Building an off grid herb farm and homestead from raw land is one massive, beautiful, frustrating and humbling learning experience. I’m very much enjoying the failures as much as the successes. Each brings about feelings of confidence, determination and the willingness to learn and change my thinking. The personal growth I’ve experienced on this beautiful earthly journey is beyond priceless and the biggest blessing I’ve ever received. There are many more to come and I’m ready!!! Bring on the amazing successes and failures that will lead to the Success of Love of Lotus Apothecary and Farm!
There is certainly a difference in farming 1 acre of land in the Milwaukee suburbs and farming 6 acres in the foothills of East Tennessee. Regardless, I am able to utilize what I’ve learned in Wisconsin as well as what I’m continuing to learn today. One thing I have never done until now is amend rocky soil. Like so many other things, I have the book knowledge in my head. I have not yet applied it. Yesterday I gave it a try in a Back-to Eden gardening style. I dug up a small patch of earth and added leaves, kitchen scraps and plants from around the property. I made sure it had enough moisture and covered it up with black plastic. The idea is to improve the soil enough to support the plant life I would like to grow there next season. We have already cleared the trees out of the area so sun won’t be a problem. I plan to ad to this patch as time goes by, leaning and improving my skills as my experience grows.
Another project is getting the compost bin and leaf mold bins set up. For now I have 1 compost bin I’m quickly out growing. My better half will be building a new one soon. He built them out of untreated wood pallets. Here in East Tennessee we have a lot of rain which means we consistently have moisture. Untreated wood will decay after a while if used outside. We knew this going in and plan to either keep replacing the decaying wood, build a new compost bin and use it until it rots or find a material to make a compost bin that won’t leach chemicals into the compost. We will cross that bridge when our compost bin needs repair. The compost is doing great, even for this time of year I do cover it in heavy rains to protect the microbes working so hard in there. I do allow some rain in the bin as being straight from Gaia herself, it’s the highest quality water any of us can use.
My next adventure is creating a woodland garden. I’ve never done this before, I’ve only studied it in school, now it’s time to see what I’m really made of! I plan to grow woodland medicinal as well as culinary plants. A girls gotta eat. I’ll be brushing up on my knowledge before going out into the woods. I have a variety of plants I want to grow. Most of them need stratification. Some will be stratified outside right in the garden, others indoors. There’s a few I will look for starts, cuttings or roots as they propagate better those ways. I’m really excited to finally give this a try. I’ve never had woodlands to grow in before. This is gonna be fun!!
I currently have some winter crops growing which I find super exciting. With the exception of a plant accidentally making it through the Wisconsin winter with no effort on my part, I’ve never grown anything but house plants in the winter. We shop at a local Mennonite farm, Englewood Farm Market. If you’re ever in Athens, TN, check them out. They were selling local onion bulbs harvested from their farm. They had me at local. Although I have bought seeds and bulbs from various places, seeds and bulbs from generations that were locally grown give the best chance of high germination and healthy plants. I planted these onions in a cloth raised bed with home made soil. I mulched with leaves and 3 days later they sent up their stalks. This is certainly a lesson in planting local seeds and bulbs when we can. I’ll let these grow over winter and harvest in the summer.
I do believe the Mennonites grow heirloom varieties which means we can save the seeds and grow more food!
My greens are a nice mix of spinach, arugula and lettuce. The seedlings took about a week to germinate and their doing great, much better than this past summer. The seeds are the exact same seeds I used this past summer, from the same place, tested at the same time, etc. This just backs up what I have already learned, grow the right varieties for the conditions. Timing is very important. I planted these greens at the end of November, it is now December 3. Ideally they should be planted a bit earlier however, I’m pretty happy with the results already. I’m big on eating daily greens so I’m looking forward to these wonderful plants coming in. I’ll have to keep reminding myself that they are not delicious micro-greens. I could be the biggest pest in my garden if I don’t watch myself!!
I do have an accidental crop, stinging nettles appeared in my strawberry containers before moving onto this land. How this happen, I have no idea. I do have about 6 stinging nettle plants in which I was able enough to hang dry and use in my products or sell alone in Love of Lotus Apothecary. This is a valuable plant and one of my favorites to work with. I’m to happy it decided to bless me with its presence. I plan on growing more and more stinging nettles as this farm grows and manifests into a permaculture paradise.
What are your experiences with all this? What would you suggest I do differently? I’m always open to new thoughts and ideas, comment below.