The countdown clock on 2022 is quickly running out and I find myself wide awake well before 5 am with a myriad of thoughts churning through my brain. This has always been an introspective time of year for me; when I go over the previous 12 months and try to figure out what I did right, what I did wrong and plan out where I want to steer the next 12 months of my life.
After the turmoil of the last 5 years (my mom died, Dad had a catastrophic stroke, my first house went into foreclosure, bankruptcy, a 1000 mile move across the country, divorce, another 1000 mile move back home, a worldwide pandemic and lockdowns, car repossession, anxiety and depression, etc...) 2022 wasn't so bad. This past year for me was a relatively quiet, slow growth year.
When I look back a year ago, I have to laugh at all the plans I made for this year. I was a bit naive in thinking that I could create a website, begin a blog, plant a few seeds and viola! Successful homestead business. Watching YouTube videos and reading a few blogs does not automatically put one on the same level as other content creators. I admit that I began the year with good intentions, but I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist and there are so many things I just never even started since the chance for failure was too great or the timing or resources just weren't "perfect".
What did I do right in 2022?
I planted a serious garden. I took the time this past spring to start seeds inside. I did my best to plan out an actual garden plot and fortified my fencing around the garden to help ward off pests.
I was diligent about weeding. I was intentional about what I planted and where. I read books, articles, blogs and consumed hours of YouTube content dedicated to gardening, permaculture and growing and preserving home grown produce. I learned a lot.
I was rewarded for my diligence with a bit of homegrown, organic produce. Nowhere near enough to live off of. It's a joke to even entertain the notion of being self sufficient with what I produced this year, but I started. And that's a huge win in my book!
I fought, and lost, the battle of the garden against powdery mildew (RIP sugar baby water melons), aphids (I'm really sorry sweet corn), horn worms (they apparently love tomatoes just as much as I do), and Japanese Beetles (I'm not meant to have roses and who knew they destroyed sunflowers as well?). My potatoes rotted in the ground because I planted them in a low spot with poor drainage. I learned that most beans will need some type of support even if the seed package doesn't mention it and that gardening and growing one's own food, while fun and great for both mind and body, is hard work and is at times extremely frustrating.
For 2023 my garden will be a bit different. For starters, I've taken the lessons that I've learned these last 12 months to heart and have decided to move the entire garden to the opposite side of the property. The property slopes downhill from east to west and putting the garden on the east side will bring my plants to the high ground which will help with some of the poor drainage issues I had. Also, placing the garden on the east side will give my plants better access to the first rays of morning sun which I'm hoping will allow them to dry faster from the morning dew and prevent at least some of the powdery mildew I battled last summer.
About a month ago, I spread all of the seed packets I had out onto the kitchen table and read the backs to find out the ideal planting times. Depending on which website I use, I'm in gardening zone 6b - 7a. I made a sort of calendar of when I need to start seeds inside, transplant seedlings and direct sow different crops. I'm fairly confident that this will be a huge help for me since last year I struggled with when to plant things and I ended up spending money on seedlings at garden centers when I failed to get seeds started early enough.
I'm excited for the 2023 growing season! I'm hoping for more success and to be able to produce enough food to try my hand at preserving some produce as well as having enough extra to supplement my chicken feed. Which brings me to the second thing I did right in 2022:
I expanded my chicken flock. Back in January, I ordered 25 chicks from a big, well-known hatchery and also began incubating eggs from my own Orpington flock of chickens. I had 3 Lavender Orpington hens, 3 Buff Orpington hens and 1 Lavender Orpington rooster. Somehow I got the timing perfect and I hatched 2 Lavender Orpington chicks in my tiny incubator and a day later my 25 chicks from the hatchery arrived! Having all of the chicks the same age made brooding and raising them together super easy. I'm not trying to become a crazy chicken lady, but having new young chickens laying as my year old ones were getting ready to molt kept egg production this fall and early winter pretty consistent. While I've been reading Face Book posts of chicken owners who haven't gotten a single egg in months from their flock, I'm consistently getting at least a dozen a day, usually more!
Since I added a couple different breeds of chickens to my flock, I also get to look forward to different colored eggs as well as different production schedules. I ordered a couple of chickens that are high production hybrids to guarantee that I would always have some eggs even if my heritage breeds slow down during the shorter days of winter.
One of my original chickens, a Buff Orpington hen that I call Sydney, surprised me the last week of October by hatching out some eggs! While I don't really need more chickens, and I wasn't trying to create a backyard mixed-breed flock, I am delighted to learn that I truly have a sustainable flock of chickens. These babies should begin laying in March or April and will add to the egg bounty and I can expect Syd to go broody again and perhaps hatch out more chicks for me.
Plans this year include building another chicken coop so that I can separate some of my pure breed birds and get some fertile eggs for incubating or putting under Syd if she goes broody again. The plan is to eventually sell my own home grown chicks and fertile eggs.
Unfortunately, this next year promises to be an expensive one for my family. In addition to inflation wreaking havoc on the prices of everything, we have some expensive home repairs that cannot be put off any longer; our well pump is old and failing and will be replaced in March (estimated cost is a bit over $3k), and our chimney liner is cracked and needs to be replaced so that heating our home with the wood stove doesn't cause a chimney fire (the estimate for that was also about $3k). We also have two young cats who will be spayed the first week of the New Year and that bill will run us just over a thousand dollars when it's all said and done. Ugh!
Frugality will be the theme for 2023. My goal for this blog is to document some of the ways that we find to save money in our day to day as well as ways we can come up with to make a bit of extra. Since now is the time to make New Year's Resolutions, I'll go ahead and say that mine is to be more consistent with this blog. I need to stop worrying that each post isn't perfect and just write for myself and not worry whether or not anyone is reading it. I resolve to do what I can with what I have and focus on the fact that just the act of doing is what is important.
Happy New Year!! Be safe. Be Healthy. Be Happy!