Seedling in sandFarming in sandy soil
Every farmer knows that without good soil, you're going nowhere if you plan to raise crops or feed animals off the land. So what do you do if your soil is poor? You can of course have it analyzed to see what it is lacking and add a chemical cocktail to it to improve it. After all that is what has done and it's “the norm”. The problem with this method, is we need to ask ourselves, is this the right thing to do?

Sometimes we get caught up in the dogma of what has been done and think it  must be the right way or the only way. But if we go back still further in time, people wouldn't have gone out and bought something produced in a factory to spread on the fields, would they? No of course not. What they needed for their land was produced on the farm or at least near-by on a neighboring farm.

Where I live in Brazil, our soil (I use that term loosely) is sand. Our farm is 10 minutes from the beach and is backed by sand dunes. Sand as a growing medium is not ideal in anyone's book and as such needs improving.

Problems with sand are:

  • Compaction. In certain places on our farm I can dig down 6 inches and it feels solid. The start of sandstone. Adding cut vegetation including weeds, is the answer. 

  • Lack of  nutrients: With sand, when the rains come, the nutrients get washed away, leeching through the sand.

  • Doesn't retain water: While other people add sand to assist in drainage, ours is the opposite. Mulching again is part of the answer. 


I don't know if you believe in the Law of Attraction, but we knew we need to do something more than what we have been doing for the improvement of our soil. Then my husband came across a series of videos done by an American man living in India. He has similar problems to us with regards to planting in sand. His advice is grow beans and weeds. That isn't the only advice he offers, but it was the first video I watched and knew I wanted to share it with you. 

Here is one of his videos and if you are dealing with sandy soil, no matter which country you live in, I would encourage you to watch it.
 


 
 
PictureGrowing willow

The idea for this post came to me when I was in the kitchen cooking dinner. I could hear my husband listening to a video on his computer. It was the sound of machinery, specifically tractors. He was marveling at the ingenuity of some of the designs which were made for one type of job. Although many of them where huge, not all were. There was a particular one which was cutting willow. It was a machine that had huge shears on the front and the speed at which it was cutting through these young saplings was amazing. This machine cut and mulched the willow and shot this through a chute to a trailer which was traveling alongside. This would be turned into bio-fuel. However the video got me thinking about growing willow and the possible uses for it on a small farm.

Where I used to live there were willow trees along a roadside and wetlands. This was part of a land management of the local flood plain. These willows were trimmed every year by the local council and sold.


The willow is a versatile tree and many parts of it are used including the wood, bark, and saplings. 
  • The wood makes everything from cricket bats to broom handles. 
  • The bark and leaves are used medicinally and are the original source of aspirin.
  • Young willows which are about 3 meters high are harvested with the machine I mentioned above for use as bio-fuel. 
  • The flexible branches can be cut, and put into the ground to grow as a hedge or made into unique artistic designs. These can either be green which will continue to grow, in the design shape or dried and used as art.
  • Still younger ones, about a meter high are cut, often by hand and used for making crafts including bird feeders, baskets, and decorative art for the home or garden. Thicker pieces are woven in furniture which is often sold as patio furniture.

 



Picture

So how can you make money from it? If you have low land, it's the ideal plant as little else with a commercial value will grown there.

  • To generate income from the willow for bio-fuel you will need to be growing a lot of it to make it viable for someone to come out and collect it. 

  • If you plan to use it as herbal or medicinal products, depending on which country you are in, there may be testing and legal licenses you need. 

  • An ideal way to earn from it is to have classes in basket making or other craft projects which use willow.

By using your farm as a meeting place, your costs are kept down. Aim to keep the classes small and personable, maybe 10 people or so. 


Don't think that it is only for adults though, consider teaching kids these crafts in their summer vacation period. Parents are always looking for activities to keep their kids occupied during the summer vacations and this could be an excellent money maker for you. 



You don't need to be an expert, as long as you can show them some easy to make craft projects. Get inspiration and your training using one of the books below.