As I look out my window at the huge piles of snow, I'm smiling a little smile. That's because I have just completed my "Five Year Plan" for our 3/4 acre of property. I have decided to see if I could put together something that would take our lot in this little town and turn it from a property tax guzzler to something that actually contributes to our family.
Our property is fairly bare. We have a giant ugly pine tree (that I hate and my husband says we have to keep) to work with. We also have a steep ravine at the back of the property. On the left is a stand of trees that nicely shields us from those neighbors, and then a big nothing on the south side that ends at the top of the hill and the other neighbor's house.
Before the snow arrived a few months ago, I made a bunch of measurements to give my drawings some rough accuracy. I'm not an artist, but I think my drawings give a decent layout of our yard. Below is how it is now. The amoeba at the front right corner of the house is a hydrangea bush. There's another little hydrangea (that is not happy where it is) at the corner of the screened porch in the back. There is a fenced area (where you see "pool") that has been a play yard for my son. He's too old for that now (sniff). (Click on the pics to enlarge.)
The next drawing is my plan for this year (which is not all that far away--I hope). I'm calling it "Year 1." The additions and changes are indicated in each drawing by colored pencil. The biggest endeavor in Year 1 will be the garden. We'll also be waltzing a bunch of plants to new places. The sad little hydrangea will move from the porch to the edge of the garage. There is some mint planted where the garden will go. It's heading over to cozy next to the porch. A bushy lilac is going to relocate to the edge of the southern side of our property to provide a bit of a divider. There's actually no division between our property and the neighbor's on that side (as I said), so I'm going to attempt to visually divide it. A fence would be way too expensive.
Along with moving plants, we'll also be adding a screen of sunflowers near the pool. We'll need that because we're taking the fencing out, but leaving the posts so that we won't have to walk around to get to the garden. I will leave two sections of fence in one corner and plant some herbs for convenience to the kitchen. The north side of the garden will be lined with trellis type thingys my husband built last year. That, too, will provide some screening.
Near the house (and the water supply) we're going to put in a compost area. I'm very excited about that. I need to get out more.
If all goes well in 2011, 2012 will bring some much desired edible landscaping. We'll have a year to save up for them as well as spreading the word to friends and neighbors and Craigslist and whatever to see if we can't just get some or all of them for free!
We intend to add several more fruit trees to our "orchard" area, for one. That's why the lilac had to move. There are already blueberries growing under our porch. For some reason, they LOVE it there, so we're going to encourage more growth. In the right back area, we're going to start a rhubarb and asparagus bed. Plenty of sun and good drainage.
Two years down and (hopefully) things are being maintained and are flourishing. If we're still here (one never knows), Year 3 will see the addition of some nut trees and a willow in the front corner of our lot. Once again, a little help with screening but EDIBLE (one day). The willow is just for looks. I'm not interested in making a salad out of it. Another addition to the front will be some slate (we have a free source) to give a walking path to our front door. Six years ago my husband took out the sidewalk. I don't know why. It was gone before I knew it. Since then we've been walking on the grass.
Finally, I'm actually going to give growing "grains" a go. I'm very trepidatious, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. ("Grained?") I intend to try some sweet corn, oats, and/or quinoa. We'll see. I've not done much research in this area.
You know what our self-sustaining venture needs? Farm "animals." I'm starting easy, though. I'm going to start with a worm bin. I forgot to color it in, but it's at the very bottom right of the drawing.
Live Christmas trees are big up here. As you know, we're an artificial tree family. (Aluminum preferred by me but not popular with the other members of the family. Sigh.) That big ol' section to the left is just crying out for something to fill it. A little ambitious maybe?
In Year 1 I branched out into "farm animals" by the making of a worm bin. I, too, think that I'm stretching things a bit by calling worms "farm animals." Well, how about THIS idea: Chickens! I've been against them until just recently. I don't like it when critters die. It's emotionally draining. (Will I cry if the worms die?) On the other hand, I love farm fresh eggs. Chickens are great bug catchers AND (did you know this?) great mousers! If we were to consider getting some layers, I think we'd want to go with a tractor system for the coop so that they don't scratch up all the grass in one section of our yard. By moving them around, it might prove more beneficial to the land. Having farm animals is definitely a stretch for me. That's why it's in Year 4!
(Our place is zoned for farm use. We could have a herd of cattle back there if we wanted. We don't.)
Year 5 is upon us. My son is 13yo (WHAT!!!). Our property is teeming with edible plants. Chickens are clucking contentedly. Baby Christmas trees are growing happily. What could possibly be missing?
How about a greenhouse to extend our very short growing season? My husband has wanted one of those for years. If we manage to add this, we'll actually make a door that will allow us to enter the greenhouse via the house. My husband believes that it will provide loads of heat to our house as well as the extended season for plants. Passive solar power. Maybe we could really pull it off!
Finally, if the chickens work out, I will give definite thought to adding another "farm animal." Rabbits. The biggest reason that I'm even considering them is for their, well, their manure. If they produce enough, we could actually package it and sell it at our local farm co-op. Also, they're quiet and they're sweet and cuddly. Unfortunately, they die, too. That part is what caused me to push them off to Year 5!
So, there it is. My Five Year Plan. Now that I know my intended goals, I can start the step-by-step process to make it happen. First up? Planting seeds in seed trays with grow lights. We'll be doing that in about 4 weeks.
I'm chompin' at the bit!