Wednesday 27 December 2017

How did I do against my self sufficiency goals for 2017?

It's nearly the end of the year so I thought I'd do the cliche post of looking back at how things went. I'll look at how I did against my 16 self sufficency goals that I set for myself for 2017. These were rather optimistic though so please bare that in mind...

1. Gain Better control over my growing areas.

This is a yes and a no to this one! I certainly have the veg garden under control now, but I still need to work on the edges and find a way to control round the outside. I have planted comfrey around the perimeter so I hope this will form a barrier that I can mow up to. Weed mebrane has been a game changer as well.

My fruit garden on the other hand is completely out of control and I'd go as far as saying it's beyond saving. My plan with that is to cover it over with plastic and leave it for a year. I'm going to start a new fruit garden in the orchard, with wide rows and hopefully some annual beds in between, watch this space for that one!

2. Garden Smarter Not Harder

I've been really trying with this one!
All my garden beds are now the same size and I think by the end of the year I am up to 54 beds at 10ft by 30inches. I love this size, find it easy to work, although I do have a few double the length. I have weed membrane burnt with the right holes for different crops, hoops and net that will fit any bed, it just seems a great way to work.
A push seeder has also helped me be far faster when it comes to direct sowing and using standard cell trays has made me better at transplanting.
I also had a few failures as well. The strawberry planter I made up (behind the girls in the photo above) is a great example of this. It just wasn't working, taking too long to water in the hot weather so I just abandoned it!

3. Record Keeping
Well I certainly tried at this one but unfortunately I seem to have stopped around August time!
I will try harder next year, it is the key for success I think! At least I know when I started to grow things and how early things went in. The peas are certainly something I'll be trying to get in just as early this next growing season, as well as beets and carrots. I was pleased with how soon we were getting proper harvests from the garden this year.

4. Money
Well this didn't happen! I did sell excess produce at playgroup and at the school gate. I supplied a couple of friends with veg boxes during the summer, one friend had one every couple of weeks, there isn't much money in selling veg but it helps pay for the obscene quantities of seed that I buy each year!
I had a good lambing and sold the lambs as stores in October, not great money but it's nice lump before Christmas.
I did my first paid garden club talk, this was something I really enjoyed so I'll be looking at putting myself out there more next year, I already have a few talks booked up.
Next year I'm going to concentrate on getting the extension finished then I can look at finding some other revenue streams that can be based from here.

5. Staples
I certainly made some effort with this. I grew a double bed of quinoa which seems to have cropped well. I've still not processed it yet though so I don't know the yields! I think I'll plant it again next year, its a handy crop as it doesn't take much care and fits easily into a rotation as it's not related to many of the standard families.
I grew a good amount of early potatoes, which we really enjoyed. I'm going to grow more potatoes next year and maybe create a bit more growing space for them...

Didn't bother with chickpeas though but grew soup peas instead. They taste great but look horrible so I need to find some that will dry green rather than grey! My wife eats with her eyes!

6. Be better at harvesting and preserving
I've been much better at cropping out beds rather than just leaving a few things in the ground that never get harvested. This has meant that I get more crops from each bed if I'm careful. There are still some crops out there that I should have got in though!
I've been dehydrating lots of things with my new dehydrator, this has meant that we can use summer gluts (squash) in the winter. I'd like to dehydrate more veg though as I seemed to concentrate on mainly fruit (mainly apples, lots and lot so of apples).

7. Be More Proactive at dealing with problems
I've been out there a lot more this year so I guess that's been the main thing helping me keep things in line. I certainly could be better at trapping rodents (although I've made lots of boxes for traps) and I need to be better at covering areas that aren't in use so weeds don't take control.

8. Grow more
I have never grown so much as I have this year! We have had so much food from our homestead it's unreal. We've eaten more veg than ever, with multiple crops from each bed, and having our own lambs and chickens from the land has been great as well.
The meat chickens in particular have been awesome and something I'm looking at doing again next year.

9. Seed Saving
I've had more plants in to save seed from this year. I still need to process some of them but I'm pleased with what I've got.
I joined my local seed saving/swap group and have been going to meetings, this has been a great source of knowledge as well as a good way to meet like minded people.
On top of this I have also joined the heritage seed library and have grown a few things for them as well.

10. Hard and Soft Fruit
My wife worked hard to be able to get at the soft fruit early in the season, battling the nettles, and only because of her did we manage to have so many raspberries. But I do think the area is beyond saving and needs to be covered over and start again somewhere without so many nettles!
We also managed to plant another 13 apple trees in the coppice so in the future that should help to stock our larder!

11. Improve the coppice area
I didn't increase the willow numbers but I did plant lots of apple trees.
We also made a log circle and enjoyed the area earlier in the year.

12. Building work
I'm certainly not where I want to be with this one!
Inside the extension is still not at all usable as I haven't knocked through yet. A couple of rooms are plastered and I've made and fitted the doors but there's still plenty to do. I'm hoping it all comes together next year when my little boy starts going to nursery for a couple of days a week.
Outside things are looking a bit better! The top patio is finished and is totally amazing, we had a few great BBQ's out there in the summer and the space worked really well. I still need to get moving with other areas but at least we have a nice area to eat outside and for the kids to ride their bikes.

13. Herbs and Spices
I grew mostly the same number of things as what I normally do, there was a few new ones, like Korean mint and summer savory for example. I really enjoy growing and using herbs so I'll be looking out for more interesting ones next year. I have been talking to some local restaurants and the chefs have tried some of the more unusual things I've grown. The black mint is one that they are interested in so I might put a bigger patch of that in next year!

14. Baking 
Well I've kept up with this one! Even had a proposal due to my Chelsea buns the one day! I bake so often now that it's become second nature, I don't have to look at many instructions or recipes but just know what I'm doing. If I'd could tell my younger self that he'd never believe me!

15. Animals
The sheep have been good this year and haven't destroyed my will to keep them, like they have in the past, they still don't make much money but they are great for the kids and I do enjoy it.
As I've mentioned above the meat chickens have been a great addition this year and having 20 laying birds in pasture pens has also been great. My new pens have really helped me keep my birds healthy and even when it was down to negative 12 degrees c the other night they were fine in their heras panel pens with just a tarp and one side filled in.

16. Declutter
Just nope.
I just think there's something wrong with me.

One thing that wasn't on the original list but should have been was learning and training. This is something that I've put a lot of effort into this year, I've attended talks, spent the day with a market gardener, visited another market garden and spent a day there, went to a days course at garden organic on unusual veg and read lots and lots on the subject. Some might even call me obsessed...
I have tried to put it into practice where I can and I have some plans for next year forming in my mind!

So there's my review of my goals that I set myself at the start of the year. I don't think I've done too bad but there are certainly areas to improve!

What do you think?

Did you achieve your goals for 2017?

What do you think should be on my list for 2018? I won't be offended!


  1. You have done well, loads of ticks on your list, room for improvement next year, you did not say anything regarding your wonderful parenting skills, can't wait to read your post for 2018, Happy New year

    1. Thanks Marlene, this was more just a look against the list. Theres been so many great things this year, my children are a huge part of it all, I've also made and strengthened so many friendships as well and feel a really connected part of my community.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, I always look forward to hearing from you. Have a great new year. x

  2. Excellent post, Kev. That was quite the list! Many good goals and much good progress. There is always a lot to work on, so evaluating your goals the way you have really helps keep a mental balance, I think. I have to say that my garden edges and borders are the hardest for me too, especially my perennial herb beds. I hope the comfrey works. I need to try something like that too.

    1. Yeah, I have my fingers crossed for the comfrey but the nettles are so bad here! I think I need to make a real effort on the edges this year, it'll keep everything looking better and far easier to manage, I think it gives too many pests hiding places as well!

  3. I would love to read about how much food you managed to preserve, as in canning, drying, freezing etc.

    1. I'll see what I can do! It's a hard one though as we're using ti all the time, I guess I should keep a far better record of it all!

  4. cat + rodent = no rodent

    will you root the tips of the soft fruit canes to plant in the new cane area of the orchard or are you starting fresh from the ground up?
    love reading about your work.

    1. but also = cat which = cat poo.
      Not a massive fan of cats, hate their poo int he garden and hate that they take all the little birds.
      I'll take some cuttings of fruit bushes and some I'll buy in fresh. Be great to get some new varieties which will help spread out the harvest a bit more.

    2. Don't forget though that cats prefer not to poo in their own gardens and will go to the neighbours garden instead :-)

      Maybe a Jack Russell then, they are great at keeping rodents down.

  5. I think you have achieved much this year Kev. I would agree and be inclined to start a fresh bush fruit bed. These are effectively permanent beds and so best given a good start and then maintained rather than struggle retrieving them. No doubt in starting afresh you might lay it out better in any case. I feel for your wife having to harvest between the nettles!

    1. Yeah, I'm thinking much wider spacing this time, a mistake I made before was to have it all far too close together. I'm tempted to go really wide in my rows and allow enough to have a veg bed in the middle, which could even be used just for flowers to attract pollinators.

    2. I grew flowers for cutting next to my raspberries last summer & had the best crop of berries ever thanks to all the bees. Someone else on the allotment grows pumpkins & squashes over frames (so largely off the membrane covered floor) in the middle of their fruit cage, as they don't need much attention, attract the bees & are picked after most of the fruit has ended.

  6. Maybe push on & finish the house extension, then you could all be living in & enjoying that space while you develop the garden. It's easy to leave house related jobs once the garden really takes over in early spring, & then you don't get another chance with the house until late autumn when there are also Xmas distractions etc. Good luck with all your future plans.

    1. Yeah, I think the house has to be top of my list next year! We've spent a lot of money getting it this far and still can't use any of it! I'm determined to eat Christmas dinner in there next year!

    2. That sounds an excellent goal - fingers crossed for that.

  7. You have achieved a great deal with you home, garden and family. It's a learning curve and you are definitely winning.

    1. Thanks Tania! I feel that I learn so much each year and it always means theres so much more to do! I'll get there one day!

  8. You've done brilliantly well .... and all with a small toddler at your heels.

    I think as you say you should concentrate on finishing that extension, then your house will be as spacious and usable as that fantastic patio.

    We had no real targets for 2017 except to survive it and keep moving forward.

    2018 however is a whole new ball game. We have a small mortgage that we hope to pay off by the end of it by chucking every spare penny we can at it. It means that we HAVE to be as self sufficient as possible with everything we do.

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