chickens, family, farming, garden, goals, goats

Making Big Mistakes on a Little Farm

Being outside of town, on 6 glorious acres, letting our kids run wild has literally been a dream come true. I love it out here. My husband loves it out here (more than he thought he would, truth be told). The kids love it out here. We’ve got lots of stories to tell for being here just under two years so far.

Like the time we brought home a cow, and she jumped the fence, and we never found her. (Seriously…we lost a whole cow. Not our most glorious moment.)

Or when we hatched our first incubator of chicken eggs – 41 eggs and we got 7 chicks. We knew the percentage wasn’t great, but the beauty of new life, and the idea that we could do better with our next hatch, and our next, and our next. I’m running my third incubator this year, plus I gave eggs to our neighbor to hatch, too. We’re hatching about 75% of our eggs at this point. We’ve gotten better than we were last year.

But we’ve made some big mistakes. Looking back, they are really obvious. They are your run of the mill mistakes – the ones other farmers encourage you not to make. Mainly, forIMG_1763 us, it was too much, too fast. Instead of creating deliberate plans, fencing off specific areas, and adding animals/animal types on at least some sort of plan, we just started adding all the animals.

The auction is not a place for people like us to go. With my propensity toward picking ill animals that need extra TLC, and my husband’s enjoyment of bidding and winning… the auction is not where we belong. But we’ve ended up there a time or ten and we’ve added to our herd nearly every time.

It’s not all bad – we’ve learned something from each addition, even if the lesson was just that we didn’t want that type of animal. I always fancied stallion ownership as a young horse person. I thought owning a stud would be lovely and I wore rose-colored glasses as I daydreamed about being the best stud trainer around. Well, that notion was grown in the obscure vision of childhood and while we owned a stallion for a short while (thanks to the auction), he proved to be handsome and difficult.

I believe we should create visions and goals that we are working toward, then break down the steps for how we will get there. For as much as I believe this, sometimes I forget to do this. Sometimes I just plow forward without a clear sense of where I’m going.

That’s how the farm has been – plow forward. I’m slowing down now, I’m starting to write things down, I’m starting to develop a vision, a direction, so that I’m not willy nilly running everywhere, not really accomplishing anything. I’m backing up and re-starting small, if you will.

The hard part for me, in this moment, is it means thinning out the animals. But I want to gain experience and get good at one part, then add the next, instead of feeling spread thin all the time. After we sold the feed store, I began evaluating where I was spread thin, lacking focus or purpose.

IMG_1749As a result, I am able to spend more time on the most important tasks. Being home with the kids and the farm has helped us make school a priority again. Being here to see the chaos of the farm all day has helped me realize that we aren’t set up for the menagerie we have. And if we don’t sell off some of the livestock, we’re going to overgraze and kill our pasture space.

So, now that we’ve identified our mistakes, we are also done making the same mistakes. We are going to fix what can be fixed by thinning out, and we are going to work toward pasture rotation, improving our chicken practices, and a garden.

I think, if we slow down and focus on doing a good job, we will set ourselves up for future success. My husband and I both have our hearts set on owning a larger plot of land in the future. – Whether we ever get to move to something bigger or not, it’s imperative that we do a good job of stewarding what we have now.



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