In our first (official) year of Prepping, we've trimmed every line item on the budget, added chickens (for meat and eggs) to our livestock and put in a 16 x 16 raised bed vegetable garden. I've learned to pressure can and have been making my own bread with the help of my $15 bread machine from the Goodwill store. Considering we didn't start this venture until mid-spring and that Yeoldfurt ran out of contract work in mid-April, I think we've accomplished a lot. We hope to add to our stores this year but maybe more importantly, we hope to increase our set of skills and knowledge.
A primary goal is to better utilize the garden area this year. Because of some setbacks in our personal life, we planted about six weeks later than we should have and financial setbacks kept us from really doing much in the way of a winter garden. But this year will be different. The garden is set up and we will spend the next four to six weeks working good compost material into the beds. I will probably start some seeds indoors but will have seeds and seedlings out in the garden by the first weekend in April.
We also plan to put in at least two peach trees. We can buy mature trees from the local co-op for $25 each. If we get them in the ground in February, we should have some fruit this year and good crops beginning next year. I will be canning and freezing the fruit and making jellies and peach butter as well.
Our three hens are giving us 18-20 eggs per week. We use less than a dozen per week ourselves, but sell the rest for $3/dozen which more than covers the cost of chicken feed. Actually an $11 bag of chicken feed lasts us at least two months and we average $12 to $16 per month selling eggs. Can't quit the day job, but definitely a profitable use of our time and resources. So we would like to add 2-3 hens to the flock this year. The hens we have are Rhode Island Red crosses and lay brown eggs. We may try a different variety this year. I can't remember the name right now, but heard of one breed that is known for winter egg production and slacks off in the heat of summer. The hens we have now tend to slack off in the winter so that would give us more balanced production.
Our most ambitious plan for this coming year is the possibility of raising meat rabbits. If we do, I'll be tanning the pelts as well for a possible cash sideline. I raised rabbits for FFA when I was in high school and learned some ways to tan the pelts when a couple of my rabbits died. It's not difficult and they come out soft as kid gloves. Rabbit pelts are small and light weight enough to be easily sewn together on a regular sewing machine. There seems to be a market with crafters on ebay. Average sized pelts are going for $5 - $10 each. Larger pelts are going for up to $30 each. Lightweight bubble envelope mailers would make shipping cheap and easy.
Other possibilities we are considering are the addition of a good quality dehydrator. We go back and forth on this subject. I like the long term food preservation aspects but we don't know use much in the way 'dried' products now ...so can we justify the cost of a (good quality) dehydrator? Yeoldfurt has made his own jerky in the past so maybe it would be worth the expense. We'll see.
Except for the garden and the fruit trees, all of the plans are predicated on a little good fortune befalling us in the coming months. Yeoldfurt is still looking for work and unemployment ...even the extended benefits he's on now ...won't last forever. But we already have the seeds, the garden is there waiting to be planted and we have the money set aside for the fruit trees. I am optimistic and eager to see what we can do in the coming year.