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.

January Books of the Homestead

For the first time in more than five years I made a New Year’s resolution: Put down the phone and pick up a book. By January 15th, I had disabled my Facebook account and discovered the extra time I had previously spent scrolling mindlessly through the drivel of social media. There is more time for my kids, for my studies (herbalism, aromatherapy, etc.), for the farm, for creativity and for reading.

Confession: I was never a reader. I spent large amounts of time in my adolescence writing poetry and short stories but could rarely find a book to keep my interest. I followed quest and story lines in video games with great interest, never skipping a sentence and always doing side quests to get more details. However, when I became a Mom, I started reading to my children from the day they arrived. I wanted to foster their imaginations and re-ignite mine; I wanted to read with different voices and bring books to life as my grade seven teacher, Mr. Giesbrecht, had done for us while reading aloud Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ and S. E. Hinton’s ‘The Outsiders’. I was engaged with his emphasis, different character voices and passion for reading and it was in his class I read Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor; all of these books have stuck with me.

So when I say I read two and a half books and joined our local library’s book club in less than 15 days, I assure you its a feat I haven’t accomplished in many a year, if ever. My interests are abstract and eclectic, ranging from alternative history, high fantasy, sci-fi and conspiracy to biographical pieces, homesteading, nutrition and the metaphysical. Hubby is a true crime fellow when he picks up a book and my kids enjoy earthy stories with a bit of adventure and Dr. Seuss books. My hope is in a few years, we will sit curled up on the couch together with good books and open minds.

Here are the books I completed this month:

Alternative History/Conspiracy
The Moth in the Iron Lung by Forrest Maready
A historical look on the conditions surrounding the discovery and rise of Polio, its redefinition and the broken naive systems that helped the disease proliferate and spread fear and paralysis. This well-cited book is an amazing read and gives the reader a new perspective of the history of Polio, its sources supplying photographs and articles to further research. What struck me most about this book was with the minor tweak of a few major culprit names, this story could have been written about some major issues facing today.

Alternative History
The Lost Temples of the Annunaki by Michael Tellinger
An incredible look at a massive collection of otherwise seemingly unremarkable South African ruins. Yet another set of ancient remnants that point to an unknown alternative historical scenario. A wonderful book for people who question origins as we know them or who enjoy alternative theories of advanced technology in our history.

The kids had some favourite books too. I made a point of getting them 4 weeks worth of night time stories from the library and though some were absolute flops, there were a few that were greatly enjoyed and would be wholly welcomed on our bookshelf.

Cyril and Pat by Emily Gravett
The tale of a squirrel and his city slicker friend who is not what he seems. A book about judging books by their covers and making friends with people who are different than us.

Otis and the Kittens by Loren Long
A heroic story of a loveable, dedicated farm tractor and a beautiful litter of kittens. Dry weather, a fire and an old barn lead to some edge-of-your-seat drama that the kids couldn’t get enough of. I look forward to bringing in more Otis books.

What did you read in January? February has a few books set aside as well as the local library’s book club selection and I look forward to seeing what I can finish between kiddings and the rest of life.

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!

Clear Vision for 2020

The first major cold snap of the 2019/2020 winter has come and gone after a soft exit from the year. Our temperatures plummeted from average temperatures of -11C to -30C or lower, not factoring in wind chill. Less than three days ago that temperature remained and today we are expecting 0C and temperatures not much lower for the foreseeable future. Saskatchewan’s predictably unpredictable winter has chosen an excellent time for a mild break in the weather as we begin the 2020 kidding season on February 2nd, and I am unexpectedly booked to work for three days when several does are due.

I am fortunate enough to work nearby, to have fabulous neighbours and friends and a husband (who claims to not be as invested as I) who will check in on the goats on regular intervals to assure their health and dry babies. Should an emergency come about, there are people more than capable of helping out just a call away. I am looking into rigging up an old cell phone and connecting it to the house WiFi so I can live feed the girls and keep an eye out myself, but I’m not sure if our signal will reach that end of the barn.

We are coming into 2020 without a couple animals who have meant the world to us, as 2019 held several losses. Happy Hoof Acres Madeline died during kidding due to complications, Rose and Sweet Solstice Nugget were put down due to illness, and my old Poplar girl just didn’t make it into winter. She wasn’t able to hold weight and when I had finally decided it was time to say my goodbyes, I went out to find her down. Our 2019 kids, however, are growing beautifully and I am really enjoying watching their progress. Even in their winter clothes, they impress me on a daily basis.

Our social media presence has been limited to Instagram as Facebook had become a huge time waster, so I removed myself by disabling my account and it has freed up so much time to get a clear vision in place for 2020. Our reduced social media will be exchanged for an increased Youtube and presence as we pursue our channels there in order to connect with our audience and reach people who are interested in our lifestyle. We have watched several channels on a regular basis for the past few years, each one unique to those living their lives on it, and we have learned a lot; it would be nice to share our experience as well. I also plan to keep this blog updated on at least a monthly basis as a supplement to the channel.

We will soon be offering a resource page that will include information on our natural methods, our experiences with conventional and traditional medicines on the farm, recipes for the remedies and supplementation we use for illnesses and day to day farm troubles and so on so if people are looking to change things up on their farm or in their home, they can add our methods to the list of things to try for them. To help with this, I have embarked on herbalism training to add to a knowledge base I have gleaned from years of independent research, looking for my own answers, and will be adding to it with other traditional modalities over the coming year.

Several projects are absolute must-do’s this year: the roofs on the garage and doe barn, a new enclosure for the buck barn, insulation of our basement and the expansion of our garden to the old pig pen. Some other projects on the ever growing do-this-asap-list are the fencing will need to be adjusted, the pigs being moved to another area and to create a boar pen, the tractor needs some work done, the pasture some top seeding and, perhaps, fertilization; a milking barn constructed, new bird pens, removal of the old barn and grain bin pads, remove the old oil tank from the basement, re-do the stair stringers, paint, finish the kitchen cabinets and the list goes on and on!

Will you join us on this journey? What would you like to learn with us? What kind of videos do you look for from your favorite channels?

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