My Farm Life: Learning and Growing One Year Later

Discover how this family is learning to work smarter and more efficiently after farming for one year.

| May/June 1971

Hey, we've been here a year! It's passed very fast, but it's passed very slowly . . . if you know what I mean. We've been so busy, but it doesn't seem like we've accomplished much of what we had planned. Now THIS year, we want to grow enough garden to supply our own needs plus some surplus to sell. We also want to get our pasture seeded and get the gullies slowed down or stopped. Then when we get time—we'll rebuild our crummy old house . . . IF we can solve the problem of the rotten sill board.

We finally decided not to risk a dome and it's potential leaky seams. We'll wait until more have been built in this climate and, in any case, we're already experimenting at too many other things right now. Our outdoor gardening is off to a very slow start. Since our patch is on a slope, we left wheat growing on it all winter to keep the soil from washing. Trouble is, it also keeps the earth from drying out . . . and we're still waiting to till the vegetable plot. Now we know that it's important to prepare a garden site early—like the fall before. You can't work wet soil!

I started a lot of seedlings (cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, flowers, etc.) indoors this spring in milk cartons that I'd been hoarding all winter. I cut the cartons off about three inches from the bottom and saved the tops in case I needed emergency frost covers after I set the seedlings outdoors. Because our dirt was frozen when I started, I used vermiculite (fairly cheap at the garden supply store) in which to start my seeds and I got so enthused with baby plants that I soon rah out of cartons.

I went scavenging in all our trash piles—and found a lot of things to start seeds in . . . plastic bleach jugs (cut off), rusty old pans, tin cans . . . Even some cardboard boxes can hold seed beds, if they're stapled rather than glued. Especially good are tin cans with plastic tops (like coffee and peanut cans). Cut off the bottoms, put the lids on, turn the cans upside down and then-when re-planting outside—snap off the lids and plant the cans and all.

After my seedlings got a good start under the gro-light, I moved them out to a cold frame. Cold frames are easy to build with plastic sheeting or old window sashes. If you use the sashes, though, it's a good idea to at least hinge them on one side. We just set windows into our frame without fastening them down . . . and the wind blew off and broke three of them.

Spring brought us one new baby goat. We had expected more, but a goat we thought was bred apparently wasn't. We took her and two of the others to visit the bucks again during March . . . so maybe we'll have more fresh goats in August. Isadora managed to kid by herself without complications . . . for which we were grateful! We were needlessly apprehensive about our first farm birth (not counting kittens) and now look forward to more.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!