You know, it's kind of embarrassing to admit that although we've lived here since August of 2000, this will be the FIRST time that I will be certain to have enough firewood to last through the following winter. What? Yep. It's not that we've ever completely run out - we live on 116 acres...it would be impossible to run out. But the truth is that every year including this one, I've had to scout the property for a downed tree and split 'er up in order to have something to burn. But not this time, pal.
Cory and I have already been scouting for next year's supply, and the tree in the photo was the first volunteer. It was also the first time I've cut a tree that was still standing, but I don't feel bad because it was only partially standing: it was rooted in the side of a hill that had given way and the tree was leaning on a 45-degree angle into another tree. For the health of the other tree, we thought it best to speed up the process and get this one down.
It is a huge sucker, too, so we had to cut it into six or seven lengths in order for me to be able to drag it up with the tractor (using the boom pole seen in the background, behind the spitter).
My Troy-Bilt 27-ton hydraulic splitter has been such a huge blessing for us, and well worth the money we spent. I can split so much more wood, in such a small amount of time, that it's almost silly. So glad we got it.
It's such a good feeling to look at that pile. I just might fix me a cup of coffee, head back out there and look at it some more.
We just posted a little video commentary, too. Take a look at it by clicking this link:
The man upon whose gardening techniques the "Back to Eden" film is based, Paul, talks about the properties of tree limb mulch in great detail. One that caught my ear is that when there is too much water, it spreads it out and eliminates mud. The pathway that leads from our back deck toward the barn has long been a muddy mess, staying muddy long after a rain, so we decided to cover it with tree-limb mulch and see how it performed.
It POURED rain here last night. There was enough rain to drown fish, so it was a perfect test of the mulch and I couldn't wait to get a look at it this morning.
I certainly wasn't disappointed - it worked just as we'd hoped that it would.
I walked to and fro (I love saying "to and fro"), and though there was standing water all over the yard, there was none squishing beneath my shoes - absolutely none. You'd have to really know how much rain we got to fully appreciate that, I reckon, but color me impressed.
Here is the link to a video I just uploaded: Mulch Pathway Update.
Thanks for reading!
The 116 acres of land that is "Alderman Farms" just outside of Brookhaven, Mississippi was originally part of an entire Section of land (640 acres) obtained by Tommy's great-great grandfather, Enoch, as a land grant from the United States government in the 1800's. Through the many years since then, a good many of those original acres wound up in the hands of now distant relatives, plus the section of land directly south of the original came into the family through marriage. Eventually, approximately 360 acres of land remained in Tommy's line, from Enoch to William Thomas Alderman, then to John Wesley Alderman, Tommy's grandfather.
Tommy's father, Ralph Thomas Alderman, was one of four children born to John Wesley Alderman. When the time came for John Wesley to distribute the land to his children, he did so in the following manner:
The oldest son was to get 80 acres and a house.
Each of the two daughters would also get 80 acres and a house (one of which was in the southern section mentioned above).
That left my Dad's portion, which was 120 acres instead of 80 for two reasons - there was no house on the portion, and it was covered with "worthless timber." Funny how things change. In those days, pine trees were things that got in the way of farming - they needed to be removed in order to plant crops. Today, however, pine trees are the number one cash crop in Mississippi. Tommy's father smiled about that turn-around many times.
It was also just as well that there was no house on the portion deeded to Ralph, as he had no intention of living there. When the opportunity to move to Baton Rouge for an excellent job at the Exxon Refinery (now ExxonMobil), he jumped at the chance. He would ultimately retire from Exxon after a long and prosperous career.
Ralph settled his family in Baker, LA, just north of Baton Rouge. Tommy was born in Louisiana, and his only sister, Sheila, spent all but her first few years there.
Throughout most of his younger days, Tommy can remember only a few trips to the "family property" in Mississippi. With both of his parents growing up during the depression, working their fingers to the bone from daylight to dark, neither held particularly fond memories of the land. Therefore Tommy didn't have much of a chance to develop fond memories of it either. Until he met Patti, that is.
Patti's father, who died when she was eight years old, had instilled a love of camping in his youngest daughter. Though Tommy hadn't done much camping in his life before marrying Patti, he was happy to take up the pastime in order to please her.
Coincidentally, a favorite childhood camping spot for Patti's family was the "Clear Springs" recreational area near Roxie, MS, not far from the land of Tommy's heritage. After several camping trips to Clear Springs, Tommy said to Patti one day, almost in passing, "You know, we have some property not too far from here."
It was love at first sight, and they never camped at Clear Springs again.
Before long, in fact, Tommy solicited the assistance of several friends with carpentry skills who chipped in to build a camp house on the very spot where the "old house" used to sit - the house in which Tommy's dad was born. That house burned to the ground when Ralph was 10 years old, and was completely consumed except for portions of the brick chimney and brick walkway.
After spending an entire spring holiday in the cabin, camping for a little more than a week in the fresh air, it wasn't long before Tommy and Patti knew that they'd found their home.
So in the fall of 2000, Tommy & Patti loaded up the family (including the goats & chickens), and headed for the hills. The rest is, as they say, history - but it's history...and heritage...still in the making.
Edited to Add: Here is a link to a video supplement to this blog, filmed at the Alderman Family Cemetery:
Homestead Heritage - Alderman Ancestry - How we ended up here at Alderman Farms
[Note: the Alderman Family Cemetery was established by W.T. Alderman, who deeded 1 acre of the property to the cemetery itself, thereby ensuring it could never be sold. That transaction cut the 120 acres down to 119. Additionally, he deeded another 3 acres to establish a small church nearby, which explains the 116 acres Tommy & Patti now occupy.]
What a gorgeous day here at Alderman Farms!!! Sky is as clear as a bell, blue as "all get out," with Spring temperatures. Birds are chirping, baby goats are bouncing around, and there are young 'uns in the woods chopping things. All is right in our world.
So the question is, when the clock strikes 5PM, what to do, what to do??? Do I split wood in order to get a head start on next year's supply (or more for this year if we hit some more cold weather)? Do I hit the woods to search out downed trees for the same purpose?
Do I work on the pile we'll use for a bonfire tomorrow night, or put that off until tomorrow?
Or do I grab a folding chair, a big cup of sweet tea (hey, Jack!), and enjoy the day among the goats and other critters with my lovely bride? Decisions, decisions.
Tell me what YOU think I should do - and while you're at it, tell me how you'll spend your evening on this fine day, and what plans you have for the weekend.
Click HERE for a YouTube video complementing our previous blog post "Surprise for mom..."
Patti is out of town this week, staying with her mom, and yesterday Cory said "You know, it would be a great surprise for Mama if we could get the garden ready before she gets back."
I confess that his idea tickled me for a couple of reasons: first, I'm proud that he thought of surprising his mom, and secondly, it makes me happy that Cory isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves, break a sweat, and get his hands dirty in order to pull it off.
It was late in the day when he made the suggestion, but we decided to get started anyway, and worked until dark removing the two raised beds in the area we wanted to cover. The first one was no trouble at all, constructed of treated lumber. We just had to pry it up to loosen it, then it came right up. The second box was a booger, though, formed from cinder blocks. Both holes in each block was slap full of tightly compacted dirt, and we wanted to clean them out, so that took time (by the way, we will re-purpose those cinder blocks for a fire pit later on). Then we had to remove the 24 (or so) rebar stakes Patti had used for tomato stakes. WHEW - much easier said than done. But, a front-end loader is invaluable for many things, including pulling stuff out of the ground. I simply eased into the stakes, Cory would push the rebar against the leading edge of the bucket, and then as I tilted the bucket up and slowly raised it, the little ridges on the rebar would catch and up the bars would come. Machines are awesome.
Once the raised beds were completely removed, I used the discs on my tractor to break the ground until it was too dark to see. Had we started getting our mulch weeks ago, I wouldn't have broken the ground at all, but because we will be planting less than 30 days from now, I figured I'd give it a head start by breaking up the top. It's odd to realize I'll never have to do that again on the areas we are covering.
While I was doing that, Cory was in the barn, collecting manure to spread before we spread the mulch - again, just to provide the ground a little head start.
Once we were done for the evening, I asked Cory if he wanted to get up early and try to finish what we could before my work day started, and he eagerly said "yes sir!" Proud of him.
Cory, laying it on thick
We knew we didn't have enough mulch to cover the whole garden at the proper thickness, so Cory only gathered enough manure to cover that part of the garden we guessed we could cover with mulch. In the photo to the left, there are two shovels in the barrow. I used one of them to help Cory, but I couldn't do that and take a picture at the same time. Together, we made pretty quick work of the load.
Cory, the Groundskeeper
Once the manure was spread, the fun started.
We made a pretty good team, Cory and I: I brought him load after load, and he spread each one as evenly as possible and was waiting on me when I got back with the next bucketful.
Again, machines are awesome. Because of recent rainfall, we had to have the tree-limb mulch dumped in an area of the yard near the gravel driveway, which is quite a distance from either garden plot. How thankful we are for this tractor and front-end loader! Sure, it would be great exercise to move the load using the wheel barrow, but it would take a month to move it. Whew.
Remember, I mentioned two surprises: one for Patti, and one for Cory and me. Our surprise was that as big a pile of mulch as we had, it would cover only about a third of the first garden! Maybe it covered only a quarter of it (I hate math), and not even to the depth we eventually want it. That's ok, though, because the fellas in the big trucks PROMISED they'd be back again and again. So we will eventually have more than enough.
I do wish I hadn't broken up the ground in this whole plot, though. It's gonna rain today, which means "mud," but not where we've applied the mulch, at least!
PS - below is a video update as well.
This post shared at Black Fox Homestead's HomeAcre Hop.
first mulch pathway, initial application 03/02/13
As mentioned earlier, although the primary reason we are excited about tree-limb mulch is as a covering for gardens, we are also thrilled to test it as a covering for well-worn pathways - both footpaths and tractor trails.
We'd planned to wait until we'd received a few more loads of mulch, just to be sure we had plenty to cover both of our large garden spots. I know those fellas said they'd be back, and I WANT to believe them...I really do. But what if we've gotten all we're gonna get? I shudder at the thought.
This morning, however, our youngest son Cory convinced me to dig in, and start spreading.
There are plenty of unsightly tractor trails to cover, but we decided to begin with the footpath that leads from our back deck to the barn. I wasn't willing to cover the whole thing just yet (I mean, what if they DON'T come back???), but I agreed to cover the muddy strip between the deck and the garden fence. Boy, am I glad I did.
I drove the tractor, equipped with a front-end loader, and Cory was armed with a rake. I spread each load as evenly as I could with the bucket of the tractor, and Cory did the final dressing with the rake. I didn't count the loads (I should have, I know), but it wasn't too many - four or five maybe?
Once we had the area covered, Cory and I walked all over it to pack it down a bit. It was a little spongy, but really not as spongy as I'd expected. We're pleased with the results, and like the way that it looks. When the rains return (and they will), we're curious to see how the mulch responds.
Now if the fellas will come on with some more truckloads, I'll feel free to cover the rest of the footpath.
One final note: we've decided to get started on one of the gardens tomorrow afternoon. More on that, later.
We're new to this "blogging" business, so we are trying to learn how to do things the "right way," or at least the "best way." We originally thought that providing a "newsletter" was the way to go, but it seems that most bloggers prefer using "Feedburner" to distribute their blogs. So, in all likelihood we will be scrapping the Newsletter idea in favor of Feedburner.
With that in mind, please consider subscribing to our "feed" using the simple form below, and thank you for being interested in what we do here at Alderman Farms! Once you sign up, you'll get an email with a link you'll need to click to confirm your subscription, then you'll get updates via email, from which you can unsubscribe at any time.
Change of Plans
Remember this barren, sad-looking spot? This is where the mulch was supposed to go. Everyday when I passed it, it was as if I could hear it calling out to me saying, "When? O when will they come?"
Well, they came today! Trouble is, this perfect looking spot turned out to be not so perfect after all. Had something to do with the power line running directly overhead, and the long booms on top of the trucks. Who knew they'd have to extend those booms in order to dump? Oops.
No worries, though.
We just moved across the driveway, right in the front yard (pre-approved by Patti, of course).
I felt almost silly being so excited about trucks dumping stuff in my front yard. Almost silly. Almost.
It's funny, too - all that worry, wondering if they had changed their minds..."Maybe I shouldn't have told them all the wonderful things I had planned for the mulch...maybe our pal Sara was right...maybe they've decided to use it themselves instead of giving it to us." All that worry vanished at the sight of two large white trucks. Whew. They came. They really came.
And they were quite apologetic for the delay. Turns out I wasn't the only one anxious. Believe it or not, they told me they'd been angling to get here since the day the company rep told me they'd start coming. They just haven't been able to justify the distance. And they further confirmed what I'd been reading and hearing: they were almost as thankful for us as we are for them. Almost. It's true that when they can't find a homeowner willing to allow them to dump their mulch, they have to pay to dump it! That's an unbelievable, but fortuitous circumstance...for us.
Bring it on, gentlemen.
The guy who seemed to be in charge assured me that they'd be bringing much, much more. In fact he said, "Won't be long and you'll be telling us to stop." I smiled. I told him, "You may be right. I hope you're right. But I doubt it."
He laughed. We'll see.
I can't think of a better scenario than getting to the point that we have all the mulch we need, plus some.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, mostly on our YouTube channel I think, based on what we've learned about the properties of tree-limb mulch we plan to do more than just use it as a covering in our gardens (as seen in the "Back to Eden" film). Folks say that tree-limb mulch is almost "magic" with water: when there isn't enough water, it sort of hoards it, and when there is too much water, it "spreads the wealth" so to speak, so that it never gets muddy. That last bit caught my eye.
Have mulch, will travel.
I perked up when I heard that, because having to move the tractor around as much as we do here takes a terrible toll on a lawn, especially when there's been any amount of rain.
We live on a ridge, so water doesn't accumulate for too long, but if I have to drive the tractor through the yard while the moisture remains, it just makes a terrible mess. So my plan is to use the mulch to build pathways for the tractor. It's gonna take a lot of it, but the fellas tell me they've got plenty, and it's mine...all mine. We'll take care of the gardens first, making sure we have enough to do that properly, but once that's done we'll use the rest for pathways and see how it goes. We know it'll take a while for the pathways to settle, and that we'll have to add more as it does, so that the end result is a pathway thick enough to avoid rutting and spreading...but we are hopeful it'll do the trick. Time will tell, I reckon.
Below is a video of the mulch arriving this morning:
a "potential" pile of mulch
Boy, when we had the chance to view the film at www.backtoedenfilm.com which expounds on the virtues of using tree-limb mulch as a cover for the garden (both raised beds and larger gardens), we knew we were onto something. Then we took to YouTube and searched for others using the same method and were overwhelmed with the number of folks around the country doing the same thing with much success - even folks in areas with climates similar to ours here in South-Central Mississippi.
Once convinced, we set out to locate a source for tree-limb mulch - we knew we would initially need way too much for us to make it ourselves. Several days, phone calls and emails later, and we'd located a tree-trimming company who seemed as anxious to give us their mulch as we were to take it.
So after considering several spots on our place, we settled on the spot pictured above for at least the first loads to be placed. The picture may not effectively show the size of this spot. It has the potential to hold many-a-load of mulch. It has the potential to be a HUGE pile of tree-limb mulch. Plus, we figured that as fast as we'd be moving it from there to different locations where we plan to actually use it, we could easily stay ahead of deliveries, so this spot had the potential to be "the" spot for quite some time. That was way last week sometime. Or was it two weeks ago??? I'm not sure anymore.
I was so very excited to get the call from a company rep who said he needed to come out and look at the spot we'd selected for the dump site. I mean I was plumb giddy (here's the video evidence of my giddiness). We agreed on a meeting time, made sure he had the correct directions to our place, and we were all set. As the time grew near, I headed to the end of the driveway to make sure the rep didn't pass us up. And there I stood. For what seemed like a week. It was probably no more than half an hour, but it was cold and I was anxious. It was like waiting for your parents to wake up on Christmas morning. I mean, "C'mon already!"
I don't remember how long I waited, because once I saw him coming, all was well with the world again. The rep and an assistant followed me up the driveway to the spot seen in the photo above, and he quickly said "That'll work just fine." We stood around for a few minutes of pleasant conversation, most of which was my explaining all the wonderful things I had planned for the mulch. They seemed interested, but maybe they were just being polite.
Our conversation and their stay ended with these words from the rep: "Ok, I'll start sending trucks right away." Woo hoo!!! He said "right away!" Surely that means within the next ten minutes, right?!?!?! No? Ten hours? Ten days?????????
*sigh* And my potential pile of mulch remains a potential pile of mulch. I can't cover a garden with potential mulch. I need real mulch, and lots of it.
How easy is it to get aggravated or even angry? Pretty easy. Too easy. But thankfully, the Lord is patient with me, and He was kind enough to remind me of a few things.
"Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools."
(Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV)
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
(Philippians 4:6 ESV)
"And endurance produces character, and character produces hope,..."
(Romans 5:4 ESV)
"Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains."
(James 5:7 ESV, emphasis mine)
I could go on and on - there everywhere these verses. But do you see that last one there? From James? See the bold, italicized part? Boom! Right in the kisser. Thank you Lord, really...I needed that, and You knew it.
What am I getting all worked up about? The man said he'd start sending trucks right away - he knew what he meant, and because I didn't ask him to explain, it's unfair of me to cast my expectations upon him and assign meaning to his words that he never intended.
Anyone who plants, waters, and hopes to harvest should know that the Lord handles the details. We do what we can, and should, but no matter what we do - it's up to the Lord to make it work.
So, enough of my pouting. It's time for patience. The Lord can and will help me to be patient. I believe that He will.
"...Lord, I believe! Help me in my unbelief!..."
(Mark 9:24, paraphrased)
~ Tommy Alderman