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The Year in Review 2016

Though we are still some months away from 2017 I tend to measure the "year" in terms of our summer garden and its eventual harvest. I truly believe that this may have been our most successful year to date. We were blessed with cooperative weather, fertile soil and endless generosity from a number of friends.

We approach each season with a list of new avenues we are interested in pursuing. Some become reality while others are crossed off the list.

One new venture this year was raising chickens for meat. Though the birds were a little on the small side, due to my impatience, I still consider it a successful move forward for our little urban farm. We now know that it is possible on our homesteads limited property and will look to repeat the act with far more success next year.

Chickin' Pickin'
We also raised two litters of rabbits for the freezer this year as well. I understand most peoples hesitation, they are cute but they are such an amazing animal for the small homestead. They are quiet, clean and obviously reproduce rapidly. Plus their manure is amazing for your garden. They are also a very low fat and heart healthy source of animal protein this is worth investigating if you happen to eat meat.

We have raised hens for eggs for a number of years now and have found through trial and error that a half dozen hens are the perfect number of foul for our current set up. We began switching our flock over this year and began by auctioning off our old leghorns. They were replaced by four black sex links which are a cross between barred rocks and the productive dual purpose Rhode Island red. We still have our two Swedish Flower Hens who are now the senior birds in our flock.

All four of our lovely children took part in the garden this summer. Each had their own little patch and planted items ranging from zinnia to giant pumpkins. My wife added medicinal plants such as elderberry and witch hazel to our suburban homestead. We removed some unproductive trees and replaced them with dwarf pear trees this year also.

I could list each item specifically but I think that it is more important to mention that there was a common theme this year in regards to our homestead's success. The generosity of others was nearly overwhelming. It started innocently enough when we put up a request on Facebook  to see if anyone had an old wheelbarrow they may be able to donate to our little operation. Though we had a number of offers our neighbor came through with a wheelbarrow that was far nicer than any we have ever owned.

We were then invited by close family friends to take part in a large potato patch on their property this year. We planted four delicious varieties and the yield was spectacular. I swear the worms in their organic soil were the size of small snakes, no joke!

We then decided to embark on a new path in life and pursue a larger piece of property in an effort to expand our growing space along with our passion for urban farming. At the suggestion of friends we set up a gofundme.com site and we were shocked at the response from friends and family! So much so that it is truly beyond our wildest imagination. Though the end goal evolved slightly from the initial launch date it has, in our opinion, only become far more focused and beneficial to ourselves and, most importantly, our community.

We are working hard to streamline our operation so that we can extend our growing season and in turn not only produce more food for ourselves but for the local food bank and a potential farmers market niche. The long term goal is to keep our eyes open for the perfect small farm but in the meantime take full advantage of our current space by employing permaculture techniques on our 1/16th acre urban farm.

Due to our successful harvest and the outpouring of love from those near and far we are feeling motivated to expand our operation to help those less fortunate in our community and to eventually develop a strong presence within some very specific food markets. . . .more on that later!

So until next time, thank you for reading and the support!  

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead. Last, but certainly not least, you can also find his work at Tobias Alan Whitaker.

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