This time of year possibilities seem endless. There are many changes we’d like to make on the farm, projects to finish and new ones to start. Although it is fun to think about what we’d like to plant and what animals we’d like to raise, the list can also look a little intimidating. In thinking about this post I asked myself, “Why would anyone like to read about our farm goals? Should we put something so personal out for the world to see? (sarcasm inserted here, as our readership is quite small)” The answer I gave to myself is that perhaps there are some people out there interested in our plans and they may be inspired by some of our ideas or want to share words of advice or caution about them. There is also the idea that stating goals to someone else makes you a little more accountable to actually achieving them. So here is a list of some things we’d like to work on this year. They may get finished and you’ll probably here about them in future posts, or you may hear about them in following years.
1. Grow plants and use growing space to their full potential. We are frequently reminded about the fertility and nutrient requirements for crops when you plant a whole bed of something and it yields very little. Instead of falling into the thought pattern that we need more and more garden space to increase our yields we’d like to focus on improving fertility in certain garden spots, paying more attention to specific nutrient, spacing and water requirements so that the garden spaces we do have are more productive. In this same vein of thought we hope to utilize the space in our greenhouses better. There is room to go up and down. We may shift some beds around a bit so that we can trellis on the back wall of the greenhouse. We’d also like to make long hanging planters for lettuce that can be suspended from the cross supports. Looking downward in space, we have a big hole dug in the middle of the greenhouse for a worm pit that will house red wigglers decomposing compostables under the walkway, we just need to finish and fill it.
2. Build a root cellar/passive cooler. Though our root pit has worked great for us it
is too small. We would like to build a root cellar into a hill. We are researching the construction possibilities and looking into building with earth bags. We have visited a passive freezer in Essex, VT where they freeze soda bottles and buckets of water in the winter and then close off their very well insulated root cellar space to have a freezer into the summer months. We would like to adapt this idea so that frozen buckets can be brought into a portion of the root cellar towards spring so that it can continue to be used as a cooler in the summer months. We may try to do crowd funding to help pay for this project.
3. Sprout grow room renovations. This one actually needs to happen sooner rather than later. We want to open up a wall and make other plumbing/work space improvements to our sprout growing area to help transfer heat, airflow and have more room in general. We would love to switch to a non-petroleum heat source for the room. We like the idea of a rocket mass heater, but are skeptical that we could get one insured.
4. Increase our CSA members, especially from the very local community and have more involvement with neighbors.
5. Chickens, pigs and Lucky. We plan to raise some meat birds this year for the first time. We’re still not sure if we’ll do the slaughtering ourselves or hire a mobile slaughterer. We’ve been rotating our pigs each year on the same field for the past 3 years and it seems they may be getting to the point of doing more damage than improvement. We’d like to move them into different edge areas and possibly into the woods, which requires experimenting with different fencing systems. Training Lucky the ox continues to be a slow and turbulent process- we hope he is still with us in a year and that he is pulling firewood and other heavy stuff around.
6. Fill, build and dig more terraces and contour beds. We hope to keep adding to the terraces behind our house and start some new beds also on that hill and elsewhere that will follow the contours of the hill. Swales will be dug behind the beds and trees and/or annuals will be planted into the mounds on the downhill side of the swales (I know that deserves more explanation, but it’ll have to wait).
7. Deal with flooding and erosion in our lower field and work on design layout for tree plantings, pasture and annual gardens. This one is a doosy. We have dug a few swales by hand to try to help slow down and absorb seasonal water flows that come off the hill behind our field that have been causing major erosion. We need to do more consulting about this, probably dig more swales and plant them with trees. If we can get the water situation a little more stable we’ll move on to creating beds for annual vegetables and possibly more fruit tree/shrub plantings.
8. Explore and implement some alternative energy options. We’d love to get a solar panel and implement some form of solar hot water heating. We realize our vulnerability when the power goes out and we have no water (we have a deep well that does not gravity feed). We would like to insure access to water by either having an off grid power system, installing a deep well hand pump, or explore digging another spring. All of these options have a pretty big price tag so they will most likely be a work in progress.
9. Last but not least is our dream of building an outdoor kitchen. This most likely will not happen in 2014, but perhaps we’ll get started. It is fun to think about anyway. Just behind our house incorporated into the terracing we’d like to build an earthen oven with a rocket stove and seating and counter space all under a roof that we can collect water from. Beyond our own personal use of this kitchen our thought is that we might offer wood fired pizzas with home grown seasonal toppings through our CSA in future years.
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