Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

One Thing Leads to Another

It’s been quite a while since I have added a new post here. It’s been far too long, so here’s a quick overview of what we have been doing for the past few months. I’ll be posting details of these projects and more.

IMG_1970_phatchTree Clearing – We had over twenty old water oak trees and a few palm trees removed from the property. Water oaks are like weeds – they grow quickly, drop branches, make a mess, then rot and die. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life watching old trees rot and die.

IMG_2016_phatchTree Planting – With the water oaks removed, I now have open sunny areas to plant fruit trees. There are now rows of pears, apples, peaches, persimmons, figs, and pomegranates. I’ve planted plenty of trees in the past, but most of them were planted the wrong way. I learned how to correctly plant a tree to assure that it doesn’t have problems several years later.

IMG_2825_phatchHoney Bees – With the prospect of having fruit trees that will need pollinating, and a vegetable garden that needs pollinating, I’m now a beekeeper with five hives. I’ve joined the local beekeeping group (there were about 40 members present at the last meeting). My wife and I attended the two-day Bee College, put on by the University of Florida.

IMG_2450_phatchDucks and Chickens – After many years of keeping chickens, I have switched over to ducks. I had planned to keep both, but the ducks have worked out so well, it just made more sense to only have the ducks. We’ll have some posts about the pros and cons of ducks and chickens. It’s probably not the best choice for everyone, but it might be for you.


  1. Stacy

    It looks as if you’ve had a very productive summer. I must confess to envying your new fruit orchard. My father always had an orchard, but neighborhood association restrictions prevent planting fruit trees where I live. I shall have to live vicariously and shop at the farmers market until we make our move to the country.
    Best wishes,

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Yes, it’s been a busy one – and the blogging has suffered greatly for it. I’m so glad to see that you’re back in the saddle on your The Subtle Details blog. I’ll post a reply on your latest one – we have much in common when it comes to writing posts.

  2. Clint

    I just recently found this blog. I hope you plan on keeping it updated. Your quest is a noble one. I want to get back to the land myself. Starting with a small garden this summer. The wisdom of the “12 Southerners” is awesome and prophetic when looking back on what they wrote.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you for the encouragement, sir. I’ve been doing a lot here, but haven’t been writing about it. I’ll do my best to change that, so if you haven’t already done so, click on the “Subscribe” link. At one point, I had one blog but then split it up into several different ones. This one seems to be the one with the most interest though, so I think I’ll put the focus here.

      After going strictly with raised bed gardening for several years, I have started back into conventional in-ground gardening. So far, it’s working well. I have even turned a section of back yard lawn into garden, but it won’t be planted until a few more weeks – it will be planted in okra. I’ve purchased two rototillers on opposite ends of the scale – a tiny Mantis with a 9″ width, weighing only 25 pounds, and a BCS 2-wheel tractor with a 30″ width, weighing 342 pounds. Both compliment each other nicely, and neither is a substitute for the other. Lots to write about that and about the bee hives that I now have and several other projects. Hold me accountable, Clint. If you don’t see the posts, maybe I just need a little prodding!

      Thanks again for writing.

  3. John

    I’ve considered getting a few hens. Did my homework and came up with the conclusion that Rhode Island Reds were about the best all-around chicken. Got some scrap material from work and began building the coop. However, my wife isn’t as gung ho as I am about self reliance and small scale farming. So, I’m having to sale the idea that it will be a very useful project in the long run. I reckon soon she’ll discover that some chickens will have incidentally found their way to the coop and made their abode there.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Rhode Island Reds are about as good as it gets for an all-purpose chicken. Those were some of the first ones that I had – gentle to work with, good egg producers, and good meat birds. I butchered a few of mine – mainly just for the experience. I wanted to know how to do it if I needed to. I decided that it was fine if I had no choice, but for “normal times”, it was far too much trouble and took too much time. The experience is a good thing to have though, and I’m glad I’ve done it.

      Getting the wife on board is a common thing to deal with. My wife, Laura, was on board right from the beginning, but from what I’ve heard from others, the key is to make sure that things like the chicken coop and garden layout need to look attractive – not just be functional. That’s something that I want to have regardless though. A good part of this lifestyle is the aesthetics of it. I enjoy the beauty of a nice neat garden and hens scratching around a well-built and maintained chicken coop. I have antique roses planted around the garden fence (antique roses are really tough and require only enough pruning to keep them out of the way) and around the bee yard. I can understand why some wives cringe at the thought of self-reliance. They’ve seen the junky, trashy yards and rightly don’t want anything to do with it. I wouldn’t either. Frankly, that’s one of the reasons that we switched to ducks rather than chickens. Chickens do a lot of scratching, and over time, that can really tear up a yard. Ducks have their bad points too, but they don’t hurt the yard and don’t tear up the garden like chickens will do.

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