February 2010

By Example - The Quest for Sustainable Living Newsletter
February 2010

Update from the Homestead

Hello all,

We've had a number inquiries into the recent lull of activity on the By Example website. Yes! We are still on the homestead and remain diligent in our quest for sustainability. Not only are we here, but we are moving forward.

Last year things really took off in the garden and on the farm! It was a bit overwhelming at first, but we are beginning to feel settled and recognize that we have come a long way in a short time. We are thrilled to report that over the past year we managed to produce the majority of the vegetables we ate, as well as a good portion of the meat we consumed. While it is certainly a milestone worth celebrating the next step in our move towards total sustainability awaits. We are working on supplementing and ultimately replacing commercial animal feed with wholesome farm raised foods.

Our laying chickens have continued to produce a bounty of eggs, even through the winter months. The chicken coop which is located within our passive solar barn has also performed fabulously and has stayed above freezing all winter. Last year we added a second coop and chicken yard out back where we've been raising a second flock of chickens for breeding. Soon we will begin the experiment of hatching and brooding our own chicks. We've continued to observe egg eating behavior from the Leghorns and will be moving towards bigger, dual-purpose breeds, most likely Buff Orpingtons and Black Australorps.

Last year we also expanded our farm area to accommodate goats and a pig. We settled on chain link fence for the goat yard and have been quite pleased with the performance. Before breeding our dairy goats, we will be constructing a milking room. Already we've learned to make cheese and yogurt and are quite excited about having home raised goat milk.

The pig is getting quite big! At first we had planned to take it to the butcher, but have shifted gears and we are currently in the process of setting up for butchering larger animals on the homestead. There are a number of parts and pieces to be assembled yet, but we are committed to slaughtering and butchering on our farm. In our eyes it is a critical step towards achieving sustainability on our homestead.

Even though it is not yet spring here, the garden captivates all remaining time and attention. Soon we will complete the installation of our automated irrigation system, which will drastically cut down on the number of hours spent watering our high desert garden with a hose. We are busy amending beds with manure, planting cover crops and turning up new earth in our ever expanding garden. The original garden beds now contain third year soil and we are anticipating bigger yields and better production. Our raised beds with cold frames continue to supply greens and carrots despite freezing temps and should explode with spring produce in another month.

With our energy focused on farm and garden we've been watching our grocery bill go down and down. A savior for us in this economy. Now, it is time to turn our attention back to harnessing alternative energies and reducing our fuel costs even more. To start we will be revamping our solar hot water heater.

Through all of the commotion we've continued to document our projects and experiments and will definitely be posting more articles in the future. Though at present the farm commands a good deal of our time and energy, we are working behind the scenes on a new version of the By Example website. We've been publishing on the current site for 5 years now and think its time for a little reorganization, as well as an upgrade to something that is faster for us to update and maintain. We will keep you posted on its development and be sure to let you know when there is new information available online.

Thanks to all of the folks who have sent notes encouraging us to persevere in our quest. May the news from our homestead inspire you on your journeys.

In peace,

Mel & Patrick

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