Soil Is the Great Connector of Lives

 A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Cert with compost

Our garden cart and 5-gallon buckets are an essential part of my garden labor.

A granddaughter of a dairy farmer I never realize the real importance of the soil until I came to the Small House Homestead. I have learned that a high quality, healthy and organic soil makes the difference between being able to grow and not grow. Healthy organic soil is the foundation of food security.

Compost Gene shveling with truck USE

Gene is shoveling bark chips from the truck to the buckets.

Our most important job as vegetable gardeners is to feed and sustain soil life, often called the soil food web, beginning with the microbes. If we do this, our plants will thrive, we’ll grow nutritious, healthy food, and our soil conditions will get better each year. This is what is meant by the adage ”Feed the soil not the plants.

Every season I work to make our soil healthier through making my own homemade compost. Kitchen scraps, chicken poop, spent flowers and leaves; everything that is not meat or bones goes into our compost pile.

Leaves bins woods USE

Our 6-bin compost station built of pallets and T stakes is not fancy but it gets the job done.

Today I spread our homemade compost on the fruit trees, shrubs and some of our perennials. I was able to make about 12 5-gallon buckets this year. Every year I make more compost and every year I do not have enough to go around.

Comppst buckets close USE

I have to decide which plants most deserve the composted soils and then top dress them with well composted horse manure for the rest. We are fortunate to have as much horse manure available as we can haul home.

VERT comppst in buckets USE

5-gallon buckets of compost and manure lined up waiting to be spread.

This is a big deal for us because our Oak Savannah forest soil is lean, sandy and pretty much nutrient free.

In compst bin heads up best USE

I let the chicken do the work of turning the composted soil.

Our soil building formula is simple; homemade compost, horse manure and bark chips as mulch. Without this I don’t think I would be able to garden or grow at all.

Making soil and growing food and flowers is my calling.

Soil is the great connector of life

Small House homesteader, Donna

Granddaughter of a Farmer

People ask me all the time about how I ended up a homesteader. Many remember me best from my first marriage where I lived and worked in the city, wore business suits, nylons and heels. I founded and ran a marketing and advertising business and was a card-carrying member of Rotary International and the Chamber of Commerce. Looking good was part of the deal. So was the dieting, extreme exercising and playing at the beauty and youth thing. Associates tend to remember the long frosted hair, polished nails and makeup too.

Donna Minesota approx. age 22-23

Age 23, as a young mother and in my first marriage at a wedding in Minnesota.

That marriage, and that life, was all about the business of building a career complete with travel, making money and creating a persona of wealth and accomplishment. It many ways it was a plum of a life; complete with Club Med vacations and a lakeshore cottage. But there was something else burning inside me demanding my fulltime attention. While my outer-world looked great, my inner-world, where I do most of my living, felt depressed and ill at ease.

That lifestyle is what my first husband wanted and I lived it for twenty-seven years but never truly felt comfortable in that role. I was instead content to be a mother and a homemaker, not a dealmaker. I was a like a tropical fish in a trout stream.

After my divorce at age forty-five with no financial support, I took room renters into my home and cleaned houses to pay my bills and allowed myself a year of introspection to figure out how I wanted to live in my new life. I realize now that I needed to go to the lowest point in my life in order to advance to the next stage spiritually.

Ultimately I chose living a slower-paced, a more authentic, self-realized out-of-doors life working with my hands. I realized I was willing to trade status for right-livelihood and ready money for inner happiness. I feel like I was given a second chance, a “do over,” and I can see clearly now that that first marriage and divorce, however hard, was a gift and a blessing in my book.

IMy birthday 2013

My family today; two brothers, two sister in laws and a grand daughter.

That was the first step to getting to where we are today and homesteading. I am the great-granddaughter and granddaughter of  farmer and I now believe that this urge to grow is a gene that comes down the line of DNA.

50th wedding celebration Donald and Mildred Maile jpeg

A family portrait taken of my grandparents, Mildred and Donald Maile (center couple) the second generation of family farmers and their five children on their 50th wedding anniversary.

Isn’t it always that the most painful relationships become the best teachers?

Small House Homesteader, Donna