The Year of the Rat in Review

About one year ago, I wrote a list of goals for the Year of the Rat. Now that the year is over, it’s time to review the list. How did we get on?

1. Do “baby yoga” with Owen and have lots of fun. I’m proud to say that we really over-achieved on this goal. As well as having fun yoga time together at home, Owen and I arranged to get together for weekly yoga sessions with a couple of other mums and babies. This has been a lovely way to spend time together and make friends. Owen continues to enjoy some of his “baby yoga” moves, even as he’s becoming more interested in mimicking the “grown-up moves” that I do. He still loves to sit peacefully on my lap or in front of me while I chant Sanskrit prayers.

2. Build a chook house and chook run. I guess we score about 50% on this one. The construction of the chook runs is largely finished. Big thanks are due to my father for his work on this project. After thinking long and hard about plans for a chook house, and assessing our resources and building skills (Let’s face it: Building is not what we are best at.), Kevin has ordered a kitset henhouse. We can’t wait for it to arrive! There’s still quite a lot to do before the chooks can move in, but we are well on the way. We are looking forward to doing some big chook-system documentary posts for Farmlet once the show is up.

3. Install a solar water heater. Not done yet, I’m afraid, but steps have been taken. We have earmarked the funds for this project, and Kevin has been in touch with the vendors about the size of the system and how to install it.

4. We plan that calves and goat kids will be born on the Farmlet this coming spring. We had mixed fortunes on this one, with the bull not staying long enough for Rosie to get in calf. Still, Miss Scarlett Beef-Shanks (Coco’s calf this season) is thriving. We were especially delighted to see Coco deliver a healthy calf after the trouble she had the previous year.

Scarlett Beef-Shanks, about twelve hours old

5. Carrying on from #4: Extend the small goat house and build a milking stand for the goats. A big zero for this! This one just looked like too much to tackle last year. We decided to put off doing this work and breeding the goats for another year.

6. Undertake some cool cheese projects using fresh cow and goat milk.
I think we’ve made a strong start on the cheese. Owen and I attended a fantastic cheese making course back in October. I have already made kefir parmesan, aged kefir cheese, pressed curd, and ricotta. Still to come: cheddar, feta, camembert, and maybe gouda.

Heirloom tomatoes and homemade, raw milk cheese

7. Make delicious meals using meat raised on the Farmlet. Yes!! And I’ve enjoyed sharing recipes for beef liver pate and steak and kidney pie on the Farmlet website.

8. Experiment with grinding and cooking cornmeal, including some from our own corn. Oh, dear! I dropped the ball on this one. I still haven’t even figured out how to fit to corn augur into our grain mill. . .

9. Save seeds from more of our vegetables, herbs, and flowers. We’ve made some good progress on our seed saving. Some of the varieties we are saving include: borlotti beans, black spanish radish, black beauty zucchini, onion, cilantro, selugia bean, soldier poppy, cosmos, calendula, naked oats, pygmy torch amaranth, dill, and land cress. With the fruiting season now upon us, I’m also about to save seed from several varieties of tomato, tomatillo, runner bean, zinnia, and russian giant sunflowers.

10. Continue to battle kikuyu and work on “taming” the house paddock. We hope to work on weed barriers this year, with the aim of reducing the ongoing effort. We have done quite a lot of work on this front, due to the design of the chook runs we are making. We can’t wait to test our new barrier system when we finally get some chooks.

11. Attempt to make some more crusty fermented beverages. I’ve had a go at making a number of different fermented drinks: ginger beer, honey mead, and rosehip-hibiscus soda were all delicious. The last two were made using water kefir grains and honey from our neighbour’s bees. We were hoping to make wine from our grapes last year, as well, but the grape crop was pretty poor and it didn’t happen.

12. Raise some seedlings of “bushman’s toilet paper” to plant out in the garden. Can’t believe this one is still on the “to do” list after all this time. I’ve found a source of seed, so should buy it and get on with the project.

13. Last but not least: I want to write at least one update per week for the Farmlet website! This still seems like an excellent goal to strive for, even though it has seemed so unattainable over the past month or so. I’ll keep trying!

Well, that was the Year of the Rat in review. Overall, I think it was a good year for us here on the Farmlet. Lots of good stuff happened, but it looks like we still have plenty of work left to do in the Year of the Ox, doesn’t it! My next post will be our new list of goals for the Year of the Ox.

4 Responses to “The Year of the Rat in Review”

  1. Michelle says:

    I recently stumbled across your blog and have really enjoyed reading back through your adventures!
    Just wondering what ‘bushman’s toilet paper’ is?? and does the plant have another name?
    Also, have you posted in more detail about your process for making drinks? I’m very keen to learn how to do this.

  2. MMP says:

    Regarding your goals of housing for the goats and chooks, have you looked at cattle panel structures?

    A cattle pannel structure is a greenhouse looking structure made by arching galvanized cattle panels and throwing a tarp or other appropriate cover over them. Three pannels make a 2.7 x 4 meter structure about 2 meters tall. We use them with great success for goats and chickens. They are versitile, inexpensive and easy to put up quickly. Best of all, if you decide to change things, the cattle panel can go into another structure or… be used as cattle fencing. (or goat or kid or whatever kind of fencing you need)

    I have a bunch of posts about cattle panel structures on my blog tagged as CPS and Cattle Panel Structures here.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Hi Michelle,
    “Bushman’s toilet paper” is also known as “rangiora.” It’s a New Zealand native shrub. I’m not sure of the botanical name, but will probably be finding out about that when I purchase the seed.
    Another more detailed drink post is on my to-do list, for sure.
    Thanks for your interest in our adventures.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Hi there,
    I loved looking at your blog — especially the goat pictures! The Cattle Panel Structures look really useful. I haven’t seen anything like those panels for sale around here, but will make a point of looking for them at the farm-supply stores next time we are there. Maybe I’ve been walking right past them.
    Thanks for the suggestion and good luck with your goats.