We Have a Plan!

Matt would have done a much better job with his mad computer skills, but I just had to put something on paper to help me stay focused. So here it is – the future reLuxe Ranch.

I suspect we’ll have to add a slaughter/smokehouse to the plan given the likelihood that we’ll start raising pigs this year, but otherwise, I think this should cover us for the next 3-5 years. We’re really hoping “they” (whoever “they” are) take a new aerial picture of our property and post it on the internet - oh, in say June of this year - because we’ll have pretty much all the infrastructure, fences, and path-work done, so you’ll really be able to see how much things have changed since we started our work in March 2014.

Of course, if you want to see it, you could also just come and visit…

See How Our Garden Grows… in February!

Ok – so nothing is actually growing in the garden yet. We’re not that good…it’s February. But, our garden space has grown by leaps and bounds in the last week.

We are adding nine more rows of beds and a few “bonus” areas for a medicinal garden and herb spiral, and a straw bale planting area for potatoes. Preparation of the beds is a bit labor intensive. I’ve been moving topsoil around since November to cover the severely eroded areas. And this week, I’ve been moving hundreds (literally) of wheelbarrow’s full of manure and mulch into the garden area to amend the rows for planting, create paths for foot traffic, and also use the paths as a as barriers to prevent plants and weeds that spread through rhizomes (roots) from growing back into the garden. The first photo was what the piles looked like last week. The second photo was from Wednesday. Note - you can actually see the grill in the second photo now.

I’ve still got tons to do, but at the rate I’ve been going, it should all be done by the end of February. Also, Matt is going to double dig the more up hill sections of some of the rows where we miraculously have some natural topsoil. His amazing double digging skills will really speed things up.

Now, here’s the Before and After for the garden area from last week until now, so you can see where the mulch and manure went.

We also put the last of the posts in concrete on Sunday and took our final measurements. The total linear distance of our new fence around the garden is about 351 feet. Matt got all the corner braces in place and our PVC-coated 6 foot deer/animal extrusion fencing has arrived. So, we’re ready to start stretching and “stapling” ( hammering 1.5” U-shaped nails into the posts) the fence in place this weekend.

After we finish the garden fence, we’ll move on to a “Fancy Fence”. Technically it will be a Fancy, Phoebe, and Pythagoras fence – as in a fence to protect and contain our three goats and any babies they have (likely to happen in the very near future).

Goat Update

So, since I just mentioned goat babies in the previous section, I figured a real update was in order. The girls could actually be due as early as February 27. And like many pregnant mamas coming to the end of their term, their bellies look ready to explode. They eat, sleep, and pee constantly. They are super affectionate to me (probably so I’ll give them more food). And, they’ll have nothing to do with Pye, our buck, who is very disturbed by the lack of interest from his harem girls.

I’ve read a book and watched stuff on the internet, so I am now an expert in goat births (not!). Good news is that most goat births go off without hitch (and we’ve got the number for a good vet, just in case.)

We’ve got the goat barn closed in on all sides and now have two separate stalls - one for mamas and one for Pye (a.k.a the butthead - because he likes to butt heads with anything and anyone). I used pre-fab fence panels to finish a second stall because it was cheaper and faster than buying wood slats, the panels were easy to move around and attach on my own, and because we needed to keep the goat barn well ventilated. Goats are super sensitive to lung infections in confined spaces, so you need to have airflow in their goat enclosures year-round. Also, as Matt and my dad will gladly tell you, and I wholeheartedly agree, I can’t be trusted to build anything “structural” on my own.

Master Gardener…Volunteer

Last week I started my Master Gardener Volunteer training with the North Carolina Agricultural extension. I am learning tons about botany, propagation, plant problem diagnoses, soil testing/fertility, etc. I’ve also met a bunch of awesome gardeners who have been willing to share their expertise (and cool stuff like Jerusalem Artichoke tuber cuttings and grandma’s bullet proof roses). Next up in the course - grafting and pruning! For our local friends – make sure to check out the public events line-up here for dirt-cheap (pun intended), rock-solid training from A (apples) to T (tomatoes).

Busy Bees

When Matt waved me over to show me how busy our bees were on our almost 70 degree Sunday, I nearly wept with joy. I’ve bought four bee packages (boxes full of bees to install in my hives) over the last two years and this is the first colony to make it through winter. With my honey hopes restored by my one surviving colony, I placed our order for four more bee packages to be picked up March 28. And because Matt too wants to be a “busy bee” - he’s agreed to make me some horizontal top bar bee hives for our new colonies. I’ve been letting my bees be somewhat “au natural” anyhow (only giving them two guide combs per bee box), so I figured I ought to just go all the way and let them design their comb on their own, as they would in nature. It will make honey extraction a bit trickier, but if our colony survival rate increases from 25% to 75% it will be well worth it.

Happy + Healthy Bees = Honey, Yippee!