2014 Lessons Learned: Farm Edition

I know we’re at the tail end of January already, but I’m still just kind of easing myself in to the new year. I’ve got some really fun plans for the weekend that include zero bottles of wine and 120 square feet of tile board that’s waiting to be installed in the upstairs bath. (That’s right… I’m holding the wine hostage from myself. These are the kind of things that happen when you live on a farm by yourself.) Which is probably going to be the first legitimate work I’ve done with my power tools this year (if you don’t count the whole build-missing-bed-parts debacle, and I don’t.) But, before that fun adventure re-starts, I figured it was worth one last look back at some of my lessons learned last year. I talked about the garden a few weeks ago, but the rest of the farm sure had more things to teach me. For example…

1.) How to re-insert a prolapsed chicken intestine with my bare hands. So… I’m not the most medically-minded person who has ever owned a farm, that’s for sure. I’m not squeamish when it comes to, like, the general functioning of bodies–human or animal–but I also may or may not have had to take seven deep breaths before attempting to splint my first chicken toe. (Real things. That nug still has a crooked toe, by the way.) However, if you’d asked me at any point in my life before this if I personally possessed the constitution to stick my finger up a live chicken’s butt and re-insert the intestine that had minutes previously been turned inside out and frozen on the outside of her body…

There really aren’t even words.

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But, I like to keep the fact that I’m a lucky, lucky girl on the forefront of my mind. For all of the wonderful moments of living on the farm… there are also chicken butts. Truth.

I thought for sure this nug wouldn’t make it, but she did. And when a different nug was attacked by a dog and ended up with a small-ish laceration on her back, I thought for sure she would make it, but she didn’t. I’ve learned to do what I can–even if it’s so far outside of my comfort zone that there is hemorrhoid cream involved–and to accept that there’s also only so much I can do, and that this is a part of farm life.

But I’ve still been looking for some kind of farm animal veterinary first aid classes (why isn’t this a thing?) to better prepare myself for these kind of farmergencies in the future.

2.) Life is better with a tractor. Listen, I don’t subscribe to the theory that money can buy happiness, but it can buy tractors. So…

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No complaints here.

Honestly, this should have been the first thing I bought after moving to this house. (I mean, except for the fact that I started selling off possessions the first winter I was here to heat my house with thousands of gallons of fuel oil… but right after “new roof” and “heating the house”, “buying a tractor” should have much higher up on my priority list.) I waited about a year too long to purchase this thing, but I’m so glad I finally did it.

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I was carrying around a lot of latent stress about “how to get things done” (things like keeping 4 acres of field from turning into a jungle, and hauling all of the spent bedding out of the donkey stall) which was all immediately solved the day this thing arrived.

So that was a valuable lesson, as were all of the things I learned about tractors on my journey to purchase this one. (Including this.)

3.) How to successfully merge flocks of chickens. Twice.ย  This is one of those things you hear horror stories about as a new flock-owner… how people tried integrating two flocks of birds one night, only to come out then next morning and see poor hen completely scalped by her coop-mates. I was so nervous about integrating the 2014 nugs with the 2013 flock that I didn’t sleep for a solid week. But with a strategy that included chicken-distraction techniques (heads of cabbage hung around the barn), a coop-within-a-coop, and, on one desperate day, setting my laptop up in the barn so I could work and supervise at the same time, all the Nugs became one happy family with only minimal feathers lost…

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The funny thing is that I went through a whole second round of this in Fall after I brought the guineas home. And despite my attempts to set up their own coop and enclosure out in the pasture, where do you think they ended up with no help, planning, or strategies from me whatsoever?

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Oh… just two more members of the flock.

4.) How to use a chainsaw. Thankfully one of my wonderful ex-dudes was himself an ex-lumberjack, and I still have him on speed-dial if I ever have questions about whether or not I’m going to accidentally remove one of my limbs with this thing…

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I’m probably not. (And, also, do I not have the most fabulous collection of ex-boyfriends? Seriously. What great humans.)

Oh, and last but not least on the list of things I learned on the farm last year…

5.) Not to leave the donkeys alone with a can of open paint. Even for a minute. Seriously.

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It wasn’t by any means the most epic year I’ve had, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of good in it, and I definitely learned a thing or two. Can’t wait to see what the farm will teach me this year…

19 Responses

  1. I am totally on board with you about idea of farmergency-training. That’s brilliant! Also, the pictures of your donkey kill me. They are just too dang adorable! Good luck with your tile project this weekend – looking forward to seeing the results! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. http://www.hoovershatchery.com is a fine family run hatchery in Rudd, Iowa with loads of chick info and varieties, along with guineas, turkey, and two types of pheasants.
    I know little of chickens other than not to pick your gum up should you drop it while in the chicken coup, you may find it five times ๐Ÿ˜‰ old dirty Irish chicken joke.
    My semi-retirement fun to do job at a local farm store adds dental & vision to my Ins. Pkg. and also allows me to help area farmers, ranchers, 4-H members with their many projects from fencing, water tanks, heated nug watering founts or to choose from any one of 7,000 chicks we’ll be caring for and selling very soon through spring. Still on the fence yet as to whether I will have a few layers and broilers yet. Perhaps after chasing them around the store and trying to keep them healthy for 3 months I will have my fill and find myself on my Softail bagger behind bars, with the wind in my face seeing the country. I have been thinking of a few chickens, since reading you Kit. My son sent me easy coup building plans out of a spa or hot tub shipping crates, knows I’ll be selling many chicks soon, n says he’d help. After talking chicks n their care with him today I will decide. He’ll be out to my mech / woodworking / technical creative / artistic / fabrication studio to install new hubs on the front of his first 4X4
    a 600$ trapping/hunting Blazer which has a tinge of dead animal smell to it…real chick magnet…NOT.
    You have gotten much done in the short time you’ve been at Liberty Kit….and your tractor does rock!; -) I could do much around my place with a medium sized skid-steer.
    May your wknd tile job go smooth and your finished job sparkle.
    ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Farm animal urgent care classes, YES! Is this a thing? It should be a thing. Vets of the internet, do you hear us? Skillshare would be a perfect venue, right? Maybe we should start a Wiki — everyone can contribute their articles/experience and avoid the chatter of BYC.

  4. Do you have a large animal vet? Most -good- farm vets are more than happy to teach you how to take care of most minor things.

  5. Great post . . . as always! Years ago I was a vet tech for a large/small/exotic animal practice. The time was most invaluable for preparing me to now care for my doves (200+). One trip to the bird vet for a broken leg ($500) was enough to say, got to “git-er done” on my own. Yes, it would definitely be nice to have classes on emergency care for farm animals. But then I have yet to run across a vet willing to give up the loss of revenue (to date) for emergency care. Please let me know if some runs across such info, though!

  6. While I agree the tractor is an amazing acquisition I think I remember your being busy with a few other things….like sleeping atop a 1/2 finished roof (your poor mother must have had a heart attack from that post!!) and burning piles of excess stuff with friends AND wine (see you can do both!) and other fun stuff like dealing with some donkey skin ailment…girl, give yourself a BREAK…life is about balance (from and Occupational Therapist :0) put up some tile, have some wine, put the rest of the tile up, sit on the floor, take a picture for us and drink the rest of the wine.
    Life is too short – enjoy every minute of the process!

    1. Thanks Dar! You’re so right, and I’m so bad at balance (both physically and metaphorically… my mom did have a minor heart attack at the sleeping on a roof thing.) I need to work on it a bit more!

  7. Our weekend is going to consist of splattering plaster all over our new hallway (also called knock down). So to keep myself calm from the impending clean up, I will definitely not have my alcohol held hostage! That is the only way to deal with that mess!

    I am happy that you shared your year with us!

  8. It’s good to look back and see ALL the stuff you have accomplished. Give yourself a pat on the back, and relish the winter “break”. Life is about balance, and while lots of people chill over the summer and vacay and play, you get in a ton of projects! I hope you get a chance to just enjoy the time and the farm for the winter. Balance, as someone above said. And wine of course.

    Speaking of ex-boyfriends, I think you and my almost 30 yo nephew would be a great match ๐Ÿ˜‰ He’s CUTE, but never found the right one (kinda strong silent shy type) but smart, funny, loyal to a fault after he warms up to you…no kids, and … is a finish/fancy carpenter by trade, AND a country boy! Am I right? He’s in TX.

  9. Thought afterwards that my comment might sound too weird… And I’m sorry if it does. Truely not meant to be creepy! Every time I read you, I think of him…and I smile. Friday early Margarita just made me over-share I think. :). Sorry.

  10. Kit,
    You are amazing with what you’ve accomplished and what you’re willing to take on. I’m just recently the proud owner of a small farm/horse ranch in Maine. No animals yet, we’re intending on moving up north permanently and filling our stables and coops. I can’t wait. I’ve learned so much from you and broke through the “unsure” barrier. Since I’ve run into your blog (searching on how to tile a backsplash with teenie weenie tiles :-)) I’ve not only learned how to accomplish that from you, also how to tile a countertop, how to use a wet tile saw, how to install cement board, how to install floors on my own, how I’ll care for my mini donkeys ๐Ÿ™‚ how I’ll care for and integrate my flock of nugs, and a ton about needing that Tractor right away LOL I’ve amazed the men in my family who just can’t believe what their 57 year old sister can do on her own LOL What a rush and terrific feeling. Just do it!!! Then break out the wine LOL

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