The other day someone asked me what I'd do differently if I had the time here over again.
We've been here nearly six years now so it's easy to look back with hindsight at the things I've done or haven't.
I've learnt a lot in that time but here are three things I'd approach differently!
Thinking I need to make everything permanent
I've always looked at this place as my "forever home" so everything I've built has been made to last. I feel this is a mistake, temporary things are really useful as well.
Well guess what! The shed is still up and it holds my fire wood each year. It's coming down one day but it's certainly slipped down my list of proprieties, in the meantime I'd rather have dry firewood and an ugly shed!
The way I look at it now is that if I do a temporary job that might save me some time each day or make my life easier, even for just a few weeks, then often it's worth doing.
Putting slabs down on soil might not be a very long lasting option but if it saves a month of muddy boots in the house then it's worth it. Same goes for a quick knocked up chicken run or sheep race, doesn't have to be in the right place for ever, just for when you need it. Yes I'd love a proper farm yard and sheds but until then I'm happy to make do.
Leaving Land Bare
How I wish I'd learnt this one earlier! This is has been my biggest mistake really.
The soil doesn't want to be exposed, it wants to be covered by plants, if you leave any area bare it will grow weeds.
The fruit garden soon looked like this:
Now I keep my garden looking much better. I use green manures, weed membrane and quick crop rotations to make sure the veg beds are free from weeds. I'm still struggling to bring the fruit garden back under control and to be honest things have gone that far I'm considering starting again, covering it with plastic and planting a new soft fruit garden in the orchard.
My dad is still convinced that I farm nettles...
Get ready before you get livestock
I took it slow getting stock on our little farm, but when I did I went quite big quite quick.
The sheep were a constant source of problems for the first two years that I had them and only now in year three have things leveled out. I'm guessing that as the animals have got older and more experienced and I have as well things have just got easier.
It was a new flock with it's fair share of teething problems (CODD being one I remember all to well) and then followed by a rubbish lambing it left me feeling pretty down about the whole venture.
Read my post on lambing tips if you're doing it next year.
The chickens haven't been too much trouble during this time. I've made multiple pens and tried many methods of keeping them, I really like what I'm doing at the moment and the whole pastured chickens thing would have been great to do from the start, but having the fixed pens like I did was certainly easier - especially when I had to be at work an hour away by 7.30!
I've still got the coops I made and they still get used. Handy for housing sick chickens or breeding pairs, I plan to set up some different areas next year to have some for breeding.
I think livestock only becomes easier over time as you gain the experience and the equipment you need. I think it would feel that you're going from 0 - 60 no matter what but I probably should have invested in some new hurdles sooner!
So what were your major mistakes when you started your smallholding/homestead?
What would you advice people to do differently to how you did it?