we learned so much at the purple cow fest... too much because i want to implement it all NOW. Some of what we learned was gleened from the seminars while other info was simply from talking to people who were there. Sometimes its easy to feel like you're the only one on the planet, or at least in the county, who's actually trying to do the homestead thing. Then you get connected and learn there are people everywhere doing all kinds of things. So, for those of you who think we're nuts, we're at least not alone! Crazy hippies are EVERYWHERE!
Beekeeping very doable. and if you're a neighbor, don't worry. you won't even know they are there other than your fruit and flowers will produce like never before. honeybees aren't at all agressive. you want to get your hives in the spring. a man north of gainesville sells the bottom box complete with a hive for $150. to harvest honey, you need a "super", which is a box that sits on top of that which sells for $15 and each frame for $1. You can start off immediately with only 1 hive, but the master beekeeper highly encouraged to start with two so that if you have a problem with one you can repopulate with the other. It hedges your bets of not having to start all over. It sounds like its really not difficult to manage a couple hives. Its the huge industrial honey factories that are having major problems because they don't spend the time with each individual hive. For a small homestead, very doable. While doing an initial gulp at the start-up cost ($300 in bees and hives, about $50 in supers, $50-100 for a hat and veil (made of metal netting... a must), $20 in lumber for the stand and about $10 in harvesting supplies), and that's to do it the cheep, redneck way, I also calculated the potential income: a hive will produce about 15 gallons of honey a year, that's 30 gallons of fabulous honey. If we use 5 gallons a year, 25 gallons are left to be sold. Asking $30 per gallon (a very reasonable price), that's $750. The cost of starting would be offset in the first year should all go well. But even still, I think March is a bit too soon to start. We'll probably wait until March of 2011 to make the jump... but that seems SOOOO far away!
Square Foot Gardening: After expanding our garden and putting in lots of time and effort to have it ready this fall, we've decided to immediately put in a "square foot bed". It will be a 4' by 4' raised bed. The reason is that I can direct seed things that aren't transplanting well and not worry about them being overtaken by weeds or eaten by ants. While others are already eating lettuce, I have yet to have any transplanted. Our Thanksgiving salad should be completely homegrown, yet I have no lettuce, no carrots, and far too few tomatoes. Square foot gardening should be a solution to most of that though not before Thursday! I don't regret expanding our inground garden as it will be great to host a multitude of vining cucurbits, and summer veggies, but I think a box or two of raised beds will be a great addition as well.
Goat Care: Learned the reason we aren't getting much for milk from our goats is that they have always freshened in the spring. Milking through the summer means the majority of water they drink goes to keeping them cool and not producing milk. Much better for Florida goats to freshen in the fall and milk all winter and spring. Also learned to not give a dewormer just because its time to give a dewormer. Parasites LOVE Florida because there's never enough cold to kill them off. Thus the subsequent generations quickly adapt to dewormers given regularly. We should alternate dewormers and only give them when the underside of the skin around the eye socket becomes white.
composting my lazy man's composting (no water, no turning) is doing nothing. i have to make composting part of my weekly regime. we also learned about vermicomposting (w/ worms). we'll probably get that going after the Christmas chaos is over.
butterfly gardening yes, we're (or should i say I) are putting in our first ever ornamental garden. i want cut flowers to bring in the house and the farmer girl loves butterflies. my husband is happy to go along w/ it, but the pointlessness of it baffles him. i'll probably add some pretty peppers to the bed just to keep it somewhat edible. Stokes asters, gaillardia, firebush, and passionvine are just a few that were mentioned that we'll add to our little bit of beautiful in the yard. I intend to start that this spring.
Sheep I guess I should start with the announcement that I haven't been defeated, animal wise. I'm going to keep going. but adding sheep to the mix right now is still a bit more than I think I'm ready for. Maybe come spring? We'll see. Once again, March seems too close. Maybe we'll get the county fair cast off's next year. We've been reading about them more recently and have gotten quite excited about these little creatures. Keeping them and the goats bred I think will be our biggest problem to figure out as rams and buck goats don't get along. Sounds like each place can only handle one head male. We're really liking Copper, but golly he stinks! And goats are easier to get bred than sheep (as in there's a goat on every corner practically!). We'll maybe start off with a trio or maybe just a duo, milk the ewes, eat the lambs and keep going until the ewe is too old then we'll raise up another ewe, get a new ram and start a new cycle. Just rambling thoughts, maybe call them wistful dreams, that need to be fine-tuned to fit our specific situation.
We neglected to take in the backyard chicken seminar. Our chickens are doing great so we chewed the fat with a pig farmer (no pun intended) instead. The kids did fabulous. The girl very much enjoyed dancing to the live bluegrass band. I told my husband we need to have enough kids to have a full bluegrass band in our home. Maybe a certain grandfather would enjoy giving banjo lessons. (hint hint) :->