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Facing redundancy - how much can I wring out of a quarter acre?  RSS feed

 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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Approaching 25 years with my employer, aged 57 with some physical limitationsđŸ˜‘
Living on the urban fringe debt free, is it feasible to attain a meaningful return in food or product for the he years ahead? Or should we go regional with more land?
Climate= cool temperate in south east Australia.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3349
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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You can, if you have a market to sell products with decent margins. Cheap/easy access to a large market is so critical to profitability.

Look up SPIN farming. Super intensive market gardening.

Or you can start a nursery. You can get an awful lot of bare root trees into a little tiny space and sell them for a really good price as a sapling. Again, picking the right species is key--something easy to propagate from cuttings, is valuable to the market, but is hard to find a source for.

 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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Are you wanting yields of food, or income? These are quite different.....
 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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Thanks to you both for your help.
Alder, I am not sure I could generate sufficient food for us off the quarter acre, of which only half can reasonably produce food. We suffer some very hot summers, seven straight days over 43C this year.
Heavy peat clay that's gluey when wet and cracks when dry has meant I've made about 50 square meters of raised beds. We get some good produce but in gluts and not enough to keep us fat.
I built a 25sqM dog run and we board at $100/dog/week but that's sporadic.
We keep hens, fed commercial pellets supplemented with scraps and waste from a local produce store and bakery.
I'm happy enough to lead a simpler life but I don't think that the wife would put up with it too long.
Really not sure what to do, so I thought it might be a good idea to ask here for some ideas.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Another approach to starting design is to start with the site itself, instead of yourself and your plans or desires. Think about your ecosystem and climate, both in its primeval and current states. What grows easily and productively in your area? (This doesn't have to necessarily be a plant....it could be an animal, or even a mineral) Is there something around that is edible to yourself or to your animals, otherwise useful at home, or marketable in some form? Something "easy".....a particular concern as some of us grow older!
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I see that you're in AU, but old enough to still remember "Imperial" measurements. LOL
A quarter acre, with 'half usable' still gives you about 600M square.

That is enough to produce a decent quantity of food seasonally, with annual crops.
With a more 'permies' approach, by planting fruit/nut trees, and other perennials, you could greatly increase the total annual yield. The trees will take several years to become productive, but the space around them can still be planted with your annual veggies. As the trees mature, and produce more shade, your sun loving annuals will need to be cut back. Seasonally, you will still produce enough tomatoes, peppers, etc. for fresh consumption, and canning for off season use.

The dog runs can continue to provide suplimental (sp?) income. I am guessing that this is mostly summer months when their owners are taking vacations. You don't really want them taking precious sunny areas during the growing season, but in the summer, they probably want more shady areas anyways. For sustainability, it is always nice to have at least a part-time income...who knows...when the owners come to pickup their pets, they may wish to buy some apples, tomatoes, eggs from you...built in customer base.

If the wife would be unhappy with a move to a more rural area, that is not good. A 'grumpy spouse' never helps the cause. LOL

Good luck, with whichever way you chose to go.

 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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John, thanks for taking the time to contribute.
Yes, I'm old enough to remember imperial measures, but temperatures are all Celsius to me!
I did a plant census recently and came up with 53 edible species, with many multiples within species! The dog run is in shade much of the time, but I've got a Wurtz avocado in a raised box in there.
We're 4 years into developing the block that had been cattle grazing land before we built.
It was always my intention that this is the home we retire in. It seems it may come sooner than planned đŸ˜¡
I've thought of plant sales, over 70 strawberry runners potted on and even showing early signs of flowering! The local popular markets are well served for plant sales so competition might make me a price taker rather than a price maker.
Egg sales - legal issues in my state. Same deal with preserves and
 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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..... cooked foods. (Seems my tablet doesn't like long posts!)
Breeding small animals? Considering dogs, popular breeds can fetch more than $1000, but there are legal issues with puppy farming. A litter or two per year might be okay. Cats, rabbits, quail, pet birds (finches, budgerigars ..) goldfish, all might contribute to an income stream.
Really good to have thinkers in on this, I'm very grateful for the input.
 
Steve Hoskins
Posts: 65
Location: NW lower Michigan
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Way more than you think, apparently.

http://youtu.be/NCmTJkZy0rM

This vid has been around for a while, and this family is inspirational.

I wood look around for freesources and find a whey to use em. (See what I did there?)

Being in an urban space offers so much opportunity, no need to bug out.

I hope it works out whatever you do. Tough times.
 
David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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Thought about keeping bees ? they dont need much space and honey is always welcome for sale/ trade/use. Plus if it takes off you could run an operation from your home and have other hives elsewhere even rent out hives for pollenation .
Set up a swap club for trading surplus produce from others like yourself in your area . Turn your surplus into something you want . ( plus as host charge a small commision )

David
 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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Check this out to see what can be done on a city lot: http://urbanhomestead.org/
 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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Thanks for the suggestions, bees ruled out for family reasons. I can't convince them that the one allergic member is not at any more risk of being stung than she is already just visiting in spring. I'd love to try it but it's not worth the fight that could kill enthusiasm for other options.

I've seen many examples of super productive urban efforts. Incredibly admirable.

I'm starting to feel a little less than optimistic and haven't been on Permies recently, perhaps I should be more disciplined about visiting as you all are so positive.

 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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I can certainly understand the frustration that comes with resistant family. Perhaps, the point to start with is what they *are* agreeable to...a single garden bed of tomatoes and cucumbers perhaps? A couple of laying hens? I have found that rather than trying to get my family to "see the vision" of the full transformation I want, it is easier to get them to agree to one step at a time...at least at first because then the momentum builds and they begin to see that "its not so bad". For me, the turning point was laying hens. I had already started with a small herd of meat rabbits but they had mixed emotions about that project...but the layers was more their speed--they wouldn't end up on the dinner table and they were fun to watch. After that, it become so much easier to move forward.

And, it is always helpful to stay plugged in with others who have similar interests as they can keep you from feeling alone on the journey....
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
Posts: 960
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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On a quarter acre you get enough vegetables, fruit, maybe some grain (corn)and your potatoes. You will still have to buy food. You often can pick up left over bread at bakeries for the chicken but don't overdo it it is not good for their health.
You could keep quails and sell the eggs to Asian people. You could forage for herbs and sell them but mind the spraying council. As mentioned you can put in a plant nursery, but you must sell it yourself. I am about to do the same.
Hoe cold does it get in winter in your place? We are in cool climate Australia too!
 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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Tina and Angelika, kind of you both to contribute.

I'm already growing quite a bit of vegetables in about 25sqM of raised beds. With some success too! My 11 hens provide eggs in abundance when they are in lay, just enough for us now approaching the winter solstice. The extended family can't wait for the laying rate to lift again.

I've had good luck with strawberry runners, heaps potted up to sell or trade. There's plenty more there to pot up yet.

My question was more about a stressed reaction to the news that my factory is closing in the near future. At my age (57) re employment might be difficult and probably won't be as well paid, so I put it out there looking for ideas.

I doubt that we will starve, but getting a return on the resources I have available would be useful.

The occasional boarding of dogs has already covered the infrastructure costs, but it's sporadic. I've considered breeding small animals for sale or meat. Calicivirus renders rabbits too expensive after taking vaccine into account, but there may be an opportunity to breed other rodents as feed for snake keepers! I'm not sure how well served that market is, but they are also chicken edible, I'm not sure how the rest of the family might take that though.

Quail are a distinct possibility, there is a large Asian population in my area (South East fringe of Melbourne). I am going to look into the needs of the Quail and see if I could get good numbers from little space.

Comfrey and vermicast teas are something else to consider as saleable if I can scale up enough too.

I'd like to thank you all for your help, it is great to see so many people care enough to contribute.
 
David Livingston
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Mark
You dont say how many others are in your family and ages. At times like this its all hands to the pumps economically speaking . One way I look at things is this_
How much would I have to earn to buy this .
For instance I bake my own organic bread, organic bread here costs about 3 € a loaf It cost me about 3€ in raw materials and half an hour of my time to make 3 .
I dont bother growing my own wheat as the tools for harvest plus the time commitment are too costly .

Getting involved in the wider economy means papers work and selling stuff to cover the time taken to sell it and do the paper work and follow regulations . I suspect this could swallow up a good third of anything I produce if I went down this track .

David
 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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David, it's just me and the wife here, but our daughter and granddaughter are 400M away and my mother in law is also close by. They are not dependent, but we do try to be supportive with both time and money.
I'm lucky that my wife has found some casual work locally, but I've yet to establish how regular that will be.
We preserve what we can of our surplus and don't live an extravagant lifestyle.
As I have said above, my situation isn't dire as yet. My initial post was a bit panicky, feeling a bit sheepish about that now, but so grateful for this community as a place to seek advice.
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
Posts: 960
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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If you look a bit broader and not only to Aussie austerity measurements, then I guess you are right to panic. If you are around Melbourne your climate is more Mediterranean without real frosts I guess.
An old lady here has quails they are the ideal birds for the city because they don't need a lot of space.
We have an 80m2 fully enclosed veggie garden, but the potatoes I grow elsewhere. I tried amaranth, easy to grow and productive but found it difficult after the harvest.
You can sell seeds too. And seedlings, I don't know but people pay $3 for one tomato seedling. And now they really sell carrots in punnets, but I think that is dishonest. A specialized nursery is a good thing I think.
 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
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Being ethically correct is the only way I will go Angelika.
 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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If rabbits are out, I will tell you that there is a growing trend here in the USA for raising cavies for meat (for both human and animal consumption). The quail idea is great -- I've read that a small colony cage of quail can produce quite a bit of meat and if you want to sell it, it is a "luxury meat" (read: people pay a lot for a little). Raising for the pet market is certainly viable in the USA, not sure about the market in Australia. Here, not only the reptile owners but also a huge market of dog/cat owners who feed a "prey model" or "raw" diet to their dogs/cats.

No need to feel sheepish about the stress and ting of panic in your OP -- it is totally understandable. An aunt of mine (she is 51...as am I) a few months ago went in to work and found herself being handed a pinkslip (being let go) as they needed to cut employees and she had the lowest seniority. Now, she faces the same problem you are anticipating. I know in the back of my mind that there is always the very real chance of my job closing and then I'd be looking at a job market that is mostly tourist related in my area...not a good prospect. So, yeah, I get it. But, there are options.

Oh, I just thought of another possible: hops. Aussies love their beer, yes? Is home brewing a hobby there? If so, you might be able to grow a crop of hops to sell to the local brewers. (Also, hops are used in herbal medicine so that is two markets for it.)
 
R Scott
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This goes into a lot of nuts and bolts.

 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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I never heard of cavies, are these guinea pigs? Aussies love their pets and typically every household has some.
But everything related to food here is crazy there are so many rules and regulations, and you don't want to lose your house over a
lawsuit filed by a customer with tummy ace. I brew kombucha in my kitchen and there are a lot of mother mushrooms called scoby.
I really intend to get a small website and sell it. But is it food? Am I liable if something happens? Really I don't want to gamble our house
for the $50 dollars I might make. These days you want an insurance for every small action.
 
Tina Paxton
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Angelika Maier wrote:I never heard of cavies, are these guinea pigs? Aussies love their pets and typically every household has some.
But everything related to food here is crazy there are so many rules and regulations, and you don't want to lose your house over a
lawsuit filed by a customer with tummy ace. I brew kombucha in my kitchen and there are a lot of mother mushrooms called scoby.
I really intend to get a small website and sell it. But is it food? Am I liable if something happens? Really I don't want to gamble our house
for the $50 dollars I might make. These days you want an insurance for every small action.


Yes, "cavies" is another name for "guinea pigs". It is definitely important to consider the laws and liabilities before venturing into an endeavor.
 
Angelika Maier
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Guinea pigs for eating - you will run into trouble with the neighbours! And you get fined for killing a pet. What will the RSCPA say??
 
Tina Paxton
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Angelika Maier wrote:Guinea pigs for eating - you will run into trouble with the neighbours! And you get fined for killing a pet. What will the RSCPA say??


One man's pet is another man's dinner. I'd have to be pretty hungry to eat a cavy even if they are said to be delicious. But, people do. And, the ARA's (Animal Rights Activists) can and do harass people who raise animals for meat...sigh... but that is a whole other can of worms for a different thread....
 
Diabalein Avidyia
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Check out Aquaponics, There is some good info on this site and youtube.
I would also recommend looking at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espalier.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gjotnm_iXdI
Its a pretty cool low space way to get some fruit trees going with a decent yield.
 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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Aquaponics may have merit. I'm not a fan of fish myself, but there may well be a market for yabbies (Australian fresh water crayfish).
Even if they aren't saleable the chooks would eat them!
Anyone got any experience with this?
I suppose that Koi might be worth looking into as well. BIG decorative fish fetch good $.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3349
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Aquaponics and market gardens both--the money is in the lettuce. All the other stuff sounds sexy and draws customers but doesn't make you much money (MARKETING) but the lettuce is what keeps the cashflow.
Salad greens turn over fast so you can plant more again.

You will never grow enough fish as food to make money. If you can grow (and SELL) ornamental koi, well that might make good money.
 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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Lettuce hey? I grow leaf crops year round. The local stores sell butt loads of bagged leaves, and there's a lot of growers nearby. Seems unwise to enter a market already well supplied.
Strawberries might be worth considering, do they do well with aquaponics?
I have a small greenhouse that I could dedicate to winter strawbs. Then exotic leaves in summer, gourmet style rarer items. It gets extremely hot in summer, 44C for days on end, but behind the greenhouse is a small shade house that could hold the tank/s. Are 1000 litre IBC's any good as growing tanks? I could fit 3 in there.
 
Angelika Maier
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I think lettuce is difficult. Easy to grow yes but it wilts in no time.
 
R Scott
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Well, not necessarily LETTUCE--but the leafy salad mix that people will buy every time after they see that one tomato or other unique crop (the hook or loss-leader). The thing is they grow FAST and turn over fast. You don't make as much per pound of produce, but you make more per square meter of growing space for the year. You have to have something to get their attention though, then they will buy the salad mix while they are buying something else.

Yeah, oversupply could be an issue. But there is a reason every grower grows lettuce.

Culinary herbs are another option--the trick is to get to pick ones that grow fast and you can grow outside the normal season.
 
Angelika Maier
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How about medicinal herbs? I always wonder why they are so expensive here. YOu can sell on the web. And many do like hot and dry.
 
Marie van Houtte
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Location: Australia
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Hi Mick, I'm not far up the road from you. I was just wondering how you were going with your plans?
 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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Hello Marie.

The redundancy has happened, but I fell into a new job within weeks!

I am still interested in gaining an income from the backyard, and have recently discovered Jean-Martain Fortier's method of intensive market gardening. Not Permie, but organic. Fortunately I have time to research more rather than having to depend on this for a living☺
 
Marie van Houtte
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Mark (not Mick - silly autocorrect!) that's great news! It's always nice to have a bit of time up your sleeve
 
Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly first. Just look at this tiny ad:
double chamber cob oven plans - download
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