2012 projects on my homestead

during my recent visit to virginia and while catching up with friends in general, i've been fielding a Lot of questions about my living situation, goals, and plans out on the land. you can get a decent sense of my current lifestyle from my youtube channel (youtube.com/user/pipdiddly), flickr page (flickr.com/photos/pipdiddly), and here at my blog.

i'm going to do my best to summarize my many and varied plans and ideas for 2012. i'm hoping this will help folks who are planning to visit so they know what they'll be getting into, what resources/skills might be helpful, and what they might want to focus on while they're here. feel free to ask questions about any of this, since it'd take a few solid pages to really describe these projects, my ideas for them, and the resources available fully.

  • shed modification right now my shed has three metal walls, a pallet wood floor, a wonky bed platform, a counter, and a partially complete northern awning. i want to have fully thatched awnings on the north and west side (where the worst weather comes from). i want some sort of earthen plaster over the pallet floor to level it out and keep mice from coming up through it. i want to make a wattle frame on the walls and fill them in with some sort of clay-straw infill for a bit of temperature regulation. this also includes building a fourth wall. i want to seal the gaps around the roof edges somehow also. and in that fourth wall, put in one of those cool 1/2 doors, where the bottom and top swing separately. i'd also like to put a window into the southern wall somehow.
  • summer hut i want to build a summer hut down in the creek bottom, since it's about ten degrees cooler down there. right now i imagine it being raised on osage posts (sunk deep because of potential for erosion), possibly with space for some livestock to shelter underneath. i want it to have a steep, conical reciprocal roof that's thatched with native grasses. the walls will be roll-down burlap (i have the burlap, it needs the seams ripped and then re-sewn into what will basically be huge curtains) so breezes can come through but keep bugs out. the floor will be wood of some sort. inside i'd like there to be some sort of desk/table space, mouse proof food storage, and a bed that can sleep at least three adults (it may be fold out or otherwise collapsible so it wouldn't have to be full sized all the time). outside there should be cooking space, and possibly a test-gutter system under the thatch to see if rain catchment from thatch is feasible. there will be rain barrels nearby that can be filled from the creek when it's flooding. there'll also have to be some sort of stairs going up to the hut.
  • winter den i want to build a winter den In the southern facing slope on my land. my goal is to get to ground temperature (54 degrees) which requires going down/in a few feet. the general plan for this shelter is for it to be constructed like a mandan earth lodge, but on a much smaller scale. this means excavating (by hand), then edging the excavated foundation with roundwood timbers, creating a stemwall at ground level with roundwood timbers, and then probably making a reciprocal roof on top of those. then all those timbers are covered on the outside with branches, then with grasses, and then with the clay that was excavated. i would like to set a few water and food storage barrels horizontally into the ground with access inside the den. otherwise, inside there needs to be table/desk space, cooking space, food storage space, some sort of (optional?) heat source (whether wood stove, open fire with hole in the ceiling, or earthen stove of some sort), and a bed that sleeps at least three adults (see above about possibly collapsible/folding/gets smaller bed).
  • chickens i currently have 6 laying hens and 1 rooster (barred rocks and dominiques). sometime in march i'll be receiving 8 mixed gender red caps. the first batch of chickens should start laying sometime in march or april. they need a shelter. right now my idea is to make them a super tiny version of my winter den (see above) with a focus on adequate ventilation and some groovy sort of handmade nesting boxes inside. i would like to have established paddocks for livestock, but the chickens will probably roam free during the day for now and be put in their coop at night until fencing happens.
  • bees i would like to get bees, possibly this year - if not this year, definitely next. to that end, i want to build a few top bar bee hives in preparation and keep an ear out in case anyone's hives swarm and there are bees to be had. i may also consider using a trick i read about to locate a wild hive and relocate it.
  • goats i want to acquire two dairy goats either this year or next year (more likely next year). they will need Serious fencing and a shelter, which i hope to plan and start preparing this year.
  • fencing/paddocks i don't want to use metal fencing. i know that sounds crazy, but i think it can be done. my long term plan is to grow hedgerows, so that will start this year. i know generally where they ought to go, but am not sure how big to make each paddock yet. there is a ton of osage on the land, so starting hedgerows this year will mostly consist of gathering osage oranges, mashing them up, and making up a water-osage orange slurry to pour into roughed up soil and then mark where it's been spread so those hedgerow lines can be monitored and supported in their growth. i may also start more immediate fencing by digging trenches and burying in wooden posts, and also by planting tons of rows of willow/bamboo/cottonwood cuttings that will grow super fast.
gardening/planting/food production
  • annuals i'll be starting seeds for many annual vegetables that will go into three established gardens. my focus is on hardy and low care varieties, especially those that are prolific producers for fresh eating or lacto preservation.
  • herbs i'm ordering starts of some herbs, and will be attempting to start some perennial herbs from seed as well. basil seems to do well here, so i'll plant that also. i currently only have a patch of creeping thyme as far as perennial herbs go, and would like to establish a wide range of perennials for culinary and medicinal use. this may involve laying out and creating completely new garden spaces devoted to herbs.
  • trees i have already ordered over 300 trees to be planted all over the land. they'll arrive in march and april, and will need to be planted and then mulched a few times throughout the year. in past years i have planted almost 400 Other trees, and my hope is that through a number of land walks those can be identified and mulched thoroughly so they do well and don't get lost in the grasses or mowed accidentally. i also have about 30 fruit tree rootstocks in a nursery bed that should get moved to a more ideal location this year. some of the trees that i'll be planting will be soft grafters that will eventually be trained to grow together as living archways over my paths, or as living shelter. i also want to plan and plant a ritual grove.
  • trapping i'd like to experiment with trapping rabbits this year as a way to get furs to practice tanning, and as food for humans and for my dog.
  • preservation/fermentation i want to continue experimenting with lacto fermentation as a way to store and improve the nutritive value and excitement factor of the food that i'm growing. this will definitely involve cabbage, carrots, and garlic - hopefully lots of other things, too.
  • i want to dig a pond by hand, either above or below the trees in my draw. while digging May start happening this year, in general i need to check out that part of the land more carefully, do research, and make more specific plans for size, type, depth, etc. of pond.
other building projects
  • tent platforms i'd like to build a few tent platforms to make it easier and more comfortable for folks to camp on the land. they may or may not be covered.
  • bath shelter i want to build some sort of simple curved wall sort of thing to enclose a shower/bathing space. it'll probably involve a few posts set into the ground and then lots of willow or other flexible saplings woven into a privacy wall. probably won't have a roof for now.
other stuff
  • scything cutting grass with a scythe is called scything, something i ought to do a lot more of. this is how i get all my mulch for my gardens, trees, and for covering my waste in my compost pile. it's pretty easy work, and can be really fun if you get your stance down. scything is always followed by lots of raking and then moving the mulch either to the nearest trees or to a mulch bin or gardens.
  • painting i'm painting a number of wooden supports in the shed with a base coat that matches the ceiling. once that's done i want to paint awesome henna designs in vivid colors all over. because i'm planning to plaster the inside of the shed, i'll have to think carefully about which bits of wood will still be visible once that project is done.
  • basketry i want to continue experimenting with making baskets out of materials from the land. so far i've only used jute twine and reed's canary grass (it grows like crazy in the bottomland). would also like to try willow basketry.
  • hide tanning there's a good chance i'll come upon hides via roadkill, local hunters, or trapping on the land, and will continue practicing hide tanning to make either furs or buckskin.
  • primitive skills i'd like to experiment with other primitive skills, like making useful things out of bones (from that roadkill i mentioned a minute ago), sinews, etc. also fire starting.
  • herbal medicine i want to continue respectfully harvesting wild medicinal herbs from the land to make into oils, salves, tinctures, and teas.
  • beds i want to make mattresses out of straw. they may be mattress covers made of burlap and stuffed with straw, and then covered with fabric before having sheets/blankets put on. will start with one for my current shelter, but will hopefully improve design and make two more for the summer and winter shelters.
  • wool processing i have a huge bag of wool (7 fleeces that i split with a friend) that needs to be picked, carded, and spun into yarn. the yarn can then be used as general thread/cordage material, sold as a product to nearby folks, or knit/crocheted/whatever into useful items.
  • paper/ink making i'd like to experiment with making paper either from existing paper scraps or from native plant fibers. i also want to experiment with making ink for writing from local materials like walnut hulls, pokeberry, and oak galls.
  • soap making i want to get my hands on some lard or tallow and make soap the old school way so i don't have to buy dr. bronner's anymore. i'll also be planting soapwort again to see if i can establish that as a useful soap-producing plant.
okay, my brain is shutting down, so i'm going to stop for now. i think that's most of the list, though. i will add exciting pictures to give you a better idea of what some of those items might look like. if you're planning a visit this year, please comment and let me know what you're excited to work on and any questions you might have.


Mrs. Bushman said…
Wow! Thanks quite a list!