The past year has been the hardest year on the homestead so far. We have encountered so many obstacles it has become tiring and remarkably stressful and it often feels endless. This winter has been particularly difficult with record cold temperatures, a dog urine encited house fire, frozen cistern and lagoon, dying heaters resulting in a frigid basement and extensive incidents with the goats; my YouTube channel and photography have been put on hold due to an RMA’d computer and even the petty annoyances just become icing on a poor tasting, multi-layered cake.
All of this has been both emotionally and financially taxing, at times it is hard to figure out which one moreso. This spring/early summer will bring the extensive electrical repairs required to get things back where they should be, and we are looking at bringing in propane and installing a propane furnace as a backup instead of our baseboards. Beyond this, new fencing needs to be put in, a new coop and buck barn erected and, ideally, the basement framed in and insulated; we also have our summer trip back to BC to visit family and the return at Christmas to plan for. It just seems like a lot and, frankly, it is. It makes moving back to BC seem further away with every new negative that manifests.
Homesteading isn’t easy, and we never went into it thinking it was, however I think homesteaders today are faced with a unique obstacle those of centuries passed were immune to: Modernism. Despite our romanticized view of early settlement and the ‘wild west’, cities were unattractive cesspools plagued with illness and overcrowding and lacking basic sanitation; it didn’t have the allure it does today. Just over my horizon is a bustling prairie metropolis with all the amenities including clean water, parks and recreation, food, work and housing. While the city seems like a tomb to us most days, stretches like this can make a homesteader long for some of the simplicity that comes from living in an urban center.
Within the next week, the pregnancy status of all the goats will be known and we can finally look forward to the summer kiddings, though they certainly pose their own challenges. Our winter has been riddled with dropped pregnancies, pink eye, and prolapses; add to that difficult births and losses of kids, along with widespread vaccine reactions and failures, and you end up with more than a small stockholder feels they can withstand.
At one point I posted my herd for sale, tired and worn down, lost and disheartened. The inquiries were many but takers were few, and those who wanted them showed their true colours and confirmed the reputation that preceded them. I could not send my goats to mills who tout themselves as something else. When discussing this, a friend said: “That should tell you something.” While shopping in the city hubby said to me, “I think this registered world has spoiled you for goats.” It was one of those moments that tilts your perspective back right, that pulls the film off your eyes and helps clear things up.
He was right.
When I got into Nigerian Dwarfs, I finally found a breed that resonated with me. One that was dairy but didn’t have the barbie doll look I have never enjoyed in dairy-anything; one that had all the colours and personality I loved in Nubians without the long ears prone to frostbite and a more consistent mothering instinct; one who was smaller in size for the kids but with exceptional milking qualities. I found a breed with regional body styles that all fit within breed standard, and one that required passionate breeders willing to make improvements beyond pet stock. I had passion for them.
Over time, that passion looked less like artful motivation and more like a job I had to tend to. It was no longer something I enjoyed. This test and that test needed to be done to keep up, this status needed to be obtained, goats needed to place well in show and look perfect, everyone expects to buy from a vaccinated herd so I had better do that too. It all became a chore, a game I wasn’t good at, one that had become detrimental to my herd and one that has ultimately set me back. I have decided I am out of that scene and back to doing things the way I did when I was doing them for the right reasons, back to how my goats were thriving and healthy. If testing is able to get done this year it will get done, but I am not willing to fret over it not being done or about losing sales; whatever the results when they come in will be dealt with then. Everything that has happened over the past 6 to 8 months has resulted in a lot of research and a modified understanding of the way things work. I hold no regrets that my views and methods going forward may alter the perception of my herd. My integrity is of the utmost importance to me and, as such, I have been an open book and will remain so. I have learned far fewer people than I originally thought share the willingness and desire to do the same. My priority is enjoyment of happy, healthy animals while remaining open and maintaining my excitement for the breed, whatever that entails and where ever that places my future in the goat world.
Inevitably, spring is just around the corner. Soon, the kids will again find happiness in the dirt and grass, playing in warm sun and rain, swimming in the pool and roasting marshmellows over the firepit. There is joy within this stress, though we so easily find ourselves lost in its fog of war. We will come out better on the other end, it is just about keeping our boots on in this muddy terrain.