Where We Are Heading

Guest Quarters:  We broke ground on constructing another barn on the cottage side of the farm for some much needed storage, and before the foundation was squared, it had already morphed into extra guest space.  One of the new developments out on the farm has been the increase of visitors. From market customers to chefs to those who are simply curious, we are getting a lot of people coming out to the farm and the small cottage was being overwhelmed.  We are using the old tin and barn boards from the original barn on the inside and new low maintenance, high efficiency material on the outside. With the help of some of Houston’s best chefs, we will be hosting some farmhouse dinners in the future.

Chicken Tractor:  We need animals on the farm, both for fertilizer and protein.  Also any help with bug control would be most welcome. We are contemplating a rabbit hutch and goat pens.  A rolling chicken house is in the works.  Moving the chicken tractor around the raised beds will help spread the chicken’s natural fertilizer and also provide a roving bug-eating squad.

Bee Hives:  The drought of 2011 was hard for the plants, but also devastating for all wildlife.  Our population of wild bees has plummeted and pollination has been compromised.  After exploring the possibility of renting some hives, we have decided that we really need our own.  We are too far from everywhere to make managing a couple of hives interesting to area beekeepers. Before the end of summer, we intend to acquire two hives and the equipment necessary to manage them.  Years ago we kept bees in our Houston home’s backyard, and hopefully those skills will come back to us once the hives arrive.

Bio-char Furnace:  One of the challenges of farming in this part of Jackson County is trying to build the tilth and fertility of our very sandy soil.  Pulverized  charcoal is proving to be very useful in  promoting the life in the soil of our growing areas. We have learned a streamlined technique for making our own charcoal from a blacksmith, using  material on the farm and have already gathered the supplies to create a furnace.

Water Security:  The hardest lesson we learned last year was how vulnerable we are to water issues – mostly the issue of insufficient water.  We pumped and watered round-the-clock during the worst of last summer’s horrible heat wave and it was barely enough to keep most of the farm going.  Mostly, things survived, but unfortunately didn’t thrive.  We have lost a half dozen fruit trees and the berries became so stressed they were overcome with cane blight disease, so no berries this spring.  We are in the planning stages of designing and trying to create a reservoir to be kept filled by a solar or wind powered pump. Locating it across the creek and at a slightly higher elevation will guarantee gravity feed water even in the face of the continuation of what is predicted to be a ten-year drought. A continuous source of water is critical to this farm’s future.

Bird of Prey Housing:  As our farm security – our yellow labs, Sam and Millie – have dug and captured more gophers (our confirmed gopher body count is 112) we have taken to draping the bodies over the tops of fence posts to attract and feed the raptors of the neighborhood.  The raptors have in turn decreased the amount of mice and field rats and the damage they cause.  Experts have told us that by providing suitable nesting sites we can keep them close and on patrol for all kinds of rodents. Along with bat houses and more blue bird houses, we are trying to use as many techniques for fighting off varmints and bugs as possible.

Log Splitter and Dump Trailer:  We took down 6 major oak trees this winter, just a few of the many that fell victim to the drought.  It has generated a lot of work and a lot of firewood.  With so many still to go, it is time we invested in our own on farm log splitter.  As generous as our neighbors have been about letting us borrow theirs, they too have had to do a lot of cutting and clearing.  The fire hazard that those dead trees left standing represent is too big to take lightly after last summer’s dreadful blazes.  We have come to recognize the need of a dumping trailer because of opportunities to collect horse manure and old hay from neighboring ranches.  And we need it also because we are getting older and are trying to be smarter about protecting our backs.

Whole Hog Smoker:  The foundation is poured and the cement blocks are waiting to be picked up.  We can almost taste the feral hog.

And so we work the list, not in order of appearance, but in the order of what resources and time we have available. Water security is of course the most critical, but that is a monumental earth-moving, dam-building endeavor and like any worthwhile endeavor it will take a great deal of time, energy and money.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Knopp Branch Farm. But like Rome, we are here to stay.

 
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