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Avalon1984-Chicken, horses, pigs, oh my!

Discussion in 'Member's "Self Sufficient Living" Journals' started by Avalon1984, Apr 20, 2012.

  1. Apr 24, 2012
    Avalon1984

    Avalon1984 Lovin' The Homestead

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    Hey Trim,

    I found a few spare minutes at work so I thought Id get working on my response. Post war East Germany was something interesting for sure. Many Americans think that what they saw of Germany was the same for everybody, when in fact it was not. The wall came down as I entered elementary school but I vividly remember many of the things we did and how we did them. Our livestock (rabbits and pigs) were in our garage. My dad had set shelters aside. I think at one point we had horses and cows in the basement (which is the first level in houses over here). Our house has 5 stories and the last story is where my room was and next to it was our hay loft. I remember how we made hay by hand, we planted an acre of potatoes and canned EVERYTHING. There wasnt a lot of money, but people helped each other out. We traded goods. I remember eating ice cream for the first time, or eating water melon and bananas. What an experience. There was more togetherness back then. The TV only had 3 channels and more time was spent either working the field or grilling meat and playing ball. I spent my young years mainly alone. Always have been a bit of a lone wolf. I would go out in the woods mushroom hunting and trying to find antlers. These days I miss that a lot. My village was so small that within a few minutes, you were so far away from civilization, I just loved it. For a while I was riding draft horses at a farm a guy had. He said as long as I cleaned stalls I could do whatever I wanted with his horses so I taught them to accept a rider and wed go out in the woods alone. More often than not wed encounter deer and they werent afraid of the horse so I was able to get real close. I miss having the feeling of being alone in nature. Over here everything is so densely populated I feel like I am caged at times.

    My dad was a border guard and I remember trying to get on a train to go west the day the wall came down. It was crazy and the train was packed, we had to wait for hours to get on another one. After that a lot of things changed. I was one of the first generations to learn English as the first foreign language, rather than Russian. We started to have computers in school when I was in 7th grade. It was a funny transition period because so many new things clashed with so many of the old values and ways of doing things. I remember when I was maybe 3 or 4 years old, my parents would be able to drop me off for free at a Kinderkrippe and these people would take care of me until my parents were done with work and pick me up again. I was always a wild one and would try and climb out of the wagons they had to pull us around with, when we went on a stroll. So they had me firmly strapped in. I remembered it as being a very sheltered life, for better or worse one might say, but there was a certain sense of camaraderie that has since gotten lost. One didnt need to have the fanciest car or house. People were happy IF they even had the chance to own a car, much less worry about how it looked like. People were forced to travel together, work together and help each other. That wasnt always a bad thing.

    Looking back I was also one of the first generations to thoroughly be taught the art of critical thinking. Our teachers were trying hard to teach us to see through propaganda and question facts and statements. I am grateful for that. It scares me at times when I watch television over here and a crew is doing a report on something but it is so one-sided. Nobody seems to care much about giving a realistic report about a topic and including all facts, good bad or indifferent. I spent a significant amount of time in school deciphering through speeches and analyzing events, why they happened, how they can be prevented, etc. That was a very wise choice in the school system.

    Interestingly enough, people always think that everything was terrible in East Germany. Just like everything else, there was good and bad. Worries we have today didnt exist then. Your job was pretty much guaranteed. Your kids were taken care of while the parents were working. Food was available when it was in season, which meant it tasted good. Milk tasted like milk, cheese like cheese, strawberries like strawberries etc. Looking back, I dont think we ever felt like we needed anything else, whereas today you spend your days trying to figure out how you can afford X or Y. To this day we dont have screens for mosquitoes in our house, or central air. The house was build to naturally work. Heat rises, so most of the living quarters are up top. That can be bad in the summer so youll have to open the window for some cool air at night. People I talk to freak out at the thought of not having screens, but oh well, it was what it was back then. We have a big oven in the basement that heats the house. If we need more heat, our kitchen has a stove that is operated through fire, so when you cook, the house gets warm.

    Trim, our farm truly is an adventure. It is the most amazing, exciting, heartbreaking, frustrating and exhausting thing I have ever done. Sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder why I do that to myself. Sometimes I cant wait to grow it bigger. It certainly makes you mature. When I first came over here, my then husband was killed in a train wreck two weeks after I got here. I was all alone, in a strange country whose customs I did not understand. I couldnt drive an automatic car or find my way to the store. So I had to learn it all. They just gave me a license based on my German drivers license and I started to explore the city, learn and grow up. I was 21 back then and I found that learning by yourself is the best way. You quickly learn from your mistakes and grow from them. I learned how to handle a mortgage, how to pay by checkbook, how to buy food, what some foods tasted like, how to open accounts, I started to work in a department store to make ends meet, had to file petitions with INS who were going to send me back to Germany because my husband was dead, hence my marriage did not exist anymore and we hadnt been together for 2 years yet. Thanks to some good attorneys INS stopped this practice that was always dubbed as Widow penalty. I was lucky enough to find a new man in my life who loved me for who I was. He had this farm and this beautiful old dairy barn but no animals. I think we were the only place in the whole county who had a farm but no single farm animal. I have since then changed that and we have grown every year. I learned to birth, raise and slaughter my chickens. I have put down many animals to end their suffering. I learned to build wooden fences, how to fish, how to drive a trailer, how to birth foals, what to do when things go wrong, etc. It was, and still is a huge learning experience that I am eternally grateful for.

    So back to your question, yes, we did about the same thing when the did live cover on the mares. The stallion is smaller so we had to dig a hole for the ladies to stand in. The handler needs to get him all excited, then there is a 2nd handler to help him find the way and then I am at the front by the mares head to hold her in place. She usually does that very well on her own ;)

    Oh well, time to go home now. My favorite saying is that Poo dont shovel itself. So I better get home and start shoveling. I havent had the time to clean paddocks in 4 days and the girls normally poop 3 wheelbarrows worth a day. Therell be plenty 

    Jenn
  2. Apr 24, 2012
    Avalon1984

    Avalon1984 Lovin' The Homestead

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    I so hear you. Sometimes I wonder myself, but their mentality is just so wonderful, I wouldn't trade them for any other breed. They always know when it is important to behave and they will do just that. I used to ride German warmbloods, Arabs and everything in between and boy they could be a pain. I also have a fjord horse on my list :p
  3. Apr 24, 2012
    Icu4dzs

    Icu4dzs Almost Self-Reliant

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    I really enjoyed your description of life where you grew up. I have very little knowlege of Germany, having been to Stuttgart only once for a week. I will be honest in saying that having been born shortly after WW II, my understanding of things there did not do the country itself any justice. My perspective on the entire thing was derived from all the things I had been taught by the men who returned from there after the war.

    I am guessing you were about 5 years old in 1989(when the wall came down...I think it was '89 because I was practicing solo in Milwaukee when it happened) which makes you around 30 now (if my calculations are close). My younger daughter would be about your age since she was born in January of 1985.
    I remember the houses I saw there which were so old and so tall in the cities. You talk about the room you lived in being on the 5th level which is quite a hike for a child. But then walking up stairs is so good for the heart and legs. One stays healthy that way to be sure.

    I was in Brussels once and remember the houses in the one town square which were built in the 1600's. They were so beautiful and so ornate in their architectural design. They were what I was raised to call "Row Houses" because they were all connected by a common wall on either side. It seemed to me that towns were small, closely packed centers of population which were somewhat isolated from others despite relatively close distances. I remember being told that here in the Midwest, many towns were 9 miles apart because that was the distance a team could go in a day pulling a heavy wagon. That made sense to me and in many cases that remained true or they were in multiples of 9 miles and stayed overnight at farms that were exactly 9 miles away.

    The photographs of your horses are wonderful. The horses beautiful. People in my area of the country have evolved away from the draft horse because of the big green "Iron Horse" who tills the soil now. There are folks who do keep horses, some of whom just keep them as pets and don't really ride them. I know one man who has a beautiful team of draft horses and he brings them out to several places for different events. My favorite is when he brings them to the Civil War era fort near my home in the winter and hitches them to a sleigh and go for a "brisk" ride through the deep snow, bells and all!

    Most of the horses in my area though appear to be Quarter horses which do a lot of work in the cattle business. Yes, they still mount up and drive cattle out here. I've been on a couple of "round-ups" and it was a wonderful experience to commune with the past and be living in the present. Since I didn't have a horse and am not an accomplished cowboy, I used my 4-wheeler and was able to contribute in a meaningful way because of the versatility of the 4-wheeler with respect to speed and maneuverability. My 4-wheeler will NOT refuse a stream or uneven terrain...the horse on the other hand might just decide that it isn't for him and I saw that happen a few times. In all, it was a lot of fun.

    But, what I really wanted to say is that I appreciate your willingness to tell us about your life in East Germany of the 1980's. I was entering elementary school when the Berlin wall was built by the Russians and watched in horror as people tried to leave east Berlin. The Russians were very angry with the German people after WW II and that division of Berlin was the focal point of that anger. We in this country heard about the fall of that wall but many your age in this country have/had absolutely no idea as to the significance of that event or even anything having to do with why that wall was built in the first place or by whom. After the "Berlin Crisis" and the wall went up, people in East Germany (Berlin mostly) were being murdered by the Russians if they tried to escape to west Berlin. That makes no sense to people now but it was happening then. The Berlin wall was a symbol of oppression far worse than anything we in this country have ever experienced and hope never will. You mention the fact that your dad was a border guard. That must have been a stressful thing for your family as the border was always a focus of danger.

    Thank you for your story and I hope we keep hearing from you both with regard to your horse farm and your life behind "the iron Curtain" in East Germany.
    Trim sends
    //BT//
  4. Apr 24, 2012
    Denim Deb

    Denim Deb More Precious than Rubies

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    Your horses definitely eat more hay than mine! But then again, my biggest horse is an Arab! :lol:
  5. Apr 25, 2012
    snapshot

    snapshot Farmwife

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    Thank you for sharing your childhood and life with us! I'm glad you got to stay here in the States and are now living on your farm! It seems a very interesting life! And of course your horses are just gorgeous!!!!!!
  6. Apr 25, 2012
    Avalon1984

    Avalon1984 Lovin' The Homestead

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    You guys are too sweet. No thanks needed for sharing my story, you are most welcome. If I can reach only a few people and make them understand what went on from my perspective, it is well worth it. Thanks for your long letter Trim, I always appreciate your time. You are correct, I was born in 84 so I am slowly but surely approaching the big 3-0. I am a bit worried about that, it always seems like such a turning point in life. All these goals I had set aside for when I reach 30, so once I do, it will be like the end of the school year and I will know whether I graduated good or not.

    The chickens are pitching in good. I told them they need to at least pay for their own food, or heads will roll. They listened. The horses are picking up too, well see what the first round of breedings will bring in 2 weeks. We sure have enough interest, but it is always the leap between interest and having the horse paid for that gets interesting. The last horse took 3 months of emails going back and forth and negotiations to finally come to a sales agreement. All worth it in the end. Whod have thought one has to play politics so much when dealing with horses.

    Yes, our house had plenty of stairs. I miss that now. Talk about getting a free workout coming from work or school every day and doing 3 sets of stairs. It is funny you learned about the 9mi. I guess I never realized that but I am sure a lot of the towns in my area are like that too. Thuringia is a bit funny because it has a mountain belt, the Thuringian forest going through it. My village was at about 800 meters above sea level, so you had to build everything into the mountain. Our garden behind the house is at the same level as the 4th floor of the house because we are right up against a mountain. Keeping pasture there is hard because you hit rocks within about 5in of digging down. My dad had one heck of a time trying to dig in wooden posts for his covered chicken run last year.

    It was funny, when I went to my physical for a green card, the doctor noticed my vaccination passport. It was still from the DDR and had the Hammer and Sichel flag all over it. Quite a good invention because it kept me up to date on everything. I never had chicken pox so I always need to be sure I am VERY up to date on those shots. So the doctor said You are from East Germany?. I said No, I am from Germany. He said East or west?. I said Germany as one, the wall has been down for 20 years now last I knew. He just frowned and walked away. Later I looked at the paperwork and he did write me down as being from East Germanysigh. That was about the only negative experience I had about the whole deal.

    I think the more people start to talk about it, the more others will realize that what they thought it was all about, is more like a stereotype than anything. Somehow and somewhere, the whole East German thing seems to be branded into peoples mind as a sort of place where vile people lived who didnt deserve any better. I try to tell people that they were the same humans that lived in the west under the control of the western allies, we just happened to be on the wrong side of the wall and to this day East Germany is fighting hard to catch up with the west. Imagine your country being split in half and while one half gets to continue living the way they did, the other one is strategically being disassembled, whole factories are disassembled and reassembled in Russia, your equipment, technology and livestock is taken away and you are left with nothing but your hands and the bare soil. The good thing that came out of it was that the East Germans developed a temperament of perseverance that helped them through this time. They learned to excel at what they had available and some of the best athletes to this day came from East Germany. What a shame though that after the people fought so hard to be together again, now almost half of all Germans wish the wall was back up. I am hoping this mentality with disappear as people get older and wiser.

    Most of the incidents of people being killed while crossing the border was towards Berlin. The borders further south were not concrete walls, they just consisted of guard towers every 1/2mi and some fencing I believe. My dad was ok with his role, after all he was military and did what he had to do, but I honestly dont think they ever shot anybody there. Somehow (and maybe because of the flat terrain) people were less inclined to try and cross the border there. My grandpa on my moms side fought in the war and was caught as a POW in Italy and shipped to Arizona. Ironically, that was some of the best times he had in life and he didnt want to return. My grandma on my moms side worked in an ammunition factory and he had a growing family so he had to return. Both are deceased now so unfortunately I cannot ask about their experiences any longer.

    My horses are a lot of fun. They are very forgiving and I really like how strongly they bond. Because of their breeding and background in farm work, they are extremely smart and tied to humans, most times they want to be with humans more than being with one another. The trick is to keep them occupied. A work horse that doesnt have any work gets problematic and they start to develop vices. So my goal has been to learn more about working them from the ground via pulling or logging.

    You are right Trim, the iron horse has replaced many of them. Id like to steal a quote from Tim, who was hosting the driving clinic last weekend: I can create more smiles on peoples faces with one driving team, than any tractor in the world ever could. I think people still have this deep connection to horses and this is something that, in my humble opinion, may help them find back to their own roots and away from todays society of technology and lack of human interaction. A horse doesnt have an on/off button, it doesnt have a plug for recharging and there is no cheats to win the game. Taking care of a horse takes dedication and commitment. And unlike the lottery, the more you put into a horse, the more you get out. I think honestly, people want to have more connection with horses again. We see it every weekend when our stretch of road becomes the theme for todays Sunday road trip for many families. We have developments within a mile of our farm and people ride their bikes by it all the time. I just wish they had the courage to stop in sometime :lol:

    This year we are planning on doing a Meet a Clyde-Day at a local retirement home. They take care of elderly people, but also have injured vets and mentally disabled people there. First I need to find out if the city even allows us to bring a horse into town though. Everybody is so worried about liability today, it takes the fun away from events like that. And hopefully, as my breeding season ends I will have more time to begin the learning process of driving horses. Tim has been great and offering lots of help and advice on that matter. I think it would be wonderful to get the mares hitched up together. Down the road I would like to put a driving team together and use it at local events, but the mares need to be desensitized more before I can do that.

    I love your story about the 4-wheller Trim, that is so true. Sometimes horses can be rather stubborn 

    Oh well, I guess I should get some work done now. It was funny, a few weekends ago we went out for dinner at our favorite pizza joint. Been going there for years. They had the history channel on and were talking about Hitler. One of the waitresses, she was early 20s came up to us and said Somebody needs to do something about that Hitler guy!. Sigh

    Auf Wiedersehen!

    Jenn
  7. Apr 25, 2012
    Avalon1984

    Avalon1984 Lovin' The Homestead

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    Thank you, thank you. I too am very grateful to have the ability to live in this wonderful country!
  8. Apr 25, 2012
    Avalon1984

    Avalon1984 Lovin' The Homestead

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    Here are some pictures of the driving clinic.

    1. Learning the harness parts

    [​IMG]

    2. Getting the horses ready for hitching

    [​IMG]

    3. Driving practice

    [​IMG]

    4. My next trip which lead me up to the breeders. Trim, can you guess what I am doing here????


    [​IMG]
  9. Apr 25, 2012
    SSDreamin

    SSDreamin Almost Self-Reliant

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    Which horse is that you are wrapping, Avalon? My guess is Katie. Am I right? Annnndddd...my guess for what you're doing, is removing 'obstructions' in preparation for her 'date'?!

    I was struck by your comment, saying many German citizens would like the wall back up. Is that people from both sides of the wall, or just one? I wonder why?

    I am also impressed by your strength to overcome. Losing your first husband so soon (I am so sorry to hear that), dealing with the possibility of deportation and making your own way in a completely foreign country shows such strength.

    I am very interested in reading more of your story!
  10. Apr 26, 2012
    Avalon1984

    Avalon1984 Lovin' The Homestead

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    Hey Cindi.

    This is Avalon. She has an irregular blaze and a funny haircut (thanks to me) and you are right, removing obstructions would be a good way to put it. We had to raise the curtains to see what was going on.

    I am finding that citizens on both sides wish to have the wall back up. Apparently the mentality has become so different during the years when the wall was up that people just think differently. The West is also paying for rebuilding of the East because of the lack of infrastructure, roads in bad condition, salaries are much lower, etc. and the people in the west believe that they have invested enough money and dont want to pay for anymore, while the people in the East know that they are still far behind the west. So there is a lot of friction going on.

    Thank you for the nice comment. I think a lot of people are worse off. I at least have my health and was lucky enough to find another wonderful man in my life. Many people arent that lucky. I guess it is a sad lesson about what really matters in life and how important it is to treasure what you have, for you dont know when it will be taken from you.

    I am getting ready to head to the Clydesdale Sale in Howe, IN this weekend. I will not buy a horse but I will participate in the filly raffle. I figure if I buy all tickets I should win the filly, right? Husband said he will have me on a chain so I dont do anything stupid like buy another horse. Well see how that goes.

    You guys have a great weekend!

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