005 Amy and Vince of Tenth Acre Farm


Image: tenthacrefarm.com

In the fifth episode of the Root Simple Podcast we talk to Amy and Vince Stross of Tenth Acre Farm in Cincinnati, Ohio.

We begin with the story of why Amy quit her job and how she began to radically transform their yard. Some of the first work they did involved constructing berms and swales in the front yard, the only part of their property that gets enough sun to grow edibles. Amy and Vince describe the trial and error process they went through to perfect this water harvesting system.

We also discuss the beautiful result you see above–a front yard that combines edibles as well as flowers that both please the neighbors and provide habitat for beneficial insects. The magic extends out into the parkway which is planted with a cherry tree guild.

Amy and Vince go on to discuss how belonging to a CSA inspired them to cook from scratch and learn how to preserve food. This knowledge came in handy once their garden got really productive. Amy shares why buying a pressure canner is a good investment.

We talked to Vince about his post on making a non-electric mason jar vacuum sealer with an automotive brake bleeder. This is a cool and low cost alternative to the electric Food Saver vacuum sealer.

And Amy discussed her provocative post on why they don’t keep chickens.

According to Amy, homesteading is “more of a marathon than a sprint.” They are in it for the long hall.

We conclude by having Vince and Amy answer a Listener question about living a sustainable life in a cold climate (something we know nothing about!). Amy mentions growing fruit trees and freezing fruit in one pound packages. Canning projects then take place in the winter when heating up the kitchen also heats the house. Vince talks about growing greens year round and references the books of Elliot Coleman.

You can visit their blog at tenthacrefarm.com. Amy also does a newsletter (see the sidebar on their website). When you sign up for you’ll get a free ebook describing a little more about all the amazing things they are up to. We could have chatted for hours.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store. Note that it takes a few hours for the new episode to show up in iTunes.

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  1. Vacuum sealing with a brake bleeder fascinates me since it is a cheaper alternative to a food saver and does not require electricity. About the lead–is the problem touching lead or getting it into food? If the tube is suctioning, how would lead get into the food? Air is not going into the food product. I have pondered this and need to know. Plastic always breaks, it seems. There is a lot of pressure on this item as the handle is squeezed.

    Anything plastic left in sunlight outdoors degrades faster than the same item indoors–gallon strawberry baskets, for example. I would have to keep this item in a dark cabinet for fear of light degrading it.

    Is the caution about the lead concerned with physical contact when using the brake bleeder?

    Am I just overthinking this issue?

    Since both my hands have been injured in two separate accidents, I am not sure I could even work this bleeder without further damaging my hands or at least making them hurt so I could not even open the house door for a few days. I overcame two disabling accidents by using my hands continually, but this might cause more injury. Has anyone with weakened hands used this brake bleeder for this purpose?

  2. Thank you so much Mr. & Mrs. Homegrown for the honorable mentions and the opportunity to share our story with you!

    You raise a great point about the lead contamination topic. I thought about this myself. How would any possible lead content in the brake bleeder have an effect on the contents of the jar? The air is coming out of the jar, so technically it shouldn’t matter, right?

    Due to the fact that I keep this device in my kitchen drawers with other kitchen items, and an alternative exists for a similar cost, it was a matter of going with the alternative because it was easy and, “better safe than sorry.” As for the durability of the plastic device, only time will tell. However, I can say that it’s a very strong “car garage” style plastic, nothing flimsy or cheap by any means.

    As for the effort involved, sealing a pint-sized mason jar is very easy. However, the effort required increases as the volume of the jar increases. I’ve successfully sealed half-gallon glass mason jars with this solution, but it was admittedly more difficult than the pint-sized jars. Definitely doable, single-handed, but if I had to do a few in a row I would take a good rest between each one. Quart-sized jars on the other hand are really the sweet spot. It takes a little more effort, but it’s by no means difficult to do, and given the volume of the jar, the energy input is still less than the value of the end-goal!

    Also, there’s a difference between pumping the handle like you want to build muscle, versus a slow steady squeeze-n-release which takes a lot less effort but spends more time.

    Thanks for the great question!

    • Vince,
      Thanks for the reply. I am glad to know someone else wondered about how the lead could get into the jar. I am going to take the name of the brake bleeder down and go to Auto Zone and see if it is there so I can try it out. Easy for you might be horrendously hard for me, but I am willing to give it a go. I suppose I could use both hands or just rest for a bit. Since I have no desire to seal bags, this alternative brake bleeder is a great idea. I went to your blog and watched the video. I was not aware that there was a gauge by which to determine when the vacuum was “done.” That was something else I always wondered since I had seen (I think)this on blogs on you tube that did not have a gauge. I really like your blog. Thank you for answering my question.

  3. A few years ago, my husband made a hand-operated vacuum sealer from directions we got from I-can’t-remember-where, but it involved using an old compressor from a car air conditioner. Definitely a bit bulkier than this model, but it works well and also uses the food saver caps for mason jars just like this brake bleeder style. On the plus side, there’s no squeezing involved; it operates with a crank, much like a grain grinder

  4. I’ve seen a jar sealer made from an old bicycle pump, but I don’t remember the details.

  5. It was great hearing about the 10th Acre Farm. Lots of great ideas.

    About vacuum sealing, I am not as high tech or clever as Vince – I use the hand pump from Ziploc with the tapes from Pump-n-Seal.com and Mason jars. I did a blog post about this after listening to this podcast if you are interest in more information about vacuum sealing.

    • Hi Cinda,

      I’ve never heard of the Pump-n-Seal before.. cool!! I’m very intrigued by the little tape tabs. How many times can you reuse them, really? Are they rather durable?

      I’m worried about punching holes into my jar lids, and then becoming reliant on that company to supply the little tabs. My preparedness side would need to buy a couple hundred of those tabs to ensure I had a solution that will last for years to come. I guess that’s one advantage of the solution I proposed, there are no continuous inputs other than muscle power for it to work. However, the entry price for the Pump-n-seal is much lower for sure!!

  6. Vince,
    The little tapes are very durable. I don’t think I have thrown any away yet. I have also tried just using tape loosely applied to the jar. It works but not quite as well as the tapes with the rubber center. I think if I could find a thin piece of a rubbery substance I could lay it across the hole and secure it with some tape.
    Happy sealing!

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