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This year I am adding a lot to my homestead and I am working on a long term plan. As with all parts of my life, I can’t do everything at once and I am trying to stay flexible because as I move forward with my plan I always come across things that need to change. I set some pretty lofty goals this year the big one being to grow 80% of my family’s food for the year! This goal includes growing enough tomatoes to can all of our own salsa and pasta sauce for the year, growing a years worth of garlic and onions and basically growing all our fruits and vegetables for the summer months and enough to can and freeze to supplement what we need fresh during the winter. This is a huge goal for one year and while I call this my “short term goal,” I expect to fall short this year and will keep working towards this number.
In thinking about my long term goals for my homestead, I am planning what areas to dedicate to an orchard and reconsidering where I want to ultimately put a chicken coop. I am considering options for a barn and how access to the space I have will impact what I do. For example, do I want larger livestock that I need to provide shelter for over the winter? Do we need to have a livestock trailer? Can I access the area that I want to put the barn with a trailer? If I put in trailer access to the back of my property how will that change the area that I want to put my new garden in a couple of years? These are the big picture items that I am constantly considering and as I put in my orchard this year I need to make sure that I am not blocking future trailer access to a barn or all my work is for nothing.
The New Orchard
I decided over the winter that the orchard needed to go in this year so we will start getting it to produce in the next few years. The earlier I start that project the better, as it is going to take a while for the trees to grow and be productive. So, the orchard went in a couple of months ago. Ten new fruit trees are all getting leaves and looking good. We put up little fences around each one to protect them from the deer, elk and moose that will destroy them if they are not enclosed. Eventually, I would like to have a big fence around the whole orchard but that is not in the cards this year.
I am reconsidering the area for the chicken coop, I am afraid that it will be too susceptible to predators if we put it by “the wild.” We have an area that has very thick vegetation. I have not ventured in, the dog has and the kids have a bit but it is a crawl in type of area and that is not my idea of fun exploration anymore. We refer to this area as “the wild” and I am certain that there are all manner of beasties in there that would love a chicken buffet. So I am still trying to figure out where I can put my hens next year.
I had planned to entirely move my garden area but the orchard took a significant amount of time, and seriously cut into my “homestead improvement” budget so, instead, I decided to just do a temporary garden expansion. This meant that I only needed to put up fencing on two sides and I already have water figured out to this area. We got the new fencing up a couple of weeks ago and I have been busy getting the garden in. I just finished unloading what I hope is my last load of dirt this morning. Today I finally got the rest of my tomato and pepper starts in the ground. This has been a pretty big task but the garden space has tripled! I am not done figuring out where things will ultimately go, I keep changing my mind about where to put the blueberries and strawberries. The raspberries are in the ground so at least I don’t have to think about that anymore.
The biggest challenge I am dealing with this year as I get my garden in is gophers! I bought some half wine barrels to try and I have a few things in pots. I am putting some stuff in the ground anyway and hoping for the best. We have some really strong peppermint oil that is supposed to repel rodents and I read that you can put it on a cotton ball and put it into their burrows because they don’t like the smell. Today as I was digging a hole for a tomato plant I found a tunnel so I stuffed a few cotton balls soaked with peppermint oil in there and then shoved a few big rocks in. We will see if it helps.
It is all about Progress
Nothing will ever be perfect and I feel like everything I do is a part of a grand experiment. I have made a ton of progress. I am loving how the new garden area is turning out. The more I get the space organized and planted, the more space I find. The plan is starting to come together and it is so exciting. Everyday something new is sprouting or growing or starting to flower and I am hopeful that I will be able to accomplish some of my homesteading goals for this year. I set some pretty lofty goals and am working hard to implement quite a bit at once. Just because I have set large goals that require a bunch of work this year does not meant that your homestead goals need to be this big. Not everyone’s journey is the same. There are lots of people that are doing a lot more work than I am and plenty others that only want a couple of tomatoes in pots on the patio. Wherever you are in your journey is perfect and I hope you are enjoying your journey.