Why I Don't Have Raised Beds


Sometimes I feel like I need to be in a support group.  You know, one called Row Croppers Unite, or something like that.  I can see myself standing up and introducing myself,

"Hello, I'm Susie, and I don't have a raised bed."

And then everyone will come and hug me and tell me it's ok and that admitting this is the first step.

Would you join me if I started that support group?  Cuz I'm here for ya.

Anyway, for real though, I don't do raised beds people.  I don't.  Did you know that you don't have to have raised beds either?

One of the reasons I called this blog Our Simple Farm is because I tire of seeing the work and effort and money that people put into their homestead because so and so said it would be best to do it a certain way.  My mantra, as you see at the top of this page is "With a keeping it simple twist" because I don't do it like everyone else.  I don't feel the need to Keep up with the Homesteading Joneses or pour money into this homestead when our whole purpose is to save a little money.

So basically, the only reason I would say yes to raised beds is if you can't physically bend down or kneel.  Hey, at the rate I'm going with old basketball injuries, I'm heading there, but until then, I'll enjoy my row crops.  Also, if you live in town and have limited space, raised beds are a good option.  But, even then they aren't really needed.

Now, don't get me wrong, if you have the extra cash and can pour money into raised beds, go for it. Or if you live in a neighborhood that only allows raised beds, this article isn't for you.  Also, if you are so against tilling that it's like a religion to you, then you might want to read an article supporting your belief, not this one.  So don't get in a tizzy over this post(I already got a bad comment about the terrible affects of tilling) and just move on with your day.

But if you feel you think you need raised beds to make everything look good and you hear all of the benefits for the soil and less weeding and so on and so on, yet can't seem to justify the cost, this article is for you.

If you've ever heard of Eliot Coleman, you might know that he doesn't do raised beds either.  And he is the master of masters of organic gardening.  I have learned so much from his book, The Organic Grower, and encourage you to pick one up soon!

We have sandy loam soil.  Yes, that is awesome, I know.  Some aren't blessed with sandy loam and have hard clay to deal with.  Now they say that raised beds aerate the soil and that is true.  My soil is already aerated with sand which is one of the reasons Eliott Coleman says there is no reason to have raised beds if you have my kind of soil.  For those who have clay soil, you still don't need a typical raised bed, but you do need to lift that soil up a bit.

My row crops of zuccini and yellow summer squash.

Did you know you can do this without spending a dime?  When I lived in southern Indiana, we had heavier soil.  So, I double dug up my beds to lift and aerate the soil.  If you don't know what double digging is, go HERE and watch my video.  Basically double digging is using a shovel and digging up a small ditch about a foot deep and 2-4 feet wide, and as you work backwards, you fill in the ditch as you go.  You also need a pitchfork to aerate the soil and you will need manure and/or compost.

When you are done, you will have a semi raised bed and you can amend it as needed or layer mulch, etc. to it.

So, you might be thinking you're not down with double digging and that's ok too!  You don't have too double dig if you have clay soil.  You can simply add your fertilizer, manure, compost and/or soil ammendments to the soil, then till it up.  I recommend adding manure with old hay and some sand to it to lighten it up a bit.  To keep the weeds down, add straw or mulch in between the rows.  If you don't like the idea of tilling every year, then add your composted manure and other amendments in the fall, then when spring comes, use a pitchfork to gently mix it in the top few inches.  You still might need to lift the soil so a good tool to have for this is called a broadfork.

My garden is pretty big.  I like to put up a lot of produce for the winter months.  We're talking two 50ft x 200ft rows approximately.  I would love to see my husband's face if I told him I'd like to put it all in raised beds.  Not only would he see dollar signs going in the trash, he would think about how much he would miss getting on the tractor and tilling it up in the spring and fall.

My bean patch with kale in the background.  This is a little more than a fourth of our garden.

I have a confession to make though.  Another reason I don't do raised beds is because I like to spend a lot of time in my garden.  I like to hand weed, I like to use my wheelhoe in between beds, I like to work in my garden.  If I had a low maintenance garden, what would I do?  Sit there and watch the tomatoes grow?  I don't think I expressed how much I love using my wheelhoe.  In fact, my son and I both like to use it to work the back of our arms.  It's awesome!


My son is smoothing out the soil and getting rid of any weeds that have grown since tilling to get it ready for planting.

There are alot of people shooting for a low maintenance/no maintenance garden.  If you are like me, I think I would go nuts if I had nothing to do in my garden.  Granted, I do some mulching with my potatoes, but I really like to see those neat, weedless rows in between after I just got done wheelhoeing.  I like to see a lettuce bed after I hand weeded it or used my collinear hoe(one Eliot Coleman designed for tight spaces).

I like the fact that my garden keeps me in shape, gives me much needed sunshine and gives me a feeling of satisfaction because I didn't spend a dime on it other than the seeds and a couple of tools. And if a crop fails me, I know that all I lost was a few bucks for the seed.

And because I can amend my soil with much needed manure, I can grow pretty much grow anything with great results.  Sure I have my flops here and there, but there's no pressure because one flop or two isn't costing me much.

So yeah, I think raised beds are overrated.  They are pretty to look at, but so is 8 rows of sweet corn that you just hoed and side dressed with composted manure.  You can get a semi-raised bed without spending a dime with double digging, or stick with a well amended tilled garden and get pretty much the same results with a bit more weeding.  But either way, you don't need to put a whole lot of money into it.



Instead of having a Row Croppers Unite club, maybe I should just have The Garden Addict club instead or I Love Tilling and I'm not Ashamed club.  What do you think?








Why I Let My Farm Kids Play Sports



Being a homesteader can consume quite a bit of our time.  And the thought of adding extracurricular activities to our already busy schedule is overwhelming.  So why in the world do we do it?

Are we crazy?  Maybe.  Do we sometimes have baby goats on game night?  Yep.  Do we get behind on getting things done on the homestead?  Sometimes.

But I think that, as homesteaders, and especially if we are homeschooling homesteaders(maybe I should come up with a term for this, like Double H or HH or Schooling Steaders or maybe just Overachievers?) we get so tied up in our everyday lives and all that needs to get done at home and we become kind of like that dreaded word that many peg us as being......'hermits.'  And if we're Schooling Steaders some will add another word to that.  'Backwards hermits.'

I'm going to be bluntly honest here.  I've seen the backward hermit types and it ain't pretty.  Those with young kids don't have to worry about this yet, but there comes a time when your kids need to have some sort of life off of the farm.

So why in the world did we choose sports?  Brace yourselves....

We enjoy it.

Sometimes life on the homestead can be all work and no play.  Although we certainly don't crack the whip on them and slave drive them to the ground here on the farm, they do have chores to do and I'm guessing they are required to do a bit more work than your average kid, especially nowadays.  Sure, we have our good times here and the homesteading life is so fulfilling.  In fact, I'd be perfectly happy being a true hermit, but it just isn't healthy to keep our kids home all of the time.

As crazy as life gets, we love basketball and our kids enjoy it too.  Maybe one day we will get burnt out on sports, but when and if that time comes, we will enjoy this crazy life.

My oldest cutting the net at Emmaus Bible College.

Organized sports can get a bad rap.  I can understand this to a point.  Sports can be infiltrated with politics and the 'who-you-know' nonsense.  Sports can become an idol to some and it can also be the only way some kids find their self-worth.  There could be kids on the team that are a bad influence as well.

But, to assume that playing some kind of organized ball is bad, well, that's just bad.  I've gotten those looks when I mention that my kids play basketball.  I'm not exactly sure why but it happens.

Playing sports has it's downfalls.  Pretty much everything does.  But right now the only downfall is how much time it takes and the commitment to that time away from home.  For that reason, we limit our kids to only one sport.  Since wintertime is the least busiest time on the farm, choosing basketball was the wisest choice.  Well, it also had something to do with my husband and I being ballers back in the day too!

Here's the thing, all of my kids are pretty active.  They are athletic, every single one.  They have that drive to win, not an obsessive drive, but a healthy 'I'm going to give it all I got' kind of mentality.  So sports just kind of comes naturally to them.  Why would my husband and I squelch that by not allowing them to play sports?

There are some important lessons to learn as well.  Because all of my kids are homeschooled, they have to listen to my instruction, day in and day out.  So, it's good for them to listen to someone other than their parents(unless the parent is the coach, which is the case for one of our children).

Homeschoolers get a bad rap for being unsocialized, but in reality, it is quite the norm to be home with the family and different aged siblings rather than spend all day with those of the same age.  That being said, it is good for them to get out and socialize with other kids around their age.  Since my kids play at a Christian school, I don't have to worry too much about what goes on in the locker room.  And they get a break from their siblings!

Sports can bring up certain character issues as well.  What I like to teach my kids is to not see themselves as a victim to whatever negative circumstances are happening at that time.  But, rather take a look at themselves and see how they can learn from it and better one's self.  I will show compassion for them, but they need to know that life just isn't fair.  So instead of sulking about it and feeling sorry for themselves, they are reminded that there is a God-given lesson that will build their character and help them become a stronger person.

My farm kids love it here most of the time.  Yes, work can be annoying and hard at times, but the way I see it is it's all about character building.  And that includes sports.

My 14 year old concurring the left handed dribble.

I love that I can sit and talk with my 14 year old daughter about issues she's having with feeling intimidated on the court at times.  She's an 8th grader playing on varsity.  That in itself is intimidating!  But it is such a blessing to talk with her and walk through how she can overcome that negative feeling.  And if she really takes these life lessons to heart, she will carry them on into her adult life.

My son shooting a free throw at the old Hoosier Gym from the movie.

My 16 year old son was kind of thrown into playing point guard this year.  And he hates to be in the spotlight.  He is a young man of few words yet has an unusual gift of integrity.  So it's been so good to encourage him to do his best and work through those feelings of insecurity when he takes the ball down the court, knowing all eyes are on him.  Sometimes it's good to be pushed out of our comfort zone.  That's how we grow in character.

My 'Red' checking out the close score during a time out.

And then there's my 12 year old.  His coach is a great coach, yet sometimes he zeroes in on my son even if he isn't the one messing up.  As a parent, it bothered me at first.  But, I realized that it didn't really affect my son as much as it affected me.  So, yep, there's a life learning lesson for me too.  Just let some things go and don't let other people's negative reactions get to you, especially if they aren't deserved!  My guess is the coach knows my son can take the heat, or it could be because he's a redhead!  I should be able to do the same and take criticism head on as well.

Let me be clear about something though.  Just because I am okay with my kids being in sports, doesn't mean you should throw your kids in a sport too.  Some kids just aren't cut out for it and that is totally fine!

And just because some kids are naturally athletic and involved in a sport, and your kids aren't, doesn't mean you should turn up your noses at sports and the athletic children's sports accomplishments. God made us all so different!  One is not better than the other.  We should all be supporting one another. Period.

My kids are farm kids by day and basketball players by night.  They enjoy it. They aren't hermits to the farm but they get out and socialize and exercise, and they learn life lessons from sports.  And that's it in a nutshell.  

Amen and carry on.


How to Train a Farm Puppy Part II



Nothing is more frustrating than calling for your dog and he just ignores you or gives you a look of 'whatever'.  Actually, kinked hoses might rank up there too, but hoses don't have minds, dogs do.  I'm thinking it might be do to my military experience, but I expect them to come to me front and center when I call them, no exceptions, no excuses.  I haven't figured out how to teach them to salute or stand at attention, hmmm, now that would be impressive wouldn't it?  A bit impractical but it sure would impress the neighbors!

If you haven't read my first post on training a farm dog or puppy, go here.  It's really important you train them in a certain order.  This post is Part II of the series and I will be talking about how to get a dog to come when called.

I mentioned before the importance of leash training and learning how to walk with the dog by your side.  Now, we will continue with leash training only we will be using the leash and choker chain to train them to come to you when you call them.  I repeat:

Use the leash and choker chain to train them to come when you call them.

Before we teach them this, we must teach them to stay put.  So, start your dog out by getting him to sit.  Then, with a firm voice, tell him to stay and then take a step or two away from him.  Because you have him on the leash, he cannot go anywhere.  If he starts to follow you, firmly say 'no' and take him back to the original spot he was sitting, and start all over.

Consistency is key.  If there is no consistency, the dog will not respect you or listen to you.

If the dog stays while you walk away, wait a few seconds and then come back to him and praise him, either with hugs or treats.  Sometimes we do both.  It just depends on what your dog responds to the best.  At this point, don't call for him yet.  He just might get confused with what you want, to stay or to come.   Each time he gets it right, back up a little bit more the next time you tell him to stay until you come to the end of your leash.

Once your dog can stay when you tell him to even with the distance of the leash, then you can move on to teaching him to come when called.  Again, the leash and choker chain come in handy here too.

Tell your dog to stay, then leave him sitting there as you move out to the end of the leash(usually around 5-6 feet away).  Turn to face him and pause for a few seconds, then firmly tell him to come.  Whenever we give commands, we say the dog's name first, then the command.  This gets his attention and he knows you mean business.

If he does not come, give a quick pop of the leash and pull him gently but firmly to you.  Once he is right in front of you, have him sit.  When you are teaching this command, it really is a good idea to give them treats.  Some dogs are kind of lazy and if they know there's more than just a little pat once they get to you, they will be quite eager to follow your command to come.

video


This command might take awhile, it just depends on your dog's mentality.  Again, be consistent.  If he does not come when you call, pop the leash and pull him toward you, then make him sit right in front of you and immediately give him a treat.  Be consistent, be consistent, be consistent!

There are lots of instances on the farm that make a recall command very important to enforce.  Lots of practice on this one and eventually you will be able to do it off leash.  And then, one day you will be able to call your dog from across the field and he will come to you.  This video below isn't necessarily "across the field" but you get the idea.

video


Now, if your dog is in trouble or you call him with an angry tone, he probably will not come to you off leash.  It's important, even if he is in trouble, to call him in the same firm tone that you use when you are training him.  It's also good to remember that some dogs are just slower than others.  There's no 'hurry' in them, like one of our Great Pyrs, Lilly.  But hey, as long as they come to you, right?

video


Recall in a nutshell.  There you have it.  Rock on and did I tell you to be consistent?

Raising Entrepreneurs on the Homestead



I have a passion for all things entrepreneurial.  I know it kind of goes against the status quo of going to college, getting a degree, and working a 9 to 5 job.  That just doesn't sound very exciting to me.  What excites me is hearing stories of others who have started their own businesses.

So of course I don't want my kids to think that getting a degree is the only way to make a living.  If that is where God leads them, then yes, of course they should pursue it.  But, before they decide on what they want to do, I want them to start their own business here on the farm.  I prefer it to be farm-related as there are so many avenues they could take.

It needn't be a huge deal and I most certainly don't want them to put a lot of investment into it.  But, they also know that to start a business, you have to invest.  That is the risk they have to take.  They also have to know that if it doesn't work, then they should be able to learn from their mistakes and keep working at it or try something else.

That's the part where I have to take a step back.  I love to support them and give them advice, sometimes help them out financially(although they put the most into the business), but I have to take a step back and let them do this business that they chose.  And that could mean allowing them to fail.

For example, my son was 13 at the time(that is about the time I like for them to come up with a money-making idea) and he chose to raise turkeys.  The first year he raised bronze hybrids.  I do believe he only got about 15 or so and lost maybe three.  He wanted to sell them cheap, like Walmart cheap.  So I explained to him that his turkeys are raised a heck of a lot better then the factory-farmed turkeys and that pastured ones sell for quite a bit more.  We settled on a price, more expensive than Walmart yet cheaper than pastured turkeys.

His first year went well, but he realized that the hybrids grew too big and because he didn't want to keep buying them every year, he decided to raise a heritage breed.  That way he could keep a tom and some hens, hatch out poults and save money.  His second year was going well until he put them in the chicken tractor which was in our fenced-in garden.  Our livestock guardian dogs did not have access to them and it didn't take long for a fox to come along...he lost most of his turkeys.  Ouch.

That took the wind out of his sales for awhile.  He had enough to sell to family and close friends, but he didn't quite get his money's worth.

One day a friend of the family asked if he could trade his older tom for a younger tom so that they could butcher it.  Being naive and too nice at times and against my reservations of knowing for sure the young turkey was a tom, he said yes.  Well, it wasn't a tom, it was a hen, which meant he could not hatch out eggs, which meant he would not have any turkeys for the next year.

After that bit of 'good' news, he took a year off of raising turkeys.  He wanted to purchase more of the Bourbon Reds, but they are quite pricey and after his bad experiences, he did not want to put the money into it.  Until this year.

He had a part time job this summer and some money saved, so he plans on getting more turkeys.  Only this time he will be getting a hybrid breed and butchering them earlier.  I'm glad he did not give up.  He has learned from the mistakes made in the past and realizes that you win some and you lose some, but you have to keep trying.

I also encouraged my 14 year old daughter to think about ways to make a little money from the farm.  She has decided to raise rare breed chickens.  Right now she is diving into learning the different breeds and is quite fascinated by them all.  She is also researching how others make money on rare breeds.  We shall see how it goes!

My oldest daughter is in college right now, but she and I dream about what we can do once she gets her degree.  She still has the entrepreneurial spirit and would love to incorporate her degree and love for autistic children into the farm and use our horses among other things.

Unless they really have a legit idea and have excellent responsibility, I do not encourage them to start a little business until they are teenagers.  They just don't have the stick-to-itness when they are younger.  They become too distracted, usually don't have enough money to really do it on their own, and can give up too easily at times.  Then it ends up becoming the parent's business because they are the ones putting the time, money and effort into.  Plus, what is that teaching the child?

I'm sure some of you have young entrepreneurs on the homestead as well.  I love to listen to them dream, don't you?  The farm shouldn't be a place of all work and no pay.  There are so many opportunities here that can spark a creative idea and possibly a business venture.

I would love to hear what your children are doing to earn some cash on the homestead!




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