Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Planning for 2019: Too Early? How About the Next Five Years?

First, it's never too late or too early. I've been looking over my five-year homestead/ self sufficiency plan a pseudo business plan. I've done it every year for the past two years. I allowed for wiggle room in my plans, but I'm a year to two years behind. I tend to do this periodically. But as the growing season winds down, I look and start planning for the next year's goals. A where-do-we-go-next strategy building exercise essential for any operation be it homesteading or anything else while fulfilling your dreams.

What can I say, two Masters degrees in business and marketing are still useful even if it's used only in homesteading. My Momma used to say, "Knowledge gained is never wasted. It's something no one can take away from you."  I'm a firm believer in Plan A, Plan B, and even Plan C with adjustments along the way. I'm a Murphey too, so Murphy's Law is also set in stone.

My "business plan" includes:
  • When a project has started, estimated cost, when project is finished, and final cost breakdown on all levels. No one likes surprises when it comes to money especially on a fixed income.
  • Black Infrastructure improvements like roadways, bush hogging, transforming the property into usable space, alternative energy, and major building projects. This is my permanent changes for the homestead. Estimated cost breakdowns for each is in here too.
  • Green Infrastructure pertains to the gardens, orchard, rabbitry, and chickens (other livestock). They change from season or year. Estimated costs, maintenance, profit and loss are also included here.
  • I've also got a separate area that I call my Grey Infrastructure. These include improvements/repair/replacement of things we already have or would like to have that are under $250. Examples of this are the chicken coop and run, revamping the barn/workshop areas, an electrician to hard wire the barn, etc.
According to my initial five-year plan before I moved here, I should well be on my way to being self sufficient (75%) in groceries two years in. In reality, I've just reached 25%. We've had a rough three springs and growing seasons setting up our small, organic vegetable patch.

In fact, it wasn't until this year that we got it fully outlined and fenced the garden patch, and grown our own needs in tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers for a year. The goats for milk and cheese, supplying our own poultry, and other sources of protein needs have slipped into future plans.   We will always be dependent on outside resources for beef. Sheep and pork may be in our future. Mel's gotta have her beef. It's looking more like 2019-20 to reach this initial goal. This will bring us up to 75%.

Terracing the orchard last year was only a year behind schedule. I grossly underestimated the manpower and time for this, and there's a little thing like money that's necessary.

Speaking of money. This, in a way,  has been our biggest delayer. First, Mel lost her job and still unable to find another one. That's a long story that I won't go into here, but it cut our income by almost half.

Then my daughter who moved into my south Georgia property had financial troubles. I ended up selling the property well below  value (almost $50K less- A Big Ouch!) just to get out from under the mortgage.

That short fall put a halt to any additional black infrastructure plans I made for two years. It slowed any future black infrastructure plans to a trickle which in turn impacted my green infrastructure plans too. I did manage to get the main driveway, the food storage building, the orchard terraced, a new deck and access ramps and a very few other things in the black and green infrastructure accomplished, but not near of what I wanted to accomplish.

There's no use crying over spilled milk. So instead of getting the major black list accomplished in two years, it will now be budgeted over ten years. You gotta roll with the punches and just keeping on.

Best laid plans and all that aside. We are still operating and building the ground work after almost three years here. We are making farther strides to being self sufficient just not as fast as I planned.Well, if it were easy, it wouldn't be cherished as much. For now, going totally off grid is pushed back until 2029, or there about.

You can only do what you can do. At least there is no mortgage here. We have had all our needs met. We are blessed.

We've had some really hard knocks and false starts where our chickens and rabbits go over the past two years. So instead of showing a profit, we are eeking by. They are still taking care of their expenses. That should change in the next six months with babies being born and more wool. The rabbitry has been more of a false start than a failure with the loss of our nonrelated breeding stock, now rectified with the addition of new breeding stock (Lil Albert and Cara), we start again. We aren't as flushed with nonrelated stock as we were two years ago, but it's a start.

We've got the chickens under control again. They aren't destroying the garden too. A repeat of losing 3/4 of the flock shouldn't happen again this winter. We might even start hatching eggs and meet our own poultry needs in Spring of 2019. I've downloaded plans for a grow out pen for the butchering chickens. That's a grey infrastructure deal. That would be another step big forward. I've been in contact with local, no chemical producers of lamb, pork, and beef so that will be another check mark towards being psuedo self sufficient in a protein source since Zaycon went belly up this year.

We'll be planting wheat, barley, and oats again in the orchard next spring. We'll replace the area with fruit trees and bushes as we go. It will go a long way in cutting our feed bills for our small livestock. I'm finally done with the research portion of us acquiring some pygora goats. We'll be starting on the goat pen in mid 2019. Whether we actually get the goats in 2019 or 2020 is still up for discussion. It's a fairly Green/Grey infrastructure expense of between $500-$1500. We'll have to see where we stand before deciding.

In 2020, we'll be clearing and terracing another 1/4 of an acre earmarked for two tiny houses and a grain/straw/hay area. Hopefully, we can entice a couple of folks to come onboard with us in our cockeyed community adventure. We could honestly use the manpower. We ain't getting any younger. Plus, the added income couldn't hurt either. We are still leaning towards widows and single females in our vision quest.

It seems like everything we want to do is costing us $1500 or more. That takes some planning.  Not to mention my daughter's wedding in Tuscon next summer. It only takes money, right? But that which does not grow- dies.

Y'all have a blessed day.
Jo

Sunday, September 9, 2018

New Logo for the Cockeyed Homestead Coming Soon

Next year, I'm focusing on branding our homestead. The logo design needs to be simplified, one color design or  that translates well in a single color.  Y'all know with screen printing and embroidery, extra colors mean extra cost, don't you? An almost silhouette design that incorporates our quirky sense of humor, thinking outside the box, homesteading, angora rabbits, chickens, organic gardening, etc. It was more than my stroke addled brain, or even Mel's, sort of okay brain, could translate into a simplified design. We also lack the time to work on it. This was also the information I gave to the graphic designer candidates as well to get a ball park figure of what the logo would cost me.  

I've now hired a graphic designer to create a new logo for our homestead. Our current design is just too busy. I've thought it from its creation, but ran with it because of expediency for this blog and our videos. Now is time for a change before we get too big, with sales and other stuff, where branding and our logo are important. 

In 2019, we'll be expanding our rabbitry (actually we started this year) for fiber production, babies for sale, and our pedigree line of English Angoras. We'll also be selling our vegetables, home canned
pickles and jams, eggs, wood working projects at the market and online. As well as, Mel's homestead computer programs in a big way. So we are gearing up for profit making. This blog will also be
expanding into syndication through the Homestead Bloggers Network and a few others. What can I say, they like my writing. This necessitates a need for branding. There are business licenses, inspections, registering our rabbitry with the ARBA and NARBC, and other businessy type things that are also needed to set up branding us. We weren't in serious need of a revamp before now with sales being so small and sporadic.
Who did we hire? Jenna Woginrich. She's been free lance for years since she left it all behind (big city life). She, like us, is following her dream. She is the owner/operator of Cold Antler Farm in NY. I've been a fan of her published books, blog, and videos for over a decade. She's a one woman operation. Her credentials and work are impressive. And I, formerly in this business also, am not easily impressed. We believe in supporting like minded people everywhere. So take my cockeyed laundry list and fly with it. You won our cockeyed lottery for creativity, right thinking, and price. I promise not to be over critical and a nightmare client.

So exciting changes are coming in 2019 to the Cockeyed Homestead. Continue reading about them here. Some have even started already. Did you notice the "For Sale" tab at the top?
 
Y'all have a blessed day!

Jo

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Building Organic Garden Soil, Finances, and Homestead Design

Well, the cardboard is laid. At least it is all out of the house. It was quite a pile. Since Mel is in summer mode, she's spending the majority of her time, in not building mode, on the screened back porch because it is cooler. The formal dining room was being used as the cardboard storing area. All the shipping, drink, and assorted boxes are broken down as flat as they can go. All the packing tape is removed. Who wants plastic in their organic garden, not me.

When we get a goodly stack, table and surrounding floor is covered, we set about moving them where they are needed. These areas right now, is the vegetable garden for stubborn weedy patches and the orchard. It's a slow process building soil this way, but we're in it for the long haul. Doing something the right way always takes time, but the end results are worth it.

I'm waiting on the rains next week to thoroughly soak the cardboard in place. Then, I'll cover it all
with straw and hay. I'll wait until it rains again to soak it all in place before I add the compost layer or sprinkle bone meal over the area. I'll repeat this process again and again throughout the fall and winter seasons (without additional cardboard layers). By the time the snow falls, it's time to quit and let it all cook during the rest of the winter until early spring. This type of layering is a "lasagna" gardening technique for building organic soil. Instead of a chopped leaf layer, Mel will blow leaves from the property. Instead of peat moss, we use wheat straw and fescue hay (both are relatively available and cheap here). Two 4x5 rolls of hay ($45) will cover the 1/4 acre orchard in several inches. We roughly measure each layer by the foot.

Worms love the wet cardboard. They are drawn to it devour it, and lay their eggs in it. Then, they will get started on the upper layers during the winter speeding up the composting over winter. The worm tea fertilizes the broken down material. They'll also break up the hard clay. So long as you feed them, they'll stay in the area. They'll multiply at will in the warm, composting layers creating a bio-diversified soil mix. In the orchard, this will be the second year of doing this and the last giving us almost four feet of new soil to plant in.

Building soil this way, on such a large piece of land isn't easy. It's time consuming and often back aching labor. It would be easier and more expensive hauling in three dump trucks worth of top soil and compost in. But there is no telling what is in those truck loads. From experience, I've found "compost" less than half composted material (branches and too green stuff mixed in). Fill dirt and top soil is often riddled with weed seeds just waiting for the opportunity to sprout. I want to reduce my labor not increase it.

Last year, we did a "back to Eden" layering with shredded trees and branches waste with a combination of cardboard and straw for the orchard. We had an abundance of tree "trash" after hurricane Irma blew through. This year, not so much. Thus, the lasagna gardening technique. Sometimes, one method just isn't doable because of the expense. I mean nothing beats free with a minimum of labor afterwards, right?

We're building this homestead on the cheap because we don't have thousands of dollars to do it with  Granted, I did shell out $1500 to have the orchard area cleared and terraced. It was necessary to expand our homestead infrastructure. It will return to me many times over in produce, grain, and straw... not to mention fruit and wine.

This was a major expense on my fixed income. Anything over $500 a month is what I consider a major expense. Still, I'm thankful that I have that amount of sort of dispensable income being on just Social Security and my retirement check. I owe of this all to my beloved's careful financial planning. God give him rest. With Mel full time on the homestead and not working outside the homestead, it's a blessing to be sure.

Cockeyed Homestead layout design
We are planning our homestead with aging in place in mind. After all, nobody is getting any younger. It's only smart. We are both sexagenarians already and women to boot. That's not to say that being women alone is a hindrance, but working smarter, as well as harder at times, does come into play more than if we had a man around to do the heavy lifting. The majority of our housing, barn/workshop, gardens, orchard, livestock are all in half an acre rather than spread out over our two-acre property.  This is only partly due to the landscape of the property. The other part is accessibility  in the design layout of ours.

I had thought to plant my berries and grapes on the top tier of  our orchard but changed my mind and planted them on the second tier from the top. The berries and grapes are easy enough to tend to on the second tier. The berries and grapes enjoy full sun on the second tier and protected from strong winds that can sweep through the hollow. Once the fruit trees mature and grow in size, the berries and grapes will have even more protection, but still have plenty of full sun because of the terraced hillside.
Example of our elevated pallet raised beds
On the top tier is more shaded so it's perfect for the raised pallet beds with herbs. While most herbs love full sun, the sun gets pretty strong and heated in Georgia. The partial shade will benefit them on the top tier. There will also no watering issues because of them being elevated beds. A simple soaker hose system attached to the 375- gallon water tote should supply them with ample wet stuff throughout their growing season. The beds will over winter with a thick blanket of compost and mulch.

Did I mention that these beds do double duty? In the space below the beds we stuff with large, perforated, black trash bags filled with moist leaves. These leaves will compost and form mold that increases the biodiversity. Ants and worms will work to break down the leaves over time. This way the space these beds take up do double duty. To make removal of these bags easier, we tie long pieces of baling twine around the top of these bags with the other end wrapped around a nail on the outside of the raised bed. The baling twine is recycled from the bales of straw and hay we purchased during the years.

We'll even reuse the bags too until they are too torn up to use again for leafing. Then, they will be cut into 3" strips and braided them to form weed deterrent mats under the fruit trees. The braiding will allow water to seep into the ground and it makes them stronger. They'll have many more years of reuse to them. I even reuse baling twine to make these. As the trees grow they will need bigger mats so nothing goes to waste. I'll even leave rows gap stitched together so I can plant garlic in the gaps. Garlic keeps moths and other pests away from fruit trees. On average, every five rows of braids gets a gap row for garlic, onions, or leeks. So once again, this shows multiple reuses/repurposing of items that usually end up in landfills. It doesn't have to be pretty. It just has to work. Nothing goes to waste on our homestead until it is definitely unusable again.

Y'all have a blessed day.