Mid-summer update

Planting soil blocks with daughter

As we finish “Junuary” and hope to see the sun more in July, here’s a quick mid-summer update:


  • We have 25 new Golden Comets in the brooder. Should be ready to head outside before winter weather sets in.
  • Most of the transplants from our new greenhouse are now surviving – including typically tough ones like corn – as I’m learning how to do soil blocks better.
  • We’ve got very heavy berry production this year (thanks bees!), including some first-timers like honey berries. With my wife’s diligent harvesting, we’re putting 1-2 gallon bags of berries in the chest freezer per day, and still have plenty to share. I’m seeing the direct benefit of berry management techniques like pruning and directing.
  • We’re seeing excellent growth on the kiwis (hard and fuzzy) and grapes (table and raisin). We’re adding trellis structures to guide and support, as well as learning grape management techniques. And seeing our first clusters this year!

A single day’s harvest of strawberries


  • Experienced my first bee colony collapse, which was puzzling and frustrating as it was the “strong” hive that made it through the winter, but other two new hives are thriving.
  • I learned painful lesson of what happens when a farmer gets lazy. I knew the grass under the electronet was too high and likely shorting out the electricity protecting the chickens from raccoon and coyote attack. Two raccoons killed three chickens and mortally wounded two others before I got down there. Very upset with myself that our birds suffered the brunt of my lesson learned about laziness.
  • Cracked my primary scythe blade went hitting an unknown piece of rebar in 3′ high pasture grass. Purchased two replacements that are more appropriate sizes, both of which are awesome.

Hope your summer is going well!

Fixing the Big Picture inside ourselves

In the sustainability and social entrepreneurship circles I run in, we discuss almost every one of the macro issues that the world is facing today (overpopulation being the taboo subject few people dare to speak about publicly).

But even as we create “benefit businesses” and nonprofit corporations to build resilience in our systems, we must also look inside ourselves to affect the change required for the long term benefit of the human race and the biosphere in which we live.

I’d encourage you to take 10 minutes right now to put your brain into “full, open” mode and watch Jeremy Rifkin’s Empathic Civilization video.

Imagine the possibilities, and then go take actions to make it reality in your life.

Mobile app for emergency responders

As a card-carrying member of our county’s emergency preparedness citizen team, I get these nifty ID cards which allow me access through roadblocks and such in order to get to the area which needs assistance.

But how will I know what to expect once I am there? How can I quickly share what I am seeing with all the other professional and citizen emergency responders?

NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey team now has a mobile app that should prove useful until local internet servers get overwhelmed or lose electrical service.

Looks pretty useful…

Map Your Neighborhood Step 10

There is a brilliant woman named Dr. LuAn Johnson in Olympia, Washington who created the Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) program. It has the nine steps to complete immediately after a wide scale emergency such as a tornado or earthquake.

For our small town, we are adding a “Step 10” series to various citizens’ nine step guidebook to bridge the gap between an individual set of neighbors and the larger community surrounding them. Steps 1-9 of Dr. Johnson’s MYN program ensure you, your loved ones, and your direct neighbors are cared for and secured. As we roll out our town-wide plans to connect our neighborhoods for both emergency preparedness and sustainability projects, the Step 10 series will shift the focus of specific individuals to securing entire neighborhoods and then the whole town (which happens to be an easily defined area – it’s an island).

Perhaps this list will be useful for your town as well. Here are a few examples of our Step 10 additions for citizens to pursue after they have finished their Steps 1-9. They will seek to travel (safely, short distances) to their neighborhood’s designated shelter:

  • Ham radio operators to begin communication coordination
  • Doctors, nurses, EMTs and CPR experts to to provide medical attention
  • Mechanics and engineers to ensure all generators are safely up and running
  • Members of the horse and bicycle communities to begin transportation duties (medical supplies, communication devices, etc) where roads are likely blocked by landslides and fallen trees

As we do further work on these Step 10 actions, we’ll document them on our main website, as well as excerpts here on this blog.

DIY disaster relief

I noticed this headline the other day. It reinforced in my mind the need for citizens to be proactive and take charge of their own emergency preparations. Gone are the days when “they” will come to rescue you from the flood, earthquake, hurricane, or other significant disaster.

Locally we’ve just started a new focus on these efforts, building off the good work done by some professionals several years ago. We’ve put together a wide-reaching consortium of both professionals plus citizens to cover many different topics that an emergency – long or short – could affect.

From non-cellular communication to non-gasoline powered transportation, we’re seeing significant interest and buy-in from individuals and existing groups. It’s exciting to see.

Keep Calm & Carry On

I have British friends who use this old catchphrase often and many times tongue-in-cheek. Which made me smile all the more when I saw the nearby graphic while reading one of my favorite blogs, Little Homestead in the City.

As we are ramping up our local efforts to build resilient neighborhoods on our island, it’s a good reminder to read about the history of victory gardens and related sustainability projects that our grandparents were quite familiar with, and that are becoming new again.

In her post Anais asks her readers their preparedness levels in these areas (at least one of which you’ll see we’ve not listed in our categories to the right – oops): Food, Water, Fuel Energy, Sanitation, Alternative Currency, Transportation, Communications, Medical & First Aid, Survival, Security.

I’ll prepare a future post regarding our sanitation plans in low or no power scenarios.

Drinking on a hot summer day

What do you drink on a hot summer day?

I’m mostly pounding yerba mate in the mornings and water the rest of the day, but I recently found a tangy recipe in The Scythe Book by David Tresemer for an old-time farm hand drink called switchel.

It’s a good pick-me-up in the early afternoon.


  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 quart water (I added a bit more water than recommended for taste.)

Make your own medicine

This winter we’ve been experimenting with creating our own herbal tinctures. We’ve used tinctures for years for both preventative purposes and to get better faster if we do get sick.

When doing research on the company behind an enjoyable family game called Wildcraft! that we recently purchased, we saw the same company (a single family, really) produced an herbal remedy creation kit. Our eight year old was immediately drawn to it, as he had been reading about harvesting herbs from the forest at school and successfully identifying them in our backyard and nearby forest. We’re glad we ordered it.

The kit has several projects included, all of them a great way to invest a few cold winter evenings with your family to produce some very useful products to keep you healthy and strong.

Avoiding the hospital for only $3

A couple of weeks ago I was pounding in metal t-posts the other day to hold up some bamboo I transplanted from a neighbor. We’re going to grow our own timber poles for future food production projects with it (e.g. fencing, pea trellis, etc).

I was using a two-handed post driver on a very steep slope and somehow managed to glance the tool off the top of the t-post. I proceeded to then slam the post driver at full speed on top of my head, knocking me backwards two feet. I sat down saying, “Doggone, that’s going to leave a mark” and put my hand to my head, expecting to feel a big bump or two. Instead, I pulled back a hand + forearm full of blood, with more pouring down my face a second later. Uh oh.

I knew head wounds bleed a lot, but I’ve never had one myself. Keeping firm pressure on the crown of my head, I stumbled up the hill to the garage, called for my wife, and ripped open a packet of Celox from one of our go bags. By the time we got to the local Urgent Care facility 15 minutes later, the would was completely sealed by the Celox powder. The doctor pulled (hard) multiple times but could not get the cut to reopen. He commented that he saw the same performance from this type of powder during his 2006-07 military tour overseas. He said it saved me from 5-7 staples in my head and a much longer ($) trip to the nearby hospital.

At $30 for a 10 pack, we keep several in each vehicle and near our first aid kits. Well worth $3!

Four Hour Body for backyard growers

Tim Ferriss has a new book out titled Four Hour Body in which he turns the same uber-productivity focus from his first book (recommended previously) inwards to the human body. Given the number of personal and professional work projects I’ve got going on, I value his OCD tendencies and his clear details about how to keep our bodies healthy and strong in the most time efficient manner possible.

If you spend any amount of time on micro-farming or micro-ranching chores, you understand the need to keep yourself healthy and strong. If you are sick, the chores don’t get done and the food production cycle can get seriously out of whack. And yet, if you are doing this type of backyard farming and modern day homesteading, you are likely always running up against the time pressures of balancing that with your normal day job. So the challenge is how to stay in great shape (so you can do the food production chores you love) with the minimum amount of time (away from your family, away your day job, and away from those same chores).

Highly recommended read for anyone interested in getting/staying strong, losing those unneeded pounds, or taking your current multi-hour workout schedule down to under an hour per week.