After almost three years of living this homesteading lifestyle, I have learned a valuable lesson; start small, and dream big.
I have a very bad habit of aquiring animals that I think suit our purposes, before I have their buildings/stalls/fencing/enclosures finished. I am now in the position of having to sell half of our stock, because I do not have the pastures available to them to forage. That means that every bit of what they eat has to be purchased, which just isn't practical. In addition, there does not seem to be much of a market in our area for sheep, which makes it nearly impossible to recoup any money spent feeding them through the year.
The main lessons? Know your market, know your own strengths and weaknesses, and concentrate your efforts on one or two species. I am grateful for this experience, and know now that I am simply not the kind of person who can keep a menagerie and still break even, let alone make a profit. I know some who do, and I applaud them. But for us, scaling back and rethinking our business plan is our plan of action. And I will no longer bring any animal to the farm without having the space available for them.
Learning this lifestyle is certainly an ongoing project. But it is absolutely one that is full of lessons worth learning.
Our Nigerian Dwarf goat gave birth to twins, both boys. Our biggest ewe gave birth to a single, another boy. Woke up the next morning, our second ewe gave birth to another single, yet another boy, that she refused and she now has to be restrained several times a day so that he can nurse. This morning, our third and final ewe gave birth, with our assistance because one leg was backward in the birth canal; as we finally got the lamb all the way out, yet another boy.
We have been aquiring, raising, and breeding all these animals for two years, to get crosses for milking. And after all this time, no ewes. I am crushingly disappointed. And despite the fact that it is spring, it has been sleeting all day and the new buds on all the trees are now covered in ice.
I am just not feeling the homesteading vibe today.
Ah well, I'll start over tomorrow, take stock and figure out where to go from here. These are the realities of living this lifestyle; sometimes it is difficult to absorb the disappointments and still feel like I am doing the right thing.
It's funny, this homesteading life. When you decide to do this, before you leave the city, you have these images in your head of tranquility, and peaceful gardens, and pure quiet as you sit listening to only the sounds that nature makes. You have food in abundance, and time as well. Little birdies land on your finger, small animals trail at your heels, and suddenly you can sing really well. Your little country home is tidy and adorable, and filled with the smells of freshly baked bread and homemade pies. Life is serene, beautiful, and oh-so-carefree.
And then spring comes.
Babies, everywhere. Adrenaline, in over-drive. Sleep, grabbed when you just can't keep your eyelids in the open position anymore. Baby goats, baby sheep, baby dogs, baby whatever-you-have, even baby plants that need your care RIGHT NOW. And don't forget the other spring chores; cleaning the barn, cleaning the coop, making repairs to things that suffered in the ice and snow, building new enclosures and fences, maintaining existing gardens as well as cleaning out the old ones and building new ones, making sure the machines that you use (or in my case the machines that someone else uses; one look from me and a machine refuses to go), catch and release all animals for spring de-worming, de-miting, general de-lousing, shearing and grooming, hoof trimming, and after all of that is done you have time to peruse the list of things you WANT to get done.
Cooking? Maybe tomorrow. Cleaning? Let's just say we believe in the Cleaning Fairy.
When I have time to write, there is nothing going on. When there is something happening every day, I don't have time to write!!
I am taking tons of photos and trying to keep notes, so that when I do get to sit for a while, I will be able to write story after story to fill you in on what is happening here, how we are doing it, and the things we are learning on a daily basis. Two and a half years in, and we are still feeling like we have no idea what we are doing. And honestly, some days I wonder if we really CAN live this way, or if we are just dreamy morons who saw a pretty photo in a country life magazine one day and thought "I can do that!!".
We will not give up, and in a couple of months we will feel proud, as things go through the season of growth and into the season of production. We will have time to watch the fireflies, and cook with produce grown by our own hands. We will have time to sit on the porch with family, and tell stories of our new, sometimes chaotic life. A life that is serene, and beautiful, and not so carefree. And I wouldn't go back to the city if you paid me.
When we bought our little Nigerian Dwarf doe back in November, we didn't know that she was already pregnant. She was only five months old at the time, but apparently had found her way to the ND buck at her previous home prior to coming to us.
We have been watching her closely for the past few weeks, knowing that she was close. By Monday evening, I expected her to give birth in the next few days, but her behavior hadn't changed at all so I went to bed. Woke up Tuesday to twins out in the barn!! Our little Hazel had given birth in the early morning hours, with no problems and no assistance, and both babies are healthy. Both are male, and are pure Nigerian Dwarf that will be for sale in 8 weeks.
If you follow the page on facebook, you might know that my mom's computer has been hi-jacked. She cannot seem to get it fixed, so I am filling in for her right now. I usually write on the Kid's Blog, but right now I am writing for both. She will be back soon! - Grace
WELL, there is certainly a lot going on here! We found out that our little Nigerian Dwarf doe, Hazel, is pregnant. I had noticed for about 2 months that she was developing a small udder, which I figured might be a precocious udder, as I didn't know what else to think about it. I figured I would contact Hazel's previous owner to be sure of what was going on, and she answered with a very surprising email! She said that our tiny little Hazel was pregnant! She looks fairly big in pictures, but if you are right next to her, she is very small. I have been thinking about how many kids she will have, and I believe she will have twins (doelings, I hope!). That would be so much easier on her. The buck she is bred to is a Nigerian Dwarf (VERY thankful for that!), AND, he is spotted and polled! We should actually have some neat little babies from her! She IS showing a few signs of impending labor, such as her raised tail-head, sunken hips, and... okay, fine. That's all... BUT, some does show no signs at all and out pops a kid, so I will be going out to check on here in a bit! So, here are some pictures of our little Hazel, who could be due anytime:
Join us on our Facebook page, for more of a conversation, rather than the post of the day format.
You can find us here, https://www.facebook.com/BillyJoesFoodFarm. Don't forget to "like" the page, and click "show in newsfeed" and/or "get notifications" so that you won't miss our Facebook posts.