- That moment when… you are plucking a chicken and something splashes on your cheek or lips.
- That moment when… you feel something warm and wet in your pocket after collecting eggs.
- That moment when… you are freezing and cursing while you are breaking ice in everyone’s water feeders.
- That moment when… you slip and fall in the chicken run.
- That moment when… you realize you have blood splatter on your pant legs and you are picking up the kids from school.
- That moment when… you ask your significant other does this look like blood or could it pass for mud??
- That moment when… you check on the pigs for a quick second in your nice clothes and they manage to get dirt all over you.
- That moment when… you pick up the feed bucket in the horse stall and a mouse comes flying out right at you.
- That moment when… you decide you can’t do anything in gloves so your hand are destined to be dirty FOREVER.
- That moment when… you run out the door in your robe and pajamas to collect whatever animal has escaped.
Loss is something you experience on the working farm. Sometimes it is planned and sometimes it is not. I still have heart ache when we process any animal. I have a moment when I think we should all become vegetarians but I don’t think my family would like that very much. I realize that we have to process in order to feed the family and to keep the farm producing. If you don’t process you end up with 60 plus 2 year old hens and only a few eggs a week. That is not ideal!
When farm loss is not expected I find it even harder to deal with. Last year I decided to let my hens hatch eggs if they went broody. There is something magical about letting a hen sit on her eggs. She is a devoted mother from the beginning and will sit on her eggs for 21 days (give or take) leaving briefly for food and water. We had 2 beautiful chicks hatch under 2 hens. They were great mommas.
One night I woke up to horrible hen noises. I ran out into the night (not the best choice) to help scare off the culprit. There was a small hole in the coop that one of my hens could squeeze through but the others could not fit.
Lesson 111 – Don’t wait to fix something! I noticed this hole and said to my hubby I will fix that tomorrow. And what happened that night??? Back to the hen screaming….
When I arrived on the scene momma hen was lying on the ground making dying sounds and her terrified chick was trying to escape. I scooped up my hen expecting the worst but she was in perfect condition. I am convinced she was trying to get the attention away from her babe and on to her. I put them somewhere safe for the rest of the night. I did a quick check at the other momma and she seemed fine but it was dark.
The next morning I went out to the coop bright and early to check on my mommas. Momma and chick I separated were great. When I opened the coop the other momma she came out and started to call for her little chick who was nowhere to be found. I have NEVER been so upset on the farm. I searched for the little chick and all I found was a wing. My momma hen was distraught. She roamed the yard calling and searching. I stood in the yard crying my face off saying “I’m so sorry!!” I am not sure I have ever cried this hard in my life. I probably looked ridiculous.
This kind of loss is difficult. I was a little angry with myself for not jumping on the problem with the coop. I should have fixed it right away. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way. Now we don’t let things go until the next day. Lesson Learned!
A few years ago my farm dreams were just that – Dreams. I never in a million years thought I would actually have farm animals and operate a small farm. I mean come on we were suburbanites without any prior knowledge. But with dreams come a drive to learn and exceed. Here are the top 5 things I never pictured myself actually doing!
1. Owning and caring for animals – On the farm we have bees, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits. I keep everyone clean (so much poop!)….this makes great manure! This is a huge learning curve. I have had to deal with births, deaths, fleas (ick), illness, sore legs or hocks, runaways, the list goes on. I help out at my friends farm down the road and recently her and I had to cut spurs off a huge buck. This goat was unhappy to be apart of this. I have loaded sheep into a pick up and guided an escaped pig back to where she belonged.
2. Processing animals – We process all our own animals on the farm. We have processed chickens, pigs, rabbits, and turkeys. I don’t have specialized equipment so I do it all by hand.
3. Canning and Preserving – I still have so much to learn but I can all my own fruit and make all my own jam. This past year I made up a lot of my own recipes too. I traded chicken for a dehydrator and use it often. The honey harvest yields many jars and I render all the fat from the pigs.
4. Loading Hay – I go out to a farm a few hours away to get the best hay. The bales are 80 to 100 lbs and I manage to toss them from the field into the trailer. I’m working on my farm muscles. It is very clear that muscle is key and on the farm you use muscles that you didn’t even know existed!
5. Dumpster Diving – I find myself at the dumpster often. I am a scavenger! Looking for delicious fruit and vegetables for my chickens, pigs, and rabbits. People drive by and give me the side eye but I stand tall (from within the dumper) knowing I am giving my animals healthy food.
Life on the homestead is always interesting. There is never a dull moment. Fences need mending, animals need food and water, eggs need to be collected, garden needs to be weeded and watered, stalls need to be mucked, chores go on and on. If you love the homesteading life these chores are more fun than work. I created my top 5 list to help survive the homestead.
Okay with Poop
You will get poo on you! If you are really unlucky you will slip in the chicken run on a rainy night and slide for a bit.
A farm is smelly, so so smelly! If you are sensitive to smells living on the homestead will be hard for you.
Creative with Twine
Twine fixes everything. As a frugal homesteader you will save everything and twine is as good as gold. Twine can fix fences, hold up gates, tie down tarps, hold up whatever needs processing, the list is endless really.
Covet the Pallet
Pallets are another item that is as good as gold. Pallets can be used in so many ways. All you need is an imagination or Pinterest. You can create fences, a strawberry wall, furniture, again the list is long.
Love Creatures Big and Small
Homesteading = animals. It is a must that you have a love for the furry and feathery creatures that are on the farm. That includes rats and mice! Just kidding you don’t have to love them but you can’t lose your mind when you see them. A shutter and a curse are absolutely acceptable!
People often ask me how I have time to take care of boys, a garden, the house, dogs, homestay students and animals. We recently made the decision to have me stay at home with the farm. Now I can really focus my energy on growing our little family farm. Whats on the farm you ask?
The Boys We have 2 beautiful boys, K turns 5 years old in February and J is 6 years old. My boys have ENERGY! They have so much energy that they literally run around in circles. We are always dirty! If there is mud or a puddle you can bet that my boys are in it and covered head to toe. We spend most of our time outside. Hubby is the other boy in my life. All I can say is I have a great man! He is patient, kind and hardworking. Luckily he is all those things because life is a bit of a mad house sometimes. The Dogs
We have 2 dogs, Tacoma and Shaggy. Tacoma is a German-Shepard Lab cross she is 8 years old. Shaggy is a German Wiredhaired Pointer Lab cross. Tacoma is a fabulous farm dog. If a chicken is somewhere she shouldn’t be Tacoma will help herd her back to the correct location. Shaggy is a trained bird hunter so needless to say we have to watch him a little closer. They are both great family dogs.
We started with 9 laying hens and we now usually have around 80 hens. I love chickens. I could watch them scratching in the yard for hours. They are amazing little animals. They provide the farm with the most business as we sell our eggs. We currently have 4 coops and one more in the final building stages. Our chickens get to free-range and explore the property.
We have 6 roosters who were picked to live on the farm. Roosters are essential to the farm because first they help make chicks and second they protect the ladies. The rooster will call to his ladies when there is danger and take them to a safe location. I always know when there is a predator near with the help of my roosters.
The Meat Birds In the spring and summer we raise meat birds to sell and provide meat for ourselves. This year was our first year raising them and we will definitely continue raising them. The birds free-range in an electric net and are moved to a new location daily. Once you taste chicken that had the freedom to move around outside and scratch the ground to eat you will never go back, I promise you.
This year we raised 4 turkeys to test it out. These birds are the most inquisitive creatures I have yet to encounter. They are curious about everything that happens on the farm. Hands up if you thought turkeys could fly. Am I the only one that thought they would be lousy flyers? Turns out they are quite good at flying. Yesterday I had to scold a turkey for being on the roof of my house!
One day I went up the street to purchase a Silke hen to have in the yard because they are fantastic looking but instead I came home with a rabbit. While walking on the property the day before this I came across a rabbit cage. I figured it was a sign! So I loaded up my new rabbit and came home. Hubby was confused and even more so when I told him our new rabbit was pregnant and would be giving birth in about 18 days. I, of course, didn’t know anything about rabbits giving birth but no problem I had 18 days to figure it out 🙂 We now have 2 does that live with us on the farm. They are both a Californian New Zealand cross.
The Bees We currently have 3 hives that house thousands of bees and are always expanding when we can. Our bees forage on whatever is available to them in nature. In the winter months they survive on their stores of honey. There is no taste like real organic honey. The honey you buy from the supermarket is usually made from bees who are feed sugar or high fructose corn syrup, yuck! Our bees provide us with honey for the entire year and on occasion we are able to sell some jars. We also utilize the comb and clean it into pure wax to make candles.
The Pigs We love the pigs! They are mine and my hubby’s favorite animal to raise. We would pull up a chair and watch them keep busy turning the soil looking for treasures. We raised 2 this past year and will raise so many more I am sure. Our pig pen was built from pallets and worked perfectly. We are set to get 4 more pigs pretty soon and they will be acting as our plow to clear some invasive blackberry bushes at the back of the property.
The Horse I lease Jimmy from a friend of mine. He is a lovely horse with a gentle personality. I am new to riding so this old guy is perfect for me. There is something so calming about going into the barn and mucking out the stalls and having a chat with a horse. I also take care of my neighbors horse, Cash, who is a super sweet old boy too.