1. Getting the water issue with my house fixed and generally getting the house cute and live-able. Though there are still a number of improvements to make.
2. Getting a fairly significant amount of first-round fencing done, though the pasture is still not securely fenced for things like dogs, chickens or intrepid sheep or pigs. Ie: everything except cows or really dumb horses (my neighbor's horses have figured out ways to get onto my side in the past, although that's stopped with the new fencing that runs up one portion of the pasture).
3. Raising 10 chickens and 1 rooster and getting a fairly simple moveable-ish coop and electric netting and solar charger. Still waiting on the first egg though. Any day now I think...now that the days are getting slightly longer.
So. What's next?
I knew from the start that I was going to hold off on really getting into livestock until I had more fencing in place. I also knew I was going to start out small, and perhaps never grow particularly big. Enough sheep/pigs to keep me in meat, and with enough extra to maybe cover some of the feeding costs. My overall idea is to have a flock of sheep for meat/skin production, a rotating bunch of chickens and pigs once a year. I see the potential for an extra boost of $$ in the skins, though I haven't run a single business model or numbers simulation to actually know the veracity of my intended idea. No matter.
So, lately, I've been thinking concurrently about the following:
1. Where I would put an initially small group of sheep. My old barn is not particularly large, but could provide shelter to ~5-7 sheep in inclement weather/during lambing. But I'd like to extend it. This would a) allow for a larger number of sheep to be sheltered while b) providing a place for me to store hay and grain out of the elements.
1a. But if I plan to breed my own flock, I will need a separate enclosure for much of the year for a ram/wether duo. The barn is situated in a way that it would not be easy to keep the guys and gals separated without a lot of extra permanent fencing. Or at least sturdy panels of some kind. I think for the pasture I'd be looking at some kind of basic 'lean to' that they could use to get out of the wind/snow/rain when appropriate. But the kind that is portable so I could rotate their grazing area at least once a week, maybe more.
1b. So in addition to the 'where the hay goes' and 'where the boys are' considerations. There is also the question of breed. My inclination is a cross-breed. I've worked mostly with Icelandics, Shetlands and E. FriesianxLacaunes. Icelandics have fairly lovely fleece variations and are a more moderately sized animal. Shetlands also have nice fleece colors but are quite small in my memory. Friesian/Lacaunes are generally larger but I've been able to handle them in the past - though those were purely dairy sheep accustomed to a lot of handling on a daily basis. I'm beginning to get interested in the possibility of cross breeding Icelandics and Friesians...this would hopefully result in larger cuts of meat while retaining the more interesting variation of colors in fleeces (think grays and blacks and browns along with whites and silvers). What I need to keep in mind is that when you cross-breed you have to make sure that you're not going to breed a much bigger breed with a smaller one and thus potentially make lambing very difficult on the ewes. I've begun doing research, and I see a few examples of such a cross, but it doesn't seem to be super popular. Either that makes me a genius or a fool. Or inept at research. Take your pick.
2. I do hope to get ewe lambs this spring. But that would basically mean I would be feeding them til fall when I could breed them. Which I guess means I could start with just, like, three ewes and wait on a ram til closer to the fall. Giving me more time to set up infrastructure.
3. What infrastructure you ask? Well I think I'd like to dig and find my water line closer to the barn and add a frost-proof "hydrant" or spigot, so I could get water to animals in that portion of the property more easily. Ie: without running 100 ft + of hose from the house (which is already what I do for the garden). I am also hoping the fencing folks who did my first big parcel can come back and do the pasture. Ultimately I'd like to get water to the pasture too. The other day I walked up to my reservoir/spring box, and there is a steady overflow of water when the reservoir is full (sure, if I take a shower and do laundry it might dip a little, but I think I rarely make a dent in the reservoir's fullness now that the broken pipe is fixed).
4. Garden you say? So my first year was a fairly successful attempt. I got plenty of tomatoes, though I'll make changes to which varieties I plant. I went so hard on weird heirloom breeds, I didn't have as many just lovely slicers as I would have really enjoyed. Watermelons and cantaloupes too (cantaloupes from seed, watermelons from starter plants). Pests or blight demolished my cucumbers before they were really done producing, but I think I'll just be more diligent about neem oil this year, and maybe plant a 'distracting patch' of squash to lure squash and potato beetles away from the things I care about. I care not one whit about squash. Squash can squash it if you know what I mean. I also plan on at least doubling the number of zinnias and other flowers I plant both in the garden and around the yard. I've added peonies all around the deck and along one section of driveway, but they were transplants from my godmother, and experienced the trauma of a shit ton of heat from a fire, so I don't know how well they'll do, at least in year one of transplantation. Dahlias were a lovely surprise for me, having never grown them myself. Now all my tubers are in a box with wood shavings, awaiting spring.
5. Well I'm losing any sense of logic in my progression of numbers here, but, soldiering on: I'd also like to get some piggies. I've got plenty of woods for them to root around in...the question is a) how would I get water to them and b) how would I keep them in place. If relying on solar powered fencing, I think the juice wouldn't be nearly consistent enough with all the wood shade, and I feel like running electricity out to the woods would be inordinately expensive (even if, ultimately, I do want to build a tiny house in the woods and a bigger house on the knob, so that expense will have to be addressed at some point). So what I really need to figure out is how to figure out enclosures that don't rely on power, but that are strong enough that the pigs can't dig underneath and then escape. We don't want feral hogs. We want tasty contained future bacon. (These are not my piggies, but they are piglets I actually got to meet).
6. So maybe it's a matter of having the fencing people do the pasture, but also a section of the woods. I like the idea of putting pigs out on pasture, but that would be a rotational system that will take more time for me to put together. I've put photos in this to make it seem less text-heavy. But then I didn't really think about where to put them. So here you have a random Praying Mantis. You are welcome.
7. I also have been thinking about getting a batch of meat birds. Delawares specifically. They're a little different from the Red Ranger Cornish crosses most folks seem to favor around here, which of course makes them interesting to me. I don't know why, but I've never been particularly smitten with red/white birds. Delawares probably aren't as profitable or efficient. They are ready to be processed in ~ 13 weeks, which is a little longer than those aforementioned breeds. But I'd need a secondary coop/tractor. The one I paid a guy to make wasn't overly expensive, but it's not large enough for more than the 11 birds I have. I was thinking 15-20 meat birds, so a larger coop would be necessary. I do plan on buying more electric poultry fencing, and could possibly put both coops in the same fenced in area (once the new birds were of comparable size to the existing laying flock). Portable electric fencing ain't cheap. I'm already planning on getting a second charger and sheep fencing, which is $600+ and not enough footage without buying another bundle or two. The thing is, these are things I will need forever, so the upfront costs are unavoidable.
8. With all this hypothetical butchering, I also need to be setting up some extra freezers. I do have a plan for this. My shed is located close to the house and does have power, so my hope is to put in a concrete/cement (I can never remember) floor this spring and put at least one freezer in there to start.
9. When I do get animals out on the pasture/farther away from where their feed supplies would be, I'll need a mode of transport. I looked at an incredibly used tractor last week. It was a baby Kubota, which is the only brand of tractor I've ever driven, thus my preferred brand from lack of experience. It was old, overworked and had 2000+ hours on it and they were asking $7K!! I politely declined. But I do need some kind of vehicle that can help with certain tasks. I see-saw back and forth between a tractor or an ATV with a solid rear hitch. Honestly the ATV would probably suffice - I could haul grain/hay/water fairly easily with it (I used one for those very reasons back in Ellensburg and it did the trick). I also really would like to get a truck. This is both from a domestic and agricultural POV. The few last pieces of furniture I'd like to get in my life are some kind of sideboard for the living room, a linen chest for the bedroom, and maybe better coffee tables. All of which would entail a larger vehicle than the one I have to collect from wherever I might find them (I'm thinking older/used over fresh and shiny). And while yes, I'm sure if I asked real nicely one of the folks I've gotten to know here who have trucks would be willing to help, I am strangely reluctant to ask. Also, while I may slaughter my own chickens for home use, I would be going to a processing plant for the sheep or pigs, which means I'd need to haul them. Now, somehow this is different to me, and something I could potentially ask others for help with. Either borrowing just a trailer or a truck or both maybe. But ultimately, having a truck is a goal for 2021.
10. Other goals. Livestock Guardian Dogs. Eventually I'd like to get two, as they work best in a team. I worry that I wouldn't train them effectively. Though if they're properly bred it's in their genetics to stay with the animals they are charged to protect. I just remember these two brother Pyrenees back in NY...they spend more time escaping whatever pasture or pen they were in than protecting sheep. But if the fencing is done well, they shouldn't stray from the territory they've been taught to prowl.
11. I keep meaning to get an accountant. As a self-employed/freelance worker, I always feel like there may be some way that I could be doing my taxes better. And if I have the goal of trying to make even a spot of money from all this farm stuff, I really need to learn about how to separate my personal income from farm income, and how I can write things off. It gets confusing to me - like if I use my personal money to buy fencing, can that be a farm write-off? Do I have to become an actual LLC or some shit to be legit?
12. Of almost no importance: the logo/design for the whole thing. I decided a good six years ago that my farm/homestead would be called "Keep it Together Farm." That is, indeed, a Bowfinger reference as well as my life philosophy. So at some point I'd like some signage but that's more vanity that usefulness.