Well, hello there, January! Here in northwestern Pennsylvania, we’re just starting to get a taste of typical winter weather. (I’m not complaining.) Our snowfall where I live is still well-below normal numbers, but the cold temperatures are making up for it. This morning when I went out to do chores, it was a whopping 1ºF. Thankfully all the animals are handling the cold quite well and in just a few more days we’re supposed to have temperatures approaching 50ºF. Bizarre, right? I guess it’s one of those years, but overall I’m happy with our relatively mild winter.
Inspired by this post from 5 Acres & A Dream, I thought I’d share our plans for growing our little farmstead in 2016. These aren’t resolutions per-say (maybe I’ll share mine another day), but just our plans for the upcoming year:
As far as our farmhouse, our wish list of updates is miles long. Unfortunately, I think all those upgrades will be on the back-burner for 2016, because our priority will be getting our old house fixed up and sold. (Cross your fingers for us, friends!)
Barn and Fencing
Fencing is our most immediate need this spring (or even late-winter, if the weather cooperates). We won’t have the resources to fence our entire pasture yet, but we’re hoping to fence (minimally) a 30′ x 20′ area with no-climb fencing to start, then we’ll expand from there as time allows.
If there’s any extra money in the budget, I’d also like to finish up getting the water and heat hooked up in the work room attached to our barn. Both are stubbed-out already, and I’m hoping the cost to finish them won’t be TOO astronomical.
In 2015, we started off with 6 laying hens. By the end of the year, we added more chicks and rabbits, and in 2016, we’ll planning to add dairy goats to the mix! (Hence the need for the fencing that I mentioned above!)
In early December, we brought home 12 chicks from Freehling Farms in Kittanning, PA. We decided to diversify our flock by adding 3 Barred Rock, 3 Black Australorp, and 6 Easter Eggers (one of which didn’t make it, sadly). I’m sure eventually I’ll settle on a favorite breed, but for now I really enjoy seeing the colorful mix of birds free ranging on our lawn every day AND I’m looking forward to having some colorful eggs in our basket once these girls are laying! Right now these ladies are about a month old and still in our barn. They’re feathering-out pretty well already, and in a couple more months they’ll be able to join the older ladies out in our coop.
Rabbits joined the homestead in September and we had our first litter on December 4th. One baby (the black one) has become a favorite and has been pardoned from freezer-camp (to borrow a phrase from the Chicken Thistle Farms Coopcast) and a friend is interested in buying the brown one to be kept as a pet.
Mike and I will have our first experience processing our own farm-raised meat in a few weeks with the remaining six babies and our other doe, who has become rather mean and difficult to handle. I’m both nervous and excited. I’ve read lots of books and articles, watched lots of YouTube videos, but I’m still nervous about screwing up the butchering process. At the same time, I’m really excited to serve a meal with meat that was raised right HERE. It’s a very cool thing to have a small, sustainable source of meat right in your back yard.
Finally, our first dairy goats should be coming home with us very soon! Goats rank right behind chickens among the farm animals I’ve been MOST excited to have, so I’m pretty much over the moon. After lots of research and talking to a few breeders, we decided on Nigerian Dwarf goats to start. The two biggest reasons for deciding on that breed were: (1) their small stature was a bit less intimidating, especially with our children being around them, and (2) the manageable quantity and high butterfat content of their milk. I can’t wait to start making homemade chèvre…. YUM.
One breeder we’re in contact with has a doe due to kid on January 8th, and she said she may consider selling that doe WITH her kid(s), which would be an amazing opportunity for us to jump in head first with a doe in milk AND kid(s) to keep or sell. Ben will also be getting a dairy goat for his 4-H project this spring, so we’re going to have a nice little herd to start!
When the leaves fell in the fall, we spread them in an area behind the barn that will be our 2016 garden. I’m making an attempt to do the Back to Eden-thing, but it’s taking every ounce of my willpower to not run through it all with the ’tiller. We’ll see what spring brings and how the ground looks by then, I guess! I don’t have exact plans yet, but I have been enjoying passing the recent cold days by flipping through seed catalogs, turning down corners, and making notes. Beyond the vegetable garden, I’m also hoping I’ll be able to spend a little money on some berry bushes. I miss having fresh raspberries and would love to get some started here.
My parents gifted me with a 21-quart All American pressure canner for Christmas (!!) and I am absolutely dying to try it out. I’m hoping to do a lot more canning in general this year — vegetables from our garden, fruit preserves and jellies, and maybe even some of our rabbit-meat. I guess that’s one my big 2016-goals… getting over my fear of pressure canning, and doing more canning in general. (I can almost imagine how nice it’ll look in our basement larder next winter!)
WHEW! While there’s always more I’d like to do, I think this list will give us plenty without being completely overwhelming. (I hope!) What plans do you have for 2016?