I never made New Year's resolutions when I was younger. It always seemed like a set up for backsliding, guilt, and disappointment. But a few years ago, I started looking at New Year's resolutions differently. Instead of promising to lose 15 pounds, exercise more often, or start flossing my teeth, I decided that I would begin to learn new skills, or add something to my homesteading ways.
Two years ago for New Year's I decided to learn how to bake bread. Now we eat nothing but homemade bread, and bread baking is part of my monthly routine that I take for granted. Last year I resolved that I would keep laying hens. Having four hens this past year was a great learning experience, and I never want to have a garden again without also having hens. I also learned to can this past summer, though that wasn't a formal New Year's resolution.
This coming year there are several skills or features I would like to add to my repertoire and mini-homestead. All of them have something to do with moving us towards greater self-sufficiency and will ultimately allow us to live a more frugal life. Anything fairly specific that I can do which will insulate us from the vagaries of the economic turmoil seems like a great idea these days.
I've already talked about adding another species to our budding homestead. I think what I've settled on is to add a worm bin, because it's a no-brainer, and also to work on adding rabbits for meat. That will involve building a tractor to keep them on our "pasture," and doing enough reading up over the next few months to prepare myself for the new additions. I'll also need to prepare myself for slaughtering them and processing them. I would like for us to have bees, too. But that will either have to wait another year, or my husband will have to make that his own project. I can only take on so many new critters at a time. Perhaps an item for 2010's resolution list.
It's also, finally, the year to put in an asparagus bed. I've waited years and years to do this. I had a cat for 17 years who loved, simply loved, asparagus. Had I started an asparagus bed, he would have found a way to kill it in the first tender year when nothing should be harvested. Dear creature that he was, we had to put him down this past April. He is missed, but we'll look forward to asparagus in his absence. We have a small but ideal space to put two or three raised asparagus beds, just behind our shed. Several other vegetables are to be given trial runs in my 2009 garden as well, including okra, Jerusalem artichokes, two types of eggplant, Brussels sprouts and some berries under and around our white pine tree.
So far these two tasks that I've set for myself are things I am eager to do. They will take effort, but not much self-discipline to put into practice. But there is one thing I've set myself to learn that I don't particularly relish. Sewing. I recognize that this skill is a useful one, but it's just not something I'm eager to learn or naturally inclined toward. But I'm taking up Sharon's competence project challenge, and I'm resolved to give it a go. Probably it will be best to get started on this very soon, while the weather is cold and I don't have outdoor tasks as ready made distractions. I even found a worthy frugal sewing project to get me started. I would really like to find a sewing mentor who can help me learn to use the sewing machine I have on semi-permanent loan.
We'll also be putting in a few fruit trees this spring in the locations where we chopped down nonproductive ornamentals this fall. We plan on two cherry trees and a dwarf apple tree, but we may yet cut down a spruce tree that is getting rather large and replace it with either a nut tree or a self-polinating pear tree. We still need to have the stumps of the old trees ground out before we plant. If we get around to it, we may also dynamite the forsythia out and replace it with some black raspberries. (I'm kidding about the dynamite, but that stuff will be damn difficult to remove.)
In general, I would like to try to do more bartering this coming year. So far I've done very little true bartering. More often I've given thank-you gifts to neighbors who have done us a good turn. My bread is good enough that I wouldn't be ashamed to sell it. I have an agreement in principle to barter some homemade bread for the pruning of our apple tree in the new year. I know enough about cooking to teach classes regularly. So maybe there's an exchange possible there somehow. And we'll have eggs from our laying hens again in the spring. Surely I could find ways to barter for some other services we will need.
One thing I would like to do but am unsure about is to participate in the Master Gardener's program in my region this coming year. I'm unsure about it because I don't even know if it's happening next year. There was no program in 2008 due to a glut of Master Gardeners. Even if there is a program, I don't know that I would be selected. There is a screening process, evidently. And it would be an ongoing time commitment, even after the classes are over and done with. The student Master Gardeners "pay" for their instruction with a agreement to volunteer for the counties that run the program. I think the number of volunteer hours is pretty reasonable, but I would need to double check what I'm committing myself to before I sign on the dotted line. My main reason for wanting to become a Master Gardener is to learn about pruning fruit trees, and to tap knowledge that is highly specific to gardening in my immediate area.
Ever participated in your county's Master Gardener program? I'd love to hear from you if you have!
So much for the at least somewhat realistic goals. On the wishlist is a greenhouse of some sort. It's unlikely to happen in 2009. We'll have a lot of other things on our plate, and there isn't much space to devote to a greenhouse on our modest lot. One of these years though, I would love to try a mobile greenhouse a la Eliot Coleman. I'll probably be thrilled if we manage to build a few modestly sized coldframes for winter salad greens.
So to sum up the resolutions list:
Meat rabbits on pasture
New vegetable trials in main garden, berries under white pine tree
Do more bartering
Coldframes for winter greens
Master Gardener program?
-Wow. That turned out to be a much longer list than I thought it would be. Fortunately, several of these items are mostly once-and-done efforts. I'll use this blog to hold myself to these goals in the coming year.
What are your goals, hopes, dreams, plans for the coming year? What's the long-term vision that you want to serve with your goals?