Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015 Review (and 2016 Goals)

One of the best parts about having a blog is that there's a definite record of what we get done around the homestead.  And the turn of the calendar is a great opportunity to look back and compare what we wanted to get done with what we actually got done, and revise the plan for the coming year.

Last January, we wrote down four main goals we wanted to accomplish:
  1. Finish our butcher block kitchen counter top and cabinet
  2. Expand the garden
  3. Raise more bugs for chicken food
  4. Do more foraging
How did we do?  We're pleased to report that #2 gets a big check mark.  We hit our target for growing space and pulled in more than 150 lbs of vegetables, which was enough to make a significant difference in the amount of veggies we would have had to buy.  The expanded garden also gave us a chance to do more experimenting with green tomato dishes, which are becoming more and more popular among household correspondents.

We could have probably broken 200 lbs if it weren't for misbehaving chickens and squirrels!  On the plus side, the chicken feed bill must have been a little lower.

We definitely prioritized the garden, and (possibly as a result) ended up a little short of our initial expectations on the other three.  But let's paint that in a more positive light. :-)

Instead of permanently finishing the the butcher block counter top and shelves, we spent the year testing them in beta mode.  And, it turns out that they're exactly what we need in our kitchen.  So now, we can feel much more confident about finishing them off without risking that we'll want to change the design later on.  Really, we should have made it a 2016 goal to begin with!  We were so young and foolish last January.  Keep an eye out for another post on that soon.

The butcher block counter as it appeared last winter.  It looks different now.  Hang tight--we'll fill you in in a few days!

As far as raising specific bugs for chicken food, we became less enamored with that when we started reading about Karl Hammer's compost operation up in Vermont.  He's got an amazing setup in which he mixes manure and straw and lets it sit until the mixture cools off a little, then adds it to a another mixture of food scraps.  The whole mess is scratched through (i.e., aerated) by chickens, who eat the bugs in the compost, as well as anything else in the mix that catches their eye.  The compost stays warm enough through the Vermont winter to support the chickens year-round.  So ultimately, Karl gets his chicken feed for the price of hauling it, free aeration of his compost, and dozens of eggs every week to boot.  On top of that, he keeps all that food waste out of the landfill and all that manure from creating polluted runoff.  It's brilliant.  So for us, instead of growing a few worms and black soldier fly larvae, we want to do what Karl does, but on a back yard scale.  That's going to be our #1 priority for this year.

On the foraging, we were moderately successful.  We didn't get out of the yard too much, but we did manage to catch a fish (even if it was catch and release, and too small to keep anyway).  And in the yard, we did some experimenting with the weeds, and learned how their nutrition stacks up to some cultivated veggies.  We'll still look to expand on this one in 2016 (in particular, procuring more wild meat), but we can give it at least a little check mark for now.

Look at that lunker!

Ok, then, time to write down the 2016 goals. (Yes, they look a lot like the 2015 goals that we didn't complete to our expectations.  Focus and finish, right?) 

1. Build a compost-making, chicken-feeding device that's large enough to a) stay warm through the winter and b) cover most of the feed demand of the chickens.
2. Finish that counter top.
3. Bring home wild meat to eat! (grunt grunt.)

Lastly, a goal that isn't specifically homesteading related, but we want to tweak the layout and operation of this blog a bit.  So don't be surprised if there are a few changes in the coming weeks.  Some changes you might have already noticed, like fewer distracting AdSense ads in the side bars. We're always aiming to give you the best reading experience possible, so we're definitely keen on getting feedback from readers.  Feel free to chime in if you have been wishing for a widget we don't currently have!

What do you want to get done on your homestead in 2016?  Any ideas to improve the blog readability?  Let us know in the comments section below!


  1. Sounds like good and noble goals! And don't forget you added a few additional projects for 2015 that weren't on the original list. Good luck in 2016!

  2. Sounds like good and noble goals! And don't forget you added a few additional projects for 2015 that weren't on the original list. Good luck in 2016!

    1. Yep, there were definitely a few other things that popped up through the course of the year. :-)

  3. I have to say that when I first saw that Geoff Lawton video, it was a real revelation. It totally changed our composting system, and I have to say compost has been much easier to manage, the chickens are happier, and we've been amazed at how much quicker it works with their assistance.

    Also, I'm a big fan of living with house changes for awhile before making them permanent. It really helps, doesn't it?

    1. Yes! It tends to be the natural flow around here that once something is functional, work on it stops for quite a while. But the finishing always seems to be the most tedious part, so if we want to make changes, we figure we should make them before doing the finishing!

      I've seen pictures of your compost-chicken system on your blog, and that's kind of the design I have in my head for our place. But I was envisioning that it would have to be larger to provide all of our chickens' nutrition. Have you kept any records on how much your feed consumption decreased when you implemented the compost pile feeder?