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Farm Life Reality Check

It is the New Year of 2018, which I believe many of us are hoping will be better than 2017.  But like so many of the other social media personalities and bloggers out there, many times we talk about the interesting things that happen, post the best pictures of our projects, and try and make sure that we only capture the lovely fruits of our labors, while strategically avoiding the hard topics or large messes just outside of the camera frame.  A lot of farming is not very glamorous and can be very monotonous.  Strategic representation of farming on social media can romanticize the idea, but I think it is fair to discuss a few of the realities of farming.

The day-to-day business of farming can be boring and overwhelming.  Your daily chores whether it is feeding animals, weeding and watering crops, or preserving your tenth batch of tomatoes can be tasks that you trudge through.  Like the mail service, rain, sun, sleet, or snow, does not prevent the need for your animals to eat; it only makes your tasks more unpleasant and inconvenient.  Preserving usually requires waiting for fruit to be at its peak before canning or pickling, which means not preserving one day can mean you lose a lot of your supply by the next.  Having these responsibilities can greatly infringe on the time and opportunities that you have off of the farm, which can be quite isolating.  There are no vacations or holiday breaks; someone must always be on the farm.

Injuries are very common on a farm, and seem to be rarely discussed.  A lot of the injuries are due to the strain of heavy lifting, slippery or uneven terrain, farm equipment accidents, and the occasional bad aim with sharp farm tools.  This does not even get into the burns, cuts, and scrapes one experiences cooking and preserving.  These injuries result in two possible scenarios: Either you can limp through your chores doing enough to get by until healed, or if the injury is more serious, it requires other people to take on your responsibilities until you are able to get back on your feet.  Neither of which is ideal.

There are also times that we do not discuss some of the unpleasant sides of homesteading and what we do.  At Little Red Hen Farms, we do raise meat animals, and we also lose animals to predators.  It is not completely uncommon to find deceased chickens that have fallen prey to attacks, which you must collect and dispose of to prevent disease.  On the days that our pigs are harvested, or killed, someone must be there to lift up animals to bleed out, and witness the process to make sure the animals are treated respectfully and dispatched efficiently.  These are not things for the light of heart.

Finally, strategic photography is something I am definitely guilty of.  On Instagram, Facebook, or Websites it is easy to appear to have everything together, be amazingly productive, and always positive.  However, this is not the reality.  I can guarantee that 99% of my photos are angled just so to catch the light, and prevent you from seeing the mountain of dishes, dirty floors, or any other insecurity I may have lying in the background.

All I can say is that most of the time we go through the motions of the day, doing the things that require doing to keep the homestead running, try and prevent waste, keep a toddler alive and entertained, make appointments, and interact with others to prevent turning into hermits.  And that my friends, is the reality.

So, while this may be a bit of downer, those who farm all have a reason to do these things and work through all of the struggles, because there is also joy.  It is a great feeling to watch your hard work grow animals and plants to feed your family.  It is satisfying to use your own produce to create yearlong stores and fill your larder, to make soap, or entertain your friends.  It is a labor of love, but as Pat Benatar once said, love is a battlefield.

Happy New Year!

Ashley

Farm Update 1/8/2018

Happy Monday Homesteaders!  It’s time for a weekly update!

Happy New Year!  My New Year’s resolution is to produce a weekly blog during 2018 so that you can join us on our homesteading adventure.  Sometimes it is easy to let the responsibilities of homesteading and family life overwhelm you and blogging gets pushed to the back burner.  This is a slippery slope as once a week goes by it is easier to let the next, and the next…..  So my intention is to stick to my resolution and produce interesting and engaging content for all of you who are following our blog.

I’ll jump right in and let you know that we did not end up getting the milking goat.  A potential buyer who had contacted the seller before us, but had cancelled a couple of times, made another appointment to see Flame (name of prospective goat) prior to my contacting the seller.  The seller was pretty peeved about the cancelations and let me know that if the other buyer cancelled again that Flame was ours, but it was not meant to be.  She purchased Flame.   I cannot say that I was not disappointed, but being the practical individual that I am I overcame my disappointment and used those monies to purchase a nice stack of hay for my goats.

But not to be deterred in my quest for a milking animal, in early November we purchased a seven month old heifer calf.  She is a Shorthorn/Black Angus cross.  She is a super friendly girl who has an affinity for horse treats and pumpkins.  The goal with Blue Belle is to get her into peak condition so that we can breed her next fall.  If she produces a heifer calf then we will raise the calf to breeding age and produce calves to sell.  If she produces a bull then we will raise him for meat.  Although we have a long way to go, we are working toward a degree of sustainability.  I am continually working with Belle to ensure that she is gentle and used to being touched and handled. Our hope is to calf share with her so that she is feeding her calf and producing enough milk that we can milk her once a day.

In late November and early December we harvested animals, sold some, and even gave a few away.  We harvested five turkeys.  Three were broad breasted bronze that were intended for that purpose and two were Sweetwater’s.  We purchased four Sweetwater poults and were hopeful that we would get at least one if not two hens.  It became clear fairly early that we had at least three Toms, so two were harvested with our Thanksgiving birds.  We thought that the youngest poult was a female until he started strutting around too.  We found a nice home for these gents on the coast with some lonely girls.  Our ducks were rehomed too.  We had four hens that we gave to a nice family that had a couple of drakes and were looking for hens to complete their flock.  I enjoyed the ducks; however they love water and kept our chickens water filthy.  These girls went to a lovely home where they can dirty the water freely without reproach.  Lastly we harvested two of our Gloucestershire Old Spot (GOS) hogs.   They were purchased in the early summer months with the express purpose of being harvested for meat.

On our homestead we are very respectful of the animals that we are raising and provide a healthy diet, plenty of room to roam and graze, and our attention and affections.  Although we purchase these animals with the express purpose of harvesting them for meat, we get attached as we feed and care for them.   We engage only humane and respectful abattoirs to harvest our animals.  However, with the exception of the unexpected death of one of our animals, these are some of the hardest days on the homestead.

Farm Updates:

Humphrey and Hazel (pet Kune Kune pigs) are doing great.  They have been thriving since being put on limited rations and are often found high on the hillside eating pasture.  It is great to see them out and about.

Jo our (GOS) gilt is having an extended sleep over at the breeders.  He is breeding her to one of his Berkshire boars.  When she is bred we will decide whether she will farrow at his farm or come back to the homestead.  That decision will be made depending upon her due date and the weather that is expected.  We do not yet have a barn facility which is necessary if she farrows during the rainy season.

The goats are doing great!  We have a new addition, little orphan Annie.  She is eight weeks old and came to us after her mother died.  A necropsy is being done on her mother and we are waiting on the results.  She is a cute and lively little gal who has stolen our hearts.  It has been so cold here that she was in the house in a crate for the first two weeks that we had her.  She has just been out for about four days as I write.  So no doubt you will understand that she is our baby.

The chickens are enjoying a prolonged holiday as I am generally getting less than five eggs from about fifty hens.  I am a believer in “a season for everything” and do not put lights in my coops.  This is a time for my girls to rest and revel in their freedom from production.  The days are already getting longer and soon my egg basket will be overflowing, literally.

This week we will continue to render the leaf lard from our hogs and start doing the projects that we have on our 2018 projects list.  We are looking forward to the New Year and all of the adventures and new friends that it will bring.

Have a great week!

 

 

Jan’s Weekly Farm Update 9/27/17

We are getting pounded by rain! Readying all of the animals and processes for a change of weather is always challenging and even more so when the weather change is only temporary.  This is my first time overwintering goats so I am learning how they react to inclement weather.  I’m finding out that they are not real fans of rain which is unfortunate as they are Pacific Northwest goats and oh yeah rain is seriously a thing here.

Speaking of goats I believe that I am in the vetting process to obtain a milking goat.  I have been following a particular milking goat advertisement on one of my homesteader classified sites.  I was initially intrigued by the idea of having a milking goat, but thought, I am not really ready to take this on quite yet.   Not only was I not ready to commit, I had recently found a great source for raw goats’ milk.  So far we have made (I say we loosely, in reality it was Jill and Ashley) the tastiest mozzarella cheese and are preparing to make soap.  So why you might ask with everything seeming to have worked itself out would I continue down this path.

I can honestly say that this particular goat speaks to me.  Huh?  I look at my local homesteader site multiple times per day and see numerous animals without giving them a second thought, until there is one that grabs my attention.  This particular milking goat caught my eye when her advertisement was first posted, but I had convinced myself that I was not going to go down that path.  Periodically I would scroll down and see that she was still available and then quickly move on.  After a time I wondered if this goat might be meant to belong here on the homestead so I finally reached out to the owner.  She let me know that she was available, but someone was scheduled to come see her.  They had cancelled previously, however they had rescheduled and she was giving them another opportunity, as we all know that life happens.  Well guess what…….

So now I find myself being vetted by a responsible goat owner to see if I would be a good fit for owning their goat.  How will this turn out?  I have no idea.   I hope that we will have the opportunity to purchase her, but I have been very honest about my lack of milking skills.  I am anxious to learn and am a fairly quick study so given the chance I believe that this could be a good fit.  Keep your fingers crossed and I will keep you updated.

Farm Updates:

The piggies have been enjoying the rain and cooler weather.   The Gloustershire Old Spots, Charleston, Jo, and Sadie are actually looking white and spotted these days.  During the warm summer months they protected their skin with mud so it appeared that we had three brown pigs.  It is still surprising to look out and see that they are great looking pigs.

My mom and best friend are visiting the homestead this week.  So although I am most definitely doing chores and taking care of the homestead I have actually spent quite a bit of time running around and having fun.  I guess you can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take the California out of the girl.

Have a great week!