Bella Simple

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since Nov 26, 2015
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Recent posts by Bella Simple

Aaaaand I just realised if I post from my computer rather than my phone, it uses my old username! OP here. My bad.
3 years ago

Peter Ellis wrote:
I happen to be about to move on to 20 acres of wooded land, where line of sight for trying to position things is hopeless - you can't see the trees for the forest, that sort of thing I've been looking at various smartphone apps for doing my plotting on the ground.  There are many out there to choose from, and I cannot yet speak to which work for this kind of thing.  Give me another couple of months and I'll have more to say about it, as we work to lay out our homestead.

I would LOVE to hear an update on how you get on with things! The tree thing is exactly why I got the GPS idea in my head.

Thanks so much for the info, Bernard! Never heard of QGIS. It looks full-on, possibly beyond my ability to figure out, but I'll certainly give it a go. My main question would be whether regional Australia has the satellite imagery and data needed to make that kind of software shine. I know Australia is always lightyears behind the US when it comes to technology. -_-

HI MARISOL! I'm tempted to factor hiring professionals into the cost of purchasing my land. I've got my eye on services like what Darren Doherty's mob provides. They take care of mapping as well as the actual earthworks, from what I can see. It depends how easy/cost-effective/non-disastrous it would be for a newbie to pick up.
3 years ago
I think the cost efficiency of growing your own food will depend greatly on your current diet. Not saying you eat like this, but if you eat a lot of processed food, or industrially grown bulk foods, then it's going to be hard to compete with empty calories, government subsidies, and cheap imports from third world countries. This is especially the case if you're planning on creating a farm scenario that is effectively a micro version of industrial farms. Industrial farms are only successful in growing food by virtue of scale and the cheapness of bulk chemicals. Try to replicate that system on a small scale and the inputs cost far more than the outputs.

Self sustainability (or something relatively close to it) really only works at its best when you address the whole system. A few examples:
  • Grey water from your house can water your fruit and nut trees. Reuse water you're already paying for, rather than let it wash away into the ocean (where synthetic clothing fibres from washing machines are causing a bigger problem than microbeads *cough*derail*cough*).
  • Black water, organic waste, and noxious weeds with viable seeds can enter a worm septic system that creates compost and worm tea for your gardens. No compost bills.
  • Earthworks captures water that falls on your property, replenishing aquifers, creating dams, and creating ponds. This water is used to passively or actively water crops and animals. No water bills.
  • Proper rotation of animals on pasture creates pasture where nothing but eroded, dead dirt was before. 100% pasture-fed animals turn hands-off, inedible plants into high protein, high fat, nutritious food for us. If done properly, you can get far more protein per acre than any other system (refer to talks by Gabe Brown, Mark Shepard, Allan Savory, etc). Even on a small scale, you're creating your own food AND the animals fertilise your paddocks for you so you can continue growing plant food for them and yourself. Close the loop.
  • Growing your crops (trees or otherwise) as part of a silvopasture system means you're capturing solar energy at all levels, producing annual crops (animal or plants) while perennials mature, and providing shade and shelter for animals (which boosts weight-gain and health). This is a much more efficient method of producing food than industrial ag's monocultures that require ample inputs to compensate for the deficiencies in design. Good design is important if you want to save money.

  • You'll save money very quickly if you already have an expensive diet. This is a big deal for me, because organic food is very expensive here in Australia, and that food is usually not very fresh, and not even particularly nutrient-dense. A couple examples:
  • Growing my own garlic for the year takes very little effort. A handful of seed bulbs ideal for my area are a one-off purchase, because I save my own bulbs for next year's planting. At harvest time, I get all the garlic I need, for nothing but a little labour. Alternatively, the shop sells fresh organic garlic at $50-$80/kg.
  • While growing my own chillis takes more effort in my area (fruit fly, birds, and fruit worm all love my chillis, and thanks to pest-ridden neighbours, they're hard to get on top of), a few healthy bushes produce enough chillis to keep me going for the year if I fridge pickle them. Compare with $34/kg for NON-organic pickled chilli with additives.
  • Even on my small suburban block, my chickens provide me with meat (when a rooster hatches), compost, weed-eating, and very nutritious, super fresh eggs. I feed them scraps, garden waste, and some organic feed. To buy organic eggs at the shop, I'm looking at $8-$12 per dozen, and they're already up to a week old. My organic eggs that were just laid this morning work out to be $1 per dozen, because my small backyard won't support 100% pastured poultry. Still a big saving. Not to mention the fact frozen organic chicken meat costs upwards of $25/kg. So my roosters save me money too.

  • A big question for you- do you enjoy gardening at all? My sister loves good quality food, but hates gardening. She thought she could grow her own food with purely savings and quality as motivators. She didn't last half a season. Even the most laid-back of farming systems require some work. For my sister, what I considered "practically no work at all" was too much work for her, because she got zero enjoyment from the process.

    The smaller your land, the more intensive your growing systems need to be, which means more labour creating that system. If your diet relies a lot on foods that can't be preserved, your labour increases, because successional plantings are needed.

    My two cents, from a newbie.

    Hey dude, I'm pretty new myself, so can only give basic tips. My biggest tip is that if you're doing all this more-or-less by yourself, do your best to curb your enthusiasm. I learned pretty quick that I only manage to achieve about a third of my plans for each season. I'm okay with that now, because the whole "you'll overestimate what you can achieve in a year, but underestimate what you can achieve in five" thing is very true.

    I also highly recommend focusing on things that are hard to kill. It's a great confidence booster! My climate is different to yours, so I can't comment too much on specific plants. I was absolutely amazed how bonkers my rhubarb grew with zero tlc. Broad beans, runner strawberries, herbs, and garlic are also way up there with my most successful newbie plants. I literally did nothing but plant them and water when things got dry for too long.

    On a related topic, I'd focus on plants that grow quick with little care, and that will attract beneficial bugs into your garden. For me, the priority was shading the soil during summer, so I grow a lot of spreading herbs and flowers. The fact they're edible means that I can hack them back and eat them or feed them to the chooks if things start to spread too much. And I highly recommend leaving roots in the ground when you clear out any annuals. The difference that little trick has made to my soil is amazing.

    Best of luck with your new garden!
    4 years ago
    Thanks so much for all your input, everyone! I agree that the best way to start is to have good quality pigs to begin with, and to keep things simple. I'll keep you updated on how things go! And Walter- huge thanks for all the work you've put into your site. I was like a kid in a candy store when I found all your articles.
    4 years ago

    Wesley johnsen wrote:i want to get some opinions hear. i want to crowdfund a book selling business that uses extra profits to buy and preserve land. also i was thinking of starting this business with crowdfunding and was wandering what rewards i should offer like say a free book. anyone have any ideas on this? i can not go into details about this business at this time but have it all figured out. last would you buy books that where the profits save big timberlands and the products were competitively priced?

    My opinion, for whatever it's worth, is a resounding "no".

    Firstly, it's extremely difficult to crowdfund a business. A product? Sure. Businesses are a different kettle of fish. Partnerships and investors are where you'd have better success, if you have a solid enough platform.

    The world also has a gut-full of "charity businesses" that contribute "extra profits" to a cause. The result is invariably that a few folk get rich, and their "altruism" has frustratingly little-to-no effect due to their focus (and funds) being in the wrong place. I strongly dislike them, and only support charities where I can have a direct and tangible impact.

    Also, am I the only one who sees the irony in a book store being used as a front to save forests?
    4 years ago
    I'd really like to start planting out my own nursery stock, Mark Shepard style, but I have NO idea where to buy tree seeds from (I'm particularly interested in chesnut, walnut, hazelnut, and olive). I'd like to try a wide variety of cultivars to see what works best in my area. I'm inland northern Victoria- hot (29C to 42C) dry summers, and frosty wet winters (-4C to 12C).

    I'd greatly appreciate any tips!
    4 years ago

    Todd Parr wrote:

    Bella Simple wrote:
    Do you get rain during the winter where you are? I've heard that humidity + cold is the big reason for chickens getting frostbite on their combs. If you eliminate the humidity, things can get as cold as they like and your chickens' combs will be fine. Though, this would be much easier to accomplish in climates that have dry winters, I imagine.

    Our winters are dry here. My challenge is that the chickens produce a lot of humidity themselves if you have them in a coop that isn't very open and has a lot of ventilation. So, just make bigger vents right? Except that it often get -20 to -25 degrees F here, and sometimes colder. This year I increased the ventilation area by quite a bit, but with that much ventilation, it gets very cold in the coop. I haven't figured out the best ratio yet.

    Holy cow that's cold! :O If you do figure out an ideal ratio, I'm sure a lot of folk on these forums would appreciate you posting your results. Good luck with it.

    Thanks so much for the links, John!!
    4 years ago
    I've stopped adding eggshells to my gardens after listening to Dr Elaine Ingham's talks. But if you're looking for scientific info, have you tried running a few search terms through google scholar?
    I'll do some looking around myself, when I get some more time.
    4 years ago
    Do you have neighbours with dogs/cats who would be interested in the scraps? If you give them offal freely, you might even find your neighbours start giving you something freely in return. I gave my neighbour a rooster, and now he regularly feeds my chickens his veggie garden scraps.
    4 years ago