Happenings at Willow Creek Farm

It is hard to believe that we are in the last week of March already!  There are a lot of things going on around our homestead right now.

Indoors, we are working to get “phase 1” finished in the kitchen remodel.  We knew there was a big chance that we would only be able to complete most of the kitchen this winter and not all of it.  So when we were planning the construction we broke it into two phases, phase 1 being something we could use and live in for several months if necessary.  Well, it is necessary.  When April arrives we will begin our many outdoor projects for the garden, orchard, and barnyard.  Then summer is always a whirlwind of outdoor projects.  So we are guessing that we will not be able to work on the kitchen remodel much again until next winter.  But phase 1 completion makes it very useable.  All that will be left once phase 1 is complete will be some trim work and half of the kitchen’s cabinets.  But the old ones are still installed, so we are using them.  We still have several cabinet doors, a couple of drawers, and the backsplash on the island to do in order to complete phase 1.  Hopefully that will be done by the end of next week.

Outside, the snow is melting, although there still isn’t any green peeking out nor buds anywhere.  But that is usual for our location.

The hens are laying like crazy and we have plenty of eggs for us and our customers.  They are more than earning the keep for the entire flock, which is wonderful!

Also, we have found a new way for the chickens to earn their keep.  Some friends would like to buy chicks from us.  So we are beginning to collect eggs for another incubation.  The great thing about this is we can continue to learn more about incubating and try out different things to increase our success – and we wont have to make more space for more chicks, all the while making money doing it!  They will come pick up their chicks as soon as the hatch is completed.  They want as many as we can possibly give them, so we will be filling both incubators – for a total of about 82 eggs.  That is by far the most we have ever incubated at once.  We are hopeful for a great outcome.

Eve (our Silkie) is still glued to her nest, she is a little more than halfway done with her brooding.

Last week we did the chicken shuffle.  With our breeding program we utilize both the upper coop and the lower coop to house different groups of hens with a rooster to collect specific breeding eggs.  Because of this, we shuffle birds from here to there a few times a year.  Also, since the lower coop only has a small pen and no free-ranging, we try to make sure no bird stays down in that coop/pen for too long at a time.  Because of Boaz’s foot injury, he has been in the lower coop since November (with various groups of hens that we rotated out).  Now that he is doing better we really wanted him to get some freedom and free-ranging.  So we moved our other roo, Pepper, down to the lower coop with the hens we wanted him to breed, and we moved Boaz up to the upper coop with the hens we wanted with him.  He is very happy to have the space and freedom – though he isn’t too sure about the wooly things that are very curious about him and keep trying to sniff and lick him.

The two lambs are settling in well.  They have very individual personalities, which is fun.  Daphne is very standoffish to the other animals (except the other sheep), especially the dog.  She will stamp her front foot at him if he even looks her direction and gets more and more escalated if he wanders near her.  Duncan, however, is very curious.  He follows the rooster, Boaz, around trying to sniff him and figure out what he is.  For some reason it is only Bo that is intriguing to him.  Maybe because he is so huge – bigger than all the other chickens by far.

We think we will probably be banding (castrating) Duncan in the next week.  ***Warning, the rest of this paragraph has details about castrating a ram.  Skip down to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read that.***  We haven’t decided yet if we will be doing it the regular way (removing both testicles by banding above them both, causing them to lose circulation and fall off), or if we will do what we have learned is called “short sacking” him.  From what we have learned through books and from our sheep breeder, short sacking (pushing both testicles up into the body cavity and banding the sack so they are held up in the body permanently – the body heat causing sterility) leaves you with a larger meat animal than either leaving him intact or fully castrating him.  Since he is for meat, we are all for a larger animal.  The one downfall is that short sacking isn’t 100% reliable to cause sterility.  So, if he doesn’t go completely sterile, we could have issues with him breeding the ewes this fall when we don’t want him to.  So we are still deciding what to do.

We are putting the finishing touches on the garden plans.  Exactly how many of each veggie will be planted, and where in the garden they are all going are the final decisions being made right now.  We will be starting our seeds indoors the first week of April.  I am SO excited!  Gardening is my favorite part of the homestead.

That is the update of what is going on around here.  Keeping busy, as always.  Never a dull moment.  🙂

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