As the title suggests, 2016 has been a transition year here at Bottle Tree Farm. We said good-bye to the last of the pigs in 2015. Now, thanks to the wily fox, we are down to a small flock of fowl: three turkeys (two toms and a hen), two chickens, and two ducks. The turkeys are free range while the ducks and the chickens share a pen within a pen that seems to be sturdy enough to deter our fox. “Real” farmers would have rid themselves of the predator, but he is beautiful and wild and we just can’t bring ourselves to do it. And, as we head into the second half of our ten year plan, reducing animals means being able to do more traveling together.
As for those free range turkeys: they’ve wandered off twice in the past month or so. On Thanksgiving Day, we found them entertaining the neighborhood across the street. Today, I found two of them wandering the fence line by the railroad tracks where the third had managed to get himself on the wrong side of the fence. It took about an hour of jumping the fence myself, thrashing through underbrush, basically pushing him back over and then luring them back to the barnyard with a bucket of food. Phew…I’m ready for a nap.
We continue to nurture two bee hives. We installed a third late in the summer and it didn’t make it. Not sure why: the queen seemed to be doing her job but it just wasn’t strong enough. We would like to add two more this coming spring.
Our plans for 2017 include a high tunnel, courtesy of a USDA grant. It is an unheated plastic greenhouse that will be installed next week. We’re planning to mostly use it to raise ginger and turmeric but should also be able to get some early crops of lettuces and other greens. We were able to raise a small amount of both ginger and turmeric on our sun porch this year, thanks to seed stock from Virginia State University, where they are experimenting with growing these tropical crops in our climate. We harvested some nice ginger root and are going to pull the turmeric on New Year’s Day. These niche crops have a variety of uses and while we get the crop going, we’ll be looking for outlets to sell them. Our small harvest will be used for root stock and we’ll also be buying plants.
For now, we are enjoying the wood stove we installed in the den and doing what all farmers do this time of year: browse seed catalogs! Despite its challenges, we continue to love living here. If you’re ever in the area, feel free to stop by.