April 13, 2003

Ruminations and Droppings

We are just a few weeks away from the four year anniversary of 'breaking ground' here on the old homeplace. The dust of reconstruction has settled, the ghosts of those who have lived and died in this house have given up their grumbling over the new tenants, and being here has become as comfortable and familiar as oxygen in air. We have at last arrived, with the illusion of permanance, rootedness, belonging.

Now that the majority of the 'must-do's' are done to the house and yard, how should we amend our five-year plan... within the constraints, of course, of a belt-tightened budget and our usual frugal approach to things? How can we be good stewards of our resources and make this plot of land a better place than we found it, now that the living space is 'done'?

I would love to find a compatible use for the land... grow, raise, build something... that would add value (and maybe bring a tiny profit) to our lives and the worth of the place for whoever comes next (hoping, of course, that it might be family, but that seems unlikely). Keeping beef cattle is a marginal enterprise, plus, it would require putting up fencing, modifying the barn for shelter, providing water while keeping hooves out of the streambed, and so on, with a payback period of quite a few years. We just got rid of a pasture full of scrawny pine trees on what little level land we have here, so putting it back in Christmas trees (a major county industry) or other plantings won't fly. The level land on the property is between the creeks at the bottom of a deep valley... a major frost pocket... so fruit trees, even if they survive the severe deer browse, are likely to succumb to late spring and early fall frosts and freeze.

Failing the larger-scale management of the place for farm use, then, I'm beginning to think on a smaller scale. We could get a few hens and a rooster, but why bother when we have several easy sources of 'organic eggs' nearby. A 'pick-your-own blueberry farm' might have some merit, but then there are already a couple of them, in much more accessible parts of the county than here.

I was walking across Tech campus in the rain last week; seeing the worms all over the sidewalks resurrected the memory of a venture I almost got into back in the "Mother Earth" days when we first moved to Virginia: raising rabbits for meat, growing earthworms in the droppings under the hutches. Rabbits are clean and quiet (compared to chickens...yuk!) and produce lean meat; and since Ann and I are only minor carnivores, a couple of breeding females and one buck would more than supply our protein needs. I could put pens along the edge of the shed behind the house to shelter them from wind and rain. And then there are the earthworms. I wonder how they would be in a nice stir-fry. Hmmmm. I'll let you know when the brainchild is born; I fear a very low APGAR, however.

Posted by fred1st at April 13, 2003 07:22 AM | TrackBack

Goats are fun to have around, and they do a good job of keeping your lot clear. Then again, I've always wanted raise an alpaca, mebee you could jump in first and tell me how much trouble they are?

Posted by: ronbailey at April 13, 2003 07:36 AM

What about raising earthworms? I made a profitable venture out of it over the summer when I was in highschool ;)

Posted by: Chris at April 13, 2003 10:52 AM

Hmmm...what about this ;)

Posted by: deb at April 13, 2003 10:55 AM

Beekeeping. I've always wanted to keep bees.

Honey + beeswax = fab!

Don't tell me you're going to raise and eat bunny rabbits. That's just too unEasterlike.

Posted by: Pascale Soleil at April 13, 2003 11:59 AM

When I studied agriculture here in the 80s, our Dept. of Agriculture put out "fact sheets" on many topics. The one on earthworms included a worm cake recipe, hopefully tongue-in-cheek, although it looked like a normal recipe. Included the warning to wash worms well before use.

Posted by: Jan at April 13, 2003 05:51 PM

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