As of October 18th of this year, we have been living on our farm for three years, and entering our fourth. So what have I learned since last year? Well, probably not much, I’d say! This summer pretty much melted any last remnant of a brain cell I had left, but I’ll try….
1. If I have said this already, I apologize, but here goes: Don’t plant what you won’t eat. Sounds ridiculously simple, doesn’t it? But what another farm woman once said to me always rings in my ears every time I’m wading through 47 tons of banana peppers. I can grow a banana pepper like you won’t believe, but I don’t eat them. How dumb is that? Sure we chop one up now and then and add it in our eggs, and I tried my hand at canning them, but they just ain’t my thang. So why do I currently have about 10 plants out in my garden fully loaded? Beats me. But I’m telling YOU not to do that. So when I get tempted by those little banana pepper plants in the spring, I’ll toss them to the side this time! Seriously though, why waste your time and water to take care of something that you will end up composting? Just don’t!
2. Good fences make sane farmers. Okay, just go ahead and forget those idyllic, pastoral scenes of a farm that we grew up with in story books. If you are to have any sanity whatsoever, you have to put up good fences to keep your livestock contained and separated, and to keep predators out. Just go ahead and forget that image you have of Mr. Pig, a flock of chickens (many with chicks), Mr. Horse, and various other critters all happily intermingling in perfect harmony whilst standing in your garden.
Let me tell you what really happens. Chickens allowed in your garden can totally destroy a tomato crop in minutes, not to mention eat up all of the winter rye you just set out (ask me how I know this). They also make the biggest most God-awful mess you’ve ever seen out of your garden paths. Oh, and they also loooooove to make their sand bath pits right by your baby blueberry bushes, which leads to their demise. Not to mention the fact that they enjoy flying over their (too low) fence into the neighbor’s yard, which contains two chicken-eating dogs.
Goats eat just about everything. That also includes your newly transplanted grapevines and your new herb garden.
Pigs will eat a chicken. Don’t ask.
Geese leave Chihuahua sized grass poo pretty much wherever you even thought about stepping.
Turkeys love watermelon leaves. Not the vines so much, just the leaves. And figs. Lots of figs. Hope you didn’t want any melons or figs this year!
The point is, I have seen many people posting about their critters in total desperation. Either the critters ate up their garden/messed up their yard or porch or whatever/got eaten by a predator. You can’t just get animals and then have no proper place to put them. For your sake and theirs, get up some strong, good fences and a secure place to pen them up at night to avoid those unwanted surprises. Like fresh goose poo between your toes or your melon patch completely devoid of leaves.
3. Don’t forget the most important animal enclosure of all….your home! I don’t know how we managed to stay sane over the past 2.5 winters. Seriously, last Christmas I was hoping Santa would bring me a blowtorch and a can of gas to rid myself of our freezing abode. It’s one thing to be a bit chilly in your house; quite another to be wearing 2 pair of socks, 3 pair of pants, 3 shirts, a robe, a hat, and a quilt and still be cold. I’m pretty sure that the chicken coop was warmer. If it is at all possible to use some extra funds to upgrade your living situation, I say go for it. I’m not talking about a 60″ TV, either. We’re talking about insulation, new electric wiring, new (non-leaky) plumbing fixtures, new roof, etc. This year was a major year for us in the Home Improvement department. In February, we insulated the attic big time, and by August, we had invested in a new roof and all new cedar and cypress siding. Not to mention all of the little stuff we’ve done in-between, like fix leaky pipes and stuff like that. No reason for the chickens to be living in more comfortable quarters than you are!
Year Three sure was over in a flash. I still haven’t canned much this year (SHAME!), but I do have a freezer overflowing with tomatoes and fruit. Guess you can see what’s in my future! It also came complete with OVER 80 DAYS OF 100+ DEGREE HEAT. May I long be gone (after having lived to an old age, of course) before that ever happens again! Well, here’s to Number Four…