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It's just about May! Time to be tilling your garden plots, planting your fruit trees, starting your seeds (prolly should have done that already really but I'm lazy), and getting ready for the summer growing season. I'm learning, and going to all of this effort for a few reasons: #1) The food is better, hands down. Home grown tomatoes, potatoes, watermelons, lettuce, peppers... have much, much better flavor than store bought. #2) I don't want to eat GMO crops, home raised fruits, vegetables, and meats are better for you, and have more vitamins and minerals. #3) I like knowing where my food comes from. #4) You can save a bundle of money. During the Great Depression, most people still knew how to raise their own food, and many families stayed well fed and saved money by growing a large percentage of their own food. #5) It's an enjoyable and rewarding hobby, that produces real results you can enjoy.
On my family's property, we have two nice garden plots in what is otherwise heavy clay soil with lots of gravel mixed in. Those two garden plots are the place to raise things like carrots, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and other stuff that needs great soil, and a little babying to produce. I will be sowing lettuce and planting onion starts very soon, probably this weekend. In past years I have planted things too close, in narrow rows, so this year I will be laying out my rows very carefully, to take advantage of a great labor saving device that mom picked up at an antique sale: A couple of wheel-hoe's. Even if you have to purchase a brand new wheel-hoe from an Amish ag supplier, they are worth the money. A 4 hour weeding session is reduced to about 10 minutes, if you lay your rows out well. So, this year, since I'm notoriously lazy, I will be paying careful attention to that.
Another side effect of being laaaaaaazy: I'm going to be working more on growing things that produce year after year with minimal fuss. A few years ago I bought some apple trees, peach trees, and concorde grape vines for the property. We also have wild grapes way up in the trees, and thanks to some nasty storms last year, and fallen limbs, some of those wild grape vines are now hanging down where I can harvest them around Halloween. (they were tasty last year).
|My peach trees have tons of itty, bitty peaches on them right now, so I'm about to mulch and fertilize around them, and thin the fruit to 1 little peach for every 4" to 6" of branch, to encourage sweet, large peaches. Hopefully the apple trees will bloom soon, but the Peach trees are really getting with it producing me some free fruit! Fresh peaches, peach cobbler, and peach preserves here I come! I will also be companion planting garlic around my trees, to discourage pests, and provide some garlic for us next year. |
I am also going to establish an Asparagus patch and kitchen herb garden on an otherwise unsightly spot. about 10 feet outside the kitchen window and sliding glass door, we had a maple tree that was finally dying. Since Dad's business deals with heavy equipment, he basically just ripped the tree down, and then ripped up the stump by the roots, leaving a crater about 8 feet wide and 2 or 3 feet deep. Rather than fret and fuss about this, we filled that spot with some rich, black topsoil. It will be nice and loose even 2 feet down, and is perfectly situated for this purpose. Asparagus will go in the center, and various herbs and spices will go all around it. Parsley, sage, rosemary, maybe some more garlic... you name it, if I cook with it and it grows here, it's going in that little plot, and should thrive. I will be collecting baby food jars and pint jars to fill with dried herbs this fall. Ever stocked your whole herb/spice shelf all at once to replace stale stuff? The cost adds up! I'll be getting that stuff fresh this summer, then drying it and having great quality stuff to season with until next year, when I do it again.
Another thing I am doing is making use of some of our delicious wild plants. Bordering our property, we have two creeks that merge at the southwest corner of property. Other than crossing the creek and plodding up the creek bank, the only access to this property is our gravel lane,which we could easily block off. Also, the creek bank is eroding, and needs something with a tenacious root structure to keep the banks together. We also happen to have the most delicious wild black raspberries I've ever eaten, all over the place around the woods here, and it loves growing in partial shade by the creeks. I am going to transplant some wild black raspberry canes from spots around the property where we don't want or need them, all along the banks of those two creeks, on the border of the property.
|Wild black raspberry will take over an area, once established. The area in question is probably at least 100 yards of creek bank combined, maybe 150, and we can mow right beside it. In a few years, this will give us a virtually limitless supply of black raspberries once they take those creek banks over, prevent further erosion, serve as a FANTASTIC deterrent for anything larger than a rabbit coming onto the property via the creeks thanks to all the thorns, and can be controlled with the mower to keep it from creeping into our yard. As an added bonus, songbirds love the fruit, so we will be encouraging more of them to hang around. If you've never seen wild black raspberries in bloom, you are really missing out. They are a member of the rose family, and are very pretty. The leaves also make great tea. I'll get all of those benefits from an otherwise useless part of the property, using a wild, native plant that is totally pest/disease resistant to anything in this area. Don't fight mom nature, be guided by her. |
Some other projects in a similar vein:
Will be finding the roots of the wild grape vines I can get to for harvesting, and giving them some compost and watering now and then to encourage grape production. Btw, these are very old vines, as thick as my arm where they root.
I will be starting some kiwi vines somewhere. Few people realize this, but they are not a tolerant plant, there is even a Siberian variety,that imho is preferable because it has smooth skin without the fuzz. Yeah, that's right, I prefer things smooth when i eat them, lose the fuzz. *snicker* They can bear you hundreds of pounds of fruit every year if you take care of them.
Wild plum trees: We have wild plum trees in the woods in this area. Supposedly the fruit is very good, and they are very hardy trees since they are wild. We have one in our back yard. I will be collectiong the fruit not to eat, but rather, to plant more wild plum trees. Few people realize it, but all of the "stone" fruits can be grafted onto the rootstock and trees of the other stone fruits. So I will be trying to get some wild plum seedlings to graft onto next year, or the year after... using prunings from my existing peach trees, and from a branch of one peach tree that is actually a cherry branch.
|A few wild plum trees will be kept as just wild plum, but the vast majority are destined to be peach and cherry trees, thanks to the magic of grafting, and prunings from my other trees. By doing this, I save $25 or so on every single tree I graft since I can do this for free, and those trees will have the strong pest/disease resistance of those hardy wild plum trees. It's a win/win situation, and will be an interesting learning experience. Incidentally for those who don't know this, grafting has been done since ancient times... I know for a fact that the Romans did it. |
Btw, the chickens play a big part in all of this as well. As the chickens poop in their coop, I continue to add straw, and continue that for 6 months at a stretch. This is a perfectly clean practice, and basically composts the chicken poop with the straw. I need to clean out the coop in the near future, and will allow it all to finish composting in a pile on one corner of the property, since the top layer of poo and straw will obviously not yet be composted. This method of controlling chicken poo in the coop is odor-free, clean and safe for the chickens, and provides fertilizer that is literally better than money can buy. Some of that will be used around June/July, and some of it will be reserved for next spring. I have none left from last spring... so you might wonder what I am going to do for compost over the next couple weeks?
There is a natural, organic, safe answer; and a store-bought answer. You can go buy compost, and it will work fine. I'm sure I will be purchasing a few bags. The other answer is leaf mould, from the heavily wooded hills surrounding the property. The topsoil on these hills is very dark, rich, and loamy, because the dense woods keep any grass from growing... only highly shade tolerant plants can grow under the tree canopy. That means you have decades of leaves that have fallen, composted themselves, and turned into rich, black earth. I won't be stripping hillsides... lol but here and there in good spots, i will be shoveling up a bag of free, natural, organic compost, and using it to help fertilize my plants and start some of the more nutrient-hungry plants.
So that's most of what's on my gardening agenda this year. Anybody else gardening, storing food, and saving a buck while eating healthier?
Keep in mind that I'm still learning too! I'm lucky though, I have the benefit of learning from mom, who has been doing this for a half century now, and learned it from her mom and dad, who grew much of their family's food when she was growing up.
We've done onions as long as I can remember. It's never got out of control. When you buy onions, you buy them as sets, or bulbs. Stick em in your tilled soil in rows, and come back a few months later and dig them up when they are big. Garlic takes a little longer. I'm actually not sure if we should plant Garlic right now or not, usually garlic is planted in the fall, and harvested the following fall. I'm going to try it anyway.. *shrug* We have plenty of places I can stick some and see what happens.
If you want to get a great book that will tell you everything you need to know about growing anything, pick up a copy of "Grow It!" by Richard Langer. I'm a book hoarder, lol, and it's by far the best book for the gardener or small scale farmer I've ever seen. My copy is one of the originals from 1973, but here's a link on amazon to the reprints that were done in the 90s:
And there is also one lone copy of the 1973 printing available used cheap too: http://www.amazon.com/Grow-Beginners-In-Harmony-With-Nature-Vegetable-Liveststock/dp/B002MO77RQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335724368&sr=1-3
It's a great book. Whereas most books today are geared towards selling you this or telling you to buy that, Grow It just tells you how to do all this stuff, the old fashioned way, in simple terms. It gives you all the info you need, and is very well written. It's not a "Dummy" book, there's tons of good info in Grow It, it's just very well written.
Someday when I buy my land, Grow It and another booklet called "The Have More Plan" are going to be my main references for what I want to do with that land
|Mainly, I want my land so I can be self sufficient. I'm 39, anybody my age who thinks that social security will be there for them, despite having 14% of every dollar you ever earn confiscated for it, is an idiot. IMHO, the Govt and Wall Street have both provided me with abundant evidence that they can't be trusted with my eventual retirement and well being. So, like any good Cap, I'm going to provide for myself. |
Likewise, I don't like what's being done to our food by Cargill, ConAgra, Monsanto, and such. Anybody who even scratches the surface of what they are doing to the food you feed your family will be horrified.
I want some rural land because I grew up in the country, and rather than letting that land just be an expense, with a little work, it can be an asset that provides for me. Providing nutritious and tasty fruits, vegetables, nuts, greens, and meat. I'm perfectly capable of building my own wind or hydro-electric power system, installing solar (though it's NOT the panacea that the Eco-Weenies all want to claim it is, it is handy in SOME situations), and eventually even a small steam generator system for when the creek or spring isn't flowing well, or the wind isn't blowing enough. I want to grow my own food, and make my own power, on remote rural land where I won't be pestered much. That's my plan for retirement, and I hope to buy the land and start building toward that within the next 10 years. What I'm really doing right now is reading, educating myself, and learning by experience, preparing for when I own that land.
I do have an idea what may have happened with your onions, a couple ideas actually. Onions can be propagated by seed as well, it just takes longer. Did you perhaps forget to dig up all of your onions, and some went to seed, which was then spread about your lawn by birds and the wind? Or did you guys use seed in the first place, and maybe let the seeds drop throughout the yard as you carried them in a bag, or your hands?
Also, are you sure the onions in your yard were the same that you planted? We have wild onions and wild garlic growing in our yard here. I don't get too worried about it. Every now and then when i don't have enough green onions, or fresh garlic, for a recipe I'm making, I just walk out about 100 yards from my door, look around for the tell-tale green tufts of onion or garlic, pull some up, wash with it, and cook. It's potent stuff, so go easy with it, but very tasty!
|To find good land, you have to be willing to get outside of the cities of course. Lots of other people are thinking the same, but buy up all the land within a 30 minute commute, so unless you have deep pockets, you have to look further out. The challenge is finding rural land in a spot where the job market is decent enough for you to work and make a living. If you are making your living as a writer, you can do that in B.F.E. thanks to modern technology. Look further out. *shrug* |
Part of the reason why I want to start my own business is so that I can live on some pretty rural land, at least an hour away from the nearest city of 50,000 or more, and preferably at least 2 hours away from any big city over 500,000. It's safer, land is cheaper and prettier, mostly the people are more friendly, and the further from cities and towns you get, the less you are forced to deal with the Code Nazis and appease them. I want land so that *I* can run the show on it, not some fussy busybody with a rule book 12" thick and no common sense.
If you have a yard, you could easily grow onions, tomatoes, and lettuce. Even if you are in an apartment and have some sunny windows, you can at least grow a lot of lettuce. Think about this: Leafy greens like lettuce, bought at the store, cost as much or more than steak per pound! They are also dead easy to grow... just sow the seeds on some fertile dirt (even bagged topsoil and miracle grow if you have to buy it at the store and do it in containers or pots), put it in your windows, and remember to water it. Cheaper, fresher, tastier, and you know where it came from, so it's not coated in chemicals, or picked, handled, and processed by illegal aliens who poop in the field and don't wash their hands (yes, this happens folks, what do you think is the SOURCE of the E-Coli that has been getting packaged lettuce from Big Agri-Business companies recalled for E-Coli every year for the past decade or so?) Feces. We can argue about the reasons why it happens, but in the end, that's the source. I'd rather grow my own, for far less money, and enjoy eating nutritious food that won't kill me, thanks.
There are tomatoe varieties that take very well to being grown in pots, indoors or on a balcony, as well. Order some seeds from www.victoryseeds.com or another heirloom provider for "Tiny Tim" tomatoes. They grow into a little self supporting bush about 12" tall and 18" wide, and produce tons of small "cherry" tomatoes
With the tiny tims, if that is the only variety you are raising, they will also breed true, since they are heirlooms. When you have a particularly tasty, bountiful plant, save the seeds from that one, and grow more plants just like it... do that and you will always be improving your tomatoes. Plus, if you grow them indoors in containers like that, make it a habit to start a plant or two every month, and you'll always have fresh cherry tomatoes, instead of paying $5 for a little pint container of them at the grocery store, and being unable to find any that taste worth a damn all winter.
You can also grow bunching onions, and just continuously cut the green tops for salads. Some varieties are better for that than others. Regardless... even if you are in an apartment in the city, there's a way you can save a bundle of money every year, eat better, and enjoy it - Try it, and eventually get to the point where you raise enough lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and bunching onions indoors that you and your boy can have a salad every day with lunch or dinner. You can even compost your kitchen scraps and coffee grounds, and add the finished compost back into your potted soil to keep up your nutrients in the soil. It might even be a fun project for your boy. Some varieties of lettuce are ready to eat 28 days after you sow the seeds, that's a fast enough rate to hold a small kid's attention and keep them focused on the fact that they grew their own food, all by themselves (with mamma's help of course).
This year, I'm going to try to keep some tomatoes going indoors all winter... not just Tiny Tims, but maybe Brandywines, or a Russian/Siberian variety as well for larger tomatoes. You can't buy a decent tomato at the store, they are all bland and tasteless, and mostly GMO... modified genetically for a pretty appearance, and ease of shipping... while sacrificing flavor. I'm sick of going through winter without a decent tomato until July. See the prices of those crappy hot house tomatoes, or the imported ones? Tasteless AND expensive. Two sunny windows could save me a lot of money and give me decent tomatoes year round, if I use my head this year.
|Btw, as far as good land... you can also buy "junk" land and improve it. That book "Grow it" gives you a few ways to do that. A lot of good could be said for rescuing a patch of land, and restoring it's fertility. Plant clover as green manure, and till it under to provide nitrogen and organic material. Plant alfalfa to break the soil up... if you have enough land, have somebody cut it and bail it for you, sell it to people with horses or cattle. Or, just til it under to break down as more organic material. Buckwheat will grow on land that won't support anything else, is a nutritious grain, your chickens will be as happy to eat with it as you will be to grind it up and make pancakes with it, and it does a great job of breaking up the soil as well, AND drawing up nutrients from deeper in the soil than other grains can reach. |
When I get my land, if I buy land with issues, or that has been depleted by factory farming techniques for decades, I'll be improving it using those methods, and by putting my animals to work for me. Fence off an area and let the pigs or chickens root, scratch, poop, etc to their heart's content the first year. Move them off of it about Nov of Dec (time to turn pigs into pork chops at that point anyway). Keep it fenced though, and thanks to all that poop, and the earthworms it attracts, and soil microorganisms breaking down the poop, and the animals rooting up the patch and destroying anything green... including eating the weed seeds... you have a garden patch. Your pigs and/or chickens kindly did all the really hard work for you. Let them do it on another plot the 2nd year, and use that 1st plot as your first serious garden on the property. If you are worried it's not fertile enough yet, plant clover and till it under as green manure again, or plant that patch with green beans, even if you want to let them go to become shell beans when mature and dry.
Rake up your leaves from around the property and compost them in the fall, clean out the chicken coop for the approaching winter and mix that into your pile of leaves, you'll have great compost by the following spring.
There are all sorts of things you can do to give new life to neglected, abused land... so don't count it out. You will also be able to purchase it for a song compared to somebody's acres of already perfect, fertile land.
|Water, or the ability to conserve it, is the #1 thing to pay attention to. How much land do you want? We all want 2,000 beautiful acres of course, but I've decided I could be very happy on 40, and would settle for as few as 10 if the price was right and it meets certain criteria.|
As an old school old timey farmer once said: "If you ain't got water, you ain't got nothin!" Have a pond, or some slopes you can dam off at the bottom to make a pond from rainfall. Have a working well, or the ability to have one drilled. A good hillside spring will be a key selling point for my own land, that's what i am really looking for.
Learn how everything works together. When you really study the nuts and bolts of it, old fashioned family farms were a very efficient, well run operation. Each animal not only provided one or more sources of food, they turned things that were otherwise inedible like grass, bugs, or spilled grain, into food; controlled pests that bothered the other animals (like pigs eating venomous snakes, or chickens picking fly larvae out of cow patties and scattering the patties), and fertilizer. Study the animal's natural behavior and use it to good effect. A sweet little flock of hens will gladly totally defoilate a weedy patch of ground, scratch it til it is all loose, and fertilize it for you to make a garden patch... it just takes a 1 year delay vs buying a place with a perfect patch already there. In the meantime, you probably saved money on the cost of land, and those sweet little hens make you breakfast every day. Pigs will also root up soil in tough areas, especially where you have plants with tenacious roots that the chickens can't get rid of.
Goats are great weed control. If you've never seen them do it, you wouldn't believe how they can clear out a patch of thorny brush in a week.
Land that is already bearing crops, or capable of it, always sells at a premium. Also keep this in mind: It has also been getting more and more depleted of trace minerals with every crop grown on it! By buying "junk" land, otherwise not useful for "modern" agriculture, and working it along with planting green manure, and siccing your animals on it in fenced patches, you might end up with land that gives you more vitamin and mineral rich fruits and veggies in the end anyway... because all those trace minerals aren't depleted from the soil there.
Posted by Pecheresse
A little premature aren't ya? Merry Beltane regardless, if you are celebrating it.
|Me publish? LOL nah Lots of other guys are publishing great how-to and info. Nobody is writing on quite the level that the authors of the late 1800s through mid 1900s did though. Their language and vocabulary were at the same time better, and more understandable than modern writers seem to be able to manage. They also were more intent on teaching you something, rather than encouraging you just to "Go buy product X at the store" to solve a problem. Go to www.archive.org and poke around, and you can download a whole bunch of great old books that are out of copyright, and focus on old fashioned farming techniques used prior to the 1950s. Good stuff, enjoyable reading. A few of my favorites have been "Ten Acres Enough", "Farm of Four Acres", and one that is either "Five acres and Liberty" or "Three acres and liberty"... I think the latter. For poultry, look for the titles published between 1900 and 1950 by the "Ideal Poultry Company", they are the best books ever written on the topic, and are all you will ever need to know. |
Yes we have animals on the property, chickens. The first, cheapest, and most versatile livestock animal to get is the chicken. That one animal converts grass, clover, bugs, kitchen scraps, and feed into delicious meat, eggs, and manure, all the while helping to control pests. Got grasshoppers and other bugs that keep your garden from doing well? You don't have too many bugs, you have too few chickens, those bugs are free feed... while they last. Poultry also do fantastic with orchards, the two compliment one another perfectly. Chickens go after moths like kids fighting over candy. First thing to do on your land, once you have your water supply figured out, is immediately plant an orchard, since it will take 2-3 years to start bearing fruit. Run your chickens in that orchard, and they will control pests for you. Btw, I've seen 3 ticks here in 3 years, thanks to the chickens. Considering that we are surrounded by dense woods, that's a real achievement when you think about it.
A couple modern books, aside from "Grow It" that you might look at are one called "successful small scale farming", "Five Acres and Independance", and "Back to Basics... which is a big hardback book you can get for about $25 with good, basic how-to info on a lot of homesteading issues. Each of those books have some of the info in them you need to restore some neglected/abused land to good fertility.
Posted by PecheressePosted by cowpuncherPosted by Pecheresse
You aren't trying to pull that whole "Spring Fertility rite" scam on me here are you? I already fell for that a few years in a row... now I'm wise to it though! No freebies!
Posted by PecheressePosted by cowpuncherPosted by PecheressePosted by cowpuncherPosted by Pecheresse
Well, you are a redhead, and redheads have to stick together after all (and continue the world's supply of awesome redheads since our numbers are dwindling)... so upon further consideration, freebie granted! I don't deliver though, dine-in or carry-out only.
|Earthygem: Go download this right now, you're going to read it over and over and over and love it. It's "The Have More Plan" that I referred to earlier.. with great info on picking out some land, and lots of common sense about how to lay it out and use it efficiently: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.webpal.org%2FSAFE%2Faaarecovery%2F1_farm_recovery%2Fftpfiles%2Fthe_have_more_plan.pdf&ei=YsOdT-vBOYWo8AS3oOSeDw&usg=AFQjCNEWWs398GYzxmKVE6_wNUaBaNawlg You will love it, I promise. Lots of good, old fashioned common sense and wisdom in that little document.|
www.motherearthnews.com also has about 30 years worth of articles online, searchable, for free now... and is a great resource. Unfortunately in the past 10 years, it's been taken over by Eco-Weenies more intent on preaching their gospel than teaching people good old fashioned How-To info, but since all the old articles are archived there, it's still a gold mine of information about all sorts of subjects you will want to read up on. Plan to spend a lot of lazy sunday mornings draining a pot of coffee while reading those thousands of articles.
www.backwoodshome.com Great magazine for people who think like us, with lots of good how-to info, and many great articles archived on the website as well. It pays to get the magazine itself when they offer it as a deal with some of their back-issues on CD as pdf's. They don't post every old article on the site, so the only way to get them all is subscribing, and getting those CD's. Loads of good info from those folks.
Here are a couple links to "Back to Basics". The new version has a few updated entries so you might be interested in it, but the second link has a used copy for $2.86+shipping, and really has 99% of the same info anyway, if you want to save some dough. I have the old version, bought the new version to give as a gift to like minded friends. http://www.amazon.com/Back-Basics-Complete-Traditional-Edition/dp/1602392331/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335739869&sr=1-1
Old version: http://www.amazon.com/Back-Basics-Editors-Readers-Digest/dp/0895770865/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335739869&sr=1-2