ANZ's Farms

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Refining the Homestead

I picked these this morning. I wish you could smell their heady fragrance. Let your imagination go and enjoy them as we visit ...

As the duties of summer wind down and I have a little more time on my hands, my thoughts turn to the big picture of our homestead. Instead of being caught up in the busy-ness of the day, I am taking a step back to evaluate the overall layout and function of what we have. What has worked well -- How do I keep it working well and should I increase it? What has not worked well -- How should I modify it or should I just start over with something new? Are we using our home and acre to its fullest potential? If not, what is lacking that we should add? What needs are not currently being met?

Thinking of our homestead in "zones" helps me organize my thoughts and make logical plans. The zones are:

The House Zone, the half-acre with the house, driveway and garage, which includes the traditional front lawn; butterfly- and bee-friendly flower gardens; ornamental bushes like azaleas, hydrangea, roses and gardenias; and the screened porch, patio and backyard area where we enjoy outdoor meals and entertaining.

Scott took a day to aerate, seed and fertilize the lawn. We are watering regularly with our nifty John Deer sprinklers. Thank goodness we are on a well and don't have to abide by city water restrictions! We like having some lawn (as opposed to planting 100% of the soil) for normalcy, croquet games and goat grazing.

It's time to build the fireplace we have talked about since our first winter in this house. When our house was moved 3 blocks down the road to its current location, the chimneys had to be removed. We have holes where the fireplaces used to be; they serve no purpose except to collect knick-knacks that need dusting (see pic). Our debate has centered on gas vs. wood-burning vs. wood stove. Originally, I thought I wanted a gas log fireplace. A push of the remote seemed the way to go for the over-50 crowd. This choice would require getting an LP tank and running lines under the driveway to the house. Scratch that -- the cost and trouble are prohibitive. Then we investigated an old-fashioned looking, country-farmhouse charming wood stove ... and learned homeowner's insurance companies frown on wood stoves by charging very high rates, if you can get coverage at all! So wood burning fireplace it is. Now to figure out where to put the wood pile. This is definitely on our to-do list before winter sets in.

I would love to pave our driveway or, at the very least, make distinct borders and bring in more gravel. But on this my husband and I do not agree. He wins. So I consoled myself with a splurge of several plants to beautify the cottage garden by the front walk.
The Chicken Zone. We are wondering if our girls need more sun on their area, if this would create a healthier environment for them. The shade seemed great this summer when it was so hot, but their illness may be a down side we did not foresee. Read on to see what we are planning for them.

The Garden Zone. I want more garden space. My 15' x 60' raised bed area is so crowded. More space is one strategy to becoming a more disciplined gardener. We have spent hours brainstorming and exploring options for the 32' x 60' space I have persuaded my husband to add. Telephone poles vs. 2x8's, fencing to keep the bunnies and critters from eating my seedlings next season, layout ... so many decisions. Today's plan is to go ahead and build a perimeter fence, making an area in which the chickens live for the winter. They will be in the full sun with a new coop and a designated shady area. In turn for the trouble of a new coop, they will help us by scratching up the ground where the new garden will go. Other decisions will need to be made soon, but not today.

I need to spend time reviewing this year's crops, especially the herbs. There is alot of room for improvement here! And successes I hope to repeat.

The Fruit and Nuts Zone. Up until now, this zone has included only 5 fruit trees and several grape vines, all of which are still too young to offer much in the way of harvest. But this zone is growing! I planted two blueberry bushes by the hay shed, and two raspberry and two thornless blackberry bushes up around the grape vines. I'm excited about adding berries to the homestead. We also added a Brown Turkey fig tree, a decision I made after tasting a fresh fig from a friend's tree. Two pecan trees are in pots awaiting planting. We have a tree surgeon coming within the month to take down a couple of trees to make room for the pecans. You know you should always plant pecan trees in pairs, as they need each other for pollination. It will be years before they produce pecans, but this zone holds great promise for the future.

The Goat Zone. I'm happy with the goat zone. We will spend the winter growing babies and have the nursery ready by February.  The only possible modification would be to extend the fence along the front to provide greater protection from the road when I let them out to graze and browse.

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