Inspiration in Elbow Grease

As we begin to hone in on our ambitious goals for the farm, we start to paint the picture of work load and inconveniences. Homesteading comes with those, as do most things for which we have passion or obligation, and it is not unexpected. But what it does is muddy the waters of possibility for time away. Many farmers never get time away; they either aren’t comfortable or don’t have the help required in order to do so. This can burn you out as quickly as any day job, and even cause you to resent that which you love and enjoy. So I put out a call for help on our social media and shared it to local groups:

With children and the majority of our family out of province, twice a year we look to travel to see them; occasionally, we even like to spend a weekend away or go camping. Doing so on the farm, especially with a large dog who must be kennelled, can be difficult. Gardens go unattended, goats don’t get milked (not good for production!), tractored animals temporarily become stationary and inevitably, even with people topping up feed and water, things get behind. The stress of coming home is often greater than the stress of leaving.

So we have been mulling around the idea of having someone come once a week for an hour or two to learn the ropes, do some chores and gain some homesteading experience in the hopes this person would be able to stay on farm while we are away, or at least check and handle everything with a bit more of an intimate connection.

As stated in prior posts and seen in our Vlogs, we are a different operation. On a small, diversified and holistically managed farm who is building from the ground up while trying not to take on additional debt load, things are often done the time-consuming way. We milk daily, put animals up nightly; we peel round bales and bed with straw done the same way; water is hauled in buckets , gardens weeded by hand; pens are cleaned with fork, spade and barrel, and sometimes fences must be climbed when gates won’t work.

This opportunity, however, is ideal for a teenager, mature homeschooler or young adult who is interested in small agriculture, homesteading or rural life where they may or may not otherwise have a chance to test their passion and commitment with a farm. Perhaps it will inspire someone who always wanted to join 4H but there either wasn’t a club or they had nowhere to keep animals.

While there is the chore portion there are also rewards like fresh produce, meat they helped to raise and care for, and welcoming new life. If you are interested or know someone who would be, please consider getting in touch and letting us know what interests you about this opportunity and why, and what you would expect from it.

Transportation would not be provided. Motivation, willingness to learn and make mistakes is required. We look forward to hearing from interested individuals.

When someone answered, I locked up. I would have to teach someone; I would have to show them the ropes, tell them the what, how, when, where and why, explain to them the decisions we have made and our processes. I would have to give them my knowledge. What knowledge? Who am I to teach anything about homesteading when I am still learning every day myself? This really befuddled me.

In 2011, when we found the farm, the concept of being a farmer or homesteader was just a spark in our mind and suddenly it became active potential and possibility. I remember the $2 chickens and the condition they were in, how I picked the pretty ones and by doing so picked mostly roosters. I remember thinking: “If we can do chickens, we can try something else.” We did chickens, and chickens added logs to the kindling and made a fire. I wanted to learn from someone. Books are great, sure, and videos even better, but hands on where someone can pause you and point things out is the way I learn the best. At the time, we were members on a Canadian poultry forum, and I typed up a post looking for a mentor.

I ended up with a pen pal who is now one of my best friends, and a mentor 20 minutes away. She was timid and quiet at first, but what occurs to me now is she felt the same as I do in this moment. To her, her gardens were just gardens, the old dill seeds being passed down over 40 years were just dill; the cows were just cows and her chickens well, they were nothing special. But to me they were goals and dreams, they were possibility and triumph. When the mentor moved, I bonded even more with my pen pal, Uno, I could talk about anything candidly, even the failures, and she wouldn’t judge me. She picked me up, kicked the dust off my ass and told me to keep going; she shared her ups and downs and hopes and dreams and I grew to love her like family. While kids and other things keep our emails short and far between, or the texts brief, we are still in touch and she is still my family.

Who am I? Who cares! Who. Cares. Maybe the person that comes here will look through the forest of weeds and see the tomatoes and not the work, maybe they will savour the salad peppered with accomplishment and oiled with elbow grease the same way I do to this very day. Perhaps, instead of a house in the city, they will choose the commute to live rurally for a garden or a goat or a chicken, or possibly a young soul who otherwise couldn’t do 4H will have the opportunity to do so and develop a passion for goats. If someone tastes true sourdough and makes even one loaf for themselves, I will have set a spark in someone, if only briefly, and shouldn’t we all want to inspire something good? We often spend our time trying to inspire our children or ourselves when we could set great things in motion inspiring others.

So who are you to share your lifestyle? The perfect person for the perfect person. Inspire people, the world needs to redefine greatness.

Mothering the Homestead

When we moved to the farm, children were 4 years away as I tackled my fertility issues naturally. We both worked in the city and commuted the 50 minutes one way every weekday, leaving little time for us to call ourselves homesteaders. While Ryan was on a work trip, I answered a kijiji ad for $2 chickens, and casually let him know we would need a coop when he arrived home — little did we know, chickens were gateway drugs. By that summer, one of the bantam hens from our little ragtag group had made herself the proud mother of a flock of 9 peeping ground-scratchers. The ferociousness with which a bantam hen could go streaking across a yard upon seeing our bulldog (who had no interest in farm animals despite having never encountered them) was unrivalled.

Shortly after the purchase of our farm was finalized, we acquired large animals: 2 cashmere cross does who rode home in a large wire dog crate in the back seat of our Ford Fusion one weekend. 4 months later, on a warm May day, we arrived home to find the normal free-range greeting missing and we rushed to find a proud mother with her first son. I had never heard a goat chortle before, and the pure love fostered from her nickering lit our souls on fire.

Another month later her crate-mate would make the same noises, but not with the happiness and delight I had heard that day. She would give birth to stillborn twins, and I would find her over them, softly talking to them as if pleading for them to just try to lift their heads, to blink or take a breath. There, we would witness our first deep heartache and the depth at which a goat could feel it.

For more than half the year, every year, we left home when it was dark and arrived when it was the same, starting supper, doing chores, making repairs etc., as soon as we got back only to sit exhausted and half defeated on the couch around 8pm to eat a cold (and possibly burnt) meal. Those hours became later as we forged ahead into pigs, turkeys, sheep and cows. Out of a bout of sheer luck, I landed myself a casual position locally and a work from home job that made up a shortfall of quitting my job outright to be on the farm.

We have had dozens of mothers since then, including myself, and while some have been better than others they have all shared an unsnuffable light. Our first quads have been a joyful experience. Her first twins were weaned at a really young age, before we owned her, and she weaned her twins of her own accord around 5 months, but her dedication as a mother has been remarkable in all 3 kiddings. She is the most aware of the location of her babies and the proximity of other goats (or Ferdinand) to them, and she keeps a solid 3ft radius!

Of the quads, a tiny buckling I fretted over the first couple days named Tim, seems to get a bit of extra love from Jet than the others. She is often licking him when he is near, and she will stand a little longer for him than she will the other three.

A mother’s love, no matter the species, is an incredible force of nature as well as nurture, and our homestead relies upon the skills of caring mothers (and fathers alike) as well as Mother Nature.

Kidding of yesteryears

In 2013 we bought our first goats. Two $75 spanish cashmere crosses we named Murielle and Estelle. They were brought home in dog kennels in the back of our (relatively new at the time) Ford Fusion, and hubby learned then to tarp the back seat any time we brought something home, cage or not!

Murielle (left) and Estelle (right)

The chickens had just been moved to what would come to be known as the coop (and now, the barn), and these two ladies made themselves at home in the 10×10 garden shed where they would spend their first year and a half.

Our first spring with these girls yielded a single buckling, our first kid, Walter. He was born uneventfully while we were at work in the city to a loving and protective herd queen who was proving herself to be a wonderful mother. When we got home from work, Estelle didn’t greet us as normal and we rushed to the shed to find them together. He was fed, dry, bouncing and being chortled to, and we were elated to have our first non-avian to be born on the farm.

Our second round of kidding wouldn’t be so easy. Murielle would give birth without warning to pre-term twin bucklings who were gone when I found them, and the oberhasli and boer does we had acquired would fall victim to large kids crafted by poor advice. As a result of feeding large amounts of grain on the advice of other goat owners so they would ‘be able to survive our harsh climate’, the does, after much struggle and assistance from me, finally gave birth to massive single bucklings, both well over 10lbs. It was, perhaps, one of the greatest series of lessons I wouldn’t know I had received until later. I spent a total of 3 hours learning to pull kids because of those girls, horrified I wouldn’t be able to get them out and that I would lose the girls. However, both of those girls would go on to have more kids.

We stopped graining, and the next year we stopped heating and massive kids have not come up since. We also learned how much of a difference with kidding ease Selon-E (BoSe is the American equivalent) can make. I’m not sure the link between selenium and/or vitamin E and kid positioning, but on years we haven’t given Selon-E a month before kidding, we have had far more presentation issues then on years with those we have.

The years after that haven’t always been good, but they have provided the learning experience that really sticks: practical, hands on, in the moment. We have had years where the only assistance needed was drying due to the cold, and other years where every single kid was malpositioned and required assistance. These experiences have taught me how to pull the most difficult, twisted kids, how to untangle multiples, that breach kids pop out easier than standard presentations, and that kids with one leg back can be delivered without assistance. We have learned minis are difficult due to space but if you need to push back they can handle it, and that difficulties are rarely due to kid size.

Our best advice is learn to pull your own kids as you will save many more that way than by waiting for a vet. You are their greatest asset.

Let the early 2020 kidding season begin!

Jackpot!

Triplet does for Rose x Country Magic Arcturus. While its irrelevant due to a closed herdbook, these girls are 75% registered bloodlines. Born February 18th, on day 147. 1st – 3lb 4.5 oz 2nd – 3lb 4.1oz 3rd – 3lbs 7oz Rose’s labor was not typical in our experience, very silent and hard to read. Her ligaments had been lax and difficukt to find for more than a month (her dam is the same). She maintained a very open appearence in the back and and basically dry birthed as all kids were born sack in tact (poor girl!). She presented a golf ball sized mucous plug and was off to the races. This girl sports a gorgeous udder and this is her first full freshening due to losing kids early last year. We are excited to get her on the milk stand and see what shes all about.

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