All posts by Matt

Pruning Peach Trees

angelus-peachI’ve had several people ask me lately about keeping fruit trees to a manageable size. Translation: no ladders.

Tree size is a big deal and is the foundation of a happy backyard or hobby farm fruit growing experience. It effects everything else. When you are considering size, you have to think about pruning, thinning and picking. It’s all about reach. Other considerations are things like mowing around your trees. Keeping branches low enough to manage, but high enough to mow takes a balanced approach.

This  video shows this balanced approach:

Another important thing to consider is where to make the cuts on your branches. It isn’t just about getting rid of branches, but a little understanding of the physiology of plants and how branching occurs. It’s not rocket science, just knowing what to look for.

Here is a great video showing what to look for in buds and branching:

As you can see in these videos, it really isn’t that hard. Just be consistent every year and you will have healthy trees producing more fruit than you know what to do with.

Happy Farming!

Mixed Method Gardening

I have a tendency to be a little over optimistic about gardening. I get a little excited and plant too early. Frost is my first problem. I find myself replanting tomatoes that freeze in late frosts. Then the real trouble starts. All that freshly-tilled, beautiful garden soil begins to produce demon weeds. At first, they come in small and unintimidating. Then the first spring rain comes, the sun warms things up, and the weeds take on supernatural characteristics.

In all my research about the best options, I found several methods I thought I would combine. I haven’t seen anyone combining all these methods, but they are all related and I think they are very compatible.

First, I broke the cardinal rule on no till/no dig gardening because if one method I wanted to employ. My first goal is to feed and build my soil. I have really great soil to begin with, but I wanted get started right and rebuild where I had to disturb it.

My first method to employ is hugelkultur. Hugelkultur is a water retention method. Typically, you place rotten logs on the ground, then you cover the logs with soil, compost and mulch. You plant right into the mound and the rotten logs act as a sponge to hold water. Often, hugelkultur is used in permaculture berms to extend the benefits of both. Living in a high desert region, water retention is very important. I dug a trench about the width of my shovel and about half the depth. Then I placed some rotten logs I got from a local classifieds site for free into my trenches.


Then I backfilled the the trench with the dirt that came out of it.


I collected my compost that has been curing for two years. It is a combination of cow, rabbit and chicken manure, along with wood shavings and straw. Isn’t it pretty?


I also collected bags of leaves from the local elementary school. The principle was thrilled. Not only because he didn’t have to pay someone to do it, but he felt it was good to have one of my sons come do some community service. In the first row, I covered the soil and logs with leaves then compost. I the other two rows I did the compost first, then the leaves. That goes along better with the natural mulch and composting method  described at Backyard Ecosystems.


To continue with the Backyard Ecosystem method, I then laid 4 layers of newsprint down between the raised rows and covered it with 3-4 inches of straw. This is a great use for the pile of straw that the tarp blew off of then got buried in snow.

backyard ecosystem

The last step was to add 3-4 inches of straw on top of the compost and leaf mulch. It comes out looking very much like the raised row method I found at Old World Garden Farms.

raised row gardening

The next weekend, I added two more rows with the leaf layer on top of the compost. This mimics Nature’s composting method of layers of differing degrees decay and composting. This is the type of environment your plants expect to live in.

raised row gardening

With this mixed method gardening, I hope to benefit from happier soil, better water retention, and fewer weeds. I’ll post again in the spring when I plant, then we’ll see if I have the super garden I’m hoping for.


Chicken Breeds Backyard Flock

I’ve spent rediculous amounts of time reading about different chicken breeds. In the end, I decided I wanted some good dual-purpose hens to provide eggs and meat. I need chickens that can handle cold winter weather and heat. Of course, both heat and cold can be overcome artificially, but it’s nice to start with a breed that does well.

I also wanted hens that have some visiual interest. I am still debating if I want a rooster for now. The two concerns are 1) allowing my little girl to gather eggs without fear of an ornery rooster, 2) keeping the eggs true to their breed so they are more appealing to egg customers. I will probably determine which eggs sell the best and focus on that breed going forward.

I want docile breeds that produce well and have various egg colors. I want them big enough that one bird could feed my family. After reading and searching and reading and searching, I came up with these breeds to start my flock.


Ameracauna Chicken free range

Ameraucanas are very good layers of blue and green eggs. They come in a variety of colors and weigh about 5.5 lbs. They are well adapted to both free range or confinement, although I’ve seen them act more aggresively to other birds when confined. Ameraucanas are very cold hardy with pea combs that help withstand winters chill.

Ameraucana Eggs

ameracauna chicken eggs Ameraucanas lay 5-6 medium to large eggs per week. The shades of blue and green vary between hens.

Australorp or Black Australorp

Australorp Chicken free range

Australorps are a large breed developed from Orpingtons in Australia. They are dual-purpose birds that weigh in around 6.5 lbs.  Australorps ar well adapted the confinement or free range, calm, docile and easily handled. They make great mothers.

Australorp Eggs

australorp chicken eggsAustralorps will lay 5-6 average-sized, brown eggs per week.


Delaware Chicken free range

Delaware is a large, American breed weighing in around 6.5 lbs. They are dual-purpose and both heat and cold hardy. Delawares are well adapted to confinement or free range, they are calm and docile.

Delaware Eggs

Delaware’s produce very large medium to rich brown eggs. They produce 5-6 eggs per week. They also lay well in the winter months.


Faverolles are a french breed developed in Normandy. They are a very large breed at 7.5 lbs. They do well in confinement, but may be bullied by other breeds. Free range allows more room to roam and will help alleviate bullying.

Faverolle Eggs

Faverolles lay beautiful creamy colored eggs. They lay 5-6 eggs per week and do very well in the winter.

Orpington (Buff)

Buff Orpington Chicken free range

Orpingtons are the largest of this bunch, coming in at 8 lbs. Orpingtons are brooders and very good mothers. While they aren’t the best layers, they produce steadily through the winter. They are great meat birds that mature moderately early. Orpingtons are very adaptable to confinement and do well as free range birds. They are docile and easily handled.

Orpington Eggs

Orpington Eggs Orpington eggs are a brown color of above average size. They produce 4-5 eggs per week, but they produce consistently year-round.


Sussex Chicken free range

Sussex chickens come in a variety of colors. I like the white, but they also come in shades of brown, red and speckled. They average about 7 lbs and they are very cold hardy. They do well in confinement or free range. Sussex are the most lively of this bunch, but are more docile than flighty.

Sussex Eggs

Sussex eggs are creamy to light brown. They produce 5-6 eggs per week and do well in the winter.


welsummer chicken free range

Welsummers claim to fame is the Kellogs rooster. They are the smallest in this group at an average size of 6 lbs. Welsummers are active birds but tend to be more docile than flighty.

Welsummer Eggs

welsummer chicken eggs Welsummer eggs are a rich, dark, terra-cotta brown with speckles. They produce 4-5 eggs per week but slow down in winter. I chose these birds specifically for their eggs.


wyandotte chicken free range

Wyandottes are very cold hardy chickens and weigh around 6.5 lbs. They are docile and do well in confinement or free range. The pics above are of a gold-laced Wyandotte (left) and a silver-laced Wyandotte (right). They are rarely broody, but make excellent mothers. Wyandotes are very cold hardy.

Wyandotte Eggs

wyandotte chicken eggs Wyandotte eggs are light to rich brown. They are average layers at about 4-5 eggs per week. They are solid winter layers though.

So, that’s my flock. Well, they will be. As soon as we get moved in, I will be hunting down chicks. This is a bad time of year to find them, but they will be mature and ready to start laying by spring.

As you can see, I have a mix of bird sizes and egg sizes. Some are better for meat and others better for eggs. I don’t know who is more excited for the first egg, me or Kelcea. I’ll let her have it, there will be plenty.


Hobby Farm Vineyard – Growing Grapes Start to Finish

I wasn’t really planning on a vineyard, but I have more room than I was expecting, so I thought grapes sounded fun. Here are some great videos from Oklahoma State University.

Before you put a grape vine in the ground, there is some prep work that needs to be done.

Building a Grape Trellis

Preparing Beds for Grapes

Planting Grapes and Goosberries

You can find cultivars that work best in your area by checking with your local extension office.

Training Vines

This covers other plants too, but applies to grapes.

Fertilizing First Year Grape Vines

Pruning Grapes and Exploring Other Fruits


How to Make a Hoop House or Green House for Cheap

A couple of years ago, a came up with a design for raised beds. It’s pretty simple, but I had more than one person ask if it was a cow coffin. :) Granted, they are large and deep, but they sure are easy to use. The design is very simple and I intend to get my plans on here soon. Today, I would like to share this video of a simple hoop house or mini green house  to use with my raised bed design.

Additional Resources:

PVC Plans
PVC Special Connectors
Greenhouse Covering


High Density Planting System for Fruit Orchard

In a backyard setting, or even a hobby farm, space is a big deal when it comes to growing food. Fruit trees use up a lot of precious space in a backyard or small hobby farm. High density planting is one solution to saving space while increasing variety.

I found a great Youtube channel with a lot of good information. It is run by Oklahoma State University. Here is a video talking about high density planting of fruit trees.

Other resources:




Good News for Organic Farmers

Court rules organic farmers can sue conventional, GMO farmers whose pesticides ‘trespass’ and contaminate their fields.

(NaturalNews) Purveyors of conventional and genetically-modified (GM) crops — and the pesticides and herbicides that accompany them — are finally getting a taste of their own legal medicine. Minnesota’sStar Tribunehas reported that the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled that a large organic farm surrounded by chemical-laden conventional farms can seek damages for lost crops, as well as lost profits, caused by the illegal trespassing of pesticides and herbicides on its property.

Learn more: here