Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Farm and Garden Design Class: I'm So Excited!

I am so excited!  I'll be taking an on-line Farm and Garden Design class with two of my homesteading/farming/sustainable living gurus Sharon Astyk  and Aaron Newton.  They have recently collaborated on the book A Nation of Farmers.  This book discusses how our current industrialized food system is directly involved with the food crisis.  The basic premise is that in order to guarantee one's food future one needs to become adept at self-sustaining farming.  Whether one farms an apartment balcony or one farms 10 acres we all need to take a vital role in our own food acquisition.  The online course will cover all kinds of things from garden design based on your own growing area through plot  and soil preparation, small livestock, container gardening, vertical gardening, making money... It's going to be great because all those questions that have been running around in my head during this last growing season will now get dealt with.  With an acre to work with I vacillate between growing just for myself and my family or do I think bigger, like starting a CSA or sell at farmer's markets?  Those who know me know I sold many of my salad greens at the Wixom Farmer's Market during the summer.  It was a great experience.  I loved it.  But I  the work was a little too much for me.  Remember, I'm a one woman farm.  My husband, JJ, helps me when he can, and my children will take care of the chickens to an extent, but  have no desire to become vegetable farmers.  So, most of the time, the job falls soley in my lap.  How to make the best of an acre with limited manpower is the question.
As a reader of Astyk's blog Casaubon's Book, my eyes have been opened to the disconnect we have with our food.  If the grocery store closed tomorrow, would you be able to survive on your own know-how?  Would you count on the government?  (Think Hurricane Katrina!) Or would you be able to count on yourself?  Coming times don't look too promising.  With the decrease in  availability through limited reserves or expense  it is time for us to look at food attainment without the use of fossil fuels.  Growing one's own makes sense in that fuel miles are eliminated . The only energy used is the energy needed to walk to the garden and pick something for dinner.  What I like best about growing my own food is the feeling of empowerment and the reconnection of the earth.  I am forced to eat seasonably and locally.  I am more connected to the ebb and flow of nature's cycles.  It puts me in my place as to who is really in charge.
Check out Astyk's book and blog and you may find your thinking changed as well!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Substistance Farming Project

My first season at subsistence farming was met with some successes and some disappointments, albeit , I'm glad I even got to this point as most times I will think a project to death and never launch it.
My definite victory was the actual acquiring of the chickens.  Recall I pre-ordered 6 chicks for JJ's birthday last December and now we are up to 11 chickens. There were some roosters that needed to be taken back to Destiny Farm, yet we came back with a replacement hen or two!  We now have 3 (for sure) layers so that means we are getting about 3 eggs a day!  Which is plenty for us, but we definitely welcome more!  What progress I have made.  Never would I have dreamed that I would be so intimately involved with my avian friends.  So far so good.  It has been fairly easy.  I'm just waiting for the day when I actually have to administer some type of chicken first aid or something.  But as a free-rangers, I know their lifestyle is most conducive to a healthy bird.  I'll just keep doing what I've been doing and deal with the obstacles are they arise.  Raising birds in cold weather will be my next learning curve, but I'm ready for it.  As an animal lover, I have to constantly remind myself that life on the farm can be cruel.  I will be dealing with death as well as life.  Any day I could be faced with remnants of a predator's attack.  Or a bird that froze during the night. I'll have to remove the emotion from it...I'm sure that's easier said than done.
Next, the gardens...
Bear in mind that I originally wanted just to grow food for us to eat, but got caught up in wanting to grow for market.  No problem with either of those paths, but I think I need to be focused with either one or the other.  Trying to do too much has been my downfall.  So, for next growing season, I will stick to growing for our consumption only.  If I start to vear off my path,  remind me, please, with a gentle kick in the pants.

100 sq.ft tomatoes (includes roma, cherry and slicing tomatoes)
50 sq ft. zucchini
24 sq green beans
500 sq ft various greens (lettuce, spinach, swiss chard,kale,bok choi)
50 sq. ft zucchini

8 1/2 pints of jam (mulberry/raspberry mix)
4 pints of  strawberry jam (Long's U-Pick)
10 quarts of raw pack tomatoes
2 quarts pickled zucchini
2 jars of preserved cherry toms (one in vinegar and one in oil)
1 pint of pesto

Goals for next season:
500 sq feet of wheat
500 sq feet of potatoes
100 sq. feet of green beans
50 sq. feet winter squash
25 ft. zucchini
50 sq. feet pickles
50 sq. feet sunflowers (chicken feed)
Not sure about the quantity of the next  few items:

2 fruit trees
1 nut tree
2 berry plants

That's all I can think of right now...I'll continue tomorrow.