Tag Archive for wild

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.

 

The History of the Chicken

When any small fledgling homestead begins the pursuit of animal husbandry the first animal that comes to mind is that of the chicken. While we’re not looking to breed livestock, nor to slaughter them ourselves, we are looking at raising egg layers. While Joe has had previous experience up close and personal with chickens (go ahead, ask him about the odd spot in his eye), I have no experience with the fowl except for cooking and eating them. So, as with any other venture I think seriously about, I’ve begun researching everything that is chicken.

For starters, I never really thought about the fact that even chickens were at one point a wild fowl that had to be domesticated to end up where they are now. Like many other animals that have been altered due to selective breeding through domestication (such as cows and pigs), chickens have undergone their own “camouflage” that separates them from their ancient ancestors, but only minutely so. The real reason we don’t see them as ever having been wild is that they’ve been domesticated since roughly 3000 BCE!

The red junglefowl is the to have supposedly started it all. Common belief holds that this cute little bugger was domesticated in India for the purpose of food, decorative uses (feathers), and entertainment (cock fighting). Some researchers place the rise in domesticated chickens to various areas throughout the same time period. China, Malaysia, Thialand, and other areas of Southeast Asia are mentioned as possible starting points for the long history of breeding the birds. The concept quickly spread into Egypt, eventually moving into other farming regions throughout the world, and being brought to the Americas by British, French, and Dutch settlers.

It’s interesting to see that, for all intents and purposes, these creatures are very similar to those still found wild and roaming around today. The differences between the current wild red junglefowl and modern chickens have more to do with size and less to do with coloring. Domesticated chickens, as has happened with other domesticated animals, have become larger in general size than their wild contemporaries. A lot of this has to do with the selective breeding that goes on in animal husbandry. This is the same breeding selection that create the white chickens that Romans used to use for sacrifices and ornamental chickens that the Chinese breed for beauty.