Faith and Farming Giveaway! Win a Copy of Born-Again Dirt!

How does your faith in Jesus impact your farming, gardening, or homesteading? What are the biggest challenges you face as you seek to honor God in agriculture? I would love to hear your answers to these questions and am hosting a giveaway drawing for those who participate!

So please look over the details below and comment and share to enter the giveaway. I look forward to hearing your answers!

First Prize: A physical copy of my book, Born-Again Dirt, Farming to the Glory of God, with a foreword by Joel Salatin!

This book can help challenge your thinking regarding how we look at agriculture as Christians. It addresses questions like, “What does God want us to grow?”, “Does is matter what methods we use?”, “Can you make a living farming?”, and “Does God care about farming?”

Second Prize: PDF Version of Born-Again Dirt, Farming to the Glory of God.

Get a PDF version of Born-Again Dirt delivered to your email to read at your convenience!

Third Prize: My daily time-budget work sheet that allows me to realistically get done everything on my to-do list!

I am so guilt of trying to get done more than the time God has given me allows. So this tool has helped me to realistically budget the time I have each day and actually come up with a to-do list I can get done!

Giveaway details:

Duration: The deadline for entry will be 4:00 PM CST, Friday, February 16th, 2018. Winners will be announced by the following week.

How to Enter:

  1. Answer the following questions in the comments below.
    1. How does your faith in Jesus impact your agriculture?
    2. What are the biggest challenges you face as you seek to honor God in agriculture?
    3. What type of agricultural training resources from a biblical worldview would be most helpful to you? Books? Videos? Online Courses? Podcast? Live trainings?
  2.  Share this post with others through email, social media, or in person. Tell how you shared in your comment.

Who can Enter:
-Anyone. However, the first prize of a physical copy of my book is only available to those in the USA. If the first place winner is outside the USA I will send an electronic copy.

How the winners will be chosen:
-The winners will be randomly selected from the eligible entries and 1st, 2nd and 3rd place determined by the order they are drawn.

6. How the winner will be notified
-The winners will be notified using the email provided when they leave a comment. If no response is heard back within a week another winner will be chosen.

7. How the prizes will be delivered.
-First place book will be shipped to the winners address (or an electronic version provided via email if winner is outside the USA). Second and Third place will be provided via email.

Thanks so much for participating!

Don’t Make Your Garden Too Big!

6 Secrets for Planning a Garden Your Family Will Love! Part 2

An important question we have to answer when we are planning our garden is, “How big do I make it?” Often the question is answered for us based on the space we have available. But when we do have the space, it’s easy to plant a garden that is too big. Bigger is not always better, and biting off more than you can chew can quickly turn your spring gardening dreams into a summer nightmare of weeds and neglected plants.

One year I wanted to grow some corn. I wanted a lot of corn. So I took a field around an acre (we live in the hills so this is a large area of flat ground for us) and plowed it up and planted it with corn. Long story short I didn’t get any corn from that field. The weeds took over despite my best efforts with the limited equipment I had and the coons got any corn that did grow. Compare that with another patch of corn I planted that was much, much smaller, around 30 feet by 80 feet. I was able to generously fertilize the plot using chickens and then was easily able to weed it and even fence it. The corn was tall and beautiful and we had delicious sweet corn, plenty to freeze and sell! And it was a lot more fun to care for.

Planting a garden that is too big is a common mistake that can rob your family of the joy of gardening. More does not always mean more as illustrated by the story above. When planning your garden this season I would encourage you to consider the following advice:

Start with a garden smaller than you think you will require and you will harvest more and enjoy working in it!

Here are four reasons for this advice:

1. You can easily plant more than you can take care of!
A gardening mentor once asked me, “How much should you plant?” When I looked unsure how to reply he gave the answer in the form of another question: “How much can you weed?” Especially with power equipment it is much easier to prepare and plant way more than we can weed and care for. So I recommend taking a step of faith and humility and planting less than you think you can take care of, and only increase when you have proven that you have time left over to care for more. If you find your standards falling, decrease the size of your garden!

2. More care for less space produces more than less care for larger space.
The productivity of a garden is not dependent on its size, but on the care given it. You only have so many hours to work in your garden and the bigger it is the less care you can give to each square foot. If you plant a smaller garden than you think you can care for, then you will feel like you can be generous rather than stingy in your care for each plant. And my experience suggests that this produces way more joy and production! You can also concentrate resources like compost or mulch. I have heard of examples where the same amount of compost spread liberally on a smaller plot yielded more than the same amount spread over twice as much area.

3. Limitations produce creativity.
Some of the more creative and abundant gardens I have ever seen happen to be ones limited by space. But this limitation is what forces gardeners to be creative in the use of space and results in incredibly efficient and productive gardens. If your garden is too big it can keep you from feeling free to be creative because there’s so much work to do already. For example, in a smaller space you may build some innovative trellises for your tomatoes and utilize the space between them for herbs and onions. But if your garden is too large you are going to have trouble just getting tomatoes set out and keeping up with watering and weeding.

4. A well maintained garden brings joy, which motivates you to keep caring for it!
If you keep your garden small, then it is likely that you will be able to do all your work on time, to a high standard, and with minimal waste. And when you go into a garden that has been care for this way, with healthy plants, straight rows, tidy little paths, and no weeds, it brings joy! And joy produces the work ethic to continue caring for your garden. Nehemiah 8:10 indicates that the Joy of the Lord is our strength. For that reason it is important to notice when we begin to lose our joy. It is probably an indication that we are being greedy in our work, not resting content in being faithful with what we can handle using the time and resources God has given us.

When we get excited about something, it is easy to get ambitious, especially gardening. But don’t let your zeal be destroyed by acting unrealistically and investing in quantity verses quality in your garden. Be humble, start small, and increase your garden’s size only when you have maxed out its potential through creative, generous care. Wouldn’t it be great increase the production of your garden for years without ever making it bigger?

6 Secrets to Planning a Vegetable Garden Your Family Will Love! Part 1

I really want to encourage everyone to plant a garden this year. Whether you have a window box, a backyard, or a large piece of land, a garden can bring beauty, health, and joy to your home through creative work, enjoyable exercise, and delicious food. As a farmer I enjoy producing food for other people, but I believe that our communities would benefit greatly if more people began growing even just a little of their own food.

Right now it is winter, and a great time to begin planning your garden for this year. But any time of the year can be a good time to plan your garden. Often when we decide to plant a garden it is tempting to just till up some ground and start sticking seeds and plants in the dirt. But a little forethought and planning can be the difference between your garden bringing you joy and abundance, or drudgery and failure. In the book of Proverbs we read, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5)

So in this blog series I want to share with you 6 secrets to planning a garden your family will love! Let’s get started!

Secret #1: Put Your Garden in the Right Place!

You can do everything else right, but if your garden is in the wrong location it will never thrive. If you want your garden to be a joy to work in here are some things to consider when deciding on a location:

1. Visibility and Accessibility
Locate your garden where you can get to it easily and see it on a regular basis. Your garden is a place where people and creation interact. Plants can grow happily in very out of the way places, but if you are managing them, they need to be in a place that you can easily access. Otherwise you can end up neglecting your garden. On my farm I located my first garden in a fertile creek bottom, but it was probably a quarter mile from my house. I never saw it unless I purposefully went to look at it. So it was often hard to keep on top of weeds and pests and harvesting because it was so inconvenient to go to the garden! Eventually I moved my main gardening area to a location closer to my house. Even though the soil wasn’t naturally as fertile as the previous location I was able to build up the soil and have a more productive garden than I ever had before!

2. Sunlight
Make sure you locate your garden where it will get the sunlight your plants need. Sunlight is essential to plant growth and if your vegetable garden isn’t getting at least 6 hours of sun a day you will be limited in what you can grow. In the United States a good location is often a site that face south. In the southern Hemisphere it would be sites that faces north. But consider also that too much sun can be an issue if you live in location with very hot summers. My parents placed their kitchen garden on the south side of their house. But during summer the heat was compounded by the reflective nature of the side of the house and the garden became too hot for many plants. So they ended up building a pergola over the middle of the garden for light shade that ended up providing a good balance of sunlight with some protection. Probably the east side of the house would have been a more ideal location (which isn’t always possible) since the house would have provided some shade from the hot late-afternoon sun.

3. Drainage
Locate your garden in an area that is not prone to flooding or standing water. Unless you are growing rice most plants don’t like wet feet. I had problems with too much water in the creek bottom where I put my first garden here on the farm. It took a long time to dry out so I could plant. Then, one particularly rainy year the creek overflowed its banks due to a log-jam and washed away a bunch of fresh compost I had just applied to my garden! If the only location you have is still prone to being wet, you can raise the level of your growing area with elevated beds to improve drainage.

4. Trees
When locating your garden, be careful that you don’t put them too close to large trees. Trees are great, but they can be detrimental to your veggie garden. Keep your garden away from the drip-line (furthest reach of the branches) and farther if possible. Trees can shade out your garden and their roots can create problems since they draw water and nutrients away from your plants. I have had garden beds that ran past a large oak tree and I could see exactly where the roots were by the dip in the growth of the crops. Some trees in particular, like black walnut, can secrete chemicals from their roots that prohibit growth of plants around them in order to decrease competition. If you have one of these around container gardening would be a great option. All this being said, there are some trees, like small fruit trees or nitrogen fixing trees, that can be incorporated into the garden successfully. But if you are just starting out I would recommend keeping it simple by locating your garden away from trees.

When trying to find the best location for your garden, take your time and do it right. Pray and ask God to give you wisdom and insight. Maybe you need to take down a few trees or divert some runoff water. You won’t regret going the extra mile up front. A garden is a rewarding endeavor and it is worth the time and effort to set aside or create a prime location.

Next week, Secret #2 for Planning a Garden Your Family will Love!