Winter is here, let’s plan for Spring!

It’s been quite a long while since I’ve updated this site, but a lot of has happened. I’ve taken a rather large step in the name of growing my food: I’ve bought a house with more than 3 acres of land. It’s winter here in New Hampshire though so it’s time to look at what is here and start to plan for how to use it.

The land is by and large wooded. I would guess the property has about 1/2 an acre of ‘open’ land on which the house, small garage and a couple ancillary structures stand. Interestingly, the previous owner bred dogs so the property does have a series of kennels both attached and detached from the main structure. The attached kennels will be ripped out and converted into a nice covered patio. The detached kennel will be customized to hold chickens. It has ample space for a chicken house and some walking area. I will then fence in a larger green space for them as well. I can’t truely ‘free range’ them here, they will be eaten in short order, but I can give them plenty of space to run around and still stay safe. I’ve yet to decided which type or types of chickens I will get or how many.

The property currently has two fruit trees out front. I’m not sure but I believe one is an apple and the other a plum tree. When I was looking at the property in the late fall, they both were fruiting. To my eyes though, they are in pretty rough shape and fairly old. They have not been pruned properly and the ‘fruit’ on them was no larger then a marble. I plan to pull them out as early in the spring as I can and replace them with some trees that I can call my own. I’m a huge fan of apples and I would love to get a few dwarf trees and maybe a pear or other complimentary fruit. The property has some other decorative bushes and things growing as well so if I pull those out and replace them with fruit trees or bushes I should be able to quickly find space to grow quite a variety. With the exception of a bit of pruning and fertilizing, fruit trees and bushes should prove to be a low maintenance way to produce food I can eat and store all year round, once established.

Hopefully sometime in the middle of February I’ll be able to start work building a greenhouse. I hope to build a somewhat robust structure out of 2x4s that I can setup just as winter starts to subside to get a jump start on the season here. The property has what used to be an in-ground swimming pool. When I bought the property it was already filled in with dirt, but the concrete walkways around it are in very good shape. I should be able to build a series of raised beds on the old pool and setup a very stable green house just outside it on the walk ways. I’ve been reading through Elliot Coleman’s books from the Four Season Farm and trying to incorporate his ideas and systems into mine. The idea of being able to keep the garden going all year round is very appealing.

All of those items would make for a very busy garden year alone, but they are just the prelude to what I hope to accomplish in this, my first season at my new home.

One of the first truths I’ve taken away from Elliot Coleman’s book ‘Four Season Harvest’ is that I need to get a good compost pile going. It’s the first of his books I’ve opened and while it arrived in the mail only yesterday, I’ve already read through half of it. He goes into some detail on how to get a pile started, what should be in it, and how to keep it running at it’s peak. It looks pretty simple and with any luck, once the snow is melted I should be able to get something going. As with most things in the garden world, you do work now for benefit later and it will be at least a year until I can start using my compost in any quantity.

From there I need to start preparing more of the land for gardening use. I need to plot out where my property lines are, where the sun is at different times of the year and make a plan for clearing more land. If I can clear a good portion of land this Spring I should be able to get it usable for next year. Perhaps getting a couple pigs to root around and break up the soil would help speed up the process. I’ll just do the clearing in blocks and clear as I need more. If I can get what I need done with just an extra 100’x100′ area, then so be it.

All of that will keep me busy for several years I’m sure! I have a lot to think about, and a lot to plan out. I didn’t have a lot of time here at the house to learn the land before the first snow of the season came so I have a lot of questions about what is where and how best to use it. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a few diagrams and layout ideas up on the site. If nothing else, it will be fun to look back at the plans a few years down the road.

Robert