Over the course of the past week, you’ve seen posts of me selling off goats. I’ve not made a public announcement about my plans, but have told a few friends in person. Since I figured there’s probably one or two people curious about what is going on over here, this is my official public announcement. My goal is to have no more livestock by the end of the year. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
This is a decision I’ve struggled with for about 3 years and very few people have known about that struggle. Though I still feel strongly about people homesteading and raising their own food, for me it has become too much to maintain. We started this journey 19-20 years ago with research. Then at the end of 1998 we bought this property and in spring of 1999, we bought our first farm animals. It has ebbed and flowed since then, but it’s been pretty intense for the past 5 years as we’ve increased the animals we’re raising, adding more gardens, and trying to grow the farm as a business all at the same time that Keith’s job has required more and more of his time and the older children have been growing up, moving out, going to college, and working full-time outside the home. Though there are still four at home, mama is just tired of dealing with it all, and has been for quite a while. I’ve kept it up for multiple reasons, but as this year ramped up in workload, I decided I need to call it quits with animals for a while.
I’m kind of in that “been there done that” stage. I love having the fresh goat milk and eggs. American Guinea Hog meat is delicious, as are farm-raised chickens, and there’s a great satisfaction in knowing what’s on our plate was raised by us. But the thought of going through another winter of beating ice out of bowls every day, trudging through snow, and not slipping on ice to get food and water to the animals, picking up frozen eggs, etc., is highly discouraging. I’ve been doing it for most of the last 18 years, and I need a break.
Before the last of our children is grown we want to be able to do some longer vacations like we did with the older ones, but we don’t have anyone left near us to do chores for us while we’re gone. A friend gave us a great used camper last year that we have been able to use only once. Between having no one to watch the animals and the it being difficult for Keith to take vacation time, it’s next to impossible to leave. Since the job is what’s paying our bills and the farm animals aren’t, it’s logical to me that they are what need to go. Hopefully we can at least go away for a weekend here and there, and make one bigger trip a year. We’ve not been able to go see Keith’s dad in FL in almost 4 years. We also have other friends in other states we’d love to see, not to mention National Parks and other less well-known places. One son is in MN and I’d love to go up and camp near where he lives and spend some time with him and see that area. My grandpa’s family, when they moved to America in the 1800’s, settled initially in New Prague, which is not far from him. I’d like to see that area, even though it’s vastly different now than it was 100 years ago. I would have liked to have gone up to northern Michigan sometime this summer to camp near where another son of ours is working at a Christian summer camp and seen him for his day-and-a-half-off one weekend. Basically, I’m wanting a little more freedom to come and go as we please. We still have our dogs, but they can go to a kennel. There are no kennels for pigs and goats.
Grandchildren are also a new consideration, in addition to the children I’m still raising and homeschooling. I want more time with all of them, without the distractions and stresses of caring for farm animals. Our chores only take me 1-2 hours a day, depending on the season, but that’s time I don’t have to just sit and relax and play with them a little more.
I am going to continue making and selling soap, lotion, lip balm, and sugar scrubs. Though there is some time-consuming work involved with it, it’s much more sporadic. I’ll continue to supply Franklin Corner in Dwight, Green Top Grocery in Bloomington, and my Etsy store. I have 2 events coming up I’ll be selling at also, and I’ll get to the farmers market in Dwight when I can. I’ve been canning and freezing extra milk for soap making and I think I’ll have enough for a year or so. When that runs out there are other places I can get milk from until I decide to buy goats again. I also would like to experiment with other types of soaps, but haven’t had the time to do so. So for those of you who may be feeling a mild sense of panic over the possible loss of our soap or lotion, you can relax.
I still believe in feeding my family the best food I can, but I don’t necessarily have to try to do it all myself. Over the past 18 years we have networked with and met several other families like ours, and know of other small farms raising animals for meat and eggs in the same way (or even better than) we have been. I plan to keep a garden, though I may shrink it back down somewhat to make it more manageable. There’s also a farm not far away that has a CSA I can subscribe to next year, if I wish. If we really miss having our own eggs, we can get a few chickens again. They are the easiest livestock to maintain and pretty easy to leave for a week or so, especially when they are allowed to free-range.
I’m also still needing to finish the permaculture design course I started this year. I’m only about 2/3 of the way through it and haven’t done any lessons in almost 2 months. Thankfully this course was extended over a longer period of time and I can still get caught up, create my final project, and earn a second PDC certificate by the end of the year. I intend to use the information I’m learning to help ourselves with our future homesteading/farming, as well as helping friends better design their places. Later I may make it part of our farm businesses by being a consultant for others.
By the end of next week, our goats will all be gone. Turkeys and meat chickens will be moved into the freezer over the next month or so. Pigs are going to the processor a few at a time, every couple of months, and I hope to sell some live piglets to other farms. Once fall sets in we’ll take the last of the birds and pigs to be processed. So, by the time we start getting freezing temps, we shouldn’t have to bust any ice out of any bowls.