I've been thinking a lot about what I've accomplished this year and what I want to accomplish next year. The last couple of years have been pretty big for us in paying down debt and this year was, too.
Milestones hit in 2014:
--Paying off the Mortgage
--Hitting the halfway mark on paying off the loan to Mom
--Paying down the van loan far enough that we owe less on it than it is worth
--Hitting $10K on the Emergency Fund. It wasn't there for long, but it was there, and it will be again by the end of this year so I count that as a win.
We have also made great strides towards becoming self-sufficient, though we still have a long way to go. What happened this year:
--Expanding the farm to four types of livestock as well as building the housing for those animals
--Butchering chickens, turkeys, and ducks for our own consumption (joining the rabbits we have been doing previously), so we almost never have to purchase meat (just the occasional beef and pork)
Joining a Bartering and Sales group within the local farm community, within which I have been able to sell rabbit breeding stock, rabbit livers for dog food, duck eggs, and barter for raw goat's milk cheddar and chevre, natural homemade salves, and beef
Found a processing facility that is WSDA approved AND nearby so if we want to move into meat sales next year, we can
Grew a marginally successful organic garden that netted 80 pounds of potatoes, 20 pounds of tomatoes, 8 quarts of green beans, 2 quarts of yellow beans, excessive amounts of lettuce, kale, and leeks, 15 bunches of green onions, enough parsley (still drying) for a year, 12 heads of broccoli, 5 heads of cauliflower, 1 pound of chard 1 dozen kohlrabi, 10 pounds of cucumbers, 30 pounds of zucchini, 35 pounds of sweet meat squash, 5 gallons of blueberries, 10 quarts of raspberries, 3 gallons of blackberries, enough apples for 80 pints of applesauce and 22 quarts of pie apples, and 10 pounds of Italian plums. This provided nicely for us and our animals.
All in all, the year has been a lot more successful than it has felt at times. I think we can be very happy with what we have accomplished.
Viewing the 'Goals' Category
I've been thinking a lot about what I've accomplished this year and what I want to accomplish next year. The last couple of years have been pretty big for us in paying down debt and this year was, too.
I was able to transfer $1000 to my December Money Fund today. $400 of it was medical reimbursement and $500 was scrimped out of last month's budget. $100 I took off the top of today's paycheck.
This puts the fund total at $1947. I am hoping to be able to save $1500 out of the next 5 paychecks. It's not enough to cover 5 weeks with no pay, but it'll mean that much less out of the Emergency Fund. We can't rely on any kind of a company bonus this year to get through the shut down period.
Mom says we don't have to make a December payment on our loan to her, but I'd like to avoid skipping it. I absolutely hate owing her that money and any month we skip will be that much longer we have to be under that debt. We hit the halfway point today, $55,000 paid off, $55,000 to go. We have 4 years and 7 months left if we stay on track.
We have 2 years and 8 months left on the van loan at our current rate of payment. Maybe a little sooner since I pay a little extra each month, but it's hard to say how much sooner. Probably just a month, possibly two. It's not that much extra.
We will be butchering 2 of our turkeys on November 8th for the upcoming holidays and whichever rabbit kits have hit 5 pounds will be butchered the next day. That will cut the turkey feed bill in half. I'm not going to raise rabbit kits over the winter, so that will cut the rabbit feed bill way down, too, once all the current grow outs are butchered. The youngest kits will be 8 weeks old on Sunday.
The older kits will be 15 weeks old on Sunday. I think they will all be of butchering size by the time DH comes home. 4 out of 8 are now, and I think it is more likely that 6 out of 8 are, but I haven't weighed them in a couple of weeks. I hope they all will be because we need the cage space for the youngsters. I will weigh them tomorrow since we will be cleaning out cages.
I have about 50 pounds of rabbit meat in the freezer currently and after this next round we'll have an additional 20 pounds to either can or freeze since dress out weight is a little over 1/2 of live weight. And then the youngest coming up number 18, so that will be an additional 45 pounds if they all survive to butcher age. There will be plenty of meat without breeding again until late February.
I am also debating on sending the drakes to freezer camp. I don't need them for the ducks to lay eggs, and considering how little meat there is on a Welsh Harlequin, we won't be raising ducklings after all, so we don't need the males. Plus one of them is really beating up on one the girls when they mate. Her wing feathers are in pretty bad shape from it. If I do, that will cut that feed bill down, too, but not too much since they mostly eat what they forage and just fill in with feed when they are hungry.
I've been getting 5 duck eggs a day lately and 4 chicken eggs every 36 hours so the female birds are definitely paying for themselves. I need to make a bunch of meatloaf freezer meals so I can use up some of these eggs. I do sell a few dozen here and there and I give them away to family and friends, but even so, it is hard to keep up with what they produce.
I've still got to do up a payday report, but I haven't finished paying all the bills yet, so will likely do that tomorrow.
I've been able to get out and do some serious work in the gardens this week. I've got a lot of food coming in, though never in the huge quantities I had expected for some of it.
The hay bale garden has been far more successful than the straw bale garden. It has had far less weeds and the growth has been phenomenal in comparison. So next year I think I will skip planting in straw bales at all and just go with the hay bales, if I do this again.
So far I've yielded $357.25 of organic produce over the price of my start up costs for the gardens. Next year if I start things from seeds instead of buying organic transplants, start up costs will be lower. Since I got started late though, I did the transplants to catch up some time.
If all goes well with the house sale and if we find a small farm and if we can actually buy it before next spring, I will be building raised beds out of rabbit bedding and rabbit manure, which can be used right away, and setting up compost piles for the bird waste and bedding, since it needs to compost for at least six months before using. We will use wire and t-posts instead of wood to keep things loosely in place and will build it up at least 3 feet tall. With the amount of bedding we could compost in place that will be by far a better method. Then we will have deep mulch as it breaks down to between 1/2 and 1/3 of its original size. It'll still be a foot off the ground so I can pull up a chair to do my gardening.
I'm not going to rush buying a farm, though. We may need longer than that even if the house sale does go through. I want to make sure I find the right place and that we have a big enough down payment that we are not struggling at all with making a mortgage payment again.
I am picky about what I want. It has to have a well for water. It needs to have either a creek or a pond on the property, but not too close to the house in case of flooding. It needs to have either a good barn or several outbuildings, preferably one with power and water, but at the very least power. It needs a house that is one level only, preferably with handicapped accessibility, and at least 1600 square feet with a minimum of 3 bedrooms, though I'd prefer 4, and 2 bathrooms.
The kitchen needs to be of a decent size for canning and processing meat. It needs adequate pantry storage. It needs a garage and no basement as most basements around here have flooding issues. It needs a wood stove and a propane or gas stove. It needs garden space, fruit trees and nut trees, and at least 2 acres of pasture and 2 acres of wooded land. Fencing around the pastures is a must. It needs a good site for a green house for aquaponics and growing dwarf citrus trees, and a good site for solar panels and possibly a wind turbine. Wants, but not must haves are a willow tree and a flowering cherry tree or two.
We will probably buy 5 acres, though if we can save up enough, I'd prefer 10. We don't ever intend to move again after buying our farm so I want it to be right or at least easily able to be made right, like planting my own fruit trees and nut trees, willow tree, and flowering cherry trees.
I will start with the good news. I have lost 9.4 pounds so far on my diet. It's been 17 days. Although I still have the urge to eat some junk food, it is going pretty well. My small amount of high carbs have been fruit, corn, and potatoes. It seems to keep the sugar cravings at bay pretty well. I can't remember the last time I had bread. I don't actually miss it at the moment.
I am so tired, but I have got a lot accomplished. We have had to hang out at home because of my daughter's condition so I've done a lot. This week I have canned 18.5 pints of corn, 20 pints and 2 1.5 pint jars of nectarines, and 11 quarts of Yukon Gold potatoes.
Tomorrow I will buy some more corn to can and some more potatoes. I'd like to get another 30 ears of corn for this batch, and 15 pounds of potatoes. That should give me equivalent to what I've already canned, doubling what I have of each vegetable. I have plenty of quart jars for the time being, but will need to buy some more pint jars for the corn. I also need to buy some half-pint jars for applesauce. Mom picked a bunch of apples today and they need to be processed tomorrow or the next day. I have plenty of sugar and cinnamon on hand. I also want to buy more peppers and onions for freezing while the peppers are super cheap.
I got the soaker hoses put onto the gardens last night. No more hand watering, except the gutter garden. That will save us a lot of work. I think I've got them arranged so they hit everything. It's a lot easier to place soaker hoses before you plant, but better late than never.
I harvested two more big zucchinis, a couple of tomatoes, one red bell pepper, another pint of yellow French beans, some sorrel, some cilantro,2 cucumbers, at least one bunch of kale, and 2 tomatoes. The grocery store equivalent for the same organic produce is $20.
$224.35 Previous Garden Tally
+_20.00 Harvest Amount this Week
$244.35 YTD Garden Tally
The green beans are coming along nicely. I think that if this continues, I will have plenty to can so I won't need to buy anymore. I am hoping that now that the tomatoes will have a more consistent source of water I will get enough from them to can as well.
Now that the soaker hoses are set up I might see about getting some more kohlrabi plugs to replace the ones that didn't survive the heat. I still need to get radishes and green onion seeds planted in the empty gutter garden. They take a month to grow and I'd like to have some more before the season ends. I might try to squeeze in a crop of peas, too, since they don't mind if it gets cold towards the end of their growing season.
I definitely know what I will do differently next year with the gardens and what I will do the same. I will do the bales again. I will do hay or straw, whatever is cheapest as I saw no real differences in the growing medium. I will have soaker hoses from the get-go and I will have a little bit of soil on top. I will have the bales set up earlier and I will condition them with organic fertilizer for a week longer than they say to. And I will fertilize monthly while growing.
Some vids I made earlier in the week of my garden progress:
Straw Bale 7
Hay Bale 7
Fruit Garden 7
I got another 7 quarts of green and yellow beans canned. I am picking up 20 pounds of organic nectarines in the morning to can with a few lemons to treat them with lemon water first to prevent discoloration and also for lemonade. That should give me between 12 and 14 pints. I am going to can it in a very light honey syrup. I'd really like to get three times that canned, so we could have about a pint a week through 3 seasons, but organic is expensive, so I doubt I'll do more than one box. The thing I like about nectarines is you don't have to peel them like you do peaches. That makes processing them so much easier.
I will also be getting some corn as it is 4/$1. I want some for us, but it is also a nice treat for the turkeys at that price. I have thought about canning some, but we usually get our canned corn from Trader Joe's and it is the best canned corn I've ever had, so unless I can find some organic corn, I probably won't try to can some myself.
I'd like to get some potatoes canned this week as well. Canned potatoes are good for stews and for making fried potatoes. It's a lot of work to peel them all at once, but better than doing it several nights a year in my book.
It's going to be a hot week in the kitchen. But it's going to be a hot week outside so I might as well be canning anyway. Besides, the nectarines will be gone soon and I want to get them done. I want to be able to open a jar of this during winter and remember how great this fruit is right now.
I have lost a few kohlrabi and broccoli in the garden. They just can't take the heat. Day after day of high 80's is too much for most brassicas. The ones that get a little shade in the afternoon are doing okay, but the ones that get full sun are getting scorched or dying outright. At least my summer squash is doing great and the green beans are trucking along. I should have some kohlrabi ready to pick in another week. At least one, maybe two.
This week I have harvested one whopping zucchini and a pint of yellow beans and have several tomatoes and one cucumber close to the picking point. My bell peppers are turning red so I imagine they will be ready to pick soon. I'll give a full tally at week's end.
I forgot to post links to my most recent garden updates. They are almost a week out of date now but they are here if you want to see them:
Hay Bale Update 6
Straw Bale Update 6
I'll be making new ones in a day or two. It's been crazy what has changed just since I made those ones. The winter squash has gone just through a ridiculous amount of growth. I really hope it tastes great. Sweet Meat is an heirloom variety that I have heard great things about and I should get at least half a dozen judging on what has formed so far. There are more flowers blooming every day, too, so we might even double that. I hope so. It's a good keeper squash, but it also cans well, too. And the seeds are a natural dewormer for animals as well. What I don't save to replant will go to all the animals.
Well, I better get to sleep. I've got a long day of canning ahead of me.
So I've been back on a controlled carbohydrate diet for a week and lost 6.8 pounds. I always lose a lot the first week and then it settles down to about 2 to 3 pounds a week if I stay on the diet and don't cheat. I am not eating anything processed at all except for organic soy sauce, tomato sauce, and organic condiments, mostly our homegrown rabbit and chicken or the organic, sustainable beef and pork from the farm we go to, and a lot of vegetables and a balanced amount of fruit, corn, or potatoes at one meal a day. It is nice to be able to go outside and pick my salad daily. The freshness makes the lettuce so good.
If I have any bread products, which so far I have not, I will bake them from scratch. I might make my own noodles if I decide later on to have pasta, but I do have a few boxes of organic kicking around, so may not.
According to the x-rays I got on the 22nd I have degenerative bone loss in my knee, which I think is another way of saying osteoarthritis. For every pound of weight I lose, it will take 6 pounds of pressure off my knee. So to begin with I am aiming for a 50 pound weight loss. That seems doable to me, especially considering I am 14.7% of the way to that goal. 85.3% or 43.2 pounds to go. If I can lose 2 pounds a week, which I have done in the past on this diet, I should have lost 50 pounds by the 21st of December. After that I will set a new goal.
Next week after I've done their course of treatment for a week, which is hydrocodone, ibuprofen, and elevate and ice the knee, I can get an MRI to make sure there isn't more going on like the doctor and I both think there is. This is just what we have to do to make the insurance company happy. We have met our deductible now so the insurance company will be paying the majority of this bill, thank goodness.
I don't like the course of treatment as the hydrocodone makes me spacy and queasy, but it does help some with the pain. Not enough to be worth the symptoms on a long term basis, though. And I don't want to go on any of the arthritis drugs as they have nastier side effects than that.
I am using my knee brace a lot and that helps a bit. I've been able to hobble around the last couple of days and get a small amount of outdoor work done. Not much, mostly picking veggies. And I was able to do the grocery shopping. Most of that was at Joe's Garden and Goode's produce stand, with just a quick run to the store for our glass bottled milk and a few odds and ends.
We are meal planning quite closely now and trying to do a lot of prep work on the weekend. While the others are not dieting, they have all gone non-processed with me, since it is easier not to have junk in the house. I am hoping that the grocery budget will go down now that I am not buying TV dinners and chips and $5 loaves of bread for the others. If I could save $100 a month off the grocery budget, that would be really nice.
I'm a little scatterbrained about this today, sorry. I deposited rolled coins, ones, and a co-op refund check today.
$9,546.14 Beginning EF Balance
+__105.39 Amount Added
$9,651.53 Ending EF Balance
So now the total I need to reach my goal is $348.47. I think I can reach that by the end of September. Then I got start focusing on rebuilding the funds I wiped out to pay off the mortgage.
$9,446.14 Beginning EF Balance
+__100.00 Monthly Deposit
$9,546.14 Ending EF Balance
$453.86 to go to hit my goal of $10K.
It has been a rough 10 days. I came out of one virus and went directly down into another 2 days later. I couldn't keep food down for 5 days straight. Horrible, awful, nasty experience. Even when I had the bad stomach bug in October it wasn't like this. My stomach is still tender and I've gone 3 days without throwing up now. But I can't eat much. At least I can drink now, though. Getting my calories through rabbit broth and chicken broth and fruit bars.
Despite being ill, I had to help with butchering. We did 8 rabbits and 4 Pekins and I don't know how many chickens. I had to keep running back inside to be sick and I did the least handling of the icky parts, like fetching the live animals. But we have 3 full shelves in the upright freezer of just chicken parts in gallon bags and 28 quart baggies of cut up breast meat for stir-fry in our chest freezer, too. We shouldn't have to buy chicken this year at all. I am not sure if I would raise chickens again. Maybe if I could take them to a processing facility.
I can't remember if I mentioned it, but a week ago Sunday we brought home 4 one-year-old Welsh Harlequin females. Well, those ducks started laying once the Pekins were gone and we've gotten 3 eggs so far. After the 4 Pekins were butchered we've now got 9 Welsh Harlequins. At least 2 of the males will have to be butchered in a couple weeks as a ratio of four drakes to 5 ducks is too hard on the females once the drakes hit maturity. In the end we might only be able to keep one drake, but I hope we can keep two.
Also during this week we hauled all of the used bedding off the property. It took 4 pickup loads. One load went to the dump, but the other 3 went to a lady who had just moved to a farm and wanted to start a deep mulch garden, so we were able to take all of it out there. I could not do much of that work at all. I wasn't strong enough with the illness. But I rode out in the truck with my husband.
Today I spread a bit of finished compost onto the hay bales and I will be planting them tomorrow with broccoli, cauliflower, and purple kohlrabi. The husband got up two more gutters on the turkey pen. One I will be succession planting radishes in and the other will be for snow peas which will climb up the lattice.
I had a decent day on one day this week and I made some garden update videos if you'd like to see how those are progressing.
Fruit Garden Update:
Hay Bale Garden Update:
Straw Bale Garden Update:
I am starting to rethink the idea of becoming a farmer. I might just be beat and been put through the wringer, but doing just the rabbits was never as hard when I was sick as having two types of meat birds, 3 if you count the turkeys but they won't be ready for months, and 2 types of laying poultry.
I am thinking rabbits, laying ducks, and laying hens, and that may be the limit. Unless I can get someone else to process them. I am selling some of my breeding stock and reducing my herd. I sold Fiona on Sunday and Andromeda goes on Tuesday. It is possible that Leo will go with her to the colony setting. I am hoping to sell another proven buck, too, but that is harder to do than selling proven does.
I have two rabbits, Serena and Kalia, due to kindle in 3 to 4 days. I really hope we have some milder weather for it. After Wednesday it is supposed to drop back down to the low to mid 70's again, which would be perfect for delivering on the 3rd or the 4th.
The bunny that I had fed with a dropper after her mother died we are keeping. Her name is Luna Blue and she is a companion for Firefly to grow up with. Firefly seems so much happier to have another kit in with her and Luna Blue is definitely happy to not be alone after all her siblings went to freezer camp. They made friends very fast.
If Luna Blue ever hits breeding weight we may put her into the breeding program, but she will be a pet otherwise. We never expected Kalia would hit weight, either. It just took her a few months longer.
I still want to do aquaponics, too. That part has never gone away. And maybe butchering meat ducks and chickens is time consuming, but quail still aren't. So if I stick with raising meat animals, I do have some other options. I think if I do it though, I'd try to raise a batch of 10 birds every 3 weeks and not 30 to 50 birds in a short span of time and end up overwhelmed by it.
We'll see. At this point I shouldn't be making any decisions anyway.