Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Farm Plans for 2013

Well since the world did not end last year, we're busy making plans for 2013 and what we're going to do with our 42 acres. Really the focus is on getting the fields in better shape nutritionally, revamping the orchard, and getting a home moved on so there's somewhere for us to live by summer.

We're like many of you... we either have time or money. If we work to make money then we don't have any time. If we take time off work then we don't get paid. The usual catch 22. Once we are actually living on the property it will be so much easier to do odd jobs, but for now we just do what we can as time allows. This year, like every year, we have to make the most of our resources (time and money) so here's our

TOP 10 projects for 2013.

1. Clean out the brush and pine trees around the old orchard. Trim the trees and see of they can be rejuvenated. If yes, then use gradual and organic means. if not, remove trees and dry for firewood. Apple is a hardwood and makes a nice hot fire for cold winter nights. The pine trees are softwood, good for getting the fire going but less heat so on nights when you just need a little heat it's perfect. Along with this we'll need to build a wood drying shed to protect the wood from getting wet while still allowing the wind to blow through. The slat walls keep the majority of wind blown rain from soaking the wood and allow it to dry thoroughly. Whatever we build needs to have a good dry roof and raise the wood off the floor so something like this can be built quite easily of pallets or recycled wood.

2. Finish the barn, we still need to install doors, roof covering and then paint it and finish the interior. This will be one of the first projects done as we need the barn to have a lambing are and a sleeping area with a wood stove by January 28th which is when lambing starts. Well, actually all 5 ewes will deliver some time between the end of January and the middle of February. Hopefully during a warm spell and all close together. Fingers crossed. Steve and I got a beautiful antique cast iron stove for the barn. It's about 36 inches long but only 18 inches wide and loads from the front. We'll give it a clean up then put it in the sleeping area of the barn surrounded by concrete blocks. The blocks are there to provide some thermal mass for heat storage until we can get a rocket mass heater built. But in the meantime we now own a beautiful old stove and combined with some nice dry hardwood, I should have a way of heating both a small sleeping area and any water for the animals or for washing. I have the gutters and barrels for my rooftop water collection system and once we have a thaw in the Spring they will be installed, making watering the critters easier.

3. Test soil and add amendments that are required. Since the land has been fallow for many years we are sure that it is deficient in lime (too acidic) and maybe other nutrients. But liming is the first thing to do because if the soil is within the proper acid/alkali range then minerals become available to the plant roots and bacterial action in the soil is optimized. We'll use a slow release dolomite lime so that it changes the acidity slowly and will last longer than quick acting lime.

4. Overseed some pastures after amendments are added. We'll evaluate the current species of grass and decide then if the best way to have good hay fields is to plow and completely reseed, or just to rake heavily and then overseed.

5. Livestock. Raise one crop of lambs and evaluate the mothering instincts of the ewes. Keep ewe lambs and breed in the fall/winter for lambs in the spring (no more winter lambing). Acquire a ram for breeding. Raise 2 or 3 pigs.  Raise 2 batches of meat birds and 1 batch of turkeys. If suitable goats are to be found, buy 2 small goats for brush clearing. Add to this list that we also hope to get a livestock guardian dog for our sheep.

6. Gardening/Planting
Plant the following:
8 Apple trees
6 other trees like peach, maple, hazelnut
10 Raspberries
10 Blackberries
10 Blueberries
100 Strawberries
10 Other fruit
4 Grape vines
Vegetables, flowers for cutting, herbs

7. Plant Christmas trees to culture in the gravely soils near the river to help erosion and stabilize the banks and also provide future income through tree sales or firewood/lumber and building materials such as poles for use around the farm.

8. Fences. Install perimeter fence and a gate across the driveway. Install paddocks around the barn and some movable fencing to divide up the larger pastures for rotational grazing.

9. Build a poly tunnel greenhouse (or 2) with raised beds and work to improve the soil through composting so that we can raise year-round crops.

10. Have a working micro hydro generator in the river of some sort, either a turbine or a floating undershot wheel that will not interfere with the natural flow of the river or the fish and a ram pump to move water up from the river into a holding tank or pond for the livestock and garden. We're going to have a water test done on the water quality also just so we know what's in it. There's quite a lot of tannin in the local waterways which can make the water look like coffee in some rivers. It's from the leaching of the tannins in oak leaves apparently.

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