I came up with a chicken tractor design for rotating garden beds.
You know, I really like junk mail. It’s the canvas for many of my best ideas. And more than a few stupid ones.
The other night I had a dream. In it, I designed the following system. There was a series of double-dug beds with step-stone paths in between them, and a chicken tractor that could be pulled from bed to bed for clean up and fertilization.
A Chicken Tractor Design On Junk Mail!
I did a better drawing of this chicken tractor design with the main pathway fixed and the stepping stones in place… but I can’t find it. So this is the quick one I sketched during a church dinner.
Give me your thoughts – I’d like to hear them.
I want to tell you about the power of encouragement in a child’s life.
25 years ago, my parents gave me a book. I still have it.
It was my ninth birthday and I was already a gardening nut. Rather than rolling their eyes at my strange hobby or getting on my case for messing up the weedy little corner of the yard where I’d staked my claim, they encouraged me.
Dad had built me a little 8′ x 8′ raised bed probably a year or two earlier. I’d planted most every seed I could find in Mom’s pantry. I’d left tools out in the yard, shared bitter little radishes with my siblings and bugged everyone I knew who had plants, plying cuttings and seeds from old ladies and asking endless questions.
It wasn’t just my parents that encouraged me. Some time before I’d been given Florida Gardening, I remember visiting my Great Grandpa in upstate New York and seeing his huge garden. We picked beetles off the potato plants (I thought we were just “catching bugs” and was horrified when he dumped them all into a can of kerosene and torched them), ate berries, talked about the dirt and enjoyed the sun. He gave me a little bag of lime for my garden, along with a handful of beet seeds and told me to “keep growing things.”
Another time I remember visiting my Uncle Andy and Aunt Lynn and seeing the big broccoli they were growing behind their house somewhere in Hollywood, Florida. Wow… I’d never seen broccoli growing before. It was amazing.
Unlike a lot of children, I was nurtured in my interests. I have parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins that stayed married, did the right thing, worked hard and invested in the next generation. My garden is just a little part of a family legacy that stretches way back into the past.
This brings me back to the book. Though it was not for my age range and had plenty of technical information in it, I read it from cover to cover. Stan, if you’re out there, thank you for writing this book. It was a big part of my gardening education.
That said, my very favorite part was just inside the front.
Thank you, Mom and Dad. I love you right back.
Spread the power of encouragement to someone else right now.
UPDATE: Since this post went up two years ago, I’ve become a gardening author myself… and a best-seller. Go – give the gift of encouragement!
Another claim that it takes roughly a bazillion dollars to raise a child:
Who are these people? I’ve got kids and it’s not nearly that expensive. Of course, we don’t believe in paying for college… shuttling kids off to daycare… making regular trips to the doctor/dentist… buying videogame systems and cell phones… paying for a teenager’s car expenses etc. etc. etc. We’ve chosen a life of voluntary simplicity and from my vantage point, it’s a heck of a lot more stable (and cheap) than the rat race most find themselves in.
And… of course… we grow a good bit of our food. That right there saves plenty. Our kids are happy, healthy, well-behaved and pick their own salad greens throughout the day.
If those of us who believe in caring for the earth and revolutionizing agriculture fail to raise a next generation that will do the same, our efforts will fail. Because there are always plenty of WalMart People willing to go with the status quo (that is… until their EBT cards are cut off…).
Biointensive gardening works excellently for growing a lot of food in a very small space. With a few hand tools, some homemade compost and a bit of luck, you’ll be eating well without breaking the bank.
Here’s one of my biointensive garden beds:
This is part one in a series of videos posted on YouTube by John Jeavons and his compatriots – I highly advise checking them out. As mentioned in this post, I’ve had excellent luck with this system, even in our sandy soils.
The Biointensive method as they practice it is as close to a closed loop as you’re likely to get on an annual crop system. Unlike many gardening systems, they take into account the inputs you’re going to need and grow compost crops accordingly.
If you don’t have a copy of John Jeavons’ book “Grow More Vegetables,” go pick one up. It’s filled with valuable advice and the system works, particularly on a backyard scale. It’s also a lot cheaper than building raised beds.
It’s time to grow your own food, no matter what.
Plants need very little. Much less than we do. In fact, they generally stay put, get some nutrition from the soil, a lot of sugars from the sun, and plenty of water when you wash your car. Unlike us, they can also survive without gin and cigars.
All you need to do is make them happy and they’ll feed you.
“But Dave… everything I touch dies…”
Unless you’re an entity made of antimatter, soon you won’t be able to say that. If everything is dying, you’re Not Doing It Right. But that’s okay. Most of us have succumbed to the Lowes Effect. Spring arrives, we see all the cute little tomatoes in flats and the garden junk for sale and we think “THIS YEAR I’M GONNA DO IT!” Then everything dies. It’s natural.
Florida isn’t kind to novices or Yankees. Yet that’s what most of us are as gardeners. We remember Grandpa’s garden in Upstate New York or the sweeping fields of Midwestern wildflowers… or the yuca and papaya of Mexico… and then the sands of sunny Florida bury us like Pompeii.
Most of us know that things are busted in the US. The price of everything is going up – and as the banks get bailed, the little guys get screwed. Practically everything in this nation is based on lies and distortions… from the GDP numbers to the Food Pyramid. And the chances that things are going to get better in the near-term are about equal with the chances that you can be the World’s Best Ballerina Astronaut.
So… if you’re smart, you’ve saved some cash… maybe bought some hard commodities… and hopefully are eliminating debt (or, Lord willing, are debt-free). What about food? Extra canned goods are nice… but healthy fresh produce is tops. If you don’t have your calories covered – and gas flies up to $10 a gallon – or your food stamps get canceled – you’re in trouble.
That’s why I’ve set up www.thesurvivalgardener.com. Florida presents some great opportunities for gardeners – but you have to work with her, not against her. Don’t expect broccoli in July or mango North of Okeechobee.
What you can expect, though, is an incredible jungle of food if you play your cards right.
Pomegranates, citrus, peaches, sweet potatoes, passion fruit, tobacco and melons all grow wonderfully – and they’ll taste better than any pesticide-laced offering you’ll find in your local grocery.
So… stick around. You’re gonna learn to grow your own food, make some compost, experiment with designs, take a little permaculture, a little organic know-how, a little madness and a lot of fun and mix them together into something that may just keep you afloat when all else is lost.