I feel like it’s been a hot minute since I posted. Somehow the time around the holidays just seems to fly by in a mess of disorganized, sometimes stressful, sometimes fun blur. Between the cooking, the crafting, the shopping, the planning, the cleaning, and the unexpected bumps in the road along the way, the holidays seem to come so slow but happen so fast. I am taking this week between Christmas and New Years to not do much of anything, and to plan the homestead for 2017.
Now is a great time of year to make plans and reorganize. Not much is going on in the way of homesteading, as this is an in-between season and a much needed period of (relative) rest. Things slow down in the winter time in preparation for the big reawakening that occurs in spring. For that reason, I do enjoy the wintertime. I’m not a cold-lover by any means (I keep threatening to move to a beach somewhere), but I do love the natural ebb and flow of the four seasons. A season to grow, a season to harvest, a season to nest, and a season to rest.
That said, I’m going to try to plan things out a little better than usual for the next year. I am typically a person who makes a general plan and then kind of flies by the seat of her pants for the actual execution. This has served me fairly well thus far in life, but I could admittedly benefit from a little more structure and forethought in some areas of life. Or maybe just even a day planner that I don’t abandon six months into the year. (Oops.)
So far, this is what my resolutions are starting to look like.
They aren’t set in stone or fully fleshed out yet, but it’s a starting point for sure.
Smaller, Intentional Garden
Gardening is my weak spot. It’s doubly a shame since I’m actually an (inactive) Master Gardener in my county. This is what generally happens:
1. I fall victim to all the beautiful seed catalogs and websites and buy approximately 10x the number of seeds I can actually plant.
2. I plant a portion of the seeds and have a large garden, usually with very poor record of what I’ve planted where. I maintain said large garden fairly well for a while.
3. I fall behind halfway through the growing season. Things like pests, weeds, fungus, and blight take over and gain control of the garden.
4. We reach a point of no return. The garden is in too bad a shape to possibly recover.
5. By some miracle, a few of my old reliable plants still make a harvest for me — usually the things like peas, beans, and turnip greens. I harvest them and realize in the process that I should have planted half as many things and twice as large an area of the things that survived despite me. I swear to do better next year (and don’t).
This year, I’m going to plant a smaller, more intentional garden. I’m really narrowing it down to only one variety of each type (I think I planted four types of beans last year. FOUR.) and only growing the things that I know will do well and that I know we all enjoy eating. I would rather have a smaller garden that is well maintained than a large garden that gets out of hand. I also want to incorporate more raised beds and more mulch and compost to rebuild our poor soil. As I flesh this plan out, I’ll share it here on the blog.
Fresh Raw Cow Milk
I’m excited about this one, and I’m looking forward to fresh milk, cheese, and butter. Butter makes it better, y’all. Sweet Elsie is due to calve around May, and when that happens I will finally — finally — have beautiful raw jersey cow milk again. Hallelujah.
If you have never had fresh raw jersey milk, first of all, I’m sorry. Second of all, you are truly missing out on some of the best stuff you could ever consume. Nothing in the stores even comes close, not even the pasteurized non-homogenized organic stuff. The real deal straight from the cow is liquid gold, my friends. Now before you tell me, I know that consuming raw foods — whether it’s sushi, raw milk, raw veggies, raw eggs, or what have you — comes with an increased risk. But my Elsie here has been tested negative for the major diseases cows can get, and I know how to safely handle milk to minimize contamination. And if I do happen to get sick in the process, well, I went down enjoying life, baby.
I’d rather drink raw milk than bungee jump anyway.
Mabel and Myrtle have both reached maturity and will be bred (albeit not at the same time) in 2017. Homegrown pork is, I feel, our biggest accomplishment to date and certainly the tastiest one. We cooked up a 16 lb ham from our barrow for Christmas, and I glazed it with a brown sugar bourbon glaze. Lord have mercy. Holiday Ham ain’t got nothin’ on homegrown, non-GMO, soy-free ham.
We’ll start growing out another barrow from one of their litters to restock the fridge. As for the extra bacon bits, they will be sold. I plan to sell the majority as shoats, however I’m also going to inquire around a bit and see if any local folks want to purchase a whole or half hog from us. We only have room for a couple, but if you’re local and interested, let me know.
Eventually I want to start a true pastured pork business, as space, capital, and time allow.
The chickens at this point have really become more of my mother’s thing than my own, but we’ve been talking, and some changes are coming down the pipe for our fowl friends. First off, we have too many roosters and they’re ready to go to freezer camp. That’s number one on the chickie to do list.
Secondly, we are going to start replacing our aging laying hens and going back to some of the breeds we started with. Barred Rocks are a long standing favorite for us, but we’ve been missing some of the other breeds that we haven’t had in a while. As for me, I still love my Copper Marans and funky color layers. We want to go to some more of the heavier breeds like Buffs and partially phase out the Leghorns. Leghorns are the most prolific layers to be certain, but they’re very light which means they are always flying over our fences, even with clipped wings. We also want to have Rhode Island Red again, the breed we started with initially.
More Crafts and Handmade Goods
I started in on a few projects for Christmas, including crochet, sewing, and embroidery. I’ve always enjoyed doing various crafts like that, and have dabbled in pretty much every type of craft available. However, somewhere along the line I just kind of. . .stopped. Picking them back up this month reminded me of how much I enjoy making things. Once upon a time I even had an etsy shop where I sold a few little crafty items and my homemade soap (which I haven’t been making as much lately either).
I’m going to keep going with crochet, sewing, and embroidery in 2017. I also want to pick back up with my soap making again, and I’m also in the process of gathering supplies to start crafting some natural stone jewelry using wire wrap and electroforming methods. I find that I’m really inspired by the beauty of raw stones and crystals (raw amethyst is my favorite) and simple jewelry that lets the natural rock be the star of the show. I’m looking forward to working with those materials to make some pretties myself.
Who knows, maybe I’ll even open up shop again?
Weekly Youtube Video & Blog
It’s no secret that I utterly failed at vlogmas, which is the catchy term for posting a video every day in December. Life got crazy, okay? And we won’t even mention how irregular my blogging has been of late. But I hope to turn that around next year and start doing one blog and one video a week. I think that should be fairly doable, honestly. I know there’s a 99.99% chance that I’ll miss a week here and there, but I’ll give it ye olde college try.
If you haven’t hung out with me on Youtube, I do a mix of homestead-y “educational” type videos and personal vlog type videos.
Savings Account & Farm Account
Okay, this one isn’t technically homestead-related, but I figured I’d share anyway. For the past many years I’ve operated with only one checking account, and all my money was thereby jumbled together. I now want to break that up into a couple more accounts. One account will be a “farm” account, in which I will place any farm income, I’ll also take farm expenses out of that account as much as possible, however since I’m not running a profitable farm that’s paying for itself 100% yet, that won’t be completely doable. It will help me organize, however. I would encourage you to do this as well if running a profitable farm (or even one that just pays for itself) is part of your long term plan.
Secondly, I will also be opening a savings account that will only be touched for emergencies and planned, well thought out larger expenses. I will be depositing a portion of my monthly income from my “day job” as well as 100% of my income from my essential oil business directly into the savings. This will protect my savings from impulse spending and such. My main goal for this account is to have an emergency fund for things like major vet bills or car breakdowns (etc) and to save up a down payment with which I will eventually purchase land. . .somewhere, someday.
Maybe on a beach.