This week the focus was winter prep. The really cold weather will be hitting us in the next month or so, and we would like to be as prepared as possible.
We worked on cleaning up the garden and putting it to bed for the winter. There are still a few things growing in there, so there will be some more work to be done, but we made a lot of progress.
We butchered chickens to get down to our winter numbers. This year will be our smallest flock ever over the winter – only 7 hens. We will keep them all in the lower coop because it is easier to manage in the sub-zero temps and because we need to do some fixing up on the upper coop. It will be much easier to fix without any chickens living in it. With the bears many attempts to break in to the upper coop over the last couple years we have mostly done quick-fix patchwork on the holes they made. We would like to get it fixed up properly, instead of just patched, and move around the roosts to more convenient places. We plan to get a bunch of chicks early next year and it will be nice to move them into a fixed-up coop.
Once we moved the chickens all to the lower coop, we gave them each a good check over and clipped all their nails. We were happy to find no mites or troubles with any of the hens. A couple years ago we had such a bad mite problem in the fall! Glad that isn’t the case this year. They are, however, molting like crazy. I am only getting one egg a day from all 7 of them, and the exterior pen of the coop looks like a feather bomb exploded in it. The whole ground is carpeted with feathers.
After we moved them down, we did a major clean-out of the upper coop, the grow pen, and the broody coop. They are all completely empty and spic-n-span. They will stay that way through the winter until the chicks move in.
We canned the chicken meat since we really enjoyed the canned rabbit meat we tried out earlier this fall. And we are continuing to can spaghetti sauce from the tomatoes we harvested from the garden.
Young Man successfully hunted the first cow elk of the season for our family! We processed it and filled the freezer with about 150 lbs of meat. Mountain Man still has a cow elk tag, and they both have buck mule deer tags. If they can fill all their tags we will really be set for the next year as far as red meat goes.
We are assessing the barn layout and hoping to make a few changes this winter. When we built the barn we had a full-sized Jersey cow. Several of the areas in the barn were built as multi-purpose areas, and those have proven to work well no matter what changes we have made in our livestock. But there are a few areas, especially the cow dairy parlor (cow milking stanchion and the area around it), that are just a waste of necessary space with our current goats and sheep. We want to make the space as efficient as possible, so in the next few months we hope to make a few permanent lambing/kidding stalls and a goat milking stanchion in what is currently a very large cow milking area that doesn’t get used.
We are also hoping to do some more permanent fencing in the barnyard in the next few weeks, and rebuild the retaining wall on the onion/garlic patch. So many projects! Taking last year off from the homestead projects because of the baby’s health has really made the projects pile up for this fall.
We have decided to keep both goats through their kidding until we get an idea of how much milk we can expect from them and such. Our family is easily going through 3 gallons of milk a week, and we want to be sure we can provide all of that from our goats. They are both very sweet and wonderful girls. They have fully integrated into the “Flerd” – intermixing with the sheep easily. But they are also very smart and have easily been trained to go to their own stall for night feeding when the sheep go into the sheep stall. I feed the sheep first and the goats don’t follow the sheep in to be fed in the sheep stall, they wait at the door of the goat stall for me to feed them. It is very cool to see them be so smart. The kids and I are very glad we got them and maybe even Mtn Man is too.😉