282. Permaculture Practices | Modern Homesteading Podcast Host Harold Thornbro |That Green Freak in School | Small Town Homestead | Indiana

Harold Thornbro Host of Modern Homesteading Podcast

Modern Homesteading Podcast

Tell us a little about yourself.

East Central Indiana

nice and cold here

  • married to my wife Mary for a little over 26 years
  • 3 daughters
  • couple of grandkids running around
  • Most of my life I was a truck driver

Had my own trucking company

  • led to me being gone a lot
  • led to some bad eating habits 

Sure! It’s tough when you’re on the road. It lets you listen to a lot of podcasts but it definitely makes being healthy a challenge.

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

Kind of I grew up on a homestead really, we didn’t call it that but we had

  • animals
  • large garden
  • more property

did all those things

always grew up working in the garden

in garden

never thought about it being my garden

first time it was about 3rd or 4th grade

Really got the bug for growing something on your own!

in school believe it or not

  • bean plants
  • styrofoam cup
  • gardens at home

I remember that vividly, growing that bean cup grow and replanted it in the yard!

gave me a bug

Like I said, we worked in the garden all the time

always loved

That Green Freak in school!

loved growing stuff



teenage years

got more into cars and girls

stayed away from it

in my mind

always assume I’d be living that lifestyle

I always wanted to be Caroline Ingalls in the mountains, I knew the minute I walked into Mike’s house this is what I have been dreaming about all my life, it’s a little bit bigger.

How did you learn how to garden organically?

it never seemed important to me then

in my ind I thought

I guess I thought about sustainable practices

But my dad

he would dump any chemical fertilizers

on the lawns

dealing with the animals we would pump em full of antibiotics whatever would keep them alive so we could survive.

wanted the most productive garden

what we thought would be our best garden

doesn’t seem right

old ways

people have always done it that always worked

time period in the late 70s and 80s

Everyone was doing it! It’s what people did to have a great garden! 

miracle grow then

dump all kinds of liquid fertilizers pesticides

When I got cancer


  • because of all my bad decisions
  • eating out 2-3 times a day every day for years I did that
  • stage 3 colon cancer at 39 years old
  • At my 40th birthday I was doing a chemo treatment
  • back in 2012

things are really good now

opened up my eyes

Even the doctors said You can’t eat like that! 

  • that stuff is horrible
  • highly processed
  • preservatives

handle quite a bit but it was just too much!

opened my eyes to important of eating healthy

nutritious organic grown food

THAT stuff is expensive!

I was off of work for a couple of months

  • chemo and surgery
  • ate up our savings
  • organic food
  • we can’t afford that

What are you supposed to do, is grow your own?

for a lot of people that wouldn’t be a big deal

live in town on a 10th of an acre

I was discouraged 

run across a video

not doing a lot

Homegrown Revolution

Dervaes family they were on a 10th of an acre and they were growing 6-7000 pounds in their backyard

It’s so inspiring! Go watch that!


raised beds

I could do that in my backyard

They’re in Southern CA

they’re growing season

a lot more food

I took a lot of those practices

never weighted what kind of food we generate

some other practices

took on

increased the amount of food growing here

way to grow healthy food

inexpensive way

built my first beds out of scrap wood

laying around

old fence

friend who had an excavating business filling up my raised beds

cheap as I could

worked out We still grow a lot of food

2 raised bed just kept building and building And now my whole yard is raised beds

I saw on your website! The Small Town Homestead I know my mom would love raised beds, she grows a tomato plant or two. Do you want to tell listeners some things that you have learned and done to be productive.

You don’t have to build raised beds

A concern I had at the time was dogs

  • 3 little dogs
  • backyard was their bathroom
  • kind of afraid to just dig up the soil and till it

not that healthy

that’s why I built raised beds I wanted a healthy soil to grow

not something people have to do

I feel like raised beds make it more convenient and fun and your roots grow deeper, you can fit things closer together in there.

It can take you years to amend

best of soil with a raised bed that might take you years to create in the ground

that was the beginning for us

really increasing I just kept adding more and more

expanding that garden

We brought in some animals, rabbits and quail that increased the production with manure for our gardens

Things went to the next level for me was when I heard the term permaculture it changed everything for me

read a few books


I started implementing things on my property it just increased our production

healthier garden

grow my own fertilizers

comfrey is something we have brought a lot in on our property



fertilize the beds with

chop and drop

planting that around a tree, make it more productive

doing all these practices

building herb gardens

book by David Holmgrown on permaculture


Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability

talks about the 12 design principles

implementing on our property

able to do so much right here with the design

dont shade

plant this benefit

symbiotic relationship



most from one another

even things like your house


part of that ecosystem that are working to increase the production of what you are doing

world of difference

a lot more fun

enjoy it so much

seeing things work together

working with the insects



get in your garden beds

fill up

edible weed

probably my favorite herb to eat



grows pretty low

taller then it

ground cover in that bed

retain moisture

keep other weeds from taking over

lower level of purslane

peppers growing above it

things like that

controlled it

let it go where I wanted it to grow

work with it


Tell us about something that grew well this year.

so many cucumbers

we love them

run out of ideas

few plants

so many cucumbers




ferment them

wow we had so many

grow so well

something that I like that


tripled the area I was growing strawberries

what they like the most


where I planted them made sure soil was good and loose

well fertilized before I planted them


dead areas

old stuff will die off

air flow room to spread

make room for the new

more productive every year

add a little bit of comfrey

rabbit manure in the fall

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I started something last year I want to expand

I built an aquaponics

worked real good

didn’t build it till summertime

expanding that

working it with in connecting

wicking beds

beside it

have a layer at the bottom



lava rock or some other medium in the bottom

water will flow through that

landscape fabric


wick up from underneath

still water

by hand

wick up in the soil

don’t ever have to water it


bigger you get

more stable and better it would probably work

well designed ones

in connection

fertile water

nutrients as well from the fish

get into this next year

potential production

I like everything about it

it’s fun


Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

I tell you, I didn’t have a great grape harvest

jellies and jams

issue was insects

Japanese beetles

never had an issue


destroyed my grape vines

tried a few things

there’s some treatments

I know what I wouldn’t do

is try traps

they actually draw them in on a small property


boy you don’t want to use them

far enough away from your garden

brought those in

increased 100 fold I had

bags were full

traps were full

large property

back forty somewhere

mistake I made

I don’t like using things that are considered organic pesticides

don’t feel

organic pesticides

7 dust

I don’t feel comfortable

natural remedies

disadvantages to being on a small property

think more locally

I was just thinking about that this morning, I hate those little yellow flags at my moms that people spray these pesticides, don’t walk here. I think they should get geen flags that sya safe to walk here.

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?

kind of

has to do with bugs

dealing with the bugs

squash bugs

best deal with those

manually pick

crush them

soapy water

stuff coming around

dealing with that

part of organic gardening

deal with those things

not difficult

time consuming

part I’m not gonna do

manual work

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

love to harvest and eat

I enjoy all of it

love planting

early spring

popping things in the ground

love that time in the year

what’s ready to be picked

green beans

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

We love salsa!

Love to eat salsa on everything

salsa dishes

love salsa

super simple

don’t get fancy


little bit of jalapeno




banana pappers

garlic and salt

What is the best gardening advice you have  ever received?

Well, you know, I can’t think of where I heard it, growing up

where we had gardens

you plant once

you harvest once

changed everything for me

picking something

planting something else

super productive

always planting something

picking something

throughout the year

best advice

something I’ve picked up

there’s a lot of things

tomatoes and peppers

stay where they’re out



done with them in 30 days

get those out


something like that


think about was the place

didn’t require a lot of resources from the soil

something that does take a little more nutrient

over and over and over that required nutrients from that soil

a lot of things

alternate those things


helps keep those things growing




leafy stuff

get those things

lettuce same bed

keep planting


2 rows

start another 2 rows

picking those first two rows


in that bed

well I just like to have stuff for salad every week

it grows the best

its so fast

thinner leaf lettuce

ok, I like it

romaine lettuce

takes longer to grow


Bibb lettuces

Simpson I grow

eat a lot

issue here

I tell you something

in the winter time I grow a lot of it

don’t let it grow full size

eat a micro green


full size

pick it

growing right now

4-5” tall

don’t have the problems when it’s long

go full size

picking it just the right time

it bolts

bolting like

permaculture benefited me

learned a lot about design

cooler part of your yard that is gonna grow stuff

corner of my yard

mulberry tree

block in 1/4

garage block morning sun

4 hours of sunlight in thimble of the day

perfect spot to grow things in lettuce

just right amount of sunlight

splotchy sunlight

that part of my yard is so much cooler

designed it in a way

cooler way of grow

in consideration

put the tomatoes in a spot

lettuce in a spot that gets

what it requires

figure out your property

really limited on space

really careful where you put things

so much of my yard

shaded in the morning


get the up

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.

I wish I could say it was something cool like ahoy hori

wheelbarrow with me


property set up for property

right along my garden beds

harvesting take the wheelbarrow

up to the backdoor of my house

even when e

everything I’m doing

layout of the property

A favorite internet resource?

I spend the most time

we have a pretty big Facebook group

I hang out there a lot

truth is I learn way more from them

Homestead Front Porch

4 website

but it’s available

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

mentioned my favorite book that’s help me the most

Permaculture principles and pathways

12 permaculture design

all the books that round up permaculture

bill Mollison

permaculture books out there

those are the things that have made the biggest impact

taught me the most


I guess if it was a new garden

mel Bartholomew

square foot

permaculture path

Final question-

if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

I just think the pesticide and herbicide

drowning our food in garbage





folks think we have to do that to feed the world. 

at the same time we are growing green lawns

10th of an acre

growing tons of food

if we all did that

we don’t need these where we are using pesticides

killing the soil first

natural nutrients to be taken up by these plants

the food itself becomes nutrient deficient besides the fact it’s coat in garbage ~poison 

We’re consuming it. We’re seeing increases in

  • cancer and medical issues
  • environmental impact because of it on a huge scale

If we could get our minds wrapped around the fact

we could grow in our backyards

one less thing we’re buying in our own way

enough of it

real change starts to happen

IDK if there is one organization to support them

make the difference is if everyone would say “I want to start growing some of my own food.”

Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

get started for one thing

wake up

get started

I put off doing anything because I didn’t think i could do anything

Putting off till I had that huge homestead

I want a big place in the country

tons of acres

in my minds

living for that one day

When I got cancer and had my wake up call

right where I’m at

I’ve heard a lot of people who use that one day excuse

they can do a lot of the things they want to do

not doing everything they want to do, but a lot right there right where they’re at

those who are doing it

David Holmgrown has affected me in a lot of ways


when we work with nature


solution is within the problem

Bill Mollison talks about someone who has a slug or snail problem is you have a duck deficiency problem

solution can often be found in the problem

If we think like that we can solve a lot of the problems

  • in the garden
  • lifestyle
  • world problems

finding the things that will fix those things

Things that don’t make things worse instead make them better

deep thing to be saying hard to get your mind about it or what that really means


don’t have a

I was gonna ask does that mean the ducks eat the snails or slugs?

Yes just get some ducks

  • now you have duck meat
  • instead of having problem

fixing at the problem

How do we connect with you?

website is Small Town Homesteading

podcast anywhere you can listen to podcast

Modern Homesteading Podcast

What do you talk about on there?

Everything homesteading

  • gardening
  • animals
  • bring it in the kitchen
  • permaculture
  • anything that has to do with homesteading

I have a lot of guests

  • we do a lot of q& A stuff
  • solo shows
  • variety show

I don’t have as many episodes as you do.

feel like talking about

We’re doing pretty good on numbers and downloads

folks seem to like it

I question what business do I have doing this podcast?

I think you have a good way of curating the content and adding a lot of value out there. Thanks for sharing with us and Happy Valentines to you and Mary coming up this week!

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About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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