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I’m now in my fourth year of this homesteading thing and I think it’s important to be honest, even when it hurts. We usually show the best of ourselves to the world, but as I reflect on this last year, I feel compelled to show you the things that haven’t worked out so well too. We have experienced some huge learning curves, with painful growing pains. Sometimes it feels like 90% of my efforts are futile, but I keep holding on to that 10% success. I choose to let the little successes teach me what is working, and those 90% failures… well that’s how much I’ve learned so there’s value in that. At some point, I will turn that corner and the gophers, hawks, wild bunnies and birds and heat will no longer get the better of me. HA! I’ll let you decide if that’s magical thinking or faith that what I need to learn will come in due time.
My garden completely failed this year because I pulled too many weeds. Yep, apparently, the vermin prefer my big tall juicy common mallow weeds over the veggies in my garden. Every year before this I just didn’t stay on top of things and the weeds got outta control. I did lose some produce to the critters, but still had plenty to enjoy and share. This year I decided to make a more serious go of things and worked so very hard to keep my garden tidy. There went the onions, kale, broccoli, beets, peas, and mullein. They did leave me our comfrey (thank goodness!!!) and all the icicle radishes.
Sometimes the most valuable rewards have nothing to do with where my aim is. With a “nice” bare garden I have been able to see all the fresh mounds and catch all the gophers that have been residing there for years rent-free. I found (affiliate link) this gadget on amazon and it has made it so easy to get the job done without digging up everything or worrying about snapping my fingers in the trap. Success! Maybe I CAN do this garden thing.
My neighbor and dear friend decided to get one too. We have this thing where we text each other every time we catch another one and congratulate ourselves. lol. It’s been fun in that way at least. On the downside, it’s been upsetting when it only catches the gopher’s foot and we have to finish the job, but thankfully that’s only happened to me once so far. I’m pretty sure that has more to do with not packing the dirt around it firm enough and not with the device itself. Another lesson.
Growing Pains Without Promises
Wrapping my garden with hardware cloth isn’t really the worst thing to have to do now, is it? Sure it hurts a little to have to spend another $160 when after the last project I confidently thought, “Ok this is it. We’ll be all set once we finish this last project”. Sometimes growth hurts. And it keeps hurting until we learn what we need to learn. There’s no guarantee the critters won’t just dig underneath my “fancy” fence. I’m trying to accept the fact that we may have to have to dig around and bury wire next. We’ll see.
We’ve had some devastating losses this year, which quite honestly I still don’t have the heart to talk about in detail. I’ll just say this heat gets so harsh in the summer and we are always working to improve the experience of our animals. From breed selection to planting more trees, we are ever-improving what we can as our budget and time allow.
And speaking of losses, I planted half a dozen trees this year with high hopes and only 2 of them look like they might survive. I lovingly rooted out several passionfruit vines that a sweet friend shared with me. Two survived until my goat ate one and the only hard freeze of the year got the other.
Crash and Burn
We also wasted $400 because I had the big idea to buy a 14′ square dog run to use as a goat tractor to mow the lawn. Even with my big strong husband’s help, it was hopeless to try and move the thing without completely disassembling it. After breaking it with all our attempts to get it to budge, we relented and moved it into the pasture as an extra place to keep bucklings that were “coming of age”. We attached a tarp to the top for shade and thoughtfully cut several holes in it to keep rain from building up. Funny, that’s when the heaviest rains that I have ever seen showed up and crumpled the whole metal structure. Apparently, my holes weren’t big enough. I just realized there’s a picture of it before it was crushed in the header picture of this blog! My how much this place has changed and my children have grown since then. sigh.
Still So Much Good Stuff
Now that I’ve shared the stuff I’m tempted to hide, let’s look at all the stuff that’s fun to talk about. Happy healthy goats! Our kidding season went well, with three new sweet goat kids and a healthy momma, what more could I ask for? Milk production was wonderful, starting at a gallon a day from just one goat in milk, I have been able to make cheese, yogurt, soap, and lotion for my family. Our pasture provided plenty for the girls to forage on so I was able to skip buying GMO alfalfa hay (sadly no organic available here) for most of the year! Win.
I believe Maybel was successfully bred at the beginning of November, so if all goes well and Marmee continues to milk through this year, we should have enough milk to warrant a cheese press! Joy! I can’t wait to start making some of the hard cheeses.
A goat tractor. I’ve not given up on trying to control where the goats graze. In fact, just today I shot a video of my simple $100 goat tractor in action… and you know what? It worked like a charm! I’ll get that posted soon so you can see how easy it is to make and how it works.
I am finally dialed into a feed regimen for our chickens that has cut our feed bill by %66! Win.
It always feels good to see the girls increasing production as the days are just beginning to get longer. Many of my chickens are over 3 years old though, so it’s time to separate them and see who’s still laying and who is going into the pot. This isn’t easy for me but it’s part of sustainable farm life. Our family will appreciate the stew and bone stock.
I ordered 25 chicks for a meat bird experiment that some friends and I will be doing to try and solve the dilemma of the cornish cross. They arrive in February and I’ll surely be reporting on that so stay tuned!
Orange Trees: The verdict is in. Our 2018 crop is abundant and delicious! Last year we hardly got any oranges from our 12 trees, and the ones we did get weren’t so great. Things are looking up for the grove thanks to a neighbor who donated lots of Llama poop. I guess it actually IS necessary to feed the trees. Weird. 😉
Leaning Into the New
With all the lessons of 2017 behind us now, I’m especially grateful for the concept of moving forward into a new year. It’s been rough and blessed all at once. I’m also feeling very grateful for all of the lessons we learned and very hopeful for improved success in 2018. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts and experiences of what the new year means for you! Any mishaps that taught you something new? Please share.