Much of the time it feels to me like we're not making any progress on our goals. I don't know why this should be, because in fact we've made a lot of progress this year. Maybe it's because my task list is just so damned long that as soon as one project is done, another one immediately takes its place at the top of the priority list. Reading my favorite blogs does nothing to help shorten this list, by the way.
But that baseless feeling of not making any headway is crazy-making - for me, and for anyone around me. (*Cough* Sorry, Honey.) That's part of the reason I decided to participate (sporadically) in Sharon's Independence Days Challenge. But lately I've been feeling the need to remind myself of the bigger things we've accomplished this year to move towards our goal of financial independence and food sovereignty.
For the year as a whole we reduced the principle owed on our mortgage by $35,355, and my husband managed to remain employed despite the recession. We also harvested (so far) just shy of 600 pounds of produce from our backyard garden, worked mostly by myself alone. This doesn't include food that passed from hand to mouth without ever making it inside, nor garden vegetables deemed unfit for the table but good enough for the chickens. Given that it was an execrable year for tomatoes and apples, and a not so great one for potatoes, this harvest tally makes me pretty proud. And there's more out there to keep harvesting. I preserved a great deal of these homegrown and some gleaned foods - with varying degrees of success - by smoking, dehydrating, canning, curing, lacto-fermentation, and freezing.
So here's a month-by-month recounting of the deeds...
January: Can't remember much. I think I hibernated most of the month. Got the seed and rootstock orders in, grouping them with friends to save on shipping costs.
February: I made some worm bins and got our vermicompost system going, bartering for the worms. Attended the PASA conference where I learned a lot and met some local gardening folks who are becoming friends of ours.
March: We expanded the tilled area of our large garden from around 1700 square feet to about 2000 square feet. Removed ornamental trees to make room for fruit trees and berries. Dealt with the debris. Husband ripped out large patch of forsythia to make room for more perennial edibles.
April: We had an energy audit done on our home. Built permanent raised beds for asparagus root stock, making use of a narrow space behind the shed. Planted many perennial food plants, including cherry and pear trees, asparagus, raspberries, blueberries, elderberries, and grapes. Renovated and improved our mobile chicken pen and coop. Started numerous seedlings inside.
May: Added a significant quantity of free compost and mulch to our annual garden bed. Got much of the annual garden planted. I added several perennial herbs for culinary and medicinal uses. Baked and froze enough bread to supply us through the hot months of the year.
June: We built a rocket stove and continued planting, despite the horrific rainfall.
July: Following up the energy audit, my husband added some insulation to the attic. I worked on air sealing with silicone caulking around window frames. Learned how to slaughter our old laying hens. Built and used a homemade chicken plucker to help speed the processing.
August: Learned how to salvage potatoes when the plants got the blight. Built our first cold frame with salvaged materials and planted it. Set up our first rain barrel. Added a gutter to the back of the garage, (well, had one added) where roof run-off had made for a very damp patch of yard.
September: Finally made a token effort towards learning how to sew. Eradicated new portion of the lawn and lasagna mulched in preparation for garlic planting. My husband made substantial progress on turning a corner of our basement into a root cellar. Got our so-designated "perennial swath" substantially cleared and sown with cover crop. Finally had some of the black cherry wood cut down last year milled into lumber. Began harvesting acorns to supplement purchased chook feed.
October: Slaughtered our second batch of low-producing laying hens. Harvested potatoes and some apples. Had our basement walls insulated and the house air sealed. Had conduit installed for a future passive solar thermal and possible photovoltaic arrays. Planted garlic, including a new softneck variety and four hardnecks from our own seed stock.
November: Lasagna mulched several new areas for spring planting. Put the garden (mostly) to bed for the winter. Harvested and pressed apples into cider. Organized much of our stored food on shelves in the newly insulated basement. Arranged to teach an introductory homesteading class in the spring. Attended an introductory beekeeping class, as well as a meeting of our local beekeeping association; became members of that beekeeping association. Did some tree trimming of branches which shade a significant part of the garden in summer. Made (a little) more progress on the sewing competence front. Had our radiant heating system extended to our kitchen in preparation for converting to passive solar heating. Started building winter housing in the shed for the hens (and possible future meat rabbits), including a timer on the fluorescent lights. Used homegrown fruits and vegetables for every dish we contributed to the Thanksgiving feast. Began curing pasture-raised pork jowls as guanciale, a sort of Italian bacon.
December: Put the finishing touches on winter quarters for the hens and moved them into a converted corner of shed. Sourced a local, grassfed prime rib roast for our Christmas dinner. Do self-sufficiency crimbo gifts also count? I asked for beekeeping equipment for Christmas. Working on a roster of self-sufficiency skills and projects for 2010. (Post on that topic coming soon.) Inevitably, I'm already feeling the pull of planning mode for next year's garden.
Wow! Writing it all out like that really forces me to acknowledge that we did accomplish a lot this year. We have made progress. No wonder I'm tired! I don't mean to brag here, nor to make anyone feel that I'm some sort of uber-green super-achiever. Far from it. It's just that sometimes I have an overwhelming sense of urgency that makes me feel like we're way behind the curve. For my own sanity and domestic tranquility, I need to remind myself of these milestones occasionally.
I would love to hear about the milestones you passed this year. Please consider posting about them on your own blog and leaving a link in the comments here. If you have no blog, then please share the accomplishments of this year in a comment.