We have very, very acidic soil that is also very rocky with lots of orange-red clay. Help!!! How can we make it better?
You can improve your soil the same way you make all soils better: organic matter. Think carbon—decomposable biomass. If you’ve read any of my books, you know when our family came here in 1961 we had so little soil that Dad had to pour concrete in used car tires and push a piece of half inch pipe in the concrete, to have something that would hold up electric fence stakes. Yes, that’s how little soil we had—many quarter acre areas, saucer shaped, that were bare rock. Some three to five feet of topsoil washed off most hillsides in the Shenandoah Valley during the first two hundred years of westernization.
Be a fiend for carbon. Junk hay, sawdust, wood chips, log peelings from sawmills, straw, ground corncobs, cotton ginning trash, corn stubble—anything that will burn is carbon, and that is what builds the organic matter in the soil. If you have livestock, mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization is probably the most efficacious way to generate soil carbon.
Carbon turns black when it decomposes–just like charcoal. What you’re after is that blackness, so any carbon you can get on will feed and then awaken the biological community in the soil. As that community of beings finds biomass food, it will begin to do all the symbiotic functions that healthy soil communities do. But it all starts with carbon.
My husband and I are building a house in the country on eleven acres and are hoping to raise a few animals and garden. I’m in my mid-fifties, and my husband is sixty-one. Are we too old to start something like this? I know only the Lord knows our time to go, but is this too big a project for people our age? We are both in reasonably good health. My husband is a type-one diabetic, but he eats healthy and keeps his sugar level in the normal range most of the time. Thanks for your input!
You’re never too old to do something you enjoy. You’re not talking about a commercial farm venture that must pay your salary. If you don’t depend on your land for income, you can pace yourself to whatever your physical capabilities are. Remember that timing can make or beak a project. Putting in fence posts, for example, in July is completely different than putting them in in March when the soil is soft. Just today, I was over at a new rental property with a crew of four young men, and in just a couple of hours we put in seventy corner wooden electric fence posts—by hand with a heavy-duty two-man homemade post pounder. You can’t drive a post worth squat in the summer.
So look at your projects and think about timing—weather, soil conditions, sequence—and do the most appropriate thing first. If you want to plant some fruit trees, do it now, not three months from now. I just finished pruning all of our orchard trees yesterday. I did about two a day for several days, pacing myself along as a filler project in the warm afternoons, and it wasn’t bad at all. The apple switches we feed to the rabbits for roughage and the big mulberry switches go into the pigs. They chew all the bark off and play with them.
You’d be surprised what you can do if you just pace yourself and stay with it every day. Just a couple of hours of strenuous work every day will yield huge outcomes over time. Your projects will keep you energized and feeling young—especially when you see some progress. Go for it.
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