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What Should I Do?

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Preparing for Earthquakes

Strategies for prepping and coping for earthquake events
Saturday, April 5, 2014, 9:22 AM

[NOTE: This article is adapted from When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival]

Shelly and Phil Rodgers were in their home in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains when the Loma Prieta quake struck. The epicenter was about seven miles from their home. The house shook violently and all of their cupboards opened, throwing every dish, jar, can, bookcase, television, and appliance to the floor. Phil said that the house floors undulated like a snake, appearing to change elevation by more than a foot in different parts of the house as the quake shook through. They were not able to leave the house until the earth stopped moving. Because their car keys and shoes were still inside, Phil had to brave the aftershocks and wade through broken glass to retrieve keys and shoes so they could attempt the drive to town to pick up their kids. He brought a chainsaw with him, which was needed to cut large limbs that had fallen across the road.

On their way to town, they passed the spot where a neighbor’s house should have been. It had been built on tall pylons overlooking the hillside. When the quake struck, it slid off the piers and down the canyon. The two occupants on the first floor managed to crawl out the door moments before it took off, but their son, who was sleeping on the second floor, went for the wildest ride of his life. He miraculously rode through it uninjured, as the first floor disintegrated and the roof split away and to the side. Another friend had a home that lacked proper shear wall nailing and adequate attachment to the foundation. This home slid off the foundation and was a total loss, receiving the “bulldozer remodeling job.”

What to Expect When an Earthquake Strikes

In the aftermath of a major earthquake, the public utilities usually fail, and fires tend to break out due to broken gas mains and lack of water. Most government workers are either injured themselves, or at home caring for family members. If the earthquake is a significant one, with widespread damage and casualties, in all likelihood you will be on your own for several days or more. In this case, medical attention for the wounded and rescue efforts for those trapped under debris will be the first priority, with water second, followed by shelter and food. » Read more

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Greenhouse Tomato Starts: Phil Wiliams

Starting Seed Indoors VS. Direct Seeding VS. Self Seeding Annuals

Exploring options and past experience
Thursday, April 3, 2014, 11:44 AM

When I first started gardening, I had a tough time figuring out what plants I should start in my greenhouse, which plants I should direct seed, and which plants I should let seed themselves. As with most gardening and permaculture questions, the answer is……..it depends.

Before we even get into which plants I like to start inside, which plants I like to direct seed, and which plants I like to let self-seed, I think it is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of both methods of propagation. » Read more

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Chick Feeding.

Chick Care

How to Brood Baby Chicks
Friday, March 28, 2014, 7:11 PM

Acquiring Baby Chicks

As we described in the previous article, How to Order and Choose Chicken Breeds, you can order chicks online through a hatchery, and they will send them through the US Postal Service. Most hatcheries will send you chicks for $2-$3 each, but they require that you order at least 15. This allows the chicks to huddle up with each other to keep warm enough to survive the trip. If you want less than 15 chicks, as many people do, one company, MyPetChicken.com, will send small amounts of baby chicks. They provide a temporary heater with the chicks to keep the heat up during the trip to make up for the low numbers. They do charge a bit more though, but it is still inexpensive. » Read more

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Chick in Brooder: Phil Williams

How to Order and Choose Chicken Breeds

First steps in raising chickens
Monday, March 24, 2014, 4:38 PM

If you are planning to start a flock of chickens or add to an existing flock, it is a good idea to do this earlier rather than later, as many hatcheries will sell out of certain breeds by spring time. If you are planning to order day old chicks, there are a few things that you should know about before placing that first order. » Read more

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© Neo-farms

Walipini Style Greenhouses

Year-round gardening in an underground greenhouse
Friday, March 21, 2014, 3:35 PM

How would you like to have fresh vegetables and fruit year round? Sounds pretty good right?  Having an underground greenhouse will keep the temperatures hot in the winter and help prevent overheating in the summer; making it possible to grow your garden vegetables through the cold winter months.

How it Works

We all learned in school that under the earth’s crust is magma which heats the entire sphere. Surprisingly, if you dig down 4 feet, the heating process becomes apparent. For the vast majority of the planet, 4 feet below the surface will stay between 50° to 60°F even if the weather above the ground is 10°F with a cold wind! This phenomenon is called the thermal constant and it’s what the underground greenhouse thrives on. » Read more

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Phil Williams - Crop Rotation Blocks

Introduction to Companion Planting and Crop Rotation

Benefits of change and grouping various plants together
Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 12:06 PM

When planning your next garden planting it is wise to reflect on the previous year's crops and where they were planted.  It is vital that you are rotating your crops in your zone 1 annual gardens. If your garden features the same plants in the same places year after year, pest pressures will build, soils will become depleted, and disease will run rampant. I rotate my annuals in such a way that the soil and plants benefit. For example, I follow my greedy feeders of nitrogen in the plots where I was growing nitrogen fixing peas and beans. » Read more

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Dutch White Clover Living Mulch

Mulch in the Garden

Using a protective mulch layer
Thursday, March 13, 2014, 3:44 PM

When I first started gardening, I wanted to mulch my garden. Coming from a commercial landscape background, it was something I was used to doing, and I understood the benefits. Then I spoke to a relative who had been gardening far longer than I, and he told me how it would burn up my plants. Being new to gardening, I took his advice. Even though I started my garden with two feet of good compost, by summertime, my soil was compacted, and the humus was gone. Without the protection from mulch, my humus layer eroded away, and the soil became infertile and compacted. » Read more

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Shutterstock / Kunal Mehta

Developing Situational Awareness

Playing the "keep in memory" (KIMs) game
Monday, March 10, 2014, 11:15 AM

One of the most important aspects of surviving emergencies is your ability to be aware of your surroundings. This is ubiquitously referred to as “Situational Awareness” and is often just referred to as “SA”. Situational awareness is a peculiarity amongst those who prepare – it is both a skill and experience. It has to be developed, like any skill, but the more often you find yourself in dicey scenarios, the more likely you are to pick up on subtleties that are out of place, or inconsistent with the surrounding environment. » Read more

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Zones of Permaculture

Permaculture Zones

Dividing a site into different functional areas.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 6:19 PM

A major design concept of permaculture is zones. When you are accessing a permaculture site, dividing the property into zones can help you to position certain plants, animals, aquaculture, pasture, orchards, forest, and housing to result in the most positive connections between zones. This process leads to more stacking of functions, and a greater efficiency of the site.

There are (6) zones, starting at zone 0, and ending at zone 5. » Read more

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Herb Spiral : Phil Williams

Patterns of Design in Permaculture

Mimicking nature for better results
Friday, February 28, 2014, 6:05 PM

Permaculture design works to copy many patterns and shapes that occur in nature. This tends to enhance energy flow or slow it down, depending on the needs of the inhabitants. This also adds diversity of life and edge. Below are some of the common patterns in permaculture design and how they can be used. » Read more