Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

One Acre Makeover

At some point last year, it became clear to me that I needed to make some major changes here on our one acre homestead. If your place is already exactly what it should be, then you might want to skip reading this post. Otherwise, perhaps you’ll find a bit of inspiration here.

The Problem:

  • The garden was not set up for efficiently maintaining it. As the years start adding up for me, making it easy to maintain becomes more important.
  • The garden irrigation system had underground pipes through the garden area, and that’s a really bad idea when using a powerful roto-tiller. Running over a pipe creates quite an interesting fountain in the garden.
  • The trees that provided some shade were old water oaks. In this part of the country, they are really more like giant weeds. They don’t produce anything and they tend to rot from the inside out (just as nations and cultures do), and it goes unnoticed until a storm comes along and blows it over – sometimes taking other things with it.
  • The bee hives that I set in the garden were OK until the bees got in a cranky mood at the same time that I needed to work in the garden. Keeping bees means you’re going to get stung once in a while, but you never really get used to it no matter what anyone says.


The Solution:

  • The patchwork garden design became a single rectangular block. The duck pen, the bee hives, the bananas, and the pineapple patch – gone. The duck pen was moved back out of the garden area, the pineapple plants were transplanted to a single row along the perimeter fence, the banana plants cut down and dug up, and the bee hives were moved away from the garden.
  • The irrigation system now consists of two rows of overlapping sprinklers along the sides such that every part of the garden is covered by at least two sprinklers. All the irrigation pipe and one electrical conduit were removed from the garden area.
  • All of the oaks were removed. It wasn’t cheap, but it takes heavy equipment and it needed to be done. With the yard now opened up, I planted peaches, apples, pears, pomegranates, persimmons, figs, avocado, and plums. I would rather spend my time here watching the young fruit trees grow up than watching the old water oaks rot and die. At this stage of life, watching the young grow up is one of life’s greatest joys. Think grandchildren.
  • The bee hives were moved to the side of the house. It is an area that is otherwise unused, and there are no doors on that end of the house. The bees are happy and so are we. I also reduced the number of hives from ten down to three – plenty enough for pollination and some honey.


Future posts will detail things like planting the fruit trees, the bee hives, etc. For now, I’ll let the pictures tell the story.


The Water Oaks come out

The buried pipe comes out

Banana plants are next to be removed

Stakes mark where a row of fruit trees will be planted

Fruit trees being planted


  1. John

    Sounds like quite a project! At least you’ve seen a problem, acknowledged it and are working it out.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      It’s one of those things that was just too easy to work around and convince myself that I can deal with it as-is. It really started with getting rid of the oaks. All but one or two of them were showing signs of rotting from the inside when they were cut down. Once they were cleared out, there was plenty of open space with lots of sun for the fruit trees. Some are doing well – some are not. As soon as the local plant nursery gets in some more peach trees, the two pear trees are coming out and getting replaced with peaches. For whatever reason, both of the pears are doing very poorly even though they are two different varieties. One is probably dead, and the other is close to dead. The apple trees are doing OK, but not all that great. Persimmon and peach and fig are all doing very well.

      The garden project was the result of just wanting more space to grow. I wanted more than just an occasional fresh vegetable from the garden. I’m realistic enough to understand that being self-sufficient with something like this is not going to happen. On the other hand, growing enough to provide a really significant amount of food is a reasonable goal, and that’s what I’m aiming for.

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