It's the last day of 2019 and I found myself thinking that I'd like to document more of what we do on a day-to-day basis. Much of this year I've ruminated over how all the little things add up to create a larger whole. The small steps, tiny habits, and micro-goals that, over the course of seasons and years, result in massive change. While I do run a blog, it's more "how-to" content. I'm creating this thread as more of an informal, farm journal.
Here are some pictures to enjoy that I took back in September from various parts of the property:
This post here is destined to be a progress tracker. Apparently sharing my goals with actual humans makes me more likely to complete them. I suppose this is true. The chickens certainly don't give me any feedback on progress.
A (plastic-free!) made-by-me wardrobe This probably won't be completed in 1 year. I'm telling myself that that is okay!
10 shirts (0/10)
10 pants/shorts/skirts (0/100
1 pair of overalls (0/1)
4 sweaters: 2 pullovers, 2 cardigans (2/4)
1 lined coat (0/1)
10 pairs of socks (2/10)
10 pairs of underwear (0/10)
4 bras (0/4)
2 hats (0/2)
2 pairs of hand coverings: 1 pair fingerless gloves, 1 pair mittens (1/2)
1 sontag shawl (0/1)
1 scarf or cowl (0/1)
1 pinafore apron with lots of pockets (0/1)
Start a YouTube channel This is scary! I've tried filming myself and always delete the videos because I feel so embarrassed and self-conscious.
General farm goals Hatch enough chicks to lock in 2 copies of the mottling gene with the blue egg gene. I'm thinking about 100 chicks so I have plenty to choose next year's breeding stock from.
Plant at least 10 trees a/o shrubs and keep them alive over the summer drought. Currently have 17 coming from Burnt Ridge Nursery.
Build a beehive and try to catch a swarm. Wish us luck!
Expand the pollinator garden.
Preserve more of the harvest. Last year I got overwhelmed and preserved almost nothing from my garden. Did give the neighbors buckets of tomatoes though!
Card as many of the alpaca fleeces into batts as I can!
Hi Katie, that sounds like a great list! If you could make all those clothes in a year I'm assuming that would be incredible. On a side note, the PEP program is a way for people to document their projects and earn badges for them. Most of the things you mention are (or will) be parts of some badges. I'm not sure if that would be interesting to you but it's free and you can learn more about it by poking through the badges HERE
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
What I have always suggested in my sheep farming classes is a little different approach, but similar. I have always suggested that people plan to do (1) big thing per year, and then a few smaller goals.
It may seem counterproductive, but I noticed that the biggest problem a lot of homesteaders have, is burn-out. They plan to do far more than what is possible, so they quickly burn out thinking they are not doing enough, when really the problem is too man ambitious goals That gives the hardworking homesteader the feeling that that failing, when they are not. By choosing one big goal and then some smaller goals, the homestead plods along on a steady rate with steady gains being made and charted. along the way.
I did that with may farm, and it really worked out well. Eleven years of big goals being met really changed the farm for the better. One year it was putting up sheep fence. Another year was building a new barn. Another year it was clearing forest into field, so those were the big goals. Smaller goals including reducing my sheep mortality rates. Building lambing pens, and that sort of thing. Combined, my wife and I (a Katie as well) accomplished a lot.
I am excited to see your progress!
I had the same issue with preserving more of my produce last fall. Since my day job is in the education system, it's always overwhelming in fall with the new school year, as well as the shorter days meaning I have less time to do the evening chores outside.
Your clothing goal is also really cool, and something I wish I had the skill set to do.
Definitely keep us updated on your progress!
Mike - I found the PEP program very interesting and have been working on some suggestions for the higher fiber arts badges.
Travis - We tend to do 1 big thing a year too. This last year we had a bad snowstorm that took down over 100 trees - cleaning most of that mess up was our big project for the year! The good news is that we now have lots of wood chips for mulch and lots of posts for fences.
Kc- I will definitely keep this thread updated with my progress!
January 1, 2020:
The weather here was rainy and warm (for winter). After morning chores I took a walk around the lower pasture. There were lots of mushrooms up under the firs and I think some of them were Rampariopsis kunzei. I'm not confident enough in my mushroom IDing to ever eat any but I do try and figure out what I'm seeing. Also spotted lots of miner's lettuce cotyledons, which we do eat, and that my spring bulbs are coming up.
Mr. Green and I discussed plans for the year. He really only had project in mind, which is repairing some fences. I said I'd like to get irrigation sorted out for the garden and after talking about it a little it sounds like it'll be a quick & easy project. *knocks on wood*
Since it was too wet to do much outside, I knit the cuffs on a pair of socks. Normally I would just knit one sock completely before starting on the next but another knitter mentioned that she would knit a bit on one sock and then knit a bit on the second to prevent the dreaded "Second Sock Syndrome". For those that don't know, "SSS" is when after completing 1 sock the knitter finds themselves loathe to knit the second. From personal experience, it takes me 3 days to knit sock 1 and 3 months to knit sock 2. So, looking to avoid the significant delay in knitting sock 2.
And I also remembered that all of my stash of sock yarn has nylon in it. So, I guess it'll be a mostly plastic-free wardrobe because I intend to make full use of the yarn I already have.
So far today I've spent all of my free time working on the garden plan for the upcoming season and doing research on dryland farming. The patch of land directly north of our deer-fenced garden is a 30' x 100' strip of land that I'd like to use for experiments. While I won't be able to put the whole area into cultivation this spring, I will create a 2.5' x 50" bed along the N perimeter fence to plant sweet peas and some drought-resistant flowers like Gaillardia and Gaura.
It was warm today (58F!) and sunny so the kids and I headed out to work in the garden. Well, I worked. The kids mostly chased chickens and picked greens for the rabbit.
Last year I added more beds to the garden by growing in straw bales topped with compost. Now I'm breaking them apart and spreading them out, with assistance from chickens, into a thick semi-composted mulch. This year I'll grow directly in the ground where the straw has composted.
The second picture shows the strip of land on the north side of the garden that I'd like to try dry farming on. Because it's downhill from the main garden which does get watered I think it could work out fairly well with some terracing and buried wood in the beds.
Sock Progress: I made a mistake yesterday and needed to rip out 4 rounds to correct it. It's fixed now and I've done 24 rounds (out of 72) on the leg of sock 1. Now to do the same amount on sock 2. I might remember to take progress pictures tomorrow.
I have four children as well, and being sick now, there is role reversal in my home in that I am just a Trophy Husband, so I take care of the kids. (LOL) All kidding aside, it is nice to hear you get the kids engaged in what you do.
But I have to confess, I am Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo stealing your Second Sock Syndrome statement! I do not make socks (yet...I am gripping onto my man-card as long as I can), but I never realized there was a name for that hard to make matching mate. All my life I have struggled to make anything a second time if there is something that requires a matching pair. I love the name, and like other syndrome's like the Stockholm Syndrome, I am stealing it! (LOL)
Travis - Taking care of the kids is hard work! I think it's harder than a "real job". We have 2 and they keep our hands full.
You can steal the "Second Sock Syndrome" phrase all you want. It's commonly used amongst sock knitters, but it definitely applies to anything requiring a pair to be made.
January 4th, 2020:
I have a theme for each day of the week that I use (most of the time) to focus on specific areas to work. Saturday is the day I dedicate myself to indoor things and watching the kids so my husband can work on his projects without "help".
Obviously the socks got a lot of attention today. At this rate, I'll be working on the heels on Monday! I'm quite pleased with how quickly they're coming along despite the fact that I'm working on 2.
Although I spent most of the day inside I did get out to the garden to spread more strawbales. There's about 30 left to spread. If I spread 4 or 5 a day I'll have them all spread by next weekend.
I love your "a little every day" method. I have used that all my life too.
Two years ago I got a Farm Grant to put a road across my farm for $9000, but to do it, I had to haul in 350 cubic yards of gravel. Well I have a gravel pit, but it is located a half-mile away, so I asked a contractor to tell me how much the job would cost. Using my own gravel, he said $7000 which did not leave much money left over for me.
So I told my wife, "we have the gravel, it is just a matter of moving it". My little dump trailer can only move 1 cubic yard, so naturally that is easy math, 350 trips from the gravel pit to the road. That is too much....
Or is it?
I figured if we did (10) trips per day, in 35 days we would have hauled 350 cubic yards, and that is just what we did. I loaded the gravel with my tractor, and my wife hauled the gravel with my little dump trailer with her SUV, and so we got it done, and kept ALL of the $9000!
This past summer I hauled over 700 cubic yards, saving me about $5000 in purchased gravel.
And now that I am sick, when I can cut wood, I just go in and cut (3) cord per day. I used to cut 10 per day, but by doing 3 cord, in (3) days I can get a load out and still contribute to the family, so pacing yourself is a good thing, especially if you realize what the final tally will be.
Travis - There's a quote I read once, and now can't find again, that goes something like: It's amazing how long it takes to get something done when you aren't working on it. I try to keep that in mind and do something, even if it seems like too little, every day. And you are so right, it adds up!
January 5th, 2020:
On Sundays, I muck out the barn. It's a major source of satisfaction to me to start the week off knowing that all of the animal housing is clean, buckets are scrubbed, and the barn is swept out. That eats up an hour or two in the morning and I enjoy every minute of it!
It poured rain most of the day. I ended up spending my free time working on finalizing seed orders rather than knitting or going out to spread strawbales. My sister mentioned that she had ordered her seeds and I realized I'd better get mine done too. Keeping up with the Joneses, homesteading style.
Part of my garden plan is attached. The area on the left is a little maze for the kids. It'll have a teepee in the center with pole beans climbing on it that they can hide in. Can you guess that I always wanted a "secret garden" when I was a kid?
I had high hopes to get out to the garden today. Didn't happen.
The closest thing to gardening that happened was me noticing that my hollyhock seeds, still attached to the old stalks, were sprouting. I scattered the seeds around the area. Maybe I'll have more hollyhocks later this year.
We went grocery shopping in the morning. Then I had a lot of customers calling and emailing that I had to take care of. By the time I was caught up with work it started pouring rain.
Sock Progress: 24 rounds knit yesterday bringing both legs to 48/72 rounds. Getting ready to knit some more.
I went straight out to the garden after morning chores and spread 6 bales of straw. The chickens were thrilled with the grubs I turned up in one of the bales.
There are Swiss chard and fava bean volunteers coming up in the garden now. It's supposed to snow next week, which they might not like. Then again, both are pretty tolerant of freezing temps and might shrug off the cold.
Sock Progress: Legs on both socks are done. I'll be starting heels next.
I spread 8 bales in the garden today. There are exactly 27 left to spread.
It's interesting to see how some have parts that have barely rotted while others are almost fully composted. Took a picture of the inside of one bale - a circle of mycelium was growing through the bottom.
At evening chores I discovered one of our larger animals, probably the pony scratching his butt, had somehow removed a gate from its hinges without damaging the gate or the hinges. It's a 2-person job to get it back on properly, so tomorrow my husband and I get to fix that.
Sock Progress: Heel flaps done on both socks. Heel turned on sock 1 and ready to start on gusset. I'll be turning the heel on sock 2 tonight.
It started snowing early this morning and left us with a light dusting that quickly melted. It snowed again in the afternoon without sticking at all. Fluffy, frozen rain is a nice change from wet rain.
Today I played around with the selfie stick my husband bought me for Christmas and watched some videos about YouTube. The technical stuff is pretty easy for me. The actual talking to a camera.... not so much.
I was sipping my morning tea when my husband asked me if I was going to raise some roosters for him to get hackles for fly-tying. It ended up being an off-and-on conversation for the first half of the day because I kept thinking of things to ask him to clarify what he wanted. Mostly he wants duns, which come from blue chickens but can also come from actual duns (a much rarer color). Grizzlies would be fine, but he doesn't use many. He does not want the extremely long hackles like on the Genetic Hackle chickens. He was okay with bantam or standard hackles. Apparently he uses wet flies and I can't quite remember the qualities that make some feathers better for wet or dry.
Looking at what I have in my flock at the moment I can breed him some blues for dun hackles this year. The cross will be a Blue Wheaten Ameraucana over the only black hens in the flock. I'll end up with 50% blue and 50% black offspring with all the cockerels having gold/red leakage in the hackles, saddles, and wings. The leakage won't be ideal but should work.
This afternoon we went to Goodwill so I could look for some used clothing to upcycle. I was able to find a number of garments, fabric remnants, and a plastic tray to use for putting soil blocks on. The red and silver shirt was picked out by my daughter to be made into a much smaller shirt for her. It's definitely NOT natural fibers.
After dinner and evening chores I printed out a pattern and taped it all together. The pattern is from the book Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, by Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin, which was a Christmas present from my husband. The book is worth the price for the patterns alone. However, it also provides a lot of detailed information on adjusting patterns to make a different style or better fit.
This afternoon and evening I traced the shirt pattern in my size onto fancy tracing paper, ripped out all the seams on one of the Goodwill shirts, and basted potential seam lines onto the top my daughter picked out.
We moved a few more chickens around. Tomorrow I'll get everyone placed into their breeding pens and bring the incubators in from the barn.
I had planned on making it with short sleeves using the fabric from the original sleeves. Unfortunately, the new pattern needs more fabric where the original doesn't have it. So, I've opted to make it sleeveless instead.
This left me only needing to cut out the front and back pieces. Right now the pieces are cut for a crew neck and I may ended up changing the front neck to a V or scoop because they look better on me.
After that I designed a stencil and cut it with our laser printer. I don't have any fabric paint so I used a washable marker to color the fabric.
Then I started on the embroidery. I'm trying out a bunch of different stitches, many entirely new to me. There are 20 leaves and I did 7 before my youngest kiddo interrupted.