December 21, 2016

2016 Homestead Goals: Time to Analyze

Does it seem to anyone else that the year has flown by? When we were having our endless days of drought and stifling heat last summer I thought it would never end. Now that's all behind us, we're getting plenty of rain, and the year is rapidly coming to a close. That means it's evaluation time. It's time to take a look at our 2016 homestead goals and analyze what we've accomplished, what we haven't, and what we've changed our minds about.


We're actually getting close to finishing the house, at least on paper. The doing takes longer! This year we wanted to finish the dining room windows, finish the front porch, and install our 1550-gallon rainwater tank.

The dining room windows can be checked off the list.

For some odd reason the window on the left looks narrower
than the window on the right, but they are actually the same size!

I can't believe how much warmer the house stays now that these windows are done. Energy efficient windows and good insulation make all the difference in the world. Such energy upgrades are well worth the investment.

The front porch is almost done. Here's what it looked like before.

We started on the front porch in Sept. 2014, floor first.

Dec. 2016. The wood box is still in the way, but you can see the difference.

We want to replace the ceiling and then the remaining corner trims can be put up. Hopefully we'll do that next year and then the front porch will be done - an example of an annual goal staying on the list for several years.

Another example is installing our 1550-gallon rain tank. When we bought the tank we knew where we wanted it to go...

How it used to be

but the question was whether we wanted to install the tank first and then later go back to replace those windows and siding, or do the windows and siding first and then install the tank.

January 2016. The dining room windows were part of this project's detour.

Doing the windows and siding first won out. By the beginning of the year it was mostly done except for waiting on warmer weather to finish the caulking and painting. Finally Dan was able to level the ground and get it in place.

The only thing left to do is make a filter for it, then we can at last get it hooked up.

Goat Barn

This was to be our big project for 2016.

This was the original plan for my dream barn.

We started with that floor plan and the purchase of a sawmill. About the time Dan got all his lumber cut, the roof on goat shed started to leak.

The original old shed when we first bought the place. The roof was leaking
then so we tarped it. When it started leaking again, we decided to re-roof.

Since we were going to put on a new roof, it made sense to enlarge. (In case you missed that series of posts, it starts here.)

 The old shed is still there, now the left side of the "Little Barn."

So that was a necessary detour, but it allowed curing time for our home-cut lumber. Building the "big" barn will be the big project of 2017. The "little" barn will then become a better workshop for Dan.


Fencing our woods is an annual carry-over goal. It stays on the list because it's important, but it's not a straightforward project. There's no vehicle access along the property line and there are numerous fallen trees blocking even a footpath. With the barn taking priority this year, we weren't sure how far we could get. When our summer drought dried up our pastures, I started taking the does for daily walks in the woods. To pass the time while they forage, I've been working on finding and clearing the old fenceline.

In some spots it's slow going. I follow the old fence.

I'm looking for the pins that mark the property line. When we 1st
bought the place we paid a surveyor to find & mark all these.

I get so far and then Dan comes down with the chain saw and clears away the big stuff. We have two rolls of 330-foot goat fencing and a pile of t-posts, so we may actually be getting closer to making this a reality this winter. We would love to be better using all of our five acres.


March 2016

My goal this year was to add two more hives for a total of three. Sadly I lost all three colonies and am now beeless. I haven't decided what to do. I definitely still want bees, but I don't want to go with package bees again. Folks seem to have a lot of trouble keeping package bees alive. I may try again to catch a swarm or find someone selling nucs.


The garden started well, but once my rainwater collection
tanks were empty, it succumbed to the drought and heat.

This year I wanted to focus on year-round gardening. Most folks think of that as expanding the harvest to the winter months. Me too and I'll blog about that soon. This past summer, however, has me revisiting thoughts I've had in the past - that my gardening break ought to be in July and August, not winter. Everything struggles so when we have our hot dry spell every year, whereas there are a lot of cool weather crops that do well for me all winter. I'm thinking I need to invest in a non-traditional gardening "hat" and plan a little differently for next year.


I never considered this a homestead goal before, but in a way it is. I love to share what we're learning, but also, it helps support the homestead. Not in a huge way, but we've been able to buy quite a few necessary and useful things for our lifestyle from book money. My goal this year was to work on more volumes for The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos, and I managed to publish seven new additions. Some folks ask where do I find that time. I find it in the pre-dawn hours, somewhere between letting the cats out and time to do chores.

All of my books are on sale through the end of the month. Click here for details.


This was another goal that was new to the list. I added it because I wanted to focus on two things: acquiring more alternative tools and getting hard copies of information that I consider a good resource.


I already mentioned Dan's sawmill.

It's not alternative in the sense of powering it (it has a gasoline engine) but it does increase our self-sufficiency in that we can cut our own lumber. Considering the number of mature pines falling down in our woods, this is a real win-win.

In terms of alternative energy we installed a solar attic fan.

And a solar barn light.

Also I bought was a wind-up clock.

It's pretty good at keeping good time, as long as I remember to wind it regularly. 😉


I'm still working on hard copy collections of notes and useful notes. Not the stuff I've learned from experience, but things that are occasionally useful. I have to say it's convenient to have the notebooks. It seems to take less time to flip to a page than to search through scores of computer folders, book marks, or websites. For me, anyway.

Whew, that was a lot, but all in all, we did pretty well at meeting our goals, with the Little Barn being our only major but necessary detour.

How about you? Was it a productive year or one filled with the unexpected?


Dawn said...

You done so much in the past year, I feel we havent done much, although I am sure we have, I need to organise note books I have them all over the place :-)

Chris said...

You've both achieved so much. I can't believe the year is almost over. I love your house, and the new tank. Glad all those extra measures for insulation has paid off too. All good things to invest in. :)

Leigh said...

I didn't think we'd done that much either, until I set about to make the post! The blog really helps for that record keeping. And as a reminder of what we have accomplished, especially on those days when we feel overwhelmed with how much there is to do. :)

Leigh said...

I have to admit that those endless days of no rain set up some procrastination toward getting the tank done. It wasn't going to rain anyway so seemingly more pressing things got addressed! Now it's raining again and it, "yikes!" we need to gt the tank done!

Looking forward to getting the house done too, so we can focus on other important things.

Farmer Barb said...

Leigh, that is a beautiful list of accomplishments. For my homestead, I survived open heart valve repair surgery, got a non-4WD road built down to my animals, a foundation for my future tractor shed, and learned how to dye and spin all the wool my flock has been producing. I'm still the mom and domestic manager so my list is not as full of accomplishments as I might like, but I am alive and I am blessed!

Unknown said...

Wow its amazing to see how much you did when you see it all in one list! With the bees, I think you will find it easier with a nuc. The problem with a swarm or a package is that they have to put a lot of energy into building comb right away and if there is not enough flowering for long enough, they will run out of food and leave you. If you have an established nuc you can transfer them into your hive with their comb and honey reserves (and I know you have warre, so might need some thinking how to do that), which will give them a better start. The other thing to consider is planting flowering trees or knowing what you have locally that feeds bees at different times of the year. Flower gardens are nice, but its the trees covered in flowers that really produce plenty for the bees. Also your local beekeeping club (while being clueless about warre and natural beekeeping) may be some help in getting them started. I really hope you can get some started this coming season!!! I love having bees and I know they will fit right in at your place too. See you in 2017 :)

Leigh said...

Barb, recovering from such major surgery is huge! Even so, you accomplished a lot.

I have to say that raising children should always be the number one priority. Training them to become responsible adults is a long-term job that can't be put off or put on hold, especially when we want to instill our core values in them. The time with them truly goes by so quickly; never fell like you get less accomplished because you parent. Enjoy the time while you've got it!

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Y'all have done well, take pride in your accomplishments. Not sure what you mean by 'package bees' but if you're talking about buying them through the mail...perhaps it's the place you're buying. Daddy has kept bees for more than 75 years and he's always bought bees; the only problem he has is with the bears getting into the hives.

Ed said...

The easiest way to get bees from around you is to just put out the word in the spring that you are looking for swarms. Once you are known to capture swarms, you will get more bees than you want.

I'm glad I don't have a lumber mill. I would have a stack of wood behind my house and wouldn't get anything else done! As it is, I have a stack of lumber in my garage and still don't get enough done!

My lists always include about twice what I can get done in a year. Life always seems to happen and it is way easier to write what needs to get done than the actual doing part. But still, I find great joy in reviewing my list and seeing how many things I was able to cross off by the end of the year.

You and Dan have been busy and I look forward to seeing what you accomplish in the year to come!

Lady Locust said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again (does that sound like your mother speaking?) You two are amazing! You stay focused and get things done ~ an impressive feat. I bet a pix of when you first bought the place to what it looks like now would show a vast difference. Your idea about your growing season sounds very practical. Will be curious to hear/read what you come up with. Keep warm and have a Blessed Christmas.

Sandy Livesay said...


You and Dan have accomplished a lot of goals listed, congratulations.

We've dismantled most of our garden in preparation for a move. Started looking at homes with property (who knows we may end up purchasing one soon). Paid off our debt, purchased a truck,going through everything in our rental home, and were working on our health.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Leigh said...

Liz, I've been thinking along the same lines - more flowering trees and shrubs. We've actually got quite a few and noticed a wonderful difference in our fruit due to pollination. Our almond tree starts blooming in March, but I've never gotten bees in time to work it!

I was reading an interesting article about package bees. There's a theory that one of the reasons so many of them fail is because they are a random population of bees rather than a community. Interesting to think that relationships form and make a difference. I agree nucs would be the way to go. Many a Warréor has gone this way so there is plenty of information out there to help. :)

Leigh said...

Package bees are the ones purchased as 3 pounds of bees plus queen delivered in a cage with sugar syrup. Mine come through my local beekeeping supply store. They buy from Brushy Creek by the truckload. As far as I know this is a reputable company (?) But amongst beekeepers, there is an extensive discussion about the failure of bees and colonies. A number of beekeeping commenters on my bee posts have said they've never done well with packaged bees. I have to add my experience to theirs. Would love to have your Dad's success!

Leigh said...

Yes, well, I'm not so sure I want to known as a remover of bees, LOL. I could get them from easy-access places, but some of those extractions require major carpentry skills!

We find the lists easier to write than implement too. But I like having a good list. Not that I ever think I'll make it through the entire thing and end up with nothing to do, but it's good to have those goals. :)

Leigh said...

Well, Dan was out of work for quite a bit this year, so that time home helped us accomplish a lot! One of these days I'll do a before and after post, You're right that things have changed a lot.

Leigh said...

Sandy, you've had excellent goals! Getting your debt paid off is huge, congratulations on that. Very exciting about possible property in the future!

Ed said...

The hardest bees to capture are those high up in trees. In those cases, we simply tell the person they are too high and call us if they move to lower branches. For bees inside buildings, we generally made cones of wire mesh and adhered it to the entrance. They could get out but couldn't find their way back in. This one however only works part of the time (at capturing a swarm) and one must be adept at finding the queen to see if she made it out. Otherwise, you generally can force the bees to move on and then seal the hole up. We never tore into a building to remove the bees.

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Impressive! We seem to have done less than normal this year. I think we might actually be winding down a bit! Some of our plans for end of year. i.e piglets and more rescue hens have been scuppered by the Avian Flu being found in England and the continent. When all is clear will sort that goal.
Re. your bees. I aways find that local bees collected by a local bee keeper stand the best chance of survival. Just let the local branch know you are up for a swarm or put a notice in the local fodder room and someone will oblige I am sure, plus give any advice you might want.
Have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Mike Yukon said...

Like Bear Claw said to Jeremiah Johnson; “You've come far pilgrim” :-)

Leigh said...

Thanks Ed! Good ideas making it seem much more doable. :)

Leigh said...

Gill, that's why I like goals better than resolutions! Goals are flexible, especially when problems arise that are out of one's control.

Yours is another "vote" for local established bees other rather than a package.

Leigh said...

LOLOL! Thanks Mike!

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

That sure is one huge water tank! Your dining area looks so pretty and inviting now. I like things in notebooks also rather than the computer. My goals for the New Year are to get organized in our new house and figure out what I can plant in our teeny courtyard! Merry Christmas! Nancy

Goatldi said...

I love it all. The planning the enthusiasm and the follow through. Your china cabinet is delightful and the window size? Well it is all about angle and perspective isn't it? You keep moving forward and even if it was only a project or two it is progress. The sky and your imagination are the limits. I don't see either of those being an issue. Thanks for sharing and a most Merry Christmas!

Goatldi said...

Barb you are an inspiration to all! I would love to see photos of all your accomplishments so I will trot on over to your blog. You are the blessing that you seek.

Kaat said...

Wonderful, Leigh! I love reading these overviews, brings in the big picture.
I was sorry to read about the bees. Believe me, I know your sorrow. I had 8 at some point and not I'm down to 4 again, and the winter hasn't really bitten yet.
Be aware that some bee sellers sell "nucs" which are just packages that they shook into a box of drawn-out comb and then added a queen to the week before you pick them up :(
This is what I'm trying: buying cheap Italian packages from the south and as soon as locally and well-bred queens come on the market (for you that shouldn't take too long, over here that's only in June), I requeen them.
Honey and pollination are so important in our lives, a real element of our resilience. And sooooooooooo good. :)

Leigh said...

Nancy, your move was huge and so will be putting your new house in order!

Leigh said...

Thank you! Sharing our journey and adventures has been rewarding in many ways. Not only in terms of personal record keeping, but also the friends I'm making along the way. :)

Leigh said...

Thanks Kaat! Interesting about the nucs. They're supposed to be established mini-colonies!

I'm very interested in your bee experiments and how they turn out. But your name doesn't link to a blog or website(?) to follow your progress. Let me know if that's a possibility!

Tuesday said...

You accomplished so much!! I am impressed. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and nothing but happiness for 2017.

Sam I Am...... said...

Wow! You have accomplished so much! I had my acreage years ago and I had planned the same for my retirement but I got sick and that was the end of that. I'm fine now but in a "neighborhood" with a too big house and not enough land! LOL! You can't even have chickens here! I'm 68 this year and in good shape but tire easily ever since they messed with my thyroid. I used to have GOBS of energy but not any more. So, life is a journey and I live vicariously through people like you! I'm still planning on moving North to the small farm town where I grew up. It's beautiful there and I have my best childhood memories so that's my plan. It would be nice to get an acreage there but it's expensive up North so not sure plus they're rare. We'll see but you should be so happy with all you've accomplished! It's a lot of work but you're healthier for it and what a great place! Do you run into many snakes in the woods? There are lots here(Arkansas) and it has deterred me from walking in them with the dogs or myself. Lots of timber rattlers and copperheads. I have a winter gardening book and always wanted to try it. I will when I move North. Take care and Merry Christmas!

Bag End Gardener said...

You are both achieved so much over the past year or so, I hope you can now rest for a few days and pat yourselves on the back (although animals need carrying for 365 . . . So no real time off). Blessings for the holidays. X

Unknown said...

Just want to mention that the Nuc sellers up here in MN are taking orders for next Spring already. You may want to check the Craig's list in your area as now may be the time to place your order.

The other thing I learned today is that the place I bought 3# packages of bees from in the past is charging $141 this year! Yikes! At that price, they should come with some kind of a guarantee. I can get 5 frame Nucs for cheaper. I am going the Nuc route this year I had no luck catching swarms last season but I am going to try again with some different ideas.

I am also planning to try Horizontal Deep Frame Leyens hives. I think I have figured out how to get 5 frames of bees on Langstroth frames moved into a Leyens hive in one season. I'm just looking for some input from other beekeepers as to whether bees will build down into supers where the frames run perpendicular to the frames in the super above. It might just be a try it and report back how it went scenario.

Another approach to beekeeping might be if you have a migratory beekeeper looking for a place to set out hives. Rent up here in MN is about 2# of honey per hive. They like to set 40 hives at a location though. I don't know if that is a possibility, but maybe someone else can use the idea.


Leigh said...

Tuesday, good to hear from you! I haven't kept up with your blog (among others) so I'm glad to see what kind of progress you've made too.

Leigh said...

Unexpected things like sickness can really derail all goals and plans! Glad you're better now and hope you can find a nice little niche to fulfill your dreams. :)

Yes, we do have quite a few snakes, rat snakes mostly who hunt small rodents and song birds, but also eat eggs, chicks, and ducklings. Having four cats has cut into their hunting so we don't have as many any more, but if they were rattlesnakes and copperheads, it would be a different story!

Leigh said...

It does seem like a lot, doesn't it? That was partly because Dan was out of work a couple of times and fortunately we had materials to keep on with the projects!

Leigh said...

Thanks Ron, I'll definitely do that. Last fall you mentioned Craigslist and I took a look then, to find someone selling bees by the frame plus queens. But I wasn't ready to accommodate Lang frames nor feed them over the winter. I'll have to see what's on offer now!

Sounds like a good deal for renting hives. I have a lot of fruit and nut trees and shrubs, plus the garden, but probably not 40 hives worth. :)

I hope your Leyens experiment goes well. I seem to remember reading something about the Warres if the boxes were cross stacked with topbars going different directions, but I can't recall what exactly was said other than try to keep them all parallel. :) I can see you coming up with some kind of frame extension to keep the new adds going the direction their "supposed" too. :)

Tami said...

I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on changing your "break months" to July and August. I've thought the same thing and last year scaled back to spring crops only.

And that's where it stopped. I thought I would try a Fall garden but I hate watering and (like you) it was just too dry this Fall to bother with anything.

You've got me thinking maybe I should get the hoop house set up by March.

Leigh said...

Tami, good to hear from you! What I'm thinking is that I need to do some super early starts on things like tomatoes, squash, cukes, and melons. The toms and cukes especially, since I can these. If I can get my preservation done earlier, then anything beyond the big dry hot spell will be lagniappe. I've not done this because I really haven't been set up for it. I have one grow light but I think I'd need a shelving assembly with a number of lights like some people do. I've gotten laze since I know I can sow tomato seed directly into the ground and still get a crop! Summers are too unpredictable.

In summer, a hoop house can sport shade cloth, to give a little sun protection for cool loving plants and extend their season. Something else I need to invest in. :)

M.K. said...

This was a fascinating read! Y'all are much farther along than we are in the farming life, and you've done a lot more to your house -- ours is still quite "sketchy." But I enjoyed reading about your goals and frustrations and successes. Thanks for sharing!