Dealing with Loss on the Homestead

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There are parts of homesteading that bring me great joy but there are also hard days of loss on the homestead. While I love sharing all the great parts–the growing plants, the harvest, the meals we make, or how we preserve the harvest; I think it’s also important to share the more challenging parts.

Last week was particularly challenging & we’ve dealt with a bit of unexpected loss on the homestead…But let’s rewind a little so that you can get the full picture.

The weather this year has been a little wonky. Spring was particularly rainy and cold. We even got a couple of inches of snow the day after Easter! Summer weather has fluctuated rapidly. There’ll be weeks where it’s in the 90s, hot and humid, followed by a brief rain shower, then the temperatures fall back into the mid-80s. We’ve not had a good rainshower in a few weeks.

We’re newbies when it comes to starting seed indoors. This year our seeds got started later than we would have liked and they didn’t do as well as we’d hoped. We’re still trying to find the right setup. Someplace that stays warm and gets enough light. Many of them ended up awful small and spindly looking. When it got time to harden them off we set the trays out in the garden & then got busy with a project inside and realized that it had begun downpouring! By the time we made it out to get them we were soaked through to the skin & most of the plants got hammered. We’re pretty sure we lost many of them then.

Many of the tomato plants that we started we lost. When we cleaned out the garden beds at the beginning of the season I found several volunteers from last year that we were able to supplement. However, we forgot one crucial step when we planted them–adding a banana peel. It gives the plants added calcium. So we improvised and started soaking banana peels in water and watering the plants with it.

We’re in the middle of August and are just now starting to harvest tomatoes! The plants are full of green tomatoes but it’s taking forever for them to turn. This could be due to the crazy temperatures, forgetting the added calcium, planting volunteers, or even supplementing with store-bought plants later in the season.

But that’s not all. We’ve lost about half of our Bloody Butcher corn to cornsmut! Squash beetles have practically decimated our squash! We’ve lost two of our laying hens this year & two of our meat birds. And last weekend we found that two of our bunnies had died!

So, how do we deal with loss on the homestead?

Homestead loss can come in a variety of forms. Loss of crops, animals, or some other form. When it comes to crops we tend to handle the loss by doing more research. Looking up weather patterns, what causes the disease or pest, and what ways it can be prevented. Learning about what went wrong and ways we can improve.

When we noticed the squash beetles we did a little research and started treating the plants with diatomaceous earth. When the beetles persisted, we did a little more research and tried Neem Oil. Note: our dogs are not a fan of the scent, particularly Wyatt. Over the Winter we’ll do some more research and see what we can do to prevent them next year.

Dealing with the loss of an animal on our homestead is a little different.

For starters, as a general rule we tend not to get too attached to our livestock. A good way to do this is to not name your animals. Full disclosure, we break this rule. All of our layers have a name but I’m pretty sure that only JoJo can tell you who’s who and every name of every bird out there. Our bunnies have names (though these ones we’re only using to gain experience taking care of bunnies and for their fertizlier). One of the meat birds is mistakenly a different breed than the others and considerably smaller, so I’ve named it Tiny.

We’re all adults so the way we deal with loss on the homestead is different than it would be if there were young children involved. The number one thing that we do is show grace. We all deal with loss differently and we give those that need it time to grieve. We let them talk it out and process it, and sometimes depending on the situation we’ll do something productive to try to prevent further loss.

For example, we noticed that 2 bunnies had died within maybe 6 hours. So we took the afternoon to deep clean the bunny hutches. Washing out the waterers, and feeders, and giving eveything a deep scrub. We let the other four bunnies get some time on the grass, clipped their nails, and brushed their fur. Though we don’t know what caused the bunnies to die we did what we could to prevent more loss and sprinkled the bunnies with diatomaceous earth to prevent parasites.

We talked about how we would deal with loss on the homestead if we were younger. We’d start by looking for books that deal with loss. Maybe writing about it in a journal or drawing pictures. We were all older when we started homesteading so we’ve not really experienced loss with young children. Those of you that have, what did you do or what would you recommend? Share your thoughts below in the comments!

Though we’ve dealt with some loss on the homestead this year there’s also been a lot of good!

Once we’ve processed the loss and things that we may be able to do differently we try to find the good in the situation. Ususally one or two of us will remind the others that yes this is hard but look at the good! Though our squash plants have struggled we’ve been able to get a decent harvest. We ate several zucchini fresh, gave away some to family, and put some up for over the Winter. Even though the plants look dead there’s even a few more pumpkins and squash on the vines ripening!

a harvest despite the loss on the homestead

Though to some degree loss on the homestead is to be expected, that doesn’t make it any easier. We’re learning how to handle the loss, pick ourselves up with God’s grace, and learn some lessons along the way.

Until next time,

Bailey Sue