Just as the weather and seasons change and can be unpredictable, so sometimes are things here on the homestead. In the past 3.5 years, we’ve seen a lot of changes! As newbie homesteaders since 2017, we’ve been enjoying and exploring various opportunities that homesteading offers. For instance, in year one we bought 2 pigs, bred them, and then raised and sold their young in year two. In that time we learned to castrate piglets and raise them on rotational grazing on pasture. We learned how to butcher a young pig, inseminate a sow (although unsuccessful) and then butchered a 615# sow on our own. We could never had predicted any of that journey, but we did give it all of our heart and soul. There were ups and downs and I don’t regret any of it. We learned what we think we would or wouldn’t do again and we’re open-minded to the idea that overtime, that could change.
Two years ago we decided to explore another opportunity, working with young calves to train them to oxen to have working draft animals here. We brought home Nels and Wiit and raised them from calves. We trained them for work. They learned commands like come up, woah, gi, and haw. They went on daily walks, they grazed the pastures all summer long. They learned to pull, and boy did the kids love getting sled rides down the road.
In year two we had a few road blocks to training. Both Tim and I had injuries which made handling large animals challenging. Also, renovating the cabin and managing a growing garden and high tunnel were full time jobs on top of our regular work. Unfortunately this combination of circumstances impacted the amount of work we were able to do with Nels and Wiit. They still had their daily walks to pasture and received plenty of love.
2020 was a tiring year for us. As we came into the new year I spent a lot of time thinking about priorities and simplifying life. Tim had been doing the same. One evening we found ourselves reflecting on our past year and the year ahead, ideas that had been in our minds were vocalized and after taking a week’s time to think about the discussion and options, a hard decision was made. It was time to make some changes to downsize our responsibilities and costs. It was time to take a new direction, away from our original ideas. This includes several changes, with the biggest being choosing not to proceed with training Nels and Wiit for draft and no longer keeping them. When we spoke with some friends about this, they expressed interest in buying for beef. With hearing this, we knew that this hard decision was just made clear. We’d choose good food over the attempt to sell trained young steer in a region where this type of activity is rare. While our vision of draft for Nels and Wiit didn’t come to complete fruition, it was an incredibly enriching two years of time for us and friends who spent time with them, and as it goes for the cows they had a great life. They were cared for holistically and loved and they will provide healthy, tasty food for four local families who will enjoy meat raised within just five miles of their homes.
With a trailer rented from a friend, we loaded up the cows. We were so nervous they wouldn’t load, but their training really came in handy. With some simple guidance, they went into the trailer with no trouble. They made the trip to the processing facility (we didn’t want to take on this scale of project ourselves) and were easily loaded off. The homestead is already very quiet without their presence, since they always greeted anyone with mooing. As with all our animals, the decision to end a life is never easy. Also with all our animals that end as a meal, we have extreme gratitude for the opportunity to connect with them and have them enrich our lives during their time here and for the nourishment they provide for us after.
The homestead feels different now, but we are moving along with thanks in our hearts. We continue to evaluate what’s right for us and where to put our focus. We will always be learning and doing, adapting and changing. Sometimes this leads to tears and sometimes to joy and we’ll live it to the fullest. Life is good.
It’s seed starting time so the smell of dirt is in the air! Also, we’re wrapping up all the rehab and remodeling work on the vacation rental cabin and getting ready to list it for booking! Stay in touch on Instagram and Facebook for a sneak peek of it all!
Wishing you abundant peace, love and nature,