January 31, 2014

Alfalfa For Goats: Looking For Alternatives

We American goat keepers love our alfalfa. It's rich in protein and calcium and increases milk production. Who could ask for anything more? Unfortunately alfalfa isn't grown in my part of the country, so alfalfa hay is extremely expensive. Since goats are very wasteful with it, it doesn't make sense to buy it, except as pellets. And that's what I've done, feed my girls alfalfa pellets. Until the other day.

Of all the alfalfa pellet brands I can buy locally, I've always bought Standlee. It's been the one brand that contains little to no alfalfa dust, plus, they've had a non-GMO statement on their website regarding their alfalfa sources. Until recently.

Recently Standlee changed their packaging, new look and all. I have to say I wasn't impressed with the new bags, especially when I discovered how easily they burst open. But that wasn't the real problem. The real problem was that after offering it to my girls, they wouldn't eat it. They all walked away from their feeders with quite a bit left in the bottom.

That raised a huge red flag in my mind, so I went back to the Standlee website. Instead of the non-GMO statement, I found this one.  You can click it to see for yourself, but the bottom line is that they now use "a limited amount of GMO Alfalfa". That's extremely disappointing, but hats off to Standlee for at least disclosing the GMO status of their feeds!

So I'm looking for an alternative. I know quite a few of you may be quick to mention Chaffhaye (the new alfalfa darling of the goat world), because Chaffhaye manufacturers promise their product will always be GMO free. I did look into it. However, the nearest dealer is about 135 miles away. At $15 per 50 pound bag, that makes it a better deal than the 40 pound bags of alfalfa pellets selling for $14.49. But the distance keeps it off the range of realistic possibilities because I buy weekly. A weekly 270 mile trip for alfalfa would be ridiculous. Perhaps more feasible would be to buy a bulk supply, except our budget has no room for that!

I confess that even if budget wasn't an issue, I'd still be looking for an alternative. One reason is our goal of self-sustaining animal keeping. That means working toward feeding our animals from our land.

The other reason is because of what I read about alfalfa in Pat Coleby's Natural Goat Care, because alfalfa is a legume.
"Goitrogenic Feeds: All legumes come under this category. They deplete iodine if they are eaten in excess . . . Irrigation alfalfa grown with artificial fertilizers is especially toxic." Page 95
I can't help but wonder that if I didn't feed alfalfa, perhaps my goats wouldn't gobble down the kelp meal (their source of iodine) so quickly.

In the end, my goal is to get away from buying anything to feed my goats. Having self-sustaining goats means providing everything they need on our homestead. This is a goal I've been working toward for a number of years. Now, however, it seems time to shift gears from experimental stage to the real deal.

As a replacement for alfalfa, I've been planting comfrey, adding more crowns every year. It is rich in both protein and calcium and the goats love it. It takes a bit of work, however, because it loves rich soil and doesn't seem to tolerate any hot, dry spells. Still, if I can get a routine it will be worth it.

I'm working on an update to our self-sufficient animal feed goal, but until then (for anyone interested), here are links to previous posts on what I've researched, learned, and thought about:

January 28, 2014

Storm Chores

This is the first winter we've had
some daytime highs remain below
freezing. We've had to look to ways
to keep critter water from freezing
so fast. A straw filled bucket helps
insulate & forestall ice formation.
To check on and do:
  • fill wood boxes
  • fill kindling boxes
  • wood pile covered?
  • tools put away?
  • fill hay feeders
  • fill chicken feeder
  • fresh bedding
  • fresh warm water in all buckets
  • buckets in insulation tubs if necessary
  • check & fill kerosene lanterns
  • get a nice roast out of the freezer (enough to feed us for a couple of days should the electricity go out)

Now sit back with a warm mug of something tasty and enjoy some cozy time by the fire until it's time to check on everyone again.

Goats don't like snow.

The chickens allowed themselves to be lured out with scratch.

Sammy and Riley helped with chores.

Sam's preferred way to weather out a winter storm.

Riley's too.

This is the first snow we've had here in several years. Most of the goats and cats, and none of the chickens had experienced it before. We accumulated a little over an inch. How are you all faring out there?

Storm Chores © January 2014 by Leigh 

January 26, 2014

Winter Freezer Canning: Elderberry Jelly

Of all the things we use electricity for, I think the most useful is for our refrigerators and freezer. I've wondered before how Southerners stored food before electricity; I have such problems with mold, mildew, and pantry moths that if it wasn't for these appliances, I'm not sure what I could keep that would be fit to eat. Another benefit is being able to toss in things like tomatoes, blueberries, and elderberries at the peak of harvest to process later. (For how to easily peel tomatoes by freezing them, scroll down to "Tomatoes" in this post.) With our temperatures being the coldest ever, I've needed a project that keeps me close to the stove. Emptying the freezer of all those fruits for jam and jelly making is the perfect project.

For the first time since I planted them, I have an abundance of elder- berries. This year, I wanted to try elderberry jelly. It was a first for me.

First batch of elderberry jelly. The recipe made 5 half-pints.

Besides that, I used Pomona's Universal Pectin for the first time. I've been aware of it for many years, but due to no local availability and cost, I've never used it. Recently, however, I had to make a trek to our area Whole Foods and saw it there. Considering how the cost of grocery store brands of pectin has skyrocketed, Pomona's was actually more economical because I can make up to four batches per box.

For those not familiar with Pomona's, it's desirability is because it can be used with any sweetener including honey, or it can be used with no sweetener at all. It can also be used with any amount of fruit or juice, and includes directions for adjusting recipes (unlike the popular commercial pectins which advise using their measurements only.) The only differences I found in working with it were that I had to mix calcium water separately (calcium packet included) and it jelled more slowly than other brands. Other than that, I'm happy to finally have found a local source (sort of local, I only make it to Whole Foods a couple times a year.)

I ended up with seven cups of elderberry juice. I made one batch (4 cups) with pure elderberry. I had to make up one cup for a second batch, and had enough muscadines and sand cherries in the freezer to make that much juice. The result was a mixed fruit jelly. Both jellies are very good, but won't replace straight muscadine jelly on my favorites list. Still, I like my jellies and I like keeping warm by the wood cookstove! It's a win-win for this kind of weather.

January 23, 2014

Seasonal Living

There is a rhythm to the seasons that I've long thought we humans should be a part of. I'm not speaking of sports seasons: football, basketball, hockey, and baseball seasons; nor the consumer seasons where we buy Christmas items in September or swim suits in February; nor revolving the year around school with first day, graduation, and summer, winter, and spring breaks. I'm not even referring to what the calendar says when it declares a particular date "the first day of .....".

I'm speaking of the seasonal changes in weather and how they shape our way of life. Gardeners will understand this quite well, and farmers. The rest of modern society pretty much considers weather either "good" or "bad" depending on one's personal preferences and how convenient or inconvenient the weather is at the moment.

For the agrarian, the seasons not only influence the whens and whys things are done, they also give a comfortable rhythm to life. I've mentioned longing for this in a number of my homesteading posts, and I'll refer you to a really interesting read on the subject, The Seasons of America Past by Eric Sloane. It contains many things we probably wouldn't have thought of such as fence mending, well digging, and soap making; all had their seasons.

Odd as it may seem, we're just now getting to this, as in, this is the first year Dan and I have looked at the upcoming year in terms of seasonal chores. Until now we've been in what I call the establishment phase of homesteading. Planting, harvesting, breeding, and kidding have been part of this, but we've had to focus on things like repairs to the house, fencing, and outbuildings, all of which need to be done ASAP.

Earlier this month we started a seasonal chore list. It goes month by month and is of things we routinely do (or should do) during that month. Our coldest months are January and February, while our hottest are July and August. Of course weather and Dan's work schedule are factors, but even so, we wanted to develop a seasonal guideline for what needs to be done. This is just the beginning, but here's what we've got so far:

  • rake leaves & mulch garden
  • spray fruit trees
  • transplanting
  • garden planning & seed ordering

  • check & mend fences
  • prune & spray fruit trees
  • plant cool weather vegetables

  • start seeds (cold frame)
  • clean gutters
  • plowing
  • goat vaccinations 

April (last frost date around April 16-20)
  • plant warm weather veggies
  • transplant seed starts
  • kidding
  • spot seed pastures
  • plant field corn

  • hay, 1st cut
  • clean out goat shed & chicken coop
  • kidding

  • clean deep freezer
  • set eggs if broody hen
  • canning & food preservation

  • blueberries
  • peaches
  • canning & food preservation

  • figs
  • 1st apples
  • elderberries
  • plant fall garden
  • more canning & food preservation

  • elderberries
  • late apples
  • plant fall garden
  • clean woodstoves
  • clean gutters
  • firewood splitting
  • & more canning & food preservation

October (first frost Oct 20 - Nov 1)
  • persimmons (if not eaten by wildlife)
  • muscadines
  • fall plowing
  • plant winter wheat
  • firewood

  • goat breeding
  • butchering
  • begin to clean up garden

  • rake leaves & mulch garden beds
  • clean out goat shed & chicken coop

This rough draft is not a complete list and apt to change. Our list is a starting point which we hope to fill in better (and likely rearrange) as we go along. At the beginning of every month we'll have a planning meeting, where we can look at this list plus monthly chores such as hoof trimming. We'll also have a better idea of where to fit in things like building projects. The beauty of this will be that we don't have to try and figure everything out every time we need to do something.

Hopefully this will all come naturally some day. Until then, we have another tool to make life a bit easier.

Seasonal Living © January 2014 by Leigh 

January 21, 2014

A Quick Thank You

A quick thank you to everyone who has written a review for my book on Amazon. These are so appreciated because they are key for indie authors to sell books. I even have one on Amazon.co.uk! More are welcome!

Also I have started a "What readers are saying" page on my publishing website, with comments from emails I've received and links to reviews folks have done on their blogs. Thank you so much for these! If you have or are willing to write a review and would let me quote you and link back to it, I'd love to. Just let me know and I will.

January 19, 2014

More Experiments in Sustainable Pasture

Pasture and hay fields are not permanent. Even with perennial grasses, the face of a pasture or hay field will change over time. There are a number of reasons for this, for example:

  • Plant lifespan. Even perennial grasses have a lifespan. As a selling point, a blurb in a seed catalog may mention that a particular variety doesn't need to be reseeded for so many years. 
  • Usage. The best quality hay is cut before it goes to seed. Some farmers plow and plant for hay annually.
  • Natural changes. Permaculturists will mention succession, the ecological concept which describes the changes in any given landscape over the years. This is very observable as new plants (often designated "weeds") spring up frequently, while other plants disappear.
  • Livestock. Adding livestock such as goats will change the equation too. Goats will eat down what they love so that it cannot perpetuate itself. This is why rotational grazing is important, which points to having enough fenced areas to allow browse areas to rest, as well as knowing how many animals our land can support.

For homesteaders like Dan and me, the question of fitting a self-sustaining pasture into our overall goal of self-sufficiency is an important one. It means not only grazing and foraging for our critters, but hay as well. Having to buy tons of hay or hundreds of pounds of pasture and forage seed every several years doesn't suit, but then, trying to collect and save that much seed doesn't either!

Toward that end I've done some experimenting. For example, I've tried to let wheat reseed itself (see the entry for "winter wheat" in my June 2012 "Around The Homestead" post), and I've tried spot seeding bare areas with annual rye seed last fall (see "Winter Pasture"). While I was mucking out the goat shed the other day I had another idea.

Even with deep litter the time comes to clean it out. The advantage to deep
litter in winter is that as the manure breaks down, it creates warmth. To keep
the smell down lots of carbonaceous  matter must be added (no problem with
our inefficient cattle panel hay feeder. Wasted hay quickly becomes bedding.)

Usually the barn cleanings go to making compost piles. This is great for the garden, but I also end up with things growing from seeds that didn't decompose. As I was dumping the wheelbarrow, I wondered why I couldn't just spread it over an area in the pasture. It would add manure and, perhaps, the seeds from the hay would sprout and grow in a place we wanted them to.

Spread barn cleanings, can you see them? Corn stubble
still remains at right. The buck barn is in the background.

Because seeds need to contact soil to grow, I rake back the leaves before spreading the hay and manure. When the wheelbarrow is empty, I rake up the leaves and use them as mulch in the garden.

Three Speckled Sussex hens looking for goodies to eat.

Of course, the chickens think this is all very grand. As soon as they see me spreading, they come running and happily scratch around. Because of that I wonder if anything will grow at all. The chickens may very well find and eat all the grass seeds I'm hoping will sprout. I have to remind myself that even if they do the land will benefit from the manure and wasted hay, which will add organic matter. And of course the chicken will benefit from having something to eat. There is no waste, no matter the outcome.

In a couple of months I will spot seed the bare places in all our pastures. I will use boughten seed, but I will still ponder how to maintain it with the means available on our own homestead. As with everything we do, it's trial and error, research, and try again. It's all one step at a time.

Related pasture posts:
And linked to Homestead Barn Hop #143

January 17, 2014

Things We Take For Granted

Reminder: Tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern time, tune your computer into Christian Farm and Homestead Radio for my live interview with host Scott Terry. Be there or be square use the same link to download the podcast for your future listening convenience.

Now, on to our regularly scheduled post. . . . . .

Quickly, off the top of your head! What do you need to start a fire?

Image at which to gaze while you ponder your list.

My guess is that you made the same mental list I would: newspaper (or similar), kindling, and matches.

Kindling I can find, matches I have to buy, which leaves the newspaper. We do not subscribe to any newspapers and I've realized that good fire staring quality paper is getting harder to come by. Some of it even appears to be treated against fire because it does not want to burn. And glossy isn't good, at least not for our catalytic combustor.

Leaves are good if they're bone dry, which isn't always the case in our frequent wet weather. Cardboard, maybe, if there's no glue or tape attached. Paper bags like those for flour or sugar are good, assuming one purchases bags of flour or sugar. That leaves me having to buy newspaper just to start fires(?) Not exactly in keeping with my idea of living a self-sustaining life.

What do you think?

Things We Take For Granted © January 2014 

January 15, 2014

Fencing Project: Finishing The Doe Browse

I recently showed you progress on our fencing project, an area in the woods for the does (see "The Ongoing Job of Fencing."). What was left to do was corner bracing, t-posts, and attaching the welded wire fence.

Corner post bracing with a 2x4 and t-posts

I mention in my book that when we put up our first fence, I stood there with a library book in hand and read the steps out loud while Dan did them. Since that time we've gained experience, plus Dan has kept his eye out for other fencing jobs and how they were done. There are many methods and the above photo is an example of two different ways of doing the same thing, bracing a fence corner. The purpose of the brace is to counteract the pull of the fence on the corner post. Without it, the tension of the fence would pull and loosen the post. I mention this because I once saw a fence with no corner bracing, and yes, the corner posts were pulled almost out of the ground.

Below is a color enhanced close-up so you can see them better.

The corner on the left was one of the first we did. The diagonal is made of 9 gauge wire looped around the two posts and then twisted together with a stick called a twitch.

The new brace is on the right. Rather than fencing wire and a twitch, Dan used a scrap 2x4 from our bedroom closet wall demolition. This is not necessarily better or worse than the other, it was simply using what we had available without buying more wire.

Bottom corner of the doe browse. This corner also has two different
types of braces, one wire with a twitch, the other a landscape timber.

Stretching and attaching the welded wire fence came next. Because this was a wooded area Dan was able to use trees for attaching the fence. No, it doesn't kill them and the benefit is not having to sink dummy posts in order to stretch the fencing tightly.

For photos and details about stretching fence with 
a come-along and fence stretcher, and clipping
it to t-posts, see this post, "Progress on the Fence."

After that it was time to open the gate and let the girls in.

About that blur in the bottom left corner: Sam loves being with the goats.
He loves being outdoors and loves playing with the chickens (though they
don't think of it as "play.") He's turning into a good, all around farm cat.

There's not a lot down there right now, but come summer there will be tons of poison ivy, saw briars, honeysuckle, blackberries, and kudzu. At least the job is done and we can move onto the next project on the list, the new chicken coop.

January 13, 2014

Homestead Chicken Pie

Isn't it about time for a tummy warming homestead recipe? This one has become a recent favorite. I've always loved pot pies with pie crust, but this one with biscuit topping is quicker and easier plus just as tasty.

Everything is homestead except the flour, soda, and salt.

Layer in the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish:
  • leftover homegrown chicken in bitesize pieces
  • homegrown frozen spring garden peas, thawed
  • home canned carrots, drained

  • 2 tbsps schmaltz (rendered chicken fat)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 C. canned chicken bone broth

Lightly brown the flour in melted fat. Slowly add the broth & whisk out lumps. Stir till thick and pour over chicken and veggies.

  • 1.5 C. flour
  • 1/3 C. schmaltz
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 C. whey

Cut fat into flour, salt, & soda. Add whey & mix with a fork. Drop onto hot gravy, chicken & veggies. Bake in a hot oven (about 400° F/200° C) for 15 minutes or until biscuits are brown and gravy is bubbling. Serve.

Homestead Chicken Pie © January 2014 by 

January 10, 2014

Master Bedroom: New Ceiling

We're in the homestretch with the bedroom/master suite remodel. The ceiling was the next to last project and it's almost done. Here's how it's coming along, starting with a before photo of the original pine tongue and groove ceiling.

Ceiling before, but after the closets were torn out.

And a close-up of one corner, where a stove pipe used to go. . . .

Where the old chimney pipe used to go

The house was originally heated with coal and there is evidence in each room of where a coal burning stove used to be. The problem with this corner is that when the stove pipe was installed, a hole was simply cut in the ceiling to accommodate the pipe, but with no structural support for the ceiling itself. Over time, the ceiling sagged in this corner. Being 90 year old tongue and groove boards, the sag is pretty much petrified into the boards now. We discussed what to do about it. Based on time and money, we'll just live with it.

Still, we want the room to look nice. For purely decorative effect, Dan wanted to add some pseudo beams made of stained 2x4s.

Dan stained 2x4s for a beam look. In the lower left you can see the
storage compartment Dan made when he began to rebuild the closet

Dan doesn't care for the tongue and groove, however, so we decided to cover the ceiling in between the beams. We like the styrofoam tiles we use in the hall bathroom, and went with that again. They look nice, are inexpensive, paintable, add a little insulation, and cover a multitude of ceiling flaws.

Styrofoam ceiling tiles

I bought the tiles from Antique Ceilings on Amazon. They have a good selection and are about half the price of elsewhere.

I alternated the pattern to prevent a striped or checkerboard look.

My problem was that they don't quite cover the space between the beams.

Cutting strips of foam tiles to fill the narrow gaps next to the beams

I cut strips to fill in the gaps. Not what the professionals would do, I know, but as my grandmother used to say, "No one will notice on a galloping horse."

My piecing doesn't really seem to show, does it?

The foam takes paint very well and with regular ceiling paint, the ceiling looks like painted tin or a molded plaster.

My apologies for the wonky picture! This is as far as I've
gotten for now. You can compare unpainted tiles in the
upper left corner. And you can still see where the ceiling sags.

Unfortunately, I have yet to finish that. It got too cold before I was done and I would rather paint when I can crack the window and put in a fan to vent the smell. I don't suppose the ceiling is going anywhere, so I'll have to wait till springtime to finish this project.

Master Bedroom: New Ceiling © January 2014

January 8, 2014

Cold Snap

How is everyone faring in this frigid weather? In my little corner of the world we’ve experienced the coldest winter temperatures since we bought our homestead almost five years ago. Yesterday’s low was 8° F (-13° C), with Accuweather determining that the “real feel” at 0 (-18) . This is much lower than our typical 20s F (minus single digits C).

My northerly neighbors usually kid me when I declare those temps “cold.” Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs, I can appreciate that. Still, there are challenges to southern winters that I wasn’t aware of when I lived in the North.

The general perception that it doesn’t get truly cold in the southern US is a common one. My children attended a university in South Carolina that had many students from the northeast and Canada. Most of them arrived ill equipped for winter, assuming it wouldn’t get “that cold”. The university generated its own electricity, so that when ice storms knocked the power out elsewhere, classes were still on. Many a student nearly froze trying to traverse slippery, icy sidewalks in sharp north winds with only a sweater or light jacket for cold protection.

Unfortunately, what is sold as a winter jacket here, is what I would call an autumn weight jacket where I grew up in Illinois. Even sweaters, bathrobes, sweat shirts and sweat pants are made of lighter weight fabrics. To get truly warm clothing, I have to keep my eyes open at thrift shops. I think the only reason I have a real winter weight choring jacket is because my mother-in-law gave me her old heavyweight down jacket when she moved from New Jersey to Florida.

Being acclimated to an area makes a difference too, I think, in both perceptions of cold or hot. We usually start with temperatures in the 80s (upper 20s) in April, with highs in the upper 90s (35-36°) from May to August, these commonly topping 100° (37°)  from time to time. That means there’s a 70 degree difference between typical summer and winter temperatures; extreme, I should think, in anybodies book!

On a personal level, I am thankful for all the energy efficiency work we’ve done on the house. Like clothing for the South, it seems that construction standards make assumptions as well. In fact, a relative from the north was surprised that we needed insulation at all. Here, of course, insulation isn’t just about cold, it’s also about hot summer weather and keeping the house cool during summer.

After the past few days I can honestly say that the newly added insulation, energy efficient windows, and additional siding have made a difference. Our first winter here the house was in the 40s (single digits) when we awoke. Now it’s only in the 50s, (teens) and with colder temps outside!

The cats stay in the house and the chickens and goats stay cozy on thick straw bedding and protection from the rain and drafts. We do have to keep an eye on water buckets, topping them off with hot water when they begin to freeze over again.

Happily, warmer weather is on the way. We're forecast to be back in the 50s (teens) by the weekend. A welcome reprieve until the next dip again.

Cold Snap © January 2014 by Leigh 

January 6, 2014

I'm Gonna Be On Radio!

5 Acres & A Dream 
TheBook: The Challenges 
of Establishing a Self-
Sufficient Homestead 
Shortly after 5 Acres & A Dream The Book came out I was contacted by Scott Terry, who hosts Christian Farm and Homestead on blogtalkradio.com. He invited me to do an interview on his show about my book. What an honor! If you'd like to hear the show live over your computer, mark your calendars for Friday, January 17 at 8 pm EST and save the following link -


If you can't make it for that date and time, you'll be able to find the podcast in the Christian Farm and Homestead archives via the same link.

If you aren't familiar with Scott's show, do check it out. His archives are full of interesting and informative interviews, all of interest to both farmers and homesteaders. It's a great resource.

I'm Gonna Be On Radio! © January 2014

January 4, 2014

The Ongoing Job of Fencing

Living close to the land means that everything we do is contingent on the weather. Last year, the rain (over 84 inches total) slowed all of our outdoor progress, but meant we got a lot done on the house. This year, who knows?

Fencing part of the woods for my does has been a project we actually started on about a year ago. I started last January, clearing a path for the fence through the brush, but that's as far as we got. Last month, we were able to pick the project up again. The next step was to do clear away a clump of falling trees which leaned precariously over where the new fence would go.

6 trees caught up in each other, right over where the fence will go.
This is where we left the project one year ago.

Removing the trees both cleared a
path for the fence and the view. 

The next step was corner and bracing posts. The first one worked off of an existing fence.

Dan decided to concrete the posts since he had the mix.
A snoopy goat (Surprise) is very curious about what he's doing.

A gate to the rest of the property will go in where he cleared away the trees.

Our red southern soil is clay. That means it's heavy as
all get-out when it's wet, hard as a rock when it's dry.

Our project deterrent has been rain and mud. You probably can't tell in the
photo but there's a huge mud puddle right where the gate should go.

The next step will be the t-posts. If we don't get any more rain over the next several days, they can go in. We bought the welded wire fencing for the project last year, that's next, but the ground needs to be dry enough so that the t-posts aren't loosened when the fence is stretched. Lastly is a gate, of course, although we may simply run fence across the opening for now. Then the girls can have their new browse. 

The Ongoing Job of Fencing © January 2014

January 1, 2014

Homestead Goals for the New Year

Did anyone stay up till midnight last night to see in the new year? We didn't because critters don't care what the calendar says and expect to be fed on time, at the crack of dawn, no matter who's celebrating what. Actually, the middle of winter has always seemed an odd time to acknowledge a new year, to me anyway. The main thing is to remember to write "2014" instead of "2013" on anything that needs a date.

Still, it's a useful time of year for goal setting. For us that means taking time to evaluate what we did the previous year, and then looking to what we hope to accomplish next. Keeping our primary goal of self-sufficiency in mind, we write a list of various subgoals, mostly what we see as the next logical steps. Not all of these are actual projects. Some goals are simply decisions that have to be made, others are reminders of the direction we've chosen to go. There is no specific time table, we just keep a steady pace as time and money allow. What we don't finish this year will find its way onto next year's goals.

  • finish the master bedroom (all that's left is the floor)
  • replace windows in corner bedroom (purchased last August)
  • finish installing new siding on that side of the house (after the windows are in) 

  • finish chicken coop -That's the easy part. Convincing the chickens to use it is another matter.
  • finish emptying out the coal barn - that means finding new homes for hay storage, Dan's workshop, and our garden tools and equipment
  • tear down coal barn - hoo boy
  • build new goat barn in coal barn footprint - progress on this will depend mostly on finances, also on home-time for Dan. (This is one I don't anticipate finishing this year.)


  • Goats - continue working on my goal of developing a dual-purpose homestead breed (or cross breed as the case may be.) So far, I'm very encouraged with the addition of Kiko genetics to my dairy breeds.
  • Chickens - focus on Silver Laced Wyandottes. We like them so far (good personality, intelligent for a chicken, good eggs and meat, good rooster, and beautiful). If I get a broody hen this summer, I'll just give her SLW eggs to hatch.
  • Dog - now that coyotes have returned to our area, we're seriously discussing getting another dog. Dan was devastated by Kris's death and hasn't wanted another dog. No decisions but it's on the table. Finding the "right" dog would be key.
  • Other - pigs  (but then, we've said this for several years now)

Food Self-Sufficiency - This is not so much an annual goal as an ongoing goal. Since each growing season presents it own problems and challenges, specific sub-goals change from week to week and month to month. I always learn something each year, and every year I hope to do better. Specific areas I need to do better in include:
  • Garden
    • Mulch - my ongoing challenge. If I can get the garden well mulched during winter, I'm saved a lot of weed grief and dry soil during the summer.
    • Winter gardening - this year's winter garden is small, partly because of October's dry spell, which mean a delay in germination. Deer have demolished things like my beets, so deterring these is on my list. Maybe row covers(?) Overall, I need a better plan here.
    • Indoor seed starts - have always been a challenge for two reasons, 1) room and 2) sun. My plan is to turn my defunct compost worm bin (insects and rodents took over), into a cold frame this spring. I can use some of our old windows for that. 
    • Irrigation - the rainwater tanks are a blessing, but it's awkward to wrestle with the hoses and sprinkler. We have some ideas to help with that, and maybe we can experiment this summer.
  • Preservation - Seasonal eating has meant I need to preserve less. 
    • Tattler reusable canning lids. I'm gradually buying more as funds allow.
    • Refrigerators and freezer. Since at this time we are unable to make our own electricity, losing it would cause problems. A temporary outage would be inconvenient. A permanent outage would be difficult because our Southern heat and humidity are huge detriments to food storage. At the very least I need to be mentally prepared to deal with problems.
    • Homegrown goat vitamins and minerals - I need to make it a daily habit during summer to gather and dry something every day. Last summer's challenge was all the rain, making dehydrating bulk items especially difficult. Air drying on screens still sometimes resulted in mold, but my electric dehydrator can't hold much. Not sure of the solution yet.
  • Field crops - due to circumstances we will likely not be planting a large area of field crops (by large I mean a quarter acre. )
    • I still plan to plant beds in the garden, because I believe that something is better than nothing.

Well, written out like that it seems a long list. Fortunately not everything is a a "to do" project.

How about you? What do you hope to accomplish this year?