Life on the homestead has been fairly quiet lately, although still quite busy. This time of year is always busy. The chaos is in my head though!
Katherine, who was only 9 years old when we moved out here, will be transferring to the University of Illinois as a junior in August. That means big changes on the farm! When people used to say that it takes a lot of work to do what we do, I'd respond, "No, not really. It's only about 30 to 45 minutes of chores in the morning and evening for each of us." I never stopped to do the math until two years ago when Jonathan and Katherine were both gone to the local junior college on Tuesday and Thursdays, and I was home alone to do everything. Multiply 30 or 45 minutes by 5, and I was doing two to three hours of chores every morning and evening, and YES, that IS a lot of work! So for the past two years, I've been telling myself that we needed to cut back, but I could never figure out where to cut.
Right off the bat, I'll say that I will always have chickens and goats. I cannot live without my fresh eggs and dairy. However, we could probably cut back on the goats. We don't need 18 goats in milk, and I certainly don't want to be milking 18 goats every single day come August. Choosing which goats to sell, however, is a challenge. I keep making lists, looking at ages, comparing milking records, and checking pedigrees to make sure I still have a wide genetic base for future breeding.
Eliminating the cows a couple years ago would have been somewhat easier than it is now that I've tasted the amazing grassfed beef that they produce. I have mostly given up on the idea of using them for dairy, but the beef is something really special that I would not be able to buy anywhere.
As much as I love the guinea hogs, I'm not happy about the idea of feeding them over the winter. They are the most amazing homestead hog during the growing season because they eat everything. They love grass and whatever fallen fruit and imperfect vegetables that come from the garden, but during the winter, we are mostly stuck with feeding them grain and hay, which I don't really like doing. Because we haven't butchered any of them yet, I don't really want to make a decision on whether or not to keep them. This fall we'll butcher the August 2011 pigs, as well as those from March, and then I'll make a decision on whether or not to continue raising them.
Then there are the sheep. I love the wool, but in all honesty, I probably have enough to last me the rest of my life. And I don't really need it. The lamb is tasty, but we have so much other meat. I can't think of any really great reasons to keep the sheep. Majik and White Feather are ten years old, so I don't want to send them off to a new farm. But I think I should probably sell the others. Then I could turn the sheep pastures into the retired goat and sheep pastures, and my old milk does could hang out with the two sheep and enjoy their golden years together.
When I asked Mike what animals he would sell first he immediately said the llamas, which surprised me. They are barely on my radar screen as they do not need much personal attention, but I suppose we should be considering everyone.
So, there you have it. I can't believe this is so difficult. I don't want my life to be completely consumed by farm chores when the fall semester begins, but at the same time, all of these animals feel like a part of my extended family. I knew my children would not live here forever, but the reality of them leaving never really sunk into my brain until now. I suppose I need to sell some sheep. It's not much, but it is a step in the right direction.