This year's homesteading plans

Yes, yes, I'm well aware that the year started about 3 months ago...  But the gardening season is just starting here, so it seems an appropriate time to talk about my goals.

First of all, our garden will be considerably smaller than the past two years.  Really small.  Baby #2 is set to make an appearance in mid-July, and I just don't want to be inundated with tomatoes while trying to adjust to having two littles.  I am still planning on making my own sauce and juice and canning fresh tomatoes, but I'd like to do it on my schedule.  So I will buy my tomatoes at the market in order to have some leeway with timing.  I'd hate to let tomatoes rot because I'm exhausted from a colicky baby or something.  I think I'm just going to grow dry beans, squash, carrots, onions, potatoes, and watermelon this year.  Everything should store well, so even if I'm a little slow to harvest, there shouldn't be any issues. 

My hens are going absolutely crazy laying eggs.  I've read in numerous places that a hen needs many hours of daylight to continue to lay, but my girls laid all through winter.  Production did slow down, but I never got less than 3 eggs per day once everyone started laying.  Now with the slightly longer days and warmer temps, I'm getting 5-6 eggs per day.  I love being able to feed them our kitchen scraps and leftovers that are going bad (though we've been really good about having less of those!).  No changes are planned for the girls, barring any catastrophes.

But we are going to get more chickens.  I have a friend with a barn and fenced horse pasture (out of use) who has offered to raise chicks with me!  We're going to get Freedom Rangers, as I have some ethical objections to the cornish cross hybrid (namely, I believe it is cruel to breed a bird to grow and gain weight so quickly that its legs and heart cannot support it.  I realize that sometimes this can be mitigated by withholding feed for some of the day, but I just don't feel it is responsible to breed a bird that is predisposed to so many health issues).  Our 25 chicks will arrive in late May or early June, and we will plan on butchering at about 12 weeks.  I would like to do the butchering ourselves, and another friend may have a chicken plucker built by then that we could borrow to speed things along.

I'm slowly but surely adding to my cooking repertoire.  Recently, I've made homemade Lara bars from dried dates, dried cherries, and walnuts (recipe).  Mine turned out a bit less sticky than they needed to be, but I about blew the motor on my mini food chopper, so I just left it instead of adding more dates and cherries.  I've also made broccoli cheddar soup (yum!) from this recipe.  I halved it and used all cheddar instead of "processed cheese".  I also added onion when I was melting my butter.  I had to cook it WAY longer than 30 minutes to make the broccoli less crunchy, but it was very good.  And...  I got brave and made my own pie crust to use for my chicken pot pie after learning that Pillsbury refrigerated crusts have awful ingredients and artificial colors.  Yuck.  I've always been scared of pie crusts, but decided to give it a go.  I found a recipe using 5 ingredients: flour, butter, salt, sugar, and water.  The first one was a dud (though edible), but version 2.0 was quite good.  I only used 2 1/4 cups of flour, so it wasn't so dry.  I'm impressed with myself.  If you decide to try your hand at crusts, I strongly suggest rolling it out onto a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper.  It makes transferring the crust to the dish so much easier and allows you to use much less flour.  I'm planning on making up a couple and freezing them so that they're on-hand in a pinch.

Foods I want to learn to make are yogurt, a good wheat sandwich bread, more soups, and homemade pasta.

But really, things here will just be business as usual this year.  As always, we're taking baby-steps to increase our self-sufficiency, eat healthier, support our local economy, and live more mindfully.  Some days I feel like I'm not accomplishing anything, but every time I take my lunch to work in a mason jar, I'm reminded of how far I've come.


Janet said...

Congrats on the baby! Good for you on the pies and soup. Yogurt is very easy to make. I find that using whole milk gives much more yogurt and less whey than a lower-fat milk. And the taste is great. I've even made "solar" yogurt.

Di said...

Thanks Janet! I was planning on using whole milk, as I've recently discovered Stonyfield Farms whole milk yogurt... It's so much richer and thicker than low-fat. I can't wait to give it a try, but I need to eat all the storebought in the fridge first! Great idea on the solar yogurt; maybe I can try that this summer.