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Self Sustainable Living Turning Theory Into Action
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." -Thomas Edison.
Giving up is the only sure way to fail. However, there is no crime in learning from the mistakes of others. In our journey towards a self sustainable lifestyle, we have found numerous tasks that are inefficient, toilsome, or flat out just don’t work. The mission of this series of posts is to spare you some of those punishments, set you up for a greater chance of success and share some of the humor of it along the way.
In my last blog post I went over step #2 Do Your Homework.I broke down that step into the importance of doing research, why quality vs quantity is better, gathering the equipment that you will need, and prioritizing your goals. Today I will go over step #3, Try before you buy. If you haven’t read them you can start here.
#3 TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
Through experience I have found the value in preparing a meal or two of whatever it is that you are planning on raising as the best way to start a project. You should find the same breed or variety and try to get it from someone who will be producing it the same way that you will be. For example I have found farm raised ducks to be far leaner than the commercial ducks that I have bought from the frozen section of my local grocery store. This means that recipes need to be adjusted and a few test runs will be required to get the variables properly adjusted.
I encourage people to spend time caring for the plants or animals that they want to invest in before making any purchases. One way to do this is by volunteering at a local small farm or homesteader's place. In donating a few hours of your time you have the opportunity to learn things that may end up saving you both time and money later on. Particularly if what you learn is that the project you were planning on really isn't for you. It is also a great way to find a knowledge person who may be able to guide you as you are starting out and be there to answer questions.
This is where making connections, like I discussed in my last post comes into play. Building relationships is so important to success in most facets of your life and that certainly applies here as well. Finding a place to volunteer has the potential to not just give you insight into your next project, but it also gives you the opportunity to expand your network. You never know how the next person you meet will impact your life.
THE DUCK SAGA
One of the first things we raised on our small farm from start to finish were a few Peking ducks. I hadn't done enough homework upfront which resulted in numerous surprises along the way. We bought the duck hatching eggs from a local source. It took about 30 days in an incubator, that we kept on the kitchen counter for a bunch of adorable fluffy yellow ducklings to hatch. When they first hatched it was too cold to keep them outside so I decided to house them in a dog kennel in the far corner of the kitchen. This turned out to be very ineffective. It was difficult to keep clean and then one night when they were about 2 weeks old they figured out how to escape. I will never forget waking up to my then 6 year old son shouting to make me aware that the ducks had entered his bedroom, "Mom, MOM, MOMMMMMM!" he excitedly yelled. I leapt out of bed just in time to see a little duck scampering down the hall. His little webbed feet making slapping noises on the ceramic tile floor. It was very cute, but it was also time to figure out different accommodations for the ducks!
If I had done my homework I would have known what I was going to experience over the next 6 months. In just a short time those cute little ducklings turned into filthy creatures that made a mess, smelled horrible, and attracted tons of flies. Not only that but we ended up with more drakes than hens. This caused many fights in the duck pen for dominance and mating. The males were aggressive not only to each other, but to the females as well. 6 long months later and I had had enough with the duck raising. I decided that they were ready to be butchered.
I signed up for a class to learn how to process them and one Saturday morning I loaded two into a crate and off to the class we went. It was at that time that I learned how time consuming it was to pluck a duck! We were taught several methods to remove their feathers; scalding water, waxing, and skinning. Those guys sure do love their feathers… None of those methods are easy or fast, but with determination I got it done. Almost 2 hours later I had 1 defeathered, fully processed and ready to cook, homegrown duck. Whew! One thing I did get right for our duck project was seeking out an expert to teach me how to process the ducks. Without that guidance it would have been a far more arduous task. When I came home I processed the others and we ended up with a total of 6 ducks in our freezer. Hurray!
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
I have always loved to eat duck in restaurants. It was a motivating factor in my choosing ducks to raise, but I had never actually prepared one... I enjoy cooking though and try making new dishes all the time so I wasn’t worried. After searching through several recipes I found one that I wanted to make. I eagerly prepared the duck and popped him in the oven. When I pulled it out I could tell just by looking at it that it didn’t work out. The meat was tough and dry. I was on the verge of tears. So much time, money, and effort for such a mediocre meal, UGH! Since we had multiple ducks in the freezer my duck cooking skills did improve, but ever since I test recipes upfront as the first step.
LEARNING FROM OTHER'S MISTAKES
Take this as a lesson learned, do your homework and try before you buy. We put many months into our ducks, we dealt with the messes, the flies, the fighting and then spent hours of work processing them only to wind up with a few meals that weren’t that great. Had we done our homework up front and picked up a few freshly processed ducks to try cooking beforehand we would've known better and ended up putting that valuable time into something more rewarding for our family.
Start by trying the recipes that you think you are going to want to make and take the time to source the ingredients so you can get them as close to what you will actually be using. Eating a mediocre diner when you buy all the ingredients isn’t nearly as disappointing as eating one in which you raised them yourself. If after that you are still interested, find others who are doing what you want to do and learn from them, expand your network. Spending some time getting to work on a small farm or homestead taking care of the very plants or animals that you are interested in can provide an excellent opportunity for learning. It may even lead you to decide to leave ducks to the restaurants and to raise rabbits instead.
In my next blog, I will share tips and insight on making the plunge into the purchase of your stock and seed, and the importance of rule #4, starting small. It's easy to get excited about everything you can do and it is also easy to become overwhelmed. We will discuss how to stay centered on your goals and have fun while moving forward.
You can follow our small farm on Facebook. You will find my website here to search for exciting potential homesteading properties in the Austin Texas area. When looking remember that there are loan and grant programs provided through the USDA, FHA and others which provide financing options with little to no money down. There are affordable properties available, you just need an experienced realtor to help you find the right one.
I am located in the Austin area and work predominantly in residential real estate. I have been a realtor for over 10 years. I was inspired to get into real estate after buying my first home. It was a ....
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The Secret of getting ahead is getting started ~ Mark TwainThis series of blog posts has been a very personal one for me and focused on a subject that I am very passionate about. I recently realized