What the 2020… We have had so many ups and downs that I get a little nauseous thinking about it. Hold on tight folks this is going to be a long one.
I made the leap in March to go full time on the homestead. Quitting the 9-5 allowed me to invest more time into the property, livestock and our business. It took us about three years to get to this point and we still have expensive goals for the property as a whole but so far we are not starving, actually we live a pretty lush life, as do the critters. Even though we are fully off grid and sometimes it really gets tough we always make ends meet. Praise God.
Spring started off right with the most adorable addition to the farm, angora goats. Their personalities are hilarious and the mohair they produce is soft and luxurious. They were the perfect addition for my fiber obsession and I can not wait to spin up some of their locks into beautiful yarns and felted things. I have two females named Niddy and Spindle and an unrelated buck name Noddy. Since they take about two years to fully mature it will be another 16 months before I will breed them. Until then I will shave them twice a year and enjoy the comic relief they bring to the homestead.
After the snow melted and I was able to do our spring burn pile I distributed the wood ash, chicken manure and rabbit manure throughout the garden. I was able to erect a temporary green house and started our garden seeds much earlier than any year before. Inside the greenhouse were 3 black 55 gallon drums of water for warming the green house with ambient heat throughout the evening on those chilly spring nights. My veggie starts were HUGE by the time I was ready to get them into the garden. I hand tilled the lower 8th of the garden into rows following the slope of the garden to take advantage of gravity watering in the trenches. I’ll expand next year with even more trenches so that watering can be as simple as moving the hose every 40 minutes from one trench to the next. The trench method has been a game changer for me this year. We still of course have our raised beds but that will be transitioned into a perineal garden as our blue berry bushes and things mature.
Once all the veggies were safely planted in the garden we had some serious power issues. Even after adding a giant inverter, wind mill and four additional solar panels to the homestead this year we had a failure with not only the brand new inverter but the generator too! So watering stopped for two whole weeks right at the middle of growing season. Luckily, I had a habit of filling every bucket, barrel and container when I did have water so I was able to trickle by until my husband and I picked up a new generator and got the inverter issues resolved. I only had to run down to a near by spring every other day with the four wheeler and barrel to water the livestock. These power issues made us realize that we really do need more water storage for days when the well pump simply won’t run. So another cistern being buried will be in the works hopefully before this winter.
After our water woes we had two successful litters of rabbits and three dairy goats kidded healthy sets of twins. Our honey bees were really ramping up and we expected to have a huge honey harvest come August. We did several splits and increased our hive numbers substantially to prevent any unwanted swarming. And then our hives were attacked by a bear three times in one week! That bear tipped over hives, ripping apart their comb, eating brood and what ever resources the bees had put away. I was able to suit up and using a headlamp in the night put most of the hives back together. I made sure to ratchet strap the hives closed but the bear still tried a few more times to get at the bees and their delicious delights inside. We then added woven wire fencing around the bee yard making an additional pasture for the horses and goats and put a low hanging strand of hot wire near the hives to prevent any further damage by the pest. So far it has worked. Thank goodness. With all the bear action we lost roughly four hives and it set back our honey harvest significantly but we still ended with about 15 gallons for the season.
Our local farmers markets were delayed due to you know….. 2020, giving me ample time to work on inventory and additional products. After spending the last two years reading up on goats milk soap recipes and technique I made the leap this year and added it to my repertoire. My fridge was being over whelmed by does in milk. And even after selling several goats this summer I was still accumulating almost 3 gallons of milk every two days. The dogs, cats and chickens love the excess but I really wanted to be more productive with such a valuable homestead commodity. I even played around a bit and felted up some soaps as well. These colorful soaps make great gifts!
The work isn’t over yet. Soon enough the leaves will fall and we will need to start stocking up on wood to keep us warm this winter. Winter also welcomes a season of building up inventory as the weather outside turns I will be able to focus on building even more inventory for next year. With all this hard work I have to stop and remind myself to kick up my feet every now and then between honey harvest, preserving the garden bounty, milking and collecting eggs. Sometimes it helps to have a few companions to follow in your shadow and rest a while in the hammock with you.