By Susan Berry
December 26 brought visions of spring dancing in my head.
Well, another Christmas is past and as much as I love Christmas time, I long for spring. I believe deeply in having a plan – a strategy and moving forward with purpose and hope.
January 3 marks our one-year anniversary on our 2-acre homestead here in North Carolina. After a bumpy first year of garden creating, coop building, flock illness, chicken deaths and bad manure added to our soil that caused crop failure, it is time to put the past behind us. We are making some changes to the layout of our gardens, have found an organic manure source, expanding our laying hen flock and adding pigs to our farm this new year.
Part of our plan is to re-purpose a firewood shelter into a pig shelter with a connected pasture area for our new porkers that we will be raising. It will be our first time raising pigs and we are excited about adding a meat crop to our homestead lifestyle.
We also hope to acquire our very first riding tractor with PTO implements to make our crop growing more efficient.
We have had great success selling our eggs and so have decided to get a larger coop and expand our flock by 50 percent, making our flock grow from 20 current hens to 40. We learned the pros and cons of some of the breeds we have and so are now able to make a more educated decision about what breed we prefer for egg laying. Though we love our large fluffy breeds such as our Buff Orpingtons and Black Australorps we learned that their feed to egg ratio is about 7 percent, a bit higher than the breed Golden Comet, which is about 4-percent ratio. So this is the breed we plan on getting in the spring.
We also have done extensive research and chatting with experienced pig owners so we can start this new adventure informed. We decided on Hampshire or Yorkshire pigs and found a local breeder to get our wieners from in March.
Our wood shelter will make a perfect home for the pigs and will give them plenty of comfortable living space next to the gardens where we plan on growing them lots of organic forage crops such as rape, turnips, beets, buckwheat and clover. Spoiled pigs make delicious pork.
We are also adding a second greenhouse to our plant business end of the farm and hope to offer more variety of vegetable seedlings to the community and our customers who also want to live a self-sufficient homestead life. We have moved our current greenhouse to a new location on the homestead that will hold two greenhouses and be closer to the rest of the growing areas.
All these plans have been in the works on paper, or should I say laptop, since October and this makes the plan not only more manageable but adaptable to budget, scheduling and long term goals. I encourage you to think through any changes or additions to your homestead, carefully and consider all aspects of the plans direction. When adding animals, it is important to think about amount of time needed to raise them for their given purpose. For us, we want to have our pork processed sometime in October and knowing it takes about six months to grow out pigs for meat we need to be ready and have them on the homestead sometime in March.
A calendar is vital to a good plan. I use a large hanging calendar so I can write the plan out by each month and see the plan plainly in front of me. I multitask well but can easily get too many projects going at one time and bring home pigs before finishing the shelter. For me cuteness always wins out over, “Did I buy feed?”
So, what is your plan for spring 2015?
Now is the time to take pen to paper and start dreaming.
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