A new year needs a new focus. This year, our new focus is … focus.
It was four years ago that we started this project in which we harvest food first-hand, and we’ve done a lot in those years. We’ve grown mushrooms, brewed dandelion wine, and made sea salt. We’ve raised chickens, turkeys, and ducks. We’ve built a hoophouse, a smokehouse, and a wood-fired oven.
We’ve grown all kinds of vegetables, and even a few fruits. We’ve dabble in hydroponics. We’ve experienced the heartbreak of beekeeping. Our recreational shellfishing grew into an oyster farm, and we’ve been lucky enough to sell our oysters to some of the top restaurants in New York. Last year, we took a big leap and raised and slaughtered three pigs in our backyard.
It’s been a lot of projects, and we’ve harvested a lot of food. Last year, we got a little over a quarter of our total calories from the plants, meat, and fish we grew, raised, and caught. But the problem with doing so many things is that you don’t do any of them particularly well.
Last year, our focus was on the animals in our care, and the garden went to hell. We got about ten butternut squashes from a tangle of vines that took up half our growing space. The bok choy we planted in the hydroponic system bolted at Day Two. The cantaloupes, both of them, were inedible. The real horticultural coup, though, was getting eight pounds of potatoes from ten pounds of seed.
Neither was our fishing season all it could have been. We caught a lot of striped bass, mostly because the spring run pre-dated both the turkeys and the pigs, and we managed some bluefish throughout the rest of the year, but our One Big Goal – a bluefin tuna – eluded us.
Our hunting “season” consisted of a couple of days in the woods in Maine. We counted it a smashing success that Kevin actually laid eyes on a doe.
This year, we want to fish better and hunt better. To that end, for the first time since we started this, we’re not adding a new species to the homestead. We’re not even adding an old species – no turkeys, no ducks, no pigs. We’ll keep the chickens we have, but that’s the limit of our livestock this year. We want to focus on animals in the wild.
Fishing and hunting are skills it takes a long time and a lot of experience to get good at. While you can learn almost everything you need to know to successfully grow shiitake mushrooms by reading one book or watching one video, catching a tuna or shooting a deer requires actual commitment. Commitment requires time, and time has been in short supply around here.
And so this is the year of the rod and the gun. We will fish, we will hunt, and we will hope that we will eat. We’ll also be able to spend more time on the garden, to have some greens to go with the tuna, and potatoes with the venison.
Before we start focusing in earnest, though, we’re taking a little vacation. For the next month or so, I’ll be re-posting some of my favorite posts from years past, and Kevin and I will be back with you mid-March. I hope you’ll still be here.
Meantime, enjoy the winter. See you in the spring.