Monthly Archives: February 2017

You’re Smarter Than you think… ~ Applied Permaculture Update for February, 2017

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You’re smarter than you think…

I mean that.

I was hustling my knife sharpening in a local eatery and in a casual conversation I learned something that I believe to be true in most households.

They don’t sharpen their knives.

Well, they said they do it themselves.

But they’re about to buy a new set, because the ones they have are just getting too old.

That blew me away!

One of my biggest challenges in running a knife sharpening business is to educate people on the importance of maintaining their blades. But there’s more!

That eatery also told me that they took a knife to a local hardware store and it came back worse than it left!

I’m concerned that, in the interest of time, some sharpeners use bench grinders and belt sanders to sharpen knives.

Zing, Zing and you’re done. But…

Using your mind’s eye, imagine the very, very edge of that blade. The thinnest point where the two sides of the blade come together. The EDGE. Well when you put that on a grinder it’s going to heat up something fierce, and in doing so, it will change the mechanical properties of the metal, for the worse.

That’s why I use the long and slow method of whetstones. And so do you. Because you’re smart.

Speaking of being smart, I want to share some updates from the homestead and some resources I hope you find worthy of exploration.

I hope you know that my motivation to sharpen knives is so I can grow the best food on earth for my family. I recently heard Robyn O’Brien speak on the Tony Robbins Podcast about topics she covered in her book, ‘The Unhealthy Truth’. It’s all old news to me, but what I want to share in case you think I’m just a permaculture fanatic. It reinforced all my motivations and I want it to do the same for you, and more importantly, your kids.

In that same vein, I want to share some information on fermenting foods, namely, sauerkraut.

In a recent conversation with a dear friend she told me that she always keeps sauerkraut at home and has some whenever she has a stomach ache.


Know why?

It’s the probiotics. Those little living things inside our gut that make us feel good when they’re in balance, and terrible when they’re not. Eating lacto-fermented foods promotes a healthy balance.

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage.

If you read my post about how I know when to plant seeds, indoors and out, you might already know that the cabbage has been started indoors, and they’re doing great!

We also started our first batch of sauerkraut with some store-bought cabbage!

It’s been fermenting for two weeks, and going well. We’ve sampled it every week and I’m confident next week it will be done.

It’s way easier than you think. Cabbage, salt, water, done. With a little bit of measuring putting it all together.

I got hooked on fermented foods by Erica Strauss at Northwest Edible Life. Her site is a good resource, but if you really want the proof that she’s a genius, search for her at The Survival Podcast and listen to her answering audience questions. She’s good. Real good.

Lastly, if you’re not using Pink Himalayan Salt in your kitchen, please do yourself a favor and get some. Your grocery store probably stocks it. Trust me.


That’s it for now.

Do me a favor and forward this to the smartest person you know. If they read this far they’ll learn that they can email me to get on my monthly update and subscribe to my blog here.

Stay awesome,


Quick Tip – Use Passwords to Improve your State of Mind

If I were a betting man, I would bet that when my daughter is my age she won’t have to deal with remembering passwords the way we do. Even now I unlock my phone with my fingerprint. Biometrics. How about a webcam retina scan for logging into your machine and websites?

Regardless, passwords are a reality of life as we know it. Until recently, I thought they were a nuisance. Now I see them as an opportunity.

If you have to log into your computer at least daily, force yourself to use that as an opportunity to improve your state-of-mind.


That’s a good one. It mixes upper and lower case letters, substitute some numbers for letters, like ‘3’ for ‘E’, or ‘@’ for ‘A’ and it’s long! An often overlooked critical feature of passwords, length.

But here’s the killer, now every day you’re writing to yourself that ‘today will be the best day yet!’


In Noah Kagan’s recent podcast he outlined several mechanisms to improve happiness and life quality.

No more dishes in the sink.

Build a life of discipline starting with the small stuff. Maybe all the little things can add up to something big.

The Bees Knees – Ep. 5

You’re on your own now, grasshopper.

School is out! Time to party.

Wait a second. If we studied things in school that we enjoy, perhaps the end would not be so glorious.

I would keep going to bee class if there were more sessions. There’s certainly more to learn, and I’m interested. I think the paradigm of education is overdue for a major shift. More on that later, for now, let’s close out some fascinating things and some tips and tricks to beekeeping:

  • Apparently, to administer any antibiotics in the agriculture domain you now need a veterinarian prescription. It’s fascinating for me to have conversations with people about beekeeping and to see the facade of chemical treatment to hives shift. It’s not cool anymore. As an aside, I was in a Dr’s office with my daughter not long ago and he had posters on his wall saying “Stop the Antibiotics!”. He wasn’t even a hipster.
  • Essential oils are used by some in the hive as an ‘alternative’ to chemicals. My instructor spent a little time on her soapbox, about essential oils being chemicals, so it’s not really an alternative. She probably makes a good point, but I’ll continue to research that one.
  • The best point she made about essential oils, to me, was that the most distinguishing characteristic of essential oils, smell, may negatively impact the way the bees communicate, with pheromones.
  • Honey is a probiotic. To me, that means it provides healthy living things to my living gut. This stuff is just amazing. Bees are amazing!
  • Tip time. Do everything right, and focus on these five points and you might just make it:
    1. Pick good genetics
    2. Don’t use comb for longer than five years.
    3. Implement a screen bottom board.
    4. Cull drone brood.
    5. Strategic use of powdered sugar mite treatment.
  • Ross Conrad deserves a shout-out for some of those tips.

The rest of the class was mostly nitty gritty details on setting up our first hive. Like, start with 5 hive bodies, which means I need to build 50 frames. Use a frame rest for inspections so the frames go back in the right order. Join the local beekeepers club. How to extract honey from the comb (which we will not be ready for this year).

  • The last cool thing – after extracting honey there is always a little left in the comb. Clean it to 100% by tapping into the workforce in the hive. Put the frames back in the have above the inner cover and the worker bees will pull out every last drop and store it in the comb they’re building out. This applies to all the filtered out debris during straining honey as well. Those worker girls are champs, man. (But if you put that tray of filtered debris too close to your apiary you may inadvertently promote robbing.)

Go forth and conquer. If you’ve found any of this valuable please let me know, publicly or private. If you’re starting beekeeping, or new, or experienced, or thinking about it, please do reach out and keep in touch. Bees are a big deal. Even if you have no interest in keeping them please do respect them. Buy real honey, support a local beekeeper. Indulge in earth’s nectar.

This little tractor OWNS the snow

Reflections on a small tractor as a tool on the homestead.

My 1980 Kubota L245DT owning this late winter dump.

On the one hand, they don’t make them like they used to. On the other, this tractor is only as old as I am. Do we make humans like we used to? Hopefully better. But this tractor is a tough little machine. She’s been beat up over the years, but she still fired up when it was 1 degree out the other morning. She smoked and whined for a minute but did everything I asked her to.

I wonder if I’m a hypocrite for owning a tractor. Burning diesel to move things. First, let’s look at the numbers.

I bought the tractor to move snow. Let’s say we plow 7 times a year and it costs, rough guess here, $50 to hire a plow guy, per storm. That’s roughly $350 a year, which means it would take roughly 14 years to cover the $5k I spent to purchase it a few years ago. She’s 36 years old now, what’s another 14?

I also mow the field with it, to keep the prickers at bay and to promote the grass, but I really need sheep to be doing that job for me. I don’t garden with it because I’m an anti-soil-compaction dude. I move dirt, sand, and compost with it. But I could use a wheelbarrow.

Based on rational thought, it seems that it might just not be worth it.

But, I feel no urge to part with it. I love having a tractor. It’s a tool in the toolbox and I feel comfortable knowing that I have this tool in the event a need comes up.

A nice rabbit hole to jump down is the concept of a community tool library. I presented this idea to, and am still brainstorming it with, the my town Sustainability Committee. Then we’d only need a few tractors in town, and we could all just share them, right? I’m not sure yet.

Before closing this little reflection I feel compelled to discuss the details of the mechanism by which I move snow with this tractor. First, the blade on the back. The first year I had this I only pulled the snow, because I didn’t know better. Then, I saw a YouTube video of someone pushing snow with it. Derr, a humbling moment. Pushing snow works way better. So, I push snow around, and then pile it up with the bucket. And if it’s real bad, I make a path with the bucket, then slowly clean back the path with the blade. I also just realized this year that the hydraulic arm to control the bucket has a detent to ‘float’ the bucket, meaning gravity holds it to the ground, as opposed to hydraulics pushing against the ground. The latter causeing the front wheels to come off the ground so that gravity takes over steering the tractor.

I read that the blade is also a great tool for making swales. I look forward to finding out first hand in the near future.

A project for which I have a tool available. Nice.

How to Build a Planting Schedule

A tutorial on the methods I am using to plan my vegetable garden.

There are a lot of ways to skin this cat, I’ve changed my method every year, so perfection is still being sought.

That said, here’s what I’m doing this year:

  1. Referencing Clyde’s Garden Planner, purchased from Baker Creek a few years ago.
  2. Finding the last frost date for my location from my local University Cooperative Extension.
  3. Building a Google calendar for the plants that I’m growing based on the output from 1 and 2.

Screenshot of plant action in April. Derived from Clyde’s Garden Planner and local frost dates.

Historically, I tend to try to do all my planting in one weekend. What I like about this method is that it breaks up the work by phasing it over the spring in week long windows. I am writing this in early Feb and I’ll be starting cabbage inside in a couple weeks! That seems early to me because, in the past, I would mostly just wing it with starting dates.

You can spend some money on garden planners from Jung. This software/app allows you to draw your garden and will alert you when you need to start indoors, transplant, and harvest. It also serves as a good record for crop rotation purposes. I used a trial version once, and I liked it, but not enough to put up the money for it.

Instead, I layout my garden using PowerPoint. It’s crude, but it works, and it’s free. Especially with the time phased planting, it’s important to know where plants are going in the ground.

The plan for this year’s garden.

I will continue to hone the plan, so I welcome any feedback or insight.

This year’s garden plan is a little old school. I built a permaculture inspired plan, but did not put enough energy into the design to feel comfortable implementing it. If you’re unfamiliar with ‘keyhole’ gardening, and think you might be interested, read Toby Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden.

A permaculture inspired annual garden still in the design phase. Maybe next year.