Green living: Save Our Earth By Living Green

5 Tips for Turning Your Backyard Into a Farm that Can Feed Your Entire Family

If you have a small plot of land of one half acre or more, and are allowed to have a few animals on this plot, you will be pleased to know that you are now capable of feeding your entire family all on your own. This means no more expensive trips to the grocery store, no more chemicals and other harmful products in your food, and no more relying on others for your food. Even with less than a half acre of land, and no animals, you can still go a long way towards feeding your own family with vegetables. In this short article, you will find five tips on how to get started on your own backyard homestead.

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Gardening For Your Family

Any seasonal vegetable that you can buy in the store can be grown on your land, though, some are going to be less practical others, depending on where you live. Luckily, there are plenty of different resources that can instruct you on what are the vegetables to plant for your area and amount available land. The best book for learning to grow on your own land is The Four Season Harvest, by Elliot Coleman. In it you can learn about organic and sustainable practices, which will help you build your soil and improve your land to grow strong, viable crops. You will learn about practices such as double digging the soil, composting, and how to best deter pests and diseases, all of which will help you to create a fertile and strong crop.

Overwintering crops

You may think that you need to wait for spring to begin your garden, but the best time to begin is now! You can start immediately by beginning to compost all of your food waste, which makes for great fertilizer. You can even make a simple plan for your garden, marking where you will grow everything and want plants you will want to use. Seeds can be started indoors over winter, and set out in a hoop house in early spring. Even crops like kale, spinach, and leafy greens can be grown over the entire winter in a non-heated hoop house, made from re-bar covered with plastic. You can be eating fresh vegetables all winter with the help of your hoop house and a bit of planning.

Raising Chickens For Eggs

Chickens are a very easy animal to raise, which means that they are a great way to get small children involved on your backyard farm. The local University Agricultural Extension Service will sometimes lend egg incubators, or they can be purchased from the companies who sell eggs. You can also purchase “peeps” or day old baby chicks for raising at home. Either way, it is a joy to watch them hatching and/or growing up at home, then learning to forage and fend for themselves in the yard. Chickens can be raised in an outdoor chicken house after they have passed the “peep” stage, and they can be allowed to free range in your yard if your zoning allows it. Some people keep their chickens on half the land in the hoop house over the winter, using them to “work the soil” while greens grow in the other half, then switch them half way through as they rotate crops. You will also find that chickens help keep your yard free of insect pests.

Raising Goats For Milk

A slightly more complicated project, but still very much a home farm accomplishment, is raising dairy goats. Goat milk is tasty and lends itself well to cheese and yogurt. Goats make a great 4H project for children, as they are very friendly and easy to care for, so long as one takes the time to learn about their needs. Once again, the Agricultural Extension Service can be a great help, as can local dairy goat farmers. (Many cultures raise goats for meat as well, but this requires a quantity of goats not suitable to the small homestead.)

Growing Small Fruits For Your Family

One of the most satisfying and quickly rewarding projects in the backyard garden is growing small fruits. Canes for blackberries and raspberries, blueberry plants, grapevines, and strawberry plants can all be purchased online or from the local garden centers and require relatively little work to sustain in your yard. Blueberries require perhaps the most work, as they need an acidic soil environment which many yards do not have. Once again, inquire of local farmers and the Agricultural Extension Service in order to get information on how to best grow small fruits on your land, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

A homestead garden can be looked at as the cycle of living. What goes into the ground sustains the growth of the plants and animals that live on the land. The waste of the animals feeds the ground and the plants. The waste from the plants becomes the compost, which in turn goes back into the ground to feed the soil and grow the plants which feed us and the animals. It is an ever continuing cycle. We become more and more integrated with our land, the more we participate in the growing and eating of our own food. We also learn as we grow, so by observing and taking notes, each season we learn more of what will grow well and how to grow the things we like better. Happy growing!

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