We had a mild cold snap this week, getting down to 25 and bringing a dusting of snow with it. It has been fun to sit by a cozy fire, knitting and sipping hot tea. But we were also happy when the warmer autumn days returned and we were able to continue to get outdoor projects done before real winter sets in.
We had two litters born last week. Justice kindled a litter of 8, and Indi kindled her first ever litter with 5 live and 1 stillborn. Even though it was her first time she put all the kits into the nest box like she was supposed to, so that was good. Both litters were doing very well, until we went for morning chores 9 days later and were shocked to find Justice’s entire litter frozen to death. The night before they had plenty of fur on them and seemed fine. But in the morning there wasn’t much fur on them and we noticed that they were right up against the wire bottom of the nest box. Normally there is plenty of hay, fur, and a piece of cardboard between the kits and the bottom wire. In all the years of using the nest boxes with hardware cloth bottoms we have never had a litter freeze. Not to mention by 9 days old they have quite a bit of fur on them. But it was clear that somehow that is what happened – we are pretty sure it was because they didn’t have any insulation under them. It was 35F that night. It was very sad and especially hard because we feel responsible, even though we have never had that problem before, it is still hard not to feel guilty. And it is always difficult to lose babies, no matter which species.
Heidi and Gretchen are integrating into the
flock flerd well. It is still kind of three sheep over here and two goats over there, but they don’t have trouble sharing space and even food when needed. They have decided that Tundra is not going to eat them, but they still face him head on at all times when he is moving around the barnyard – ready to butt him if necessary. Tundra couldn’t care less about them. He just seems to view them as more animals to guard, but not something to bother sniffing or chasing. So that is good. Finley, however, thinks that they are fun to chase – which is NOT good. He is just now beginning to go back outside after healing from his toe incident. We will need to take it slow introducing him and be sure he doesn’t make a habit of chasing them.
I have been digging into our new raising goats book. We are excited because there are a lot of wild plants and brush that grow on our property that we will be able to feed to the goats – something that we haven’t experienced with our livestock before. Since we can’t grow hay or pasture, this is a huge plus for us as far as the goats go. When working on the root cellar a few currant bushes had some of their branches ripped off by the tractor, so I took a few branches up to them. They were gone within a few minutes – the goats loved them! And the sheep helped eat them as well. So that is good.
The outside of the root cellar is completely finished! We are VERY happy with how it turned out. We are now going to track the temperature and humidity inside of it daily all through the fall, winter, and spring so that we can get an idea of what we can successfully store in it. Next summer we will build shelving inside of it and then start using it next fall.
My beets and turnips are still alive inside the pest tent, and there is celery, parsley, beets and turnips still alive outside of the tent. We have had several frosts down to 25F already, so I am pretty excited they are still going. I am interested to see how long they can go. Even though they are still alive, I don’t think they are growing much because of the cold. So I need to plant them earlier next year so they get a bit bigger before the cold weather hits. Although I wonder if more mature plants wouldn’t handle the cold as well. Experiments, experiments.
The tomatoes are continuing to ripen in the basement and we have been making spaghetti sauce with them this year since we still have stewed tomatoes left from last year. It is amazing how many tomatoes it takes to make a small amount of sauce. I am not sure sauce is the most efficient use of the tomatoes. It might make more sense to do other things with our home-grown tomatoes and just buy sauce at the store. We usually use at least 2 jars of spaghetti sauce a week because Friday is always homemade pizza and a movie night at our house. It seems impossible to grow enough tomatoes for that much.
Now that we have finished up some of the projects we were working on (root cellar and smokehouse), we can move on to other projects – a permanent barnyard fence and gate to replace the livestock panels, and an outdoor hay and feed manger for the goats and sheep.