Thursday, December 1, 2016

We're on track again

After the period of thaw winter is returning once more and now it might stay for a while. The lakes are covering up with ice and once again I am in awe by the moaning, wailing sounds it makes as it expands and thickens. On a starlight, crystal clear night it creates the most surreal atmosphere. A dusting of snow and a full moon would just complete the whole thing.
As has become custom by now, not that I'd want it this way, we suffered from an economical backlash. My wife's 5 weeks unemployment during summer and my 7-week hole in my agenda during early autumn have caught up with us during the last 2 months. We were so glad we had stocked up on food during summer! This might have all been avoided had bureaucracy been not as bad as it is in Sweden. We still are dependent on an income, yet my wife's unemployment åayment still hasn't come in.... since july!! I am not eligible for one, since I am not officially unemployed, despite no income for 7 weeks. Once more a reminder of our dependency and once more a motivation to create a life here that would minimize the impact of such happenings.
Yet there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, hoping it is not the headlight of an oncoming freight train. By the looks of it my wife will be employed fulltime starting january 1st as a crafts teacher for both woodworking and sewing. She even has the prospect of getting an education in thse fields, complete with a degree at the end, so she'd be a licensed teacher! That would be 3 birds with 1 stone; a fulltime job plus learning crafts in both woodworking and sewing; all 3 highly welcome in our homesteading plans.
This news could not have been more welcome, since prospects at my job are looking bleak. The authorities have finally begun to realise that they have been spending funds to freely and now there are severe budget cuts, which will have a very negative impact of both the refugees as well as the staff. A good deal of the kids will be forced to fend for themselves much more, whilst still sharing all the commodities and staff will be severely reduced. Looking back at my experiences with refugeecare and similar economics and facilities, this is a recipe for rapidly increasing tensions and thus violence. Already the atmosphere has become tence among staff....
So all this makes that we are actually stepping up our focus on this homestead. I will continue to fill occasional holes in the schedule at work, but no more fulltime substituting during the summer months or any other long term, many hour work periods. My job will be taking care of home, animals and garden.
And since I do not have enough to keep me busy all day...... We are picking up plans to increase or homesteadingness by adding..... *drumroll......* goats!!
Now wait a minute..... I said before we would go for cows.... Yes, well.... there are a number of conditions regarding cows that might make that step one to far or to large. First neither of us has any form of experience with cattle, secondly we would have to use someone else's land, which makes things a little complicated, especially if the cooperation between them and us becomes flawed for whatever reason. Third we simply have no barn or anything to house those cows and even a shelter might be an issue on someone else's land in terms of permits, location and materials. And last finances; buying a cow will set us back considerably. Buying at least 3 to get at least some idea of a herd would simply prove to much for us. And then we'd have to have fields with electric fending which costs a pretty penny in itself.
plucked from pintrest
So goats.... Not ordinary goats, but African or Nigerian dwarf goats. Most likely the first, since these are much more easy to get here. Now as I understand it there are only benefits for us. First, we most likely can keep them on our own land, namely on the rocky, forested part, which is not very useful other then a nice place to sit.... which we do not do all that often anyway. If we would do this then we'd need some fencing too, which can be done with 2 rows of sheep fencing on top of one another and that fencing is the same as we are using for keeping the dogs in the garden. Often you can get rolls of this fencing for free.
Creating a goathouse looks very well possible by extending the roof of the chicken coop to one side, add walls and other necessary facilities. Additional bonus is that this way the animals can keep their homes warm during winter simultaneously.
Thirdly goatmilk appears to be a lot better for human consumption and the milk is equally suitable for butter and cream, but the feeding seems a lot less fussy than with cows. There are more options available like using garden- and kitchen "waste" or clippings from fields and bushes.
And then there is the all important issue of finances. We can easily have a complete flock of dwarf goats for the price of 1 cow.
The downside so far? I am not too fond of goats, but that might be because I remember them as being large, smelly and headbutting me.... That was a long time ago, so time to broaden my horizons once more.

And speaking of animals, all ours are doing well. The chickens have finally completed their shedding period and are looking more presentable by the day. We finally managed to get the chickencoop insulated completely, so hopefully they will not freeze their toes off, when winter returns in earnest. During the previous coldspell we were quite worried about them, but they managed the -14C rather well in a non/barely/bad insulated shack.
Big problem these days is that they are not allowed out in the open. Bird Flu rages in Denmark and the first cases have been confirmed in southern Sweden too. So the authorities have declared a coop-up for all feathered livestock. Our flock, being regarded as a hobby, is allowed to go out in the enclosed area, but they prefer to pretty much spend the days inside anyway. However as soon as we open the door to go in and feed them, they flock toward it and try to get out that way!
Before they were confined to their quarters, they happily roamed around the garden. They quickly discovered the bales of hay in front of the coop and got busy!! Before I knew it they had completely picked apart the top half bale, of which the other half was used inside the coop. They had a party!!

Caught the 2 culprits!!

Our cats prefer to stay indoors mostly as well. The cold and the following wet were not so much to their liking. Our latest addition had a bit of a surprise for us. (S)he was sold to us as a she, but as "she" developed and grew, it turned out that "she" was actually a he!!

And then there are our "boys".....
Energetic as ever, they regularly drove us to the point where I yelled:"Sell them!" But whenever I have cooled down I realize it really isn't their fault and getting rid of them simply is no option. My conscience and feel of responsibility will not allow that. We have taken them in, so we will take care of them as best as we can, despite annoyment and frustration. However we have come to study their behaviour more closely and have begun to notice patterns. When full moon is about, they go nuts and they do so too when there's wind. They pull and pull and pull and there's no holding them back or correcting them.
However we also noticed that there is something "wrong" with them. Something mentally. Rex' brain appears to be overactive. Sometimes so active that he can not compute even the simplest of commands, like left, right or step. He regularly appears lost when we give those commands, unable to grasp their meaning. This by no means is always the case, but on certain days. These are the days we can not leave him alone at home for even 5 minutes. He will destroy something. He struggles with concentration and above all focus and as a result has difficulties in learning new things or if he does, struggles in using that. He also appears overprotective and/or very insecure. I am sure that that is, because of his history previous to his coming to us. He is damaged, so that is something we really have to take into account.
Lester on the other hand is just plain stupid. He really is. If I had to compare him to a human I would compare him to a 4-year old boy. A none too bright boy at that. He is joyful and kind, but has the equivalent attention span of the aforementioned boy. And the enthusiastic drive to check new things out, regularly yanking us this way and that.

But we are slowly making progress in "raising" them. We can meet others without ending up in a freestyle wrestling match, we can sort of call them back when we see hares or roe deer and we can get them to take it slow..... more or less.... We'll get there in the end. I am a bit dubious about the sledpulling-thing though. Let alone hooking them up to a tri-wheeler or a bike! We soon will see how the first part will work out.
One thing I am actively working on with them is forest travel. I was tired of complaining of not being able to go out into the woods without dogs redecorating the living room or piledriving me into a tree or dragging me across the forest floor. So now that we can read our dogs a little better, I take them off the trails and into the woods, hopefully learning them that they must take it slow in that terrain. So far the results look promising. I am still alive, no cracked skull and no bones broken. A few near misses and painful reminders... yes.
One more thing I was tired of complaining about was the lack of community here. So I started to create one myself, using facebook. I created a facebook group for sustainability, and all subjects related to that, within our own village and the response so far is above my expectations! Time will tell if and how this group will develop and as such help create such a community or network, but I am hopeful. Our village, actually a gathering of many small ones, is 222 km2 large with maybe 2500 residents spread out over it, so getting into contact with locals or likeminded can be challenging. Despite it's limited number of inhabitants, our village has a lot to offer in regards to sustainability; pig- and dairyfarms, a chicken farm, meat cows, a slaughterhouse, a few beekeepers, hunters, some large scale farms, plenty of appletrees abound. We have forests, a river with a hydropowerdam, lakes, a sawmill, a tractor garage, you name it.... The only thing missing is folks growing their vegetables and cooperation and I am hoping that the use of this tool will close the gaps between a good number of the inhabitants and increase the sense of community....


  1. Wow what a full plate and everything on the plate is good! Even when challenging and thought provoking. I especially like the FB sustainability group! Fantastic stuff!

  2. Sounds a lot more full than it really is.