When I first started homesteading I had visions of hens digging through long grass, goats happily chewing their cud, fresh eggs for breakfast every morning. You know. All the pretty farm pictures all rolled into one big happy lifestyle. And while I have a lot of that, it just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Unless you’re this guy. I mean who is happier than him? Observe:
I guess I would look like that too if I had the life of breeding buck. Full up keep, all the hay one can eat, and he has, ahem, one job a year (some would argue a pretty great job) that is over in 5 minutes.
But I digress.
No one ever told me that a hen in the bath tub (or the sink) would just be a regular thing. Or that I would spend 5 minutes with my finger up a hen’s…output hole, trying to retrieve a broken shard of egg shell and then go on to make dinner right afterwards (hands thoroughly washed!).
I was never warned about free ranging hens. In fact people say free ranging is wonderful. Well, sure. If you don’t want any flower gardens, vegetable gardens, berries from various berry bushes, or grass, because they scratch the ground so ruthlessly that nothing will ever grow here again. Ever. And that’s just the start. Do you want to be able to find the eggs at the end of the day? Hens lay in the nesting boxes right? Lies! They lay wherever they darn well feel like it and the rest of them follow suit. They must lay where someone else has laid and that doesn’t matter if it’s in a nicely made up nesting box with fragrant herbs and soft shavings for the best possible laying experience or if it’s in a box of fencing staples in the garage. Where one lays, they all lay!
Also be warned that you can have too many eggs. This is a thing. I don’t even want to look at them some days. Think “no problem I’ll just sell them” ? Ya I do that too. But that means that I have to wash about a million of the little boogers, just to trip over the dog when they’re finally packaged up and I’m carrying waaay too many cartons to the downstairs fridge. Ya I’ll just let your imagine finish that.
And don’t get me started on the goats. No one ever told me that goats cry.all.the.time. Also did you know that the goat doesn’t actually want to be milked? And it kills your hands to get the milk out of there. When I’m on a full twice a day milking with 3 goats my knuckles swell. I can’t move my fingers. I squirm all over the place when I’m milking trying desperately to relieve the tension in my tired hands. Apparently if I sit with my one hip way out to the side and make a grimace face it helps with the pain.
Ok that last part was a lie. There is no help. I just do that for fun.
And then there’s the hard stuff.
(Oh you thought that was the worst of it? Sorry.)
No one ever told me that I would spend days trying to nurse a sick animal back to health just to have it die when it finally looks like it’s getting better. Or that I’d be wrist deep in a goat’s woohoo trying to get a kid in the right position so it can come out, and praying to God that I don’t loose the kid and the mother in the process. Or that my favourite hen would lay a lash egg, signifying she has 4 – 6 months left to live. Or that more often than not, baby chicks grow up to be roosters.
No one ever told me that I would always have poop on my shoes (no matter how careful I am), that hay in my bra would become the norm, or that a hail storm will take out my entire garden in under 30 seconds. The snow will break the fences allowing the goats to free range the neighbourhood, the pregnant goat will get her back leg stuck in the fence because she thinks she can jump the part that isn’t broken, and that I can never go out in the evening because my life revolves around keeping them all safe and on schedule.
And to top it all off, no one ever told me what an addiction it is. This lifestyle is amazing. To be in touch with seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, the goodness that befalls our table at every meal. We, as a nation, have lost our connection with food. Which is so strange to me, because food is one of the main driving forces for life. And it can take you on one heck of a journey. From the first peas in Spring, to the tomatoes in mid summer that taste like fresh air and sunlight, to the pumpkins and apples of the Fall, and everything else in between. We need to take back our food.
“Not a moment is wasted on the farm. Others may have been more places than me, but haven’t outlived me” – Jim Fisher, Texas Rancher
Food = life. There’s just some things you don’t quite expect along the way.
P.S. Forget about vacations too. Unless you can find yourself a really good farm sitter.