Measuring success.

Very soon now we are headed to the Small Farmer’s Journal horsedrawn Auction and swap in Madras, Oregon, so we need to do all our harness measurements on Gemini to ensure we can find him a proper working harness.

Maybe even a fancier cart or wagon, or perhaps something like a Pioneer Forecart to pull a harrow or a manure spreader, once we’ve save up a bit more for implements.

What we have discovered is that owning and driving this diminutive 10.3 hand Shetland cross pony is one of the things that we seriously love doing here at Seven Trees. There is something completely centering in haltering, currying and brushing him, picking hooves, and ensuring that his harness is in good order and oiled before placing it on and hitching up. Not only does it cause us to live more in the moment at a slower pace, it’s a tangible connection to our ancestors who relied for centuries on horses both large and small for the majority of their transportation. Driving our guy around the Everson area is not only a connection to the past, but must be termed sublime, especially on a sunny spring day. Maybe it’s because I had a horse so young, and for so many years growing up, spending more time with him than my friends or family. Whatever it is, Gemini might as well be a potato chip, because we’ve gotten to where we can’t have just one. It has become our goal to find him a match so we can form a team, although this has proven challenging to date. Maybe we’ll see his twin down in Madras this April or get some kind of a lead on her/him.

While I think a lot about measuring pony for all the parts of a new or used harness from down South, this has gotten me thinking about how to measure what we have done since starting here at Seven Trees. An acquaintance of ours recently listed off the animals we’ve had or raised that we no longer have, but termed it as that they “hadn’t worked out”. I don’t really view things as having “not worked out”. There are some things a person has to try their hand at before truly comprehending what it entails. While both of our parents/grandparents farmed, in many cases for a living [and even with teams of draft horses], we are far removed in deed and in memory from the daily workings of such things. What I have found for myself is that you can read about goats as the perfect homesteading animal in Mother Earth News, from the library, and online all you want, but having them is an entirely different thing. In the case of goats, they did a terrific service for us in the form of clearing an overgrown pasture of blackberries and an invasion of black locust tree shoots, but they were just not the animal personality that we took to. So once their labor as land clearers ended, it was time for them to go to new homes where they’d be appreciated. Lesson learned.

While we loved having Dexter cattle on our place, we were actually pushing our small acreage and pastures to the max and beyond with any more than one. We could raise a single steer with the land we have, but any more than one is too many. So again we learned plenty here. We have owned a dairy cow, hand milked her, and J was making cheese, yogurt, you name it with the bounty. So did owning Dexter’s, “not work out”? Or did we have a crash course in learning our way around cattle? In my book we spent a few years in some intensive training that cannot be replicated for love or money. J especially enjoyed having a milk cow and milking her by hand. Maybe someday, if one of us is able to be at home part or fulltime, then we’ll get another. But as it is, with the land we have, it’s just not a sustainable endeavor for two yet 40+ hour/week wage-slaves. Better for us to recognize this, than to try and make something work that just won’t, at least for right now. I don’t recall a chapter on this in Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living.

And I can understand that.

People want the happy ending. They want to hear about how successful you were, not how it, “didn’t work out”. Yet to me, trying something that ends up not being what you want to do is not a “failure”, it’s a “lesson”. Lessons we hope to keep experiencing as long as we are rolling around this earth. And I can’t think of anything more foolish than to keep trying to make something work that’s just not going to, or that we are not happy doing. Our time here is finite, and since we are starting our farm endeavors over and late, we have no time to waste.

So this spring, we undertook another experiment at Seven Trees Farm in the form of two weanling pigs.

I am here to report that not only are the buggers as entertaining as all get out… so far the set up we have is working quite well. They have a self feeder with a 50# capacity, a 35 gallon gravity capacity water barrel with a nipple they can drink from as needed. The investment we made in cattle panel for our perimeter fences has proven invaluable yet again as the fencing is already there in place. We added an 8” high strand of hot wire around the bottom for the pig zone, which they already respect and that keeps them from rooting too much on or under their fenced area. And the 4’x 4’ x 8’ rough pig hut we built is home sweet home to our hogs. They love hanging out inside, dry, burrowing in the straw to sleep so deep that we have to get close to see where they’ve gone!

A good deal of our pig yard set up design came from the 2010 Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winter School we attended in Stanwood and Jim Dignam’s class on pork production. Not only did he share his years of pig experience he also had some very entertaining stories to tell that made us want to try raising pigs ourselves.

So if we raise these hogs to butcher size, have them processed to fill our freezer, and next year we decide not to get anymore pigs, will it have not worked out? Or was it the journey we relished, not the destination. Good thing we are pursuing these challenges for ourselves and for no one else. But maybe by sharing what we’ve done via this blog someone else will learn that despite what the books all say, their mileage may vary!

I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.  ~Thomas Edison

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6 thoughts on “Measuring success.”

  1. Reminds me of my ex-husband. I guess it can be said that the marriage didn’t work out, but I can’t imagine who I’d be today had I not had that experience.

    Some experiences are worth more than others.

  2. I think it’s all been an excellent, educational adventure. I love the latest, piggy chapter. Keep on learning/exploring!

  3. You are on the most grand adventure! What is not to like or to be disappointed about? It never even crossed my mind that any of your undertakings where failures. I’m no farmer, so I guess there are expectations involved on your end, but from where I sit, you are using “all of the buffalo” in everything you have done and everyone is learning so much! [Just don’t get rid of the chickens – I’m partial to those girls!] 😀

  4. Great post!! I think there is so much you guys have to teach, brought forth with humor, honesty and technical knowledge (not necessarily in that order)that I would really enjoy a separate part of the blog with more about the how’s and why’s.

    Great to have been there, but wouldn’t want to go there again – I sure have said that often, and most of the time without regrets.

  5. @ Cile – Thank you and chickens are definitely staying. @ Jannette – we need to write more of the how and why. We did more of that I think early on. Should get back to it. For instance, the pig water system and how it went together. It’s part galvanized pipe, part hose, all the fittings and adapters, feeding from an old rain barrel, with the drinking part fastened off to a post. Figured out how to do it all ourselves after we got just the nipple end where they drink. That could be an entire article all on it’s own. Sweet!

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