Tag Archive for homesteading

Gardens Continued: “Wild Gardens” or “Wildcraft” Gardening

“Wild gardens,” of “wildcraft gardening,” is just as interesting as it sounds. Wild gardening works off the premise that all gardens can be fed and nourished on their own in a wild setup, needing minimal attention and yielding optimal production.Wild gardening is the practice of simply planting in the land around you and letting things grow, well, wild. This practice utilizes the natural weed growth as a protective barrier that provides shade and helps build the soil. It also allows insect populations to naturally help protect, pollinate, and tend the plants as well.

There are three key rules to the practice of wild gardening.

1. No cultivation. – Cultivation is still considered a more modern practice when it comes to growing crops. It is well known that over cultivation strips the land of the topsoil which in turn causes nutrient loss and is the primary reason while fertilizers need to be added back into the soil.

2. No chemicals. – No chemicals can be use. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or additives can touch either the soil or the plant. Using these can upset not only the seedlings in the wild garden, but the surrounding weeds and insects as well.

3. No weeding. – Obviously, in a wild garden which is purposely grown among the weeds, weeding out said weeds would be a bit of a shot in the foot as it breaks down the ecosystem that you’re borrowing to grow your garden.

The most important piece in planning a wild garden is in investigation work that is done before hand. The season following the start of your wild garden is a season of observation and discovery. In order to plan out a wild garden, watching the weeds that you plan on planting among is necessary.

By watching and recording the health and vigor of the different types of weeds it is possible to determine if there are any soil deficiencies that need to be addressed first. As with any garden, crops will grow best if the soil is ideal. Being able to prep the soil in the fall leading up to planting season is the easiest way to ensure the produce will being growing in the best soil conditions possible.

Tracking down when the two different sets of weeds sprout and die out is also important for planting the wild garden. Many areas exhibit two sets of weed growth, a summer growth and a winter growth. The best time for planting your spring and summer produce is just when the winter growth is done dying off and the sprouts for the summer weeds have yet to start growing. The reverse is ideal for the winter crops – summer weeds should be dying off and winter weeds sprouting when the seeds for the winter crop are planted.

While I would love to be able to give a list of what plants grow best in a wild garden, it would all be conjecture. We have yet to attempt a wild garden, though I think we might be game for one this spring. I can say that, in my readings on wild gardens, I have noticed that there seems to be a pattern. It seems that the produce more apt to grow haphazardly in the garden – such as tomatoes, squash, lettuce, bush peas – do well in wild gardens. Potatoes do so well that many folks simply leave them in the one spot for years on end, leaving enough in the ground for the next season’s garden.

If any of you have practiced wild gardening or are planning to do so, please comment with your experiences! This is a topic that I would love to learn more about from those who have actual experience with the process.

 

Gardens Continued: Raised Bed

One of the most prolific forms of gardening is the raised bed method. The raised bed method sinus tad it sounds: you are literally raising your garden bed.

Raised bed gardens start with selecting an area to fencing, or boxing in, with wood timber, cement blocks, or anything else that may be fashioned to hold soil. 

The height of the bed can vary form only a few inches above ground soil to a height tall enough to accomadate the elderly and handicapped. The minimum height is based off from whatever crops you are growing in the raised bed. The minimum height for growing lettuce allows for a very shallow box. Carrots, on the other hand, creates the need for a minimum of 12″ of raised bed depth. 

The width of the bed can vary just as much as the depth, from one row up to the entirety of a garden. The basic rule of thumb is this: make sure your raised bed isn’t so wide that you can’t teach to the middle for easy weeding. Additionally, it’s important to make sure that you leave enough space between the plants and the box framing to assure that the roots aren’t short on space. 

Some people plant their crops extensively in raised beds. While that is a possibility, depending on the size of your garden, it’s an expensive possibility. For our homestead, where we try to grow as much of our food as possible, raised beds serve a specific purpose. We save our raider bed ares for herbs, shallow root crops, such as lettuce and time intensive crops such as broccoli.  Not only does it make the certain crops more easy to notice in a large garden, but it also allows for easier access. The more thourough drainage of the raised bed is also a plus, prohibiting drowning and molding during wet seasons. 

Decisions

I’ve written previously that Amp would be going to slaughter, but now I’m hesitating.

Amp’s been much better around us, as of late. We’ve gone out of our way to handle him, making sure that he understands that we’re the ones in charge. He even let me pick him up while he was eating, bring him in to put bag balm on his comb, and then bring him back to the coop with no ruffling, grumping, and attempted pecking. Amp’s still a bit rough with the ladies, one in particular that I may need to put a saddle on today with how cold it is. The battles between he and Gucy have lessened and he hasn’t swatted at us once.

I’m nervous to see what Spring will bring, once the hormones hit and such, but for the most part, I think he may be receiving a stay of execution.

Tough Days Make Us Tough Birds

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It’s difficult to live on a homestead. While we don’t slaughter out own birds – yet – the emotions that you go through packing them into the kennels and loading them into the car, driving to the butcher’s and handing them over, picking them up an hour later, and bringing them home to the freezer, it’s a roller coaster ride.

You’ve held these birds in your hands since they were a day old. You fed them, cuddled them, loved them.  You give them your attention, your time, and your devotion. In return they give you education, experience, and sustenance. It’s never easy to see anything come to an end, much less the life of an animal, even one that has been born and raised with the sole purpose of giving your family food.

We’re asked often why we raise our own birds if it is so hard to see them go off to “freezer camp.” There are so many ways to answer this, but it all boils down to the fact that it is by far healthier for us and for them. They have room to grow, are not debeaked, and are not kept in an area the size of an iPad. These birds have been tended to for every wound and illness, from pasty butt to bumble foot, to torn combs. Each rooster has been held, named, and identified as a living being, not a “production unit.”

We eat meat because we are carnivores. But that does not mean we need to become heartless about it. Our current industrialization of animal husbandy that has formed concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFOs) have let the US become such a heartless, unaware society as to where our meat comes from that many no longer realize their food as once having been a living animals. We, like all homesteaders, fight to close this gap. We long to be connected back into our food chain, giving each animal we consume the best life possible until it’s time for their ultimate destiny as one of our “farm hands.” As a family we’ve decided to raise our own meat birds, buy local beef, and purchase additional meat from the local farmers’ market. Is there more that we could do to strengthen our connection? Yes, but raising our own chickens for slaughter is the first step.

I could wax political and spiritual for hours on this topic. It’s a job we don’t take lightly, raising our own food, but it’s one that we readily take upon ourselves instead of taking it for granted. It is rough. It leads to tears, sleepless nights, early mornings, and deep meditation, but Gods above is it worth it. We know where our food comes from. We know each bird was happy and healthy. We know we are making a difference and raising our children to know where their food – their life source – comes from. I will never give up that opportunity.

 

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Rooster sitting in a barn on a rural farm

New Ladies

New Girls

So I left my house yesterday thinking that I would be picking up two month old Black Austrolops. I traveled over an hour out to another part of the state while battling cold, was surprised by chance to run into an old friend, but overall the entire trip was a bit different than what I expected.

The lady selling me the pullets as part of her children’s 4H project was very nice and seemed to know a lot, but she also seem to have a lot of misinformation at her disposal. From feather sexing to the effects of food on been to growth sizes to different types of breeds, she seemed a little too trusting of information on the Internet. (This brings to mind some different subjects that I’ll be tackling either here on this blog or in future writing projects.)

I’m a little concerned that she might be going out of her way to mislead others, but I hope that’s not the case. What she was claiming to be 2 to 3 month old Black Austrolops were barely five weeks old. They still had a lot of down, very few second growth feathers, and would in no way be ready to be outside in a week or two. She had only a few older birds, and none that she had intended to selling. After talking and explaining how long we’ve been raising chickens, she seemed to be changing her mind on letting a couple of the actual two month old birds go. (Come to find out, this was only their first year doing chicks and second year doing chickens over all. There was a lot that she seemed hesitant on, but in talking to her I think she’ll be all set as long as she gets her hands on some better information.)

While I didn’t get that specific breed, I did bring two chickens home to become Jovi’s ladies. Supposedly they are Leghorn/Aracuana mixes. They’re very beautiful. They’re predominately white with some very light speckling. Even though she was “200% sure” they’re both pullets, I have a sinking suspicion one of them might be a rooster. It’s hard to tell with mixed breeds, though. If one does end up showing to be a rooster, well, we’ll deal with it at that point. We’ll keep them as docile as possible and if someone’s looking for a beautiful, nice rooster will try to home him. If not then he might just meet the fate of other roosters and help nourish our family.

Here’s hoping that they’re both beautiful, docile hens. If they stay as calm as they are now, it shouldn’t be a problem. More specifically, here’s hoping that these two ladies and Jovi get along splendidly as it will be so much easier to blend them into the flock together. And I upset that the trip didn’t turn out as planned.

Am I upset that I didn’t get the specific chickens that I wanted? Not necessarily. Things happen for reason and as were looking to build the best flock of tame yet intelligent chickens for our family, this might be a blessing.