Tips for Backyard Farming as a Family

Dear Readers, I am pleased to bring you a guest post today from my friend, Angela England.  She has written a new book all about homesteading in small places and it is a real treat!  Backyard Farming on an Acre is a treasure trove of ideas for getting started right where you are with easy-to-follow information.  In fact, reading through her section on Beekeeping was the first time I felt like, “hey, I could do this!” 

A quick note about the book…if you purchase the book TODAY, you will be eligible to receive whole host of BONUS DOWNLOADSCheck them out here! 

Tips for Backyard Farming as a Family
by Angela England

One of the misconceptions I had about backyard farming and the lifestyle of a homesteader is that it wasn’t something applicable to the modern lifestyle – only for those who want to be semi-Amish. We’ve managed to find a great balance in our family and I want to share how we make it easy, doable, and something we do all together with our five homeschooling children.

Adam is helping to spread straw over the garden space.

1. Involve the Children in Simple Tasks

Even very young children can help with the simplest (or messiest) garden chores. Spreading mulch, planting large seeds like potatoes, garlic, beans or sunflowers, and collecting eggs from the chickens. My kids LOVE to feed the chickens, and collect the eggs each day. And of course, planting things is such a hopeful act it’s like a tiny, every day miracle right in the backyard.

2. Don’t Expect Perfection

This is true not only for kids but for ourselves as well. In generations past they depended on a good harvest for their very survival. Now for us the stakes are a little less serious so I try to be more flexible with our garden-experiments-gone-awry or weather not cooperating. We plant a variety of fruits and vegetable and there’s always something each year that does so well, even if other plants don’t do as well that year. And please don’t think that you have to make it look picket-fence perfect. A real garden is full of dirt and a real backyard farming is like a real child’s room – well lived in.

Learning from and helping her Papa

3. Work Together as a Family

The thing that I most love about our daily chores is that we usually get to do them together as a family. Sometimes it’s bringing in wood that my husband is chopping with some kids collecting the bits of kindling and others stacking the larger pieces. Sometimes it’s working together to dig up the potato harvest and gather bags and buckets full. But always it is a case of many hands lightening the load and making things go more quickly.

4. Use Modern Knowledge to Your Benefit

Modern intensive gardening techniques like irrigation, mulching, wide rows and organic pest controls mean that it’s much easier for us than it used to be. Research, selective breeding for various regions, and judicious use of technology (where it’s helpful and not hurtful) can all save you time in the maintenance of your backyard farm. Choose specific breeds of animals that will do well in your area. Touch base with your county extension office to get details on regional soil deficiencies, growing season, and more specifics that will help you plan your garden right the first time.

Intensive planting and vertical gardening techniques are easy to implement.

Backyard Farming can be a fabulous way to develop positive character qualities in your children, to develop a healthier lifestyle and eating habits, or just become a little more self-sufficient while cutting your grocery bills. But it doesn’t have to be overly complicated or take over your life. Weave the tasks into your daily chore time as a family and you’ll find that the addition of healthy food right from your backyard doesn’t have to mean an unbearable burden for you and your family.

Angela England, Author of Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) is the Founder of Untrained Housewife, co-founder of Homestead Bloggers Network, and Editor of Blissfully Domestic. She lives with her husband and five homeschooling children in rural Oklahoma where they are learning more about living an intentional and self-sufficient lifestyle. Find her on Twitter and check out details of the book on the Backyard Farming Facebook Page.

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9 thoughts on “Tips for Backyard Farming as a Family

    • Jessy – I totally agree! There are SO many benefits to working together as a family producing your own food – so many skills and talents uncovered. And many character qualities developed as well. :-)

  1. Do you have any advice for deer? WE can’t fence our yard in and have 20-30 deer who pass through our back yard on any given day. We have tried a few things but nothing seems to work…

    • Yes! I share the secret to conquering the deer problem on page 39.(But don’t worry – I’ll share it here.)

      A double fencing system I call “the moat”. If you already have one fence around the garden you’ll just step out another 6 foot from the original fence and build a second fence. They both should be at least 6 foot high but they don’t need to be crazy tall – the prevention comes in that it’s wider than a deer can comfortably jump in one bound, but too close together for their comfort to take two hops.

      When we move to 25 acres we will be using this system and plan to use the “wasted” 6 foot space around the garden as a chicken run. Like a moat of pest-devouring-poultry. :-) Easy breasy and serves a double duty so nothing is wasted!

    • Howcome you can’t fence your yard? My parents have deer in the garden too :)
      I love them, but of course they eat lots they shouldn’t.

  2. Great that you pointed out how welcome modern methods should be. Only thing I would add; there will be a night when you get home late, it is sleeting, wind blowing, and muddy and your 3 year old wants to follow you out to check that goat that is expecting like, yesterday. Let them. Then when they are 16, they will want to.

    • YES! I say let your kids help you while it’s fun and it won’t be as hard to get their help when it’s “chores”.

      And I do try to give people a head’s up that it isn’t as romantic as a Little House on the Prairie episode. Chapter one says “The truth is tending a garden and raising animals is hard work. Rewarding work, no doubt about it. But it’s hard. You can’t neglect a backyard farm for a week while you go on a luxury cruise. Your livestock doesn’t care whether you have the flu….” :-D

      I did not tell the story of when my DH called me at 2 am from his overnight shift at work to tell me it was about to rain and I needed to go put a tarp over the feed we hadn’t unloaded yet. *ahem* I didn’t want to scare them off in the first chapter! LOL!

  3. I agree. The children really love playing in the garden. It´s charming how they always want to help, even with with the most boring tasks. Too bad it rarely lasts, especially when they grow up. You can never get teenager to help you in the garden. And thank your for the tip about the modern methods. I too believe that the best way is to find balance – as modern farming is all about organic food and eco-friendly methods.