Eighteen years ago, on New Year’s Eve, David Fisher visited an old farm in western Massachusetts, near the small town of Conway. No one was farming there at the time, and that’s what had drawn Fisher to the place. He was scouting for farmland.
“I remember walking out [to the fallow fields] at some point,” Fisher recalls. “And in the moonlight – it was all snowy – it was like a blank canvas.”
On that blank canvas, Fisher’s mind painted a picture of what could be there alongside the South River. He could see horses tilling the land – no tractors, no big machinery – and vegetable fields, and children running around.
This is David Fisher’s American Dream. It may not be the conventional American Dream of upward economic mobility. But dreams like his have a long tradition in this country. Think of the Puritans and the Shakers and the Amish. These American dreams are the uncompromising pursuit of a difficult ideal.
One of the thriftiest, most versatile ways to garden is what’s called Straw Bale gardening. Often cheaper than garden soil or fertilizer, straw bales are found virtually everywhere. Craigslist, home depot or other home improvement stores will sell them for pennies on the dime when push comes to shove.
But what can you grow?
The answer: just about anything.
Moisture and heat collect in the straw bale like a trap. Tomatoes, corn and other tall plants can break the bale apart the taller they get, but potatoes and herbs will thrive in your bale.
Hay bales start to decompose just hours after they get wet and can provide an atmosphere better than your greenhouse. By digging a hole into your bale, dropping in some soil around your plants and packing it firmly, you’ll add some stability to your plant and as your bale decomposes, it will provide a steady source of nutrition all throughout the growing season.