Farming · Gardening · Homesteading

Homesteading Hardships

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.

Homesteading Hardships
The remains of a chicken attack. We removed the bodies from the chicken tractor, but the signs of attack still remain.

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.

Homesteading Hardships
It may be a bit difficult to see…I took the picture a few days after the incident, but there are two shallow holes where something dug it’s way under and into the chicken tractor. (The tractor had been moved.)

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.

Homesteading Hardships
A sneak peak of our electrification setup.

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.

Homesteading Hardships
The hail calmed for a moment when this picture was taken.

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.

Homesteading Hardships
The dented hood of the car.

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.

Homesteading Hardships
The beautiful calm after the storm.

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.

Homesteading Hardships
Side one of the chicken tractor complete! 3 more to go, plus one roof. More on that to come…

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!

Scott put on one of the three gates needed for our garden fence.  It is made of cattle panel, fencing nails/staples, and will be closed by carabiner clips.

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!

Homesteading Hardships
An invitation to tea…

What hardships have you been experiencing lately, and what have they taught you?  Don’t for get to leave your comments 🙂

Love~Danielle

 

13 thoughts on “Homesteading Hardships

  1. Oh how I love tea parties. When my daughters were little they were so wonderful. And I love the beautiful sky after the storm. God is good. All the time.

    1. You are absolutely right, that would certainly help, but dogs take time to train…something we are a little short on right now. They also require lots of extra responsibilities, again, something that we are short on having time to take care of for now. We have been tossing the idea around for some time, but I think we need to wait until next year, or at least until after we do the butchering and harvesting. Maybe next year….

  2. I’m sorry about all of your challenges, but I love your attitude and perseverance. I don’t know what we would do without our livestock guard dog. She intercepts just about everything and we’ve had very few losses since getting her. I have the same challenge with my cherry trees, too.

    1. Well, maybe next year for a dog, but we’ll have to wait and see 🙁 Too many fish in the kettle right now!
      I was really disappointed about the cherries, especially after getting a great harvest last year!

  3. Don’t get mad, get even. No, not even madder! Get even better at what you do. IF you keep up at the chickens, you’ll probably have to look at a permanent house with concrete yard and secure perimeter that they get shut into every night (automatic pop-hole highly recommended – they soon learn to put themselves to bed, but that’s an expense and as you’re right there, not absolutely necessary), and leave them to roam during the day. Not entirely satisfactory, but better than losing the birds. A towable house that is secure is, well, not towable.

    1. Yes, that is the problem isn’t it…a moveable house is not nearly so secure. But the electric wire seems to be helping these past couple of nights, and we are hoping that on the next tractor we get the issues worked out BEFORE we put the chicken in it!
      I think our plan is to get really good at what we do, and maybe get a dog or some other guard animal down the road.

  4. Our first batch of meat birds are arriving later this month, and I’m concerned that we may run into the same issues. Like you, we’ve been talking about a dog, but finding the right dog is tough, and training the dog correctly takes time. The rabbits and the deer are already trouble. (I can’t believe the deer ate the water lilies out of the pond!) With the addition of chickens and ducks, I expect the predators to show up to the buffet, too. Maybe we’ll end up doing a paddock that we can pull the chicken tractor into for the night, so there are two layers of fencing to go through. I’m just not sure at this point, but we’ll figure something out.

    1. Well, I think we *maybe* have the kinks worked out with our chicken tractor. I’ll be putting up a post later this week about how we did a mobile electrification of the chicken coop (for not a ton of money). We are also making a few tweaks to the new chicken tractor design to start with, and I’ll explain what we are doing with that…hopefully all of that information will help you out.
      We have deer coming through our yard and nibbling on the ends of our tree branches…I’m surprised about the lily pads though! And yes, everybody says that having chickens is like a big neon invitation for the predators to come and eat 🙂 Hopefully you fare better than us!

  5. I am disappointed about your chickens, but so inspired by all the hard work you do there. My son would want to sleep outside with his bb gun! If it is weasels, I would want to put traps all around to get a look at the varmints. We get raw goat’s milk from a friend of mine from time to time, and love using it for all baking and cooking, but we don’t pour it on cereal or drink it straight as they do. It makes me feel completely domestic & old fashioned to pour milk from a half gallon mason jar instead of a plastic jug. We also get eggs from chicken raising friends every couple of weeks. Some of my friends who have chickens also have Great Pyrenees dogs who take their guard job very seriously and they get on well with the children. I’m glad you didn’t have a tornado. I love that you are aware to the way that God reveals himself to us through nature and the everyday occurrences of our lives. Thanks for sharing your homestead life with us through the blog. I never even comprehended that homesteading was a possibility when I was young enough to do it, so I will just enjoy reading of yours! That said, I hope you get a little rest this week too.

    1. Thank you Tami 🙂 I agree, it felt amazing to pour milk out of that jug! And I love feeling old-fashioned! I always used to say that I must have been born during the wrong era. I’m not sure where you live, but hey, you are never too old to homestead! Lots of people do it all kinds of levels. If you ever think you want to dabble or learn how to be more of a homesteader, you should check out Tessa Zundel’s book The DIY Homestead . It will give you lots of ideas of things you can do, and maybe you’ll find out you are more of a homesteader than you think 🙂 I’m so glad you found our blog and are enjoying it!

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