So you'd think that January is a down month with little to do, well think again.
This is the hardest part of running a farm, the planning phase. We have to map out what we want to do this year and that can be very complicated.
- What will we grow? We have a very large garden and several other garden beds on the property. Planning on what to plant, when to plant, where to plant, when to harvest and what follows after a crop is harvested (succession planting) can get very complicated.
- What will we raise? When will we start? Do we have everything we need? When do those critters have "their one bad day" and does anything follow? This year we plan on raising 8 lambs, 2 sets of pigs, broiler chickens, ducks and rabbits. Creating grazing plans is the hardest aspect of raising livestock. We can't have overlaps, pigs and lambs on the same piece of land nor can they graze on the same parcel without at least a 21 day rest period so the pasture can regenerate and any parasites are cleared out. Rabbits aren't left to free range so infrastructure must be in place and mating/birthing plans created. Broilers are probably the easiest to plan for but they too require infrastructure in the form of movable pens and securing chicks can be hard hard.
- Planning for the gardens and livestock brings up the weather. We can't control the weather and given the effects of climate change we can't really predict the weather with any degree of certainty. In the 3 years we've been farming we have experienced successive record breaking precipitation in the winter and worsening record breaking droughts each summer. It is not only about being able to provide water for the crops and critters it is also how will the pasture do if we have another drought? Being on a shallow well we cannot irrigate such a large area and we are exploring other options like large cisterns and fog catching nets.
- Honey bee and nuc sales require its own complicated, detailed plan. In March we'll have to start managing our 5 colonies and be ready to pull out significant resources from each to meet demand for our nucs. This requires us to plan for significant equipment purchases, specialized feeding regimes, queen rearing and splitting and this has to be done for 2 cycles. The first in the spring and the second mid-summer.
- And last but in no way the least how does all of this fit into our schedules? Can we maintain such a complicated dance without falling down? What can we do to mitigate crisis and failures? Can we quickly pull the plug on a project that's gone to awry without violating our principles?
These topics and more will consume our time in January and February. Without a solid detailed written down plan we risk failure in several areas so planning it is, then more planning, and more and more until we comfortable with what we plan to do and feel sure we can accomplish what we have set out to do.
In many ways spring and summer are more relaxing than winter, all we have to do is manage.