Homesteading and Livestock
Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


Emergency Preparedness Products for the Homestead or the “Bug Out Bag”

Sawyer Tap Water Filter

Sawyer Tap Water Filter 

If the last two years taught us anything, it’s to be prepared. From massive wildfires on the West Coast to frozen pipes in Texas, from a catastrophic derecho in Iowa to massive Nor’easters and hurricanes, the weather has become increasingly variable, unstable and unpredictable. And, in many cases, infrastructure and the government response to calamity, vulnerable or lacking.

While our completely solar-powered homestead, when combined with woodstove for heat in the winter, might tease us into complacency, we realize it’s impossible to predict the next turn of events in what seems to be Kunstler’s Long Emergency reality. My wife, Lisa Kivirist, and son Liam, and I are no stranger to disaster preparedness. We always have our stash of bottled water, stand-by flashlights and other lights, and even a solar-powered backpack for when we’re on the move. We have several go-to solar ovens that we use nearly every day in the warmer seasons to bake our zucchini bread or re-heat leftovers; in an emergency situation on sunny days, they can purify our water and cook our meals regardless the time of year.

But we’re always on the lookout for new items, to be better prepared. Ready for anything. Here’s a few of our latest findings. Like survivalists, we prioritize water, shelter, electricity, and food. While some folks might consider “essential services” a delivery person or healthcare professional, we realize life can be turned upside down without water or power -- and that could be just one ice storm away.

Sawyer Tap Filter Water Filtration System

For millions of Americans living in Texas and other southern states in 2021, safe drinking water became a vital necessity -- after a deep freeze completely disabled the electric grid and froze pipes. The Sawyer Tap Filter, capable of filtering up to 500 gallons per day, provides a quick, easy-to-use, highly effective solution to filter water during boil alerts, after hurricanes or other natural disasters, or even when traveling overseas and local sources of water may not be reliably safe.

A leader in water filtration systems, Sawyer has taken their other filter technology and, with various adapters included with their system, provided a means to attach it to most household faucets and even to a garden hose. The filter fits on most taps 17 mm to 20 mm in diameter. Since no pore in the filter is larger than .1 Microns, it removes 99.9999-percent of harmful bacteria, like salmonella, cholera and E. Coli, as well as 99.9999-percent of harmful protozoa, like giardia and cryptosporidium. No microplastics make it through the filter.

It took me less than two minutes to get the filter unboxed and attached to a kitchen faucet, for a drink of safe water. Besides the tap filter, the system includes an extension hose, threaded spigot adapter and even a tap gauge. No batteries or chemicals are used in the filter, but the device must be kept away from direct sunlight and once used, cannot be allowed to freeze.

Mishmi Takin Waterproof Hiking Boots

I’ve put thousands of miles on hiking books, from a wide range of manufacturers. I’ve been on the Appalachian Trail and in the Everglades with them, but comfortable and light hiking boots are also what I rely on all day on my feet on my homestead or in the woods to work up a load of firewood.

In an emergency situation, or for everyday work, quality footwear is essential. It’s rare to find a hiking boot that is both highly breathable and 100-percent waterproof. The Jampui from Mishmi Takin, however, have stood up to our cold, snow, slush, water and ice in Wisconsin, yet after hours of moving around, still keep my feet dry. Even when using them in warm environments, their eVent membrane lets the shoe breathe, so my feet didn’t sweat. The boots were originally created to withstand rainy and humid tropics. Their Vibram Megagrip rubber on the sole provides excellent grip. 

Mishmi Takin Waterproof Hiking Boots

Mishmi Takin Waterproof Hiking Boots

If I have to have reach for one pair of footwear to put on my feet, to get through anything, anywhere, I’m reaching for these. The Jampui are light and sturdy, and required little time to break in. They’re only sold online, outside the typical retailer network, which is why I never got a chance to try them out before.

Haeleum Insect Shield Repellent Apparel Long Sleeve Tee Shirt

In an emergency or if we’re bugging out in a crisis or disaster, time is of the essence, as are the choices we make in what we wear or put into our bag. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of minutes after an evacuation order is given. So we avoid overlooking our clothing options.

Climate change has not only resulted in more frequent and more extreme storms, it has allowed some insects populations to explode. Lyme disease, that can result from a tiny tick bite, has rapidly spread throughout the entire continental US. As I covered previously, Lyme Disease is best avoided, but impossible to avoid completely if you’re a homesteader who spends a lot of time outdoors like my family does. West Nile Disease, contracted by a mosquito bite, has become more common than ever before. Mild winters or other seasonal irregularities have made some insects greater potential dangers.

So, now I have another tool for trying to stay healthy in the outdoors. An Insect Shield Repellent Shirt from Haeleum is always on stand-by, used when I’m out in the fields when ticks or mosquitoes are particularly prevalent. The shirt helps repel mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers and midges. The ordorless shirt contains built-in, permethrin-based, insect protection, so additional sprays or lotions are not needed. Besides warding off insets, the comfortable, moisture-wicking, light-weight and highly breathable shirt provides 40-plus UPF sun protection, making it an ideal shirt to be wearing in a warm-weather natural disaster. Haeleum’s Insect Shield Repellent Shirt is EPA-registered, should last through 70 washes and is approved for use by all ages.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the sun. Both have been speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, a 10.8 kW solar power station and millions of ladybugs.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Treating a Hypothermic Lamb or Goat Kid

Lambs 

Having a newborn lamb or goat kid get chilled and hypothermic is pretty common, especially when you live in a colder climate like we do. We generally plan our breedings so that the ewes and does are giving birth in April or later, but even in April and May we get below freezing at night and the newborn babies are at risk of hypothermia.

This year things are a bit different on our farm, and we had a ewe due in the middle of this bitter cold snap. To be sure we didn’t lose the lambs, we were checking on the ewe every 1-2 hours, day and night. She snuck the babies out between one-hour checks, and when we arrived one of the twins was hypothermic. Thankfully, we arrived in time, recognized the symptoms, and treated him right away.

Symptoms of Hypothermia in Lambs and Goat Kids

  • Shivering
  • The inside of its mouth and its tongue feel cold to the touch
  • Droopy ears, lethargic, not active and alert
  • Labored breathing
  • Rectal temperature below 100F (normal temperature is 102.5F)

Nubian Doeling

How to Treat a Hypothermic Lamb or Goat Kid

It is important to treat the lamb or kid as soon as possible once you realize it is hypothermic. The sooner you help it, the higher chance of survival.

First, get it wrapped in a towel and into a warm, indoor place. If it is wet, work to dry it and heat it at the same time. There are two ways to heat it, either on your lap or in a hot box. If you can go inside a warm indoor space, near a heat source, either method is fine. If you only have a barn or cold area to work in, you will need to use a hot box.

It is possible to heat it too fast, and it is also possible to get it too warm. So be cautious and aware of how it is doing as you work. You also need to be careful to not burn it.

Lamb

Heating on Your Lap

If you can, take it inside a warm house or building, get near a heat source (woodstove, fireplace, or heater) and have it cuddled up in your lap in a towel, next to the heat source. Then, use a hair blow dryer to heat it and dry it by blowing back and forth over its body, keeping the dryer moving the whole time. Be sure that you always have one of your hands on the lamb or kid while you do this so you don’t burn it.

If the heat you are blowing on it is uncomfortable to your hand then it is too hot for the baby as well.  Rub the lamb or kid with the towel and continue to blow dry it. Check its body temp with a rectal thermometer every 5 minutes or so. After it reaches a rectal temperature of 102.5 degrees F, stop heating it up.

Using a Hot Box

Take a cardboard box that is big enough to fit the lamb or kid in and cut a hole on each end of it, approximately 5 inches diameter. Place the chilled lamb or kid in the box on a towel and close the lid.  Put a hair blow dryer in one hole and blow warm air into the box – not onto the lamb or kid, just into the box. Stick your arm in the other hole and put your hand on the baby, this it to be sure you don’t burn or over-heat it. If your arm is uncomfortably hot, so is the baby.

Sometimes it works best to turn the blower on and off repeatedly as needed to keep the box warm, but not too hot. Check its body temp with a rectal thermometer every 5 minutes or so. Once it reaches a rectal temperature of 102.5 degrees F, stop heating it up.

Doeling

Once you have the baby back to normal body temperature, it is good to give it warm milk to help warm its insides. If you have ever had a cup of hot cocoa on a cold day, or iced tea on a hot day, you know how much what we put inside our body can affect our temperature and how warm or cold we feel. Don’t feed the lamb or kid while they are hypothermic because it may be too weak and can aspirate the milk.

It can also aspirate if it is having labored breathing. Wait to feed the baby until you have raised its body temperature up to normal. Then, you can bottle or syringe feed it some warm milk from its mother, or let it nurse, to give it another boost of warmth.

Lambs

If hypothermia is the only problem the lamb or kid is having, then you will find that once you have raised its body temperature, and given it a warm meal, it will perk up substantially and be active again. Once it is completely dry, has a normal body temperature, and is being active and having normal behavior, it is ready to go back to its mother.

Hypothermia is deadly for baby lambs and goat kids.  But if you can catch it early enough and treat it properly, you can save its life.


Kat Ludlam is a high-altitude homesteader and owner of Willow Creek Farm in the Colorado Rockies, where she breeds landrace sheep, chickens, and crops accustomed to elevation. Check out Kat’s custom fiber-processing business, Willow Creek Fiber Mill, and read all of Kat’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Treat Hardware Disease in Cows Using Rumen Magnets

Photo by John Klar 

"Miro", the Hereford bull. Photos by John Klar

One great benefit of cows is their resilience — rugged, and uncomplaining. But even cows have their Achilles heels; or, in this case, an Achilles rumen. It is easy for such big eaters to ingest rusted metal or old tacks in feed or just milling around munching on old shingles or whatever they find to sample.

This is called “Hardware Disease” (or, traumatic reticuloperitonitis) and can become very serious in both beef and dairy cows. Some farmers routinely deposit one or two “cow magnets” in all their cows, where they will remain their entire lives as precautionary prophylactics,  More often, a farmer will see the signs -- kicking the belly, an arched back or uneasy gait,  laying down and getting up in discomfort, a drop in feed consumption or milk production. 

The damage to a cow can become severe:

Swallowed metallic objects, such as nails or pieces of wire, fall directly into the reticulum or pass into the rumen and are subsequently carried over the ruminoreticular fold into the cranioventral part of the reticulum by ruminal contractions. The reticulo-omasal orifice is elevated above the floor, which tends to retain heavy objects in the reticulum, and the honeycomb-like reticular mucosa traps sharp objects. Contractions of the reticulum promote penetration of the wall by the foreign object…. Perforation of the wall of the reticulum allows leakage of ingesta and bacteria, which contaminates the peritoneal cavity…. The object can penetrate the diaphragm and enter the thoracic cavity (causing pleuritis and sometimes pulmonary abscessation) and the pericardial sac (causing pericarditis, sometimes followed by myocarditis). Occasionally, the liver or spleen may be pierced and become infected, resulting in abscessation, or septicemia can develop.

Funny thought, to simply make the cow gulp down a magnet, which pulls the offending object away from those important areas and restores health — for life. Farmers have always been resourceful, and the simple solution is best!

John with Herd

The author with his herd

If you own a cow exhibiting symptoms of abdominal stress or discomfort, consultation with your veterinarian is advised. But perhaps your bovine has hardware disease, and simply needs a $3 magnet!


John Klar raises grass-fed beef and sheep, and seeks to educate people about where their food comes from and how large corporate interests wish to dominate food production. He moved to Vermont and began farming in 1998. John and his wife, Jacqueline, built and operated an artisanal raw-milk cheese house, and have raised pigs, chickens, sheep, horses, cows, and goats, and grown many varieties of vegetables and herbs. Connect with John on Facebook, and watch his farming videos on YouTube. Read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Homemade Bread and a Woodstove

Old fashioned wood stove

Photo credit Elmira Stove Works    

“Every lost ship can find a way back home.
A man travels the world in search of his dream
only to return home to find it.”

I know of nothing in life more wonderful than the gentle aroma of a home with bread baking in the kitchen. A morning fireplace, a hot cup of coffee and artisan bread filling the air with the scent of winter. It makes a home permanently embedded in your memory as the most wonderful, loving place to be.

Homemade bread comes out better when baked in an old-fashioned kitchen wood stove. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the way the wood flame distribute heat, or the scent of oakwood as it permeates the bread crust, but it is absolutely different. And delightful. And there is something is incessantly rewarding about firing up a wood stove and cooking a meal for your family.

I have a log cabin that sits on a hill on 7 acres in Kentucky. I do not have an old-fashioned wood stove in my kitchen. But I will. Someday. And then I will gain 30 pounds from all the homemade bread I make.


Michael Johnathon is a folk singer, songwriter, and homesteader based in Kentucky. He is the founder, producer and host of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, a radio and television program featuring Americana, folk and other American roots music. In 2007, he wrote the play Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau, which has been performed in more than 7,400 colleges, community theaters and schools in nine countries. Connect with Michael on his website and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

You Can Home School: Leave Online Schooling Behind

Little ones learn in nature 

Little ones learn in nature. Photo by Lena Helfinger on Pixabay

Help, my kids are struggling with online learning during the pandemic! I need options. But how can I home school my child?  I don’t know where to start.

I’m not a trained teacher, and they’ll have gaps in their learning. Don’t you have to be super creative, organized, and patient to home school? What about social interaction? Plus I’m so busy just trying to run the farm, work from home, and make sure we’re prepared with food during this crazy time. How can I take this on?

Do you recognize yourself yet, or your fears? There is good news. With God’s gracious help, you can indeed joyfully homeschool your children. And you’ll find it easier than you think and more rewarding than you imagine.

Let’s look at each phase of a child’s growth and where schooling at home fits in. I know you’re worried about your kids who are already in school and struggling with our current forced online learning options, but let’s start at the beginning so you’ll see the full picture and realize how much you already know about home schooling.

In the Beginning

Your first baby comes along and, to be honest, you aren’t even thinking about teaching them. You just wish you could get a little more sleep. Yet your infant is learning all the time. They are learning who loves them, who feeds them and keeps them dry, and who smiles at them. Soon they are learning that some things are hot, that cat’s scratch when you pull their tails, that naps are non-negotiable, and that food can be chewed instead of flung.

Sooner or later your toddler puts names to people and objects. They copy the words you say and figure out that words bring them what they want while random sounds confuse grownups. Through imaginative play, they begin to manipulate their world. Splashing in puddles and squishing mud between their toes brings them into contact with nature. They count the ants that file across a log:  “1...2...3...4”.

The Early Years

This has to be the most difficult age to be stuck in online learning. Elementary aged children need to be active and to be in touch with nature rather than stuck behind a computer screen. So what’s a budding home school parent to do? Start with their interest-of-the-moment:

assign real life jobs 

Assign real-life jobs. Photo by Phicht Wongsunthi on Pixabay

Do they enjoy nature?

  • Take lots of exploratory walks
  • Teach them how to press flowers – yes, there are flowers out even in the winter
  • Visit zoos and aquariums, whether in person or online
  • Plant a garden together – start now by planning one and ordering seeds
  • Order baby chicks, learn about raising them, and start having farm-fresh eggs

Do they tear things apart and try to reinvent them? 

  • Set up a work area for them with real tools sized down for their hands
  • Give them broken appliances to take apart or scrap wood to build things
  • Work beside them on the farm or in your house and solicit their ideas for improvements

Do they like to work with you?

  • Incorporate math and language arts into your conversation as you do things together
  • Find real work for them to do with your animals, train them in safety, and give them both responsibility and your trust
  • Give them daily and weekly farm and house chores
  • Give them a love of learning by showing them its practical application in your daily work

Snuggle up together and read lots of books! Have them draw pictures and then dictate their stories to you. Have them keep a journal. Spend lots of time singing, dancing, cooking, cleaning, planting, harvesting, raising animals, and exploring.

The Middle Years

Ease you children slowly into more self-directed learning. When possible, stay nearby as you work around the house so they sense your presence even though you aren’t working directly with them all the time.

learning together

Learning together. Photo by Andrea Piacquillio on Pexels

During the middle school years you’ll need to be more intentional about the subjects you are covering as you prepare your child for high school and, possibly, college.  Keep talking with them about what they enjoy and what talents God has given them. Begin thinking about how to tailor their high school curriculum to their interests. Consider helping them to start a small business or to spend time interviewing people from various careers.

Let your child pursue their interests with outside classes or tutors in music, art, foreign language, or sports. Many private tutors and sports groups have figured out how to safely navigate meetings during this uncertain time. However, don’t fill up every minute of their day with activities. All children need alone time to dream, think, and engage with nature on their own.

The Teen Years

These are the years during which your child can explore business endeavors, creative abilities, and begin to exercise leadership skills with friends. Consider involving them with debate team, political volunteering, or compassion ministries.

starting a market garden 

Start a market garden together. Photo by Zen Ching on Pexels

Most teens are ready to do a lot of self-directed learning. Buy curriculum written for home schoolers as it is adapted to this approach. Now is the time you might add a limited amount of online or video learning for any subjects you aren’t comfortable teaching yourself.

Don’t let curriculum rule your child’s life. Remember that it is a tool and part of the joy of home schooling is that you can take things at your own pace and in your own order. These are important years to continue discussions about God and how he is at work in your child’s life. Have your child seek out mentors within your child’s fields of interest. Help them to be discerning in who they ask to mentor them.

you really can home school your children

You really can home school your children. Photo by White77 on Pixabay

Let your child take more responsibility for their learning, and give them room to have things not work out. Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." According to the Edison Innovation Foundation, he operated on four simple principles, taught to him by his loving mother:

  1. Never get discouraged if you fail. Learn from it. Keep trying.
  2. Learn with both your head and hands.
  3. Not everything of value in life comes from books- experience the world.
  4. Never stop learning. Read the entire panorama of literature.

Resources

Know the laws about home schooling in your state. Find your state laws here. Research curriculum choices through one of the most widely recognized curriculum reviewers in the home school world

There are immense benefits to be found in home schooling. You are intimately involved in your children’s education and daily activities filling the roles of parent and companion. Foster an environment of open communication and be willing to listen and discuss what your children are learning and thinking about. With God’s abundant grace you can home school your children and, in the process, gain their friendship as they reach early adulthood.


Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth Gardener and Grit and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Making Beeswax Candles with Molds

candles

Photo by Unsplash/Carolyn V

Winter is the time for craft-type projects in our home because summer is too full of garden, orchard and animal projects to have extra energy for crafts. After several yearsof bee-keeping and accumulating beeswax, I wanted to make beeswax candles, and I wanted to make them in time for Christmas gifts.

I already had a sputtering start with candle-making last winter when I thought I could just pour wax into jelly jars and have instant candles. I bought the correct sized wicks and the metal tabs to hold the wicks to the bottom of the jars. Unfortunately, the candles burned for only a short time before the flames smothered in the melted wax. It was then too close to springtime projects to investigate further, so I put candle-making aside until this winter.

Choosing Candle-Making Equipment

This time I was better prepared; I had spoken to a couple vendors who sell beeswax candles at the local Farmers Market. There seemed to be a consensus to use candle-making equipment from Mann Lake including their candle molds and wicks. I was surprised that the molds cost about $25 each, but I really wanted Christmas presents that worked, so I splurged.

finished candles

Photo by Mary Lou Shaw

Mann Lake has many molds to choose from, and importantly, they tell which size wick to order for which mold. As a "best-buy" mold, I ordered one that included three small skep-style votive candles. I also bought one 10" taper, a 7.5" spiral taper and a 3"cylinder mold along with their respective wicks and a can of "mold release." Beeswax requires all-cotton, braided wick and that's what's offered at this company whose products are for bee-keepers. The mold-release was my assurance that I could get the candle out of the mold once the wax had cooled, though the vendors had told me that vegetable oil works well too. The over-all investment seemed expensive, but the consolation prize for the large bill was free shipping.

Melting the Wax

I had started to gather wax-melting equipment last year, but improved on it this year by getting a one-quart Pyrex measuring cup. It allowed me to both melt wax and easily pour into the molds. The Pyrex cup became the top part of a "double boiler" by setting it on a cookie-cutter in an old pan that contained water.

equipment

Photo by Mary Lou Shaw

The wax had already been washed and filtered. I read that wax that isn't cleaned well could prevent a candle from burning brightly, and You-Tube vieeos show many different ways of cleaning wax. The simplest cleaning method is to melt wax directly from the hive and just take the wax off the top as both the water and debris settle below. I wasn't taking any chances this year though, and so I re-melted and strained my stored wax through precious butter muslin that I use for cheese making. Then I was ready to begin.

Threading Beeswax Molds

Threading the molds was challenging the first time, but we (my husband was called in for this step) were able to straighten a wire hanger and, by folding the wick over the end of the wire, shove the wick through the small hole in the bottom of the candle mold. The wick is then pulled up through the mold and both centered and anchored at the top of the mold with a long bobby-pin. A mold doesn't need to be "threaded" each time if a long tail of wick is left under the mold. As the cooled candle is removed, the wick is pulled through the mold, anchored with the bobby-pin at the top, and cut from the finished candle.

The spiral taper candle cannot be pulled out of the mold as the smooth candles can. Instead, the mold is cut longitudinally and held together with sturdy rubber bands. The candles from this mold are attractive and professional looking and a pleasure to give as gifts. Even though relatively expensive, the molds are sturdy and should last as long as I can gather wax from our hives.

This first year of candle-making makes me feel like a grade-schooler bringing home a handmade project for family and friends. I really love turning all the work and precious wax from the  bees into these pretty candles. However, that doesn't mean I met with total success.

Candle-Making Problems and Solutions

My definition of a "perfect candle" would be one that keeps a good flame and consumes its wax so it doesn't drip. I quickly discovered that the flame of small, votive candles still tend to "drown" as wax pools in the candle. The taper candles burn well at the slender end--but then a pool of wax accumulates as its diameter increases and the flame becomes small. By the bottom two or three inches, it tends to drip quite heavily--not good on tablecloths!

spiral candle

Photo by Mary Lou Shaw

Solutions I've been offered are: pull the wick taut in the mold, but not overly taut; make sure there's no residual water in the wax; strain the wax three times through nylon paint-strainers and finally, don't burn a candle longer than two hours.

I do think a partial solution might be to use some paraffin in the beeswax because when I made a parrafin candle it burned well. To call a candle a "beeswax candle" requires that it be at least 51 percent beeswax. Perhaps even a small percent of paraffin would help these candles burn better.

I do know that beeswax candles, with either a rolled or perforated design, do not collect wax which can smoother a flame. Those candles burn well. That's the result I want when using these molds for solid candles! Perhaps some of the readers will share their experiences so we can figure this out together?


Mary Lou Shaw and her husband grow most of the food they eat on their homestead. Mary Lou is the author of Growing Local Foodavailable at MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

kbb-leaderboard

Managing the Loss of a Homestead Dog

yellow lab of family 

The family Labrador in his older age, who is mentioned in the beginning of this article, shown enjoying a day of sunshine during his time. (Photo: Fala Burnette, Wolf Branch Homestead)

In 2020, my in-laws put to rest a yellow Labrador who was an essential part of everyone's lives after a long illness. A simple stray, given a forever home already as an aged adult dog, with somewhere around 10 long years left to give. He was special enough that even I myself will remember him as the best dog I have ever known, my husband and I spending a great deal of time with his four-legged friend. Countless times he was by our side for some of the most fun memories.

I can never forget having to hold him while my husband practiced with his recurve bow, the lab doing his best to try and be helpful by fetching arrows after they were shot. There were times he would stop in the woods and look at us, marking out some long-lost arrow half-buried in the dirt. He was a great hunting partner as well, guiding me for my very first squirrel hunt and licking my face because he was equally as proud as I was. Just when you think the squirrels had hopped trees, he would be completely still under the same tree because he knew they were hiding in some crevice. He was always right. We've had a few sighs and laughs from a tree stand as well because he always knew we were out there somehow. He would walk underneath us and look straight up at us — he was a smart old fella.

Managing Loss of a Homestead Dog

Months after the Labrador's passing, I lost my elderly adopted dog suddenly, and experienced this sadness myself. She was adopted from the animal shelter at only a year old, returned due to behavioral issues and facing the end of her stay because she was dog aggressive and barked defensively at those who toured the kennels. In an ironic twist of fate, we just so happened to have her twin brother, who was adopted months prior, and the rest is history. Her quirky behavior and goofy nature cemented her into the memories of my heart, and a happy reunion with her brother was never again broken.

She was never fond of going for a swim in the creek, but well-minded at bath time. She really enjoyed helping the Australian Cattle Dog hunt down mice, and always excited to get a catch as the three of us teamed up. She became a best friend to the dog owned by my grandfather-in-law, and they would bounce around together like silly youngsters every time they met. She enjoyed many days in the sun relaxing with her twin, and though he misses her, I walk him to her grave site every so often to pay respects to the bouncy sister he had many long years with.

These memories are my own in regard to the dogs I've known and loved, but my situation is not unique. I'm sure the reader can recall a dog who has impacted their live fondly- whether that be a bird dog who was sharp as a tack, a show pup that you earned awards with, or simply a household companion that brought you friendship and joy. I personally think that it is okay to feel a twinge of sadness when you've lost a pet you're close to, and even marking their grave and leaving some flowers for them seems to also help ease the heart, even if it is not a dog but instead a horse, cat, pig, cow, chicken, duck, lizard, or any other creature. These feelings make us human, and it is important to remember that we are able to carry on and channel our feelings into something positive afterwards.

Ways to Turn Grief into Positive Action

Maybe you've recently lost a beloved elderly dog and aren't ready to adopt again. Consider becoming a foster for your local animal shelter, being the important in-between that helps an animal through a period before becoming adoptable. Perhaps you are young, and the family cat you have grown with has passed. Talk with your parents about volunteering together at a humane society and help clean for kitties in need and socialize them, or even gather some of the items on their wish list (such as kitten food and litter) with your family and drop it off. Even those who have lost a barnyard pal may be able to find a farm rescue nearby to help out with.

Remember that while you may mourn the loss of a beloved pet, reflecting on memories of them and the impact they had on your life can be a special part of the healing process. I hope that by opening up and sharing my reflections on two special dogs in my life and providing ideas for positively channeling your love for animals afterwards, you may find comfort if you're faced with a tough moment like this. Do you have a fond memory of a particular animal that's crossed your path, and if so, what is it? I hope you'll think about that with a smile and remember them lovingly today.


Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They are currently building their own log cabin and milling their own lumber, along with raising heirloom crops in the Spring and tanning furs during the Winter. Read all of Fala's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.







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