Written by Grace

We have so far had about 10 losses here on the farm in a matter of one month.  I am so sad to say that our oldest lamb, Beady's lamb, died today.  I fed them alfalfa and he started choking.  They have all choked before - don't ask me why - so I wasn't too worried at first.  After about 5 minutes, he continued and I was at a loss of what to do.  I had no idea what to do... I mean how do you do the heimlich maneuver on a sheep?  I don't even know how to do it to a human!

It continued for 15 minutes before he went down.  My mom dragged him out of the stall and we tried hard to save him.  Tubed him, pushed on him, hung him upside down, stuck our hand down his throat, all of it. Nothing worked.  He died a hard death at about 11:49 A.M this morning.  I feel really bad for him.

So, that is just a reminder to me that I should be happy for any life that God gives me.  Even if it is to be butchered sometime in it's life, still cherish what is still here.  If you have a buck year or ram year, or just a plain boy year, don't be upset.  Love the lives that God has allowed you to have while they are still here on Earth.  I believe things happen for a reason, and this was a learning experience.  I am not happy that he is gone, no, but I loved him while he was with us.  
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.

This little ram is only a week old, so his eyes may not stay blue.  But of the three that were born this month, he is the only one to have blue eyes.  Strange, and beautiful.  If they stay blue I may just keep him here.

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.

He is a ram lamb, so will have to be sold, but he is our first, and Beady's first, and Mom as well as baby are healthy.

Annie and Silas, our two new Anatolian LGDs.  This photo gives a little insight into their personalities; Annie is agile, smart and has boundless energy.  Si is completely laid back, and mostly just wants to be loved on.  They will make a great pair.

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.

Having farm animals provides many benefits.  However, along with the fleece, the milk and the eggs, we also have a LOT of flies.  Just sitting on the porch can become a trial.  This spring, I am going to try using essential oils as a deterrent.

From wikihow.com...

Tired of fly sprays and the unwanted chemicals they contain? Are you constantly being bothered or bitten by unwanted pests in your own back yard? There are some very easy solutions to keeping flies away from the
outdoor dining area, and you can do them all yourself. Read on for some helpful tips and hints!

Clean out a small tin with a lid. This will be the "home," so to speak, for your repellent.

Take a clean piece of cloth or a small piece of dish sponge able to fit into the container
. Saturate it with one of the following oils (after it has been diluted appropriately, see Tips):

Lavender oil - lavender is considered to be particularly effective against flies
Citronella oil (dilute with water first)
Eucalyptus oil (dilute with water first)
Pennyroyal oil (dilute with water first)
Peppermint oil (dilute with water first; likely more effective against mosquitoes but also considered to work against horse-flies.
Lemongrass oil (dilute with water first)

Place the cloth in the tin and shut the lid. Allow to sit for 24 hours.

Use as needed. Whenever you need to use the tin, remove the lid and place on the entertaining table. Make as many as you wish to put around the entertaining area to deter flies.

Replenish the oil after each use; once open to the air, the strength weakens and needs to be topped up

Read other tips about using herbs and essential oils for insect repellants at WikiHow - How to make natural repellents with essential oils.
baby French Lop bunny
Beady, our pregnant ewe, using her new hay feeder
little bitty Fench Lop bunny
Holly, the mama bunny, wanting to see why someone is in her enclosure
Kids in the yard with the sheep (you can see two goats on the left)
Building a feed shed with pallets (used old feed sacks under the pallets)
More pallets, good ones too, and a 250 gallon water tote that needs to be cleaned out.
Gracie checking the little lambs, and they moved!