Our neighbors have run a market garden for years, selling produce at the Dane County Farmers’ Market and others. This year they have decided to scale back and just grow for themselves. They have a large plot with excess capacity and have offered us about five thousand square feet of full-sun growing space. We’re incredibly grateful and excited to have this space. First, our property is given over to garden crops and we concentrate on vegetables and fruits. Eventually we want space to grow more field crops (corn, wheat, oats, etc.) but didn’t think we’d get a chance to start experimenting with these larger-scale crops so soon. Luckily this smaller amount of space is a perfect size to try out. Now the questions become: what to grow and how to grow it?
Supplementing Chicken Feed
We’ve got a flock of six chickens that will expand up to nine this year. We purchase about 50 lb of food per month for them (this varies by season: more in the winter, less in the summer). While we get three to four eggs each day now (and expect six to eight when the new girls start laying), it’d be great if we could be more self-sufficient when it comes to feed. I am working up a video about chicken silage for winter and will share that soon, but my first thought when given the opportunity to plant more space was: chicken feed.
High Mowing Seeds also has a few suggestions, including growing seeds to sprout for feed (wheat grass, sunflower, corn, peas, soybeans, and oats) and storage (sunflower, amaranth, orach, corn, buckwheat, wheat, oats, and rye).
Abundant Permaculture has a few suggestions, from using chickens to process compost (something I’ve done before and heartily recommend) to a twenty-point guide to creative feeding.
Finally, and most pertinently, the Prairie Homestead has a long post with a chicken-feed recipe, which I’ll be using as a base to create our own feed. It uses corn, wheat, peas, oats, fish meal, a vitamin supplement, kelp, and calcium supplement.
Experimenting with Flax
The motto of the institute is “Housing, Clothing, and Feeding Ourselves in a Post-Fossil-Fuel World.” We do a good job discussing housing and feeding, but clothing gets short shrift. One project I’ve had in the back of my mind is to make a garment from scratch. We have many options to get there, from leather to wool, but if we wanted to do it without involving animals, then we need a plant fiber. Cotton might not grow well this far north, so flax seems like a likely candidate.
After a little internet research, it seems that flax will grow well in our northern climate and will produce a fiber that we can process with our existing wool tools!
How to Grow Field Crops Without Tilling?
We practice no-till growing in our vegetable garden. The plot we’ve been offered has been tilled and has a low-to-moderate weed load right now. This is going to require more research and will be the subject of later posts. Stay tuned!
3 thoughts on “How to Use a Windfall: An Extra 5,000 ft² of Growing Space”
Thanks for the link to High Mowing’s article. I need to start sprouting grain for my birds. I grew sunflowers for them last summer. This year I’ll do sunflowers, squash and hulless oats. The hulless ones don’t need threshing. You just smack them on the inside of a garbage can or big rubbermaid tote to get the grain off the stalks.
For flax there’s a new book just out by Raven Ranson that goes from growing to weaving. https://permies.com/t/homegrown-linen
I converted grass to a sunflower field last year by layering it with cardboard and then an inch of soil. I stabbed a hole through the cardboard with an old steak knife wherever I put a seed and they all grew. Despite it being very dry in my area. I tried buckwheat and oats in the 1″ soil layer without poking holes and they didn’t grow. Partially because I couldn’t keep the cardboard wet enough in our drought.
Yes! I found the hulless oats and got myself some on the way. Also I got some fiber flax coming. I’ll have to update this as the project progresses.
Thanks also for the note on how you converted a field with the cardboard and soil. I asked this on permies and got some responses, too: https://permies.com/t/108368/Grow-Field-Crops-Sheet-Mulch
Thanks again for commenting and stay tuned for updates.
I’d trust anything Bryant Redhawk says on permies. He’s a soil scientist PhD and really knows his stuff.