Before we make homestead goals for the new year, I like to start with reviewing our goals for the past year. This way we can celebrate all we achieved on the homestead and help us dream up new goals for the coming year.
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A review of our 2015 homestead goals
- Add to our flock of birds. We met this goal by adding another 20+ laying hens to our existing flock of older chickens. We also had our first adventure in raising meat birds this year. We now have a freezer filled with enough homegrown Cornish X meat birds we raised and processed last spring to feed us for the next year. Our goal was to raise enough meat birds to feed our family our favorite roast chicken recipe once a month for a year and we met this goal! These homegrown meat birds are the tastiest chickens we’ve ever eaten and the homemade bone broth made from them is by far the best we’ve ever made! We ended up with a lot more chicks than we originally planned (I had no self control when visiting the feed store to pick out chicks!) which made us decide to not try raising turkeys last spring like we had hoped. Plus once all the “baby” chicks started growing out of the brooder, we had to build them a temporary grow out pen/coop inside a big fenced dog kennel which was a whole other big, time consuming project!
- Build low tunnels for our garden. Unfortunately this goal didn’t happen this year. We bought several rolls of row cover like this and used some to just lay over the garden row in the early season last spring. We were so busy with other projects and daily garden upkeep that we didn’t get around to making any framework for the low tunnels. My husband did build me a lovely raised bed garden. We placed this close to the house to grow a backdoor herb garden so I could quickly run out to harvest some fresh herbs when cooking. We also had planned to build a low tunnel frame over this and use row cover to create a small winter garden to provide our family fresh greens throughout the long, cold Montana winters. The winter garden didn’t happen this year either, which I’m blaming on my lack of energy and general feeling of yuckiness during the first trimester of pregnancy this fall!
- Add more beehives. We met this goal by adding three new beehives that started out from nucs we purchased last spring. We also had the amazing experience of capturing a honey bee swarm last summer which provided us yet another beehive colony!
- Eradicate the weeds in the back pasture. This goal wasn’t met this last year and I have a feeling this will be a goal every year for us for the rest of the years we live on this property! I had high hopes last spring after visiting the local County Extension office and getting a ton of resources on eradicating weeds and rebuilding native grasses. We did do some pasture remediation closer to the barn/garden with the help of our chickens. We placed their mobile coop inside a large fenced area for a few weeks at a time. After a few weeks, the chickens had scratched up and eaten all the weeds in the fenced area so we moved the coop and fencing to a new area for the chickens to start their weed removal process in a new spot. We then reseeded the ground where the coop was moved from with a native grass mixture. This process was slow and time intensive. The chickens did a great job clearing the land (and fertilizing it!) but it was such a slow process it did not work to tackle the large back pasture area with this method.
- Plant more fruit trees. This goal was also met with the addition of several new fruit trees in our orchard. We added another apple tree, a cherry tree, and a peach tree. The trees are all small saplings but we did harvest one small apple and two cherries from our trees last summer!
Even though we didn’t tackle all of our homestead goals last year, we still had a productive year. We celebrated our second year of owning our homestead over the summer of 2015. While we made a lot of progress over the last two years on our fixer-upper, we still have a lot of work to do on the house and property. It seems like we have a never ending list of projects. The only good thing about that is we’re never bored!
Montana Homesteader’s 2016 Homestead Goals
This year’s homestead goals are not as ambitious as our goals the last two years. I mentioned in this post that we’re expecting a new little homesteader in the spring of 2016 so we’re being realistic about the projects we can tackle on the homestead while caring for a newborn baby! Here are our homestead goals for 2016:
- Replant the back pasture. No surprise this one is still on the goal list since we didn’t accomplish this goal last year! This year we plan to borrow or rent a tractor to till up the back pasture. We then plan to reseed it with a variety of native grasses.
- Remove the old, diseased apple tree from the orchard. There was one old apple tree in our orchard when we bought the property. It produces less and less each year and the apples it does produce are infested with bugs. We need to remove this tree from the orchard before our other sapling apple trees are infested with the same bugs.
- Cut, stack and split several cords of firewood before it starts snowing. The last two years we didn’t get enough of our firewood cut for the winter before it started snowing. This means my husband has to go out to our log pile and cut firewood in the snowy, cold weather every other week. Cutting firewood in 10 degree weather is a pretty miserable chore!
- Grow a small garden. Gardening is my favorite part of homesteading, but I’m being realistic with myself and have no plans to even attempt to plant our 7,000 square foot garden this year. Instead I’m adjusting my garden goals for this year and aiming for a small garden. A garden that will not take a lot of time and effort, but one that will provide our family with some fresh, homegrown produce. It likely won’t provide enough extra for us to preserve to eat throughout the year. Instead, if I feel like I can manage doing some canning/preserving with a newborn babe the produce will likely come from friends’ gardens/farms or the local farmer’s market.
- Continue expanding our beehives. We are surrounded by hundreds of acres of alfalfa so our honeybees always have an abundance of flowers to feast on. The alfalfa honey we harvest from our hives each fall is golden and so delicious! We plan to order more of the nucs that we purchased last spring to continue growing our beehives.