2009 is going to be a rough year for most, I hope that it draws together communities and families, to take care of each other. I hope it clears our collective eyes of all the clutter, and reminds us of what is really important: a possible future for the children on this planet, and food, shelter, dignity and peace for every human.
The end of December and the beginning of January are always the slow weeks for us. It is dark and cold, and we are recovering from the busy growing season. This time is necessary for us to regenerate and reinvigorate.
The fierce feline hunters cuddle up to Blackie in his box, some mornings the little grey one is actually sleeping on Blackie's back.
The rest of the winter gives us some time to focus on interests outside of gardening and homesteading, as well as time to plan for the upcoming season. I love to plan out the garden and make plans for the livestock we keep. Mr. Fritillary takes on the larger homesteading "systems" like our power system, or growing/harvesting/threshing grains.
Our goals in the garden are to continue expanding our small grain and pulse production. For cereals, along with wheat, we are also going to grow a crop of hulless oats and spelt. And our pulse crops will include a larger crop of baking beans and dry peas, as well as chickpeas and lentils. I want to try quinoa again, our crop in 2008 failed to produce seed in time for the frost, but we had an early severe frost this fall. After seeing how frost tolerant it is, I will plant at least a week earlier in the spring as well.
The additions in the vegetable garden are minimal, a new variety of pole bean, and paprika peppers. The rest will be just about the same, but I would like to grow more cabbage, sweet potatoes, beets and parsnips. I hope to improve the yield in my onion crop by amending the soil with potassium (from wood ashes). I lost my ground cherry crop to the frost last fall, not a single ripe one, but they struggled to germinate in the spring and I knew they were a bit late. I may have to begin again with purchasing seed since the germination rate of my saved seed was so low.
In the herb garden I'll be adding a few new medicinals, as well as allocating more space for culinary herbs. I am determined to get some fennel seed, I started some indoors last spring, but not early enough I suppose.
And I will be doing more seed saving, especially with the biennials. I have some turnips, beets, carrots, mangles, and onions in storage to be planted for seed in the spring. I also have one cabbage in storage, pulled with the root ball and all, to replant in spring for seed. I left some parsley in the ground to go to seed in the spring, and I mulched over a row of chard and kale hoping it will make it through winter to produce seed in the spring. I am also going to start a lettuce seed bed as early in the spring as possible. Lettuce and radish are long season seed producers, and this fall I lost my radish and the larger part of my lettuce seed crops to the frost.
We are also expanding our variety of grain and fodder crops for the livestock in 2009. Along with wheat and oats, we are planning to grow peas for grain and hay, for both the chickens and goats. Millet, amaranth and sunflower for the chickens. And more mangles for the goats and rabbits.
Our plans for livestock are to keep our two does, and possibly get two ewes, and 2 or 3 doe rabbits in the fall. We will be looking for some ducks in the spring, hopefully some duck eggs to incubate ourselves, somewhere between 12-20. We will also be breeding our young flock of hens and either incubating the eggs or letting a clucky hen hatch them out herself. Going into winter next year we will keep the flock down to 6 hens and a rooster and 6 ducks and a drake.
Our other major project for 2009, Mr. Fritillary's terrain, is to design/build a bicycle generator and/or a horse-powered treadmill (literally a treadmill for the horse), to replace our gas-powered generator. We spent $400 on gas in 2008 (at an average of $1.15 per Liter), $300 in 2007, and we could make one or both of these generators for about that much. The horse treadmill is a bit more complex to build, but it would truly replace the gas generator, producing an equivalent amount of power, and it would give Pilgrim, our standard bred workhorse, something to do in the winter. He actually gets bored and cramped in by the deep snow, and would be a happier, healthier horse for the exercise.
It seems to me that Pilgrim remembers being cramped up by the barn due to the 4-5 feet of snow on the ground through most of last winter, so every time it snows it is as if he is out getting one last romp around the fields.
I have really enjoyed starting this blog, and beginning to build an online community, and will continue to write about our experiences and experiments with homesteading in a brave new world.