Monday, December 31, 2012

Update on Goals from 2012

While the General Manager and I enjoy the view from our front porch, I should probably say goodbye to 2012 with a report of how my goals from last year stacked up to the daily reality of life.  Goal planning is not easy for me. . . .   but I find it is necessary  to see results and progress in my life.  When I created my goals last year, the plan was to give me a guide to follow on our journey of homesteading. 

Goal #1
~At the beginning of the year we are planning and praying that our baby doe Nubian goats will be born and delivered to us. We are anxious to begin the journey into raising goats for milk so that we can drink it foremost, but also to learn the process of making cheese, butter and soap. The back area behind our chicken run will have to be enlarged and fenced in to house these new additions to our homestead. 

We got our Nubians this summer after anxiously awaiting them.   One sunny afternoon we picked up our doe and a temporary buck (to keep her company) while we waited for an additional doe to be born within the next few weeks.  Anne named the doe Clarissa and the buck, Shorty because we were going to trade him for another doe eventually.   I now know that raising animals does not come without heart ache and lessons to be learned.  A couple of weeks after receiving both goats, they broke out of the pen in the garage.  Clarissa went straight for a small rhodendron bush in our front yard that we had not removed yet.

 Since no one was aware of this, we were at a loss when by the end of the evening she was bloated and falling over on herself.  She died shortly thereafter.  The entire family was heart broken and we were all feeling very negligent and poor stewards of our gifts.  The kind family we got the goats from reassured us that it could've happened to anyone and "goats would not be goats if they didn't find a way out of their pens."  So about a month later - two new does were entrusted to our care.  They are doing well, currently 6 months old; they are named Skittles and Milk Dud.  We love having them and they are extremely happy in their new home.  We found out that they absolutely love cabbage and we just happen to have an abundance of that growing through the winter months in the garden.

Goal #2
We enlarged our garden last year and while we were able to grow more vegetables this last year, we had a slow start. If it wasn't the crows stealing the seeds or the gophers digging up the potatoes, it might have been the slugs that ate up the tender shoots.
~I hope to try my hand at winter sowing seeds.  I just might be able to get some early seed growth going while we are in our rainiest months April - May. This just might actually beat those darn slugs. With the mini-greenhouses, I might actually get some herbs to grow here on the North Coast.
~Our first order of business will be to make a scarecrow for the garden.  
Our scarecrow worked amazingly this year - absolutely no crows or birds eating my newly planted seeds.  We did do some winter sowing of seeds, but this summer we had extremely strange, cloudy, foggy weather which really kept the ground moist too long - most of my seeds had to be direct re-sown later in the summer.  We had great success with the mini-hot house - lettuce and chard all winter long.

Goal #3
~Next, we'll need some row covers and the West Ladies are just my inspiration. In their Homestead Blessings Gardening DVD they show exactly how to install row covers which will protect my early crops from a myriad of pesky pests.
~I also hope to expand my herb garden and fill our front garden beds with more perennial herbs, both medicinal and culinary.
~To our orchard - Next fall, my plans are to plant a few more fruit trees , such as another pear tree and perhaps a plum. I'm not sure what will do well here. . . I'm hesistant to try figs (while they grow great here) because no one in the family is particularly fond of them. Maybe another apple tree to replace the old one that only produced a handful of apples this year.

I was persuaded by the General Manager to not do row covers this year because of our slug problems, so that went on the back of the priority list until next year.  I did add some more herbs/medicinal plants to my front perennial beds such as yarrow, sage, peppermint, thyme, oregano, calendula and chamomile.  We also planted two more apple trees this spring.  I'm still debating on adding another pear tree and we had to forgo the plum trees because the leaves on certain fruit trees are poisonous to goats and we already have two big cherry trees dropping leaves this fall.

Goal #4
~We'll be adding some new layers to our flock in the spring so that we don't always have the "Sold Out" sign up on our egg stand. We have been blessed with such a demand for our ladies' eggs, we rarely have enough to supply everyone that stops by. Anne is also going to try her hand this year with some specialty breeds to show at the fair this summer. . perhaps a Silkie.

This spring we purchased 6 new Rhode Island Reds to add to our flock.  We thought we were getting 6 hens, but turns out their was a rooster in our mix.  He is very beautiful and he's called Big Red.  We are not sure if he will remain here at One Blessed Acre, but for now he's content with his ladies.   Egg production was good over the summer months, but now that the days have shortened and the light is less, we are down considerably in egg production.  Therefore, the "Chickens on Vacation" sign has gone up on the egg stand.  We never did add any specialty birds because we just didn't want to order one from a hatchery.

Goal #5
~Our meat chicken production has been nil. We'd like to try doing a set of 25 in the summer, but we are struggling with where to house them. . we aren't sure if we can put them in with the other layers. We know that the meat would be far superior than the meat we are buying at the grocery store, as well, we'd know how well the animals were treated while with us.
For  now meat chickens are going to continue to stay on the "not to do list."  It is a very involved process that would require us to build seperate housing for them (as we have too many predators that a chicken tractor would be entirely ineffective) and that just isn't in our schedule these days.  It will remain on our "wish list" for later.  In the meantime, we've gone to buying more humanely raised meat animals and are willing to spend the extra for good quality meat.

Goal #6
~Hannah would love to get new rabbits this year - she is still missing her two bunnies from last year that died unexpectedly. My husband would love to get into raising meat rabbits, and we could easily build a few more rabbit hutches.
Hannah did get a new rabbit this year, named Fluffy and she also had the opportunity to show her at our local fair.  She placed first in her class and also took 5th place for showmanship.  That was quite an accomplishment for her first year showing for 4-H.  We have decided to never do meat rabbits, one because of the work involved in raising them and two because no one wanted to butcher them.  Lindsay also got a 4-H rabbit this year, named Pippi.  It is a love-hate relationship between the two rabbits so much so that they can never be out of the cages together.
Goal #7
~I'm determined to finish a king-size quilt I began about 4 years ago for our bedroom.  
~I am going to keep better financial records of how much our garden costs and food storage amounts that we put up this year to get a better understanding of what it will take to be self-sustaining (well, at least 75% or so)
~And lastly, I hope to paint our master bedroom.
I have finally finished putting together our new quilt for our bed.  It will be headed to a professional quilter and then I will finish the binding.  It will be amazing when it is resting on my bed this winter.  I have done a much better job of keeping track of our financial record for our chickens and have learned that by selling some eggs, we are essentially making enough to cover the cost of our own eggs.  The cost of the shavings and rising cost of feed has made it nearly impossible for us to break even, or even get ahead.  I wouldn't go back to store bought eggs though, the eggs are just too good.  Our garden was stunted in its growth this year because of the lousy weather we had over the summer months.  We still have managed to put up quite a bit of stockpile for the winter.  I'm beginning to see that we will always be dependent upon the grocery store for some items, but I'm working hard to dwindle that list down as much as possible.  Lastly, I have yet to paint my bedroom, but there is always this winter . . . .
How did your year turn out? 


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