Sunday Homestead Update

Summer is in full swing here on the homestead.  Hot days…cool mountain evenings…we are all enjoying everything summer.

As we work around the homestead we continue to come up with new ideas and plans for future projects to grow and improve the homestead.  Sunshine is dreaming of a pond…Mtn Man is eager for an orchard…Braveheart wants ducks…I am picturing the potential for more fruits and a berry garden area…Little Miss can’t wait for her goat to have kids next spring and have higher milk production…and Young Man is contemplating wind power.

But as we dream, we also are enjoying and soaking in what we already have here, and are working hard to make it as efficient and productive as possible.

Sheep

The lambs are growing and growing.  They spend a lot of time eating at the creep feeder where their mamas can’t steal all the good food.

Garden

The garden is finally starting to look like a garden after a very cold non-existent spring season.  Things are flowering and fruiting, and we are beginning to harvest more items.

I am very excited that our medicinal herb garden is really starting to get going now, after two years of trying.  It still needs more time, but I think it will eventually be beautiful and productive.

The wild raspberries that we transplanted from a local property two years ago have flowers on them!  Our experimental transplant might just work!

The strawberry harvest has started!

We have all been enjoying eating them fresh from the garden – I don’t think any have made it into the house yet.  🙂

Chickens

The Pick No More is working very well.  It has only been a few weeks and we are already seeing huge differences in the chickens.  But it has kind of worn off, so we needed to re-apply it.  We also needed to band and identify the pullets for our breeding program and clip their wings.  Mtn Man and I were busy with Mr. Smiles’ medical stuff, so the middle three children, Sunshine (14), Little Miss (12), and Braveheart (11) decided they could tackle the job on their own without us.  Afterall, they had seen us do it and helped us do it many many times.  They did an excellent job, and even more important…not one of them ended up dyed purple (from the pick no more)!  Not having my children or their clothing dyed is very helpful to this mama.  🙂  But really, they did a great job with the birds and got the project completed, which was a huge help to us.  I wrote about homesteading with our kids here, here, and here if you would like to read more about how we include them and have raised them on the homestead.

So now the chickens have a fresh application of Pick No More, and they are all banded, wings clipped, and my breeding flock ID paperwork is caught up with all the new breeding pullets’ information.

Farm Therapy

What is it about a homestead that is so therapeutic?  Fresh air, sunshine, livestock, edible vegetation, providing for your own food needs, baby animal cuteness…?  All of those things, and more.

As we head into our youngest son’s 12th surgery in less than 4 years my heart is heavy.  I head out to the barnyard for my farm therapy.  I sit on a rock in the barnyard and listen to the sounds, breathe in the smells, and view the sights.

My immediate companion is the LGD, Anya, looking for some love.

Followed quickly by the goat, Pansy, who thinks she is an LGD too.

After some love they clear out, well actually, the dog heads off to more interesting things and the goat continues to demand affection.  I eventually ask her to give me some space.  Then the chickens come over and peck around my feet, hoping maybe I brought food with me.

The sheep are content to lay in the shade, along with a chicken companion.

Something about the area brings peace.  It is calm, and steady.  It is natural.  I take a deep breath and take it all in.  My heart relaxes a little.  The farm cannot remove my concerns, but it has therapeutic powers – some that can be explained, and some that defy explanation.  It helps me face the next mountain.

Sunday Homestead Update

I can’t get my computer to upload photos this week.  So it will be a brief SHU without any photos.

Goat

Pansy is starting to show a difference in her coat from the copper bolus we gave her a few weeks ago.  The goat is Little Miss’ “niche” on the farm.  It is her goat, she milks her, she makes the dairy products, and handles all the goat related learning and care.  Little Miss had noticed Pansy’s coat was dull, had some brown tips, and was starting to get some bald and thin spots.  We learned she was copper deficient and gave her a copper bolus and it is nice to see her already improving.  Her coat is shiny, the brown is gone, and the thin and bald areas are filling in.  Little Miss is brushing her each day to help her skin and coat and is very happy with the improvements in her goat.

Sheep

The lambs are 5 weeks old now – hard to believe!  They are growing beautifully and doing very well.  Such a blessing after the rough start we had with the twins.

Garden

The cold weather we had this spring continues to effect the garden as everything is three weeks behind our usual schedule.  Three weeks might not sound like a big deal, but our growing season frost to frost is only about 10-12 weeks.  So we are looking at somewhere between 1/4-1/3 of our growing season lost.  That is a big deal.  We are hoping and praying that we have a late first frost this fall so that we can harvest from the garden before it freezes.

But, in good gardening news, we harvested garlic scapes this week.  It is our first time with successful garlic and we were very excited to get to harvest the scapes and eat them.  We tossed them in a bag with olive oil and salt and then put them under the broiler in the over for a bit.  They were delicious!  We all enjoyed them as a snack several different days.  What a fun early season treat from the garden!

It is So Hard

Having a baby with chronic medical conditions has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  The roller coaster of emotions, mixed with all the unknowns has stretched me far beyond myself and my own strength.  I don’t know how I could manage to do it without my faith in God, because leaning on Him and trusting Him and my faith in HIM has been the only thing keeping me going through it all.

In April we were told that our 3.5-year-old son’s rare bile duct/liver disorder was fixed after 11 surgeries and 3.5 years of struggles and battles with it.  Unfortunately, we found out this week that is not the case, as it reared its ugly head again.

More doctors.  More tests.  More ideas of what to do.  More trying this or that.  More unknowns.

We continue to lean on God and trust the truths and promises He has given us.  We continue to focus on the blessings in our lives and soak in every one of them, large or small.  We continue to love and pour ourselves into those we love even when it is hard.  And He fills us back up.

Sunday Homestead Update

Summer arrived suddenly this week.  We got a couple weeks of spring weather, and then on to summer weather.  So it has been hot…for us.  It is all about perspective when it comes to weather and temperatures.  🙂

Chickens

We had a lot of work this week moving the chickens around and sorting them out and deciding who stays and who goes.

We now have the older hens and the young pullets that we want to keep in our flock all together in the upper coop.  We removed the rooster because we are not breeding right now and we want to give the flock a break from his affection, so he is in one of the rooster pens.  We did leave the two younger Dark Brahma cockerels that we are considering for breeding roos in with all the ladies though.  It will still be a little while before they start trying to breed the hens.

We sold and butchered all the young pullets and cockerels that we didn’t want to keep for our flock.

The bantams are back down in the lower coop, along with Alice, and a 14-week-old pullet I was calling Black Beard (I know, not a feminine name, but she has a black beard, so it just worked).  Mtn Man and the kids have named her Cally, so I am working on changing it over in my head.

Black beard was the only 14-week-old we wanted to keep and we could not get her to integrate with the older birds since she was a single addition to an established flock.  Alice, had been removed from the group of older hens, along with Batina, a few months ago because their backs were so torn up from the rooster and they needed to heal.  They both healed up nicely, and we put them back in with the group last week.  Everything seemed fine as they settled back in with the flock that they already knew.  But then, one day this week Mtn Man looked into the barnyard and found the flock chasing and pecking Batina to death.  He went in to save her, but it was too late.  They then turned on Alice too.  So we took Alice out and decided to see if she could live happily with the bantam hens since they had space in their coop.

She has settled in fine with them.

We have integrated hundreds of chickens with each other over the last 6 years of our breeding program and we have never had them kill one before.  We followed all of our usual integration techniques as well.  It was very upsetting and we are not sure exactly what caused the issue.  But it seems like all the chickens are now settled into their new flocks and living situations.

It feels really good to have the chickens sorted and organized.  We had way too many this year with our very successful hatch and it has been a tough job juggling them all around and trying to keep housing suitable.  Now we can check that off the list and move forward with our basic chicken housing situations and the regular numbers of birds.

We also had a lot of naked spots on the birds both from rooster breeding and from feather picking in the younger groups that were crowded.  So we are trying out “Peck No More” lotion.  We applied it to all the bare spots on all the birds.  It thoroughly dyed their skin purple, which looks a little crazy.  Hopefully it will work and in a month or so we will have a fully feathered flock again.

Sheep

Getting the chickens organized and downsized meant that Fergus could have his stall in the barn back.  We are going to build him a new hay rack for in there this week.

All this moving of pens also meant that we were able to set up the creep feeder in one of the jugs so that the lambs can eat alfalfa and grain without their moms getting to it.  We just open the door to the jug enough so that the lambs can fit through but not the ewes and we screw a board to it on the top and bottom to hold it in place.