Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
This is a guest post and entry in Round 1 of the Farm Dreams writing contest. The prizes for this round include: First Prize: A $300 gift certificate toward any purch
This is a guest post and entry in Round 1 of the Farm Dreams writing contest. The prizes for this round include:
First Prize: A $300 gift certificate toward any purchase of Featherman Poultry Processing Equipment, including pluckers, knives and more!
Second Prize: A 164' roll of electric poultry netting from Kencovevalued at $140!
Third Prize: A large heirloom pack of assorted seeds from Baker Creek (northern or southern region) plus a copy of Jere and Emilee Gettle's recently published book The Heirloom Life Gardener.Valued at $125!
Fourth Prize: A $55 gift certificate good toward any purchase at Lehman's!
Round 1 ends began January 15 and ends March 15 so GET BUSY WRITING and email your entry to us today!
Life is full of limits. There are only so many hours in the day, so much knowledge in our heads, and so much ability in our hands. I can do something about the last two. But, the first one is above my pay grade. I did hear someone say once, that a calendar is meaningless to a farmer, because it's a 7 day a week job, and a rancher doesn't wear a watch, because the work goes on until it's done or too dark to see. I guess there's an amount of truth in that. But, what do you do when your ranch, farm or homestead grows faster than you intended? Well, here's what happened to us, and how we handled it.
When Karen and I met, she already owned a nice little homestead of about 20 acres, and had some chickens, dogs, and two head of cattle. She and I both had the same dreams. But, she was well ahead of where I was, in terms of homesteading. We wanted the life of self-sufficiency and wouldn't it be great if we could even get the farm to turn a profit? Trials and tribulations followed, and the economy took it's toll on me, causing me to lose everything I owned (or thought I did). But, it really didn't matter, since I still had Karen and we both had our own set of skills that would guarantee success in the homestead that she had started. But, that's not to say that the success would come fast or easy.
The first two years were punctuated by a little growth here and a new animal or two, there. My main skill was construction and we had started with a little chicken coop that she had bought from a friend. We wanted to first expand the chickens, so I set up upon building a hoop house for the chickens and as the flocks grew (with the occasional flock decimation that a loose bad dog or coyote can cause), we added another. Since we (she says me) wanted to incubate our own eggs, I converted an old, beatup styrofoam incubator into a wooden one and built a brooder house. Along the way, a calf was born to our heifer, from a very large and excited bull that leapt a 4 or 5 foot fence and bred her.
We also added a pregnant sow, that had piglets shortly after we got her. Everything was progressing nice and slowly, and according to our wants and desires, as we slowly but surely increased the size and variety in our various animals. We often took walks outside, and would happily reminisce over the events that had transpired since our meeting, and how the ranch had grown so much from where "we" had started. We talked of adding more hogs, since our little hogs made such good tillers for the garden spaces (and not to mention that with the soil we have around here, the more fertilizer, the better). Instead of only layers, we also wanted to add meat chickens to our flock and maybe even start selling them at the farmers' market. Somewhere down the line, we might even add goats to help with pasture upkeep and maybe a little milk.
The animal count looked something like this, after about three years of slow and steady growth: 4 head of cattle, 3 hogs, about 30 chickens at any given time and a few dogs.
Then, IT happened... and all at once...
A friend of ours, who also raised quite a few animals, decided to relocate back north, and asked whether we would be interested in any of her chickens or hogs (which were the same kind that we already had, and of different breeding lines)? She offered us quite a deal and we happily added them to the homestead. In one day, our hog numbers went from about three to nine! Nothing that couldn't be handled. I'd need to build some new shelters for them and it would have to be pretty strong, since they love to push things around (and unwittingly tear them up).
As we were loading the last hogs to go back to the farm, I spoke to Karen and just wondered out loud what our friend was wanting to do with her goats. One of the biggest reasons that we hadn't gotten goats to this point, was that our fences just weren't up to the task. They would have to be contained, and 5 strands of barbed wire just wasn't going to do it. But, we might be able to get electric fences on this deal, and if the price was right, "maybe" we could make a good deal on a buck and two does. Well, I should say that "I" wanted two bucks and two does, but with Karen being more than a little hesitant on the deal in the making, I sided with her and downgraded my wishes. So, what happened next still has me confused...
Like I said, my skill is construction and the ability to spend too much money, much too quickly. With that in mind, I should say that one of Karen's many skills lay with her fiscal responsibility and they way that she keeps my dreams grounded on earth. Since she also knew this friend better, I was perfectly content to let her see if a deal could be struck. So, she tells me that she had worked something out, and what would I think about getting... seven goats? Two does, four bucks and a wether, along with two electric fence sections, a fence charger, two houses and various other accessories that every goatkeeper needs. Basically, she wanted to buy almost the entire herd! Even I was taken aback at the amount of WORK that this could entail. Fences and housing would have to be disassembled, relocated, and reassembled. This would have to be done before the goats could be moved. They would have to be somewhere safe while it was happening. The logistics involved, started looking like planning the buildup to a fairly large-scale military intervention. Timing was everything and time was short. We sat down together and worked out a plan that I could handle and I decided that I could move everything and be ready for the goats in one day. Luckily, Karen understands that one of "my" days is actually three days in earth time. So, in reality, I was not late when I finished. We got the goats and got them settled in, and I went to another friend's goat farm to get a crash course in goat care, along with a promise that I would study hard and would only call them at 3 a.m., if it were an emergency. All four does had been bred and settled, and the first isn't due until March. So, that would give us a little time to come up with a milking machine and a small barn to milk in, out of the weather. Since all of this is happening in the winter, getting out of the weather has to be a priority. Sadly, neither of us is able to milk by hand on a regular basis, because of a combination of carpal tunnel and arthritis. So, a milking machine is a must for us.
It's all getting done, when suddenly just about every other female animal on the farm, decides to give birth. Three sows and a heifer picked out some of the coldest days this winter to have piglets and a calf. When things go well on a farm, you can sit back and drink lemonade and thank Him for the many blessings that He has bestowed upon you. But, when things go south, it can happen in a hurry and it's time to show that you have what it takes to meet a crisis. There will be times that you will be successful at it and there will be times that you will learn what NOT to do, next time. There will also be times that, no matter what you do, it just wasn't meant to be and you have to let nature do what it was designed to do... sort itself out. In the days that followed, we met those challenges head on. We were successful with some, and with others, not so much. We gained a lot of piglets and we lost a beautiful bull that was just too weak, no matter how much we intervened. But no lessons, good or bad, went unheeded and they all reminded us that we are only human.
More than anything else, we decided that we definitely needed a place to get animals out of the weather when they needed the shelter, and our help. And, with all of the new animals, both bought and born, we were definitely going to need a larger place to store feed.
So, the milking structure has now become a full-blown barn. It won't be one of those beautiful red, with white trim, gable barns that we would all love to have. But, it will be a pretty big pole structure that can be built fairly quickly, will hold up in the strong Oklahoma winds, and be relatively inexpensive.
So, in the end, what kind of all lessons have I learned, that I can pass on to all of you? There's actually quite a few of them. I'll pass on my Top 10.
So, what's next for us? I have no clue. I'm still playing catch up while I design the new barn. I still have turkeys (and a few pheasant) weighing heavily on my mind and feel that we need a couple of them, here. I also want to start raising rabbits again. There are literally hundreds of little projects that need to be done, as time and funds permit. But, for now, I'm concentrating on getting better at what we already have, and since Karen agreed to marry me yesterday, there's probably some things that need to be taken care of, on that front. But, we don't worry about how to get it all done. Every day's a perfect day for one thing... or another.
Make a comment!