Sunday, March 29, 2015

Input, input, input.....

Spring is here alright these days. All the snow and ice has gone from our piece of land, but only the top 2-3cm of soil have defrosted. Snow and ice still remains in dark corners and on the lakesurfaces.
Today I found tussilago in bloom, while buzzards were circling over my head, calling. And everything was basking in the sun. However spring is grey looking mostly so far. This early in the season there are plenty of backlashes and wile large parts of Sweden and Norway were covered in a thick blanket of snow again, we remained on the "warm" side of this and received a good dose of rain. And where warm and cold air mix, where rain falls onto ice... there often is fog or low hanging clouds... Dark, doomy, gloomy, miserable and wet.... And yet.... There is a certain mystical beauty in it too.

So with the conditions being as they are, I do what I often do best, besides being bored; I read.... A lot... On all sorts of things. My life right now, well not my life, but many of my spare hours, is being dominated by the gathering of information and the feeding of the brain a.k.a. reading books..... and the internet. And to make things more interesting I do that in four languages; Dutch, German, English and Swedish. Not simultaneously of course... The folks at the library must be going nuts with all the reservations I put out. Or at least think we are dry and dusty bookworms...
Like I mentioned earlier there has been a major shift in interest. The military history and scale modelling are all but history themselves and even the woodsman-thing has moved to the background a bit. That will never disappear, but now other things have moved to the front of the stage; growing food and keeping animals. Bees and chickens mostly.
There are many items and issues I want or need to know more about. Decisions to be made on what course to steer. Practical issues to deal with. This search has lead me to many interesting and eyeopening books, articles, philosophies and the like. Quite an interesting matter, really.

Apart from adapting my personal life to become less dependent on the several systems, I also want to integrate this lifestyle into a professional enterprise.
I envisage a farm/company that produces honest, decent food. Where animals and plants live as close as possible to their roots and in freedom, not being submitted to an onslaught of chemicals or poisons.
The farm also has to function as a unity, creating a complete circle of feeding, fertilizing and producing, ranging from the soil till ones plate.
I have knowledge about growing plants and I have an inner connection to it, too. Doing it on a larger scale will require adapting that knowledge. Keeping animals is new to me, but I am not burdened or weighted down by an education in or knowledge of that subject. Especially not the modern version! So my brain is not filled with all kinds of crap and I am free to absorb any knowledge that feels right to me.
The starting point will be sowing and pre growing vegetables and other edibles in a greenhouse in order to start sales early and give others a chance of growing their own food and then move on to growing them on open land, both for ourselves and for sales. Accompanied by bees and beekeeping, because let's face it, these are interdependent and so are we. The bees would pollinate, we'd get our own honey and above all it is just plain fun! The next move would be the incorporation of livestock; chickens, sheep and cows.

Printing a lot of the information I found on the net proved to be quite necessary. For one I have difficulties reading large volumes of text on a screen. Another thing is that I regularly browse through my bookcase and I like to have books or information close at hand for immediate use and reference should I need it.
Btw I found a great academic study by a Swedish lady, called Jenny Helsing, who studied and calculated how much vegetables ( a selection of the most common sorts) a family of 4 would need to live of in one year; in kg per vegetable, in square meters per vegetable, in labour etc... Very handy piece of reference. EDIT; here's her work as a pdf-file
And a lot on how to deal with certain weeds, companion planting schedules, rules, regulations etc....
And in order to make sure that I do not starve to death and not only my brain gets fed my better half had been making these typical Dutch goodies, called eierkoeken or eggcakes.

Biodynamic or just "plain" ecological/organic?
That is one of the things I am thinking about.
They have similarities and both have much, if not most, in common with what I/we want to do, with what we stand for.
- Would biodynamic or demeter be a good marketing tool? Would the general public, or those interested in decent food, understand what it stands for? Or would it label us to heavily, maybe even push us into a small niche of alternative thinkers? We know Rudolf Steiner's philosophies and anthroposophy in general. Our kids went to a Waldorf School back in Holland and we agree with a good deal of it. But certainly not all! A certain amount of it is based on belief or a bit far fetched. I've seen the, sometimes bordering on the religious/occult/sekt like, behaviour and visions with a good portion of those who follow his way.
If I understood correctly then demeter would require a complete circle within a location. Food, housing, fertilisation, growing... it all has be in tune with each other. That would mean a complete farm... Which would suit me fine, but would also create a steep learning curve.... and a considerable bundle of cash to pay for it all.
Going for this label would not only give us a label to go to the market with, but bind us to certain strict rules and regulations, of which earth, plant and animal benefit.... and of course there are expenses.
- Would ecological be a good marketing tool? There already is so much that uses this label and much of it is not ecological at all. At least not to my specifications. It is being over marketed, growing thin with the public, yet it is a known label.
Being able to use a known label for selling food as organic or ecological also has its rules and regulations and thus expenses. The learning curve would be less steep and I could go step by step. So for now I am leaning much more toward this approach.

Looking at all of this I will need help.... eventually.
That help will have a seasonal character. Hiring staff costs. A lot. So how can people help me, while at the same time I can do something for them in return?
WWOOF comes to mind. Exchanging physical help for free accommodations and stay and the exchange of knowledge and experience. Via via I also came across a site of an organization called "Transition", and this post specifically this changes everything so now what . I must say I like the idea a lot, so maybe that creates possibilities as well. I do not like to get hung up on a certain organisation or idea, so joining them probably will not happen, but the idea itself has merit. There is an international side to this organisation too, if you're interested.

And should all this never materialize..... At least I will have learned a lot, so nothing goes to waste. Neither time nor braincapacity ;-)

Well, I guess it is the best way to spend some of my hours until I can move on to the hands-on-bit. While I keep struggling with a cold that will neither break out or disappear and the change of season to top it of....


  1. I am so impressed with your ambition! Keep going! I wish I was your age I might consider it, too, but, alas, I am too "decrepit" to start any large scale truck farm, or even small scale! That's OK. I have plenty to occupy myself with. Drawing, painting, writing and doing chores around here. I will keep following your exploits to see what little things from your experience that we can apply to ours. Right now we are readying ourselves for a trip to the Grand Canyon! Wow! We have people that we trust coming to take care of things while we are gone. Soon! Can hardly wait! Then all the while we are discussing where is our very own homestead going to be? We have two candidates: Hawaii and Central California. The CC is easy but not as nice; The HA is not easy but oh so nice.

    I don't know how you can put up with winter that lasts so long. Even though those photos are so beautiful! I get so slow and hardly accomplish anything in winter. I guess I am a Mediterranean climate type person.

  2. If I did not have my ambitions, then there would be very little left.
    I can not change the world, but I can try to change mine.
    Enjoy the Grand Canyon. Always wanted to see that one, but I probably never will.
    So... you are planning a big change as well huh. How about that whole transition.thing? Got any ideas of or from it? A homestead on Hawaii?? Is that doable?

    1. Yes, it is do-able but it means selling everything (except my husbands welder and his horse) and starting from scratch. It also means being far away from my family. We think the key would be going there with a part-time job lined up or maybe free rent in exchange for part-time work. Shipping the horse overseas will be a big event! See, this is why moving to a homestead in the less amenable California is so much easier. California is in the midst of a terrible drought and land prices are very high in the areas that are worth anything! Never easy when you're poor. Well, we're cash poor but we're skilled. And ambitious, like you!

    2. Take your whole family and move elsewhere. You can start a family homestead. ;)
      Southern Oregon or Idaho... Winter might be more than you're used to, but it'll probably white and cold instead of grey and miserable and thus much more bearable, enjoyable even.

  3. Right. Tell that to the 22 year daughter. :-)

    My husband hates snow. I almost left him over this but I figured out how to live with it (him). Yes, we're quite stuck in that we have these stipulations that don't make us very flexible about where we go. It's quite the challenge. We discuss it all the time and I am getting quite weary of the talk and no decisions! I think our problem is we can't commit to anything. How can you move forward when you don't have a clear cut goal?

  4. Great to hear you are going the homsteading direction! I hope you end up having more produce than you know what to do with. :)

  5. Hej buddy! Great to have you back!!
    I will be glad if we have any produce at all the first few years... but eventually.....