My blog posts have been sparse this winter. Partially that’s due to the fact that it’s winter and there are less note able things happening to chronicle. Also, this time of year we are spending a lot of time researching, planning and questioning all the ways that we want to improve, change and build upon the farm. We have loads of new projects in mind, but none of them seem completely figured out at this point. So, I felt like sharing a few of our goals, though they are not yet completely fleshed out. We shared a similar post in 2014 with our plans for the year. If you look back at it you’ll see some of last year’s goals that we are still working on, a few that we accomplished, and others that didn’t make the cut.
1. Our least tangible but most important goal is to continue to improve our soil and grow healthy abundant plants. We’ve been through two cycles of soil sampling and application of a full spectrum of mineral amendments in an attempt to balance our soil. Our emphasis is always on improving the structure of the soil, disturbing it the least possible, and providing lots of food for the soil biology. We’d like to incorporate more live ground cover under crops and in pathways to help keep active relationships with all those microbes. We have intention to do more monitoring of the brix levels of our growing crops and the soil conductivity throughout the growing season.
2. We’ve just finished cutting and hauling around 100 birch logs for inoculation with shiitake and oyster mushroom spawn. Cultivating outdoor mushrooms is something we’ve always been interested in pursuing, and feels like it would be a nice addition to the diversity of crops we’ll have to offer. We were also inspired by reading the new book and attending a workshop about Farming the Woods.
3. Over the last few years we have hand dug quite a few swales. Some of these were in our lower field where there are sometimes problems with flooding and erosion if we have heavy rain events. We’ve come to the conclusion that we need to bite the bullet and just establish a series of swales in that field with an excavator this spring. The goal is to slow and sink any excess water from heavy rain events. The plan is to follow contours and spread out the swales with enough distance between them to allow for grazing/moving animals between the swales which will eventually be planted with a variety of trees (hopefully by 2016).
4. We’ll soon be launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to build a root cellar/passive cooler this summer. If we are successful in raising enough money we plan on building an underground root cellar made from logs, in the style popularized by permaculturist Sepp Holzer in Austria. We need more space for winter crop storage and would love to be able to offer winter CSA shares in the future. As part of the design we want to include a way to freeze a large volume of ice in the winter that can be brought into or made in the root cellar that would slowly melt and keep the root cellar cool passively into the summer months. Expect to hear much more about this in coming months! These are some pictures that were posted at Permies.com of root cellars/animal shelters built by Sepp Holzer or his son Josef.
5. With our first successful batch of meat birds under our belts in 2014, we are inspired to do two batches this year with a little modification of our housing system. We plan on having a smaller flock of laying hens, mostly for our own use. Instead of moving them weekly we may experiment with keeping them in one area but employing their skills in making compost.
We also want to try raising some ducks for meat. After reading about others using ducks for slug control of mushroom log yards we are inspired to set up a duck yard near where we will be storing our mushrom logs. The site will also be near other gardens and located above sites that could use the nutrient run off from the duck bedding and bath.
We were thinking of starting to train a new pair of calves as a team of oxen this spring- but in looking at the length of our projects list we decided to put that goal off until 2016 when we can focus on it more. After our first attempt at working with an ox, we want to make sure we have enough time to do a good job training and developing a respectful relationship with any draft animal from the start.
6. Making an outdoor kitchen was on our list last year as well, but we would really like to make it happen. We are thinking of making a barrel oven that can be used for both baking in and also making biochar in. We’d love to have an outdoor oven for personal use, but also for CSA events, and possibly for having a weekly pizza night. In this covered outdoor space we’d also like to have a rocket stove for cooking/canning on as well as workspace and gathering space- perhaps with strawbale cob benches. We may host one or more workshops around this project.
7. Last but not least, we will try out selling produce direct from the farm once or twice a week in the honor system farm stand style. We are not sure there is enough traffic to make on farm sales worthwhile, but we’ll give it an experimental try. It seems there are neighbors that don’t want to commit to a whole CSA share that might want to try some tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, or a pint of raspberries.
What do you think? Are we crazy, ambitious, misguided? We always appreciate comments, feedback and suggestions. Leave us a note here or stop by and chat.