The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Life Cycles & Learning

The cycle of life continues, and so does the learning. The first baby goats of 2016 arrived right on time, 3:30 am, January 5th. It was a little chilly that night, and interrupted our sleep, but they arrived healthy and strong, well cared for by their mother, our 'old lady' goat, One Stripe.

One Stripe

One Stripe is seven years old this year. She arrived here in January, 2009, at the age of five months, with our first herd of goats at this homestead. Our first baby goats arrived in March, 2010. Since that time we have birthed, sold and butchered quite a number of goats. No two years are quite the same, they each bring their own learning experiences, some successes and some failures.

Copper with 2015 babies

In the past we followed the standard practice of selling our does as they got older. One Stripe has been the exception to that practice, and now we are rethinking the practice entirely. Keeping an older, highly productive doe has taught us that there is something to be said for proven performance compared to new, unknown performance. We now also have one of One Stripe's daughters, Copper, that is a three year old, and expecting her third set of kids in a few days. She is also a proven performer and will be with us for the foreseeable future.



 




We had the barn built when we moved here. It has been a slow process of getting everything set up in a functional arrangement. We've had the birthing and weaning pens set up since we stated having babies, but just this year we now have electricity, lights instead of lanterns, and soon will have pressurized rural water and a rain catchment system, instead of running 400' of hose from the house or using the hand pump on the well.


Many things on a homestead take long term planning, not to mention money. But even more than that, it takes knowledge, experience and time. Just this year, due to a very, very wet year, which still hasn't let up, i.e. the recent 12" rainfall we received, we have had a number of animal health issues we had never encountered before. The goats had a serious issue with barberpole worms and lice, so we learned about copper boluses and using diatomaceous earth. The young chickens have come down with coccidiosis, and aren't growing well. We usually don't have chicks growing out for meat this time of year, but we wanted more jars on the shelf, so we thought we'd try it.


Over the past seven years we've learned a lot about giving shots, banning young bucks and burning horns. There have been times we waited a little long too burn horns and ended up with scurs. We used to vaccinate all of our goats, but now only newcomers to the farm get vaccinated. We've learned about abscesses, and how to deal with them. At first they were pretty scary and worrisome, but since they haven't proven to be contagious in nature, we just let them run their course until they break open on their own, just like this.


We have had a number of bucks over the years, some good, some too spotted, too hairy, too cantankerous, or too small. We find that if we keep or sale animals based on the attributes we desire, we are much happier with our animals. Since we tend to keep a young doe or two each year, our buck is the animal that turns over. If we had a group of does we planned on keeping for a number of years, we could also keep the buck. It is a common practice to breed father to daughter with goats, it's called line breeding. Some people don't mind it, while others wouldn't hear of it. It's a personal preference and decision.

There are many goals on a homestead that take long term planning. Some plans you can develop for a couple of days down the road. Some plans take weeks, months, years or decades to develop. It takes the same amount of time to develop competence, experience and knowledge. There are some things you just can't wait for. Start now. After four years, I have finally figured out how to make a good wheel of cheddar cheese. Most things take time, effort, experience, failure and determination. Take gardening, for instance. I have read many blogs and comments recently indicating that folks are increasing the size of their gardens, most substantially, including us. This comes after a number of years of experience, with it's trials, experiments, successes and failures. But like the challenges we have had with our animals this year, even the dog had an unusual infestation of worms, most gardeners will tell you that no two years are the same.


The time is fast approaching when failure may be devastating, and our opportunities may be greatly diminished. It is a time to learn as intensely and thoroughly as possible. For the cycle of life to continue to sustain us, whether with animals or plants, we must be able to use the knowledge and experience we have gained to our distinct advantage. I remember stories I've seen of crop failures and starvation, and can only pray those times will not come to pass again, but I fear they will, and all too soon. Be ready.

Until next time - Fern

7 comments:

  1. 1) Climate and soil can never be overestimated. When we moved to our current home from our previous West Coast home I found out gardening completely changed - not just soil but what it was possible to grow. It turns out that the heat and humidity we have here does not play well with many of the things I was used to growing, let alone dealing with rain storms in May and June that could cause crop loss.

    2) Experience in doing what you are trying to learn can never be overestimated either. The first time I try anything, especially something where there is a bit of risk, I am very nervous and do not do it well. Over time, I gain confidence both in my abilities as well as the fact that in many cases failure is not as drastic as I imagine it to be. And this is in an environment where, for the most part, I can just go buy something if I severely make a mistake. Imagine the stress entailed when it is something you are counting on and there is no back up.

    Congratulations on mastering the cheddar wheel. After four years my results are still spotty at best.

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  2. I don't understand people who stock up on freeze dried food and MREs, but have no plans after those are gone. I have a friend/neighbor like this. She and her husband have enough food to feed their entire family for one year, and think that's enough. I've asked what she plans to do when that food is gone. She just looks at me like I have two heads and says, "It's enough food to last a YEAR." I'm glad she has that stockpile; I have several months worth of freeze dried food that will feed my kids, grandkids, husband, and myself. I only consider it my emergency stash. I also have a garden, fruit trees and bushes; can the food I raise; save seeds (and I have heirloom seeds stored also); and have chickens and bees. I have first dibs on baby goats that will be born soon, and that will be the start of my goat-raising. (I've gotten goats milk from a friend, and I've learned how to make cheese. Yay me!) Gardening and animal husbandry is difficult enough in good times, I can't imagine the stress involved when my life depends on it. Wet, dry, hot, cold, storms that destroy crops and damage fences, wild animals and insects that eat my fruits and vegetables, etc. There sure is a lot to deal with. I'm glad we're learning before the storm hits.
    God bless.
    Prepared Grammy

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  3. Life is for learning and sometimes you can work things out quickly other times it takes years and even decades. Being willing to change and adapt will benefit all of us in the coming crisis.

    Congratulations on the new arrivals. No goats here but our sheep did give birth to twin boy lambs who are doing wonderfully. They will end up in the freezer eventually and DH is already talking about getting another Merino ewe to breed for meat and to increase the flock and I will get the wool to spin and knit with. My idea of sustainable living. Like so many others I'm stocking up on food but I'm also expanding the vegetable garden, planning where more fruit trees are growing, eyeing off Lucky the Rooster who needs replacing with a new rooster and generally trying to get as organised as I can (I know probably an impossible task) so no matter what happens we can have a reasonable chance at survival.

    Even better news is a friend and I were talking about having a stockpile of food and some cash on hand for emergencies and she agreed it was time that she started to prepare for whatever may come. Hopefully the seed has been sown. I'm praying for her.

    Blessings to you both.

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  4. That was a very interesting post. You and Frank have made a lot of progress!

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  5. I have used line breeding in my purebred cattle endeavors. The key is using the best stock possible to start with. Any problems in a bloodline show up quickly with line breeding. It is one way a stock breeder can find flaws in a bloodline. I used 1/2 brother to 1/2 sister matings. Usually with the same ancestor being the sire.

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  6. I have to agree that the learning curve on homesteading can be overwhelming, but as I look back at all we have learned I am encouraged.

    We struggle the most with gardening, but each year we learn something new and apply it to the following year.

    We keep pushing forward...just like you!

    Thanks for sharing on the Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop! http://oursimplelife-sc.com/our-simple-homestead-blog-hop-33/

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  7. Firstly, congratulations on healthy kids! Always a blessing.

    You've described the homesteading journey so very well. I think we would have long given up if we didn't believe that the world and our world system aren't so precarious at this time in history. But it's worth it in its own right too. I think God intended for us to live in a close relationship with the land.

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