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Persimmons remind me of my childhood.  It is commonly eaten in homes of asian families.  As my mom is from Taiwan, it was a common fruit that we ate in the fall when it was available.  I was extremely happy to find that it can be grown in our area of the southeast.  According to wikipedia, the persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family (Ebenaceae).  I purchased a non-astrigent cultivar called Fuyu.  I will be planting it shortly (when I find a suitable spot) in our backyard.  This persimmon will add to the growing edible landscaping here at the yardstead.  

EarthwormVermicomposting is composting using worms.  There are a variety of species of worms.  The most common used earthworm are Red Wigglers or Night Crawlers (think fish bait).  These can easily be looked up online for more information as well as to purchase online.

We have become interested in raising worms after watching a video produced by Olomana gardens in Haiwaii.  In this video worms were raised very easily in a stacked composting bin.  These bins can also be found online and seem relatively inexpensive.  At Olomana gardens the worms were being raised under permaculture principles.  Garden and food waste are fed to the worms. The worms produce castings (vermicompost) or are fed to chickens. Then the compost or chicken poo is used to fertilize the gardens.  So a cycle is created that is relatively self-sustaining.  Each system depends on the other to produce well.

Of course, I went immediately to the internet and to youtube to find information on raising worms.  There are a variety of ways to do this.  Stack bins seem to be.......


New Homesteading Book

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Homesteading BookWell I just finished reviewing a brand new homesteading book by Abigail R. Gehring. The title is "Homesteading: A Back to Basics Guide to Growing Your Own Food, Canning, Keeping Chickens, Generating Your Own Energy, Crafting, Herbal Medicine, and More". This is a very nice hardcover book with lots of great details and contributions from many established homesteaders. {jumi}<iframe src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=theyard-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=1602397473&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="width:120px;height:240px;" scrolling="no" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0"></iframe>{/jumi}Our very own Kathleen contributed an article to the book as well. You may remember...

Dervaes Urban HomesteadA while back someone was nice enough to post a you-tube video to our forum on a movie (documentary) about the Dervaes family.  It is titled Home Grown Revolution.  If you have not heard of the Dervaes family, I suggest you check out their website at www.pathtofreedom.com They live on a 1/4 acre in Pasadena, CA.  This land is very near the freeway and in an urban environment.  They have turned a dream into a way of life and a business that supports a family of four.  It's inspiring and amazing the amount of food they can grow on such a little plot in the city.

I have always thought that Jason and I were doing quite a bit on our 1/2 acre little yardstead...but we are no where near the production capacity of the Dervaes family.  At the yardstead we plan to take on the challenge that the Dervaes family has started.  We will quit waiting for more land and start producing as much as possible on our current land.  And who knows...by this time next year, maybe we won't be mowing grass anymore.

After submitting the article for raising catfish in a barrel, I decided to go to youtube and look for some videos on small fish farming.  I found aquaponics.  Aquaponics is the cultivation of fish and plants in a recirculating system.  Essentially you have a tank to hold your fish and you pump the water into hydroponic beds to grow vegetables.  Then the water is pumped back into your fish tank.  The plants clean the water of nutrients that the fish provide through their waste products.  In an ideal situation the most you add to the system after set-up is fish food for the fish and approximately once a month a dose of chelated iron for the plants.  As you harvest your plants, you can plant more to continue to use the fish waste as nutrients.

I plan to do more research on this topic and then start one of my own.  I hope to find most of the materials for free.  As usual I will be sure to take pictures and give some progress reports as I go.  I will also write a more detailed article on aquaponics as soon as I learn more and start our system.


Raising Catfish in a Barrel

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Published in Urban Homesteading

The text and illustrations of this article are from
Organic Gardening and Farming October, 1973

Philip Mahan demonstrates how a fish is transferred from the fry tank to the barrel.

A biological food chain in the back yard produces fresh fish for the table and compost for the garden.

By Philip and Joyce Mahan

After some study and experimentation, we have set up a productive food chain-- table scraps to earthworms to catfish--in our back yard. The project is satisfactory in many respects, utilizing waste materials to produce fresh fish for food and at the same time yielding ample compost for a small garden. The material cost is minimal. The whole operation can be set up for less that $15.00. The equipment occupies only about 12 square feet of space, and the entire assembly can be easily moved if necessary.

The materials can be very simple: Two 55-gallon steel drums, three panes of glass 24 inches square, and a medium-sized aquarium air pump. One of the drums will serve as a tank for the fish, oxygen being supplied by the air pump; and the second drum should be cut in half to provide two bins for the worms. The panes of glass are used as covers for the worm bins and fish tank, and for ease and safety in handling can be framed with scrap lumber.


Making Your Own Bean Sprouts

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 Nothing tastes quite as fresh and wholesome as fresh bean sprouts.  Bean sprouts are loaded with vitamins A, B C and E.  Bean sprouts are also high in Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, Phosphorus and Potassium.  They also contain 20% to 30% protein and all the essential amino acids.   Dry bean seeds can be turned into edible sprouts in just 2-5 days.  The sprouts generally yield between 2 and 4 times more edible material than beans.  Sprouting beans is very easy and can be done in your kitchen with less than $15 worth of equipment.
Almost any type of beans can be sprouted.  Some of the most popular seeds for sprouting are mung beans, adzuki beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts. Some beans sprout faster than others but my most are ready to eat in two to five days.  The only things you need other than the beans are water and.....

Bees on HoneycombThis is the second article in our beginner beekeeping series.  In the first article we talked about what you need to get started in beekeeping, including the hive and sources for bees.  This article will cover moving mail-order bees into your prepared bee hive.  We will start with preparing the hive then go through the steps to move the bees into the hive.  Make sure your hive is assembled with all the parts mentioned in the first article.  If your bees arrive before your ready to move them into the hive, you can store them for up to 3 or 4 days at the most.  You may have noticed a small container of syrup in the shipping cage with the bees.  This is for feeding the bees during shipment.  If you plan to store the bees for a few days, you should prepare some syrup of your own to feed them until their move in date.  The bees should be stored in a quiet, dark location that gets plenty of fresh air and stays about room temperature.
To prepare syrup for feeding your bees, boil 2 quarts of water then mix in 5 lbs of sugar.  Make sure all the sugar dissolves then let it cool completely.  To feed the bees, use a brush to apply the syrup to the sides of the shipping cage.  Feed the bees twice a day while in storage.  If you have not already done so, assemble your have and move it to the permanent location.  Painting the hive with linseed oil will help preserve the wood, but some keepers dont paint the hives at all.  You should an entrance feeder for your bees with your starter kit.  Fill the entrance feeder with some of the syrup you prepared earlier.  Go ahead and remove half the frames from the hive.  Make sure all the frames have wax foundation already in place.  The bees use the wax foundation in the frames to make cells for storing honey.  Feed your bees one last time by applying the syrup to the side of the shipping cage until the bees are no longer interested.  Now we are ready to move the queen into the hive.
Its time to get out that new smoker and light it.  You will need it soon to smoke the bees.  Also put on the veil and gloves and long sleeves.  Bring the cage over near the hive and bump it on the ground so all the bees fall to the bottom of the cage.  Remove the queen cage and recover the cage to prevent the bees from escaping.   Remove the plug blocking the end og the queen cage.  You should see a layer of way inside the end of the cage.  Make a small nail size hole in the end, but be careful no to harm the queen.  Place the queen cage in the  hive between the top bars of two of the frames still in the hive.  Place it with the wax side up.   Once the workers move in to the hive, they will eat away the wax and release the queen.  Again bump the cage on the ground to put all the bees on the bottom.  Pour the bees into the open space of the hive and make sure some get on the queen cage.  Gently reinsert the five frames that you removed earlier, being careful not to crush any bees.  Space the frames out evenly.  Place the inner cover on the hive, again being careful not to hurt the bees.  You can use the smoker to move the bees if you need to get them away from the top.  Now you can replace the outer cover. 
Place the full entrance feeder in the entrance and use some hay to block the rest of the opening, so the bees can not escape.  At this point your bees are moved in.  Don't open the hive for the next week.  You can do quick checks to make sure the feeder has syrup, but otherwise don't disturb the bees.  After the first week, you should open the hive ands see if the queen is free from her cage.  If she is not free,  make the hole in the wax a bit larger and put the cage back in and close the hive and check back in a few days.  Make sure the feeder is full.  If she is out of the cage, check the frames and see where she is laying eggs.   At this point the bees are moved in!  In the next few days I will post more beginner beekeeping articles about caring for the bees and collecting honey.  In the meantime if you have any questions or comments about this article or any other yardsteading topics, please feel free to post in the forum.