If you asked both Scott and me about how we thought we did in terms of accomplishing our 2018 homestead plans, I’m not sure we’d give you the same answer. He started the year feeling overwhelmed, and it didn’t get much better until later in the year. As for me, as stressful as things got at times, I really enjoyed most of 2019. I feel like we accomplished so much, and that not only did we accomplish most of our plans (at least to some degree), we also accomplished a great number of unexpected things both on the homestead (meaning outdoors), and inside of our home. So let’s take a look and see what we accomplished and what we didn’t!
Maple Syrup and Honey
Did we accomplish our plans? Yes. Our intention was to boil down more sap and make more syrup. We hoped to harvest at least as much honey as the previous year, and though I haven’t checked the exact numbers, I think we did pretty well, especially considering we ended up splitting both of our hives, and that would have affected our harvest. One of the splits was successful, and that means that we will (hopefully) start the next bee season with 3 hives instead of two, AND that Scott thinks he understands how he can split hives in the future. We more than doubled our syrup production, harvested honey, and ended the year with more hives.
Chickens and Garden Expansion
Did we accomplish our plans? Yes. Though I’d have to admit that this was an area we faced plenty of trials. Our garden expansion started in winter during a thaw. We put tarps out in an area we wanted to expand the garden, and waited until the time was right to remove the tarps and finish preparing the soil. Chickens were a part of the plan. Our flock was all picked off by a raccoon or family of raccoons in late winter, and we had to start over. Thankfully, not completely from scratch. We purchased a flock of “spent hens” (hens that weren’t laying 28 days a month) from a friend. They were laying when we received them, and we put them straight to work in the garden to work on tilling, eating weeds, and fertilizing.
We purchased a large silage tarp to do more garden expansion, and we prepped a pumpkin patch with it, though we ran into a few hiccups along the way with that. Still, we had success. The tarp was moved in summer, and we began preparing yet another area for expansion. Our chicken plans for prepping those areas were delayed however, because of the fire and losing an entire large flock of baby birds. (Yes, this still makes me cry if I think too much about it.) But we persevered and still started another flock. By the end of harvest season, we were able to let the chickens begin to clean up the garden for us, and good thing too. The mosquitoes, heat, and my morning sickness weren’t mixing well, and the chickens got a leg up on some hard work!
About half of the current flock will be our egg layers for the coming season, and the other half will probably be butchered in the spring or when we get a warm spell. (These are the “dual-purpose” birds we ordered.) The chickshaw was built and very handy (though it needs a few adjustments come springtime). And Poppy did help with predator control (though she presented her own fair share of challenges, but that’s a different story).
Seed Starting Area and Garden Plans
Did we accomplish our plans? Yes! This was the one thing that was by far our biggest success. Our plans here completely saved our butts. Between the fire, my knee issues, and then morning sickness, our garden would have completely failed had it not been for some effective work and planning during the winter and early spring.
The seed starting area would have been useless without the garden plans. This was the first time I was ever able to come up with realistic calculations for how many of each type of plant we might need to plant to grow enough food for our family for a year. My planning helped me to determine what seeds should be started indoors or outdoors, when to start them, and when to transplant. Knowing when to plant everything kept us from running into some of the garden issues we faced in 2017. Having planted starts indoors, I was able to pace myself and work as my body would handle it. My knees were in such rough shape for awhile!
Beginnings of a New Building
Did we accomplish our plans? Yes? No? This is a bit trickier. We had hoped to get the groundwork for a new building set up, and that didn’t happen. But, we did have two companies come out and give us price quotes for the type of building we might want. We did come up with some potential plans for the actual structure when we are ready to embark on that path.
Our plans also changed because of the fire. We had to decide what to do what is left with the rest of our chicken coop. We had to decide how we’d shelter our chickens in the future. Ultimately, we decided that we’d rather go down the path of building the greenhouse/chicken coop we had talked about a year prior, rather than rebuilding the entire coop. We also decided to fix up the remains of the coop that is still standing (currently a mess of a “garden shed”). But these plans have been SLOW to have anything come about. There’s still a huge mess to deal with, and our time, money, and resources are a bit limited. Mostly time. I came up with a basic design for the building we want to build, and we started to collect windows for the southern wall of the new structure. We’re expecting a new baby soon, so I am not feeling too excited about how that’s going to work out for us in 2019.
Did we accomplish our plans? Yes. We lost our first batch of meat chickens in the fire, so we had to start over. And we did start over, and we raised our flock to butchering size and had a quick and successful butchering day. We also started raising the “dual purpose” birds. They weren’t large enough at butchering time, so we decided we’d wait until spring to butcher those birds. The good news is that we now have a head-start on our butchering birds for this year!
Lavender Hedge and Pie Field
Did we accomplish our plans? Yes. Sort of. The goal for the lavender hedge was to start lavender plants from seed, and to get them transplanted to start a hedge along part of our walking path. I did successfully start the lavender. They reached transplantation size. But I didn’t get them transplanted, and they withered and died. That was sad. But now I know how to start lavender seeds, and I will try again this year. I will just not anticipate getting them planted in a hedge, and maybe I can plant some around the yard, closer to the house instead.
The Pie Field didn’t get quite as far as I hoped, but we did make progress! In spring, Scott cut the remaining 2 paths to make 8 “pie slices” of field. We had wood that we split, and we got that mostly stacked near the middle of the field by our bon fire pit. More trees were trimmed, and we added that brush to the area we want to try doing some “bio-char” in (and maybe we’ll burn this spring?). The raspberry plants did not get transplanted, but I did manage to successfully transplant 3 mulberry tree saplings to the end of the Berry Slice. (I really need to diagram all of this for you.) And one slice was successfully planted as a pumpkin patch.
The Produce Stand
Did we accomplish our plans? Sort of. I started the building over, got a nice frame put up, and started putting up some of the walls on it. I ran out of barn wood for the walls, and Scott didn’t have time to take more wood off of the barn for me, so it will just have to wait until he has time for that. I did manage to get the roof onto it wit the help of the older boys. And when I was cleaning up the garden shed (before the fire), I pulled a couple of old feed troughs out of the building and dragged them over to the produce stand to act as planters. I did plant in them, but because of the knee stuff, I didn’t tend to it. I’m hoping to be able to do that this year.
Grafting and Root Stock Prep
Did we accomplish our plans? Yes and no. We grafted successfully! Our tree starts did great, and half are overwintering out in the garage, and the other half are in our basement. We hedged our bets because we don’t know how well the garage will work out for overwintering. As for the root stock, we didn’t kill it (though some of it didn’t make it, but some of our grafts didn’t either), but we didn’t split it. The good news is that we’ll be able to try again this spring.
Just based on all of that, I’d tell you it was a good year, but it was so much better than that! For one thing, between our trials and tribulations, I was forced to work on a skill that personally, I stink at. Pacing myself. We worked out a homeschooling set-up that works for us as the kids really dig into the grade school years. We worked on teaching the kids how to take responsibility for a lot of things, and we divided up the workload so everything wasn’t always falling onto my shoulders and the kids weren’t so balky about helping when I asked for it.
In addition to that wonderful aspect of things, there was even more we accomplished around our homestead that we had maybe hoped for, but hadn’t had high expectations about. We purchased a cider press, Scott did most of the work on refinishing it, and he got to press apples despite the fact that our apple trees were injured in the fire. And he learned about making hard cider. Our garden harvest was massive, and I got a lot of practice with canning things. We learned how to use the pressure canner we purchased the year prior, and it got a pretty good workout! I learned about making sauerkraut, and I learned a lot about making bread.
For Christmas, I got a couple of really handy gifts. One was a sausage stuffer, which is excellent because it will give us another way to preserve meat in the future. The other was a food processor which is also great because I cut the tip of my thumb off making sauerkraut using the mandolin (don’t worry, it grew back). I also had to borrow my sister-in-law’s for a long time, and I used it to make hash browns (which I learned I will be preparing differently in the future. Also, the kids gardens were FINALLY started, and they successfully planted fall gardens! They weren’t as successful as they could have been, but that had more to do with a plague of mosquitoes that arose at harvest time.
But wait! That’s not all! Our home is very much a part of our homestead, and so is homeschooling… they are all deeply intermingled. Our home also made quite a bit of progress. I fixed up my sewing room, got Doodles and E into a room together, redid Miss Lady’s bedroom since the plan is for her to share a room with the baby. I rearranged our laundry area (it’s finally really pretty functional!), straightened up the food storage a bit, started working on re-doing our living room and preparing that for some bigger projects to come. I built a bench for our dining room table, a cabinet for the records and record player, a cabinet for the kitchen, and worked on getting our kitchen straightened up.
Our bathroom ran into some issues, and that ended up getting an impromptu makeover as well. There is a “furnace” room in the upstairs that can’t be used as a bedroom, and that’s sort of a homeschool room. We call it the Laboratory. That got cleaned up, and the boys and I worked on setting up some tables and building a big dry erase board (that still isn’t completely finished). Then there was the new living room furniture, a new van, and the excitement of the upcoming arrival of a new member to our family… according to the ultrasound, another boy! (6 more weeks!)
Oh, and let’s not forget! There was other outside work done. In fall, Scott was able to take the first steps towards getting our garage cleaned up. It’s been a sore subject for both of us since we moved in. It’s not done, but he made tons of progress in the last month or so. We put gravel in some of the driveway areas, moved our burning barrels, and we tackled some of the fire clean-up, even if that didn’t get very far.
It’s funny, for as good of a year as I knew it was, until I typed all of that out, I didn’t realize just what a huge success it was. It wasn’t that Scott thought it was a bad year, but it was stressful for him. His schedule was over-burdened, he started out the year feeling burnt-out as it was, and he had a hard time finding time to get involved in things like he wanted to. We were always behind with something. I don’t know that those feelings were completely gone by the end of the year, but I think that after making some changes around here, he started to feel a lot better about how things were shaping up.
Now it’s time for us to think about what we want to accomplish in 2019, and I’ll be honest with you, I’m not planning for much other than a new baby. Our plan is to be organized, and to have lots of small, achievable plans, and to stick to as much of a routine as possible with a new baby in the mix!
We’d love to hear from you! How did your 2018 homestead (or just yearly) plans turn out? What was your biggest accomplishment? Let’s celebrate together! Leave your comments below!