Folks, it’s time for another set of year’s reflections! This year feels like it was full of more triumphs, which is pretty neat. As usual, let’s start with the Trials.
- Chicken mites. These little jerks continued to plague our chickens throughout the warmer months, despite multiple evacuations, tractor camping, and applications of everything from mite spray to essential oils to diatomaceous earth. As a result, our chickens laid fewer eggs over the summer (this was also in combination with the really hot weather, which other chicken owners said reduced their egg counts). Noodle has had especially lower egg counts, with times that we thought she’d stopped altogether.
- Chicken tractor. Well, the darned thing broke to the point where we’d need to replace a lot of the wood. It’s currently a stationary structure next to the permanent coop, and we’ll need a new one in the coming year to keep our little feathered lawnmowers working during the warm months. Sigh.
- Winter bed. I was so diligent this year in starting seeds and direct seeding radishes at the right times. I even got Toddler Homesteader to plant some seeds with me and help water! And to be fair, we did get to eat some of our winter greens and radishes (especially Toddler) before we got a freaky freak freeze in October that wiped out just about everything in the winter bed. Sigh again.
- Fewer peppers, okra, and tomatoes. While we did well starting and planting these guys, because of several factors – planting several different varieties of okra (some with decent yields, some without), weird summer weather, and having some issues with tomato rot – we got fewer than expected for preserving. This is a really mild “trial,” as we definitely got enough okra to make several meals, tomatoes for lots of sauces, and a decent number of hot peppers for pickling and saucing. We just didn’t get the bushels we’ve gotten in years past.
- Covid. 0/10, would not recommend. And I didn’t even have it that bad.
- Bumper blackberries. We had two full rows of blackberries, both early and late season varieties, that allowed me to make so much jam and jelly for both work and home preservation. I even got tired of picking gallons of the darned things, and offered blackberries to anyone I could find (including the chickens).
- Our peach tree produced so much good fruit after last year’s unplanned break. I made a lot of jam, salsa, and chutney, and got to share buckets with friends and family.
- New and prolific veggies. We planted an actual Three Sisters Bed (not a row, like silly Past Me), and managed to get two of those wily sisters to grow! We got enough corn to have some fun meals, as well as feed more than a few cobs to the chickens and share with friends and family, and I finally, FINALLY got my one homegrown candy roaster, woohoo! That pie was delightful, lemme tell you.
- Tons of volunteer crops. Hilariously, while we didn’t get as many tomatoes, we got a bunch of volunteer tomatillos from two years ago, as well as random cherry tomatoes, purslane, delicata squash, and borage, to name a few. That’s what we get for letting things go to seed and using our own compost, haha.
- Chickens. We got three new ladies – Kara-age, Schnitzel, and Nugget. It took them a few weeks to get integrated into the flock, and for a few weeks, I thought they’d end up being their own separate mini-flock. However, they’re all chonking around with each other, day after day, with nothing bad to report. Oh, and their egg production is way up now that the mites have gone into dormancy, so I’ll definitely be working on fixing that problem this winter.
- Orange Cat. We inherited a feral orange cat from our neighbors who moved, and since we’re very creative, we just call him Orange Cat. He keeps the varmints out of our veggie beds, and I’ve yet to see a dead bird, which keeps me happy. And worry not – the little furry bugger is neutered, so no random orange kittens for us.
- My parents moved nearby! This has been fabulous, in terms of hey, I get to see my parents more than once every few months, of raising my child (village and taking one to raise her, y’all), and of having the big holiday celebrations at home that I always wanted as a kid. I’m finally around a bunch of family and staying put, and it feels great.
- Toddler Homesteader. So many people want to tell me that toddlers are hard, oh man, you’ll miss having that baby who stays in one place, etc. And yes, sure, toddlers are hard – we still don’t get out as much (although we get out more now that she’s active), and good lord she’s a little firecracker when she’s awake. But she’s learning, and wanting to learn, and taking in so. Danged. Much. Every single day. We’re raising her to be better than we are in taking care of the Earth and those around her, in knowing how to do essential things like gardening and growing food, cooking for herself and others, caring for animals, maintaining a (somewhat) clean property, and just being a good human. And while she’s usually making more of a mess than cleaning it, or helping herself to cat and chicken food about as often as feeding it to the right animals, she’s still doing it, and she wants to help and be a part of what we do. It’s friggin’ magical.
Happy New Year, y’all, and may your 2023 be full of magic and bumper crops!