Finally! I found some time to update the blog! My original goal was to make a few blog entries a week, but that obviously petered out. When folks say homestead life is busy, that's an understatement. 2017 was probably the busiest year we've ever had.....in our entire lives. Tasks like building a garage, getting chickens and building their coop, erecting pasture fencing, planting an orchard, tending a garden, maintaining equipment, homeschooling kids, chasing toddlers, managing a 12,000 bulb garlic crop, and plowing snow soaks up much of our time. Thankfully though, winter gives us a bit of extra time to catch up on administrative tasks.
Planting as much garlic as we did our first year out the gate was a huge risk. We've never farmed prior to planting our first garlic crop. I had zero hands-on knowledge about how to grow garlic. All the information about planting, harvesting, curing and storing garlic came from a few books and Youtube. But, we were confident enough to purchase thousands of dollars worth of seed stock and "go big" our first year. And I'm proud to say it went nearly as planned. Probably 99% of all the cloves planted survived winter and sprouted. Of those, approximately 80% made it to seed quality (2" diameter bulbs), and that's even with planting the tiny cloves too. We planted, fertilized, and watered appropriately. Harvesting and curing were the most stressful times since much of it was subjective. We had to constantly watch the garlic everyday and make an educated guess when to harvest. When we hung the bulbs up to cure, we again had to make an educated guess on when they were dry enough. I'd say we were pretty close to optimum on both steps.
We're excited to get going in 2018. This season we'll have just a bit more planted. We felt we would keep roughly the same amount for our second year so we could perfect our growing methods before really expanding. The plan right now is to expand slightly in fall of 2018 and double in 2019. We can't see the future, but currently our long range goal is to have about 50,000 bulbs in the ground each year covering less than an acre. Once we get a couple needed pieces of equipment, we'll consider going larger.
We'll start advertising this years garlic around the May time frame. We'll have less available this year because we've ALREADY received commitments for some of our garlic for 2018. If you enjoy ordering garlic from national seed companies, there's a high likelihood you'll get some of our garlic with MULTIPLE major seed companies like High Mowing, Seed Savers and Baker Creek to name a few! And if you're a fan of The Country Store, located in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, you're likely to find our garlic there too!
We thought it was funny that our dining room was certified organic by WSDA, but it was and still is. We still grow our microgreens there under grow lights until our geothermal hoop house is up and running. We've slowly expanded our clientele this winter and we plan on trying out the Fairwood Farmers Market located at the northern end of Spokane in addition to the N.E.W. Farmers Market in Colville. Slowly but surely, microgreens are catching on!
As I stated before, this year has been completely hectic. At one point, we had so much going on, I had to write a reminder on my paper calendar to check my digital calendar! We have so many plans for this place and we've enjoyed immersing ourselves in so many projects that we ended up with very little leftover time, and I like leftover time. I like having time for doing absolutely nothing. Nothing planned for, nothing scheduled.....just nothing. Having nothing to do is healthy.
Our Icelandic chickens are nearly mature. It was fun watching the roosters grow up and trying to determine what their colors would be. We have nine roosters I believe and each one is stunning. They spend most of their winter days in the coop, but on sunny days they get outside and roam around. Funny, they'll only come out of the coop if I keep a nice manicured walkway for them. They won't walk on the snow unless they have to. Snobs.
We picked up a peacock from our neighbors not long ago. Our plan was to keep him in the coop with the chickens and the peahen and keep the coop door closed for a week or so. We wanted him to get accustomed to his new family and NOT run away. Well, on the second day, the coop door was opened accidentally and out went the peacock. His wings weren't clipped yet so he flew up into the forest. We thought he was gone, but he came back to the coop later on. The next day while I'm driving down our driveway about 1/2 mile away from the house, I rounded a corner and found the peacock blocking the snowy drive. I slowly nudged him along with my vehicle; he walked all the way back to the house, a half mile away, with me driving right behind him! Since then, he's settled in with the Icelandics and looks to be happy with his new home.
Our Jersey cow, Roz, is doing well. She's going to calf here in another two months or thereabouts. We've ironed out her feed and shelter needs and she seems content. Originally, we were going to just keep her in the back pasture with only natural shelter (tree overhangs), but we just didn't feel comfortable leaving her out there in the elements, especially with a calf on the way. After rearranging some equipment, I got her situated in one of the corral stalls to get her at least a little more comfortable.
After our article in The New Pioneer magazine, I figured my time writing was done. Nope. I have at least three more articles for The New Pioneer that will be published in upcoming issues. Additionally, a local newspaper called The Statesman has an upcoming new section that I'll be writing for...stay tuned for that this Spring! For not being a writer, I'm certainly finding lots of writing opportunities! Hopefully I'll be able to put some time aside this year to continue writing.
I hope everyone out there had a merry Christmas and a wonderful New Years! Look for another blog post in early spring!