My homestead dreams included images of tidy outbuildings and manicured fields, populated by well-behaved livestock, with a snug little house heated by worm farts and sustainable wood that was harvested on-site. Nothing could be further from the truth. Homesteads and working farms are cluttered places. Turns out that I was a combination of deluded and snookered into believing the Homesteader’s Dream.
Buildings have a tendency to age and dilapidate. Everything, with the exception of the rocks in the ground, breaks in the middle of a project. And, oddly enough, livestock does not line up for slaughter.
“Everything here has been burnt or broke, at least, once before.” – Bobby Bare
There are some specific reasons my farm occasionally resembles a junkyard. Let’s play a game where you see how many apply to your homestead and whether you have some of your own that I missed. Leave your additions in the comments section.
Emergencies and forced delays
My farm may not have been hit by hurricane Irma, but she did push wind and rain up our way. Neither of which are conducive to working outdoors. All manner of weather can slow down projects, and often bring them to a dead stop. Even a simple change in the rain prediction will throw the next several days of planning into disarray and necessitate re-prioritization, based upon what would most likely be ruined, if it was rained on. That’s usually hay laying in the field.
I’m getting too old to work on non-mission critical projects in knee deep mud or freezing cold. Plus, the wife makes me come indoors when she sees lightning. So, work is often a stop-and-start affair.
Elements of nature aren’t the only reason we are surrounded by half-finished projects. Kids and livestock have a habit of coming down sick or injuring themselves at the worst possible time. Mrs. Cunha and I have been known to soldier on with broken bones and bleeding wounds, but the phrase “rub some dirt on it” doesn’t go over well with the Millennials. I don’t know what they will do, when adversity eventually comes their way.
Stocking up on supplies for future projects
Aside from cash, the go-to gift for a hard-to-shop-for man, such as myself, is fence posts. Specifically, five-foot metal T-posts. These knobby metal rods do more than hold up fence. They serve as boundary markers, tree supports, tie-down stakes, and any other purpose the imagination can conjure. When we moved from a rental into the house we now own, I pulled up every post I had sunk into the the rented land over the previous three years and had fantasies of never buying another in my lifetime.
I blew through them in a couple of weeks.
T-posts are in such demand around the Cunha farm that we’re saving our pennies to buy a pallet of the bastards, much like we did with a purchase of 2x4s last summer. They take up a bit of space in the garage, but just having them on hand when needed cuts down on time-stealing extra trips to town.
Not only is precious covered space dedicated to keeping bulkier items dry. The shelves of my garage are packed with little whose-its, what-thems, and doohickeys, partly because I can never find a specific item when I need it. I stopped counting the number of half-used rolls of electrical tape and cans of WD-40 I have. And God help me if I don’t squirrel away a couple of wedge blocks before the first cut because the Co-Op sure as hell won’t have any when the hay tedder throws a fork.
Error, mistakes, and inexperience
Homesteading is a continual learning process. No two endeavors go exactly the same, and often, the evidence of my ignorance is on display for all to see.
This past spring, I had one of my most brilliant ideas every. It struck me walking by the outdoor display at Tractor Supply. There, before my eyes and on sale, was a ten by ten dog run that could be quickly and easily converted to a sorely needed duck pen. We dragged it home, jury rigged a center pole with an eight-foot fence post, and zip-tied a tarp on as a roof. Not being engineers, neither Mrs. Cunha nor I realize that we had just created a giant kite.
In one of life’s bittersweet moments, we happened to be outside a couple days later, when an afternoon wind picked up our newest animal abode and crashed it down into the hayfield about sixty feet from where it started the day. The ducks looked surprised at the sudden disappearance of their shelter. Just before impact, I remember thinking their reaction reminded me of a Benny Hill skit, but not as funny because there were no women in underwear. Just confused ducks.
I was left so brokenhearted, both at the waste of money and general failure, I didn’t bother retrieving the wreckage until the day before I mowed the hay. Mrs. Cunha, understanding soul that she is, did not ask once when I planned to face my failure.
Deferred maintenance makes for ugly buildings
The barn on my farm is fairly young for a wooden barn. The house is about fifty years old, according to the property records the county keeps. I haven’t found evidence of the barn’s exact age, so I’ll just peg it as the same as the house, for the sake of example.
The house was clearly kept up with more diligence than the barn. It doesn’t lean near as much as the barn, but that might be attributable to the house being single story. Impending collapse aside, the barn is still much more of an eyesore than the house. Dulled galvanized roof, faded and peeling paint, and rotted siding that make me cringe every trip out there speak to God knows how many years the previous owners didn’t nail in a replacement board or pick up a paint brush. Maybe they didn’t have the cash for materials or just never got around to it. Valid and excusable reasons or not, the chores were not accomplished. The result is a building that passes for an abandoned crack house for drug addicted livestock.
Why does your homestead look like the set of Sanford and Son?
Leave a comment below with your favorite reason. I promise not to judge.
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