We moved to Bear River in September 2006 with high hopes of self-sufficiency.
Have we achieved that goal? Sometimes we feel we may have, at other times it feels like we have only touched the tip of the iceberg. But is it really possible or even desirable to be truly self-sufficient? Probably not!
Anyway, let me tell you about some of the things that we have managed to do on our sixty acres.
The first goal was to provide the family with freshly grown, organic produce and so we set about cutting back the brush and alders that were furiously taking over the land and we now grow all of our vegetables and soft fruit using a raised bed system.
Our garden has 20 raised beds, giving a total of 1200 sq.ft. for growing vegetables and we also added a greenhouse to extend the season. We were fortunate to have an area with the remains of a stone basement from a former farm building which we incorporated into the greenhouse to provide an effective heat sink; the huge stones, combined with large barrels of water, help moderate the temperatures.
Our greenhouse is covered with only one layer of plastic, yet during the winter, the internal temperature of the greenhouse rarely drops below -4 Celsius. In order to have fresh greens during the winter, we cover our crops with a second layer of plastic in the form of a poly-tunnel. In addition to the vegetable beds, we have added rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, black currants, red currants, grapes, and gooseberries. In the orchard, we have apples, pears, and plums.
Our first experience with livestock was to keep hens, first for eggs and then for meat – probably the easiest livestock for beginners.
I have always loved pigs & knew that once we had our own land it was inevitable that we would soon have some.
It was decided that we would keep a Heritage Breed and so in April 2010 we purchased three Registered Berkshire pigs for breeding.
We chose the breed for its hardiness and suitability to living outdoors as we did not want to confine our animals but would rather have the pleasure of watching them enjoy their life in open woodland and pasture.
So good are they at foraging and rooting in the dirt, they were used to prepare our vegetable gardens by running them over the area to plough and fertilize the ground.
Of the original five pigs, we kept one boar & two gilts for breeding purposes and so in March 2011, we found ourselves with 16 piglets in the kitchen that had been rejected by their mothers!
Fortunately, they were in the house for only 24 hours before we coaxed the mothers to take them back.
It soon became apparent that if we were to continue with our new pig venture, our small barn would not be adequate and so it was extended to accommodate three pens. As with most projects, it took longer than expected and we just managed to get the roof on two days before the second batch of piglets were born!
2011 saw the arrival of our first bee hive and bees from our beekeeping friends at Bello Uccello. Since then we have had a lot of pleasure learning about these fascinating creatures, not to mention, the most amazing honey!
On the subject of eco-projects, we installed a Rayburn cookstove into our home, to which we added a water jacket. The stove heats our house, cooks our meals for ten months of the year and gives as much hot water (sometimes more) that a family of four can use. For hot water during the warmer summer months, our roof boasts a solar panel.
We are fortunate to have a woodlot from which we can cut firewood in a sustainable manner. Since purchasing a wood mill, we are able to mill building lumber needed for future projects. Lumber is also selected from the woodlot for John’s Windsor Chair business.
So what’s next?
- Bio Diesel
- Wind Turbine
- Dairy Animal
- Root Cellar
Come back often.