We’re all off of work and school this week, and are enjoying a lot of generally quiet family time: playing together, working on some projects, exploring new gifts, etc. We’ve also taken this opportunity to try to identify some of our larger goals for the coming year.
We’ve got an ambitious set of objectives for 2013, and no real fact-based reason to think we can necessarily get all of this done. Nonetheless, direction-setting is useful, and we don’t know that we can’t get all of this done.
So in no particular order, here’s what we want to do this year:
- Make the studio usable.
We’d like Amy to be able to photograph clients in Amy Jester Photography‘s new studio by the time it next gets too cold to be outside. This involves more demolition and likely some mold remediation in the basement, remodeling of the main shooting space, finishing restoring the heat to the “good side” (we’re largely done with that), and rebuilding the front entryway. On the administrative side of things there’s a Conditional Use Permit to finalize with the town and county. We don’t know yet what the state of the plumbing system is, but want to explore that more and see what’s involved in getting running water in the studio.
- Raise and process our first batch of broiler (meat) chickens.
Our current flock of layers should (once the new girls start laying in the next few weeks) give us plenty of eggs. When the snow melts and natural chicken food starts wriggling around the pasture again, we’d like to try to raise a batch of meat birds for the freezer. This will involve building a chicken tractor and defining some rotating pasture spaces, and learning to slaughter and process the birds.
- Move the laying flock to pasture.
While we’re at it with the meat birds, we’re going to move the layers to pasture for the non-winter months, as well. They’ll stay in a separate flock, but otherwise rotate in much the same way the meat birds will. At some point we want to move the winter coop over near the shed, but that’s not currently a 2013 project.
- Establish some outdoor photo shoot spaces.
The studio will be great for winter shoots and newborns, but part of the appeal of this property for us was its wealth of natural beauty, both for the purposes of our enjoyment and for photo settings. This year we’re going to identify a few of those areas so we can make them accessible (via path), cleaned up a bit (some fallen logs are picturesque, some not so much), and in some cases add accessories (e.g. benches and swings).
- Grade and cover crop the front garden.
Our front garden area is pretty much a scattering of weeds amongst the random tracks, holes, and dirt piles created just before closing. There are some established grape vines, a bit of mint, and some variety of walking garlic. And the leftovers of some lasagna gardening attempt from a number of years ago. We know there’s a lot to do here, but had more pressing priorities in the few weeks we were here before the frost, so don’t even have a clear idea of what we have to work with. We expect the soil needs help, so for this year intend to get a better idea of the status quo (via a soil test), take an initial crack at fixing the grading issues (basically just undoing the damage done by the back-hoe before closing), and plant a cover crop to help move the soil in the right direction. Fully getting the garden up and running will be a multi-year project.
- Start a perennial herb garden.
We’ve abandoned established herb gardens at each of the four houses we lived in prior to Willow Bend, and only moved in to one (at house #2). So here we are again. While we don’t yet know anything significant about the eventual garden design, we can at least get some everyday staples established and growing.
- Define some new paths and maintain current paths in the woods.
We generally like the paths that are already defined in the woods, though they’ll need maintenance throughout the year. We also want to extend some current paths that dead end abruptly, and define some new paths around the perimeter so we have more options for taking walks that don’t require the use of a machete.
- Start a vegetable garden.
In parallel with the first steps of our long term garden work (see above), we intend to grow a garden for this year’s use in part of the front garden space. Last year we gardened about 96 square feet in three raised beds, and are thinking we’ll shoot for about twice that this year, for onions, garlic, various greens, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, and peppers. We’ll probably double-dig a few beds for this year, with no concern for whether they’re part of our to-be-determined long-term plan. We’d also like to try some melons and squash (including pumpkins), since we’ve finally got room for them. Earlier in the year, we’ll finish building out the seed room in the basement with homemade warming mats and lights.
- Get goats.
We have an immediate interest in trying to use goats for brush clearing in the future pasture areas and in at least parts of the woods. We have a potential future interest in goats for meat and maybe for dairy. We intend to start with two goats this year (probably one wether and doeling). Nora really wants baby goats, so we’ll probably try to get them as young as is feasible. Research continues on this topic, but goats will drive some work converting the shed for winter shelter and smarter hay storage, and on fencing.
- Replace the floor in the main level guest room, furnish the lower level guest room.
This house has a somewhat silly surplus of bedrooms, and we generally keep the two guest rooms shut off with their heat vents closed. Still, we do have occasional use for them, and have a bit of work to do to so we could comfortably have two rooms full of guests at once. The upstairs guestroom has carpet that we suspect was fouled by the previous owners’ cats right before we moved in; we intend to pull this out and replace it with either a plywood flooring technique Amy found on Pinterest or some laminate. The lower level guest room needs furnishing, which we’ll grab from craigslist when the right thing comes by.
- Convert the upper sunroom into a dining room.
Our first project of 2013 will be to make the upper sunroom into a dining room. While our house is spacious, it doesn’t really have a separate dining room. (Well, the plans have a small room labeled “dining room”, but it’s too small for the way we’d want to use it, so we made it into a music room / library instead.) The upper sunroom, which has fantastic views of the woods, was dominated by a large (ancient) hot tub when we moved in. We gave it a try, but in the end decided the noise and energy consumption wasn’t worth an occasional soak, and that we didn’t want to dedicate this great space to a big hunk of fiberglass. So the hot tub is coming out (in pieces, since it’s bigger than any of the doors in the room), and we’ll make this room our dining room.
- Make the lower level sunroom basically usable.
The entire lower level was basically unfinished when we moved in. We got a basic start on the main area in 2012 with drywall and carpet, but the lower sunroom is still pretty bare. We’ll try to get it light fixtures and basic furnishing in 2012.
- Get to know the orchard, prune some trees, and hopefully get some fruit.
There are roughly a dozen fruit trees around the garden and pasture areas, none of which have been pruned in years. We’re not quite sure yet what we’re working with here (mostly apples and pears, one peach tree, and a mulberry tree, at least), so this year we’ll try to get a better handle on that, get some pruning done, and hopefully figure out how to get some fruit (a few fruited in 2012, so this should be achievable).
- Raise turkeys for Thanksgiving.
I love Thanksgiving. I really want to raise our turkeys.
- Get some outdoor cats.
Between the shed, the garage, and the chicken coop there is plenty to appeal to little rodents, and the kids like the ideas of a) having kittens, and b) having outdoor cats to accompany them on their adventures. So we’ll try to kill both birds (ahem) with one set of kittens.
- Split and cure firewood for next winter.
Boy, did we feel like chumps stocking up on a bit of for-emergency-use firewood at the convenience store when the December 2012 blizzard was on its way, given that we have acres of dense woods dominating our land. While I’d cleared a few nuisance trees late in fall, we didn’t have time to get organized firewood production going last year. We could take 10% of the already fallen trees and have plenty of firewood for next year, since we only occasionally use it (until we get a woodburning stove insert for the fireplace, which isn’t happening this year).
- Clear trees and shrubs around the house.
There really isn’t “landscaping” here in any traditional sense. We intend to remedy that through functional plantings over time, but in the immediate term have some basic scrub clearing around the house that needs to happen.
- Plant future christmas trees.
While it was awesome to patronize our neighbor’s christmas tree farm, it would be great to someday harvest our own tree. We’ll put some seedlings in the ground this year toward that eventual goal.
- Start perennial berries.
While we’re not yet sure exactly where all we’ll want them, we’re going to get at least some berries started this year, so their multi-year path to fruit production can start.
- Preserve whatever surplus harvest we have.
Hopefully we’ll have peppers and tomatoes and fruit to can and/or freeze for winter.
- Ben asked that I add a goal for him: he’d like to learn some carpentry this year. He got a starter tool set from his grandparents, and wants to develop some skills building with wood.
And that’s it! 🙂 That’s what we’ll squeeze in in the gaps between school, my more-than-full-time job, and Amy’s business.