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?


Stacy McKitrick said…
Man, you are one busy woman! I can't even imagine all the work you go through daily. And I'm so glad to see that Greg is improving. That's great news.

As for having an up year or down one? Well, I guess it's been down with all this cancer I've been fighting (and still need to fight), but an up year because I was able to get my heart valve fixed without open heart surgery! It's been a week since the procedure and frankly, I don't feel any different. Then again, I haven't pushed myself, either. But no adverse effects so far. You'd never think I had surgery! Heck, I find it hard to comprehend, too. Hoping the good stuff continues as I start treatment for the cancer (which I expect will start next month).
Angela Brown said…
I haven't been in the blogosphere much, if at all, for some time now. So getting to read your State of the Homestead feels good.

Sound like this transition period is filled with interesting things. Glad to hear your Honey is doing better. Odin and Nana getting along is good. Moving to a focus on smaller animals sounds wise.

Curious...have you considered or are you considering turning these State of the Homestead posts into a narrative reference guide? I imagine there are lots of other homesteaders, self-sustainers, or even some interested in going off-the-grid who could pick up a thing or three with what you share.
Maria Zannini said…
Stacy: You've had an uphill battle. I'm glad you're finally able to see over the top.
Maria Zannini said…
Angela: I'm not blogging as much as before. I'm not sure if that's a temporary situation or if I'm in transition too. :)

re: State of the Homestead posts into a narrative reference guide
I don't know if it would be of interest to anyone. I mostly do them as a journal to remind me when I did what.
nightsmusic said…
Well, I don't know what happened to the cat so I'll just say I hope he keeps improving. I'm so very sorry about your rooster though. And your quails. I'm going to guess it was a rattler. We only have one poisonous snake in Michigan, the Eastern Massasauga. They will bite though they're very shy and rarely seen. I've only ever seen one and they grow quite large but also rarely prey on anything larger than a vole. They're also endangered here.

I think it's smart to downsize. It gets hard when it's just two to continue taking care of livestock. Smaller critters are enough.

Glad to hear Greg is doing so well! The therapy is necessary but it's tough to do and Jimmy would come home and nap after. Par for the course, I think. He's almost left his cane behind for good though so that's good. We have a doc appointment this week to check on his progress and I'm pretty sure the doc will be pleased.

In the meantime, our Dobe had a toe removed and that's been a nightmare trying to get it to heal properly but the vet sent home a little portable laser therapy unit and I think we're finally moving forward so there's that. I just can't leave him alone because he wants to go after it. Yesterday, she took the last of the stitches out so I'm hoping that will be the end of his wanting to bother with it. I hope. I haven't gone anywhere without him in about 7 weeks. Even my grocery shopping has been called in and picked up because he's in the car with me. *sigh*
Maria Zannini said…
nightmusic: Greg naps after every therapy session too. That therapist really wears him out!

Jammy, the cat swallowed a huge bug that lodged in his intestine. The surgery to remove it was successful, but the bug did extensive damage to his esophagus on the way down. It's all scarred tissue that won't allow anything but mush to go through.

I had a dog like your dobie. Oy! They're a handful until they're healed. I'd never heard of portable laser therapy. That's pretty cool.
nightsmusic said…
Oh! Mr. Kitty!! Why do they do that? I'm just glad he's still around. I'm not at that level of feeding with Loaner Cat, but she gets fed downstairs here so I can keep an eye on her intake, she eats UTI food because at 18, she's forming crystals if she eats anything that isn't UTI formula based, I have to keep it surrounded with chairs so the dog can't get to it food! A bonanza for him of course and then I have to keep her litter box in the upstairs bath with a gate across the door snacks for the dog! If they didn't give us so much joy...
Maria Zannini said…
re: snacks for the dog!

You made me laugh! Your house sounds a lot like mine.
nightsmusic said…
You made me laugh!

My job for the day, is done ;)