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One homestead priority is building soil


It’s February 13, 2017 and one of the first things I want to accomplish on the homestead is to build soil. We have to start some place, and mucking a chicken coop seems like a good idea to begin the soil making process.

There are many priorities we have to consider, including water, food, shelter, health, and so on. Even though this property is not our homestead, we are still caretakers of it and these chickens need to be taken care of.

I need their waste to make soil.

I understand there is more to making soil than to just have animal waste, but this is a start!

Our planned soil making processes are basic right now because we have to work with the materials that are available to us at no cost.  Since my uncle’s farm has chickens and rabbits, that’s where we begin.

Our Little Homestead has only two rabbits but with the waste they produce, we are able to provide six garden beds (4′ x 6′) with a pretty good amount of nutrients.  This is by far not enough to supply a market garden.  We had to add horse manure to our gardens in Clinton (which is a funny story to be discussed later in this blog) and in Clinton, we get a regular supply of wood chips.

Secret Haven is a property in transition, from my uncle’s ownership to whomever buys the property.  We feel it’s our responsibility to begin setting up this little farm for the people that take over the property.

Should we get to the point where we can build soil the way we want, we would include:

  • Ground bark
  • Rotted wood chips
  • Cow manure
  • Horse manure
  • Produce scraps
  • Macro nutrients we create on the farm
  • Micro nutrients (not sure yet how to obtain these since we are not going to use chemicals)


Our soil notes are derived from tons of research and we will continue to research until we are satisfied with the results of the produce we grow.  Mainly, nutrition, health of plans, and taste are what our measuring sticks will be.  Our notes so far include:


(from top to bottom)

  • Organic matter
  • Hummus (decomposed organic matter)
  • Clay
  • Silt
  • Sand
  • Bedrock


Life (bacteria, worms, insects, etc.)  Our Little Homestead soil has:

  • Worms
  • Mycelium
  • Pill bugs
  • Lots of life we have yet to identify

Soil aeration

  • We use wood chips and worms and let the soil just do its thing.  We don’t till.

Good drainage

  • Wood chips  – the more we add, the more depth our soil has and it just keeps sinking down.

Fresh earthy smell or very little odor at all

  • Our soil smells like the earth now, but when we first started, it smelled like raw horse manure.

Nutrient retention

  • We need to learn more about this.

Nutrient cycling

  • We need to learn more about this.

Water retention

  • Gone for months at a time, on the road, and no watering was done while we were gone.  We came back to lots of flowers because the wood chips retain water.

Carbon sequestration

  • Homework required!

Feel crumbly and full rather than gritty (sandy), smooth (silty) or slippery/sticky (clay)

  • Our soil is crumbly.

Appear rich dark brown or black in color

  • Mostly blackish.  Our Little Homestead has really rich looking soil.  The wood chips have been breaking down since 2013.

Have a garden soil pH conducive to plant growth, usually between 6 and 7

  • We haven’t tested our soil yet.



Equal parts of sand, clay and silt.


  • Learn the make up of good soil.
  • Find out what local resources are available to build the soil.
  • Deep litter method.
  • Come up with a soil recipe with locally sourced ingredients.


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We are starting our soil building process with chicken and rabbit manures, along with their bedding material.  There is nothing else to mix in at this time, so it will all sit on a tarp until we figure out what’s going to happen to the property.

Carrot Spice Cake


Still going! There is so much to clean up and we are being as careful as we can so we don’t cut down food plants and other valuable plants.


No change


No change


Cleaning up the lot.


We are just cleaning up the lot and have not started documenting the plants yet.



City of Knoxville
Composting mentioned in zoning here.

Details of composting here in the Urban Agriculture zoning amendments.

C. Backyard composting is allowed in all districts and shall comply with the following regulations:
1. Bins or piles are allowed only in rear yards and shall be set back five (5) feet from lot lines.
2. Bins or piles shall not exceed 5% of the parcel area and six (6) feet in height.
3. Bins or piles shall be located outside of the required Riparian Buffer Zone.
4. Compost shall be enclosed or contained.
5. Compost shall only be used for the composting of materials generated on- site, and shall not contain any meat or dairy.
6. Compost is subject to enforcement due to odor performance standards described in Appendix B, Art icle 5, Section 1(B)(3).

The Riparian Buffer Zone is naturally undisturbed, vegetated, and pervious zone adjacent to regulated waters that is protected from clearing, grading, filling, paving, building, or other destruction of the naturally vegetated state. (Source: )

Chronological Journal: 2017 Journal


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A coffee house on a city homestead and creating open source plans, and sharing what we learn.


Learning how to find our way through homesteading and starting a coffee house, and keeping it running. Basically, we started a coffee house, but figured out no one wanted to give us wholesale pricing because we were too new, and too small.

We closed the coffee house and decided in order to get wholesale pricing, we would have to grow our own produce and start a buying club. Then reality hit. We now blog about reality.


Right now, we flip contents of homes, by way of estate sales.  Visit our Estate Freedom site for more information.


1. City Homestead
Setting up a homestead in the city.  We are blogging about our experiences, beginning with the estate sale that brought us back to Tennessee, and then what brought us to leaving Tennessee in the first place.

2. Domestic Kitchen
Setting up a domestic kitchen in Clinton, TN. We are using the Tennessee Cottage Food law as a guideline.

3. Market Garden
Setting up a market garden.

4. Coffee House
Setting up a coffee house in Clinton, TN. After this phase is completed, we will have a commercial kitchen instead of a domestic kitchen.


Sound Tracks:
"Connecting Rainbows" by Kevin MacLeod
"Crickets and Country Ambience" by
Graphics: Colleen Crawford

Shotcut -

Muck the Chicken Coop

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