Monday, September 7, 2009

Feeling like a failure

I've been feeling like a failure as a farmer lately.

My garden produced nothing but zuccini and tomatoes this year. I planted a lot more than that!

I planted 2 apple trees and a cherry tree, they all died.

I planted 6 blackberries, they all died.

I planted 3 blueberries, they all died.

My laying hen hasn't laid in a month. She is showing no signs of giving up on being broody. My other laying hen got eaten by a hawk.

My goat is giving barely enough milk for us to drink each day. We aren't getting any extra to freeze or make cheese.

My garden is now lawn. Seriously, you can no longer tell where it was except a small part I manage to keep cleared.

My garlic bed got totally overtaken by weeds. I can't even find the bed anymore!

I have 10 meat birds ready to process. I've managed to process 3 of them and I hate it! I don't know what I'm doing. It takes forever and seems unsanitary to me. I dread doing the last 7 and am honestly not sure I can do it. I now need to figure out what to do with these 7 birds. And the thought of eating the meat I did get makes me ill.

My family would starve if feeding them was up to me. To make matters worse, I've been buying more convenience foods lately because I'm stressed and busy.

I feel like we've invested all this money for no return.

Some farmer I've turned out to be.


Debbie said...

Awww, don't be so hard on yourself! This stuff isn't easy. I got 3 tomatoes this It takes time to learn how all this works. I started with 8 turkeys, I have one. But know I know and thats half the battle. The fact that you love your family enough to try to give them the best speaks volumes.

Glenda said...

I agree with Debbie, don't be so hard on yourself.

Celebrate the successes you *did* have -- you didn't have to buy zucchini or tomatoes, you had a pretty decent spell of not having to buy eggs, your goat is giving *some* milk, and you processed 3 birds and figured out that's not so much your thing.

When you set your expectations really high, you're bound to be disappointed when you can't meet them.

Rather than taking on so much all at once, take on what you feel like you can comfortably do, and then add maybe one or two other things that you'd like to try.

The return you've gained, and will continue to gain, is knowledge, especially when you start digging around to find out why the things that didn't work out, didn't work out.

We had two raised beds this year, as compared to just doing some container planting the past several years, and we had a hard time keeping up with just two raised beds!! It's easy to underestimate how much effort is involved in producing even a portion of your own food.

Check around about having someone else process the meat birds. My brother-in-law raised some meat birds last year and he found a place near him that processed them for a buck a bird. We live in rancher country and most ranchers around here take their food animals to be processed -- it doesn't make you any less of a rancher or farmer to have other people process your food animals :).

Hang in there, and cut yourself some slack. Be gentle with yourself!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...


You have lofty goals, and while that's admirable, and even enviable by many of us, even you have to admit that's alot for a first year farmer to accomplish. There are farmers who have been farmers for many years who still struggle and have bad years where nothing seems to work out the way they want it to.
Also, I think it takes a while to figure out what direction you want your farm to take (as in types of animals to raise, food to grow, etc) and to get familiar with your soil, climate, predators, and available resources.
It's not easy, and even those folks who seem like they have farming working perfectly still have struggles. It's all a learning process and every year can be something new to deal with and lessons learned.

Don't give up, ok? Just take what you've learned and apply it to next year. Find out what works and what doesn't and use that info next year.

I want to breed my mini-mancha for milking next Spring, but I've been holding off because I've only milked a goat once and I'm nervous about what it will be like milking daily. I admire you that you took on milk goats from the very start and have been so successful with milking and making cheese.

And like Glenda said you don't have to process those birds yourself. I want to raise some meat birds myself, but I know I don't have the stomach or the time to process them myself, so I plan to hire someone to do that part of the job. You're still raising those birds from chicks into your family's food. You're still a farmer.

Just think of it this way, Christy. This time last year, you weren't even living on a farm. You were living a suburban lifestyle, with farm dreams.

Don't focus on the small failures. Just look at your exciting successes and how far you've come, my friend.


Sue said...

I think everyone else has pretty much covered my thoughts. It's never easy. And gardening is one of those things-there are bad years........and worse-LOL. But, there's always NEXT YEAR!!
Hope you aren't too discouraged to give it another shot. Tomatoes , zukes, and maybe lettuce(? )next year..start slow. And find a new home for the chickens if you don't want to butcher.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad! Last year our garden produced so much. I froze and canned for 2 months straight. This year we grew weeds. The weather was just not the best for gardens this year in Georgia. I barely froze anything. The pears are 1/2 the size on the trees this year as last year.

My raise beds have some thorny weeds in them right now with 4 big ole wilted pepper plants. That's it. If we could just eat those never ending persistent thorny weeds, we'd have it made!

The nest box business has taken so much time(thank goodness we have it!) that we just don't have as much time this year to do all we need to do around here.

On the chickens. We are trying to sell off most of them. We haven't hatched any new ones in the last few weeks. We do have some gold sebrights but we haven't decided if we are going to keep the bantams or sell them yet. I'll let you know.

Keep your chin up. All these ups and downs is what makes real farmgirls tough!


Gail said...

Ah, the life of a farmer! We are at nature's mercy, and we shall flourish in what ever nature chooses for that year. There always seems to be a good year for something. Lisa has told of her abundant peach crop, while ours this year have been small.

Somethings in the garden have been replanted several times. The armadillos and deer feed nightly and it is a battle to get some for ourselves.

Farming has never been called easy. That is why I love the bumper sticker, If you are talking with your mouth full, thank a farmer.

You should be very proud of what you have accomplished! One year and look how far you have traveled!

linda m said...

Everyone seems to have already said what I wanted to say. Hang in there, Christy! This year was bad all over for crops. My tomato plants are pathetic and most of my flowers have died. You always have next year and if you need some help when Joe and I come down we'll be more than happy to help out.

Zachary and Jennifer said...

Hang in there! I agree with everyone, this stuff is hard! There is never a perfect year, with everything going right.
We all have problems. My tomatoes that were looking so beautiful 2 weeks ago are now pinching themselves off and drying up, some have end rot, etc... It looks like we might not even can any sauce this year. :-(
Some days I regret buying sheep, when I am chasing them around the yard for the 6th time trying to put them back in their pasture that they always break out of.
Smile! It is the joys of being a farmer. Hopefully you can appreciate the highs and lows, and always be optimistic for next year.

Lisa said...

We had the same type of results only our big success was cucumbers and greenbeans (shocker). All of our other crops were sad and/or dead by harvest time due to all kinds of bizarre circumstances! I have learned a LOT from this though. I have learned what can grow in my area, I have learned which pests to guard against, where to place certain crops, which ones I can replant.... try to think of what you have learned and put that into play next year!!

Wendy said...

You know ... the nice thing about living where you live is that your winters are mild enough that you can extend your growing season.

I know you probably don't feel much like dealing with your garden anymore, but you could have a stellar "winter" garden there ;).

As for the laying hens, we have five and right now, we're lucky to get one egg each day. What I've discovered is that after the first year, their egg production tapers off markedly, which is why commercial growers don't keep hens around for longer than a year or two. We get a couple of new hens every other year.

As for the broilers - please look for a local butcher. Ask at your feed store. They're likely to know someone around who can, if not do it for you, at least help you with it. There's nothing quite so wonderful as chicken you raised yourself, but I say that not ever having butchered one of my own. It's something I want to learn to do ... eventually, but right now, I have other things I need to concentrate on learning.

Baby steps, right?

For now, though, get out in that garden of yours, mow it all down, and start fresh. Most "greens" and members of the cole family do well in cooler weather ;).

kristi said...

you are miles of head of the person sitting there just reading the magazine or reading the are trying and trying is the hardest part. My first attempt at gardening sucked....bad tomatoes, spaghetti squash that got ripped out, this is my 3rd year with corn and I finally got it right:) Cauliflower was crap this year but brocolli was awesome. Keep plugging away. Are you just milking a Nigerian? I started with just Nigerians and got frustrated so I checked out other big milk breeding goats and got a LaMancha then more and more. Try a larger milk breeding goat but still hang on to the Nigerians. Always remember you are blessed to have what you have:)

Melody said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of farming!!

It takes YEARS to learn how to do everything, so don't beat yourself up.

Your soil might not be ready for all of the crops yet and might just need TLC for several years until the pH is just right. Just research and experiment until you get it right.

As for buying more convenience food: that's how it is. Since my boy Jared got diabetes we have been eating more boxed meals, prepared food, and white bread than ever before! That's what happens when you get stressed and busy.

I suggest that you plan meals for a few days a week that include eating what you have grown and raised. Instead of drinking your milk one day make it into yogurt, Mexican day cheese, or cottage cheese and serve it with some home baked bread or some other homey thing that brings comfort to your soul. Just accentuate the positive.

Other than that, just realize that Rome wasn't built in a day, and your farm (and being a farmer) won't be either.

{{{hugs}}} Melody

Christy said...

Debbie, I had 2 turkeys that both died. I didn't even mention them. I only had them for a week before they died.

Lisa, milking is hard at first, but gets much easier. Especially if you let her nurse her babies and only milk in the morning. I've cut back to just milking in the morning and it is so much easier! It isn't even something I think about anymore, I just do it every morning.

Kristi, you're right I'm very blessed! I focus on that most days but some days you just get down. I am milking a Nigerian. If she gave as much as she was "supposed" to, it would be enough. She gives about half of what she should. But it is her first freshening.

CeeCee said...

I felt exactly that way about my gardens this year. Hours and hours and lots of money, and few veggies to show for it. It just sucks eggs!

The chicken thing is not something everyone can be good at. You are far ahead of me---I talk about raising my own birds for the table all the time and never do it. My biggest fear is that I'd do all the work and not be able to eat them because of all the reasons you list.

As for your goatie girls---sound like it's time to breed them. Can't have much milk without having a baby or two. Just prepare yourself wwwaaaayyyy ahead of time for the sale of the babies.

Garlic can definitely take some weedy competition. Darn tough plant! Don't worry about them, they'll be fine.

I think it's time you build yourself a proper coop and get several chicks for laying eggs next spring. Nothing like chicks to make you feel good. :)

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Hang in there, Christy. You've only just begun for Pete's sake. The first year (and beyond, trust me) is a tremendously steep learning curve. Your double whammy has been taking on so much so early on. Cut yourself some slack, Christy - both physically and emotionally. :-)

Christy said...

Danni, is that for your cute little Pete's sake? If so, I'll take it LOL.

Linda said...

Ah Christy! I didn't see this blog post yesterday! I understand where you are at because I at a similar place. I don't mind the butchering so much as the eating after. My garden didn't do anything and nothing else is going right either.

Although my goats are doing well they are making me crazy getting out of fences, coming in heat, the buck acting like a love starved something... and a mostly uncooperative husband. For a while I was ready to throw up my hand and say enough is enough!

But I have a dream and if I quit, the dream goes with it... so Christy start over, go slow and do a little, add a little at a time. You can do this you know...

I really wish I could help you but we may as well live on the other side of the earth from each other - we almost do! lol Hang in there girl!

Jennifer said...

Don't get discouraged! It is easy to take on too much. I did that this year with our too large garden. It started out great but I just could not keep up with it and it ended up full of weeds and neglected by the end of the summer. Hang in there, you are learning new things and you have already had great success with zucchini and tomatoes. That is something to be proud of because tomatoes are expensive in the store!