Friday, April 17, 2015

Planning For Spring Planting

Given the fact the all of Nova Scotia is currently snowed under it might seem odd that we're thinking about planting in April and May. But we don't want to grow just the typical vegetable starter plants, we have some specialty ones we want to grow. So we grow most of our own plants from seed for several reasons. Firstly it's much cheaper, and second we can source organic seeds of varieties that grow well here or some exotic strains that we want to trial.And the snow is finally melting so I have a renewed sense of purpose now. Regardless of what's on the ground right now, in 6 or 8 weeks it'll be very different and we'll be planting in a hurry. So for me starting some of my seeds now is both a way to get a jump on the season and also a way to spread the work over a few extra weeks before wwoofers come to help out. I'm also making a plan of what gets planted where depending on my crop rotations, amount of shade and companion planting. It's more involved than you'd think.

My new Mantis tiller is ordered. While we still believe that a no till system can work, I'm going to use it to get the beds and rows all set up and also to start new flower beds around the front of the property to give us a little more colour and privacy. Picture sunflower and sweetpea hedges. The animals will be confined to the back 4 acres of pasture although we'll see if that really works or not, some chickens are wily.

Here's a video of our new tiller, well one like ours since ours is in the mail. Looking forward to being able to incorporate lime and compost easily and weed between rows if needed. We got the wider model so that 2 passes will result in a 30" wide bed. That's a good size for our use. Although many different options for attachments exist I'm just excited to see how the basic tiller works before committing to paying more money.

The other exciting thing happening is that Steve and Jordan are framing up a lean-to greenhouse for me at the  moment so I'll have somewhere to put my seeds and also some extra heat in the end bedroom of the mobile. I'll let you know when it's done and get some photos.

We're still working on our wood supply for heat and so far so good. We'll have burned just under 5 cords this Winter when all is said and done I think because we're still keeping the fire lit in the mornings. The plan is to cut 2 years worth of wood this Spring and dry it over the summer then store it in a wood shed. Every year we'll cut more, but use the wood stored the previous year so we never run out and so it's seasoned properly. Having a supply of good dry wood is essential to having a comfortable home for us. And it's like having insurance to have extra wood stored.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

It's April... And Still Snowing

There's not really been a lot to write about because nothing is happening. It's April and not only do we still have 120+ cm of snow on the ground, it snowed another 10cm this morning. It seems like it's just two steps forward (it warms up and melts) and one step back (it snows again). It's been a little colder than usual too so there has been no chance to get plastic up on the greenhouses and we have nowhere to plant anything. It's so frustrating to be in April and still buying all our greens from the store. We have some plants indoors but not enough to really get a start on the garden. The predictions are that we'll have snow on the ground until May 14th but it will depend on how much more snow and rain we get between then.

It's hard on farmers because we're all running low or are out of hay, and we're still having to keep our animals fed despite there being no Spring grass for them. Another frustration caused by such a long Winter. I'm so looking forward to Springs warmer weather and gentle breezes.

It's been a  good lesson for us though to know a harsh Winter. We know that in the mobile we can get through with 5 cords of firewood, less once we get some more insulation done and if our wood is good and dry. But I still can't wait to get a house built that will hold the heat better and give us more space. As for power, the bills have been crazy so we really need to get rid of any electric heat. Now that Chris and Will aren't living out in the other buildings they aren't running heaters all the time which will save us a bundle. But having a comfortable passive solar house will for sure save us energy and money. If it costs us $40,000 to build a basic house that then saves us $3000 per year in power to heat our home and water, then the house will pay for itself in 14 years. Which is a very reasonable time frame I think. Plus it will be a comfortable home for our family.

We've done several designs for our future home but haven't yet settled on a finished plan. We know some of the conveniences we'd like such as a garage, mud room, library and a nice kitchen. But it's equally important that our home is passive solar, has some kind of solar power and solar hot water heating, uses wood heat and is affordable for us. We have no savings yet and are thinking of ways to have an income even after retirement. It's a lot of planning but we think that if we're smart about it now it'll be good for us in the future.