There was a dream that I dreamt. It was a dream from the days before I began a homestead. I saw myself with long draped skirt being swept in the wind. My hair in a long braid with a scarf pulling back the stray hairs that want the freedom to follow the path of the breeze wherever it lists.In this dream I saw the paintings of the milk maids. I used to envision myself holding the milk bucket and making my way out to the barn. I would find the sweet old cow out in pasture and I would call her. With romantic hope, I would await the clank of her bell with each step toward me. This is a dream, so bear with me. She would gently lead to her soft stall bedded with straw of the richest golden color.
I pinch the teat and hope for that big swelling stream. I get a few drops. Now it is not just the kids crying—I start crying. She thinks its cute to try to wipe away my tears with her hairy tail that is full of manure. It is not cute! At that point I started to have a melt down. And I was looking into my pail with about two squirts. It seemed to go on like this for an hour and I wondered how on Earth I thought this was ever romantic.I get out of there, let the beast go back to her calf and round up the screaming kids and feel like a failure. Yes, that was my first experience milking a cow. Why would I keep pursing homesteading after such an experience. I guess it was in my blood. I just figured it could be figured out somehow. I ended up getting some farmers out to show me the ropes and after some practice I did improve. I never liked milking, truth be told. I never was the picture of the milk maid. My husband soon had to learn how to milk the cow that I had to have! He did not want to milk either but he could see that I was not doing so well with it and that cow had a full udder. That is the amazing thing about my husband, he just does what has to be done, figures it out, and humbly gives himself over to the greater good of the family. I got good at making butter and cheese from that milk.
And years passed, keeping cows, chickens, pigs, ponies, and turkeys. We made it work. We figured it out as we went. My husband found a love for homesteading and we both saw it as a means to bring healthy homegrown food to the table and it gave our family a purpose to work together. It taught the kids to tough it out sometimes, learn to come to grips with death, take responsibility, and how to have respect for others including our furry or feathered farm friends. All in all, we never regret it. Some things are not easy but good for us. It takes work and perseverance to run a homestead. We do not think it is for everyone and we will be the first to let you know that it is not glamorous. Some people would never be able to handle taking the life of an animal you raised for a year. It hard but its farm life, folks.
A month ago we had to butcher the first homegrown steer. We used to always get our meat from the Amish who had a cow that was down (injured from slipping on ice) and we would only see the animal after it was already skinned and gutted. Sorry if that grosses you out. News flash, all your pretty packaged meats from the store were also killed, gutted, skinned, or plucked. We just choose to do it ourselves because we want to give animals a good life where they are not in some feed lot full of flies and gangrene, pumped full of hormones, or stuffed into little cages that give the poor creatures zero quality of life. We want to respect the life of animals that God created. Taking their life is never easy. It is the worst part of it all. I am speaking from my feminine perspective, perhaps. I have learned that life and death are a part of farming. Every creature will die. Sometimes the animals just die for no apparent reason. You just walk outside and find an animal just laying out in the field motionless. On our farm they live a happy free life and when it comes to be time, they do not suffer. We like to know what we are eating and how it was raised. Our beautiful steer went to greener pastures and I just felt like crying. Seeing him laying there, my heart just paused for a second to mourn the loss of a creature that I watched be born, watched grow, and enjoyed watching him graze peacefully for the past 3 years. Farming is not all grit and pride of being at the top of the food chain. I have to remind myself all the time the purpose of farm life. Even I have my moments where I catch myself drifting into a pool of romantic dreams and sentimental feelings. But farmers can’t pause to long.
It was always just the way it was for thousands of years all around the world. No one even thought it was an issue. It was just the means to feed the family. Butchering animals is not a glamorous part of the farm life. I wish I could wave some kind old fashioned farm wand and all the blood and and guts would just magically disappear but that is not the case. You have to deal with all of it. You got to get your hands dirty. You have to dry up those tears and sentiment and you have to tie on your apron and get your knife sharpened. You have to suck it up buttercup. There is no time to be fiddling around or fussing when there are hundreds of pounds of meat staring at you. You have to figure out how it will be cut or ground, what will be packed into the freezer and what portion will be bottled up in canning jars. We were able to call in a power fleet of reinforcements. God provided help to us. It was a monumental job to butcher this large animal at home. This is where the city folk divide from the country folk. It is where community life comes in. Many hands make light work. Friends from near and far came to help.
Here is Owen give us the orders. Teaching the team of helpers how to use the knife, how to sharpen, and what cuts need to be made.
It can be in-between the toiling, the dirt, the heavy lifting, the countless hours, the sacrifice of your time, the long butchering days, the canning, when on a day that is sunny, you look out across your land to see the animals happily grazing while you hear the birds singing. There are days where you feel like you want to stop the clock and just make it all stand still.Yes, homesteading is glamorous in between the complaints of the kids not feeling like they should have to weed the garden again for the 10th time that week. When we all sit down to a warm meal that all of our hands worked hard together to prepare, that is when you know you are right where you want to be. Fresh eggs and produce gathered right in our own backyard homestead. Is it is good feeling? Absolutely! Would we exchange it for the life in the city where all our food is easily obtained? Not a chance.The homestead life is for us. We would have it no other way.