These days, I am more obsessed with farming and gardening on a larger scale than I have in the past. Mind you, I have been growing an organic garden since 1988. However, as the years have come and gone, I have found myself expanding in both my thinking and my actual gardening practices. A few years ago, we added a business with raising and selling gamebirds and wild waterfowl. While the business isn’t sustaining itself financially yet, it is growing and it has been a wonderful addition to the farm.
Two years ago, we added Nigerian Dwarf goats (one of them is mixed with LaMancha – funny ears!). They have been fun too and this year the girls each had a baby. Trying to keep tiny baby goats warm when Michigan was in a cold snap was not the most fun, but we did it and have learned much in the process.
Then, last year, we added two ewe Dorper sheep. They have blessed my heart so much I can’t even begin to explain it. The two year old ewe, Yolanda, is probably pregnant, but it’s so hard to tell until the last month. She will lamb around April 27 if she is indeed pregnant.
Also new last year was a greenhouse. It’s not very large, about 8 x 10 feet, but is big enough for what we need at this time. We got a Planta from a company in Canada and it is great – a hard sided polycarbonate material. The plan this year is to start more plants than I need and sell any extras. Last year, I gave away starts and I will continue to do that for families in need if I can. However, the goal in farming is to make a profit in order to avoid being labeled a hobby farm, and that is what we are working toward.
Seeds and plant starts are becoming more difficult to obtain and I only see that as a continuing trend. It is CRUCIAL for people to not only grow food, but to save seeds to ensure a future crop. Do you have heirloom seeds? Perhaps this is the year to be sure you get some. While hybrid plants can produce useful seeds, they can be very unpredictable. Better to be safe than sorry.
As for animal products, keeping a rooster or two with the chickens is a great idea if you have a flock that supplies you in meat or eggs. Allow the chickens to set for a spell and you can regenerate that flock from time to time. Last year, we were able to raise some extra chicks and sell them when they were close to full grown, increasing our farm income by a tiny bit.
When my dad passed away last year, I inherited some of his farming and homesteading books. A new favorite of mine was published in 1976 and is a compilation of writings from the mid 19th century. Wow! What a great resource. The Yankee Farmer, edited by Robert F. Hudson, is packed with New England farming wisdom from that era. And yes, a northern Michigan farmer in the 21st century can use the information contained within.
One section in The Yankee Farmer that is especially of interest to me is on squash – specifically winter squash such as the ever popular hubbard. They also talk about the turban squash, and also of a marrow squash. I had to look that one up; apparently it refers to a summer squash.
I think it’s time to go back to the basics of farming. Seeds are hard to come by. Grocery store prices continue to go up. Meat is difficult to buy at a reasonable price any more. And all the while the quality goes down as GMOs increase and herbicide use goes up. No, most of us don’t want to ditch tractors and modern inventions and go to horse drawn implements instead. That’s not what I’m suggesting. However, learning to compost and save seeds can help save us. Learning the best ways to keep our animals healthy and happy can also help save us. And might I add that hard work along with sunshine and fresh air can help save us?
If you can find old homesteading/gardening/farming books and magazines, I highly suggest you do so. They are worth far more than their weight in gold.