It's 15 degrees outside right now and cabin fever has set in as we are approaching February. Today is a beautiful winter day. With the latest snow fall, it has covered the trees like a blanket a lace. However, not to overlook the beauty of the winter months, I am patiently waiting for spring. Last night I dreamt of
tasting the honeyberry fruit. I have been contemplating planting one. You know you’ve got it bad for spring when you dream about tasting the plants you want! So this morning, I took out my gardening magazines in an attempt to cope with winter and found several more plants (go figure) I would like to plant. After I made my purchase for spring, I sat. And sat. After realizing I could not hurry spring to me, I took out all my seed packets. Sound familiar? I went through them one by one and jotted down on the packet when I need to plant them. Keeping in mind the unique spring weather of course but writing notes on when I should start them indoors or direct plant. What a great sense of comfort on this cold, blistery day.
Geothermal energy seems like something from the future. However, it is a well-established practice that has been used as far back as ancient Roman times. The Romans used hot springs as a way to centrally
heat their homes. Geothermal heat was not used in an organized sense until the late 19th century when
Boise Idaho piped in hot springs to their buildings to heat during the winter months. Geothermal loop systems are becoming more widely used today. In Iceland, 95% of the buildings in the town of Reykjavik heat using geothermal energy, more specifically, the constant temperatures located below the earth’s surface.
What is geothermal? Under the frost line and down 6-8 feet, temperatures remain stable at 48-52 degrees F. For closed loop systems, water or antifreeze solution is circulated through plastic pipes buried
beneath the earth’s surface. During the winter, the fluid collects heat from the earth and carries it through the system and into the heat pump. The heat pump then converts that energy into usable heat through the refrigeration process. During the summer, the system reverses itself to cool the building by pulling heat from the building, carrying it through the system and placing it in the ground. This process creates free hot water in the summer and delivers substantial hot water savings in the winter.
Why use geothermal? Many people are driven to geothermal because of the environmental factors. It is better for the earth. For example, I currently have a furnace that solely runs on propane and of course
the fan runs on electric. Ouch, yes expensive. Winters in Minnesota can become quite costly using this form of heat. We use about one, 500 gallon tank every 1.5 months from November to March and one additional tank throughout the rest of the year. That is a lot of propane. We also run an air conditioning unit outside during the summer months which racks up the electrical costs nearing $400 a month from June through September. For those that think Minnesota is frozen year round, I am here to tell you it is not. It is quite hot and muggy, upper 90’s is not uncommon throughout the summer months. Installing Geothermal also eliminates the need for a bulky, noisy a/c unit outside too. As you can imagine, I am using lot of ‘extra’ energy on inefficient systems. Switching to geothermal would not only reduce our energy usage but also monthly costs to run the system. In fact, over four times less. Yearly cost to heat and cool my home currently is $3600 on average and to run a geothermal system costs on average $876 a year.
So why doesn’t everyone install a geothermal system? Because the initial investment is a bit hard to swallow. The total cost of doing a geothermal horizontal loop system would be an average of $28,000 for
a system that would cool and heat 3500 square feet. You need to fund the entire project upfront (some financing options are available through vendors). There are however tax incentives that make the system more affordable. A federal tax credit is available until 2016 for 30% of the total cost of the system and installation (assuming you pay enough into taxes to get the 30% back). There is also a $1500 rebate from specific manufacturers and depending on your power company, $150 per ton rebate. The size ton I would need for my home is a 5 ton system. Therefore, the rebate for a system in my home would be $750 from the power company. So though it is a little ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, you have to weigh the pros and cons of waiting for the rebates, paying down the system, and applying/waiting for the tax credit at the end of the year. If I put geothermal in my home, with the savings it would create for me, it would buy itself back in a little over 5 years. And adds $30,000 to the investment of your home (I believe this to be buyer dependent though).
In my case, our heater is on the fritz, it is expensive to run, noisy, and our a/c unit leaks hazardous Freon which the government has made super expensive to replace this past year. These all point to a new more efficient system in which I believe the intelligent decision is to install a 5 ton horizontal loop geothermal system that will pay for itself over a five year span. All savings past 5 years is just money back in my pocket. The saying ‘takes money to make money’ is somewhat true in this case. In becoming self-reliant, this is the most efficient earth friendly system on the market.
*Check out this website for a more detailed explanation of how geothermal systems work. http://minnesotageothermalheatpumpassociation.com/geothermal/how-does-it-work/ and http://www.igshpa.okstate.edu/
Pasturized milk is on every shelf, available for 'safe' consumption. The FDA regulates no other farmer as tough as milking farms. Because milk is so massively produced it does need to have stringent rules so no one gets sick. However, miking farms have reduced by 88% in the past decade because it is near impossible to meet the demands and taxes of state and federal guidelines for most smaller operations. For those that need to drink pasterized milk (pregnant women, chronically ill children, those with weak immune systems) it is readily available. However, those that want to purchase raw, unpasterized milk, it is "illegal." The health benefits for drinking raw milk from grass fed cows are many. Raw milk is straight from the cow, in its most natural form. It contains a lot of healthy bacteria that helps with many chronic diseases.
I have a daughter with eczema. We were told a few years ago she would have grown out of it by now. Yet, it seems to be getting worse. It has been known that raw milk can reduce, even cure her eczema. Their have been children with severe allergies which are cured by switching to raw milk. So why don't we just switch to raw milk? Because the state of Minnesota has made it illegal to purchase milk raw. In fact, most states can not sell raw milk and if they can, can not sell it across state lines. The movie "Farmageddon," shows what the Feds do to those that get caught selling it, even in legal states such as California. It is not the governments job to tell me what I can and can not purchase for consuption for my own family. I certainly understand why we also have pasterized milk but then why are restaurants allowed to cook eggs over easy and steak to rare, medium or medium well? We do know a few places around us that have raw milk for their own families but do not sell it. Once they get to know you, they will keep some in the fridge and leave a place for 'donations' as money can not exchange hands. Are you kidding me? What a joke. This is milk we are talking about, not drugs. For my daughters eczema we have been prescribed a strong steroid cream which with more use becomes less effective. We can get a prescription for steroids quite easily but getting raw milk is a huge no no. Selling raw milk has been so scrutinized by the FDA no one wants to get caught selling it because they could potenially take your milk cows away from you. Therefore, I will take it into my own hands.....enter Jersey cow.
This summer I will spend part of it preparing for a Jersey cow and her calf for next year. We see the health benefits and helping my daughter's skin essential for our family to make the cross-over. And what's totally awesome is that with all the cream the Jersey produces I can make my own butter, cheese and buttermilk!
Check out this awesome website on raw milk and its health benefits.
Check out the trailer for Farmageddon at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IH_my56FkuQ
The following pamphlet is a quick glance of nutritional roles of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and probiotics and how they work in our systems (https://www.facebook.com/#!/FindRawMilk):
Yum. Honey. I have been reading the book "Bee Keeping for Dummies," and to put it simply, the honey bee is simply amazing. Did you know the drone, male, mates with the queen bee between 200 and 300 feet in the air then if he is one of the chosen ones to mate with her, falls to his death? Ha ha ha, I don't know why I find this particularly amusing...but I do. Something I did not know about bees was that the worker bees are female. Go figure. They are the ones that make the honey, nurse the baby bees and feed the queen. The queen is completely helpless. There is only one queen per colony (or box hive). The only thing she does is lay eggs. And she is replaced about every two years because she starts to lay less than 1500 eggs in a three hour time frame. Talk about a tough crowd to please.
In a season, a colony (one hive) produces between 60-90 lbs of honey. That's so ridiculously amazing. To give you an idea of how much that is, one gallon weighs 11lbs. A worker bee has to visit five million flowers to produce a single pint of honey and they will travel up to three miles from the hive to find the resources they need. When the season comes to an end in the fall, the queen stops producing eggs and the worker bees kick the drones out because they eat too much and evidently die. If you are ever stung by a honeybee, which is unlikely because they are very docile, you have never been stung by a male or drone because he doesn't have a stinger. Speaking of stinging, my husband is allergic but was de-sensitized as a child. I guess we'll find out if it worked or not :/
I need to start building my hive or purchasing the one I can put together. I can make an excellent quality one out of cypress wood, or just get a standard pine kit. I am leaning towards the kit since so many other things are taking up my time. I will need to pre-order my bees which come in a 3lb bag and one queen. The price of bees isn't necessarily cheap - but that local honey is worth so much more. If you purchase honey within 300 miles you are less likely to have allergies to the pollen around you.
Honey bees produce more than just honey. You can also put their beeswax, propolis and royal jelly to good use. Beeswax alone is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes. It has even been allowed for those in European countries to pay their taxes with it. Royal jelly is fed to the queen, it is honey mixed with a chemical found in the nurse bees head. In health food stores it demands top pricing and it is traditionally used as a fertility treatment. Propolis, or bee glue is super sticky. The bees gather this from trees and plants. They use this to fill gaps in the hive and strengthen the honey comb. Propolis has antimicrobial qualities that can guard against fungus and bacteria. The Chinese have used propolis in their medicine for thousands of years.
Honey bees are a critical part of my self-reliant goals. They pollinate the gardens which result in bigger more bountiful fruits and vegetables as well as pollinate the fruit trees I planted this fall. They are a small little bug that we rely on heavily for our food chain to make a complete circle but rarely take time to reflect how important they really are.
Think about how many times a week you crack an egg. Cakes, cookies, ice cream, over easy, eggnog, etc. It is very hard to avoid an egg. Now, purchase an egg that is free range vs. the standard large egg you purchase from the run of the mill grocery store. You will notice a HUGE difference. A free-range egg has a rich creamy flavor, bright orange yolk and a watery white. They are an excellent choice for all your egg eating needs. Most eggs sold today are from caged birds that are not allowed to roam freely and scratch in the soil. They are meant to do one job and do it well or literally, "off with their heads." Backyard chickens have become much more popular however in the past few years. There is an enjoyment factor that the chickens bring to you. My mom has had chickens for as long as I can remember. The hen house is her 'thinking' spot. I am getting several laying hens (Buff Orphingtons and Rhode Isalnd Reds) this spring and can not wait to see them produce and enjoy their lives here at Modernroots Homestead. My children are particularly excited for them. I have chosen Buff Orphingtons and Rhode Island Reds because of the winters they will face. Though, I will heat their coop and give them plenty of light, they will be roaming around during the daytime in the cold. These breeds have been specifically bred to handle the harsh winters. Instead of a traditional wood stove to heat the coop or electric heater, I have decided to build a Rocket Mass Stove. Highly efficient 'clay mass' wood burning stove that will keep my little ladies very happy. This is a quick look at how to build one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmYaIrHRMLM
I plan to sell off the excess eggs I do not use - which will be a lot- to local health stores as well as my own customers. All extras past that are for the pigs. The shell has vital nutrients and calcium that pigs need.
Here is a great site about backyard chickens. http://www.backyardchickens.com
* Checkout finance tab for more about the chicken coop.
My plans for becoming self-reliant in food will involve animals and gardens. We are not vegetarians- though I do make many dishes that are but we love our healthy meat as well. Each year I want to incorporate new ideas, gardens, by products such as wool and meat. This year will be three large vegetable gardens, a berry/fruit patch, egg chickens, meat chickens in the fall, two to three pigs and honey bees. Every year I plan to add additional animals and/or re-arrangements of gardens.
This year the focus will be getting pastures and buildings ready for larger animals while also incorporating some animals that will do well with smaller pasture such as pigs and chickens. I am quite ecstatic for honey bees this spring. Just the research behind bees is amazing. They are truly magnificent little buggers with food, medicinal and cosmetic value! And to think, they basically take care of themselves is astonishing.
I do not plan to winter any animals besides my egg chickens and bees this year. Next year I plan to have a Jersey cow, a crucial part of my mini farm for milk, butter, buttermilk, yogurt, and cheeses. It will take me this year to plan and research enough for my Jersey to be comfortable at her new property.
Animals I would like to incorporate into Modern Roots Homestead within the next five years are milking cow, sheep (for highend wool), angora rabbits (for angora wool), meat cow, and lambs for meat. Though small in operation, my focus is on best quality and free range. Therefore, with my space (5 acres), small quantity for each type is best.
This past fall, we planted three apple trees, several stick pines, lots of flowering trees, a peach tree (please winter be nice), and a plum tree. Those will be ready for picking in, oh- three years. This is when I tell myself "patience is a virtue" over and over and over. This spring we plan to plant many more trees for windbreaks and a pear tree as well as a bing cherry tree. I live in agricultural planting Zone 4b, so apparently I should be able to get away with some zone 5 plants. Here's hoping.
I have ordered my seeds for spring and am patiently waiting to plant them....still waiting... Spring time this year is going to be very exciting as I have many projects that need to be accomplished in just the gardens alone. I have a fenced garden 25 X 50 but need to make planter boxes for it. I want to have ten planter boxes 4 X 10 feet- 4 feet across so I can easily manuever weeding, planting, etc.
I also need to add a squash, pumpkin, and gourd garden. In addition, the last garden I need to develop is the sweet corn, grapes and berry patch. I will be adding to the raspberry patch, adding a strawberry tier, rowing out sweet corn, and creating a mini vineyard for table grapes.
I also need to have my husband (Kris) help me, ok um...have him build me my garden shed and chicken coop so they are ready for spring chicks and all of my valuable garden crap. I think he wants his garage back.
Speaking of Kristopher - he asked me last night about which projects I have chosen to pursue this year. I believe he now realizes how crazy busy it is going to be. By the time I got done telling him all the things that will need to be completed spring, summer and fall...he was snoring. But I didn't care, it just felt good to talk to someone older than four even if they were sleeping.
Besides vegetable gardens, I am re-designing a couple flower beds and will be filling those up with pretty plants to add some beauty around the property.
Well, today is such a tease- it is 40 degrees here in central Minnesota (which is warm for January) and reminds me of spring. Yet, I know there are colder days ahead so planning and 'arm chair' gardening is holding my appetite for now.
*See finance tab for more description on cost of these items.
Who Writes This Blog
It's me, Meg. Checkout 'My Story' for more about my mission.