Sometimes we just have to get up and shake off life’s frustrations and disappointments. Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and just keep moving. Gardening, farming, homestead…hardships are a reality of life, no matter what your occupation.
The meat chickens had been fine in our chicken tractor for awhile, no issues. But all of the sudden, we lost 4 in one night. We made tweaks to the tractor, things were good for a night, and then the night after 4 more gone, more tweaking and finally, we felt like we had it right. I think we made it a few days without any losses. Then Friday, June 30th, I went out to check on the chickens and we had 13 chickens knocked out in one night. We are now down to just 13 of the original 50 Cornish Cross. I was angry, I was frustrated. I may or may not have sworn. I had a lot of emotions swirling around…anger, frustration, defeat…but not one of those feelings was going to do a thing to help protect my chickens.
I stood there for a few moments, thoughts racing in my head as I tried to decide what to do. Despite our efforts to keep the chickens safe, we needed to step up our game. Moving the tractor every day wasn’t cutting it. Adjusting the boards that act as guards on the front and back of the tractor helped, but didn’t solve the problem. Screwing those boards in place, still…not enough. Electrification came to mind (along the lines of electric fencing), but if we did that, it would probably be a few days before we could enact that plan. So I packed up the chickens and brought them to the main chicken coop since it seemed the safest option for the remaining birds.
Based on the evidence, the original attacks to the chickens were from raccoons, but the last two times we lost birds from the chicken tractor, it was most definitely something else. I am pretty sure it is something from the weasel family, potentially mink. A part of me wanted to throw in the towel, but we had 50 meat birds in the chicken coop, 50 on order, and 13 that still needed to be cared for. We needed a solution, and quitting was not one of them.
We realized that there were only a few more things we could try in order to allow the birds to say on pasture, the main thing to try being electrification. I sent Scott some links to mobile electric fencing, he did a little research and came up with what will hopefully be a solution to our predator problem. But that’s a whole other post worth of information, so I’ll share that later this week.
We weren’t able to enact our electrification plan right away, so it was a week of anxious anticipation. In the mean time, I was feeling on-and-off defeat and frustration because of the loss of so many birds yet again this year, frustration because my garden was planted late and I was sad (?) that our garden was so far behind everybody else’s. Frustrated because I didn’t net the cherry tree in time this year and the birds had gotten our fruit…the list goes on and on. (The solar charger in the picture can be found here.)
And then this past Thursday night, a weasel or a mink got into the chicken coop by our second batch of Cornish. It/they attacked 36 out of 50 of our birds IN ONE NIGHT!!!! I was very, very upset. Heads shredded from bodies, innards torn out, so much senseless killing! What was really upsetting about the whole thing was that all of the coop doors were closed. There are a few small gaps in the building where a small predator could get in, but aside from a few rats, it hasn’t been an issue. Until the other day. So Friday was a repairs day, and now all seems to be okay.
It was at that point, when I was feeling so very, very defeated, that God did a funny thing. Friday evening, Scott was working outside while I was getting dinner ready, when Scott came racing in the house and the phone started ringing. He had heard a tornado siren, and a family member, and then a friend, and then a family member called to warn us that there was a tornado warning for our area. I got Doodles and E up from their naps and took everybody to the basement. The kids were a bit nervous, and while I was a little nervous, I knew everything was going to be okay.
One serious hailstorm later, we did a bit of assessing to see just how bad the damage really was. At first glance, it didn’t seem like there was much. The vehicles all got dented, the roof is probably dented on the house as well, but there were no trees down, no windows broken, and most importantly, no tornado, so everybody and everything was safe. Scott and I took a short drive around the neighborhood to see just where the storm came through and to make sure everything looked as okay as could be expected after a big hailstorm. We found out later that there was a house that had some windows broken, but that was the worst of damage to buildings so far as we could tell. For our neighbors, many had extensive damage to their gardens, vegetable or floral, and since we live in an agricultural area, there are lots of corn fields around us and there are many fields that look poorly. As of right now, it is hard to tell just how much will bounce back for. And the damage definitely could have been worse, so we all have that to be thankful for.
Our fruit trees took the brunt of the damage, but God thinned our apple trees for us, and now maybe the fruit that is left will do a little better (only time will tell). Some of the apple trees seem to have fared better than others. Our peach tree lost most of it’s fruit. The cherry tree that I had forgotten to net lost all of the fruit that was nearly ripe during the storm.
Because we were so late to finish all of our planting, our garden is actually doing better than most of our neighbors. Yes, it’s still small, but the plants weren’t shredded or destroyed since they just didn’t have much growth.
I find it interesting that God can present us all with the same situation, and for each one of us, it will teach us exactly what we need to know. Despite being frustrated that we lost so many of our first batch of meat chickens, that incident had me bring them into the chicken coop where they ended up being safer during a storm like that. As much as I wished my vegetables had been planted earlier, they were saved by the delays we experienced.
Yes, we lost fruit, but I think we may have been overwhelmed this year had the storm not come through. Even the dented vehicle situation is most likely a blessing in disguise (we’ll find out in a day or two) as we might receive some money from insurance. Yes, God heard my prayers, my frustrations, and when I laid my burdens on Him, and asked that I find the will to be grateful instead of frustrated, something happened. He gave me a new perspective, and he lightened my load.
We all face tough situations in life, situations that are stressful, frustrating, angering, disappointing… We can choose to stew in our problems, or we can look for the good in them. It might take years to see the good in bad situations, but they show us our weaknesses and give us a chance to refine them. We can choose to give up or decide to learn from these situations. But I digress.
Life is not all struggles and hardship. We’ve experienced a lot of good things as well. Scott and Tiffany did a hive inspection on Thursday the 29th. They said there was not much to report. The two hives that were doing well are continuing to thrive, and the two that were looking weak/questionable still appear to be questionable. The good news was that neither colony had left their hive. For now, all we can do is wait. There was no hive inspection the week before, or the week after. They’ll most likely do one this coming Thursday, and then we will know more. While questionable hives may not be the greatest news, having two hives that are thriving is most definitely good news!
On June 27th, we did a farm tour of a local homestead. I had met the mother of the family and her children over 1 1/2 years ago, and through some connections later found out that they have a homestead that is doing pretty well,which is how we ended up asking if we could see their setup and ask questions. It was an enlightening and informative experience, and I am so glad we got to go! (Somewhere down the road, I may end up writing about their homestead/business. They are open to that idea, though they aren’t quite ready for that, so we’ll see.) Later in the week, we went back to get some raw milk from them…it was our first time ever doing that 🙂 I think one of the biggest takeaways for me is that we really need to get a milking animal and raise some other kind of animal for meat aside from the chickens, though we aren’t quite ready for a commitment like that just yet. There were a few things we learned from them that I feel we can share, but I’ll save that for another day.
I started work on the produce stand! Right now there is only a floor. I started it because I wanted to know I got at least SOME work done on it this year if I end up running out of time.
I really need to be working on the second chicken tractor now. With just 9 days until the next batch of birds comes in, we want to be ready for the shifting of our birds. We will be moving all of the remain 27 Cornish Cross out to the electrified chicken tractor early next week when the next batch of chickens come in. We decided that we will order another 30 to make up for some of the losses we experienced, only . Hopefully, that way we should end up with just over 100 birds if all goes well.
And I mailed out the blog giveaway prizes, though I still have to do some finishing work before I can send out the purse from the Facebook page giveaway. I’m excited to reach more people with our story and to help teach others we know and hopefully help them to learn from our mistakes.
In case you missed it, we are starting a series of posts that we’ll dub “Sewing Saturdays,” where I and my mother will teach others what they need to know to get started sewing! You can go back and read the first two posts here and here. This Saturday, we’ll do some intro to hand sewing and hopefully send you on the right path to finding a sewing machine that will suit your needs if you want to partake in the machine sewing parts (which will be most, but not all of the posts). I’m thinking there may be 2 posts each Saturday, one for teaching you a new step/skill or walking you through a project, and another to elaborate on a specific topic (such as specifics on different tools and how to use them).
I used the first of our duck eggs the other day in making muffins and also in a lasagna! I was surprised that I noticed the slightest difference in smell, but taste, I couldn’t say. We still haven’t scrambled any! The cook book pictured is my favorite!
It’s been an eventful few weeks, filled with lots and lots of learning. With each learning experience, the vision of what we are supposed to be doing with our homestead becomes clearer.
This week promises to be a busy week as well. There are lots of appointments and outings scheduled, and somewhere in there, Miss Lady and I need to prepare for her annual tea party that is coming up on Sunday!
What hardships have you been experiencing lately, and what have they taught you? Don’t for get to leave your comments 🙂