I can’t believe I’m saying this, but 2017 is already half over! This year is flying by, and as I think about these last 6 months I’m realizing that we’ve crammed a lot into that time. I’ve also been ruminating over our goals and considering all the things that we set out to do. I shared some of our goals for 2017 at the beginning of the year, and I wanted to share on the progress we’ve made on them.
1. Produce Our Own Dairy and Dairy Products
Yes! This has been a rousing success considering how new we are to home dairying. Note: this doesn’t mean that we’re naturals or ‘ just that good,’ all it means is that it’s easier than you think it is!
I always assume whenever we embark on a new project that our first yields will be unusable due to out inexperience. Though we’ve spilt milk and had disappointing results making gjetost, by and large we’ve had a lot of luck with our dairy. We have yet to try making butter, but without a cream separator it’s not something we want to get into. Now that I’m actually seeing the process of milking play out I’m realizing that my original estimation of 3 dairy goats is correct. We’re just shy of having enough milk to both drink and to make cheese and butter to keep us satisfied. Irony would have it that we would be provided with a bumper crop of buck kids our first year! Fortunately, two are already picked up and the others are spoken for, and we have little Peony here for next year.
2. Make Homemade Maple Syrup
Did this. It didn’t come to us as well as dairying did, but we at least got our feet wet and will hopefully be able to make more next year. Now that we understand what needs to be done I don’t think it’ll be hard to make maple sugaring a success next year. If we were grading ourselves, I’d give this project a B-. Yes, we got some maple syrup, but it took forever; finding a way to expedite the process will be a must.
3. Figure Out Better Egg Laying Management
The Cayugas are gone, we’re switched to the Silver Appleyard breed of duck, and I am much happier. Moving forward we will be striving to have fewer, higher producing animals. After all, don’t poor producers eat just as much, make the same amount of mess and take up just as much space as excellent producers? Though the Cayugas did lay, it was certainly not at the volume that these Appleyards are capable of. The Appleyards are also quieter and much more mellow. I recently said it, and I’ll say it again: if anyone is looking for laying ducks for their backyard, I highly recommend Silver Appleyards.
4. Eat Healthier
We embarked on Whole30 for Lent, and have lost weight and feel better. We’re up by 6 every morning to milk, and I often find myself awake and ready to go before the alarm even goes off. I credit a lot of that energy and overall good feeling to what we’ve been eating. It’s been a hard journey (admittedly harder on Rachel, as she does most of the cooking and food prep), but it’s been worth it, and not just in terms of weight loss. It’s nice and everything, but the energy and the way I feel is much better than the weight loss. I used to wake up every morning with a headache. Not a groggy feeling, a headache. Now, that’s gone. I have groggy mornings of sure, but no headaches. What a difference.
5. Get the Garden Going
This is turning into The $64 Tomato. I’ve never read the book, but the title says it all. The broccoli flowered before it ever really was broccoli, the onions never got out of the hangar, and the cabbage, which we didn’t even intend to grow, was a bust. Granted, we’ve been so busy that we haven’t had much time to pay attention to the garden this year, and thusfar our spring and summer has been monsoon season. Every day that we’ve set aside to work on things we’ve gotten rained out. Less than half of what we’d intended to get in actually made it to the soil. I wish that this year I’d thought to take the year off from the garden and instead focus greater efforts on Pomology. Yes, we have fruit trees and blueberries, but there are a lot more fruits that I’d like to be putting in if I wasn’t putting my time into the garden. The garden might not be a total failure – we still have potatoes going. We’ll have to let you know if it comes to harvest.
6. Get Some Sheep
This idea gets deep-sixed every time I bring it up. Rachel’s feeling is that growing fiber shouldn’t be a focus at the moment, growing food should be taking precedence. We can focus on fiber once we have the food production under control. Yes, you can get lamb from sheep, but we don’t eat lamb much at all. She’s right, but that doesn’t stop me from waching for some to come available. My preferred breed, Shetland Sheep, aren’t particularly common, so I haven’t really found any as it is. This might have to be a 2018 (or 2019) goal.
Overall, not bad. The home dairy is going swimmingly, the egg-laying management is better, and so are our eating habits. Maple syrup was ok, the garden seems that it’ll probably produce something, and sheep… yeah. We’ll see.