Thursday, January 2, 2014

Starting 2014 with our long list of ongoing goals

While I'm getting this ready to publish, the boys are playing around me. I just surveyed them on their favorite animals here. First I asked Noah, "What is your favorite animal here? Cows, Chickens, Rabbits or Cats?" His answer, "Pumpkin!" I was a little perplexed for a moment, but he meant our Rabbit, Pumpkin! I let him know pumpkin couldn't come in if the living room was a mess... chirp chirp. I guess he'd rather play with toys right now than Pumpkin.

I think you can guess which one is "Pumpkin".

Isaac's response was loud as usual. "NOORRRWAAAY!" We know his favorite.

Anyway, apparently, I’m on the Facebook page sharing my goals for next year as they occur to me. I didn’t mean to start doing that. I’ve been thinking about the lessons of 2013 and the goals of 2014, and I haven’t put it all down in writing until now. I know writing it down can be helpful, but I guess I wasn't in a rush to make a list that I call complete. I already did a Fall Homestead Recap of 2013 and included a lot of details about what we improved last year and what we still need to.  We just keep trucking away over here and are hopefully improving things as we go.

But, since it can be easy to forget, here is a long list of larger homesteading goals I know of (I'll probably be thankful I wrote this a time or two this year and at the end of the year when I'm looking back!):

Learn more about using the fiber from our angoras, or sell it. I'm hoping to get some wool cards soon and Joel is planning to make me a drop spindle too.

Bees! I’m hoping to trap our own. These two books will be our guides as we try to trap our own and use the top bar beekeeping method: and read this one yesterday). The purpose is to help the garden and to have a source of sweetener that comes from our own backyard. That means we need to build the top bar hives and swarm traps before the winter is over.

Maple Syrup? Not sure about this one. Honey appeals to me more and I’m used to cooking with it. But if we get everything together, maybe a little maple syruping. I know Joel would love to do this small scale. Of course, this is one of the first things we’ll have to do because you have to tap the trees on time. We would really have to get on top of it.

Find the locals. We know a few farmers that have helped and offered advice, but not beekeepers, and definitely not top bar beekeepers. We'll probably become part of Small and Beginner Farmers and might become part of a bee club. But we'll see how it pans out. Adding regular meetings to attend doesn't usually work well here.

A bigger, easier garden, fenced in with electric chicken netting. Our garden was 20x30 and it wasn’t big enough for everything we wanted to grow. Which meant it was crowded and hard to work in. We took down the permanent fence and plan to use an electric chicken netting fence from Premier 1 so that we can allow the cows paddocks to butt right up against the garden and then take it down at the end of each year to till. (We have the electronet version for the cows.)

Working in the 20x30 garden
Seeds that we’ll love and want to save each year! I’ve ordered seed catalogs from three places in December and haven’t seen any in the mail yet. I’m so eager to get these!, and  I read this ebook about saving seeds, and if we want to save seeds, it will be important that we don’t “pollute” the garden with inorganic plants, and don’t use hybrids (most seeds you collect from hybrid plants won’t grow the same plant you got them from). It will be difficult to keep the plants as far apart as is suggested to reduce cross contamination, but we are going to give saving the seeds a shot anyway.

We loved these, but didn't get too many because we were late at starting them. So nothing was saved.
More fruit: strawberry, raspberry and blueberry!

Apples and grapes from the yard.

A greenhouse and other new techniques for earlier gardening. Sadly, that weekend that we were building the greenhouse turned into not building a greenhouse. I’m hoping we can put something up – somehow – so that I can start our seeds away from Basil (our cat). I need to start more seeds than what I can keep inside. I bought some grow lights and tons of seed trays from a sweet Farmers Market grower in Wolfboro who was moving out of the state this summer. I learned so much from our short interaction and she ended up giving me some hoops for small row covers and the clasps and string for tomatoes to grow up (sorry I don’t know what else to call those). I have this book and love it: And am interested in this one too:

Go Hunting Not me. Joel. But we have to purposefully be seeking out the training times and remembering that we don’t want to miss the season again!

My favorite chickens in the back. Buckeye!

Add a variety of meat that is grown, (and hopefully) slaughtered, and butchered here in a humane way. Rabbits, Lamb?, Chicken, someday cow. I remember looking into buying a half a cow in Massachussetts. I found a source I liked and was reading the options. If I were to buy the whole cow, I had the option to pay a little extra fee for the farmer to slaughter the cow on the premises instead of sending the live cow to the butcher. He said he did it in their normal area so that they had no idea what was about to happen and were less stressed. He would then send them to the butcher. The alternative was to do them the normal way and put them in a trailer, live, and send them to the USDA inspected facility that would slaughter and butcher them. This is normal, and there are butchers that will do it excellently and kindly. Of course, if we could avoid the stress of moving them and the cost of butchering them, that would be ideal.

I’m hoping we have the ability to do it ourselves, as hard as it would be for the larger animals that we spent so much time with, because part of our desire is to be loving to these animals that God created and be as respectful as possible. If we can handle doing it here, we will. I enjoyed reading the experiences of Reformation Acres on their slaughtering of the two dexters they’ve raised for meat. The first was a very difficult experience, and the second went smoothly. Here is a link to one of her posts:

We hatched one purchased egg last year. I'm hoping many more will be hatched this year!

Broody Hens (hatching our own eggs for meat) and order more buckeye chicks to transition our flock. I’m just loving the buckeye chickens personality and heartiness. They are awesome. The buckeye roosters are the best eating out of any of the chickens we raised and we can hatch them here if we had a whole flock of buckeyes. If I don’t have a broody lady, I can at least use the incubator we have. They are great foragers, so I’m hoping that the ladies will free range and teach their chicks to do the same. And I’m hoping to selectively hatch the eggs so that we get mostly roos based on this interesting article on sexing chicks from the shell shape.

Improve Chicken Feed. You can read a little about that by looking at my 2013 Homestead Fall Recap.

A Buckeye chick from last year.

House renovations: kitchen counter, baseboards, bathroom floor. The inside is so much less important to me because everything is functional. But I’m looking forward to those gorgeous wood counter tops and single bay sink.

Oh, and milking, and cheese making. Although that is obvious and happening anyway!

And Lattes. ;-)

Well, there you have it. There is a lot of work and planning that has to be done this winter. A lot of the planning is partially done, it is the grunt work that is left. And the specifics of measurements. My husband just finished the rabbit hutch. Next will be the top bar hives, swarm traps, cheese press, and greenhouse. I’m so thankful for this man!

We’ll roll with the punches and see what works best for our family. Goals might change, or some things might get tweaked, but that is okay. Being flexible and realistic keeps us from stress and heartache.

All of these are ongoing goals anyway. We’d rather get them started as soon as possible. There is much to learn, and learning early will mean more years ahead to perfect it and adjust what is already started! Getting all this out of the way before we start hard core homeschooling would be nice too (I’m going to have a 4 year old in July – Whaaat?!). We would love to pass on all these skills to our kids so that they have the option of doing this when they are on their own. And so that they’ll already have 10+ years of experience!

Do you have any similar goals to any of these? Have you done these things before and have a tidbit of advice to share? I’d love to hear! What are some other goals you have?

Another goal of ours that isn't really homesteading, but is always a goal here – find more times to create Christ centered habits, traditions, and moments. Ann Volskamp was recently interviewed about how they keep a sense of normalcy in their sometimes hectic life, and she explained how they have always read the bible with every meal (a tradition her husband brought with him). This was suggested to us a long time ago and we are trying it again. So last night at dinner, we read from the Bible together. Nourishing the body and soul. 

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