There are a million things I would love to do with the farm. Given unlimited resources, this place would resemble Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. Beautiful large barns, sprawling acres of gardens and a distillery. My first year here, I tried to accomplish far more than I should have. At the end of the year, I found financial resources in the red and dozens of projects only half way completed. I was overwhelmed and exhausted. I had to realize that farming was a journey, not a race.
Now, I start each year with a plan. During the year, I add things I would like accomplished to a list. And on this day, the last of the year, I sit down and go through the list. I weigh things out based on priorities and a preset budget. I consider logistics and long term returns. Here is my list for 2016.
I am shedding a breeding sow this year. She is amazing, but my Polish Chinese are old enough to breed now. I can’t justify five sows having babies at one time. My girls each have over ten healthy piglets per litter. 100-150 piglets a year is not something that I would be able to provide feed and resources for. Those Chinese Polish need a registered boyfriend though. So in May, I will make the 2 day trip to Kentucky to bring them home a boar from a farm that specializes in the breed.
Three goats are on the purchase books also. Despite Dixie’s attitude that makes her think she is Queen, the Saanen breed has left a lasting impression on me. She is tame, kind and will nurse everything from her own babies to my Pug dogs. Adding more to my herd is a top priority. Again, logistics puts the breeders eight hours away. Unfortunately in a direction opposite of the pig breeder. But I want stock that has no local relation and great lineage.
The biggest purchase this farm makes this year will be heifers. I have someone coming to brush hog one more time. The hay barn has had a “vet” stall put in and I have been fixing fence for a year. It’s time to bring in some cattle. Based on pasture size and quality, 15 is the long term goal. But two will be joining us this year and they will be AI’d this fall.
We have Flemish Giants now and I may get a couple more. I am adding more Easter Eggers, ten ducks and probably two more female geese. I never stop looking for Guinea keets either. They are amazing and tend to have a higher than usual death rate. Maybe when I have a flock of 100, there will be enough.
The old barn has to go. Chunks of the roof have been falling in and the foundation is slipping off the blocks the previous owner attempted to salvage the building with. But first, a new shelter has to be made. So this weekend, and every weekend between now and completion, a 20 by 10 pig barn is getting put up. I have decided a concrete floor is an absolute necessity. My back can’t handle the pitchfork and dirt combination for twenty pigs anymore. I have been doing my research and watching my friends pour theirs. I am hoping all the prep work will make a building that will stand for at least twenty years. I am putting gutters up to save the rain water off the roof too. This will eliminate the 150 feet of garden hose spread across my yard! Two small solar panels will provide enough electricity to power whatever lights and energy needs that might arise on that side of the farm.
Garden and Plants
Last year, 80% of the food for my family came from right here on the farm. It is absolutely a blessing to be able to know where our food comes from. I am adding 16 more raised beds this year. Instead of the 8×8 beds, I am doing 8×4. The others are so wide that space gets wasted and it’s hard to weed and work the middle without destroying plants on the outside. I won’t be putting the corner posts into the ground either. I have gone and toured several local gardens and they have had equal success with both methods. If I don’t have to dig holes, I am not going to!
We added 25 fruit trees last year and 10 blueberry plants. During a hospital stay, a very sweet friend mowed and cleaned up the garden for us. It took me a few weeks to realize that the blueberry plants, being unmarked and small, didn’t make it. So the area is prepped and now fenced for more blueberry plants. I will add another 10-15 fruit trees, depending on the sales I find. The plant addition we are the most excited for? Strawberries and Blackberries! I have a strawberry pyramid being made and I am also hanging gutters on the fence to grow them. I hope to have 300 plants this year. It may seem like a lot. However, my kids and I ate 75 pounds of strawberries this year. I put another 3 bushels up in pie filling and jam. It’s already gone! I ordered some hardwood trees from the Arkansas Department of Conservation and the Arbor Society. Beyond that, I am building two cold frames so we can have greens all winter long.
Writing it all down makes it seem like there is a ton to be accomplished this year. And there always is. But I am avoiding house expansions this year and several other things, like my grape arbor, in lieu of getting some things that will have long term returns. Having a plan will keep me on task and focused. Here is to hoping all the goals get accomplished this year!
Happy New Year from our farm to yours. May all you farm plans in 2016 come true!
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