Well I can’t say I’m going to miss 2015. It was an incredible year full of really important steps toward our goals, but not the most enjoyable process.
The beginning of the year was downright miserable. I was still in grad school, having just dumped a bucket of water on the wicked witch of the ceramics department (I left). I spent the winter semester at EMU taking drawing classes, which, in hindsight, we’re very helpful. I found it nice to be able to express myself for once without someone telling me that I was wrong. Unfortunately that one year at EMU cost me $20k in tuition and housing. I had to take extra on my loans to be able to afford to live while I was in school.
In late February, after losing a lot of hope, we found our homestead and we put an offer in on it. What a mess that was. Two long months of attempting to get VanDyk Mortgage to do anything while our sellers became less and less interested in our offer. Finally we managed to buy the house, but at a great expense. We lost our MSHDA funding due to unfair regulations (Justin and I were considered together even though it was illegal for us to be together at that point). We had planned to spend $3500 out of pocket for closing costs. After refinancing Justin’s almost paid off car and borrowing money from my Dad, we dropped $8000 on the table and we had our house.
The difficult road wasn’t over yet. Utterly broke, we paid a $2000 severance fee from our apartment and moved to our new homestead. Then we maxed our highest credit card ($3k) getting things that we needed for the house (lawn mower, necessity furnishings, moving expenses, gardening tools).
We moved into our new house on April 29th with a 12′ U-Haul truck and two cars loaded with flats of plants. Within a month we had the grass tilled under and our garden growing. Things seemed to be going well, but money was incredibly tight. Not only that, but our internet bill was $600 a month because Justin needed it to work from home. Thankfully, by August, we figured out how to dwindle that down to $250.
In June I started “Baker Ben” and began selling baked goods at the local Farmer’s Market. I didn’t do very well at first, but I met some pretty awesome people and got a little bit more involved with community affairs. We were then invited to a new market, the monthly Beatnik Bazaar in Belding, Mi and we did really well there! I was happy to be making an easy $150 every time we went. I even managed to pay all my own bills from July-October, which I was very happy about. I was feeling independent.
Backtrack a moment. June 2nd and 3rd saw two very hard frosts, completely unexpected and almost a month after our last frost date. We lost all the squash and stunted our tomatoes, peppers and a few other plants. We replanted the squash, but they just never came through. In June we also planted our orchard. The trees were very lively until being stripped of leaves twice by local deer. We caged them and everything seemed alright. The garden did decently, but it was nothing to write home about. I was a little disappointed with our yields. After some calculation, we did produce about $800 worth of organic food. However, we lost a few raspberry bushes, lilacs and some poplar trees to local wildlife and just crappy plants. Most of them I got replacements for.
In October the Farmer’s market ended and our income dwindled. On top of that, not even two weeks after the market ended, our well pump broke. That was $1200 we didn’t have. On top of that my car was and still is, slowly falling apart and we haven’t driven Justin’s car for months because of issues. Then our washer broke and I had to spend all my garden money I had saved up on a new one.
November saw our food-stores dwindling (my little chest freezer was getting empty) and Thanksgiving took up a lot of our grocery budget. December was no better with the possibility of running out very real. Thankfully, after Christmas, we were able to stock back up again.
Backtrack a hair again. In July we found out that my Dad has thyroid cancer and had it for almost 2 years. In October his surgery was cancelled and we were sent to the University of Michigan to schedule a surgery because the tumor was wrapped around a lot of vitals in his neck. Finally, in mid-December he had his surgery and has recovered, almost miraculously. Even the doctors were very surprised to find that his surgery went so well with little to no damage to his person. Now we are just waiting on the cancer treatments, but the prognosis is good.
Backtrack one last time. In October I decided to build my own incubator and introduce animals to our little homestead. We ordered quail hatching eggs and set to incubating! Unfortunately we lost the majority of the eggs to the power outage while our well pump was being replaced. Six were born on Halloween and four made it to adulthood. All four were girls and they are laying 3.5 eggs a day for us.
Immediately after that we purchased chicken hatching eggs only for them to arrive and be mostly crushed in shipping. We managed to hatch 7 chickens from the good eggs a week before Thanksgiving, but only 5 made it through. I immediately ordered replacements when the crushed eggs arrived and the new ones were amazingly well packed. We hatched 5 of them on Thanksgiving and our flock totals 10 now. We think, from research, we have 7 hens and 3 roosters, but we’re not completely sure yet.
The very last thing, and by far the worst thing about this year has been social justice and politics, most of them on social media. I can’t tell you how many times I almost shut down all my social media outlets because of social justice or presidential BS. I’m completely for social equality on all levels and I do my best to practice that in my life, but this year has made me care considerably less about any social anything. The exception to this, of course, is the food system and it’s improvement. As for the presidential elections happening next year, I’m only hoping that the Trump joke comes to an end. It’s long overdue.
So that was our year. Astronomically expensive and usually unexpected. Justin and I are definitely hoping for a better year in 2016. I’m personally hoping that things have settled down now. I can’t really think of much else that could fall apart unless the house decides to go and if that happens I guess we’ll live in a tent. The garden is already starting to be set up for next year (the raised beds are in), all our seeds are bought (except wheat) and we have plants on the way in spring. It’s looking good. We’re hoping to add basket willow, kiwi, and some trees to the list, but we have the necessities for now.
So here’s to all of you out there! May your garden flourish, may your trees be deer-proof and may your chickens always lay consistently. Happy Homesteading and have a wonderful 2016!
With love from 2Boys1Homestead,
Ben and Justin