Just one of the goose breeds I feel I need in my life. Aren't they beautiful?
Happy Monday, dear reader. As I sit writing to you this morning, the sky is grey and overcast, there is a light drizzle, and the temperatures have fallen from a comfortable 50+ degrees to a more seasonable 30-something. Although my cabin fever has eased a bit from last week, I continue to experience what I would call the winter blues. Perhaps blues is too strong of a word; it is more like the winter doldrums. The Bibbed Wonder and I have been setting goals for 2024 to combat the doldrums.
I have declared that this year is the year we will get our act together in more ways than one. First and foremost, it will be the year we set financial goals, get our affairs in order, and plan for our future. Not only will we set goals, but we will also create a plan. Because, after all, a goal is just a daydream until you have a plan. To date, we have met with a new financial planner, had several appointments with our attorney, contacted our investment offices, and had some difficult and uncomfortable conversations about what will happen if and when one of us passes. My bib overall-wearing buddy struggled with this more than I anticipated. However, knowing that our wishes are now in writing, The Bean will be cared for, and our affairs are in order, gives me a sense of comfort and accomplishment. It feels like a weight has been lifted.
On a lighter note, we are also setting goals for the farm. This is more fun to think about than investments, death, and making provisions for our girl should something happen to us. The Bibbed Wonder has met with the county conservation office to discuss how we can improve our land, make it work for us, add quality to the local wildlife, and benefit our domestic animals. We are talking about our options to have the forest land timbered. Initially, when we debated timbering the wooded areas, I panicked. All I could imagine was our land looking like a tornado had come through, being clear-cut and destroying needed habitat for the wildlife. However, my fears were assuaged after discussing our options. Only trees of a specific size will be taken, invasive species will be eradicated, and timbering will improve the growth of new trees and reforestation. There is a lot to consider when maintaining farmland. We want to be responsible stewards and do what is best for local wildlife, our animals, and the farm.
I have been reading and researching foraging options for animals using the age-old silvopasture practice or planting nut trees that benefit the land, animals, and farmers. It's not simply planting trees and turning the goats loose on it. There is a science to it, and we need to know what trees will benefit our goats and pigs, will help our land, and will thrive in our area. I have wanted to do this for years, and we will begin the process this year. I'm sure I will have much more to say on this matter, the process, and the outcome in the upcoming year.
I want to supplement our land and animals with nut trees and plant an orchard. We have one lone pear tree on the farm. I'm unsure if this tree is just a wild rogue that thrived in the middle of the field or is a solitary survivor of a past orchard. However, I have wanted to give this old lone pear tree a few companions since moving here. I would like to plant an orchard for The Bean. In honor of her upcoming sixteenth birthday, I would like to plant sixteen fruit trees and add one yearly. Not only do I want to plant fruit trees, but I would also like to plant raspberry, blackberry, currant, gooseberry, elderberry, and grape plants. This is still under negotiation and in the planning stage. The deer population flourishes here, and provisions must be made for an orchard to survive.
Also, on the plant front, we plan to rework, revamp, and improve our landscaping. We have had epic battles over landscaping. We don't battle frequently, but landscaping tends to be a trigger topic. After many heated debates over stones or mulch, we have compromised on evergreen ground cover. There is a neighboring farm that has well-established ivy as its ground cover. This farm always looks neat, tidy, and well-kept. Although, I feel like ivy is too invasive, too much maintenance, and destructive. I have researched, and I believe we have agreed upon Wintercreeper. Yes, it is aggressive and invasive, but it doesn't climb, won't kill trees, and won't destroy masonry work. I can still plant flowers and bulbs, have shrubs and hydrangeas, and it will look lovely year-round. As soon as we get a break in the weather, we intend to remove the much-hated river rock and begin amending the soil for spring planting.
We also need to do some maintenance work on our outbuildings. We hope to have the barn encased in steel and a new roof installed this year. We also want to upgrade our barn door system and reroute drainpipes. Installing steel siding will eliminate the need to repaint the barn. Depending on what the professionals say, we hope to install a lifetime roof on the barn. The main thing we want to accomplish is creating a lower maintenance facade on the outbuildings. We have adopted a motto: do it once, do it well, do it right.
Along with the barn project, the old springhouse is the next in line of importance. Over the years, it has been bricked shut, reopened, rebuilt, and resided. However, as my dad used to say, it is merely lipstick on a pig. I feel the springhouse is in danger of coming down. The foundation has developed a huge crack, and the contractor who did the last "repairs" simply attached new wood to the rotting wood under the floorboards. The floor is soft, and I won't allow anyone to walk on it. The sides have begun to buckle, and the door can no longer be opened or closed. The Bibbed Wonder feels this is a complete rebuild project. We need to find a professional who understands the workings of a springhouse and can offer us advice on bringing it back and making it last for another 150 years. We are thinking of a poured cement foundation, with steel encased in cement for the flooring and perhaps steel on top for the siding. I want to maintain the original stone trough and the niche in the wall that still holds the old aluminum cup my dad and his brothers used to drink from the spring. Neither of these projects will be easy, and we will need to hire professionals.
We can handle projects including repainting the chicken coop and installing new windows. I would also like to insulate it as well. My hens are now elderly and are slowly dying off. I am making a list of chicken breeds I want to incorporate into our flock and working on my spring order. I believe I will limit myself to twenty-five peeps. However, it is looking like maybe thirty. My coop is large enough to house this many chickens comfortably. I'm excited about the prospect of new baby chicks and colorful eggs. New additions to the bird life on the farm will also include Muscovy ducks. I have read they eat snakes. Anything that will rid our pond of the aggressive water snake population is welcome on my farm. However, before we get ducks, I need a duck house. This is a project I would like to tackle on my own. I think I can do it. Alas, it will not be my dream floating duck house, but I think I can build something charming, practical, and safe. If the muscovy ducks survive, I plan to add more ducks to our farm family.
Along with Muscovy ducks, I am trying to convince The Bibbed Wonder I need more geese. They have a breed of geese with ruffled feathers, and I feel I need this in my life. My nay-saying goose hater says no more geese. However, I believe he will get voted off the island on this topic. When I place my order for chicks, I will just add in five or ten goslings. I also believe I need peacocks in my life, but that is a battle for another day. When my swan-killing senior pit bull passes away, Jenna and I are going to Ohio to purchase a pair of swans. I am not in any hurry for Chubby to pass. However, when it is safe for swans, I will have a pair.
Planning for spring and planning projects helps me to pass the winter months until I can retire to Aruba. In the meantime, I will plan ways to sustain our farm and improve its appearance, practicality, and livability. Adding new birds to the population makes me happy. Imagining how fresh, pretty, and clean everything will look gives me a sense of purpose. Creating an environment that will improve the lives of our animals and make life easier creates a sense of pride. I think my dad would be pleased with our ideas. It's a lot, it really is, but it is worthwhile.
On this gloomy winter day, stay safe, be smart, think spring, and keep washing your hands.