Frugal February went off without a hitch. We ate up a bunch of stored stuff, finished some projects that were in a state of near completion, and began plans to meet more of the goals on our way to sustainable homesteading.
Some things were not as great. I had a massive failure of the garden seedlings I had started in January; nearly 50 plants lost in a matter of a couple of days. I was crushed. Never have I had so many seedlings die, and I still have not figured out the cause. Fortuantely, I am recovering, and I still had seeds for most of those varieties. We’ve had frost and freezing temperatures even today, so I am not missing planting time for my tomatoes and peppers, they just won’t be as big as I would have liked.
Now we face a choice: do we take on more (animals specifically), or do we wait until the summer when the kids will be home.
Our fences are still incomplete, but my husband and I have both been doing a lot of reading on the use of electrical fence with various animals, and are considering getting more pigs (probably two) and also some goats. We have experience using electric collars as dog training devices, and much of what you read with the introduction of an electric fence is similar, psychologically, to the use of e-training devices. Also, electric fencing is not nearly as costly or time consuming to install as traditional fencing, making it something that is occupying a lot of our discussions. Any animals we get will be for multiple purposes, both to help us with the land, and (eventually) as food sources.
Bacon, our current pig, was penned for a time up against the house in a place that needed clearing and some intense work. I had been unable to get in there with a mower, and expected to need to take the tiller and several days of back breaking work to really clean it out and make it a functional and useful part of the landscape. After only a couple of weeks our industrious little pig had unearthed several rocks, which the kids and I were able to simply remove from the pen. After that he began to noticeable clear down a lot of the brush, and even eat the suckers off several stumps. Six weeks in and the soil looks as good as two days worth of tilling and the rest of the clearing can be done with minimal work. I am very impressed and happy with our piggy!
We recently moved him (pen and all) to another area that was scrubby and over grown. He is well on his way to making it more agreeable to his tastes. With this in mind, and after having read Forrest Pritchard’s book and some articles by a number of “insane” farmers, I hope to keep putting animals to work on our property. There are several areas were we would like to clean up the existing fence line and clear the property. Nothing heavy, but things that are outside of taking a mower to. Not to mention a mower is just not practical for 10 acres. Goats, however, would be extremely practical. Additionally, it seems there are an awful lot of people with too many animals right now, at least if Craigslist is to be believed.
So, do I take on more, with the abundance that is offered and the reasonable prices I’m seeing, or do I wait for summer and make it a family project? I can see benefits to each.
I think the addition of a couple of pigs would not impact our daily lives that much, since there is a large pen and food is easy to access. With goats we were planning to get bottle babies, so the children would be actively involved in the raising of beasts. This covers several issues for my family, including imprinting on the animals that the children are bigger than the individual critter. (I plan to do what I have heard grandparent-types speak of, and have each child pick up the kids; under supervision.) This also lets the girls develop a sense of responsibility to the animals and to share the burden of bottle feeding.
On the flip side, price and availability are always a factor.
With 21 chicken eggs in the incubator and 15 turkey poults set to arrive in a couple of weeks we have a lot of debating to do, to determine the best course for us all.