Decisions, decisions. Every day we are faced with a multitude of decisions to make. Some are almost subconscious, and we make them without even thinking about it. Some are overwhelming, and stop us in our tracks. It is those that have us second-guessing ourselves, never sure about which one to make. Regardless of the one we make, though, decisions shape the outcome of our future. And if you don’t like it, you have to make another decision to change that outcome.
When first moving to the farm, Randy and I had to really think about making such a huge decision. It would completely change our entire lifestyle. The pros and cons list was long, but manageable. The funny thing about it was, there really was no decision to make. Our hearts had moved long before we did, and it was up to us whether or not we wanted to follow. It was one of the best decisions we ever made.
Some of the easiest decisions to make is whether or not we want to be more self-sufficient, need more cows, more chickens, a bigger/smaller garden, or if we really want to mow the lawn today or just go fishing. These are usually made for us – do we want to eat healthier foods and live a more peaceful lifestyle? Then we need to become as self-sufficient as possible. Do we have enough pasture/coop space or enough money? Do we want to tangle with snakes hidden in the knee-high grass or do we want to mow? Easy-peasy choices, if you ask me. They are based on space, money, necessity and love.
There are decisions that can be hard on the heart, but easy on the mind. I never, ever like sending some of my calves to the sale barn, but when you have more bulls than heifers, it can become a problem very quickly. In order to manage space, cost and viability, all of our bull calves are steered out, and all but one each year go to the sale barn. The remaining calf is kept for future beef. The heifer calves are kept for breeding and replacement heifers. Chickens are a bit easier, but we do have space considerations. With chickens, the replacement chicks are needed on a constant basis to keep our egg numbers up. Our biggest decision there is whether or not to hatch our own, which means reducing the number of eggs we have to sell, or purchasing chicks, which means we keep our eggs but still have the expense of purchasing new babies. With one look at our current expenses, that decision is usually made fairly easily.
And then there are the decisions that are the hardest – both in heart and mind. Recently, we had to make the decision to put Lacy down. She was our Lab, and had been with us for fifteen years. She had congestive heart failure, and she did okay for a while, but then came the dreaded night that she made a turn for the worse. After speaking with our vet, she probably could have done okay for a little while longer, but she was beginning to suffer. My heart was split in two. I wanted to keep her forever, but making her suffer was too cruel for words.
Another decision that is going to have to be made in the very near future is keeping or selling Scratcher. She is the most gentle of souls and has a heart full of love for her humans. She will stand still for hours if you would only scratch her brisket and behind her ears. That girl almost melts with all that attention. However – a cow with that much age on her (she’s close to nine years old), begins to have a few problems. First, her calves will begin to have a lower birth weight, which can cause problems with their growth. Then, her teeth begin to wear down to almost nothing, which means she can’t eat enough to keep her healthy. Right now, the calf she has is causing her a weight loss that is borderline unhealthy. Our option is to wean the calf and see if she regains the weight. If not, then it’s time to make the final decision.
Some of our decisions are based on the time we have available. I don’t have pigs right now, because of time. Some decisions are based on money, which is why my barn still leans to the left and you can hear the tin roof rattle something awful when the wind kicks up. It’s these decisions that we have already made, and know that we will have to change the outcome sooner or later. Take meat birds for instance. We have raised them in the past, and decided that the extra space and time made it a little more difficult to maintain. But when I bought three chicken breasts for almost $10.00 at the store the other day, our decision was altered, and I now have 11 meat birds in the coop. We bought a ham to cook for a Sunday lunch at church, and after paying the exorbitant price, I immediately started working my mind through what I had available to reinforce our old pig pen. Whether Randy likes it or not, I think it’s about time to get that breeding pair I’ve been wanting. Or, at the very least, a couple of piglets from Mr. Temple.
And through it all, we’ve made a couple of bad decisions – like the purchase of one cow from an individual, and not having her checked by a vet. Right after we first got her, we discovered she had had a case of foot rot. When it came time for her to deliver her first calf, she not was unable to have it on her own. The calf was trying to come out, but was stuck, with the birth sac firmly in place. After a fifteen minute chase in the pasture, we finally managed to pull the calf, only to lose it. Several days later, we began to lose the mom, and after a call to the vet, discovered she had Johne’s, a fatal and contagious gastrointestinal disease. We lost her, and then had to watch the rest of our herd carefully. This decision cost us time and money, but we also learned one of our hardest lessons from it. Even though the previous owner had no clue she carried Johne’s – it takes a vet to do tests to know for sure – it was still our responsibility to look for issues such as these.
Whether subconscious, easy or difficult, we all make decisions every day of our life. The question is, are we making sound decisions, based on all the facts and sound reason? Or are we allowing our wants to carry us away into making decisions that will jump up and bite us in the end? Here on the farm, our decisions are mostly based on time, money, space and love. And sometimes, a decision based on love is actually the hardest one to make.
What decisions do you face? How do you make the final one? If one of those decisions is to become a little more self-sufficient, let me know. I’ll be happy to help in any way I can. And if one of those decisions is to get a kitten, be sure to call me. One of my cats just had two, and there is one more getting ready to deliver. I’ll have plenty to go around!