Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Sense of Urgency

Four years ago, when I began seeking to explore local food supplies and self sufficiency, one of my goals was to acquire land and begin growing/ raising our own food in a more deliberate way. Country living had always been on my heart, but at that point it began to be more about sustenance and less about scenery. Last year, we saw that dream begin to become reality when we moved to our little cabin in the woods. We love our little cabin, and in many ways it is meeting our food growing/ raising needs, but in other ways, it is falling very short.

Our cabin is a hunter's paradise. Too bad, we are just beginning hunters - experience would surely help us to have more success. It is also a nice place to raise some livestock. Our chickens are doing well and I could see adding a few more things such as ducks and fish (we have a pond) and maybe goats (lots of scrub), but anything requiring pasture, such as cattle, sheep and turkeys, is probably out.

The other problem we have with growing our own is lack of sunlight. We are literally IN the woods, so we get no sunlight from mid March to mid October. Fall/ Winter crops grow fine here, and once we have better fencing, I think we will have success in those seasons, but unless we can find a way to increase our sunlight, spring/ summer crops will fail here.

I am beginning to feel a sense of urgency in becoming more self sufficient. The world seems to be changing very quickly and it has me nervous. It could just be post pregnancy hormones or something, but I am becoming increasingly concerned about being able to feed my family. Food and gas prices seem to be rising daily and I am beginning to see empty shelves in the grocery store. We had been, as a family, transitioning away from the grocery store for a few years and over to farmer's markets and raising our own, that is, until last year when I became pregnant and spent those months so sick and so exhausted. Now that our little man is here, it is time to get serious about building our homestead. Here is a list of the things we are going to be working on in the coming weeks.

1. Repair/ renovate the chicken coop and run. The cold, rain and ice were really hard on the chickens' home. Much of the safety netting is torn and needs to be replaced. We also want to add a pitched roof to the run so that when we cover it next winter, rain does not pool in the tarp and tear the netting. First on the agenda with the coop, after replacing the torn netting, is to make the laying boxes accessible from the outside. The roosters are becoming increasingly aggressive with my husband and the boys and I think it would be safer as well as simpler to be able to get to the eggs from outside the chicken run. This would also be safer for the chickens, since there is a chance of them getting out every time we open the door. In fact, last week, two of them got out and we were not able to catch them or coax them back into the run, and the neighborhood dogs got them both.

2. Build a stronger fence around the garden. I am afraid we will need cattle fencing around the garden in order to keep the dogs out. For some reason, the neighborhood dogs enjoy digging up some of my plants and sitting on and crushing the rest of them. A stronger fence may keep them out.

3. Plant some fruiting trees and bushes. We have a small area on our property near the road that gets sunlight. We will be planting some fruit trees and berry bushes along the tree line in the coming weeks.

4. Repair the compost bins. The dogs destroyed the compost bins and scattered the compost all over the woods. I think we will have to make the bins out of wood and hope they survive the canine assault.

5. Remove some of the smaller trees on the property. Many of the shade producing trees are huge and much to big for us to remove ourselves. Since tree removal is expensive, we will only be removing the two that are near the house and that I feel are in danger of falling in the next few years. I do feel confident in removing the smaller trees, though. In fact, the boys and I removed many of them last year and cut them up for firewood. We plan to continue doing that this year.

6. Investigate indoor growing. We grew micro-greens indoors last year with some success. I would like to do that again. We also have everything we would need to grow sprout, except the seeds. I need to find a source for seeds. Anyone have a suggestion?

7. Get something into the ground outside. I plan to get some seeds into the ground, even before the new fencing is up. Lettuce and snow peas, as well as carrots and spinach are on my list right now. I hope we will see these last till harvest.

How about you? Are you feeling a sense of urgency about things lately? What are you doing around your home in terms of growing or raising food? Have you made any changes to your shopping habits?


PaulaB52 said...

Unfortunately for me, I discovered a website called The Ecnomic Collaspe (

I spent entirely too much time on that site earlier this week. Freaked myself out and really made me anxious.

Another thing that is unfortunate for me, Redd does not feel the same sense of impending doom that I do. In some respect, he's like the rest of mainstream American and just thinks things will continue on the way it has been.

With gas rising to over 100/barrel yesterday and the fact that he drives a huge gas guzzling Tahoe, I'm really feeling the pinch. Groceries are rising, as I've been keeping track of itemized costs as well as my over all spending. It's only going to get worse and I'm afraid that by the time America wakes up and starts to demand answers, gas will be over 5.00/gallon.

Since I can't do anything about grocery store shortages or gas prices, I've been trying to do as much as I can at home in my own garden. Luckily for us, we've got all that open yard space. We've taught ourselves how to butcher those chickens and feel confident we could do it again. I'm gunning for milk goats, but I doubt very seriously that is going to happen as long as I"m working full time. I'm trying to convicne Redd a pig would be an easy investment, but we'd have to build the enclosure.

The garden has been expanded and it's ready for planting. I'm going to finish that up this weekend.

I really wish that I could do the whole grain grinding, etc, but it's not feasible for us right at this moment. I am saving $$ to buy a hand grinder for wheat.

I made a list of things I need to look into. Here are just a few of the notes I jotted down:
buying gold (I'd prefer links of gold, like a gold link necklace rather than coins. This could be something you could break off bit by bit if you needed)
fill the pantry with dry goods (easy enough to start right now buying rice/beans/canned tuna, etc)
growing feed for the animals (sunflowers grow easy, but take up a lot of room. Maybe ammarath, oats,??)
more rain barrels
see about either re-tapping our well, or installing a hand pump. I need to have the water level checkd and the water saftely checked as well.

It's good to know that I'm not off my rocker thinking things will get much much worse before they get better, if they do. It's good to have a plan. Now to work on that plan!

The Book Lady Online said...

Paula, I think I should avoid that blog,or I might really frighten myself, lol.

My husband is a lot like yours; he thinks things will be just fine, if more expensive. He also thinks things will be fixed once the right people are elected. I am doubtful that anything can make a real difference. I feel like we are headed for hard times, no matter what anyone "does".

While I am glad that he and I are not both freaked out, I do wish we were a little more in agreement about the future. I think it would make things easier, since right now, I really feel the need to get goats soon, and he wants to wait a few years. I've also thought about a pig, especially since we have so many acres of woods with lots of oaks, but again, I don't see that happening any time soon.

I see that you and I have similar thoughts about things, though I have a lot farther to go than you. I am so impressed with all you have accomplished. I am not buying any gold right now, but instead putting our surplus into dry goods for the pantry. We have lots of water sources on our property but I would really like rain barrels as well, for watering the garden and animals.

I am also looking into "renting" some land for a big garden. A side benefit of this search is that I am getting to know our neighbors and building community which I think will be increasingly important as prices continue to rise. I could use my parent's land, but it is in another state, which would make caring for it and putting up the harvest more difficult. In the mean time, I am hoping that clearing out the smaller trees will let in more light and maybe allow for more gardening on our property. I am also looking in to container gardening for the smaller areas near the house that get some sunlight.

Here's to working our plans :)