The latter part of Matthew 10:8, "Freely you have received; freely give," certainly wasn't spoken by Christ in the context of a pea patch. But the principle got us to thinking here at Alderman Farms.
We have been so abundantly blessed by the LORD in so many ways, tangible and intangible, that we figured it would be only appropriate to pass some of those blessings along to others.
So here's the plan: the area at the front of our property, pictured above, will soon be planted with peas. Once they are up, we'll place two yard signs out by the road. One will be our Alderman Farms signs, and the other will say something to the effect of "Get you some," or "Peas: Free for the Pickin', so Help Yourself."
We certainly recognize that there may be some benefit to doing this: we may begin cultivating future CSA customers (we are considering beginning a CSA for veggies and a "share" program for pork), we may pick up some future Farmers Market customers, and so forth. But you just have to trust us when we say it's not about marketing, it's about blessing. Of course, experience and Scripture have taught us that "you can't out-give God," so we know the blessings we give with pure intentions will be returned to us in various ways. Again, that ain't why we're doing it. We just really want to share in the bounty.
We'll keep updating our progress here, so hey - when the peas are in, come get you some!
(By the way, the green strip on the right side of the patch above is an electric fence line that doesn't show up well in the photo. To the right of the green line, inside the fence, we will soon plant field corn that we'll harvest for the critters at Alderman Farms.)
Our 4' X 4' homemade brooder box is made from 2 sheets of 3/4" OSB, 2' lengths of scrap 2X4's, a scrap piece of 2X4 welded wire fence, some scrap pieces of 1X2 lumber (lotta "scraps," huh?), and a handful of deck screws.
The bottom of the box is a full half of one of the sheets of OSB, and the sides are made from the remainder of the OSB, cut into 2' X4' pieces.
The 2' 2X4's are placed in the corners, and the sides are screwed to the 2X4's. The sides are not secured to the bottom - the whole contraption just sits on the bottom piece, and is plenty heavy enough to stay in place.
We wrapped the 2X4 welded wire fence around a 1X4 on opposite sides of the fence, allowing us to pull it across the top of the box to make the fence semi-tight. We drilled screws into the upper end of the 2X4 corner braces, and lock the fence in place over the screws. And we used one more scrap 1X4 as a brace for the heat lamp across the center of the box.
Screwing the box together has allowed us to easily assemble, disassemble, and reassemble with ease for several years. When not in use, the pieces are slid behind a tool cabinet in our storage shed, hardly taking up space at all. Pretty handy.
The bedding consists of one full bale of compressed pine shavings. Years ago, someone told us of the "sanitizing" nature of pine shavings, and our experience has borne that out. In fact, we don't expect to have to change this bedding until these chicks are ready to move out. Instead, we will occasionally stir the pine shavings thoroughly using a 4-pronged rake. Believe it or not, even with 50 or 60 chicks in there, the smell is only faint if one is diligent to stir the pine shavings at regular intervals (weekly at this point, every couple of days as the chicks get bigger).
Again, this may be the last brooder box we ever need, as we have every expectation that we will be using it years from now (only replacing the fence on top, perhaps).
Here is the link to an accompanying video, with more detailed images --> Click This.
~ Tommy Alderman
We don't have enough mulch in our Back to Eden Garden yet, but Patti found these little alien egg-looking potatoes in our outside fridge (which we use for chilling milk), so we decided to plant them and see what happens!
We filmed the process, and the video can be found here: Plantin' Taters
If you've been to our Acknowledgements page, you know how much we owe to Mr. Thomas Carl "Stump" Easley. We think about him often, but especially today, which would've been his birthday. In honor of his memory, we are reposting the very first instructional YouTube video from Alderman Farms, "How to Set a Corner Post WITHOUT Concrete!" (Click the title to open the video).
Mr. Stump taught us many things, but setting corner posts without concrete has by far been the most useful and time-saving thing. Thanks, Mr. Stump!
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.