Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Farm update of sorts

Illoura asked me for an update on the farm and my goals for 2010. She specifically wanted me to talk about whether I had come up with a focus for the farm. She also mentioned wanting to get a farm herself and wondered whether she was romanticizing the farm life. So here goes.

Update for 2010 – we had our first babies born on the farm, 2 female Nigerian dwarf goats. We kept one of them, our sweet Callisto. We sold the sheep; I didn’t enjoy them and didn’t see that they were adding anything to the farm. We greatly increased our number of hens, through the great chicken swap and my friend Sandy. Unfortunately, most of the hens are of unknown age and don’t lay on a regular basis. We will be getting more hens this spring. We also got an angora doe so we can start breeding nigora goats. She will be bred in May when I breed the rest of the goats. We will have October babies this year. I wanted spring babies, but December was a terrible month for me health wise and I couldn’t get things set up to bring a buck here. The garden was a complete failure. I’m still learning on that front.

As for a focus for the farm, I really still haven’t come up with that. I know Mark would like the farm to make money, but I’m just not willing to put that much work into it. I’ve been scaling back for the last year because I was totally overwhelmed with the work load. So, I think the focus is mostly a hobby farm. We’ll raise hens for eggs and we do sell them when they are laying enough. And I’ll raise Nigerian dwarf and Nigora goats to sell. My goal is to make enough off of the animals to pay for their feed. So far, that hasn’t happened but hopefully someday. I think that is honestly all I can handle.

As for romanticizing farm life, most likely you are. I think we all do. I had helped a friend on her farm and thought I understood what it would entail but it is so much more than I thought it would be. When I pictured living on the farm, I pictured beautiful spring days working in the garden or sitting out in the pasture petting the goats. And I do get those days, but they aren’t the majority. What I didn’t picture was taking buckets of warm water outside 4 times a day when it is snowing so the goats have unfrozen water. I didn’t picture going out in the morning and finding the carcass of my favorite hen because the hawk got her. I didn’t picture it raining for a week straight and losing my whole garden to weeds. Or it not raining for a month when it is in the 90s every day and having all my plants die because I can’t keep up with watering 3 times a day. I didn’t picture going out to care for the animals everyday even in the rain or cold or when I’m sick or injured.

And I mostly didn’t picture the obligation. Because we have coyotes and hawks, I have to go out at night and lock the animals up which then means I have to go out every morning to let them all out. Twice a day, every day, no matter what. There is never a break. I can’t be lazy one day and not do it. I can’t be too tired. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find a farm sitter. I love to travel and the only times I’ve left the farm since moving here has been to visit family. I love my family but that isn’t travel. I haven’t had a vacation since I moved here. I can’t even go for an overnight trip unless Mark is willing to stay here to take care of the animals. I’ve missed a lot of overnight activities with the family because I had to stay here for the animals while Mark and Logan got to go do fun stuff. There are times I feel like I’m a prisoner of the farm.

So my advice is make sure you really know yourself before you take on the farm life. I think it helps to be a homebody if you are going to have a farm. It turns out I have a really restless spirit. I don’t like staying in one place; I get bored doing the same thing every day. I sort of knew this about myself before I moved here, but being here has really brought it home.
I realize this post sounds like I’m unhappy here and really I’m not. I love my animals and I love having land and living in the country. But there are times I think about selling all the animals and taking off traveling for a month, or frankly even a week.

My focus for this year is to find a good farm sitter and figure out a way to not have to lock the animals up every night. If they only needed care once a day, I could go on some of these overnight trips and it would be easier to find someone to come once a day instead of twice a day. I don’t know if I’m going to get a guardian animal or fence one area extra strong and then just lock them in that area when I want to be gone for a night. Most days I don’t mind the twice a day care, I’d just like to have the option to not have to do it every day. I’d love any suggestions or input on what has worked for you.