Do you feel a need for personal protection as well as livestock defense?
Guardian dogs will bond with and protect humans as well as stock.
Donkeys and llamas will not normally accompany people as they go about their chores and tasks.
They will prevent entry of unwelcome people as well as animals. They will patrol your home and yard.
Some of the LGD breeds are wonderful with children.
How many guardian animals do you need?
Donkeys and llamas are much more effective individually than they are in pairs.
Two donkeys or two llamas will bond to each other more strongly than to the stock they are to protect, and will usually be less attentive guardians than a lone donkey or llama would be.
Therefore, for best defensive support, individual donkeys or llamas should be with small flocks and herds of stock.
Livestock guardian dogs, on the other hand, work best in pairs and teams and will communicate from one to another as they strategically oppose intruders.
You can pen multiple LGDs with large flocks and large herds.
What type of fencing do you have or are you willing to install?
You can easily add donkeys and llamas to most livestock pastures or paddocks.
They require the same type of fencing as medium to large livestock.
A livestock guardian dog needs an effective fence to prevent it from pursuing predators outside your territory and from expanding its territory to include neighbors.
Are you willing to provide separate feed and individual attention?
Donkeys and llamas will generally eat the same grass or feed as livestock they share pasture with.
LGDs have different food needs from those of the stock and must be fed separately.
Raise donkeys and llamas as livestock. They don’t need human guidance.
Dogs require more time and effort in training and maintenance.
For the most successful operation, an LGD must have a working relationship with its human alpha figure(s) — usually one or more family members or a farm manager.
Livestock Guardian Llama
Guardian donkeys and llama breeds?
There aren’t special breeds of donkeys or llamas that qualify them as livestock guardians.
In general, all donkeys and llamas have the urge to fight off canines.
The livestock guardian dog category includes several specific breeds of dogs.
Many other breeds of dogs will bark at intruders and chase them away; however, only the LGD breeds are instinctively wired to bond with stock, relentlessly deter intrusion, and fight to the death if necessary to defend their stock.
Livestock Guardian Dog Maremmas with chickens
The LGD breeds include the Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Kangal, Komondor, Kuvasz, Maremma Sheepdog, and Tibetan Mastiff.
Donkey, llama, or livestock guardian dog?
Choosing a livestock guardian animal is a personal one that depends on the individual farm, surroundings, and livestock requiring protection.
Many people have their favorites and stories of successful and ineffective guardian animals.
The important thing is to consider your predator situation and your resources, planning accordingly to protect your livestock.
The basics of caring for livestock may well be to get a livestock guardian animal. Whichever animal you choose, they can become invaluable to your family.
But not only is it a book, but it is also a guide that helps you plan actionable steps.
Want to know how?
From a quarter of an acre, a backyard homestead can harvest:
50 pounds of wheat
60 pounds of fruit
2,000 pounds of vegetables
280 pounds of pork
75 pounds of nuts
The “Foot-in-the-Door” to Homesteading
The Backyard Homestead covers a myriad of topics including an A-Z veggie guide, basic fruit growing, grains, nuts, herbs, poultry for meat & eggs, livestock for meat and dairy, beekeeping, homebrewing, and more.
Particularly helpful is the way the book is laid out.
Each section not only has the information you need, but charts, diagrams, calculations, comparisons, and pretty much anything else you need to get started.
Practical Help You Can Put Into Action:
For example, a common question when people are looking to start gardening on a serious food-production level (as opposed to recreational) is how much do I grow?
That question is not an easy one to answer, but they have a good list of veggies, and how much space to allot per person you are growing for.
Not only does it teach you how to produce these goods, but also what to do with them.
It includes recipes, instructions for preservation, and tons of illustrations that demonstrate how to do things, instead of just using words to describe the process.
Particularly of interest to me was one section with a visual layout of how you could produce quite a bit of food on a quarter acre lot (the above example).
This is particularly encouraging because many people feel like they can’t homestead because they live in the city or that it isn’t worthwhile – but truly, you can really do a lot with a small space.
The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan is a Keeper
I will be keeping this book close at hand in the next few years as I continue to expand my homestead and my skills.
The beauty of The Backyard Homestead is that it contains enough information to get you started and going in the direction you want, but it doesn’t have excessive information that you might not be interested in.
For instance, it has quite a bit of information on getting started with cheese making, including basic hard and soft cheese recipes.
I myself am quite interested in cheese making, but I would probably be overwhelmed if I had 100+ recipes to choose from, especially since I’d mostly be interested in a basic farmhouse cheddar anyway.
All in all, this book is a great investment and has lots of up-to-date information about a good variety of different topics.
If you are looking for a resource that will help get you off to a running start on your homestead, look no further – this is exactly what you need.
So Much Sky by Karen Weir-Jimerson
A visitor to Karen Weir-Jimerson’s Iowa farm got out of her car and remarked, “You have so much sky.”
And so was born the name of Karen’s book, a collection of “essays on the fun and folly of living in the country.”
In the book’s introduction Karen says, “I may have grown up in town, but I’m a country girl now.
Due to rambunctious dogs, marauding deer, gophers, and general establishment issues, some of the fruit trees we’d planted last year were looking sad by winter’s end.
The Fruit Gardener’s Bible contains thorough information about pruning as well as excellent illustrations and diagrams.
But more importantly, the author put us at ease by indicating that routine pruning includes trimming off branches and twigs damaged by wildlife.
What we were doing was not unusual. Before planting our new trees and berry plants, we used the book as a guide for our soil preparation and planting.
Again, we were not disappointed with the information and detailed instructions contained in the book.
From planning to planting to harvest…and more!
The Fruit Gardener’s Bible is divided into four parts: Getting Started with Fruits and Nuts; The Small Fruits: Berries, Bushes, and Brambles; Tree Fruits and Nuts; and Growing Healthy Fruits, Nuts, and Berries.
Part one is a general introduction to fruit and nut plants, a guide to selection, and seasonal care.
How do I plan an orchard?
How much space do fruit and nut trees need?
When should I prune?
It’s all there, along with diagrams of sample planting arrangements and advice on fitting fruit and berries into a small yard.
Parts two and three include a chapter for each fruit and tree nut family.
For each group, there is information on planting, care, and harvest.
The book is full of beautiful color photos and sketches.
Helpful charts include Fast Facts and Tips for Growing various fruits and nuts.
In part four we were pleasantly surprised to see some wonderful info on soil improvement, pest management, and dealing with wildlife.
A helpful glossary follows this section, explaining the definitions of many terms used in the book.
Plenty of new information
We’ve been growing tree fruits and berries since childhood, but still we had a lot to learn from The Fruit Gardener’s Bible.
For instance, careful spacing can maximize pollination by honey bees.
Marigolds planted among strawberry plants not only attract beneficial insects but may also help repel soil nematodes.
We didn’t know that apples should be stored separately from all other fruits and vegetables.
According to The Fruit Gardener’s Bible, “Apples give off ethylene gas, which can cause other fruits to ripen more quickly, potatoes to sprout, and carrots to turn bitter.”
Apples can also be affected by other produce.
“Potatoes can give apples a musty flavor.
Strong odors from cabbages and turnips and onions can be absorbed by apples and pears.”
So this book is a big help not only in our garden, but in our root cellar and kitchen as well.
Those two chapters are followed by nine chapters devoted to specific individual animals or groups: chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, rabbits, honey bees, goats, sheep, pigs, and dairy cows and beef cattle.
Each livestock chapter includes information on selection, housing, and basic care and feeding.
There are also guidelines for processing meat or harvesting products such as eggs, honey, and wool.
Illustrations of housing, handling, feeding options, and animal body parts accompany instructions and how-tos.
I used standard 4″ pipe caps. (They were only about $2 each).
I didn’t cement the ends because I wanted to disassemble and clean the unit as needed.
The pipe ends have a snug fit, but not enough to prevent water leaking, so I wrapped the ends with black PVC pipe tape.
That took care of the remaining leaks.
Each end of the horizontal PVC hydroponics pipe
At each end of each horizontal pipe, I drilled a 3/4″ hole in the PVC for intake or outlet.
You can see that the intake ports are positioned high on the end caps, and the outlets are low.
I did tests during construction to get the position just right.
If it drained too fast, then the standing water level would be too low, and conversely, if the outlet was too high, the pipe would fill up and overflow.
It was a bit of a balancing act there.
In each hole, I put a 3/4″ steel pipe plug with outside threads as a thread tap.
It ended up working pretty well and didn’t cost nearly as much as a real 3/4″ tap and die set.
Hydroponic Water pumped
The water is pumped from the reservoir up to the top grow pipe.
Then it flows through the top grow pipe, down to the next pipe below, and so on.
Finally it drains back into the reservoir.
I try to keep 2″ to 3″ of water in the tubes.
The nice part about keeping it so deep is that if there is a pump failure or other issue with the water supply, there will be some standing water that keeps the plant roots wet and fed for a while.
This happened to me once when the tomato plant roots blocked one of the pipes, causing the tube above to overflow and eventually drain the reservoir.
Once the pump shut off from lack of water, the tubes still had enough water in them to keep the plants alive until I noticed several days later.
Before planting the homemade hydroponics
Before planting anything in the hydroponic system, I had started some beans, lettuce, tomatoes, green onions and peas indoors in a growth medium that I could easily transfer to the net pots.
Not all of my starts took off.
My beans did not survive at all, and all but one lettuce plant died.
I attribute this to planting too soon, before the starts had developed good roots.
In the photo here, you can see the tomato plants are taking off, peas are doing okay and the onions and lettuce are still slow to get going.
Think About Where You Want To Put Hydroponic Garden
Location is everything!
Although these gardens can thrive and exist in all sorts of different sized spaces, where size doesn’t matter location does.
Make sure that the garden is located in a spot where it will not be disturbed.
You will want to find a place that is fully enclosed, private and temperature controlled.
Greenhouses are great options, as are basements.
Simply make sure that your space is safe from the elements, dry, and easily accessible.
If you put your garden in a darker space, like a basement, you’ll want to add lights to it to ensure that the plants are able to grow properly.
I put a “green closet” small greenhouse around the structure to help control temperature and filter out some of the intense sun.
The greenhouse is made out of PVC pipe, made rigid with wood bracing and covered in 7 mil painters plastic.
When this greenhouse photo was taken, the tomato plants had grown the most by far.
So much, that I had to remove a few plants due to their roots blocking up the pipes, and to allow for the other plants to get more light.
Later, I added string support for the plants to cling on to. I should have added this support much earlier on.
Set Up Your Hydroponic System
There are several different types of hydroponic gardens.
The hydroponic system or hydroponic garden that’s best for you will largely depend on your skill level, space restrictions, or the amount of time that you are willing to devote to the garden.
Ultimately, most gardens are built out of PVC pipe, which is readily available at any home improvement store.
You just need some standard pipe, a trellis for the plants to latch on to as they grow, and a pump inside of the pipes to distribute nutrients to your new plants.
Remember, these systems recycle water and nutrients, so the pump system is absolutely imperative to the growth of your brand new crop.
You need to cut holes at the top of the pipes and place the plants inside of them.
That will allow the nutrient and water mixture to wash over the roots, fortifying the plants and helping them grow properly.
If you are growing fewer plants, you can always use buckets with holes punched at the bottom.
The nutrients will snake up into the roots.
You can either set up a pump or water the bucket manually.
This s a great option for people who want to grow a few large plants and don’t have a lot of skills when it comes to the mechanics of setting up a PVC pipe hydroponic garden.
Mix The Nutrients And Add The Plants
The nutrients are what will really get the party started in your DIY hydroponic garden.
The general rule is to add one cup of nutrients per 25 gallons of water.
Don’t pop your plants in just yet.
Let the pump mix up the nutrients and water so everything is fully integrated before you add the plants.
It’s time to add the plants.
If you are using seedlings, remember to wash all of the soil off their roots before integrating them into your garden.
It’s important to make sure that you do this very gently because water that is too hot or cold could damage the fragile root system of the plant.
You can buy seedlings at just about any store that sells plants.
Once your roots are nice and clean, you can put them in your PVC pipe or bucket.
Make sure that the roots are firmly encased in clay pellets and accessible to the nutrient and water mixture that is flowing through the pipe or into the bucket.
That way, they will have the best chance to get all of the important nutrients that they need to thrive.
I was very surprised by the root systems.
Below is a photo of the root system of one of the tomato plants.
These roots actually started to become an issue.
They started to grow so much that they would block the pipes and cause water to back up in the system.
A little bit of a “hair cut” fixed that for a little while.
This is a pot I removed to thin out the garden.
Support The Plants
Here is where your trellis comes in.
Once the plants are securely fixed in your pipe or buckets, it’s time to make sure that they are growing upright properly.
The best way to do that is to tie them to the support system and guide them in their growth.
You want to be very careful with this step.
Seedlings and smaller plants are very vulnerable to shock and breakage.
Think about tying them to the trellis as a way to simply guide their process, not affix them like glue to the support structure.
Supporting the plants is very important if you are operating in a small space, or dealing with multiple plants.
You need to maximize the area while still giving these plants ample room to flourish.
Start Up The Pump And Watch Your Plants Grow
Now it’s time for the fun part.
Start up the pump and let the garden do the rest.
You can be assured that you’re doing something awesome for the environment, and also creating a garden full of delicious fruits and vegetables that you can enjoy without having to worry about pesticides.
Remember to keep an eye on your plants.
There are times when these plants need to be cut back, so trim them regularly and make sure that they are growing in a straight line.
If you have multiple plants in a single pipe, it’s important to ensure that dominant or aggressive species are not taking over.
Ultimately, have fun on your gardening adventure!
Enjoying the harvest of your hydroponics setup
We used the green onions and lettuce from the setup to make a lot of salads for six (two adults and 4 kids).
Here is a photo of one of those plants.
We just kept cutting leaves off for salads, and they just kept growing back.
DIY hydroponics cost
Overall, the bill of materials cost on the entire unit is well under $100.
I also bought some tools that I didn’t already own, including a 4″ hole saw for $20.
Materials I used to build DIY hydroponic System
170-200 GPH fountain pump
27-gallon plastic storage container with lid
4” PVC pipe: 4@48”
3/4” PVC pipe
4” PVC end caps: 8
3/4” PVC elbows: 8
3/4” steel pipe plugs: 8
Flexible PVC fountain tubing
Black PVC pipe tape
Wood for support frame
Standard garden seeds and plant starts
Standard seed starting medium and starter cells
4” hydroponic net pots: 16
Hydroponic clay pellets
Hydroponic nutrient solution formulated for growth; I like FoxFarm.
Hacksaw and guide for cutting pipe, Drill, 4” hole saw and 3/4” drill bit
If you don’t already own the proper tools, there are several options.
You can ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to borrow them.
Oftentimes, you can rent them from a local hardware store.
And of course, you can buy the tools you need and then use them for future projects.
Some other materials to add in small amounts are sawdust/wood chips (will pull nitrogen out of soil if used too much), evergreen needles (will add acid), wood ashes (will add alkalinity and other minerals), and bone meal for calcium.
You can make your own calcium ash supplement by burning leftover meat bones after you’ve boiled them to stock.
The resulting ash is a very available source of calcium and other minerals for your plants
Rural Living Today readers Fin and Sue told us that they built soil where they had a lot of rocks and sand.
They used a combination of chicken tractors, composting, and lots of labor.
Now, a few years later, their soil is very good for gardening!
Materials to till in
Lasagna gardening/sheet composting:
This involves layering various materials on top of the ground and allowing them to compost in place.
Lasagna beds do not require tilling; usually turning the soil is sufficient between crops.
A lasagna bed should be created right where you want your garden to be, as the layers will become the garden itself.
Each layer should be wet down well before adding the next layer of material.
A good first layer is corrugated cardboard, which acts as a weed barrier.
Lay it right down on dirt, sod, gravel, whatever. Hose it down, then pile on the fillings.
Stack layers one to two feet high of any of the following materials: manure, compost, food scraps, dead leaves, wood chips–anything that will decompose.
Whenever you have more material, spread it on top and wet it down.
Before long you’ll have a rich bed of great growing soil.
You can get materials from lots of sources.
Place an ad in Craigslist or Freecycle for clean yard debris.
Many people will drop it off instead of paying for removal.
Also ask farms and horse stables if you can take a load of free manure (if you have a truck available).
You may be able to get wood chip mulch from Arborists or wire maintenance crews trimming trees on a city street.
In the fall, we like to drive around in the truck and snag bags of leaves off the curbside that have been set outside for trash – easy composting materials!
To help speed things along, we “inoculates” lasagna garden beds with a healthy dose of composting worms.
They will multiply quickly and the compost they create within the beds themselves is of the highest quality available.
You can buy red worms online or you can sometimes find them in old leaf piles.
raised bed waist high
Raised beds and containers:
This is the simplest in some ways, though it requires containment or shaping of beds.
It involves bringing good soil in from somewhere else.
The simplest raised bed is good soil mounded on top of poor soil.
Wood or rock frames can be used for edging, or you can just rake tumbling soil back into the mound as needed.
Raised beds constructed of wood, concrete blocks, straw bales, or other materials can be anywhere from a few inches to a few feet tall.
The height depends on the root depth of your plants as well as your physical comfort while gardening.
We love gardening in the waist-high raised bed built from lumber and corrugated metal roofing.
It’s great because we can lean across to the center from either side without straining our backs.
We can pack a lot of intensively planted veggies in the 4’ x 40’ bed.
To minimize the soil need, we filled the bed with tree branches in Horticulture fashion and capped them with topsoil.
As the branches decompose and the soil settles we’ll just top the bed off with our farm compost each year.
At our farm we use all these methods.
We have a large garden patch in an area where we amended already-good soil with manure and green compost just for good measure.
A lasagna bed was layered in another area.
We use some low raised beds for overwintered garlic and strawberries and our tall raised bed for kitchen veggies.
Make sure you mulch. When I was younger and learning about gardening I did not understand why I kept hearing about mulch.
But now that I am more experienced, I will not garden without it.
I use dead fall leaves, wood chips, spent straw, or pretty much whatever I can get my hands on.
Spread the mulch in a thick layer (a few inches) around your plants and in your beds.
This will not only help retain water but it will really help attract beneficial insects and worms.
When I build a new garden bed, I usually use the lasagna layering technique but I always make sure the top layer is a thick blanket of mulch for this reason.
Sometimes mulching can be the difference between sun baked hard & compacted soil, and damp, loose & rich soil.
Once you have soil of a good substance and composition, it’s wise to have the soil tested for nutrient levels.
There are some other kinds of livestock guardian dogs besides Maremmas.
Lots of people know about the Great Pyrenees.
And there are the Kuvasz and the Akbash. We are all big white dogs.
The Komondors are white too but wow do they ever have long curly hair!
The Anatolian Shepherds have short hair that is usually tan or brown.
Then there are the Tibetan Mastiffs and a few other livestock guardian breeds that are less common in the western world.
We all came from different countries.
But the thing we all have in common is that we have been bred for centuries to defend and protect our charges against predators, even ones that are bigger than us.
We are not afraid to give our lives for our livestock or our people…that’s what Livestock Guardian Dog do.
Well anyway, back to Callie and me. This is us on the right–she’s the very cute one and I’m the terribly handsome one.
The place we guard and call home now is about four acres.
This placed is fenced and it is our place. Our territory.
Mom and Dad live here and there are lots of chickens. Sometimes lots of kids. Sometimes other animals.
We live on a hill and if we see someone drive up we GO on ALERT.
Livestock Guardian Dog Alert bark
Well what does that mean?
That means that we start our ALERT BARK!
Actually we do our ALERT BARK anytime something is out of the ordinary. Like if we hear a coyote, or another dog, or anything outside.
We have a few different barks, and even at night Dad and Mom can tell if we are just talking to each other, telling the deer to stay outside the fence, or warning the coyotes to keep right on moving past our place.
Our ALERT BARK is pretty impressive if I don’t say so myself.
But even our plain Bark is.
We even bark at the neighbor cows sometimes but we are learning that they are OK.
Yeah right, anything that big can’t be totally OK, can it?
Many people that meet us comment that they are glad they didn’t meet us at night!
Well, barking is really our first line of defense.
We are not attack dogs, but if necessary we would attack and fight a predator that was trying to hurt our chickens or our people.
Actually Callie and I practice wrestling (of course in fun) almost every day.
We just want anyone or anything that shouldn’t be around to go away.
The Bark is a great tool for that.
Pretty proud of it…The BARK…has a real ring to it doesn’t it?
So it makes sense that I don’t live in the city, eh?
Callie has a great bark too.
That is Callie in the picture demonstrating The Bark–I wanted you to know it’s her because I DO NOT WEAR A PINK COLLAR!
So anyway, plain and simple…when intruder animals come…we bark…and when they go away we stop.
Friends coming for a visit
When Mom or Dad want people to come into our fenced property we all follow a procedure.
Of course, new people and new cars, including delivery drivers, always get barked at.
Sometimes very loudly!
We won’t let them in until Mom and Dad say they can come in.
Mom and Dad say “ENOUGH” to tell us that they are taking charge. We know we need to stop doing what we are doing including barking, and then, well…we stop.
Then they tell us the people are OKAY and they are FRIENDS. Then they tell us to “GET BACK AND STAY” so other people can come in when Mom and Dad open the gate.
These people have to take off their hats and sunglasses so Callie and I can have a good look in their eyes to see if WE think they are OK.
Did you know we can read?
Well we can’t read books but we read eyes and body language.
Anyway Mom and Dad tell us again that these people are OK, and then they are our friends too!!!
People who don’t know what an LGD is (that is industry talk for Livestock Guardian Dog) are amazed how we can make an instant transition from a barker to a friend.
Callie and I are very smart and when those people come again, we will remember that they are OK.
Guard Dog Protection for my Family
My dog dad told me a funny story when I was a pup.
Once at a farm someone came to buy a goat, but the Maremma that lived there wouldn’t stop barking at him.
The man was shifty…and the dog wouldn’t stop barking.
The mom and dad there finally told the man that he couldn’t buy a goat there because their dog didn’t like him.
The man got real mad and his “true” personality came to the surface.
Couldn’t hide that from a Maremma! No sireee.
We Maremmas are a good judge of character and that is well documented.
Livestock Guardian Dog On patrol
OK, moving on.
Many times a day and during the night, Callie and I do what we call “The Patrol.”
We actually walk the entire perimeter of the fence line to make sure there are no intruders.
Sometimes we go together, and sometimes we take turns.
Since we use the same path every day, it gets pretty well worn, but that makes it easier for us to patrol in the dark.
Sometimes as evening comes, we just feel the urge to do The Patrol and without warning we just do it.
So day and night, we make sure all the animals outside the fence know that this is our place…and they aren’t welcome.
We walk all around the fence line.
We check on all the chickens and make sure they are doing all right.
If they are acting nervous about anything one or both of us will stay with them till they feel better.
We check the gates and make sure nothing is trying to get inside.
We walk around the barn and the other outbuildings that are in our territory.
Sometimes we bark at little chipmunks that are in the woodpile, but we really know they won’t hurt anything.
When The Patrol is finished we sit at our vantage point and watch, looking all around until it’s time to make the rounds again.
Sometimes we lie down, but even when it looks like we are sleeping, we are on watch.
This is me, the regal lion-looking one, wearing a BLUE collar under my beautiful white mane.
Even while we’re resting, if anything alarms us, we are up and running in seconds.
Our dad and mom have seen us talk to each other and then go to separate corners of the property if there are two alarming things at the same time.
Livestock Guardian Guard Dogs are an integral part of the farm security
Well, let’s see what else…oh yes, we are big.
Like over 100 pounds big. So if the Bark doesn’t scare a predator away, we can run toward it and that is also scary.
If need be, we could slam ourselves into the intruder which would be pretty dramatic.
We could also fight, but our real goal is not to fight, but just get the predator or intruder to hightail it away and never come back.
Oh—and don’t ask us to herd animals.
We don’t do that–we have to draw the line somewhere!
Protection– that’s what we do.
We are not herding dogs any more than herding dogs are livestock guardians.
The only time we herd is if we need to keep our animals in a corner safe from a predator.
Everybody knows Callie and I are security guards and not pets, but sometimes I humor the little kids when they want to scratch my belly and pet me.
(Don’t tell anyone, but we love kids.)
Sometimes it looks like I am asleep but I am always on guard.
In fact, when kids are here, one of us stays close by them at all times.
People store grain for many reasons. Whether you are just wanting to be prepared, concerned about a food shortage, living off-the-grid, or working to build your prepping supplies, it’s important to safeguard your grains.
When you do it properly and store them in the right conditions, you will be able to access them when you need them.
This year, we’re ready to expand a bit more, grow a few more varieties, and plant more of everything.
We’re still eating some frozen veggies and using dried herbs from last year but ran out of other things months ago.
This time, we want to grow enough for the full year.
We like starting our plants from seed.
Last year we were limited to four south-facing windowsills.
This year we attached lights to the underside of some closet shelves.
We’ll be able to get quite a few seeds going.
It’s not too late to start!
We’re planting the first seeds this week.
How about you? Will you be growing some food in your country gardens this year?
We’d love to hear about your plans in the Comments.
The Fruit Gardener’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruits and Nuts in the Home Garden
Gardening in the Snow
Yes, I have been gardening in the snow. I’m not talking about checking the garlic plants under their deep white bed.
And unfortunately, we didn’t get around to fixing up a cold frame and no longer have fall stragglers surviving in our raised garden bed.
The other day I was out in the snow sowing seeds!
Last summer and fall, I collected seeds from several types of wildflowers growing on our property.
I wanted to plant them in a few areas around our living area where our clearing and leveling had eradicated whatever was growing there before.
Only the lupines seemed to survive the turmoil of the soil.
I’d planned to plant the wildflower seeds in the fall, but our chickens were having such fun wandering around in the fall sunshine that I didn’t want to pen them up yet.
And I knew they’d eat any flower seeds they could find.
It’s kind of a good thing I didn’t sow seeds in the fall, because we had an unusually dry period between November and January.
Gardening with Heavy Snowfalls
Heavy snowfalls just didn’t come.
Seeds would have been sitting on the ground in plain sight.
I can pen up my chickens, but the wild birds are another story.
They would have scarfed up any seeds they found.
It seems like spring planting time is just around the corner.
But some of my seeds need to have a cold winter nap.
They actually benefit from several weeks of chilling.
This part of the dormancy phase, called stratification, can be artificially provided in a refrigerator or a cold building.
But when possible, I prefer to let nature do its job.
Where we live, it’s common to scatter hardy seeds before the first big snowstorm of the fall.
In a normal year, the seeds literally chill out under a layer of snow much of the winter.
As the snow melts, it carries the seeds down into the soil, moistening and softening the seed coats.
The seeds settle there and wait for spring thaws to wake them up.
As it turned out, this was not a normal winter.
But finally now in mid-January we are getting another wave of measurable snowfall.
So in between storms, I went out and raked snow away, scattered the seeds, and raked some snow back over them.
Sure enough, the next snowfall settled that layer down and nicely tucked the seeds in for a chilly snooze.
I can’t even tell there are seeds under there, can you?
I don’t think the chickens will, either!
Hopefully I’ll see green sprouts in the spring and a variety of wildflowers all summer.
If not, there’s always next year!
Celebrating Real Food!
You know, eating real food that’s real good for you.
According to the Food Day website
“Food Day’s goal is nothing less than to transform the American diet—to inspire a broad movement involving people from every corner of our land who want healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.
In other words, we want America to eat real.
We want to get Americans cooking real food for their families again.
We want fewer people at drive-through and bigger crowds at farmers markets.
Let’s celebrate fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains—and to support the local farms and farmers that produce them.
Wouldn’t it be great for all Americans—regardless of their age or income or geographic location—to be able to select healthy diets and avoid obesity, heart disease, and other diet-related conditions?!”
In a similar vein, Slow Food USA recently launched a $5 challenge: create a SLOW FOOD meal for $5 or less, the cost of a FAST FOOD meal.
“The organization, a national non-profit working for good, clean and fair food for all, is encouraging people across the country to cook slow food that costs no more than five dollars per person.
Slow food – the opposite of fast food – is food that is good for those who eat it, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet.
“Slow food shouldn’t have to cost more than fast food.
It’s time we take back the ‘Value Meal,’” said Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA.
Slow Food’s challenge and Food Day got me thinking of a further challenge: Create a slow food meal of local foods for $5 or less.
And then, an extended challenge: if we’ve raised our own meat and produce, how about creating a slow food meal of homegrown foods for $5 or less?
I’m up for the challenge! How about you?
Start by thinking about what you may have grown yourself and what’s available locally from neighbors, farmers’ markets, or savvy supermarkets that stock local products.
Be creative—how can you combine some of those products into a tasty and satisfying meal?
Granted, this might have been easier during the summer when many backyard gardens were producing fresh salad ingredients and farmers’ markets were at their prime.
But still there are stored or processed foods and fall-growing crops to help.
Here are some examples:
A soup or stew can be created with several different veggies.
Add a local source of protein—eggs, cheese, legumes, meat, poultry, or game—and you’ve got a complete meal.
Ditto with a main dish salad, especially if you’ve still got greens and other veggies growing.
If you are a fan of bread or rolls with every meal, one of the challenges might be finding local flour or grain to grind.
If you can’t think of a substitute and must have your bread, at least you can make most of your meal with local ingredients.
As I’m writing this, I’m planning a Food Day $5 homegrown slow food meal. My experimental patch of soup beans was not a stellar success, but I did manage to get enough beans for one pot of soup.
We had a good crop of potatoes and several other veggies and herbs.
To complement the beans’ protein I can also choose from eggs and meat from our own chickens.
This is the first year I could ever say this, but from garlic and onions to chicken and beans, we can create a tasty hot meal using only ingredients from our backyard.
If I hadn’t raised enough myself, I could buy other locally grown products in my community.
If the local grocery stores all shut down, we’d still be able to eat some good meals.
That’s a good feeling!
Extended-season gardening information
Thinking about starting your plants early in the spring?
Want to make harvest last longer in the fall?
Wish you could pick fresh greens in the middle of winter?
Extended season gardening for Growing Fresh Vegetable in Fall and Winter
Many of these concepts and materials will also work in spring.
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour
Four Season Harvest
The Winter Harvest Handbook
Sow Seeds for Fall Garden from National Garden Bureau at GRIT Magazine