Systems are what allow us four gals to work our little farm.
Here's why they are so important. Bev is a double cancer survivor and doesn't always have the most get up and go. Cindy is disabled with stenosis of the back. I've had open heart surgery and have moderate osteoarthritis in several joints. Mom is 83 and has had multiple medical issues. So, we depend on systems, leverage, and teamwork to get things done.
When we decided to raise some animals, we contacted a local alfalfa grower. He now delivers our alfalfa annually right from the field. We generally order about 9 blocks (80 bales) to get us through the year. He puts it exactly where we want it. All we have to do is knock it down block by block and move it to the animals.
For that, we bought a small John Deere tractor. John works for about $50 a month in fuel, and our payments are less than $150. In another year, it will be paid for. I think it's one of the best investments we've made, as we use it to clean all the animal pens, keep the sand dunes down, move bales of hay, and haul feed, keep our farm paths clean, and our road groomed.
Last year, we bought a 40' storage container, and then built shelving in it. That is where we store all our feed, any lumber for projects, our tools, and all our farmers' market stuff. We have a work bench, and can run electricity to it with a long extension cord.
After the nightly freezes are over, we'll hook up the automatic water systems for the animals. Using PVC and small float valves, we can water the sheep, cows and most of the goats without having to drag a hose around.
With fuel being so expensive, we travel to Cedar City once a month and buy all the feed and supplies we need. We make a day of it, with either breakfast or lunch out. We go to IFA, Walmart, and anyplace else that Mom want's to go. With Cedar City being a 90 mile round trip, it makes sense to only go once a month. Mom goes a second time on the Senior bus.
Someone generally has a doctor's appointment in St George, so if one has an appointment, at least one more of makes an appointment, too. Depending upon the time of year, we may send two, three or all four of us. That is a several hour trip with St George being about a 120 mile round trip.
Bev drives school bus for the Enterprise elementary and high school, so she's able to bring basic groceries and Rx's home from town as needed. That means our vehicles don't run very often.
During Farmers' Market season, we harvest in the morning and go to market in the afternoon. If there's anything we need, we get it before or after market, depending upon the load on truck. We've been going to only one market a week, but next year, will probably go to two markets, one on Saturday and one on Wednesday.
When it comes to the garden systems, we have a large tiller we use to turn the ground in the spring. This year will be the last time we till the whole thing in the spring, as we will be installing two hoop houses over the big garden. That means we'll till in the fall and plant a cover crop. In the spring, we'll use our little Mantis to open only the row space for planting. If we have to, we'll use the big tiller to turn the hairy vetch under first, but only where we're planting. We'll leave the rest of the vetch for our pathways, using our mower if necessary.
We use drip irrigation systems, supplemented by overhead watering. The wind blows a lot here, so when that happens, we use exclusively drip. The plants really appreciate it when we can overhead water. It's like a drink of rain.
Cindy is building another aquaponics system where we'll grow a number of things. Not sure exactly what yet, but it will be exciting. We have goldfish in the feed tank, and their waste feeds the plants, with the plant waste feeding the fish. We have that in our small hoop house, which will eventually be all aquaponics.
Since we're Certified Organic, we operate our produce garden according to our Organic System Plan. That keeps on on track through our paperwork. We record all plantings, all watering, all pests and pest control, all soil input, all harvests, and all sales.
Bev takes care of all the accounting, and tracks the animals using a software program called Ranch Manager. I take care of reviewing all the plans, updating them as necessary, and also I am the "digger". I clean the pens, and move sand, etc. Cindy is an all around helper.
We build most everything we need. Bev was a draftsman in a past life and can draw plans, estimate lumber, etc. She and Cindy are also good carpenters. I'm the gopher, and the "stand on this - hold this " person.
Mom controls the kitchen, even to the point of making sure we have our morning coffee. She wouldn't have it any other way. We tease her a lot about her chickens... we care for them, we buy the feed, we gather the eggs, we sell the eggs... and she gets all the money.
So, as you can see... we use a number of systems to keep us on track.