Best-Laid Farm Plans

Hank puts his farm plans into action after a few changes.

| September/October 2016

  • Hank's haymaking and raised-garden-bed-making pursuits.
    Photo by Hank Will

For years, I have been planning to build myself a nice set of raised beds for the garden. I figured I’d mill the lumber from the plentiful trees in the hedgerows on my farm. Each year it seemed, the time came and went, and the lumber never got milled. And the garden was more or less of a disaster – but not really because of the beds not being raised. Mainly because life delivered a few priorities that superseded my best-laid plans for fencing, stock management, tree growing, hay making and gardening. This summer it feels like I am back in the saddle, at least tentatively.

For the first time in a few years, I muscled through the cool season haymaking without much fanfare or downtime. It’s funny what some upgraded equipment and a positive mental outlook can do to help things along. I did have one minor baler mishap – a blown hydraulic line (what a mess) – but it shut me down overnight and I needed to quit that evening anyway. And I even got all the lambs and cattle delivered without much fuss – cash flow is a nice outcome from your labor. But I never got my garden planted, and if it hadn’t been for the asparagus and rogue potatoes that I missed a couple of years ago, I’d have had to rely on friends and neighbors for all my produce this year!

Then it hit me: I would probably never get the wood for the raised garden beds milled in time, or at least any time soon. So I just took a deep breath and headed to the lumberyard for some store-bought supplies to make it happen. And for less than $200, I came home with sufficient material to create six raised beds of varying heights. I chose Douglas fir simply because I could afford it and I didn’t want to use treated. Cedar was roughly four times the price, and I figured that if I had to rebuild them in four or five years, so be it. With a lot of help and moral support from a friend, we converted those pieces of dimensional lumber into 3-by-5-foot boxes, stapled hardware cloth to the bottoms, and rigged uprights that would allow making them deeper and for the fastening of cover frames to extend the growing season. We scraped out the weeds and leveled the garden, and got three of them set and filled with beautiful 2-year-old compost from my corral.

Those raised beds offer a profound symbol of hope and a good future for me. I’m going to plant some zucchini now (mid-July) and plan a cracking fall garden full of greens and roots that I crave badly. In the meantime, I am going to prepare for a tripling of my asparagus patch, Fort-Knox my chicken coop, and build a proper livestock handling and loading facility to make the next shipment a low-stress breeze for everyone involved. Although I am years behind and the plan isn’t how I envisioned it 10 years ago, it is coming together, and that makes me grateful.

If you’ve ever had to change plans mid-course, or have any cool homestead projects to share, I’d love to hear about it. Please send your story and photos to

See you soon,

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