Wednesday 11 January 2012

Introductions: The Farm

I mentioned earlier that we did not plan on building a farm when we moved here.
In hindsight, the direction of movement has been influenced by idealism and cultivated by 
our surroundings.

I remember talking to someone at a party.  I was telling him about some of our plans and ideas.  When he said good-bye he added "Good luck with your farm!".
Until then, I hadn't thought of our home becoming a farm.

Here is a little time line.

2001     I left downtown Peterborough
Clearing Brush
2001     I met Kira
2004     We bought our first home
2006     We married at our home
2007     Auren was born
2008     Kira started making our own bread
2009     I brought our first forty-one day-old chicks home
2009     Fern was born (within a week of getting chickens)
2010     We brought off our own chickens
2011     The year of the pigs, six in all
2011     Meer was born in November

When it started exactly, I don't know.  Deciding to get some chickens is a good official marker.  Since then, the ideas and plans have gradually dominated our thoughts and discussions.  
Now we bring the project out into the light.  
Gold Laced Wyandottes
As of right now, we don't produce enough to claim official farm status.  I believe that the minimum revenue is $7000 per year.  Honestly, we can barely produce enough for ourselves.  
That being said, we produce all of our own meat.  When we don't have it, we don't buy it either.  The summer vegetable garden was a real bounty this year.  Eggs, of course, haven't been scarce since we started keeping hens.
The fruit hill?  Well, the chickens get most of the currants and gooseberries.  That is an infrastructure problem that is on 'the list'.  There are new apple trees, but they won't provide for us just yet.
The next important step for the farm is the family cow.  We understand the keystone role that a dairy cow plays in the small farm.  She is the great converter and provider.
She also represents the greatest level of commitment.  As of right now, we intend to take that step within the next two years.
Two years ago, we came close to starting bee keeping.  At the outset it seemed fairly simple enough to get going.  I can build the hive and supers.  I have a plan to keep the bears out of the hives.  We even have a potential source of clean, local nuclei.
But the same problem always crops up.  Inadequate infrastructure.
Producing food on the farm is only part of the equation.  
Raised bed Garden

The produce then needs to be processed.  The meat needs to be butchered, the greens need to be kept cool, the milk needs to be turned into cheese and butter, the honey needs to be extracted, and so on.  For those activities you need buildings and tools and energy.  The layout needs to be as such that your activities don't trip over eachother.  There needs to be a seamless dancing movement with everything that goes on at the farm.  Otherwise, I believe that you would burn out and quit.
So we push on with each step. 

I have learned that if you had all the time and money you needed to complete all of your projects, then you would find the result disappointing.

Building temporary infrastructure allows you to learn by experience and see for yourself how a project unfolds.  For example, our chicken coop has fatal flaws that, despite good planning, just couldn't be divined beforehand.
This year I hope to get the grapes vines placed in a permanent location.  
This year I hope to build a final chicken coop.
This year I hope to restrict the chickens somewhat so that we may do more plantings.
But, so it goes with the farm.  

Both Kids and Chickens Like Sawdust

The Woodshed/Chicken Coop
  So, we are not a real farm yet.  Though, I suppose it depends on who you are talking to.
I feel that this is the beginning.  When we ramp up our efforts and coalesce the new skills and experience.  As we realize our identity, we reach out for community to see who else is out there, bold enough to take the high road.

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