When we first moved onto our little plot of land, we thought we were going to raise specialty vegetable and healing herbs for the local whole foods community. I was excited about gardening on a large scale. It didn't take me long to figure out that our little plot of land was completely infertile. I knew we were somewhat coastal but I never imagined how bad it could be.
We moved in just before summer. The first thing that we realized was that our rain water catchment was not big enough to supply a family of two, much less water a garden. That first summer, we ran out of water and had to haul water in. During that long dry summer, I sat in the house watching what little top soil we had blow away with the wind. Once the grass has died back and turned brown, it's easy to see that our land looks like a shallow bowl with a build up around the base of the perimeter trees and a hollow in the center. Nothing but infertile sand lays in the center and pine needles make up the bulk of the edge buildup. We had a lot of work to do.
Undaunted, we began the long, slow journey to build the soil. We knew what we had to do. Our first task was to build compost bins large enough to get a front end loader in to turn the organic matter and compost. With that done, we started thinking about where we were to get this organic matter. We started with contacting all the organic farms around. Most of them were of no help. One gave us just enough to partially fill the first of the bins. Later, we managed to acquire an entire trailer load of sea weed. By then, the seaweed fit over the manure in the bin. We now had one bin full after four months.
In the meantime, I'd purchased a few chicken eggs for incubating. We wanted our own home grown eggs. I was already forced by health issues to eat organic. How much more expensive could it be to grow my own organic eggs? Right?
We built two mobile coops and set the chickens out in the infertile paddock. By winter, we had a checkerboard of green grass growing under the area where the chickens perched at night and where they hadn't. Our coops moved every night so the patches of manure moved every night. You could have played chess on our field.
I changed the motion of the coops so that the brown patches could catch some fertilizer too. I soon realized that what I needed was more chickens. We got to work building more coops and buying more eggs. In the end, we will have eight breeds and ten coops. With that many coops and that many chickens, we will have enough eggs to feed a small army.
It's been a year now and the grass is thick in lush in most of the paddock. There are areas that still need improvement. We figure that our soil building will take close to five years. After that, we will be ready to seriously grow the herbs and vegetables that we began this dream with.