Colter Schroeder

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since Jul 26, 2018
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homeschooling kids foraging composting toilet food preservation homestead
Livingston, MT (Zone 4B)
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Recent posts by Colter Schroeder

Thank you for the great information.  I will clarify a few points.

When I mentioned the wild / feral rabbits I meant two points which I see now I didn't clearly identify.  One of which was catching some sort of wild rabbit which was answered.  The second was "are there breeds of rabbits that are more independent that act more like a wild or feral rabbit"?  I know with things like cows you can get the scottish highland cows that grow slower (closer to a natural growth, have thicker coats so they don't get as cold etc.).  With chickens the same exists...there are breeds that haven't been bred into near non-functionality that are better foragers (buckeyes vs. cornish cross).  So is there some sort of similar rabbit breed that is more closely related to their wild kin?

As far as being outside at night the little hutch has a fully enclosed elevated shelter...this should keep them high and dry no it's small and light enough to come into the barn if required...or at least get pushed under the lean-to.

I had thought about the guinea pigs...more evaluation on that is warranted.

We will have to evaluate and see what we can come up with.  Again I really appreciate the advice.
1 month ago
Greeting Permies!

I have a new dilemma...We purchased 21 acres and are starting our Permaculture Farmstead.  My daughter (almost 6) is super excited and one of her things that she is absolutely adamant about is having a rabbit (she is also adamant about a horse...but that is a larger problem for later :)).  Anyways I have already purchased her a small used rabbit hutch / tractor.  It has a small elevated shelter with a removeable floor and then a wire floor to move accross the grass.  I believe it is designed for 4 bunnies.  I have no desire to raise rabbits for meat at this time, primary functions would be fertilizer and or fiber.  So my questions are listed below:

1.  Is there a breed of rabbit that is suited to our situation?  I was originally thinking Angorra as it produces a sellable product.  I know they are more work, but if I'm getting a 6 YO a pet/mini enterprise that I will one day probably end up taking over I might as well make money...not sure if it is worth it though.  I have read the Angorra specific material on Permies...and it seems a bit like a mixed bag, as to whether they are worth the effort or not.  (For what it is worth we are in Livingston, MT, zone 4b so it's pretty cold but we have a barn that they could come in the winter, and might get a hoop house).  Again I don't think that meat rabbits is a valid option as giving my 6 YO a bunny and then letting it have babies and then eating them might be a bit hard at this stage...also I'm not sure i'm into that myself...somehow a cow is different...anyways i'm rambling.  There are lion's mane rabbits nearby...not sure if they are useful for anything other than poop.  Also near by are lops, new zealands, harlequins, silver foxes...probably more.  It appears Angorras are probably going to have to be ordered from further afield.
2.  I need this rabbit to be relatively good with kids...and also not to die in the first week while my dog tries to figure out that it is part of our family...he is part chasing rabbits is in his blood...He did eventually settle down with the cat and he is 11 so hopefully he can calm down before killing the rabbit.
3.  How social are rabbits...I feel like they need to maintain at least a pair...but I have seen lots of people raising them in solitary cages so I might be way off on this one.
4.  If I cannot pull a cash harvest off the rabbits do they generate enough fertility to justify owning them?  I realize that 2 5lb bunnies aren't going to generate enough compost for a 21 acre farm...but are they going to be providing something of quality that is harder to find...or something that fruit trees really like...something that might justify keeping a pet rabbit other than my daughter's happiness of course ;).
5.  Again if I cannot pull the cash harvest off the rabbits is it a better idea to go for the equivalent of tamed wild/feral rabbits?  I assume they have less health issues and are better foragers...if that is the case recommendations for breeds and or rabbit catching techniques...I'm assuming it's hard otherwise Elmer Fudd would have caught Buggs much faster.

I'm sure I have other questions...but that's all I can think of at this point in time.

1 month ago
Barbara Striesands version of jingle bells has to be the worst song that was supposed to actually be good.
1 month ago
Thanks everyone for the great ideas.  Few quick points:

We would be getting a christmas tree permit which would allow us to fell up to a 12' tree (probably what a lot of people are doing and then keeping the top...never thought of that...which makes it all the worse).  
I do believe that humans can have a positive impact on the forest, and can and should be involved in it's tending.
We might be able to find an organic tree farm...although we might not...Montana is not a thriving metropolis.
I love the branch idea, I think we could cobble together something pretty tree like with some of the branches that fall.
We will be planting some trees in our yard once we get the house built...we are still in construction mode so we are living in a barn.

I think for this year (given our constraints) we will either get a permit and go find a true 6-8' charlie brown tree that needs to be removed and then compost it when done, or go branch hunting.  

Thanks for the conversation!
1 month ago
Good Day Permies!

I am struggling a bit with the whole Christmas event and specifically that of the Christmas Tree.  I will list my dilemma and my thoughts, but what I'm hoping to find is some inspiration / ideas for a better way to do Xmas tree's (especially in the future as this Xmas is rapidly approaching).

1. Buying a tree from a lot.  Unless you know where the trees come from and how they were raised it is probably a monocrop that has been covered in chemicals...also I'm cheap and that option is expensive.
2. Fake tree...Can be used every year...made of such horrible garbage that it will fall apart eventually and cannot be recycled.  
3. Buy a live tree...High likelihood of dying as being inside will break the tree's dormancy (from what i have read).  Either keep it indoors for ~4 days or prepare to keep it the whole winter indoors and plant out in spring...potential option for us but we are space limited.
4. Harvest a tree from the forest.  We live in rural Montana with national forest land nearby.  We could go harvest a tree for next to free (typically $5) and use that.  We could compost the tree when done with it and overall the damage is relatively low.  However when we drove past the road to the national forest last weekend there was a solid stream of cars coming down from the forest...all with a 8' "perfect" xmas tree on top.  This got me thinking about how extractive this was from the forest and how the average person is probably harvesting a "perfect" tree from an open area and thus doing harm to the forest.  These are not trees that need to be removed from the forest...this is the next generation of trees being removed so that they can be a decoration for 3 weeks...Additionally I have run into a moral dilemma of viewing the forest as somewhere that I go to get things (like a store) and then stuff just magically repopulates...This is the exact mindset that leads to mass ecological degradation.  Even though we could practive good forestry (remove a gangly tree from the understory that probably won't make it and will eventually turn into forest fire fodder) I still struggle as I don't want to be a part of the concept that the forest is where you go to get stuff.  I don't want to be a part of the normalization that makes the poor forestry habits of others seem ok.  (I might also be reading way to much into this one .  
5. Craft our own fake tree.  I've seen some ideas on here of trees that look great...and it's probably the future for us, but i'm not sure i can get it done in time to get it decorated for this year.
6.  Potted plant.  We have done this in the past with a Norfolk pine...I can tell you now that we have exactly 0 Norfolk pines in our house (although we have moved multiple times so that might be why...don't recall if they died or got given away when we moved).  I have thought about getting the biggest Rosemary that i can find and shaping it into a tree shape...

I will also add that we have a 5 year old daughter who aboslutely loves Christmas and the decorating...  She has already stated that whatever we do has to look like a real tree with the smell and everything...  

So...Help me out Permies.  Have I gone off the rails on harvesting a tree from the forest (assuming I use good forestry practices)?  Anyone have any other thoughts / ideas / inspiration?

1 month ago
Good Morning Permies!!

I was on kickstarter backing the greenhouse project and I ran across another Permaculture project, Planet Schooling.  This is a project based out of Australia to build a book to turn backyards into laboratories for Permaculture education (targeting children).  I thought this was a wonderful project and would love to see it fully funded.  I am getting no kickback on this, but I believe in the project and wanted to bring it to life is possible.  There is a little more than a week left and it is at I'm hoping there are a few permies out there that might be interested and want a copy of this book.

Please have a look and let's support another Permaculture Lab!!

6 months ago
Well...cut the berries out for now...but i did build the garden.  Just finished it yesterday.   Time to start planting.  Hoping that the rock wall will keep the soil warm and also not fall over
Greetings Fellow Permies!

I'm currently working remotely from my gig and we decided to take our show on the road to my grandmother-in-laws place back in MT (where my wife grew up).  So while settling in here I've realized my GMIL doesn't have much in the direction of food production here and there are a variety of reasons for that:
1.  She lives here by herself most of the year and she is 80.
2.  The weather here is rough (edge of zone 3/4).  (She live outside Yellowstone national park on the Madison river, technically it is Cameron MT...but she doesn't live in even that modest town.  It's near the intersection of Highway 87 and 287.)
3.  There are gazillion's of gophers who gobble up pretty much everything.
4.  Also I might have forgot to mention there are real bears, brown bears...and oh grizzly bears :O.  One of the ladies who lives nearby had a bear go through her compost pile, and when my GMIL's freezer went out and a bunch of food went bad she put it outside and someone forgot to pick it up for her and a grizzly came to visit to snack on all of it.

Ok so there are the's's cold and there are bears.  Despite all this I think she would benefit from a nice keyhole raised bed garden.  Something that is ~3.5 feet tall so she doesn't have to bend.  Built out of rocks (there are gazillions of rocks here too), and fronted with some shrubs to the south (will explain that later).  

So the rocks would be able to absorb the sunlight and warm the soil before the real growing season starts.  This microclimate will allow some cold tolerant crops to be planted before the full ground has thawed without protective cover.  The shrubs in the front will be deciduous in nature (raspberry canes, blueberries, etc.).  Allowing the warming of the rocks in the spring but then providing a bit of shade in the hot dry summer to prevent over drying out of the soil.  Also you might notice there is a compost section of the garden that will only be for plant debris (preventing bears hopefully).  A small bench will be built into the keyhole to allow for comfortable resting while working.  So my concerns are:
1.  Will the bears be a nuisance if we do use raspberries or blueberries?  It seems like a risk, and if so is there some better crop that the bears won't care as much about but that is of value to us humans.
2.  What does one do about gophers?  I'm all about trying to have nature solve the problem for me, but building habitat is unnecessary as we live in nature's I could try to build some raptor habitat but the osprey and eagles are already flying all day and they are more interested in the fish in the river than the gophers.  I don't believe snakes will be popular with all the ladies here...unfortunately.
3.  Do fruit trees (like apples, plums, apricots, etc.) attract bears in the same way berries do?  Would it be a better idea to scrap the berries and move straight to apple trees and just use some ornamental shrubs to provide the microclimate i'm looking for?
4.  Is dry stack durable enough to build a garden bed out of?  Remember the will need to be pretty sturdy.
Alright...I've searched...I've read...and I haven't found exactly what I'm looking goes nothing.

I've caught the Permaculture bug...and I'm raising my daughter (currently 4.75 yo) as Permaculturally as possible.  I have already written her a mini novel (14 chapters), i'm working on book 2 right now for her, and we used to garden as much as possible (currently living in a RV so that's sorta shot for the short term).  Anyways one thing that her and I love to do is play board games...With Christmas on the calendar pretty soon I purchased her some new games to play and i was thinking this morning that a Permaculture game would be a very interesting game that could teach kids and potentially introduce new brains to the concept.  I ran this thought experiment around my head for awhile (trying to modify Monopoly into Permopoly, but the entire concept seemed flawed...) until i came up with a general concept (I'll explain below).  What i need now is someone to run this thought experiment with me until a reasonable concept has been landed on and a prototype could be tested.  (Small sidebar about me, I'm an engineer with lots of experience with projects (management and implementation), so now that this is stuck in my head it's going to be tough to not see it though).  

Anyways here is the rough outline of what i'm thinking.

Permaculture Board Game

General Layout:  A central resource board and satellite homesteads.  Each player would have their own homestead which is on the outskirts of the central resource board.  The central resource board would contain all the resources that exist off our own homestead (things like, town, markets, lakes, rivers, forests, mountains, highways, ocean/beach etc.)  Each game would have a different central board which would be generated by placing resource cards face down on the central resource board...Once the game starts they would be revealed and the players would have to make some logical decisions about placement (i.e. if an ocean and a beach card were revealed but town somehow was in the middle that wouldn't work, so obvious flaws would be corrected...moving the lake closer to your homestead because you want to have access to fish isn't going to fly though.).  Anyways each player would also place homestead resources on their site and reveal them once the game started.  These would consist of things like current horticultural state (trees, grasses, etc.), site topography / aspect (this will come into play later), any structures already existing, giant rocks, etc.  

Gameplay:  Each round consists of 4 seasons (I'm sure you can guess which ones ).  Each season each player will get a certain amount of actions they can perform, and will start with some money and resources (already on their land).  The goal is to collect the resources required to advance your homestead to thriving.  Will you collect lumber to build a shelter or plant a garden?  Will you sell your produce in town to generate money so you can hire help or try to build that shelter on your own?  Do you want to try to bring community members onto your homestead, there's big benefit but pretty large risk too.  Since each resource board is unique and each homestead is unique the same solution won't always apply to all homesteads...did you get southern facing aspect...well growing things might be good for you...ohhh northern facing....steep slope...lots of rocks...ouch going to be hard to grow a lot of food...maybe building a community or harvesting resources from the central resource board is the way to go...(hopefully more options arise than that...but trying to be concise here).  So each season you spend your available actions to advance your a pond...maybe that is 2 action points...plant a garden...maybe that is 1...each action will help you depending on the events that arise.  Each player will draw an event card (they can be sorted by general (winter/summer) season so you aren't drawing blizzard in the summer).  This could be good or bad, and you will have to adjust your actions to work around the events as they enter your game.  At the end of each season you will need to either have enough food to feed your homestead (family, community or self depending), or have enough cash to buy food.  If you cannot feed or buy food for your community you either lose members or are out of the game (unless you have friendly neighbors).  After a set number of years (4 rounds to a year, i was originally thinking 10 years) whoever has the most food, community members, structures, money etc (general resources) is declared the Permaculture winner.  There is a bit of luck involved as well.  Spend an action point to learn about gardening...great...when you go to harvest your food you can add +1 to your dice roll...etc.  Also if you want to do things out of season you certainly can...plant a garden in harvest in the winter...that's will have some negatives and it will cost extra actions to do...but you can if you have to.

So that is a bit of a rough concept...i have some "art" (I would like to emphasize again artist) and other ideas I've run through the ol' dome, but I thought I would see if anyone else was interested in something like this or if people generally thought it was a good idea.  (even if everyone says it sucks...i'll probably continue and my daughter and i will play by ourselves ).  
1 year ago
Sorry for the delay in getting this posted (it's been that kind of fall).

I finally have the time to get these photos posted from our last event.  We went out to Soggy Sox Farm (east of Houston) to help transplant some plants into the newly remodeled landscape.  Elemental Ecosystems (Zach Weiss & Crew) had recently done some pretty major earth works on this project and installed 2 ponds, some hugels and a chinampa.  We went out to help transplant some plants as well as just to learn how the design came together and understand the context.  The owner (Ben Perdou) is very engaging and has a great plan for this property.  We put lots of Texas native aquatic plants into the pond edge to try to help with water purification as well as securing / stabilizing the pond edge, planted comfrey everywhere, and transplanted a few small olive trees.  It was very educational to see how the implementation of the design came into being, and we learned a lot about digging in pure gumbo clay .  A great time was had by all and this was a truly inspiring project to be a part of.  
1 year ago