Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Full-time homesteading?

This college teaching thing is really putting a cramp in my ability to do things around the homestead. A goat died last week, and I've no doubt it was parasites. We haven't checked the does in a couple months. I did finally give copper boluses to all the bucks last week. I think Draco was really deficient because he grabbed the bolus, chewed it up, and swallowed it. That is not normal. A copper bolus is just tiny little bits of copper -- no sugar or flavors or anything that would make it appetizing. He kept trying to get the other boluses that I was giving to the other bucks. He was losing hair on the bridge of his nose, which was what clued me in to the fact that he was deficient. I am thinking he should probably get another one in a month.

Now that all my children are attending the local junior college, and I'm teaching three classes, there is less time than ever to do the things that need to get done on the homestead. I am very happy that we haven't missed any goat births, but we are definitely not utilizing everything around here to its fullest potential. Margaret is only milking the goats about half the time, so we could be getting twice as much milk. The kids are old enough that we could be separating them from their mamas every night. Soon, when the kids start getting sold, we will have to milk the does twice a day.

People sometimes send me emails and ask if it's possible to do this while working full time. In the past, I've always said that you could have chickens and perhaps a few goats or sheep if you work full-time, but you could not do everything we do and work full-time. I know people who work full-time and have sheep or goats, and they do occasionally lose a lamb or a kid that's born when they're not there at the birth. I've been thinking about how I will change things next year when Margaret is at the University of Illinois, then when Jonathan leaves, and finally, when Katherine is gone.

I admit I've been wanting to have my cake and eat it too. I want all the benefits of a self-sustaining homestead, as well as the extra money that I get from teaching. I am starting to realize that that is a lot harder than I had originally anticipated. Any working mom knows how hard it is to have a career and little ones. I don't know why it never occurred to me sooner that this is no different. This might be even harder. Instead of a couple of children, I have dozens of lives that depend upon us. Instead of just having a house, I have two barns, a chicken house, and 32 acres that need care and attention.

It's pretty obvious where my heart is. I moan and grumble about unmotivated students. I procrastinate when it comes to grading. When I go out into the pasture, I lose track of time as I watch the goats play and see one thing after another than needs to be done -- things I want to do. Over spring break, I completely forgot about the classes I was teaching, but when I drive off every day to teach my classes, I keep thinking about the animals and hoping that everything will be fine until I get home again.

Seems pretty obvious what I should be doing. Why is it so hard to make that full-time commitment to the homestead?

11 comments:

pedalpower said...

Sounds like when I had children...I hate to admit now how surprised I was at the amount of work involved. I was also amazed at my drive to make sure I was doing it instead of strangers.

Maybe your classes at the farm will take off, and you can have your cake and eat it too!

Mom L said...

Classes at the farm? I've missed something! That would be ideal, wouldn't it? Students that have to come to you would be more committed, I would think. You've established that you can accomplish whatever you dream, so I'm sure you will work this out!

Nancy in Atlanta

melanie said...

A regular income is always hard to give up....

J. M. Strother said...

"Why is it so hard to make that full-time commitment to the homestead?"

Besides the steady income of a full time job there is that other, perhaps even more important factor, the benefits like health care and a retirement plan that go with it. This would be very hard indeed to give up.

I can empathize with you. I feel the pull to become a full time writer stronger almost daily. And I've never sold a thing. But putting my two girls through college is the 2x4 between the eyes.

If you need help I wonder if you could contact the Ag School and set up an internship program and get some aggies out there to take up some of the load. Interns can often be had for free.

Sorry about the loss of the goat. Hang in there.
~jon

Deborah said...

Great insight, everyone. Thanks, Jon, for the intern suggestion. I've been thinking about it, and you just pushed me over the edge.

Schumes said...

Things usually are harder than we expect them to be, aren't they?

The word vocation comes to mind when you talk about your farm verses teaching...

clink said...

Deborah -- poverty makes it tough. We do without a lot than I used to take for granted. And I still work part-time but hope by next fall, I can be only at home.

I am sending your post to 4-H House on the University of Illinois campus (CU) These are outstanding women with fantastic work-ethics and many are majoring in Ag Communication.

The House consistently ranks as the top house on campus --both from an academic stand-point and from philanthropy.

Cathy

Gizmo said...

Your homestead has such a variety educational opportunites to offer. I bet it wouldn't take a lot of effort to set up a classroom in one of your barns. Weekend workshops can go a long way - perhaps to augment some classes at U of I.

Deborah said...

More great insight from everyone. Thanks! I do like teaching. I just don't like teaching a class that's required, which means no one would be taking it otherwise. You know, the whole reason I got my master's was so I could teach students who wanted to be there. I never saw myself teaching a core curriculum class. I wanted to teach journalism, but those positions are few and far between when you can only look at colleges within an hour's drive.

Cathy, did you see the communication internship I posted on my Facebook page? It's going to be harder to write up a description of internships for other positions, but I should definitely do that. As Gizmo said, there are a lot of learning opportunities out here.

clink said...

Yes -- I already sent it on. Sounds fantastic. Hopefully, you will hear from someone that is looking for a position.

I have a gal -- college instructor -- that joked that she wanted an unpaid internship at my farm. And this year -- she is going to work with me.

I'll teach her sewing skills, jam making -- and she will help in the garden. I am thrilled to have someone that isn't there for the paycheck..... as little as it was.

hippygirl said...

I think my husband feels the same way. He is the one who works and makes all the money. He does make a lot (I think more than we actually need), but he is uncomfortable making less. It's scary for him, especially because our kids are still so little (5 and 3). I'm fortunate that I don't have to work, but I do have the two little ones, so as much as I want all the things you have (goats, sheep, dairy cow, big flock of chickens, my own soap and cheese, etc.) I will have to do it very slowly. Right now my focus is on the chickens and the garden.

I am interested in your classes, but it takes some arranging since the kids and Tom would have to come to Peoria with me (I don't leave them overnight!) so we could stay at my mom's and I could do the drive in the morning. Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I am interested, just that this time around didn't work out as Tom is just getting back from Phoenix today and then Easter with family and recovering from Easter! haha.

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