This last year has had a lot of excitement. Last summer, Keith’s job took him to North Dakota to help out in the cleanup for a very large train derailment. The train derailed early May and he didn’t come home again until almost June. After that, he was home for a week and gone for a week. We did go to the farmer’s market regularly, but because of the amount of time that Keith was spending gone, the things we wanted to do on the farm and just the regular maintenance kept falling further and further behind. The majority of the workload ended up falling to myself, but between trying to keep up with our seven kids, the farmers market, and the farm I just could not keep up. I let the garden go for the most part. We still got things like potatoes, tomatoes, some beets, carrots, and turnips, but the large scaled we had planned out the previous winter just did not happen.
The work with the farmer’s market though was actually successful! We were able to increase our regular product line and I now have 10 salves and balms and 15 different soaps we plan on keeping stocked. I was also able to perfect over 10 varieties of bread that I took each week. Some weeks we took over 50 loaves of bread and sold out of all of them. All in all, that part of the 2015 season was great!
However, home life suffered. We do everything as a family from school to church to work to play and just from the sheer magnitude of the amount of time that Keith spent gone meant that instead of being able to spend our time together spread out evenly between all those things, we were forced to sacrifice one area for others. Mostly, it was the time we would have spent playing that was instead being used for work because there was so much to catch up on. I just could not do the work of two adults and so when Keith was home we were forced to designate that time to catch up on things that we never should have fallen behind on. In that regards, it was generally a tough summer.
BUT! Even with that a lot was still accomplished! We built two raised gardens, one of which is now fenced. We got one of them planted with some strawberries that we had originally intended to use as a perennial garden, but now have decided that it is going to be ALL strawberries. The new strawberries will get planted this coming spring and we figure that we can fit close to 800 more plants. That garden was fenced. The other raised garden did not get fenced and it was not filled with dirt in the raised beds till late July, which is too late to really plant anything here. The fence on that should happen this coming spring. We also planted 16 fruit trees- 8 apple, 4 apricot, and 4 plum. We plan on planting more this next spring. We also built a rabbitry, which did not get completely finished, but that is okay because we’ve already decided we would like a larger rabbitry where could breed and butcher rabbits all year long, including the winter which is a big deal here! We also extracted honey for the first time from our honey bees. Between 3 hives (2 of which swarmed) we got almost 200 pounds of honey.
We also cleared a large area for just vegetable garden that we plan on planting next spring. Overall, that one (when finished) should be about an acre of space just for veggies.
We also (and this was the biggest accomplishment of 2015) sat down and really talked about areas in our farm and homelife where we need to improve. Our biggest problem was time management. We moved onto this property with the sole intention of building a farm together as a family that we could use as our only source of income. While Keith’s job did really help us get back on our feet after our moved here, it also got in the way of keeping us from accomplishing our own goals as a family. Keith came home to stay finally at the end of August from the train derailment, but in northern Minnesota, that might as well have been the end of fall. We got our first frost September 11 which meant the growing season was over.
So, Keith put in his notice at work and was done with the job as of December 31st, 2015. Going into 2016, we are starting fresh and making a real effort to go full time in the farm. We plan on focusing mostly on the garden and growing fruits and vegetables for sale at the farmers markets in the area. We plan on continuing the bread baking and the soap making (and maybe add a few more products for our regular line), and possibly adding in a few crafts here and there. Keith got a new job as a bus driver for the local school districts which works out perfectly for us because it still provides a remedial income during the school season, but he gets off every June, July, and August which is exactly the months that the markets will be in full swing.
After discussing this option and deciding it was best for us, and then starting down the full time farm path, we got amazing news! We are expecting another baby! Baby #8 is due June 1! Obviously this will present some challenges with our decisions, but we are confident that God has blessed our efforts in keeping our family such a high priority.
But with all good news, comes some bad news. We are also very sorry to announce the Keith’s mom (who lives on the adjoining property) has been diagnosed with cancer that has spread to her liver, bones, brain, and lymphnodes after having had lung cancer last year. With that in mind, family is a priority, and we will be helping her manage that as needed no matter what happens.
So, there it is. The update and the plan and what not. If you would like to ask questions or get in touch with us, we do respond to messages on our Facebook page or we have email. We are hoping to be back to regular activity on the Facebook page soon, and although there hasn’t been much there lately, it is not because things have been quiet here!