Is Homesteading Glamorous?

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 would find my milk stool and set it beside her udder.  The light of the morning sun would come through the window of the barn that was set in the field stone so eloquently.  My braid was long and it fell over my shoulder and the sleeves of my dress where rolled to my elbows.  When I would pet her she would let down her milk for me.  I would yodel and sing to her as if she was my best friend.  I could hear the birds singing as the milk would fill my pail and the rhythm of each stream hitting the side of the pail would ring in my ears like a sweet song.  I would look down at my pail with the milk foaming to the top and it was done with such ease.  I was in a dream.  But this was not the reality.
The first cold January that I finally bought my Jersey cow, came all too soon.  I found myself experiencing handling a first time freshening heifer with a whole lot of pep in her.  Did she want to come when she was called?  No.  Did she want me to pet her?  No.  When she finally had the blessed calf, she tried to kill me.  And the romance of owning a milker faded quickly as that udder got tighter and begged to be relieved.  There was no one to relieve her except me.  I had a slew of little babies in tow.  My oldest was five years old while my youngest was not even 6 months old.
I put the cow in the stall and you would have thought that I was murdering her.  She starts having a melt down while my babies were sitting in the cold beside me in the barn.  They all joined me out of excitement but the reality was that I had gotten myself in a pickle with this angry cow.  So, by the time I finally got her into the stall, they all started crying because it was taking too long.  The baby still asleep in the house.  I sit on my  great grandfather’s old milk stool from a hundred years ago.  I pet her on her side and get a big fat side kick to my arm.  No braid.  Was there time for braiding my hair?  Nope.  It was too cold to roll up the sleeves and forget about the birds.  They were still sleeping.  Do you think I was singing to the cow?  Not a chance.  The crying kids are hungry and cold and I am staring at a udder as hard as a rock at this point and I have no idea what I am doing.

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.

After the meat was cut into strips, we weighed it.  Here is 50 pounds that we were salting and peppering to get it ready for the grinder.
2 times through the grinder seems to make a nice grain to the hamburger meat.
Next, we put the ground beef into some 9×13 cake pans to place into the over to brown.  This is a part of the canning process that we call crumble meat.  You can cold pack into the jars but it is difficult to get the meat out of the jars and literally has to be cut out with a knife, no lie!  So I like browning the meat first so it is just easier to spoon out of the jar.
Put it in the oven for 30-40 minutes on 350˚F.  When you see that the meat is holding together, take it out of the oven and use a biscuit cutter to crumble it up.
The girls were busy filling the jars with the crumbled meat.
The next step is putting the filled jars into the pressure canner.
Everyone was busy at their stations and cutting or grinding the meat all day long.  Just when you feel like you are getting close, in comes another 200 pound leg!
Some meat was especially cut for roasts and others were cut into cubes for canning beef tips.  Lots of decisions to make throughout the day.  The dogs lurked around waiting for the occasional scrap of meat that fell from their masters table.
We took a nice lunch break to rest for it was a long morning dealing with the meat and we were only half way there.  I took some of the ground meat and made a huge batch of chili soup that was a part of a haystack dinner.  I had rice to put down first.  You add a ladle of chile on top of the rice.  Next you add some shredded lettuce, chopped onions and green peppers.  Sprinkle with crunched corn chips and shredded cheese.  One little dollop of sour cream will top it all off.  Yum.  Everyone felt energized by the nice warm and delicious meal.  I always make a ton of food, dessert, coffee, and tea to bless my helpers.  I even give them all a share of the meat too.  I never want anyone to leave hungry.  If I can give them enough meat to give them a few more meals out of it, I am a happy camper.
Canner after canner filled with jars.  All in all, we canned a total of 72 quarts of ground or chunked beef.  The rest went into the freezer.  What a blessing.  I love the sweet fellowship of working with friends.  It makes the whole process seem more fun even when it is a crazy huge amount of work—and mess!
Is homesteading glamorous or dreamy?
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.

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10 thoughts on “Is Homesteading Glamorous?”

  1. Homesteadglamourgirl

    Haha! This is why I stick to raising plants for now. When I add meat it will probably be something with less power in the legs, like rabbits or chickens.

  2. Alicia | kitchentoolreviews

    Wow! I love your homesteading lifestyle. The laughter and family get together captures my attention. This is really the “family’s purpose to work together”.

  3. This post is a very good representation of reality! I grew up on a homestead, and loved it, other than the cow. Our Jersey cow hated women, children, and dogs. She came close to breaking limbs on both my sister and me on three different occasions. All other aspects of homesteading were enjoyable, including the butchering!
    Now, I am a farmer’s wife. We have a very large farm, a herd of beef cows, and a feedlot. Days when I am coated in manure, or am tired because I was out haying until 1:00 AM, I don’t think that my life is very glamourous. But, really, I have the best life that anyone could dream of. I am proud to be a farmer’s wife!

  4. Haha, I love your romantic dreams of homesteading! I grew up in a gardening, chicken-raising family, who tried goats (with terrible results) once, so while avoiding large animal experiences, the dreams were crushed before they had a chance to start! : ) My husband and I had a Jersey for 2 years, and yep, it’s just plain old WORK. I can miss her sometimes, she was such a sociable cow, my brother called her our “2,000 lb puppy”, but there’s no missing the work! : ) Not from me, at least! I can’t even imagine a butchering… wow. I’m glad you have such a great group of friends to help with that!

  5. Hi! I recently started a blog and we are planning to start a little homestead…eventually. Not as expansive as yours. I do realize how much work it all is, but do also see the romance of it all. I really enjoyed your post and will be reading more. Thank you for sharing and for the chuckles. God bless!

  6. gidday Erin. Love the photos. What a great day you had getting all that meat ready. I bet you all slept well that night. Here on our farm in Australia we do all our own meat, at the moment we are doing lambs but we have done steers in the past. Our lambs taste so much nicer and at least we know what has been done to the lamb before we butcher it. Living on our farm is hard work , rain or shine. Being organized and having a set routine is so important for both the farm and yourself. But at the end of the day watching the sunset with no one around for miles, a glass of wine and your hardworking husband beside you there is no other place you would want to be. Must go!!! Sheep to feed 🙂 Vicki xx

  7. Oh, no, don’t tell me that! I hope the cow we are getting is not that difficult! But I agree, the homesteading lifestyle is so worth it, even with all its trials. When we spent a very tiring day butchering chickens, I remember thinking what a great day we had as a family. So fulfilling and satisfying! Much better than watching TV or shopping.

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