Ideas from my dad

I spent a while talking to my dad today, telling him about the home we’re buying and my plan to farm. He grows some vegetables on a small scale and was sharing some of what he’s learned. Even though he lives in North Georgia with very different soil and climate conditions, his input was very helpful. Now I’m watching this video on Back to Eden gardening and I’m loving it.

I like their use of wood chips to replenish the soil over time – specifically, chipped branches and leaves rendering a nutrient-rich mix with pieces of variable size that will allow for air pockets that help the mixture to compost over time. At least half of our land is wooded. I’m planning to limit the vegetable planting area to probably an eighth of an acre. When I prepare the soil this year, I’m going to pull topsoil from the wooded area to rake in. I think it could also work to pull ground cover from the woods to use in my garden. I’ll probably end up pulling random seeds along with it, but I can watch for random seedlings to pull out.

Small wood chippers aren’t very expensive, so I’d also like to get one of those. I think that if I just collect branches that fall in the woods and occasional cuttings, I should be able to run it through the chipper and create the sort of self-composting garden cover that they’re doing without taking more than the woods can replenish. It shouldn’t take a great deal to cover the amount of area I intend to plant. They’ve talked about how the real benefits start showing (and rapidly accumulating) after a few years of this approach. I think if I start out that way from the beginning, I should see a nice return.

Everything they’re describing can be boiled down to patterning the garden after the way a forest naturally sustains itself. It makes sense to me to use the forest that’s on the same land I’m planting. This wouldn’t be sustainable if I was growing large-scale – then I’d have to outsource for my chipped trees – but I think it’s doable in my case. If I’m always getting enough cover by chipping what falls naturally in our forest, I’ll know it’s sustainable.

I love the segment about chickens! Aside from wanting a good supply of pastured eggs for my egg-loving family, what they do for a garden is awesome. I’d read about different approaches such as a chicken tractor or rotating two areas between pasture for chickens one season and planting the next, but I like what they’re doing here where they have a permanent chicken pen and just remove the soil they create to use in the garden. Feeding what would go into a compost bin to the chickens instead makes a lot of sense and sounds a lot easier than maintaining compost. I’ve also read that letting the chickens run around your garden is great for natural pest control, so I’m curious to see if this video covers that topic.

This video is also swaying me against a need for raised beds.

Iiiiiiinteresting. They’ve found pest control isn’t really an issue when using organic practices because plants in good health aren’t susceptible to attack. That’s awesome. I also like how easy weeding is with this approach! And that watering isn’t necessary. I was extremely impressed by the whole video and the approach is scientifically sound (I’m kind of using my M.S. in molecular biology after all).

Mostly, I feel very lucky to have been given this information before I get started so I can do it right from the beginning. Thank you, Daddy 🙂

In the beginning…

Today we went to see the property we were most interested in from what’s currently available. We love it. There’s some remodeling of the house we want to do to make it exactly what we want, but the 5 acres is just perfect for the small farm I have planned. We made an offer and accepted their counter. I wish the buying process didn’t take so long to complete, because I just want to get started on moving and land prep RIGHT NOW. I hate waiting. We have asked if we can schedule a firm move-in date in March and pay rent if the sale hasn’t closed yet, so we’ll see what happens with that. That would make coordinating the move with leaving our rental house so much easier.

For now, I’m reading up on homesteading so I can be ready to go once I have access to the land. The first one I’m reading is “The Backyard Homestead” by Carleen Madigan. So far, I’m liking the layout and crop rotation suggestions. The author lives in CA, though, so I’m not sure if all planting advice will translate to our climate. Thankfully, our county extension office offers a huge amount of information – including a fantastic planning calendar for the year – so I should be able to easily find out everything I need to know.

Ultimately, I want plenty of vegetable beds, fruit/nut trees, lots of chickens, and two or three Nigerian dwarf goats for milk. I also want to raise a couple pigs and a cow each year for our family’s meat. Although I plan to develop our homestead in stages, I don’t want to start with just a few vegetables. I can cook (and my family will eat) anything I grow and it’ll be another year before I get to do spring planting again, so I want to start with as many as possible. Then I can take notes on how everything does in the ground and on the table and make modifications for next spring. I want to take advantage of my not having found a job, and I can put in whatever time is necessary to prepare a lot of ground and grow a wide variety of produce. I also want chickens immediately, since we eat a LOT of eggs. We’d benefit financially and nutritionally from having our own pastured chickens to produce our eggs.

Spence will be helping by building things like frames for raised beds and a chicken coop (he’s an excellent carpenter and I plan to feature his work on this blog as well). He’s also excited to have an excuse to buy a tractor. The bulk of the actual farming and upkeep will be done by our kids and me, though, since his full time “real job” is what allows us to have this opportunity. I’m very lucky and grateful to have a husband who provides for us so well, and homesteading is how I want to provide back to him.

I was leaning toward doing as much planting as possible using starts from a farm store close to the house we’re buying since I’ve found buying local starts is a good way to get plants that are already acclimatized to the specific environment. However, Spence has pointed out that buying seeds is something I can do now, so I’ll probably do that. I want to grow herbs and edible flowers close to the house, either in a bed or in planters on the porch. I haven’t decided yet. All the veggies will be in a farm area that gets full sun,

I’m also trying out the Farmer’s Almanac Garden Planner software. Having an interactive guide and reminders tailored to my location will make digesting all this new information much easier.