April 2009

By Example - The Quest for Sustainable Living Newsletter
April 2009

Moving Towards Sustainability


It feels as if our quest for sustainability is gaining momentum and if anything, has been fueled by the downward turn of our country's economy. We are a long way from being a self-sustaining farm, but looking back we feel that our push to get food production underway was well worth the effort. March was a happy month for us because growth in our cold frame garden really took off. We have plenty of vegetables to eat and last month we also filled our freezer with farm-raised pig. As a result we are making fewer, shorter and less expensive trips to the grocery store.

Our bulk purchases of dried beans and grains have also helped to insulate us from increasing food prices. We no longer stock up on canned food from the store, but buy beans and grains in 25 to 50 pound bags. Not only are there money savings to be had when buying in bulk, but the amount of food packaging to be disposed of is greatly reduced. It did take a while but we've finally transitioned from store-bought, ready-made items, to meals made from dry preserved foods which take more effort to prepare.

As of late, a number of our meals have actually been made from ingredients produced entirely on our farm. These meals are unbelievably tasty and wholly satisfying and have caused us to turn our focus almost completely towards our farm and garden. In order to take sustainability to the next step, this year we are aiming to produce some of our own dried beans and will experiment with growing grains for ourselves and our livestock. Next month we will double our flock of egg laying chickens and by the end of the summer we plan to have pens built for raising goats and pigs.

Over the next month we will also be installing irrigation systems throughout the barn and garden. As our agricultural pursuits have grown, so have our water needs. Though time intensive to install, our irrigation systems will help us to minimize our water waste and will drastically cut the time spent watering animals and plants. We are also anxious to install a rain catch system, which will reduce our need to pump well water for garden irrigation.

It's been an unpredictable spring with beautiful days, extremely high winds, snow, hail and ice. Even so, we have been busy preparing the garden for spring planting as you will see in our most recent articles and the photo of our new raised bed above.

In peace,

Mel & Patrick

Map of Our Sustainable Homestead

We recently created a new map of our homestead. It shows the placement of agricultural buildings that we constructed over the past year, as well as plans for further expanding our sustainable homestead.

Planning Our Garden

Already this year we've devoted quite a bit of time to planning and developing our garden. We've adopted a "companion planting" method, which will help us to control unwanted garden pests and diseases without the use of toxic chemicals. This article shares what we have planned for this year's garden and explains how we determined what will be planted where.

Making Garden Soil

Our soil is hard and rocky for the most part. For best gardening results we've decided to use raised garden beds and we are also making our own garden soil. We've chosen to use materials that are available to us locally and have been using basic soil building methods with pretty good results.

Heirloom Seeds

Seed saving is integral to a sustainable garden and we have already begun to save our own vegetable seed. We've chosen to plant primarily open pollinated and heirloom vegetable varieties, as they are suitable for seed saving. The benefits and reasons for seed saving are many. Learn more about this lost art in this article.

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