This morning, I brought Monty and the lambs to the butcher's. I feel both sad and relieved that they're now gone. I'm sad because they were really cute and affectionate with me and I'll miss them as they were more like pets than was wise for me this season. I'm relieved that they survived on my farm to this point (the 2 littlest goats, 2 bantam hens and one of the layers did not), and I no longer need to worry about keeping them healthy and safe from predators. I can also now leave the farm for more than a day without having to get someone to stay over and take care of them in my absence.
They were much more socialized to me than normal because I chose to stake them out on leashes at various locations around the house and outbuildings each day to get their fill while also acting as lawn mowers for me. They did a great job of eating up weeds and clearing brush. Each morning, I would pick a new spot, pound the iron stake into the ground, then walk them on leashes from their yard and shelter to their grazing plot. I would check on them periodically throughout the day to untangle them from each other and random vegetation (tall weeds, tree stumps, etc.) and make sure they hadn't knocked over their water. On really rainy days, I would keep them in their yard, supplemented with hay, but by the end of the season, Monty was big enough to just jump the electric fence, and sometimes take it down to bring the lambs out too. By the last few weeks, I would only leash the lambs and leave Monty free to roam, as the lambs acted as a leash for him since he wouldn't stray too far from them.
While I did enjoy having animals on the farm this first season, the process I chose was highly inefficient, and was only manageable for me this year because I barely had to weed my vegetable plot. I spent too much time socializing with animals destined to be meat. When I raise meat animals again in the future, I will get more, and set up proper electric fencing and automatic watering for them so that I won't have to untangle leashes each day. Instead of socializing with me, they'll have a larger herd to hang out with while they browse and graze and be less likely to follow me around like dogs.
Even though my first year with animals was highly inefficient for daily labour, I'm happy for the experience in teaching me what not to do in the future, and especially for giving me first hand experience with animal care, at a low capital cost. I know that I will be fine with handling both goats and sheep in the future, and look forward to having a flock one day where the ewes are milked and stay with me from season to season. Though raising animals is more emotionally taxing than growing vegetables, I definitely enjoy having them on the farm, and I feel much better eating their meat, knowing that they had a good life on my farm.
Monty, the first day he arrived on the farm. He definitely grew a lot since then!
The lambs, a few months back.
Me with Monty and the lambs, at dawn by the vegetable field about 2 weeks ago.
As for the chickens, I processed them all on the farm since they were quite old and not very meaty. I think I've gotten quite good at plucking them. They're all in my freezer waiting to become soup stock. Now I just have the bantam rooster and one bantam hen left which I'll be bringing to Everdale to overwinter. They're much too small to bother eating and I don't want to come back to the farm after being away for a week in the winter to find their frozen bodies. Since Everdale's willing to let them stay with their overwintering hens, they have a new home.
So that's my first season with animals...bittersweet, but that's the cost of being an omnivore. If I couldn't handle it, I would become a vegetarian.