Post in 'The Green Room' started by jebatty, Aug 15, 2009.
Are wheat and oats practical to do small scale?
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I planted 1/2 acre of oats this spring as a nurse crop to some alfalfa/clover/brome hay. We just spread it with a air seeder and harrowed it in a couple passes. We actually did not combine it though. Instead we just mowed and baled it up with the oats still on the straw. You get some clover and alfalfa that way too. The cows pretty much eat it all and get a little straw spread around as fodder. I actually would not raise 1/8 acre of all the cerial crops as you are right, they wouldn't be efficient to harvest that small amount. I would invision growing 5 acres of oats and trading with neighbors for alfalfa, wheat etc. It would be more like the old days where you'd rotate your crops every year so that someone always had what you grew and you had what someone else needed and so on.
My impression was that the author of "10 acres is enough" was implying that it would be enough to be self-sufficient. I still maintain there's no way it would be enough to be self-sufficient even if one was a vegetarian, let alone have to grow enough feed to over-winter even a small amount of livestock. Of course, I haven't tried, but based on reading a lot about this topic I think an order of magnitude more acreage would be required. You could definetly do A LOT on 10 acres, but I think it would be necessary to supplment feed, etc. from outside the farm.
SolarAndWood - I've read a couple of articles/book chapters on small-scale wheat production (small-scale being in the 1/8 of an acre range) and according to what I've read it can be done successfully. Check out "The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live it" by John Seymour (anything by him is awesome) - in it he details how he would split up 1/2 acre, couple of acres, 5 acres, etc. and I think he covers small-scale wheat production.
By the way, some of this does depend on where you are located. An acre of west Texas pasture would not support what 1 acre of eastern Iowa would.
But you would need a heck of lot less firewood to stay warm in Tx .
How many acres do you have? Do you have to supplement feed from off your farm alot? Again, my opinion on the 10 acres was formed just from reading a lot and starting to do what I can on just under 2 acres (big garden, berry patch, orchard in the planning stages), etc.
I forgot to preface my last post - it was a question for SE Iowa. Anybody else with acreage chime it
Our young 8000 sq ft garden produces an amazing amount of food and we are no where near maximizing its potential. I doubt it would take more than an acre to feed a vegetarian family.
That is what I was thinking. It would seem that you would have to limit your crops to things that don't require large fields and large equipment. We have had very good luck with soybeans on a small scale but corn has been banned from the garden.
I don't know about that livestock equation.
We usually stock al least 4-6 goats/sheep per acre and feed them 7 pounds of hay + 0.5lbs of corn per day in the winter. That would be about 1/8th acre of hay per year and 3.25 bushels of corn per year (1/50th acre at most) per head. One acre of hay should therefore provide for 8 nannys (2 of which should provide more than enough milk) with at least 12 kids (meat). It should take about 4 bushels of corn plus some straw/hay to feed each of the 12 kids to fattened weight which might be up to 1/4-1/3 of an acre of corn. By the way that would be at least 500 lbs of meat in the freezer.
Finally, chickens eat 4 oz of feed per day so that it takes about 85 pounds of mixed grains per year. This would be if they were non-range birds on full feed in captivity 24/7. Let them eat table scrapes and pick thru the manure and you'd see that come down by alot. Depends on how much chicken you like to eat vs egg production but figure 3lbs of grower feed per lb of gain of meat or 5.5 eggs per chicken per week (3.8 lbs of feed per dozen eggs), but you can see it doesn't take much feed to eat chicken and eggs for dinner.
These guys are self sufficient on 1/5 of an acre, cultivating on only 1/10 acre.
They are in Southern Ca, so their firewood needs are non existent and they can grow all year.
To answer your questions. I own about 180 acres in 2 tracts. Most of my farm is in the CRP program (prairie grass) but I do farm and additional 630 acres(rent) of which about 430 acres are tillable. I mostly plant soybeans and corn and some mixed hays and grass hay. We sublease out the pasture (~200 acres) a cow-calf operator but currently have 44 steer calves on feed. Which means that we bought them at ~500lbs and are feeding them haylage and silage plus ground corn and supplement until they are ready to send to market in 1 year (~1300-1500lbs each we hope). We also have egg chickens and raised boilers this spring for meat.
As a side note, my 2 cents on chickens is start with egg production before moving on to meat production. You'd be surprised to learn how fast you'll buy chicken in the store if you start with meat chickens FIRST. Master egg production (more gratifying anyway) then move on to meat production and PROCESSSING next. You'll find that neither really saves money (although egg production comes closer) but does provide sustainability. We only have a small garden right now as I work in town 3 days a week plus all the farming. As soon as we pay off the house and land, I'm out of there (see some previous posts). We live an an area where there are literally farmers (usually their kids) selling vegetables along side the road. Some also sell bread and other things too (melons, sweet corn, rabbits, chicken, beef etc). We also have a locker about every 15 miles as a lot of people still raise their own pigs and cows for butchering. I butcher my own pigs now but a cow is a little big to handle all alone.
Thanks for all of the information SEIowa. SolarAndWood - are you able to produce enough compost on your own land? Maybe I'm just not there yet. We have about 3,000 squre foot garden plust another 13 raised beds. Composting all the waste plant material, leaves, and grass my property generates still doens't give me enough organic matter. That said, my soil is terrible - mostly clay. Flatford - I've looked at their site in the past and was very impressed with what they can do on so little land. But I believe that they bring in a lot of compost/manure/soil amendments. My "what if" thinking was how much would one need if you could not bring in all that outside stuff.
We have chickens (laying hens) in the plan for next year. My wife is not into butchering, so if we did meat birds I'd be solo on the butchering part of the operation ...
The small-scale grain growing I read about called for harvesting/processing the grain by hand - anybody tried that?
We are fortunate enough to be able to use manure for composting although we still maintain a compost pile for kitchen scraps etc.
As far as your clay soils, buy some gypsum. 300-400lbs per acre every year for 2-3 years (sounds like a lot but it's cheap = $4/50lbs). It is made of Ca SO4. basically the SO4 binds the magnesium up in tight clay soils and which exposes the negative charges on the clay particles so that they can hold on to more humus and nitrogen/oxygen. It will help loosen your soil. The resulting salt (Mg SO4) is epsom salts and is easily washed way the next rain.
Run all your compost thru your chickens first. They will either eat it or keep it constantly stirred up so that it decomposes fast.
Yes, you can harvest your crops by hand, esp corn (think the Nebraska Corn Huskers). All corn was hand picked up until the lat 30's and early 40's. In addition sickles weere used for harvesting oats and wheat and then they ran them thru a threashing machine, but you could hand thrash them.
I shamelessly cheated. Our acre and a half is on the north end of a drumlin and had little more than glacial till when we started. After I built the garden terraces, I trailered in 15 or so loads of highly organic material from the feed lot at a friends former dairy farm. Our walkways, also where the wheels from the tractor run while rototilling and subsoiling, were built and are maintained with wood mulch from the city mulch pile. We mow a little over an acre of grass that we use to mulch around the plants. We also get compost material from the deli down the street from my office.
SolarAndWood - hey, that's not cheating. I'm thinking of asking at houses that appear to have horses that pass by on my way home from work. If I could score some free manure ... almost as good as free firewood!
SEIowa - thanks for the suggestion.
Good soil is the key. My raised beds, in which I used purchased soil/compost mix, are fantastic. Excellent yields. My new, traditional, garden area - very poor results. My best result ever? Squash seedlings that were leftover and half-dead. I tossed them in my compost pile. I now have the largest pumpkin plant I've ever seen growing out of the compost pile. Incredible.
I think we are going to do Winter Rye/Vetch/Clover in the garden this winter after hitting it with the subsoiler and maybe some more highly organic material from the farm. Check out
my order of hairy vetch just came in the mail last week. im going to sow it in our raised beds as a cover crop. I just picked up some fox urine earlier this week to keep the damn groundhog out of my garden. I had no idea those fat little bastards can climb! So far i havent seen him around since i sprayed the fox pee.
here's a pic of what my garden looked like at the beginning of summer....it has since filled in completely. I had no idea butternut squash and pumpkins grow that rapidly.
I'm on the fence about what to do with the soil - I was thinking of a cover crop until I read about sheet composting - putting down 4" layer of manure, cover with cardboard/newspaper, then cover with 4"-6" of mulch. Do this in the fall and supposedly in spring you'll have vastly improved soil. My other problem is that here in NEOhio we have very wet springs - makes it hard to till anything - really, by the time my plot is ready for proper tilling stuff should be in the ground already. Also thought of trying some double digging on some specific plots, although that's a lot more work.
BucksCoBernie - sweet pic. Garden looks great. How much did the fox wee set you back? My neighbor has a large groundhog that lives underneath his shed. We seem to have an understanding - the groundhog looks at me, but never ventures over the property line. Never. Perhaps he has seen what happened to the skunks that were tearing up the yard and the rabbits that managed to infiltrate my fencing ....
It was only $5 for a 1oz spray bottle. i cut strips of an old t-shirt and tied them to my garden fence and gave each strip about 3 squirts of the pee. i only used a little bit.
I use subsonic .22 rounds for the critters.
It seems like all the rain this year has been great for filling in the garden. While it has been a challenge on our existing terrace, the new terrace I built over the winter and planted this spring did very well. The pumpkins are out of hand.
In checking out the 'reading' list I was surprised not to find "Living the Good Life" by Scott and Helen Nearing.
Don't know how many acres they had but I know they left the 'big city' in the early 1900's and lived well off of the land the rest of their lives. No electricity. No running water.....
They didn't just live they thrived. Didn't need health insurance because they didn't get sick! Lived into their 90's I think but can't remember. It's been awhile since I read the book.
Many visited them to see how they did it. Not many followed them. Couldn't give up the creature comforts they had been conditioned to want.....
The Nearings made their first homestead in rural Vermont, but later moved to Maine. Neat story.
SolarAndWood - nice pics. I bet you have no problems with soil drainage due to the terraced design. How high is your fencing? I have "rabbit proof" fense up to 3', then a single electric line at 5'. This worked up to recently with the deer, but I have twice now found a deer in the garden. Earlier this week I chased one out and she actually dove between the fece and the electric line. Couldn't believe it.
I built the first terrace 3 years ago and now wish I had pitched it more. I almost tripled the grade on the terrace I built over this past winter. It has done very well even with all the rain this year. We have an out of control deer population, tried the live and let live approach year 1, didn't go so well. 4' of coated wire fence with polypro net to the top of the 8' t posts has kept them out since. We still do get a few enterprising chipmunks through. Since the sunflowers have matured, the birds mostly crows have disappeared. Not sure if that is coincidence or not.
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