So, its been far too long since I sat down to write. A lot has happened since last summer… Sadly, not all of it was good and 2014 was a very personally challenging year for my family, my husband, and myself. Happily, we are moving forward.
While I try to get back in the habit of posting, I thought a short update was in order.
Too much pulled me away from my garden last summer at critical times and it suffered for it. I had bugs, heat, and weeds. I was simply neglectful and so I did not have a great harvest of anything. That is not to say that I didn’t receive produce; I was able to eat, share, and can plenty of zucchini and squash, a couple hundred pounds of tomatoes (not nearly enough), radishes and onions enough to pickle, and handfuls of all of my other crops. Shallots were one of my bumper crops, of which I am still eating from last seasons harvest.
You might recall that in January last year I was deep into garden prepping, starting seedlings and clearing out planting beds. What I didn’t do well was to feed the soil, so many of my fragile young plants didn’t get the nutrition they needed. Sadly, I also had several seedling failures, which I feel set me up to expect a season of garden failures. I refuse to allow such plans to deture me this year…
We added worms, yes worms, to our collection of critters around here. I had previously kept three different composting set-ups around, but consolidated in late spring to a large custom worm bin. I have kept my compost tumbler, uncertain what to do with it as the worms began their work. Recently I decided to finish my compost in the tumbler, as I like the size and crumble it creates. Happily, the worms are the creatures that require the least intensive care and I can very quickly see them complete their job.
Rabbits have done very well here and for us. We still have our original three; both females have produced several litters of kits which have fed us and our friends quite well. I have chosen to try rabbit meat to substitute for both red meat and poultry. We have eaten rabbit burgers, rabbit spaghetti meat sauce, rabbit tacos, and rabbit chili. Perhaps our favorite is roast rabbit and vegetables. All in all, a real winner for our family. Our goal for this year is to provide our rabbits more of their feed from the property and cut back on purchased pellets and hay.
The pig experiment ended with the turn of the new year. Our first pig, Bacon, was a bottle baby given to us so he would have a full life. In April we purchased three companions; a brother and his two sisters. As our first foray with pigs, I wanted to make certain we only had the four. My husband’s plan was to butcher out the males before all the pigs reached breeding age. We trained the lot to electric fence and set them on pasture. Unfortunately, we made a few mistakes. Firstly, we were not prepared to move the pigs as often as I now feel they need. The pigs began to push their way out of their pens and end up in unacceptable places; eating all the chicken feed, across the highway eating my neighbor’s landscaping, etc. Additionally, we did not make that butchering deadline and began to suspect that our females were pregnant. We took the time to butcher out both males. We experimented with the making of our own sausage, and had eight baby piggies born within two weeks. About the time the mommas began weaning the babies they were back to breaking out of pens. We began to regularly spend weekends butchering the latest offenders. The final four were on the highway the night of New Years, while we were away from home. We received complaints from the neighbors and local law enforcement and we ended the entire drove. In the freezer we have two varieties of Italian sausage, a great breakfast sausage, lots of chops, a few ribs, a few hams, lots of stew meat and several pounds of ground pork. I only miss the ability to take unwanted left-overs to the pigs and have them help with cleaning out the fridge!
My experiments with incubating eggs did not work out as well as I would have liked, but one of my hens did go broody and hatched a few of her and her sister hens eggs. That was very exciting for the whole family. Additionally, our ducks decided to hatch a clutch in November (not saying my ducks are smart), only one of whom survived. This year I have an updated plan to attempt to encourage more broodiness in my hens. I will have updates, hopefully soon.
Other plans for the new year include expanding fencing to another section of the land so we can have more pasture (we really only have one fenced acre of pasture) to add a small herd of goats, possibly sheep, and to allow my best friend to adopt a horse that was recently left to a member of her extended family. I have also decided to try growing from seed a number of things I have never before started: strawberries, pineapple, kale, and celery.
Much luck to the other homesteaders out there!