“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill
I’ve been on this small piece of land for 40 years now. A lot of mistakes and false starts along the way. I’ve built and torn down about 4 chicken coops, 3 greenhouses, at least 2 small buildings, and a geodesic dome. I’ve done and undone countless projects because I was in too much of a hurry or didn’t think things out in advance. The sign that used to hang behind the counter at Golden State Lumber sure resonated with me: : “If you didn’t have time to do it right in the first place, how come you have time to do it over?”
I’ve done presentations titled “The Half Acre Homestead” at the Maker Faire last year and at the North House Folk School this year, with pictures of the garden shredder, grain grinder, table saw, and on and on. What you can produce on a pretty small piece of land. Here are a few recent things:
Chickens: Our new flock of mostly Golden Seabright and Auracana bantams is a month or two away from laying eggs. I’ve dispatched 21 roosters. Skinning rather than plucking saves a lot of time. I’ve just learned how to “spatchcock” (butterfly) poultry for barbecuing (check the word on Google for instructions).
These home-raised birds taste way better than even “free-range” commercial chickens. Way different flavor, less fat, bones dense. I vacuum-seal them with Foodsaver “Gamesaver,” and freeze. This model is a big improvement over previous Foodsavers. (The trick with meat, fish, or sealing anything with liquid: freeze for a few hours before vacuum sealing; this eliminates liquid being drawn to the sealing area.)
Pickling: My 3rd batch of sauerkraut is the best. Made with our own red cabbage and salt, nada mas. My olives (salt, vinegar, water) have turned out great after 3 months; no lye. Lesley’s been making all our own (sour dough) bread and now, Kombucha tea.
Smoking: Got a new smoker (Masterbuilt 20070910 30-Inch Electric Smokehouse Smoker, so far works great). Got 17-lb. salmon from fisherman Andrew, filleted, brined and smoked with alder chips, vacuum sealed and froze.
Garden this summer: lettuce, beets, chard, kale, artichokes, asparagus, potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, pea pods, chives, parsley, leeks, raspberries, red currents, apples plus a lot more. Every scrap of food waste from 40 years has gone into the soil. We have big compost bins with worms that transform all organic matter into black loamy soil.
Maintenance: things need fixing constantly, from wear and tear, age, or malfunction. And there are constant critters to contend with. Rats, raccoons, possums, skunks, gophers, moles, termites, ants…See article I wrote for The Mother Earth News in 2008, Coping With Critters, here.
Good to be home from travels, getting home stuff done.