When we decided we wanted to homestead and live a more old school, traditional way of life we anticipated there would be many ups and downs along the way. When we decided that we wanted to turn our homestead into a business we anticipated that there is no way to determine what ups and downs there will be and it would be best to just roll with it. So that is how we spent the year... rolling with the unanticipated ups and downs, learning from our many (and many) mistakes, and continuing to chase our dream of a life filled with animals, gardens, kids and art.
To end our year we would like to share the hits and misses we had along the way. Since I like to end things on a positive note I will first share with you the lowlights of the year...
Our misses for 2015
- This was our first year taking our garden to the farmer's market to do that in Wisconsin meant we needed to start seeds...many seeds... indoors. We have never started seeds on a scale this large and lost a lot of plants along the way from over and under watering as well as not maintaining proper light. Tackling the delicate art of growing indoors has taught us it is not as easy as it sounds, and it needs much attention, practice and care along the way.
- Our seeds were not our only loss this year we also lost our sweet alpaca Chestnut. He and our ram got tangled in a battle and the ram won. There was a testosterone tension between them once our ram matured we had an appointment to have our alpaca neutered and kept them separated in the meantime. Unfortunately 2 days before the appointment the ram broke through the fence and that was the end of Chestnut. We still miss the big guy and feel responsible for the loss.
- Since we are on the topic of loss... we also lost 2 of our ewe's lambs shortly after Chestnut. This was our first year with pregnant animals and one of our ewes gave birth to a still born lamb. She was pregnant with twins and lost the second one as well a short time later needing some assistance with the delivery.
- Looking back the misses of the year have all been losses we grew the most delicious tomatoes we have ever harvested and lost close to 70 plants to blight half way through the harvesting season. This means we can't grow tomatoes on the same soil and have to move our garden next year.
- We lost a few of our seeds early in the year maybe to bad germination maybe to poor sowing either way we had many seeds that never sprouted.
- Because of our mistakes early on we got a late start at the market. We planned to have our stand up the entire season but only were able to for the second half.
- We got a few of our crops in the ground too late like melons, cucumbers and a variety of peas that didn't mature before the cold hit, and some seeds that didn't sprout at all.
- We lost control of our weed growth early in the spring resulting in a week long weed pulling fair later in the summer to regain control of the garden.
- We under-watered early in the year resulting in poor growth for a few crops.
- We under-mounded our potatoes decreasing our yield and growth.
- Our final loss of the year was a technical issue loosing nearly all of our blog photos with the click of a button.
With this list being shared yes there were many mistakes, many losses, and with some of them tears, and overall many lessons learned. With everything lost we gained a new insight and appreciation we also gained knowledge for the next year ahead.
It wasn't so bad though for a first year, like I mentioned I like to remain positive and end on a good note we had many hits along the way as well...
- Although we lost two lambs we also successfully delivered one to our other ewe. This was our first time delivering an animal so there was a bit of tension in the air. The closest thing to experience was delivering my 3 children but that was done in a hospital with doctors not alone in a field.... thank God. Thankfully though the delivery went well the lamb was born healthy and quickly bonded with his mother.
- We also learned how to milk our sheep. After our first ewe lost her lamb we milked her just to see if we could That way if there was an emergency in the other delivery we would be able to get milk yet to the newest lamb. Thankfully though we didn't need this skill and everything went perfectly.
- I sheared our ram for the first time and was able to get his full coat off in one piece. I also trimmed his hooves and gave the animals their shots for the first time with my husband's direction. I never imagined I would one day be doing the vet work for my livestock but it is pretty awesome I am.
- Once the lamb was matured my husband successfully slaughtered and butchered him which was much harder on me than I anticipated. I knew that he was being raised to feed our family, and I have butchered chickens before, but it was really sad especially considering the excitement in delivering him. Through my sobbing my poor husband did a perfect job and the lamb was humanely and respectfully treated.
- We didn't loose everything in the garden this season we still had a lot of success with our squash and greens in fact we are still able to harvest our kale under the snow. Red Russian kale will forever be a staple in our garden for this reason. Harvesting in December keeps us closer to the garden all year it looks like we will still be able to harvest this January.
- While we were still getting tomatoes from the garden we had a lot of success selling them with our squash, potatoes and greens at the market. We also were able to sell them to local grocery stores. It was pretty awesome to see vegetables we grew and harvested sitting in the produce department at local stores.
- Although it seemed that the farm work took up the majority of our time I was still busy in the studio. I had my most successful year yet selling my artwork online and at markets. I already have a number of custom orders and opportunities lined up for January.
Using everything we have learned this year we are anxiously planning for 2016. We are eager to see what lessons we will learn and what adventures we stumble upon as the year ones on.
Thank you to everyone who has supported our dreams along the way we are blessed to have you and thank you also for reading. Happy New Year!