I’m counting down the days until it’s time for us to pull up our twiggy roots and transplant westward to greener, damper climes. As I’m thinking about packing, gifting, lightening our loads and general short-term mayhem I can’t help looking ahead to where I want to be and slowly flexing my fingers in anticipation. Are you curious about what I’m scheming? I hope so because I’m about to lay it out for you in rough chronological order.
Step 1: Get some bees.
I’ve wanted to have my own hive(s) ever since I took a beekeeping class in college. Recently, things have gotten a little more specific as I read this book and that website. I want a top-bar beehive with russian bees. Essentially, having a top bar hive means you get a little less honey than the typical langstroth hive (the tall, boxy towers of bees) but you don’t have to wrestle with immensely heavy hive boxes, you get a natural honey comb shape and better bee health. Here’s a video describing the basic idea behind top bar construction and you get to watch him inspect the hive as he chats. A very well done video.
I want to go with Russian bees because they are a bit heartier than the Italian bees most beekeepers work with. They resist diseases a bit better, they tolerate colder weather and they just seem to be a bit feistier than their mellow, golden cousins. I figure that if I built a top bar hive right away, there’s a chance I could get my hands on a swarm within a month of getting to Oregon. That’s enough time for the bees to get established enough to make it through the winter. Then, next spring we’d be ankle deep in honey!
Step 2: Chickens!…. or ducks
I would love to have five chickens. That way I would have five eggs a day at peak season and about two a day during the off season. Plus, five chickens makes a pretty satisfying group of chickens scratching and pecking in the yard. Welsummers, Marans, Ameraucana and/or silkies! The first two lay dark dark brown eggs, the third lay blue/green eggs and the last have the sweetest temperaments.
Now, I say all that but what I’d really love to have is ducks. They lay eggs all the time (more often than chickens) and I love their sweet dispositions. My first choice would definitely be a pair of Indian Runner ducks. No doubt. If I could find some of those, I wouldn’t look twice at chickens.
3. Dyers Garden CSA
I want to plant an herb and dyers garden as soon as I can. There will be Black-Eyed Susans, Coreopsis, Dhalias, Goldenrod, Indigo, Marigold, Sunflowers, Yarrow, Zinnias… and so much more! The idea behind a Dyers CSA is that I would compile a kit of seeds, a small booklet with instructions on when to harvest, how and what to do with each plant in order to dye with it… perhaps a bit of nice white wool, cotton a linen fiber to experiment with. How fun!
4. Start a Fiber CSA
The idea is to start a Fiber CSA in Oregon. There would be a share for spinner, knitters and felters (that way there is as little waste as possible). I want a small flock of sheep (no more than ten) and it would look like a grab bag flock. I’m thinking one or two Bluefaced Leicester, one or two Romney ewes, one Cormo ewe and then a smattering of crosses.
Step 5: Raise some Goats…
I have big plans for goats. If I got a Anglo-Nubians, Alpines or Boer doe I could get milk from a doe and a female kid and, if her kid(s) turn out to be buck(s), they would make great pack or draft goats! That’s all in addition to being great bushwhackers, foragers and troublemakers.
6 and Beyond…
Further down the line I dream of setting up a really basic mini mill in a little shop/yurt and processing my own wool and whoever else in the area needs their fleeces done (you’d be surprised at how few places there are to send your wool to be processed, and there are even fewer in any sort of driving distance).
Oh, how easy these things would be to start! It’ll take about 5 years before I’m anywhere close to all of this and another 10 before everything is on the go and mature enough to really look at it with a business eye.
My overarching goal is to get to a place where I can feed myself… that is, grow 90% of the food I eat. Or be able to barter with friends for things they are growing/producing. I want to make my own clothing from recycled fabric. I want the sheep to support themselves through the sale of their fleecy goods. I want to live simply and quietly, satisfied that I have done good work with good people.