That homestead “wish list” I mentioned in Sustainable Growth and Homestead Goal Setting isn’t exactly in list format. I keep journals all year long and make random notes about things I think we need to do at some point. I usually go through about 4-5 composition notebooks. So after taking stock, the next thing I do is go back through my journals and pick out anything relevant. I am not only looking for ideas I’ve jotted down, but also patterns, challenges, things that need addressing. It’s a bit of work, particularly since my writing is barely legible. But it helps put things in perspective.
Here are a some of the things I’ve come across so far.
We normally get a lot of summer rain, so we weren’t prepared for a three month drought. We have over 3000 square feet of garden bed space and we hand water. Our beds are 4 – 4.5 feet wide (Bio-Intensive suggestion) which makes them a little hard to water since you have to water both sides. I usually have three plant rotations each year, including direct planting a round of beets, turnips, lettuce, late cucumbers and squash, and buckwheat in the heat of summer. But this year, with no irrigation and scorching heat, almost nothing germinated. I managed to get some things going at the end of summer, but not nearly as much as usual. The lack of regular watering also stressed the plants and our potatoes and sweet potatoes were eaten up by wire worms. After that experience, these are some of the things that made my wish list after this experience.
- A separate fenced “greens” garden down by our spring fed pond for growing lettuce in mid to late summer when the main garden is too hot. This area is always cooler and the soil is boggy, so it could be OK for greens, but not so much for root vegetables. Ducks keep the slugs under control down there and we can use the bedding from the duck house as our proximate compost source.
- A partially shaded seed starting area for mid-season germination and transplanting.
- Shade cover for mid-summer beds.
- Automated gravity fed irrigation system utilizing our upper irrigation rain catching pond as our primary source, with an option to pump from our lower spring fed pond during drought periods.
- Make rows 2.5 feet wide for easier planting, watering, and weed pulling and grow cover crops in pathways to maximize space and use as chop and drop mulch in summer.
This year I started raising ducks to sell for meat a the farmers’s market. I made some temporary paddocks, with makeshift shelter, to keep costs low. I also hose-filled kiddie pools twice daily for duck amusement. Also, after the ducks were removed from the paddocks, we planted Daikon, cowpeas, mustard, borage, and buckwheat. It wasn’t terrible, but I think we can do better. So, I have a few wish list items related to our duck paddocks.
- Use wood posts and permanent fencing with nice gates for each of our five paddocks.
- Once the ducks have fertilized each paddock, plant a host of perennial plants like comfrey, sunchokes, strawberries, herbs, etc, and some self-seeding annuals that make for good duck edibles next year. Each paddock only gets used once a year.
- Make permanent ponds using bentonite to seal, instead of liners, in each paddock.
- Divert our rooftop rain catchment to a larger cistern and use float valves in the ponds to automatically trigger the cistern to release water when pond levels fall.
- Build permanent shelters in each paddock.
- Install permanent electric fence around the exterior of paddocks for predator protection.
We have a hot tub in our greenhouse that we fill with a hose. We then empty the hot tub into drums and use those to water the greenhouse. We normally water by hand. It’s small, so this is not normally an issue. But this year, we had so much hand watering to do in the main garden that it was hard to keep up with the greenhouse. We also had some issues with germination rates for our fall planting since it was still so hot with no cloud cover for months. I am also getting a little tired of manually filling our drums from the hot tub, so I’d like a less labor intensive method. Here are my thoughts on the greenhouse.
- Get shade cloth for the green house beds.
- Set up automated watering system for the greenhouse using existing rain barrels.
- Use a portable pump to empty the hot tub into the drums instead of manually baling water.
We now have year-round production of shiitake mushrooms. But Matt, who is our mushroom man, has to haul the fruiting logs up a big hill to our greenhouse in winter to maximize production. He is also currently hand-watering when we have insufficient rain and using clear plastic tarps to trap moisture. Again, this works, but we have some ideas to make this easier.
- Install top down sprinkler system in the trees for watering logs (similar to rain). Matt wants to connect to a rain gauge and use a raspberry pie to automate waterings based on rainfall deficiencies.
- Make a mini-hoop house or maybe a walipini to use to force fruiting in winter in the mushroom grotto.
There’s lots more, but I figure this is enough for one night. Plus, it’s bed time!