New Beginnings

Thank you for following our adventure. We’ve had so much support and help along the way. It’s always great to hear words of encouragement and to learn people are actually watching our journey.

It was -2 degrees this morning when I trekked out at 5 am to milk a goat and break ice in water buckets. I’ve been terribly paranoid about all the animals in this awful cold, but they seem to be handling it better than the humans. With the chores done, I’m now warm and sitting inside reflecting on the past two years and the changes we’ve experienced. It was quite an adjustment to go from a nice 1500 square foot house with a two-car garage to just over 700 sq ft. And, sadly, no garage. Even with all the downsizing I did in preparation of the move, we are cramped. You just don’t realize how much stuff you have until you must find a place to stick it. Ultimately, we will build a cabin, but for now, our limited space will have to do.

There was so much excitement and nervousness when we packed up the cats, the fish tank, and all our belongings and moved to the country. It was early December 2015 and the weather had turned bitter cold. The sale of my house was moved up but the purchase of the farm couldn’t be changed so we spent a week living in a very small trailer. We didn’t get much sleep that week, mostly due to the cats being freaked out and proclaiming their displeasure at the top of their lungs, mostly at night. They were just as unhappy when, a week later, we packed them up again and brought them to our new home.

Our goal (my goal, really. David is just along for the ride – but amenable to my grand plans) is to be as self-sustaining and self sufficient as possible. I would love to live completely off-grid and be totally self-sustaining. But the part about David being amenable would change if I took away his few luxuries. So, I will settle with being a little less on-grid and somewhat self-sustaining. To that end, what we need is food, water, and some form of income from the farm. As far as the food goes, I’m focusing heavily on perennial gardens and the orchard as those are less maintenance than an annual garden as perennials just don’t suffer from pests or disease like the annual garden does. Although, I do still have a large annual garden, which produced an abundance our first summer.

Our first project when we got settled was to rip out two rows of well-established privet and put in a grape trellis.

David brought fallen cedar logs from the woods to construct the grape trellis and it looks wonderful. This past summer we even got to eat a few grapes.

Next, I planted a small orchard of apples, cherries, apricot, almonds, mulberries (though the birds always seem to beat me to the mulberries), pears, and plums. I’m anxiously awaiting the orchard to start producing and I have high hopes this year will be the year it happens.

We tilled up what used to be a horse pasture and what quickly turned into a rock garden. I spent many hot, exhausting hours of back-breaking rock gathering and the garden is still full of rocks.

But my first garden was so productive, I decided to not waste any more time picking up rocks as they didn’t seem to bother my plants anyway. Of course, they did jam the tiller many times. But since I’m working toward a no-till, no irrigation system, that will not be a concern for long. To get to the point of no-till, no-irrigation I have to build up my soil -- and that is where my chickens and goats come in.

In the summer of 2016 we started planning for chickens. And by planning, I mean I was telling David what I wanted and he had to figure out how to accomplish it. We purchased a Home Depot 10x10 storage shed and converted it into a coop. He built it up off the ground so the chickens could get under it for protection from the summer heat and to avoid overhead predators. Predators don’t seem to be a problem, however, as the chickens have a very large covered run. With so many hawks, and no protection from the sky, it was necessary. And David’s language might have gotten a bit colorful as he installed that thing. But now it’s built and the chickies have a large area to scratch around in and we are all very happy. We have suffered a few losses, but, thankfully, none to predators. And we are enjoying delicious, fresh eggs.

The first of our dairy goat kids came in the spring of 2017.

The main purpose for them is, of course, milk. I plan to use it not only for our own consumption but to make plenty products to sell. The more I delve into the world of milk goats the more I learn the opportunities are endless. There is just so much you can do with goats milk! So far, I’m only milking one and getting about 8 oz a day so I get enough for my coffee and oatmeal, but if I sacrifice a couple days, I have enough for either a batch of soap or lotion. However, that will all change in March with the birth of two sets of kids and lots more milk.

The benefit of goats and chickens in the garden is through compost, a whole other area I’ve had to learn about, and am still learning. Chickens produce a very high nitrogen manure so it actually has to sit a minimum of 3 months before it can be used in planting or it will burn the plants. However, goats produce what is called a “cold manure” which can be planted in right away. With all this added fertilizer in my garden, I have very high hopes for the coming year.

And that’s basically where we are in our adventure. It’s dead of winter and seed catalogs are arriving and I’m anxiously waiting for March not only for babies to start arriving, but the planting season will start as well.

#SweetgumAcres #nigeriandwarf #oberhasli