When you’re homesteading, which I hope to do one day soon, materials must be used, reused, repurposed as needed, and even donated if possible. If you look into the right corners and ask, there is always someone who has a piece of equipment or material lying around that they no longer need. This is all about creativity and when necessity is paramount to thrive (also known as necessity is the mother of invention), everything is all about creativity and efficiency. Learning for me, is by any means necessary, and the farm is patient, willing to teach, and answer my inquisitive, curious questions.
In spite of the freezing winter weather that shut down many areas in North Georgia for half of the week, work continued on the farm to prepare for the coming spring. Monday was spent preparing plant beds for winter planting (and a spring and summer harvest). Plant beds were cleared of rocks and built up to decrease erosion and increase water conservation and watering efficiency. Paths were dug for walkways to reach inside plant beds. Paul explained that the wideness of the walkways would help in the control of weeds through constant foot traffic. However, a much wider walkway that would increase yield and profit would also increase the need for a tractor and the cost to maintain that tractor. At the field end, Jerusalem artichokes or other root foods will be planted to decrease weed growth from growing in from unfurrowed ground beyond the plant beds. The method used at Full Life farm efficiently decreases weeds, increases the quality of life. This is similar to the methods employed in efficient use of already enriched soil described in One Straw Revolution that I have discussed with a few friends but have not had a chance to yet read.
As a vegan, I have noted the use of manure readily available on the farm and use that to manufacture fertilizer rather than necessitating the purchase of fertilizer for the gardens. I still have mixed feelings about raising animals as a vegan (for health and humane reasons), but this is something I am making note of and will discuss with other vegan friends later to consider the possibilities of this option. If I do decide to consider raising animals for uses other than an animal meat supply, one of the questions I have is which animals produce the most nutrient-rich manure (or if that is dependent upon the feed).
Wednesday was spent clearing two trees from the chicken yard. Since I have never really cleared a tree and don’t remember my father clearing the tree from the back yard as a little boy, Paul freely provided guidance on how to cut these particular trees, properly aim the falling of the timber with the chainsaw (and later sawing into needed lumber lengths) as well as the rope to a tree a little further away as added insurance. The clearing of these trees served a few purposes: increasing the sunlight upon the gardens a few hundred feet away, and providing lumber for the lumber shed next to the portable sawmill that will protect both from a majority of inclement weather. Remember what I mentioned about creative do-it-yourself above? This also saves the purchase of much needed lumber. In the beginning, it becomes a matter of scouting land and the surrounding areas for resources prior to committing to one area or another. This becomes important later. Even smaller branches were utilized for the wood chipper to be used later.
Friday, the work on the lumber shed continued as we mixed concrete (Quickrete ™) in a portable mixer to fill previously dug Cob* framed holes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cob_%28material%29) that will be utilized as raised cement foundation posts for each log corner frame. Angle irons were cut from a found mattress frame to be fused in the wet concrete and mounted to the log posts. This prevents the wood from rotting later since cement is a notorious and lifetime collector of water from the surrounding area as I learned.
Work continues as needed but the work and the learning is fascinating.
*As a courtesy for those interesting, I may post links to additional cob resources, including some blogs I follow.