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Homestead Texas Truck Patch

Truck Patch (Truk Patch) - noun - A garden larger than necessary to feed a family, to provide "truck" (fruit and vegetables raised for the market).
The Homestead Texas Truck Patch will be a half-acre of well-planned, flawlessly-executed vegetable, fruit, nut and berry production (within five years) - and don't forget the six hives of honey bees for pollination and a supply of honey for our use and sales.

The Truck Patch Master Plan:

We learned the principles of Combined Symbiotic Farming (AKA "Sustainable" Farming) from our Homesteading classes, and while they're a little different, these principles are being used more and more on small farms in response to the growing market for organically-grown foods and in opposition to chemical-rich "Big Ag".
To grow organic food in a traditional row crop application is next to impossible. One needs to enlist the aid of ALL the creatures of the farm, large and small.
In a CSF environment, particular attention is paid to not letting anything go to waste - in fact the term "waste" does not apply.

In addition, we will be applying lessons learned from Jean-Martin Fortier's book The Market Gardener - A Successful Grower's Handbook for Small Scale Organic Farming
We are right now building inertia in a system that will be largely self-supporting in a few years.
The brush we've cut and cleared for the farm has been (and will be) chipped and mulched and used to protect the garden plants and trees from our Texas heat.
The inner sanctum (truck patch) is surrounded by a chicken run which also encloses the orchard. The trees will provide the chickens protection from raptors, and their manure will feed the trees. Bugs that want to get to all that good stuff inside will have to traverse 20 feet of chicken-guarded kill zone. Good luck on THAT!
When the trees are in fruit, there will be inevitable overripe shedding onto the ground - which the chickens will clean up, and vegetable trimmings and thinning can be thrown over the chicken fence for clean up as well.
We're starting out small, to be sure - but we have a lot of growth space!

This weekend we started trenching to bring water in form the meter to the living area.
We had 1,200 feet to do - we managed 600 feet before we had to load it up for the day.
We'll lay pipe in the trench and then on top of the ground until we do the rest.
Yes - it is supposed to be curving...

A glorious day on the farm today.
The water pipe arrived this morning. We had all taken the day off in anticipation, and made the most of it.
Quicker than you could blink we had 800 feet layed - part underground, part above ground (see the trencher update - didn't get it all done)
We have filled a 500 gallon tank in order to let the chlorine off gas, and then we can use the water for trees - which we will get next weekend.
General Lee is now shredder rated. Travis and I got it working today and commenced to mow the yard.
Soon you won't see waist-high jungle out on the farm. The shredder is doing a fine job.
Sunset on the farm. 
It doesn't look like much now, but the three images above are our orchard and berry vines.
Here's a view of Rut Road after General Lee applied the box blade. Needs more work, but we can bring in non-FWD vehicles now with ease.
These next three shots were taken by Travis' game camera. I've been concerned how our activity out there has impacted the wild life - maybe run them off or something.
Silly me - they're just in hiding waiting for us to leave (which is why a deer fence around the new orchard and vineyard is now priority one).
Below is a doe, a buck (nice one, too) and a coyote.

2/6 and 2/7/2016
This was a full weekend (read, exhausting).
Saturday we started out with a trailer full of fence parts, 30 bags of concrete and a rented auger.
The plan was to drill all the post holes and then go back and set all the posts.

This was our first post to set, and we were just getting the knack of mixing concrete in the hole. This one we mixed a little stiff and had to persuade the post to sink down to the line drawn at 8' to coincide with ground level.
Our trusty T-post driver did the job well.
All (ok, most) of the rest of the posts sank into the cement to nearly the correct depth on the first try.
Day is DONE! All posts set! You see some camera distortion here, but fear not - all posts are exactly vertical and plumb!

Then Sunday Kit and I went back out with a rented trencher (much smaller than the first, and much more difficult to use).
Our goal was to dig, as much as we could, a trench for the fence to set down into when we hang it.
Some critters like to dig and burrow under fencing. When they try that to get into OUR tasty garden they will just meet more fence underground and (hopefully) give up.
We'll bury about six inches.

We had to clean the trencher before returning it, which prompted me to do something I've been wanting to get done. A stick of PVC and a bag of parts mixed in the proper proportions and we now have high-pressure water available (for washing things, like trenchers) and to fill the water tank without having to climb up and hold a 2-inch pipe. Now we can just turn a valve and watch the water level rise in the sight gauge!

While we have been busy on the farm, Don has been busy back in Round Rock building a fence unroller.
When we hang the fence, we'll mount the 330-foot roll vertically in this device and it will unspool the wire as we go. 4-foot fence we could lay it out on the ground, unroll it and stand it up. 8-foot fence would be a little unwieldy.
He's building the unroller to fit into the hitch receiver on the truck so we'll just drive down the fence line, unrolling the fence and attaching it to the poles. That's the theory, anyway...

2/13 and 2/14 2016
Another productive weekend by Team Thompson/Allen at Homestead Texas!
The truck patch is ready to fence after we return from a Homesteading Fair in Belton next weekend.
Should be a hoot!
We picked up the trencher again and used it across the truck patch before fencing.
We also extended the water piping down to the Allen building site. There's water at The Meadow now!
Here's one of our picture perfect (well, almost) corner braces. A little adjustment here and there to allow for mismeasurement by yours truely...
Everyone got in on the act, even William, shown here bringing the water hose to mom for cement mixing (with just a little help)
"Everyone" included Mr. Murphy, who made his appearance Sunday morning while I was taking the trencher back to Salado.
I lost the tire tread about 6 miles short of town and limped it until about 100 feet short of the rental shop gate where the steel belts finally gave up.
I dragged the carcass across the finish line, unloaded and left the trailer for recovery Monday after work.

All in all, a good weekend's work complete with catered lunch when The Moms and Neva showed up at mid-day. Thanks!
2/15/2016 Update - The trailer has a new shoe and is back at the house, recovered from Salado. Thanks to Travis and Tammy for providing the tire!
2/28 and 2/29 2016 - The Race Is On!
After our weekend at Waco, we came back to find the farm is showing signs of Spring. 
The first trees to leaf have been the Cherry trees. I know that we're surrounded by green leafy things to eat, but can't help but imagine the deer are looking for a change in diet - and along comes some yummy new trees to munch on.

The deer fence is nearing completion. We have only two poles to go, after we hang the gate, to make sure the opposite side of the gate is exactly where it needs to be.
For some things you don't want to rely on a tape measure... especially when your goal is to prevent small critters from gaining access to the gated area.

This coming weekend we put to the test Don's design and welding skills.
I mentioned this device a couple of updates ago, but its purpose is to hold 330 feet of spooled fence material weighing 400 pounds in the vertical position, to unroll as we go along the fence line securing it to the posts.
It's a poor-man's version of this high dollar tool:
The hat stand-looking part on the back is detachable, and the fence spool will sit on that, hanging from the overhead boom.
Then the whole thing swivels as we unroll the fence.
The boat winch will pick the roll up off the ground and hoist it into place.
I think my earlier words on the topic were, "That's the theory, anyway..."
We'll see Saturday!
3/5 and 3/6 2016 - Fence Up
So the first thing we do is to raise the 400 pound fence roll up off the ground and onto the unroller. We do this with a hand winch like you'd find on a boat trailer.
Once the roll has been lifted onto the unroller, the ends are cut free and we're ready to dispense fencing.
We drive the truck along side of the fence poles, unreeling fence material as we go.
At every corner we stop the truck, pull the fencing tight and secure it to the various poles and tee posts.
You can see our version working here
At one point the cable inside the fence got hung up and was twisted until it broke.
That required rehanging the fence and driving on.
In this picture we've expended the first roll of fence. We anchored the end to the nearest braced pole, reloaded with a new roll of fence and continued.

Here we've finished stringing the fence and are anchoring it to the "H" brace from which we will hang the gate.
Gate is now up.
Once these last posts cure we'll hang the final 40 feet of fence.
Annnnnd DONE!
While we were watering in the flower seeds in the bee yard, Kit and I planted a small herb garden in one corner of the truck patch.

Now that the mobile shop has been built, the former generic tool shed has been moved to the truck patch to serve as tool storage.
This is temporary, until we can build a proper tool shed.

Parking area
New hose bibs in the truck patch.

A big weekend in the Truck Patch!
Kit had several yards of compost delivered to the farm.
Travis and I spent Saturday chipping mulch and barely made a dent in the brush pile.
From my recent shredding of the pasture we had plenty of cut grass (hay) on the ground.
All these things combined to form an excellent bed for the orchard trees, to get them ready for the Winter.

And we also built a chicken tractor.

A chicken tractor is a simple means of confining chickens to an area for them to eat bugs and fertilize, then they are moved along to a different area to "treat" that.
Some of these things are big enough to require a tractor to move them - but ours is quite small, for only 4 chickens but with room to grow.

Chicken tractor build start.
Chicken tractor build continued.
Chicken tractor build complete (we forgot a door...).
Actual chickens in chicken tractor.
Chicken tractor.
Wyatt gathers hay.
Wyatt compresses hay. Wyatt and I were the designated hay gatherers. The truck became a hay wagon and we stuffed as much as we could in each trip. Going back to the truck patch the hay was stacked as high as the cab
Tammy watering in mulch. Each layer - cardboard, compost, hay, mulch - had to get watered in. She was very busy!
Example of cleared, composted, and mulched tree.
Back at it in the truck patch as we begin to get acquainted with the BCS tractor and its implements.
I spent some quality time with it Friday and was reminded just how hard and compacted our soil is.
But that's OK - that's the job of the plow and power harrower.
I managed to get a small strip plowed in the prescribed manner - not an easy task.
The first thing we did Saturday was to spread compost on the plowed ground and harrow it before planting our first cover crop of clover.
Then we started plowing another strip.
Some video of the action:
More plowing
Meanwhile, out at the easement there was a tree that we had some concerns about it lasting the Winter. You can see in the picture the large vertical fissure in the trunk. Inside that fissure the trunk was rotted nearly clean through. The worry was a strong cold front wind might take it down - right on top of Ronnie's fence.
We decided better to take it down ourselves in a more controlled manner.
My tree cutting skills from working with Jim Cron 40 years ago did not fail me, and with Travis applying line pressure with his truck, we were able to fell the thing in two stages, with no damage to person, truck or fence.
Now we have a big pile of firewood to process.
The truck patch needs mulch to protect plants from the coming winter, and we just happen to have this great chipper, and now this felled tree... time to make mulch!
And what's left will become firewood.
One of the berry vine rows has already shown signs of becoming unruly and with Spring on the way, it was time to put up a trellis on that row.
the other rows won't be far behind...
Some garden preparation was in order this weekend.
Kit got re-acquainted with the BCS tractor.
She plowed and harrowed a 10x30 foot herb garden to replace the old, undersized one.
Then she transplanted some Sage from the old herb garden and added new herb plants.

I also worked in the cabin and have all ceiling insulation up, and one additional ceiling panel.
Looks like we're going to have to paint ONE MORE PANEL!
No pictures taken - use your imagination...

Kit and I also took the ATV around the farm property and tagged all the male red cedar trees.
Did you know cedar trees come in both sexes? Only the male produces pollen pods on the branches which makes them easy to identify this time of year.
The boys are brown-colored while the girls are bright green!
The female of the species do not produce pollen, thus do not contribute to Cedar Fever, thus they get to live.
The males will come down - their branches will go into the chipper and their trunks will be milled into boards to be used on the farm.
Nothing goes to waste!
Now where's my chain saw...
It's time to prep the garden for a fall cover crop.
I got out the BCS tractor this morning and hooked up the rotary plow and got started.
The farm got 2.5 inches of rain earlier this week, and the consistency of the soil it perfect for turning!
Tomorrow we'll finish plowing, spread compost and harrow.
Plowing complete, spreading compost. We'll widen it more after the next rainfall softens the ground again.
Using the power harrower to mix in the compost and level the plowed surface.
Ready to tarp. We'll cover the whole thing with a special silage tarp to prevent weed growth until we're ready to plant.
Despite the weather, a gardening craziness is that it will soon be time to plant!
Kit waded into the waist-high cover crop to chop it down in preparation for tarping for a few weeks, then plant.
Her plan was stopped cold when she got to the part of the cover crop that was heavily flowered - the bees were working it!
She saw that she was disturbing bees working the flowers, so she stopped cutting for now while she comes up with Plan B.
In the house, the dog rules. In the yard, the bees rule!
The Winter of 2018 is not over yet, but has taken a toll on the truck patch infrastructure.
Even though I had closed the water feed and opened the faucets, we had freeze damage to the PVC at the connection with the main line.
We are discussing replacement of the PVC with PEX and running it all around the perimeter of the truck patch, replacing the existing PVC lines and improving the availability of water all around the garden.
We have had zero issues with the PEX we have installed in the cabin, some of it exposed in the attic. PEX has proven to be very freeze-resistant not just by us, but by industry testing.
We will, of course, install the means to drain the lines as completely as we can so as not to push our luck!
Cannot believe it's June.
Some of our first yields from the truck patch are blackberries and peaches.
We have had dewberries all along, but those are native- so the black berries and peaches are the first yield of our plants.
The blackberries are tasty right off the vine, or cleaned and on ice cream, or in a cobbler.
The peach yield was a surprise to us - we did not expect them in only their second year. There aren't many, but those we have are excellent!
The Alberta and Sam Houston trees have produced first, and other varieties have green peaches on the trees.
And the next step is, of course, peach pie!

Back To Homestead Texas Home
Ground Breaking
Clearing For The Cabin
Labor Day
Labor Day II
The Tractor
The Tractor Barn
The Cabin
The Bee Yard
The Hay Field
The Project Trailer (mobile shop)
The Tractor Barn
The Pasture

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