As I look back on the last four years of this blog, I realize how far we’ve managed to come. We have realized so many of our dreams! We have paid off our debt. We have bought land. We have built a house. We have chickens. We have one HUGE garden in full swing. We have an orchard. We have wood aplenty to heat our home with. We have learned skills like building, baking bread, sewing, hunting, canning, home maintenance, and pantry rotation. We have accumulated many of the tools and supplies necessary to a homesteading lifestyle: a lawn tractor, a dehydrator, a grain mill, a full wood working shop, a pressure canner and waterbath canner, tons of canning supplies, every garden tool I could think of, a rototiller, a snow thrower, an enormous trailer, a woodstove… and so much more!
So what is left? What more could we possible want?
Yes, the house is nearly finished, but we already have expansion plans that we hope to put into effect next spring. My husband searched high and low for inspiration, and ended up finding this gem. We love everything about it, but instead of a plain old fireplace we’d do a baker’s oven, maybe with elements of a rocket mass heater thrown in. A heated bench would be lovely on crisp fall days. I’d also like to do an outdoor kitchen on the porch – just a small strip of cabinets with a stove-top on the counter. Canning inside in the middle of summer heat sucks. It sucks hard. Canning on a screened-in porch outside? Sign me up!
Of course there will be a bigger garden in our future. I am pretty set on turning most of our south-facing hill into an earth-bermed green house, if not this year then next. My husband found a source for patio door glass at $3 a sheet. Score! He’s also drawn up plans and priced out all of the materials. We can afford it, but I’m not so sure we can afford the time to finish it before winter hits with everything else we’re working on. In case you’re curious what it will look like, I just drew up this quick sketch in Paint.
When the greenhouse is in, I’ll build raised beds in front of it to house a small herb and flower garden. At the bottom of the hill is where I eventually plan on raising our own grains like wheat, rye, and oats. The bottom of the hill is super fertile. Crazy fertile. The grass down there grows twice as tall and thick as it does anywhere else on our land. It should be a great place to grow grains.
Our orchard might grow by a few trees, but not too many. We are at 21 trees now, since four (two peaches, two cherries) have perished. I would eventually like to fence in the orchard to run geese. At the bottom of the east side of the hill is a low, soggy spot. If we could clear it out, it would probably make a decent small pond. This year when we start cutting wood I hope to take down the birch that are growing in this soggy area.
We have been discussing getting back into raising bees again, this time with our own equipment. We’ll order the pieces for two hives this winter and get those put together. Next spring, we’ll get some bees to fill them. A homestead isn’t complete without those buzzy girls roaming all over the place.
We also talked about raising rabbits for meat and fur. No concrete plans there yet. Pigs and some sort of dairy livestock are also on our wish list, but we need to work on fencing in some pasture first.
Our neighbors in Michigan have the Cottage Foods laws that allow them to sell any baked goods made in their home kitchen, but we folks in Wisconsin need to have an annual license and all food items must be produced in a commercial kitchen. Here is a pdf file that shows the hoops we have to jump through in order to create a commercial kitchen that will pass inspection. My husband and I have talked about this a few times. I think I am a pretty good baker. I know for a fact that my cookies, muffins, and bread would sell because we have friends, family, and neighbors request these items from me. Maybe if we build a large pole building someday, we can dedicate one corner of it to a small commercial kitchen for my baking. I already have a name picked out for it. 🙂
If we build the pole building, a kitchen isn’t the only thing we’ve talked about. My husband had a lot of fun creating things on a plasma cutting table when he was overseas. Giving him a workshop is high on the list, especially since it would mean our basement space could be used for storage or another bedroom instead of a workshop.
When I was in college I really got into ceramics. I would love a little shed with a wheel, shelves, and small kiln so I could make pottery again. I got to where I could make a complete mug in about seven minutes back then. I bet I could get back into it and be even faster, more productive. I have yet to meet anyone local who putters around with clay – yet another niche that I could use to my advantage. I still have no idea where I would get the clay from. Probably order it online. We have some on our land, but not enough to go through the trouble of digging all the way down for it and spending all the time to process it.
Other projects that are in the back of our minds include building a rain-catchment system with a cistern and mulch pits around the trees in our orchard. My husband drools at the thought of having our house off of the electrical grid, but I’m not so sure we could afford the start-up costs any time soon for solar. The acre pond out back desperately needs to be re-dug. It was last cleared in the ’60’s. It’s completely choked with cattails, weeds, and cottonwood saplings. I don’t think it will be deep enough to raise fish in unless we provided a heat and aeration system, but digging it out would at least give wildlife and our future livestock a clean water source. And I might be able to raise rice and water chestnuts without having to build a permanent paddy up by the gardens.
Oh! I haven’t showed you my little temporary paddy yet. I got it all set up and filled. The rice is planted, and several fish are swimming around in it to keep the mosquito larvae down. A frog has even taken up residence in it. My next post will have to be a pictorial update. In the next couple of days. I’m busy weeding and mulching to get it all looking good for some company we’ll be having this coming weekend.