We knew 2018 at the homestead was going to be better than 2017 once the seed catalogs started rolling in around New Years. Amy spent many hours dreaming about the multitude of varieties for our vegetable garden. There was one problem however, where is this garden? The location of our garden from 2017 was less than ideal. It was actually in 2 different spots and wasn’t very productive.

Our previous home had no established garden but we had invested to build four 16 sq. ft. raised garden beds. They were used only one year before we moved. IT was surprising how successful and prolific they were. We had followed the plans and ideas outlined in Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening II: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space.

This year we had also planned to do some ground work and landscaping. We hired a gentleman with some heavy equipment to pull some trees and stumps and fill a low spot near the house. Ultimately, we built 516 sq. ft. of raised beds following Mel’s ideas from the same book. We did this for a couple of reasons. We knew that permaculture principles tell us to keep things we do most frequently (daily or multiple times daily) in zone 1, the areas immediately surrounding the house. The previous locations we had tried for the garden were just too far away and we weren’t getting good yields anyway. We decided the newly filled location was the best spot at this point. It was close to the house, flat, didn’t house a septic tank or leach bed, wasn’t the driveway or the backyard where the kids play, and finally not covered by trees or in the shadow of the house most of the day. Becuase the fill used was just a basic gravel fill without any organic component or loam. We invested in building the boxes and filling them with Mel’s mix (see the book above). Amy spent hours at “Earth’s Gym” moving soil and woodchips (to line pathways) via wheelbarrow. The final result looks amazing. I’m so proud of the hard work she put in. The beds should last us for years to come. See them below in various stages throughout the season.

Continuing on with our food production on the farm for this year. We still had a couple of turkeys left over from 2017. We skipped raising turkeys this year. However, this was our most successful year of raising meat chickens. We only lost a few during the 9 weeks we raised them. We were able to move them daily using our 2 chicken tractors. They got a fresh salad bar of grass to eat everyday. We do also feed them grain. We used a new guy to process them. It was a joy working with him, and we are excited to continue working with him in the future. If you haven’t had fresh pasture raised chicken from a local farmer, you owe it to yourself to try some. There is a strong chance you will never buy another chicken from the grocery store.

This year was busy and it never really worked out to raise pork this year. We are missing the homegrown pork for sure. However, my big win was I finally got a tractor. I had sold my old John Deere 400 Super Garden Tractor and bought a John Deere 2210 with loader, mower and snow plow blade. It has been a great investment for us. Spending some time in the tractor seat is quickly becoming my “happy place.”

By far the most successful aspect of our year was the continued exposure and growth for Full Cup Fibers. We worked hard in May building up our stock and getting ready for the Maine Fiber Frolic where were a vendor for the first time. For the 2 days, we sold enough yarn and roving to completely cover the cost of our hay needed to hold us for the whole winter. Also, we have had our yarn and roving selling at a local yarn shop, Fiber and Vine. That has been good exposure for us. Amy’s excellent showing at the Fiber Frolic triggered her to be invited to demonstrate for 2 days at the largest and last fair of the season here in Maine, The Fryeburg Fair. Again she was able to sell some of our stuff and had a good showing. Look for us at both events again next year. See our set up at the frolic below, along with samples of some of the product.

The biggest and best additions to the farm this year were 3 new animals. First, we adopted 2 kittens to be our barn cats and rodent pest control. Pumpkin and Pie have been doing pretty good work keeping the rodent population a bit suppressed. Our other big addition was adding a new puppy to the farm. We added a chocolate lab whom we have affectionately named Chunk. He is still very much puppy but we are more and more pleased with his intelligence and ability to settle in with the family. Unfortunately, he is replacing our yellow lab of 12 years who passed away in late 2017. He was Amy and my first kid, we miss him terribly. See Baxter and Chunk below.

I leave you with one final thought. I have been trying to work on internal happiness. A big piece of that is being intentional about gratitude. I was looking for nice quote or saying about the past that would fit with the recap of life here on the farm. It seems to fit with the journey Amy, the family and I have been on this year. Cheers to 2018 and hold on to your hats because 2019 is right around the corner!

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
-Melody Beattie