Too Many

Yesterday everyone was happy to be outside in the weak spring sunshine and 55° warmth, to loll on open ground suddenly, blessedly free of snow.

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I have known for a while now that I have too many animals.

My great plan for turning a profit by keeping two cows to raise calves for beef was logical, but flawed. I did not realize how much the sheer labor involved (feeding, watering, mucking, milking) would multiply, nor how tedious and occasionally alarming a herd of teenaged boys would be.

At the same time, last fall I had kept the nicest of last year’s ewe lambs to sell, but the interested buyer backed out at the last minute and other inquiries made me anxious (“do sheep need fencing?”) so I’d felt forced to overwinter fourteen. Then lambing brought the predictable population explosion.

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This is too many animals for a single person with an outside teaching job and no back-up help.

This winter was grueling and the past month nearly finished me off. I will write about it eventually. For now, I am concentrating on catching up with the work and making plans to reduce my numbers significantly over the summer. I am going to find another family-cow home for Dorrie. Leo the bull will depart to slaughter after he breeds the cows. The steers will grow up and go. I will keep half a dozen ewes. I am not going to raise pigs this summer. I am even thinking of turning to beef cattle for a few years as a rest.

In six months the barn should be much quieter and my nerves less exhausted.

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3 Responses to Too Many

  1. Shawn H says:

    I know there are time when I, too, have to stop and realize I have too much on my plate. Exhaustion and stress, grief, certainly all overwhelming things that force the realization to the forefront. Downsizing can be such a relief at such times. When you love the animals and they are a source of therapy, it’s easy to get caught having too many. Many of us are thinking of you and keeping you in our hearts and prayers.

  2. Viv says:

    The balance of life and all of its joys and obligations vs. fulfilling our dream vision of the beautiful farms in our heads is a tough one to achieve. One frozen waterline, a few extra animals , an unexpected injury or loss just tips the scale. I gave up my beautiful Belted Galloways , comical Saxony ducks and Buff geese. for a bit of barn sanity. Three feeder pigs pay for themselves and work our rocky land. My Katahdin flock is growing but I will control myself when deciding who will overwinter and stay in the flock. Fencing, water and hay are just too hard to manage, especially in the winter and my “dream-farm” has needed a reality check. I hope you can find some peace in this time of mourning.

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