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Farming

Up On The Ridge With The Hogs

Wonderful writing from a cherished supporter of The Beartaria Times.

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Photograph by @ameliaameliorate on Instagram

In the middle of the winter of 2018, a humble plate of pork sausage and fried eggs blew my mind. It was a game changer, as this was our first homegrown pork. Pork from a hog nurtured here on our land, by our own hands, from birth to harvest. We’d been enjoying the wonderful fruits of our hard fought garden for a few years, but this felt different. Not to veggie-shame at all, we cherish every bite of those too, but you know, it was just different. The gratitude I felt, and the gravity of the moment was overwhelming. What a crazy feeling! How on earth could a couple of former city dwellers, with no animal agriculture background, figure out how to raise our own meat? And why in the world did we choose hogs? Well, I’ll tell ya!

A couple years before that awe-inspiring plate, we had made the decision to uproot ourselves from the nonsense that had been brewing in the San Francisco Bay Area for a long, long time. We were done living like sardines, around people we couldn’t relate to. Our dreams were much bigger, including producing food for ourselves, on our own terms, without being regulated and scrutinized to death by people who had never raised so much as a tomato. So we set out, and just kept following the road North, as if we were being pulled in that specific direction. I’m guessing our shared Northern European heritage had activated some deep down ancestral magnetic pull to a land of harsh winters and endless challenges. Somewhere where we’d have to really earn that bountiful life, but when we did, it would be so, so sweet, and so worth it. Eventually we were guided to our little high desert oasis in southern Oregon, under the towering pines in the rural mountains above alfalfa country. Bingo. Home sweet home.

It’s not an ideal piece of farm land, by any stretch. It’s dry as a bone, hotter than heck during the summer, snowed in during the winter, with nutrient poor volcanic sand soil and only a roughly 90 day gardening season from frost to frost. No matter though, because it’s flat, it already had a well and a little house, and enough trees had been cleared to give us good sunlight and enough room to build. We decided the potential for what it could be outweighed the challenges of what it was. We planted ourselves, and declared we were going to bloom!

Mapping out the garden plot and chicken coop was first. It was the end of Summer already, but we’re not great at sitting still and wanted to get a jump on the next year. That first plot ended up being bigger than the footprint of our house, because hey, priorities. Within a week we had our first load of compost trucked in, and with the addition of a 100% necessary 8’ deer fence we were off and running for planting in the Spring.

The first step in animal husbandry, the obligatory chickens, came next. It took a few months for me to get up the nerve to actually commit to purchasing the first 6 little fuzzballs from the feed store. Like more prodding than it took to get me to OK our 2 Great Pyrenees puppies. Those little peeps were just so fragile looking and I was nervous, truth be told! We aren’t able to free range, though, given the amount of flying and digging predators, so the coop and covered run we had built were constructed like an impenetrable fortress, making my concerns just a tad overblown. So, that first little box of chicks came home, lived indoors in a makeshift brooder until they were fully feathered out, and all was well.

1 month after biting the bullet on the pullets, having built up the confidence that we could successfully care for livestock, the first 2 little female piglets were purchased. Just like that, we were hog farmers. The girls, a spotted one and a red one, were 2 month old, cute as a button little “weaner” piglets from a local family. Their breed mix is Red Wattle, Berkshire, and Duroc, which are all Heritage breeds. They’re a bit different than the common lighting-fast-growing pink or white pig you think of when you think commercial hog farming. Heritage breeds grow slower, and are more specifically bred for either higher quality “bacon” or “fat”. Lucky for us, the breed mix of the girls are suitable for both needs. A baby boar from another family was added to the mix about a month later, and all of a sudden we had all the necessary biological components of a small-scale homestead pork production operation.

The first 3 hogs quickly outgrew the first shelter and fenced off area we’d built for them. For a short while, we’d be woken up every morning to the sound of our quickly growing little boar jumping over the 4 foot wooden wall that was supposed to keep him inside his pen. Kind of blatant a sign that we needed to expand, so expand we did. As hogs get bigger and start breeding, it quickly becomes a matter of safety and comfort to be able to have separate areas for sows to give birth and to raise their piglets, away from the other adults. More and more fencing was installed, more specific areas defined, more shelters assembled. You end up getting to be an expert at those funky little wire clips that hold fencing to t-posts, rather quickly!

Piglets are magical little beings, like the cutest little velvet covered things ever. Definitely a bonus because they tend to show up on the coldest snowiest night, around 2 or 3 am. They have this innate ability to crawl out of their birth goo and find the life-sustaining nipple within a minute or so of being born. It’s really an amazing thing to watch. They’re fighters from the start and are ready to sustain themselves independently from Mom within a few weeks to a couple months. Over the years we’ve been able to sell off most of the almost 60 piglets born here to people in our community, but we’ve also kept a few who didn’t sell before the off-season, meaning our sheltering configuration has grown and changed numerous times. Flexibility and adaptability has been key.

Hogs sound like a ton of work, so why do it, you may ask? Good question. It’s quite a leap to go from a small feathered animal that can survive off the land if need be, to a small herd of behemoths that require significantly more input in the form of food, housing and and attention. We initially made that leap in faith, not really knowing what we were getting into, and have learned quite a bit since! Hogs aren’t cheap, they can be pretty destructive, they require a lot of room, and they will figure out every single weakness in that fence you thought you’d repaired faster than a gifted kid solving a rubik’s cube. All valid concerns, and all things we figured out through trial and error. So, what are the pros?

I’d have to say the number 1 factor in choosing hogs is the amount of meat you get from 1 animal, and the versatility of that meat. From the same hog, at butcher weight of about 280-300lbs, or 6-8 months old, you can plan on having 180-200lbs of meat, fat and stock bones. That’s enough for a couple, for a year. 2 hogs, which are easier and more fun to raise than 1 since they’re buddy-buddy type animals, will probably feed your whole family, for quite some time.

I can tell you, we haven’t bought meat from a grocery store in years. The myriad of different cuts of meat you get from a hog keeps us creative kitchen types constantly coming up with new dishes. Of course you have the delicious standards of bacon, ribs, hams, and chops, but there are also steaks in there, roasts, and endless, literally endless varieties of sausage. There’s a type of sausage, or ground pork, for almost every culinary whim, and every meal of the day, thanks to the worldwide variables in spice blend mixtures. Then you start thinking about things like pulled pork, schnitzel, meatballs, cured meats…ok, now I’m getting hungry.

What else? They’re hearty animals. Feed them well, including natural pest and parasite control measures, and health is almost guaranteed. Give them shelter with enough straw during the winter and a cool mud hole during the summer, and you’ll have a very happy hog on your hands.

They have great personalities! They’re goofy, and I’d argue they’re smarter than dogs. Now, that may be a deal breaker if you can’t bear the thought of butchering an animal like that. An animal that trusts you. Fair enough. You can also raise them at arms length and you’ll still get way better pork than you’d find at the grocery store. For us, though, it’s a much more comforting feeling knowing the animals we’re raising, with the ultimate purpose of harvesting, were given the absolute best life possible, with joy we’ve personally witnessed. And to know that for sure, we have to be very involved. Even up until the very last minute. We’ll be by his side and can say with certainty that there was no fear in his eyes. That means we harvest here on site. No shipping off to a final destination, alone and afraid. I can’t even imagine that. We feel that’s the least we can do for that hog as a thank you for the overwhelming abundance of nutrition that animal will provide us.

To get to that place of peace with the cycle of life and death wasn’t just an overnight thing. We worked up to it, for sure, and there’ve been many ups and downs. We’re currently over 3 years in, and on our 7th litter, which have been the most time-consuming and challenging to date. That’s a story for another time. That’s the thing, though. There will always be ups and downs and challenges. Do you give up? No. Giving up doesn’t even enter your mind at this point. You embrace those challenges, and you become stronger for it. Raising your own food is an entirely different thing than walking into a store and picking out packages, and it requires a whole new mindset. Or, maybe ironically, a return to a very old mindset. Cooking every single meal from scratch, and nurturing the ingredients you’re using for those meals, becomes multiple full-time jobs that you become happy to show up to day in and day out. Freedom really does require an incredible amount of responsibility! It’s hard, dirty, and sometimes unpleasant, but the rewards are worth it. Your first plate of homegrown sausage and eggs will definitely prove that!

-Breanna
@ameliaameliorate on Instagram

Farming

A Beginners Guide to Soil Preparation

It’s a blast getting soiled in the garden and I am quite happy to write for this audience.

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Starting Gardens From Scratch – Soil

Autumn is here, and this is the ideal time to be preparing ground for your future garden beds.  Here I will offer some elements I have learned and used over the years, and discuss their difficulties and merits.  As a way of weaving the story together, I will describe three different gardens I helped start.  There are physical material aspects, design considerations, and the realistic capacity of the players involved.

In 2009, some friends in Providence, Rhode Island were ruminating on the dire fact that nearly all food eaten in modern cities relies on massive supply chains thousands of miles long.  In the face of this, they began growing food in a few neglected lots in the neighborhoods we roam.  Some were guerrilla gardens, planted without any permission beyond the local will; others had some acknowledgment from a landlord, and another vacant lot was officially rented, becoming the Fertile Underground Communal Garden.

The space had formerly been a sort of parking lot behind an auto shop, so the soil was thoroughly steeped with oil, old shop rags, spark plugs and all sortsa junk.  It had been cleared of heavy material and was basically flat, a square green spot within a low-income section of Providence.  The team rallied all pickup trucks possible, and salvaged a bunch of old railroad ties that had been sitting for years.  These things were massive, probably 10x10s about 12 feet long apiece.  These were butted up to form squares in the garden, and plastic sheeting was lain on the ground, to prevent our food from tapping the toxic soil below.  Compost and soil was brought in to fill the beds, and the season began. 

Reviewing this technique, I point out that the capacity of excitable teamwork was essential, and the work happened without major strain on anyone.  The knowledge of latent resources in the area, like the railroad ties, made this process an instant success.  Its greatest positive is the immediate nature of establishing a garden in a solid day of group effort.  Afterward, we realized that these old railroad ties were soaked in creosote or some other tar, to prevent decay, but is also toxic and likely made our food less-than-organic.  In this case, a group of about 30 folks kicked in, and so buying soil to bring in was possible.  I believe there were 5 beds made, about 10 inches deep, perhaps 500 square feet of garden made in short time.

That garden grew well.  Composting began that year and was used to amend throughout the next seasons.  At one point we got a bulk dump of unsifted compost through a city gardeners group-buy.  We built our own simple sifter (hardware cloth in a basic wooden frame that we could toss shovelfulls at) and got the shells and leaf debris out of a bunch of yards of that compost.  Work was shared and food was harvested as one would.  The folks who were there a lot naturally harvested more.  It wasn’t a major concern about folks taking more than they put in, there was plenty to go around.  I built a greenhouse on site, there is another story.  We planted there for two more seasons until 2011. Suffice to say that this technique worked great.  It requires having a decent supply of people to help out, and to kick in some cash as well. 

The same year, one of our pals was buying a house in the city that had a decent size front lawn, about the same total footage as our old plot.  We planned to garden it anyway, but then as it happened our whole operation moved down there. 

I borrowed a walk behind roto-tiller from our friends the New Urban Farmers, and went ahead and turned up the whole lawn.  If one is aiming to break sod with a roto-tiller, begin with the depth set to a bit more shallow than halfway, the aim is to beat up the top grass layer.  In my experience, you will need to do two passes over grasses no matter what, so don’t hurt yourself.  You won’t get under it too much, but get the setting to where you are thoroughly beating its structure on the first pass.  Then, when you drop it to about ¾ of it’s full depth, you should be able to do some proper tilling and open the ground up.  

If one seeks the good farming literature you will likely encounter no-till farming, which is a super method, worth exploring.  In my experience, this works well in soil which has already been in use, but when approaching a thick layer of grass, drop the plow, sweetheart.  The basic lawn grass is not harboring the rich microbiotic landscape which a regular garden has.  The drawbacks of disturbing your soil layers are highly outweighed by the benefit of looser soil to plant in.  As you do the tilling, it can be helpful to have others just getting the grass clumps out of there.  Shake the soil off and haul it away.

In this garden, a few families of immigrants from Bhutan saw the opportunity of good ground, and essentially took on about 80% of the responsibility of planting and everything. This was a welcome change in our crew.  Although we couldn’t always speak, because of language barriers, it was always easy to garden together.  That garden, planted in 2012, is still growing today, and has developed in maximizing space, introducing vertical gardening, and many sculptures.  

In that garden, the tiller made it possible for an afternoon to yield arable ground.  I seem to remember amending the rows as we planted them.  The house has had chickens for many years now, and this has provided a lot of opportunity to continue feeding that ground.  To be honest, our Bhutanese friends work their magic there and I have been less involved lately, as I farm other plots now.  Again, the needs of this plan are tilling, and having a community who are willing to help, often.  This garden is tended every day during the growing season.  Much of its success may have been not from incredible soil, but from very diligent weeding.

A few years after that I had the opportunity to turn some more lawn space into a garden at our home.  A friend brought his tiller down and carved out a sort of triangle.  We live among tall oaks, so this space gets direct sun only about half the day, but it’s the best we got.  I added some compost as we make and it was available, but held off from spending much money to add the inch or two the whole garden could have benefited from.  I worked on a tree crew at that time, and began adding layers of wood chips for mulch.

During the first few years of gardening, I kept getting low results.  Low germination.  Getting busy and not watering enough.  The soil felt sandy and lifeless.  Usually one crop would do really well and most everything else didn’t.  Potatoes always grow.  I stick with what responds.

I kept adding the wood chips.  I found later that this method is described in the movie “Back to Eden”, which I would recommend.  I had come upon the same technique myself, and added some of his tips to what I was doing.  Basically, get in touch with a tree company who may be willing to dump a pile of wood chips near your garden.  I would seek out a conscientious crew who will take the care to bring you a load that’s not stacked up with sticks or logs or trash or anything foreign within, hopefully a good clean load that is mostly straight woody debris.  If they are super conscientious they will even make sure it’s not from a tree that was removed due to disease.  My hunch is that you would prefer a deciduous, not evergreen, variety, as those trees are known for being acidic to soil (and then would be ideal for placing underneath your berry orchard, again, another story).

Now, I began by saying that the ideal time to start your garden is in the fall.  To be honest, both those first gardens were started in May.  But to me, the best is the fall.  Another method I have used in the past is called sheet mulching, or lasagna gardening.  You can look it up, but there you are adding successive layers of material that will decay into your garden, bringing it fertility, structure, aeration, worms, microbial action, and beyond.  You can use almost anything you have in abundance whether that’s cardboard, leaves, or back issues of the Beartaria Times print edition retrieved from the future.  In this case I just used straight up wood chips.  Because they were free.  Because I chipped them myself.  Whenever I noticed a load that was clean, from a healthy tree, free of debris, and we were in my neck of the woods, I would ask for a contribution, and get the dump right near the garden.  Then I would peck away at the pile, one wheelbarrow at a time, over the course of a couple weeks, spreading a good few inches across the whole garden with a rock rake.  You see why this would be possible in the fall, or late winter, when the garden isn’t full of plants.

At first, this technique doesn’t do much, except act as a good weed suppressor.  You can move the chips aside and plant your stuff in the soil below.  But then you start to see immense amounts of mycelium in there, and the soil below gets looser and darker.  This technique is not fast, but it’s cheap/free, it’s simple, and once it’s rolling, it just works.  Mulching in general is a great way to keep the garden orderly.  Everything from making pathways clear to see, and keeping the weeds held back, just a bit. 

 Now this year, I finally went and bought a bunch of compost from my favorite local biodynamic composters, who use a lot of fish detritus, food scraps and tree elements on a massive scale.  I gotta say, the results were immediate, impressive, and very worth the money.  I would have done this sooner, looking back.  Yet I was surprised by how unwilling this ground was, when I began working with it.  My insight is that the type of fertilizers and chemicals the previous folks may have used on this lawn completely zapped this soil of it’s microbial life and structure.  There weren’t even many worms.  If you get any inkling of this, I would be prepared to add compost, and not just the little bit you make yourself, but a good bunch of bags or a truckload from an awesome composter.  Get on the woodchip train, but give that technique three years to really start giving back.

Growing a basic family garden, especially if you have need to be away from it for work or other stuff, it’s valuable to know the ways to support the plants, make them as resilient as they need to be, to deal with our own shortcomings as their caretakers.  I had a few years lately where I made most of the right efforts, yet did not see the huge bounty, mainly because of low soil quality.  I could have ponied up some cash and had a lot more success.  If you find compost that is rich in bacteria, it’s going to inoculate the whole garden, and help everything along.  Watch for the little signs and trust your intuition.

One final tip that’s not for everyone, it to be mindful of weeds.  Nature does not leave bare ground, that’s why we get the mulch in there to tuck it in.  Plants will come up when you make space, and not all of them will be your chosen varieties.  Yet don’t be so quick to pull everything out.  Make room for your plants, plenty of it, but wherever possible, leave those weeds.  Often I find that those are the plants that bugs are choosing to eat.  They may harbor beneficial insects.  They may be balancing the soil in some way.  You will get to know which of the weeds are your preferred varieties, and make your own selections of them as well.  The garden is a domain with its own language, and as a good leader, it’s best to govern with an easy hand.

Here is only a basic review of a few methods of getting a garden going.  Consider what unique assets you have in the process, whether it’s an abundant resource, big family and friends, or plenty of time on your hands.  You may find that it’s more productive to baby four cucumber plants than go plant 14 mounds.  You may find that just turning over an area in the ground and scattering some seeds willy-nilly (like I do, with some choice involved) performs just as well as laying everything out.  Mainly, you’ve got to have a garden that calls you in and keeps you engaged and active.  It’s a marathon, and there are key moments in any plants life where if you fail, it will suffer bad.  The more repetitive attention, even just ten minute stroll and observe, helps everything continue in a good way. 

It’s a blast getting soiled in the garden and I am quite happy to write for this audience.  I would happily receive suggestions for gardening topics to pursue in the future.  It’s a space that does not demand an expert, but appreciates expertise.  Get those long handled tools in your hands and keep that ground growing!!

Written by,

-Michael G (requesting to be bearified as Moss Bear)  imagined an approach called “World Gardening” wherein he accepts that this entire World is to be tended and cultivated.  It’s not unusual to find him saving seeds from an overgrown meadow or abandoned garden, pruning a shrub after ringing your doorbell, or throwing acorns from the window of a moving automobile. Lately he is imagining a more coherent cooperative project along these lines, called Earth Weavers. One of the first major projects may be the reintroduction of beneficial seeds to the clearcut hillsides of Americas Northwest.  To fund this endeavor he is offering a multitude of homestead skills.  More information may be found at www.earthweavers.art , and Moss Bear may be reached at earthweavers@protonmail.com or @dspacio on the gram . 

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Farming

A bears guide to keeping a milk cow

A couple milk cows can easily provide all the dairy for a half dozen bear families.

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If you have the desire and ability to keep a milk cow, it can be one of your biggest homesteading assets. The amount of food that one cow can provide for your family is amazing. Raw milk, home made yogurt, raw butter, and if you have the time, cheese. The quality of such homegrown dairy products is so much higher that you literally can not buy it from your local grocery store. In most cases the only way you can get access to food that real and that nutritious is if you grow it and make it yourself.

The nutrition your family will get from daily access to the raw milk is incredibly high. I have noticed that many of the local giants come from multi generational dairy families. There’s just something about that raw milk. If you want your boys to be above 21 rogans in height, keeping your own milk cow is going to raise those odds dramatically.

Buying a cow

I don’t recommend spending a ton of money on a cow. The best cow I have was a 2 year old Jersey in milk that I paid $700 for. You should be able to find a good cow in the $1000 range. If you are new to cows I recommend going to a local farmer and seeing if he will sell you an experienced milker. Ask him if he has any 3 quarter cows that he wants to sell. (sometimes a cow will dry off a quarter due to injury or mastitis and will only milk out of 3 teats instead of all 4). A 3 quarter cow will still give plenty of good milk, but is usually higher up on the farmers cull list so the farmer may give you a good deal on the cow.

If you are new to milking a cow, I recommend going with an experienced milker so that you aren’t both learning at the same time. Once you know what you are doing, training a first calf heifer to milk isn’t hard. But it can be very frustrating if you and the cow are learning at the same time.

Don’t buy milk cows at the sale barn unless it’s a whole herd sale where the farm went out of business or retired or something like that. If the whole herd is being sold you should be able to get a good cow out of it.

If its your first cow, buy a cow that’s already milking and bred back if you can (that will save you some hassle for the first year). When you go to look at a cow, bring a CMT kit with you and test the milk on the spot. The kit will indicate if the cow has a high somatic cell count and you can test each quarter individually. If the cow has a high SCC than you will likely have problems with milk quality and possibly mastitis. Pass on that cow and find one that is clean.

Cow care and feeding

Don’t pay for genetics. That gets expensive. Expensive genetics are for fine tuning an already successful farm. Most cows if fed properly will be great cows.

Mohawkfarmer Bear 2020

Keep your cow clean. This will prevent diseases, mastitis, and contaminated milk. Provide plenty of dry bedding in the winter time and good pasture access in the summertime. Keep your cow out of mud and manure and all will be good.

Not all hay is equal. Early, early cut first cutting is the best hay you will ever find. A pattern in the old Testament is that God required offerings from the first fruits of a harvest. There’s a reason for that. It’s usually the best.

Don’t be cheap by holding back on feed. Don’t try to save money by buying low quality hay. If you want your cow to be healthy and provide you with plenty of milk, feed only good hay, and plenty of it. Good genetics won’t do anything if you starve your cow. This may seem like common sense but I’ve seen it happen many, many times.

Of course, during the growing season, a well managed pasture is the cheapest and highest quality feed you can provide for your cow.

Once a day milking

The downside to keeping a milk cow is she needs to be milked everyday, even when you don’t feel like it. If you stop milking your cow, she stops giving milk. That being said, if time is limited due to your job and raising a family, you can get by with once a day milking. You will get less milk, but it will still be plenty to provide what your family needs. When the cow first has her calf and starts milking you may need to milk her twice daily for the first 3 to 6 weeks because of the flush of milk. But after that you can safely settle into a more relaxed once daily milking.

Milk Quality

If you put the work into keeping a milk cow, you want to be able to enjoy sweet, delicious, quality milk. Here’s some things to pay attention to.

Chilling – have a dedicated fridge to cool the milk down fast. This is important because if the milk is not cooled fast enough it will spoil sooner and have some off flavors. Quality raw milk if kept cold will last up to 2 weeks. Bottle the milk in half gallon containers. Larger containers just can’t cool down fast enough.

Equipment- If its not properly washed, your milk will develop off flavors and spoil faster. After milking rinse of the equipment with warm water and then wash with hot soapy water. A hot water rinse will cook the milk leaving minerals from the milk on the stainless steel. That is called milk stone and it causes problems by holding bacteria from one milking to the next. It doesn’t make the milk unsafe, but it will cause the milk to spoil faster shortening the shelf life. Your buckets should be nice and shiny when you shine a flashlight on the steel. If you see a white film, that is milk stone and you will need to use white vinegar or acid wash (from a dairy supply store) to get the milkstone off.

Somatic Cell Count – this is the white blood cells in the milk. There will always be some present but if the SCC gets too high the milk will spoil fast and will taste sour, or even salty if its really high. It will also reduce the yield of cheese you get from the milk. A high SCC (700,000+)can also be an indicator of mastitis, an infection in the cows udder. To prevent a high SCC keep your cow clean, feed her well, and provide her with a good quality mineral mix. Dipping the teats with an iodine solution before and after milking will also help prevent bacteria infecting the udder. For quality milk you want the SCC to be in the 70,000 to 100,000 range. The simplest way to check the SCC is to use the CMT kit.

Community

A couple milk cows can easily provide all the dairy for a half dozen bear families. Going in on a couple cows in order to share the daily care and responsibility of milking and feeding, as well as teaming up to make cheese and butter, can be a great way to enjoy the nutritious bounty without being overwhelmed by the work. Crush, grow, and milk a cow as you build your part of Beartaria!

Guest Article Written By,

MohawkFarmer Bear

@mohawkfarmer_bear on IG

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Farming

A Crusher from New England Builds a Garden

I saw Babylon falling with the help of the Big Bear. Let’s just say my ancestral Ukrainian DNA told me to build and that I did.

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The Garden by: Ukrainian Bear

How I started?

Big Bear was streaming, doing his thing, and said Bears need to start growing food. Vox Day would later follow up with his livestream and say that the future belongs to those who show up for it. This resonated with me to my core as someone whose grandparents still grow and can their own food till this day. I looked around Babylon and recognized that growing your own food is the future. 

I began searching for different designs, putting them together, and identifying the environment around me for predators, deer, birds, and squirrels. 

The design

I knew I wanted a raised bed garden that would grow with me, designing it in such a way that it may later be turned into a greenhouse (grand solar minimum in mind).

Prevention is easier than killing all the squirrels. So, I built a fence. No space could be wasted, as it was limited, so I integrated a raised bed design into the fence. I used 4×4 as posts and two sets of 2×12 stacked on top of each other put into a 6 inch trench as the outer wall. The garden grew one panel set at a time into a 30×40 foot raised bed garden. I went big. The trench and height of beds is for keeping moles out.

I built the raised bed garden with its eventual deterioration in mind. Boxes are great in that parts can be easily replaced and new sections can be put in, like LEGO pieces. 

What I learned

I learned a lot from YouTube, but it only took me so far. “Get to know your neighbors” Owen would say. One of my neighbors is a carpenter. I asked for advice and he freely gave it. He would ask me to look after his animals and wanted to pay me for it. Rather than pay me, I asked him to help me with my projects when I asked for the assistance. The little details like squaring, making more accurate cuts are details that I understood only in practice and not via video. 

What to do differently? 

If I could make changes I would use small sections of 2×4 in all four corners of the beds to reinforce the boxes. Otherwise, you’ll get more twisting and bending of wood as the temperature eventually changes. For the longer 10 foot sections I would use multiple small 2×4 to further reinforce those longer beds. The wood I used was pressure treated, but this is not necessary. 

If I did not have as much finances available to me for all the wood and wanted to start right away, I would rent or borrow a good rototiller and till my field well to prepare the soil. Put posts in the ground and cover the outside with wiring to keep the unwanted animals out. Create nice rows to keep better track of your growing vegetables. You can also use a no dig method. 

My motivation

I saw Babylon falling with the help of the Big Bear. Let’s just say my ancestral Ukrainian DNA told me to build and that I did. I have more things to accomplish on the small homestead. We have 8 laying hens and a rooster and I have secured several horizontal bee hive boxes by climbing and removing several trees for a carpenter friend of mine who will build them for me. The skill of climbing is something the Big Bear’s brother inspired me to do and it has paid off. I also plan on planting more fruit trees and bushes, as well as eventually building a root cellar, God willing. 

The dream is to inspire others to grow and build so that we may be more independent from the beast, while also becoming more dependent upon one another. A community of growers, builders, and crushers.

-Ukrainian Bear @ukrainian_bear_ on Instagram

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