The reality of farm life: it ain’t all sunshine and roses

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that we are still relatively new at this farming/homesteading thing-only a couple of years.  Most of the time, we are blessed with happy and healthy animals.  But, as with everything else in life, it’s not always that way.

Enter in Wilbur, one of our barrows.  Wilbur was one of the piglets we brought home late last year and raised to full weight.  He was a happy and healthy pig…until he wasn’t.  When we fed the animals on Sunday morning, he wouldn’t get up to eat.  By the time we came home from church on Sunday, he seemed worse and died within minutes of us arriving home.  Maybe he was waiting until we got there to say bye?  Yeah, I’m not quite that sentimental, but it did all happen really fast.  My immediate fear was the PEDv going around, but he didn’t display any clinical symptoms..and frankly, the way we farm and the few people who are invited onto our land mean that we have pretty strict biosecurity procedures naturally.  Upon further research, I found that it’s not terribly uncommon for pigs to die without obvious physical symptoms and the only way to confirm cause of death is with an autopsy.  Seems a little too CSI for us, but I’m sure that makes perfect sense to a “monoculture” farmer with thousands of pigs to protect.  We immediately moved him from their yard and took him a good distance away from all livestock for disposal.  Some have asked why we didn’t just butcher him and sell/eat the meat.  There are so many reasons why we wouldn’t do that.  One is that for a pig to be butchered commercially (ya know-not by your uncle Fred behind the garage), the butcher or his/her agent has to witness the killing.  Two is because we didn’t know or even suspect what killed him, we did not feel good about selling (or even giving) that meat to anyone.  We may not know everything there is to know about raising pigs, but we know our own values and we will never sell meat we wouldn’t feed to our own Blueberry girl, so with his death, it’s a total loss.

As to the future, our remaining gilts/barrows seem to be doing just fine.  They do not love the high heat, but do love the baths I’m giving them every day.  We have made some tentative plans around what we want our future to be with raising pigs and I think it’s the right decision.  We have been thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly!!!) enjoying the hand cured/smoked bacon, amazing chops, delicious steaks, and incredible sausage from these Berkshire piggies, and for that, we are grateful.  If it’s up to us, we will never, ever go back to what we now recognize as inferior quality pork from the local mega mart.

Until next time, happy homesteading Blueberry Acres Fans!

Berkshire bacon is on the way!!

Well, several of our registered Berkshire pigs are going to the happy hunting ground later this week.  We will be offering some of this pork for sale to friends, family and other foodies like us.  We’re excited to see the results of what has been absolute hours and hours of work on these crafty, smart and enormous animals.  If you follow our blog (as infrequent as it may be), you already know a few things about how we raise our livestock, but if not, here’s a quick overview:

Organic…to be or not to be!

Being certified Organic is an incredibly expensive and time-consuming process that a lot of small family farms don’t undertake.  While we could certify once we have been on our land for 3 years (we’re not quite there), we don’t feel like it’s worth the thousands (upon thousands) of dollars to invest in this governmental certification, so instead we try to be transparent with how we raise our animals.  For our pigs, they are raised in a large pen with access to some forage.  We supplement their feed with commercial feed that is antibiotic free when we can get it.  Yep-that’s a big problem-that feed is not always available, but we do our best to avoid the antibiotic feed that many commercial pig operations feed exclusively.  In addition, our pigs receive zero additional medications during their life here with us.  So, I feel honest in saying that our pigs are sorta organic.

Registered?  Papers?  I don’t need no stinking papers!

But, really you do!  Our stock is registered and more importantly they are from registered blood lines found at a well established, well-respected family farm.  We can trace the lineage of our pigs and are happy to report that there are no “Uncle Daddys” among our boys or girls.  As we move forward with our breeding program, we will continue to ensure this clean genetic line by introducing stock from other family farms thereby keeping everyone pure Berkshire and not genetically compromised.

Butchering…learned it on youtube?

As a small family farm, we do a lot of things ourselves.  However, there are a few things that we absolutely will not do and one of the things at the very top of that list is butcher our own large animals.  We do not have the facility, training or equipment for it and we prefer to turn that over to trained professionals in established facilities whose cleanliness is inspected and maintained.  Do you really want me butchering your pork chops next to my coffee pot while running my dishwasher?  Yeah, I didn’t think so!

I’m your mother’s cousin’s sister’s friend twice removed…..you can cut me a deal on the price, right?

We love our friends, family and mother’s cousin’s sister’s friends and would be happy to give anyone who wants a large volume of meat a volume specific price.  However, please remember that these are Registered Berkshire pigs.  Do a quick Bing search for Berkshire pork and you will see that prices range from $15-$40 per pound from commercial producers who make no effort to raise organic.  In Japan, apparently the prices can go even higher!  But…we’re not in Japan and we’re not looking to extort money out of other pork loving foodies.  As we take this batch to butcher, we will sit down and calculate a fair price based on our cost that is reasonable. You will know the price per pound of the cut you want before you have to commit.  But, I’m just going to say this…if you want grocery store prices, ya gotta go buy grocery store pork…capice?

You don’t have to be a local yokel to enjoy these piggies

If you aren’t near us, we can ship to you!  Just contact us through our site and we can work out shipping, etc for you to get your little piggie products.  We may be country but we do have FedEx/UPS!

Speak now or forever hold your peace..

This is hopefully not a one time deal.  We will have other pigs available for purchase later this spring/early summer.  From there, our focus will be on our breeding program so that we always have a supply of yummy, delicious berkshire pork available.  If now is not the time for you to buy humanely raised, sorta organic, deliiiiicious berkshire pork, you will have other chances!

 

Thanks to everyone who helped, supported and educated us as we started this process of learning about pigs.  Now let’s go make some bacon!

Here piggy piggy! A curly tale about getting pigs

Well, he went and did it!  Sheldon went last week to pick up our “couple” of pigs…except the maybe 3ish pigs turned into 3 gilts, 5 baby barrows and 1 very large boar.  For those of you playing at home, that is 9 pigs….who need to go into an enclosure that was designed to hold 6 at most?  Not only that but the gilts that we picked up are not quite at the farrowing (the baby making stage for you non-pig people) stage, so we need to keep the boar away from the ladies a bit longer.  Have you ever tried to encourage a lonely 200ish lb pig of anything?  Yeah..it ain’t easy.  Gripety gripe gripe gripe.

Ok, so let’s reboot and start this post again.

thCANBX0K1

Yeah!  We were blessed to be able to afford 9 Registered Berkshire pigs that will enable us to begin our pig farming (on a tiny scale) but will also help fill our freezers with high quality, pasture raised pork for the winter.  While the plan was to start with a smaller amount of piggage (I made that word up, don’t bing it for accuracy, ok?), Sheldon just became so enamoured of the piggy potential that he decided to up the ante by starting our pig endeavors with 3 gilts, 5 baby barrows and 1 ginormous boar. 

Hush little piggies don't say a word...mama's gonna buy you a big pile of food

Hush little piggies don’t say a word…mama’s gonna buy you a big pile of food

3 out of the 4 older pigs.  I didn't want to give you a shot of the boar from behind because I was afraid it would scare small children and the elderly.

3 out of the 4 older pigs. I didn’t want to give you a shot of the boar from behind because I was afraid it would scare small children and the elderly.

And so I don’t make you go on out to Wikipedia, I will tell you what all of these words mean:

Boar: a male pig of breeding age.  Some people refer to this as an “intact” male.  Our boar is named Shoot after his sire, Shoot to Thrill and he is very very intact.  Like I cannot look directly at the back of him intact.  Like we had to have a biology lesson with The Blueberry intact.  Ok, you get the picture.

Gilt: a female pig of breeding age who has not yet had a litter or maybe has only had 1 litter.  Our gilts are named Charlotte, Hey You and Other Pig (ok, so we are a little behind on the naming) haven’t yet had any babies and should be totally ready to go later this fall/early winter. 

Barrow:  a male pig that is castrated at a young age before he hits puberty.  Yes, pigs get pimples and act awkward too, except they don’t..but of course they do go through puberty.  Barrows are often prized as feeder pigs because many people think that the lack of testosterone in their systems means their meat has a superior flavor.  We have 5 barrows named Hubert (he’s French), Spot, Skunky, White fur and Wilbur.  Of course we have a pig named Wilbur!

And just for fun

Stag: this is a male pig that is castrated at a later age.  We didn’t get any of these, but when I saw this term in my pig books, I had to laugh…next time your husband talks about going to a “stag party” you can laugh with me…

Now here is where it gets a little more intensive.  Because we had built the pigmahal and pig yard, we thought we would be set on pig buildings for a long time.  It took Sheldon a long time to finish the pig house because that man built it out of concrete blocks with mortared in concrete blocks.  No ramshackle pig house for our pigs! 

Butttttt…because our girls aren’t quite ready to get pregnant and our male is very ready to make everything pregnant, we are building him his own little bachelor pad with an adjoining “birthing house” next door so we will be able to lead the appropriate pig to the appropriate place when the time is right.  In addition, because we ended up with some little piggy barrows, we didn’t feel good about putting them in with the big kids, so they actually went into a temporary enclosure until we get Shoot moved this weekend.  Ironically, they went into a chicken yard that I had just finished.  This means that we are delaying moving around some of our chickens, but we thought it was better that than have Shoot step on them all in his excitement to get to the ladies.  Once Shoot is settled in, we will move the barrows into the run with the gilts and then the chickens can finally get rearranged.  Whew.  It’s like musical chairs but with a lot more poop.

It’s been about a week since they have been here and while it’s a heck of a lot more work in the mornings, I’m really enjoying them.  They all have personalities and I really enjoy being in with the barrows because they are such goofy little things.  The big pigs are fairly docile but are interested in Sheldon and have given him some love nips a couple of times.  While we don’t think they are about to eat us, they do seem to be naturally curious.  We’re keeping them very well fed, so we don’t think we are going to end up as one of those horror stories of a farmer getting eaten by his/her pigs, but still..I prefer not to get love nips from someone who could eat me.

I’m looking forward to trying out all manner of pork recipes with these Berkshires, but for now, they are just eating, pooping, mess making machines.  Enjoying it all the same!  What’s new on your homestead?

 

 

Updated: DANGHOLSTEIN!: The final chapter

For those of you who have kindly been following along with our cow follies, today the DANGHOLSTEIN! chapter of our journey comes to an end when Sheldon drives her to the happy hunting ground (aka the butcher who will process her) in the sky.

courtesy of soda head

courtesy of soda head

After she is dispatched, the meat will age at the butcher for a couple of weeks and then we will be able to pick up our cuts.  We have sold half of the cow for zero profit (should be at least break even) and will probably sell/trade a little bit more of her.  Since this was our first endeavor and not the breed that we are making a long term run with, our goal was just to fill our freezers up with grass fed beef for the winter.

While DANGHOLSTEIN! isn’t anyone’s automatic choice when it comes to beef cows, we have learned that it’s not uncommon for a Holstein to go to processing after her milking days are over.  Plus, we believe that the benefits of a grass fed cow are so incredibly strong, we have a hard time being anything but grateful for the meat that she will provide to us.  We anticipate the meat to be sweet-probably sweeter than what we have had in grass fed Angus and/or Belties, but we shall see.

We have talked candidly to the Blueberry about today’s event.  In fact, she has started licking her lips when we drive past DANGHOLSTEIN! in the pasture.  Something that creeps me out to no end if I’m going to be honest….but, I appreciate that my little pragmatic farm girl can take such a matter of fact perspective on this process.

Today in about an hour, our family will gather together to say a prayer over DANGHOLSTEIN! to thank her for her blessings on our family and wish her a speedy journey into the happy hunting ground.  For animal lovers, this may rankle, but our perspective is that we have probably provided her a much better life than she ever would have gotten in a commercial feedlot, plus her meat will provide for our family (and other families)-her life will not be wasted.  So, I guess in the end, she will not be DANGHOLSTEIN! at all, but despite the frustrations of learning to raise cattle, she will instead be known as ThankyouHolstein in our family.

UPDATED:

We heard from the Happy Hunting Ground (aka Cloud’s Meat Processing) that TYHolstein’s hang weight was 570 lbs.  While we didn’t know her live weight at time of butchering (she wouldn’t fit on my weight watchers scale…), the average percentage of hang weight versus live weight is typically between 60-63% with some range up to the high 60’s.  Taking this into account, she either had a big roll of quarters in her pocket or she lost weight from the time we purchased her to the time we took her to process.  We learned some things along the way from this, the purchase of our first feeder cow.  If we have to buy another feeder cow (hoping our #Beltie herd will be built up before that is necessary), we won’t do it during the height of summer.  Lands were dry, grasses were puny and while the cows had plenty to eat, it wasn’t the grass-a-palooza that we saw early this spring.  We also learned that we aren’t buying another heifer unless she is going to be used for some baby makin’!  For some reason, TYHolstein didn’t like our existing herd and ran like proverbial hell to get in our neighbors pasture with his Angus heifers.  Not sure why, but she never looked back and once a cow is committed, well, I think she is like a stubborn old woman-no changing her mind.  We think had we bought her younger, she would have had more time to acclimate to our herd.  I’m sure as the months/years go on, we’ll figure out what else we did wrong this go around, but at least for now, we remain forever grateful for her gifts.

Found on these blog hops:

found at www.modernhomesteaders.net.  Go check 'em out!

found at http://www.modernhomesteaders.net. Go check ’em out!

 

I’ve been a lame blogger but a busy homesteader, Part 1: Cow Drama

I think it’s been several weeks since our last update of any value. But holy smokes, have we been busy here on Blueberry Acres Farm. Let me just give you the down and dirty update of the last few weeks on the cow front:

Went to cow auction to buy feeder cow. Purchased Holstein heifer. I received hilarious education in cattle prices that I will use to shame myself in later post.

Two days after receiving feeder cow that we have decided to originally name DANGHOLSTEIN! (explanation to follow later again…), we purchased a guard donkey named Festus for 50 smackers off Craigslist.

We work it out with our neighbor to get his cousin to cut our side pasture, which is 8-10 acres of too high grass. As a result, we need to move our tiny herd to what I refer to as our valley pasture so that he can cut our hay.

I wake up early on Mother’s day. I know…I should have gotten to sleep in, but that stupid circadian rhythm kicked in. I decide instead of waiting for Sheldon to handle walking these cows through what was probably snakey infested waist high grass, I would put on my big girl panties and do it myself. Blueberry decided to watch from the fence line (probably because I threatened her with every trick in the book to keep her out of the same probably snakey pasture) and cheered me on. While Festus nibbled on my hair, DANGHOLSTEIN followed too close next to him (did I mention that she was about 900 pounds at purchase?), and our Belties following a polite distance behind, I rattled my bucket of sweet feed for all I was worth while simultaneously scanning for snakes and cursing my now lost courage. But, I got those cows/donkey through the gate and closed it up. I was quite proud of myself!

Awaken the next morning to find all 3 cows back in the side pasture along with Festus. Curse them all tremendously and attempt to get them back into the valley pasture. Have the freaking GENIUS idea that I can just lead them from the gate in the “backyard” to the next gate to the valley pasture. Did I mention that I have to get across a totally open space, around Blueberry’s playset and our clothesline to get to this second gate? It made sense at the time. I let Festus out first (tactical mistake, I know that now) and get him to the second gate with ease, feed rattling, and only a little bit of anxiety. Think that this actually means that the cows will follow suit. See that Pia (the pregnant Beltie) is up next, open the gate and somehow manage to get her all the way across the backyard without incident. Turn to open the gate, turn back around and that ninja cow is gone. She is moving up the yard towards the front yard. Somehow I manage to redirect her and again lose her at the gate. She makes her way back to the original gate where she attempts to get back in to her little pal Maureen. I manage to get her back into this gate without incident other than the fact that I need to change my pants now. Decide that I can once again duplicate my walk through the snakey pasture, so attempt to get Larry, Curly and Moe to follow me, only to realize halfway through the pasture that I am Larry/Curly/Moe and these cows have outsmarted me…they are walking in the opposite direction despite my big bucket of sweet feed.  Take the walk of shame back to the house passing Festus who I let back in the side pasture in defeat.

A couple of days after getting Festus home, I find myself running down the dirt road yelling DANGHOLSTEIN! as she runs away from me in a focused attempt to get to our neighbor’s herd of cattle. No amount of sweet feed treats was bringing her back.  About this time Sheldon pulls up on his way home from work.  I tell him what happens, and he goes to park his truck in front of the house, which is about 1/4 mile away from me.  By this point, somehow Pia had found the weak spot in the fence (that DANGHOLSTEIN!) had served to make when she leapt over it and she was now on the loose too.  So, I’m standing on our road with DANGHOLSTEIN! the feeder cow going one way and Pia, the beloved mother Beltie who was helping to start our herd going the other way.  I decided to handle Pia and God bless her, she came right back to me with nothing other than voice commands and kind words.  She got right back in the pasture.  About this time, I had called for reinforcements from Sheldon (by called, I mean shrieked into the phone in the most unappealling way possible) and he pulled up to deal with DANGHOLSTEIN!…he crested the hill on our road just in time to watch her do a cow-jumping-over-the-moon impersonation when she cleared our neighbor’s cattle fence to get to the cow of her dreams.  She did not even touch his perfectly sound fence-just cleared that thing like it was a foot high.

Fast forward a couple of weeks…

Fences are repaired.  Sheldon wanted to get an electric cattle fence for DANGHOLSTEIN!, but I think I have talked him down off that ledge.  Seems kinda silly for one feeder cow who is probably only a month or two from becoming dinner.

The Belties and Festus are still in the valley pasture awaiting the mysterious cousin who is supposed to cut our hay.  It’s been hard to get more than a day or two without some kind of moisture, so I’m sure we’re at the bottom of his list of things to do.  We’re considering hiring someone to do it (because we don’t have the necessary equipment, nor do we have a need for it with our small 15ish acreage), but we’re hoping that Cousin Whateverhisname comes through.

DANGHOLSTEIN!  remains in with the neighbor’s cattle.  He is a super nice guy who is going to bring her over to us and actually put her into the correct valley for us (actually for me since I’m the only one home during the day) next time he manages to get her in the corral.  Otherwise, he’s cool with her remaining there until it’s time to do otherwise.  Can you imagine a neighbor in a suburb being that laid back about an animal infringing on their property?  Yeah, me neither…

We made the investment in our own little stock trailer.  We had found a very inexpensive rental place for trailers in a nearby town, but when we saw the opportunity to get our own, we thought it would be a good investment for us in the long run.

It looks like we will be getting a bull in the near future.  Our original bull didn’t pass his motility test (for those of you scratching your head, that means his swimmers were sluggish….), but this bull is from the same farm and from what I can gather, comes from Missouri Beltie royalty.  If he passes all of his necessary tests, we’ll add him to the herd with the hopes that when the time is right for Maureen, they will make sweet cow music together.

Well, I know this post is devoid of helpful links or interesting pics, but dang..this is about all I can manage these days.  If I could go back and tell my 2012 winter self to sleep up in preparation for our first spring/summer on the farm, I would have.  Unfortunately, I just can’t seem to find my flux capacitor….

We’ll share more soon.  Lots of chicken and turkey drama in part 2.  Until then, happy homesteading!

Choosing a heritage breed cow for your homestead

It’s been a few days of having our beginning herd home here on Blueberry Acres and we’re learning that much like every other animal, cows have their own unique identity and personality.  Maureen (the little one) is highly curious about our barn cats.  She is quite nosey and it’s obvious that she wants to explore the cats with smell and probably taste since she licked the wooden fence post that one of our barn cats, Peter had sat on just seconds prior.  Pia (the pregnant one) is a little more cautious.  Apparently we are her third farm and she is a little more apprehensive about us and the situation in general.  She doesn’t seem to display the same amount of “ooooh a cat!” as Maureen, and I suppose that is ok.

 

But, beyond these specific personality traits, our decision to build a herd of Belted Galloways was a strategic one.  We knew we wanted to concentrate on a heritage or less common breed.  Here are some of the things that we discovered specific to this particular heritage breed:

Temperment:   Generally speaking, these cattle are more docile.  They are not overly aggressive and as a result, we believe that they will be very well suited to our small hobby farm.

Size:  Galloways are typically smaller than your average Angus cow.  Maureen was born in 2011 and the top of her head doesn’t even come to my shoulder (and let’s not lie-my shoulder isn’t that far off the ground) which makes her a little easier to handle.  In addition to just having less body mass, this also makes them easier and cheaper to transport.

Feed:  Galloways are excellent at processing food/grass where some breeds will desire more specific grasslands, Galloways are genetically predisposed to make the most of the grassland that they have due to their heritage.  In addition, Galloways have been known to consume about 75% of what a typical Angus would take in but still produce the same amount of meat.  However, that is not to mean that they produce lower quality beef.  Quite the opposite, as Galloways are known for…

Beef:  High quality, lower fat meat is the by-product of both their genetic makeup as much as the fact that most Galloway producers (like us) are either grass-fed and/or grass-fed AND finished.  We’ll be in that later category-grass all the way.

Adaptable to varied conditions:  Given that this breed started in Scotland, I don’t think I would recommend them for a farm in Hawaii, but in the diverse Missouri climate, they are well-suited as they will produce a double coat in the winter to protect them from harsh winds and weather.

So, for us, this breed just became the best of the best in terms of value, disposition, and meat quality.  As our herd grows, we will eventually begin breeding ourselves as well as selling meat products.  As our herd grows, we may add an Angus or two just to see what a Beltie/Angus cross is like, but we will also make sure that we do our part to preserve the lineage of this amazing breed.  The breeder that we purchased our girls from also sold us some ground beef and it was FANTASTIC!  We know that building a herd is going to be slow going for this uncommon breed, but we think the investment will be well worth it.  After all, isn’t homesteading all about the journey and not the destination?  Happy Homesteading!

This post also appeared on Modern Homesteaders.  We love the info there-go check them out!

Talking to our kids about tragedy: One homesteader’s take

Well, my goodness.  It’s been a helluva week.  First the tragedy in Boston and now when I turn on the news, I hear about the fertilizer plant in West, Tx that killed multiple people, injured countless others and leveled many many homes and businesses.  It is enough to make a parent want to put their kids back to bed and shut all the curtains until ..oh, forever?

While being a hermit may sound appealing, the hard truth is that this is the world we live in now.  Horrible people do horrible things on a massive scale.  Dangerous facilities that aren’t supposed to be dangerous can erupt in a mountain of fire when conditions are right.  As I thought about this, I have to draw upon my own professional experience.  I’ve counseled hundreds of people through loss, grief, sadness and change.  However, I’m not a counselor by education or trade…it’s merely part of my “day job”, so instead, I want to share with you decisions as parents we made in our home.  Regardless of terror, nature or accident, the bottom line is that innocent lives are lost every day for various reasons….and we need to be prepared for how to talk to our children about that.

Earlier this week as the news of the Boston Marathon broke, my first thought was to a couple of my oldest friends whose son runs the marathon every year.  Typically they go to Boston to cheer him on and my gut reaction was for their safety.  As Blueberry attempted to look over my shoulder as I looked up race checkpoints and tried to figure out when their son might have crossed the finish line (he’s just fine btw), I realized that she was picking up on my worry even if she didn’t see any of the video or pictures of what was happening.  And then this morning, she was sitting with Sheldon and I as we watched the morning news when they broke in with an update on West.  As much as we want to shield and inoculate our children against the horrors of a modern world, we simply cannot.  It’s everywhere…and even if we go on a no TV/Internet diet, let’s face it-our kids all know how to read worry on our faces.

So, as I think about how to address these horrors with our little Blueberry, I try to think about a homesteaders spin.  I cannot speak for all homesteaders, but generally speaking, those I have talked to seem to be straight shooters who are interested in educating and communicating with their children in a direct way.  Most of the homesteading parent blogs/articles that I have read lead me to believe that many are like us-we want to protect our kids but still understand that they need to grow up informed, educated and prepared to face a world without mommy and daddy constantly hovering like a helicopter.  That kind of parenting outlook needs to bleed into how we address tragedy.  If you’re struggling with this concept, I can’t give you the perfect answer.  Only a parent knows what their child can/cannot take.  But I can tell you how we handled some events over the last two years or so.

In some cases, we opted to not mention it at all.  For example, the case of Sandy Hook.  That was a tragedy that as a Mom, I simply could not bring myself to talk about without a high degree of emotion.  Both Sheldon and I agreed that we would not expose Blueberry to any of that coverage, nor would we discuss it as a family.  Articles like this one from PBS agree that you have to make a determination by age if it’s even appropriate to address.

In some cases, we talked in generalities.  For example, the Boston Marathon bombing.  I discussed that something had exploded in Boston and some people were hurt.  I also took that as an opportunity to talk about police officers, fire fighters and countless others who were doing whatever they could to help make people safe.  Boston’s Children’s Hospital has some excellent yet simple advice for walking through this process with your kids from talking about tragedy to helping them cope with frightening events.

In other cases, we talked openly.  As the story of West broke this morning, we didn’t restrict it at all.  At the time I’m writing this post, it sounds like it was an accident caused by just some really unusual circumstances coming together.  It’s a huge tragedy, but one that needs to be understood so that conditions aren’t repeated.   I think it’s important that if our kids can handle it, then they hear about things like this.   Modern, industrialized commerce comes at a cost and this one was a terrible, terrible cost.  The thing that I don’t want to do is get up on my homesteading bandwagon and talk about “we shouldn’t be producing this kind of crap!  It’s too dangerous!  Curses to chemicals!”  Sigh.  It’s too easy to do that when you hear about terrible stories like this caused by chemicals that I wish we weren’t using, but I truly believe that it disrespects the humans who were just trying to make a living and lost their lives for it.

In addition, we’ve had a number of family losses over the last 18 months through the death of a parent to the loss of multiple grandparents.  This has caused us to expose our little Blueberry to death much sooner than we would have anticipated or liked.  With each event, we were able to talk about what happened typically without too much detail, how we hoped that person was at peace and headed to Heaven-that’s our own belief system.  It’s led to a ton of questions, which we have welcomed.  These are often out of the blue and typically are related to death as a process.  The Child Development Institute suggests that parents encourage questions and reassure kids that it’s ok to feel however they feel.  In our case, we have done this, but an unexpected joy that has been born about these questions has been that she has wanted to understand more about Heaven, Hell, The Holy Trinity, birth, love and more.   She’s rarely sad when she asks these questions-it’s more of a desire to understand than a desire to be morose.  As a result, I’m not sorry we approached it the way we have.  At almost 5, our kiddo has a sensitivity that is appropriate for her age, but also understands a little more that life is precious and death is inevitable.  And let’s face it-a handle on death is a necessary attribute for even the littlest of homesteaders.

So, that’s how we have handled both the distant and local tragedies.  Basically the same way we work to approach homesteading.  Directly, honestly, with respect for the beings involved and with the understanding that we don’t know it all.  Would love to hear from some other homesteading parents about how you handle this “messy” part of parenting.   And our prayers continue to go out to everyone who was impacted by the tragic events this week.  Take care y’all!

 

A day in my life…or why I don’t return your calls

I feel like I have been dropping the ball a lot in the friend department.  I’m not returning calls very fast (if at all) and I swear, if texting didn’t exist, I don’t know that I would communicate with anyone outside of my house.  I’m sure a lot of homesteaders feel this way.  It’s hard to connect with your city friends whose lifestyle can often be so different.  Not that ours is more or less busy-it’s just typically that the schedules are so diverse it’s hard to make a connection.  And definitely, I’m not saying that my particular slice of life is more hectic than anyone else’s life (in fact, I spent several bucolic moments in a rocker on my front porch yesterday, so no complaints)…but in the event I fail to call you back today, this week, heck-this month, I want you to know it’s not personal.   Here is a little peek into a recent day:

5:30 Wake up

5:40 Convince Blueberry to stop poking me in the back and go back to bed

6:00 Actually get up, fix coffee, feed inside felines, assess mess left by Sheldon from last night’s emergency chicken whacking, think nice thoughts about Sheldon’s anal kitchen cleaning abilities

6:10  Get Sheldon up, make lunch for Blueberry, make breakfast for Blueberry, pack bag for Blueberry

6:30  Get dressed and begin taking care of 30 (33 if you count the wild Bantams who have adopted us) outside animals

7:00 Give Kya and Buddy some “born free” time before feeding everyone else

7:20 Argue with Blueberry that a t-shirt and tights are not a complete outfit, get her dressed, move Sheldon’s work pants from certain inside feline doom and go back to the animal salt mines outside

7:30 Feed dogs, feed cats, feed chicks and Lana the chicken

7:35 Get Blueberry buckled in for drive to school, get her gear in, discuss why she can’t play with dogs in the mud

7:45 Wave bye-bye for what feels like 20 minutes, come in and check work email

8:00-9:00 Handle personal business, update this blog, think about updating other blog, check stats, read an article on Joe Davis

9:00-11:00 Conduct status calls with 5-7 job seekers, return work email, realize I had forgotten to put appt on my calendar, apologize profusely and conduct call, work on drafting training program for new and revised LinkedIn workshop, return calls, work network for 2 leads for job seekers, wonder why Lana insists on roosting in the car port, build Lana a temporary roost box while chicks have invaded her space, have a slice of chocolate cake I made yesterday (but was too ill to eat), think nice chocolately thoughts, prep beans for dinner tonight

11:00-12:00 Dust mop upstairs, clean litter boxes, do dishes, do load of laundry, clean bathroom, finish putting dinner in crock pot for tonight

12:00-1:00 Conduct intake call with new job seeker, follow-up with 2 other job seekers

1:00-2:00 Realize I have forgotten to shower, shower, let dogs have afternoon “born free” time, check on chicks, reinforce coop door (again), put out feed for Lana, the Bantams and the wild birds, leave cats in charge

2:00-3:00 Drive into town to pick up Blueberry from school

3:00-4:00 Obtain one reluctant to leave child from school, drive to karate, make deals about what snacks are acceptable from snack machine, answer no less than 27 questions at a collegiate level asked by a 4-year-old, put on karate uniform, wash hands a lot

4:00-5:00 Watch karate, sometimes in abject horror at child’s behavior.  Wish that instructors found her less cute and more deserving of ninja attack to improve discipline.  Feel overwhelming joy and pride when she gives her best effort.  Frustration when that doesn’t happen.  Work on resume gratis for friend, send it for feedback

5:00-5:30 Drive home

5:30-6:00 Feed outside animals, check on chicks, convince Lana to get back in her coop, get bitten in the butt at least twice by Kya, sigh copiously

6:00-6:50 Eat dinner, commence child bathing routine

6:50-7:20 Get child clean, in pj’s and read to.  In theory, child in bed by 7:30.  In reality, closer to 8:00

7:30-8:30 Conduct new client intake call, follow-up on earlier emails, try to reach other job seeker who won’t talk during day, wrap up paid work day

8:30-10:00 Attempt to appear awake to entertain Sheldon and our houseguest, wonder if I remembered to brush my teeth today

10:00-?  Sleep and then start it all over again tomorrow

A Liebster Award? But, I don’t know 11 people!

You ever heard of this-the Liebster Award?  Well, I hadn’t heard of it until recently, but I’m so charmed by the fact that Eileen over at Simply Homesteading nominated me for this award.  Thanks girl!

While I was waiting by the door for my cash like prizes to arrive, I jumped on The Bing to read a little more about the Liebster Award.  Basically, liebster is a German word meaning darling or sweetheart…so one can easily extrapolate that this is a nice recognition to help give care and attention to fledgling bloggers.   Eileen blogs on it much more eloquently, but I’ll sum up instead: it’s the blogging world’s version of a chain letter, except it’s with the best of intentions.  So, without further ado, allow me to get on with this!

My 11 random facts:

1) I have to sleep in a neat bed.  I often make it again right before getting into it.

2) I have a class M drivers license.

3) I am OCD about my eye brows.  They. Must. Be. Neat. At. All. Times.

4) I loathe putting away laundry.  Like, I’d rather bathe a plague ridden leper with scabies (no offense if that is part of my readership) than put away laundry.

5) I adore The Blueberry, but sitting at her karate lessons (as I am right now) bores the ever living poop out of me.

6) I hate talking on the phone unless I’m being paid for it.  No, not like a 976 operator.  My day job involves consulting on the phone and via web.  I love doing that.  But sit on a phone saying nothing, I’d rather do number 4.

7) I have inadvertently taught my child the art of deal making because she tries to negotiate for everything.  Sheldon is afraid that she is going to grow up and be in sales.  I think worse things could happen.

8) When I was a little Shellie, I dreamed of being an Astronaut.

9) I cannot make an Apple Crumble to save my life, despite many many many efforts.

10) It’s been on my short list to go back to school and get my Masters for like 10 years.  Needless to say, it’s a long short list.

11) I have a significant bug phobia.  Like screaming, yelling, run away run away phobia.  Yeah, I know I live in the country.  Life is full of little ironies like this.

Ok, now here are my answers to the questions given to me:

  • What color shirt are you wearing right now?  Black, but technically I was wearing purple when I first read this.  Did I get this one right?
  • What is your favorite day of the week and why?  Friday night because it’s family movie/mommy wine night!
  • If you could do without one piece of electrical equipment what would it be?  My smart phone.  I have been known to be standing out in a field looking something up…not easy to do with even a tablet.
  • What would your perfect yearly weather be?  Oh my-I love all seasons.  Fall and Winter are my favs.  We live in a moderate climate here in Missouri, so I’m good with all!
  • If you had unlimited acres, unlimited money, how many different kinds of animals would you have?  Hmm..I don’t have a good answer to this bc we have enough acreage to have what I would want.
  • How many photos of family do you have up in your house?  Uh, I don’t know…some?  More than 3, less than 20?
  • How many hours a day are you on the computer? Be honest!  Well, during my “work days”, it’s close to 8.  During “Mommy Fun Days” and weekends, it’s closer to an average of 1 or less.
  • If you had unlimited money what charity would you support?  Hmm..I struggle with this one too because I think people can always give to charity even if it’s just time, extra stuff or good press.  We typically support the churches that we like, a local homeless shelter by the name of Souls Harbor in Rogers, AR and various womens shelters and pet rescues.
  • How many hours of sleep do you get?  Ugh.  5-7 at best.
  • What one chore would you never do again if someone else were to do it exactly as you do?  Dishes.  Laundry.  Cleaning the litter boxes.
  • What is your favorite store to shop at?  What’s shopping?  Seriously-I do most shopping on line.  Does Amazon count as a store?

Ok, so if I have the drill right, from this point, I’m supposed to select 11 other bloggers (with less than 200 followers) who blog in the same type of areas as us to nominate for the Liebster Award thereby continuing to spread the love and traffic with other bloggers.  Alas, this is my challenge.  This blog is literally minutes old.  I think the ink is still drying on my domain agreement.  So, we’re still getting to know the other bloggers out there.  In addition, because our lives are dual (like so so many of you), I blog both about homesteading and work stuff.  As a result, I’m going to break with tradition a bit and just give you some other blogs that I think you should look at because I think these folks are awesome and they deserve the recognition.  She’s not on the list, but I like her blog, so check out Simply Homesteading too please!  And if these folks feel like it, here are my 11 questions that I would be curious about:

1) Are you a country or city homesteader?

2) Why do you do it-the homestead/farming/back to basics life?

3) If you could go back in time a year, what would you change?

4) If you could have any super power, what would it be?

5) Imagine it’s your last meal on earth…what would you have?

6) What do you wish someone else could teach you?

7) What do you take in your coffee?  Sugar?  Cream?  Baileys?  (Yes to all three for me in case you were wondering)

8) If you could visit any country, where would you go and why?

9) Last thing you learned that you were afraid to learn

10) Do you shout out the answers to Jeopardy questions like me?

11) What’s your secret vice?  I don’t mean vice vice people.  This is a nice girl blog.  I mean like cookies.  Sheesh.

Ok, that’s it!  Without further ado here is my list of people that I just think you should check out because their content and writing is worth it:

1) My Eclectic Life  Excellent blog on lots of topics.  Duh-the name?

2) Burleigh’s Waiting  This is the story of one of my new favorite families and their journey to adoption from outside the US.

3) The gorgeous food porn of my pal Lisa at What Lolita Eats

4) The work seriousness from a seriously awesome lady at Pamela K Henry & Associates because just like me, this blog isn’t only about homesteading.

5) The Dad point of view at Homestead Dad.

6) Simply because one of the first things I read on this blog was about her dog peeing on kale, I must also say The Yellow House.

7) Because she’s a Missouri girl too, check out Wolfwoods

And while I could pick some others, I am struggling with coming up with more blogs because as my title alludes, this blog is like 2 minutes old.  But check back later and I will be able to sing the praises of even more folks.  Ok, that’s it!  Don’t wait at the door for your prize money-it ain’t coming.  But do think about spreading the word on the blog-o-sphere and help other bloggers be found!

Do Homesteaders get depressed too?

As I was scrolling through FB this morning, I came across a post by The Bloggess who was talking about an article on CNN/Parenting’s site titled Xanax makes me a better mom.  Now, I think this is probably a hot button issue on all sides, but I do have to say that I felt like the original Parenting article took a pretty soft approach to a very hard problem…sometimes it sucks to be a parent.  And sometimes the level of “suckage” is just too damn much for some parents.  I like what Jenny (The Bloggess) had to say in regards to getting through the day-do what you gotta do and no one should judge you for it.

However, it also made me realize that the challenges might even be harder for those of us trying to homestead, or at least move towards a more homesteading-like life.  Let’s face it-this lifestyle can be isolating.  I went from being in a very large city with friends just a short car ride away.  Now, I have to drive 40 miles just to get into town in order to even get to friends being a short car ride away.  The distance makes building lasting relationships a bit challenging.  Sheldon works in that city 40 miles away and right now The Blueberry attends school there a few days a week.  It makes for a quiet house during those days.  Sprinkle in the fact that while we have neighbors on our dirt road, they are almost all bachelor men, it makes for a bit of a lonely day alone on the farm with just the animals for company.  Sheldon hears that and thinks I’m crazy…if he could go a week without ever uttering another word to a human, it would be his best week ever.  For me-I’m more of a social creature, so I crave my interactions be they on the phone, via web or when I do get to drive into town.  It’s those little things that keep me going through lonely, blue times.

I think to those stuck in the city but longing to be free, our lifestyle can seem idyllic.  Wide open spaces, plenty of honest work to do around the farm and house, and no neighbors to see you when you sit nekkid on your back deck (not that I’ve done that or anything), but just like everything else in life-it’s not all sunshine and roses.  I would love to see more homesteading/hobby farming families talking about this.  How to balance a person’s need for social interaction with a more isolated way of life.  Blogging is a great way to tap into a wonderful and supportive community, as you’ll see in a later post of mine talking about a Liebster award.

I’ll be frank-I’m not sure how to wrap this post up.  I’m still happier here than I would be shoved into a tight little neighborhood where I can hear my neighbors and smell the traffic.  However, I still struggle with the loneliness at times and frankly, there is not much of a fix for it most days.  It just comes with the territory.   I guess I’m just going to put this out there to anyone who might read this blog…let’s be honest about it as farmers/homesteaders/parents/people.  Sometime it ain’t easy being us!