Our journey – July 2018

Our Journey- July 2018
The highlight was the birth of our two first lambs.

July has come and gone at a blink of an eye. Too quickly for my liking, but isn’t it always that way when you’re having fun?

The event that was a highlight this month was the birth of two lambs.

⁃ Bastille, born on the 14th

⁃ Antoinette, born on the 16th

I had watched for signs that would indicate their arrival, however, we had recently been told they weren’t ready so I relaxed and stopped observing. We woke up on Bastille day(14th July), my husband looked out the window and low and behold he could see extra feet near Coffee our ewe. Coffee had given birth to the most gorgeous black headed lamb I’d ever seen. We named him Bastille.

The next day, Caramel’s udders had dropped, which we were told was a sign that she would soon give birth. Next morning our little Antoinette was born. As a contrast to Bastille, she is totally white and a complete little lady.

Baby lambs are so cute. I could watch them all day; their curiosity, the way they frolic in the paddock with not a worry in the world, their playfulness, it’s all so beautiful.

On our journey occasionally there are some unexpected twists and turns. This time it happened towards the end of the month. We found one of our calves in a pretty bad shape. She looked as if she was dying. We did what we could to care for her, but had little expectation of her surviving. By evening she was back on her feet and has been well ever since. I believe she may have suffered from grass tetany, although I have been told that it is unusual in young calves.

As we watched her almost lifeless, we were confronted with thoughts of discouragement. Why are we homesteading? Is it really worth it?

I didn’t dwell on those thoughts for long, as I believe it is worth it. Life on a farm will include the occasional loss of an animal. It is part and parcel of the lifestyle we have chosen. I am convinced that the positives of living on a homestead outweighs the negatives. We truly feel blessed.

Patch and Rosie – Our Calves

Last May we welcomed two beautiful calves, Patch and Rosie. Straightway they won our hearts. Now, three months later, they are even more precious to us.

Feeding them daily until they were weaned was a great experience which allowed us to build a caring relationship with them.

They say “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, that goes for animals too. We weaned Rosie and Patch three weeks ago, and still, at the sight of a bucket they will come running to us. While they enjoy their feed, we get to handle them. At first, we could only touch them while they were eating, however, with time they are desiring more contact. The other day, Patch decided to lay down at my side, allowing me to continue rubbing her long after she finished her treat.

Our desire is to enjoy our animals, to treat them with respect and as organically as possible, just as they deserve. The first step we took towards that goal was adding kefir to their daily feed. Kefir is something that we have added to our diet about 7 years ago. Kefir grains look similar to miniature cauliflower head, they are a bacterial fermentation starter, producing probiotics in the milk and making it more digestible. Kefired milk looks similar to a yogurt and has healthy benefits for us. We researched to see if it would be a good idea to feed some to our calves, liking the information we found, we fed some to our calves. We were ready to stop if we didn’t like the results. However, as we suspected, both Patch and Rosie thrived, they had no scouring and looked healthy. Our neighbour commented on how good they looked. We supplemented them with kefir up to the time they were weaned.

This week we have added a mineral lick supplement. We are also looking at ways to improve organically our pastures.

Patch and Rosie are our first calves. God willing we should shortly buy another two. This time we are looking to get steers. Any information we can receive from our readers to help us in this endeavour to rear them up organically will be greatly appreciated. We have a lot to learn, and are willing to receive any information that will help us maintain a healthy herd.

My Family

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them. – Desmond Tutu

It’s been a privilege to enjoy the company of my two sisters and their children. One of them lives abroad, therefore visits are few and far between. Although my other sister visits regularly, to have both over at the same time was a blessing.

It is amazing to see how we do things together. Somehow, all our ideas blend, whether in the kitchen, or whatever else we do. We may start off with a basic meal plan for the day, yet once it is set on the table we have a totally different menu, using the same ingredients. A much better menu.

Our vision for our homestead is to give respite, a time of rest and recharge for our family. This time round, it was meant to be about respite for my sisters, but towards the end of their stay, they took full charge of the house as I became ill. They were a blessing to me.

The above quote is so real. We don’t get to choose our family. We are God’s gift to each other. No matter what one of us is going through, we all feel it. There’s always someone who will step in at the right time for the need of the moment. I couldn’t be more thankful to God for a wonderful family.

Abundance

The other day, while sitting near our top dam surrounded by our sheep and calves, I was overwhelmed with emotions. My eyes became tearful, I started singing Psalms 23 “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want”. The words of that psalm felt so real. 

I have this sensation that God knew the deepest desire, need, want of our inner being, one that we ourselves had no idea was there, and through His providence He orchestrated for it to happen. 

We are blessed beyond measure. ”I shall not want”, this means ”I have no need”, “I lack nothing”.  I would even say, ”I have in abundance”.

By abundance, I am not talking of material things. One can have all the material gains and still feel empty. I am referring to an inner state of abundance. I have no need, no wants, I feel my cup is overflowing.

Our Sheep

End of April we bought our first sheep: three pregnant ewes.

What do we know about pregnant ewes? How will we recognise that they are ready to give birth? Will it come as a total surprise? So many questions to which I had no answers.

Here we are on a journey filled with unknowns to us. For a seasoned farmer, rearing sheep has little or no mysteries.

I must educate myself. My first step is to ask our neighbour. That was a good step. Now I know that one of the visible signs is the formation of the udder.

Imagine the following scenario: I’m observing the ewes twice a day to see if I can see the udder forming! I think it is a bit comical! My action is not going to change the course of nature and bring the birth of these lambs.

Last week we noticed slight changes in the udder of two of our ewes. Now I am excited, so I took the time to read various blogs. Thanks to bloggers like Red Hope Farm I now know there are other signs to look for.

I am still awaiting impatiently the births of our lambs. My curiosity leads me to check them for more signs. I force myself to see signs that are barely there. At the beginning of the week, I was convinced one would give birth this week. It was wishful thinking.

My husband had another conversation with the neighbour. He believes we still have a few weeks before anything happens. My excitement has dwindled. It’s been two days since I last checked them. I will wait until the visible signs are showing clearly.

I guess the birth of our lambs will make a good subject for another blog.

Beholding the Beauty of God

Sitting down in my favourite spot of our homestead, I can relax, meditate, enjoy what we have in a deeper way. 

Today, let me take you on a journey involving what I see, hear, feel from my mountaintop.

What can I hear:

  • Birds chirping
  • Ducks quacking
  • Soft whisper of the wind blowing
  • Insects buzzing 
  • The occasional far distant sound of a car

What can I see:

  • Luscious Green hills, filled with clusters of trees and bushes and adorned with herds of cattle 
  • The far distant horizon where land, silhouettes of mountains and sky meet
  • The occasional bird flying above my head
  • The sun veiled with a thin layer of cloud

What can I feel:

  • Warmth of the sunshine
  • The gentle caressing of the wind on my face
  • Peace
  • Tranquility 
  • Happiness 

In the Bible, there’s a verse that says the following : “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…(Romans 1:20) King James Version (KJV)

When contemplating the beauty of nature I agree with that verse. I behold the beauty of the Lord through His creation. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude and thanksgiving.The beauty of nature always brings me closer to its Creator. 

Time to Reflect

Six months into this wonderful journey of homesteading. What have we achieved? We have:

⁃ Built cages, chicken pens and shelters for the animals.

⁃ Rebuilt several of the fences.

⁃ Welcomed into our farm: a cat, a dog, pregnant ewes, calves, cockatiel, two canaries and chickens galore, quails.

⁃ Set up a veggie garden.

⁃ Painted our kitchen, hallway and living area

We cannot omit the amount of time spent increasing our knowledge about homesteading, farming, gardening, etc. Thanks to the internet and the many homesteaders’ blogs, our learning curb is simplified.

Our biggest achievement, in my opinion, is taking the step into the unknown and making this new lifestyle happen. Nothing can replace the peace and serenity that we are enjoying. Sitting on our hilltop, admiring the surrounding beauty, breathing in the fresh unpolluted country air while taking the time to vocally thank God for His awesomeness, His creation, His love, His mercy and His grace towards us, is something that I deeply cherish.

In retrospective, there is nothing I would like to change. We are grateful for this opportunity given to us.

 

The Day We Lost Our Neighbour’s Herd

Success is made up of many failures along the way. I believe you need to have a great sense of humour or you could die of embarrassment in the midst of a failure. My first experiences in the face of failure would leave me with negative emotions and a sense of worthlessness.

Over time I realized that most failures are minor mistakes that are instrumental in perfecting my skills. I learned to treat my failures as friends and not as foes. In my career, I ensured I trained all to embrace their mistakes and learn from them.

To bring this to our day to day experience on the farm. Five months into this journey, we are building knowledge with Google information, Facebook pages, blogs, magazines and even acquiring knowledge from fellow farmers. We don’t want to fail.

Steers grazing in our paddock

No matter how much we learnt, nothing prepared us for the day we lost our neighbours’ Friesian steers. Last summer we weren’t ready to place cattle on our property so we used it as agistment. Our friendly neighbour, who we consider as our ”mentor” on farming matters, agreed to allow seven of his steers to roam in our field. We had one paddock closed off due to poor fencing. As the grass became scarce, we thought we may need to open the gate to that particular paddock. The neighbour came with us to inspect the fencing and gave us his opinion, which was favourable. My husband, still unsure, thought it best to buy a cheap solar battery operated electric fence energizer. Finally, we opened the gate, the steers went in as they pleased.

Daily my husband would check the energizer. To our dismay, it kept failing. A new battery was sent to us, but with no improvement.

We noticed that the animals weren’t keeping to the boundaries. They had no fear of an electric fence that didn’t work.

One day we came home to an empty paddock. No steers left. We knew the neighbour was planning to remove them imminently so we weren’t surprised. When we saw him next, we asked him about it.

Yes, he had taken them back, but we were surprised to find that he’d found them wandering the neighbourhood. Thinking they were from another farm, he began herding them towards it. A few minutes later, one of the steers turned around and came towards him and licked him. It was a strange reaction for the animal to do that unless it was one that had been bottle-fed, hand raised by him. After further inspection of the herd, he realised they were his steers. They had escaped from our property. That day five we’re found. The other two appeared a couple of days later.

How embarrassing! What an epic fail in our agistment business. A few laughs, a reprocessing of the event, and more laughs. If we can learn from our mistakes, don’t buy the cheapest thing out there. Ensure it will do a good job. In this particular instance, just fix the fence.

Lesson learned. We are ready to move on.

Lighting a Fire

The simple job of lighting a fire in a wood heater seems an easy job to the beholder, just as easy as blogging seems to one who contemplates writing. All you need is paper, kindling and a log. Set it alight with a match and voila! You’ve got a nice fire started. When it comes to blogging, you need an idea, a notepad, and let the clickety-clack of your fingers playing on the computer keyboard work its magic.

Oh, I so wish it was so easy! I’m still to master starting a fire the first time around. When it comes to blogging, I thought I had written a good article until I placed it into the grammar checker.

Maybe over time, I will master the art of both of them.