What We Are Working On in 2020
It should surprise no one that we are keeping busy this summer! Having spent our first few years here doing a lot of rebuilding, this year we’re starting to improve the property with new infrastructure and focus on what we want the farm to look like as the years go by. Does this mean we’re slowing down? Not at all! If anything this summer has felt busier than previous years.
The Garden Shed
Our biggest project of 2020 is the rebuild of our ‘garden shed’. When we moved here everything was in some state of disrepair. The garden shed building was one of the worst. At the time, it was located behind the house with a sagging roof, dilapidated siding, and filled to the rafters with random objects and piles of chicken poop.
When we rebuilt our house in 2018, we did our first burst of work on the garden shed. The shed was emptied for the most part, the siding removed, and most dramatically it was moved from behind the house to a new spot next to the garden. I am still thankful I was away at work the day my husband, his sons and a helper moved the shed.
A year passed but we started working on the building this year. The center part of the building, the original structure, is going to be an open area with potting tables, garden tools, and space for a picnic table or other projects to go on. On either side of the original building we’re adding areas for animals. One side will be a new chicken coop — critical, as our goats have outgrown their stall and need to expand into the current chicken space in our barn. The other side will be a winter pig area, adjacent to the garden and big enough to hold four or five pigs.
In the beginning of the summer this shed was little more than the bones of a building, and we’re within weeks of it being shingled and housing chickens. It’s been a good project for us to focus on, and has truly transformed the look of the property.
The Garden 2020
The garden is a project every year, and you may remember me talking about how we were going to double our garden’s size in 2020. We did, and our harvests are just starting to come in. We have put away so many beans (by pickling as dilly beans) and cabbage (sauerkraut) that we should be all set until things start to ripen next year. Still to come are onions, winter squash and pumpkins, and potatoes.
While the gardens are looking good this year, I have not been completely thrilled with production. Partly this is because I haven’t been able to spend as much time focusing on the garden as I usually do. I’m already making plans to improve in 2021. I am going to put down landscaping cloth, which I’ve always avoided because I think it is ugly. I’ve finally reached the point where its appearance doesn’t matter anymore. And for the first time, we will be supplementing our rich soil and pig fertilizer with additional manure from the barn. But all of that will have to come after we finish putting away everything we produce this year!
Well, we added sheep! We have always been careful in our animal selections to choose livestock that can help improve our land and work with us. But we are starting to streamline more, and focus on certain breeds. We’re also starting to make decisions about what animals we want to actively breed on an annual basis, versus what animals we want to ‘cap out’ at the number we currently have.
We keep sheep, pigs, goats, geese, ducks, and chickens. Next year we’ll add some more ducks, as they are very useful and low maintenance animals. We also hope to add more of the Babydoll sheep, working towards an eventual small scale breeding program. If we breed our goats at all, it will be minimum numbers so we can ensure the kids can be sold and we aren’t overwhelmed with milking responsibilities. I am hoping to starting selling fertilized Sebastopol hatching eggs in 2020, and any additional geese will be Sebastopols or Dewlap Toulouse. And finally, we reached the decision to not breed Saffron & Nutmeg, the pigs. We don’t have the space for dozens of piglets and we don’t want to sell them all, plus arranging breeding has proved difficult. Instead, we’re hoping to get a few more piglets to fill out our numbers, and let our four or five pigs roam and clear land for us for the rest of their lives.
We also added a pond in 2020! We started the spring aggressively clearing land in an area we wanted a pond dug, and finally had an excavator come in and dig the actual pond. We’ve tried digging our own pond before, and let’s just say we decided to leave it to the experts this time.
Pond progress takes patience, as until next spring the banks will be fairly bare and the pond will fill up only slowly. But it is already big enough that the ducks and the geese have a wonderful time swimming and bathing in it, and we have started work clearing areas around it with the eventual goal of ‘squaring’ all of our fields up.
That’s not all!
We also have made some investments in apple trees, towards producing our own cider. It will be years before these young trees bear any notable fruit, but we will start putting in a few every year and perfecting our techniques in brewing cider while we wait.
All of the above keeps us pretty busy, and as you can tell farming is always forward-facing. It is already all about next year and what we can improve on and do better. I hope you are having a productive summer so far, and look forward to sharing more of our adventures soon!