My son put the greenhouse kit together after the spring rains ended. It was quite an effort but he did a good job and added extra reinforcement to withstand strong winds. That year we learned a lot more about starting seeds and transplanting them into the ground. As fall began, we got some portable propane heaters, which were connected to small propane tanks. Those worked well until we had a three-day ice storm when we couldn’t leave the farm to refill the propane tanks.
After speaking with my son, I decided to order a sawmill at the end of the year, but there was a 3 month lead time so it wouldn’t arrive until the following spring. It was a major outlay of money, but we felt it would be worth it in the long run.
Year 8 (2021), the sawmill arrived in the spring but we had to wait until the rains stopped to get it down to the barn over-hang where my son would put it together. I have recently learned there is now a 10-to-12 month lead time on getting the same brand of sawmill. With the Biden regime in office, I knew the economy would bottom out eventually so I laid out a plan to obtain needed supplies. I never imagined that lumber, which is harvested in America, would increase in price by 400%! When the fencing went on sale at Tractor Supply and other farm stores, I ordered a lot of welded wire fencing and extra T-posts; always need this stuff but it is mostly made in China, so it’s good to have a stock on hand. I tried to order made in USA fencing but at the time it literally was not available at any price. As I write this, the same fencing has gone up 20%. The made-in-USA fencing is now available but the price is so high that I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
After last year’s ice storm experience, I ordered a 250-gallon propane tank for the greenhouse and had hoses made to go from the tank to the heaters inside the greenhouse. Ordered extra coverings for the greenhouse and ordered lots and lots of seeds of all types.
The rest of this year was dedicated to gardening, canning, dehydrating and building a very deep pantry. As the year closes out, we have had a very busy summer and fall season on the farm. The rabbit and chicken sales have increased dramatically, my son’s tractor business and the new fire wood business are off to a good start. We certainly have not achieved the final goals, but we are better than we were 8-years ago.
We had a very productive summer garden with several successes and a few failures. The garden grew bumper tomato, sweet peppers, greens and cucumber crops plus average squash, green beans and potatoes this year. However, the hot peppers were disappointing and the corn crop was a failure.
The garden gave us over 72 quarts and 48 pints of tomato variations, salsa, pasta sauce, taco and enchilada sauce, plain sauce, diced, pickled, bruschetta, spicy tomato juice and some tomato and green chilies. The only tomato products I did not do were ketchup and paste as it is labor intensive and less expensive to buy in store, for now. I’ve read that it takes 46 tomatoes to reduce to a half pint of paste!
Cucumbers were pickled whole, in spears, rounds, cuke salad with cabbage, peppers, onions and garlic and cauliflower. I think I did about 52 jars! I was able to get fresh corn at the farmer’s market before the price went off the charts. Those ears were processed and frozen.
Canned about 24 jars of spicy Italian vegetables, which we love to have during the winter. Also did asparagus, brussel sprouts and kale.
We grew and harvested lots of herbs including dill, rosemary, cilantro, basil, oregano, sage, mint, thyme and parsley. I dried them whole, ground some into chunky powder and put them in jars. I still have huge sage and rosemary plants growing in giant containers in the green house.
The birds got most of the blueberries and elderberries and some of the raspberries this year. Next season we are building enclosed netting protection for the bushes. I don’t mind sharing but this was over-eating by the birds. The fight will be brutal next year with netting and a shotgun.
Received an order of two olive trees and got those into temporary pots so they can over-winter in the green house. They have grown from 14” to about 3 feet already.
The plum and cherry trees are too young to bear; they need another year or two. The fig trees started to bear this season so next year should produce enough figs to put up. The young apple trees also started to bear this year so I’m looking forward to more apples next season. Half of the peach trees got a blight this year thus only we only got a couple dozen peaches, so I put those up into jam. Pear trees gave a great harvest; I was processing pears for weeks. I put up about 48 qts and 36 pints of pie filling, juice and the cinnamon pear sauce- which was this season’s favorite!
Harvested four 5-gal buckets of concord grapes which became juice and jam as we don’t drink alcohol. It was so labor intensive this year I’ve decided next season to use a steam juicer for the entire quantity. I can still make a jelly using the juice from the steamer and it will be a lot faster.
Rabbits: The last two years our rabbit business has grown dramatically. We sell small pet rabbits for $10 – $15/ea and large meat rabbits for $25/each. Some we sell through our favorite family-owned feed store and others we sell direct to individuals. The pet rabbits sell well fall through spring and slack off during the summer. The meat rabbits sell out every time the economy takes another dive; this year I can’t seem to breed them fast enough!
Chickens and Eggs
In June and July I put about 60 eggs in the water glassing bucket in anticipation of a cold winter when the girls wouldn’t be laying as much. This week, I pulled out six eggs to test them and they were just fine. I did find one egg with a crack that had to be thrown out as the lime seeped in through the crack. So next year I’ll be saving more eggs using the water glassing method.
The older girls went into molt in late August for 3 to 4 weeks, which cut the egg production from a dozen eggs a day to about 5 or 6 a day. Now in November, I am getting only a few eggs per week.
I replace about 30% of our birds every spring. This year I forgot to check the “no substitution” box and the hatchery sent me some brown egg laying birds that I still haven’t figured out what breed they are. A few started laying in late August but not enough to make up for the older hens which went into molt. Now, the girls are barely laying at all, even with lights in the coops. I just started putting ground dried hot peppers in their water containers as I read it will help the girls feel warm so they will lay during the winter. I’ll let you know if it works or not!
We sell about 30 regular chicks and juveniles each year, which helps with the cost of the layer protein pellets. Regular chicks sell for around $4-$5/ea and juveniles sell for $15-$20/ea. We hatched our own ornamental silkie chicks in the incubator and keep them inside until they are completely feathered. Silkie chicks are tiny and very fragile and we have had problems with letting the hens raise them outside. This summer our hatch rate improved significantly from last year, just by more closely monitoring the humidity level. Four-week old chicks sell for $10 each and juveniles and adults sell for $25 each. It really surprised me that ornamental chickens would sell so quickly! One lady bought three for her kids as pets!
I placed an early order for next springs chicks so I can get the breeds that I want and I remembered to check the “no substitution” box. I ordered 25 hens of two different breeds for egg laying and selling and 25 meat birds which we will grow and harvest. We have four coops now and my son will build another coop over the winter to avoid overcrowding. I think I’ll be selling more hens next year!
We harvested two hogs and have about 500 pounds of pork in the freezers. We usually get two feeder pigs to raise and harvest. We do our own harvesting at the farm, during the colder months. It is just too hard to round up the pigs, put them in the truck/trailer and drive 2 hours to the processor and then go back to pick up the packaged meat. Plus it saves quite a bit of money.
We don’t have cattle on our homestead as they are just too big for this ole lady to handle. I order beef each year and pick it up at the processor in July. I buy from a small rancher who has organic, grass fed beef. Now that beef is so expensive and hard to get, I’m really happy I made the effort to get the beef in the freezer. Just a few days ago in a grocery store, I saw a young woman buy steaks at $14/pound and I don’t think it was organic. Organic grass fed beef has a slightly different flavor than store-bought, cause there’s no additives, antibiotics, growth hormones, or magnetic prions in this beef.
Other items: Stored 50 pounds of curing salt; just in case our grid goes down for over 3 months and I have to empty the freezers. My plan is to freeze dry half of the meat this winter as the freeze drier creates a lot of heat and summer time is not when I need the heat. We also stored buckets of wheat, oats, barley and corn. Now, 50-pound bags of whole grains are so expensive – if you can even find them.
New Tangible Investments
I got a new dehydrator to replace my 15-year old one that died, at almost double the price as the original one. Got the same brand so I could reuse the trays and plastic sheets for fruit leather. I keep them running during harvest time with herbs, fruits, leathers, peppers and other small vegetables.
Bought a 30-ton gas wood splitter to replace a much older and smaller one. The new one has a 2-way and 4-way maul splitter and splits 1 cord per hour. My son was able to put up 4 cords in record time for our winter needs. He also started a new firewood business where he loads up a pallet about 4’x4’x4′ high with woodstove-length split logs, shrink wraps it and right now is selling for $90 per pallet. The customers bring their pickup trucks, my son uses the tractor forks to load it on their truck and everyone is happy. He will deliver for an extra fee, if asked.
The sawmill we purchased in the spring is working so well. My son is doing planks for new coops and goat sheds right now, so it is really worth all the time and expense to get it here and learning to use it. Lumber went sky-high, then came down a little and is now going back up again. At least we can have what we need and can either store or sell unused milled lumber.
We are continuing towards our goal of preparedness, as much self-reliance as we can accomplish and improved security. So, how have we done working toward our goals?
Be more secure. The 4-5 acres around the house and barn are completely fenced and posted with with No Trespassing signs. Those parts containing animals also have hot wires to keep the predators out and animals in. There is an outer farm gate by the road, which is locked at night or when we don’t want visitors. The driveway gate closer to the house is always closed except to let our vehicles in/out. The 3-gate airlock to protect the animals from escaping stays locked except when we are expecting visitors. Down in the meadows, my son built a practice range so we don’t have to pay to go to shoot. He made a stop-berm and filled old tires with clay dirt, which also is set against a hill. The range is marked off from 25 yards to 150 yards. This old lady can consistently hit a 3” target from 100 yards.
Become less dependent on buying from stores. By having animals on the farm, one learns to not only be a homestead vet, but also dispatch animals. We harvest our own animals now and I preserve the meat in various ways. I haven’t bought any meat from a store in quite a while, except for turkey, which I don’t raise myself, and, I purchase beef once a year. Living so far from warehouse stores, I normally shop once every 4 to 6 weeks. I still purchase cheese as I haven’t learned to make brie or Gouda or more tasty cheeses yet. Butter is still cheap enough to purchase because it saves me time.
Have room for my kids and other family to come to if and when things fall apart for them. Although the house is small, we have some insulated out-buildings that could be converted to tiny homes if needed. My son lives in an RV on the property so others could be added. We have enough acreage that people could spread out and not live on top of each other if it comes to that.
Learn skills to develop cottage/home business(es). The chicken/egg and rabbit selling businesses are much stronger in the last few years. I have an agreement with my favorite family-owned feed store in the town to sell our animals and both of us make a profit. Using their storefront keeps me from having to meet buyers some place in town to make the exchange as I never let strangers come to the farm. My son’s tractor work and fire wood businesses are increasing now and he is making a small profit. Spring time will increase the tractor work so profits should increase.
Learn to be more self-reliant so I can live in freedom and independence. I think we have increased our self-reliance by at least 60%. I will never be completely self-sufficient as there are many things we can’t make or do; such as fuel for the vehicles, propane for heating, and some types of repair. We also need doctors and dentists. I still have to pay taxes as the government picks on little people rather than the rich and famous. Overall, I am happy with our progress and plan to keep on learning and doing as much as I can.
My prayers for each of you as we enter these times of tribulations, political upheaval and economic uncertainty. Seek our Lord Jesus Christ and He will bring you peace.