Good Intentions...

Randy Durham

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I had the best of intentions in launching thebackyardfarmer.com in 2020, but alas, the follow through has been lacking. If hindsight is 2020...I’ll be glad when 2020 is hindsight!

So much has changed this year: recovering from a heart attack in late 2019, COVID-19 and all the challenges/changes associated with that, a contentious election year, working to keep a company going, etc. But the goal of this website, the vision for it, hasn’t changed. In fact, behind the scenes it has come more into focus. 2020 was the launch. I hope 2021 will be the lurch!

Each spring for the past 30 years I’ve planted tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn, cucumbers, etc. in a 40’x40’ sunny spot in our backyard. In late February/early March I’ve tilled under decaying leaves, chicken poop and compost to prepare the soil for planting. It has worked well for many years and we’ve enjoyed a great harvest of fresh vegetables as a result. But this year was different. Our backyard has a slope and increasingly we’ve had issues with soil erosion. I had been considering regrading the back yard,installing a retaining wall and terracing the yard to slow the runoff and preserve our good soil. It would be a lot of work and a lot expense and thus it hasn’t happened yet. But something needs to be done as we’ve lost probably 3-4 inches of our backyard soil over the past few years. And our 2020 garden was very disappointing so I decided it was time for a change. A MAJOR change!

I discovered the book “Rain Gardening in the South - Ecologically Designed Gardens For Drought, Deluge, and Everything In Between” by Helen Kraus and Anne Spafford. The authors note that “Because of plant selection and filter bed preparation, rain gardens can tolerate periods when the soil is saturated and periods of dryness. In short, a rain garden differs from other gardens in the amount of time it can remain flooded—three days—and still thrive, and the extent of drought its plants can withstand.” But what exactly constitutes a rain garden? Kraus and Spafford describe it this way. “A rain garden is designed to capture rainfall flowing through your yard (known as runoff), store that water to nurture its plants, and cleanse runoff, thus removing the pollutants it carries with it.”

Eureka! Rain Gardens are a way to stop the soil erosion, nurture plant growth and cleanse the runoff, and in our case, without having to build retaining walls! Intrigued, I contacted Ms. Spafford who is a professor at nearby North Carolina State University and contracted with her to redesign our backyard. She shares my passion for transforming a backyard landscape into a living, nurturing environment that replenishes the natural resources that we take from it for the use of future generations. We both loved the movie “Biggest Little Farm” and if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend watching it. I share the same vision as the family featured in the movie, but on a backyard scale. Connecting with Anne Spafford is an exciting leap forward for our backyard farm to become a reality! I hope you‘ll take a few minutes to check out her website at http://www.sprezzaterra.com/

To recap, our backyard farm currently consists of a traditional 40’x40’ garden space, (5) honeybee colonies, (14) chickens and a compost bin, chicken coop/run and storage shed. Our plan is to move from the 40’x40’ “tilled” garden to several raised beds for vegetables, plus the addition of the rain gardens, pollinator flower beds, another water feature for the bee yard, and some fruit trees and bushes. We will also incorporate garden paths to each area plus a patio area with a fire pit to sit an enjoy the space. Longer term plans are to utilize the root cellar I built under our storage shed 20 years ago and possibly setup a hydroponics and/or aquaponics system in that space that can provide fresh vegetables year round.

Once we have the garden design plan finalized I’ll be sharing it with you here along with updates on the installation. I will also be documenting the transformation of our backyard farm throughout 2021 and beyond. I hope you’ll check in from time to time to see our progress!

Phase one for me is the demolition of the old garden space to prepare for the new. 2021 can’t get here soon enough!

Finally, may you and your family, in the midst of many challenges, know the peace and joy that only Christ can bring this Christmas and in the coming new year! Here is to good health, new dreams and a fulfilled life for 2021!

Blessings
Randy
 
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