So Grampa thought the mini greenhouses would be fine in the wind without rocks to hold them down. I had my doubts, so I suggested we just do 2 of the gardens that way and wait for a big wind to test them out before we did the others. No, he didn't want to do that because we'd probably not get a big wind till it snowed and we'd be out there covering the gardens in 20 degree weather. "OK" I said (rolling my eyes). Well, we got two big winds this week:
I covered my herb gardens and used rocks to hold the plastic down. Poor Grampa! He still has issues with rocks :(
Will we ever get the 1,400 acre grain farm out of him?
Looky! Looky! We got our raised beds under plastic today! Here's to the beginning of our mini-greenhouse adventure.
When we first decided to go into this business, Grampa decided to go to a trade show he saw in the Small Farm Today Magazine http://www.smallfarmtoday.com/ He met a man there who was promoting the raised concrete block gardens we use. We went to a workshop at his farm http://gardeningrevolution.com/ to learn about how to make them and have been absolutely thrilled with them. One of the benefits of this type of garden is that they can easily be turned into mini-greenhouses, however we have never gotten around to buying the plastic water pipe Len uses to frame them. This summer, I was looking at the concrete re-enforcing wire tomato cages (another thing we learned from Len) and suggested we double duty them by using them as hoops to put plastic over. We are fastening the plastic to the hoops with clothes pins and holding down the ends with rocks. We discussed making some smaller hoops to put under the tomato cages to make a double plastic layer, but decided to stick with one layer for this year. One layer of plastic will allow us to start our garden a month early. Two layers would extend the gardens up to two months.
We also bought some re-enforcing wire to put over the gardens that we built outside of the fence this summer to protect them from chickens. We just put chicken wire over the ends, but I'd really like to cover them completely. By the end of the summer the chickens figured out they could get through the holes in the re-enforcing wire. :(
I used the ends that were left over from that project to create some mini hoops to put over my herb garden. They kept the chickens out and kept the dogs from laying on my herbs. I put plastic over them yesterday. I'm hoping it will be enough to keep my lemon grass and rosemary from dying over the winter. In any case, I'm sure it will give my perennial herbs a head start next spring.
We planted a thermometer in the soil in one of the gardens we covered. I'll try to keep you informed about the temp through the winter!
Greetings from Uptown French Town! The pictures below are from my house, but alas, I am back to sleeping around! A friend of the family is a home health care nurse. She asked my MIL to help take care of an ailing neighbor and since I have helped her with every other client she's had, I naturally wound up helping with this case. We started out just going to get our neighbor meals, but now we are staying with him 24/7. We take turns staying anywhere from 24 hours to 4 days at a time, whatever works. Our client is a sweet man who isn't high maintenance, he just needs someone there to help when he needs it.
This is working out great for me. He only lives about 2 mile from me and loves to go for rides, so if I need to go gather eggs or get something from home he is ready to roll. The family has also told me to go ahead and do whatever I would at home, so I have done lots of canning and crafts. I will also be able to do the paperwork for my winter assessing job from here. I have a couple of deputies who can go out and do most of the field work, so I should ave no trouble handling that job as well.
As you can see the garden is done for the year. We had a great year! The garden made over $2500, not to bad for less than 1/2 an acre. So far the chickens have brought in almost $6,000 and all the other miscellaneous endeavors ( bake sale, farm crop, sheep, etc.) brought in more than $14,500. Again we've done quite a bit of investing so we have our net down to around $7,000 at this point. We have a few deductions I haven't figured in yet, but I'm pretty sure when we send in our income tax statement we will have to pay some taxes. When we went into this expecting to possibly show a profit by the 5th year so we are 2 years ahead of schedule!
Grampa keeps shaking his head and muttering, "I can't believe we've made all this money on less than 12 acres!" He is used to making about 4 or 5 hundred from an acre of corn or beans on the 1,400 acres he used to farm. Right now we are averaging about $2,000/acre and we really haven't even touched the potential. We expect to double our egg sales next year and if we can get into gardening under high tunnels and get some better equipment, we ought to be able to increase the garden output to $20 or $30k per year, more if we hire help.
I know, that doesn't seem like a lot to some of you, but we don't have a lot of expenses. Our house and vehicles are paid for, most of our vehicle costs are deductible, and quite a bit of our food is free. We eat what we can't sell! We really only need about $25,000/year to live well. I've been in the homes of some very rich people and I can tell you, the view from my window is way better! Doing what you love makes all the difference in the world.
This next year, we plan to invest in a nice new chicken house and work on getting some implements for our tiny tractor that will make it easier for us to plant and cultivate the gardens. We'd also like to buy a cargo trailer to take stuff to markets. So often this year, we didn't have room to put everything we wanted to take.
We are going to put some low tunnels over our raised bed gardens this winter so we can get an early start next spring, but eventually we want to get several high tunnels. High tunnels are like a greenhouse, but instead of planting stuff in containers you plant things directly in the dirt. This allows you to get about a month head start in the spring and extend the season by a month or so in the fall. During the summer, the sides are rolled up so the plants don't get to hot. This system also allows you to control the water better. This year with all the rain, the only people who were able to grow tomatoes well were the people who had high tunnels. Our friends who have high tunnels say they generally are able to grow $6,000 to $7,000 worth of veggies in each one per year.
Another awesome thing that surprised us this year was how much easier things seemed to be! The last 2 years, both Grampa and I worked from sun up until 11 or 12pm almost every day all summer. This year, I worked at other jobs quite a bit of the summer and yet Grampa was able to do a pretty good job keeping up on his own. We've got a little better equipment and our systems are improving as we learn. We expect to continue to be able to produce more with basically the same amount of effort each year. I can't wait until this business produces enough income that I don't have to work off the farm. It will come!
Well, hopefully it won't be so long till the next time!