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Karin Smiles
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Hello, I have recently become very aware of my desire to make more natural choices for my housing and in the food and water I consume. I want to begin growing my own food but don't know how to get started. My boyfriends family has a garden plot we can use, I live in and apartment right now...hoping to make a decision about my future home plans. I am a single mom with 2, 20 somthing boys and I want to have us come together for the same goal...caring for eachother and the earth and getting as far out of the system as possible for us. We currently reside in eastern MI. I am seeking people who can share thier knowledge with me but I don't know where to turn. I do not have people around me who think like I do. Any advice on what typs of vegies I can easily grow in MI which will provide me with my biggest bang for the buck , and where I can go to meet up with thoes who would share thier wisdome with me?


Thank you For your time..I welcome your kind reply.
 
Mike Dayton
Posts: 149
Location: sw pa zone 5
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Welcome Karin, You have come to the right place. You will find alot of people here who not only share your view and desires but have a great deal of wisdom and they are happy to pass it on. I would seek out older gardeners in your area and ask them what grows well in your neck of the woods, and what varietys they like best. I have not lived as far north as you live but would think that you can grow tomatos, peppers, zuccini, onions, lettuse and alot of other vegges . You may have to buy plants for some items like peppers, tomatos, cabbage, broccoli etc but many things you can start from seeds planted in the ground just fine. Carrots, beets, lettus, zuccini will all do very well from seed. I am sure that we have members who live closer to you than I do and will have better advise. Good luck with your garden, I am sure you will enjoy it experience alot.
 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
Posts: 143
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I'm in the Central LP. Depending on your area in Eastern Michigan, I can share what has been working for me. You can do a large variety of crops in Michigan but to get some crops into production you will have to buy stock from a local nursery or start them from seed, soon. Tomatoes being one of the main crops to get started if you plan on using them. Broccoli, peas, lettuce are crops that can be direct sown and are cool weather friendly (they will die in summer). Although, you may be able to push them if you keep them in a shady, protected area.

Feel free to contact me if you are looking for suggestions or comraderie. I'd love to hear about your success stories.
 
Karin Smiles
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Thank you for your replies. I am wondering if I can make this happen for me. What kind of income level would one have to be at to be able to start. I am hoping to buy land by next year and would love to build a sustainable home. What are the typical costs of building and starting a garden to grow enough food to provide say 3-4 people with what they need. I know it will take some trial and error and time to get there but what are the realities of what it takes to begin this lifestyle. What can I start growing in my apartment now? I have a south window which gets alot of sun. And where can I get non GMO seeds. Are there any books I could be reading that will provide the info I am looking for ? Thank you..
 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
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Karin Smiles wrote:Thank you for your replies. I am wondering if I can make this happen for me. What kind of income level would one have to be at to be able to start. I am hoping to buy land by next year and would love to build a sustainable home. What are the typical costs of building and starting a garden to grow enough food to provide say 3-4 people with what they need. I know it will take some trial and error and time to get there but what are the realities of what it takes to begin this lifestyle. What can I start growing in my apartment now? I have a south window which gets alot of sun. And where can I get non GMO seeds. Are there any books I could be reading that will provide the info I am looking for ? Thank you..


A quick source for seed is: Annie's Heirloom Seeds and for some fun and unusual stuff: Oikos Tree Crops . Both of these companies are Michigan-based. There are several other non-GMO seed companies that you can find online, too. I do know that Julie, from Annie's Heirloom Seed, is giving a seed starting clinic in Dimondale, Michigan tomorrow. But, maybe that is too far for you to go? With an indoor sunny spot, you can grow herbs and greens. You can, also, share that space with seedlings you're planning on transplanting to the garden.

I do not think there are 'typical costs' to building a sustainable house, per se, because each person's and each property's needs are different. If you are going to build from the ground-up there are many options available and the costs are variable depending upon how involved you want to be in the process, etc. One option I explored was Enertia . Many times I wish I would have gone this route, too. The income level you need depends upon what your carry-costs on the property and the supplies you need. Acreage for sustainability is a variant, too.

What you may want to do is to define what you want your homestead to be. Do you want to provide only your vegetables and fruits? Do you want to include chickens for eggs and meat? Are you willing to raise your own pork, beef, milk? Once you've defined your goals, it might be a good idea to prioritize them. I would not recommend going from little experience to needing to manage an entire farm AND livestock, too.

I started with some baseline gardening experience and I happen to have horses. Each year, I've added a new component or two to my farm. The first year after we built, I didn't do much more than a basic garden. I wanted to see what effect our house made on the property. I found that I had not planned well and although my house was high and dry... we had a mote. So, after the first year, I went mote-water with some diversionary/retention tactics. I found a little success and I planted fruit trees where it was safe. Then I expanded pasture space but still wasn't happy with my water management. So I test piloted large-scale hugelkultur in one of my most offending spots. It turned out to be a raging success in both water retention AND crop production.

This year, I will add more hugelkulturs to slow and retain as much water as possible... and each one will be thoroughly planted to provide food, beauty and habitat. I may even have enough confidence to try and manage something besides the gardens and horses. I'm trying to learn about managing chickens as a meat source. I've just about convinced myself that I know enough to move-on to the trial and error stage. I expect a lot of errors. :p

Joy,

Susanna
 
Sam White
Posts: 227
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
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forest garden trees woodworking
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Karin Smiles wrote:I am hoping to buy land by next year and would love to build a sustainable home. What are the typical costs of building and starting a garden to grow enough food to provide say 3-4 people with what they need.


Building a sustainable home can cost (almost) as little or as much as you want really. By making some compromises on space, doing most or all of the work yourself (some building materials are easy to work with such as straw or cob), using recycled/reclaimed/free materials and making use of friends and volunteers when necessary you can reduce your financial outlay significantly. I know of a guy who built a house for £5-6k ($8-9k) here in the UK excluding land.

Personally I'd look into building something along the lines of a Tiny House but build it with modularity in mind in order to facilitate expansion of the structure when funds allow or necessity dictates. My materials of choice would be timber and straw bales (personal preference), and they probably lend themselves more to modular building and small houses - I imagine it's easier to cut through a straw bale than a cob/earth/tire wall!
 
Lori Crouch
Posts: 104
Location: Amarillo, TX.
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Here are some ideas for free seeds depending on where you are in Eastern Michigan. Detroit area has a lot of urban, organic farmers beginning on abandoned lots. They have a few videos on youtube I believe you can find them just by searching for" urban farming". They are helping people in that area start their own gardens and some projects can get a modicum of start-up grant money. Small amount, but seeds aren't that expensive.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area or near there. I would just start walking or driving neighborhoods. Find someone with a garden plot in their yard or bushes and ask for clippings or seeds. They also have botanical gardens on campus as does Michigan State. You can grab some seeds here and there as you walk through or talk to a department head. If you only want a couple of seeds, they are fine. They get nervous and defensive when you are talking about taking 1 lb. of each seed variety. I'm sure Novi area would have some gardens as well. I wouldn't take a bag with you, but wear a lot of pockets and just stick some seeds in as you walk.

For me it helps to see what other people have done to be able to plan and envision possibilities for my own yard. Bill Mollison has a nice video on Urban Permaculture that is great for ideas. Good luck!
 
Chris Watson
Posts: 88
Location: North of Detroit (5b to 6a)
2
books urban
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Karin,

Greetings from the middle of Macomb County! My wife and I are just getting started in all this ourselves. Our first goal is a small vegetable garden (about 10x25 ft.) in our "Pleasant Valley Sunday"-esque suburban backyard. Eventually we want a few acres north of the 'burbs where we can increase our self-reliance and reduce our consumerism. We'll be happy to trade notes and ideas. It'll be nice to have a "mutual muddler" to talk with while we make this slow transition.
 
Katie Shank
Posts: 13
Location: Southwest Michigan
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Karin. I'm so excited for you! You're embarking on what I have found to be a very rewarding journey. I've been gardening on the southwest side of Michigan for nearly 4 years now. Last year I was able to leave my full-time job and started a micro-farm right here in our suburban yard (Portage). In my experience, moving forward with sustainable living can be a slow process, but as long as it is deliberate (I make lasting changes and stick with them) the progress feels great! I have a website where I'm chronicling my own experience of doing exactly what you're talking about - changing my lifestyle to a sustainable one, and starting with very little knowledge of what the heck I'm doing! Feel free to call or email me any time and I would be happy to share info on what I've experienced and learned.

As far as where to get non-GMO seeds, I see that someone has already directed you to Annie's Heirloom Seeds. I buy seeds from them and am very pleased. In fact, they have partnered with our farm to giveaway (FREE!) heirloom, non-GMO seeds ($25-worth)! I have found them to be very friendly and I'm sure they'd be happy to help you with selecting good beginner crops that grow well in your area of Michigan. You can enter the giveaway here: http://www.arcadia-farms.net/2013/02/01/win-25-in-heirloom-non-gmo-seeds. (Giveaway ends 2/15/13)

I think you might also find these articles helpful:
http://www.arcadia-farms.net/2012/11/20/what-is-sustainable-living/
http://www.arcadia-farms.net/2013/02/06/2013-seed-starting-plan/
http://www.arcadia-farms.net/2013/01/30/seed-sources/
http://www.arcadia-farms.net/2013/02/06/optimum-transplanting-age/
http://www.arcadia-farms.net/2012/12/04/hugelkultur-on-a-micro-farm/
http://www.arcadia-farms.net/2013/01/07/olla-irrigation-for-a-market-garden/
http://www.arcadia-farms.net/2012/12/11/square-foot-gardening-plant-spacing/

Best wishes to you!!
 
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