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Alec and Kasey Dakin stand in front of their half-acre garden located in Newaygo County. In future years, the couple hopes to expand by adding wine grapes, nectarines and beehives to pollinate their property and neighboring properties. — Submitted photos
Last year, Alec Dakin and his wife began to prepare the soil on their property to become more self-reliant. Their goals were and continue to be ambitious but he provides an update on what things have helped and continue to help them reach those goals.
Dakin explained that the soil on their Newaygo County acreage is not ideal and is a sandy loam. To prepare it for this year’s garden, they used blank newsprint as a weed barrier and also to enrich the existing soil. Additionally, Dakin and his wife, Kasey, purchased topsoil from their local co-op.
“Last year was just about soil prep, we did the paper and did the bed of straw on top of that,” Dakin explained.
Dakin had purchased end rolls from the Daily News and when that supply had been depleted, he purchased additional paper from Lowe’s, which was a thicker stock.
“The area where we used newsprint, actually grew things better, the soil is richer in that area, the vegetables are more vibrant than where we planted with the other paper.”
Kasey Dakin holds a fresh pepper grown on their Newaygo property. It is just one of many plants grown from seed using organic methods.
As a part-owner of SureShot Pest Control, Dakin decided he wanted to take a more holistic approach to both weed and pest control on his property. The pandemic further encouraged him and his wife to be more eco-friendly and self-reliant.
Dakin offers suggestions to others interested in following a similar path. He recommends taking small steps because there is a large learning curve and enthusiasm can lead to biting off more than one can chew.
His journey included attending a survival school in Utah and he plans to attend another in Colombia next month. Additionally, he has joined homesteading forums online. Ironically, he suggests going old school when it comes to obtaining and gleaning knowledge when it comes to becoming self-sufficient. He also recommends talking to others about their knowledge.
“I had a conversation with an elderly woman, she is like my grandmother, she lives in the metro Detroit area, she lived there when it was farm fields,” Dakin said. “We were talking about the pandemic and we were talking about how my wife and I are doing things and talking about Victory Gardens, so you could supply your family with your own products.”
Dakin added that he and his adopted grandmother discussed canning and creating a safe and dependable stockpile of food. With the disruption in the supply chain between the pandemic and cyber attacks, learning to can is on Dakin’s list of priorities.
Among the things Dakin and his wife have grown are carrots, radishes, corn, four to five tomato varieties, peppers, elderberry, asparagus and strawberries. They also have a water cistern to collect rainwater for their plants, rather than draw from their well. Future plans include wine grapes, nectarines and fruit-bearing trees. The one apple tree he had planted was decimated by the gypsy moth invasion that plagues the state.
Thinking full-circle, Dakin plans to introduce beehives on his property to pollinate his land as well as neighboring properties. He added that in the process of implementing these practices, he wants to hone in on what works well on his property and develop further with that product. His neighbor owns a goat farm and they sell fresh organic feta cheese.
“We are trying to figure out what our land is best for and determine our niche and then offer a product at the end,” Dakin said. “We are not blind to the fact that ambitions have to be realistic, people try to grow everything they can, like lavender, I don’t know if lavender will be popular five years down the road. You have to grow what you can.”
Dakin said his wife started all of this year’s plants from seed and their bedroom served as a makeshift greenhouse. They used 1000-watt lights that only drew approximately 100 watts and didn’t impact their electric bill. This, however, has prompted him to build a greenhouse this year for future plantings.
All of the Dakins’ endeavors boil down to being responsible with their land and leaving as small a footprint as possible. He added that being in a state that is surrounded by the largest freshwater supply in the world should make all Michigan residents cognizant of the environment.
“I think the pandemic made us all aware how precious our time ie,” Dakin reflected. “I think there are a lot of people doing what we are doing. I hope the movement grows more and more. We can’t keep going backwards, it is not working the way it is now.”
Newspaper end rolls are available at the Daily News, 109 N. Lafayette in Greenville. They cost between $5-10 each depending on size and funds benefit our Newspaper In Education program.
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