Tuesday, February 25, 2014

TIGHTWAD TUESDAY - Our Nearly Free Livestock Garden

Livestock Garden composted, smoothed out, ready to plant!
 As Dave & I continue to work towards turning our farm(s) into a self-sustaining farm, we question each and every thing we do, asking ourselves how we could do each thing we do around our farm in a more self-sustainable, self sufficient way.

Last Fall, as unexpected illnesses and serious injuries cropped up, making finances tighter than ever, we were struggling extra hard to come up with money for our livestock feeds. Chicken feed was the hardest, as that time of year, we had plenty of brush to cut and feed to the goats. So we ransacked our own cabinets and those of our family and close friends, digging out all that old, out-dated food that had really been needing to be tossed, to keep our chickens fed until we could get back to work and earn some more money to buy some more feed with. (At my house, we can't let the chickens free range because we have to have my herd of dogs running loose to keep the thieves and stalkers off of my property. Plus, they would eat all of my kitchen garden and the neighbors would steal them.)

In addition to all of that, I fed the chickens any excess and deteriorating garden veggies and fruits, along with all the wild edibles I could find to pick. (Which wasn't much since we were drought mode). The chickens loved it! So, we got to thinking, why are we working our tails off to buy all this commercial feed for our chickens (which probably is loaded with chemicals and pesticides, anyway), when we have all this land space and could be growing some for them?! And it would be more healthy for them, and chemical free, which means healthier eggs and meat for us.

So we began planning out a small, 'test' Chicken Garden to plant this Spring. We figured we would start with a small garden for just the chickens, then if it went well, plant some for the goats next year, too. But as we began to pick and choose the veggies to plant in our little Chicken Garden, we realized that our chickens may not eat all of the plants and what they don't, the goats will (such as .... chickens might eat the peas, and the goats would eat the vines), so we started calling it our Livestock Garden. And, I am sure, we will not be able to resist temptation and will want to give our goats 'treats' from the little garden.

Our plan is to keep track of how much (in weight) we harvest from the little space (only about 7 feet x 7 feet), and how much feed it saves us from having to purchase. Then at the end of the season, we can go over our calculations and see if it would be feasible to plant a larger Livestock Garden, one that would nearly eliminate our Chicken Feed bill completely.

We are using up old seeds, leftover seeds, and seeds that we have saved from last year's harvest.. Last year, several people (family and friends) gave me some old seeds. Some of them just didn't want to garden anymore, and some of them are adamant about starting with fresh, new seeds every year. Me, I don't mind planting old seeds and just planting them a little thicker, if it means I don't have to buy any of them and it results in free food for me and my critters! I also found some seeds at the end of the season last year that were 90% off! And yes, I stocked up! That means a $1 package of seeds only cost 10 cents! The 4/$1 seeds were only 2.5 cents per package! We will be using a few of those seeds in the garden, also, but they will probably be the only cost we have for it, which won't be much.

That is our Boxer Fifi in the first pic. She is a bit of a camera hog, lol. Although she is at Anna's Farm right now, hard at work guarding, that is Dave's baby and she IS ultra attached to Dave!

I will give you all updates as our little Livestock Garden progresses. Right now, we still have freezing temps, so nothing much is growing but a couple clumps of wild lettuce, which I will leave in there because the chickens love it, too, and Nature gave it to us for free!

This is what the ground looked like before we started. Many years ago, it was a gravel road bed. Last year we grew some great okra and squash right here.You really can grow food anywhere if you compost enough.

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