1) How would you plant things so as to make them easy to transplant later? Or would you just grow them permanently with the idea of taking cuttings when you move? My thought was to plant tons of seeds close together in very loose soil and transplant to pots or my parents place after a year or so.
2) What would you prioritze getting started from seed now? Windbreak trees, nitrogen fixers, berry hedgerows? Or would it be better to buy plants in bulk once we move?
3) I would like to start to cashflow my nursery now and was thinking I would buy rootstock seeds for apples, pears, plums, and maybe hazelnuts. Plus start trying to propagate a rasberry and some currants I have. Does that sound reasonable as the first step in a long term goal?
My vision is that when you finally get your land, you will immediately have dozens-to-hundreds of trees ready to plant, all of which are at least a few years closer to fruiting age than if you were starting from scratch. And that way you don't need a huge budget for nursery trees in the same year as you just bought an expensive piece of land.
The key thing is that growing trees this way is a numbers game, so plant lots and be accepting of losses. You'll lose trees in the buckets to drought, freezing in winter, and animals; the better you manage them the fewer losses, but losses you will have. And there will be more when it's time to transplant; site prep matters but sometimes sites just aren't ideal and sometimes trees don't thrive like they should after transplanting. It's OK. The trees that survive are worth the losses.
If you are planning on raising chickens, bees or rabbits, you can get these started on your parents' place with portable infrastructure like a chicken tractor, an egg mobile (check out Joel Salatin's operation), movable rabbit hutches and bee hives. There are a number of initial purchases you'll need to make to get a chicken operation up and running: brooder, heat lamps, waterer, food dishes, some kind of system for fermenting your feed, grit, calcium, diatomaceous earth, and a butchering station where you'll process meat birds. All of this can be purchased and you can learn to how to use it before you move it over to your place. ALWAYS THINK PORTABILITY. Start small (like, 25 birds), learn how to care for them and move them, butcher them, etc. This year can Chickens 101. Next year (Chickens 201) could be 50 broilers in two chicken tractors, with another 50 layers in your egg mobile. Once you move to your new place, you'll have parent stock, and all of your equipment—hello, Chickens 401. Start with 2 bee hives, and in the same way as with chickens, learn the ropes with bees on a small scale. Purchase your bee suit, honey processing equipment, etc.
You mention dairy: can you get a couple of heifers and graze them at your folks place? By the time they are ready to produce milk, you'd have your operation running. Perhaps it would be better to start with beef cattle. You could purchase 5 steers and start them at your folks place. Purchase a solar powered electric fence system (wire, batteries, bat latches, etc.) and begin to learn how to mob graze them and move them daily (and improve your parents' soil in the process). 40 acres is a lot of land -- more than enough land for a handful of steers, and an egg mobile to chase after them.
Of berries or trees, berries might be the more portable and more easily transplanted, but I agree with Dan Boone -- if you can find a cheap sources for 5 gallon pots, plant a zillion trees. They'll do OK for 2 years in a 5 gallon pot.
How familiar are you with drip irrigation systems? This would be a great time to learn how to set these up, buy all the tubing and drippers and such, and then set all that up on your nursery so you don't have to water all those pots with a hose every day. All of that drip irrigation stuff can come with you to the new location in a couple of years.
What about a good dog? If you don't have your dog yet, this would be a great time to start looking for a puppy from a solid farm dog family. You could go with a pure-bred or a mutt, but far more important than the breed is the training. (OK -- you need both. All the training in the world will not turn a poorly selected/ill fitted dog into an obedient and happy farm dog). Dogs take a couple of years to train and become an asset, but a good dog is worth her weight in gold. It takes a lot of time and patience to teach a dog to be an effective tool on your farm. It's totally worth it, particularly if you are working with beef cattle. Are you dog people? Have you trained a working dog? If not, there are all sorts of great videos and on-line resources. This would be a good season to learn to work with a dog, train her, and get her ready to work beside you for the next 15 years.
Finally, you may want to think of value-added cash producing products. Things like jams, honey, specially prepared meats (cured hams, smoked meats), pickled veggies, kraut, baked goods and breads . . . An economically viable farm needs to think about generating income from a number of different sources. Yes, you can sell berries and fruit. But processing them and canning them suddenly you make 3 times as much as if you sell them fresh. So this is a knowledge set that you can learn now. Canning equipment, pickling crocks, etc. . . . purchase this stuff now and start learning how to do it well. Learn to make the best chutney in your county. Become known as making the best okra pickles in town, and always bring a jar to the church pot-luck so people become familiar with your wares. What can you produce, package and sell for extra cash? Steel-cut oats? Herb infused olive oil? Dried herbs? Carded wool from an angora sheep? Artisanal cheese? Selling milk from your future dairy will make you money, but selling cheese will make you 4 times as much. Now is a great time to get the skills and equipment you'll need in a few years.
Those are just a few ideas that come to mind.
I'll add that getting my shiitake logs online is definitely in the plan. If you're interested in mushrooms, that enterprise is portable, and if memory serves, the logs take a year to start fruiting, so the sooner you start the better. You might be able to make your grain and sawdust spawn and have it ready for the property, too. Thing is, I don't know how long spawn keeps....anyone?
I've invested a fair amount into getting nitrogen fixers, ground cover, and flowers for pollinators going. I have no intention of starting over completely from scratch.
Lupine seed is easily collected in mid-summer. You could have them working as nitrogen fixer and pollinator plant right now and simply save a bunch of seed the summer before your move. There are other seeds easy to grow and save in ever-increasing amounts: daikon, favas, and so on. None of these are expensive, but you're likely growing plants like these anyways, so why not.
Comfrey...comfrey is easy. When you're ready to go, dig it up and take a bunch with you.
Raspberry seedling are easily transplanted in the spring. I dig up seedlings every spring and plop them in a new area of the garden. The spring of a move year, I'd just plop several of them into pots.
I plant to propagate my goumi into numbers far greater than what I have at the moment. I put in three plants to see how I like them. My plan is to propagate a lot of them before I move and be prepared to start a goumi hedge or use them as nurse plants right from the get go. Basically, anything that can be easily propagated by cuttings, I plan to take with me.
I also have a bunch of flowers for pollinators that can easily be dug up and divided in the spring. I have no intention of leaving those entirely behind. Daisies, asters, bee balm, goldenrod, and so on. Dig them up in the spring and put them into 6" pots to wait for a move.
So, as time allows, I'm planning on this property essentially being a nursery for the next one.
Callan Wallace wrote:I have 18 acres that I can not plant on yet as it is the dry season and water is in short supply. I have over 250 trees in pots at the house I am renting currently. Start now and get a jump on it when you do finally get your land.
Like pot them? I was thinking to just load the truck bed with plants instead of potting. Not a good idea?
1. When we moved, we had so many tiny trees and plants in pots. It was a lot of hassle taking care of them in a time when we were travelling to and fro a lot, and even more hassle to take them with us moving - they took up a lot of space... and a lot of them died anyway after transplanting / in the first summer. I have a much higher success rate now with either plants I bought, or seedlings I started here.
2. Getting an dog (LGD) when not living on a farm yet - that was a huge mistake. We thought it would be easier to raise him, train him, go to doggy school and have him accustomed to things like babies & children, traffic, other dogs,... He did great in school, walked on a leash and everything - he hasn't had a leash on since he was 4 months old though (with the exception of an emergency trip to the vets). We should have raised him on the farm, surrounded by chickens and sheep and goats and other stuff so he could get used to them instead. We're having a hard time getting him not to play with them (which can be deadly with a big dog and smal chickens), and it took him a lot of time to adjust to life on the countryside. He's a great guard dog, but that's just his genes
3. I wish I had invested more time & money in buying tools and machinery, when still living in Holland; it was so easy to order things off the internet, or to go to shops and compare / try out stuff. Here most bigger shops are about 45 minutes drive (1h30 for the really big DYI stores, Ikea or electronics), and having things delivered to our house or to the village is just not as simple as it used to be (and often much more expensive). We're still planning to buy loads of things (a wood chipper, bread baking machine, solar electric fencing to name a few) and in most local shops it's more expensive and there isn't a big choice.
There's a few things I would have bought just before moving as well - eggs to incubate, organic seeds (so difficult to find organic stuff locally), chick feed (still buying that in Belgium every time I go back), brewing yeast, cheese making supplies,...
One can save a tonne of money buying off season and/or second hand. In my case I plan on moving onto raw land but others have other plans. For example I've purchased some good articulated ladders, some solar, plant starting supplies, collecting seeds from trees, etc. Keeping my eyes out for sheet metal roofing, sinks for an outdoor kitchen, post hole digger, windows and doors; on and on.
What tools, equipment and supplies should one be acquiring?
I reused the Root Maker pots some of the shrubs came in to start some of my summer squash this spring and even in the squash there was a noticeable difference between those in standard pots and those in the Root Makers. As this is a brand name (and fairly pricey) I'm going to add some relevant links here.
This one is a university link with instructions on how to set up a propagation bench to be able to mass produce plants with these techniques depts.washington.edu/propplnt/Chapters/air-pruning.htm
One nice thing is that the materials they suggest are either reusable or biodegradable
This one discusses the difference between several styles of commercial root pruning pots. http://www.gardenspout.com/news/are-all-root-pruning-containers-same-and-why-should-we-use-them
It includes enough information about how they work and where they fail to be useful if you are designing your own, more affordable pots. If I weren't trying to work more towards direct seeding my garden plants, I would probably be trying to build my own propagation bench, already. As it is, I save every Root Maker pot I have for those few plants I do transplant.