It’s happening again, the distinct ying/yang effect of the amount of blogging waning as my amount of doing waxes.  Here are some quick updates to where some of the projects are at.

Market Garden 

BIG NEWS: I have permission to utilize as much of .5 acres as needed!  This is at the site about 4 miles from my home.  As reality sets in on the amount of work that this will take, I am thinking of sticking to just one 50×100 foot section that will be tilled under this spring, and then start a chicken tractor rotationally grazing what will be the other 50×100 garden.  This will allow for essentially ALL the beds to be taken out of production annually for soil building and grazed by 10-20 layers in 1-2 tractors.  As we get closer to planting time (OMG I have to start seedlings in less than 2 weeks!!) my research, planning, budgeting and shopping have gone into High Gear.  Uber exciting!

Eco Victory Garden

The presentation went over very well and we will be meeting again this weekend for a more in depth discussion.  The name appears to be morphing from a “victory garden” into a “Household Ecology Center” to stress the system thinking inherent in it.  Big Thanks to Emily at Eat Close to Home for her suggestion of using a second plastic barrel for the composter -that may very well make it to the final system: it saves $30, cuts an hour off the instalation and is better sized to the garden.  Lots of momentum on this

Winter Reading 

In addition to catalogues from Fed-Co, Johnny’s and Seed Savers, I am currently devouring Andy Lee’s Chicken Tractor  as I will be putting them to use in about 8 weeks.  Love his idea of simple straw bale structure for winter housing.   Also getting time in the queue is Lester Brown’s Plan B 3.0 which is one of the most important books I’ve read.  Lays out the immediacy, magnitude, and potential solutions to the problems of our generation.   We need to Get Real.  Now.  On the less immediate and lighter side I am also dabbling with Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage.  I plan to build one of these with the farm owners who are letting me use their land.  I’ll need it to -on another property I intend to grow 1500+ lbs of potatoes…

Garden Planning

Another tip from Emily was GrowVeg.com. I signed up for their 30 day trial and so far the system is fairly slick and certainly faster than my cobbled together spreadsheets.  Really like the fact that you draw the plans and it calculates planting rates with numbers of plants and then builds a plant list including planting times, etc.  Interface is not as inuititve as I would like (very few hot keys), but its not bad.  Big downer is that it is a subscription based system, not a downloadable software pack.  At $35/year it will add up and I have to have internet to view the plans.  Grrr.

The reality of the coming year is sinking in.  I will be growing food on a scale completely outside any reference I have ever had.  It appears I will have livestock, and I will also be very involved in a local sustainability group that is dreaming big enough that we have booths at both our county fair and the MREA I am also still maintaining my 50hr/wk salaried job and then there are little things like my essential roles as husband and father…  I also would like to blog 70k words this year as I hope that others can continue to learn from my trials.  At least the days are longer in the summer…

Keeping perspective will be difficult this year, but I have had enough people offer help with the market garden that I am continuing to dillude myself that I can still juggle all these eggs without any breaking.


8 Responses

  1. Busy busy busy! Farming a half acre! I can’t even imagine. I can’t wait to read about it–and I’m really looking forward to hearing about how the chicken tractor works for you. We’re building a mobile pen for our ladies this summer, but aren’t really following any science about where we put them. They’ll just be in the yard, but eventually I would like them munching stuff from the garden on a more regular basis.

    I’m also really glad to hear that the victory garden campaign is going well. That whole enterprise is such a good idea.

    Are your plans to eventually make a living (or most of a living) off agriculture so you can give up or cut back on your day job?

  2. TOO busy I fear! I will only be growing food in about 1200 sq feet with another 1200 in perrenial flowers, and another 2400 sq ft under chicken pasture. The rest of the .5 acre will house the large composting set up, vermiculture bins, hoop houses and winter digs for the hens and perhaps guinea fowl (for colorado beetle control). There! That makes it sound more manageable. Um, riiiight.

    Plans? More like dreams. Getting $100k+ in income off of small acre farming (50% tax hit for us entrepreneurs) is a pipe dream. But yes that is the plan. More likely I will switch to less time salary, more time farming. Goal of jumping to an acreage in 3 years with tools, knowledge, and markets established. In the mean time, lots of learning, networking, marketing, and help from friends -virtual and otherwise!

    Expect some emails soon picking your and Kelly’s brains on chicken lore as I move to buy my ladies!

  3. One minor piece of advice on the Chicken Tractor book. The specific pen design in the book is rather bulky and cumbersome. At the least, it could use some handles on the sides or ends for dragging it around. Or better yet, consult The Google for many alternate designs. My current favorite was one I saw made out of a bent cattle panels with a tarp for a roof. But there are improvements of every sort out there.

  4. Fantastic! I was offered what abounts to about 1500 square feet of space at my father’s to farm, but he lives about 20 miles away. Id really rather convince him to start farming it than drive that distance all the time.

    So obviously you are going to be growing potatoes, what other crops are going in that large space?

  5. Wow! Sounds really exciting! I’m glad the barrel composter might help. Just be sure to drill enough holes in it. And a heads-up on the GrowVeg.com…that’s 35 British Pounds, not dollars, I think. I wish they’d let you just buy it outright, like software, and run it on your computer. Have you tried the crop rotation bit? That intrigued me a lot…

  6. I know someone who grossed more than $100k on 1.5 acres. It’s do-able.

  7. Thanks for the tip E4. My tractors will hopefully have wheels on one end, and will be built with alot of scrap from the farms I am working on. being moveable by one person will be paramount!

    20 miles is a long ways! I have significant concerns about being present enough at this property which is still 4 miles away. I have every Monday off, so it will get one full day there with other days having an hour or two. Drip irrigation and deep mulching should help reduce the other chores. The garden will have a mix of traditional veggies here is my proposed rotation:

    Emily, I have not tried their crop rotation bit yet. If it works well I still might pony up the money. It is a time saver and time is rapidly becoming my most precious resource.

    Robin, I too have heard of accounts of small farmers making Real Money- thanks for the reminder! However most, but not all, were growing “cash crops” like micro greens, herbs or baby lettuce almost exclusively. Many were also either directly in an urban market or in California will a year round growing season. I am hoping to create a sustainable garden growing a diverse array of crops including protein (nuts and beans) carbs (potatoes, sunchokes, corn) and traditional nutrient crops of vegetables to offer both my family and a bit of my community a viable local source of nutrition. In time, with a focused fertility campaign I think I can hit a liveable income off of 2 acres. My backyard garden grossed about $3/sq ft counting paths and cover crops. If I can push that to an acre I’ll be doing fine. But it will take time. Thanks again for jolting me out of my “OMG” mindset.

  8. Rob- Found some tantalizing suggestions of how to kill cover crops. Rodale is experimenting with a “roller-crimper” for no-till applications. The idea, I think, is that you roll over a field of vetch with a heavy, ridged roller. It breaks the vetch off at the base, leaving a thick mat of mulch and the roots intact. You can then drill corn down through the mulch. Details on the technique are here and a gallery of crimpers (including a simple person-powered one) is here.

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