Inspiration

Farming and homesteading is inspiring to me. I get so much joy at looking at things running smoothly and properly. I draw a lot of motivation from looking at other people’s goals, aspirations, and the extremely cool things that they do.

Sometimes down the line I loose track of that joy. I loose track of it amidst things like trying to manage animal pedigrees and planting row crops and producing enough to justify that I am a “real” farmer and balancing budgets. It can be easy to loose some of my inspiration in among all of the red tape.

So here’s a little compilation of some nifty things I plan to do this year that are inspiring for me!

Vertical Gardening and Plant Towers

I really like the idea of growing up instead of out. While some vertical gardening (such as hydroponics in a warehouse) strikes me as wildly impractical, a lot of vertical growing can be done in a back yard and drastically increase your growing space. Hanging pots, PVC planters, trellises and the like all make for an increase in growing space without an increase in growing ground. And this year, I intend to do more of that. As the strawberry plants recover, I will thin them and put the new plants in hanging pots. I will also be trying to get some herbs running in a hanging planter made out of re purposed two liters that will hang near my awning at the back of my garage. This year I will be growing UP!

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PVC strawberry planter Photo credit: goodhomedesign

Natural Beekeeping and Honey

This is happening and it’s great! I have my bees on order and my hive is in the basement, just waiting to be assembled! We are going to be keeping bees in a Warre hive. This is a smaller beehive that’s designed with topbars and minimal inspection. Unlike the Langstroth, whose design is based around what bees will tolerate, the Warre hive is based around what bees make when left to their own devices. The size of the boxes are smaller, the empty boxes load onto the bottom of the hive, they build their own comb for the frames, there’s a lot more airflow as well. It mimics a hollow tree more effectively than a Langstroth but gives much lower yields. My hope is that the bees thrive in it!

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Warre bee hive Photo Credit – Thebeespace

Pollinator and Bee Gardening

Pollinators are extremely important to our environment, growing crops, and plant life everywhere. If I’m going to have bees, I better be more aware about providing for these ever important critters. So I will be building bigger, better bee gardens this year with lots of flowers! The goal is going to be to trim up the Magnolia and put some flowers around it out front, as well as re-do some of the landscaping around the house and plant as may bee-friendly and pollinator friendly plants as possible in the next couple of years. It will even include safe water sources for local bees, one of the things they lack (and need) the most. The hope is to provide a pesticide-free buffet for all the local critters who will desperately need it in the coming months and years.

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A bee garden! Photo Credit – helpabee

Purebred Wheaten Ameraucanas

This year, we are going to begin moving out of Easter Eggers and into a purebred flock. Our rooster is a purebred Wheaten Ameraucana and I now have a dozen hatching eggs of the same kind on order. Later in the year (possibly early next year) we will be ordering a dozen more and hatching some of our own. At that point, by next spring we will be running a flock of purebred blue egg laying chickens (possibly with a couple Australorps or Marans for eating-eggs and fun mixes). It will be exciting to finally have purebred birds!

 

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Wheaten Ameraucana Hen (and rooster) Photo Credit – Paradisepoultryandwaterfowl

 

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Quarteracrehome’s “Will” Wheaten Ameraucana rooster

Fully Pedigreed Rex Rabbits

Early this year we invested in a new buck to replace Cassanova, as we have kept two of his daughters (Lady and Sage) and would like to start filling out our pedigrees. So we now have a new buck that came to us through happenstance that is actually Bean’s grandson! We have nicknamed him Porter (as in a Porterhouse steak) and he will be our new herdsire for our rex rabbits, lending his lineage and traceable pedigree to our operation.

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SkinnyAcres Rabitry’s Porter, our new Rex buck

Companion Planting and Interplanting

This year our garden has been planned, planned again, and then planned some more. We are going to have both companion planting and interplanting on the homestead this year. Companion planting is when you plant two plants next to each other (or in alternating rows) that compliment eachother’s growth or deter pests from one another. Interplanting is related and means to grow two plants in the same space that don’t interfere with one-another’s growth. An example of this is growing beans and corn in the same space. The beans fix nitrogen for the corn, and the corn stalk allows the beans to trellis up them. One example that will be in our garden this year is growing radishes pretty much anywhere a slow-growing plant is seeded. Since radishes grow so fast, they can be harvested before they start to compete with their too-close neighbors. We will be growing as many plants this way as possible this year. Gardening is still somewhat a struggle for us, but we’re always trying to get better at it!

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Crops interplanted Photo Credit thrivefarms

And lastly;

Growing Trees!

Quarteracrehome is going to be working with Western Reserve Eco Network (a local grassroots environmental group seeking to promote sustainability, which I happen to be a part of) to grow a whole bunch of trees in empty lots in the city. These will all be either native northeast Ohio trees to help restore native forestland or fruit/nut trees to help feed the low-income urban communities around Cleveland. Some of those trees fruit trees may come tagging along back to the quarter acre. Additionally, I have several branches from my father’s Queen Anne cherry tree attempting to root in my living room. Not to mention that two of the plants that have been on this property for ages are also fruit trees and I just had no idea. So I am excited to be “branch”ing out this year! Ahahah, tree puns.

And that’s about it. Things that are inspiring me to do new stuff this year, and things I’ll be trying out. Fingers crossed that it all works out!

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Victory gardens?

In the 1940s, during the Great depression and WWII, wages were similarly unequal to today’s current wage system. The war ended up reinvigorating our economy with military jobs being converted into infrastructure and manufacturing jobs. And while war is ALWAYS terrible, a scant few good programs come out of that war. The best one (to me) being the victory garden program. It helped stave off hunger and high food prices all across the nation, establishing a groundwork for self-sufficiency within cities and as a nation.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, right before the victory garden program was being pushed in cities and the nation suddenly found itself growing half of it’s food in cities, suburbs and people’s back yards, another problem had been brewing in the countryside for a decade. Farmers were going broke, unable to sell their crops for more than it cost to grow them. Overproduction was the new norm in much of America. Agriculture was crumbling. So bills were put into place to stop farmers from growing so much food and to regulate prices by taxing the food industry to provide money for the US to buy grain during over productive years and distribute it during lean times. The result helped to stifle the economic disaster occurring in the US, but was ultimately found unconstitutional and was replaced by a similar bill in 1938. The 1938 bill became today’s Farm Bill, and was designed to help farmers grow crops that we needed more of during the war. Farmers were suddenly being paid to grow crops that were in under production at the time (cotton, wheat, corn, peanuts, barley, etc.) so that the nation would not run short on these crops. But also came with stipulations that only so much could be grown and distributed, to avoid the over production problems of the 1930’s. When WWII ended, the nation’s agriculture stabilized and the economy improved.

Between 1970 and 2000, the farm bill slowly mutated. Regulations on how much could be grown and sold were cut massively while the people making the most money off of the farm bill (mostly corn growers) lobbied hard to keep their crops that have plenty of production in the US on the list of subsidized crops. The goal of encouraging farmers to grow under-grown crops to stabilize prices of certain good was lost to the æther. Now a days, despite huge gluts in the market driving corn prices ever lower and corn being the most grown crop in the US, nearly a THIRD of all farm subsidies go towards growing corn. Why? Because there’s where the money rolls into our government from.

So I have one tiny, selfish hope for this steaming tire fire of a presidency.

Among the nonsensical and unconstitutional policies Trump is proposing, in order to pay for his 25 billion dollar wall, is a 20% tax on goods from mexico that was originally endorsed as the probable plan to generate the funds. Now I will start by saying that this is actually a tax on the American public. Because what’s going to happen is producers of goods are just going to (very legally, mind you) pass that price down to consumers.
Because Joe who grows avocados must make $5 off of his avocados to break even and pay his bills, he sells his avocados to us for $5. If the US taxes Joe 20% to sell his avocados in the US, Joe will still need to make $5 off of his avocados BEFORE that tax to continue to pay his bills. So Joe will either A. Stop selling in the US, therefore generating no revenue for a wall. Or B. Will add the extra 20% onto his avocado prices and sell them for $6, because he can’t give 20% of his $5 to that tax, he needs it to pay his other bills. If he does the second, and you, a US citizen buy his more-expensive avocados, Joe still makes the $5 he needs to pay his bills. You, the avocado buyer, just paid the tax. Not Joe. Because Joe still has bills to pay, and needs his $5. It just LOOKS like it’s coming from Joe. This is a system of exploitation that’s been going on for a very long time and is inherent in our society.

Now that wouldn’t amount to much if it were, like, Tibet where our imports kind of don’t exist. But the US imports 10% of it’s food from Mexico, a large amount of which is fresh produce. Which means 10% of food imported to places without much fresh food (especially inner cities, suburbs and food deserts) is going to get 20% more expensive should this policy go through. Inner cities already struggle massively with problems relating to food scarcities, specifically good, local, fresh, healthy foods like lean meats, vegetables and fruits. It’s hard to spend $5 on a bag of apples that you may or may not get around to, when $5 will get you 5 sandwiches and feed your whole family something with enough calories to get them through the day. Since many people in our nation’s poor urban centers also don’t know how to cook and handle whole foods, since food prep is a skill that was cut from public schools because of budget cuts, and is only able to be taught at home by people who have generational wealth and knowledge, (something that contributes massively to classism and racism) there’s not many options available to them, and it’s not really a wonder that poor people end up fatter while still being hungry and starving. And it’s about to get 20% worse for those people, leading to even more stigma for being in that situation as options for low-priced high-nutrient value food dwindle away and most of America carries on as usual.

So somewhere buried in that big pile of poo is my desperate little hope. A hope that this will spark some agricultural reform, possibly in the amending of the Farm Bill to suddenly stop producing tons of excess corn (which is bad for the environment as corn is awful on soil to grow) that goes into animal feed and corn-based plastics, fuel, and any other market they can desperately dump our massive corn glut into… And instead, it will subsidize farmers to grow the vegetables we need to support inner cities and food deserts with our own American farms with a lower overall footprint. Or, it may spark the urban agriculture movement to work towards urban centers, Victory-Garden style, because with a little help and rising prices on behalf of tariffs on Mexican imports it makes both urban agriculture and victory gardens that much more feasible and financially viable.

And I would be very excited for one (or both) of those things to happen.

So hey, maybe if we don’t descend into a war because of this massivehorriblesoul-crushingunlawfulfear-mongering political bonfire… Maybe farmers in the US and the state of our nation’s food security will be a little bit better for it.

(Please feel free to generally fact check my post, don’t take anyone’s word for anything. I didn’t bother with citations for most of this, but you can always look it up in your own time. Don’t spread fake news.)

Homestead Dogs

Having dogs on a farm is tricky business. When that farm is in the suburb it’s even worse. Most people in farm country understand that farm dogs are just that; farm dogs. The dog does it’s job, and if it can’t it’s not a working part of the farm. It must either be rehomed or retired to the house or something else. A farm dog not doing it’s job is not a farm dog. Especially when it’s a danger to the animals.

But what about Homestead dogs? I let my dogs roam my back yard freely. In general they are good (except that one time Nukka dug up all my corn), and simply having them in my yard every day keeps other animals out through most of the hours, or at least on their toes. Both dogs love to chase birds, rabbits, chipmunks and other wild critters out and have done so several times with a gusto. If they have a job on the homestead it’s keeping the critters at bay. The difference is that Persy, the older and wiser, reacts very differently to the deliberate homestead critters.

Persy, standing with Cinderbunny the Holland lop. These are the oldest two animals on the homestead, Cinder being 7 and Persy turning five nine days from now.

Persy won’t get too close to the rabbits or the chickens if I am around. She has been bitten by both and she knows that I don’t approve of her presence. She and Cinder have been best buddies since the rabbit beat her up as a puppy. Persy will lay down and the lops will literally crawl on her. This happens less now that Cinder is ancient and having health problems.

Nukka on the other hand lacks self control to an extreme level. She’s not quite two yet, so she’s still technically a “puppy”, but she just can’t seem to behave well when she’s left alone even for two seconds. She has broken into the chicken pen to chase the birds, tried to defeather one of the Golden Girls that got out of one one day, she eats any food that is left out, and will go places she’s not allowed (like onto my garden beds) after being told time and time again not to. She does listen when she’s told she’s being bad. She backs, off, she walks away, but she never really submits and within two minutes she could be back at it. Not only is this frustrating, but it has cost us trips to the emergency vet more than once.

A complete 180 from Persy’s calm collection.

In part it is because she has separation anxiety; when left alone she just can’t handle it. She gets destructive. In part it’s because she has a high prey drive. Huskies do and we got her knowing that.

But today she found a nest of baby rabbits. She killed them, all three, before settling down to a snack just as I came out. I was gone for about 3 minutes refilling a water bottle. I’m used to dead baby bunnies by now, even ones torn apart. I have seen far worse out of hamsters that literally rip each other apart. Compared to that these puncture wounds were neat and tidy. But I was not sure how I felt about this.

These were rabbits. I raise rabbits. The way they were colored, these could have been Kibble’s kits. They looked to be the same age as Purinas’s new litter. I wrapped them and the fur their mom had left in cardboard and threw them on the compost; they would return to the earth and the cardboard would keep coons off of them. I soaked the location with my hose, flooding the slight burrow. Mother rabbits hate having their kits messed with. They have a profound sense of loss pre-weaning to the kits dying. So this was pretty depressing.

On the other hand, is this Nukka’s job as a homestead dog? What would I have done if I’d found the nest and the kits were alive? Let them eat my tomatoes and other vegetables the way the chipmunks do? Let them grow until they could run and suddenly find Nukka tearing after them one day anyhow, chasing them away before they are weaned and they ultimately die anyhow? Would I have done away with them myself? I let the dogs roam freely not just for their sake but so they can use all their instincts to chase after and dig out chipmunks and birds (though until now they’ve yet to catch one, only come close). How is this any different?

And the thing is, it was different. Because 80 feet away, my rabbit has a litter of kits just that age. Kits I now know Nukka will eat given half a chance.

What do you do when a dog is doing it’s job perfectly but also wants to kill your livestock? Nukka will gladly dispatch critters that would take my eggs, my plants, threaten my livestock with diseases, etc. She does the job of a terrier. She is protecting her owner’s food stores from animals that would hurt them. And maybe the mother rabbit will learn not to nest in a lawn reeking of dogs. And there are plenty of other rabbits out there too. Besides which, Nukka is a companion animal not a farm dog.

But Nukka will also gladly destroy the animals I raise, giving them neat little puncture holes in their sides with her teeth one at a time before settling down to snack. I tried training her out of this today. She got it… For about a half hour. Then she started staring at the baby bunnies, head down, tail low, mouth half open, not moving… She was stalking them as she watched them in their cage.

The face of a killer!

Is Nukka doing her job being a rabbit killer? I am really not so sure. And if a farm dog were a threat to the livestock they’d be moved away from the livestock. Rehomed. Retired to the house. Our dog is a companion dog, not to be rehomed. And she is retired to the house. The house and it’s immediate land is all there is on a homestead.

We’ll work on it. But it’s quite the conundrum, and I’m not sure what the answer will be until we have the land to segregate the animals more.

Persy, watching the hens with a calm interest. Persy leaves the chooks alone as long as they are on their side of the fence. Always.