The last few years have challenged me on many levels. God has moved us back home from Australia, blessed us with a beautiful home on acreage and this is where my troubles start.
We decided, when we moved here, to try to homestead/hobby farm it. Tired of factory farms and manufactured food, we strive to grow our own. Grow our own everything. But in trying new things, there’s been many failures. What I’ve learned is that I focus more on the failures than on my successes. Just because there are more failures than success doesn’t mean that I should focus more (means: beat myself more) over the failures.
I use social media a lot. Keeps me connected to friends and family. I noticed that I often posted about the seeds that didn’t germinate, the chicken that doesn’t lay, the baby turkey that died, the goat that was supposed to be a whether but clearly isn’t, the corn that isn’t ‘knee high by fourth of July’, the onion bed that got dug up by chickens, just to name a few. Now, of course, some of those things aren’t my responsibility, I didn’t band the goat for instance, but still they are ‘failures’ in our homestead.
When there are many failures and few successes, I reckon a person aught to focus more on successes and learn from the failures. When you handle it this way the failures become part of the successes and the failures are lighter on a person’s spirit.
In that new frame of thought, here’s a list of our homestead’s failures turned to successes, and hints for you, if you’re about to try some of these things, too.
1. FAILURE: RESCUED LIVESTOCK: The first livestock we got were two Jacob sheep. A friend of a family member said she had to get rid of these sheep because her neighborhood was not livestock friendly. She seemed a bit distraught so we paid her what she paid for them and brought them home. They are skittish and not too friendly. But, they do a great job of keeping the pasture ‘mowed. From this same friend we bought her Kinder goats (for the same reason she gave about the sheep). The male was supposed to be a whether (castrated) but he hit puberty, dropped a testicle (did he have 3?), and he’s been bucky ever since.
LESSON: Do not acquire ANYTHING based on your emotions. Have a plan. Why do you want it? What will you do with it? How much will it cost to feed? We have since noticed that the former owner of our flerd (a mix of a herd and a flock), has two new female pygmy goats who are pregnant. Now, if we focused on the negativity that could get into a whole other head game. So we aren’t.
SUCCESS: We have acquired a ram Jacob sheep who will hopefully breed with our female ewe. The Jacob’s have gorgeous fleece and once I learn how to spin, I’ll be able to make some amazing items. We also acquired a Nubian goat ram to mate with our female Kinder goat. While our whether goat has all the characteristics of a buck (he pees on himself, he bothers the females, he stinks and he is very vocal), he seems to be not fertile. We are going to try goat dairy-farming. Making cheese and using raw milk for the pigs.
Meet T. He’s supposed to be whether, but he’s not
2. FAILURE: DIDN’T KNOW BREEDS: We started out with chickens so we could have fresh eggs. At first, I couldn’t eat the eggs because I saw where they came from – I mean I didn’t want too much fresh protein but I got over that. I was delighted to learn that some chickens lay green or blue eggs. We bought a mix breed flock, and they’ve done okay. Although we did lose one at the beginning. We’re not sure why she died, but another chick looked like she was going to her demise and when we tried to do the right thing and help her out of her misery, we actually gave her a neck adjustment and she is now, one of our more colorful personalities out there.
We added turkeys to our flock, however, our intention is that our farm be heritage breeds. These breeds tend to be heartier and some of their numbers were so low We bought what the farm store had in stock at the time: BBW Big breasted whites. The problem with this breed is that man has bred it so poorly to have the white turkey breast we love to eat, that these poor things cannot naturally mate, and they are not a heritage breed. For the sake of the BBW you must cull them with in months or they get some serious health problems such as legs collapsing under weight and heart rupturing.
LESSON: If you’re going to mix breed your chickens, maybe do it not on egg colors (although it is cool to give people green eggs), but on meat/egg types. We’ve yet to eat anything we’ve grown except for vegetables and fruit. But, I really am looking forward to eating non-vaccinated, non-saltwater injected, non-factory poultry. Also, learn about chicken poop types before they get too big, because poultry poop is diverse and one could get over concerned with it when it’s not an issue at all. We again, learned to research first, evaluate, buy later.
SUCCESS: Because we had our chickens first, we were confident enough to add to our poultry with some turkeys. Once you get used to one type of ‘easy’ livestock you can branch out but always do your research. We should have stayed out of the BBW market and brought home the Royal Palms who are a heritage breed and can reproduce.
BBW turkey’s taking a break.
3. FAILURE: PLANTING FOOD the property we bought has a sizeable garden area with mature fruit trees. This isn’t a failure on our part so much as ignorance. We didn’t even know the trees in the garden area were fruit trees and when spring came along we wondered at the little orbs hanging down? Cherry is pretty obvious as is the pear tree, but the plum-tree and the raspberry bushes had me wondering. After our first year, we had done a lot of research and still managed to can some fruit sources. At the end of the season we had apple pie filling, salsa, Jake’s Mixed Berry Jam, Plum Sauce, pears canned and had dried apple slices, tomatoes, and various herbs.
The next season we had erected a greenhouse, but I didn’t know how to use one and fried some seedlings while others rotted in the wet damp. When we decided to grow sunflowers for feed and corn, it was frustrating to have crows pick the seeds right out of the ground. Deers stripped most of the blueberry’s off the bushes and our raspberries seemed to disappear over night.
LESSON: Take it easy on yourself. Don’t plant too early in your area. Keep air circulating if you hit some hot days and have seedlings in the greenhouse. Read up on gardening for your specific areas. I learned there are seed companies who are targeting the PNW and if I buys seeds through them, they might germinate better than the ones sold in big stores – who aim to sell nationwide without much regard for your specific area. Also, get a seed mat. Especially here where the spring is cold and wet they need the extra oomph a little bottom heat can produce.
SUCCESS: This year, so far, we’ been harvesting beans, peas, french breakfast radishes and cucumbers. (I’m particularly delighted with the cucumbers because I killed them last year as well as the radishes). A book that has helped me immensely is Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon. Awesome hints, tips, helps based on his experience which is wide and deep.
Plums…yum…..finally made a batch of fruit leather that is edible!
There is still so much to learn. The first time I made plum fruit leather (from a method I learned on Pinterest) it was horrible. It was too dry, very brittle and sour. What did I learn? Don’t trust everything on Pinterest. Our squashes have grown very well, but our turkeys have dug up our potatoes and our chickens have eaten most of the onions. So, now we have more fences.
For every stumble there is way to catch yourself and move on. Mostly for me, everyday at least once, I’m saying, “I can do ALL things through Christ who lives in me.” This is the greatest encouragement of all.
How’s your life going? Focusing on successes or failures?? Let me know!