Sunday Homestead Update

We have had a busy week as we are in the thick of finishing up our school year, starting the garden season, and heading into important milestones for the chickens for the breeding program.  But a spring storm has dumped several heavy, wet inches of snow on us and is supposed to continue into Monday so we have been stopped in our tracks with all the projects.  In a way, it is a nice break – probably our last veg-out, lay around and rest type weekend opportunity until fall.  So we are taking advantage of it by enjoying some of our favorite indoor hobbies, getting a few small projects done inside, and reading aloud through a book together.  The fire is crackling and the livingroom is cozy and warm as I type this and look out the window at the whiteness around us.

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This pic is actually from a similar storm last year.

The list of homestead things “to-do” can wait until our area starts thawing later this week and next weekend.

Garden

The seedlings indoors are doing well, and the numbers have increased to the point that I had to bring another table into the livingroom by the windows to hold all of them.

I planted three different varieties of tomatoes – Red Pear, Glacier Early, and Orange Pixie.  The Orange Pixie and Glacier Early are sprouting wonderfully, but the Red Pear have not had even one sprout and it has been over two weeks now.  I think I will plant more of all three (in case the red pear don’t sprout so I’ll have enough plants) and see what happens.

We are so happy with our drip irrigation system that we have decided to go ahead and install it over the entire garden and the onion & garlic patch.  We bought the supplies this last week, but with the snow we are waiting until next weekend to install it.  Also, husband used a compressor to blow out the lines of what we had already installed in preparation for this freeze and it worked wonderfully.  I tried to type up and post all the details about the drip irrigation system this last week, but had trouble with WP, so it will have to wait until this coming week.

We blanketed all the berry bushes with frost cloth (some with plain sheets) to get them through this freeze.  We are newbies at the whole berry bush thing and are hoping all goes well, especially since they all have such nice blossoms on them.  Of course, the honeyberry’s blossoms are reported to be able to withstand down to 19F, so we might not have needed to blanket those, but we did just in case.  Time will tell.

Chickens

We are reaching some important ages with the young chickens this week as far as rating and such for our breeding program.  The cold is going to hold all of that off for a week until next weekend.

The first incubation chicks are 16 weeks old now.  We butchered three of the cockerels earlier this week, but we are waiting on the others till next week so they can put on a bit more weight.  We have already selected one cockerel from that bunch that has a chance to be our future breeding cockerel.  He is built beautifully, and meets all our selection criteria including the fact that he is currently not aggressive.  We are calling him Onyx, because he is a beautiful black color and we are handling him often with hopes of keeping him gentle.  He was the only one from the bunch who met all the criteria AND was not aggressive.  We had another one that was built very well but has been aggressive since he was 8 weeks.  The pullets in that group need to be rated and selected for breeding.  We will sell the girls that don’t make the first cut for the breeding program.

The second hatch chicks are now 9 weeks old.  Normally (this breeding season) at this age we are not fully rating them, instead just checking for obvious factors that will cut them from the breeding list, selling those with obvious issues, and keeping the rest until 16 weeks at least.  But since there are 25 of them and we are running out of space we are going to need to do a full rating of them and try to thin the numbers down by selling the lowest ranking females now.

With the size and amount of the 9-week-olds, who are living in the Mama Hen Pen (MHP) with Eve and her 4 chicks, it is time to integrate them into the flock.  So hubby has been working on the chicken door that  goes from the barnyard to the MHP, making latches and building a ramp for it.  Once the weather turns this week we will start letting them intermingle in the barnyard with the adult flock.  The young ones will continue to go roost and sleep in the MHP, while the adults continue to roost and sleep in the upper coop, but they can all share the barnyard during the day.  In a few weeks we will have to force the 9-week-olds to move into the upper coop at night so we can close down the MHP and move Banana in there with her chicks (more on that below).

Eve has started laying again.  Her chicks are 5 weeks old now and she is still mothering them.  When Banana started laying again it was only a matter of about a week before she stopped mothering her chicks, but they were 8 1/2 weeks old at that point.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out with Eve.  Especially since the MHP will be open to the barnyard now.  We are a bit worried about that – with the chicks being so small – our biggest concern being that one of the barn cats might try to get one of those small chicks.  We will see what happens.  The little chicks might choose not to even leave the MHP until they are bigger.  And maybe Tundra (the farm dog) wont allow the cats to get near them.  We will keep a close eye on it and see how it all plays out.  But having it open will give Eve the choice to stop mothering and move back in with the adults if she wants to, which is how we did it with Banana and it worked out well.

Speaking of Banana, we are hovering around her nest area anxiously listening for little cheeps.  She is on day 20 of her setting, so she should be hatching any time now!

We have caught the egg thief!  It didn’t fit in our rat/gopher/weasel sized rat trap at all.  It turns out it is our farm dog, Tundra.  He is squeezing his body through the chicken-sized door to go get himself snacks throughout the day from the nest boxes.  Sneaky fella!  Hubby keeps joking that he thought the dog’s coat was looking exceptionally healthy and shiny!  It is such a tight fit we never would have thought it possible if we hadn’t seen it ourselves.  Husband just had to add a thin piece of wood to one side of the chicken door to narrow it by about an inch and now he cannot fit through.  Ever since the door fix we have been able to collect eggs 1-2 times a day and still are getting 9-11 from the 13 laying hens each day.  So glad the mystery is solved!  Collecting eggs hourly was getting overwhelming.

That’s the update from our little homestead in the mountains!

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