Drought, Death and Discouragement

It’s hard to get it all done.  Some of the things we do really turn out well.  Some of the things we do could turn out better.  Some of the things we do go as badly as possible…worse than we could imagine.

My wife, parents and even extended family are generally supportive of our efforts here.  Even within that group I am no golden boy.  Outside of that group it is easy to find criticism.  I’m going against the grain.  I am defying convention and tending toward worse offenses.  But it’s easy to get past other people’s opinions of me.  Sometimes there are real problems.  Sometimes you make a mistake.  That mistakes snowballs into bigger problems.  Standing there, with my back against the wall, I ask myself, “Why can’t I do anything right?”

This blog has become more of a “how-we” than a “how-to”.  If you want to defy convention, I want to encourage you.  If you want to try your hand at raising a few chickens or pigs, I’ll tell you what I have found works…and what I have found doesn’t work.  I like to make specific mention of what doesn’t work so you don’t make the same mistakes.  I’m not just spouting off about my experiences/abilities on the blog, I’m sharing my adventure with you…even the bad parts.  Now, before we get too far along here, let me reassure you that I’m fine.  I’m OK.  I’m not frustrated or angry or thinking about quitting.  My goal here is not to depress my readership.  My hope is that by opening up here I’ll encourage you to keep going.  This stuff is hard.  You can do it.  I’ll get through it.  So will you.

OK?  Let’s go.

I do everything wrong.  Not just wrong but as badly as possible.  Experience is a harsh teacher and I am a slow learner.  Let me give you a few examples.  Here is a picture of me, dressing a pig.  You can see from my sweat that it was hot outside.  You can see from the dirt on my back that I carried the pig up the hill on my shoulder rather than kill it in a more convenient spot.  If you could smell you would know she peed on my right shoulder as I carried her.  I had to remember not to wipe my brow with that shoulder.  Why did I carry a hog across the pasture on my back and dress it out on a 95 degree evening in July?

Because we screwed up.  Hot weather is a problem for pigs.  Hot weather without water is a serious problem.  When I realized what had happened 7 of our 8 pigs ran to the drinker to get their fill.  The eighth pig just looked at me.  Poor Zing.  I carried water to her, attempted to cool her with buckets of water over her body and held the bucket down so she could drink out of it.  A few minutes later we lost her.

There is an agreement between me and my livestock (and my tomato plants too).  I provide everything they need.  They provide everything I need.  I dropped the ball, I lost a pig.

Now, there’s only so much I can do to manage the heat.  I can’t save every chicken, no matter how hard I try.  There are things I can do to lessen the stress on my animals.  Some of it is falling into a routine.  Some of it is overcoming personal inertia.  More than anything it’s time management.  But the truth is I don’t have this all figured out.  Some things I do work really, really well.  Other things could go better.  As I get better I’m more able to manage my time.  As I can manage my time better I’ll get more of the things done that I need to do.

Please don’t read this blog thinking I have all the answers.  I have some answers.  I have found some things that work reasonably well.  I don’t think I’ll ever exit the discovery phase.  I don’t think I’ll ever be “good” at this farming stuff.  Not only do I have a lot to learn, sometimes bad things happen.  Sometimes the cows get out.  Sometimes a raccoon eats a chicken.  Sometimes people make mistakes.  All of our safeguards failed poor Zing.  It was a busy, hot day and nobody checked the water.

If there’s a positive outcome here, the next day we wrapped and froze the meat and discovered one of our freezers was beginning to thaw.  If not for the pig we would have lost around $1100 worth of chicken.

18 thoughts on “Drought, Death and Discouragement

  1. Great post! You are no different than the rest of us. What we do depends not only on our personal abilities, but on so many external factors over which we have absolutely no control. And when those external factors, such as extreme heat, come around, it’s difficult to keep up. The fact that you are so bothered by it means you care. A farmer who raises animals he cares about to the point of being upset when one dies is a farmer anyone should be glad to buy from and support!

  2. i read and asked questions and researched how to raise pigs before i attempted to get my three. nothing i read said how susceptible they are to sunburn, and the pigs didn’t seem to know to stay in the shade either. so our first little piglets got a pretty bad burn. the next day all three were falling down, acting like their back legs were going paralyzed. they were still eating though. so i got on the internet and finally found some mention of pigs and sunburns and how they have very sensitive nervous systems, and that burns can cause these little paralysis spasms to occur, but that they will snap out of it in about 36 hours, and they did. But still, it’s really hard to watch an animal having a health problem because of something you did wrong.

  3. Our good neighbor, and a man who respected you and who you respected always said “You can’t lose them if you don’t have them!” Not caretaker.

  4. One of those difficult days for sure. A learning curve. We’ve experienced the same sort of thing, and after I beat myself up inside for failing some creatures that depended completely on me for their well being, I had to get up and out and on with it. I’m impressed with the positive spin on the freezer, I would have been a puddle of misery at that point…

    • And we’re not sure what was wrong with the freezer. We let it thaw but when we plugged it back in it worked fine. Maybe the door hadn’t been closed completely or something. We filled it with ice and we’ll see what happens.

  5. Ah, a “bad farmer day”. We all have them. And we are all relearning lost skills, not passed on by generations past. We’ve certainly made our share of them.

  6. WordPress does not like me. Here’s a second attempt:

    Ah, a ”bad farmer day”. We all have them. And we are all relearning lost skills, not passed on by generations past. Nice save, btw. Butchering a pig in warm weather is not fun. That fat sure gets slick, doesn’t it?

    • Honestly I don’t remember much about it. I was stressed, in a hurry and working mechanically. I had a similar experience with an old hen a few days ago. Bird was having a heat stroke then she was in the fridge. I don’t remember the in-between.

      • It’s really the same “persona”. I used the solar farm mom thing when I blogged years ago. I prefer just my name AND no link to the website. Oh well. Glad it wasn’t so bad for you. We had a heck of a time getting our little pig cut up last January when it was in the high 60s. I just can’t imagine doing a pig in August! You must much better at the pig butchering than we are!

        • Didn’t matter if I was good or not. I just had to work fast. Before I knew it, I was done. Helps to skin them, though you lose a lot of fat that way. Looking back I could have done a better job of splitting the pig but we quartered it, popped it in the freezer and ate liver and onions the next day.

  7. I’d much rather…and I more appreciate…reading about pure truth statements, rather then read somebody’s inflated sense of what they can (and can’t) do.

    Surprisingly, I share your loss. Thank you for sharing the ups and downs with us. It’s as much a learning experience (for me anyway) for the reader, as it is for you.

    • This adventure in farming forces us to deal with our fears. Dad’s right. You can’t lose them if you don’t have them. If I just sit around worrying about what might go wrong I’ll never act. SO I have to face my innumerable fears every day including the fear that if I really open up to my readership they will reject me…

      Thank you for being supportive.

  8. Good save! Stuff happens and how you deal with it is more important than the why sometimes. Your freezer story reminded me that when our mower scattered a few weeks ago after cutting two acres of hay, it became a blessing, it rained that night, if it held together we would have had 10 acres of hay flat and ready to receive rain! Of course, the two weeks down and the $500 repair bill was a bit much 😦

    Great post and I love the mohawk! If in fact that is what my eyes are seeing in that photo??

    • LOL…no mohawk. You would think after 10 years of cutting my own hair I could do a better job. In the summer I use no guard on sides and back, #5 guard on the top and make the transition at the keyline (lol).

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