The Grovestead

Farm, Family, Fun.

Wonder Woman

My wonder woman

Have you ever known someone that continually surprises you with newfound abilities? Who is always blowing past the boundaries of what you thought they could handle? And when you think about them, you are often left in a state of pure wonder?

That’s how I feel about my wife.

As I watched her expertly milk our Nanny goat this morning, after starting from scratch only a few days ago (both for her AND the goat), I was simply amazed. How did this suburban girl, elementary educator, and seminary graduate with no farm experience figure out how to do this? And she’s been doing it faithfully every day since we started, often giddy with enthusiasm.

Ready to milk

It’s not only the goats. She’s also the reason we have pigs this year (sometimes a point of contention), having researched and found a breeder, driving to another town to pick them up and bringing them home to their new stall in the barn. And then moving them two months later and 150 pounds heavier into their permanent home in another shed.


She has been relentless against the weeds in our oversized garden. It simply would not be possible for me to keep up this year without her dedication. (The beauty of Back to Eden gardening is that after the early spring weed-explosion, you don’t have much to contend with the rest of the summer. But you still have to weed or they can take over.)

She’s helped me chase broiler chickens into the coop at night and made sure the laying hens had enough water on steamy days. She fumbles with the electro-netting fence with me every few days as we try to move a herd of sheep into new pasture. When we had to shear the sheep early due to hot weather, she was right there with me in the stall, holding the ewes down or snipping off wool with the shears.

Shearing the sheep

She woke up nightly at 2am to feed our orphaned lamb. Something even I was unwilling to do.

Bottle feeding runs to the barn

After I dug the holes, she planted 25 pine trees with the kids (future Christmas trees).

Planting future christmas trees

She introduced beekeeping to our farm a few years ago.

Becca's bees

She was my only partner as we installed a 210-foot wooden-rail fence in only 2 days this spring.

Most recently she helped empty bedding from the animal stalls this week. Actually, she is the reason we got started at all. This is the worst chore on the farm folks, and she was knee deep in there with me pitching a winter’s worth of HEAVY manure.

Animal stalls

And let’s not forget, on top of all this, she also has an indoor farm to keep up with every day!

Indoor farm

She is one amazing woman. She is my Wonder Woman.



Where to find wood chips for your Back to Eden Garden

wood chips

The most common question I get when it comes to Back to Eden gardening is where to find wood chips. I thought I would put together a short post explaining what I’ve done over the past several years working with this style of gardening. If you have never heard of Back to Eden gardening, it comes from a documentary produced by Dana Richardson and Sara Zentz about the gardening methods of Paul Gautschi. I’ve written about it before here and here.

Where to Find Wood Chips?

1. Pray

If you ask Paul Gautschi this question, he will tell you to pray. Everything about Back to Eden gardening points back to God. And that starts with knowing God and seeking him for your provision. I always pray, like Paul suggests, and the Lord always provides more than I need. We can’t disconnect God from the process. In nature, we see God providing an abundance of food all the time. But when we disconnect from God and try to do things our own way, we end up “working hard to fail” as Paul puts it. This would be the same with the Back to Eden methods. If we’re just focused on the techniques and not reconnecting with God, we’re missing the whole point.

2. County Landfill

All those road crews and linemen have to put their tree trimmings somewhere and chances are if you live in a rural location, your county landfill will have an inexhaustible supply of woodchips free for the taking.

The main benefit of finding a huge mountain of woodchips (like the one pictured above), is that you can obtain partially-composted wood chips because they have been sitting in one place for a long time. This means the chips will be much finer, in the process of turning in to pure compost, and loaded with nutrients for your garden. It’s as the wood chips break down into soil that nitrogen and other nutrients are released into your garden. So the further along in the process the wood chips are when you get them, the faster you’ll see results in your own garden.

If you live in an urban locale, and your county does not provide free wood chips at the landfill, try calling around some of the neighboring counties, particularly rural ones. You might find a goldmine of free wood chips just one county away.

3. City Compost Site

Many cities now host compost sites for yard debris. City-dwellers can pick up free compost for their gardens during Spring and Summer months. Sometimes these sites will supply wood chips, also free. However, I’ve found that the wood chips usually do not last long so check frequently. I’ve left my contact info with the supervisor before and asked them to call me when wood chips arrive. And they did.

The drawback to compost sites is that the wood chips are almost always fresh-cut which means it will take longer to compost and start providing nutrients to your garden.

4. Tree-Care/Tree-Removal Companies

Tree-care companies will often maintain their own stash of wood chips. But unless you have an in with the owners, they will not be free. But they will probably be very cheap. In the past I’ve paid $20 per cubic yard, which will cover about 80 sq ft of garden.

Again, like the compost site, the wood chips may not be composted or might not be the best size. When I’ve purchased from tree-care companies in the past I’ve noticed the chips tend to be a lot bigger than ideal.

5. Chip your own

Something I’ve never done but always considered is chipping my own. We have a few acres of woods and there is plenty to chip. I also like the idea of having more control over how much and when.  But its a time-consuming process and it takes an incredible volume of wood to create a cover mulch, not to mention the expense of purchasing and maintaining equipment. Up to this point I’ve been able to find what I needed through the above options.

A Caution about Store-Bought Wood Chips

One thing I do not recommend is buying mulch at the store. It may be treated with anti-fungal chemicals to prevent decomposition and colored with dyes. Remember, most store-bought mulch is for aesthetics not gardening. It’s also way too expensive.


Morning Chores

Barnyard Roundup

Who are you looking at?

People keep asking me how big our pigs are now. And I never know how to answer that question. Real Big is my answer…and getting bigger every day. I am still quite a bit afraid of them. And I also think they’re pretty cool. And then intimidating.

Abraham up close

Chicken yard new fence

We finished our chicken yard this week! It’s awesome. We are so pleased with how it turned out and even more pleased to play in the rock box without chickens harassing Hattie.

Kittens play
Kittens playing

While we put the fencing up around the chicken yard, these two kittens were our constant entertainment. Better than a show on nova, our kittens are here to entertain.

Kittens still playing

Broiler chicks

I woke up this morning at 5:30 ready for the day. No kidding. I have no idea what that was all about but I felt great and the sun was bright and I was excited to do all the chores before 6. So I took off to feed the chicken Layers and then went out to let the chicken Broilers out of the chicken tractor. And before I knew it, I had 51 birds trying to eat my toes that were exposed as I was wearing my flip flops. It was terrible! I screamed and hooted and yelled and danced a jig to their feed bucket as fast I could and started dumping feed all over the yard telling them to “shoo!” “get!” “back off!” while stomping my feet and curling my toes. Also, we got all males this year because they grow to be a bigger bird and I think they’re missing the ladies. There is a lack of love in those eyes, don’t you think?

Pastured chickens

Miracle... lamb

And finally, Miracle. We have had a really hard week with Miracle. He hasn’t walked for five days in a row. For a while the vet said she thought he had Polio. But then his temperature spiked the highest it has ever been which made her think he has some sort of infection. So he went back on antibiotics. He lays in the grass up by our house all day long and we visit him and bring him fresh alfalfa and clover. He is still so, so sweet. Tomorrow we are taking him to the vet and I honestly have no idea what the outcome of that visit will be. In a sudden twist, he walked to the garage this afternoon, but couldn’t walk again after that, so now we’re more puzzled than ever.

But we are so thankful for our vet. She is incredible. Last weekend Rory got off the phone with her and said to me, “She is so sharp. I want to start bringing our kids to see her.” Ha! I thought that was the funniest thing ever, and a very high compliment. But she is that good. A large animal vet is an exciting person to know. One time I went to get medicine for Miracle and asked if she was in the office and the receptionist checked her computer and said, “no, she’s offsite in the middle of a surgery on a cow.” Can you imagine having dinner each night at her family table? “So, what did you do today, dear?”

So keep Miracle in your thoughts and prayers. Once again we have no idea how this story will end.

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