Simplifying homesteading practices for beginners

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Big or small, everyone has a role to play. Even small-scale farmers should be looking at the conservation of soil and water resources. Rotational grazing works with all manner of livestock. I have been rotational grazing my daughter’s eight laying hens with great success.

With a small chicken coop on wheels and a portable run that moves along with it, it is the perfect small-scale setup. A five-minute move to fresh grass once every other day keeps the hens happy and my yard intact, not to mention the money that I save on the feed bill.

Eliminating tillage

We have also used no-till and mulching to eliminate the need for tillage, weeding, and in most cases watering. My no-tilled potatoes laid on top of the ground with a foot of hay mulch spread over top, are the least labor-intensive crop that I have ever grown.

There is, of course, no tillage involved; the hay mulch suppresses the weeds thus no weeding it also captures and retains moisture from rain events, eliminating the need for additional watering. When harvested, the potatoes are clean and ready to market.

No washing necessary! A cover crop planted in garden spaces in the fall can serve to protect soils from erosion over the winter and can be used to build organic matter as a green manure crop after it is terminated next spring.

It is also a proven fact that cover crops can be used as a natural form of weed suppression. So much return on a very modest investment.

Closing remarks

With an eye toward a more sustainable lifestyle and independence, and as folks move to rural America, it is important to keep in mind the necessity to work with the land and not against it.

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Joe Mayle is one of the agronomic/natural resources technicians with the Carroll Soil and Water Conservation District. He holds an associate’s degree in crop management from The Ohio State University/Agricultural Technical Institute. Contact him at 330-627-9852 or joe.mayle@carrollswcd.org.

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