Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Summer Plans

My farm is a sheet of ice and I am 90% sure my tailbone is broken, but I am thinking about summer. I have started planning and punching the numbers on a pastured poultry operation for five people. This spring I'll be working with my pal Darcy to build some of her awesome chicken tractors and getting poultry netting and a solar charger, too. The plan is to raise all of my own birds for the freezer and some of my local friends as well. I'll be raising Freedom Rangers, and the poultry supply catalogs and fence company catalogs have become my coffee table books. It's not the epitome of classy but it makes my butt feel better.

I also have plan to rip out a lot of the woven wire fencing and switch to electric fencing. This will be done in stages, starting with the horse/garden area. I have drawn out my garden plans and it includes an extra tier for the hillside garden closest to the house (in full sun). A winter's worth of Merlin's poop in his favorite spot and his discarded hay will make a perfect layer of compost for next year's tomatoes and potatoes. Just drawing that graph was an exercise in dealing with the present. Yes, it is a pie-in-the-sky perfect garden plan but the act of creating it took my mind out of these single-digit nights and needing to walk around in crampons and into June. I can't wait for it.

I do enjoy the coziness of winter, the hob always warm and burning bright, and the break from all the physical work summer creates. But as we slide into February and the woodpile grows suspiciously lower—I am dreaming about fireflies and soft dirt under my hoe. I crave pea vines and banjo songs in tall grass. I crave thighs with callouses on the inseam from riding a horse for hours a day in a kilt. I crave the cries of need from the farm: goats needing to be milked, chickens needing to be fed, piglets crying to be given all the goat milk and chicken feed... You know what I mean! LIFE!

Summer plans are on my mind. But as a homesteader I am never not excited about the days ahead, and never not cautious about the seasons ahead, too. And what about you guys? Anyone else paging through seed catalogs or dog-earing hatchery glossies? Anyone else trying a new endeavor this year? Spill it. I need your summer plans to warm up this farmhouse!


Blogger Donna said...

Not knowing the condition of your fencing, but before you take it all up, consider adding a line of electric on the inside and keep the woven. The reason I caution you is because of the sheep. I've raised sheep for several years now and I have had many problems with electric lines, netting, high tensel, you name it and sheep. The only thing that is working for me at the present is the woven wire and I just finished fencing my big pasture in it so my lovely lambs and ewes would not be stomping all over my new neighbors lawns or trying to hang themselves in the netting. I run electric on the inside to intensively graze, but I still have escape artists! Just not off my property anymore. Electric fence and sheep require constant supervision. Something to think about in your "ruminations" :)

January 22, 2015 at 1:11 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

Not knowing the condition of your fencing, but before you take it all up, consider adding a line of electric on the inside and keep the woven. The reason I caution you is because of the sheep. I've raised sheep for several years now and I have had many problems with electric lines, netting, high tensel, you name it and sheep. The only thing that is working for me at the present is the woven wire and I just finished fencing my big pasture in it so my lovely lambs and ewes would not be stomping all over my new neighbors lawns or trying to hang themselves in the netting. I run electric on the inside to intensively graze, but I still have escape artists! Just not off my property anymore. Electric fence and sheep require constant supervision. Something to think about in your "ruminations" :)

January 22, 2015 at 1:12 AM  
Blogger Suzan said...

My electric fence is always failing. My horse stays in it only out of habit.
The solar charger was worse than the kind you plug in, never holding a charge.
I would have woven wire with a strand of electric at the top.

January 22, 2015 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger Beaman's Fork said...

I was curious to know why you are removing the fencing instead of adding the electric wire to the inside and top of it?

This summer our goal is to improve on what we have instead of adding much new. We are expanding our dairy goat herd again for more milk (currently have 4 does, possibly going to 6-8), expanding our large chicken flock for more eggs to take to the market, and replacing some of the wood edging in our veggie gardens that are falling apart after 10 years. We are also actively restoring our 1800s farm at the same time and hope to get a few more of those projects wiped off the list.

Personal wishes: to get back into music. I put all of my instruments down years ago and I think it's time to pick one (possibly a new one) and make friends with it again.

Hope your butt feels better.

January 22, 2015 at 8:07 AM  
OpenID sadbhyl said...

Funny you should say that. In my downtime at work this week, I've been poking at seed starting schedules for southern PA. I'm terrible at seed starting, but this year I am determined. I've got a space in my basement all picked out, I have a Home Depot gift card that will pay for the lights, and I still have a ton of seeds left from last year. So February 14, I will be planting my first round of brassicas, peas and onions. And this year I am DETERMINED to succeed with winter squash. I just have to figure out how to defeat the squash bugs...

January 22, 2015 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Robin Follette said...

I broke my pelvis and tailbone five weeks ago. My pelvis is fine but I'd like to have my tailbone docked. You have my sympathy, moans and groans when you move wrong, and few "dammits" thrown in just because.

I'm going to raise some turkeys, build some raised beds in the high tunnel and garden, start a vineyard on the frame of a second high tunnel, plant more strawberries, and drink more wine than usual. I will soak up the sun while fishing, complain less about the heat, learn a few new mushrooms to wild harvest, and hunt for more venison and bear meat. Is it May yet? Please?

January 22, 2015 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger Matt_Middleton said...

I'm up to a couple of projects. One is organizing a group order from a plant supplier; the local selection in St. John's can be a bit iffy, especially in certain herbs. The other is to try and organize a community garden project in my town.

January 22, 2015 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger M. Pearl said...

I was so excited a few weeks ago when my first seed catalogue came in the mail. Since then I've been planning out my raised garden beds and hoarding plastic container for cold sowing. We are putting the finishing touches on our coop and the though of having chickens in the next few weeks is intoxicating. There my still be 3 feet of snow outside my back door but spring is coming so I'd better get busy.

January 22, 2015 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

This is a great thread! Keep it coming!

January 22, 2015 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Per the fence: I am not taking it all out, but in a four season climate the mud, snow, time, and horse necks have bent and crippled the fence in a lot of areas so those weak places will be replaced with netting or in the case of horses, polyrope.

January 22, 2015 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I am going to plant a garden. This will be the first in five years and that one was 5 hardiness zones away. So this is a whole new thing.

January 22, 2015 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Frenchie said...

Ugh, broke my tailbone a few years ago, nothing to be done except ice and rest. Sucks, hope yours heals fast!

January 22, 2015 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Linda Hawkins said...

I've been sketching out my vegetable garden. It will only be my second, but its amazing how much you can learn in one season. I'm also trying to figure a new local for my herbs as they all were scorched to death on the porch last year and planning go learn about preserving all my goodies for winter. I would love give chickens or even bees a shot, but since I rent property on a cemetery that's a big no-no, LOL.

January 22, 2015 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I'm expanding the garden this year--adding 3 more beds and a few new fruit trees. I must figure out a better way to keep the woodchucks out too. MFers got all my peas, beets, and parsnips last year! I did not know they could climb fences.

I also hope to crossfence the pasture. Right now it's a free-for-all, but I'd love to have a rotational grazing system to improve the soil and grasses.

The farm will see it's very first batch of babies born this spring and summer as well, so even if the first two items don't get done, it'll be adventure enough!

January 22, 2015 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Tanya T said...

I've picked out all of my seeds and next step is to buy an indoor greenhouse (an insulated and lit shelving unit) and start planting in February. I have an ambitious plan to grow double what I did last year and to try to keep on top of the weeds. I'm feeling the sting of winter too, leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark. I just signed up for boot camp to get some endorphins flowing. I wince thinking about your poor tailbone. I hope you aren't too uncomfortable.

January 22, 2015 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I've just starting vermicomposting, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this benefits my garden. I've got some seeds started indoors, and I'm hoping to plant a couple new fruit trees.

January 22, 2015 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Billie Jo Doyle said...

I'm hoping to add a few more animals to the farm this summer. I just lost my older horse this winter, so I have one lonely horse left. I am hoping to get a couple goats to help my horse not feel so lonely. I am been dreaming over the last month of summer and how I am going to house the goats on my farm. I am also going to get a few more chickens to add to my current flock of 10.

As for horses and fencing, I LOVE my polyrope. Over the last 5 years I have invested in 4 lines of white polyrope. I have about 2 acres fenced. I have found you do need a good fencer. I currently have a solar in which I love but found I need something more. I have a plug in fencer for back up now. I have had my horse go through 3 lines of the fencing before so having a good fencer is a must! I live in Minnesota so the deep snow fall has its challenges at times. Last year my fencer didn't work because of how deep the snow got, so that is why I decided to invest in 4 lines for the horses. I have found it's better not to use metal ties on the corners but to invest in screw in corner connectors. I get mine through Jeffers equine.

Good luck with the fencing projects! I know I will be fencing again to be able to bring the goats to the farm. Sometimes fencing is a never ending project!

January 22, 2015 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger KirstenJL said...

I've had chickens for 4 years and use the poultry netting from Premier1. I have nothing but high praises for it--it makes the chickens possible for me. I use the battery charger and one battery lasts about 9 months. Rechargable batteries were a pain--if you let them go too long between charges they died. Up side is that I worry not at all about 4-footed predators. I saw a dog nose it once and learn to fly! I can leave the coops open all night with no trouble. Downside is that you have to keep the bottom strand clear of weeds and snow or it won't charge. It's not rat or weasel proof and possums don't respect it much. It can also kill--my list includes toads, a salamander, a possum, and a rooster. It works though. I got my first 6 pullets and a rooster from a hatchery in 2010 and they are all still alive and well.

January 22, 2015 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Gowan Batist said...

I run a 40 acre farm with my family and we are in full planning swing. Of course we're in Northern CA, so we're also already flatting in the prop house. I've found that pigs and cows will stay in with two strands of tensile wire and a solar fence charger, a low one for the pigs (16' or so and need to adjust sometimes if they mound up dirt near it) and about 42' for cows. Our Icelandic sheep are an entirely different story, and after rescuing a young ram from Premier woven mesh after he completely wound it around his head and horns, I won't use it again. I'm debating going to a reel system with four strands, I've seen that work before.
As far as seed planning, we're primarily a vegetable farm and I've found Pinterest to be a great tool to organize seed charts to show to clients. Often restaurant folks don't recognize cultivar names and having a visual map helps a lot. I used a mix of photos I took on our farm or at my farm-to-school program and stock photos. I recommend it! I'm if you're on there.

January 22, 2015 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger English sheep gal said...

We bought lights last weekend and will be setting up an area in the basement for our first attempt to start seeds indoors on a large scale, (the tomato seeds I planted last year for your 'grow along' didn't do well sadly) we had some discussions about what we'd like to grow more of this year, new things to try etc.

We also just got a set up for some fresh mini greens over the rest of the winter with a multi tier sprouting kit for seeds, so you can add them to salads and stir fry's etc

Our 1st year with electric fence round the veg garden worked well last summer, but over the winter the snow has really dragged it down, and stretched the lines, half of it is still buried under snow, so the deer have been forcing their way in for anything they can find, really only the kale stalks were left - so we will have some fencing work to do too.

No animal plans - our first winter with our 2 chickens has been OK - hard to clean up the coop when the poop is frozen solid and crusted onto things, so we are going with deep bedding and add more straw on top, doing clean up on the warmer days. Those warming oatmeal breakfasts we provide are rewarded with fresh eggs daily. Remembering one of your tips from years ago, about reluctant hens being wary of stepping onto snow, but no problem stepping onto straw on top of snow, and that has worked very well, although on the days below freezing they very sensibly choose to stay inside.

Trying not to get the winter glums, so cold and snowy in Western New York, more big storms ('Snowvember' etc) this year, as someone else mentioned leaving for work and coming home in the dark is difficult. We have been using our 'happy light' and making an effort to spend time outdoors, even though it requires multiple layers of clothing. Doesn't help that most people I know seem to have headed to Florida over the last few weeks, and are sending me pics of them on the beach in a tshirt eating icecream, while I'm under my quilt by the fire wondering why, even in my warmest llama fiber socks, my toes are still so cold! Roll on spring!

January 22, 2015 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Melanie J. said...

I so empathize with your coccyx conundrum :( The memory of that pain does not fade apparently...almost 20 years ago now and not something I care to repeat. Sending healing energy.
As for my "farm," we're thinking of switching to just herbs this season for medicinal and teas), because our container yields for veggies were so abysmal last year and I need a break from failure. I'm planning credit repair, so that in another year or three, I'll be writing this from our own place. That seems like a long time, but the pipes froze here recently and it was a good reminder that we've lived in rentals our whole adult life and need more of a clue about what goes into owning property. The goal is a 20th anniversary party on our land. I've got 4 years. It's happening.

January 22, 2015 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Maria Manemann said...

Summer plans include adding onto the raised bed frames and trellis support system in the garden, planting perennial herb beds for market sales, starting as many plants from seed in the greenhouse as possible. I'm starting seeds for my best friend as well and she's going to make jelly from peppers I grow for both of us to use, give and sell. I plan to expand the garden beds as well as rebuild the compost bins, paint the last side of the shed, get ahead of both the poison ivy and carpenter bees for once and maybe add a visqueen/plastic sheeting addition to the greenhouse. I've written a rough draft of a business plan and set up bookkeeping spread sheets; I'd really like to have some income from the homestead this year.

January 22, 2015 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger margaret minetti said...

added 3 more bathtubs to my bathtub garden, cant wait to plant, last year was my first year and wasnt sure what would do well as live in wa., not lots of sun. planted 4 tubs last year, now i have 9 full og dirt and compost ready to go. kale did great and green onions, and leeks. not good luck with green beans or peas, as i cook for the dogs would like to gigure out how to get those to grow well, any suggestions?

January 22, 2015 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

I am planning on digging up sod and quadrupling the garden. Goal is to raise all our needed vegetables as well as to stock us up for fall and winter through canning and 'root cellaring'. First year I will have pushed so hard but I am looking forward to tackling it. Definitely going to be doing some fencing. And I hope to add more chickens to the flock as well as some ducks.
Happy Planning all:)

January 22, 2015 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Clare said...

I've been in daydream mode for the past couple of weeks - while I work, while I walk, my thoughts have been consumed by my spring planting. Making notes of what worked in previous years, mentally plotting where I'm going to fit in all of the potatoes I want to plant, and where the most sun will be for the tomatoes now that the trees have matured.
I love that this blog exists, and others like it, for the inspiration and knowledge!

January 22, 2015 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...


January 22, 2015 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Sheep Gal! We'll get through it. Coffee and booze.

January 22, 2015 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Christina S said...

I am with you on the summer planning. As soon as the Murray McMurray, and see catalogs come I am in full planning mode! I do believe I am an over planner by can catch me on weekends, or in the afternoon with a cup of coffee, a note book, and a calculator in hand!! We are planning on having a much larger garden this year with the hopes of providing all of our food for the whole year. We are also going to increase our "laying flock" from 6 hens to 15. We did meat chicken last year, and are definately going to do them again this year, probably 30. Now that we have the process figured out it should...hopefully be easier :). My husbend is going to build a two story garage / barn/ banquette hall / root cellar. Oh, and we have bees conning in May, this will be my first time attempting Honey bees so any advice is more than welcome. We are also planning on starting up out own "small" farm business. We have the name picked out already, all I have to do is decide on the ty

January 22, 2015 at 7:36 PM  
Blogger Wipaddler said...


January 22, 2015 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

I like winter, too, but by Feb. 1 I'm kind of done with it, even though we might have another month or more of fairly cold weather.

I added to my flock this past spring. I now have 10 hens who are laying even in this cold (Australorps) and 3 drakes, 4 ducks. My little egg business pays for the feed.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to clip the Australorps wings. They think they are eagles, and fly anywhere they wish on and off my property even though I have five-foot chain link. Yesterday I was astounded that I found one on the roof of my garage! Standing there like a weather vane. We're talking 15 feet at the peak. Sheesh.

I have some great compost a-waiting for the raised beds from cleaning out the coop. I'm on the edge of suburbia, but this whole area used to be agricultural, mostly orchards. The deer are rampant, so I'm trying to figure out some way to repel them. They ate a lot of my garden last year. I'm going to try a mechanical method of very light fishing line tied across the area they walk back to my garden, attached to tin cans. Some people swear by this! We'll see.

The garden boxes will be the standard veges for home use. I might get ambitious enough to plant some extra ground, but we'll see how the deer alarm works!

I'm going to try some vermiculture on a small scale, so that's a new experiment. Also considering meat birds, as we have a mobile butcher in this area that will do small-scale jobs. I'm just not there yet on the "do the dirty deed yourself" thing.

So some new things, and also have some projects that need done around here infrastructure-wise. Out-buildings need paint, would like to have some sort of pen to keep the chickens in (they free range) during nasty, snowy weather instead of just the coop. All in all, spring came any time now, I won't complain. (It's summers I hate! LOL)

Oh, P.S. for the squash bugs? Get ducks! They'll eat most any bugs and critters. I even watched them hopefully chasing a squirrel through the yard. LOL

January 22, 2015 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger deodar said...

sadbhyl - start sprinkling your squash plants with diotamaceous earth as soon as you put them outside, it helps a lot. I use a sieve-collander type thing I got at the dollar store. It works on cucumbers and melon plants too - anything that squash or stink bugs like.

I'd really like to see a bathtub garden, what a great idea!

January 22, 2015 at 8:36 PM  
Blogger Christina S said...

If you have the room, and are in to them, dogs are great deer, rabbit, and other "preditor" deterents. We have a couple more dogs than most, and we do not have any problems with animals eating our veggies...except our lab ( he likes tomatoes). We also do not have a lot of preditors coming for our chickens. There are a couple negatives...the dogs were here before the chickens and they are not "friends" yet :). Also, they keep the deer far away so if we want to hunt we really have to "hunt". Otherwise dogs work great for garden and livestock protection.

January 22, 2015 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Kristi said...

Our summer plans are already in full swing. More layers ordered and plan are on for a farm website and more runs of meat birds. we plan to use our tractors from last year as they worked so well! Food Cyclist has done a great job designing them. The garden will be tweaked and oh yeah, 5 aces of fence to be installed. Hope the bank keeps up with us!

January 23, 2015 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Horse manure with some seedless hay will work well. I think that horses have the best manure, because a garden can handle a goodly amount due to the lower N level. When tilled in over the course of several years the garden response is so fertile and friable. Maybe adding another electric fence inside the woven wire would work for you, put it high enough so Merlin will get a good zap.

January 23, 2015 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

I just got my Cottage Gardener seed catalogue yesterday, which only sells heritage seeds - this year introducing varieties that are hardier and traditionally grown in Canada. (It's a Canadian company, but it is surprisingly difficult to find Canadian varieties.) I've been leafing through it in the morning while sipping my coffee, dreaming of a lush and vibrant summer garden. I usually don't mind the cold, really, but I'm ready for spring :)

January 23, 2015 at 9:12 PM  
OpenID T. Crockett said...

I've been reading The Weekend Homesteader: A 12 Month Plan to Self-Sufficiency and taking notes on all the projects I hope to make realities. It will be my first spring at this house and I'm excited to get my hands dirty.

January 24, 2015 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger DarcC said...

This year I am determined to put in some fruit trees and berry bushes. If I had done it when I moved here they'd be producing by now!

January 24, 2015 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

So many new experiments in the works for this year - due in large part to January downtime. I have a market garden and am always looking for new things to offer.
I'm planning to grow medicinal herbs, both for seedling sales and to make dried tea blends. In the greenhouse I want to add a step over trellis for figs along the north side (Google it - it's pretty amazing), and a muscadine grape trellis along the south side. Another new project is growing oyster mushrooms (thanks to Mossy Creek Mushrooms for their advice). I also want to finish the kiwi trellis started last summer as well as putting in about 2 dozen gooseberry bushes. My last new thing is to look for interns to help out with everything!

January 24, 2015 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Ginny said...

Are the plans for the chicken tractors sharable?? I'd love to have some ideas to work from. I'd like to put a tractor in the pasture with the horses to help till and turn everything, and do all the good work that they do! Our pasture is a bit rugged though, so I'm concerned about the designs.

January 27, 2015 at 2:02 PM  

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