State of the Homestead: A Trying Year
The homestead has been in a state of transition this year. We're moving away from raising large livestock to keeping only a few smaller farm animals.
Part of the reason is our age. It's hard to chase after goats or convince a hog heavier than you to go in a certain direction. Chickens, ducks, quail, and rabbits are more our speed now.
Because Greg had his knee replaced, I also decided to put a moratorium on increasing our livestock so I can spend more time tending him.
He's doing great, by the way. The therapist really gives him a workout, but in the end I think it's made him stronger, quicker. He does get tired easily though. I try to get him home and his knee under an ice pack before the leg gets too ouchy.
So how are my other projects going?
Garden: Ugh! I've had bad years before but this has to be the worst. Too hot for too long. Every few years we have one of these prolonged droughts. Thankfully, my cisterns are full and I've been using banked rainfall for the garden.
I'm doing three things to improve the gardens next year.
1. I'm going to start earlier. I was late this year, duped, because we had an extraordinarily long spring and I thought I was safe to plant late. We were doing great until crematoria set in.
2. To combat crematoria (which we have every year--we just never know when) I want to rig up a shade cloth than I can pull out over the garden without a lot of effort. I'm counting on Greg's engineering skills to make me a rig even I can operate.
3. I'm going to give my gardens a rest. We have two gardens now. My plan is to completely rest and rejuvenate my main garden next year, giving it lots of mulch so it can replenish itself. Next year I'll plant only in the secondary garden. If I alternate every other year it might give the gardens a much needed break.
Squash bugs: I have to mention that because I planted so late, I found only one pair of squash bugs and one set of eggs. I killed all of them and never had an issue again. It was my only win this year.
Chickens: My rooster up and died overnight. He had no marks on him and seemed normal the day before. I have to wonder if he took on a snake. He was always a good protector for his hens.
Since I had fertile eggs I put them in the incubator. In a few months I hope to have another rooster to take his place. The others will be going in the freezer.
Quail: We went through a lot of trouble to make the quail pens predator proof. We had no incidents in over three years. Last week a snake somehow managed his way into a pen. The holes are so small it must have taken him all day to squeeze through.
He killed an adult quail but she must've been too big to eat, so he went for the chicks. One was in his gullet. I found him relaxing, curled around the quail's waterer.
I killed him.
Da dogs and cat: Everyone is doing remarkably well.
Early this year, I had planned to take Odin to an eye specialist because our vet suspected entropic eye lids. I looked him over carefully and I honestly couldn't discern any turned lids. (He wouldn't sit still for my vet, so I can't blame her for not being able to make a clear diagnosis.)
I decided to wait and see. As the year went by I noticed that his weepy eyes would get better or sometimes worse. That's when I suspected allergies. I'm giving him allergy medicine now to see if it helps.
One new development with Odin is that he's grown into his job. He takes protecting us very seriously. He howl-barks likes a loony hound dog if he hears something he can't identify, BUT if he sees a person or large animal near our property, that goofy dog turns into a missile and gets between me and the interloper. He will not back down or take his eyes off the target until I get him.
He's a powerful dog. I wouldn't want to tangle with him.
Nana, the border collie, is showing her age. She's slowed down and still grumpy, but she actually lives in a state of detente with Odin. I can leave them together now, which makes me very grateful. She still can't be trusted with the cat.
Jammy, the cat had a recent physical. The vet couldn't believe how good he looked, let alone how he survived his ordeal. She had sent him home to die. There wasn't anything more she could do for him. I was with him 24/7 feeding him through a syringe until he was strong enough to eat on his own.
The poor little guy still has to have his food blended to the consistency of baby food, and he drools a bit, but he's a happy little cat. He misses kibble and sometimes tries to steal a piece of dog kibble, but it never ends well for him. I kid you not, anything larger than the head of a pin will make him vomit.
I nearly panicked last week when my immersion blender stopped working. Jams can't eat canned food without blending.
I'm doing okay. Between husband, garden, and animals I'm stretched a little thin, but I've got everything down to a schedule so I can pace myself. Greg is getting a little more self reliant so he can manage without me for several hours at a time.
The homestead took a beating this year, but that's the way it goes. The only way to appreciate the ups is when you suffer some downs.
Have you had an up year, or a down one?