Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Not All Permaculture is Food - Overstory Trees

This is the first post in a series that attempts to think outside the box on what a profitable permaculture farm looks like by looking at products that can still be profitable, but aren't food. This is not intended for people that are just starting out in permaculture, but for people who are already reasonably versed. Of course, everyone can get something out of this...just know that if you get confused by the language or terms used, you might need to do a little research or better yet, ask some questions in the comments below.

The first thing I'd like to cover is large non-food producing over-story trees. The market for such products is largely for high quality timber but there are other products. Farmers don't usually have a retirement program. How do you plan for the end of your life when you draw income from your own labor? What about building a biological savings account? As a design-tool it obviously shouldn't be viewed one-dimensionally. In stacking functions, a slow growing large canopy shade tree could be used in paddocks near your watering station in hot dry summer climates, such as Colorado. These large trees provide deep shade in the summer and clear the canopy for winter. Taking advantage of this, you can keep a building cool in summer and not block solar gain in the winter. This is important in a state like Colorado that has such extreme seasonal temperature difference. Planting these trees specifically for harvesting high quality timber in 15-30 years is investing in your own or you children's future. Many could be harvested 5-10 years before retirement and stacked to naturally age. This wood brings a much higher premium as it's much easier to work than kiln-dried wood as the lignins have time to break down. Most species could be treated as a coppice, meaning future generations can still enjoy the trees.

There is also a whole other subset of large over-story trees, I will cover, that can be used to harvest sweet syrups. This is still a food product but still fits the planning for the long term future outlined in this post.

So, now I'm going to give some example species and their many other uses. Don't take these as the definitive work, they are just species I've studied for my own research. I'm sure many other species could be used for this function.

Alder - Alders are nitrogen fixers, can be tapped for syrup, some produce edible catkins and the wood is highly prized for the solid body instruments.
Alder Tongue

 Western Soapberry - It's a workable hardwood. It's unpalatable to livestock making it usable in a paddock, it's fruit contains 37% soponins and is used as a laundry detergent substitute.
P102 Western Soapberry Tree (Sapindus saponaria var drummondii)

Black Gum - Flowers are great bee forage, it propagates easily from seed, very tough wood commonly used for making mauls and hammers.
Black Gum Tree

Maples - Can be tapped for syrup at 30-40 years of age, desirable wood that propagates well from seed.
Cincinnati - Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum "Suger Maple"

Birch - Can be tapped for syrup, desirable wood and propagates well from seed.
Birches

Orange Osage - Produces edible seeds, it's prized by bow makers and instrument makers alike. Bark can produce a natural yellow dye.
osage orange

Black Walnut - A prized wood especially when air dried, edible nut, husks produce a natural ink and dye.
Cluster of Black Walnut fruit

Oak - Edible nut, prized wood, white oak is used for basket weaving.
From Little Acorns Do Mighty Oak Trees Grow
As a wood carver and wood worker myself, I can tell you that most hardwood species can be turned into beautiful, sell-able art.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wellness Program

This post is a continuation of the post "Dreaming Big". Please read that to get the context behind this post.

This post is longer than most of my others, but I promise you will get something out of it. So, if you normally avoid longer articles, I encourage you to break the habit and take your time on this one.

I didn't fully realize, until I was an adult, how much I struggle with anxiety. I just wasn't self aware enough to put my finger on the constant, grinding insecurity I felt nearly all the time. I didn't understand that certain things triggered it. I didn't understand that it could be controlled. When I was a teen, my anxiety reached the point of throwing up regularly and was told by a Doctor to take a Tai Chi class and listen to some relaxation tapes. I didn't find the Tai Chi very helpful, but the relaxation tapes helped a lot. Over the years I've built up an arsenal of things to help me combat my anxiety. This last year has given me a lot of growth and understanding of my stress. I stumbled upon an article discussing research that seems to indicate people with an A blood type (the type I have) are more susceptible to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This isn't the magic bullet to solving all my stress, but it lead me to more strategies for dealing with cortisol levels. I would absolutely love to incorporate as many of the following into the farm. Call it an agro-tourism meets relaxation retreat.

Meditation - I'm not really sure I even enjoy meditation, but it works. In fact, when my anxiety is spiraling out of control, it's often the one thing that I can count on to put the breaks on enough for other things to be effective. I personally use a Buddhist mediation app for my phone. I find that I need to occupy my mind with a combination of sound, breathing and a phrase for it to work consistently. The app provides a timed meditation, a pleasant phrase and has a ringing bell sound (actually little finger cymbals) that helps keep my mind focusing on relaxing. It's hard to describe the feeling of achieving good meditation. Some studies have said monks are able to, on command, produce brain activity similar to experiencing love. If I'm having trouble slipping into relaxation during a session, I will spend some time thinking about the people I love most to get me over the edge. Here is a great article from The Atlantic on the science of meditation and it's many health benefits.

Deep Breathing - Part of my anxiety leads to a pounding sensation in my chest and likely linked to sporadic high blood pressure for me. I've found that deep breathing can really help reduce this feeling and actually lower my blood pressure. This personal discovery also happens to be backed up with some great science and I'd recommend it to just about anyone (not just people suffering from anxiety) as a way to calm the body down. It's simpler than you think. Breathe in for four counts and out for eight. That's it.

Autogenic Training - I didn't know what it was called at the time, but the tape I was told to get at the pharmacy by the doctor was a guided relaxation called Autogenic Training. A calm voice guides you through concentrating on relaxing each part of your body one at a time. If I'm wound up to the point of nervous break down, this works to bring me back to base line. I, now, mostly rely on this for nights when I just can't fall a sleep. Here is a great free Relaxation MP3 that is Creative Commons and on Archive.org.

Yoga - If I go to a class, I'm often the only male there and if there are other males, they are young and lean. Yes, I feel awkward. Yes, I feel fat. Yes, I still do it. More often than not, I just do yoga to a  video I found on Netflix once and haven't found any that I like better. It's not on Netfilx any more but it's available to stream using amazon prime. The yoga itself is relaxing, but the cool down at the end is the payoff for me. After all that stretching and moving, there is a short, guided relaxation that just sends me to nirvana. Yoga tends to have longer lasting effects on my mood than other things. I need to do it more often than I do. Here is a study showing how yoga reduces the production of stress hormones in the body.

Massage - For around 5 years now I've had a membership to Massage Envy and have made full use of it. I'm not endorsing their business, but I will endorse massage. Because of how my stress manifests itself physically, I get tension knots in my neck back and shoulders. I prefer deep tissue massage in longer sessions. Not only is it relaxing, it's essential for me to keep on top of my tension pain. The positive benefits of massage have been well researched and there are very few risks. This is a fantastic article from the University of Maryland Medical Center about massage.

Sauna - One of the most traditional techniques for relaxation and physical recovery is the sauna. In the Finnish culture, in fact, it's a way of life where virtually every home has it's own sauna. The Romans made extensive use of baths that included a Caldarium, similar to modern public saunas. The positive effects of saunas have been confirmed using modern science. One of my favorite health experts Dr. Rhonda Patrick recently covered the benefits of sauna use in this mind blowing video along with her article that includes links to the source studies. 

Float Tank - I had heard of float tanks more than a few times over the years, but the person who really made me want to try it, and a surprisingly large amount of other people too, was Joe Rogan on his podcast. I've been to The Healing Waters Float Studio three times now and I plan on going back at least a few times every year, if not more. Their sessions begin with an inversion table coupled with binaural beats (see below), then an hour session in the float tank. The inversion table is a great pre-stretch for your spine to aid relaxation when floating. If you've tried meditation before and did achieve relaxation, give it another try in a float tank. I've never had any out of body experiences or hallucinations that some people report. I just find the neutral floating position alleviates any muscle strain. The darkness and quietness clears distraction and the warmth is very relaxing. I've done it where I just let my mind wander and didn't get as much out of it as I did when I actively tried meditation. After an hour of meditative rest in the tank, I feel like I can take on anything. It's an amazing feeling. It's like a reset button that wipes the slate clean. Flotation REST has been well studied and proven a powerful tool for relaxation. This is a great article on the subject. Also, there is some research on the ability to absorb magnesium through the skin.

Binaural Beats -This might be the most obscure of the techniques and the one I was most skeptical about. Unfortunately, similar to the flotation therapies, there is a lot of over-hyping of effects. Results  such as pain reduction, lucid dreaming, hallucination and increased learning are often promised. I haven't experienced any of those. What I find is that creeping stress at work while I'm at a computer can be alleviated by listening to binaural beats under the podcasts I normally listen to. I don't find it's as impactful as the other techniques but it's something I can do while too busy doing other things. It gets me through till I can try something else. There is scientific research on the positive effects of binaural beats, so don't think it's all hogwash.

Art - Everything else I've mentioned I've posted research for. I could find a bunch of studies proving creating or experiencing art helps manage stress, but if you don't believe it all ready, then you've never tried it. I've used creating music, more than anything else in my life, to manage stress but I've also used drawing, calligraphy, carving, DIY projects. sewing and cooking. They all help and I have a blast doing them. If you aren't the creative type you can still enjoy others art. Listen to music, visit the art museum and galleries, or go to a live theater performance. Art is almost universal in having a positive impact. So, just keep it in mind when you are stressed that you might just need to unplug and experience some art to get back to baseline.

Exercise - Look, we all know that exercise is good for you. It's important. The best exercise is the one you will actually do. So stop saying you will do it and just do it all ready. OK, in a more practical sense, I encourage you to think outside the box. Many of the things you do everyday could also be exercise. Maybe just doing something manually, that is normally done by a machine, could provide you with some regular exercise and save you money.

Diet - I subscribe to the, eat more of the good things and less of the bad things diet with as much diversity as I can. The only point I want to make here is to list some things that help reduce stress hormones in your body and thus aid in dealing with stress: Food high in magnesium such as leafy green vegetables. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as nuts and fatty fish. Foods high in zinc such as pot roast, short ribs, oysters and green-beans. Foods high in antioxidants such as dark chocolate, black tea and fresh fruits...especially berries.

Supplementation - do some research and talk to your doctor about low gaba and it's effects on your mind and body. If you suffer from low gaba, there is a supplement that can help. Passion Flower or Maypop extract was shown in a 2001 study to be as effective as oxazepam (a benzodiazepine) in treating general anxiety disorder with very low to no side effects. A wider trial would need to be completed to confirm the results scientifically. I've been taking it recently and was able to pull out of a severe bout with anxiety but that's an anecdote not science.

Final disclaimer: I'm not telling you to rush out and try all these things...these are just the things I find that work for me and things I want to incorporate into the farm. Use this advice at your own risk!

Please, leave some feedback, I always love getting feedback.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cast Iron Cookware

I have a personal affinity for cast iron cookware that predates any of my farm aspirations. I've been using it for years and I wanted to share some of my tips for using cast iron.

Why cast iron?

  • Cost - It's cheap...not dollar store cheap, but cheap enough that the average person can pick up a good cast iron skillet for under $30 dollars.
  • Durability - A cast iron pan will outlive you, it will outlive your kids, it will outlive your grand-kids. Unless you smash it or bury it in the yard, it will pretty much last forever. Even if you burn the hell out of it on the stove, you can restore it to usable.
  • Safety -  Aluminum and non-stick pans have safety issues where unhealthy compounds can leak into your food...cast iron and stainless steel do not. If you want to read-up more on the health risks of different cookware materials I suggest you check out this article on WH Foods (one of my favorite sites) for more info.
  • Performance. Cast iron pans heat evenly and retain the heat after adding food to it. Food cooks more even and gets a better char or browning on it than in other pans. Since it's safe to use metal utensils with it, you can get rid of those awful plastic utensils.
  • Cleanup - Yes, there are different do's and don'ts with cast iron for cleaning (compared to other cookware), but as long as you take good care of your pans and don't burn things on the bottom you can just wipe the pan out with a clean towel and call it good.
  • Environmental Impact - Iron is abundant, so cast iron cookware isn't made of any exotic materials mined in a conflict zone by slave labor...it's end of life is to just oxidize into it's base minerals so there is no worry of it damaging the earth after humans have left the planet.
  • Versatility - I use my cast iron in the oven, on the stove, on a grill, on a campfire, & over a propane burner. You don't have to baby the pans. You can get your money's worth out of them. Use and abuse them and they'll not only take it, but beg for more.

Where do you get cast iron?

New

Cast iron pans are available new at most grocery stores, department stores, army surplus and Cracker Barrel restaurants. You can also get them online and there are plenty that can be ordered with Amazon Prime, to save on shipping something so heavy.

Lodge is the most popular and commonly carried brand out there. In fact, you might be hard pressed to find any other brand. They make good pans. Most of the cast iron I personally own are Lodge brand.

Used

Cast iron is what your great grandma cooked in and likely her grandma too and because it lasts forever you can find it used in a lot of places. Cast iron can be completely restored even if it is in pretty rough shape, so don't feel shy about getting a rusted up old pan...just drive a hard bargain and tune it up at home.

Craigslist - This is where you are most likely to find a lovingly cared for piece of cast iron. People don't usually list it for sale here unless they want it to go to a good home. So, if you want a pan that is all ready well seasoned, this might be your best bet.

Antique shops - There are certain really cool old pieces of cast iron that they just don't make anymore but there are plenty of them floating around and the antique dealers know how much people love it. No, it won't be cheap,,,but, for a truly unique and special piece for your collection it might be totally worth the price.

Thrift Store - I love thrift stores and they have cast iron on their shelves more often than you'd think. Check in from time to time and you might find one hell of a deal.

Taking care of cast iron

  There is another fantastic article by Paul Wheaton that details pretty much everything you'd ever want to know about taking care and restoring cast iron cookware. If you want to read that, check it out here.

Hope this gives you an idea as to why I love my cast iron so much. Drop a message below and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What Is Permaculture?

This question seems to taunt both aspiring and experienced permies alike and most of the time the answers I hear people give fumbles the ball. At least in my opinion.

Most peoples first impression of permaculture colours all their future views of it either positively or negatively. Some enter through urban permaculture where it seems mostly like a bunch of fancy gardening techniques. Some enter from a traditional large scale agriculture background and see it as a bunch of hippy ideas without a solid business plan. Some enter it as big eyed idealists that grab onto it as a silver bullet that will hopefully save humanity, proven or not.

The honest truth is that permaculture is all of these things and none of these things. When faced with most questions, a curious person asks about how permaculture relates to their specific situation, the cliche answer tends to be "It depends". What this answer really means is that when designing using permaculture, there isn't a recipe. The more factors that are taken into account,the better design it will ultimately be.

The problem is that this answer is ultimately unsatisfying to the person that asked the question. So I've been searching for a simpler and more concise answer than just "it depends" or the alternative hour long lecture involving an extensive history lesson. What I've come up with is "It's a design philosophy that aims to reintegrate humans into their ecosystem". If I lead with that answer to what permaculture is, following up with the specific questions with "it depends" has a natural tag of "if it meets the overall goal of integrating you into an ecosystem."

For example;
Q: "Can I do or use <anything> in my permaculture design."
A: "Yes, as long as it meets the overall goal of integrating you into an ecosystem. Each designer and user of a permaculture system gets to decide what meeting that goal ultimately looks like though. Therefore, it depends"

For 500 Year Farm that means creating a successful, regenerative and ecological business I can be proud of and hand down to the next generation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fun Day Program

This post is a continuation of the post "Dreaming Big" please read that to get the context behind this post.

Not everything on the farm has to be educational or work. Play is an important part of a healthy life and I want that sense of fun and wonder to be a strong part of the farm too. So, during this planing stage I've been coming up with ideas for fun events that could be done at the farm that would also keep the farm afloat and moving towards the ultimate goal.

  1. Archery - Let me just say I love shooting a bow. It feels like it's satisfying something very primitive in me. I also find the challenge and focus very relaxing. I suffer from anxiety and this is one of the ways to relieve some of that. I plan on covering more about my coping mechanisms and how they will relate to the farm in a future post. I think an archery range could be a permanent feature on the farm.
  2. Youth theme days - Summers are ripe for finding fun things for the liberated child to do and the possibilities on a farm are almost endless. Once we have horses we can easily do a fun filled Western Day with hay rides, horseback riding and a cook-out. In fact most historical periods could be tuned into a theme where activities could be put together that are fun, informative, creating and educational for children. I grew up around the Wheat Ridge Historical Society and have been participating in demonstrations of early American life since I could crawl on a blanket.
  3. Adult fun days - these could be themed like the youth fun days or based more around fellowship with other like minded people. Things such as local artisanal wine and cheese tastings or a local foods pot luck. Tons of possibilities.
  4. Family fun days - Something that is fun for the whole family should be given attention. Having lasting quality family time and experiencing something unique can last a lifetime and influence people more than any corporate advertising ever could.
    1. In the winter I've always dreamed of doing a holiday event including a  sleigh ride with hot chocolate and carols and all that sappy stuff I can't get enough of. It's the stuff I've dreamt about since I was a little aspiring farmer.
    2. A spring family fun day could be a geo-located scavenger hunt around the farm. I've actually done quite a bit of research on this as I had the idea of self guided farm tours early on. I think spending the day going from place to place and reading something fun and/or educational could be a fantastic family experience. The great thing about making it digital is that it can be customized based on you families ages so everyone gets something out of it.
    3. A great heat of the summer activity would be a water fight day, I don't have any idea why there aren't places you can go to have a good ol' fashioned water fight but it's a tragedy to the whole human race that there isn't. A friend of mine suggested even doing water refill stations with ecologically friendly and not toxic dyes of different colours for even more fun factor.
    4. For fall, a harvest festival is a time honoured farm tradition that would be a crime to break. Of course there would have to be a 500 year farm spin to it.
I could spend all day writing and dreaming about my ideas but I think that gives the gist of what I'm thinking.

I'd love to hear what you think, so please drop a comment.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Farm Work Program

Recently Paul Wheaton has posted a series of Podcasts where he has very candidly discussed the difficulties in dealing with people volunteering to work on his farm project in exchange for food and lodging. In addition a friend of mine went with his wife on a trip to go Woofing on two different farms. Their feedback has given me a lot to think about and plan for how I should deal with this on my farm.

The issues I intend to address with my program are thus;

  1. Getting farm work done without it being more of a burden on me than a benefit.
  2. Allow people who just want to visit or learn have that opportunity.
  3.  Let very motivated people have the opportunity to make a little income by working above and beyond.
  4. Prevent people who don't complete work or worse, don't do any work, from hurting the farm and the community around it. (Without just kicking them out)
  5. Let people with specific diets choose to eat or not without it being perceived as an unfair system.
I think the best way to keep people honest is to have a pay for services used and get paid for services you provide system. I think if you just want to do enough work to cover your expenses and learn a few things, the money should work out to a wash. If you don't want to do work then you should pay for expenses your presence causes. If you want to work on the farm as a career, even a low paying one, you should be allowed that opportunity.

All that being said, I'm not looking to make a bunch of money for the farm off a work program, the money is mostly there to keep people honest. If no one who is staying on the farm signs up to work, no big deal they just pay for the time their presence costs me. Simple.

First, the issue of lodging.

I feel this should be handled quite simply using AirBnB.

Keeping with my theme of not reinventing the wheel when it comes to doing things if I don't have to, I'd rather just let the professionals handle the lodging end of it. I can add a security deposit and they have a dispute resolution system so I can possibly get paid if they just show up and trash the place.

If you are just looking to do a little agrotourism, no biggy, just don't sign up to do any farm work.

If you want to do farm work but don't want to stay at the farm, no biggy, they are kept separate for a reason.

Second, the issue of food.

Keeping with the theme of only paying for the services you actually use, I will use a Google form system to allow people to choose the meals they are interested in eating on the farm with a set menu provided for each day in advance of their visit. That means there will be a fee for each meal and you choose to either eat the meal on that date or provide for yourself. A week or two prior notice would be required so supplies can be purchased and help in prep and cooking can be arranged.

This should allow people with allergies, diet restrictions and alternate food lifestyles to pick and choose meals and not feel unfairly treated when there isn't an option that meets their particular diet.

All meal fees will be paid in advance of your stay on the farm.

Third, Skilled work.

If you want an opportunity to learn and work on a specific area of the farm that requires some skill, such as caring for the chickens. A way to deal with the issue of people who want to learn but don't want to do the work needs addressed. Therefore any on farm work that requires a specific skill set will only be available for you to work if you have taken a class in that area through the farms educational program. After that, any work done in these areas will be paid either per project or per day.

If after taking the class, the work you perform is deemed to be unsatisfactory, then you will not be allowed to work in that area without special permission or retaking the class.

Again a Google form would be used to find out what work you are interested in and what classes you would need to take to do them. A few weeks to a month before your stay you will be sent a confirmation that you have been assigned that work and the classes will be available. This allows me to delegate the work evenly among the people who are on the farm that day and give you a chance to plan out your visit.

A web page with some general info on what the work will be like, what the expectations are, what constitutes completion of the work, how many hours the work will take, and what you should bring with you will be provided for each work area you've expressed interest in.

Fourth, Unskilled work.

If you don't want to have to take a class to cover the cost of your stay there will be farm chores made available to you. These chores won't be glamorous of course but without someone doing them I won't have to ability to scale the work program. These would be chores like, hauling material, emptying compost, recycling and trash receptacles, meal prep, ect. Not glamorous work but if you want to make the visit profitable or if your plans for doing other farm work don't pan out, it could save you coming up short on the trip.

Again, if the work you perform is deemed to be unsatisfactory, then you will not be allowed to work in that area without special permission or paying to take a remedial chores class where you will be shown how to do a good job at basic life skills.

This would be handled in conjunction with the skilled farm work so that each persons trip can be planned in advance.

Again, a webpage detailing expectations for these duties will be provided.

Fifth, Farm tours.

A weekend farm tour should be offered for people who really want to see the farm and ask all their burning questions about how everything works and why. This would take a couple hours and cost a nominal fee.

Sixth, Building Managers and Teachers.

For those that want to transition to a more permanent role in the farm, after so many hours at a specific work area and pending approval you would be offered the opportunity to either teach the classes, collecting the fee paid by the students, or become a manager and take over scheduling duties for that part of the farm.

This allows me to hand pick the hard workers to take over programs so I can build another.

So what would a few weekend scenarios look like?

Scenario One: The tourist;

You just want to visit the farm.

$10 for a campsite + ($5 per meal x 3 meals a day) + $15 Site Deposit that you get back because you were a cleanly guest.

$5 to take the farm tour.

$55 per person for a weekend stay with home cooked meals and a nice personal farm tour. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.

Scenario Two: The learner;

You want to learn some, work some, and cover your stay.

$25 per day for food and lodging.
$25 for a chicken care class.
$5 farm tour.

$80 charged for a weekend stay.

Paid $20 per day for two days to care for the chickens.
Paid $5 per day to help with trash duties.
Paid $5 per meal to help clean up.

$40 for taking care of the chickens.
$30 for helping clean up after each meal.
$10 for helping with trash at the end of the day.

$80  Paid for a weekend of work.

Scenario Three: The hard working cheapskate.

You surf a nearby friends couch, eat granola bars for every meal, and only take the chicken care class.

$25 charged for the weekend.

Paid $20 per day for two days to care for the chickens.
Paid $5 per day to help with trash duties.
Paid $5 per meal to help clean up.

$80  Paid for a weekend of work.

You walk away with a cool  $55 in your pocket.

Scenario Four: The burn out.

You have it in your head that the Leaner Scenario above is perfect for you but you've never tried anything like it before.

$25 per day for food and lodging.
$25 for a chicken care class.
$5 farm tour.

$80 charged for a weekend stay.

After one day of working with the chickens you decide that farm life isn't for you and you'd rather just hang out for the rest of the stay.

Paid $20 to per day for one day to care for the chickens.


It cost you $60 to learn that farming just isn't for you. You learned a lot and salvaged a nice weekend anyways while eating some decent food with pleasant people.

Conclusion:

Any left over money that this program would generate would go back into upgrades to the farms amenities and would thus improve the program as a whole.

I think this system is scalable, equitable and reasonable but I'd like to get any feedback you'd care to provide. Post a comment bellow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Education Program

My next idea for an income generator is an educational program. What I'm talking about specifically is hosting classes on a variety of topics, in a variety of ways for a reasonable fee.

Is this idea unique to me? Not at all. The inspiration for my education program comes from another small farmer, Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm, who's blog I read regularly. I first heard about her on The Survival Podcast and I've been following her ever since. I find her very inspirational. Please check her out if you get a chance. She hosts a variety of classes that are anything from just a few hours to multi-day events. She offers season passes to all her classes and even does an annual event that includes multiple classes, teachers and products from other local farms called Antlerstock.

So, I think I have a lot of skills that could be taught to others in half day, full day and multi-day classes.

  • Guitar camp (in full Jenna style of "stop talking about getting a guitar and do it all ready"), go home knowing how to play a full song. It would include the option of buying a beginner guitar from me that I've personally set up before the class with all the little accessories needed to get started.
  • Drums camp, same idea as the guitar class but starting out with just a practice pad and learning basic snare technique.
  • Mandolin camp, pretty much just like the guitar class.
  • Bass camp, could be integrated into the guitar class or as a class on it's own.
  • Spoon Carving, where we could do a whole spoon from log to finish. With the option of paying for all the tools and having them ready for you at the time of the class and ready to take home.
  • Rope work, learn how to tie knots, spice, back splices and seizing, go home with a beautiful custom lead rope or dog leash.
  • Building a worm bin. All tools and supplies provided to take home your very own worm bin and start vermicomposting.
  • Sour dough bread class, hands on baking with either you own starter or take home some of mine and a fresh loaf of bread.
  • Dog training, bring your dog and learn the skills to teach your dog to be a more integrated part of your family.
  • Introduction to brewing, take the fear out of making your first batch of beer or cider and take home your work to finish at home.
  • Hemp necklace, make something fun and decorative for yourself, someone one you love, or someone you like, even just if it's a little bit.
  • Up your grilling game by learning a variety of techniques to up your grilling game, lunch included of course.
  • Archery, always wanted to learn but don't know where to start? Did it as a kid and want to try again? Spend a fun day slinging arrows. Option to go home with your very own archery gear.
These are just the classes I think I can teach tomorrow with just the supplies needed for the projects. Actually having the land and some infrastructure opens up many more opportunities.

Jenna offers season passes that get you into all her classes at a discount. I like that idea and I also had the idea of offering credits at a discount and giving each class a credit value so people that want to take multiple classes can save some money if they aren't interested in a season pass.

I'd love to hear what you think about these and if you think you'd ever be interested in taking one, I'd just like to know to gauge reaction not so I can spam you with info.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Nursery

This post is a continuation of the series "Dreaming Big", If things don't make sense you might want to read that article first.
 
Why start with a nursery?
  • It makes effective use of the land right from the start. The last thing I want is for the land to sit idle.
  • It's a low cost business to get started. Yes, you can buy expensive equipment but that's more as the business scales larger. For a start, there are very few things needed to be successful. Especially if I don't take on debt to get the land.
  • The labor is mostly bench work to start, meaning I could likely do my grafts, rooting, sprouting, etc. during the week and take them to the land on the weekends and by making  effective use of passive watering systems I shouldn't have to worry about babysitting when I'm not on site.
  • Since I will be commuting to the land anyway, it might be possible to deliver plants personally without additional fuel costs.
  • It is a high demand business with a very wide market. I won't have to develop the market from scratch like I will with some things.
  • I can sell wholesale as well as direct without tons of legal hassle. This means that even if I don't get a premium price for wholesale, I can at least keep income coming in while I develop a direct market.
  • Trees can be potted and sold off site at farmers markets if time allows.
  • It's easy for people to support the farm by buying something local that you are likely going to buy anyway; and if you buy direct you might get it for around the same price you would pay anyway.
  • For people interested in helping with farm work, say an intern, the chores involved in a nursery are pretty strait forward for people to do without requiring a lot of training or prior skill. That means that no matter how many higher skill businesses we add, we always have a good place to put people that will actually help the farm; and gives them a feeling of being successful instead of throwing them in over their head and having them not enjoy the experience.
I've done a lot of thinking about what would be the best first business to build the backbone of 500 Year Farm on and I can't think of anything that would be a better fit than a nursery.

Much of my information on running a nursery comes from Grant Schultz from Varsaland and I encourage you to check up on his work. He is a fantastic resource.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dreaming Big

For the last two years I've been planning for the farm and that has helped me really spend quite a bit of time planning, researching and just plain dreaming about what the farm is going to look like. I think it's been good for me to have a long planning period and has helped me find a clearer vision and will hopefully allow me to hit the ground running when we do buy land.

What I'd like to do is throw out some of my "in a perfect world" dream plans even if they never make it to reality on the actual farm. I'm going in order I'd like to get them done.

  • Launch an on-line store for my hand made products.
  • Start a 500 Year Farm podcast.
  • Start a 500 Year Farm Youtube channel.
  • Buy the land.
  • Plop a cheap and quick structure on it, the biggest candidate being a prefab shed. Something I could use as a make shift cabin on weekends while getting things started and store things in when I'm not there.
  • Start building a nursery. It's about the lowest risk business I can have on the farm. It doesn't require a lot of capital or infrastructure. I can work on it just on weekends without having to live on the land first. Even if nothing sells, I can use the unsold stock on the farm. There are opportunities for covering the startup costs of the nursery with propagation workshops if I partner with a qualified instructor.
  • Begin work on the keylines and swales for the property. It's better to get this done before things get too established and in the way. It's also the time when it will cost the least to complete. Again, opportunities to supplement the costs with workshops and partnering with other permaculture programs for this.
  • Work with an existing holistic pasture manager that is looking to lease land to start restoring the land and generating a small amount of income. More workshop opportunities.
  • Find a local naturally managed bee keeper who could place some hives on the farm in exchange for a portion of the honey, pollen, bee's wax and propolis collected. The first opportunities for a value added products from the farm.
  • Start construction of the first permanent building on the property, the family house. It's the largest capital cost. It will take the most time and labor to finish. It doesn't make any money for the farm. However, without it, I'm very limited in the other income generating things I can do. Costs could be brought down again with workshops if the right relationships are developed with qualified natural building instructors. Also, a possibility for a crowd funding campaign.
  •  Start an education program to teach skills I have, bring in reliable income and get people to come to the farm. Again, opportunities to pair with other instructors.
  • Start a fun day on the farm program to bring in income and get people to come to the farm.
  • Start a breeding program for work dogs. This fulfills three niches; I love working with dogs, it generates income, the dogs will work on the farm.
  • Start with small livestock, chickens to begin with, to creating annual and perennial food systems. Workshops abound here.
  • Start selling farm produced products at farmers markets.
  • Shift grazing program to be managed in house with our own livestock.
  • Find a local leather crafter to partner with to create unique leather products from animal hides.
  • Develop a natural fiber program.
  • Bring horses onto the farm. It's my wife and daughters dream to own horses, they can be used as work animals on the farm, they supplement the grazing program, and Colorado has a robust industry of equine activities for leisure that could bring enough income to cover their cost.
  • Find a local farm to table, nose to tail, restaurant to partner with to do on the farm dinning nights.
  • Build a smokehouse.
  • Build a few tiny cabins on the farm for interns and tourism.
  • Start a relaxation and wellness program.
  • Develop a commercial kitchen. Either on site or mobile food truck.
  • Stop going to farmers markets and only sell on farm, on the web.
  • Develop a PDC program.
  • Develop a local delivery program.
  • Develop a forestry product program.
  • Develop a nano bakery.
  • Develop a nano brewery.
  • Develop a nano dairy.
  • Buy more land and expand.
I view my roll in each step as the person who launches each new aspect of the business then it's important to find or develop a manager to take over responsibilities.

I'm sure I forgot some things, I'm sure some things will never happen but there it is. The 10,000 foot view of 500 Year Farm as right now.

I'd love to hear your feedback. Please, post a comment. Don't forget to check out my music either.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Website

I'm trying to be more proactive with my preparations for the farm. Ultimately the farm is a business and like all modern businesses requires an on-line presence. That's what I've been starting to set up with 500yearfarm.com. I've been working on the logo for a while now and I'm very pleased with how it turned out. It's my take on a Celtic tree of life and I think has some deeper meanings in it relating to the vision of the farm that I won't go into right now but suffice to say I do think it reflects on my personality and long term goals.

I guess people who actually know what they are doing would call all this branding, but I like to call it putting a personal touch on my life's dream. I want everything relating to the farm to show my personality as much as I can without clobbering people over the head with it.

I'm trying to strike a balance with being open and honest about the process so others get a clear idea of what is going on and not overwhelming future clients and customers with too much boring facts and figures. In that effort you will notice on the about page a graphic at the bottom showing the current level of funding for the farm. That should be enough to keep people up to date on where I'm at for funding without constant updates here on the blog. I'll try and think of other creative ways of keeping everyone up to date without throwing out too many facts and figures. Hopefully others can use this info as a path to follow or, perish the thought, avoid.

The rest of the post is really only for the dedicated few or the tragically curious so if that isn't you, feel free to skip the rest but it would be nice to get some feedback on the website. So please, click around and see what you think. Sign up for the mailing list if you are so inclined and if not, I hope eventually I'm able to get something on the page that garners your interest. There is much more planned so check back from time to time and you might be surprised.

<begin nerd talk>
On the technical side, I've decided I want as little to maintain as possible with respect to the website while not giving up any of the functionality I think I will need in the long term. What I've decided to do is keep my work focused on integrating the site with other services that do a better job than I ever could at providing a usable site on the front end or the back end. The web has reached a state where the services available for free that don't require self host are really amazing. So I'd rather leverage their large development teams rather than rely on my constantly dwindling free time. I want the website to be clean, functional and most of all maintainable. I think it's a very permaculture design approach. The services are like very well adapted plants that can do the work so I can find other things to soak up my time and attention.

The services currently on the site are Google's Blogger, obviously for the blog,  and Mail Chimp for the mailing list.

I also have an on-line store at the ready to sell hand carved spoons and anything else I can think of to help fund the farm. I'm just waiting to finish a run of spoons I've been working on. This is using Square, I'm sure you've seen their stuff at farmers markets, and they have some very simple integration that looks nice and makes things very easy for me to manage and people to buy things, on the website itself or in person.

I'm also working on a Google Calendar powered events calendar but I'm not totally happy with the integration and I don't currently have anything to add to it. So, I won't be rushing that out any time soon. I found a javascript API that look hopeful but will require more research before I can say for sure that's the way I'll be going.

Eventually I plan on adding an audio podcast and Youtube video channel.

I also need to set up some social media accounts specific to the farm and get links added to the site.

</end nerd talk>

Friday, February 13, 2015

500 Year Farm Manifesto Part 5

Human created climate change is a reality and we are all ready facing the consequences of it. I'm not going to lay down the arguments for it's voracity. I accept this reality even if dear reader doesn't. I feel we have postponed action to reduce carbon emissions in the hopes that some magic technological bullet would be developed to keep us from having to face the reality of using dead dinosaurs to make our modern lives possible.
The modern food systems uses carbon from oil to operate the machines that plow the ground, plant the seeds, harvest, process and ship it to your super market. More carbon is used in the store and by the consumer to purchase and transport it home. Oil derived chemical fertilizers are sprayed on the crops and machinery uses more to spray chemical pesticides and herbicides on the crops. The list seems almost never ending. All to deliver food of dubious quality.
The local food movement is a good start to helping short cut many of the steps involved. By eating local and in-season people are drastically reducing the amount of carbon required to deliver food to their plate. The goal of the 500 Year Farm is to directly market it's food to local consumers and restaurants and to provide nursery stock of locally adapted species of plants and animals to urban homesteaders. This not only reduces carbon usage but insures a more stable and resilient food economy.
Reduction isn't the solution to all the carbon problems, we've gone too far down the road for that. We now need to put carbon back into the ground in order reverse the effects of modern society on the earth. Using the ground breaking work of Alan Savory and his development of holistic pasture management techniques, 500 Year Farm will put more carbon into the ground, doing it's part in preventing and reversing man made desertification, helping restore the lungs of the planet.
Also, taking advantage of technologies that use resources efficiently, like rocket mass heaters, and low carbon building techniques will be employed to ensure the farms long term resiliency.      

500 Year Farm Manifesto Part 4

Time to address ethics and how they apply to my philosophy of food production.
Ethics can be a strange beast to cover, especially as they apply to food and food production. Some think ethics are subjective, others think they are part of greater belief systems up to and including formalized beliefs in the form of an organized religion. I want, dear reader, to be assured, that my view of food ethics lay much more in scientific understanding than in a higher power. My own personal ethics stem from how I perceive life and the world around me through the lens of scientific reasoning.
The most ethical food systems, at least in my opinion, are the ones that originated out of our evolutionary history. We didn't appear on the earth out of no where. We are not, as some believe, aliens to this world, who's lot is to throw natural systems into chaos and destruction. We evolved as a part of an ecosystem. We, at least at some point in our history, where as important to a natural ecosystems survival as the grasslands and savannas we evolved out of. Where we went astray, as I see it, was when we stopped participating in the ecosystem and started dominating it with technology. Now, I'm certainly not saying that we need to go back to living in small villages in the subtropical regions of the world, far from it in fact What I'm saying is that we can use our scientific understanding of ecology and biology to create constructed ecosystems that feed humans in as close to balance with nature as possible.
So, if we are to start constructing an ecosystem around humans, we first must identify our role in it. Looking at the conclusions drawn by anthropology and paleontology we see that humans have likely been omnivorous for around 3.5 million years. This means that humans have evolved over that time to eat both plants, mostly succulents and fruits, as well as meat. I have heard some argue that humans began eating meat around the same time we discovered how to create and manage fire for cooking the meat. However, there is no current evidence of this speculation. As far a science is concerned, there is nothing to prove we cooked our meat until around 800,000 years ago. Our eating of meat seems rather to coincide with our use of tools, namely flinted stone knives. To me, this makes our role in our ecosystem as an omnivorous alpha predator and that as far as science is concerned it is part of our evolutionary history, and there for ethical, to eat meat. What I would call the line between ethically eating meat and unethically eating meat is by judging if the animals being preyed upon are living a life cycle that is at least as humane as their natural, wild one would be or, more ideally, better.
Now ecosystems rarely have one predator in them, but rather a few that compete for resources and occasionally prey on each other. Where I would put non scientifically based ethics into my constructed ecosystem would be to say that one rule is that, no humans should die or come to harm in any way from it. That is of course unnatural to evolutionary history but one I don't find much objection to from pretty much anyone. One way we can simulate a more balanced ecosystem, however, is by using domesticated predators, the most common of whom we likely convolved in a symbiotic relationship with, e.g. the domesticated dog. I also see a valuable role for the domesticated cat in this ecosystem. The dogs role is to provide protection for this protected ecosystem from outside predator pressure who's role belongs in a totally natural environment and not this constructed one. The cats role is to prey on non-predatory animals who humans would not themselves view as food. Together these predators round out the closest approximations we can make for a full compliment of predatory animals.
If we are to have prey for our predators, or for the sake of lessening confusion, livestock, we need to also provide, through as natural a means as possible, the sources for their diet as well. An ethical ecosystem as I see it can not rely on inputs from outside sources indefinably otherwise we can never achieve a balance that allows the ecosystem to survive during our hypothetical goal of 500 years.
We do have to make some concessions in order to achieve our goal, there are compromises to be made in order to be realistic but the fewer compromises we make the more resilient and less vulnerable this constructed ecosystems is as a whole.
To summarize this writing, ethical food is one that exists in some sort of balance with it's ecosystem and barring catastrophic outside forces will survive indefinitely.

500 Year Farm Manifesto Part 3

Now it's time to address the second issue I brought up in the first post. A lack of access to healthy foods.
Now I wouldn't say that I live in a food desert, in fact, in many respects I'm quite lucky. We have access to the cheap stuff, the better stuff and the good stuff, also we do have a local farmers market. What I've found so unsatisfying with the food supply is that I don't know how the food is produced. Sure, you can put an "Organic" sticker on something and I at least know something about the food. I still have questions, I still have concerns and while this sticker might be enough for some people, for me it more than falls short. I don't agree that organic is the bar our food should work towards, at best for me it's more of a "better than nothing" proposition. There is a miss-association of the word sustainable and organic. There is nothing about organic food that makes it sustainable in any way. It is better than corporate chemical agriculture, but let's be honest that isn't saying much. Our local farmers market doesn't have anything that bares the "Organic" monicker and when asked they simply say no and aren't real interested in talking about their farming practices.
Our first world society has lost touch with producers of food. There isn't an actual free market in food and that is because we lack choice. The corporate take over of the food supply chain has been so effective and complete that it effectively created a single way of doing things and left consumers with no other options. There isn't pressure with regards to food production to allow consumers to make reasonable decisions on what they eat. I have one non organic farmers market with one producer selling vegetables. My only other options are the same sources that are everywhere. Yes there are a few CSA programs that can deliver near me, but you have to pick up on their schedule, the prices are fixed no matter what is in season, you don't get any choice, they don't provide food year round and are easily 4 times more expensive than even the most expensive organic brands. Even if those where not these issues, a CSA doesn't mean that I can feel any better about how the food was grown because I don't have enough competing choices to pick the one that best align with my values when it comes to food. Not to mention, so far, I'm only talking about vegetables. I think I'll save protein production for the post about ethically produced food.
The only solution to this for me is, instead of complaining about the lack of choice, create it. I'd rather be a producer than a whiner. I'm really trying to live my ethics and be the change I want to see in the world and while I'm not there yet, I'm working every day towards making it a reality.

500 Year Farm Manifesto Part 2

In this post I intend to cover the selfish reasons for wanting a farm.
The first and foremost, I want to do something where I can be in complete control of what is going on. I loved that about gardening as a child. I used to take care of most of my parents large suburban yard that included many fruit trees as well as rose gardens and a small vegetable garden. I also did some work with a friend of the family that had goats. I loved the sense of accomplishment and rewarded for hard work.
When I started as a pipefitter I loved he feeling of reward I got from accomplishing something with my two hands and hard work. As my career has progressed I got farther away from that and the sense of accomplishment. As I've grown older I've wanted to do something more for myself, a "be my own boss" sort of thing. I've always though at some point I'd become an entrepreneur and I've looked int o many paths for this. I've always come back to wanting to do the more basic things I love. I love working hard and the feeling of accomplishment just about as much as I like the reward of growing and raising my own food. So, I do view the farm as a selfish act. If we are to dream, why shouldn't we be selfish? After all, happiness is a choice and we can choose to do the things that make us happy.
I wouldn't change anything related to my life up to now, it has giving me loads of useful skill I wouldn't have gotten otherwise and it fed my family. I'm always pushing to learn how to do more and to challenge and refine my world view. I appreciate the people I've met, worked with and learned from very much. I don't think 18 year old me, given all the necessary resources, could have handled all the things required to make a farm successful. I needed to be pushed to learn the things I did in the way I did. What I hope more than anything is that use what I've learned to achieve my ultimate dreams. Namely building 500 Year Farm.

500 Year Farm Manifesto Part 1

I think when I say to most people that I want to have a farm, their eyes glaze and they think of corn farmers and assume I'm simply out of my mind. If I explain something about holistic pasture management, they assume I really meant I was going to be a cattle rancher, or a pig farmer, or a sheep herder or what ever animal I've used to illustrate a point. If I happen to talk about food forestry, they assume I'm going to run an orchard. The issue is that I've never given a complete vision of what it means to me to have a farm.
I hope to complete a series of blog posts that address this issue for those that are interested, and I will call this 'The 500 Year Farm Manifesto'.
This, the first post in the series, will be about the problems that I see and wish to solve with my farm.
The first problem I have is that, while I do enjoy my career in the piping industry, I don't see it as ultimately fulfilling. I've always dreamed of self sufficiency; I've always loved nature and I've always had a very close relationship with animals. All things that are not completely fulfilled in my current life. I listened to a podcast recently where they introduced me to a person that asked people at the end of their life what their biggest regret was and the top two where 'living the life others wanted me to lead instead of the life I wanted.' and 'realizing that happiness is a choice.'
These have stuck with me and have been a sentiment driving my thoughts as of late. Therefore, I'll call problem #1 'not living my life as I've always wanted to'.
The second problem as I see it is a lack of access to a healthy diet, in my area and generally all over the world. When I originally started trying to eat healthy, I did a ton of research on what eating healthy means. This is a very hard topic to cover and I'm not sure anyone really agrees on it at all. I won't dive into how I came to these conclusions but I will give my conclusion, it is almost impossible to get the level of quality food I would like to eat in the quantity that I can feed my family for a price that I can afford without producing the food myself. Therefore, I'll call problem #2 'lack of access to healthy food.'
The third problem, in my opinion, is how ethically produced our available food has been. This of course is probably the most subjective of all the issues I'm listing but I can't discount the emotions that drive this for me. We have gotten so far away from natural ecosystems that modern agriculture and meat production could now only be describes as abusive. Abusive to the planet, abusive to the species we use, abusive to our bodies and abusive to our economy. I will likely expand on this at some point but lets call this one 'lack of ethical food.'
To continue, the fourth problem, in my opinion, is the overuse of dead dinosaurs. That is specifically oil and oil based products. From the chemical fertilizer that is spread on the fields, to the fuel burned to ship and truck our food from all over the world, plus that to get the food, and cook the food, the amount of carbon involved in the modern food system is staggering. We are putting more carbon in the air than we are in our soil and bodies. This is one of the most destructive problems I see. Thus it is 'too much carbon being used.'
In the following posts I will be expanding on these concepts.

Where do we stand.

I hate it when I hear of an interesting project and then never get any updates. It makes it feel like the project has, like they often do, died with not even a whimper left behind. But fear not my faithful reader, the dream is alive and well.

As stated in my previous post we are in the saving phase of the plan. The goal of $100,000 is a bit  daunting I must admit, and if not for my mindless optimism it would feel almost impossible to achieve. This may still hold true. So far I have socked away a little over $4,000 which means I'm behind target for my savings goals so far. I had hopped to be closer to $10,000 at this point but I also knew that at this point it was pretty unrealistic. I have however made some reasonably prudent investments and earned myself a nice return on this money, currently hovering somewhere between $300-$400 or 8%-10%. While this doesn't mean I'm ready to dole out the cash for a large tract of land at the moment, it does mean that I'm firmly in the habit of stashing money away where and when I can.

I do have a few ideas on how to earn a little more extra side cash and more will be revealed when they are ready as most of it amounts to just throwing out ideas rather than cold calculated strategy.

I am making an effort to be fairly transparent about money for the project to encourage others, and hopefully not discourage, with real world numbers rather than after the fact estimations.

(Posted originally on 6/1/2013)

500 Year Farm

In my post about my 500 year plan I talked a little at how I arrived at my dream but I didn't really spell out what that plan is. This post is to clarify what I want to do.

Step 1: Buy land in Colorado.

The ideal would be 80 acres but anything over 20 acres would fit my plan just not on the scale I was hoping for. I would prefer to have some water rights that would allow me to build ponds but that can be difficult in Colorado, though not impossible. I don't really care if the land has existing infrastructure other than it needs to have relatively close electrical hook up and be within a 30-45 minute drive of the Denver Metro area as that's a large part of my business plan. Something with some texture to the land would be best, e.g.:A bit of rock, a bit of hill, some valley, some elevation. Some existing forest or woodlot would be awesome. The most important part would be the ability to pay cash for the land so the cheaper the better $50,000 - $70,000 would be ideal and $100,000 as the top of my budget.

Step 2: Housing

Establish low cost short term housing on the land. The most likely candidate right now would be a single wide trailer. The important parts being enough room for the family to live for 2-5 years comfortably,  low cost, and as little set up labor as possible. Again this housing would need to be paid for in cash. If I don't get banks involved, it takes the pressure off being profitable in the first year. I just need to break even and provide food for the family as I build up things on the farm to provide the stable income. This is important in eliminating the monthly rent we are currently paying to free that up to pay for farming projects as soon as possible.

Step 3: Complete earthworks

A large part of what I want to achieve will require shaping the land to maximize it's water usage and topsoil creation. Terracing, Hugelkulture, ponds and swales, as well as key-line plowing will turn the land into a carbon capturing, soil building machine that will outlast many generations. This is something that only has to be done once.

Step 4: Short term food production

Using the Hugelkulture beds and possibly a small greenhouse to begin growing enough annual and perennial food grown in poly-culture as possible for immediate use by my family with a hope of enough surplus to sell and begin building a client base.

Step 5: Begin Building a Food Forrest

This will happen alongside step 4. Using small herds and flocks of chickens, goats, and pigs to start building the land. Chicken are my tillers, pigs my plows and goats my brush hogs. I will be  following their work with cover cropping and then planting what will become the over story of a food forest.

Step 6: Food Truck

This is where I plan on providing the majority of income for the farm and why I want to be close to Denver Metro. I want to change the world by knocking down the barrier between people and their food. I believe availability of local in season food isn't the only thing standing in the way of the "Eat Local" food movement. People go to a farmers market, buy a bunch of veggies, get them home, don't know how to prepare them and they rot in the fridge while they eat fast food. I think people are so separated from their food now that unless it's on their plate it doesn't matter how good it is for the planet or their health, or how tasty it is. People have forgotten how to eat anything other than boneless skinless chicken breast in a prepackaged and pre-seasoned microwave pouches with a side of macaroni and cheese. I want to not only produce amazing food, but I want to deliver food experiences for people that changes the way they look at their food. I don't want to mimic what a grocery store has and try to compete just on quality. I want people to get back to eating whats growing right now, right here and wasting as little of an animal as possible. I want to use the food truck to provide lunches, produce, and meat to places around Denver. Meals that show how to eat seasonal, from a local farm that produces food that benefits the earth, the farmer, and the consumer. Guilt free food that tastes amazing. The food truck gives me a certified commercial kitchen letting me turn everything the farm produces into a salable product that blows away anything else you can get. With modern technology I can reach out to customers using Facebook and Twitter, process credit/debit cards on site, update people on what's ready that day and get it to them in the most convenient way possible.

Step 7: Building Long Term Housing

Once the farm is profitable, I want to build an earth friendly, high efficiency house that can be handed down for generations without draining the planet of endless resources. Other structures should be constructed too. I'd love to have small cottages on the farm for people to stay in as well as some meeting areas for various events.

Step 8: Refine and Enjoy

Once the major projects are finished the rest is making year after year improvements to get more diversity and better output. The great thing about permaculture is that it strives to let nature do as much of the work as possible and overtime just enjoying the farms outputs. It's never going to be easy, but it shouldn't be slave labor either.

So, is this exactly what's going to happen, probably not. I've left out all the hard work, money, and time that will be required as well as the luck aspect. The thing about planning is being flexible, like a reed in the wind, bending but not breaking. This is how I see things now, it could change tomorrow, in a week, a month, a year, 20 years, or 500 years. But I have a plan and I'm laser focused on it now.

My 500 Year Plan

Life is funny. There is almost no way to know what you will want out it when you start down the path of life, sometimes you get most of the way down a path just to find a fork that takes you in a totally new direction. Even if you know the fork is ahead there is almost no way to know what it is you choose until you are looking down both paths. OK, enough soliloquy.

It's been more than two years now that I've been interested in something called Permaculture. When I fist heard about it I knew I felt right away like I had found a missing piece of my life.

Since I was little I have dreamed of self sufficiency. I have always been interested in doing things myself, how things work and how to make things better. I've been obsessed with researching "perfect solutions" and making things from "scratch" most of my life. If I had to pinpoint the first thing that awakened this for me it would be when I read The Cay at around age 9 or 10. It's a book about survival where a privileged young white kid and a black man survive a ship wreck and the kid overcomes his prejudice. Next was the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen where a boy survives on his own after a plane crash leaves him stranded in the wilderness.After these was a book my brother turned me on to called  My Side of the Mountain where a boy runs away from his life to survive in the woods on his own. Added to this list has to be a book my mother got me that I was obsessed with called Diary of an Early American Boy that highlighted the many skills required to survive in America's earliest days. My Mother was involved heavily in the "Wheat Ridge Historical Society" and I fell in love with traditional life skills. On television I loved watching the PBS show "The Woodwright's Shop" that detailed traditional woodworking skills; my favorite episode being where he builds his own log cabin from scratch. PBS sparked another love for me of BBC comedies, one of my favorites being a show called "Good Neighbors" where a suburban English couple drop out of corporate life to turn their suburban home into a self sufficient homestead.  As I got older more and more things added to this obsession such as the PBS documentary "Alone in the Wilderness" a true story of a man who builds his own log cabin in the backwoods of Alaska and lives in it with a minimum of resources. When survival programming went mainstream I idolized "Survivorman" Les Stroud and to a much less extent Bear Grylls and his show "Man vs. Wild".

Another thing that caught my imagination as a child was gardening, my dad built me a small garden plot next to my mom's rock garden in our back yard when I was about 7 or 8. My mom contributed to my project by buying me Kids Gardening: A Kid's Guide to Messing Around with Dirt, a book that came with seeds and a plastic trowel. I followed the directions and grew a very small crop of vegetables. When I was about 12 I started taking care of the lawn and gardens around the house. I went to the garden center every year and helped my mom pick out plants for the various gardens. I turned over the soil and planted annuals and tended perennials. I came home every day from school and hand watered the various plants around the house till the yard took on an amazonian quality.

So, when I came upon Permaculture and the community around it felt like I had found the culmination of many life long passions. Permaculture, for the uninitiated, is a design philosophy, that is applied to designing ecological systems. Breaking down the jargon, it's a way to plan out a garden, farm, ranch or anything that provides output for human use in a way that mimics natural ecosystems and creates something that, more than sustainable, is restorative to the environment.

This brings me to my 500 year plan. I've talked with my wife many times in our 15+ year relationship about legacy, that I've always wanted to build something for my family that lives on generation after generation. Until I found Permaculture I didn't know what that something was. Now I know what I want. My wife is finishing college, so right now it's all planning. After she finishes school we move into the saving phase, then onto the action phase. I want to create a farm that provides as diverse an output as possible with as much biodiversity as possible. I don't want rows of crops, I want to create a managed land that will output food and income for the next 500 years. Something that the word "Sustainable" doesn't ever get used to describe. I want something that every year makes the land better than the year before.

So, if anyone asks me how my plan is going, I'll simply reply, "ask me in 500 years!"