Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

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tabletop's picture
tabletop
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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.

 

 

paranoid's picture
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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

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!

 

thanks

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

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. 

 

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

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.

Cheers.

"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

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

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!

 

warmly,

Sue 

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

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!

Mike 

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

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.

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

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 24x7!

Rog

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

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.

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

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.

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community
tabletop wrote:

My wife thinks I'm a nutcase to like the smell of manure.

My admin assistant just came in to my office to see what I was laughing so hard about!

It would take some pretty strong mind control drugs and hypnosis to get my wife to say "Honey, can you please spread some more of that manure? I wanna hang the sheets out on the clothesline, but I can't smell any shit!"

Tabletop, you are a unique fella! Cheers!

Rog

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community
tabletop wrote:

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.

Funny you should mention that.  Our neighbor at the back of our suburban 3 acres has goats and chickens.  It smells like a "barnyard".  I love it.  My wife complains every time she comes back there.

My side neighbor has a McMansion and a pool.  I don't know him well.  The "goat man"?  We're buds.  I tell my wife that he will be our best neighbor should things get challenging.

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

We haven't started yet since we're still in the city (too many regulations to even have a garden here!), but we've been volunteering at local farms to learn and have been speaking with farmers in the area we will be homesteading so I think that might qualify me to join this thread to share what I've learned :)

The biggest thing we had to grasp was the difference between field crops and garden crops. There are a lot of veggies that people assume must be grown in a field... soil plowed and seeds planted in rows... that actually do much better in a raised bed garden scenario that provides higher years with much less cultivation energy. And, us small producers who aren't planning to have big tractors and combines, can easily get away with spread seeding most of the field crops without plowing or planting in rows since we'll be harvesting by hand or with small implements. You really only need those perfectly even rows if you're trying to drive a tractor through without damaging the crop... but walking through a field of grain with a hand scythe or an animal-drawn harvester doesn't do that kind of damage.

Our land is entirely treed so we will have to clear out our fields and pastures, but one of the locals warned us not to conventionally clear cut because this can damage the soil. What he's recommend is that we actually hand-log the areas, dig out any trunks, run a Brush Hog through to cut back the underbrush, and then just spread pasture seeds on the whole mess without plowing. If you select native grasses/legumes/grains they'll pretty much seed themselves in the spring with the freeze-thaw cycle and will take hold really fast and choke out most of the underbrush. You might have to keep cutting or digging up some of the more stubborn weeds and brush, but he's turned several brushy fields into pastures this way and it usually only takes a year or two. Weeds and such aren't really that much of an issue with pasture (unless they're poisonous) because whatever critters you have will eat what they like and leave the rest for some other critter who likes it.

Goats are excellent for clearing brush and containing the more tenacious weeds and brush. Hogs are wonderful tillers and field cleaners. Chickens are great for insect control, and even rodent control sometimes. Sheep are great for "mowing". Ducks eat bugs, snails and slugs. Geese will weed your garden for you. And for those of us who can't afford to keep a horse (or have husbands who are deathly allergic!) you can get the same harnesses and rigs for goats! Goats and sheep both give good milk if you don't have the space or can't afford a cow.

Mowing a field and putting up hay by hand is doable, but exhausting and takes awhile. If you need to put up a lot of hay for your critters over winter, this would be one area where a small Hobby/Estate tractor would come in handy. You might be able to get away using a garden tractor for smaller lots, but they really aren't made to take real field work year after year. Knowing how much land you're going to plant, what you're going to plant, how you're going to harvest and how much you're going to harvest is essential when factoring whether you can do it by hand/animal, or need a garden tractor or a slightly bigger Hobby/Estate tractor.  As for powering a tractor (or any tool really), it's not particularly difficult to plant your own fuel crops and make your own bio-diesel or ethanol/methanol for home & farm use. If you're mechanically handy, you can also gut and retrofit an older tractor to run on electric motors powered by batteries charged on solar or wind, etc. If you're mechanically handy, you can get broken-down tractors for a steal and either fix them up or convert them to electric. You can get some pretty good deals on hand implements, as well as old tractors and implements on eBay or local farm and estate sales... if you have the time to dedicate to that.

If you decide to go with animals, you have to factor in either the cost of buying their feed or the time & land you're going to need to grow their feed and any harvesting and storage you need. If your winter doesn't get too cold, you can just pasture your animals on winter growth; but if you have frigid winters with lots of snow you're probably going to need to harvest and store their feed. None of that is impossible, it just takes planning. Same thing goes for human power when you think about it... you either need enough money to pay for labor (or buy your food), or you need to be able to plant, harvest and store all the food you need with enough left over to trade for labor. This is an awesome opportunity to get the community involved! Nothing like a CSA where people can either pay cash for crops or donate their time on farm work or even do a "pick your own" set-up. 

Since our soil is very cold and isn't very thick or rich we'll definitely be doing 4'x25' raised beds in the garden. That way we can easily add and remove cold frames to extend the seasons, we can insulate the beds better, and we only have to add amendments to the beds exactly where they are needed instead of improving a whole field and feeding the weeds as well! Irrigation and drainage is also much easier in a raised bed in our area because we have permafrost to deal with. The size of the beds allow us to plant tall stuff in the back on trellises but still make it easy to reach across the bed for planting and harvesting. One of our local farms swtiched to this system last year and he's been able to increase his yield by a third while actually reducing his planted area by a third... now that's an improvement and he now has space for a new chicken coop!

Most animals do not smell if they are properly maintained. Not even pigs! The most important thing in controlling the smell is to either remove the excrement daily (time-consuming!) or to continually spread fresh bedding (wood chips or straw) over the entire floor of the pen. Covered poo does not smell... seriously! When the bedding gets deep enough, you can just shovel it out and put it on the compost pile... or go a la Joel Salatin and spread some corn in each layer and let the pigs break up all the bedding rooting around for the fermented kernels.

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

Tabletop, it's not the cost of fuel you have to worry about, it's the AVAILABILITY!

Mike 

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

The thing is, you get used to absolutely all sorts of things.....  like the smell of cities!  I lived twenty years in a large (by Aussie standards!) city, and totally got used to that, the traffic, the pollution, etc etc...  and now, everytime I go back there (and my wife who was BORN there says the same), we loathe it...!  In fact, every time we go back I say it's the last time I go back to Brisbane...

Manure only stinks if it's wet, so if you have badly drained  ground and it rains constantly where you live, then yes it'll stink.  But if you can get used to living next to a railway line.......

Mike 

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

If you have to hoe, you're not gardening properly...  MULCH!  Then you won't have weeds to hoe.

My fave tool of the day is one I bought recently at a market, and it could easily be 50 years old (new handle of course!), and they don't make them like this anymore!  It's a three prong fork with tines about 10 inches long with a six foot, inch and a half handle that is at right angles to the fork, like a hoe.  For decompacting ground, there's nothing like it.  Apart from lifting it over your head, all the work is done by gravity as you let it fall.  A sharp lift at the end, and presto, the earth is loose.  Compaction is your enemy...  roots will really struggle in ground comapcted by cattle or worse, vehicles.  Then if you mulch it, the soil will quickly rehabilitate itself, and you'll be able to work it with your hands.

Mike 

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

Mike: Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine has this tool, I think, called a broadfork: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/catalog/subcategory.aspx?category=292&subcate...

I used mine all the time in preparing raised beds, and find it to be remarkable.   I can re-dig a small bed and have it ready for planting in less than 10 minutes.  Digging a new bed doesn't take very much longer, either.  Only problem is, our young farmhand got overly-enthusiastic last year and dug up new beds and hit rocks - I mean really hit them.  (he could have been more cautious, but a young lady was involved....)  Now the tines are bent.  Any advice on how to straighten them out?

Cheers!

"There has never been a better time to be a farmer."  Lynn Miller, Small Farmers Journal

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

Mulch is great.  With the size of the plot we were going to plant, it would have cost a fortune in $ to buy or time to gather. I may however be forced into a smaller plot and hand tools for another year.  After a few tweeks, I got my $175 tractor started last night.  Its Kohler motor was singing.  I backed around in reverse then put in in 1st gear and and pulled out of the pole building, stopped, hit the clutch and put it into 2nd and I was greeted with the demon sound of my transmission scattering.  Sigh... Anyone know where I can find parts for an old Homelight/Jacobson 12 HP manual transmission. 

I was left very sad but also humbled.  I still have some semblance of a job.  Imagine having a horse get sick in the spring before planting, you are out of cash, and agriculture is your only living.  We have it easy...for now.

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

I have a question for all you raised bed gardeners/farmers.  How do you actually go about creating the raised beds? 

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

Tabletop

I thought a $175 tractor sounded too good to be true.  Sorry.Cry

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

Tabletop, sorry to hear about your problem. I know how it feels. Still, today I would rather work for my machine to extract the huge net energy from fossil fuels to get the farm prepared then to abandon the machine right now. If we had to do everything by hand right now, it would take, I'm afraid, too long.

For now, being a petro farmer means constant tinkering on the tractor. For me, even with this tinkering I far outpace the amount of work that can be done with a tractor vs. without and spending the time 100% in the soil.

Once you get everything set up, you will most likely find the tractor is less needed. A no-plow method seems to be the norm now. I realize money is tight, but can you find some local out of work soul that has the tools to do this for you, and you can share in the food produced, or pay some small amount of cash or somehow barter it out? Not sure where you are located, but for me planting begins very soon, so you may not be able to afford the time to locate and install the parts.

There is a sign in my subdivision for a guy who will come to me with a rototiller for $40/hour. I had a couple show up to the house yesterday asking if I would pay them to pick up my dog poop in the backyard. Clearly, folks are motivated to do things they might not generally. I'm betting there is someone out there with the tools and the desire to break your ground for you!

Anyway, good luck whatever you decide.

Best,

Rog

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

I built our raised beds by using 1 x 6 for the 4 sides and screwed them (galvanized drywall-type screws) into vertical  2 x 4s for the corners (inside).  I got the cheapest lumber at the local lumberyard (not cedar, though that would have been preferable - too expensive) and/or scrounged lumber from the Recycling Center (carefully).  I make them no wider than 4' so it's easy to reach into the center to weed.  We have only about 10 now but plan to triple or better that this year in order to sell at the local market.  I find the beds to be easier to weed and we can grow more intensively.  I'm close to the ocean, so I'm planning a few forays to collect seaweed for mulch this year.  We set up an entire Community Garden this way and we're into the 5th year with this type of raised beds.  I know they'll have to be replaced eventually but in the meantime they work very well.

Oh, and check out Small Farmer's Journal.  Not just for horse farmers, lots of great agrarian reading there!

Cheers.

 "There has never been a better time to be a farmer."  Lynn Miller, Small Farmer's Journal

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community
Doug wrote:

I have a question for all you raised bed gardeners/farmers.  How do you actually go about creating the raised beds? 

There's really good information at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/raisedbed/constructing.html and http://www.eartheasy.com/grow_raised_beds.htm#a

There are two basic types of raised beds: those that are supported/enclosed with frames and those that are simply mounded. I prefer the framed ones because they do a better job keeping your soil in and the weeds & pests out, but mounding will work if you can't afford the time or money on framing.

There are two basic intial soil preparation methods: double-digging and tilling. I haven't noticed any major benefit vs drawback on soil quality using either; but double-digging is time consuming and rototilling uses gas or electric (unless you hand till, but that doesn't save you much time over double-digging).

You can prep the soil either before or after you build a frame (if you're framing); but I've found it's easier to prep the soil first then build the frame around it, especially if using a rototiller. Once the frame is up around the newly loosened soil, it's just a matter of adding any necessary amendments and forking those in.

One thing I have noticed in the farms I volunteer at is that the beds that get tilled over every year seem to yield less than those that just add more compost, etc and gently fork it in every season or between plantings. I suppose churning up the soil a lot with disking and tilling (after the initial prep) damages the micro-system and that is why the yields are lower(?).

The most important thing to remember is not to compact your growing soil in framed or mounded raised beds. Some natural compaction will occur from rain, irrigation, and settling; but you don't want to step in your beds ever. It's not even a good idea to lean your weight on a hand in the soil, which is why you should size the bed so you can reach the middle (or all the way across) without stretching or needing support. Of course, if you must walk on or lean into your beds, placing a rock or plank in a "sacrificial" area for that purpose will protect the rest of the bed.

Worms are awesome aerators and help keep your soil from compacting. Adding earthworms to your raised bed also makes the soil nutrients more available to the plants. This is another reason to be careful with tilling and disking -- you'd be ginsu-ing your worms. If you live in a very cold climate where earthworms don't do so well through the winter, you can keep a bunch of them alive in a vermicompost system and reintroduce them to your beds in the spring.

Mulching after seeding helps protect the plants from pests, weeds, and some diseases (check your area and plant species). It also helps trap moisture so you don't have to water as frequently. Organic mulches like straw, wood chips and bark are good because they will decompose and add nutrients to the soil; but almost anything (gravel, plastic sheets, shredded rubber tires, etc) can be used as mulch as long as you are careful to remove any non-biodegradable mulch layer before adding new soil amendments and tilling/forking.

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

Maine and Plickety

Thanks for the info.  I think I have everything to get a good start.

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

Tabletop, you must grow your own mulch.....  there is NO other way.  In fact, after years of practicing Permaculture, it has only just dawned on me in the last 6 months that this is so.  I would go so far as to say plant your mulch species before you plant anything else.

What you plant really depends on where you live and what the climate's like.

We use Arrowroot, Pidgeon Peas, Ice Cream Beans Trees, and loads of comfrey.  I actually have been seriously propagating comfrey as bed/path edges for the past three months.  It grows prolifically from just about any cutting of the roots, and means you only need to bend down, rip off a few leaves and drop them on the ground, a technique we call 'chop and drop'   Comfrey, if left to grow a long time will grow tap roots 3 or 4 metres deep which bring leached minerals back to the surface....  stored in the leaves you chop'n'drop!

Bummer about the tractor.....  but like I said, how often do you get a bargain like that?  And just think, post TSHTF, you probably won't be able to buy parts for anything...

Mike 

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Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

What Rog says here is quite true.....  you don't realise the power of fossil fuels until you attempt to do the work by hand!  When I started building our house, I had an excavator dig the footings, and by the time he'd finished, the building site looked like the moon!  I thought I'd do the greenie thing and move all the loose dirt with a shovel and a wheelbarrow.  Well, after four hours of sweat, you couln't even see where I'd been.  So I rang the eartmover back, and for seventy five bucks he'd cleared the lot up in under an hour!

The thing about preparing ground for cropping is that it should be a once only operation, so that a tractor should be communally owned.  Trust me, this will happen! 

Fossil fuels are great for earthmoving and ploughing up virgin dirt, but wasted on driving to work to pay for things we don't need, that we bought with money we don't have, to impress people we don't know or like.... (Clive Hamilton)

Another way to  get rid of grass BTW is to solarise it.  Lay out black plastic sheets on the ground (in a sunny position is best) and the heat and lack of sunlight will totally kill off the grass.  The dead grass even makes good mulch!  Just loosen the dirt with either the broadfork someone mentioned earlier, or a tool like the one I described, and plant straight into the dead grass/mulch.  It works!

Mike 

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joe2baba
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 17 2008
Posts: 807
Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

on the subject of raised beds i started years ago with some old oak i savaged out of an old house. it was part of the deck so it wasnt suitable for anything else. that was about 17 years ago and i am just now starting to replace them.

we recently had a huge ice storm and there are lots of dead limbs and trees down.

i am using some trunks and logs for my replacement boards they are free and i have lots of them. if you live near or have a lot of forest land i recommend using logs. they are large and they hold a lot of moisture. i am going ot try to plug them with mushrooms to see how they work on the ground. all my mushroom logs are off the groung to avoid contamination.

btw my beds are 4x8 and the logs are about 6-8 inches in diameter. they are also heavy enough to drill holes in and put some frames over the beds to make cold frames. that extends the season

the city which i live 4miles away from makes compost and sells it fairly cheaply so i just fill the beds with that. i pack them very densely with plants and dont have to do much mulching.

for mulch i have about 3 acres of mixed oak woods so i have plenty of leaves. also the city gives mulch away.

i use the no till method for planting things in rows like potatoes............lots of mulch and cardboard

every once in awhile a hay harvest gets ruined by rain and i can find free rotted hay which is preferable to fresh hay as the seeds have been rendered infertile

i like to scrounge so i find all kinds of good stuff to use around the place. 

next the "resource pile" gotta run now

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

If you're lucky, you can find an excavator who will scrape the topsoil off any site before the subsoil digging begins. This keeps your topsoil pure and out of the way where it won't get compacted, and the surrounding subsoil can benefit a little from the compaction of the rig's treads without doing as much damage. If you're really lucky, that same excavator might even be willing to spread the topsoil back over the site when he's done digging (although some compacting may occur) or he might be willing to come back and do it after other site work, like pouring concrete, is completed if there is a lot of topsoil to spread back out and task seems too daunting to do with a shovel and wheelbarrow.

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 3125
Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

Joe2baba

I like the idea of using logs.  I have a lot of standing dead American Elm after the most recent die off and the emerald ash borer is closing in on our area, so I'll probably have a lot of dead ash to use also.  The great eastern American forest is beset by a variety of invasive pests and diseases, so there will be a lot of dead wood around until we figure out how to stop the importations.  As I find out more about the variety of plagues on trees combined with AGW, I become increasingly concerned that we may be the last generations to see the remnants of the great forest that covered our land and provided livings for thousands of years for native Americans and for a few generations of non-native Americans (the first invasive species?).

But, I digress.  My firewood operation produces lots of bark.  That combined with leaves should provide all the mulch I'll need.  Thanks for the tips.

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Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 3125
Re: Small Scale Growing, Tools and Community

I thought this is as good a place as any to post this article in today's Buffalo News.

http://www.buffalonews.com/home/story/630158.html

"An empty two-acre plot stretches along Wilson Street, just north of Broadway on Buffalo’s East Side.

To most, the weed-covered property — technically 27 contiguous city-owned lots—looks like any of the thousands of vacant parcels of land that pockmark the city.

But to the Stevens family, it is farmland.

Mark and Janice Stevens want to transform it from a dumping ground into an urban farm.

They want to buy the entire two acres, put in a series of raised beds and grow vegetables, which they would use to feed themselves and to sell to their community, perhaps at the Broadway Market a couple of blocks away.

Last year, the Stevenses formally asked to buy the land.

The city turned them down. “We got a letter of rejection

that said the city might have plans sometime in the future for this, so they didn’t want to sell it to us,” Mark Stevens said.

He and his wife were disappointed and perplexed.

With 14,100 vacant lots, more than a third owned by the city, they couldn’t understand why the city won’t part with the two-acre parcel on Wilson. "

This is an example of how this city, and I suspect many others, are not ready for the kind of economic collapse we on this site are expecting.  The problems of these people, who to all appearances, are guided by many of the same goals of building community that Chris and Becca share.  We have a city with many neighborhoods made up of dilapidated housing and vacant lots.  There is no realistic possibility of these areas being developed any time soon.  Yet, they don't want dedicated urban settlers to build a community resource in a dying neighborhood.  Go figure.

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