How To Build My 50 Dollar Greenhouse-Hoop House Greenhouse



The planning is over and construction on my hoop house greenhouse has begun.  I’ve rounded up all of the materials and it looks like I’m going to end up with about $50 in a 165 square ft. green house. Granted I already had most of the materials because I’m an incorrigible pack rat, but even if I had bought everything new just for this polytunnel It would still only come to about $120 $150 – less than a dollar per square ft.  Due to the fact that we are in the midst of a global economic meltdown, and the future is a bit uncertain keeping the cost of this project as low as possible is an important consideration.

After some research I’ve decided to build the structure of the hoop house out of 20 ft. joints of three quarter inch PVC plumbing pipe.  Some similar greenhouse designs that I’ve run across use 10 ft joints of pipe and then fasten everything together with pipe fittings, but I’m saving quite a bit of cash with the long joints of pipe and by not using any fittings – also overall simplicity is improved.  There is one thing though, you can carry 10 ft joints of pipe in the mini van, but hauling 20′ pipe requires a truck and preferably a ladder rack.  However, you could just cut them in half right at the home improvement store and then put them back together when you get home with the coupling that is built into one end of the 20′ long pipe joints – 10′ pipe joints don’t have the built in couplers – just go to the home improvement store prepared with a saw or pipe cutter.


My hoop house green house is going to be 11 feet wide and 15 feet long, and will be about seven and a half feet tall in the center.  You could make one of these as long or as short as you want, but using this design the width needs to be between 10-12 feet.  11 feet wide just happpened to work out with the layout of my garden which has 3 foot wide beds with 5 ft paths between (the wide paths are so that I can keep it tidy with my riding lawn mower) so eleven feet covers two beds and the path between them.  This width also makes the sides go fairly straight up from the ground for the first few feet – I’ve noticed that in some hoop house / polytunnel designs the outer edges are almost unusable because of the slope of the greenhouse sides.

If your Greenhouse is too Flat it will collapse!

You might be tempted to make your greenhouse wider and lower at this point to get more floor space out of it – but be careful.  If you have snow in your area it will slide off of a high peak a lot better than it will if your greenhouse has more of a flattened shape – and the same goes for heavy rains.  If your hoop house shape is too flattened it will cave in the first time it snows or rains really hard!

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I decided to begin the construction by building the end walls first – even though it would be more fun to throw up the main structure in just an hour or so and make a big showing of progress, I think that in the long run it will be quicker and easier to build the end frames first on my garage floor.


I temporarily attached a joint of pipe to a piece of 1×4 to establish the outline. You might be tempted to make your greenhouse wider and lower at this point to get more floor space out of it – but be careful. If you have snow in your area it will slide off of a high peak a lot better than it will if your greenhouse has more of a flattened shape – and the same goes for heavy rains. If your greenhouse is to flattened it will cave in the first time is snows or rains really hard!

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Pre-drill the pipe and use one screw so that the pipe can swivel to whatever angle it naturally aligns to. For now just let the wood “run wild”

I used pressure treated lumber for much of the polytunnel end frames even though I usually try to avoid treated wood in the garden.  In this case I think it’s called for or else the greenhouse probably wouldn’t last more than 2-3 years without rebuilding the frame.  In any event I’ll try to keep it off of the soil as much as possible.


Build the rest of the frame to accommodate the door size that you want to use. My door will be 5 feet wide, but in most cases 3′ wide would be adequate.If you want a  permanant greenhouse or you live where you will ever get more than an inch of snow you should use “two by” lumber instead of “one by” that is shown here.

READ-The Best 8 Simple But Sure Steps To Miracle Farms : How You Make a Living From a 4 Acre Permaculture Orchard (photo & video)

Leave the piece that runs across the bottom of the door in place for now.  Once everything is set in place it will be easy to cut out with a hand saw.



Mark the final outline once the wooden parts are assembled. Watch out for that screw when you saw to the line!


Now just trim to the line – I used a reciprocating/sabre saw, but you could also use a hand saw or circular saw if it’s all you have. Just make a straight cut in about the right place.

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Now re-attach the pipe to the outside of the frame. I used screws and wire ties because I’m a belt *and* suspenders kind of guy.

The end wall frames ended up being reasonably light and very rigid. BTW, you might notice that the second one is different (simpler) from the first because this is a learn-as-I go process. Both of them work fine though.


Back side of the green house end frame

MUST READ–How to Build an EarthShip: Step-by-Step (Video) – 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are Freakin’Awesome!0Notice that the plastic that will be the roof and sides of your greenhouse are going to fold over the ends and staple to the wooden parts. If you don’t have enough wooden structure in the ends you won’t be able to fasten the plastic and you will have trouble with it coming lose when the wind blows – and during heavy rain or snow you will be more likely to have problems with the very top sagging and holding water (or snow). If the top sags, it holds water, that makes it heavy and it sags more, then it holds more water… eventually it collapses. You don’t want that

This is the front side because it is all on one plane so that the plastic skin will lay flat on it. The back side has reinforcement gussets that stick out.

And Now for the Plastic

The plastic sheeting that I’m using is plain old non-UV stabilized 6 mil “clear” plastic sheeting from the lumber yard.  There is exactly one  reason that I am using this particular variety instead of special polytunnel / greenhouse plastic – it’s what I have.  I cut a 22′ piece off of a 100′ x 20′ roll that I already had (I’m a contractor) which was about $90 for the roll – so in essence I used about $22 worth of plastic sheeting after you apply the 10% TN sales tax. Had I ordered real green house plastic from a similar sized piece of 6 mil plastic would have been about $71 with shipping. The real deal would no doubt last much longer than the “visqueen” that I’m using, and also probably has better thermal and light transmittance.

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If all goes well maybe I’ll get some of that next year. Also, It’s hard to buy large pieces of heavy duty plastic like this without buying a whole roll, so unless you know a contractor or Mom and Pop hardware store that will cut you a piece you might really be better off ordering some of the good stuff.  On the other hand a big roll of plastic sheet is one of those things that comes in awfully handy some times.

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I just rolled the plastic out on the frame… Notice the falling leaves – I’m racing against fall weather with this project.


and cut it off nice and clean with a sharp utility knife. A scrap of wood to cut over and a sharp knife make this much easier


after stapling the plastic to the front, flip the frame over and fold over the plastic and staple it to the back. Just fold the excess together as you go. Fold in the direction that will be down so that condensation won’t collect under the folds.

Cut the plastic out of the door opening – leave enough to fold double before stapling it to the frame. Notice the cuts back to the corners of at the top.

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Mark out the locations of the door sides on the ground, and drive fence posts or long pieces of rebar at the sides of the door frame.

If you have much wind I would recommend using steel fence posts or rebar that is at least 5/8″ diameter in these spots. My fence posts don’t match because they’re left overs from previous projects – remember, I’m on a tight budget!


Check the fence posts for plumb and bend them a little if they need straightening.

Tie the hoop house end frames to the fence posts with wire ties, wire or rope.

The humongous wire ties made this really quick easy and strong, but If I didn’t already have them I would just use “baling” wire, and it would work as well.

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Once the end frames are in place pull a string to line up the stakes for the ribs.


Drive rebar pins every 3 feet to secure the intermediate ribs…

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At this point it takes about 2 minutes to install the pvc pipes for the intermediate ribs – and the polytunnel takes shape. For a stronger, more permanant structure use more ribs and put them closer together – or even use larger pipe. I haven’t tried it but I bet you could use up to 1 1/2″ pipe – although you might have to bend it into shape on a warm day.


As you can see it’s getting dark, and I’ll have to finish this later.  Total time invested so far is about 2 1/2 hours.  I believe that taking the greenhouse down next summer, and re-assembling it in the fall will probably only take an hour or so, but I guess I’ll see about that.


Since the site location where I’m building my greenhouse isn’t all that level I had to raise up one side of the end frames with some 2x6s that I ripped to fit – later I cut the tail off where it sticks out toward the fence.  Also notice that this means that the PVC pipes that are the intermediate ribs are too low where they hit the ground…

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So I extended them with some scraps of PVC conduit that I had – I never throw anything away. BTW, the gray PVC conduit is sunlight resistant unlike the white – although somewhat more expensive and is less expensive! If you want to do a really good job you could use it instead.  You should probably use the gray conduit instead of the white pipe that I used. You could even opt for schedule 80 conduit which is much thicker if you wanted to go whole hog, or if you needed to make a structure that is sturdier, more permanent or wider.


If you live where it snows or even rains very hard– You need to add a 2″ pvc pipe to the very top of the frame like this:


This 2″ PVC ridge on TOP of the frame keeps the plastic from sagging in snow or hard rain and prevents from collapsing.

I ran a screw up through the ribs into the 2″ ridge pipe, but I also tied a peice of 1/4″ rope around each intersection as well – I don’t trust screws alone in a spot like this.

When I originally built the greenhouse I didn’t use the ridge pole and it collapse under a snow load.  Since adding this feature It has been through several snows with no problem at all.  However when I know snow is coming I have two 2×4 props that I put under the ridge as insurance.

I strung it all together with 1x2s that I ripped out of some slightly used 2×4 studs.  Using full 1x4s (which I later did) or even 2x4s for the top set of these would make the structure stronger.


I used a few wire ties to get everything located, and then drove a 1 1/4″ drywall screw at each joint to secure it.  As you can see by the lay out marks, I first measured and marked all of the locations so that it would go together reasonably straight.

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If you look really close in this picture you will see the wires that serve as X bracing on the sides.


I used a doubled wire that I attached at the top and bottom of the ends using a washer and a screw.


I then used some scraps of wood to twist the double wires together and tighten them up like a rubber band airplane.  You just want them to be snug so don’t go nuts tightening them up.  These wires really go a long way to make the whole structure more rigid and sturdy.


Now for the plastic covering – measure and cut your piece of plastic – you want a little extra in all directions – the piece that I used is 20′ x 22′.


Now for the plastic covering – measure and cut your piece of plastic – you want a little extra in all directions – the piece that I used is 20′ x 22′.


Now roll the 2×2 under one complete turn so that the edge you stapled is facing up under the top layer of plastic sheet.


Now screw a 1×2 on to secure the plastic. By wrapping the plastic around the 2×2, and then sandwiching 2 layers between the 2 pieces of wood you make a very secure connection, and also add some weight to the bottom edges to help keep them from billowing up in the wind.  Do the same thing to the opposite edge, and then roll it all up and get someone to help you carry it to the hoop house and unroll it across the top…


Thusly.  Now you almost have a greenhouse.


Roll under the edges on the ends and staple them securely (Note: now that I have taken this down for the summer, I think that when I put it back up next fall instead of “stapling it securely” I’m going to just staple it a little bit to get it positioned, and then screw battens made of 1×2 or strips of plywood to hold it in place – it should be stronger and quicker), and other than the doors the structure of your polytunnel greenhouse is finished. Total time at this point – about 6 hours.  Everything is a bigger job than it seems like it’s going to be. Rake soil or mulch up to the gaps at the bottom to keep out drafts and (larger) critters.  Cats in particular are likely to be attracted to such a nice sheltered spot with a bed full of soft loose dirt to dig in so pay attention to the details. Rocks, bricks or concrete stepping stones or blocks placed on top of the soil/mulch around the outside edges are probably a good idea.


Here is a forum discussion on alternative ways to fasten plastic to your greenhouse. I haven’t tried the poly pipe clips that are discussed, so I can’t vouch for them, but it looks like a good idea that I would consider.  Here is a picture of a small greenhouse which uses that method:


This greenhouse uses clips made of sections of black poly pipe to attach the skin.


Before I even started on the hoop house I tilled copious amounts of compost into the beds where the greenhouse was going to end up.  So, even though I probably won’t get a chance to put up the doors until next weekend (which is Halloween), I’m all ready to plant some lettuce and spinach for (hopefully) some fresh mid winter greens. One of my goals in building this polytunnel is to have something fresh coming out of the garden or greenhouse all year long. That might be a little optimistic, but I’m going to give it a shot.



Complete Materials list for the “$50 Greenhouse” – As Built

Each      Qty    Total
$4. 23   6        $25.38           20′ x 3/4″ PVC schedule 40 plumbing pipe
$6.70    6        $40.20           1x6x8′ pt – ripped into 1x3s
$4.99    4        $19.96           8′ steel “T” fence post
$2.18    3        $6.54             2×4 stud – rip into 1x2s
$3.97    2        $7.94             1x4x12′ pt
$5.73    1        $5.73             2x4x16′ rip into 2x2s
$7.91    1        $7.91             20’x1/2″ rebar – cut into 18′ lengths
$4.88    .75     $3.66             8″ nylon wire ties – 100
$5.47    .5       $2.74             1 1/4″ x 1lb drywall screws
$6.97    .3       $2.09             16 guage galvanized utility wire – 200′ – for X braces
$2.97    .25     $0.74             3/8″ t-50 staples – 1000
$79.00  .22     $17.38           20′ x 100′ x 6 mil clear plastic
Scraps of plywood for reinforcements – scrounged
$140.27      Total

OK, that’s a bit more than I estimated because I didn’t count all of the minor bits that I just take for granted because I buy them in bulk and keep them on hand.  These prices are what you would pay if you just bought the quantities that you need for this project.  Drywall screws for example are only about a third as much when you buy a 25 lb box like I do being a contractor.    However, you can shave most of the 20 dollar overage by using 5/8 rebar instead of fence posts, and gray UV resistant PVC conduit which is actually less expensive than the non resistant white plumbing pipe that I used – you can also do without wire ties, and use scraps of wire instead, etc.  I already had everything on hand except for the PVC pipe and a couple of pieces of 1×6 lumber.  However, surely almost anyone can get some of this stuff for cheap or free if they put some time and effort into it – so shop around and use your imagination to find what will work best for you.

Admittedly it might be hard for most people to build this for just $50 out of pocket, but then again a serious scrounger can probably do it for even less

READAMAZING PEOPLE :Couple Builds Greenhouse AROUND House to Grow Food and Keep Warm

Hind Sight – What I would do Differently

  1. When I originally built this  hoophouse it collapsed under a moderate snow load but after adding the 2″ ridge on top of the ribs I have had no more trouble – despite several even larger snows.  I do put a pair of 2×4 props under the ridge when I know that snow is coming though – for insurance.

  2. Use UV resistant gray PVC Conduit instead of white plumbing pipe – it should last longer and is actually less expensive

  3. Use UV resistant greenhouse plastic instead of “visqueen” construction plastic – It’s a good bit more expensive, but I’m so pleased with how the polytunnel turned out so far that I’m pretty sure the investment in durability would be worth while.  However, if the extra expense meant putting off the project I would go ahead and use the cheap plastic because  1) The plastic will have to be replaced sooner or later anyway and the difference in cost seems proportional to the difference in life span 2) It wouldn’t be worth putting off having a perfectly usable greenhouse.

  4. I should have painted the PVC pipes with latex paint before applying the plastic sheeting – apparently this makes the poly sheet last longer, and maybe makes the frame pipes more resistant to UV.

  5. Site Selection – As you can see in the pictures my garden is in a clearing in the woods and the truth is it doesn’t get as much sun as I would like for it to – however I can still grow a nice garden – it just doesn’t yield as much as it might.  I can’t really do very much about this, but you should keep in mind that you want as much sun as possible as well as a sheltered well drained spot that is as close to the kitchen as possible so that it isn’t too much trouble to trot out and get a bowl of fresh lettuce for supper. All that being said – do the best you can with the spot you have, and you might be surprised with the results you can get with a little effort.

  6. Next time I think I will use screws and  battens made of plywood strips to secure the main skin to the end walls (I’m not talking about the end wall skin here) so that instead of using 200 staples I will use a couple of dozen screws to accomplish the same thing, but it will make it quicker to put up and take down.  When I do it I’ll add pictures for clarification.

BTW, Stumblers – Thanks for all the thumbs up.  Feel free to hotlink the images or scrape the text as long as you leave the links intact!

Other homebuilt greenhouses:

  • Another PVC greenhouse – quite similar to mine but with a few differences that are very worth looking at.

  • A great wood framed greenhouse design – great construction details.

  • An excellent article on high tunnel greenhouses by The University of Vermont.

The Greenhouse doors are built now and my small hoop house is complete.

The Lost Ways…a true story about our grandparents days! Watch this awesome video!




Other useful resources:

Alive After The Fall (Advice onto handling crisis situations )
US Water Revolution (Have Plenty of Water when others don't have any!)
Blackout USA (EMP survival and preparedness guide)
Conquering the coming collapse (Financial advice and preparedness )
Backyard Innovator (All Year Round Source Of Fresh Meat,Vegetables And Clean Drinking Water)
Liberty Generator (Easy DIY to build your own off-grid free energy device)
Backyard Liberty (Easy and cheap DIY Aquaponic system to grow your organic and living food bank)
Bullet Proof Home (A Prepper’s Guide in Safeguarding a Home )
Family Self Defense (Best Self Defense Strategies For You And Your Family)
Sold Out After Crisis (Best 37 Items To Hoard For A Long Term Crisis)

How to Build a Survivalist Homestead-GUARANTEED SUCCESS for Any Type Of Disaster (video & photo)



The author is a retired U.S. Army sergeant with a background in infantry, logistics and administrative and security training. He currently heads his own security firm and is an adjunct faculty member with the University of New Hampshire teaching seminars on home food production.

WHAT Is a Survivalist Homestead?

It is a home in which you can live in a real-world/present-time economy and social order, yet at the same time practice on a regular basis the survival skills you may need later.

All of this is accomplished while still living a normal life-style with access to work, schools, emergency services and stores, etc. But most importantly, you will not be in conflict with criminal, firearm or building codes, zoning ordinances, EPA regulations or planning board requirements.

The survivalist homestead offers one more very important option. That of helping you now to live a better quality life at a cheaper price and allowing you to shift to more severe survival plans only to the extent needed to meet emergencies.

In this video I show you how to survive one EMP attack.


In planning a survivalist homestead there are three concepts which must be incorporated into your thinking from the start and which must be adhered to if the goals are to be met. They are:

  • Plan A and Plan B-Plan A is that part of all planning of your homestead which has to do with dealing in the present/real world time frame. Plan B is the planning for whatever emergencies you feel could threaten you. Both plans must be such that they can co-exist in the same place at the same time.

  • One Effort with Multiple Results- This concept is simply “working smarter, not harder,” fine tuned to an almost absolute. Every effort must result in more than just the one primary result. It allows you to accomplish more goals with less expenditure of time and money, to facilitate the first concept.

  • Reduce, Re-use, Recycle- This concept is taken wholly from the environmental movement. Re-using material and recycling waste allows you to reduce expenses thus build with less cash outlay. This is also a skill you will need in any type of breakdown of social order, where normal access to stores and services will not be available.

Applying these concepts in homestead planning is not the first step. The first step is deciding what you are planning for-what emergencies or crises you might have to face.

This is subjective and no two people will feel that any one set of possible emergencies will be what they have to be ready for.

The process of thinking this through is called threat analysis. Done correctly it can give you an accurate picture of what it is you should be getting ready for.

READ: The Planned World War 3 – A Play in Numerous Acts

At the end of my threat analysis I decided that the following were what I wanted to be ready for:

1. Short term cash flow problems.

2. Severe weather conditions.

3.Economic upheaval on a large scale.

4. Catastrophic world events.Watch this educational video 


The first task in establishing a homestead is to find the land. You can eliminate many present-time and cirsis-time security problems with proper site location. At the same time the property should be located so that you have reasonable access to work, entertainment, schools and emergency services.

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Other important considerations are taxes, community growth plans, amount of land for your needs, zoning ordinances and building codes in the area where you plan to buy.

I chose my property because it was large enough (15 acres), had the right topography, available firewood, garden space, animal space, hunting and potential for water. Also the town has as part of its charter that the community will remain rural with little growth, no heavy industry or commerce and with farming as its main industry.

Crime, in normal times is a by product of growth and population density in urban and suburban life, and increased crime and civil disorder are the first results of cultural breakdown. My location has been chosen to avoid these to a great extent while still having reasonable contact with the real world.

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Finally my location allows me to use firearms, garden, raise animals and build pretty much what I want for now and the future because of the absence of myriad zoning regulations and building codes that are found in so many other communities today.

Security was at the top of my list of priorities in planning my homestead on the land I acquired. A poorly laid out homestead will result in one that is more difficult and costly to secure in both normal and crisis times.

Just locating the house-compound on a hill went a long way in avoiding problems with criminals now -Plan A-and in possible lawless times-Plan B. The compound is hard to see from the nearest road, especially in summer. It is impossible to tell just what is on the hill unless you walk or drive at least half way up the driveway.

By this time a would-be intruder or gang finds that the entire front of the compound area is blocked by a marshland to the east, extending a few hundred yards beyond my property line, and a deep dug pond connected to a series of beaver ponds that run nearly a half mile to the west beyond my property line.

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This fine example of an engineer water barrier is the result of hard working beavers that moved onto the adjoining property the same year I bought my parcel. Within a few years they had backed up enough water to flood all the aforementioned area except my driveway. The total cost to me for this barrier was $600 to have the deep pond dug. This system serves as a second source of water for emergencies, irrigation , swimming, and draws a wide variety of waterfowl, mammals, reptilles and fish which can be a food supply- One Effort with Multiple Results.Video below.


The water barrier freezes in winter. To deny access to the main compound all year round I knew I would have to install some type of fence, which could be expensive. Instead, I stacked brush and tree limbs from land-clearng operations around the top edge of the hill on which my home-compound was located-Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. This created an instant barricade called an abatis. In most places it was around three feet high and as much as eight feet wide.

The next year native New Hampshire blackberries, that grow in abundance in the area, made their appearance and soon formed a living flesh-tearing barbed wire barrier where the brush had been stacked. Unlike a fence that deteriorates and has to be maintained every year, my barrier just gets thicker and stronger without me lifting a finger except to cut it back here and there it also provides a good amount of fresh fruit and attracts animals which, on occasion, end up on the dining room table-One Effort with Multiple Results.

In building my home I wanted a strong dwelling which was also aesthetically pleasing, practical for day-to-day living and would meet all the zoning and building codes and yet would meet the emergencies I plan for.

Solar Heating-I used a lot of rough-cut lumber, stucco and stone inside the house I used one-inch lumber instead of sheet rock for the walls and ceilings because of its structural strength.

The kitchen, living room, dining room and master bedroom are on the south side of the house. This side has large areas of glass windows to allow solar heating during the colder months. The colder the season gets the lower the sun is on the horizon. By Dec. 21, the sun floods almost straight through the south windows, keeping the inside temperature around 65 degrees F. By June21, the sun is now high in the sky, adding little heat to the house during warmer months.

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Because solar gain heating can overheat a house in the day time, there is a need for something to absorb the excess heat during the day and radiate it back into the house later on. This is called thermal mass. It is achieved by having no basement and building instead on a concrete slab, sometimes called a floating slab or a monolith slab.

Free energy is the idea that a low-cost power source can be found that requires little to no input to generate a significant amount of electricity. Such devices can be divided into two basic categories: “over-unity” devices that generate more energy than is provided in fuel to the device, and ambient energy devices that try to extract energy from the environment.

Liberty Generator was created as a remedy to the problem of huge electricity bills that are constantly increasing even higher. There was a need to discover a cost efficient way that we can use to power our houses and be energy independent that would not cost a whole lot of money and that would not be difficult to build.Lets look this infographic.


For additional mass-and protection from gunfire if the need should arise-I built a solid concrete block wall of four-inch thick blocks almost the whole length of the house.

This wall collects heat from the wood/coal stove to prevent overheating of the north side rooms and then radiates it back late at night. This stove except for the Ben Franklin stove in the master bedroom which is used only occasionally, is the only source of man-made heat we have had for the past three winters.

Plans for this year call for the addition of a propane gas heating system. The gas system will be one that does not rely on electricity to function. Once again if the heating system is connected to house current the loss of electricity means no heat. The wood/coal stove will be kept for back-up, cooking and heating, and just for the pleasure of a wood fire in the winter.

The north wall of the house is just the opposite, as far as windows go, of the south wall. The smallest windows allowed by code are placed here. These are the bathrooms, toilet and bedrooms. These rooms remain empty most of the day and do not need as much light. The smaller windows reduce heat loss and restrict entry from the outside.

To further reduce heat loss the north wall is triple insulated. Standard fiberglass was installed, then one-inch rigid insulation over the studs, and 7/16-inch flake board over the insulation there are no breaks in this barrier except the windows, to allow heat to escape or cold wind to infiltrate the house if desired.

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Lastly, all closet space was built into the north wall to create as much “dead space” as possible to further isolate the heat in the house from radiational cooling.

Still Room, Root cellar, Work Shed-Once the main house was up the still room, root cellar, and work shop/shed were added.

A still room was the part of a colonial home where fermentation of home made brews, “kraut” making and pickling were conducted. It was also used to store smoked foods, beverages and other preserved items. I use ours for most of the same reasons and it is also where the water pressure system, well, washer and drier are located.

The dryer is vented through the root cellar by way of a four-inch PVC pipe Part of the system is underground in the root cellar which has a sand floor. This section of pipe has holes in it so condensed moisture can drain into the sand and humidify the root cellar when the drier is used. The end of the pipe has a fixture that allows me to vent the air outside when it is too warm in the cellar or vent into the cellar when it is too cold.


Root cellars are generally constructed underground or in hillsides. Mine is above ground because, with modern insulating materials, it was just cost effective and time saving to do so. In the cellar I can store appropriate food stuffs to last until late spring when the following year’s crops start to come in. This is also a good place to store jugs of water in the event we lose electricity.


The wood storage area at the entrance of the still room holds about a half cord of firewood. With this entrance facing south the sun hits the wood pile every day in the winter, melting snow left on it after it is brought in from outside storage. This means we can bring wood into the house night or day and any weather without making a mess all over the place with melting snow.

The summer kitchen is where all the initial cleaning of garden and animal products takes place. All waste can go directly to the compost heap. Waste water from the sink goes directly to garden irrigation after passing through a grease trap. The contents of the grease trap also go to the compost heap.1

Small shed, 8×7, near the house that I use as a pump/filter house for a koi pond. This building has a 7 foot deep basement made of cinder block which houses an open top settling tank, so humidity will be high. The basement and main floor have a grate between them. I was planning on having an air intake near the ceiling on the main floor and an inline fan in the basement to vent outside. Is this backwards? Do I need the intake coming into the basement and the fan exhausting from the main floor? This building has R-19 insulated walls and R-30 ceiling.

The Well-Most wells are outside the home and at some distance. Mine is unusual as it is in the still room of the main house.


Few people have the well in a building, other than a small pumphouse, because when the pump and pipe have to be brought up for service, equipment and often a truck have to be used to get the 150 or 200 feet of pipe-full of water- and the pump up.

My well is 700 feet deep and a truck with the proper equipment will be needed to haul everything up. For this reason, the door leading to the outside lines up with the well so the truck needs only to back up and start working.

Having the well in the still room also means there is no chance of freeze ups or busting pipes that are at least four feet underground. The well is also constantly under lock and key where it cannot be tampered with. All of this comes under Plan A should a disaster strike that is so far reaching as to reduce our culture’s technology to pre-electrical days, I can remove the pump and pipe and still reach my water in comfort and safety any time of the year-Plan B. I would simply use a container just an inch or so smaller in diameter than the 8 inch pipe well shaft.

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The container has a flap valve on the bottom and is suspended by a rope. As it is dropped through the water, the valve is pushed open and the container fills. When pulled up the force of the water pushes the valve back down and seats it so the container stays full. Though the well is 700 feet deep, the water level is only 35 feet from the top when it is full. This gives me at 1 1/2 gallons per foot, about 800 gallons in reserve.

In New Hampshire, as in most states, you cannot get a building permit without a state approved septic system plan. I applied Plan A by putting in a normal flush toilet as the main one in the home and a composting toilet.


The composting toilet needs no special hook up except for a vent through the roof. When you lose electricity that means there is no well pump either, and thus no flush toilet. But the composting one will still be functional for at least three days.

Producing your own food on a constant basis means you not only have a constant source of reliable food, but you also have the prepared land and facilities, tools and skills to keep going. You can do it all, from planting a garden bed to sowing, raising, cleaning, butchering and preserving your produce, meats and fish.

The most common argument against the whole process of home food production is the time involved, followed by cost. While this is a subject which merits an entire article in itself and there isn’t enough space in this article to go into it in depth,suffice it to say that if you have the resources and time to establish your own home food production, you will find it well worth your while.

It should be said that there is a difference between preparing for the collapse and live there after and just purchasing supplies as to insulate yourself from consequences of collapse. If you dont have a garden in your preps than i dont think you’re really prepping.

I have to admit that the initial efforts to set up garden space and small animal facilities is time consuming though not necessarily expensive. But, the set up time is a one-shot effort.

I have used many techniques-too numerous to include here- for saving time, energy, and money in producing food,and in the end I decided to use Aquaponic System to grow  organic and living food bank.Video below.


In growing tomatoes in the garden area for example, newsprint and grass clippings have been put down in the tomato bed to prevent weeds from growing and reduce the need to water.

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For a few hours work a week in home food production from late April through October, you can raise prepare and put up (store) most of your food for a year. And doing so reduces your cost of purchasing the same amounts and types of food by half or more.

In addition to this you should also know how to calculate food needs, food costs and production costs and some techniques for gardening, animal husbandry and food preservation.

The lessons learned by early homesteaders still apply today.

1. Analyze possible threats to you
2 Choose terrain that lends itself to defense.
3. Plan security around the principles of “Avoidance.” “Deception” and “Denial.”
4. Reduce costs and effort as well as help the environment, by following the concepts of “Plan A and Plan B, “One Effort with Multiple Results” and “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.”
5. Assure yourself good shelter, reliable water and constant food.

Think about this as you reflect on your own plans to survive… now and later.

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12 Healing Herbs You Need To Grow In Your Medicinal Garden


Medicinal plants grown in your own gardens can reduce your dependence on drugs, if not completely eliminate them. But growing random herbs with medicinal properties doesn’t help.

It is a common myth that all herbal preparations are safe by virtue of being natural. This is far from true. A typical example is foxglove or Digitalis purpurea. It has a positive effect on heart function, with the cardiac drug digitalin extracted from the plant. However, ingesting any part of the plant can induce nausea and vomiting, and can even lead to total collapse from digitalis intoxication and death.

Accessibility is another issue, as in the case of rosy periwinkle Catharanthus roseus/Vinca rosea from which anticancer drugs vinblastine and vincristine are obtained. You don’t benefit from growing this plant unless you are an experienced herbalist who can put it to good use. Otherwise, it will just remain a display specimen in your garden. You need to grow plants whose goodness you can access through simple preparations such as teas and infusions, poultices and powders.

Some medicinal plants are to be used for treating specific ailments, while others have a generalized positive effect on our health when used regularly. Many herbs belonging to the latter group have found their way into our culinary scene as flavoring agents. Your medicinal garden should ideally have such plants that have practical uses for the common man besides being easy to grow.

Recommended Reading: Transforming 4 Acres Into a Food Forest: Starting with Water

Here’s a practical guide to a few of the accessible herbs that have stood the test of time:

1. Aloe vera


Aloe vera is well known as a skin-friendly plant. It is one medicinal plant people really make use of, since it is generally safe and requires no processing before use. It is a must-have in every garden whether you grow it in pots or in the ground.

Aloe vera plants grow well in a sunny location in warmer areas where there is not much danger of killer frosts. Being a succulent, this drought resistant plant requires very little care and thrives in poor soil. It suckers freely, so you can start with just one or two plants sourced from a reliable supplier. There are several aloes around; not all of them are edible or have the medicinal properties attributed to Aloe vera.

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The jelly-like, colorless pulp of mature leaves can be applied to minor cuts and burns and to dry, inflamed, or damaged skin due to eczema or other skin conditions. It is an excellent moisturizer with anti-inflammatory and mild antimicrobial effect. The leaf pulp can be eaten too. Regular use can prevent constipation and relieve other digestive problems, including ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

2. Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)


This natural hybrid of spearmint and watermint is widely use in dental hygiene products, mouth fresheners, soothing balms and candies. Quite possibly the oldest medicinal herb to be used by man, there’s evidence that peppermint has been used for thousands of years. Grow it in a part of the garden where the plants are assured of water and give it plenty of room to spread.

Sip a tea made of a handful of peppermint leaves to calm stomach upsets and relieve pain and discomfort due to gas. Carry a few sprigs of peppermint when you travel.  Sniffing on it every now and then will prevent nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness.

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The active ingredient menthol found in abundance in peppermint, as well as in many other aromatic members of the mint family, has a cooling effect on the skin. Make a poultice of the leaves and apply it on the skin to relieve itching and burning resulting from skin allergies and inflammatory conditions. It has mild analgesic action, and relieves headaches and muscle cramps.

3. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)


This perennial herb with tiny, aromatic leaves is a great addition to any medicinal herb collection. Thyme is easy to grow in a sunny location and thrives between rocks and boulders, braving summer heat and winter freezes. The characteristic scent of thyme comes from the volatile oil containing thymol, which gets released at the slightest touch. Many herbs contain this powerful antiseptic phenolic compound, but thyme oil has more than 50% thymol content.

Use an infusion of thyme as a gargle to get rid of bad breath and mouth sores. It can help with tonsillitis and laryngitis. Crushed fresh thyme applied on the neck is said to reduce throat infections. Inhaling the vapors reduces nervous exhaustion.

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The most important use of thyme is to treat respiratory tract infections. Thyme extract is taken orally to relieve bronchitis, chest congestion, asthma, and whooping cough. A teaspoonful of thyme extract mixed with equal amount of honey can be given in divided doses to young children.

4. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)


Rosemary is more of a woody shrub, but it deserves a place in every herb garden for its medicinal and culinary uses. Although it doesn’t look anything like other mint plants, it belongs to the same plant family. From the suffixofficinalis, it is clear that rosemary has been counted as a medicinal plant from long ago, but in our medicinal garden, it is to be used for general health and wellbeing, rather than for specific problems.

Long known as the herb of remembrance, the claim that rosemary enhances memory has had a boost from recent research findings. The carnosic acid in the herb has been shown to prevent brain damage and neurodegeneration of the hippocampus induced by beta-amyloid peptides. These peptides are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. In separate studies Rosemary oil has been found to improve cognitive function and reduce brain aging. Its potential in cancer treatment also has been promising.


Grow Rosemary in a pot or plant several in a line to form an aromatic hedge in the garden. Use the leaves regularly in cooking and herbal teas to derive maximum benefit.

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5. Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)


No medicine chest is complete without chamomile flower heads. They can be made into a soothing tea that can calm a troubled mind as well as a colicky baby. Its widespread use across many cultures and for many ailments is proof enough for its safety and effectiveness.

There’s more than one type of chamomile, but the one we want is the Roman chamomile Chamaemelum nobile.This hairy plant has finely divided leaves and white daisy-like flowers with bright yellow centers, but that description doesn’t help much in telling it apart from German chamomile. That’s why scientific names are important for identifying medicinal plants.

When you grow chamomile, you can make a tea from fresh flower heads or dry them for later use. Take a handful of flowers in a bowl and pour boiling hot water over them. Allow to steep for 15-20 minutes and drain. Have a cup of this soothing brew when you feel anxious or unsettled, or before bedtime in case you have difficulty falling asleep.

A tablespoonful or two should calm babies and young children having colicky pain or stomach upsets. Use it as gargle to relieve mouth ulcers. Bathe the skin affected with eczema several times a day with cooled chamomile tea.

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6. Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)


Pot marigold with its yellow and orange flowers is a delightful addition to any garden. Not very finicky about soil fertility or pH, it can be grown easily from seeds and can be treated as an annual or perennial depending on your growing zone.

The edible flowers can be used to treat almost any problem related to skin. Use a poultice of the petals to relieve sunburn and to clear up acne and blemishes on the skin. Use it as an antiseptic on cuts and bruises. It stops bleeding and reduces inflammation when applied on nicks and cuts. Many skin ointments contain pot marigold extract as the active ingredient.

A tea made of the flowers is taken to get relief from varicose veins and to ease digestive problems.

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7. Sage (Salvia officinalis)


Plants of the aalvia family have a long history of being used medicinally, as is evident from their family name.Salvia officinalis is the common sage that has slightly thick and elongated grey green leaves used in cooking, and for good reason. It can improve appetite and prevent flatulence.


This plant has a hormone regulatory effect on women. A tea of the leaves can relieve dysmenorrhea and symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome and menopause.  Inhaling an infusion of sage gives relief to respiratory problems, including asthma. It reduces excessive sweating and salivation too. Sage is neuroprotective, and is used to treat Alzheimer’s, dementia, and depression.

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8. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)


This herb is worth growing for the delightful fragrance of its tiny flowers alone, but it can be used therapeutically as a pick-me-up. Inhaling the fragrance of the flowers is sufficient to get relief from headache and depression. The essential oil extracted from the flowers has an important place in aromatherapy.

Add a handful of lavender flowers to the bathwater or place pouches of dried flowers under the pillow to get relaxed sleep. Make the best of the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of lavender by infusing the flowers in water and using it to wash face and damaged skin. It can clear acne and accelerate wound healing.

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9. Echinacea (E. purpurea / E. angustifolia)


The purple coneflower Echinacea is a stalwart in the native North American herbal medicine. It has an immunostimulatory action that enables the body to fight bacterial and viral infections. Commercial Echinacea products are in great demand during the flu season. Regular users swear by their efficacy as vehemently as conventional medical practitioners try to discredit them.

Native Americans used the roots to treat wounds, insect bites, burns, and even snake bites. Now flower buds are more commonly used as a cold and flu remedy. Of the many different purple coneflowers native to North America, E. purpurea and E. angustifolia are the two most favored species. You can grow either of them in a sunny location in your garden. These biennial plants flower only in the second season.

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Use fresh flower buds to make an infusion to prevent and treat cold and flu. A tincture made with alcohol is considered more potent. It involves steeping the flower buds or roots, or both, in pure, concentrated alcohol for 4-6 weeks, and then filtering out the liquid.

10. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)


This is another vigorously growing herbaceous plant that has a weed status today in most places. However, the roots and leaves of comfrey are traditionally used to treat ligament injuries and broken bones, earning it common names like boneset and knit bone. Other uses of the leaf and root poultice include relief from arthritic pain and varicose vein ulcers.

Although comfrey extract has a history of being used internally to treat excess menstrual flow, gastrointestinal problems and stomach ulcers, only topical application is recommended today. The allantoin in the plant can aid tissue repair and regeneration. Gargling with an infusion of comfrey leaves helps relieve sore throat and gum disease.

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11. Broadleaf plantain (Plantago major)


This plant is considered a weed, but it has several medicinal properties including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing ability. The fresh leaves are mashed and applied as a poultice to wounds, insect bites and skin sores for pain relief and to promote healing. The allantoin in the plant is a cell growth promoter. Another bioactive compound aucubin is a mild antibiotic, and the high mucilage content soothes the injured skin and relieves pain.

A tea brewed from fresh leaves is astringent, and helps control diarrhea. The leaves are eaten by people suffering from gout since aucubin increases uric acid excretion by the kidneys.

12. Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)


This tall plant growing up to 2 feet high stands out anywhere it grows. But if you offer it a place in your medicinal garden, you can harvest the leaves and the flowers. They have been used for over 2,000 years to treat respiratory tract problems.

Mullein tea made with leaves or flowers is an excellent expectorant. It is used to relieve cough associated with bronchitis and consumption. The mucilage in the plant helps loosen the phlegm and the saponins help flush them out. When the infection has affected the lungs, mullein leaves are rolled up and smoked to relieve chest congestion.

The roots are used to treat skin infections, including warts and athlete’s foot. Powder the dried roots and apply it on the affected area several times a day. Mullein flower tea is also effective in treating warts.

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Note: All herbs should be used with caution because they contain powerful bioactive compounds. Start with small quantities initially to test your tolerance. Watch out for allergic reactions. People who have ragweed allergy may have similar reactions to medicinal plants belonging to that family.

When you feel good with a recommended amount of a given herb, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will feel better with larger quantities or a stronger brew. To derive maximum benefit out of the herbs you grow, try to learn as much about them as you can. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs Book is a great place to start.

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Transforming 4 Acres Into a Food Forest: Starting with Water


Back in 2007, I was living on a friend’s property North of Los Angeles, when I got offered the opportunity that would change my life.  They knew that I had just spent the last few years working on farms and they were interested in getting a garden going of their own.  That initial garden grew into a 4 acre food forest. Once they tasted fresh produce grown from their own garden, they were ready to take it to the next level.

The landowners (my friends) and I sat down for a talk, initial consultation if you will,  and we spoke of their goals for the project, interests, timeline, budget, etc. Essentially I came out of that meeting with a mandate to do whatever I could to get their property to supply between 60%-80% of their food and water needs, while doing it in an earth friendly way without importing fertility.  Could you ask for a more dream project!

In order to grow food, you must Plant the Rain!

Before we dug any hole, or cut any tree, we spent some time observing the site.  Paying special attention to the landscape, climatic patterns, plants, animals and humans that all interacted with the site.  As we began to formulate our strategy for the site, it became clear that water would be the backbone of our design, because without it, there is no life.

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This part of CA averages 16″ of rain/year and has some of the fiercest Santa Ana winds you have ever experienced.  The Santa Ana’s can turn a rain soaked property into a brittle landscape in just a few days.  Creating windbreaks from these winds would act as a core strategy to drought proofing the landscape.

We also took an audit of the usage of water within the home as well as for all present and future landscape plantings.  Once we figure out our water usage, we will know what we need for our water storage.  The trick really isn’t if there is enough water, but do you have enough storage.  Its expensive to store all of your water needs in fabricated tanks, especially in our area where we can see up to 8 months of no rain.  You would need a heck of a lot of storage and that is not cheap.  To tackle that problem, we took a couple different strategies.

Water Tanks

First off, we installed over 100k gallons worth of water tanks, which was about $1/gallon installed.  Above ground plastic tanks, metal container tanks, underground tanks, we installed a tank wherever it made sense, always accounting for where the water was coming from and where it was going to. The water is caught off of every roof, even off of every driveway drain where it made sense. The overflow goes on to fill another tank or out to one of a couple ponds we constructed or into water harvesting swales.

Water Revolution System


Clay Ponds

We dug a couple of different ponds.  One clay lined and 3 that were lined with pond liner.  The thought was that the clay lined pond would be more seasonal and provide a longer period of water seepage into the landscape than the swales would provide and the three lined ponds would act as a more cost effective supplemental water storage to the tanks.  The clay lined pond performed as planned, it even produced a spring further down the hill for almost 2 months after a rainfall, that did not happen before.

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This pond was constructed at the top of the watershed, allowing its harvested water to hydrate the soil downslope. When this pond is full it overflows into one of the swales.

Lined Ponds

The lined ponds proved interesting.  In order to keep the water clean we learned that it needed to go through a biological filtration process, which pretty much means water circulating through gravel with plants.  Well, when we began to circulate the water we had huge evaporation loss.  So we experimented with other ways.  We introduced algae eating fish, snails, & aquatic plants covering most of the surface.  This helped, but I would still have to say there is more learning and experimentation with the ponds.

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In hindsight, lined ponds may not be included again if we got to do it all over. It is just too dry for too long and the water evaporates. Now you have a problem on your hands, you don’t want it to drain completely because you now have a biological habitat, so you top it off every now and then. What you thought was going to be a water source for the garden, became a water sink keeping the aquatic biology in check.


Hard at work building one of the ponds lined with pond liner. It takes some resources, but these ponds are a lot cheaper than water tanks when you compare carrying capacity.

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This angle shows the pond almost done but not yet filled. It shows the overflow which comes down from the water tank that was installed in the ground

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Finished water harvesting pond with plantings. Note the pond liner showing. That is evaporation causing the water level to recede. Not a good thing. We do get small fish out of here big enough to eat sometimes.

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To round out our water harvesting strategy for the property, we installed 4 swales that harvested water from tank over flow as well as runoff over the roads and landscape.  The clay lined pond even overflows into one of the swales.  The swales were fun to build, because they were challenging.  I had never really seen a swale in person nor had I ever driven an excavator before, but I read all about them (that made me qualified right?).

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However, I never did feel too confident that I was really comprehending what I was reading. Intuitively it made sense though, so I followed that instinct.  Lucky for me, my client was a contractor himself and he gave me an excavator & a laser level and told me to get to it.  I hung out with a local backhoe operator for a day to get some tips and then I was let loose.  I flagged out four swales with the laser level, placing the flags in the uphill side of the proposed swale and dug just below those flags.  I’ll tell you, when I made that first scoop with the excavator I knew I was in for some long days.  It wasn’t as easy as it looked, but eventually over the course of 4 weekends I constructed 6 swales about 500′ long each.


Swales just finished. They draw water off the road to the right, down the natural spillway in the middle and from the overflow of tanks, ponds and houses further upstream.1

3 Years in. Hard to see the swales in this shot, but they are there. Trees are quickly filling in. Understory crops slowly getting planted.

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One of the swales filled with water a couple years after construction. You can see it planted with Olive, Citrus and Nitrogen fixing acacia.

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Crater Garden
At the bottom of this hill that just got swaled out was a sort of bowl.  It was created a while back when the owner carved out and filled the canyon to create a horse corral.  It was time to honor that destruction by returning the site to some sort of regenerative usage.  While trying to figure out what to do in that section of the project, I took a course with Sepp Holzer in Washington where I got inspired by his Crater Garden concept.  Initially it was a water harvesting crater that produced a variety of microclimates to produce a variety of food with very little maintenance.  The bowl was a perfect spot for one.  I had to build it!  After some convincing, we transformed that old horse ring into our crater garden, the center of our food growing activities. More on that later.

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The Sepp Holzer inspired Crater Garden freshly created. New pond installed with pond liner exploded with frogs weeks later. Cover crops are recently sprouted to help build the soils’ fertility and water holding capacity.

To add to the water supply, we took all of the greywater from the home, all the laundry, all the bath water and sent it off into the yet to be planted food forest that trees would eagerly soak up.  Much of the greywater that we were using in the garden was recycled rainwater that was caught locally onsite, plumbed into a few select house fixtures with much red tape and then reused a second time out into the landscape.  This increase our water savings by 40%.

Lastly, but most important to our water harvesting strategy, was through the improvement of soil structure.  We employed cover cropping strategies, chop and drop of our trimmings, mulching, etc.  By improving our soil structure and organic matter, we increase that soils capacity to harvest water.

The Lost Ways…a true story about our grandparents days! Watch this awesome video!




Market Gardening and Community Farming-How to Make a Perfect Living on 1.5 Acres- Full Guide


“Les Jardins de la Grelinette” is the author’s thriving 1.5-acre market garden in Saint-Armand, Quebec.”

Many people believe that a small-scale market garden can’t compete economically with larger industrial growers. For more than a decade, however, my wife and I have supported our four-person family solely by intensively farming 1.5 acres. We offer our experience here as a road map to help you start your own successful market farm.

We began our farming careers as “WWOOFers” (volunteers with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and later worked as farm managers on someone else’s market farm. After we spent some time learning abroad, we came home to Quebec to pursue our own farming project. We started small by growing produce on one-fifth of an acre and by living simply — in a tipi!

After a few years, we longed to put down roots in the community and expand our farm, but we needed to generate income. To make payments on a small plot, fund the construction of a modest home, and cover the expenses that surround a growing family and business, we made a decision that might sound contradictory to economic growth: we decided to stay small.


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We wanted to continue relying on inexpensive hand tools and light power tools. We even named our farm Les Jardins de la Grelinette after la grelinette (“broadfork”), a tool that epitomizes efficient hand labor in organic gardening. We’ve always believed that it’s possible — even preferable — to intensify production through smart gardening techniques. Our motto became “Grow better instead of bigger.”

A Biologically Intensive Approach to Market Gardening

We began by investing in a large quantity of organic matter to create rich, living soil. We continue to add compost regularly, while restricting the tilling of the soil to the surface. This method keeps the soil’s structure as intact as possible. By improving the soil’s structure, we’ve been able to sow crops close together, resulting in higher yields and reduced weed growth.

We further maximized our growing space by planting as many succession crops as possible. To make a crop-rotation plan, we had to first determine the length of time each crop would spend in the garden, and then schedule our plantings so we could replace harvested crops with new plants or seeds as soon as possible. With our crop-rotation plan in hand, we succeeded in producing multiple harvests from the same permanent garden beds.

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Use a Walk-Behind Tractor for Maximum Production

We wanted to avoid the investment necessary for maintaining a large, four-wheeled tractor, so we rely on a small-but-mighty walk-behind tractor with multiple detachable implements. Learn about two-wheeled tractor options online.

The soil’s integrity is our top priority, so we’ve opted for a rotary-power harrow (shownhere), which stirs and prepares the topsoil for planting while retaining the vitality of the bed’s subsoil. We also use a “tilther” — a clever tool powered by an electric drill that does a great job of mixing amendments into the soil (available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds). All of our tools, including row covers and two-wheel tractor implements, are sized to work efficiently in our uniform, permanent beds, which are all 30 inches wide by 100 feet long, with 18 inches between each bed.

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Weeding can be extremely time-consuming, so to discourage weed growth, smother crop debris and dedicate our time elsewhere, we cover the soil with black plastic mulch. UV-resistant, black polyethylene tarps do an especially good job of diminishing pesky weed pressure. The explanation is simple: Weeds germinate in the warm, moist conditions created by the tarp, but are then killed by the absence of light. This weeding technique is called “occultation,” and it saves us a lot of work. The great thing about these methods is that they’re relatively inexpensive, especially when compared with the large equipment and expensive chemical inputs used in traditional farming setups.

Remove the Middleman for a Financially Successful Market Garden


Direct selling via farmers markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs allows market farming to be a financially successful career choice in today’s economy. These expanding avenues for direct producer-to-consumer sales allow growers to recover the large portion of profit that’s traditionally scooped up by distributors and wholesalers. For example, most grocery stores take a cut of between 35 and 50 percent of an item’s selling price. The distributor, who transports and handles the product, takes another 15 to 25 percent. This means that salad greens sold for $2 in a store will only bring the vegetable grower about 75 cents. That’s a big loss! Market farmers, on the other hand, can receive all the profit for their product if they’re willing to put forth their own time and effort on marketing, sales and distribution.At Les Jardins de la Grelinette, we favor the CSA model because it guarantees sales and simplifies our production plan .

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Last year, we sold 46 percent of our produce to our 140-member CSA program; 44 percent at two farmers markets; and the remaining 10 percent, which was mesclun mix, to a few local restaurants and a nearby grocery store. We peddled produce to approximately 250 families. Don’t forget, we live in Quebec, where the growing season is shorter than most U.S. regions, despite our application of season-extending techniques. If you live in a warmer climate, you should be able to sell even more.

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Whether you choose to use a CSA model, farmers markets or a combination of avenues, direct selling builds a loyal customer base and develops interdependent relationships with clients. This can take a few years, and you can’t overlook two key components: quality and presence.

When it comes to customer loyalty, quality of the product is vital. Always wash and neatly display your vegetables. Be present at market stands and CSA program drop-off points. Bigger, mechanized, faceless operations will never be able to compete with you if you’re producing top-quality produce and consistently showing up to form an ongoing, positive relationship with your customers.


Small Market Farms Can Be Profitable

Market gardening provides the opportunity to get started little by little. In our first year of production — on less than one-fifth of an acre of rented land — we sold $20,000 worth of produce. The following year, our sales more than doubled to $55,000. In our third growing season, we invested in new tools and settled on our current farm site. By increasing our amount of cultivated land to 1.5 acres, we increased our gross sales to $80,000. When our sales broke the $100,000 mark the following year, our micro-farm reached a level of production and financial success that most people in the agricultural industry had previously believed to be impossible. We’ve only continued to grow since then.For us, $39,000 was enough to provide all the tools and equipment we needed to start a small-scale market garden, including one greenhouse, two hoop houses, irrigation equipment, a walk-behind tractor with implements, a cold room for vegetable storage, and more (see “Start-Up Costs” further in this article for a full list of equipment).

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This may sound like a lot of money, but consider that a bank loan of $39,000, spread out over five years at 8 percent interest per year, meant that our annual payments were about $9,500. Compared with the potential revenue of an intensively managed market garden, these payments were entirely manageable. Plus, this figure is much less than the costs for an industrial farm on hundreds of acres.Of course, this initial investment wasn’t our only business expense. It doesn’t include certain necessities, such as a reliable delivery vehicle, land rental or purchase fees, or utilities.


As you can see from this pie chart, 19 percent of our annual budget is allocated to paying back our loan. The largest portion (33 percent) goes toward paying our two full-time employees. After those two large cuts, we spend the remaining 48 percent of our budget on utilities, insurance, fuel, seeds, soil inputs, packing and promotional materials, and other miscellaneous necessities. All in all, last year’s production expenses added up to $98,914.

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This may sound intimidating, but before you back out, know that our revenue last year was $154,386, for a net income of $55,472. My wife and I have been able to support our four-person family with that level of income — plus, we’re our own bosses, live a life that’s connected to the Earth and the food we produce, eat really fresh, healthy fare, and have winters off. We’re not getting rich, but we believe our work is honorable, and we’re living the life we set out to create.

Advantages of the CSA Model


Guaranteed sales. The main advantage of the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model is that production is prepaid at the start of the season, often before the first seed has even been sown. This model allows the farmer to budget with greater precision.

Simpler production plans. Because members have already purchased the produce, the farmer can plan production based on sales. After determining the number of customers, the farmer can plan the contents of each delivery beforehand. This is even more important for growers who don’t yet have much farming experience to base their year on.

Risk sharing. The idea behind CSA programs is that the risks inherent to agriculture are shared between the farmer and the members. When members sign up, they authorize a contract inviting them to be tolerant in case of hail, drought or any other natural catastrophe. If the season is good, the members will receive more than planned, but if the season is bad, they’ll receive less. For the farmer, it’s similar to taking out an insurance plan on the harvest.


Customer loyalty. CSA models allow farmers to build customer loyalty and tangible relationships between consumers and the farm. Many of our members have been buying vegetables from us for many years now. These people know us, they’ve come out to visit the farm, and they greatly appreciate the work we do. As its name suggests, community-supported agriculture really does have the power to build community.

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Start-Up Costs

Greenhouse (25’ x 100’): $11,000
2-wheeled tractor and accessories: $8,500
2 hoop houses (15’ x 100’): $7,000
Cold room: $4,000
Irrigation system: $3,000
Furnace: $1,150
Flame weeder: $600
Indoor seeding equipment: $600
Hoes and wheel hoe: $600
Floating row cover, insect netting and hoops: $600
Electric fencing: $500
Harvest cart: $350
Seeders: $300
Harvest baskets and scales: $300
Broadfork: $200
Rakes, shovels, spades, wheelbarrow: $200
Sprayer: $100

Total: $39,000

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I’m also going to share with you three old lessons that will ensure your children will be well fed when others are rummaging through garbage bins. In fact, these three old teachings will improve your life immediately once you hear them.




EPIC DIY Project:Crafty Dad Builds This AMAZING Daybed Made Of Grass (VIDEO)


Just because you have a bare outdoor space in your yard doesn’t mean you can’t be one with nature and enjoy the luxury of a lawn. In this video, courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens, Jason Hodges transforms a barren concrete courtyard into a comfy, vibrant day bed out of grass — and it’s perfect for a backyard picnic or an afternoon nap. What a cool, creative idea!

First, Jason constructs the base of a futon and dresses it with a headboard. Then comes the top frame in which the grass and soot will sit. And to top it off, Jason finishes the wood with a charcoal stain for a sleek and elegant look.

Jason then fills his raised garden with soft leaf buffalo turf, a type of grass that’s easy to look after and nice and soft to the touch. And all you really need to maintain the grass daybed? A good pair of sheers and a watering can.

“It’s fine that it looks good, but the most important thing is how does it feel?” Jason says. “I’m pleased to report it’s a 10 out of 10.”

What a perfect excuse to wear your sunscreen to bed. Please SHARE this amazing DIY project with your friends on Facebook!

Awesome DIY Projects that You’ve Never Heard of:

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Spring Is Coming! Are You Ready?Spring Organic Soil Preparation For The Vegetable Garden



Wanna know the best piece of garden advice I’ve ever gotten? “Feed the soil, not the plants.” Yeah! It took me a while to actually appreciate the truth in that statement, but through first-hand experience, I now know that if you concentrate on building rich & delicious soil, you will most certainly get rewarded with much better vegetable harvests — and I do mean MUCH better!!

I amend my soil once a year, in the spring, and like to use 3 different amendments:

– Leaves that have been mulching the garden since autumn

– 1/2″ layer (or more) of composted cow (or other) manure or finished compost

– Dry, organic fertilizer mix (recipes below)

Let me explain…

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– Leaves:

As I mentioned last fall, I don’t like to dig or amend my soil in the fall…but rather wait until the spring time. So over the past few weeks, I’ve been gradually pulling away the thick layer of leaves that I had put on the garden in October. The reason I say “gradually” is because once you pull away the dry top layer, there’s a moist layer underneath. You could of course just dig these moist leaves in right away, but my soil was still quite wet, and I wanted it to dry out a bit before digging (digging wet soil is not good for the garden since it destroys the structure of the soil, causing it to compact and dry into brick-like clods).



Also, you’ll notice that when you expose the wet leaves, there will probably be lots of worms in that layer. I like to give the worms a chance to burrow back into the soil before I pull off that layer of wet leaves…otherwise you’d be pulling off precious worms that you want to keep in your garden.

Anyway, I dig a thin layer of leaves into the soil, and will use the rest to mulch around my plants as they get bigger.

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– Manure or Compost:

If you use manure, it should be composted, not fresh (so as not to burn your plants with nitrogen, and also to prevent the spread of pathogens). I buy mine from the garden center. Important side note: there’s a growing problem with herbicide-contaminated compost (both animal- and plant-based) being sold; this is bad news for gardeners since it has a very negative impact on the growth of crops, and it persists in the soil for years. . So in light of all that, if you make your own compost, definitely use it!

– Organic Fertilizer Mix:

First, the recipes!

Here are a couple of dry, organic fertilizer recipes from my favorite vegetable gardening book,Rodale’s Garden Answers – Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs:

For every 100 square feet of garden space, mix together:

6 lbs alfalfa meal

3 lbs bone meal

4 lbs greensand

1 lb kelp meal

OR, Mix and Match (choose ONE from each category):

Nitrogen (N):

2 parts blood meal – OR – 3 parts fish meal

Phosphorus (P):

3 parts bone meal – OR – 6 parts rock phosphate or colloidal phosphate

Potassium (K):

1 part kelp meal – OR – 6 parts greensand

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t specify how many quarts or pounds to apply for the Mix-n-Match recipe, but I’d guess it would be about 4-6 quarts per 100 sq ft. Or, based on the first recipe, you could figure that 1 part probably equals 1 pound, and measure it out that way.

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As for sourcing ingredients, I was sorely disappointed in the organic fertilizer selection at my local garden centers (do that many people still use all those chemicals?! :-(). I went to four different places before I got what I wanted, and no doubt paid a premium. Next time I’ll go ahead and buy online. Even though the shipping rate might be high because of the weight of the ingredients, it will probably be worth it. Peaceful Valley Farm Supply is a good source, but I’d also do a google search for organic garden suppliers to see who else is out there.



Anyway, in that article, it’s suggested that you initially use 4-6 quarts of fertilizer per 100 square feet (depending on what you’re growing…and possibly adding more throughout the season; more details in the article). I mixed up 7 quarts of fertilizer. The recipe is measured in ratios (“parts”) instead of in cups or pounds, which is annoying if you’re trying to end up with a certain number of quarts.

So I did some math to come up with the number of CUPS needed of each ingredient, so that the end result was 7 quarts of fertilizer mix. Measure your ingredients on the generous side, and mix thoroughly before applying to the garden.

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7 quarts (28 cups) of fertilizer:

16 cups (4 quarts) alfalfa meal (which is roughly 2.5 – 3 lbs)

2 cups (1 pint) agricultural lime

2 cups (1 pint) dolomite lime

4 cups (1 quart) bone meal

4 cups (1 quart) kelp meal


I dig all 3 amendments into my garden soil in the spring, to a depth of about 4 inches. Once the veggies really get going, I like to supplement my blooming/fruiting veggies with some liquid Neptune’s Harvest Fish/Seaweed emulsion (NPK: 2-3-1), and my leafy greens with Alaska brand Fish Emulsion — though you could certainly use the Fish/Seaweed on all of it.

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I just happen to have a gallon of the Alaska fish emulsion, so I feed it to the greens since it’s NPK nutrient profile is 5-1-1 (lots of nitrogen!). Instead of the fish emulsion, you could also just dig more dry fertilizer into the soil at regular intervals, as detailed in the fertilizer article, which was linked above.

I hope this was at least kind of helpful…fertilizing the veggie garden had always been a big mystery for me, and within the past couple years, I feel like I’m finally finding my rhythm with it.

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Do you have any special organic fertilizer tricks or advice to share??






The Cluckin’ Basics:5 Strong Reasons To Keeping Chickens for the Next Catastrophe




Thanks to recent natural disasters and other catastrophes, a lot of people have started to see the value of food storage. Of course, if the idea of living on canned ravioli and tuna fish doesn’t sound all that appealing to you, you may consider keeping chickens as part of your food storage.

Not only do they make eggs appear every day like magic, but they also provide you with a fresh chicken dinner while you are waiting to have access to the grocery store again. Unfortunately, chickens don’t remain happy and healthy tucked away on your pantry’s shelf, so here are some tips to get you started.

1. Check the Law Books

Nobody likes confrontation—especially with the police and most definitely not with that nosy homeowner’s association lady (you know the one). So before you bring home those cute little chicks, check out the local laws and subdivision rules to make sure you are allowed to have them. Clear the idea with your neighbors if they are close as well.


2. Select the Right Breed

If you live in someplace like North Dakota, getting chickens that are used to hot climates won’t survive through that long, cold winter. When selecting a breed, research which breed will thrive best in the climate you live in. On top of climate, look at whether the breed is known to lay frequently or infrequently.

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The Rhode Island Red is a popular breed for getting a plentiful egg supply. Don’t forget to check the sex! Roosters don’t produce eggs, and are awfully noisy. Make sure all of the chicks you get are hens. If you’d like to use your chickens for meat, check into how good the breeds are for meat, and how capable they are at foraging for their own food.


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3. Free Range or Coop?

Free range chickens are fun to watch as they peck the ground and give themselves dirt baths, but they also have a tendency to make a mess, wander where they aren’t wanted and get attacked by predators.

If you want to go free range, be sure there is still an outer fence, such as around a yard or field, to keep them contained and that they have some kind of protection from predators.


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A rooster will fight a predator to the death to protect his flock, but your presence can also warn off aggressive animals. Cooped chickens will stay completely safe, but they won’t have access to a free range diet or be quite as fun to have.

4. Food

Stock up on poultry feed for your chickens as they can’t live, generally, on what they find on your lawn (especially in winter). Fresh or dried worms, white grapes, pomegranate seeds and cherry tomatoes are also all good options and provide a nice treat. Chickens also make a nice food disposal, so toss them your leftover kitchen scraps. It’s like turning trash into fresh eggs.

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5. Building the Coop

A chicken coop must be made to be completely secure from outside predators. As such, avoid building the coop directly on the ground where predators could easily sneak themselves up through a hole in the soil. Instead, build a raised coop with a floor. Use a smooth material to build the coop, as it will be easier to clean or paint, and construct outside access boxes, so you can retrieve the eggs without disturbing the hens.


“If my husband had his way, we’d live on a farm,” says Heather Bullard, whose career as a photo stylist instead requires close proximity to Los Angeles. So she and her agriculture-obsessed spouse, Jim, compromised by constructing a chicken coop.


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Since the Bullards’ Riverside, California, backyard barely covers a quarter acre, looks mattered as much as function. Together, the two designed a Cape Cod–inspired structure that’s prettier than many human dwellings—and built it themselves for $1,600, using stock building materials and hardware from Home Depot.

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1Solar powered chicken coop, light, auto open door, etc.

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Egg Skelter. For those of us with fresh eggs, it keeps you using the oldest first and never mixing them up.

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Coolest Chicken Coops

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Renée Finberg TELLS ALL in her blog of her Adventures in Design



What people have learned building their coops…..good ideas

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