Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community
My wife and I have made very small garden plots for the last few years, all done with a hoe and a rake. I have set out this year to expand this to a much larger plot so that we will be able to can for the winter, give some to neighbors and also hopefully sell a little at the local farmers market.
I wanted to establish a thread to begin sharing my experience and to also hopefully gain insight from others who are beginning to expand their growing capabilities. If you own or have the capital or credit rating to own a John Deere 6D series tractor, this is not the thread for you. I am a long-time underpaid plebian in SE Ohio living paycheck to paycheck. This is for those doing it, like myself, on a severely tattered shoestring.
Here are my steps so far:
- Purchased a new Brimley 10 inch moldboard plow.(Assembly required)
- Purchased a new Brimley disc harrow gang(Assembly required) Know that a second gang would be optimal but can do it with one.
- Purchase a fast attach sleeve hitch
Now here I sat with the implements that I needed to break ground. I planned to pull these behind my John Deere 125 lawn tractor. After closer inspection of the underbelly of the 125 and transmission, I came to the realization that I would have ripped the transmission clean out of the 125 had I attached a plow to it. Crap! I thought I was dead in the water until I happened to spot a classified ad in the local paper of a guy selling used garden tractors. After a half hour drive out into the depths of the Meigs County Ohio Hills to meet the guy, I found exactly what I needed. A 30+-year old 14HP Jacobson garden tractor, made by the same manufacturer who made the old Ford tractors. It was ugly as sin but it ran like a race car and already had the chains on the tires, all for $175!!! yippee.
So now I can break ground and disc it for planting. The nice thing about these implements too is that it wouldn’t take too
much ingenuity to fabricate a means to pull them behind a horse if fuel
shortages would make that a necessity. I still don’t have a cultivator implement but am considering having my daughters do the cultivating the old-fashioned way, with a hoe.
Now for the community part. Our local community just purchased a large composter machine. I need to get to know these people well. SE Ohio has rocky Appalachian soil. It’s not the fertile black stuff they have in Northern and Western Ohio. Compost will be critical. I have volunteered my lunch hour every Monday to stand at the trash can at the local university to educate people on what is compostable and what is not. The better I know the man at the compost machine, the better chance I have of getter a truckload of that growers gold on my field once or twice a year.
Finally, we are very fortunate to have a very active local farmers market in our area. Even with a sub-par yield, we will have far more vegetables than we will be able to eat or store over a year. Our plan is to either sell through another vender at the market on consignment or set up our own table. We are also taking this into account as we pick crops and designate how many rows of any particular crop we establish. We have previously had great luck with okra and are one of very few people that we know who grow (and eat) okra. It makes a nice niche for us and we can serve the demands of international students at the local University and transplanted Southerners who demand fresh Okra. Only pre-requisite of the farmers market is that you didn’t use herbacides/pestacides which is just fine with me. My only pesticide will be the stakes and 30 pound test fishing line that circles the space to prevent deer. A Remington 870 12-guage also works pretty well on deer and helps to provide subsequent protein in the diet. 😉 For herbicide, I am reading that corn gluten over several seasons will help prevent crabgrass which is our biggest weed infestation problem.
Would love to hear some other grassroots first-time farming stories or suggestions and tips from those with more experience.
very cool. how big is your plot? I am looking to do a 40′ x 80′ plot of land.
Can you post pics or links to those tools? Would like to see them and know how to order them!
I have 6 acres total. Going to start pretty small this year by cutting into about 40′ x 60′ for crops. Just really want to keep it simple this first year to establish my processes and local community connections.
I will get some photos over the next couple evenings so you can see what I’m talking about in terms of implements and so you can see my ugly-ass tractor. 🙂 Btw, I typed "Brimley" as the brand of my plow and disc harrow. It’s Brinly. Brinly is an old and dependable name in small implements:
http://www.brinly.com/gardening-equipment/ Look over to the right in
that page for Plows, Disc Harrows and Cultivators. This will at least
educate you on the fundamental tools you need. Then make sure to
check eBay. I got a $350 sleeve hitch through eBay for $60 almost new
condition/. I bought implements brand new but have recently seen some nice old small scale implements on ebay; plows, disc harrows and cultivators.
Hello, tabletop: I am definitely with you. We are expanding our farming operation also. We are raising beef, chicken, pork and vegetables, this will be our second year, and did we ever learn a lot!
We’re trying to bring 3 two-acre fields back from overgrown scrubland/woods so we clearcut and proceeded to try to find someone to disk the ground so we could plant grass for beef cattle. No one in southern Maine has a disk or even knows what one is… we are not planning to buy a tractor. (tractor payments???? no way!) After a whole summer of frustration, we now have a plan… 10 pigs in electric fence moved every couple of days and a rototiller to follow and by the end of August we should be ready to sow some grass seed. It’s a beautiful system: happy healthy free-ranging pigs (in an enclosed 200′ x 200′ area) dig up and eat the weeds. We eat the pigs. Beats tractor payments! As for vegetables, they will go into raised beds where last year’s pigs roamed.
We’ve done some preliminary "chicken tractor" work, a la Joel Salatin, so we also have chickens following cows. It’s a fair bit of work, but we know what we’re eating (as do our customers).
Thanks for this thread; looking forward to hearing from others seeking self-sufficiency.
"Recall that whatever lofty things you might accomplish today, you will do them only because you ate first something that grew out of dirt." Barbara Kingsolver
We’re smaller-scale growing than you folks (I say, green with jealousy at how much land you have to work!) on our suburban quarter acre lot. We have about 400 s/f in raised beds right now, with fruit trees and raspberry bushes in and more going in as soon as I get off the computer!
We have a hoop row cover on about 150 s/f, a 50 s/f cold frame, and the rest of the beds are open. We’re in Northern Colorado so can expect frost for another two months, potentially.
We have 7 chickens, four laying, 3 pullets, under the back deck.
We found a friend of a friend with several acres about 2 miles from us, who want to do a big community garden, so we are helping them plant out and maintain a garden that will be between 1/2 and one acre. They want to raise a litter of pigs and we will likely pay for and help raise a piglet. She’d like us to board a milk goat at her place, but I’m not ready to be driving over there twice a day most days to milk it, so that’s on the back burner.
We are also helping with a backyard garden movement in our town, facilitating workshops on raised bed gardens and seed swaps of locally tested seeds.
I’m happy to report back how these various elements play out for us this growing season!
Personally, I’d stay well away from ploughing. The fuel to drive the tractor could be hard to get within as little as two years, certainly four. What then? You will have invested a lot of money (well I guess a $175 tractor isn’t a lot of money, but how often can you get a bargain like that?) into a machine you may not be able to use in the near future.
A friend of mine (who owns a tractor!) uses pigs. He ploughs up 1/2 acre, and plants sweet potatoes. 12 months later, when the tubers are ready, he puts two piglets in a movable pen on top of the sweet potatoes which they devour and turn into bacon and manure, ploughing up the ground as they go. When the patch is done, he just moves them sideways, and when the potatoes are all done, the now large pigs go in the freezer… he replaces the sweet potatoes as they areeaten, then restarts the whole cycle.
So if I had a tractor right now….. I’d plant sweet potatoes!
That sweet potato and pig system is great! Yeah, I thought of the fuel shortage/expense issues. I am keeping a close eye on fuel prices. Like I said I am ready with tools that I have along with neighbors to fabricate these implements to pull behind horses or pigs:-) I just need to time it right so that I don’t get caught in a situaltion where the electric goes off making a torch and welder as useless at that point as the tractor.
I like the idea of the pigs, but our garden is close to the house, how bad to they smell?
My wife would kill me if I made the house smell like poo 24×7!
I grew up with large corporate farming in front and back of my house. They sprayed cow manure every spring from huge tanks. You get used to the smell. I even kinda like it now, it make me feel like spring whenever I smell it. Somehow I don’t see my testimonial being of any help with your wife’s reservations but I had to say it. My wife thinks I’m a nutcase to like the smell of manure.
So w/out the guarantee of gas, we need manual tools – but for now as long as gas is around, the $175 for the tractor is not bad at all to risk.
Manual tools – I guess the Hoe is the main one? Get some Garden Boxes or would going straight into the soil better? Digging into the soil is harder and the soil condition is uncertain I guess.
There is a list somewhere on the Top 25 crops to grow – I wil dig it up.