Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet
March 22, 2010
After reading several different magazines that cater to articles about hobby farms there is one repetitive theme – every new farmer is simply astounded at how much work it takes to produce a crop. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small garden plot, an acre or five acres, these folks are just flabbergasted. Apparently they had the mistaken assumption that dropping a few seeds on the ground would yield a bountiful harvest. More than likely doing that would give only birds a few easy meals.
Granted most serious hobby farmers study and learn as much as they can before embarking on a project. The old adage is something like if you wait for everything to be perfect, you will never do anything. At some point, it is time for action. Plans must be made, seeds ordered, soil prepared, seeds planted and as they start to come up, the fun really begins. Unfortunately weeds are the most prolific plant whether the plot is for two tomatoes or for acres of crops. Weeds steal moisture and nutrients from the desired plantings and are enemies to be eradicated. It is critical to control weeds.
On a small plot it means hoeing by hand, possibly tilling in between rows, mulching, pulling weeds by hand, and generally cleaning the weeds as they grow, all the while watering and encouraging your good plants to grow and prosper. As the size of the plot increases, so do the difficulties.
Small scale farming is time consuming. It can be back breaking. Before long into the growing season that nice, warm day will turn into a long stretch of very hot weather. Mosquitoes and other bugs will be out in force. Yet it can be fulfilling and some say, enjoyable. However, there is no way to understand the amount of time and work involved until the work needs done. It is often a slow and almost painful learning curve as the work seems to pile up, no matter how hard or fast the labor is accomplished.
I remember a family that moved to our area from California and rented a farm house with a plot of one quarter acre for gardening. They were determined they would grow a bountiful crop and give it away to those less fortunate. It sounded so simple: plant seeds, water as needed and enjoy the fruits of the labor. Their small garden spot was too large to keep it adequately watered with one hydrant and a garden hose. Once a week watering wasn’t enough on the sandy soil. They just couldn’t get water around to all of the plants adequately. That was one problem, then the weeds flourished and finally took over. The couple gave up and the weeds won. They had good intentions but no idea of the amount of labor it would entail.
Don’t be discouraged, just realistic. We all have to start somewhere with our dreams and what could be better than living a dream that also produces food?
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Peggy writes from the home ranch in southwestern South Dakota. Her e-mail is Peggy@PeggySanders.com.