At the beginning of 2016 we sat down and planned out what to do with our income over the winter and spring. We decided we needed a truck for hauling hay and animals, a grow light for starting plants and we needed to till up the garden as well as a larger area for planting other things and we also wanted to build a greenhouse. For animals we needed to refresh our egg laying flock and I wanted heritage birds this time. We also needed a billy goat to breed our dairy goat in the fall so we could have more milk again.
In March we purchased our grow light for starting plants indoors. This turned out to be more difficult than we had anticipated because we didn’t realize just how close to the light plants need to be to not be “leggy”. So we started many little tiny seeds in little tiny peat plugs that fit into one little tray under the light with no problems, but that didn’t last for very long. It only took a couple weeks to outgrow the light and we ended up with plants sprawled all over our small room. Most of the plants survived transplanting and I did get a decent harvest.
We did purchase a big diesel 1 ton duelly truck but we’ve since realized that it is much more than we need. Yes, it would haul cattle and hay bales and all kinds of huge things, but it’s a little overkill for us. Besides which, the truck is rather unpredictable and neither of us being mechanics means it doesn’t work half the time! Rather frustrating to have a big truck sitting in the driveway while you haul firewood, pigs and goats in the back of your car anyway.
In April we purchased our billy goat as a bottle-fed kid from the dairy we originally bought our dairy goat Didi from. Since they knew we want to keep any females we get from this mating, they called us when they had a buckling born from good hand-milking lines (good milk and easy to milk). He was such a cute little guy (an Alpine-Toggenburg cross). The children named him Stormy and enjoyed bottle feeding him right from the start. It did take him a while to outgrow his habit of trying to get milk from a human’s hand, arm, sleeve or pantleg, which was a little annoying on occasion but so cute!
In April we also tilled a portion of our land and then completely re-dug and re-designed the garden. Future note to those who want to till land that hasn’t been worked in a really long time: Don’t! It needs to be plowed not tilled if you want to turn the soil well. It was a nightmare trying to pull the tractor tiller through huge clods of soil and grass that kept bunching up under the tiller. We overseeded much of this land in clover for our bees and our goats, after we staked out the parameters of our greenhouse and garden.
The garden redesign worked beautifully. I chose to do long (36′) rows of 3′ wide raised beds (just mounded soil at this point) so that I could more easily figure out exactly how much of each crop I was planting for harvest.This year I also started strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and asparagus.
Unfortunately our harvest wasn’t the greatest because we got so busy building our greenhouse and it took so much more time than we had anticipated that much of the garden got completely overgrown with “weeds”. An interesting note, when we tilled in the spring, we also tilled under all the straw mulch from last year, and as you can see in the picture below in front of the sunflowers, it grew barley! So if you do much with straw, be careful with tilling that, it is not a sterile product and if given the chance, it will sprout. I never would have found out what all the grass was if I hadn’t completely given up on my garlic patch because I couldn’t tell what was grass and what was garlic. I let it grow and later a farmer friend took a look and asked why we were growing barley.
Our chickens were purchased in May, I did get a small flock (one rooster and 6 hens) of juvenile mixed-breed heritage birds. They have some Maran, some Americauna and some Barred Rock in them. We also got 6 silkie chicks. These were meant as pets for the children but they are a little young to be able to handle them now that the chicks are mature and it turns out we have 3 roos and 3 hens! For now, then hens make great broody moms and will hatch out whatever eggs I want them to (I hope).
Our entire summer was spent working on the greenhouse, with a few quick breaks for family visits and a 2 day camping trip. Our trip was lovely and some much needed family time away from the busy worklife of the farm. Please see my post on the greenhouse for more information about that.
Harvest time always comes so quickly and we never seem to be completely prepared for all the produce. I didn’t get the potato or tomato harvest I was expecting, the potatoes because of not weeding the patch, and the tomatoes because of not getting them out into the greenhouse soon enough. Still, there was the mid season harvests of peas, beets and beans, and salad greens and then the carrots and squash just before the frost. All in all it was a very productive year for work on the farm. We are looking forward to what 2017 brings.