We are here now and it is winter, now is the time to make plans for the property. We have 5.6 acres of treed land to work with, some is high and dry, the rest is low, can be wet and requires a method to drain it or utilize it ( i.e. ponds ). There are limited funds so this work will be completed by myself, over the coarse of several years, so one must prioritize.
For myself, it was important to set out the short term goals, but keep in mind the big picture, what does the homestead look like when complete( if a homestead is ever complete). There are many things that the finished site will have. Some would be a large shop, small barn, chicken coops, approx 3 acres of good pasture, nut and fruit trees, ample garden space, one or two large ponds and maintain enough wooded area to provide privacy.
The first order of business for this homestead was to obtain some livestock, livestock had been missing from my life for too many years, it was time for this to end. Chickens are by far easiest to attain and care for, so we decided to start with these. First we needed a place to house them. There are some very fancy coop designs out there and some very basic, get it done designs. Something in between would do, functional but not an eye sore. There had been some new equipment purchased at work which came in 7 x 11 metal framed containers that were 6′6″tall. I acquired two of these and covered them with rough sawn lumber from a local mill, framed a low pitch roof and covered it with the same color steel as the main house. I thought it turned out quite well.
When the first coop was completed, we went looking for birds. I reviewed all the canadian hatchery websites, looked for heritage breeds, inquired about ordering chicks from the local feed store ( which has since gone out of business, another sad sign of the times ) and I evenually happened on a phone number of a farm in the Alliston area that raised heritage birds. They had several different heritage turkey breeds and a few breeds of heritage chickens. Through conversations with the owner, it was decided that mature birds were the way to go in my case. It was June and although I could either purchase chicks or eggs for hatching, live birds could supply their own eggs and a mother hen or three to do the mothering. Now personally, I am not aware of a better sight than a mother hen caring for and watching over her clutch, Five hens and a handsome rooster came home with me that day. For more on this subject, check out the poultry pages. We also, once seeing the different breeds of turkeys up close decided to purchase these as well, but that would require another trip.
There was livestock on the place now and when I wasn’t just sitting around watching them as well as ensuring that my turkey hunting friends didn’t drop by to practice, there was more work to do. The second coop was finished to house the chicks that were sure to start hatching soon. The second coop was finished in the same manner, but with rough sawn lumber from an even cheaper source. Never stop looking for better sources of materials, it’s amazing what you will find. Both buildings were placed in the center of my first field of approximately 1/2 an acre, seeded in a blend of my choosing from the local co-op. I must say that standing in the back of the feed store and asking for a scoop of timothy, two scoops of alfalfa, three scoops of red clover and a pinch of trefoil was fun and it adding an even greater sense of pride when it started growing as well as it did, not mention when the chickens and turkeys would dash from spot to spot as they grazed on the succulent greens.
With the intial livestock purchase done, it was time to expand on the pasture, this also provides wood for winter burning. The pasture was doubled and this is where we will stop for this year. The summer of 2008 was the wettest on record and it played havoc with plans to continue on with building my shop. But, every cloud has a silver lining, the silver lining for the many rain clouds was simple, it was time to take care of drainage issues on the property. The property has two main low areas, the lowest area has already received a sizable pond ( we required good fill around the main house) and been stocked with local perch and crappie. The second area is slightly higher and on the far side of the property. The only drainage route is through the lower area. The soil here is very heavy clay, so the elevated area just will not drain on it’s own and with all the rain this area was still 16 inches deep in water and occupied approximately an acre.
A trench was dug from the pond, back and around the property and eventually back to the area of greatest concern. this is another example of where it is very much forth my while to own my own backhoe. The area drained out very quickly and should not be an issue in the future. Not wishing to have a trench running through the property, much of it now has a 6″drainage tile and filled back in.