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Grow It! Soil Managment, Ponds and Forests on Your Homestead

As you work your new homestead, it's important to consider the heath of your soil, your watershed and how your land interacts with wild nature.

| July/August 1972

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    Hills, trees, soil composition and crop managment all influence the productivity of your small farm.
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    Consider establishing a small forest or building a farm pond on your land.

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SPECIAL NOTE: All material here reprinted from GROW IT! Copyright©1972 by Richard W. Langer. 

Grow It!: Introduction

For, eschewing books and tasks. Nature answers all he asks; Hand in hand with her he walks, Face to Face with her he talks, Part and parcel of her joy, —  Blessings on the barefoot boy!—John Greenleaf Whittier 

Perhaps not since the fall of Babylon have so many city dwellers wanted to "return" to the country without ever having been there in the first place. For the first time, the new generation reverses youth's traditional flow toward the city in search of opportunity. A cry of "back to the soil, to real life" leads the exodus. But just as the mechanically unskilled peasant floundered when tossed into the technocratic mechanism of the city, so today's new urban peasant, unskilled in agrarian survival, flounders when released in the meadow. What is lacking is a roadmap, a handbook for survival on the farm. Where once the craft of working the land and reaping its harvest was passed from father to son, today the torch of knowledge and experience consists of how to get credit cards and fill out income tax forms.

So how do you manage to jump off the technocratic trampoline and land in the country still standing on your feet? Returning to the land, homesteading, in the true sense of the word, be it on five acres or five hundred, getting to know mother nature again — these are things both age-old and at the same time new as never before, because we have been away so long, more than generations, some of us.

How does one begin? And where? Does it make a lot of difference what part of the country you choose? How much land do you need for a row of beans? How many plants for a blueberry patch? A field of sunflowers for you and your chickens? And how do you care for a baby chick or a hive of honeybees? How on earth do you milk a goat? How do you plow and fertilize and harrow the fields, working them to yield good grain and foil.

Do you have to do all that, anyway, to live off the land? Well, country living isn't all just stretching out in a sun-warmed grassy meadow and taking it easy — not if you're going to do right by mother nature. It's give and take, the natural cycle life, and we're just beginning to learn that maybe we've done too much taking and not enough giving. But homesteading is clean living, good, earthy, sun-drenched work, leaving you that happy kind of tiredness at the end of the day. And its good play, too, reaping the whole cornucopia of rewards that nature gives back to those who work with her. That's true if you're homesteading a simple weekend family farm of a couple of acres — just about right for a large vegetable plot, a berry patch, an orchard of half a dozen trees or so, maybe a beehive or two, and a small flock of Crested White ducks that don't need daily tending. It's equally true for a spread of a hundred acres you've still, in spite of the way the land is running out this world, managed to find somewhere and hope to build up alone or work communally into a better place for people live.

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