Saturday, February 7, 2009

Winter's Farmer Market

It's been a crazy week. Heavy work, a dog needing surgery (she's fine now), and lots of research for the farm. But I took some time out to head to the Winter's Farmer Market in Exeter, NH. Exeter is a gorgeous New England town and the perfect backdrop to purchase yummy sustainable meats, about 20 lbs of potatoes (for eating and seed). We also scored some fresh seeded bread and a tub of pork lard. Yes. Lard. I am so excited.

As I got through Coop Extension Fact Sheets, I am discovering the painful truth of how much I don't know. Gardening it technical and hard to communicate through the static pages of a book. There are so many different ideas and opinions about methodologies (not unlike riding). So I have come to the obvious conclusion that my first year garden will most likely be more of an experiment than a food source. That's the way it is, of course, but I tend to be the kind of person who does it 100% or not at all.

So I have to reconcile the learning curve and so I have a couple idea of phases:

Year 1:
Raise layers and meat birds (heritage birds) shipped to me as chicks. Process the birds myself.
Get soil tested and come up with plan for improvement.
Plant all the varieties of seeds I am interested in, as best as I can manage, and observe and learn.
Chart eating habits.
Study up on diseases, rotation, and New Hampshire specific climate.

Year 2:
Raise replacement chickens from my heritage bird flock, striving for a self-sustaining population.
Get soil tested and track improvement, if any.
Plant the varieties of vegetables that worked well, replace the ones that didn't.
Based upon previous year's eating habits, make sure to plant enough of the food we want to eat.
Experiment with intensive gardening.

Year 3:
Refine heritage bird flock for free-range hardiness, laying ability, and meat. Possibly look into two distinct sustainable flocks.
Get soil tested and track improvement, trending towards high organic content.
So on and so on.

Raising/growing/bartering or 70% of our perishable food is a five year goal and I think it will take all five years to get there. But that sort of education is priceless, so I have to accept the losses and inefficiency of learning. Every step forward is progress, the key is not to be overwhelmed by my ignorance.


Funder said...

Poor dog :(

You have a good plan, and I'm sure you'll do just fine implementing it. It's a lot like riding a horse, actually - just about anybody can strap a saddle on a cooperative horse and trot around an arena, and just about anybody can grow some tomatoes. There's a ton of complexity to becoming really successful at either endeavor, but that's the fun of it.

I was looking for something else in my bookmarks and found this chicken site - you might enjoy reading it.

dp said...

Glad to hear your dog is OK.

If I let my ignorance get in the way I would never get anything done. You are very right to give yourself time and flexibility for a learning curve. Just think of it as learning your first programming language. I have been using SAS for years now and I am still learning new stuff all the time...I am just much faster at learning it now that I know where to look.

Daun said...

Thanks DP and Funder,
The dog is doing well. $800 later. Sigh.

Anyway, Funder, thanks for the link to the Chicken site. I am still going through it. I am most fascinated by the information on growing your own chicken food. I would LOVE to not have to buy commercial food for my flock (I am offsetting this now by raising chickens that naturally range to lower the amount I need to supplement with commercial feed). I buy organic feed, but I still don't like it.

Maybe I can make "grow my own chicken feed" a phase 3 goal once the human feed is more of a known quantity.

DP, the analogy to programming languages is a good one. I used to be rubbish at programming until I taught myself the theory behind the language and then all these pieces started falling into place. Now I am leading my team with semiweekly brown bags on how to code and rapidly launching into an architecture role. The first 5 years I just "strapped the saddle on and trotted around the field". Now I am "training the horse".

Very cool stuff. Malcolm Gladwell needs to tackle the topic of how we learn. Tipping Point addresses it somewhat, but the progression from doing it to mastering it is very cool.

KT said...

I think you will have plenty of food the first year. But more food the next years.

Bees the second year is a good strategy because keeping bees is complex and you already have a lot going on the first year.