The two farm events I both anticipated most and worried about most last year was the birth of our first calves last spring. Happily, everything proceeded perfectly, and we have had constant joy watching Jitterbug and Lindyhop grow from adorable, frolicking calves into a gentle heifer and a sturdy little steer.
Being the person responsible for cattle-tending, I would also list two cow-related items as invaluable farm improvements in 2011: Getting the bucket milker so I don't have to milk by hand and installing the cow fountain so I don't have to carry heavy water buckets in winter or haul hoses in summer. My hands and back are so relieved.
Last year was our first summer without our daughters on the farm and we were pretty concerned about being able to keep up with everything without their assistance. But then, Bethany and Brendan happened along, two enthusiastic young people who wanted to learn absolutely everything they could about growing food. Thanks in great part to their contributions, the garden was beautiful and productive, the Farmers market was a great success, the animals were always fed/milked/tended promptly, and heaps of produce were preserved for winter.
In May, we finished remodeling the Granary and opened a little Farm Store in it this summer. That last sentence makes it sound simple, but it involved wiring the building for electricity, installing windows and floors, getting a conditional use permit from the township board, acquiring display cases, inventory, and a cash register, and advertising that we exist. Nearly every Sunday afternoon all summer we had live music and families hung out and enjoyed the farm. One weekend, we held a celebration honoring our bovines, a Cow Puja.
Although we didn't raise special meat chickens this year, our laying flock expanded to over 60 (including a few too many roosters who ultimately became meat chickens and several pet banties.) We raised nine turkeys, three guinea keets hatched form eggs laid by the adult guineas, and two Pekin ducks. We lost NO poultry to owls.
We expanded our beekeeping efforts to include two Warre hives, plus the original Langstroth hive. In the fall, we had our first successful honey harvest, over 75 pounds of pure, golden sweetness. Rog made some of it into mead, which will be ready to enjoy next winter.
Perhaps our most ambitious project was the high tunnel greenhouse for extended season growing. We are indebted to friends and our interns who helped us erect the frame on Labor Day and especially to Chad who returned many days to help complete it. The high tunnel bounty has exceeded our wildest veggie expectations--we are still harvesting amazing greens in January in Minnesota!
Our solar panels began producing electricity one year ago. Curt, the installer, calculated they would produce 10,700 kWh per year, with slight variation depending upon weather. Rog read the inverter one year and 3 days after the system went online, and it had produced 10,700 kWh to date, precisely as predicted!
It is always surprising and rewarding to look back on an entire year and realize how much you accomplished. Day to day, when the To Do list is so long and things aren't getting crossed off as fast as they are getting added, it doesn't seem like much. But it adds up! And these are just the highlights, not including the minor things - like making lip balm or repairing a fence - and not the challenges - like dealing with snow storms or heat waves or wells going out. I guess celebrating our progress is one reason we celebrate the New Year. The other is setting new goals -- but that will have to be another post.