Monday, June 20, 2011

Crazy learning times on our little homestead

I used to proudly call our home our homestead, simply because we were moving to the country with a little land.  I later decided that true homesteaders do so much more with their land than we do.  I guess in my mind, true homesteaders have larger gardens, can foods, milk goats or cows, make their own herbal medicines, make soap or cheese ... and I don't really fit that.


Since we don't farm the land ourselves, it feels funny to call it our farm.  In fact, we personally own less than ten acres, though Steve co-owns the family land with siblings and cousins.  Steve says it is a working farm, even if we don't do the work, so we can call it that.  He also calls it our homestead since his great-great-grandfather DID homestead it in the 1860s.  But when I say those things, I feel like a fake.  I live in the country (and love it) but I'm not a farmer or a homesteader.


Up until last month, our only livestock were chickens.  We have family household type pets (cats and dogs) but the chickens and one guinea hen were all our livestock.  We collected their eggs, fed them, and not much else.  Two weeks ago, we were given two pygmy goats.  They're just pets, though not very tame.  Maybe we're looking a bit more farm-like now, but it still doesn't seem like we're homesteaders.


We've spent the last two weekends gaining more homestead experience, though.  9 days ago we butchered our first chickens.  It took all afternoon, and the clean-up ran over into the evening, but we butchered four chickens.  We did finally get a rhythm going for the last two, but it's still a pretty rough rhythm.  We have a lot of  "next time we'll do it this way" notes.  Hopefully we'll remember them this fall when we  "freezer-retire" our original hens who will be 2.5 by then.  They're egg-eaters, so as soon as our new chicks are laying, these will retire.  We also have at least one rooster that came disguised as a pullet to "freezer-retire" this fall.


When we were in the middle of butchering, with lots of laughter over our mishaps, I had the start of a blog post rumbling around in my mind.  It would have been really funny, but then I realized it might not be the best blog-topic.  Someone somewhere would have been grossed out or offended.  It might even have started a comments-war if the vegetarians found the post.  It doesn't matter, though, because I got too busy and then I forgot most of my ideas, anyway.


Yesterday, we had to try our hand at goat-handling.  Those little pygmy goats are stronger, faster, and smarter than we imagined.  It took Steve, myself, and our 10 yo son working together to catch them.  It also took a few strategically placed children to block gates and doors into their shelter houses.  Finally, we had collars on both the goats, and we drag-led them out of their fenced shelter to a new area.


We naively thought we could put them in a rather small fenced area and let them feed themselves.  Well, they ate everything in sight and needed a new grazing area.  They are now living on chains staked into the ground that we'll move as needed to let them graze.  Once they calm down, we might even try moving them into the fenced area for shelter at night, and then out again for grazing.  We'll see.  Or they may just summer in the grassy area on chains and winter in the fenced area with shelter and purchased feed.


We went into the goat-wrangling rather naive and ignorant.  Thankfully, the only injury we faced was a scraped-up and bruised hand when the goat pulled the leash and hand up against a cement wall.  Unfortunately, it was one of the kids.  We knew the child wasn't strong enough to lead them all the way to the new grazing area, but we didn't expect any injuries.  We just thought the goat would break free before we left the fenced area.


Every time we try something new, we discover how much we DIDN'T know.  I'm sure we're a "sight to see" when we're in the midst of these experiences.  Too bad we never think to station one child with a video camera, because we might win an award if we could get some of these crazy moments on tape.  But, at least we're learning ... slowly.


April E.

1 comment:

  1. I'd be the same way with the goats, too, April! It would all be so new to me, although we are now buying 2 gallons of fresh, raw goat's milk every week.

    My friend from whom I buy goat's milk showed me a neat trick last week at her home. Because some goats are so stubborn and don't want to be led with a rope around their neck, etc., she showed me a kind of knot or halter that can be made in such a way that when the goat stubbornly stops in its path and refuses to go, the halter gives them a little bit of pain. But when the goat starts moving again, in the right direction you want them to go, the special knot/halter loosens up, and the pain goes away. It's not a severe pain; it would be like kicking a horse to get it to go when you're up on the horse and riding it.

    Anyway, I don't know what the halter tie or knot was called, but maybe you could search on the internet. It seemed to work very well with their stubborn goat, with not much effort from her while she was leading the goat who didn't really want to get movin'!



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