the farmer, the grave digger, and plans of sustainability

We learned *a lot* about our land and different climate this past first summer. I didn’t realize garden zone 9 and garden zone 8b were as different as they are. When we first moved here we made a One-Year Plan… which was pretty lofty and, in retrospect, extremely comical. Now we have a Five-Year Plan based upon realistic goals and desired outcomes.

We never wanted to be “just a farm” but a homestead. Finally, we are well on our way to that level of self-sufficientcy. In the first year, we have completely stopped buying garlic, berries, a lot of fruit, jam, fruit butter, syrup, eggs, chicken meat, peas and most herbs (my cilantro didn’t grow so we bought some once). These are all things we now produce ourselves on our land and every little bit helps. We’ve hugely cut down on buying summer and winter squash, greens, onions, apples and other fruit, pumpkin and sunflower seeds which we consume *a lot* of, potatoes, beans. Plus I make our own crackers, cookies and baked goods, much of our bread and “snacks” like gluten free apple cinnamon corn bread:

There are a few things we’ll never produce ourselves but this means tiny, infrequent shopping trips (some we could grow, we just don’t really want to… at least not yet):

Things have shifted a bit though. We were both going to be farmers once we got here. But oddly, that was never the original plan but only developed once we were here. I was just going to be the farmer and Paul was going to do whatever he wanted to do (music, bow making and woodworking, car stuff…). But as universe would have it, we’re back to the original plan of me being the sole lady farmer and him doing something else. In this case, that something else is a grave digger. We needed money for the aforementioned coffee, chocolate and dish soap so he stepped up. And I’ve got the animal tending, homestead garden and farm growing, meal planning and cooking, etc. When I need help with heavy lifting, he’s on it, and all the remodeling and rebuilding is his too (though I help with taping and mudding, do the painting and design things like the kitchen). We’re an awesome team.

As far as crop selling, we’re starting small and sticking to selling herloom garlic and herbs, heirloom tomatoes and excess fruit to start, plus having a small seasonal farm stand with excess veggies, fruit, berries, herbs, garlic, eggs and such. We have a prospective buyer for our fresh culinary herbs and garlic already too, which kicks much ass, as well as a small handful of weekly egg customers in the works. (Soon we’ll have enough egg customers to coverall all chicken and duck feeding, bedding and supplimental costs with enough left over to go on a hot date each month. Heck yeah!)

Within the next five years, the plan is to never have to buy any of these things again:

Yup, that means we’re getting goats. And sheep, and meat rabbits. Plus I’ll raise 3 to 5 turkeys a year to put on the table. We’ll eat our “extra” chickens (boys and mean girls) and do a batch or two of meat birds per year. But this is all over time. This year probably will only include meat and extra chickens, and two goats. Five more ducks come in February (hatching on my birthday — imagine all the impending Pisces goodness around here!!) It’ll be a year-and-a-half before we have goat milk because “we” (which in this case actually means I) want babies. Two Nigerian Dwarf doelings to be precise. They are the best for milk, butter and cheese. Not all goat’s milk is good for drinking. These girls will taste more like cow milk than anything else. No thank you on super gamey goat milk. Been there, done that. Though really a mama already in milk and tw babies would be ideal.

Maybe in 2020 we’ll add a couple of sheep (the fella above was Gabe from our friend’s farm down the street — we loved and ate him) and some meat rabbits, then in 2021, honey bees and a miniature cow (see how I snuck that one in?). Pacing ourselves is good. Lamb is good too.

It’s amazing how much things have changed in only one year (plus 4 months) on the farm. Our love for this place and gratitude overflow more and more with every passing day. I’m so glad we spent the bulk of the first year focussing on our orchard because we won’t have as long to wait for apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, persimmons, apricot, yuzu citrus, almonds, and walnuts. We also planted 18 blueberries, 3 blackberries (not as if we didn’t have enough already), 8 red raspberries and a golden raspberry. This year we’ll be adding a couple of figs, elderberries, mulberries and if we’re super lucky, a couple of Meyer’s lemons. Next year: cranberries and currants gallore!

Another part of our dream/vision is making this into a small off-grid farm community. Building a tiny house for another family or couple to live in, adding a loft dwelling above the future workshop for one of our manfriends to make his own. Sharing of the work and bounty and weekend feasts. We have that with our neighbors already, our next door family, and are thrilled to be able to expand that love one of these years.

We’ll also be potentially offering retreats and workshops for natural building (cob, earth bag, etc.), permaculture and vermiculture, homesteading, chicken and duck and goat keeping, bow making and archery, art, music and shamanic retreats, wild edible and foraging classes, etc. It would be fantastic if that could fund our solar. Let me rephrase: It *will* be fantastic when we’ve earned enough to fund our solar endeavors. How long could it possibly take to save up $30k? šŸ˜˜

busy bees

We’ve been so busy around here we haven’t had time to post an update. Things are just about to start moving really fast around here. We just had a huge delivery of building materials yesterday. Originally they thought they might not be able to get it to the property due to the large truck and small angled driveway but despite it being Friday the 13th, everything went off without a hitch. The 13th is always so lucky for me and yesterday was no exception.

The “worst” part was the delivery truck leaving tire tread marks in the pretty mossy and clover area, which isn’t bad a’tall (though I’m raking it out today because it’s not pretty to me).

It was POURING during the delivery so we had to pile some of the stuff under tarps while we busted booty to get everything inside fast. Wet insulation and drywall would kinda suck. The roofing materials get picked up in a couple of days and that goes on next weekend! Woohoo!

Planning, planning, planning during the cool misty mornings. We have our first 3000sf garden area covered for occultation, burm areas planned (read any of Sepp Holzer’s books), hugelkultur location decided upon, and now I know exactly where the first chicken coop, goat house and grazing areas will be.

The first wee frost that lasted beyond 8am has come (this was taken just before lunch). So pretty! We’re officially sleeping inside cabin five, which is the clean and warm one with no funk, just some foundation issues and slants here and there. We’re cozy!

The leaves are starting to change color and fall and the grass is greening again from the rains, but the sweet peas are persistent and still offering gorgeous pops of colors here and there.

My favorite picnic area along the lower field is looking stunning. If you sit there long and quiet enough, you can see an abundance of magical things: deer, bunnies, a multitude of birds and the occasional faery. 

Oh! We were talking a couple of nights ago about how we need to have a spigot put in in the upper field, drawn from the well on the other side of camp and the cabins. Then we found this! It’s in one of the two tiny spots that weren’t mowed (thankfully!). We already have one! The theme here is “ask and you shall receive”. When I said I wanted a second apple tree we found two more (And then a forth). When I said I wanted a plum tree we found a wild plum. When we said we needed a spigot in the upper field we found one. So much of everything is already here.

We’re still happy beyond words to be hete, and every day that only gets stronger. (I’m only reiterating this because oddly, two people asked this week if we “still liked it here”. That makes me giggle.)

planning and decisionsĀ 

We have a lot to decide upon as we build, create, and plant our farm. Before we moved here I drew about a half million layouts but now that we’re here, plans are being tweaked as we observe animal trails, water flow, sun vs shade, wind patterns, etc.

This was going to be made into a chicken coop (though I couldn’t decide if the layers or breeders would reside here) but now we’ve decided that it will be a tiny house for two wee goats. But that’ll be awhile. 

We’ll build two chicken coops in the spring, before we get goats, but at least we now have a plan. They’ll be mid-field on the westernmost edge, parallel with the neighboring chickens. He wants to build a chicken tunnels between the flocks.

Below the hens a bit will be the irrigation pond (and ducks and geese, but that may not be until spring of 2019 as we have plenty else to do and we’re just three humans). The slope to the lower fields will offer some amazing gravity-feed power to the water flow.

The property used to have a sixth cabin (actually more, but it was divided into three parcels once upon a time). These are the remnants of cabin six, from behind. This was going to be for goats but now it’s going to be one of the seed starting areas until we get our big greenhouse (awesome all day southern exposure!), and eventually we’ll get water and a sink in there for a processing area. You know, washing the dirt off the carrots and such.

This is the front side. This used to be the third bedroom of this cabin and it’s far more sturdy than it may appear. (Those doors are awesome and I can’t wait to reuse them!)

The whole area in front of it is the old concrete foundation and originally we planned to put a blacksmithing area there but we decided that it’s too close to neighbors. We only have the two close neighbors but they certainly don’t need to constantly hear the banging and tippy tapping of metal being pounded. 

In front of that is the old living room area, complete with huge fireplace. We’ve decided to make this into an outdoor oven and grill area, and build a simple roof over it for a covered community picnic and potluck area. Obviously this one will be awhile as we have five cabins to fix up first, chicken coops to build, a goat house to refurbish, a  livestock guardian dog house to build, a root cellar and pond to create and four million things to plant first (etc).

Oh, and that apple tree we found the other day is almost unburied. Once that’s done, we’ll trim her dead and mossy under branches to help her to thrive. 

welcome to our little slice of paradise

We bought the most stunningly amazing acerage with five old logging cabins and the most gorgeous land we ever could have imagined. Follow us on our journey of cabin rehab and turning an organic hay farm into a sustainable oasis of fruit, veggies, berries, nuts, and culinary and medicinal herbs.