When we bought our property four years ago we didn't know we were going to start a farm. We *thought* we were going to buy chunk of land, build a big house (you know, because our three cats needed more room), and commence living the "American Dream." Happily, I can say we ditched that dream a long time ago. We never did build that big house and instead of making a lush lawn that required mowing every Sunday, we started The Farmstead.
While we love our location (we're so close to downtown Olympia!) we didn't exactly buy farmland. Instead, we bought the remnants of what a developer logged and stripped down to create home lots. There are still lots of trees on our acreage (County ordinances dictated that the developer could only log enough trees to create said home lots, thank goodness!) but the soil that he did clear is absolute and pure crap.
Commence "Operation Heal The Land". Up to this point we've let the animals do the majority of the work, not just in clearing the forest undergrowth to allow us to pasture under the tall trees (large machinery could do this too, but that machinery would almost certainly damage the roots of our very old trees), but also in adding much needed minerals to the soil through their manure.
Over the years I've been continually impressed with what our animals have done to help amend the soil. The sheep and goats clear the brush, the pigs root, the chickens scratch, the donkeys poop...it all adds value. But that's about where my knowledge of soil building stops. Which is why I was excited to read Susan Vinskofski's book, "The Art of Gardening: Building Your Soil."
Apart from covering all the important things, like how to build your soil, her book is also filled with helpful tips like how to build a tomato trellis, how to save seeds, and how to garden in wood chips. It's a well written primer for those of you, (like me) who are just a little naive on the gardening side (I always tell Nick, keeping an animal alive isn't stressful to me, but trying to keep a tomato alive! Oh my gosh, it gives me hives).
If you know someone in your life who could use a leg up on learning I highly recommend Susan's book. It's on sale for just $13.00 until April 10th and is available for immediate download.