Biting off more than I can chew has probably been one of my worst traits that has followed me from adolescence into adulthood. Volunteering or taking on too many new responsibilities has seemed to cause me (and probably my family as a result) more stress than I would honestly care to admit, and it's kind of sad that someone about to enter the down slope of their thirties hasn't been able to break the cycle by now. It's hard not feeling crazy knowing that we sometimes self-inflict our own misery, but I guess the silver lining is knowing we tried. Right?
After re-reading Better an Oops, Than a What If today, I was reminded how burnt out we had been feeling, and the emotional breaking point we had reached just a mere two weeks ago. Since publishing our latest blog post, we've been lying low, re-reevaluating what we truly want in life, and taking our homestead one day at a time. Almost immediately after sharing what I considered an honest beginning to an eventual farewell, we had a few people reach out to us privately, expressing their same feelings about some similar and some not-so-similar things going on in their life, and the support and encouragement we received from them was immeasurable. The resounding advice from all was this - Reevaluate. Scale back, if necessary, but take your time. So, that's what we've been doing, and I have to say I'm glad we didn't just load up all of the livestock, and haul them all off to the nearest sale barn without a second thought. Which is pretty much the point we were at some 15 days ago.
Since our rehoming of Sasha, and declaring to the world "That's it! We're D.O.N.E. Stick a fork in us, we've had it!", we've managed to sell and rehome half of our meat bird flock, one of our youngest does (to no fault of her own), Heidi, and her remaining pups who insisted on using my entire front porch as a massive puppy pad. I couldn't believe the weight that was lifted just from that small amount of scaling down, and immediately I started to feel an increasing surge in my energy and drive within just days. And then I started to reconsider that maybe, just maybe, I really do want a small urban farmstead after all. I knew it was going to kill me to get rid of all the goats; selling Cocoa left me in an ugly cry before her new buyer even pulled out of the driveway. And yet, I still bounced back and forth daily between getting rid of it all or not, at least several times a day. Describing that emotional tug of war as a roller coaster is pretty much an understatement, and I was ready to get the heck off. And then things quietly began to sync back into a better groove, and I really began considering that scaling back was possibly the answer all along, instead of just throwing the baby out with the bathwater altogether. Finally, I was feeling some content for the first time in what seemed a long time, and so we began to discuss what worked and didn't work, with the main goals we wanted to accomplish in our family - and this time, without purely jaded exhaustion and tears.
Ultimately, we're open to adapting to life and wherever it leads, so our end goals could completely change, and one day we may be down to doing nothing more than canning goods and baking homemade bread - but for now, our homestead goals feel more grounded than they have in quite a while. So, here's what we're going to focus on now, possibly consider for the future, and things we have tried but are letting go of because they just simply aren't a good fit for us.
⦁ Homeschooling, first and foremost. Thankfully, we’ve managed to find a groove that works a lot better with the demands of our current homesteading goals and chores. What we need to focus on now is fine tuning time efficiency.
⦁ Having a flock of 10-12 laying hens. Low producing, or aged hens will be culled every 2-3 years in the Fall, or as necessary. We will only purchase new pullets in the Spring during a culling year, and after we have determined the number of hens no longer beneficial to our goals.
⦁ Processing up to a maximum of 25 meat birds once per year. We will begin the 8 week raising period of Cornish Cross on grass in late Summer, which will allow us to finish them in Fall around October or November.
⦁ Maintaining a small, more manageable Fuller House Mini Nubian herd. Our first breeding season will hopefully commence late 2018, and if successful, we look forward to a good, but modest, kidding season in late Spring 2019. We will be focusing on learning and hands-on experiencing all that breeding, kidding, and allowing dams to raise their kids entails.
⦁ Growing a manageable and useful garden for those things we wish to enjoy fresh on a regular basis, and to can or freeze for later use. We plan to also take advantage of fresh fruits and veggies grown locally that will help reduce the burden of having to grow a massive garden or orchard on our own.
⦁ Hunting in the Fall to provide venison.
⦁ Returning back to eliminating heavily processed ingredients and foods from our menu, in lieu of basic ingredients and more nutrient dense baked and cooked meals on a more regular basis. Making and creating more; relying on major food corporations less.
⦁ Raising and processing 2 White Broad Breasted turkeys in the future to determine if turkeys are a good fit for our homestead routine. We plan to raise them alongside a future crop of meat birds, and process them in the Fall at the same time.
⦁ Learning to milk our dairy goats by hand in our second kidding season, and after we have mastered our other goals of efficiently raising and breeding a healthy herd.
⦁ Using our raw goat’s milk to create soap, or for creating and cooking in the kitchen. If there is no need for milk, then there’s no need for the extra work! Having one or more needs for the milk will encourage us to continue milking.
⦁ Raising a lamb for butcher. This project is more of a long term goal, if we do decide to attempt it.
⦁ Building a new, smaller goat house with adequate fencing that allows our eventual smaller herd to roam as one unit. Doing this would reduce labor, and the need to have more than one buck.
Things That Don't Fit Our Homestead
⦁ A livestock guardian dog. Unfortunately, a one acre urban homestead just wasn't the right fit for our 5 month old LGD, Sasha. While she was maturing nicely into a great guardian dog, her barking at night wasn't good for our closest neighbors, or for a husband who sleeps lighter than air. Also, she was limited to a half an acre that was fenced in, since city ordinances forbid roaming dogs and livestock at large. Thankfully, she has become the proud new guardian to a pretty little 3 acre homestead, with plenty of work to do and kids to play with.
⦁ More than one rooster. After gambling with a group of straight run chicks earlier this year (and even a supposed pullet), we found ourselves owners of ten little cocka-doodle-doos. Currently, we still have 7 roosters that we'd like to rehome, but who will join the meat birds on processing day if none are found. Nemo, our resident King Roo, will always have a spot on the roost at Fuller House Farm.
⦁ Dogs in general. After at least two confirmed - and now suspected three - chicken attacks, Heidi and her remaining pups are no longer residents here on the farm. We're thankful for the new homes that were found.
⦁ A large herd of miniature dairy goats. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the beauty of these sweet little critters and want to collect every one that catches your eye, but the work it takes to care for them isn't always fun, quick, or easy. More goats equals more time, and with homeschooling as our first and foremost priority, time can be a precious commodity. So far, we have sold one doeling, and would like to sell at least 2 of our bucks, and possibly 1-2 more of our does. Although we love every one of our goats and wish we could keep them all, we have to be realistic, and keep only those we have truly come to treasure.
⦁ Large, multiple flocks of laying hens. Currently, we have three chicken coops, filled to capacity with three separate aged flocks, plus two separate flocks of month old pullets and weeks old straight run hatchlings from our former broody hen, Della, with no coop to call home in the months to come. We’re currently trying to downsize our entire flock to strictly 10-12 layers + Nemo. So, needless to say, we have lots of birds for sale! Not only does having so many layers require tons more maintenance and labor, but a lot more cost and time in feeding and watering.
All of these changes, whether small or big, feel a thousand times better than the place we had found ourselves in, and it feels really good to have the excitement reignited. We're hopeful that these changes "fix" those issues we were experiencing, and if not, then we know all we need to do is reevaluate and readjust accordingly. All isn't lost, we're just finding a better way.