Homestead Goals 2014

As the snow starts to melt and “break-up” is looming, I start to realize how much freaking work we have in the months ahead. It’s always easier to see the hard work when the beautiful winter wonderland turns into mud soup. Break-up is what us Northerners like to call spring. It’s when the earth begins to weep and we subsequently get to wear muck boots 24/7 and never wash our cars. Where the world smells perpetually like dog poop and you forget why you even wished for summer for a couple of very long and drawn out weeks. But usually, once May hits, it becomes worth it. Although the swearing and the mud wearing that break-up commands may make one lose total faith in, well, everything. So for now, I will post this very lush, green photo of what is to come so I can find the strength to go on…

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Ah…. that’s better… Now where was I…

This, ahem, “spring” has us looking forward to a trip to the Caribbean with my family and a sh*t.ton.of.work. In January we sat down and started a list of our goals for this year on the homestead. I say “started” a list because we seem to be adding things to it daily and it continues to grow. We honestly tried to keep it short, but easier said than done. The Caribbean will be a wonderful break, but comes at an awkward time as we will be getting a shipment of chicks in the week after. It’s kind of hard to find someone to babysit 25 chicks when there are no eggs to trade. So we’ll be a little late in starting that game, but for the Caribbean after a long northern winter, I’ll do just about anything.

Our main goal is to begin our 50 year plan on a series of maps we’re having drawn up. This will be our mother plan and help get all of our hopes, wants, wishes and dreams onto one or two large pieces of paper. This will allow us to mindfully plan out where things will go so that we create a working piece of land for our children and our children’s children to enjoy. And hopefully cut down on having to move anything when we decide it is a better fit somewhere else. Also, it makes us seem like we really have our sh*t together, eh? (practicing my Canadian accent, coming along nicely I believe.)

This is where we will include our future house build site, alternative energy sources, greenhouses, other livestock areas, future gardens, a Christmas tree farm, etc…. just to name a few things we’ve thrown out there. Below is a photo of my inspiration plan from a book called The Back to Basics Handbook by Abigail R. Gehring. We have A LOT of books on all of this stuff, because y’know, that will somehow make it easier in real life practice… either that or give me a totally false sense of security… I’ll report back.

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Below is the parent list of our goals for 2014. In the following posts, I will try and highlight some of the projects and go over our goals for each one, as each project of course has more work to it than meets the eye. I should be getting used to that I think. This blog is a way for us to not only entertain our friends and family, but also to document our first few years on the farm and to keep as a kind of farm journal. Since I have basically no idea what I am doing, I have a feeling the entertainment aspect will grow as time goes on. But hey, onward and upward!

2014 Homestead Goals:

  • Install workable gates throughout property fences
  • Clear trees & debris in horse pasture, secure fences (40 acres)
  • Build horse corrals & tack shed, move in horses, give them treats and scratch their ears
  • Build chicken coop, raise 25 chicks & figure out what to do with all the roosters at a later date
  • Build compost areas, figure out how to keep Wyatt out of compost areas
  • Landscaping: Lawn, perennial flower beds, fire pit area, figure out how to keep Wyatt out of the growing lawn area
  • Finish cabin for guests, entertain said guests
  • Build garden/orchard fence: 1 acre of 8 foot elk/deer fence
  • Plant garden: Include raised beds, permaculture design principles, sheet mulch beds, hugelkultur beds
  • Install orchard: Northern hardy varieties of apple, pear, plum, apricot, cherry and variety of fruit and nut bushes
  • Plan and install garden watering system
  • Continue to improve and upgrade the farm road
  • Install clothesline
  • Paint and finish power shed
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Future garden site
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Guest cabin
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Lawn, flower bed and fire pit site (and Maynard)

Whew…. good lord, now that’s a lot of work! Not saying we will finish it all, but it’s better to have more goals than none. I must say, it’s a very good thing we don’t have TV 🙂

If you had the chance to own 160 acres of raw land, what would you do the first year?

~Katy

In the beginning…

We started on this homesteading journey the first day Husband and I met. Our conversation led to the ideas of owning critters, growing our own food and we talked and talked about living a more simple life and getting back to the land and to nature. Pretty hot first date, huh? These were things I always thought, but never really envisioned happening, at least not in my next five year plan. I am a goal setter, and each year, I write down my goals and always have a five year plan. I think it’s important to put things out into the universe, otherwise, how will the universe respond? It sounds kind of New Age but seriously, in 2009 before I met Husband, one of my goals was to “Own my own house with a BIG backyard”, written exactly as that. Here I am 5 years later with my own house and the biggest backyard I could have imagined. So think what you will.

On our wedding day, his parents gifted us 160 acres of raw land on the Peace River in British Columbia (YES!). It was, and still is, being farmed by a local farmer, but only in the fields and we were excited to dream up all of the possibilities. Of course, reality butted in and after many nights of list making, dreaming and talks with the bank, we realized what a huge undertaking this was going to be. Not only did we have zero utilities, we barely had a workable road in. We also had to deal with a mess of immigration to get me legal. So we decided to find Husband a job and send him first, in the spring, and then I would follow in the fall regardless of my immigration status. We’d just have to deal with it. Our entire relationship was built on long stints of time apart, so we knew it would be hard, but we could most definitely do it. Husband left Alaska in April of 2013 with a truck full of belongings and my first born dog, Wyatt. Honestly, I think it was harder to say goodbye to Wyatt. We had never been apart. But I sent them down the road and embarked on one of the most epic summers I have ever experienced in Alaska. Husband embarked on one of the hardest working summers he had ever experienced.

Working a full time job and preparing land for a home is no easy task. Good thing Husband is such a “doer”. He loves to be busy and loves to work hard. Did I luck out or what? Our modular home was put on order to build after we secured the construction loan. It is true when they tell you that everything will take longer and be more expensive than you think, but we worked on our patience and our communication skills, a lot… Some of the things we had to contract out, but we tried (with help from family and friends) to do most of it ourselves. Not only for the cost savings, but because we really wanted to learn through this process and be a part of our homestead journey.

Here’s our list of what we accomplished in our first summer, 2013:

  • Upgrade farm road and add ditches
  • Fence all 160 acres with barb wire fencing
  • Clear, add gravel & compact house pad site
  • Drive piles for house to sit on
  • Dig and install well
  • Dig septic tank and have installed
  • Install propane tank
  • Clear and mulch trees for power line
  • Receive house and hook up gas, water & sewer
  • Build stairs front/back & large deck
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Father-in-law & brother-in-law fencing our acreage
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Our beautiful fence line
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Driving piles
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Compacting in my skirt and work boots
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Learning new skills
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Our helper
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It’s not glamorous, but somebody has to do it
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Digging for the septic tank
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Wyatt loves machines… and his Dad
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The house has arrived!
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Putting it on the piles
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Deck work

            

So, after an exhausting couple of months, our house was delivered. We didn’t get power until October (remember, everything takes twice as long as they tell you) and moved in November 2013. Not too shabby of a start to this wild and grand adventure! Now the fun part begins… our homesteading goals for 2014.

~Katy

Our Wild Horses

Husband and I took a trip with his father to feed our wild horse herd. After a 3 hour drive to our grazing lease, we were hoping to easily locate the groups. It was a cold day of -20F (ugh), but beautiful and sunny. The hay was loaded high on the trailer and the bag of oats were waiting as a bribe. Since the horses live without human contact for most of their lives, it’s not always guaranteed we’ll find them, but this day we were lucky. As we drove onto the lease, we found a large group of about 20 horses sunning themselves in a large field. A beautiful sight of fat and sassy well-wintered horses. This group was an especially welcome sight as  father in law hadn’t located them in awhile. They were all eager at the sight of the truck and even more excited about the oats. Maybe not so wild after all? It’s amazing to me that this is my life and I sometimes just stand there open mouthed in awe. Which is decidedly awkward for all involved, but hey, I’m getting better okay 🙂 Horses are such gorgeous animals and to see them in a large herd in the wild is kind of a cool thing. Definitely not something I thought I’d get to see let alone deal with on a daily basis. But life is funny like that, and I do like to laugh.

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So where did these wonderful creatures come from and how did we end up with them? Well I lucked out in the marriage department as they are a result of my father in law’s old rodeo stock and outfitting pack horse stock. Our family used to provide rodeo’s with bucking horses and after they got out of that business, the remaining horses were released onto a grazing lease along with some mountain horse stock from the family outfitting business about 10-15 years ago. Now we have a hearty herd of wild horses with one remaining Tuchodi mare who they estimate to be about 30 years old (the white horse in the photos). She is the only one branded and the only one whose been ridden. Never thought I’d be in the business of breaking horses… I think maybe I’ll be the supervisor and ensure there is plenty of lemonade.
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 There seem to be 2 main stud groups across the river grazing, a pale face pinto stud and a blue roan stud. The blue roan stud group is who we found and most of the mares look pregnant which means babies to look forward to this spring. We estimate the total count between 45-50 horses, so we will have our hands full this summer when we bring them over the river to our property and start managing them.  Managing them will include branding, gelding, breaking and introducing a new stud into the mare group which will be released back onto the grazing lease next fall. Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about it. This is all quite new to me and I had to ask husband to check the above terms twice to make sure I sound like I know what I’m talking about. I think I nailed it. I look forward to learning and laughing and BABY HORSES!!  There will be plenty to do, but hopefully we have the resources and large men to help do it. I guess that’s the beauty of marrying a cowboy!
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Springtime will bring the building of corrals, the clearing of pasture and reinforcing fences. Then we have to trap them, get them in a trailer and teach them some manners. All sounds easier said than done in my book, but hey, that’s what this adventure is for. Plus, I’ve waited 32 years for a horse of my very own… so why not start with 50… I was never one to half ass anything.
~Katy
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