Bernie Farmer

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since Jul 14, 2017
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Recent posts by Bernie Farmer

I take care of my mom who is in late stage with alzheimer's. It is a FULL time task in and of itself. But we are also building/renovating an old rock house on our land so that we can all move there. We have no choice but to break down everything we do into small tasks. Mom's attention span is so short there are days I can't even fully load the wood stove to light it without stopping three times to redirect her.

But we've managed to rebuild a shed, build stalls in the barn for the goat mamas, build a poultry run and house, start a raised garden (we have 2 of 12 beds done), raise goats and milk them, raise pigs and process them, raise turkeys, cut down trees for building materials and process them, rebuild the entire floor system in the house, set up a water catchment system, install a grey water system and composting toilet, build a rocket stove/masonry heater hybrid, start digging ponds, build a bridge over a creek, lay out and clear 10 different paths through the woods, build over 2500 feet of fencing, and all of the associated activities that are required to accomplish those things ... part time over 3 years.

It's possible to do.

But it's also extremely slow - which is both good and bad. It's frustrating at times. I want the house done so we can live there and not have to commute back and forth from town or live in the stick frame suburban neighborhood with uptight neighbors and ridiculous codes that only allow so many square feet of garden space and insist on mowed lawns and manicured trees. But it's also been good in that we've learned to "learn" our land over time. We've seen it change, we are understanding the ecosystems that exist better, we are able to make "better" choices for what we do with what we have. For instance, we wanted to build on the opposite side of our property where this old house is. It was our full intention to cut a road and build back in the woods. But our land is small and the neighboring farm is about as far from permaculture as you can get. He has cleared everything except along the creek where the flood commission won't let him touch. And we've discovered, because of this, our land on the far side of the property, on the other side of the creek is a wildlife haven. We've had deer raise their babies under the wild plums for the last 3 years. There's a mountain lion that had babies in a dense cluster of cedar trees. There's one of the few strips of Indian paintbrush left in the county running down the sunny side as well. And this year, we record flooding rains, we learned that part of our property floods where we least expected it to.

Permaculture isn't a one shot thing... ever... in my opinion. It takes time. It's a practice and that requires trying bits and pieces until something whole appears and surprises you. So It's absolutely perfect for doing in small pieces.

Personally, we make a spread chart of the projects. Some would normally be a 30 minute project for most people, but for us turn into a few days. It's okay. Others take weeks and weeks. Like digging a pond ... we spend 20 minutes a day digging dirt. That's all we have to give that project. We had to dig out under the old rock house because the ground was too close to the floor joists and had rotted them (couldn't do and earth floor in this location because of ground water) but we managed to dig out 2 feet deep under a 16 x 40 foot house at 20 minutes a day in just a couple of weeks.
1 year ago

Connie Zoeller wrote:

It's not as simple as saying 'it's a family's duty to care for elders'. And yes, my parents felt they were a burden no matter how many times I held their hand, looked them in the eye and said 'you are absolutely not' a burden. I loved them and don't regret a minute but they weren't blind and they could see the toll it was taking. So when I see people putting their elders in homes/institutions, I can't fault them. The problem lies, as I see it, in the creation of places where people can be cared for that are nurturing, and humane. But anytime you have something run by a company or a corporation, profit will always be the #1 goal and that will always result in shortcomings that affect the level of care. Add to that the fact that where I live, there is a severe shortage of nursing home workers so even in places where they do their best, the care is sometimes below par. Hence the reason I kept mine at home. Yes, a hundred years ago families took care of elders and the community supported them in that effort but it's not as easy as that anymore as times have changed.


I am currently the sole caretaker for my elderly mother who has Alzheimer's. 3 1/2 years ago I left my home, my job, my own family, my small farm I'd been growing for over 20 years, and everything I had to take care of my mom when my dad died from cancer. I'd been "caring" for them before he died, on weekends, doing yard work, taking care of the house, managing repairs and maintenance, doing grocery shopping, etc. But when dad died, mom had no one. She couldn't drive a car, cook a meal, do a load of laundry even. People think Alzheimer's is a memory disorder, but it is so much more than that. There is no facility in the world that can nurture and humanely care for anyone with alzheimer's or dementia or other medical illnesses that seem to increase in prevalence as one ages.

Building a community that cares for the elderly is a great dream. But then reality hits the fan. For me it came long before my mom presented me with a handful of her own poop and wanted to know what it was. I'm in multiple groups for caretakers and the one consistent thread among every one of those groups is that as soon as the work shows up, everyone leaves. Families are the first to abandon ship and the worst of the lot because not only do they not help in any capacity, they complain and condemn the one person who is doing all the work. They stand back and say "this is how it should be done" without having a clue what needs to be done. There is a LOT of talk, a lot of ideas, a lot of planning, a lot of research and information and promoting the cause. And meanwhile, the caretakers just have to get on with it.

Despite all the talk, the millions raised for research and funding for various diseases that effect the elderly, the good intentions of individuals or communities such as this one, ... no one cares on a day to day basis about giving up their own needs and wants and desires to care for other people long term. And should they? Is that an ethic of permaculture? Is being self-less a good permaculture practice?

I have a new farm a few minutes from my mom's house which allows me to have something to fall back on. My spouse and I have debated selling it and focusing entirely on mom and then buying something new once she passes ... but we can't. As much as we sacrifice and give "to do our family duty", we can't give up our own wants and needs. So how would we ever expect anyone else to do so? I mean, what are the choices here? A family duty to  care for your aging loved ones that results in soul-crushing caretaking? Or paying someone to do it for you? That's it. There are no other choices out there. Not even permaculture has managed to create fairy godmothers.

Putting everyone together in a mass community/village doesn't change the fact that someone needs to change my mom's diaper while she screams at them that she doesn't need help and to leave her alone. It won't change the reality that Uncle Joe won't leave his clothes on and Cousin Mary is a hoarder. Although I would love help. I'd love to have a community that supports us. Having someone come in once a week to clean the house and someone else who will sit with mom while I go to the grocery store and someone who will spend an hour doing therapy with her and someone who will bring their kids over to have tea would be amazing. But who does those things anymore? Especially without being paid $25/hour or more?

I guess my point here is that permaculture doesn't exist in a vacuum. For it to really work it has to be incorporated in life as we know it in such a way as to make it better for everyone and no village for the elderly will ever function that way. We dream of permaculture on a grand scale, encompassing everyone and everything, but we practice it on an individual basis - one-on-one, face-to-face, intimately, passionately, and compassionately. Permaculture for the elderly already exists in the lives of every single caretaker paid or unpaid, family or friend, neighbor or stranger, who takes the time to care.
I asked this in another forum because I didn't know where to put it but it might be more appropriate here.

Has anyone ever converted an old gas cookstove from the 1930's era into a wood burning stove? We were given 2 old gas cookstoves that are in excellent shape but no one knows if they work and for us to use them we would have to convert them to propane. They are made of cast iron, heavy as heck. Four gas burners with 2 drawers below on one side and an oven and broiler on the other side. The whole gas burner assembly removes as does the floor of the oven.

I've found a lot of things telling me how to convert a gas fireplace to a wood burner but that doesn't help. And I don't want to destroy the stove trying to mess with it without some direction.
1 year ago
Has anyone ever tried to convert an old gas cookstove into a wood burning stove? We were given two old gas stoves from the 1920's or 30's. They are made out of cast iron. Both have 4 burners on the left side with two drawers under them and an oven to the right with a broiler under that.

We were thinking of converting one of the drawers to a wood burner, using the other drawer to catch ashes.

We couldn't use them as gas stoves without converting to propane and then we have no way of knowing whether or not any of the controls work.
1 year ago
Don't start with pigs as your first homestead animal. We've raised chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, rabbits, and both milk and meat goats for years so we decided to add pigs to the mix. They were horrible. They took way more time, water, feed, fencing, and mental ingenuity than any of our other animals ever did. They tore up the pastures, ripped out fences, and were an enormous mess. And getting them butchered for meat was more bother than the meat was worth. So if you're already frustrated, DO NOT GET PIGS.

Start with chickens. They are simple and can be housed in a run and will provide eggs and compost for the garden. Or get rabbits. They are even quieter and easier than chickens and their waste can be applied to the garden without even composting it.

And as far as goats needing a lot of stuff, they don't. A good fence and somewhere to get out of the wind and rain and they are easy. A good milk goat will provide more milk and cheese than you can use. And they eat all of your brush and weeds, tree branches and leaves in the fall. Just keep them out of the garden.
1 year ago
So I've heard and read a few things now about rainwater tanks forming their own bacterial(?) layer that filters the water naturally if left undisturbed at the bottom of the tank. Does anyone have more info on this or know where I might find research done on this? As in everything else, the older I get the more I find that nature takes care of itself if we only get out of the way.
2 years ago
We have a flo-jet pump that we got on Amazon that we love. That thing pushes water like mad.
2 years ago
Best way we've found is to dump in a bottle of dawn dishwashing liquid and fill with water. Let sit for a while then drain. Refill with water adding a box of baking soda and you should be good to go ... but if you have stuff stuck to the inside I'm not sure other than taking it to a carwash and spraying it down.
2 years ago
We are located in the central plains states in the US. Winters get below freezing for most of 2 to 3 months and in summers reach over 100F for up to six weeks or so. Fall and spring are temperate. Our land is wooded with lots of tall trees and shade. The earth tubes will be under a pond, ten feet below grade, for part of their 250' length. We were planning three 8" tubes with an air inflow tower downhill from the house.

The house is rock, timber frame, and cob so it retains heat well and stays cool-ish. It is one story and around 36' x 55' with a central clear story running the length of the house. The center of the house is the living spaces while the bedrooms are on either end. The end closest to where the tubes are running has a basement room (it is our storm cellar for tornados and my office with a root cellar attached) where we thought would be perfect to bring the tubes into intially but two of the bedrooms are on the other end of the house and on the west side (sunny). We could run the tubes under the living space to those rooms or we could run them separately around the house underground to the other bedrooms.

Heating isn't a big issue as we have a masonry heater and radiant floor heating plus lots of heat sink/mass that warms up in the sun. I'm an architect so I designed it to be passive solar for the most part but even that doesn't cut it in our summer heat.
2 years ago
Anyone have experience or knowledge of earth tubes?

I've done a lot of research on them and know how to set the system up as far as the buried tubes go, what kind of tubes to use, sizing the system, etc ... but I'm uncertain how to connect it all into my home for dispersion. Do I just do a general venting to the whole house or vent to individual rooms? Do I have one pipe that comes in and then branch off to different zones like in a traditional AC system? I'm not sure why I can't get my head around all this.

Our house is a mix of rock, cob, and timber frame with a central clear story "spine" that has operable windows for air flow. We get a good breeze through the house already but summers are brutal with over 30 days of 100+ degree weather so added cooling is necessary in some form.
2 years ago