The Year in Review

For the past three days the weather has been wonderful. It has been in the high 50's and though a little cloudy no real rain to speak of outside of this morning. The beautiful weather provided ample time for our family to catch up on some work on the urban micro-farm that we affectionately call "Whitaker Gardens".

Our mailman graciously gave our family some organic garlic from his garden and shortly thereafter our neighbors, who have a nice garlic patch themselves, gave us four varieties of garlic for our gardens. So my son and I planted nearly 150 cloves that shall sprout in 2015. We carried wheelbarrow loads of fallen leaves from the nearby forest to the gardens and covered the garlic beds and then put the rest down on the soil that has yet to be worked over to add organic matter.

This year we also planted green manure at the suggestion of some family friends. We planted red clover which is extremely helpful to the soils health and consistency. I have spent a better part of the last two days turning over the green fertilizer.

I am working on a few more river rock raised beds before the weather drastically changes. Meg is pregnant with our fourth child and she is due in February so I would like to get as much of a jump on next year as possible.

The garden is still producing some items of importance. Kale is in abundance. We occasionally feed some of it to the rabbits and chickens and use it on our own plates. Until very recently we were still picking late season peas and onions. There are still even a few herbs and flowers clinging to health. Lemon thyme and calendula to name a few.

Recently we decided to acquire four laying hens. Nearly 10 years ago I had called our village clerk to ask if we could have hens and she said it was not legal. About a month ago I began to get the itch again and read the laws myself and oddly enough did not find any language that would make me believe I could not have them as long as they were not loud or filthy. They are neither. So with that said I have been working on a coop with a run. Currently we have leghorns which produce a substantial amount of eggs, nearly 300 a year per bird, but I do think that next spring I would like to get some barred rock instead. They don't lay as many eggs but are much more docile. The leghorns are already giving us plenty of eggs and their manure is composting for next years gardens.

Our doe rabbit had her first litter three days ago. Five healthy babies. We will probably keep one, give one away and the other three will feed our family. I have to admit I was not sure what type of mother she would be but turns out she is a very good one at that. Truthfully I am really dreading the butchering process but feel that if our family is going to eat meat it is my responsibility to holistically raise and harvest that meat.

In hind sight it was a very productive year on a number of fronts. Our berry patch, our raspberries in particular, were very productive though we did lose some of our blueberries to early season rains. Our vegetable gardens for the most part were very productive and healthy, though once again some late season rain created a killer mold in our dried bean patch. We were, in the end, able to have a steady supply of healthy fresh food and even a little extra for the rabbits. We still have a few dried, canned and frozen items left as well so it was a job well done.

I am eyeing the yard daily trying to figure out how to squeeze in more food for our growing family. We are thinking about an heirloom apple tree, some more blueberry and raspberry bushes, strawberries and an elderberry hedge.

Looking back at 2014 one of the things that I will remember most is the odd weather. Here we are in November and I can work outside in a flannel while on July 4th it was 70 degrees. Normally it is in the high 90's just to give you and idea of the difference in this years weather.

One thing that I am truly enjoying about our current lifestyle is how our family has learned to focus on what we have rather than what we want and adapted that to our needs. We have a micro-farm right here in the village and other than a few neighbors no one really knows. Which suits me just fine. Another aspect that I enjoy is that the work is daily and not seasonal anymore. For example I spend about a half hour in the morning taking care of the animals before I even get a chance to enjoy a warm cup of coffee. Life is good contrary to what they may tell you!

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here  



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