extra planting space. Have not decided exactly what I will plant yet, but I will have it finished up in the next few days.
My plan is to add two or three more if this does exactly what I am hoping it will do. Any way I can keep more water on the property is a great advantage to the amount of watering we have add to do these past few years.
This time of year is always exceptionally busy, as it is with most “extreme” gardeners. But when a friend calls and he needs help to build a handicap ramp on his mother’s house, one just has to hit pause and help.
His mother had fallen and displaced her hip. Although she will make a full recovery, it will take time. We never know what the future may hold, so taking the time now to build a handicap ramp may save us time and money in the future.
Ironically, mother’s dog just had a knee replacement surgery and could not do steps either. We were struggling to pick up a 60# dog and carry it down and up the steps 4 times a day, so the ramp could definitely be utilized immediately.
I have officially been in business as Baltimore Aquaponics for about a year now, although I have been doing business for almost 4 years in the aquaponics industry. As a growing business in the Mid-Atlantic region, I have started to gain the attention of industry leaders. Just recently I was interviewed by The Aquaponic Source, a renowned aquaponic trainer and retailer in Colorado.
A little background: My start came when I got a call from a friend who wished to see an abandoned fish farm that had come on the market. (Being in real estate for 26 years, I had many friends and previous clients which contacted me anytime they wished to see or sell a property.) I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I did go through the process of securing an appointment to view the property. Little did I know that I was going to receive a very solid beginning education into this new-to-me concept of aquaponics, during the tour of the farm.
I have since had many conversations with Ms. Bernstein and her help as been invaluable in insuring proper setup and maintaining the mini eco-systems. Since her company was in Colorado, I thought extending her educational reach to the east coast just made sense, so I opened Baltimore Aquaponics to start an educational side to my business.
Teaching aquaponics has been fun and rewarding, watching budding enthusiast’s grow in knowledge and see how their systems evolve. I look forward to future classes as well as growing relationships with former students.
A few months ago, Ms. Bernstein contacted me and said that she would like to do an interview with me about my business that she could post on their website. I was all too excited to comply, since she was such an integral part of my business growth.
Although she has since sold the Aquaponic Source, she is still very involved in the industry. New owners JD and Tawnya Sawyer have been full time aquaponics researchers, educators and farmers since 2009 and have fully dedicated their lives to the development of sustainable food systems for our planet.
You can see the resulting write-up from the interview on their website:
If you have been following our bathroom remodel, sorry to say that it was put on hold for the last week. Although I do have at least one post to do about it, this week has been spent preparing for the inevitable Jonas Storm hitting the east coast. I am not a doomsday prepper, but I do seriously believe in prepping for the eventuality-nay reality-of natural disasters; like winter storm Jonas.
It is not just about going to the local big box and buying up all the necessities: water, milk, bread, toilet paper, etc. Although these are good items to make sure you have on hand. There are a lot of other preparing depending on the disaster that is going to hit. It our case in Baltimore-Blizzard Jonas.
Since our chicken coop is a mile from our house (due to local regulations), I went and took the time to wrap the entire coop in a heavy mil plastic to keep the majority of the snow at least outside. But with 60-70 mph wind gusts, I hope it will hold up.
I did make it to the coop yesterday morning and it seemed to be fine, but the worst of the storm did not really hit until yesterday afternoon. I am stuck this morning-even 4-wheel drives are not moving for a while because of the 4-5ft snow drifts surrounding them.
Next I concerned myself with the rabbits. Although rabbits handle cold well, I really did not want to worry about trudging through the snow to take care of them. So we decided to move them into the greenhouse.
There is not really much room in the greenhouse, but I nestled them into the back corner, covering the rear entrance. We use this entrance very little and with snow piled outside, the likelihood of needing it was less.
You can never have enough good batteries, especially if you get into a grid down situation. So on my stock up trip to Costco, I did buy extra batteries. I also made sure that my solar powered generators, batteries, and lights were fully charged. I love Goal Zero’s products, so I have most of their product line and solar panels. We do have a Honda gas fired generator, which I fueled and started just to make sure there were no issues.
So in comes Jonas! I did everything I could to be ready, but it seems, there could always be more. I forgot to dig out my heavy hat, gloves, boots and scarves. It was not too bad rounding them up, but I could have had them out and ready.
Spent most of yesterday transporting essential personnel. My wife is a nurse, so not going to work is not an option! I was hoping she would not get stuck there all weekend, but that all depended on transport picking up the personnel that could not drive in. They were able to get fully staffed so my wife was able to leave at the end of her regularly scheduled shift. But she did have to get a ride in this morning since my 4wd is plowed in!
I did take a little time to dig out the greenhouse entrance so I could feed the rabbits and fish, as well as check on the aquaponics operation. Although it was nice and toasty in the greenhouse, I was a little concerned about the amount of snow laying on our windows. Since we used conservatory windows, they are not built to withstand holding that much weight. I thought starting a fire in the Rocket Mass Heater might help to melt it off a little quicker.
The rest of my day was spent, shoveling and snow-blowing to insure that emergency personnel could get on our street if need be. The majority of my neighbors are either elderly or disabled, so it falls on the few of us able bodied to keep the road and driveways open to essential personnel.
My neighbors son-in-law, my brother-in-law, and I dug out most houses on the street. We live on a short section of one-way street, so there are only 10 houses on the block. Out of the 10, we dug out 6 before the worst of the storm hit. At this point we had already had about 15-18 inches, so I thought it would make it easier on us this morning.
Most of the work we did yesterday was gone! The winds, gusting up to 70mph, re-covered everything and pretty much buried any vehicle. There are a few people out shoveling, blowing now and I will join them soon, even though I am still trying to recover from yesterday.
I do love snow but Baltimore ended in a new single snowfall record of 29.3 inches. Add the wind to the mix and this was definitely one of the worst storms to hit our area in my lifetime. We are looking at cloudy skies and sun for the next week, so we should be able to recover quickly and get Baltimore “open for business” again!
If you caught my post a few days ago, you know how increasingly hectic things have been around the little suburban homestead. I am really trying to carve out the time to catch up a few posts, but it has still been difficult. I can start to share some of the posts and projects that have occupied so much time.
The greenhouse and aquaponics setups have been pretty good. I cleaned the grow beds out, cleaned out all the filters and lines and prepared the beds for winter planting.
I started planting with the usuals for our winter feeding of the chickens: lettuce, spinach etc. Then I added a few tomato plants and some peppers, along with some bush bean plants that were volunteers that I transplanted from outside.
Also, you may notice the onions. This was a first for us. I threw them in just to see what would happen and surprisingly, they took off. They seem very happy in the rocky, water-laden media.
Along with getting the grow beds together, I did some basic maintenance on the greenhouse; sealing air gaps and insuring fewer heat leaks this winter. Of course I also test fired the rocket mass heater to check the flue for any obstruction. All went well and I think the greenhouse is ready to produce great things this winter.
It has been two months since I have shared anything. I thought it was only a few weeks, but regardless, not good for anyone blogging. These last two months have been so eventful and packed full of activities that it is hard to determine where to start.
Of course, trying to get ready for winter has been a priority. Cleaning the little homestead, pulling up the garden beds, pruning trees and arbor, laying new wood chips around the garden paths, mulching trees to protect roots from winter, cleaning out aquaponics tanks,setting up greenhouse, readying the animals (rabbits, chickens, bees) etc, etc, etc. I have pictures and will post more later….
Fortunately so far this year it has been very mild for us. We have stayed pretty consistently in the 50’s and 60’s-a good 15-20 degrees above normal for the Mid-Atlantic Region. They are even calling for 72 degrees on Christmas Eve, with Christmas Day in the 60’s! It has given me some extra time at least to get our gardens and yard together.
We have had a few health scares as well, both myself and my wife. My Melanoma keeps spreading, so keeping on top of it with my doctor has to be a priority. I was also diagnosed with C.O.P.D. not bad enough yet for oxygen, but fatigue and shortness of breath set in quickly.
My wife ended up with the hospital with what they determined a cardiac “episode” I guess they determine an episode when they cannot truly find anything, but all symptoms seemed like a heart attack to me. AT least enough to transport by ambulance instead of taking a chance driving her. She is back to normal, just have to be sure to see a heart specialist after Christmas to, if nothing else, get baseline readings.
We moved into our little homestead in 2005, with a plan to remodel the bathrooms and kitchen within a short time. We did do our guest bathroom about 4 years ago when my brother-in-law became disabled and moved in with us, but have not made progress on the other bath or kitchen. The beginning of November came and we made the determined decision to gut our primary bathroom. This is currently a work in progress, which was hoping to have done by Christmas, but things happen. We should be done early in the new year and I will do a post on the rehab as well as having a lot of pictures. Stay tuned…
Well, for now, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I will start posting more regularly again very soon!
The last few weeks I have been writing about the classes we undertook sponsored by the Maryland Department of Emergency Management(MEMA): Neighbors Helping Neighbors. (Previous posts:Sustainable & Resilient Communities, Disaster Readiness) Our final class was this past week and I am really thrilled that I took the time to be involved.
Since we moved to Maryland (August 2003) most of our natural disasters have only caused service interruptions of a week or less. If you remember the date, Hurricane Isabel hit us 2 weeks after we moved in to our nice little row home just across the street from waterfront. We quickly became educated in the need for preparing for these eventualities. Maybe it is 12 years later but the class was our next step in being ready and further educating us on areas where we may be weak.
The class information was well prepared and very well presented for anyone who is interested in not only being prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster, but those concerned about others within a community.
The overall takeaway from the class was getting oneself ready for eventual disasters or emergencies that may come along. Living on the east coast, our potential for hurricanes and flooding put us in a category of not if but when they will occur.
Although important to have a good mental attitude for any situation, but having a few supplies carefully crafted and stored is key to being in a position to survive AND to help others that are in need during a crisis.
FEMA & MEMA both recommend 3-7 days of necessary supplies, while our instructors think a 10 day supply is more adequate. I tend to lean in the more category, being somewhere between 10 and 30 days.
The basics of any emergency stock:
Water-The suggested amount of water is 1 gal per person per day. With only 3 people in our household now (I sure this number will triple in case of real emergency-kids and their families) That means for a 14 day supply, we would need at minimum 42 gallons of fresh water. (# people X # days = absolute minimum gallons needed)
Food-This is a gray area as to the amount needed, but having a good stock of foods on hand will be important to any survival plan. Be sure that it is shelf stable, long term storage. Don’t depend on fresh or frozen since during a heavy disaster there will most likely be no way to store these foods. If storing up canned foods (store bought) be sure to pack a can opener! Enter the homesteader: someone who grows and maintains a constant stream of food through gardening, aquaponics, or small animal husbandry. (rabbits, chickens, etc) Although as a suburban homesteader, we have home canned and dehydrated foods, we also have the ability with our greenhouse and aquaponics to refresh our food supply.
Radio & flashlight-Needless to say these need to be battery operated and you will not be able to just plug and play in a grid down emergency. This could be supplemented with the use of portable solar power. Having a rechargeable battery pack through the use of solar panels makes life a little easier in the worst of disasters. I personally like Goal Zero products.
Basic first aid-Bandages, compresses, eye wash, topical creams, scissors, tweezers, etc. During a disaster there is always the potential for some minor medical needs. Along with first aid, do you have anyone in your care that takes prescription medications on a regular basis? Having at least an extra month of those meds on hand could make the difference in that person surviving.
Extra clothes, blankets, and compact emergency tools-I am talking an emergency supply bag, many may call it a bug-out bag, but no matter what you call it, it is a part of necessary preparedness.
If you are not able to maintain yourself and family, how are you going to be a benefit to those in need in your community?
For more in depth information I invite you to visit one of my favorite websites. A. H. Trimble , instructor, teacher, author in the art of being prepared for any emergency situation.
Today’s economy is rising tide of expenses and debt for the average consumer. It seems to many that there will never again be a low tide where one can catch their breath before dealing with yet another increase or financial crisis. In previous posts, I gave several tips on ways to decrease your expenses and although we are soon starting a new year, those tips are still very pertinent today.
We have moved forward in our sustainable living model with the addition of rabbits, bees, tilapia fish, and a large aquaponics setup, which have all helped in reducing our need on outside sources to live a comfortable, frugal life.
I would like to take a moment to once again discuss the desire and need to reduce our energy consumption-initially to reduce our expense and be less dependent on outside sources, but since have noted how much a difference has been made in reducing our carbon gas emissions.We are taking our energy reduction one step further with the addition of a solar panel grid to our electric system.
In the past decade solar power was an expensive venture to install and maintain, but in just the last few years many new innovations have made solar power a very affordable opportunity to the average homeowner. In just the past few months, thousands have contacted us to see how affordable solar energy has become.
Through our program and partnership with one of the leading solar companies in the United States, it is as simple as:
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And with a completely FREE evaluation of the property, there is nothing to lose. Everything will be handled initially by phone and email, and only once you decide solar is the right choice will an engineer visit your home for an on site assessment and installation plan.
The truth is, going solar may be one of the smartest things you can do as a homeowner because it can increase your home’s resale value. And as utility prices go up, your savings grow.
There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by converting much of your power generation to green, clean, solar energy. Take just 30 seconds to request your no-risk consultation and you could be on your way to savings in your pocket, while making a huge difference on our environment. Currently available in limited markets, but quickly expanding, so if we are not in your market yet, check back soon.
For more information on Solar Power or how to save money over your current utility visit us at:
Have you been reading our friends’ guest posts about Emergency Readiness? Now here are some suggestions to developing a Positive Mental Attitude to insure your readiness for any emergency or disaster!
Your main concern as someone dealing with an emergency situation is your safety and the safety of your fellow human beings . As you can see; from the previous series of posts, ( Important mental attitude in an emergency ) you are going to experience an assortment of thoughts and emotions. These can work against you or they can work for you if you develop a positive mental attitude that’s ready for emergencies!
Fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, depression , loneliness, boredom, and guilt, are all possible reactions to the many stresses common in a emergency. These reactions, when managed in a healthy way, help to increase the likelihood of successfully handling an emergency. They can prompt you to pay more attention in training, to fight back when scared, to take actions that ensure sustenance and security, to keep faith with others involved in the situation, and to strive to succeed no matter the odds.
When you cannot control these reactions in a healthy way, they can bring you to a standstill. Instead of rallying your internal resources, you begin to listen to your internal fears and experience psychological defeat long before you physically succumb. Remember, desire for survival is natural to everyone; being unexpectedly thrust into the life and death struggle of survival is not. Don’t be afraid of your “natural reactions to this unnatural situation.” Prepare yourself to manage these reactions so they serve your interest of staying safe and alive with your honor and dignity intact. This involves preparation to ensure that your reactions in a emergency setting are productive, not destructive.
Emergencies have produced countless examples of heroism, courage, and self-sacrifice. These are the qualities emergencies can bring out in you if you have prepared yourself. In the following posts in this series are a few tips to help prepare yourself psychologically for emergencies. Through reading these posts, personal study and attending training you can develop a positive mental attitude that’s ready for emergencies!