It's been a busy month since last we touched base on the homestead. I've been harvesting daily, fought plagues of locusts and cicadas, hatched chicks, and only half heartedly continued my search for goats.
The reason goats aren't on my priority list is because I'd rather not have to deal with them entirely on my own. I don't have anyone nearby I can go to for help and Greg is only here a few days a month. It'll happen though. With any luck we'll find does already pregnant so I won't have to get a buck.
On the chicken front, come 2013, we are getting rid of the black Australorp and buff Orphingtons.
I'm sorry to let the Australorp go because they are terrific layers, but we wanted a chicken that produced dark brown eggs. With a little research, I found out about the French Maran. The Maran lays the darkest chocolate brown eggs of any hen. If we can't find anyone local to buy chicks, we'll have to order online.
The buff Orphington have been a little too high maintenance. They eat more than the others and prefer to ravage my garden instead of hunt for bugs. They also won't come in readily when it's time to come in from grazing. That means we go round and round the pen until they get the idea. Dumb birds. We have to let them go regardless though. It turns out our rooster is shooting blanks. Dumb and impotent.
We're keeping the Americauna, but this time we're looking for the ones who lay only green or blue eggs. Right now I have only one hen that lays green eggs. I've tagged her and kept every green egg she's laid and incubated them. Next year, we'll get rid of all the Americaunas except my green egg layer once we see what color eggs the new batch of chickens will lay.
Gardens: The corn borer has been busy eating our corn, but we still got a goodly amount harvested. The sunflowers are just now opening. And the loofahs are flowering nicely. Loofahs require a minimum of 150 days of warm weather so we're on schedule there too.
Onions: I didn't plant near enough. Will remedy that next year.
Garlic: The chickens didn't eat them, but they did trample all over my garlic bed. :shakes fist:
Tomatoes: This year, not only did I plant tomatoes in two gardens, but in pots too. I'm going to try to grow them all year this time and see how long they last.
But here's the kicker. I had a volunteer tomato plant start accidentally in my compost bin. Not only does it get no water except for the occasional rain shower, but it is bigger and healthier than my regular tomato plants. This is compost at its best.
Mangels: After a second try and extra water, they are finally doing well. This is another long season plant. (110 days) Glad I live in Texas!
Orchard: I may have to admit to myself that fruit trees aren't my strong suit. The trees grow fine (except cherry), but fruit production sucks. I might have to stick to blackberries. We had another string of volunteers shoot up next to Greg's workshop.
Putting up the harvest: Am I a bad homesteader for admitting that I hate to process the foods I harvest? It's time-consuming. It's hard work. And I almost always have to do it by myself. Last year I had Greg help me make one batch of salsa and he complained the whole time.
All I can say is: Buck up, buddy! Now you know what I have to go through.
I don't like canning. Although I've had more successes than failures, it's one of those chores where I wish I felt more confident--or at least had more help.
I am giving a lot of the harvest to the chickens--which has been great! My feed bill is way down. They eat my imperfect tomatoes, the cucumbers that got too big, and the tops to all my radishes.
It's been a very busy season. Most everything has been successful and I'm better able to see where I need to improve and what I should try next. My goal for this winter is to continue my garden, even if it's just a little lettuce under grow-lights and a couple of tomato plants in pots.
Our goal is to eventually grow the majority of our own food. Not to save money--because you don't. Big agro conglomerates can raise meat and produce far more cheaply than I can. But at least I know what's in my food--and what's not.
I go to bed tired every night, but wake up raring to go. That's a good life.
Do you enjoy what you do for your life's work? If not, what would you like to do?