My Misadventures in Homesteading

Start a farm they said, it would be fun they said!

It’s me, I’m they.

First off, can you really consider it farming if you only have a compost heap and a tenth of your seven acres pastured, containing two horses and two goats? Maybe it’s homesteading? Maybe you call it a hobby farm? Or maybe it’s just a couple of people owning some animals that eat lots of grass because I’m trying to convince myself that it’s cheaper than buying a lawnmower.

Travis and I bought this property because of its potential to make all of our dreams come true. Half of the seven acres would be turned into a large garden and pastured so we could bring home whatever animal fancied us that day. Probably a lot of alpacas. And the other half transitioned into a race car garage and golfer training mecca. (Go ahead and take a stab at which half is for me.)

Why a homestead you ask? In high school a friend of mine had goats. One of those goats had a baby goat that I became obsessed with, claimed as my own and carted around everywhere like Dorothy did Toto, even taking him to our Homecoming powderpuff football game attempting to pass him off as the team mascot before being reprimanded by the principal and asked to leave. You could say my fascination with homestead-hobby farming started there. Let’s not forget, I once penned an email seeking employment that had “about those sheep” as the subject line because I desperately needed to be part of a living nativity scene and I have always believed in the therapeutic power of nature. Remember when Travis said I “should live in the wild and be free”? Well he’s doing his best to make that as much of a reality as possible without me actually getting naked, covering myself in mud and taking up residence in the woods like Mick Dodge.

For my birthday this year my friends and I indulged in a spiritual spa day. We went to a local metaphysical store for tarot card readings, reiki sessions and snatched up fancy rocks for some at home crystal healing. I did warn you that I was seeking a more homeopathic and organic lifestyle right? At the time, we were amidst real estate negotiations for our house and that tortuous process really should come with complimentary energy healing. What a nightmare. Anyway, during my personal tarot reading I asked about our property, told her about our dreams for the place and asked if it would all come true. She laid some cards on the table and said “yes of course, but it won’t be tomorrow, it will take time and things will be put on hold.”

I heard “yes” and stopped holding my breath. I’ve learned over the years not to rush time and I was satisfied knowing that someday in the distant future I would be tending to my own pumpkin patch while watching my alpacas graze nearby as Travis and Rinn hit golf balls in the backyard. But what could possibly put these plans on hold?

Oh that’s right, she forgot to mention that I would soon embark on creating and bringing new life into this world. Sometimes I’m tempted to go back and be all “come on lady, you really didn’t see this coming?” but then I remember that divination isn’t an exact science and chances are I would’ve laughed in her face if she told me Travis and I would be having another child.

As it turns out, being pregnant has slowed down our progress. Have you tried digging 150 fence post holes in 100 degree heat while gagging on your own tongue because you have a record breaking case of morning sickness? Yeah, not a good time. We ended up calling in reinforcements. Travis’ dad and brother came for the rescue and bless them, got enough done so my horses could come home and that’s as far as we’ve gotten. I could never thank them enough but we have decided to name this baby after them so I think we’re off to a good start. The moral of this story, perform strenuous physical labor on our behalf and we might name one of our children after you!

Now accepting applications for additional fence installation and lean to construction.

As it turns out, I’m ok with taking things slowly. Truth be told, I’m having a hard enough time keeping the animals I do have from killing each other, or in some of their cases, killing themselves.

After a tortuously long year and a half, Tui is finally home! Our reunion was magical but in true Tui fashion, he was nearly gored by one of the billy goats in his first 48 hours home because he doesn’t know his own limits and it only took a month for him to get into something he shouldn’t have which required an emergency trip to the vet because I thought his face might fall off. A fire ant mound, a snake, a fox hole; we can’t be sure where it was he put his nose that it didn’t belong because he did a terrific job of tearing open the bites/wound with his own nails making it impossible to identify the original cause of his torment. We were finally able to retire the cone of shame a few days ago but he will remain on antibiotics for another six weeks.

Tui, or Tui Bananas, the patriarch of our animal clan and dead set on racking up the highest vet bill.

Then there’s the goats, Waylon and Willie. Before I even start down the driveway I find myself uttering the serenity prayer because chances are I’m going to find one of those adorable idiots with their head stuck in the fence, even though they are completely capable of coming and going from the pasture as they please. And let’s not ignore the fact that Waylon and Willie are as gluttonous as they come, always risking their lives to get at the horses’ and the dog’s dishes during feeding time. I started separating EVERYONE during meals after Dakota tried to curb stomp Willie and kicked Waylon in the head. Of course the goats still find a way in and then I end up chasing everyone around with a riding crop like a lunatic because how else do you parent livestock?

Willie and Waylon, they would walk into oncoming traffic for grain.

The horses do alright except when Rinn fails to understand that you can’t just leave the gate wide open while trying to take one of them out because the other is sure to follow and then all hell breaks loose and I’m running down the gravel road shaking a bag of Nickers, praying they don’t get hit by a car or trample through one of our wealthy neighbors well manicured lawns. Twice this has happened and twice I’ve gotten passive aggressive emails that I was sighted on someone’s security camera because “did you know your horses got out?”

Wait, what? My horses got out? I had no idea. I just thought ‘hey, my horses aren’t in their pasture but you know what sounds nice? Taking a stroll while carrying around a giant bag of horse treats.’

People. Am I right?

Atlas, our warmblood rescue (and like most rescues, our easiest keeper.)

Dakota, or as I affectionately call him, Jealous Judy.

Of course, amidst all of this chaos we took in a black cat we’ve named Binx. You know like Thackery Binx from Hocus Pocus. Yes, Thackery. No that’s not a typo. And yes, I was shocked too. 35 years I thought his name was Zachery. You learn new things everyday. Anyway, he’s probably the one fur child we have that I shouldn’t worry myself with, cats being so independent and all that, but he likes to disappear for days at a time. Only showing back up when he failed to catch his own dinner that day or he got bored with whatever lady cat he had been pursuing. Those are the theories I’m working on anyway. It’s a cycle, four days at home prowling the yard crying about whatever cats cry about and five-seven days out adventuring the world, ignoring the fact that he has a family at home worried about his whereabouts and whether or not he’s going to show up with a gang of black kittens in tow. Don’t worry, he’s getting neutered just as soon as Binx and I can coordinate our schedules with the Horry County Animal Care Center. I’m not ready to be a grandma.

Binx, our panther on the prowl.

My take away from all of this? It’s probably best that we’re being forced to take all of this slowly because if I know myself as well as I think I do, I’d have taken on way too much too soon and I’d be drowning in runaway animals and fencing projects and an overgrown garden right now. Also, goat fencing is bullshit if your goats aren’t disbudded. Dogs shouldn’t have free reign of seven acres and gate operation is best left to the professionals, or at least an adult with a better understanding of animals and their free will.

Hey, I’m new to this hobby farming-homestead thing. One step at a time.

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