Meet Our New Ram, Nilsson

Nilsson unexpectedly joined our farm last week, and despite the circumstances that led to him joining us (our other ram was infertile and hadn’t gotten any of the ewes pregnant), we are excited to have him join our flock.  We had planned to add a Bond ram to the flock next year – it just happened earlier than expected.

He is a 5-year-old, Bond ram.  Bonds are very rare in America.  They originated in Australia and are similar to Corriedales.  Bonds are known for their very soft and fine, medium-length wool.  They give very large fleece and come in a variety of natural colors.  Nilsson has an amazing, large, fleece, and has won several championship ribbons at fleece shows during his life.  We are very excited to have him as our breeding ram.

Shop Small Homestead 2021

As everyone knows, online shopping is skyrocketing – people are shopping more online than ever before.  Large online corporations are being used a lot.  Meanwhile, small businesses are scrambling to find ways to successfully sell online and get their name and products out there.  The impacts of the restrictions due to the pandemic have been devastating on many small businesses.  While I think it is unlikely that any of us will completely give up using large sites, like Amazon, anytime soon, I do believe that we can all make an effort in 2021 to help keep small businesses open by shopping small online.  The benefit of online shopping is that we can easily buy from small businesses all across the country.

To help encourage people to shop small online during 2021, I would like to feature a small online homestead business each month.  I will purchase a product from the business and review it, as well as tell you about the business and owners.  I will also offer a giveaway of a product from their store to one of my readers.

Ways to Participate:

Homestead Business Owners

Do you own a small business based from your homestead/small backyard farm?  Do you sell homemade products on Etsy, or other online platform?  Do you have an online farm store where you sell items from your farm/ranch?  If so, and you would like to be featured in one of my Shop Small Homestead 2021 blog posts, please submit the following information to me via email at willowcreekfarm12@gmail.com.

  • Your Name
  • Location
  • Website/online shop address
  • Tell me a about your homestead/farm and the product(s) you sell.   Include some of your personal story of how you came to homesteading/farming.

I will pick one shop for each month of 2021 and will notify you by the first of the month if you are chosen.  I also plan to create a page on my site that lists all the small homestead businesses (even if they are not chosen to be featured on the blog) with links to their shops.

 

Bloggers

Spread the Shop Small Homestead 2021 word!  Do you have a blog or social media account and would like to feature monthly small homestead businesses in 2021 too?  Feel free to join in, find small homestead businesses to feature, and blog along with me on the 20th of each month.  Contact me to let me know that you are going to do it, and I will link to your posts and you can link to mine.  That way people have access to more and more small homestead businesses.

 

Readers

Watch for my posts each month and go check out the shops.  If you like the products for yourself or as a gift then do some shopping and support the small homestead business.  Help spread the word about the business through your social media.  Enter the giveaway drawing for a chance to win a product for free!

Sunday Homestead Update – A New Year

It is hard to believe it, but another year has arrived.  As the weather gets colder and windy-er, we move indoors and work on projects needing to be done inside.

Bathroom Remodel

This week we demo-ed our master bathroom.  At the end of 2019, we remodeled the shower in there, but couldn’t afford to do any more of it.  We have been saving and now are able to do the rest of the bathroom.  The house was built in the 1970s, with all the typical features that were “in style” at that point:  turquoise shag carpet, hideous wallpaper, countertops with flecks of gold in them, burnt orange colored kitchen appliances….etc.  During the almost 9 years we have been at this home, we have remodeled almost the entire main house.  All that is left is two bathrooms, the stairs, and a little bit of work in the mud room and everything will be completely changed.  So the next thing on the list was the master bathroom.

Heritage Arts

Another thing about cold weather is that we have more time for heritage arts projects.  I cast on, and hooked on, two new projects.  First, a sweater using a new book I got for Christmas.  This is for Mtn Man and I am using the yarn from our ram Fergus’ 2018 fleece.

I hooked on a crochet poncho using the beautiful yarn that Sunshine and Mtn Man made me from Freya’s fall 2020 fleece.

I have been contemplating what to do with Fiona’s final fleece.  She died suddenly in September and it was a very hard loss because she was the first sheep we ever purchased and had been with us a long time and had become my “pet.”  I decided to have Mtn Man make me roving in the mill, and then hand spin it myself.  I haven’t had my spinning wheel out in about 5 years due to Mr. Smiles’ frequent trips to the hospital and surgeries.  But I decided it was time to get it out and do some spinning.  And spinning my favorite ewe’s final fleece seemed like the perfect reason to get it back out.

At this point I am just playing around a bit with it while I remind myself what I am doing.  But it has been enjoyable.

Sheep Jacket Mending/Cleaning/Organizing

Sunshine took on a project for me that really needed to be done.  She got all our sheep jackets cleaned, patched, and organized.  Now we know exactly what sizes we have, and they are all fixed up and clean and ready to go on the sheep as needed.

Firestarters

Each fall we make wax firestarters to use through the winter as we make fires in the woodstoves to heat the house.  We have been behind on all our projects this year, but I finally got these made.  There are two types we make, pinecones ones (prettier) and egg carton ones (not as pretty, but just as useful).  This year, due to my hurry, and since I had a ton of egg cartons available, I made egg carton ones.

Once the wax cools and solidifies in the cartons, we cut each little cavity apart individually.  Then we use one cavity each time we start a fire by lighting the edge of the cardboard.  You can read more about how we make pinecone firestarters by clicking here.

What Do We Do About MacDougal?

MacDougal is a Blue-Faced Leicester Ram we purchased this summer to be our breeding ram for the year.  We brought him in from out of state and were very excited to see how his genetics and fleece characteristics crossed with our ewes, specifically our Merino/CVM ewe, Fiona.  We had bred Fiona to a BFL previously and loved the fleece on the lamb from that breeding.

Early fall, we bred two of our ewes to our dairy ram, and bred Fiona to MacDougal.  The plan was to breed the rest of the ewes to MacDougal in November/December.  Sadly, Fiona, died suddenly during the time she was living with MacDougal for breeding.  This left us feeling somewhat frustrated, since the main reason we bought MacDougal was for the cross on Fiona.  Now, we didn’t have a fine-wool breed ewe to cross him on, and all his great characteristics would be somewhat lost on breeding the dairy ewes.

Then, in October, we had to evacuate our farm due to wildfires, and the farm that the sheep went to didn’t have space to keep MacDougal separate from the ewes.  So our breeding season started earlier than planned.  Once they all arrived home, we noticed some strange behaviors from MacDougal.  First of all, he wasn’t the “vigorous” and “aggressive” breeding ram that we had experienced in the past with our previous rams.  With our previous rams it was very easy to tell when a ewe was in heat because they were practically glued to her side all day – not even caring much about eating.  Plus, we saw plenty of breedings take place as we went throughout our normal day without even trying to keep a close eye on the barnyard.  But with MacDougal it was different.  It was hard for us to tell when a ewe was in heat because he was only kind of interested in her, not obsessed like the other rams.  Also, we weren’t seeing the breedings take place, and then when we put in extra time to check on the barnyard more often so we could confirm the dates, it was still nearly impossible to catch them breeding.  But we did see a few from afar, so we figured all was well and that he just had a different personality.

But as these things played out we started to question what was going on.  We blamed it on the stress from the evacuation, and then the addition of the new ewe to the flock, and then the goats coming back home.  It seemed there was always some “stressor” that might or might not be causing him to act different.  But as the days ticked by, and our ewes kept coming back into heat again…and again…it became clear that something was wrong.  Monday, when Matilda came back into heat – yet again – we spent some extended time in the barnyard, trying to see him breed her.  We finally saw two breedings, the first we had ever seen with him where we could actually see what was going on, and it became clear that there was definitely something wrong.

Matilda is a Bond ewe that joined the flock in November.  We have been wanting to add a Bond for a few years now as the Bond fleece that come to our mill (few and far between) are our favorite fleece.  So being able to buy “Tilly” was such an exciting thing.  We decided that we wanted to breed purebred Bonds, if possible, and hoped to maybe buy a Bond ram next year to get that started.  But this year planned to have MacDougal breed her since we didn’t have Fiona anymore and thought it could be a nice cross since Bond have fine wool.  Since Tilly is older and has never had a lamb before, we need her to get pregnant this year or we wont be able to breed her due to the increased risk of first lambing with older ewes.  When we realized she was in heat – again – and that MacDougal wasn’t able to get her pregnant, we scrambled to see if we could get another ram here ASAP before her heat cycle ended.  Thankfully, not only could we get another ram, but we got a Bond ram – just what we were hoping for – that same day.  He went right to work with her as soon as he arrived at the farm and we are pretty confidant that she is pregnant now.  Seeing him with her also confirmed our worries about MacDougal even more, as he acted just as vigorous and aggressive as our previous rams had acted with the ewes – making MacDougal’s lack of sexual behaviors all the more apparent.

But that now left us with the question…What do we do with MacDougal?  There is, of course, the option to butcher him.  But he is a high-quality, expensive BFL ram, and he has a very nice fleece.  But we don’t have space on our farm to keep a whether (castrated male sheep) just for his fleece.  With our limited space we really need each animal to be as productive as possible, giving fleece AND breeding.  And really, we still didn’t know exactly what was wrong with him and whether it could be fixed or not.  But the thought of spending the money to get the vet out, when we would possibly end up having to butcher him anyway, wasn’t appealing either.  We had already lost so much with him not being able to breed.  Ultimately, we decided that we couldn’t make a good decision without knowing more, and thus would pay to have the vet out to check him out for us.

He came out Thursday and did a thorough evaluation.  It was clear early on in the evaluation that there were issues.  And the final answer was that MacDougal is indeed completely infertile and there is no way to fix it.  Sigh.  It is genetic.  Since the vet was already here, we decided to have him castrate him to get rid of what little ram behaviors he has so he can live with the ewes or with a ram without any issues.  That at least makes it easier to handle him in our small space because he can live in any pen at any time and not cause trouble.

So MacDougal is now a whether (granted, due to his infertility he was pretty much a whether all along).  We called the breeder we bought him from and told him what happened.  We were very happy to find out that he stands behind his breeding stock and thus gave us a refund of the difference in price between a breeding ram and a whether.  I love doing business with people who stand behind their “product.”  It makes us very likely to work with him again and recommend him to other people.

We will shear him in the next few weeks and see what we think about his fleece and then try to decide what to do.  At this point, it seems like selling him as a wool whether is the best option for our farm and space.  But there are other things to take into consideration, so we are not sure exactly what we will do.  For now, he is living in the back pen by himself as he heals.

MacDougal is only the third ram we have ever owned.  We used to use a different farm’s rams for all our breeding.  So we learned a lot from this experience.  Mainly, that rams don’t have different personalities when it comes to breeding.  If the ram is not acting very vigorous and aggressive about breeding there is something wrong.  If this happens again, which hopefully it doesn’t because it is pretty rare, we will recognize it sooner.

2020 Year-End Homestead Review

Looking back over the previous year on the homestead is an excellent practice because it helps us see what worked, what didn’t, and helps us plan for the future.  It is also always very encouraging to me because even when I feel like we didn’t have a very productive year, seeing it all written out shows me all that we accomplished.  Our homestead has had to take a backseat to other parts of our life over the last few years due to our son’s serious medical issues.  But despite that, we still are able to do some homesteading and it brings us stability and joy.  I used to do excellent record-keeping, but as each year has been harder and harder with Mr. Smiles, each year has thus been harder and harder to do good record keeping.  I am amazed I kept records at all this year!  But here’s what we have.

To read previous Year-End Reviews Click the following links:

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Statistics

Chickens:

  • Started the year with 21 hens, 3 pullets, 3 cockerels (almost ready for butcher), and 1 rooster.  Plus 23 eggs in the incubator.
  • Did 1 incubation with 23 eggs.  22 were fertile, 10 chicks hatched and 10 survived.
  • Broody hen set 12 eggs, bad fertility (only 5 fertile), 3 hatched, we added 10 from the store and she accepted them, 5 from the store and 1 of hers died in the first few days, 7 survived.  Got 5 more from the store and put them under her. 4 of those survived.  So a total of 11 surviving chicks.
  • Purchased 16 more chicks to have shipped.  14 survived.
  • 2 more broody hens set, one set 10 eggs, 7 hatched and survived, the other set 14 eggs, 4 hatched, 4 survived.
  • We purchased 10 chicks and our best broody hen adopted them and raised them.  9 survived.
  • At the height of the season we had 25 adult chickens and 40 chicks –  total 65
  • Butchered 24 cockerels, 13 old hens, 1 rooster
  • Did not sell any chickens this year, but gave away 3 as a gift
  • 1 hen died of unknown causes
  • Ended year with 36 hens and 3 roosters.
  • Approximately 4,180 eggs laid (348 dozen)

Farm Dogs:

  • Anya, our 4.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd continued to do well guarding the flock, even through the fire evacuations.  She has matured into an excellent LGD who loves her job and her flock.

Sheep:

  • Started year with 1 wool ewe, 4 dairy ewes, and 1 dairy ram
  • 4 ewes got pregnant, due in April & May
  • 1 ram lamb and 3 ewe lambs born, all survived
  • 72 gal of milk produced
  • 2 fleece shorn from our wool sheep, for a total of 8 lbs raw, skirted wool.
  • 5 fleece shorn from our dairy sheep, for a total of 10.1 lbs raw, skirted wool.
  • Total of 8,525 yds of various sizes and types of yarn made from all the fleece. Plus 3/4 lb of roving.
  • Sold 2 ewes and 2 ewe lambs
  • Purchased 1 BFL ram lamb, 1 Wensleydale ewe, and 1 Bond ewe (all wool breeds)
  • 1 wool ewe died unexpectedly
  • Butchered 1 ram and 1 ram lamb
  • Bred them in two separate groups, one group in September, and one group in October-December.  2 September ewes confirmed pregnant due in Feb.
  • Realized our new BFL ram was unable to breed the flock successfully Oct-Dec, quickly purchased a new Bond ram end of December and put him with the girls, hoping to get the last 3 pregnant.
  • Finished year with 2 wool ewes,  2 dairy ewes, 1 dairy/wool ewe lamb, and 2 wool rams

Goats:

  • Started the year with 1 Nubian doe, Pansy.  Pregnant and due to kid in April.
  • 1 doeling born, died at a couple weeks of age.
  • Pansy struggled for several months with undefinable illness.  The vet, breeder, and we tried everything to figure out what it was and tried treating for any possible thing.  The illness decreased her milk production and we ended up having to dry her off in October.
  • Due to Pansy’s struggles and drop in milk production, we added another Nubian doe to our farm in July, named Belle.
  • 75 gal of milk produced.
  • Rebred 2 does in Nov/Dec.
  • 2 does pregnant and due to kid in April.

Ducks:

  • Started the year without ducks.  Added them to the farm in July – our first ever ducks!
  • Started with 2 drakes and 2 hens
  • 1 hen set 12 fertile eggs, 5 hatched, 4 survived, all drakes
  • Butchered 5 drakes and 1 hen
  • Finished year with 1 drake and 1 hen

Garden (didn’t keep good garden records this year, but…)

  • Over 250 lbs of produce harvested
  • More seeds saved than ever before

Heritage Arts:

  • Completed knit projects: 6 hats, 2 pairs of mittens, 2 pairs of socks, 1 gator, 1 poncho, and 1 dress.
  • Completed sewing projects: 4 dresses, 5 skirts, 8 pajama pants, 3 nightgowns.  Plus innumerable amounts of mending and patching of clothes.
  • The girls did countless projects, each of them finishing more projects than I did.
  • We made 12 tins, 3 half-pints, and 1 pint of herbal salve.

Kitchen:

  • Canned apples in honey syrup, green beans, and tomatoes.  Plus grape jelly.
  • Prepped and froze carrots and celery.
  • Root cellared garlic, onions, potatoes, and squash.
  • Made 68 lbs of aged cheese.  Mostly from sheep milk, a few from goat’s milk.
  • Made a lot of soft cheeses and dairy products, mostly from goat’s milk, some from sheep milk.

Year Summary

January was cold and dry most of the month.  We hatched out 10 chicks in the incubator, hoping to line the hatching up with chicks coming in the mail so they could brood together.  Unfortunately, the hatchery made a mistake and printed our shipping page but never shipped us the chicks.  So we decided to just raise the 10 we had hatched ourselves.  We pulled our first ever aged cheese out of the cheese cave and tried it.  It was Colby and we all liked it.  One of our younger ewes surprised us by getting bred late, bringing our total of pregnant sheep up to 5.

February made up for January’s lack of snow by snowing every few days and dropping into the negative temperatures.  We worked on indoor projects a lot, and Mtn Man finished his first-ever rectangular braided rug made from llama and alpaca fiber.  We took photos of our chicks each week as they grew and changed.  We got ourselves organized and planned out the gardens and planting schedule for the year, as well as all the livestock birthings and things we needed to prepare for related to that.  Since we kept more sheep than we originally planned to when we put up hay last summer, we had to buy some more and get it put away in the loft.

March started exactly the opposite of February, with a week of warm, dry, sunny weather.  We spent a lot of time outdoors, working on finishing the new vegetable garden in time for planting.  We got the lambing/kidding kit and vet kit re-supplied and ready for lambing season.  And we also finished the wooden barnyard fence.  Coronavirus spread over the world and we were isolated from socializing.  We were largely unaffected, until Mtn Man ran out of work in the mill and had to take an essential construction job.  Our stirred-curd cheddar cheese reached 3 months of aging, so we were able to take it out of the cheese cave and try it.  It was delicious!  We put part of it back to age more so we could see the difference.  Our hen, Cinnamon, decided to set a brood of eggs for us.  We finished shearing all the sheep and began processing their fleece, and we got excited as we neared our first lambs due on the farm for the year.

In April our first dairy lamb was born without issues.  We started milking our first dairy sheep – Autumn, and quickly realized it would go better with a milking machine.  A lot of work was done on finishing up our new veggie garden area, and improving and building new fruit garden areas.  We made progress on Mr. Smiles’ new play area too.  We were all excited when I was invited to blog monthly for Mother Earth News.  Cinnamon’s hatch had terrible fertility, and we only ended up with 3 chicks, so we bought some at the store and gave them to her to raise with hers.  Many were weak from shipping stress and died, so we bought some more.  Our wool ewe, Fiona, had a single ram lamb, in an uneventful birth that we missed seeing despite our hourly checks.  The end of the month was exhausting as we were up to the barn every two hours through the night awaiting the goats and lambs that were due to be born.  Daisy, a first-time-mom ewe, had a traumatic birth with a very stuck large single baby in her small inexperienced pelvis.  We were able to save both the ewe and lamb, but then Daisy rejected the lamb.  After working with her for a day, we decided to give up and bottle feed it.  Once they were separated and the other ewes came to visit the baby, Daisy suddenly decided she wanted to mother the lamb.  We were very relieved and did not need to bottle feed after all.

In May our stay-at-home orders were lifted, and the hospitals started performing surgeries again.  This meant that Mr. Smiles could now get the surgery he was supposed to have back in March, but it also meant that we would be gone to the Children’s Hospital during the height of our lambing/kidding season.  Thankfully, no one birthed while we were gone.  We continued to be exhausted from our nightly barn checks as Pansy the goat went well past her due date, whereas both our first-time-mom-ewes went earlier than their due dates.  Daisy was due in May, but had hers in April.  Blue went 4 days early, the day before Mr. Smiles’ surgery.  Thankfully, Blue’s birth was uneventful and we missed it despite hourly checks on her.  Finally, 9 days past her due date, Pansy gave birth.  She had ring-womb and it made for a traumatic delivery, but both mother and baby survived.  We were finally past our birthing season and could get some sleep – theoretically.  Our oldest son graduated from high school at the end of the month – our first child to graduate from homeschool.  His ceremony and party were canceled due to coronavirus, so we had a nice little celebration on our own.  And we added a new BFL ram to the flock.

June started with disease, pests, and late frosts.  It was a challenging month for sure.  Our youngest son had more trouble with his health, leading to 1 MRI under anesthesia, 4 more surgeries, 2 ER trips, and 9 days in the hospital.  Meanwhile, back at the homestead, the mice were reaching plague-like proportions, with us catching up to 35 per night in our traps, and the barn cats killing innumerable amounts, and yet they were still wreaking havoc in the gardens and barns.  We found out that our new BFL ram might have brought Orf to the entire flock, and anxiously waited the disease incubation period, hoping it wouldn’t prove to be true.  The goat and her doeling got lice, and we were busy treating them with a natural oil daily.  One of our hens hatched out 7 baby chicks, on the same day that the doeling very suddenly died of what was suspected to be enterotoxaemia.  We grew oh-so-weary with it all.  And then, during Mr. Smiles’ hospital stay and surgeries, Pansy became very ill.  We had the vet out multiple times, only to find no obvious cause and have no treatment we tried help.  As a last-ditch-effort, on our way home from the hospital we picked up a buckling to take home to see if it was emotional depression from the death of her doeling causing her physical illness.

In July we managed to avoid the pediatric hospital, but knew our time away was limited so we were super busy at the farm trying to deal with all the summer to-dos before we had to head back to Denver.  Pansy the goat was still sick for awhile, but eventually pulled through her mysterious health issue.  We traded the temporary buckling out for a new milk doe.  We weaned lambs, sold some sheep, and purchased a new breeding ram and ewe.  We also added ducks to the farm for the first time ever.  The mice and hail continued to plague the gardens, but some harvest began to come in as well.  With two goats, and the lambs not milk-sharing with us anymore, milk continued to flow in larger quantities than before, and thus we spent a lot of time making cheese and other dairy products.  We had to switch to a larger homemade refrigerator cheese cave, as the smaller one was full.  We also purchased two pigs and butchered them for our winter meat.  It was our first time ever butchering pigs as we usually have the butcher do the pigs for us but there was no butcher who could take them due to the pandemic.  It was a very busy and productive month on the homestead for sure.

August brought a lot of juggling of farm life and hospital life.  Mr. Smiles had 2 more surgeries, one scheduled and one unexpected.  Meanwhile we were trying to continue to process all the dairy products and harvest the garden.  We ate, canned, froze, pickled, fermented, and root cellared the produce as it was harvested.  We butchered some chickens, and one of our hens decided to set and hatch some chicks.  One of the new duck hens wanted to set too, so we bought some hatching eggs and put them under her.  As I continued to blog for Mother Earth News, I also had an article published in Chickens Magazine.  Our friends were evacuated due to a wildfire and their ducks and chickens came to live with us for what turned out to be several weeks.  It was kind of fun having a goose on the farm for a little while – we had never had one before and she was beautiful and fun.  We struggled with a couple of red-tailed hawks and a golden eagle who were hanging out trying to get an easy meal in our barnyard.  The chickens had to stay in their covered pen to keep them safe.

September was beautiful, except for the large amounts of smoke from the wildfires.  We worked hard harvesting and preserving the harvest from our gardens.  The pullets began laying, so we had some fun new egg colors and sizes.  We were able to can our produce, despite supply shortages, thanks to our reusable canning lids.  We got an early hard freeze along with three days of snow that surprised us and brought the garden harvest to an end quickly.  Thankfully, we got all the produce out in time.  The snow also helped suppress the wildfires, for a little while.  We tried a new breeding plan for the sheep on the farm, and bred three of the ewes during September, planning to breed the others in December to divide up our lambing season.  We also butchered the ram lamb.  The duck hen successfully hatched her ducklings and we really enjoyed the new adventure of that.  We were able to put some more meat in the freezers when Mtn Man and his father hunted elk.  Sadly, our matriarch ewe, the first ewe we ever purchased for the farm, died unexpectedly – it was heartbreaking and a very difficult loss.

October was full of fall productivity.  We worked at getting, splitting, and stacking firewood to heat the house for the winter.  We continued to work on cleaning up the gardens and putting up the seeds for next year.  We finished several heritage arts projects, and built new feed bins for the barn.  We butchered more chickens and a ram, plus a couple of ducks.  The freezers were filling up fast for winter!  We were excited to learn that one of my blog posts for Mother Earth News was chosen to be published in their e-newsletter.  The Cameron Peak wildfire moved closer and closer to us, putting us on edge and prepared for evacuation.  We had a mountain lion hang out around our property for a few days, which kept us on edge as well.  Two more wildfires started near us, and ash and smoke started making life complicated.  Then, in one days time, one of the fires grew over 100,000 acres and traveled 35 miles, closing in on our home.  We were evacuated, and had to quickly get 64 animals and 8 humans off our homestead.  We were so blessed to have friends, acquaintances, and strangers reach out to us and take in our animals and our family.  The animals were spread over 5 different farms.  After 5 days, our family was able to go home, but the fire loomed and threatened and we had to stay prepared for fast evacuation, so we did not bring the farm animals back for a few weeks.

As we headed into November we continued to watch the wildfires and wait for the OK to bring our livestock back to the farm.  We cleaned and prepared the barn, and worked on some heritage arts projects.  As the containment lines grew, we started bringing animals back.  First the sheep and LGD came home.  Then the poultry.  The goats were evacuated to the farm that they go to every November/December for breeding, so we left them there for the breeding season.  It felt great to have the animals back at the homestead!  Since the ram had to be with the ewes during the evacuation – thus starting our breeding season earlier than planned, we decided to just leave him with them and let them breed.  We added a new, Bond ewe named Matilda to the farm.  We also spent a lot of time in the kitchen, canning and cheesemaking.  We scrambled to get things done around the farm before winter really hit since the evacuation had put us behind on all our fall projects.  We were surprised to find out that our two hatches from September, one duck hatch and one chick hatch, that each had 4 babies survive, had all males.  Not exactly what we were planning, but more meat in the freezer.

December brought both very low temperatures (-10F) and unseasonably high temperatures (55F) to the farm.  We used the warm days to finish fixing some fences and the path out back, and spent the rest of the time cozy by the fire working on heritage arts projects for Christmas presents.  It was a pretty laid-back, low-key month and we all enjoyed the break and rest.  Then, in the last few days of the month, we realized that our new BFL ram was not getting the ewes pregnant.  We quickly purchased a new ram, a Bond, and put him with the girls, hoping we could get the last 3 ewes pregnant before their breeding cycles stopped for the season.

 

It is good to look back, but can also be hard to look back as well.  I remember that in last year’s homestead review I said that it was by far the hardest year in our lives.  Good thing I didn’t know what was to come.  This year has by far been the most challenging year of our lives.  We had so many losses in our personal lives and on our homestead.  At the homestead we battled the weather, pests, birthing complications, and illnesses in the livestock.  Our youngest son had 8 more surgeries this year, along with many hospitalizations, ER visits, and doctor’s appointments.  His last surgery was his 23rd in his 5 years of life.  It was definitely challenging.  Through it all we continue to focus on our many blessings and trust in God as He carries us through the ups and downs.