It seems to me that the colder it gets outside, the more I think about Spring. Today it is freezing rain and I have a laundry list of chores that I need to do…what am I doing? Sitting in front of the fireplace dreaming of the summer garden. It is time for seed orders and planning. The problem is that winter is also the time to catch up on everything else. Like house work and repairs that never can happen during the warmer months because we have so much other stuff to do. I need hours to plan the garden, graph paper, charts, excel documents, seed catalogues, food storage inventory and customer orders. I love it and hate it all at the same time. If I do it right and take the time to plan everything perfectly now, the summer will run on auto pilot. Today I am 100% in the right frame of mind to think of the garden. However, the hole in the fence where the fox is getting through, the piles of laundry, Christmas decorations that need to be put alway, apples that need to be baked into pies and sauce. The work is never ending, so my seed catalogues will sit another day, while I go about my work, hoping the someday comes someday soon!
When you choose the life of homesteading there are so many things that “normal” people would just not understand. Today’s example of that is my wood stove. We choose to heat our house with an amazing wood stove. We keep it burning almost around the clock in the colder months. Ever hour or so you throw a log in and go about your business. It just becomes routine. This morning, before I was going to go out and milk the goat, (another perfectly “normal” activity), I threw a log in… well this log was one inch too long. Of course the stove was crazy hot so the log burst into flames immediately and did not give me a chance to change my mind about log choice. What are my options? Well I could run through the house with a burning log to get to the metal barrel outside, or I just have to sit and wait for it to burn down enough to be able to put it in all the way.
Today of all days is my busy day, we spend the most time away from the farm today and I am on a tight schedule this morning. Without any hold ups we are rushing to get it all done. Today, I get to explain that I am late because a log was too big. People are going to look at me like I am nuts.
This is not the first time the farm and homesteading has placed us behind schedule; We have pigs get stuck in tomato cages, late for family dinner. Goats get out and we can not get them back in, late for church. Aquaponics system overflow, husband had to miss work. The list could just go on and on. Everyday, we are uncertain about what we are going to find and what challenges we are going to face. No wonder homesteaders tend to be home bodies. It is not that we are antisocial, it is just that our life is crazy!
There are some days we talk about giving it all up. We could heat our house with oil, we could join a CSA, we could find local farmers to get our food from. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why does Thanksgiving take nine months to prepare for? We will not even talk about the Christmas ham! We would have more money, because it is not cheaper. We would have more time, whats that? Why do we do this? Personally, I think we are slightly crazy. Also, there is a piece of us that just loves it. You have to love it, or why would you go out in the freezing cold to tend to animals and harvest from the garden, when you could go to a heated store. I’m tired, it is hard work, and it almost never goes as planned. However, at the end, (or the beginning of the day), I would not trade it for anything in the world.
As you can tell by the title of this post, today did not go well. I was able to get Hiccup, my goat, an appointment to get some x-rays done. This morning, I fed him a bottle at 530 am. He was not showing any improvement from last night. By 11 am he was worse. I could tell that he was not getting the fluid and nutrition that he needed. He was starving to death. I still kept the appointment for the x-ray because I wanted to know what happened.
By the time he arrived at the hospital his body temperature had dropped and he was very sluggish. I knew that I would not be bringing him home. He was deteriorating quickly. The vet took 5 different x-rays. None of them provided any answers. Even without answers, I knew that putting him down was the right thing to do.
Life is complicated. Death is even more complicated. I hated making the decision, but I am very thankful that he is not suffering anymore. While they are with me, I love them, I do the best that I can to care for them and pray for wisdom. There comes a point where we have to hand it over to God and Nature. There are many factors that I just can not control.
Hiccup was a year and a half. He was full of life and had a wonderful personality. I hope and pray that I can learn from my time with him to better my care of my other goats. Rest in Peace my friend.
Farming is not easy. There is a direct connection between life and death. We raise animals for food. Animals that we raise from a baby and then end up butchering. That is not easy, but we understand from the beginning what the animal is used for and you are always emotionally preparing yourself for that. Even those animals, if they die before the butcher day, it is very upsetting. We have some animals on the farm that have a purpose, but are not going to be butchered for food. Our whethered goats are an example of that. They are spoiled rotten lawn mowers. They keep the milking goats company and they keep the back pasture mowed. Other than that, they have no purpose. All of our goats were hand raised as bottle babies. It makes them so much easier to handle and overly friendly. So yes, they are basically pets that eat grass, but they are cute pets that eat grass.
We had a family situation that pulled us away from the farm for 8 days. Luckily we have amazing friends that took care of the farm and the animals. However, while we were gone one of the goats became ill. No one is sure what happened, but the vet believes that he has a broken jaw. We have tried everything that we can do here, and we now have to take him to a hospital for x-rays and sedation. There is probably less than a 10% chance that he is going to make it.
Searching for answers and trying to save a life and not torturing the animals while going bankrupt at the same time if a fine line. We want to do everything that we can, but we want him to have a quality of life too AND he is just a lawn mower! We don’t have thousands of dollars to put into this guy. BUT, we raised him from a baby and he is part of the family. No matter how you look at it, it just stinks. I hate having to make the decision to end a life, it just stinks. I will keep you posted about what happens today and what we find out.
Do you ever go to bed at night and think to yourself that you better not leave anything for tomorrow because you never know what tomorrow might bring? I had that feeling last night, blew it off and it bit me in the butt! Woke up this morning to a goat foaming at the mouth an lethargic. Called the vet ASAP. Vet examined the goat, ruled out all illnesses and worms and found the problem is the goats jaw and jaw alone. His tongue works, no other neurological symptoms, his bottom jaw just does not close all the way. There is a possibility that it could be dislocated or broken. Not something we were expecting. Never leave stuff to do tomorrow that can be do today!
It is frustrating that in the summer I feel like I am so busy I never get to blog. I guess it is life on the farm and there is always room for improvement.
Garden: The garden is still going. We had our second frost last night. We covered the beans and the peas, but we left everything else to get frost kissed. My husband is building some amazing low tunnel covers for the garden out of recycled material. The hoops are made of PVC that was given to us by a friend that was working on their house. The plastic is from another friend who had a clean up job and took down an old green house. Finally the base is made out of pallet parts. I think that it looks great. Right now the crops are in 30 inch beds with 36 inch isles, to get the wheelbarrow through. Once the soil gets better, we will make the isles much smaller. Our thought is that we will make a 36 inch isle, 30 inch row, 12 inch isle, 30 inch row and then finally another 36 inch row. We have to do a LOT of soil work on this property and I need to be able to get a wheel barrow to each row. This would still allow me to access the row from one side.
Chickens: We have some new chickens on the farm. We are experimenting with Icelandic chickens. These chickens are suppose to be amazing foragers, help control bugs, good mothers, and avoid predators. They only lay medium size eggs and are not good meat birds, but we really need to control the ticks are on the farm. This is a compromise with my husband who does not want guinea hens. For the most part they have been a pleasure. We had them get out one day, and they do like to roost very high up, but at least they can get out of danger. I have no idea why the picture is sideways!
The rest of our laying hens are molting. There are feathers everywhere, it looks like there was a massacre. We are going to be thinning out the flock, getting rid of the hens that are not laying, and redoing the inside of the coop in the month of November. I am really looking forward to a fresh start and a clean coop for the winter.
Pigs: The GOS pigs have gone to butcher. They were not as big as we would have liked, I think that is the difference of over wintered pigs and over summered pigs. The over winter pigs are much bigger. We have added a resident pig to the farm to help a friend. His name is Preston Poe and he is a Pot Bellied pig. He lives in the field with the goats and after an adjustment period he seems to be doing well.
Rabbits: Our rabbits have miscarried three times in a row, so we are done breeding rabbits at this point. They are up there in age and I think that it was time. They are now pet rabbits, they have served us very well and we want them to retire in comfort. We have outside pens for all the boys and we are working on getting outdoor pens for the girls, now that we know they are not having anymore babies. We are debating about getting a new breeding trio, but who knows.
Goats: Life is never boring with goats. There is many things to talk about, but I think that can be a post all on its own. For the most part goats are doing well, and I am gaining gray hair by the day!
I don’t know about you, but I am always so hard on myself. No matter what I do or how long I work, there is always more to be done. There are goals I have not met and food I have not preserved and floors I have not cleaned and games I have not played with the kids. I beat myself up. I collapse into bed at night and promise myself that tomorrow I am going to work harder and get more done. Well, this morning I was slapped in the face with a piece of bacon, and it woke me up!
This morning alone, I have chicken stock cooking in the crock pot, from a chicken that we raised, with veggies that we grew. I have cured bacon for dinner and extra for breakfast, I took out ground pork to make sausage tonight, all from our pig raised on our land. I cheated for breakfast and had store bought greek yogurt, but I added home made strawberry sauce. Made a cup of coffee and added goats milk that I got out of the goat yesterday and pasteurized last night. Do you know that I had the audacity to be upset with myself because I did not make the yogurt from scratch and I added store bought sugar to my coffee instead of honey raised on the farm.
As homesteaders, we put so many expectations on ourselves. And I feel like I can say “we” because I have talked to many others that feel the same way. We feel like we have to do it all. Bake the bread, raise the animals, grow the veggies, hand make all our clothes and gifts, clean the house, homeschool our kids…. the list goes on and on. Why do we not take a step back and be proud of what we do and stop criticizing ourselves for what we don’t?
There is just not an easy answer to that question, I believe most people, no matter their profession, are hard on themselves. Homesteaders especially, it is not like we can call ourselves lazy, we raise most of our own food! Something inside of us strives to do more and to be better! What is the answer?
Right now, I am going to take a step back and be proud of what we have been able to do! I am proud of the fact that we raise almost all of our own meat. I am proud of the garden and the food that comes out of it. I am proud of these sore hands and back. Yes, I want to do more. But today I am going to be proud of what I have done, and not feel guilty about buying bagels for breakfast tomorrow, instead of making them from scratch. Take time today to be proud of yourself. You are an amazing person, no matter what you do, you do not have to always be perfect. Hold on to your drive and let that motivate you, but don’t put yourself down. Feeling good in what you have done is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength. Have a great day!