2016 was intense, a proverbial roller coaster. Unbelievable highs and ball-your-eyes-out lows. A lot happened purely based on circumstances out of our hands, and some things were the result of inadequate preparation. I actually have 2 more posts following this one, a more in-depth analysis of the year and our homestead goals for 2017. Stay tuned for the analysis to see exactly what went down and where we plan to go this year.
Fix fencing in the run – Done! In early spring, we set up fencing around the huge chicken run using a 7-foot deer fence that we stapled to the trees (the trees happen to be in a nice straight line on one side, with less on the other sides, where we used t-posts.) We went with deer fencing because it was cheap compared to other types of fencing, plus our chickens are mostly heritage breeds that are used to free-ranging, so we knew they would just fly over anything shorter (the idea of catching 27 chickens and clipping their wings was not appealing, especially when you factor in a not-so-friendly rooster with long spurs.)
Move green coop to be for ducks? Guinea hens? Geese? Broody coop? – Not this year. We fell prey to chicken math and needed both coops for all our birds. We also thought the idea of getting ducks, guineas, etc in addition to meat birds, pigs, AND a dairy cow was just too much for one spring.
Buy bulk feed from local farm – Oh how I wanted this to work, but it did not. I DID source an awesome provider of soy/corn-free organic feed for all our livestock, but the bulk price was just too much. Maybe this year, but it will probably have to wait until 2018.
Frost seed the pasture with clover – No, we didn’t prepare the land well enough the prior year. For frost seeding to work, the seed has to actually make it to the soil. Unfortunately, there was too much long grass and dead leaves for that to happen.
Purchase and set up electric fencing for paddocks (3-4 paddocks) – Half done. Patrick set up electric fencing around the main center pasture, but it was just too time-consuming and expensive to do all three. As Georgia was a rambunctious youngster at the time, she kept jumping out of the fence anyway, and we were forced to tether her to some cinder blocks instead (safely, don’t worry! She had plenty to lead to move around each pasture). Now that she is older and less agile, we hope to fence in another pasture this year.
Prepare the barn: sweep and dust, close up any drafts, put up gates from door to outside for easier moving – Ahem, yes and no? Our ‘gates’ involved old saw horses, milk crates, and an old desk. The drafts were sort of mended, until a newly-horned Georgia Girl decided to head butt one of the glass windows in her stall (ah, live and learn). We did sweep and dust, though!
Purchase general supplies and a couple bales of hay (enough to last until the pasture is ready) – Done! Since our grass isn’t super lush pasture yet, we continued to supplement with hay throughout the summer.
Purchase the dairy cow, ideally a Jersey or Guernsey – Done! Eek! This was the most AMAZING feeling in the world. The ability to house and feed a dairy cow was the primary reason we moved from our last house to our current homestead when I was 9 months pregnant with our second child. Not a stress you take on lightly! Georgia is our year-old purebred Jersey heifer whom we hope to breed sometime next month! She is gorgeous and friendly and, well, our very own dairy cow! She is the queen of the farm, and we can’t wait to continue on this journey with her, (hopefully) welcoming a new calf next autumn.
Build the shelter from salvaged materials (second floor of barn, Craigslist) – We didn’t so much build as salvage. Their initial home was a big dog crate, but they preferred sleeping outside.
Set up electric fencing at tree line, either for movable paddocks or fence in whole area – Instead of electric fence, we went with 4 16-foot hog panels connected with zip ties. Patrick moved them every day or so, whenever they cleared an area.
Gather supplies (container for water, buckets to carry scraps from the kitchen, medical supplies) –Done, though we do need to focus on medical supplies this year for all livestock, especially with (hopefully) a calf and piglets in the near future.
Purchase 2 heritage breed feeder pigs – Done! Except we went with 3 instead, 1 for the freezer and a breeding pair of American Guinea Hogs to keep.
Grow 80% of our produce, and try to attain the remaining 20% from local farms – Not even close. The garden had great potential, but predominantly failed in the end. A basket or two of tomatoes, some beans and herbs, lots of lettuce, a couple winter squash and a few pounds of onions.
We will be outsourcing potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, and assorted non-necessities, like asparagus (too short of a growing season to justify the space) and corn. – We didn’t really outsource, again the cost of bulk purchasing was too much. We tried to buy local when possible, and organic from the grocery store otherwise.
Properly mulch the garden next autumn – Oh how I wanted this to happen, but it didn’t. I’m a massive introvert, and calling dozens of places inquiring about wood chips honestly stopped me in my tracks, I just couldn’t. If you’re not an introvert, that probably sounds crazy to you, which it sort of is. 🙂
Pull out hostas- we have dozens surrounding our house. I want to pull them up and plant lavender, catmint, and other more beneficial plants – No. Those things have deep roots!! Way too much work, especially when we were also dealing with new livestock and building our garden. I also way underestimated how long it would take to start lavender from seed.
Clear out area around the apple trees to make it more accessible in the fall – Attempted, using the pigs. But turns out the apples trees are surrounded by too many taller trees, and lack of adequate sunlight made for poor harvests and bitter fruit. We’ll be starting our own orchard this year, instead.
Build 2 more hives and purchase bees – Done! However, it didn’t work out. Go here to our most popular Instagram post for the full story.
Prune back roses – Done, though they could have been pruned more. They are rugosas, or beach roses, and grow like weeds!
Trim bushes – No. It was really for aesthetic purposes, and so got pushed to the back burner. We are not big on wasting time doing unproductive projects, hence why our house still has the crazy wallpaper from when we moved in two years ago. It’s just an unnecessary expense to change it.
Finish stacking leftover wood from last winter so it can dry by next winter – Ha, not so much. Time, energy, circumstances- it just didn’t happen.
Create a proper compost pile –Done. Two huge circles using hardware cloth. However, I greatly underestimated just how much compost would be generated with a garden and so many animals- we definitely need a bigger solution.
Rain catch system for chickens, pigs, and garden – No.
Get more carboys so we can do bigger batches of mead – No, finances said maybe next year.