We’ve had a few improvement ideas kicking around since we bought this homestead back in April. We’ve done all the work so far ourselves, trying to do it with as many free resources as possible. For 2015, I want to accomplish:
Finishing the horse barn and creating a wash bay
Erecting a pergola between the horse barn and the storage shed
Finishing the riding arena and edging it with bushes (incorporating fruit bushes as edible landscape)
Installing an orchard
Adding goats and sheep
Installing wheat grass in our pastures
I’m hoping that incorporating goats into our pastures will help with weed control. Two of our horses are small enough to be companions for the goats. We also would like a 4 acre plot cleared, and goats can help with that too.
Despite my husband’s eye rolling, building a methane digester is a big goal. I have to clean manure anyway, and I’m going to compost it anyway, so why not go the extra step and capture the methane? I’m not a 100% sure we will use it for more than cooking, since I plan to heat the barn with water. I’ve been reading about using ethanol for powering generators for off grid living, and that seems an easier route to go for electricity, and an adjustment to a generator we can easily do at home.
We’ve started gathering supplies for the aquaponic system. I’ll start off with goldfish, but eventually I want to have blue gill, tilapia, and catfish, along with fresh water prawns. I’m not a fan of catfish but my husband is. I’d prefer to only do tilapia and prawns, but we, at least at this point, can’t breed the tilapia because we do have winter here, so I will just buy fingerlings every year until we can consistently keep the water warm enough.
For the garden, I plan to erect 4-5 more raised beds and start on a separate garden for the chickens and pigs. Here’s what I plan to grow:
Cabbage (lots because the pigs love it)
Greens like mustard, kale, romaine lettuce, some salad greens
Kohlrabi (this is new for me so I won’t do to much)
Lots of potatoes
Bulb onions (we have green onions from the last owner so no need for those!)
Golden Bantam Corn (lots of corn for the animals)
Most of these are heirloom varieties. I’ve shopped the non-gmo catalogues, such as Baker Creek, Seed Savers, etc. I haven’t ordered my tomato seed yet because I spent a while deciding on varieties. I’ve decided to focus on heirloom varieties specific to my region, and Baker Creek has quite a few. Last year’s tomatoes got a mosaic virus, so I’ll be planting in a different area. I bought the plants from a feed store, so I’ll be avoiding that too.
What are your 2015 goals?
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Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.