The start of a new year always brings resolutions and ways to make changes for the better. Most people look to make changes in the realms of weight, finances, and relationships. Many people think about where they want to be by the end of the year, and put goals in sight, then plans in place to reach the goals.
Why should homesteaders be any different? Or in my case, a half-steader. Now, if you’ve read through my site, you’ve may have seen that I refer to myself as a half-steader. I put homesteaders in high regards, they bust it all year, 365 days a year to be self sufficient.
By no means do I think we are full on homesteaders. However, we are attempting to know more about our food and where it comes from, how it’s grown and cared for.
As 2018 wound down, I started finding myself looking at things that I’d like to considering adding, adjusting or changing for this year. So while this post is mainly about my “to-do” list, hopefully it’ll spark some consideration for your own projects.
I only learned this past year how to blanch food for preservation. While I mainly used it on food we obtained from our CSA, I was able to use it for peppers grown in our garden. That was the one crop that was very prolific for us. But the Pittsburgh area really had heavy rainfall, it destroyed our early crop of beans and peas. I’m hoping this year we can have a better, steady crop.
Green beans and broccoli are two vegetables that we eat regularly. Although we weren’t able to have green beans this past year, we did have broccoli. I’ve always felt rushed to eat it when it’s ready. And a head is more than we eat in one sitting (my husband is not a fan), but knowing how to preserve it would be a great way to save it, waste less and save on our food bill.
Having a stocked freezer has been huge for our family. We live a bit further out than the average person in our area. Having multiple options has made dinner prep easier and quicker. The more variety I have available, the more we are willing to pull out of our freezer and less likely to run out and spend money.
I’ve done well in the canning realm in the short time I’ve been in it. In 2018 we were able to make (13) varieties of jellies (Jacobs Jelly of the Month), preserve peppers, make pickles and cranberry sauce and can peaches. This is much more than we did our first year.
We’re investing this year in a food processor and food mill to be able to make sauce and salsa. I’m looking to expand to using my pressure canner. I’ve had one for a year, but have yet to use it. I’d like to use it for soups.
Not only do we eat what we can, but we also really enjoy giving to our friends and family. Sometimes as gifts, sometimes simply because they’ve enjoyed it as part of a meal we had. It’s great to send people home with food! It’s like sending them home with a jar of hard work and love.
We have seven fruit trees currently on our property. We are planning to purchasing the property next to us in the coming year. Since it lines the road, I’d like to place trees along the road for a natural barrier and for privacy. In moving to know more of where our food comes from, I’m looking at adding more fruit trees. Currently we have apples and pears, but I’m looking into cherry (if the deer will leave them alone) and peach.
I’m also looking at some nut trees and cold hardy avocado trees to add variety. Once I started researching what was available I was amazed at what I could find.
My husband was wonderful last year and cleared this wonderful area along the sunniest side of the house to allow for berry bushes. However, due to some life circumstances and simply just life, I never planted any.
As previously mentioned, I grew up on a dairy farm. We had wile black raspberries that grew all along the perimeter. This fall I plan on transplanting some up to our house. But I’d also like to plant a few other varieties of raspberries. There is nothing like a fresh berry.
I’d like to also add some varieties that are not always found, such as boysenberries and loganberries (this only because of my son’s name is Logan). I’m dreaming of some unique jellies and jams made from these.
Now I’d love to increase my layer flock, but currently we are out of space. So I’m thinking that spring order I currently have may have to be cancelled. But that will be determined later (you’ll know if we get them if you see pictures on Instagram).
We had our first go at meat chickens this year, and are talking about a spring and fall flock for this year. Not only have we enjoyed eating them, we have also used some as gifts for my husband’s customers.
I have to admit, I’ve been trying to convince my husband for months now that we need geese or turkeys. Why these animals? Being that we already have chickens, the adjustments for these animals would be minimal.
I’m leaning towards turkeys because of the obvious food source. However, I’d like to have heritage breeds, and it seems harder to locate a breeder that will ship you only a few at a time (twenty is more than we need). To have these though, we basically have to double our set up, one for chickens and one for turkeys. That’s just not realistic currently.
Now for two geese, a mating couple, I can let them free range and provide shelter for them. They can roam our property and help with lawn maintenance, their eggs would be to reproduce (they are known as great parents) or to eat, and if we have them to breed we can cull the extra for meat. Geese are generally better at winter-wear than turkeys are.
Time will tell if we expand to either.
While none of the items on this list seem overly hard, we are looking at additional ways to continue to grow our food source. As we have started growing more of our own food, we’ve enjoyed the benefits. I also never want to grow to fast that we can’t maintain what we have, because then it just becomes waste.
Keep a watch for posts on each of these areas as we progress through this new year!