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Anything But a Horse

Updated: Sep 4, 2022

By Debbie Roland, Master Gardener

It started with two packets of seed and a chicken. Okay six chickens. I was born and raised in Midland and always had a fascination with people who lived on farms. After life’s twists and turns, I have ended up in a small community on five acres. My interest gravitates more toward homesteading than just having a yard. When I bought six chicks and then planted a garden, my friends and family thought I was nuts. But my husband said, “you can have anything but a horse”. In hindsight, I am sure he regrets that.

After almost twenty years, I am still reading and googling, looking for the best way to do things from gardeners and homesteaders. Here are some of my favorite sources – books, websites and YouTube channels.

Jessica Sowards at Roots and Refuge Farm will give you YouTube instruction along with inspiration to be a sustainable gardener. Her book, “The First-Time Gardener: Growing Vegetables” will teach you how to be a gardener in pots on your apartment balcony, in your own soil on a small plot or on several acres. She will teach you what “sustainable” means and how you can make it work for you.

If vegetable gardening is what you love, I can’t say enough (again) about John Cappadonna’s book “Vegetable Gardening in West Texas”. Contact him through his Facebook page “West Texas Vegetable Gardeners”. He is knowledgeable and gives instructions that we can all understand and put to work in our small or large gardens.

Gardening in West Texas is different from most of Texas. What works in south Texas or the Hill Country will not work here. Don’t be discouraged, you can still plant a yard or garden, but the rules are different. Just like everything else, you have to know the rules before you can play the game.

If you want to garden/homestead you need to make friends with the same interest. They will let you borrow tools, barter with their extras and share seeds.

Next draw out a plan and just start gardening. There will be successes and failures, but you have to start somewhere. The next step will be learning to preserve what you grow. There are many sites, channels and books on that including canning, freezing and dehydrating.

If I were going to give you one piece of advice it would be to get a journal and write down your journey. How I wish I had done that. Your first garden plot should be there along with the plants and where you set them out, whether they lived and when they produced.

Here are a few extras: “No Dig, No Weed Gardening” by Raymond P. Poincelot; “Back to Basics” by Abigail R. Gehring; and “Raised Bed Gardening for Beginners” by Tammy Wylie.

If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at and


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