Two steps forward, one step back: Our first year of homesteading

We’re alive. 

We haven’t managed to burn the place to the ground, or been accosted by marauding hillbillies a la “The Hills Have Eyes.” Despite the barn cats’ best efforts to trip me, my spine remains unbroken. No salmonella-tainted chicken eggs or diseased turkey meat have crashed the party; the raw goat milk the FDA craps themselves over regularly has yet to unleash its dark and sinister forces. So far so good, but we still have so very very much to learn. 
         When we started chasing this half-crazy little whimsy of ours into tangibility we knew we’d have to learn new skills. I read book after book and prided myself on my foresight, I practiced what I could and filed away the rest for later use. All of that has proved absolutely invaluable; but, at the same time, wasn’t worth crap until we really got our hands dirty. 
      I’ve learned that metal pole barns turn into giant freezers in cold weather, and that even a pump with a heating element will freeze when it’s -5•F. At that temperature sweat likes to ice up on your face while hauling 5 gallon buckets of hot water, which is especially fun if you require glasses.
       Pregnant goats are on their own clock, and the more one tries to decipher their mysteries the later they will carry their kids just to spite you. 
        Territorial roosters and little boys do NOT mix. 
        Neither do poultry and any horizontal barn surface that you’d like to stay clean. 
        Buck goats in rut are HILARIOUS, as long as you’re not within pee range (which is surprisingly broad.) 
        To lessen the chances of divorce no major plans should be made for the second week of January, when the spring seed and poultry catalogs start arriving. Nobody should expect hot meals either, and re-wearing underwear is a good idea as well. 
       Attempting to pull weeds while 9 months pregnant is a great way to fall on your face in the dirt, looking like a bipedal beluga whale with vertigo. 
       “Mom, you’ve gotta see what I found outside” means you should bring a box of baby wipes, salt and a weapon along when you investigate. 
       In Elbert County, Colorado you try desperately to get your tomato plants to grow. In Berrien County, Michigan you try desperately to keep your tomato plants from growing up the side of your house and caving the roof in. 
        Training 5 mama goats to stand nicely for milking is going to be interesting if you, their goatherd, are in the third trimester of pregnancy and have a belly roughly the size of a Prius. 
        A blown lightbulb in the barn can lead to getting a face full of (goat) amniotic fluid. Ask me how I know this. 
       Bees love straw bales. So do ridiculously huge spiders and slithery little snakes. Chickens love snakes, and chase other chickens who have caught a snake. Raccoons, dogs and hawks love chickens. Raccoons also love our trash. Flies love absolutely everything. 
       Kentucky Wonder pole beans laugh heartily at a simple bamboo pole-and-mesh-fencing trellis, drag it down to the dirt and climb all over the neighboring cucumber vines instead. 
       Feminine fingernails are a fool’s errand if you regularly dig in dirt, and are extremely counterproductive while milking goats. 
       The stinkiest buck has the fastest-growing hooves. Always. 
        All the animal crackers in the hemisphere aren’t enough to coax our Nigerian Dwarf goats out of the barn during the winter. Apparently not even treats are worth putting one’s udder in the snow. 
           Bragging about the health of your herb garden is a great way to karma yourself into a c-section a week later, forcing you to watch as the weeds strangle out your chocolate mint and tarragon before you can even cough without crying. Guilty.
          Toddlers and huge sacks of diatomaceous earth do not play well together. 
           Turkeys LOVE children’s wading pools, especially when the children are still in them. 
           Pallets can build damn near anything, and should be rescued from dumpsters at all cost. 
           Baby goats are, next to baby humans, the most unbelievably adorable organisms on the planet and will turn even grown men into a squishy puddle of goo. 
        Large canning projects stop feeling like a fun folksy way to pass an afternoon and start feeling like a Dickensian workhouse at about 11pm (or the 30th quart of peaches.) 
        To mosquitoes, lavender aromatherapy lotion must smell like bacon served with a side of pure bliss.
        What do Beetlejuice and squash bugs have in common? Say their name three times and BOOM, they’re all up in your shiz causing problems. 
              And most importantly:
        There is warmth in the coldest day, rest in the hardest labor and blessed quiet amidst the unrelenting chaos. There is beauty in every stone, leaf and twig; a rooster is the best alarm clock and the world becomes even more alive at night. 
         We are so small and our lives are so short; as the saying goes, nothing is guaranteed but death and taxes. We only have one today and no one knows about tomorrow. Chase your dreams as far as it takes to catch them. Regret nothing. 
         Find time to read books under a blanket, walk outside barefoot and feel the sun on your face. Catch frogs and identify trees. Hold a newborn baby in a garden; touch life in its shining best. 
        Vow to like yourself exactly as you are. Eat a meal entirely from scratch. Do it again, and again and again.  Fix things instead of replacing them, and laugh your butt off when it turns out whack. 
        Dirt under your nails, hay in your hair and stinky hobbit feet means it was a good day. 
*Submitted to the Heritage Homesteaders blog hop, February 2014! 


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