Last year around this time, I broke my rule of ‘don’t tell people your goals’ and published a blog post about three things I was hoping to accomplish around our little homestead through the year. I thought that this might be an interesting time to take stock of the situation: review what actually happened in each of these three areas last year and think about what the goals are for the next year. February will mark two years since we embarked on this weird little adventure, so this whole homesteading/self-sufficiency thing is still fairly new to me. I am genuinely curious as to what my family will manage to accomplish this year and what other families are planning on doing in the same vein. So please, include your homesteading goals for this year in the comments below and we can help each other out.
For 2017, I broke my homesteading goals down into three separate areas: the barn, the kitchen and the garden. Below, I will summarize the goal for last year, what actually happened (‘cause best laid plans and all that), and how I hope to change this for 2018.
Here we go.
- In the barn.
2017: Help to bring new animals successfully into the world. We were hoping to hatch baby chicks here as well as have goat kids, and of course, learn to milk the mama goats and such.
We were kind of hit-and-miss on this one. The kids (my human kids) gave up on the incubator fairly quickly and it turns out that our big studly rooster, for all his cocky attitude and… enthusiasm in trying, might not be all that fertile. As a result, rather than hatching our own chicks as we had planned, we are still buying chicks from the store when needed. We were a little more successful with the goats. We have three super cute kids right now, two females that are healthy and perfect and tearing around like little banshees, and a runt male who currently has a broken leg in a splint (this is a whole other story and stay tuned for that one!). This has been one of the craziest (and messiest – just so much goo) experiences of my life as I midwifed the birth of the babies. I have learned to milk an animal, which I had never done before, and make soft cheese and keifer.
2018: To raise these little goats to maturity. To stagger the cycles so that we have fresh milk and beautiful babies arriving at different times throughout the year. To learn how to make yogurt and more complicated hard cheeses, rather than just the soft ones I have been making so far. And, if my kids get their way (which, let’s face it, they probably will), to build a rabbit hutch and begin keeping bunnies again. I need to research whether you can keep bunnies and goats in the same corral…
- In the kitchen.
2017: Baking a couple loaves of bread every week at least once and keeping a continual batch of kombucha going.
Check and check, I was actually successful with this one. We are gluten free and gluten free bread simply doesn’t exist here in Costa Rica for sale. I’ve been making my own with a blend of brown rice flour made in the Vitamix and yucca flour. I have finally, after much experimentation, nailed down a recipe that tastes good and actually stays together. Recently I have been using whey from the cheese-making instead of water which has a couple of advantages: it ups the nutritional profile a little, it uses a byproduct in a positive way, which feels very thrifty and permaculture-ish, and it gives it a sourdough taste which we all really enjoy. Constantly having homemade bread around makes my kids happy and my husband love me just a little bit more. And when there are easy and convenient foods in the pantry we are less likely to decide we need to go out to eat, so this small thing plays into bigger goals of self-sufficiency and spending less. Same with the kombucha, keeping a constant rotation is not only good for us, it keeps us from buying commercial juices and such.
2018: Get back into canning and pay more attention to food preservation in general. This is something that I used to do a lot of, but haven’t really bothered with since moving to Costa Rica. But when my 5-year-old wistfully asked for pickles the other day, I decided to get out the equipment and the kids love them so much that it reminded me of some of the reasons why it is worth it. So this year: more pickles and a few batches of things like jams and ketchup so that we aren’t buying the preservative laden corn syrup stuff from the store. And a second food preservation goal is to build a solar dehydrator. We have a tiny electric one that I use a lot to dry bananas, mangoes and herbs, but it takes forever and uses a lot of power. I think we could do better.
- In the garden.
2017: Building the second greenhouse and aquaponics system. Being able to harvest some serious crops and not just the bits of salad fodder and such that we have acquired so far.
This is the section that didn’t go nearly as well as I had hoped. The aquaponic system doesn’t exist and is not really any closer to becoming a reality. The crops that belong here (yucca, camotes, pineapples, sugarcane) are doing pretty well, and I have pots of plants in the greenhouse for the vegetables that need to be protected a little bit from the rain and the voracious chickens. But because of my work schedule, we ended up spending several months back in Canada (July through the beginning of October) last year, which set all garden plans back. We have been harvesting yucca as needed and ensuring that every time I dig one up I plant two or three more, so that is at least providing us which our beloved carbohydrates.
2018: More shelves in the greenhouse so I can have more pots of plants. Building a screened off area so I can trellis cucumbers and tomatoes but keep them protected from the chickens. Learn how to process sugarcane more effectively (the last time I harvested it, I made a delicious cane syrup, but then it fermented in the fridge). This isn’t really a goal, but I am looking forward to pineapples this year. When you plant them from the tops, they take two years to grow into mature fruits, so the ones I planted when we first got here are coming up to that time and one of them is starting to grow a flower! How amazing will it be to have our own pineapples and mangoes growing in the next few months?
When we moved here, we came equipped with a plan to be as self-sufficient as possible in 5-years. On the days that I feel discouraged and like everything is moving too slowly, I need to remind myself that we are not even halfway through that time. I have learned so much in the last few years that I never would have believed: how to weld, milk goats, construct outbuildings, plant strange crops, repel snakes and more. While it can be maddeningly frustrating, it is never boring.
Here’s to another year of adventure!
What are your homesteading goals for this year? And would you like some goat milk to go along with that?