“Ma sighed gently and said, “A whole year gone, Charles.” But Pa answered, cheerfully: “What’s a year amount to? We have all the time there is.” -Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie
I began my homesteading journey in 2012. I had three little ones under the age of 4 and had just came to know the Lord. Becoming a Christian so late in life not only changes who you are, but also changes how you view what surrounds you. I realized my desire for living closely with my family, and for raising my children at home with their parents.
I was also introduced to a man named Joel Salatin. Joel is, what he calls himself, a “lunatic farmer” from an extremely lucrative farm in West Virginia, Polyface Farms. Have you heard of him? If not, you should check into his books. They are life changing. I was hooked on the farming lifestyle and I knew this was how I wanted to live.
I had tried many different ways of finding myself throughout my teens and early twenties. I even dabbled in vegetarianism. My husband is a meat eater, and was raised on a small farm. I decided if we were going to eat meat, we were going to raise it ourselves.
No factory raised chicken or pork for us. No feedlot grain-fed beef will cross our table. However your feelings lean toward that type of meat, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted for my family.
So, we went all in. We started with chickens (of course), laying hens and meat birds. We then moved to a major purchase, our first dairy cow, Momma. I loved Momma. She was a gentle Jersey and came with a calf we named Jessie. She was the start of our cattle herd, and our first real dive into homesteading. My husband and I took turns milking her in the morning, and then left her calf on her all day.
Next up, pigs. I ran my first half marathon in the Spring of 2013. The moment I crossed the finish line we jumped in the truck and drove two hours north to purchase our first hogs. Hereford Hogs to be exact. Man, those suckers are crazy. Extremely gentle and sweet, but hyper and too interested in being with the people. At first, we attempted to fence off a very large grassy and wooded area, complete with a flowing creek. Those pigs had it made. But did they stay in that fenced area? No. Every day they meandered their way back up to the house. Digging up my flowers, vegetables, and just the yard in general! These bonkers pigs were out of control!
My husband is a fence contractor and he could not, for the life of him, keep them in their place. So, we decided to say good bye to pastured pigs for the time being and built them another more sturdy, and smaller (but really not very small) enclosure. This worked and we were able to raise our own pork.
Fast forward a short period of time and my husband decided to dabble in the goat raising business, particularly to clear up overgrown brush where his cattle would graze. We were sixty deep in goats. Had 10 pigs. Grew to 3 dairy cows, 30 beef cows, and numerous chickens.
We had it made, homesteadingly speaking.
This is where the failing part comes in.
We left home.
I left home.
I was responsible for the majority of the chores on our farm. Feeling like I wasn’t contributing enough, I left the farm to find work outside the home. Actually 30 miles from the home. Every day, Monday through Friday, I was gone. From 7:00am-7:00pm. My husband was left overwhelmed with all of the responsibility of raising the animals and running a business full time.
Gardens failed, and the animals were sold one by one until we were left with no pigs. no chickens. no goats. one dairy cow. Still managed to grow our beef cattle herd, thankfully.
This was a failure.
A complete and absolute failure.
We lived roughly a year in this way, and then joined several extra curricular activities that caused us to be away from home even more. Thankfully for me, the more time I spent away from home, the more I yearned for it.
Now we are back and at it again, hopefully with the experience and know how to stick with it. To remember our why. Animal husbandry brings us closer to each other and closer to God. We want to provide the best food for our children, and raise them with the happiness and freedom a simpler lifestyle can provide.
We grow our own food. Bake our own bread. Raise our own meat. Cook our meals at home. Learn at home. And if that is your desire, You can too.
Whether you are starting over – or just in the beginning. It is okay to fail. A year is a year. Two years are two years. They are not a lifetime. Just pull up your boot straps, hatch those chicks, and start again.
“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ” – Michael Pollan
This is what life is about. Having a deep connection with the world around you. Listening to the creek rushing after a rain storm. Watching the first blossom arrive on a long awaited tomato vine. Hearing the rooster crow with the sunset, and caring for your pigs in a ice storm. This is where we are meant to be.