Thursday, April 5, 2018

2018- Second Season in the Valley

2017 was a great year. We yielded roughly 2500 pounds of produce on an eleventh of an acre. Our total monetary input for 2017 was roughly $600 including rental of a rototiller, having a dump load of soil amendment [compost] delivered, stakes and twine, seeds, hoses and fittings- basically everything we needed starting from scratch. Having to work with extremely sandy and rocky soil, we felt we should bring in humus and compost to ensure a good start. Our total 'money value' of food produced would add up to $2500 if averaged at a dollar a pound. I'd say the investment was worth it.

Now that we have established beds, a seed collection from our last season and a compost heap, starting up the gardens this year will cost us considerably less. We've made a point of using mostly reclaimed, found and freecycled items for many of our projects and additions including the bricks for the outdoor firepit, a double door fridge repurposed into a smoker, and various other found materials for our shipping container shop. We carried over the theme from last year into this year's score on a wood-burning stove, free reclaimed windows and doors and leftover building materials to build our enclosed sunroom porch, and to build enclosures for our newest addition to the microfarm.. livestock!

But let's start with the sunroom porch. Our intention was to have a space where we could build shelves to house our seedlings in the spring, our gardening and fishing gear in the summer, our wet gear in the fall and our firewood in the winter. It was to be a properly roofed, fully enclosed space to keep the porch area protected from the elements, and provide us with a transition area mud room so that we aren't constantly bringing so much of the outdoors in with us into our tiny living space.

We started by framing it in with jobsite scraps. 2x4's and plywood and press board patches enclosed the space, and we had acquired some leftover roofing materials from one of our jobsites for free. The glass sliding door was a score, which we made into the west facing wall. It fit perfectly to take up that entire side of the porch. It came with two other large reclaimed windows that fit perfectly into our existing layout, and found a door we cut down to fit on the side of the road. I't now shingled and wrapped in Tyvek and awaiting our siding find. We're hoping to find some cedar to make it look like a little cabin, but we'll see.

Being that it's spring, and a very cold one compared to last year, we were building this addition with lots of light with the idea in mind that we would be using it to house our seedlings until we were ready to plant. Of course all didn't go as planned, with the sudden adoption of eleven rabbits! The seedlings grew heavy in their trays, it's still too cold for them to be outside, and because we had all of our seedling eggs in the sunroom basket, we didn't have another greenhouse structure prepared.

The rabbits moved into the sunroom space instead of the plants. Though we did our best to maintain them, move them outside in the day and back into the kitchen at night, they eventually succumbed to the inconsistent conditions. We had direct sown everything we planted last year, and wanted to get a jump on the growing season this year, but it didn't quite time out the way we'd hoped. The rabbits became priority, and we learned our lesson that we are far better at growing directly in the beds, and it's far more efficient for us given the minimal space we have. We'll experiment again next spring.

So, rabbits... To be honest, we weren't really ever expecting to have animals on this land. The land owner seemed really adamant about enforcing the "no animals" rule he had written into the lease, so we never bothered to dispute it. Until one day we asked why. As it turned out, he wasn't worried about the kinds of animals we were looking to keep because they would not damage the house. And voila! We are now allowed to have animals. We were planning and designing and enclosure for the goats first, but the rabbits came up as an 'emergency adoption' opportunity.

How could I say no?! Look at those faces... and we had the perfect temporary housing opportunity in our freshly enclosed porch- that had been just finished [enough] only a few days before. I was hesitant to take them right away given our level of preparedness, but I felt pretty keen on taking advantage of the opportunity. I'm glad that we got them first as it completely changed our layout plans for the side yard and animal enclosures. We ended up putting the rabbit hutch where we originally intended to put the goat barn, and it turns out it's the perfect spot. The rabbits will need that extra bit of protection from the wind in the winter, and the goat barn will be next to that in the same fenced off area.

Speaking of fences..We've been looking for affordable fencing solutions for a while.. since we found out we'd be getting the goats. We've had some pretty incredible Craigslist finds in a pretty short amount of time, so we kept hitting the list in search. J found an ad for a roll of farm fencing for 40 bucks, and I made the call. The fella actually had several rolls of fencing [that once held goats], and he just wanted it gone. We ended up with the van stuffed full of- and stacked on top with rolls and rolls of wire fence. 40 bucks for the lot!

Needless to say, the first quarter of 2018 has been rather eventful.. and productive! We hope to finish the bunny hotel really soon so that we can work on the goat enclosure. We're hopeful about a potential adoption opportunity that has very recently come up, a pair that would be perfect here on our tiny farmstead. Stay tuned! There's always something new happening out here in the valley.

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