Begin Again

I am working on a mental switch from seeing the farm as needing to “start over” to thinking of it as “beginning again”. This is really difficult for me because for our first three years, everything seemed to flourish. Rabbits did fairly well –that is, I had lots of litters– and the chickens produced lots of eggs. We had access to a fully fenced garden to do with whatever we pleased. Everything was unicorns and rainbows.

In the last year since we moved, I have tried to fit these same expectations into a completely untamed and empty system. A lack of a system, really. It hasn’t worked for obvious reasons: there is no fencing to just go out and plant things; there is different weather, almost no shade, and very few sheltered areas to work with; we have more space; and most importantly, there are more wild predators. Our previous location afforded us a sense of protection that we do not have here. Here, everything is open and it is up to us to figure out how to create shelter, protection, and working systems.


So my New Year Resolution is multi-faceted yet all going towards the same goal:
I must forgive myself for losing animals to heat and under-fortified structures. I need to forgive myself in order to move forward with my best work. I have learned some hard lessons this year and now I need to look to the future.

There are many stuck gears within the daily operation of the farm. Systems that worked before are no longer relevant here. The rabbits need a habitat more adapted to the new land, the garden needs a push shove to get going, and the chickens need to be completely redone. The chickens need a new, bigger coop. The farm needs chicken breeds are excellent layers, can withstand our weather extremes, and can forage well. I am going to try Dominiques (the original Gold Rush chicken… we live in an 1850’s Gold Rush town) and Americaunas (for their adaptability and long laying cycles). Trevor also hopes to be able to catch a few honeybee swarms this spring (free bees rather than $100+ per starter nuc).

Value Diversity
I cannot afford to put all my eggs in one basket anymore, both literally and figuratively. I am going to do my best to have at least two versions of everything. That way if one method fails, I have a back up. Chickens, turkeys, and goats will all include multiple breeds to secure better chances of survival. The rabbits are already from 3 different breeding lines, so I really just need to build them back up.

In order to save a butt-load of money, we need to find and use materials that other people think are useless. That being said, I don’t want my house to look like a junk yard. It is kind of hard to find that happy middle ground. So far I have a bunch of 1920’s windows and glass doors that need to be turned into a greenhouse and I have all of the “outputs” from the animals that can be used in the garden and compost. Now I need to find chicken wire, “ruined” or wet straw, used/recycled lumber, tall bamboo or PVC for garden stakes, a large pool for aquaponics, and some dead Christmas trees for the garden beds.

16 thoughts on “Begin Again

  1. Hi Sarah, sorry to hear about your hardships. I went down the aquaponic road, and I advise against it. It’s a money sink and requires too much maintenance. It would be setting yourself up for more heartache. Better to stick with low-tech solutions. If you’re just trying to conserve water, then mulch does wonders. Good luck in the new year. -Eric

  2. While I honor your desire to change the words I see a glaring omission… you forgot to tell us what went right. It’s certainly valid to say all that went wrong but any good scientist will also include the successes along side of the failures. I hope you do a follow up post with all of the silver linings. Best luck in the new year with a fresh beginning.

  3. Hugels and wicking beds for saving water. 🙂
    Take the time to watch and learn too. Permaculture is all about learning the cycles of your land thereby better allowing you to understand how your land works and implementing strategies to best harvest and grow. 🙂 Best of luck in 2015.

  4. Sarah,
    Think of your first year gardening in barely amended soil, that’s what you have now. Wilderness that needs taming. Don’t expect abundance for at least two years. It will take that long for the hugels to really decompose and growing well. Your chickens you need to start over with a fresh batch and supplementing every year unless you have roosters and good broody hens. The rabbits will straighten themselves out next year. So 2015 will be a better year.

  5. I feel like the first 2 seasons in our new place has been…trying. I am hoping that this season….we will not add new animals, no new structures, and hopefully this means no new learning curves. Just routine, breathe, plant, milk, tend, groom, tend, harvest, breathe.

    I wish you a grand new beginng, the wheel has turned, it sleeps, and its the perfect time to re-birth an attitude of hope and abundance for whats to come!

    • Great attitude Kai! We will also not be adding any new creatures this year. We feel we need to refocus on who we have now and get them in top performance first. 🙂 Good luck to you and yours!

  6. I sure do understand about keeping animals in a place without shade! Gosh, I think I spend most of my time looking for ways to create a comfortable/safe environment for my chickens. I have learned the hard way over and over again… so don’t be so hard on yourself, you are not alone. We do the best we can, learn from our mistakes, and in time figure it all out.

  7. I’m happy to see you moving forward! 🙂 You and I are such a similar personality. I tend to be “all or nothing,” with my projects, and allow myself to get burned out too quickly, especially when things go awry. I’m also VERY hard on myself when I lose animals. I think your plans are very sound, and I’m looking forward to continuing to follow your journey. I like the chicken breeds you picked out! Icelandics were another breed that came to mind, when I read about your challenging climate. They are highly adaptable and colorful to boot. Wishing you much joy and good fortune in the coming New Year! Merry Christmas to you and your family! 🙂

    • Thanks Holly! Merry Christmas to you and yours as well.
      Ha! I guess we are alike… I am certainly of the “all or none” mindset even though I try my best not to be. I get discouraged easily, but I also don’t like to quit. So it evens out eventually.

  8. I so get it, and I think sometimes the overwhelm factor just needs to be given its due. A couple of thoughts I had as I read this are joining (or creating) some community around your needs/shared needs. If you’re on Facebook, some of the groups can be real lifesavers (and, frankly, the only reason I’m still on Facebook). One I belong to is a local homesteaders group, where knowledge, tools, ideas, etc., are shared freely. You don’t know until you ask, type of stuff. Another group is the buy nothing project: A great way to find needed items, or share what you no longer need. Also, are you familiar with A forum devoted to all aspects of permaculture. Good luck!

    • I just looked into the Buy Nothing Project, but it looks like all of the chapters are on facebook and you have to join the group in order to snoop around. There is no group/chapter anywhere even close to me. Can you tell me a little more about it?
      I have been on Permies for awhile and there is definitely some handy information there. Thanks!

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