Why There is No “Success” in Farming, Ranching, or Homesteading

If you are thinking of moving to the country, reading a bunch of books, and doing everything right you are going to be mighty frustrated. The measure of a good farmer, rancher, or homesteader is not in whether his/her ventures pan out, but whether he or she is willing and able to get back up on the horse after being thrown, and not hold it against the horse. You have to be resilient in the country and it helps if you expect the opposite of success at least some of the time. That way the surprise is a good kind of surprise, and not the other way around. You also have to know how to laugh.

If you were to get all my homesteading and farming friends in a room together and ask them about the failures of this past year i would start by telling you the story of how my chicken went broody and tried to hatch unfertilized eggs. She was so enthusiastic i felt sorry for her and tried to get her a newborn chick which i placed beneath her with the eggs, hoping she’d assume an egg had hatched. This is not what happened. When the flock located the source of the tiny peeping they went into murder mode with the broody hen taking the lead in the festivities and tried desperately to kill the chick dead in a terrified “intruder! Intruder!” type of frenzy. I ended up raising the chick in the house. Well then i felt sorry for the chick all alone with nobody to keep it company while i was at work. In the interest of not raising a psychopath chicken i bought another chick to keep it company and then i had both chicks in the house pooping on all of my shirts and keeping me up at all hours of the night. My chicken coop only supported 6 chickens and with the addition of the second chick i would have 7, so i found them a new home with a lady who had a larger coop and about 25 chickens. She took them off my hands and then one of my chickens promptly died of a mosquito born illness. She offered them back and so i took her up on it only to find her flock had pecked a massive hole in one of the two juvenile chickens’ heads. They had beat her up pretty bad and mentally she was never the same. I doctored her head and it healed but she never again grew feathers on that half of her skull, and she was psycho, which is what i had tried to prevent in getting Oakley to be her companion. Well, Oakley spent a lot of time with psycho Ellis so when i introduced them to my flock Oakley had a choice to make…whether to bond with Daisy (head chicken), who had taken a liking to her or stick with psycho Ellis who she knew as her sister. Oakley never made a decision and eventually Daisy made it for her by rejecting her because she was seen fraternizing with crazy Ellis. Now both young chickens are psycho, unapproachable, and distrustful of everything. Their temperaments on a scale of 1 to 10 are 0, but they lay good eggs.

My friend Cindy would tell you she did not get a single peach, persimmon, plum, or pear because the varmints stole every last one. It looks like the netting system was not sufficient at all. She had nothing to can or make pies with.

My other friend lost his entire population of honey bees over the winter due to cold temperatures and condensation created by a liquid feed in mason jars. The whole colony was sticky and deceased at the bottom of his boxes when he uncovered them for the spring.

Yet another friend woke up one morning to find a horny bull had charged through a couple fences in order to get to the cows, releasing a ram, a heard of sheep, several chickens, and a dog. The cows got bred. The sheep got bred. It was not the time of year he was meaning to breed his animals and now they are going to be trying to keep newborn calves and lambs alive heading into the dead of winter. What else is there to do but buy extra hay and prepare for the possibility of bringing animals into the house. I mean, bulls and rams dont have ideal breeding months outlined on their calendars…they just go for it.

Even my friends who travel the world on a sailboat had a rough time this past year when their scheduled shipment of food didn’t arrive to an island they were anchored near and they had to rely on spear fishing to feed the family. They actually ended up giving away their catch in return for using another boat owner’s laundry machine, keeping only the head and painstakingly picking every last morsel of edible flesh from the bones to make something sustaining: fish head soup.

So, if you are in any way living off the land or the sea, you should expect regular failures and anticipate that success is going to be measured as the act of riding, not winning the race.

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