We had some major successes and major failures this year, and since I didn’t chronicle them in real time (I guess that counts as one of our failures) I’m going to list them all here. We also have some very specific plans coming up for the winter and next year you can expect to hear more about. Finally, there are some general ideas we’re tossing around that we still need to settle on and decide a timeline for.

Lessons

  • Straw bale gardening was an epic failure. I think I know what went wrong (my bales were too tight so the water and fertilizer couldn’t penetrate and the bales couldn’t condition properly) but I’m not going to try it again. I know how to garden in soil, so that’s what I’ll do.
  • Quails were an overall success, but there were mini successes and failures you can read about here.
  • My tomatoes did awesome! After years of working on what works and didn’t, I think I’ve figured it out! One plant per pot, mix fertilizer in soil, and mulch with straw.
  • For various reasons (pregnancy, laziness) my goals towards putting more fruit on our homestead fell through. Two of our black raspberry bushes appear to have made it, and we have a sad looking Serviceberry I’m hoping will make it through the winter, but all of my strawberries and red raspberries died, we never got a fruit tree planted, and I killed our grape vine.
  • We had solar panels installed near the beginning of this year (I think) and have been pretty happy with them so far. We had to finance them, but the amount they are saving us in energy bills is enough so that the monthly payment breaks even with what our energy bills was before, so we’re not really out anything here in the short term. In the long term we will own these puppies, so in about ten years we can look forward to practically zero energy bills. Also, if we move we can take them with us! My only complaint is that when snow gets on them and then starts melting and falling off, it sounds really weird. Almost eerie. Like the roof is buckling. But it’s not so bad that I’m unhappy with our purchase.
  • My Xeric perennial bed that I put in the front yard has done really well. Despite the uber rainy start to the year, they all survived! They should really be pretty next year, and draw in lots of pollinators!
  • Watering is what kills me (and my garden). I always forget or avoid it because I’m busy and it’s too hot. Luckily, I’m taking a kick ass irrigation course this semester, which leads me into my next topic …

Plans

  • Next year I’m definitely revamping our irrigation system to make it more efficient and adding some drip irrigation zones so I don’t have to remember to water as much.
  • Permanent veggie beds are in the works!!! We had several trees and shrubs die over the last winter, and when we removed them we found the perfect, sunny spot for permanent beds. We plan on building raised hugelkulture beds (to make good use of those cut down trees and shrubs).
  • I’m going to do all the fruit stuff over again! In addition to the strawberries, raspberries, grapes, and fruit tree I wanted this year, I’m thinking about an American compact cranberry and an elderberry.
  • Growing food to supplement quail feed. ┬áBecause quail stay in a hutch their eggs and meat don’t have the same benefits that pasture chicken eggs and meat have (higher omega 3’s, richer taste, etc.), I might as well be eating feedlot eggs (except I know my quail are much happier than commercial egg chickens). I can’t really let them roam my yard for bugs and greens, but I can sprout them fresh greens, grow duckweed for them, and grow meal worms! It will just supplement their diet, but I think it will make them happier and my eggs yummier.
  • I’m learning about so many cool plants in my horticulture program, and I want to grow all of them! My space is limited, and I would prefer mostly food bearing plants, but there is more to a homestead than making food, and many plants that don’t make food can still benefit the food producing plants in other ways (raw ing in pollinators, fixing nitrogen, etc.). I want to put in more ornamental plants that bring in beneficial insects, increase biodiversity, attract birds (yeah, they’ll eat my stuff but I like them, so I’m willing to share), and just look pretty year round.
  • I want to start getting serious about sprouting micro greens for me to eat. I love sprouts and our grocery stores aren’t selling th anymore. It was stupid to buy them when they’re so easy to grow anyhow.
  • Baking sourdough bread is definitely on the agenda for winter.
  • I’d like to get more plants inside my house as well, just for the pretties. And because I love plants. A terrarium is definitely happening this year.
  • We are tearing up our carpet and replacing it with something super cheap that I think will still look classy. We shall see!
  • We need to regrout and recall our shower. It’s been gross for a long time, but I took it to thunderdome when I dyed my hair pink and turned our shower pink too. Ooops.
  • While we’re doing the floors, we’re just going to knock out painting our walls too.

Things I’m thinking about

  • I’d like to put a water feature or two in our yard. They draw in birds and other beneficial insects and animals, and I love seeing them.
  • I want to learn more about how to increase the biodiversity of our yard. Is it possible when neighbors spray a lot of biocides for weeds and bugs? Can I purchase creatures to inoculate my yard?
  • For some reason ducks are legal in our city but not chickens. Should we be thinking about ducks for our homestead?
  • Bees most likely will happen, and I’d love to say next year is the year, but I can’t commit just yet. Maybe I should ask for a hive for Christmas …
  • If we’re staying here long term, is there any reason to keep any lawn in the back yard? ┬áThe kids don’t really play there, and most of the entertaining we do is done on the patio.
  • In the general future, we have plans to redo our patio to make it nicer for entertaining.
  • In the general future, we have plans to remodel the kitchen to give us more counter and cabinet space.
  • In the general future, we have plans to finish our basement and put another bedroom down there, because …
  • In the general future, we plan to have another baby.

So that’s about it for our homestead right now. I’m really going to try to keep up with our projects in real time better, so stay tuned!

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