Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mistakes I've made...

Before our big move to the country I did a lot of reading. I read every book I could get my hands on that had anything to do with homesteading, hobby farming, livestock animals, self sufficiency etc. because I wanted to learn as much as I could to avoid the painful learning curve I knew was coming when we finally got here. I have shelves of books, stacks of books and piles of books falling off my desk. Well- it helped - a little bit…but none of it completely prepared me for our very own reality.

I had read many times that book learnin' and actual real life 'perience were two different things. Now I know it to be truth by my own hard-won experience. 
I did so many things wrong. Some things went wrong despite my best intentions and sometimes I just didn't think things all the way through. Thankfully no animals were harmed in the making of this farmer. 
Chickens got left outside the coop at night.
The sheep and the donkey got loose more times than I can count.
I fed the ducks chicken-feed because I was told it was almost the same - one duck got crook neck but later recovered.

We closed up the chicken coop nice and tight so the girls would be warm and nearly killed them with kindness from the ammonia.
We lugged water from the basement for 33 hours in the rainy springtime because we didn't buy a generator as soon as we should have.

My blooper list goes on and on.

I've also had to get over the fact that I can't control everything - well that was a surprise! Animals died from unknown causes. Raccoons broke into the feed room and ate us out of house and barn. The eavestrough 30 feet above our heads sprung a major leak right above the main entrance to the barn creating our very own outdoor shower. I asked a neighbour to find me a few heritage breed chicks and he came home with thirty - that was my mistake because I shoulda clarified "a couple".

But I have had more successes than I deserve for only being at this for a year and a half. My garden didn't do too badly but I have my first List-of-things-I-will-do-differently-next-year. I learned how to install electric fence to keep in the escapees. I learned how not to wrestle sheep and donkeys - they follow the shepherd just like the Bible says. I learned to count the chickens before I shut up the coop for the night. I've learned the different sounds of contented animals and the ones that make me drop everything and run to see what the problem is. I've learned how to deal with pressure tanks, sump pumps, water softeners, wells and lots and lots of chicken poop.

There is no book on earth that can teach you everything I've learned in the past year and a half and I am no where near done learning. You just have to dive into your own experience - whatever it brings - and learn to live with the fact that you're human and you will make mistakes.

Don't wait till the last minute - till things really count. Make your mistakes now when it's not the end of the world. Figure out how the kerosene heater works now. Get backyard chickens. Start gardening and canning now. Store food.

...and hurry up and make some mistakes before I cover them all by myself!


  1. Anita,
    Thank you for your post. Please know that any move to the country with any amount of preparation experiences the same thing. This is why it's important for all of us to get started right away, even if it's growing sprouts in the bathroom for a start ! I too have lost animals sometimes, even with the very best intentions and when no expense was spared.

  2. The first chicken that died in our possession upset me for several days to the point of tears...I wondered if I was really cut out for this! I still feel sad but not quite as guilty realising that not everything is in my control. Thanks for responding:)

  3. an awesome article!! We're not there yet.... but will be very soon. Hopefully.

  4. Thanks Danielle! Hoping you find your dream place soon!

  5. We got back to the land in the early 1970s At that time there was a very big move to the land, people taught back then that there was going to be a very big economic collaps, It didn't happen and many of the so called back to the landers gave up that life style and moved back to the cities. we of cource are still on the homestead and we were able to make a decent living of the land plus raise and homeschool four children. i have never worked out for any one in almost 40 years except for a three month peroid. we were always able to make it on our own,. one of the things we agreed on when we got married was that we would not have any thing to do with borrowing money from the bank. We paid for every thing that we have by saving the moneyto pay for it with cash.
    We still have chickensfor meat and eggs, goats for meat and milk and a few rabbits for meat,we did have bees but since all our kids have left home we don't find a need for them anymore, we grow a big garden and are able to survive come what may.
    We live in northern alberta and i must say that dispite the cold winters this is truly the land of milk and honey.