It looks like I need to rake my yard, doesn’t it?  On the contrary.  This is just one of the first steps I need to take to prep my garden for this year’s planting.  Underneath all those leaves is a layer of well composted manure.  Both will be tilled in and left to sit until the day I can finally dig my hands up to my elbows in the rich, moist earth.

With the weather we have had lately, it just feels like the perfect weather to get outside and get vegetables plants in the garden.  I am, however, well versed to old Mama Nature’s sly tricks, and know better than to succumb to temptation.  As the old folks around here will tell you, “It thundered in February…”  That’s all they will say, but their expectations are that you know how to finish that sentence, which is “…so it will frost in April.”  When I first moved out here, I just kinda chuckled at their ‘old fashioned’ beliefs.  That is, until it thundered in February and all my plants were frost-bittten to death in early April.  Needless to say, other than my potatoes and squash seeds, there is nothing that will go in my garden until Good Friday – unless the Country Boy comes through with all those frost-protective buckets he promised me.

Living Simply is often based on the three R’s – Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle.  Most times, when we think about that, we picture in our minds plastic containers or old furniture.  It’s true that these things are perfect candidates for the three R’s, but there is also so much in Nature that can fill the bill.

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Our livestock provides for us in a myriad of ways – cows offer milk, beef, and calves that can be sold.  Chickens give us eggs and meat.  But both have another offering, which is basically free fertilizer.  It is this that helps us to grow delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs, along with a few beautiful flowers to decorate our homes, give to a sick neighbor, or even sell at a farmer’s market.  The best part about it is that it is free – FREE!  Well, other than a bit of hard work and dedication, but no actual money has to be spent in order to obtain this kind of fertilizer.

Thanks to my neighbor, Mrs. Thelma, I had fifteen bags of leaves to till in.  Leaves help to make the soil more pliable, and as they break down, they add trace nutrients to the garden, including phosphorus and potassium.  They also give a nudge to the microbial party planning committee to start working on the next big gala event.  Ground up leaves help to hold moisture in the ground, which is a great benefit during the rain-less days of a hot summer.  And if you save a few bags, you can also use them to mulch your plants to assist with holding on to that moisture.

Cow manure offers the two P’s (phosphorus and potassium – which is actually K P, in scientific terms) as well, with a dose of N (nitrogen) thrown in.  One thing to remember – cow manure really needs to be aged and/or composted for no less than 6 months before adding it to the garden.  Without this extra step, you could be adding trouble to your vegetables through a risk of infection.  Cow manure does help to keep the moisture level up in the soil, so it is well worth composting and waiting for the right time to add it to your garden.

Love to fish?  Many people use worms they dug up in the yard for free bait.  Next time you go, think about hanging on to a few of those worms to add to your garden.  Make sure you till first, or use the ‘no till’ gardening method; otherwise the worms won’t survive long enough to do their work.


Mama Nature may like to pull a fast one every now and then, but I sometimes think she was the one who came up with the whole Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle concept.  A tree that has been cut down and used for firewood, or untreated lumber that has been used for projects leave behind frothy piles of sawdust.  Fall causes trees to lose its needles and leaves.  Manure is the byproduct of a healthy animal diet (I do NOT include human, dog or cat waste in this, as these are not healthy – AT ALL – to use in your compost).  Fresh water.  Grass clippings left over after making your yard look neat.  There are so many things that are ‘left over’ in Nature that can be reused, repurposed and recycled to make your gardens flourish.  Just pile them all up, turn them a few times and add a bit of moisture when it gets too dry.  Within a few months to a year, you will have plenty of compost for your garden.  The best part is, it is all free, which is another one of the basic principles of Simply Living.

Ready to get your garden started?  Start thinking in terms of Mama Nature’s version of the three P’s.  Reuse some of those worms, by transplanting into your tilled garden.  Repurpose those leaves and grass clippings.  And recycle all that manure in your pasture and chicken coops, by turning it into a pile of Black Gold – otherwise known as compost.

Your plants will appreciate it, your pastures and coops will look neater, and your food will taste better than anything you could ever imagine.

Time to rake?  Nope.  Mrs. Thelma did all that hard work for me, and me and my plants will be forever grateful!!!!  Now, the question remains – just how much peanut brittle and tea cakes do I need to make to let her know just how deeply appreciative I am of all her work?

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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