Tag Archives: home food production

  •  The Aquafarm: What is it and How does it Work?

    If you want to grow fresh veggies at home, but don’t have the space, we’ve got a cool way to do it. All you need is an Aquafarm™.

    Using the Aquafarm™ (and a Betta fish), you can create your very own countertop aquaponics garden for fresh herbs, veggies, and leafy greens. It’s especially great if you don’t have the space, time, or energy to create a traditional garden or aquaponics system of your own.

    How does the Aquafarm™ work?

    The Aquafarm™ is a small aquaponics system that essentially creates a small ecosystem in your home. Aquaponics is a method of growing fish and vegetables together where each organism helps the other to survive and thrive. It’s symbiosis at its best.

    In essence, as you raise fish in a tank, their waste is used to fertilize the plants you will eat, and in turn, the plants help to clean the water the fish live in, helping the fish stay healthy.

    Here’s how the Aquafarm™ works:

    1. The water from the fish tank is pumped up to the plants into a grow tray at the top of the tank. The plant roots become a “biofilter” that breaks down harmful ammonia in the fish waste and turns it into nitrates that the plants then absorb as food.
    1. After this conversion process, clean water is circulated back into the fish tank—ridding the tank of all the accumulated fish waste.
    1. Your plants grow in the grow trays at the top of the tank, giving you fresh veggies like leafy greens, wheatgrass, mixed greens, and a variety of herbs.
    1. You get fresh greens and herbs with minimal effort.

     

    What are the benefits of having an Aquafarm™?

    Besides the obvious benefit of the Aquafarm™ (fresh veggies), there are some other great reasons to have one if you’re a fish owner, gardener, or interested in emergency preparedness.

    • First if you’ve ever owned a fish, you know they’re tricky to keep alive. Toxicity, swim bladder, and algae growth are all common problems in a fish tank that affect the overall health of the fish (like I've learned all too well). The Aquafarm™ helps to reduce these problems as the plants help clean the tank.
    • Second because I’m an (unintentional) plant killer, the fact that I don’t have to constantly water the plants or give them plant food works in my favor. All I have to do is remember to feed the fish and nature will take care of the rest.
    • Third the Aquafarm™ will help me get one step closer to self-sufficiency. Use the food you grow to supplement your food storage supplies if you run out or just want fresh veggies.

    So if you’re like me and want your fish to clean up its own tank and earn its keep in your home by giving you fresh veggies, consider getting an Aquafarm™!

    And if you’re interested in building your own medium-to-full-sized Aquaponics system, check out our Aquaponic Gardening series written by our guest blogger and customer, Kevin White. He tells you how to get started and what supplies and materials you’ll need.

     

    -Angela

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: gardening, home food production, homesteading, aquaponics, aquaponic garden

  • I remember hot summer afternoons back in the 80’s, feeling sticky and tired from pushing piles of peach skin and pits off the counter. I can see my mom’s red cheeks, puffing with exertion and her hair all frizzed-out from laboring over the pressure canner. I also remember the stress and frustration; Mom yelling “be careful it’s hot!” and “¡Rapido, rapido! ¡Apúrate!” I know, it sounds like that wouldn't be a cherished memory, but it is.

     

    903 All-American Pressure Cooker/Canner

    Come fall my dad would pull out the pressure canner and put on the juicing adapter as I washed grapes in the sink. I’d stack the fruit inside; he would fasten the lid. Then we’d wait until the purple gold pushed its way into the Mason jars. “Stand back just in case it splatters,” he’d warn me, and I’d wish I was one of those farm kids who get to squirt milk straight in their mouths from the teat.

     

    I remember, months later, wrapped in a sweater on gray winter evenings, digging into soft, sweet peaches and feeling the warmth of summer shine into every corner of our tiny kitchen. Nothing, and I mean nothing, tasted as good as cottage cheese running with sugary peach juice. The grape juice was saved for special occasions like somebody’s birthday, or Thanksgiving, or a Sunday dinner when my dad thought we should celebrate for no particular reason.

     

    I learned a lot in those days; how to keep a sink full of soapy dishwater to clean as you dirtied dishes, how working now meant pleasure later, and how important precision is. These are lessons that I use as an adult; and it all came from my mother and one little machine.

     

    Pressure canning is still one of the most reliable ways to preserve food, especially produce. Preserve food and precious memories—get an All-American Pressure Cookers, and take a look at our pressure canning accessories. A pressure canner is a great gift for moms* who want to store their fresh produce for later. If you've never preserved food before, read up on Home Canning Methods, Canning Basics, Canning Tips and Tricks, and get some canning recipes before you start.

     

    ~ Steph

     

    *And dads, of course. But Mother’s Day is May 12th, so we’re just dropping some hints on behalf of the mothers in your life. [Nudge, nudge]

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, skills, emergency preparedness, Food Storage Tips, home food production, canning, home food preservation

  • Preparing the Soil in Your Garden

    Now that spring is in the air and the days are longer, I’m getting the itch to start working on my garden. Now is the perfect time to go over some garden preparation basics.

    The main reasons we grow gardens are to provide our families with healthy food, become more self-sufficient, and maybe even to store some of our harvest for future use. Sometimes beginning gardeners fear their inexperience will cause them to be disappointed by poor crop performance. Not to worry, even someone with the worst “brown thumb” can grow a productive garden. So where is the best place to start?  A little patience and good soil preparation will help assure a bountiful harvest from a healthy garden. Here are some baby steps to help you along:

    Placement

    The first order of business would be to decide where to place your garden. Choose an area that receives sun for most or all of the day. You also want to orient your garden from North to South so that the sun reaches through the rows to all of your plants.  Most of us have heard that you should start preparing your garden “as soon as the ground can be worked”.  But what does that really mean? You don’t want to start too early.

    Soil Moisture Content

    If the ground still has melting snow or is soggy then it’s definitely too soon to begin. I use the very reliable “old farmer’s” trick to test the moisture content in my soil and it has never let me down. I just pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it into a ball. If it breaks apart easily when tapped or dropped then your soil is ready. If it dents or stays mostly in a lump when dropped it is too wet to be worked.

    Soil Density

    Garden plants grow best in loose soil that retains small pockets of air. Large clumps or clods of dirt will trap large pockets of air around plant roots and prevent them from getting nutrients. Large air pockets will also allow water to pool and drown seeds and small plants. I use the “double digging” method to get good loose soil down to about 1 foot. Remove about 6 inches of topsoil and loosen the soil underneath then return the topsoil and turn or till again.

    Nutrients and pH Balance

    Once you have the soil to the right consistency, it’s time to amend the soil, which simply means to add nutrients such as compost and/or PH balancing components, and till again. Now your soil should be fine, loose and healthy enough for planting seeds or seedlings.

    Basket of Garden Vegetables

    Baby Steps, Remember?

    You don’t have to do this all at once. I usually plan to prepare my garden over a couple of weekends. Planting a garden, watching it grow, and producing healthy food for my family has become one of the most rewarding and comforting projects I undertake each year. With these simple steps I know that you will also be able to enjoy the benefits and pleasures of your own garden.

    --Dawn

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: baby steps, garden, gardening, emergency preparedness, home food production

  • Have you ever thought about expanding your food storage to include raising livestock? Perhaps you’re interested in increasing your home food production? Given that many of us live in suburban neighborhoods where there are zoning restrictions, space issues, and time concerns, you may think that raising animals is a pipe dream. Well, what about rabbits?

    For the prepper lifestyle, rabbits make a very attractive food source. For anyone who is interested in a healthy, lean, delicious meat, rabbits are the way to go.  – Sharon Hanks

    If you have the space (and it doesn't take much), consider including rabbits in your long-term food production and storage plan. Rabbits can provide fresh meat without the space requirements that cattle need and without the noise that chickens create. Read about the other benefits of raising rabbits from Sharon at Skyview Acres. 

    The Guide to Raising and Breeding Rabbits for Meat from Mother Earth News is another resources that's packed with information. It's written for beginners, by a beginner. Here’s an excerpt:

    A Chinchilla weighing three pounds, live weight will cost you from 25 to 35 cents or a little more to raise. You'd pay a dollar, at least, in the market for him. 

    The article also brings up how much time you’ll need to put into raising the rabbits, what a hutch should have, and what to feed your rabbits. 

    And of course, what would a blog about raising rabbits be if we didn’t talk about how quickly those wascally wabbits multiply? First, let’s be clear on one thing: the world does not need more pet rabbits. There are plenty of pet rabbits in stores and shelters. If you’re squeamish about turning the rabbits you raise into meat, find someone who might be able to butcher them for you before you start breeding, because you’ll quickly have a lot of rabbits on your hands.

    Rabbit gestation is about 30 days, and litters can run from 5-12 kits, depending on how you’ve bred your does. 7 kits is generally recognized as a manageable litter size (for you and the doe). It’s recommended that you give your doe at least 40 days after the last litter before breeding again. If I’ve done my math correctly (and I’m using a conservative time estimate) that’s 42 rabbits – from one doe. 

     

    If you’d like rabbit meat without having to raise them yourself, check these links for breeders in your area.

    http://www.rudolphsrabbitranch.com/rrrbrdusa.htm USA by state (lists also available for Australia and Canada)

    http://rabbitbreeders.us/state-rabbit-breeders-index (some on this list are show breeders so read carefully)

     

    Here are other informative articles on raising rabbits. 

    Raising Rabbits: Helfpul Suggestions for Beginners from Washington State University 

    A Primer on Backyard Meat Rabbit Raising Practices by Mary-Frances R. Bartels of Rudolph’s Rabbit Ranch and Waterfowl Farm 

    American Rabbit Breeder’s Association, Inc.

    Follow one of the great conversations on raising meat rabbits from our Emergency Essentials Be Prepared Forum.

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, Be Prepared Forum, Emergency Essentials, meat rabbits, home food production, Mother Earth News, Chincilla, Californian, suburb, bunny, breeders, rabbit, association, American, Skyview Acres