Anna, I have been
reading your blog for
about 8 months. I have never contacted or contributed
because I am not in a position to live as closely to the land as
you do, but I enjoy doing small things that make me feel closer to
nature and I enjoy watching others doing it big.
We live on ¾
acres in south Louisiana, near the arch of the boot. Our
growing region is usually 9 or 9a. Over the years, we have
made small changes to our land, adding what will make us more
independent, economically efficient and healthy. Our first
endeavor was growing our own flock of chickens, which provide
enough eggs for us and surplus to sell nearly year round.
Once we had our flock
well established and safe from predators, we started to work on
realizing the benefits of the other output from our
chickens. We try to encourage a healthy deep
litter by adding kitchen scraps, mown grass, hay, pine
shavings and bags of leaves, pine needles or cypress needles, and
rice hulls when they are abundant and available. We are more
than happy to pick up bagged oak leaves by the side of the road in
the fall when people are cleaning their yards. We also throw
in ashes from the fireplace or cookouts and pulled-weeds or crops
that have finished production.
One of the best
things we do is till the ground every so often in order to aerate
and provide the girls access to any nuggets they may have
overlooked. In return, they continue the mixing and add to
the composting material. A few times a year we are able to remove
thirty or so 5 gallon buckets of beautiful, black dirt.
Our yard being on
rather low ground provided us with a problem when we wanted to
plant a garden. We tried built-up rows but our best solution
became framed rows that are 2 feet wide and 12 feet long spaced
4.5 or 5 feet apart and 1 foot high. This allows containment
of the good dirt which tended to erode in heavy rain
seasons. Our good dirt does however still build the area as
we continue to add to the top every time we clean out the chicken
pen. The earthworms we see anytime we plant are a testament
to that. We have grown tomatoes, cucumbers, okra,
sunflowers, eggplant, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, red and
white potatoes, carrots, pole beans, garlic, asparagus and
Our success rates
vary year to year and crop to crop but we enjoy the experience and
our chickens reap the benefits as well when we give them the
leftovers. Sometimes they even help themselves!
Each year we find ourselves adding new
growing boxes. This year we built 4 that are 4 feet square
and planted blueberry bushes. We were pleased to see them
produce their first year and can’t wait until they are 6 feet tall
and can provide all the blueberries we desire. We also have
4 pomegranate trees, two fig trees, and have recently added an
avocado tree and a plum tree as an experiment.
In the future, I’d
like to develop a way to harvest rainwater and sunlight, learn
more about preserving the harvest, and continue to exercise the
creative gene I inherited from my parents to create what you need
from what you have by looking at things from a different angle and
considering the possibilities.
Steckler is one of the winners of our hands-on
permaculture contest. (There are plenty of prizes
left, so take a minute to enter!) The
contest is sponsored by our chicken waterer,
which provides POOP-free water to chickens around the world.