Monday, November 15, 2010

Baby Steps

Four years ago, when I started this blog (are you kidding?  I had to look that up.  Amazing.), I had just taken delivery of my first batch of chickens, which I ordered and brooded in cold weather and wind, in a hoophouse I'd made with my own hands.  I made a trip with Gi-gi to transport rare-breed pigs across state lines in the trunk of MaryJane, my beautiful Toyota Camry.  I bought Joel Salatin's how-to books, and I had plans.  Oh, I had plans.  And half the children I have now. :)

My pigs never managed to clear the small trees out of our field, partly because they hadn't read the books I did about how they were supposed to be managed, and partly because I'd become pregnant with Organique within a month of their acquisition, and oh, that changes plans.  They became very expensive pork chops.

My flock of 30 or so hens began laying in spring, and in summer, when I was 7 months pregnant, a pair of dogs killed all but 2 of them.

We managed to get our first broilers in the freezer that year, but barely, after about half of them died along the way.

My plans obviously shrunk - from feeding the neighborhood down to supplementing our table and managing the household.

Since then we've had a tenant in our 'pasture,' who doesn't have the time to manage really well, but at least doesn't use chemicals.  She has her sheep in there this fall, eating down waist-high grass and weeds after a summer of growth and partial irrigation.

It's been on my heart for some time to try to do more with the land.  The sheep are great to eat things down for now, but I know about rotational grazing, and how it can help remedy the weed problem we have, without chemicals.  I know about the nutritional profile of grass-fed beef, and I know there is potential here that could feed us [and maybe even part of the neighborhood].

Don't get me wrong; we're not out buying cows, by any means, but we're taking baby steps in that direction.  The first order of business is to get the fences in far better shape.  I took a chunk of my carefully-hoarded laundry-room-remodel savings and bought a couple rolls of fence, and some expensive wooden posts, for corners and support every 100 feet or so.  We started working on the south end of the property, along the road, where Hubby has put in H-frames at the corners and across the ditch (more to go at the other end) and I unwired the rotten fence posts from the metal t-posts that were shoring them up, and laid down the 3 strands of barbed wire, excavating where necessary, digging through brush and dead, overturned trees (small by tree standards, big and poky to my standards).

It looks so simple in a drawing...
Still to go on that section is more H-frames to cross the ditch at the eastern corner, removal of the t-posts (might have to get the tractor involved there) and old fence, then stretching and attaching new fence.  Hubby left a space for a "man gate" (I hope women are allowed too...) right near that "X" in the eastern corner.  The "X" represents the headgate, the source of our water.  It might be handy to be able to get to that from the field.

So - it's not much, but it's a baby step in the right direction.  And I'm praying we can get more done before the ground freezes, because once it thaws in the spring, Hubby is working too long and too often to get much done around this here homestead. :)


Macnean Farm said...

Keep at it, you'll get there in the end, and when you do you'll be able to sit back and say "I did that". Anything to lessen dependence on the industrial agricultural machine is a good thing. By the way, we cleared our land with Tamworth Pigs and goats - took the hard work away from us, that's for sure.

Take Care

Gavin & Fidelma Goodman
Macnean Farm
Northern Ireland

EllaJac said...

Thank you..! I appreciate the encouragement.

In fact, it was Tamworth pigs we had gotten. We tried to get (one) to follow the routine grain bucket into the pasture, having set up an electric fence around some small trees... She kicked up her heels in the backyard, tore up some horse manure in the wrong pasture, ran circles around all of us, and we'd have had to shoot her on the spot if she headed towards the neighbor's nicely-manicured landscaping! As it was, we (barely) got her back where she started, and decided not to do that again!