02 January 2009

Goals for 2009

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.


Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Those sound like great goals, here's to a sunny, long enough and productive growing season!

Caroline said...

I discovered your blog not so long ago and really enjoy reading and learning about your homesteading. I wish you a good year and success with your goals!

redclay said...

I like your idea of pulling up and storing beets that perform well to take seed from them the following year. It's probably a necessity for you where your soil freezes but for me it would be a great convenience. I could store the few that I like over the winter and replant them in an "out of the way" corner of the garden out of the way and let them grow seed the second year! Thanks for the tip!

I wish you much success this year. Please continue to post. I enjoy reading about your experiences.

Chiot's Run said...

Love the cat & dog photo.

Sounds like you have your goals all nailed down. I still need to sit down and figure mine out, I haven't had time yet.

Here's to a happy and successful New Year!

el said...

Well I do look forward to learning more about your adventures, Freija. Your plans sound ambitious but do-able (is that a contradiction?). Gardening is such a bigger question mark than animal husbandry, at least in my experience, but I think it makes boatloads of sense for you two to do lots of forage and feed crops.

Happiest of new years to you two.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Trapper Creek, thank you, same to you. I was sorry to see about your greenhouses. It's things like that that encourage us to innovate, especially with climate change on our doorstep. And yes, here's to a good growing season in 2009!

Caroline, I'm really happy you enjoy this blog. All the best in 2009.

redclay, we have experimented with leaving some root crops in the ground over winter, but it is a bit of a gamble in our climate. Last winter we had so much snow the ground never froze, so the carrots and parsnips did quite well until mid-April when we dug them out. But this year we have had the freeze-thaw see-saw and the ground is a block of ice in most places.

But seeing as we have a nice cool fall and spring, we can store root crops and squash, etc, in a cold room for 6-7 months! That's why storage qualities are so important for our variety and seed selection.

Seed saving for biennials is actually quite easy. I found out that carrots and parsnips are plentiful seed producers, and ended up with enough seed to plant an acre from 6-8 plants! But in your climate, you are right, you could probably just transplant a few of each root into a corner of the garden. You may be able to let them overwinter in the ground, depending on your climate. Onions would do well with this treatment also.

Thanks for all of your thoughtful comments as well. Have a happy and healthy 2009.

Susy, our dogs and cats are not nearly as photogenic as your crew! Love the new year's party dog on your blog.

I love looking forward to the new season, a happy New Year to you as well. Wishing you success in your ever expanding food-garden.

El, ambitious but do-able, that is a great compliment! It has taken me a few years to get both the ambition and the know-how on the same level. Or at least chasing each other's tail: my ambition grows so my know-how chases after it, then as my knowledge grows, my goals and dreams chase even further ahead. It is a very different and rewarding "hampster wheel" than the money-career race.

Yes, for us, the livestock and the garden go hand in hand, and growing our own feed and fodder crops is the piece that makes our homestead sustainable for our situation.

Thanks for the well wishes, all the best back to you and yours.

Bishops Homegrown said...

Sounds like you have things well planned out for next year! Seed saving of any variety is always the way to go for self sustainability and I agree that in 2009 we must stick close to our friends and neighbors and family in order to survive the crisis that we face, 2009 will be the year to prepare.

We too are going to grow a number of accessions of wheat, spelt, hull less oats, quino and amaranth. We had very good luck with quinoa and amaranth last year but didn't produce nearly enough for our tastes as that makes up the majority of my breakfast (suplimented with homegrown eggs).

Keep up the good work on the blog, I really appreciate reading your posts!

redclay said...

I'm a little bit late on this comment but I just thought about it last night...in regards to your Pilgrim-electrical power system. Do you have plans that are the basis of your design or are you building from scratch? I ask because I pay my bills with a desk job being a structural analyst. As part of the job I also work with some high power modeling software. I may be of some assistance to you if you ever ask yourself the question "Will this be strong enough to not break and otherwise be dangerous." If you end up needing some assistance, just post your question.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Bishops, glad to year you had good success with amaranth and quinoa. They are great grains. We would like to grow them for ourselves, as well as for animal feed, since they are 14-16% protein. And pretty easy to harvest by hand.

Thanks for the blogging encouragement!

redclay, thank you for the offer of help. We have yet to put the real pencil to paper on our design. There are of course, all kinds of "antique" treadmills to look at online, mostly made of wood. And there are contemporary Amish treadmills, made mostly from welded metal.

We really appreciate the offer, and yes, safety is an important issue with a piece of equipment like this. I'll pass your offer to Mr. Fritillary...