Where did the year go? Seriously. Someone please tell me what happened to 2014. This has honestly been the most amazing year for us, personally and business..ly. (What?) At the beginning of last year we had the biggest maple sap harvest to date (22 gallons of finished syrup!). This spring we enlarged our vegetable garden and added our perennial garden, which allowed us to work with more restaurants and chefs in St. Louis. We built A LOT! Including a new goat barn, walk-in cooler and started our rotational pastureÂ system for the pigs. Throughout the year we added lots of animals to our farm family including our new dairy goats, Barbara Streisand and Lucy Ricardo-Ball, Piggy Azalea (our wedding pig), a bunch of ducks and all of our heritage breed hogs! We also had our very first piglets born at the farm! In September, we got married and in October we hosted an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner. We’ve certainly had our ups and downs this year, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But we pushed ourselves really hard this year, learned some tough lessons and ended up having one helluva year. I’m really proud of everything we’ve been through this year.
Increase the garden by three times the size it was last year! Step up our game by offering better and more unique varieties. Sell to more restaurants! Finish the hydroponic system for our wheatgrass production. Finish the goat barn, get a few more goats and get Judy and Liza bred! Increase our chicken flock and get some ducks or turkey. Build the infrastructure for pigs and get our hogs!Â Make a better composting system. Develop our perennial/berry patch. Re-seed the chicken coopsÂ and make a better permaculture system for the chickens. Get married!!!
- Increase our self-sufficiency by means of solar power, turbines or something else smart.
- Be better at taking pictures and blogging.
And now it’s time to look ahead! I have no idea what 2015 has in store for us, but we’re going to keep going with this great momentum and set the bar higher for ourselves. This New Years I’m taking a cue from Jack Spirko who is the creator of the website 13 Skills. The idea of this website was to inspire members to learn 13 new skills in 2013 to strengthen their self-reliance or self-confidence. For 2015, we’re selecting fifteen skills that we would like to accomplish either personally or through our farm.
Animal Husbandry.Â In 2014 we made the decision to add more livestock to our farm in order to have responsibly raised protein as well as sustainably grown produce. Our goal for 2015 is to continue to expand our heritage pork program. Adding on new pastures, breeding our gilts, farrowing and raising up feeders for harvest. We want to offer the most delicious, responsibly raised heritage breed hogs for local consumers.
Beekeeping.Â We’ve managed to acquire three bee hives on the farm this year. We’re basically just “hive sitting” for people that don’t have the space for hives at their own house. They come over and take care of the hives and teach us about beekeeping in the process. The bonus for us is that we get some amazing pollinators for our garden and forrest. But for 2015, we’d like to establish our own hive and learn how to harvest honey.
Fruit Orchard.Â VERY excited for this one! Last year we prepped our perennial garden for our berry patch. This spring our goal is to plant our berries and then planning out our fruit orchard and prepping the space for planting. Although we’re not quite sure of the scope of our orchard, we do know that we want a mix of apples, pears, peach and persimmons. Maybe more. But 2015 is the year of the fruit for the farm! It will be a bunch of work but we’re looking forward to learning about taking care of fruit trees and berry plants.
Water Catchment/Filtering.Â This year we expanded our pond. In 2015 we actually get to use it. We’ll be adding fish but most importantly, we’ll be adding our irrigation system to it. The plan is to siphon water from the pond down to the garden which means that our watering system will be energy free and full of healthy nitrates! Essentially, we’re using the pond as a huge water tower. So the goal for 2015 is to get our energy free irrigation system finished and functioning.
Lumberjacking.Â This is a biggie. We’ve started clearing out the cedars from our woods that will be used as pasture for our rotational grazing system. But the goal for 2015 is to clear out all of the cedars, limb them and process them into fence posts or lumber. Lots and lots of logging in store for 2015. But while we’re logging and lumberjacking, we’ll properly grade the soil and properly manage our timber.
Permaculture Design.Â Eventually, we’d like to get an entire permaculture plan for the entire farm but for now, we’ll start small with our animals. I’d like to set up a permaculture design for our chicken coops by planting beneficial plants, grasses and forage. We’ll also re-work the goat pasture to make better forage for our herd. The same with the hog pastures. The goal is to have the animals completely self sufficient most of the year due to permaculture design and rotation.
Dairy.Â Holy moly guacamole, this is a big one! Judy and Liza are (hopefully) bred, which means that in May I’m going to have to milk something for the very first time. This will be a huge learning experience for us but will be our first step in our goats milk program. In 2015Â our goals is to make a milking/cleaning/handling area, process our delicious goats milk and goats milk products, make those products available for purchase and also get the most out of those products. Which leads me to…
Soap Making.Â One of the goat’s milk products I would like to make is soap! This will be a great way to use our goat’s milk and also to get our products out into the world via our online store.
Seed Saving.Â As much as I love looking through all of the seed catalogs every winter, it would be really awesome so save some money in our garden and save our own seeds. The only problem is that we usually grow multiple varieties and species so that we can have a great selection for our chefs. This makes it a little more difficult to save seeds but we can try putting some plants in our perennial garden or reducing some varieties. With some great tools and information from Seed Savers Exchange, we can start saving seeds from our garden. Even if it’s just one type or one variety. But every little bit helps. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll even have our own Such and Such tomato or something!
Photography.Â This is always an ongoing goal for me. My goal is to be better at taking photos on the farm. And videos. Eventually I’d like to fill the walls of our house with art prints from our farm. But my goal for 2015 is to re-commit myself to taking photos more frequently and also taking higher quality photos.
Electronics.Â Dave and his friend Bob have been working on an automation system for the greenhouse.Â This new computer will be able to control the entire greenhouse, garden irrigation as well as any future greenhouses or structures that we may add on in the future. The goal for 2015 is to finish this system and have our greenhouse and irrigation automated.
Gardening. This year we really let our herb garden fall by the wayside. In 2015, we’d like to be better about planning out and maintaining our herbs. We’d also like to fill our perennial garden out a little more. And this past fall we prepped our vegetable field for yet another expansion. But this will probably be our last expansion (thank God!). So our goal is to fill our new expansion. Outside of the fields, I’d like to plant more flowers around the house. During the wedding we had flowers everywhere and it was beautiful. And it made me happy. And I would like to feel that exact same way in 2015.
Hosting.Â This is not a real “13 Skills” skill per say. So maybe it should be labeled “Education.” Either way, we had a great time hosting Outstanding in the Field this October. We would love to host more farm dinners or organized farm tours. We really love what we do and love sharing our experiences and knowledge with the peoples. So our goal for 2015 is to host a farm dinner and/or to educate more. That could be through organized farm tours, education events or through online education.
Family Fun.Â This is the one we always seem to forget about, or at least have a difficult time scheduling. We just got married four months ago and due to our hectic lives we haven’t even been able to get away for a whole weekend to ourselves. (There was that one night when we went to Iowa and stayed at a Holiday Inn with baby Piggy Azalea). So in 2015, our goal is to have fun and enjoy it. It’s easy to keep our heads down and nose to the grindstone, Dave and I are both workaholics in our own ways. But I’m going to make a point to make sure that we take some time to enjoy the wonderful life we have. And if I do that, maybe these grey hairs will start to recess back into my head.