Some definitions are in order before I dig into this post.
My definition of a homestead is a house, outbuildings and the land that are used for for meeting the needs of a family.
Farming is the process of growing and harvesting plants, bushes and trees or their fruits/vegetables/roots.
Raising livestock or poultry is not farming.
This post is about the way I imagine farming on a homestead. I’ve worked on farms and dairies and even “finished” cattle on some leased land. I’ve never worked on a homestead, so my thoughts may not be worth much.
1. I can’t invest as much in infrastructure compared to a regular farm. I don’t know of a typical farm that doesn’t have hundreds of acres of arable land. I’m planning on working three acres and some of that will be pasture. I don’t know how much income the farming will bring, but it won’t be enough to justify heavy farm equipment.
2. I can’t afford to water like a regular farm. My homestead has sandy soil. Water percolates through it quickly. Rains will not meet my needs, but I can’t afford to install a pivot line or a like method to irrigate my land.
3. I can’t afford the chemicals. Most farms today have their soil tested every year and apply fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. I can’t justify the cost and I have other concerns related to the chemicals.
4. I can’t afford to do this full time. I’d love to be a full time farmer (I’m sure there are more than a few farmers who would shake their heads). I don’t have the financing it would take to get into farming. It’s pretty difficult to grow a small farm to a large one these days.
So what can I do?
I need my farm to:
Be efficient without all of the implements.
To use less water and/or hold onto it longer.
Build up the soil without the use of chemicals.
To be less work intensive.
I think there are some permaculture techniques and some holistic management methods that may help me.
Right now, there’s no topsoil on the homestead. If I build up some humus, it will hold water longer and enrich the soil.
If I plant the right plants, they’ll inject or develop nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium.
Creating texture to the land (bumps, humps, small ditches, etc) will create places the wind doesn’t reach, reducing water evaporation.
I don’t have faith in some of this stuff. This growing season is going to be a series of experiments.