The First Twelve Months: Month Three ~ Making Plans

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This is part three in a series of posts chronicling the first year on our homestead.  Month One is here andMonth Two is here.

Our garden, the barn, and our home

Our garden, the barn, and our home

Month 3 was pretty quiet. Even though we have mild winters in our area, there is still a sense of rest.  We have however managed to get a few things done.  Here are the highlights of our third month:

*Our overwintered spinach seeds sprouted earlier than anticipated.   While this was something of a surprise, we chose to see this was a good thing.  Due to a small harvest last fall, we’ve actually had this irrational fear that nothing would grow here.  Fortunately since this was an experiment, we only planted half of them and the sprouts have done really well under a floating row cover, tolerating temps as low as 9 degrees without batting an eye (so to speak)

*The mild weather has allowed us to continue to work in our garden, preparing it for the upcoming cool~weather planting season.  Gardening chores at this point have consisted primarily of shoveling dirt into our garden beds.  While we are firm believers in sheet composting, we can’t afford to wait around for stuff to decompose.  So we’ve been spreading cardboard on the ground and building a berm on top in order to get the best of both worlds.  The trouble is, the dirt we’re using is about 300 feet away from the garden (long story).  This involves shoveling it into a wheelbarrow and carting it back and forth.  For someone who once considered manual labor to be mopping the floor, this is a new experience indeed.

*We’re both official residents now as we headed to the tag agency one afternoon to get a new license with our new address.  Local driver’s license meant we were eligible for a local library card.  You can read more about our library and our small town here.

*Husbie has begun work on a chicken coop.  It won’t be inhabited until later on in the summer but we like to get a head start on things especially since we’re pretty new at building things like chicken coops.

* With our chickens due to arrive later on this spring we have begun to  knock around the idea of having dairy goats so we’ll have milk and cheese as well as eggs.  We have even gone so far as to contact a goat breeder within an easy drive.

Being completely new to goats, I thought:

~bring home a female goat

~have milk the following day

~have milk forever after as long as we milk her

~female goat will be just fine on her own for a few days should we ever decide to take a trip.

(Experienced goat people, please, please don’t laugh)

The reality is: we need two does and a buck.  And a friend for the buck.  And we will never  be able to leave the farm again. Ever.  As I see it, contemplating goats is commitment city ~ sort of like making a decision to get married (only in this case one could sell the goats should things not work out).  Idea is still simmering, and heavy commitment aside we’ll most likely go for it sometime in the fall, all things being equal.

Major additions to our homestead included:

A  gravel driveway.  The gravel was delivered by three large dump trucks  and spread.  Sort of.  The delivery guy asked if we had a tractor for spreading it, to which I replied that we did.  I wasn’t really lying.  Me, armed with a garden rake, was the “tractor” that was going to spread the gravel.   Which I did one afternoon.

The start of a fence around our garden and…

An Etsy site!  While this isn’t really a physical part of our homestead, it is a part of diversifying our income streams as we prepare to transition to full time work on the farm.  I had always thought that starting an Etsy site was sort of like setting up a Facebook Page.  Thirty minutes and you’re done. Easy Peasy.  This was more like several intense evenings during the week struggling to get it just right.  It is still a work in progress but it is evolving.  It is live, and you’re free to take a look but please know there is more to come and I have great plans for it.

Major adjustments:

The Mud.  It is everywhere.  We had our pond dug out last summer and as a result we have no grass in the back.  The front has not been landscaped and still bears some of the scars of the recent construction on our home.   Despite our best efforts at keeping it out, the mud gets tracked in the front and the back.  If I was a really dedicated housekeeper I’d be mopping twice a day but there are other things that need my attention (cannning, cooking, laundry, the garden) so I mop once a week and we’re learning to live with the fact that there will always be a certain amount of dirt.

Next month we hope to:

*Continue the fence around the garden as well as continue work on our chicken coop

L: Chicken Coop in the making R: Setting fence posts

L: Chicken Coop in the making
R: Setting fence posts

*Set out our cool season veg transplants that are happily percolating under our indoor grow lights

*Sow our lettuce seeds, peas, beets, remaining spinach seeds, etc.

Our Paris Market Carrots
Our Paris Market Carrots

 

Find this post and others like it linked to: The Homestead Barn Hop, The Backyard Farming Connection, Wildcrafting Wednesday, The Homeacre Hop, Simple Lives Thursday

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The First Twelve Months: Month Three ~ Making Plans — 29 Comments

  1. I’ve been following you since I found your month 1 post on a blog hop and I have to say I really enjoy your blog! As I am still in the planning/dreaming stage, it is a nice change of pace to read content written by someone just establishing things and see what it might be like. Thanks for writing :)

    • Thank you Rebecca! It is so nice to meet you. I hope that your homestead plans/dreams become a reality for you soon. In spite of all the reality checks and adjustments we’ve really enjoyed living out here.

  2. Congratulations on the Etsy store launch!! And thank you, thank you for the reality check on having goats…I am sending your post to my husband right now since he has aspirations for a goat (yes, we thought just one too) when we get our land. :-)

    • Thank you! I have wanted to start one for years but it has taken me some time to figure out just the right thing to sell. The vintage books aren’t “it” exactly but I figured it was a start at least. Yeah goats are a little more work than just chickens. We’re looking into Dwarf Nigerians as they are supposedly more manageable than other breeds. I’ve heard a goat can get through just about any fence. :/

  3. I am really enjoying your monthly posts! I have been with you since month 1! We are in transition. Just bought our homestead land and over the next 4-5 years will be doing improvements and then relocating. I am learning so very much from you….thank you! You live in my old stompin ground state…oklahoma, i grew up there as a child…mcalester. Our homestead will be in north western texas…hey neighbor!

    • Hi Kat! It is nice to meet you. I hope all goes well as you all make this transition. Adjustments aside we’ve been very happy here. Oklahoma is a great state! I know where McAlester is.

  4. I’m having a gentle giggle with you regarding the goats. My knowledge of them wasn’t much more. I have friends with goats and they are part of a local goat club and the other week were lucky to get away for a week as a goat club member came and milked their doe. Goats do need company but they only have 2 at the moment, mother and daughter. Toggenbergs (their goat breed) can produce long enough to breed every 2 years but some need to be bred yearly. Just food for thought though, check out dexter cows. They’re a naturally occurring miniature and might be another option. I’m researching them heavily at the moment and working hard to convince my dearest husband that we need a dexter cow. They are great milkers (1-2 gallons a day) and also great for meat if you decide to raise your bull calves. They’re friendly and apparently perfect for cow noobs like me who know sweet fa about them. :)
    We too are dealing with mud although I LOVE my mud at the moment because it means we have been blessed with a bit of rain. It’s been very dry down here although our Queensland brothers and sisters are flooded. And like you, my dedication to mopping is not daily either. :) For the same reasons too – I am yet to crack out the canner but I have been water bath preserving my heart out. Summer fruits abound. :)
    Love your carrots and spinach. I’ve just planted out my greenhouse garden and I have leeks, radishes, spinach, beans and rocket all sprouting. It’s like a second Spring. :)
    You shame me too. Being local residents and actually having changed things officially and you are ahead of us. I need to change my electoral register, drivers licence, credit cards, pretty much everything. I’m hoping for a home phone though as my mobile bill is already exorbitant. :(
    But again, congratulations and how exciting for everything. :)

    • Well would you believe that after reading this comment we got our first issue of Country Side Magazine and in the Breeder’s Directory there is a ranch that breeds Dexters very close to us! We are so excited about this possibility!!!! I dropped them a line this morning to get some info and feedback. They also breed Dwarf Nigerian Goats which is the breed we were interested in there so if the cow doesn’t work out we could reconsider the goats. I’m so excited! Everyone out here has cows (big ones) and I love watching them when I go for a walk. Thanks for the head’s up. :D

      • Oooo I would LOVE to read that article in my ongoing research! Is it online do you know? And ‘m glad I mentioned it. :) They seem like perfect cows for first timers like you and I and I’m just working my butt off trying to convince my dear darling husband now. ;)

        • Well it wasn’t an article, it was just a post in the classified ads but here is the website and they do have some general information. We’re going to very seriously consider it. The fact that they are a dual purpose animal is a perk as far as I am concerned. We just need to get a trailer (I’m guessing) and run some fencing. I’m hoping that by sometime late next year we’ll be ready. Story publishing has a book on miniature breeds that I will take a look at too.

          • The dual breed appeals to me too. Just read up on long and short legged breeds and bulldog calves (the only serious complication that I’ve read of – the bulldog calves, not the leg length although it’s related). A bull calf fed up and castrated becomes the years beef supply and girl calves could be swapped or sold for a steer for the freezer r to increase your herd. We have a 1/2 acre so there is no possibility of a herd and I don’t know if we could raise 2 here but I have friends who have the space and might allow us to hire some of their land to feed up a bull calf. Pasture fed organic, low carbon mile and ethically raised beef! Couldn’t be better!
            They’re also sometimes considered tri-purpose as they train easily to harness and can be used to plow! Just another sign of their incredible versatility in my books. :)
            I’m no expert though, just an avid reader determined to convince her husband. :P

          • Yeah the website we saw had a photo of one hitched to a tiny cart. Looked like something out of the Shire. :)

  5. Firstly, I have to apologize for the length. I had no idea I had this much to say about goats, and goat resources.

    I found my way here via the Homestead Barn hop. I got caught on your talk about goats. I understand you were joking to some extent, when saying you don’t know much, but I thought to share some resources from my bookmarks on the subject (also the source for my ricotta recipe), pretty much all the information on goats I have, is from Fias Co Farm. All about how to select your goats and care for them is written in a no-nonsense way. There are a couple of other goat related links from my bookmarks.

    http://www.fiascofarm.com/goats/index.htm

    http://www.goatworld.com/

    http://www.selfsustainedliving.net/ You can read about the blogger’s experiences with homesteading, including her orphaned baby goats, and their antics. She has also dealt with things like melon thieves, and severe weather. A lot of the stuff all aspiring homesteaders will face sometime in their future.

    Before getting goats, read up on fencing. Goats are notorious among homestead bloggers for their escape artistry. If they’re tame and well behaved, they might not be a problem, if they get into your garden beds, you might be in for an unhappy surprise.

    This is just a hopefully-some-day-goat-owner’s summary of two years of reading, so don’t take my word for anything, read up on your own! You might be able to do with one doe with her kids and a wether (castrated male) to make a pair for company, the way your breeder recommended it, you would end up with a big operation right away, and if you’re new folk from the town, beware him trying to offload a troublesome animal on you, so read up on subjects like selecting animals first. If you want to start a breeding operation, getting a buck as company for more than two does makes sense, otherwise, you could just set a romantic rendez-vous with the local breeder’s buck when the time comes. Bucks can be really unpleasant when hormonal, wethers are gentle, and better suited to be “pet goats”.

    If the goat breed you like has horns, you might want to ask the breeder to disbud the first kids, and show you how it’s done. Disbudding means you use a hot tool to burn the beginnings of horns from the kid goats, so they never develop horns, it seems cruel, but horn removal from an adult goat is not pretty, and can kill the animal. I’ve had a goat butt her head at me when I was a child, and despite her horns having rubber “caps” put on them to prevent her from impaling people, I was red and blue for weeks after the incident.

    Goats are foragers, and like eating food that’s elevated off the ground. They can eat through poison oak and poison ivy, if provided with other sources of food, too, oddly enough, so they are occasionally rented out specifically to clear out land. I’ve heard pygmy goats can’t digest those as well. And popular ornamentals, such as Rhododendron and Azaleas are dangerous to goats and horses and some other livestock, so keep an eye on what you have around your homestead, if the goats get to roam around the yard.

    http://www.goatworld.com/articles/brushcontrol/brushcontrol.shtml

    Oh, and get on friendly terms with your town vet. The good guys will not only do house calls in the middle of the night, some may in fact give you advice on the phone for free, others might accept a trade of services in stead of charging a full sum of cash, and so on. I’ve gotten my car’s tires fixed in exchange for a tray of chocolate cupcakes, delivered to the shop the next morning. :D

    The guys who will give free information on the phone are getting rarer, but every now and then you find treasures. I have a friend in Europe who will give equine veterinary care advice like this, even if you wake her up at 3:20am and ask for help, free of charge. Usually we agree I “owe her one” in return; most commonly I mail her teas of her choosing from Teavana that aren’t for sale in her country. :)

    • No apologies at all Penny, this is really so, sooo helpful and I appreciate you taking the time to give us this information and share your experiences with us. I’ve showed my husband your comment and we’re going to look at all this together. Thanks a bunch! And have a wonderful week.

  6. I have had dairy goats for 8 years now. I do practice all natural/wholistic methods. They are herd animals, therefore, you need at least two. Cattle panel fencing works well. Goats are clean and tidy. They need a good shelter, and don’t like to get wet or muddy. Pound of feed per pound of milk, goats out produce cows and leave you with “berries” vs. “pies”. I’ve milked does up to three years between breedings…could have gone longer but we wanted to see if she would give us a doeling. You don’t need a buck. You can take your doe to a breeder to have her bred or lease a buck. If you do get a buck and his buddy, you will need a separate place to keep him/them. His aroma can cause off flavor in milk. Once a doe goes down to less than a gallon a day in milk production, you can begin milking just once a day and continue doing this for one, two, three or more years! Our average is 1/2 gallon a day during this period. Yes, vacations are tricky. Avoid dairy goats with horns. Always buy animals that test negative for disease. The biggest concerns for me are CL and CAE. Goats can be easily managed on whole grains and good alfalfa, quality grass hay, pasture/browse.

    • Susie this is really helpful and I appreciate you taking the time to leave the feedback. I will pass this on to my husband and we’ll discuss it further. We live in a rural area and lots of people around here keep goats for a variety of reasons so I’m sure finding a breeder will not be a problem. We were looking at Nigerian Dwarf goats. Do you have a breed that you would recommend? Do you have a resource for wholistic goat care? As far as vacations go we’ve pretty much BTDT so we’re committed to staying home for a bit. I guess my concern has been the need to leave for family situations. What would we do?

      • I know that many people love the mini goat breeds. I do not prefer them. One standard sized breed dairy goat can provide you with a gallon of milk a day. Enough to make all the cheese, soap, hot chocolate, milk and cookies, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, you could ever imagine! In my opinion, a mini just doesn’t produce comparable. They are popular though. I have Alpine dairy goats. I think it best to look at the pros and cons of various breeds, especially those availble in your area (or as far as you are willing to travel for breeding), and then choose. Don’t be afraid to make changes. I started with one breed but found that I preferred Alpines over the other. As for a wholisic approach, http://www.landofhavilah.com is a great resource as well as her “groups” totallynaturalgoats on facebook and yahoo. Leaving the farm…until this year, I had teen daughter to share the work with. Now, she’s off to college! Options: hire a trusted “farm sitter”, have a friend mind the farm and do the same in return, or only milk seasonally, breeding yearly in the fall and drying off 60 days prior to next kidding, or take the goats on vacation with you?! You will never want to drink any other milk, anyway! :) We don’t eat goat here. We do raise grassfed lamb. Easy for a girl to manage, not as messy as cattle, ready to process at 11 months (not cute fluffy little lambs). We have also raised pastured poultry for meat…and grassfed cattle. I prefer the “less mess” and ease of handling of the smaller critters.

        • I will look and see what I can find here in our area. Again, this is really helpful thanks! I really didn’t get excited about eating goat. I’ve never tried it and it just doesn’t appeal to me. Grassfed lamb though, we would enjoy that. We recently bought one for the freezer that had been donated to the local 4-H. We’ve really enjoyed it and that is something we’ve talked about off and on. We’ve also talked about meat chickens…maybe eventually. We have eight Rhode Island Red chicks due to arrive this summer.

          • :) Meat birds, in my experiece, are easier than a garden! In 8-10 weeks we have a freezer full of pasture-raised chicken. Done! I hate to take up your blog space with my comments. Feel free to email me anytime. I don’t mind sharing my personal experiences. I’m no professional…just a city girl transplanted to a 40 acre farm and loving the ability to provide healthy, real food for my family!

          • You’re not taking up space at all. I’m so appreciative of your input and I’m sure that anyone who reads through the comments would be as well. I will hang on to your email address though and keep it in mind if we have any questions. I enjoyed visiting with you. :)

  7. Have you ever considered sheep? they eat the grass! relatively low maintenance…..stay put! We love our sheep….decided against the goats after waiting for years to do thi!

    • Yes we have actually! We’re still a ways away from being able to have anything larger than our chickens but we’ve talked about sheep. We have very hot summers though and I’ve wondered how they would handle that.

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