When You Don't Meet Your Homesteading Goals

Sometimes, homesteading takes a back seat.

It's true.  There's a season for everything, and sometimes that season doesn't allow us to put homesteading at the top of the list.  That was us last year.

Now when I say "take a back seat", I don't mean starving the animals or neglecting the homestead.   It still has a seat, just not up front.  And that is okay.

As homesteaders, we can get caught up in everybody's blogs, facebook posts, etc. and see what everyone else is doing and that can sometimes be depressing.  The pressure is real.  No one puts that pressure on us, but we do.  We are downright hard on ourselves.

We read others' goals, like all 50 of them, and we're over here just trying to figure out when to find the time to make dinner.

So what if you didn't can a single green bean last year because you had other pressing things to tend to.  So what if things got so busy because you were dealing with unexpected important issues called life, that you didn't even plant a garden.  Or maybe you just didn't have time to pay attention to when your goats got bred or you waited far too long to butcher the meat chickens because...you guessed it, you were called upon to do something else.

Important seasons of life come up.  And they take precedence over homesteading at the moment.  I know, I know, you might need a paper bag to breathe into after reading that.  What in the world could be more important than homesteading?  How dare I even suggest such a thing!

I'll give you two things, and they both happened to me last year.

1.  A new baby.
2.  My parents.

My precious Eliana was born in March.  Did I keep trucking on to tackle my homesteading goals? Nope.  I wanted to fully enjoy her because I waited far too long to hold a live, warm, healthy baby in my arms.  And, daggonit, I wanted to savor that!  They don't stay little chunky babies for long.  And then what?  Would I be proud to say that I continued on with my new goals, yet was too busy to spend a whole lot of quality time with Eliana?  And then, she is no longer a baby.  And then I would realize that I missed it. I held two lifeless sons in my arms before, and that changed my perspective immensely!

Not only was I gifted a precious baby, but my parents moved in with us due to my Dad's early Alzheimers diagnosis.  I am humbled that they chose us, overwhelmed at what may come, and blessed to have them be a part of our lives.  We had a new room addition added on to our old farm house.  Builders were walking in and out of our house(and even my bedroom, eek!), and things were pretty chaotic for a good while.  Needless to say, getting in sync with my parents' needs and just trying to stay sane when my private world was being compromised was enough to say 'no' to any new goals this year on the homestead!

There were times that I itched to do more on the farm, but I knew it wouldn't be wise at the time.  Sometimes my entrepreneurial brain would start to hum and whirl with ideas, but no, I had to tell myself, "Not yet, Susie, not yet."

And sometimes I would get down on myself, thinking I should be doing more.  But those were the times I had to check myself, take a look at what I had done and was doing at the moment, and know that I was doing enough.  It is enough.  It might not be as much as other homesteaders, but to me, it is.

I still canned, I still had a big garden(even though it was more weedy than it had been in a long time), yet I let some things go, like growing something new or having my little CSA, or growing enough to last all year.

We still raised pigs, a feeder calf, chickens and goats.  So our freezer is full and we had eggs and milk in the fridge(until the chickens went on strike and our goats dried up).  Our homestead still hummed along peacefully and to that I am grateful.  But, it just wasn't our top priority.

I didn't fail my goals, I just postponed them, for good reason.

It was a season of focusing on other things.  You might be there as well.  Just know that I hear ya.  I know how overwhelming life's unexpected turns can be.  I won't raise my eyebrows if you tell me you didn't plant those green beans.  I won't let out a long sigh when you tell me you didn't pick one apple from your tree.

Because you chose to put your attention on something far more important at the time, I applaud you.  You didn't fail homesteading, you just chose what God put before you at the time.  It is a season.  And one day, you will be able to dive back in to homesteading with gusto.

And that is where I am now.  I'm ready to dive.

Are you ready to dive into natural healing for family and farm?  Come join me and thousands of other homesteaders!

Tried and True Ways to Beat the New Year Blues on the Homestead

Let's face it, January and February for many homesteaders are the most depressing.  In fact, if you are like me, you're probably ready for spring after the first big snow hits. We homesteaders like to be outside, enjoying what the good Lord gave us.  We like to feel the soil between our fingers and the smell of that first spring rain.  The first glimpse of tiny buds on the trees gets us giddy with excitement!  Oh, the wonder of spring...  It's truly magical!

But these cold months can be pretty dreary, pretty darn ugly at times and just down right sad!  What can we do to help pass the time without ending up in a straightjacket or howling at the moon?

I have some ideas for you that I have done and approve, and I'm no longer howling at the moon or scratching at the walls...

1.  Read and study new garden catalogs.  This is something I do every January.  I look forward to seeing what's new and I also dream about what new plants or seeds I can try.  I have a notebook where I jot down seeds and prices from the different companies.  I'm telling ya, this uplifts the mood tremendously!  It really makes my heart happy, no joke.  Because I purposefully wait until January, I am able to focus more and it really gives me something to look forward to.  My daughter loves to look at the flower varieties and dream about her flower garden.  Who knew that January could be so exciting!

2.  Once I have all my price comparisons done, I then start to plan my garden.  I don't plow through the gardening catalogs in one day when I price compare, and I definitely don't plow through the garden planning either.  I like to take my time.  It usually takes me a few days to a week to get each one done.  You just don't want to rush a good thing, ya know?  When I plan my garden, I like to visualize myself standing there in that freshly dug soil.  They say that gardening is therapeutic, and I'd say that just thinking about it is therapeutic to some degree too!

3.  Another good way to shake the blues is to take a look at your previous year on the homestead and review it.  Did you try something new?  Purchase an animal?  Rearrange the barn?  Write about whether it worked out for you or not, what you learned, what you would have changed, etc.  It is important to keep our minds busy during the long winter months, and this is a good way to tap into our brains and make us think a little harder.

4.  Now that you have your year in review written down, it's a good time to start writing down your homesteading goals for the new year.  I love to brainstorm and this is so much fun!  Who cares if it's in the negatives outside, I've got a notebook and my dreams for the homestead.  I'm good!

5.  If you want to take it a step farther, you can incorporate your finance goals as well and get them down on paper.  Focus on what you can pay off and go from there.  Although this might get you depressed, once you have a plan to pay off debt, even if it is a small bill, you will feel better, I promise!

6.  Let's get back to gardening!  Go online and order those seeds.  I usually wait until around the end of February to do this, but anytime will do.  And when you see the 'box' man pull up in your driveway, it's like Christmas all over again!

7.  You might not like this next one, but it will keep you busy and once you are done, you will be on cloud nine!  Declutter a room every week or rearrange one(or your barn).  Yes, every week, not everyday!  We usually tackle a big project like this every winter break.  In the past, we added a new goat pen in the barn, decluttered the barn, changed our utility room into a sunroom, and rearranged our bedroom.  When I say rearranged, it really means declutter and rearrange.  That's the beauty of rearranging!  You have to declutter it all too.  This year, we have decluttered every single room in the house.  It took some time, but boy does it feel good!  I have a non-working car jam-packed with bags of giveaway stuff.  I take a little bit at a time to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

8.  If you have done all of this and are still bored or climbing the walls, maybe it's time to open up that entrepreneurial brain of yours?  I love to sit down and brainstorm possibilities here on the farm.  There are so many!  It's also a good time to talk with the kids and see if they have any money-making ideas they'd like to try.

9.  Did you know that there are essential oils that can uplift your mood?  For real!  Try these out in your diffuser or simply open the bottle and inhale if you don't have one.  

We get these off seasons for a reason, and I firmly believe they help us to refocus on what matters and get our brains thinking about things we don't have time to think about during the warmer seasons.

So, take off that straight jacket, quit your howlin' and get busy!

If you'd like to learn more about essential oils go HERE.

If you are ready to join the many homesteaders who have not only taken charge of their healthcare, but the health of their beloved farm animals too, go HERE.

How to Raise Chicks Simplified

We received our chicks this morning!  I decided to get the brown egg layer assortment this year.  I'm not exactly sure what's what and who's who, but my children have already named a few of our soon-to-be hens!  I did notice that two of them are the Turkens, with the bald neck and head...............my thoughts exactly;)

If you are a little bit hesitant on taking that first step in starting down the chicken road, let me reassure you, it is very simple to raise these little gals!  If you have not noticed already, I keep things as simple as possible.  Only when there is a problem will I tweak the situation, and so far, our 8 years of chick raising has been somewhat successful!

A friend of mine told me that if she knew how easy it was to raise chickens, she would have done it a long time ago.  She's about right!

Last year, we hatched our own out, some with an incubator, some with the broody hens.  It is such a delight watching the chicks work their way out of the shell in the incubator and observing mother hen taking care of her newly hatched chicks. But, unfortunately, most of those hatched were roosters:(  Needless to say, we bought 25 hen chicks through Murray McMurray.  We have always had great success with this company.

Before we receive the chicks, we make sure everything is set up.  These little fluff balls are hungry and thirsty and probably feel a little bit chilled when they arrive through the mail.  You can either get a big cardboard box, plastic swimming pool, wooden box or any other container that will be big enough for them to live in for awhile.  We put hay down and sprinkle some pine shavings on top for a nice, clean bed. 

Then we add the feeder and waterer along with a heat lamp and that's about all you need!  Notice the dented heat lamp below.  Not pleasing to the eye, but hey, it works, right?  You don't want to put the lamp too close to the chicks.  We have ours about 2 1/2 feet from the bottom.  Eventually, this will need to be raised higher.  If it is freezing weather outside, it might need to be lowered.  

Watch your chicks.  If they start panting, that is a dead giveaway that they are too hot.  If they are all scrunched to one corner away from the lamp, you might want to move the lamp up a little.  If they are all crowded underneath the lamp and packed tightly together, lower it slightly as this is a sign that they are still cold.

We always put little rocks in the waterer as pictured below.  This keeps them from drowning or getting too wet which could result in death due to being too chilled.

We start them out with medicated chick starter for layers.  I don't like to keep them on this for too long.  Usually 3-4 weeks is long enough.  During the third week, we begin to mix their food with regular, non medicated food to get them used to it.

You want your chicks to be scattered about, chirping happily and pecking at whatever little morsel they can find.  I always sprinkle some food on the floor for them so that they start pecking and eating quickly.  It's amazing how fast they can find the water and food!

Raising chicks is a great starter for those who want to become more self sustainable by raising their own food.  If goats, cows and pigs seem a little overwhelming to you, let me reassure you that chickens won't step on your toe and bring tears to your eyes.  They don't kick or knock you over when you are feeding them.  They don't look down at you or eye to eye.  The one drawback that my kids have noticed though......they can't ride them!

Did you know you can use certain essential oils on chickens and other farm animals?  Find out more here!

What I Wish I Knew Before Owning Goats

Before I got the goat itch and became a goat owner, I wish I would've known some things beforehand.  You know, things that only a true friend and goat owner will tell you.  Things you don't find in an 'all about goats' book.  But, let me back up a bit before the itch.

My dad had goats when I was a kid.  We used to have the most fun with the smelly ole' buck..  He would chase us all over the pasture and we would make a game of it.  The crazy goat even treed me one time.  Now, I never let him catch me and I don't know if he would've hurt me or not, but my guess is he thought my sister and I were odd looking does perhaps.  The strange thing is, he wasn't even our goat.  We rented him from another farmer for a month or so to breed with our females.

I remember those goats as being pretty hardy.  My dad didn't worm them, didn't give them much grain, didn't really do a whole lot with them except milk them and breed them.  And I don't remember them getting sick or requiring much attention.

Let's fast forward quite a few years when my husband and I were out of the military and bought our first little four acre homestead.  It wasn't long before I got the goat itch.  I was a little leery of goats milk.  My dad didn't take the necessary steps to ensure the milk tasted good back in the day. Needless to say, it was horrible.  I can clearly remember my sister and I holding our noses to down a glass of that putrid milk.

As much as I read on goats and how to take care of them, nothing really prepared me for these crazy creatures and it really was a learn as you go thing.

So as your friend, your fellow homesteader, let me share with you some things I wish I'd known beforehand.  Things that would've helped me tremendously.   

1.  Goats are not like sheep.  I grew up with sheep but I never analyzed the difference between the two when I was a kid.  But now that I look back, I see that their personalities are very different.  When we bought goats, I had forgotten how much personality they have, and by personality I don't necessarily mean that in a good way!  They are smarter, more cantankerous and stubborn, and a heck of a lot more curious than sheep.  And when I say smarter and more curious, that usually means more trouble.  So, just wrap your head around that one and prepare yourself.

2.  I wish I would've known that goats aren't as hardy as they used to be.  There are those with opinions as to why this is, but the fact is, they are work.  Gone are the days of easy keepers.  My dad's goats were pretty self sufficient.  Now, you have to worm them, keep minerals accessible at all times, watch out for bloat, keep a close watch on any signs of mastitis, milk fever and other problems that are the norm in today's goat world.  Although I read about these things beforehand, I did not realize how common they are. So, don't go into this thinking you can leave them be and they will miraculously give you milk, meat and/or babies without any intervention.

3.  Although I wish I'd known what I'd mentioned in number two, I also wish I didn't read as much about goats as I did beforehand.  Sounds crazy I know.  But I was so consumed with making sure I did everything by the book(which was impossible), that I got overwhelmed and felt like a failure because I couldn't follow the books to a T.  For example, I read Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby and she talked about nutrition and natural health care.  Although her book was very informative, it was also impossible for me to follow exclusively, and therefore I felt like I wasn't doing things right.  For example, her feed suggestions were impossible because no feed store or mill in our area had everything she was suggesting.  But, I knew it would be so good for the goats and settling for anything less was driving me bonkers!  It's good to read up on something before diving in. but don't expect to go 100% by the book, especially with any kind of farm animal.

4.  And then there's the whole 'rent a buck' thing my dad did.  Forget about that too!  I thought I wouldn't need to buy a stinky buck and just borrow someone else's.  Come to find out that everyone is paranoid about spreading goat diseases like CAE.  And for good reason!  Again, I knew about all of the goat diseases, but I did not realize how common they are in today's goat world.  I would never rent out my buck or even bring does here to the farm to be bred.  It just ain't like it used to be.

5.  Before we were blessed to join the goat owner world, I had read about culling but it just did not sink in.  I guess I figured that my herd would never get too big or there would never be a need for that.  But, as time went on, I realized that keeping a goat that was more trouble than its worth was just wasting my time and money.  It was a hard lesson learned and never an easy decision,  But that's homesteading, right?  There are always lessons to be learned and hard decisions to make.

When people tell me they bought their first goats, of course I get excited, but I also tell them that it isn't quite as simple as they presume.  Hey, we gotta be honest, right?  Goats are work.  And from one homesteading friend to another, we need to share our real life experiences.

The good, the bad and the ugly.

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