Tuesday, August 28, 2012


A week ago, my baby girl moved off to the University of Illinois to continue working towards her bachelor of science degree in molecular and cellular biology with a minor in chemistry. Our oldest left three years ago, and today she is an electrical engineer in Chicago. That means we are down to one child left at home, and I'm pretty sure that number will be zero before I blink! As much as I love my children and miss them as any mother would, there is also a practical side to them leaving home because we live on a farm.

Years ago, people would say, "That's a lot of work" when they learned about all of the animals that we had and how much food we grew for ourselves. I'd always respond, "Not really," and then explain that there were five of us, so it added up to less than an hour morning and evening for each of us. At the time, it never occurred to me that when my children were gone, it would mean more hours of my time spent taking care of farm chores. It easily adds up to about three hours each morning and evening when one person has to do it all, which is six hours a day! I've talked about this a little in past posts when I was left home alone, but those were isolated days -- not a regular occurrence. Now I have a new normal.

And I am terribly conflicted. It is easy enough to say that we need to sell some of our animals, but it is another thing to actually do it.  To sell animals, you have to do things like advertise them, and it is really easy to procrastinate when your heart really is not into something.

Remember the Shetland flock liquidation I wrote about a couple months ago? I've sold one ewe lamb. I may have mentioned it on Facebook, but I didn't really advertise them.

And I was planning to cut back on the goats. In fact, I have two listed as "for sale" on my website. But I am brutally honest about their shortcomings -- maybe honest to the point that I over-emphasize faults and talk people out of buying them? I don't want them to be disappointed, right?

However, there are only so many hours in a day, and I already have more than enough to keep me busy! And I've signed a contract to write another book, plus I'll be doing a book tour for EcoThrifty this fall.

Of course, we will always have chickens because I love my fresh eggs and chicken meat -- and besides, they don't take much time. And even though I've all but given up on the idea of milking the cows, I love having our own grassfed beef. I do know a farmer who raises organic cattle an hour away, and I'd recommend his beef to anyone. I've even eaten it myself when we didn't have any. It is actually the only beef I've eaten in 24 years that we didn't grow ourselves. Maybe it's the Texas blood in me (I lived there the first 19 years of my life), but I just really like the idea of having my own cattle. And the cows only take about 10 minutes morning and evening to care for.

As much as I love having my own pork, I'm not sure it is such a great idea to have my own breeding stock. If we went back to raising pigs from weaning in spring to finishing in fall, at least we wouldn't have to care for them over the winter.

The goats take more time than any of the animals, mostly because of milking, but it is especially hard to sell the goats! I have spent ten years selectively breeding them to get better and better milkers. Last year, several of our goats were on the Top Ten list for the One-Day Milk Test with the American Goat Society, and Charlotte was #1 for pounds of milk produced. And just this year, I finally had two first fresheners that milked like champions! Agnes, pictured above, freshened last September and is still milking! I couldn't possibly sell her or Alexandria, the doe that freshened in October and is still going strong. I have a number of distinct genetic lines, and in order to have genetic diversity, I need to keep a certain number of unrelated goats. I am starting to understand why parents might want a child to take over a business that they spent a lifetime growing. Even though I've only been at this for ten years, it isn't something that I want to give up! And it isn't something that I want to see dissolve into oblivion as the herd is sold off in bits and pieces here and there.

Then there is the house -- I'd really like to see our house get finished before I die. No, I'm not that old or sick. I'm just losing faith. Eight years after breaking ground, it still is not finished. That's why the blog intro (on the left) still says I'll write about housebuilding progress. Believe me, if anything ever gets done, I will let you know! They quit selling the tile that I was going to use around our bathtub. And I'm not sure we can find the baseboard or the deck railing. We put it out in one of the barns when we bought it five or six years ago, but I don't remember the last time I saw it.

I want it all -- beautiful house, writing books, growing our own food, and even a vacation now and then. But at some point, something has gotta give! Writing? No. Housework? Too late -- that's been history for a long time already! Animals? I just can't decide!


Kelly said...

I know how you feel except my kids don't help me at all. Everyday I chose one thing to do and do it thoroughly but other things get the so-so treatment! My house hasn't been 100% clean in forever, I have a constant list of things I really want to do that never get done because of all the things I have to do. Oh well one day things will all run a little smoother, hopefully :/

Stevie said...

I hear you about the goats. Except my thing is not breeding lines, but colors! I love all the variety of colors with Nigerian dwarfs. When I get a great tri-colored kid I just have to keep him/her to see what other color combinations I can create. Last I promised myself I would cut down on thw nigerians b/c the Nubians give much more milk. I sold, um,...2.

Carolyn Renee said...

Seems as you've been doing a lot of serious thinking. I had to trim down my goat heard numbers to a more manageable three last year....then I got a Boer female so now I'm back to four. But I guess it beats the 14 we had at one time. And I'm not even as particular about them as you are :)

I don't really have any helping hands for daily barn chores, so it's all me now. Does that mean when DD (3 1/2 yo) gets a bit older I can get MORE livestock again since I'll have her to help! :)

Becky said...

I think cutting out the breeding of your hogs, and just raise one for meat from spring to fall sounds like a GREAT beginning to down-sizing.

Laura said...

Could you just let some of the kids stay on? When I had dairy goats I left all the kids on and took them away at night. I milked the does in the morning and had plenty of milk.

Landscaping Ideas said...

It's always difficult to let something you love go even when you know that it has to go. Or to give up something because you no longer have the quality time to devote to it. And yet you love it still. I understand the conflict. We just have to be strong and make the decision.

Deborah Niemann said...

Laura - We let all of the does raise their own kids, and we never wean doelings that we are keeping. However, bucks have to be taken away before they reach sexual maturity, and we have to sell most of the kids. So, I still wind up with quite a bit of milking to be done.

Patty said...

I really feel for you, Deborah! I wouldn't want to let go of anything either. I'm constantly fighting a desire to do more. Selfishly, I hope you never stop raising those lovely goats. I'd sure like to buy a doe from you someday!


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