The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Farm Goals '10

Footbridge over flooded watersIf you read our rundown on 2009's top ten goals, you may be asking --- what are our major projects for 2010?

  1. Revisit the creek crossing.  Maybe build solid, higher stepping stones.  Or a zip line.  Or a better bridge.  Still pondering this one.  The goal is to get us across the creek during moderate to high water.
  2. Finish our homemade storage buildingNumber two on our list, but number one on our agenda.
  3. Experiment with ways to get humanure to our fruit trees.  We're considering building a movable "outhouse" that will let us fill pits with human waste interspersed with leaves and bones.  My goal is to safely dispose of all of the wastes, but in such a way that they'll rot down into fertilizer that the trees can grow their roots into.  We hope to develop a method which will ensure that we don't have to handle the waste.  Again, still pondering --- more on this once I read the Humanure book that I skimmed last year.
  4. White CochinRunning water in the trailer.  Finishing up last year's waterline burying expedition.
  5. Figure out chicken reproduction.  Yeah, yeah, I know all about the birds and the bees.  But our broody hen is a terrible mother, so we'd like to give our electric incubator another try.  But our house has too much temperature variation for the incubator to work as is (we've tried), so Mark's going to build an insulated brood box to keep the incubator at more of a steady temperature.  Hopefully we can raise enough chickens this year to eat some.  Whether we'll break down and take on a free-loader rooster is still up in the air.
  6. Figure out a way to keep a constant mulch cover over the entire garden.  This may mean buying a chipper or hunting down those utility line trucks to get a mass of wood chips for longer term mulching (once they rot down.)  Or raking more leaves.  Or getting more serious about grass clippings (maybe with a riding mower so we can cover more territory?)  Probably some combination of the above.  No matter how we do it, I want to spend less time weeding so that we can expand the garden in 2011 to grow some of our own grain.  Right now, we can't expand anything or I'll go nuts during weeding season!
  7. Figure out mushroom reproduction.  As you've read in our mushroom lunchtime series, we're well on our way.
  8. Osage OrangeFind a temporary caretaker to check on the farm when we're away.  This isn't essential right now but is a prerequisite for any potential dairy animals.
  9. Start fencing or hedging pasture areas for potential sheep/goats/pigs.  Big livestock are on our ten year plan, so we'd better get ready for them!
  10. Bathing room.  Once the storage building is in place, there'll be room in the trailer to make a really nice bathtub with a view of the garden.  Maybe I could even have a supplemental bathing area outdoors for the summer months too?
  11. Solidify the driveway with more rocks.  This mostly just means money to hire someone to haul rip-rap for us.  And tracking him down to do the hauling.  Then some rock spreading.
  12. Fix the fridge root cellar.

Once again, my ability to count to 10 is in serious doubt.  But listing twelve top goals gives me some wiggle room so that if we complete ten we'll still have succeeded.  It's clearly going to be another exciting year on the farm!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Building a better bridge is going to take some well ballasted anchor points with a bit of elevation to make it viable as an all season structure. Whether you are looking at beam, truss, or suspension, even with salvaged materials you're looking a an expense you don't want right now as I understand your lifestyle. If you have reasonable size trees not on but near the banks, you could support them with "deadmen" and run a zip line with a bosons chair and pull yourself across during high water levels. A deadman is something large (a log or slab of concrete)with cable attached to it running to the support point of your tree or pole. Look at power or telephone poles at any change of direction of the lines - you'll see these cables going into the ground.
Comment by vester Fri Jan 22 16:11:59 2010
We're not talking a bridge for motor traffic --- just another foot bridge. You're definitely right that the bigger stuff isn't something we want to get into.
Comment by anna Fri Jan 22 17:09:06 2010

That's a great list. I'm intrigued about the humanure. I got the book from the library but did not finish it but do get the concept. Do you use this inside or out? I understand it works very well and it makes a lot of sense. Do you have a gray water system for the other water? That bathing room sounds wonderful. What is it with girls and baths? It's my favorite thing and a view to go along with that would be amazing. Do you guys use propane to heat your water? I see some neat heaters online that are good for showers but I am not sure how they work on baths. I think solar heating would be really great.

We tried incubating eggs too, years ago, when we had our little place in the country. Only one egg (goose) made it and then the little fellow was killed by a skunk. I was pretty choked. We had another pair of Emden geese who were only about 6 months old. The books said (before the net) they only would have goslings at 2 years. They surprised us when, upon looking into their little insulated area, we saw 3 babies scurrying around under mummy. This was in February with temps -22 F. We found banties to be excellent brooders as well (cochin) and they sure are cute. Back then, we were pretty clueless and once, when the female goose was picking feathers out of the males neck, I made him a turtleneck to protect him, not realizing she was padding her nest. :)

I think the caretaker idea is good too. When we do this (move to country), I was thinking of having a little place for someone to help out with the work for free rent or something. But it could be tricky finding the right person.

I used to love using the ride-on at our acreage. This was a prairie and you had to keep the grass cut to prevent fires (so we were told). Where we hope to move, (bush area) they are really into cutting grass, which I am not sure is a good idea. I really like to see natural wildflowers and watch the bees at work. Maybe just cutting a bit is the way to go. Sorry for the length. Happy blogging.

Comment by Heather Sat Jan 23 15:25:40 2010

The humanure book suggested using the bathroom indoors and carrying out your wastes, which seems a bit silly to me. We have no problem using the bathroom outside. :-) So far, the only water we use is for washing dishes and doing laundry, and in both cases we currently let the water sink into the ground, or get lapped up by Lucy. (We're quite a distance from the creek, so it doesn't have any way of running straight in.) This year, we're going to modify that by adding beds of mushrooms to clean the water.

I know what you mean about girls and baths! I get so obsessed with bathing facilities! Currently, we just heat up buckets of water on the stove, but I hope to get a point of use hot water heater when we set up our bathing room. And make a solar heater for the summer.

I'm glad to hear we're not the only ones who had problems with incubation. I felt like such a dunce!!! Especially after reading about how other people manage to incubate eggs in a warm towel or other makeshift incubators. I can only guess that the temperature extremes in our house are just too much for it to handle.

I think our cochin would have been a good mother if I'd put eggs from white chickens under her. Since she killed her babies, I've been reading that white hens will often kill black chicks and black hens white chicks. I guess they're smarter than I give them credit for!

We were totally into infrequent mowing...until I needed more mulch and found out how awesome grass clippings are. Some day I may have enough mulch, but as Mark's discovered, it takes an awful lot of mulch to sedate me. (Actually, when he wants to please me, he finds ways to make more mulch rather than bringing home flowers or jewelry. :-)

I'm always glad to hear from you! Don't apologize for the length!

Comment by anna Sun Jan 24 09:25:57 2010
Since your winter storm, I imagine the power company was really busy installing new poles to replace old ones that broke. Often times they just leave the old poles or an employee trucks them home. If you could locate some of these you could buy them at a much better price than at the lumber yard. Maybe even free if you hall off some of the ones that were just left behind and the land owner doesn't want them. Two of these would make a great base for your bridge and more tied together could even carry the weight of you golf cart. They are treated so they will take the water and the ground. Ask an old farmer where he got the poles for his new pole barn or stop and talk to one of the linemen out working. Good luck, this is how I got all my corner post for my fence and the skids I built my storage building on.
Comment by Erich Sun Jan 24 22:43:37 2010
Erich --- that was actually my dad's advice as well. It probably would be the cheapest and easiest (although swinging bridges are just so attractive... :-) It's a good point about the storm --- seems like now would be the time to hunt down telephone poles regardless of what we want to use them for.
Comment by anna Mon Jan 25 07:41:53 2010
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