Maybe you have a fantasy about homesteading someday, and you have a vision of yourself wearing flannel and Carharts harvesting mountains of winter squash for your root cellar, and hosting apple cider pressing parties with your neighbors. You envision raising pastured cattle, who happily much on your luscious green grass, and you imagine quaint daily chores of animal feeding; maybe weekends spent planting seedlings or pruning.
Those things are all true, I’m not going to completely deflate you. But I want to give you a picture of the other side of homesteading, one that’s not quite so quaint, a.k.a., a more typical weekend.
Josh and I slept in until 7 (scandalous), and after a hearty homestead breakfast of sautéed veggies and scrambled eggs, we both dove into our respective weekend projects.
We had a miserably cold, icy, windy, and snowy week that downed lots of branches and a couple of whole trees. A blizzard on Wednesday was followed by 50 degree weather and pouring rain on Thursday, and 8 inches of snow melted in 36 hours. As a result, much of our land is under standing water.
Josh’s task was to dig some drainage ditches in hopes of drying out the saturated lowlands a bit faster, and also to move water away from our septic tank, which has set off a scary air-raid siren-type alarm 4 times in the past 30 hours–an indication that the pump cannot keep up with the water coming in.
He, with the help of a very good friend, dug 60 feet of trench, and shoveled a small mountain of sopping, saturated, clay-ey soil out. They then laid drain pipe and filled the whole ditch with gravel.
This fun task was broken up by a brief game of Whack-A-Rat at mid-day, which brings us to Gwen’s weekend project.
Gwen declared war on the rats. We’ve had a couple of skirmishes in the past, but the rats are winning. They have an extensive network of tunnels underneath the 60’s era chicken coop, which is home to at least a dozen Norway rats. They chewed through the floor of the coop in order to gain 24-hour access to the chicken feeder, and every time Gwen stapled chicken wire over their holes, they chewed new ones the next day. In a 24-hour period, they emptied a 5-gallon feeder of chicken mash.
We are not in the business of buying organic groceries for rats, and the chicken feed bill is going through the roof.
Plan of attack: Stage 1: kill as many rats as possible. Stage 2: seal off access to the coop. Stage 3: remove any food that isn’t bait for a rat trap.
After throughly cleaning out all of the coop bedding (and removing the chickens), Gwen shoved a couple of smoke bombs into the rat holes in the coop, which caused the rats to scurry toward their exits where Josh and friend were waiting with a shovel and pellet gun. They dispatched at least 5, and hopefully the smoke got a few more.
Gwen then stapled 1/2 in hardware cloth to the floor of the coop, and then laid a new layer of 1/2 in plywood on top of that, followed by fresh bedding. She removed the chickens’ food for the night, secured it in a metal drum with lid, and Josh set fresh rat traps.
In the midst of these 2 big projects, we also mixed feed, hung some mason bee boxes, scooped poop, cut winter hay from the field, fixed fencing, ran errands, and spread fresh hay for the pigs.
That was Saturday, and I’d say it was half of a pretty average weekend. Tomorrow we’ll chop up the fallen trees, devise more rat traps, wax bee foundations, and…
Just so you know. Homesteading is not glamorous, but it is deliciously flannel.