Natural Or Frustrated… “Common Sense” Homesteading

I have sucked at blogging in 2015. Now its 2016 and I was cleaning the barn thinking about why. You know why I have been so bad at it? It is because I want to help people and I was writing a series on how to get the best production possible from your goats. The problem is, I was having a hard time writing it and couldn’t finish. You know why? Because I am a natural with goats. Yes, you read that right; I am a natural goat keeper.


I have had goats long enough that people come to me for my “wisdom”. They want a solution to all their problems. I am successful with my herd. As one friend put it somewhat disparingly, “You could get milk from a rock”. You know what? Its true. I seldom have losses, I seldom have problems. Its hard for me to give advice to those that do because all I can think to say is “use common sense”. Do you have any idea how that comes across?! These people are trying so hard! They are reading everything, trying everything, looking for help, yet still having major problems. Its cruel to tell them there is a solution if they would just use “common sense”.

I have helped “fix” herds over and over. I have taught people how to deal with problems, taught how to prevent problems, looked at individual herds and cases and helped get them on the right track to just do it again in the same herd a few months later. These poor people are struggling and I can’t help them because I have not had to struggle to keep my goats alive, to get them to produce well. I just do it. I know what they need.

Not everyone is “natural” with what they take on. Those that are not have to work hard for every ounce of success, whether it be gardening, keeping bees, goats, poultry or anything else. Many give up, they can’t afford to keep having losses. Here is the thing; they may not succeed in one thing, but they may be perfectly suited to another. For instance, while I do great with goats, I suck at bee-keeping. I want to be good at it, but I have a couple of friends that if their worst years were my best year I would be thrilled. I have tried. I have read and studied and asked questions and followed advice, and my mentors say “watch the bees, they will tell you what they need”. Yeah. Right. My bees die. The only reason I have any is because they are fairly decent at surviving on their own. Every year I go back to one hive. And my friend, without even trying, triples hers.

Some people will be able to “learn” to do what they are not natural at. Most will throw in the towel and find something they are better at. The naturals at it will succeed and think its the easiest thing in the world and wonder why so many people don’t “get” it. The fact is, we need each other. We can’t be everything. I am more than happy to raise goats and get my honey from my friend. Frankly, buying it is cheaper than what I am losing trying to do it myself. I accept that I am not a bee-keeper. I am moderately successful with gardens, poultry, and rabbits. I excel at goats. A smart person uses their strengths to their advantage and works with others where they are weak. So, if you are one of those that is a “natural” at something, remember to be understanding to the person that is trying hard but struggling. And if you are the one struggling, remember that the “natural” mentor may not be able to really help you, and its not that they are not trying or don’t want to, they just don’t know how. Maybe you can find a way to help each other where your strengths are instead.

About nigerianmeadows

I am a homeschooling mother of 2 autistic children and cook gluten-free, I homestead on 2.5 acre and raise goats and chickens for dairy and eggs, I garden, cook, quilt, and take photographs. I build, paint, scrub, and dance on tables. I am the ultimate WOMAN!!! Oh, yeah, and I like my husband a whole lot (he is the one that makes all this possible, and he loves me like no other!)
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6 Responses to Natural Or Frustrated… “Common Sense” Homesteading

  1. Natalie, says:

    Very well put, not all of us can be good at everything. We read, learn from pass mistakes and try to do better. 😊
    Me for example I hate record keeping and have a hard time keeping up when working full time. 😡

  2. Jule Sadger says:

    It’s good to know your strengths and weaknesses, asking for help with what you are not good at builds community which we are sorely in need of these days. Nobody can excel at everything! Very well put Jordi!

  3. Denise Wilhelm says:

    Yes, yes, a thousand times YES!! I totally get what you are saying here!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Anon Amos says:

    “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein

    I believe an army special forces soldier said, “If you can’t teach something so your student learns it, you yourself have not mastered it.”

    Same principal for both of these statements.

    Someone who is truly an expert will be able to teach others so they, too, can have success.

    It might be possible that there are other factors at play in others’ herds that make it seem as though dairy goats are just not their thing. Some who seem “natural” may just have more necessary capital than others, who must resort to a different system to save money. Dairy goats are expensive, the cheaper the dairy goat, the more expensive it can become for a person. A natural may have had more time to spend with the herd to learn from them, while a busy mother of 5 can try to spend time with her herd but will not be able to do this to the same extent, neither someone with an extremely demanding job outside the home. Perhaps some are trying to pasture while others, deemed naturals, are dry-lotting and can afford to bring in high quality feed or perhaps have access to areas with excellent browse, both avoiding parasite problems pasturing goats brings. Perhaps some do not have money to supplement with herbs and minerals that increase a herd’s health and immunity. Perhaps some have started herds with inferior genetics. Perhaps many “naturals” have surrounded themselves with people who “talk goat” (or other ruminant) and because of this have become familiar with terms that make understanding things more simple. Perhaps you yourself have a mentor that has taken time to teach you some of what you know, or a friend that has helped you add excellent genetics to your herd. There is no such thing as common sense, everything is learned, the more one has been around people doing things, the easier it is to figure things out. If you do not believe this, travel to an understaffed orphanage in a 3rd world country and observe the children carefully, and compare to some children living on productive diverse farms in Latin America.

    This comment is only meant to encourage others who aspire to raise goats. There is a learning curve that can be hard to maneuver, but it is possible for anyone who puts in the effort and has a capable teacher (experienced people are best, books are next best, and the internet can work but you must sort through the myriad of bad information that seems so good before you find out why it’s wrong, or incomplete, which can take a while to sort out and can be very frustrating and damaging to your herd in the mean time). Some people cannot afford high producing goats, but will do wonderfully with a herd of parasite resistant hardy meat/dairy goat crosses, and come away with more milk and a healthier herd because they do not have to be heavily managed (it costs a lot of time and money to raise dairy goats, and for many people, the return is not worth the investment). More people on the family cow side of things have realized this early on, because one cow is like a good little herd of goats. Heavily managing a dairy cow is an absolute necessity, very expensive, very time consuming, and a plethora of knowledge is necessary. Miss one thing and you could kill your whole “herd” in a very short time.. Much advice exists that a family cow should not be a high producer from a commercial dairy because they were bred to be micromanaged and produce milk right off their backs, even killing themselves with metabolic disorders from making milk if not kept on a very strict and high quality diet very carefully adjusted for calcium, phosphorus, carbs/fiber, protein, other vitamins and minerals etc.
    Starting a herd? My advice would be to get a good Nubian buck with a mother that has a very high linear appraisal score (eg EEEE90) and produces decently on milk test. Then get a bunch of nice meat goat does and breed them to him. Raise the doelings and this will give you a nice herd to start out with so you can learn without all the pitfalls of high maintenance high producing, (money sucking for the average person) goats. The Nubian buck will give you a small taste of the high management requirements of a full dairy breed, the meat does may give you a taste of the hardiness goats can and should have if you select carefully. Chances are, when and if you should switch to a full dairy breed, you will be sorely disappointed and miss the rich milk and hardiness of your starter herd (and possibly their better feed conversion), despite less milk per goat.
    Just the opinion of someone whose first milk goat was half meat goat, a goat whose milk everyone enjoyed.. Not as much milk but still enough to share!
    So yes! You can raise goats. If yours aren’t working out you may just need to bring in some different genetics and change your management. Parasite problems and can’t afford to truck in all your feed? Even with good minerals in the ration? Then sell them and start over with a hardier breed. Can’t keep condition on your does even though they are parasite free (because you can’t afford to feed them for their genetic potential and requirement)? Sell them too, and be more careful when you select your foundation stock. Don’t select stock for high production. 3 mediocre producers can give you more milk on crappy feed than a star milker that is prone to being sickly and needs the best of everything just to survive.
    Dirk van Loon and JoAnn Grohman both have excellent books out on keeping a family cow, but I believe the information is also extremely valuable for those who raise goats. There are many differences and many similarities. I would read these before I read a goat specific book, but afterwards definitely read a dairy goat specific book.
    A genius is someone who has mastered something by spending a lot of time doing it. There are athletes that you could say are “geniuses” when it comes to their sport. They may dedicate 8 hours every single day to train for their sport. As Jordana said in this post, she has raised goats for a long time, she is getting pretty good at it. What you spend your time learning is what you’ll be good at.
    @Jordana… Did you enjoy spending time with the goats better than spending it with the bees?

    • Good thoughts. I do think there is a natural affinity one can have toward something though. Its not just time and education sometimes per my observance. I dearly enjoyed the bees, but admittedly got discouraged at working so hard and failing. I honestly spend far less time with the goats than I did with bees and had no mentor-ship to learn goat-keeping. When I started I didn’t even have the internet as a resource. I read one book, the only one I could find at the library, to get started. I was honestly a natural with them. I have been successful with learned endeavors, so its not that learning doesn’t play a major part, but if you have learned and studied and been mentored, and you give it time and dedication and are still failing, sometimes the answer is to shift gears to something you have more affinity for. This is not the message for the person that has not exhausted every conceivable option they can find, but once you have done all you can and all those that mentor you can think of, sometimes we need to know we are not really a failure for giving up and moving in another direction that we have more affinity for. Sometimes wisdom is knowing when to change course.

      • Anon Amos says:

        I totally agree that there are times when one should change course, but I believe this has nothing to do with being a natural at something and more to do with external factors, which can greatly influence our successes and failures. The book you read combined with external factors working in your favor might have set you on course to become successful, whereas you yourself might have failed had you been the same person but in someone else’s shoes. Yes, no need to consider yourself a failure with the beekeeping, but it is possible that your neighbors are using agricultural pesticides that kill bees while your friends who have no such problems and have more of a “safe bee area”, even if it’s just in a yard with an abundance of flowers that the bees prefer. We cannot see all of the external influences, but perhaps your goats have been easy keepers and if you had ended up with someone else’s goats to begin with, you yourself would have thought yourself a goat failure. I, also, have seemingly been a natural at caring for goats. But at one point of time I took upon myself some goats, that should I have had them to begin with, I would have given up shepherding in a heartbeat. The creatures had no will to live. I will not mention the breed but they were awful. I kept them alive but it took a ton of work. I sold them to some very experienced goat people after getting sick of working with them and within a year of selling them 2 of the 3 had died. Have not had a problem before or since! Not saying I won’t, but it is telling. Anyhow, my point is, external factors and education influence successes.
        Because of dry-lotting, anyone can be successful with goats if they have the right breed and genetics and money for good feed and minerals, even if they only have a backyard in a town and the goats sleep inside the house like a dog (we have also done this, goats can be easily house trained).
        But I agree, if it’s not working out for you, and you are not enjoying your goats, and you’re not willing to start with new genetics, or the rewards (for us, milk, antics, entertainment and companionship) are not worth the effort to you, find something you like better! (Not directing this part of the comment at you Jordana! It’s obvious you’re happy with your herd!).

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