Preparing for 2018

As usual come winter here in North Pole, Alaska we turn inwards and spend time relaxing; learning new skills; reading books; and just as of this past Autumn I started attending college for my certification in Herbal Retail Management with the American College of Healthcare Sciences in Portland, Oregon.  So while we're not working non stop outside, we still stay relatively busy, all within close proximity to the lit wood stove. 
Drying our laundry and cooking dinner on the wood stove while keeping us warm
As we get closer to what can be considered Break up or what is called Spring in the lower 48, we begin to set up our plans for the next growing season or summer. 

For some time now, actually before we started raising meat rabbits we wanted to have laying hens.  To us it just seemed to be the easier option.  Rabbits, in the beginning, actually were not even on our radar!  To us the eggs seemed much more desirable then the meat we would get from the rabbits.  Now that all being said, the rabbits have been rather good to have on the property as now we have a non stop source of fresh rabbit manure, perfect for applying on the gardens and around our fruit bearing trees as well as a good source of protein that was humanely raised and furs that I can use for blankets; hats and mittens.   
I hope later to be able to bag up the composted manure to sell but that won't happen just as of yet due to the still inferior status of our garden soil.  The soil, by the first snow fall in 2017 was much better than what it was in the spring of 2016 but we've still got work to do to increase its fertility. I'm hoping within the next year we will not be at a crisis level of soil quality and now we will just be working each year to simply manage it by incorporating fresh compost and rabbit, horse and chicken manure.  This will ensure we get better production out of our garden.  Now if we could just keep the moose away!  That will be a project for a following year however. 
So for the chicken coop!  We hope for no more than five ladies and our coop will be relatively small since it would be going in our fenced in yard on the side of our house.  Our fenced in yard has been a blessing in disguise as over the past couple of months we've realized we have neighbors with dogs next door.  Now, while I do not mind dogs, in fact I like dogs, but I do not like what they can potentially do to livestock.  So the fencing around our "livestock area" has proven to be helpful. 
We will have a couple of challenges in building this next project.  First, we have areas of uneven ground out in the fenced in area along with several Tamarack and birch trees.  We might be contacting a local company, BlackHawk Works, that previously took down our other trees near our house and power lines. The trees are so close to both the house and the chain link fence that we have decided it is too dangerous for us to to do it ourselves.  There is, unfortunately, not as much that we can do about the uneven land out there unless we wanted to haul in extra top soil.  It would not be worth it in our opinion.  Next, before we even allow laying hens full use of the fenced in yard, we will need to fence off with chicken wire or some other fencing material our asparagus patch.  We have a budding patch that we have purposely placed near the house so that the asparagus can use the heat of the house to over winter.  So far this has worked well as last year we had several spears of miniature asparagus pop up.  We do not want the chickens to go after this so we will have to guard it well. 
We have recently found plans for a chicken coop that seems like it would work well.  We really like the overall layout of this coop.  I just will not be painting ours so flamboyantly.  This one has the option of an entire fenced in area that can protect them even overhead.  That is a big positive for us since we have owls; hawks and numerous other winged predators that can easily swoop in and grab a chicken for its dinner.  Our plan is to stop by Lowes in Fairbanks here and there and see if they have any reduced wood.  If they do we will be able to get started on this and by the time we hit late May, early June it will be ready to house some new occupants.  Now here's to hoping we will be able to find some young hens that someone here locally is willing to part with for a relatively small price. 


Come mid to late June we will be adding more fruit bearing trees or bushes to our budding orchard.  Currently we have on our property:

  • Alpine Currants
  • Chokecherries
  • Red Raspberries
  • Gooseberries
  • Honeyberries
  • Crabapples
  • Grafted apples
We hope to add more currants; honeyberries and gooseberries as well as find some saskatoon bushes that we can add to our property.  While we have talked about wanting blueberries on our property, I'm just not certain how well they will do due to the amount of shade we have.  Those might have to wait for a day when we have less trees around our property.  These all help me to make jams and jellies that I use for gifts; bartering; for our own use or simply to sell.  

So next issue.  Trees.  And snow.  Later this season we began to get snow fall after snow fall.  This has caused a large amount of trees of all varieties to either completely fall down or almost fall down, some of which are almost completely lying on top of our raised beds.  Not good at all! 
So we will have to remove these along with the ones in our bee area before the growing season starts.  I think this will be our biggest challenge yet as there is easily 2 to 4 feet of packed snow out in our back yard currently.  Our bees arrive in about a month and a half so before they arrive we have to remove those trees as we simply cannot do it after they're in their hives.  We also hope to remove more trees behind our compost bins.  This is possibly where our new greenhouse will go when we start to build it.  Originally we wanted to build that this year but it simply will not happen yet.  Our woodshed build taught us last year that we have to slow down and balance it with work and other household duties.  My husband and I both kept feeling like we possibly bit off more than we could chew!  (I provided the link here if you're curious about that one!)
So unfortunately this year we will use the time to clear out space, and hopefully get Black|Hawk Works in to remove any leftover stumps so we can prepare the area for building in 2019 break up.  One positive aspect to us removing the trees will also be increased sunlight.  Since we have so much shade it does slow down our garden and while I love the trees and the cool shade they provide on a hot July day, I don't like what they do to the garden and the bee hives.  Some of them must come down.  
Like last year I now find myself watching the calendar and praying the snow melts and soon. 
Break up and then even more, Summer is always a race for us up here in the Interior of Alaska.  A race to get as much done as possible in the 4 to 5 months worth of relatively good weather before we get snow again.  

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