I am working on a mental switch from seeing the farm as needing to “start over” to thinking of it as “beginning again”. This is really difficult for me because for our first three years, everything seemed to flourish. Rabbits did fairly well –that is, I had lots of litters– and the chickens produced lots of eggs. We had access to a fully fenced garden to do with whatever we pleased. Everything was unicorns and rainbows.
In the last year since we moved, I have tried to fit these same expectations into a completely untamed and empty system. A lack of a system, really. It hasn’t worked for obvious reasons: there is no fencing to just go out and plant things; there is different weather, almost no shade, and very few sheltered areas to work with; we have more space; and most importantly, there are more wild predators. Our previous location afforded us a sense of protection that we do not have here. Here, everything is open and it is up to us to figure out how to create shelter, protection, and working systems.
So my New Year Resolution is multi-faceted yet all going towards the same goal:
I must forgive myself for losing animals to heat and under-fortified structures. I need to forgive myself in order to move forward with my best work. I have learned some hard lessons this year and now I need to look to the future.
There are many stuck gears within the daily operation of the farm. Systems that worked before are no longer relevant here. The rabbits need a habitat more adapted to the new land, the garden needs a
push shove to get going, and the chickens need to be completely redone. The chickens need a new, bigger coop. The farm needs chicken breeds are excellent layers, can withstand our weather extremes, and can forage well. I am going to try Dominiques (the original Gold Rush chicken… we live in an 1850’s Gold Rush town) and Americaunas (for their adaptability and long laying cycles). Trevor also hopes to be able to catch a few honeybee swarms this spring (free bees rather than $100+ per starter nuc).
I cannot afford to put all my eggs in one basket anymore, both literally and figuratively. I am going to do my best to have at least two versions of everything. That way if one method fails, I have a back up. Chickens, turkeys, and goats will all include multiple breeds to secure better chances of survival. The rabbits are already from 3 different breeding lines, so I really just need to build them back up.
In order to save a butt-load of money, we need to find and use materials that other people think are useless. That being said, I don’t want my house to look like a junk yard. It is kind of hard to find that happy middle ground. So far I have a bunch of 1920’s windows and glass doors that need to be turned into a greenhouse and I have all of the “outputs” from the animals that can be used in the garden and compost. Now I need to find chicken wire, “ruined” or wet straw, used/recycled lumber, tall bamboo or PVC for garden stakes, a large pool for aquaponics, and some dead Christmas trees for the garden beds.