Here are my plans:
1. Raised bed gardening. I plan to build (or have the hubby build) six 8'x8' raised beds. One bed will be extra-deep for potatoes. The other beds will be planted by season, and will coordinate with what my father-in-law plants. There is no reason for both of us to plant zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers or green peppers, because he plants 10 times more than he actually uses. I'd love to plant one of the beds with strawberries, one with yellow beans (which my kids go nuts for), one with potatoes, one with cauliflower, brussels sprouts and broccoli, one with various lettuces, and one with...well, we'll leave one open for ideas. I'm looking into using composite materials for the beds instead of treated wood. The initial cost may be more, but I like the idea of not having toxic chemicals leaching into my topsoil. I'm also going to do some research into formaldehyde-free wood.
2. Chickens. We have nearly two acres of our own, plus access to the other 115 acres of my in-laws' farm. I'm planning to have Todd build a coop and fence in behind the house, using the house and the steep cliff-like part of the hillside as two sides of the boundary (hooray for Todd and his inability to know when to say "stop" with the backhoe!) along with some chain-link fence we've got lying around. I love the thought of gathering eggs from our very own chickens. I'm planning to feed them an organic diet . My FIL grows a ton of field corn for the cows, and I'm fairly certain we can grind it a bit and feed it to the chickens. The kids are really excited about having chickens, and I think it will be a wonderful learning experience for them. Jake and possibly Sam will be joining 4H next year, and chickens would make a great animal project for them.
3. Composting. I tried a compost bin last year, and I have to admit, it was a smelly, fly-ridden disaster. We've decided to fork out the money for a turning composting bin this time around. I hate the idea of wasting all of those nutrient-rich food scraps, and I can't wait to make my own compost to put on my garden. Maybe we'll throw in a few earthworms for good measure.
4. Rain barrels. Until someone comes and tells me that it's illegal to collect rainwater, (and I think it's INSANE that in some places that's true) I'm planning to have at least two rain barrels in operation for watering the garden and the lawn. Luckily for me, Todd's handy and can adapt the downspouts to accommodate a rain barrel. My water bill is high enough--I LOVE the idea of using the water that falls from the sky to water my garden.
5. Possibly raising our own steer for beef. The more I learn about what goes into the raising, handling and slaughtering of beef, the more interested I am in raising our own steer. It is very ironic that I live on a beef cattle farm, but buy my meat at the grocery store. I don't know that I could look at one of the cows outside of my window and later eat it for dinner (there is still a soft-hearted city girl living inside me) so we'll probably find a reputable farmer who raises antibiotic-and hormone-free cattle. I want to fill my freezer with enough meat and veggies to last me the entire year.
6. Staying away from the prepackaged, boxed foods at the store. While they're quick and easy, they're filled with so much garbage I feel guilty when I feed them to my family. I've already started cooking ahead on the weekends and freezing for later use. This weekend is breakfast weekend. I'm planning to make french toast sticks, waffles and pancakes for the boys' breakfasts. I'm going to implement my friend Carmin's menu planning system to keep things fresh and interesting but manageable. It's so easy to fall into a rut and make the same meals over and over, and I have a tendency to become a total idiot when I make my menu and get into the store. I'm going to make my own bread again so I can stop buying the over-processed, chemical- and preservative-laden garbage they try to pass off as bread in the store. I will not be a victim of the corn growers any longer. I will not allow my children to be pumped full of crap that they're trying to pass of as "healthy". We all know it's unhealthy, and as a stay-at-home-mom, I have no reason to not protect my kids from the trash in the grocery store because it's easier than making it myself and knowing exactly what's in it.
There are other things I want to do, but I know it's crazy to try to implement them all at once. I've got a fair bit of stuff to do next year (and a fair bit of money will have to go into it), but I am SO EXCITED to start this journey! I think that once my family gets over the shock of not having the cabinets stocked with every imaginable type of junk food, they'll realize how delicious Mom's cooking can be, and how much fun it is to plant and grow their own food. I think...no, I KNOW...this project will change our lives. And the change will be good.